Sunday, February 15, 2009



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I stand

In wind, in hail, in storm
I stand
I stand for I know not the end
I know the blue skies
I know the never ending night
I know the tireless sea

In wind, in hail, in storm
I stand

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fir se..... Dhoop Kinaare....

20 long years, that's a hell lot of a time. Guess at that time I must have been grappling with the lesser problems of life like basic maths, languages, or whatever else one studies early on in his schooling life. Around that time there was a mini revolution of Pakistani dramas which touched everyone, I think, at least in Punjab and neighboring places perhaps because of the familiarity with the culture felt by people.

One jewel of a drama was Dhoop Kinaarey; I remember how everyone used to swoon over the thought of Dhoop Kinaarey video cassettes in those days. Summer holidays and Dhoop Kinaarey went together. So, when after 20 years I decided to revisit the drama everything came back to me. All the small memories that had for long been under the sheet of dust suddenly came to the fore.

Youtube, the forever savior, helped me get in touch with my Dhoop Kinaarey days. All the episodes in some 60 videos. A weekend date. In a long time I haven't seen anything that got me to want more, like a book that engenders higher levels of interest as you go along. Dhoop Kinaarey is that book, you want to keep reading, and never end the book. The subtleties make you marvel.

The play is extraordinary in many senses but most of all for its wonderful portrayal of relationships. The script is heavily dressed with beautiful Urdu words; the acting is hardly that, it's real.

It's been an absolute treat. Words are coming back to me... Raat yun hee dil mein teri yaad...

And of course hansi khanakti huee..

Hansi khanakti huee
Aa bujhi bujhi khushiyan
Hain dosti ki mehek se
Rachi hui gharriyan
Mazaa anokha sa hai
Aate jaate lamhon mein
Kitaben gaud mein pheli
Hain khoye baaton mein
Rafaqaton mein khazaana
Jo humne paaya hai
Na dil pe boojh hai koi
Na gham ka saaya hai

The next thing on my mind is to get hold of the Dhoop Kinaarey DVD, another addition to my collection of small but valuable things....

Dhoop Kinaarey....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dhoop kinaare....

raat yun dil mein teri khoyee huee yaad aayee
jaise viraane mein chupke se bahaar aa jaaye
jaise sehraaon mein hauley se chale baad-e-nasiim
jaise biimaar ko be-vajah qaraar aa jaaye

Thursday, August 7, 2008

back after a long hiatus...

Not that I stopped seeking life, but just that blogging did no more seem like an interesting thing to do..... though I quite liked it while I was at it..... so, while I try to get back to writing some stuff again.... I will drop a few lines every now and then just to build up the tempo....

tu shahin hai, parwaaz hai kaam tera
tere saamne aasmaan aur bhi hain

Friday, October 19, 2007

Jan Gan Man – Care to stand up?

Jaya hē jaya hē jaya hē, Jaya jaya jaya jaya hē. Tears stream down one more time, my heart swells with pride. My association of long with the anthem at once comes back to mind, the greatness of my dharti gladdens my heart, and my being suddenly is a mirthful-privilege.

Growing up in a small town in Punjab my first encounter with the Indian national anthem was in primary school. The words I did not understand, ‘It’s a poem, sunny boy’, maa affectionately elucidated, ‘written by one of the greatest poets our country has ever produced’. She continued, ‘He’s oozing his love for the motherland’. I was too young then but old enough to notice the twinkle in her eyes. So enchanted was I that I got her to write the whole poem for me, on a piece of paper, so I could memorize. For the next few years, the paper found solace in my school bag, my shirt pocket, and study books in exam days, eventually finding a house for itself on my room wall. It still resides there, moving only when its owner visits it in several months.

Later, in senior school it was a daily ritual at the morning assembly, sung by the music teacher and her band of young, passionate (somewhat shrill) teens who chronically looked towards her for help with the high and low notes. Every one loved it. A strength of 2,500 sang with them, filling the air with clouds of passion. Love for Jan Gan Man was heartwarming and ubiquitous. But things don’t always stay the same.

Once out of school and midst the ‘cool’ generation the opportunities to stand in honor of the anthem only dwindled. And the few opportunities that came were shameful acts of reluctance and disrespect. It’s a great hurt, for an ordinary patriot to see fellow citizens refuse to disseat when the anthem is played in cinema halls and drawing rooms. The obstinacy is quite known, so much so that in a recent movie moments before the national anthem was played the sub-title read, ‘The national anthem will now be played, you are supposed to stand up’
Yet, one saw people looking around to see if indeed they needed to stand up.

