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November 30, 2010

Craving for nothingness

As a school kid, I would often crave for some time - a week or a month - of absolute peace, without any exams, assignments, or Monday tests knocking on my mind's door. Then I didn't call it peace - absolute or otherwise; I called it blankness. The holidays didn't promise me any blankness ever: the monstrous homework nagged me, always reminding me of the not-so-far-away day when the school would re-open.

I did manage to steal away a day or two of blankness once in a while from my oh-so-troublesome life. The trick was to just forget the impending exams and assignments. Yes, I would push my worries on the calendar to a later day. This gave me the blankness I so desired. On such days, I would experience bliss. The bliss wasn't without struggle though; there was that feeble voice in my head that pleaded with me to come to my senses. But I would suppress it with the numerous songs my heart sang. The Sun, the rain, the Moon, the stars were my accomplice as I tried to beat everything pragmatic and make friends with the poet in me. I called down Sky on the terrace of my house in Dhanbad and chatted for hours. I talked to him as he changed colours and his mood. On the stairs down in the night, the voice in my head would become stronger and reprimand me for having wasted time. I would shirk it once again and postpone my worries for the morning. The night had to be blank.

I did regret my blank, blissful days at times, while walking to the bus stop to board my school bus. But once inside the bus, I would again try to steal away a few moments of blankness, looking forward to the next big blank phase.

Today is such a blank day. I haven't really spoken to my childhood friend, Sky, in a long time. But days such as today take me back to my conversations with him. I guess it is time to explore the terrace of my new house in this new city.

लम्हों में ही सदियों की खुशिया बटोरी है |
क्या कहा, क्या सुना - कुछ याद नहीं ;
एक एहसास, एक अनुभव समेटा है ,
तस्सली की बस यही एक बात याद रही |

October 31, 2010

Being foolishly romantic about life

As a kid, I dreamt of a world without animosity; and I have brought along the thought in my growing years. This thought took a back-seat with me getting busy with my life. While I had stopped giving it much thought, I almost lived by the theory that one smile or good word could trigger a chain reaction of smiles.

In spite of having the occasional temper spasms, I have tried not to be rude or mean to people. Friends and acquaintances have often advised me to become practical or cracked jokes on me, all in good spirit. Some have also attributed my behaviour to weakness, and there have been times I have believed them and cursed myself. But the kid in me always managed to take over and tend to the optimist in me.

One of the areas my attitude has been a bone of contention is in the way I handled my maid while in Bangalore. In the five years she worked at our place, I shouted at her once. A smiled when I told him I gave the maid - Parashakti - a piece of my mind. He had overheard my little sermon, and wondered, "Does she know you screamed at her?" I guess mom, M and A are the privileged ones to be at the receiving end of my temper.

Parashakti and her mom-in-law - I called her Amma - used to work at our place. In the last year, I saw more of Amma. Sometimes, Parashakti's school-going son would come along. Sometimes, his younger cousins would come with Amma. A and I had developed a ritual of giving the kids toffees and biscuits on every visit. More than the kids, it pleased their mom and granny.

The two ladies and I communicated through body language most of the time. In fact, for a long time, "tea" was the only word our verbal communication was limited to, and it was uttered only when I asked them if they would like to have tea. They spoke Tamil and a little Kannada. We had managed to pick up words from the two languages for times when we needed to give her detail instructions. After all that effort that went into working out the right body gesture, I was in for a surprise six months after I returned home from a trip. I said something in Hindi and Parashakti responded in Hindi. Obviously, I was surprised. She explained it saying that she had been working in a Hindi-speaking household. I wondered if those people were teachers or my maid had a slip of the tongue after that long a break; after all, she had been given the benefit of doubt many times thanks to our non-verbal communication.

The two ladies were immensely trust-worthy. At 6 o'clock, I could just about manage to recognize them from their silhouette at the door. I would then go back to sleep. The thought that I should watch them never crossed my mind. They gave me a lot of trouble and squabbles with A on how they worked, but never for a moment did we lose trust in them.

