Meghma Calling…..


Megma, ten thousand feet above sea level, a sleepy village shrouded all the year round by envelopes of misty clouds, lies right on the border of Bengal and Nepal. Cavorts by Meghma the toughest stretch for bikers leading to the popular trekking paradise – Sandakphu. Megma or Meghma (Megh meaning clouds) boasts of a lone school Saraswati Mandir and an indomitable man with a mission…..

Sandakphu

Sandakphu

Meghma Mission

The man strode the steep mountainous roads with a purpose and an agility which belied his age. He was sixty one and still going strong! Sturdily built the smile on his lips left a silken glow to his eyes and whenever he roared with laughter the cloud draped peaks of Meghma echoed his child-like joy in countless booms. At the age of four he had nurtured a dream which he lived his entire life. It was a simple wish which had become his mission….to spread the light of education in every humble home of remote India. He had never quantified his achievement but devoted the best part his life to the crumbling edifice of Saraswati Mandir. Now retired, he still attended to the myriad jobs, from administrative to teaching, involved in running the school, however, obscure and uncared for the same might be.

The Odds :
He could see the two roomed brick house with thatched roof standing proud not afar. It always reminded him of an aged patriarch who had seen much of life yet refused to succumb to tortuous times. The walls desperately needed a coat or two of paint. When the clouds burst in anger the roofs leaked and the wild wind seeped through the loosely cemented brick wall sending a numbing chill down the bodies of those twenty odd little children who dared to dream with him – of getting to know the letters! There was never enough in those three class rooms which he and Neela ma’am managed to keep going – the rooms were sparsely furnished, the desks and chairs creaked and shook, the blackboards had lost colour and cracked from side to side a long time back, the chalks had reduced to stubbles, there were no picture charts or basic visual aids for the children to ‘see, learn and relate to’ and above all the scarce stationary, a basic necessity of the teacher and the taught, were perennially in need of replenishment.

 

Sandakphu 2

The Quiet Sleepy Village

 

The children had understood poverty before they could know the alphabets. Putting up at higher altitude they trekked around 2.5 km. each day to reach their “abode of enlightenment” sometimes shivering in biting cold and at others soaking wet in tireless downpours. Remember Ekalavya who had to give away his thumb as gurudakshina to Dronacharya? A price to pay for privileged learning? These children pay their prices too and a very heavy ones at that. There are days they go without meal and when the pencils turn into stubs, which their tiny fingers can barely clutch, they practice the alphabets on the ground and put a handful of pebbles outlining their achievement – milestones do we call them?
Yet when the tiny hands hold a roughly sketched painting of Maa and Paa and a little child reading a book by the fireside or a pair of charcoal eyes lit up in excitement when a sum is done right, it is then that a few droplets of rains prick the teacher’s seeking eyes.

The Brave Hearts :

 

Meet the brave hearts Chandra Kumar Pradhan and the ever smiling Neela ma’am, who against all odds, are unobtrusively making monumental efforts to keep the light of education burning in the tough rocky terrains of remote Meghma!
Chandra Sir joined Saraswati Mandir at the age of 19. Having retired last year as the principal, he still continues to be associated with the school, teach the children and even extend private tuition, all free of cost coupled with a warm smile and loving heart. Neela ma’am helps with the basic supplies. Despite the insufficiencies and scarcities, twenty children pitter-patter their way to the school every day with a happy smile and heart full of expectations. What new are they going to learn today?

 

nelson mandela

 

My School Days :

For us schooling is just that part of life for which our parents have bothered more than we have had time to worry about. Six plus and a chocolate-coloured bus would stop at the door-step to take me to the wondrous world of nursery. With growing excitement, I climbed the ladder – from prep to middle to high school. In the beginning of each month, the fees were deposited without fail and come May brand new books and note books found their way to my study table. Those were the golden days – free and fanciful – of exploring and expanding horizon with Science and History, picking up newer ways of solving Algebraic equations, gorging on more books in addition to what was enlisted in the syllabus or kicking dust in the sprawling school grounds and getting bruised in the volley ball court. Today, I see the next generation working harder preparing for exams, deciding on academic career, scanning the list of prestigious institutes for admission, surfing through the net for a bank of unlimited and easily accessible information and referrals and persevering for a better tomorrow.
While urban education is more about competition and preparation for higher pursuits, in rural India it is more than often a question of fundamentals. Is the midday meal being regularly supplied to the children? Are the teachers really taking their classes seriously? Are the village households motivated enough to send their children to school? Is the community gender sensitized? The issues are innumerable and obstacles at times insurmountable.
Against this rural backdrop, it does not take much imagination to figure out the stupendous efforts put up by two undaunted souls – Chandra Prakash Sir and Neela Ma’am – to keep the bell ringing!! And never forget the children, who brave the steep inclines and inclement climes to reach Saraswati Mandir each day on time.
Will Chandra Kumar Pradhan’s dreams ever come true?