I have seen movies where the national anthem was played and a handful of people stood up while the rest look bemused at them. Is it a matter of being ashamed of our own language, our culture, our history? It certainly seems so. While reluctance towards religious rituals is understandable, not because it is fashionable to call oneself an atheist these days, but because religion is a matter of personal choice and best kept in private considering we live in a multi- religious society. But why this indifference towards nationalism? Isn’t it supposed to bind a nation together? Isn’t the national anthem an evoker of nationalism?

Other than a game of cricket that unites this nation of a billion, which too is purely because of sporting reasons and not any other, nationalism is a species that has lost its essence and now borders on extinction.

It is only inane to question the obsession with things un-Indian for then we venture into the devil’s territory which vociferously proclaims freedom of choice. But we need not look anywhere else; citizens of the same countries we obsess ourselves with are perfect examples of patriotic conduct.

While endless surveys might suggest Indians as the happiest people on Earth, they will never quite be able to highlight them as nationalists like the Japanese. I am often reminded of the example cited by our principal in school, Japanese, when posed with the question, Buddha first or Japan, without a blink said Japan.

We go on in our lives, content with fat salaries, branded possessions, cricketing ecstasy, and foreign vacations, contributing little to the nation aside the forced taxes. Least that we can do is respect the national anthem, is that too much to ask for? Perhaps, yes from most!

Oh, Gurudev, cry not you, for we deserve not such a poem!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An early summer - II

The gruesome attack on a hapless farmer had the village up in arms and the next few days saw incessant rioting between Hindus and Muslims. The two communities had been living on barbed memories for too long. Of the few hundred families in Sultanpur there wasn’t a single one which hadn’t lost a member to the partition pogrom. With a history like that even the minutest of skirmishes resulted in rioting since many saw it as an opportunity to vent their hatred. Years of togetherness that the village had seen was stark in contrast to the bloodshed that was now commonplace.

While the riots went on unabated the sober voices of the village were cut-up, snapped and threatened to be choked. In all of this there was a young man, Rajbir Singh, all of 31, who stood in the way of rioters pleading aman (peace).

‘Please don’t do this, we haven’t yet even cleaned our previous wounds, how can we inflict fresh wounds on each other. Raab will never pardon us for this.’ Rajbir pleaded to the mob.

In a fit of anger someone from the mob attacked him. There was a deadening silence, rioters came to a halt. But sacrilege had been committed!

The prodigy was half-burnt. The news soon spread and a shocked village woke up to take cognizance of its inhumanity. Rajbir was now struggling for his life at the makeshift hospital.

Half-conscious, he murmured lines from one of his poems.

life at best, appears foggy

sometimes obvious, sometimes illusive

these are my chosen paths

to traverse them my fate

Rajbir was an exceptional poet who had won immense praise from litterateurs for his wonderful works and more so for the drift of his works. As a kid his major influencers were great poets like Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah. He grew up in an ardently religious family, his father was a Granthi in the village Gurdwara and his mother too was a devout believer in the creator’s artistry. While his own religion played an important role in his embryonic years, he was never far away from other religions. His was a respected family in Sultanpur with known lineage going back several generations. The Panchayat would often call upon his father to understand his views on ethos for the village.

Rajbir painfully lived on for a few months, serving a brutal reminder of the past. In his comatose state he did what no saint could do, no religion could. He brought together an embittered people, urged them to live up to human values. Sultanpur was witnessing a societal revival of sorts. Things were beginning to look up. Suddenly the skies seemed cloudless and beautiful horizons were all over.

Yet that fear remained. In a society all kinds of people live together, some move on in life while some hold on to their grudges. The day Rajbir chose to traverse his path and keep his tryst with the almighty, Sultanpur was on tenterhooks fearing a repeat of the past which would only insult the martyr.

Days, months and years passed eventually the fear gave way to optimism. Bhim Agarwal, who had seen Rajbir grow up in to a fine young man and a brilliant poet would often reminisce anecdotes from the poet's life at Panchayat meetings. Rajbir’s parents continued to stay in the village, leading a lackluster life, often finding courage in their son’s deeds.

Sulanpur still reveres its hero. At Rajbir’s memorial villagers still flock in remembrance of the poet. His epitaph reads:

Let bygones be bygones,

The exalted will rise again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

An early summer - I

In the small border village of Sultanpur in Punjab there was a horrifying hush. The village Panchayat was convened hurriedly. The Sarpanch, Bhim Aggarwal, a short man with a pronounced cut on his forehead, dressed in his typical Swadeshi attire, slowly made it to the raised platform under the village banyan tree. Surrounded by the other panchs, he began to speak only to flutter and look for support.