Seeing them everyday for five years gave us a lot of moments, yet those did not have the promise of turning into memories later. As we packed our lives into bags for a new place, I knew I had to give a two-minute farewell to my maids too. As I handed over a few household things, her salary, and some farewell money to Amma, I felt a strange feeling in my stomach, a nostalgic effort to hold on to the moment. A lot of things were changing in our lives; something made me feel Amma felt the same way. I hugged her the moment her eyes gave way to tears. The hug made her inconsolable. She blessed me in incomprehensible words: she was howling. From the unformed words and the uncontrollable sobs, I could make out that she was saying we were the best people she had worked for. Standing in an empty kitchen, Amma and I had become colossal entities for the moment. I had forgotten about the kids and Parashakti standing near us. I didn't even bother about the bunch of strangers who were looking about the house, checking it out for purchase. I hugged Amma again even as my 'guests' looked on. I hugged an emotional but calm Parashakti. As Amma's sobs continued, I handed over a piece of paper with my number to Parashakti. I told Amma she could talk to me any time she wanted. Of course, we knew that our paths were not going to cross again.

As I left Amma and Parashakti in my past, I felt happily numb. I hoped good behaviour would continue to trigger the chain reaction of smiles and emotions. Foolishly romantic, am I? I am happy I am not alone.

October 28, 2010

Life's like that

Every now and then, I look outside the window and feel lucky.

The lady who works as a maid at our place has two young girls: one is four and the other is two. She tells me she has another 18-year old girl who was married off a couple of years ago. Her four-year old falls ill quite frequently. This lady - she is called Fotubai - lives with her younger daughters. She puts vermillion in the parting in her hair, wears fancy bangles, suggesting she has a husband. But she doesn't stay with any man. I have been told that she has had many husbands and boyfriends, but at the moment, she doesn't have a man in her life.

The father of her young girls has been fighting with her to take his kids away. During one of her visits, my mom learnt from her that she had been in a physical altercation with the man the previous day. Mom suggested she take help from the police, and a couple of days later, we learnt that the man made a visit to the lock-up.

I am not in love with Fotubai, but I admire her guts, and deep down, I feel for her. Ain't I just plain lucky to not have been born like her?

Fotubai is like one of those annoying maids you see on TV. And since I am bad at handling any domestic help, I find her more annoying. And the lady talks just too much. The other day, she came in a little late, all acting important. Her first words on entering the house were, "Didi, idhar kya kiya hai!"

I: Kya?
She: Masjid tha, mandir bana diya hai.

She went on to say a lot more but I had stopped listening; I was giggling. I turned to her and said, "Idhar thode hi na, Ayodhya mein hua hai." Her face fell and she sighed, "Oh, yahan nahi?"

Every time she watched the news at somebody's place, she would come and narrate it to me in her own special way, always missing out on the place and the people, and focusing on the act. Soon, she realized that I rarely moved my eyes away from the computer screen, and gave up trying to have a conversation with me.

Amidst her chaotic monologues, I managed to filter some of her personal information, and offered her solace, advice, or apples and horlicks. I didn't want to get involved. Like most of us, I did not want to get caught up in "their" lives. And yet, something struck me yesterday. Her daughter's illness has been a cause of concern for long. A doctor relative of a sympathetic lady she works for has prescribed medicines recently, and the medicines have helped the kid. From what I understand, Fotubai has consulted only quacks in the past. Yesterday, I wondered if I couldn't go beyond the occasional sympathy and give her a little more. I told A that I was planning to take her daughter to a doc. His reaction: go ahead, and also ask the doc if he can do something about Fotubai's pitch. We had a hearty laugh.

I wonder how life would be if I was born Fotubai. I don't know if I should thank God or blame him for the difference in our lives.

October 25, 2010

ख़्वाब से सुकून (Khwab Se Sukoon)

ख़्वाब ये मेरा है, जिस तरह चाहूं देखूं ;
मेरे इर्द-गिर्द ही सब होता है,
मैं ही इसकी कहानी, इसका सार हूँ |
इब्तिदा भी मैं, अंत भी मुझसे ही |
हकीक़त के छींटों से मुझको न जगाओ,
सपने में तो मुझको चैन से रहने दो |

June 19, 2010

My two cents on Raavan

Check out the appended text ** at the end of the post.