 

The Bigger Dream :

 

Notwithstanding what lies in store in the future, Chandra Kumar dares to dream. As he shuts his eyes, the mist clears over a sprawling estate – Saraswati Mandir – its whitewashed walls sparkling in the rare sunshine streaming through the clouds. Children laughing and playing in the school grounds tended with care. Well-furnished class rooms with polished blackboards, side boards adequately stacked with requisite stationary, pin-up boards showcasing the talents of the students – hand-made charts, arts and crafts, a bustling canteen, clean corridors winding through rows of classrooms filled with attentive faces, an attractive library having just the right number of books to make the children of Meghma aware of the world beyond the sentinels of undulating peaks and above all bunches of happily smiling kids not only from Meghma but also from nearby neighbouring villages in tidy uniforms filing towards the school gate.

 

Chandra’s dream doesn’t stop at the school gate. He visualizes a brighter tomorrow for Meghma. Khimku, the tea vendor’s son, distributing the local newspaper along with cups of tea to his customers at the tea stall. Chandu, the shopkeeper’s son, signing the documents at the bank for the loan he wishes to take to extend his father’s shop. Khushmal, so fond of Daak Vans, taking over as the Post Master at the local Post Office. And who knows Rani, his most promising student, may one day cross over the narrow bounds of Meghma and opt for the district college to pursue higher studies? For each of his twenty odd students Chandra nurtures a special dream. And when they all grow up to become proud parents they will show their children the path that leads to the haven of learning – Saraswati Mandir. That is how Chandra wants his Meghma to grow – a literate Meghma, an aware Meghma, an incredible Meghma!!!

 

Is it too much to wish for? Is it too big a dream to fulfil for a Shining India? Will Meghma remain wanting with a half story?

 

DEREK BOK

 

Article 21a of the Indian Constitution embodies the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education or Right to Education enacted by the Indian Parliament on 4th August 2009.
However, right also entails duty. While we enjoy our right it is our duty to see others enjoy their rights too. It is time to enjoy our right and #Do Right!

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

 

At present, Saraswati Mandir’s needs are elementary – two set of blackboards and twenty set of stationary.
But these are the rudimentary steps on which shall be founded a day a larger and stronger assemblage of learning and sharing.
Let’s just not confine the word education to the pious embodiments of the Constitution.
Let’s make education a way of life.

So,

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this half story to make it complete.

Indiblogger with Indichange has taken the initiative with Tata Capital to complete these half stories.

I hope this meager contribution of mine, by way of this blog post, helps spread awareness about Chandra Kumar Pradhan’s mission to make education a way of life in every household in Meghma!

Please do visit http://doright.in

Hope Meghma’s mist filled skyline gets lighted with the blazing torchbearers of Saraswati Mandir – Chandra Kumar Pradhan and Neela !!!!

Bravo

 

A Strange Philosophy You Would Love To Hate


THE STRANGERIt is one of my esteemed co-blogger’s comment on one of my blogs which had drawn me inexorably towards Albert Camus and his writings. Before that, I am sorry to say, I had not even heard his name. Camus (1913-1960), a Nobel Laureate in Literature (1957), was a French writer, philosopher and propounder of absurdism. The absurdists believe that the coexistence of the Universe and the human mind are in inherent contradiction with each other making it humanly impossible, given the vast realm of information and the unknown, to find the ultimate truth. Camus’ novel The Stranger (1942) is an archetypical statement on existentialism (though Camus rejects it) and the absurd.