Summer had declared its arrival a little too soon that year. It was the year of the first democratic elections of independent India, 1952. India was looking forward to being one of the world’s strongest democracies, reaching a stage of self-autarky, stifling the internal bickering. While the country was gradually coming to terms with the newly-found freedom, the freedom struggle and the culminating partition-riots were still green in all minds. The memories of the ‘inquelab zindabad’ rants were stained. Gory images from the greatest human transfer stained those memories. Communal rioting had subsided but communal hatred remained a menace that threatened the peaceful existence of civil society. Bitter memories were hard to let go. India was five years young, struggling to walk.

Shattered (Sultanpur) villagers were gathering in the village temple’s courtyard. Women flocked towards one side and men stood in front of the raised platform. Whispers were now flying fast; the gravity of the matter did not escape anyone.

‘We are gathered here to mourn the passing away of our beloved Rajbir Singh, the cynosure of our eyes; the son of Sultanpur. The young kid freed us from shackles, taught us to live harmoniously under one roof, filled many a dry and enraged eye with tears. His loss is today threatening to take us back to the dungeons he took us out from, even while his memory pleads of us to stand for what he died’, said the Sarpanch.

He continued, ‘I have no commandments for you today, the candle’s endless flicker is no more, and that has left us in the dark, the choice is yours, either wait for dawn or set the sun on this village forever. Let not posterity remember Rajbir as a wasted prodigy!’

Sultanpur, now a battered border village, was once at the heart of united Punjab. It was often called the ‘purveyor of hearty revolutionaries’. The freedom movement that saw the emergence of a steely Indian resolve ended rather glumly with what came to be known as partition. Partition was not the end of the misery. In the years that followed the partition there were frequent riots which shook the country. Unfortunately, Sultanpur too was not to be spared.

The year was 1951, month December, while tending to his cattle a farmer from the village strayed into Pakistani territory. Torched. His body was found a few days later with a message, ‘Hindus who dare to taint our land will be charred to death’.

To be continued....

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Chithi na koi sandes

Jab ghar se koi bhi khut aaya hai

Kaagaz ko maine bheega bheega paya hai

The school bell went off at 1:30 pm, much to the delight of the virtual inmates caged inside. It was the last day of school before summer vacations arrived, back in 1991. I exchanged addresses with pals, and we promised to write each other letters during vacations. With a bouncy touch in my stride I rode back home. And in keeping with customs, I put my hand inside a big cavity in my home’s façade. Letters. I felt them on my hand, measured their thickness, and sheer number.

My joy knew no boundaries every time I got hold of letters belonging to me or my mother, occasionally my sister too, and with great sense of pride and ownership I carried them around the house. I had had enough letter-writing sessions with Ma and quite understood the value of a letter. Letters that used to come from far and not so far places carried in them compulsive assumptions, love, tears, nostalgia, remembrance, invoking much of the same inside the reader.

Telephone was still an uncommon commodity in the 90s which meant distances were greater than they actually were and everyone resorted to letter-ing.

Chores assigned to me during summer vacations in my early schooling life included writing letters to cousins and frequent visits to the vicinity post-office. I enjoyed buying stamps and posting letters in the red post-box, it was a substantial responsibility on young shoulders which swelled my chest, too, as a kid.

One of my fonder memories from letter-ing is writing a letter, as a 9-yr-old, to a cousin about Rajiv Gandhi’s death and the permanent loss to the nation. The letter brought tears in my mother’s eyes.

Till the end of the 90s letter-ing was a way of life for most and many popular Hindi songs captured the value of a letter in varied ways. Chithi aayee hai was one such creation. A song, so beautiful in words, for the émigré population, yet it rarely failed to send tears rolling down the eyes, even, of an ordinary Indian.

I always felt, still do, the profundity of emotions in letters is best explained by the craving for letters by soldiers in the army and their families.

As goes the once-famous song, ‘Sandese aate hain, humein tadhpate hain’

The summer vacations of ’91 were remarkable for towards the end my room was a plethora of letters, some of which I still possess. I continued letter-ing for many years till the email and mobile-phone revolution changed everything. As a teenager I had always wanted to grow-up and write letters to my mother from a different shore but that was not to be.

Today, I, am in touch with the farthest of relatives, have regained touch with old friends over the internet, but I feel robbed of a treasure considering the produce of emotions that could have been.

Like radio regained its flavor after a lull of many years I so wish that letters too do.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

An unfailing affair III

An astute figure was sitting some distance from me. With muted footsteps I closed on him. Draped in a saffron dhoti; a white thread ran across his body. The austere look on his face deterred me from waking him out of meditation. That moment was beautiful and divine. A deep desire ran inside me to capture that moment so it could serve as a mnemonic to the setting on the banks of Gangaji. My camera was ready. But clicking without permission would be blasphemy. I sat close to him, observing his motionless body. Waiting!