First things first, I never liked Ram. I had questions on every act of his ever since I learnt about Ramayan. First, the bits and pieces of the epic came as accompaniments with each morsel my mom so cleverly put into my mouth. Next came the TV serial. While people put agarbattis on their TV-sets for Arun Govil, I argued that Ram was no ways the Purushottam he was made out to be. The agni-pariksha was the biggest proof of it. As a kid, I guess I had more courage. I voiced my opinion on forums that considered it sacrilegious to talk ill of Ram or any other god. God is god, I was told. Of course, I didn't buy that argument.

During numerous discussions with friends and some not-so-rigid family members, I found out that I was not the only one who thought the way I was thinking. And my mom seemed to be the biggest critic of gods. She is an ardent devotee, yet she has had her questions about the myriad mythological stories.

In my adolescent years, I came across a play written on Raavan. The book was written by Chaturbhuj (the writer's pen-name, I think), a friend of my father's. Ma and Baba had told me about Raavan's knowledge and his generosity, in fact all the virtues one could think of. His biggest mistake, it was said, was kidnapping Sita. After I read the play, I became a fan of Raavan's.

Then much later, Lajja happened. No, I didn't like the movie; in fact, I have never managed to watch the entire movie in one shot. I have watched bits and pieces of it every time it came on TV. Now, Lajja had a very powerful scene where Sita (portrayed by Madhuri Dixit) gives a heartful to Ram (Sameer Soni). I think that scene was the highlight of the film. I would watch the film again only to go back to that scene. I could see my thoughts being reflected in the words that came from Sita's mouth. One would smell feminism in them, but those words showcase the bitter reality.

I watched Raavan yesterday. And sure enough the title was enough to pull me to the theatre but what assured me was that it was Mani Ratnam's. The film definitely gives you the Ram-and-Raavan-are-not-distinctly-good-or-bad message and not very subtly either.

By the reaction of everyone in the auditorium, not barring me, I could tell that people are going to be extremely disappointed with the movie. I made a lot of comments during the movie, something I rarely do. So, was the movie any good? Well, it was a play enacted on a big screen. It had all the elements of a play - over-the-top drama, overplaying of emotions, and poetry - not in words but in pictures.

Raavan was like poetry. And you know what is the deal with poetry. Not everyone will appreciate it; not everyone will feel it; not everyone will like it. Everyone has different taste in poetry or art; one piece cannot appeal to everyone. Yes, that is the deal with Raavan. Raavan was not a movie. Raavan was theatre, rustic but not raw. It was glorified jatra or nautanki. It was different from what one would expect in a movie; that is where Raavan may fail in capturing the audience's hearts. The movie is a visual delight though, thanks to Santosh Sivan.

As per me, I had my problems with Raavan. It stretched for me at some places. I felt Abhishek Bachchan (who I like and think can act) overacted; I guess I would have showered praises on him had I seen this performance in a play. I will rate his performance in Guru better than that in Raavan. I liked Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as the not-so-demure Sita. At many places, I felt she was the hero of the film. Vikram played his part well, and so did all the supporting actors. I liked Ravi Kishen in particular. And I liked Priyamani who played an enchanting Surpnakha. In fact, I am looking forward to seeing more of her work. Anyways, this post is not a typical review of the movie. It is about the thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the film.

A couple of phone calls broke my chain of thoughts while writing this post. Hope to talk more about Ram and Raavan in another post some day.

** Addition: For those who don't know, Vikram (the actor who plays Ram in Raavan) has played Raavan in Ravanan, the Tamil version of the film. I want to watch the Tamil one to see how he could handle both the roles in tandem.

Pics courtesy

June 14, 2010

Akshay Tritiya: A Page From My Book of Memories - I

Someone I know called herself a nostalgia queen when she gave a caption to one of her old pics on Facebook. I loved the tag, and I thought it fit me well too. Many of my happy moments are when I have memories for company. And in most of such moments, I have another person for company – sometimes, the one who has been a part of the memory and at other times, someone who has absolutely no connection to my memory. I get so carried away when I talk about my memories that I expect my audience to enjoy it the way I do. Anyways, this post is not about my nostalgic side but about a part of my life I get nostalgic about frequently.