Meursault, the protagonist of the novel, attends his mother’s funeral at the Home for the Aged Persons at Marengo. His calmness and composure, during the last rites, attract the attention of the inmates. On his return, Meursault revives his friendship with Marie, who used to once work at the same office where he works. Given to taciturnity, Meursault does not clearly elucidate his feelings for Marie. However, Marie is eager to marry him. He also strikes up a closer association with his dubious neighbour Raymond Sintes. By and by Raymond confesses that he is having rough patches with his Moorish mistress. On his request, Meursault gets involved in Raymond’s plan to teach her a lesson. However, both fail to take into account the resultant unpleasantness when the plan half succeeds. Raymond gets into a brawl with the girl’s brothers (Arabs) and it is Meursault, who in a heat haze, kills one of them.

Meursault is arrested and put under trial. It is during the court proceedings that Camus systematically reveals how societal dictates impinge upon the concept of natural justice. It is not the act of crime but the preconceived notions of the justice-deliverers that colour the rulings. Meursault is identified as a hard-core criminal by his behaviour preceding and after the killing  -  his atheism, his lack of remorse during his mother’s funeral rites, his physical intimacy with his girlfriend the very next day of his mother’s death, his refusal to break down before the magistrate as a sign of repentance, his total lack of guilt, his matter-of-factness during the entire trial proceedings and finally his disregard for the prison chaplain – are considered to be sufficient indicators of how unfeeling and criminal minded he is. We are conditioned by the established norms of the society and quick to being judgmental against those who do not conform to set behavioural patterns.

Parallely, Camus diligently addresses the issues of individual liberty – the freedom to express Camusoneself the way one wants – and punishment (as mitigated by the law implementers of the land) as a mechanism designed to progressively curtail free thinking and free living of those whom society considers detrimental to civilization. Contentious and debatable Camus creates a surreal atmosphere in his novel, The Stranger, wherein the protagonist as an individual is as dispassionate and detached a player amidst the “benign indifference of the Universe” – the L’ Etranger.

In stark contrast to the Karmic advocacy of a singular stream of super consciousness binding the cosmos in its entirety in one thread, Camus’ approach is relentlessly pessimistic. Time and again, the portrayal of individual existence usurps the form of an isolated journey, in the midst of frenzied monotony of day to day living, juxtaposed haplessly against an ever churning yet apathetic Universe. The revelation is almost suicidal and a betrayal of the buoyant note of optimism and hope that mankind vouches for. Underlies a Spencerian streak too hopelessly imputing utilitarian worth to a man’s aimless wandering following the currents of time’s linearity. Pitted against this ever-expanding vastness of the Universe, man is a condemned creature of circumstances – extenuating or otherwise.

Camus is disturbing and not exactly a hope raiser.  An upsurge of emptiness and meaninglessness overwhelms as Meursault is sentenced to the guillotine and no clue is supplied by the author whether an appeal to the next higher authority in hierarchy may yield a verdict in his favour. While illusion is as absurd as reality, one would, for the sake of an assumed continuum of euphoria, wish to hold on to a shadow of the former than give up irrevocably to the harshness of the latter.

Camus’ narrative is in the first person and except the last few chapters (Meursault’s life in prison) not exactly descriptive or introspective. Notwithstanding, Stuart Gilbert’s translation is lucid and conveys well the universal loneliness of existence howsoever gregarious the human species is intended to be.  Interestingly, the narrative focuses and floats on a string of happenings underscoring the essence of being in the awareness of one’s existence and surrounds. Even during the most dramatic or cathartic moment, there is no indulgence in nostalgic remembrance of the past or dwelling upon the lack of certitude of the future. Remarkable is the detached acceptance of the protagonist even as the last ray of hope appears to be progressively diminutive.

CAMUS 2Having said all that, Camus makes one think. However, even as he denies, Meursault’s fated end amidst “howls of execration” is a conformation to Society’s diktats. The Stranger has layered strata of incredulity and a realm of larger acceptance which is almost enviable in its accomplishment and at the same time implausible to attain if viewed pragmatically. Yet, it’s an unforgettable classic because in the final analysis it speaks of the timeless desire of man to live life on his own terms.