Everything about this man seemed so immaculate. His erect body, studied breathing, braided tress, elegant beard which looked like an expanded V, and the constant slight movements of the lips. One moment he looked like a King sitting on his throne and the other an ordinary courtier. Calm on his face, that was easily traceable, posed many a questions to me. Most of which were unanswerable!

An hour had passed and Gangaji was now peaceful and radiant. There was hardly anyone near us, the temple lights were dimming and the tintinnabulation seemed distant and dying. ‘It is a little late for you to be here’, he said, while I was surveying the surroundings. I looked straight into his eyes. The austerity was now complete. ‘Is it time for you to go home?’, I inquired. ‘I am already home, Gangaji’s course is my home’.

After much hesitation I sought permission to photograph him meditating alongside Gangaji.

A small smile appeared on his face.

‘Why would you want to do that?’

‘It’s perhaps the most pristine moment I’ve ever experienced’, I replied almost apologetically.

His lips expanded to form a wide smile. ‘Why don’t you take your own photograph?’

That question baffled me. He continued, ‘jaisee drishti, vaisee srishti’ or, as is our vision, the world becomes that.

‘There is goodness in you, reason why you see goodness in me’

‘It’s a simple world out there but we choose to make it complex!’

'I don’t like to preach but I encourage people to see the beauty within and outside and then paint them on one canvas. Your beauty becomes my beauty and mine your’s. Together we make this srishti beautiful.'

Words, all of which still amaze me for their simplicity and depth.

In the course of my talk with Baba, a name that I still associate him with, I discovered that he was from Nepal and had made Rishikesh his home many years ago. He had a tale of his own which he chose to leave behind.

‘Gangaji gravitated me!’ he said smiling cherubically.

He told me about his trip to the source of Gangaji. Temples that spoke of Gangaji’s history, the union of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda, the piety of saints who lived in the most trying conditions near the Gaumukh glacier were all vivid in his mind and descriptive in words.

‘Ganga maiyya has taught me so much, I couldn’t ask for anymore, emotions, love, anger, fury, calm, discontentment, ecstasy she handles all with such panache and manages to enchant every one and spread an air of goodness around.’

We sat there for a long time celebrating our respective affairs with Gangaji. It seemed like a never ending night, which was not to be. Baba soon bade farewell, without a promise to meet again. He left me with a few words to live by, ‘every day I shall seek life and never end the search for the unknown’

Gangaji, was now bracing up for another sunrise, meandering, hitting the ghats with renewed fervor.

I quietly moved on. Seeking life…..

Monday, June 18, 2007

An unfailing affair - II

‘A room with a view’, described the guy on the other side of the desk. Behind him was placed a big Lord Ganesh idol garlanded with fresh flowers. Any attempts at negotiating the room tariff were met with a disinterested look. Soon I parked myself in the ‘room with a view’. Gangaji took a curvaceous bend right in front of my room. She ran amok. Lying down in my room, quite a distance, from where She streamed, I could hear Her talk.

As evening took control I found myself at the Parmarth Ashram, on the banks of Gangaji. Swarms of people sat on the stairway. It was a splendid evening with dark yet to prevail completely. Gangaji, embellished with Diyas perched on big leaves, was now glowing with all Her splendor. Chants of mantras were now wet in the air. I made way to the bottom of the stairway and rolled up my trousers to submerge in the river. It was icy cold. While I sat there in absolute awe of the panorama in front of my eyes I couldn’t think of a more riveting moment in my life.

I moved along the banks of the river for sometime to find solitude and observe Gangaji more intently. Depositing my self rather comfortably on a rock, I swung my eyes across the landscape to register Her mood and urgency, yet again. The expanse that Gangaji occupied at this place was much more than what She managed elsewhere. Perhaps, because of which the fury in Her movement was absent but the pace remained. She streamed with sheer elegance; a smooth demeanor on the surface deceived the current underneath.

With my chin firmly placed on my knees and legs encompassed in my bosom, I was now calm, motionless and pensive. Soon the town would go to sleep but Gangaji will not stop till She reaches Her destination thousands of miles away. Through those thousands of miles She wears various forms, appearances, moods but is revered in the same manner.

We are a lucky people, I think to myself, for we have been bestowed with wonders by a dozen. And what is life without wonders? At this thought I craved to converse with someone, to exchange views, to know more.

I looked around.

To be continued……

Friday, June 15, 2007

An unfailing affair - I

Early morning. A first in a long time. Mother’s words reverberated in my ears, ‘Betaji, do you remember what the Sun looks like in the morning?’ Well, I had almost forgotten. Yellow. Circular. In the face. And, how it replenished early-risers with energy. Quickly brushing away diversionary thoughts that promised to bring back childhood nightmares, I focused on ways of reaching Delhi bus stand. A favor from an unsuspecting, over-friendly neighbor got me to the border of Delhi.