My first few years were spent in Patna. Ma used to tell me about this special day in summer she had been experiencing since she was a child. She used to get extremely nostalgic on this day. Her nostalgia was very pleasant; it always succeeded in painting a beautiful picture for me. This picture had more than just colour; it was livid. It was clearly 3-D, well no, it was 4-D. I could hear the sounds and smell the wafts of food that evaporated from the kitchen on this occasion. That reminds me. I have to tell you about the occasion. It is Akshay Tritiya. Rings a bell? Well, thanks to the vehement advertising by jewellers, the whole world seems to be queuing up to jewellery stores on this day, and the trend started just a few years ago. Anyways, that’s not what my Akshay Tritiya is about.

My Akshay Tritiya is about festivity and enthusiasm that I inherited from my mom. The day was celebrated as a day of Keertan day in Dhanbad, the place where my mom grew up and where I would later spend a few years of my childhood and the years of adolescence. So, when we moved from Patna to Dhanbad, one of the very few things I was looking forward to experiencing was mom’s special day.

I don’t remember my first Akshay Tritiya but I remember the day collectively over the years. I remember the excitement with which we would voluntarily wake up in the morning, sometimes at 5. Many of my relatives would visit for the keertan and stay for a few days. That was exciting enough. The chaos that arose from the many mouths that chose to talk, eat, and sing without paying any attention to the ears that longed for peace was what added to my excitement.

The keertan was organized in the temple my Dadu (maternal grandfather) had built in the compound. I have been told that keertan was a part of everyday life in my mom’s family. Pre-independence, Dadu had started a school of sorts where underprivileged kids would learn to read, develop self-defence skills, participate in keertan and leave for the day with a handful of prasad. Our little temple, known as Hari Mandir in the locality, was a centre of activity before and immediately after independence. Later, the annual keertan was the highlight in the temple. People from nearby colonies and devotees from other parts of the town would join in the 24-hour long non-stop keertan. By the time I came to join in the festivity, it was no longer as colossal as it used to be but it was definitely huge.

The excitement started on the day before Akshay Tritiya. It was the day garlands had to be made and alpanas had to be designed. My friends from the colony, para as we used to call it in Bangla, and I gathered in the morning to see the elders clean the temple. The small courtyard in the temple was where we would later display our alpana skills. Once the temple was cleaned, my friends and I settled down in the courtyard while our bhaiyas from the para fetched a variety of flowers and brought them in big baskets to the temple. All these flowers were collected from inside our tiny para that hosted a number of bushes, plants and trees. The bhaiyas climbed up the trees as the entire para watched them trying to outwit each other in flower collection.

My friends and I were later joined by my elder cousins. We made as many as a hundred garlands in a matter of a couple of hours. Later in the day we made alpanas. When I first joined these activities, I was criticized for my skills. I was a newcomer and my para friends had been doing these things for a while. However, I picked up soon.

The alpanas was the best thing during the keertan, well, one of the best. But the alpanas made me proud. They drew admiring glances not only from me but from most people who came for the keertan. I had something to display. I wonder why it never struck that we preserve the painted floor in pictures.

The Akshay Tritiya-eve started with people pouring in for the evening keertan. Every year, a couple of professional keertaniya teams were brought in from other cities to keep the keertan going without a stop. Of course, the family participated with enthusiasm but their throats needed a break every few hours. So, the professional teams were of great help.

One of the great things about the festival was the food. About 500 or so people ate all their meals in the day and a half the festivities lasted. No one cooked in the para at this time. An old house in the compound, one that belonged to my chhoto mama, served as the kitchen. My aunts and elder cousins gave the cooks direction. Often, they joined the cooks in rolling out luchis (puris) and so did a lot of women from the para. For me and my brother, it was a time when we didn’t need to hide our socks and ties to avoid school.

To be cont’d – In the effort of not only building suspense but getting back to the deadlines that are knocking on my door

February 13, 2010

I am a fan of Shahrukh's

All of us try to belong. We want to be accepted. And in this effort to be accepted, we tend to hide some of our interests, fears and feelings. Over the last few years, I have made many acquaintances and a few close friends. However, I have found that most of the time, I tend to agree with certain schools of thoughts just in order to belong. Yes, I have also had those moments, just a few though, where I express exactly what I feel, caring less about whether or not that thought of mine will be accepted. However, today’s post is not about the wish to belong or break away. It is about something else. Something that I have ended up hiding from people - even from myself, I guess – in order to belong. Today, I would just like to break away and tell you that I AM A FAN OF SHAHRUKH’S. Yes, the actor.