The Jaded Jersey


You can read the first part here

METRO

 

The colour orange was not exactly a blasphemy. Yet in all its shabbiness, it was loud enough to attract attention. The wearer of this eyesore (read jersey) was a chinky-eyed girl who had her nose immersed in an Ayan Rand. I think it was the Fountain Head. I was envious of her because more than once I had tried to emulate her stance and failed miserably. Though the Metro has a smooth glide, yet reading while standing inside the Ladies’ Compartment has often given me a stiff neck and resultant vertigo because of which I finally decided to give up on reading in a moving vehicle of any order.

The seats were as usual all  occupied – mothers knitting, aunts dozing, girls chirping, loud mouths gossiping…there were all kinds bunched together in that compartment bustling with gregarious humanity conspiring to survive another day in an over-saturated urban hole.

Amidst the ruckus was this plump girl having an animated conversation on mobile with, (I thought at first) her boyfriend, no, (but later got convinced) her husband. The realization was gradual, i.e.,  from conjecture (boyfriend) to ultimate confirmation (husband). Women go by their instincts.  Mobile chats have come of age. In today’s here-we-go-round-the-mulberry-bush-kind-of-life they are the only savior of sanity. Being an ace eavesdropper, my veteran ears can now pick up the subtlest of nuances of a one-sided talk in a jiffy….Its layered, to say the least, I mean, a chat with the Invisible One at the other end.

If you are in a settled kind of relationship, the chat is equivalent to that of reading out the weather report (Well, nowadays, even that is contrived to be  more watch-worthy; who listens to the droning news-giver on FM Rainbow?). You discuss (underlined) the perpetual tussle with your-not-so-happening-boss, never ending hang-ups with your best friend, ever-widening rift with your parents – the gen gap – they want you to get married and you have prioritized on establishing a career first and in general land up divulging to all and sundry the boring manuscript of your jaded life, in between strings of unbecoming yawns, because you know he (on the other end) won’t mind that you are completely faded out by the end of a not-so-uncommon day. You value him as a listener, a confidante of your unexciting secrets while he may be feeling equally sleepy  but manages to keep afloat and make appropriate noises, by way of intermittent replies, to pep you up, in a friendly way.

With the one you are just feeling the grounds about, there is a zing to the ring ! A kind of poorly suppressed undertone of excitement, an irresistible  urge to prove yourself to be interesting and smart, a withhold ready to erupt in a barrage of unrestrained outbursts – the blush on your cheeks, the shine in your eyes, the quiver on your lips say much more than you wish to disclose to strangers.

Alas! With the husband, its a different cup of tea all together. Its familiarity bordering on contempt graduated to the next level! You know each other too well to be disillusioned. You make factual statements which are as impassive as your facial expression. Even the volley of accusations that you throw at each other, at regular intervals, has lost the edginess of an impending word-war. In short, you are completely in sync with each other, to the extent of being zoned off  from the rest of the world, your absolute acceptance of each other epitomizing a perfection attained in the course of an age-long assiduousness .

So, I opted for the third…the deceptively placid tone, the shimmer-less smile playing on her lips,  the preparedness in her gesticulations  -  the girl was engaged  in a conversation with her dear old hubby. And it flowed somewhat like :

Tumhaare muh mein keedey pade. Par padenge kaise tum to khud hi ek keeda ho!” (May your mouth be infested with a horde of insects. But how could it be? Aren’t you an insect yourself?). This was an even-toned remark said in as matter of fact a manner as though she were making a casual mention of the current price of potato in the market. A flicker of smile went around – understanding, appreciative, amused – like a smooth glide of a sedate wave, pacific on the surface yet carrying  hints of undercurrents which a wise seafarer might think twice before navigating.

But what baffled me was the unperturbed countenance of  my co-commuter of Oriental ancestry. Unruffled she continued with her philosophical preoccupation; more engrossed than ever as I was left wondering whether the colloquial banters were too alien an exchange for her to understand or appreciate. If not, then how could she…………?

Routine is annoying. There is nothing pleasant to keep us tickled in a planned timetable of survival. The usualness of the daily rut bogs down. Yet we have a choice – to find humour and meaning in the mundane! And what else can furnish an outlet to our cooped up  existence than momentary respites stolen during the exhausting journey called life?