As if the squeals made by birds were not enough, there were unruly, hoarse sounds emanating from the makeshift bus stand. ‘India Gate, Lal Qila, ISBT’, one of them promised, all at once. Pretending this to be my first ride, on one of Delhi’s deadliest machines, I innocently sought confirmation about ISBT. Once on the bus I found my way to a safe corner to catch up on lost sleep. But the driver had other plans. For the next one hour the driver chose to treat his passengers to a fresh-out-of-the-studio Punjabi song. ‘Mitaraan di chatri ton ud gayee’ The song played some 15 times. I got off the bus mincing harsh words against the driver. But the impact was profound I was now humming the communicable tune.

I made it in time for the bus to Rishikesh. My tryst with Gangaji was now imminent. This wasn’t the first though, I had learned from a family album of an earlier visit to Rishikesh and Haridwar. But in many ways it was the first. The magic that the word ‘Ganga’ had come to create was insurmountable. It almost rushed a gust of fresh air, even in Delhi pollution, in me. The enormity of life and the smallness of our being, often, dawned on me, at the thought of the river. Rapt.

On the way to Rishikesh is the holy city of Haridwar. Just before the bus entered Haridwar Gangaji started making momentary appearances, enthralling passengers. Looking around I saw people bowing their heads in reverence, in that one moment the greatness of the river, trickling down the Himalayas, was reinforced on me.

The distance between Haridwar and Rishikesh is all of 16 kms, travel time does not suggest that though. Once inside the city, and heading for Tehri Garhwal, I found Gangaji flowing in all Her splendor, enjoying an expanse that befits Her eminence. Just then the aroma of the place, as I had perceived, struck me. ‘I have arrived!’

To be continued....

Sunday, June 10, 2007


The light of the lamp stood firm and bright, amidst a storm and lightening night. And there in a cot lay a lady, with a shade of melancholy. Her eyes wore a moist look. Sitting in her rickety chair, she gazed nervously at the door.

Long years ago, the Mahatma had done the unthinkable, calling off the nation-wide freedom movement. ‘We are not ready for freedom, yet’, he exclaimed.

‘I fear not the thought of treading the gallows for it will only take me closer to martyrdom’, Ajit spoke in a huff and ran out of the house after hearing about the Mahatma’s withdrawal. His nonchalant talk of martyrdom often left his widow mother thinking if he knew what it really meant to be a martyr. And what a martyr meant for a mother.

Everyday he left for his usual chores – party meetings, addressing school and college students, recruiting youth for his party’s army to fight the British – all of which made his party a tuft of ‘Inquelabis’. He often spoke of a manzar, ‘where blue skies filled with dotted clouds would smile on the earth below. Men, work with pride. Women a mirthful treasure at home. And, kids, the reflection of a charming nation.’ Dream. Most certainly for him.

On a cold, foggy day, Ajit was caught by surprise. He was hiding in a lone decrepit house on the border of Amritsar when troops of the British army lay siege to the house. After a few hours of skirmishing, Ajit ran out of ammunition. Troops were now high on his heels.

In Ajit were bestowed the hopes of many, the dreams of many. He was the savior of his tribe. One who was soon forgotten and his memories buried in the wounded soil. The country eventually did realize freedom, not without erstwhile streets becoming rivulets of blood. Blood that bore no identity. A bit had been achieved but much more lost.

His mother was now a pale existence of her former self. 17 years had passed since she had heard of Ajit. As many years had passed since she had smiled. Her mind would constantly construct pictures of her young son, fighting the British, walking through streets full of people who with pride claimed to know him, and, dressed in white kurta and dhoti. She was old now. Her memory was beginning to deceive her. She could not remember how he smiled, what clothes looked best on him.

How the Inquelabis bled for their motherland but forgot about their mothers, this irony never escaped her. ‘At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…’ announced the just anointed Prime Minister. Words that hit her over. To her freedom meant nothing, she had lost everything. All that was left was a red thread that Ajit wore around his wrist as a mark of his grit. A few pieces of paper, scribed on them were Urdu poems. A half-torn, half-worn-out picture of a scrawny boy who looked little like Ajit.

She now lived on hope. A hope to see her son. A hope to let her tears stream down. A hope to meet death. A hope.

Tu na rona ke tu hai Bhagat Singh kee maa

Mar ke bhi laal tera marega nahin

Doli chadh ke toh laate hain dulhan sabhi

Has ke har koi faansi chadhega nahin”

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Har kissi ko zamaane mein muqamal jahaan nahin milta
Kissi ko zameen toh kissi ko aasma nahin milta

Sipping on my Pina Colada, with a bunch of friends at a neighborhood café, I gradually slipped into my chair to gel with the environment. It seemed a place for the young and happening. A look around revealed the glamour quotient of the audience. Ambiance!