I am part of different kind of social circles, some formed by familial ties, some by society around, and others by choice. Now, there are circles where watching Hindi movies is not considered hep enough. And there are circles where commercial Hindi cinema is not cinema at all. Then there are those groups that think there is no better actor than Aamir Khan, and SRK is a ‘mere’ superstar. And there are those groups that appreciate SRK for his business acumen but not his acting prowess. There is also a small bunch of people who appreciate SRK for what he has achieved. But I have never been a part of a group that adores SRK. Yes, I do know people who love him, but I have never really tried to belong there. So, why I am saying what I am saying today. Because it is the truth. I AM A FAN OF SHAHRUKH’S.

No, I don’t drool over him or see him in my dreams. I like the guy. For more reasons than one. Is it the recent Sena-SRK controversy that makes me talk about him today? No. That statement from him is something that was not really unexpected. And I expected him to say all the things he said in those follow-up interactions with the media. I like the guy when he talks. Yes, I do hide behind my curtains when he cracks silly jokes at important conventions. But I still like the guy. He is intelligent and witty. (I will be getting brickbats for the ‘witty’ part.)

There are many reasons I like the guy and yet, there are many times, I look at the screen from between my fingers and go, “Why! Why on earth does he have to do that?” So, you know, I am definitely not his biggest fan. But I AM DEFINITELY A FAN.

Now, coming back to ‘why today’? Well, this post was in the offing. The other day, after a discussion on SRK, MNIK, Shiv Sena, the Thackerays, M casually remarked, “Didi! You’re a big fan of Shahrukh’s!” I was offended. Yes, ‘offended’ is the right word here. For long, I have tried to keep myself from accepting that I am his fan. And M said it on my face. And then lightning struck me. I wouldn’t shy away from accepting I am SRK’s fan, I thought. However, the opportunity of going all ahead with my plan could not happen until today.

Today, while roaming the streets of Bangalore, S, D, A and I decided to watch a movie. While S and D were game for any movie (they asked us if we wanted to watch My Name is Khan), A and I wanted to watch Rann. But soon we realized if there was any movie we could watch today at that time, it was MNIK. After a frantic drive to Fame Forum and realizing the movie was running houseful, we went to Innovative in Marathalli. Now, this is one place where you can buy a ticket the very last minute.

Had it not been for S and D, we wouldn’t have watched My Name is Khan today, or for that matter, any other day. I don’t really deserve to be SRK’s fan, do I? I had made up my mind about the movie. It couldn’t be good. After all, it was Karan Johar dealing with terrorism, Islam, 9/11, and autism. Not quite his territory. So, I was sceptical. I also wondered if SRK would be able to pull off a character that has Asperges syndrome. No, I don’t doubt his capability, and I would have been more than ok if he were acting in a ‘serious’ director’s film. KJo didn’t give me much confidence in the film.

So, how I liked the film? Well, I liked it. Yes, I did. Is the movie larger than life? Absolutely. Does it have Karan Johar moments? Many. And yet, it touches you. The movie or its characters never sermonize. That’s the biggest plus point in the movie. There are many typical filmy moments, and yet there is something that stays with you beyond the closing credits. My Name is Khan is a simple movie. I didn’t love every frame of the movie but I liked it overall. And I liked Shahrukh in it. I know many will tell me that he overacted or find a dozen of technical faults in his portrayal of the protagonist. But you know what, I really don’t care. I liked him.

I can talk about many things in the movie – its pluses and its minuses. But I won’t. Because this post is not a typical review. It is simply about me accepting the fact that I AM A FAN OF HIS.

Is Shahrukh god for me? No. Have I loved all his performances? Absolutely not. Do I think he can act? Absolutely. Do I think he overacts? Yes. Do I like him? Oh, yes.

1. While we were looking for a film to watch and a theatre to watch it in, S kept saying that he wanted to watch MNIK especially because Shiv Sainiks were causing a ruckus in Mumbai. S wanted to show support to SRK and the movie. He is definitely a bigger fan.