At the same time its a difficult choice because the choice lies with you…

Contd…/-

Frivolous Banter Part I


hbx0512Brahler13-lgn“Your bathroom is a room too….” Some ad-lines titivate while there are others which revolutionize not only the way you live but also the way you think. Who could have imagined potted plants, fresheners and designer floor-tiles displacing the monotony and colourlessness (not to mention the obnoxious smell) of your toilet (Isshhhh!!! That sounds so derogatory almost to the point of obscenity!!) to the extent that you would not like to relieve yourself, oops sorry, not that….actually you would like to relive all your rosy dreams for endless hours relaxing on the pot which by now miraculously appears to have evolved into a bejeweled throne of some sort…

We, as a nation, have come a long way….from temptingly exposing our butts by the rail tracks to the ogling eyes of thousands of known and unknown passers-by to languidly stretching out our exhausted frames in sunk-in Jacuzzi lined bathtubs. From the quintessential (downmarket some would scoff) lota to the immaculate, not to say, imported designer wares which add multiple dimensions to our sinks, shower cubicles, commodes and what not and what not.

The questions is why…why after all the bathrooms which were once considered absolutely dispensable (and unholy) structures while constructing a house…. an insult to human habitation to be added to the main portion of the house. Weren’t the lush green, beckoning meadows ideal enough to engage in that activity!!! Under the shady nook of an ancient tree by the rumbling brook while the birds chirped merrily and the bees hummed dizzily, ‘enlightenment’ embracing the crouched lurker in winged folds!! When you have the bounties of Nature at your disposal then after all why suddenly go extravagant on the room, which is actually not considered a room, by the typical Indian psyche?

“Has your sense of propriety taken a dip in the Ganges? Its an insult to one’s intellect contemplating on such issues….” Snorted my 03.00 am friend. Then on an afterthought,”Of course, its the effect of globalization…..what else?”

“Is it?” I was not convinced. “You cannot just pin everything down to that …”

“Mankind have an inherent inclination to beautify everything around them…. luxuriate in the lap of extreme comfort……its the sensualist within us …..addiction to extravaganza….Remember the Hamaams… the medieval improvisation of modern day spas?”

“Well…………..”

“What else?” She sounded impatient to close the topic asap.

“But have you ever delved further? What is the underlying urge in us which provokes mindless squandering in the name of aesthetics….”

She looked dubious….

“We are self-seekers. We wish to feel elevated by ornamenting our surrounds…” She said at length.

I remembered once when in the Office, the gents washroom was getting renovated, the ladies were asked to use the one attached to the Conference Hall while theirs was allocated to the ‘displaced’ male members of the fraternity. But the temporary brass plate on the the entry door to the Ladies Room declaring it to be the “Gentleman’s Toiltet” gave rise to a whole lot of speculations, which went beyond the bounds of sanitation, the main concern (especially amongst the ladies) being the procedure by which the Gentleman would get distinguished from the clan of non-Gentleman and where would the latter be accommodated if the lavatories were so precisely classified on intention specifics.

“I think the act of relieving itself is an expression of freedom. We free ourselves of the junk accumulating everyday inside our body, medically speaking, and the resultant toxicity inside our mind too…..Swamiji says you have to cleanse your body first in order to have a clean slate for higher spiritual awakening……”Oh! My know-all friend!!! What would I have done without you?

But I was only half listening….her advocacy of freedom beat African rock drums in my over-fertile cerebrum. Lately, the everyday walks with my pet are becoming quite tedious as she has become extremely selective about the spot where she would like to ‘seek freedom’, I mean, relieve herself. She goes sniffing and snooping about the service lane with me on tow patiently prodding her at intervals to be a little less choosy and finish off the day’s work without further fuss. But nothing doing! She is as independent minded as her other canine counterparts. Sniff…sniff….sniff…she goes till I almost throw up my hands in exasperation and let her be off leash for a while till she has determinedly located the coveted spot for attaining Nirvana.