The concept of cafés which play music and proffer a youthful and shimmering environment surfaced in India less than a decade ago. From being a frequent place for the elite to, now, a meeting place for the common, cafés have evolved over time.

I sat there with ease, swiveling my neck often only to place my eyes on a pretty face. (Perhaps, that’s something that doesn’t even importune a mention here). Just then my eyes fell on this young boy wiping the floor. A sight so common, in our country, that it can put the word common to shame. He quietly picked up broken pieces of a glass from the floor, ignoring the slurs directed at him, and then vanished into the relative comforts of the kitchen. I felt a pricking pang of conscience but chose not to spend any thought on it.

Not seeing the kid for a while the restlessness inside me started brewing. Was he heartbroken or just too ashamed of his situation? And then he appeared. A mélange of emotions embellished his face. I tried hard to locate a dominant feeling but déjà vu was writ all over his face. He soon got back to his menial job, cleaning tables of those he should have been in school with.

I wanted to know what was going inside of him. Did he believe in God, his existence, his impassiveness? Or, was all of this beyond his comprehension, due to an upbringing which fated him little knowledge, leave alone the mysteries of life. He seemed a quiet person, though the environ was not exactly congenial for him to speak, his eyes bore that look. His face was a pale testimony of his misfortune, semblance of a listless life.

Carefully tending to his job, every now and then his eyes trekked up only to find mine fixed on him. My constant watch was not a matter of bother for him, but surprise yes. Surprised. Even I was. For, I had never felt like this before. The glaring differences in our society are there for us to ignore at every step in life. Then what brought about this pricking? I know not.

Sitting there I realized how callous we’ve become and how our society has conditioned itself to never be pained at the gargantuan abyss that exists.

After a while it was time for us to leave. I didn’t want to, but the regular joe in me couldn’t care less and decided to forget and move on. So I did. But a task remains incomplete. Some day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

All for a cup of tea

A gentle knock at my door at an unearthly hour was good enough to throw me out of bed and send me scurrying for my mobile. I could hear my heart thudding inside. Before I could call for help the knocking increased, sending shivers down my spine. It seemed as if a childhood nightmare, which never shaped into reality, was coming true. I decided to wrap myself in a blanket and hide underneath my bed. Same moment, I was curious to find out the identity of my tormentor, forgetting for some time the age old maxim – ‘curiosity kills the cat’. In a brief while I made up my mind to encounter the demon that chose to be insensitive and terrorize his/her target at 2 a.m. Equipping myself with a flower vase, the only bulky thing in my room other than my suitcase which was full of a whole bunch of doodads, I slowly unfurled the door. The door made a creaking sound lending credibility to the whole scene. I put up a stern face deceiving the terror inside.
Much to my bewilderment, it was a 2 legged creature wearing a pajama. My eyes then scrolled-up to trace his head which was covered with a monkey cap. But I could see the eyes; its appearance convinced me of its masculinity for it seemed unlikely that creatures from the other world could have reverse biological systems. Without any suggestion my tormentor started walking towards me. I chose to hit the reverse trail. Soon I heard a broken voice come from inside of me, ‘who are you, who are you?’ Right then, the demon took off his monkey cap and flung it across my room. Still soaked in shock, I failed to recognize my friend, Mohan, who inadvertently became a demon.
There was calm in my room now. In a moment I imagined myself becoming the butt of jokes at the breakfast table in the morning. But to my delight, Mohan was unaware of it all, surprisingly for a guy known for his famous pranks. ‘I need your help’, he said in a hush tone, ‘I need to call Arijit, a colleague of mine.’ We headed for the living room where the fancy age-old phone was installed.

While he searched for the number, I inquired about the purpose of the call. ‘It’s an emergency’, he muttered. ‘It sure must be’, I thought to myself, what else will explain a call in the wee hours of the morning. A couple of attempts begot no response. The third attempt woke his friend out of his slumber, ‘Ramlal, do cup chai lana’ (Ramlal, get me two cups of tea), said Mohan nonchalantly. After waiting for about 10 seconds he quietly put the phone down. We looked at each other. I was dumbfounded. And then the house was echoing with sounds of our uncontrollable laughter. It was my turn now to call for some black tea.