2. I write Shahrukh instead of Shah Rukh because I have always felt that’s what his name is.

February 04, 2010


वो मंज़र रोंगटे खड़े करने के लिए काफी था ,
मगर उसकी चीख मेरे दिल तक ना पहुंची |
कठोर मैं खुद को कहती नहीं ,
पर रहमदिल भी अब ना रही |

Badalti soch (बदलती सोच)

परेशानियाँ ज़िन्दगी को रुख देती हैं, ऐसा मानना था हमारा कभी ,
आज मंजिल की ओर जाने का मन नहीं, राह में रुक जाना चाहते हैं |
आँख मूंद कर विदा कर देना चाहते हैं तकलीफों को, परेशानियों को ;
समेट लेना चाहते हैं इस बेफिक्र लम्हे को, बंद पलकों में |
फ़लसफ़ा हर वक़्त बदलता ही रहता है |

January 09, 2010

Thoughts, thoughts everywhere...

There have been many times when I came to write something in the blog and returned without posting anything. Today, I happened to look at the drafts I had saved since I started writing here. I realized that I couldn’t possibly go into the frame of mind I was in when I started a post. So, I decided to share the drafts with you, the way they are. Some of them only have the title in place, some have a line or two that don’t clearly state what I had in mind, while others just touch the subject and end abruptly. Can you try making sense of them?

9 September 2009
Title: Identity of a place

20 November 2008
Title: I am a complain boy!
No, I did not misspell the word. I was not indicating to the ad of yesteryears' that we so fondly watched. (By the way, have you noticed how both the kids endorsing the product never grew much tall! For the uninformed, the two kids were Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia.)

6 November 2008
No Title
I seem to have become an expert in assorted posts. This one is going to be one. Oh yes, I apologize for the long delay to the loyal reader.

I have been watching a lot of movies lately, Roadside Romeo being one of them. Before you make faces and frown at my taste, let me tell you what made me go for this one (Should I be explaining?) Well, thanks to A's generous company (Tata Elxsi) who also happens to be the one behind the animation of Roadside Romeo. Oh yes, in case you didn't know, Tata Elxsi has been a part of several Indian and Hollywood movies. Oh yes, before you start praising (or throwing brickbats at) A, I must tell you that he has nothing to do with the creative section of the company.

Going back to what I was saying (how much I digress!), A's office gets movie tickets sponsored once a year. A never…

19 Oct 2008
Title: In the last few days

8 July 2008
No Title
It was yet another feather in our crown, well, another experience in the bunch we have gathered in the years of our existence. Oh yes, by 'we', I mean A and I. You would ask, what feather, what experience? A and I missed a train last night. Yes, a train, not a bus. Before you burst into a series of awwws and ohs, let me tell you that it wasn't a first of a kind experience; we had missed a flight last year the same time. This experience was a bit different than the previous one, not just because it was a train this time, but also because it had more elements than the flight-missing episode. Elements of what? Elements of mixed feelings, chaotic atmosphere, and the inner voice.

It so happened that A and I were supposed to take a train from New Delhi to Bangalore yesterday night. We are staying in the NCR region (You know why I use the present tense here: we missed the train, remember!), greater Delhi, as we call it.

13 May 2008
Title: How they make history
Have you felt you were born at the wrong time, decades away from the times that made history? Has history already been made, or is some history brewing up now, as we live?

I watched The Great Debaters the other day.

18 Feb 2008
Title: Where do we belong?
Have we divided our country into multiple countries? Is there still any unity in diversity? Is diversity taking over the unity that ever existed? Has hatred been piling up inside every common man on the street? No. I would like to believe it's a political propaganda. I will not blame the common man for the agony that the 'outsiders' suffer. I would still like to believe that the man on the street does not want to propogate fear and hatred.

I wonder, then, what is it that the common man is afraid of? Why is there this fear of losing territory? Why has he defined his territory?

23 August 2007
Title: There is so much to do... and so little time...

29 May 2007
Title: How do I manage to do that?
"How do you manage to do that?" is how my acquaintances reacted when they heard I had fallen yet again.

Did any of that make sense to you? Consider it another post of assorted thoughts.