Well, isn’t she as much (if not more) a seeker as we, the deplorable humans are ? Coming to think of that on a positively serious note, will we be ever able to sniff and snoop into unclaimed territories or give a damn to trespass in quest of that ultimate freedom, which will, as my know-all friend propagates, expunge our body of filth and expel the poisonous pollutants from our minds that decimate all our uplifting achievements in a matter of seconds? The answer is an obvious no. We who call ourselves civilized are shackled to our own image. The day we transcend the bounds of civility we shall be emancipated. Till then the chains clang in disturbing notes and we bite dust in eternal search.

I salute you Mr.Jean Jaque Rousseau, sir, after almost two and a half decades of having read you, the underlying assertion of your words pierce a hole in my wanting grey cells ………..Men are born free and they are everywhere in chains”. They are, aren’t they?

Are You Doing Well ?


Image0323Sense of well being is as elusive as success and as tangible as profit. By the time readers stop gawking at the inappropriateness of the analogy, lemme illustrate for the sake of lucidity. When I was offered this coveted post far away from my home ground, I was so encumbered with the bitter botherations of day-to-day living that the euphoria of hitting the jackpot failed to overwhelm me for quite a few years down the line. My dear colleagues, poking fun at my “size zero” figure, would point out that I was one of those few exceptions who managed to retain the “impoverished” look even after guzzling down a few generous fills of the silver tonic which was temptingly packaged with the cushy job. In response, I would be suitably apologetic stammering out lame excuses for the benefit of the prying eyes and wagging tongues. It took a transfer (with promotion) back home for the maiden gush of prosperity to manifest in my vital statistics. Not to mention the sheer despondency of my seamstress who was positively hassled by the few inches which required to be added to my outfits bi-monthly to make them in any way wearable.

The long and short of the story is that though a pot-belly, by the Indian standards, may be the most adequate representation of well-being, it is actually the mindset that has the remote access. Again, it’s rather funny with this neighbour of mine incessantly crying poverty or ill-health when its quite obvious otherwise. The worldly-wise tell me that whining-and-nagging-in-public is an effective antidote to the Black Eye (read Envy) of the Jealous Ones which invariably your wellness attracts. To be very honest, I am guilty of applying the same tactics at times, especially with the ones who have a tendency to go green at your smallest of successes. Sadly by doing so, I realize I am actually employing negative vibes to kill negative vibes thereby perpetuating the same. As I write this, my 03.00 am friend here judiciously prompts that it is our innermost fears and insecurities which play spoilers. “Won’t it be better the sooner we accept that everything which adds up to our comfort level is as ephemeral as life itself? Take each day as it comes.” She sermonizes with that know-all look which at times irritates me to no end. Yet, I cannot help but munch on her preaching.

We feel we are doing well when we are comfortable with our own selves. The slightest sense of unease disrupts the balance impelling us to grope for external saviours to put the equation straight. Well being is a state of mind and like all other mental manifestations, the element of whimsicality is ingrained in its genesis. No wonder, our ancient rishis and sages harped on inner calm rather than material acquisitions. Unfortunately, mere mortals equate wellness with all that comes with creation and proliferation of wealth. And as we are inevitably sucked into the vortex of this mad, mad worldly existence we forget to pause awhile and ask ourselves : “Are we really doing well?”

A seemingly harmless question, rather insignificant, you may say with a scoff, “Of course, I am doing well. See the shining car which I have whisked off the showroom just yesterday although on exorbitant rate of interest. So what? But yes, now I confiscate more space on-road in comparison to the tax that I have shelled out for the same, haven’t I?” True, my friend, you’ve added another feather to your overcrowded cap and another worry to your overburdened brain. It is this very same reason that makes it almost imperative to take a stock of things within and around at regular intervals. Open the floodgates of introspection, face your innermost dilemmas, confirm to your ownself whether your present sense of achievement is not backed by ruthless maneuvers to pull down somebody else who was its rightful claimant, direct all useless thoughts to the recycle bin to delete them permanently, take ownership of your past, present and future, prioritize material goals viz-a-viz their intrinsic worth, vacate your mind of all guilt and restart life without looking back. Do this exercise time and again till you are habituated of it and I promise you won’t require that bottle of sleeping pills by your bedside for a good night’s nightmare-less sleep.

So friends, wake up fresh and ask yourselves: “Are you actually doing well?”