I could barely stop laughing but still continued to call Mohan’s not-so-innocent friend. A hiatus of half an hour was enough for him to go back to sleep. (It had been years since we had put that thing called telephone to such a use). I called again, and after listening to the terrified and annoyed voice on the other end I spoke the golden words, ‘Ramlal, do cup chai lana.’ We had developed cramps and were tear-eyed by the end of it all.
The next morning Mohan, called me from his office apprising me about the state of his friend who was greatly angered but didn’t suspect any of his office mates to be behind this. Excitement was building as the evening came closer. After everyone in the guest house was off to sleep, we got together in the living room. Our eyes bespoke of sternness comparable with that of an executioner. The time was the same as the day before and so were the intent and desire. ‘Ramlal, do cup chai lana’! Mohan’s friend was taken aback with a little surprise for he didn’t expect a repeat act. He questioned angrily ‘who is it?’

Day 3 was a repeat of day 2 except that this time our target was awake and pounced on the phone at the first ring. Before we could order for another round of tea he showered us with the choicest Punjabi words laced with his colloquial accent (toom saalaa baheench#$). The guffaws were unstoppable!

Following morning, Mohan sensed something wrong; his friend had called the police who were going to tap his phone and trace the caller. Unfortunately, that was the end of our escapade. I guess it’s only normal in a country which lives on tea that people should go to such an extent for a cup of tea. Only thing, both of us were loath to tea drinking. But thanks to Darjeeling tea the memory of Ramlal lives on.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A case for classical conditioning of a different kind

It had been days since the town was beset with gloom. A glimmer of hope had arrived. The Sun was out in its full glory and was, in its own way, lifting the sagging spirits of everyone in school after a tough week, one which brought ephemeral despair.

Transpose to today. Entrenched in my comfy bean bag with earphones plugged-in, I experienced a sudden rush of images, in a sequence, from yesteryears. They crooned about a time which was fast fading. It was a strange feeling. Memories often come back to you in bits and pieces but this was different, a whole phase was being played out in my mind without a photo album serving as a mnemonic. After much thought I came to a faint conclusion, perhaps, it was the song playing on my CD-man that regenerated scenes from the past. The song Yaaron dosti badhee hee haseen hai was much battered in college days. It knew no occasion and was a favorite of all guitarists.

A friend once told me, long after college got over, that every time he heard someone whistle the ‘Main hoon naa’ tune he felt it was me passing through the corridors of the boys hostel. All of this sounds to me like classical (read: musical) conditioning, though, of a different kind.

A song regenerating memories? In effect it means that the process of classical conditioning takes place when one is glued to the same music for a long time.

Music assumes many roles in our lives, for some it’s just a means of entertainment while for many it’s a soother, a motivator, an inspiration, an old wine that drowns with it sorrows of the listener. We constantly seek our kind of music. A passionate listener will plunder a song that he likes by listening to it over and over again till the marginal utility of the song threatens to enter negative territory or CD the cracks. It would be not be an unfair assessment that majority music listeners are passionate listeners in their own right. And passion and music are intertwined.

As a kid, I got a free cassette, by virtue of filling up a no-brainer-quiz, it had songs by Madonna and Phil Collins. One track that I took to was ‘Another day in paradise’. For many months that was the only song that played on my stereo. Today the same song revives the zeitgeist of those times.
My guess is while we live out our daily lives, the central repository where all things get recorded takes in our feelings, thoughts, experiences of the times and records them to serve as memories of times gone by, along with them in the background goes the music of those days. Especially, music that one is really hooked on to. And when you put ears to the music of yesteryears you, almost, feel transported back in time.

It’s a strange yet magical phenomenon, one that comes to mind every now and then, but is mysteriously indescribable. Next time I pick up an old CD I know what lies in store for me.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

City of much joy

Walking through the congested bylanes of Calcutta, wearing my dispassionate attitude towards the city, I seldom paid attention to the inherent charm of the place and its people. Unexplainable indifference! The city I came from had no text-book history stuff to boast off, and I was every bit starved of cultural diversity, it was an opportunity to stomach the seamless splendor. It was indeed my first chance at a life outside my own backyard.

With gradual changes in the torn calendar, hanging lifelessly on my bedroom wall, I took to the city, albeit in small steps. The towering existence of history and heritage across the city took me back in time.

Cal, is an unusual city in many ways one of them being its unique capability of bringing to life long-forgotten heroes. No where else will one feel close to Rabindra Nath Tagore, Rabindra sangeet resonates with fervor through the streets, as much as one does in Cal. The city bears testimony to the now-so-distant freedom struggle and the stalwarts of the struggle. Much of this can be attributed to the zealous Calcuttans for whom preservation of the old is a way of life.

It was the same flock of characteristic Calcuttans who stood up to save the tram network from extinction. Trams were a delight to see on the road, better still a ride on one of them. A twirling ride through a great part of the city at Rs. 3, sitting in the 1st class compartment, often took more than 2 hours but enthralled the senses of its admirers. Then there is the Calcutta metro a relatively modern invention but still a much loved affair for the ordinary Calcuttan. Trains originate from Dumdum and Tollygunje, they standout for their efficiency in a city better known for its laid back lifestyle. But perhaps the transportation that is reminiscent of olden Calcutta will always be the hand- pulled rickshaw. No painting exhibition on Calcutta will ever be complete without the hand-pulled rickshaw taking a suitable place.