2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

High Heels


HIGH HEELS

 

I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot – Marilyn Monroe

I miss my Metro days - when I used to travel to and fro office by the tube. Oh! How I loved to get lost in the crowd, stare into new faces, overhear funny , interesting conversations and make up stories in my mind. Strangers always intrigue me. Where are they from and where are they off to? What is going on in their lives? What are their hidden secrets? What lies beneath that expressionless face? You may call me naturally inquisitive in a harmless kind of way. But this curiosity , these innocuous questions swirling in my mind, this inner urge to know about people often give birth to tales which I am eager to tell. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a people-centric person but I like to be one amongst them, like a quiet, almost invisible, spectator, watchful, thoughtful yet considerate and concerned.

Enough about myself. Let’s talk about her. I don’t know her name and we have never exchanged pleasantries. I never do. I am not the extrovert kind. But there was something about her which drew my attention each time I saw her. Clad in cotton sarees (and silk, of course, during winters), short in built, fragile boned, with a long, waist length plait swaying down her back, she presented a matronly  picture. In her mid forties or more but quite agile on her feet, she preferred  to stand inside the compartment though it was at times difficult to do so amongst the jostling bodies.

She never smiled or talked much with the co-passengers, which is kind of pity, because I would have loved to here her voice. You know how much one can make out about a person just by listening to his/her voice…. Now, where was I?

She looked like a skittish mice on the look out for a safe anchor. Yes! She did remind me of them. Neither did she look like one of those happily married kinds. In contrast to her usual stance, once or twice I did see her talking to somebody known to her…snatches of conversation indicating an extended family, nieces and nephews…and did she smile ? She did, but the glint did not lit up her face or reach up to her eyes. It was a mere formality & no more. Yet, my eyes sought her in the crowd and I could have, in the long run, discarded her thoughts as unnecessary or remembered her with a faded smile as the ‘Ms. Mouse in the Metro’ …but so it was not to be.

It was a lukewarm evening when we happened to de-board the Metro at the same station. (Aah! Yes, she used to get down at my stop!!)  and as she descended the steps to the concourse, my eyes travelled down to her feet – small, dainty feet encased in high heels Oh yes! High heels smartly tapping on the marbled floor as she made her way through the throng of commuters. Sturdy pair of  shoes those were - neither wedge nor stilettoes - slightly old fashioned ones yet it bestowed an additional dimension to her otherwise lackluster personality. I used to often wonder how smoothly would she maneuver through the crowd while boarding or de-boarding the train attributing her efficiency to the mouse-like skittishness in her. But now, after glancing upon her heels, I had an entirely different opinion about her. She was no more the ‘Mouse in the Metro’.  Behind that well-scrubbed face and the one-amongst-the-crowd persona, lay in hiding a woman of smarter means. A pair of heels gave her an altogether different air… layers to a  common face, an ulterior façade to her unassuming bearing, a super-imposed plainfacedness which now seemed like a cleverly designed deception to divert attention off her innermost cravings…. secret ambitions, perhaps, of being desirable and presentable to a society which overtly fondled pre-conceived notions of  what was attractive and tempting in the womankind. Strange! As these thoughts stirred me I realized how she, with her tap-dancing platform heels, wordlessly made a point perfunctorily countering what I had, in my heart of heart, intended her image to be! Once again, I was compelled to acknowledge that I was also very much a part of the system that I was often disgusted with and vociferously condemned as prejudiced and judgmental.

Due to  my disconnection with the Metro, I have not met her since, although, I presume, she is an inhabitant of the same locality as I am, yet those pair of sturdy heels clicking on the smooth, shiny floor still play a staccato beat  in my mind….quite often…

Well, there are many such insignificant incidents, while journeying by the Metro, that have made permanent abode in my memory. If you ask me why I shall not be able to give a suitable or logical reply. Why these inconsequential anecdotes are so impressionable and memorable that I am dedicating a whole series of posts on them? But the fact remains that they are and here I am chronicling them….and that’s that…

….And then there was this elderly Sardarjee who snored happily as the air-conditioned bogey chomped the tracks with a soothing symphony that complemented well with the sleepyheads slumped over cozily therein on the shoulders of the co-commuters seated adjacent. The Sardarjee with his huge head and huger turban looked as though would roll off the berth anytime the tube took a curve but he never did which provoked generous smiles on the lips of those who could not enjoy the ride as much as the unknown patriarch did in a haze punctuated with rhythmic scores, nay, snores!!!