Calcutta’s localities are personalities in themselves. In times when cities are structured and termed more simply and logically, like sectors and phases, Cal is still a happy exception along with Delhi. Park street, Fort William, Gariahat, Bhavanipur, Dumdum some of the famous localities of Cal. Each one speaks for its vibrancy.

Smells of the wonderful cuisines of Calcutta still stimulate my senses. And force me into comparison ad infinitum. In my short stint at Calcutta I learnt the nuances of the city and why Calcuttans anywhere will always fondly
look back to the City of ‘much’ Joy.

One of my friends not-so-famously said, ‘Calcutta is every inch a museum, a place where you’ll never be short of wonderment.’ Gospel!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Whither my days?

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief youth,
Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year

Lines from the eternal poem ‘On his having arrived at the age of twenty three’ by John Milton. Reading the poem as a careless teenager never did I ponder enough over what the Miltonic language tried to convey. It was a stage far away, and the excitement of the imminent youth blinded the poet’s subtle mourning. Soon the years, of youth, were to come and the words of Milton were lost in memory. The years seemed never-ending.

Days would begin with the usual monotone expected from a father to his ‘useless’ son about the benefits, which were to dodge me for many years, of being an early-riser. Dressed as a typical urban middle class boy, garlanded with a fancy bag, it didn’t have anything of consequence in it, I set out. Not before my smiling mother unfailingly waved goodbye to me. And then it was me and my love, my cruiser bike. Driving on the streets of the city of my dreams, Chandigarh, much like Rabbi Shergill in the now much-praised song, Dilli. I sang as if the roads were all to me. My destination was at a distance of 3 songs.

Through my 5 years of college life one thing that I was uncannily consistent at was missing the first class. Most part of the day was spent in the corridor (Besides the other classes). Barring the occasional talk about the fast approaching professional life, and the baggage it would bring along (which I suspect Milton refers to as manhood), I was mostly gleeful.
With this setting, life went on at it’s usual pace. And as it happens in true proverbial sense Time flew, leaving just a whiff of the yesteryears.

Waqt rehta nahin kahin tick kar
Iski aadat bhi aadmi see hai

At 25, the words of Milton are back and more meaningful than ever before. For I seem to be lost in a muddle. The spirit of the ol’ days flutters, though, infrequently, rendering a semblance to the old me in my mind. Must admit that I lead a reasonably happy and satisfied life, but still the yearning of going back rules the heart. Going back to a phase which was symbolized by the free wheeling spirit, bursts of untamed laughter, and the unflagging enthusiasm. All of which seem limited today in many senses.

‘That I too manhood am arrived so near’

The fear of impending manhood perhaps worried Milton more than the loss of youth. Manhood holds back everything that youth stands for and therein lies the reason for ‘harking back’. As I look ahead, I see ambitions, dreams, achievements and much more. But in the same breath I see the growing irrelevance and the eventual fading away of all this. Perhaps, that’s because in the course of our grown-up lives we forget living the life of the heart.

Success means living the life of the heart
- Francis Ford Coppola

The quest of life ought to be found out while living life of the heart, else it ain’t worth it.

In life there are five balls, health, spirit, family, friends and work
Work is a rubber ball if it falls, it will keep coming up…..
While the other 4 balls are made of glass, if they fall you lose them

My thwarted and sometimes successful attempts at rekindling the spirit of the days gone by leave me with a hope. A hope that ferries me from dawn to midnight. A hope that promises the long walk back home.

A hope that promises my old self……

Friday, April 20, 2007

A beginning

Taking to writing after a long long time. Sure I regret not being a regular at writing and missing out on so many years of literary joy. Perhaps a long inning awaits. So I hope. I am faced with an empty quagmire of deciding on the slant of my work-to-be. Topics close to the heart aplenty but none too much. To brush aside my lack of immediate clarity, on my initial writing efforts, let me say as I saunter with time my writings should ultimately turn towards my Lakshya (what I seek in life)
Lakshya, a possession that I lack in life and each day desperately look forward to embracing. Though, at first look, to most of us, it seems a rather well-known and studied utterance yet a deeper dissection reveals the complete oblivion of the essence of the word Lakshya. Lakshya to me is far away from the archetypical set of needs and desires that changes frequently with time.
It is like a line going through the chronicles of a man’s life. A common factor through all the endeavors in one’s life.

I seek not this at the end of the tunnel, but whilst there is dark.

With this thought I inaugurate my blog, titled ‘Seeking life…’