To be continued…/-

Knitting A Yarn


white-vampirejpg-690For a 09.30 to 05.30 pen pusher, writing is no easy exercise, even if indulged in leisure. Undoubtedly a skill, it requires not only time but a mindset poised on serious and deep introspection. Rather rare, one may say, in times of excessively cluttered schedule and unruly routines.

Still there are moments when the urge is so strong that it knows no restraint and whatever is piled up inside tumbles out in a rush of black and white prints, sometimes on paper and at others on the electronic page.

Somebody once said that writing is a lonely vocation. I’d go a step further and say it is not only a task in isolation but also a very, very personal one at that. Loneliness has spurred realizations of the highest order. The entire creativity is founded on an ocean of unfathomable silence. How lonely God must be when he created the Cosmos! How deeply He must have felt when he painted the Universe! Likewise, we feel what we write. We write because we feel. In every word, therefore, we find ourselves, a little or more, however, we may hide behind facades of philosophical rumination and supposedly detached ponderings.

Like the eternal Creator, a writer also has his/her own dilemmas. Given the fact that writing is a creative activity, the question that always looms large in the minds of the writer, therefore, is not what to write and how to write but how much to write. Again, to quantify thoughts, feelings and musings is as much difficult a process as imputing tangibility to an abstraction.

Sandra Fowler, the World Poetess, commenting on one of my poems, had once said “You give yourself away in words”. God Bless Her Soul! How ecstatic I was to receive such magnanimous appreciation. But soon ecstasy had given way to dread. Do I really expose too much of myself in my writings was a hounding worry that made me conscientiously struggle to change my style of writing. I suppose every writer is that much vulnerable where baring one’s soul is concerned. Then why write at all? I suppose herein lies the dichotomy. We want to speak but remain faceless.

I remember when I first started blogging how scared I was of intrusion in my privacy. It is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t maintain a diary. If somebody by chance got hold of it and came to know what I secretly felt about things.

I laugh to myself as I write this today. A writer with all his/her fears still wants to be read, recognized and talked about. And the pleasure of getting published is one lifetime’s dream come true howsoever inconsequential the writer be.

Having said that, I do wonder whether I have come a long way stumbling over my inhibitions or coming to term with my inner handicaps. Well that’s debatable and would require a longer discourse.

The good news here is that one of my short stories has found the ‘light of publication’, so to speak, in none other than CLRI, i.e. Contemporary Literary Review India, a prestigious e-journal. I share the link below with the hope that my readers and blog-followers will find the time and inclination to read through the story and offer suggestions for improvement.

The story was written and submitted a long time back. For online publication, it may seem a little lengthy because the intent was to get it printed. The other reason behind its length is, whether online or the print version, a story should flow subject to the requirement of the narrative. Random editing or abrupt ending spoil the charm of story telling. After all a story is a story is a story that has to be told well and as long as it enthralls rapt attention, whatever the length is justifiable. More so, if its about vampires and run-down castles, lonely nights and narrow escape from tasting blood. Now, now, here I go again.

Before I give in the rest in a garrulous mood, here’s the link :

My “Twilight” Friend

Happy Reading !

 

 

Rains, CM & C’mmon Man Bechara


Its been raining heavily in the Capital. The poor, dented, pot-holed roads are getting water logged as usual. The aftermath? Endless hours wasted in navigating through clogged traffic to and fro office.

Breaking all records, this year even the VVIP roads got submerged under water adding an extra frown on the PM’s forehead, when one cloudy morning, his convoy got stranded in knee-deep water right in front of his residence. Did he complaint or voice his disapproval to the CM? Or forgave her in his usual taciturn way? We never know. But Ms. Dixit did come out with another one of her placid, janta-jaaye-bhaad-mein comment, “If you want to stay away from traffic woes, do pray to God to stop the rains”. How convenient. When you don’t get anyone else to pass the blame on, throw the responsibility on the ever-strong shoulders of none-other-than God himself.  Aakhir bhagwan kab kaam aayenge…

In the meantime, the common man donned his/her raincoat and unfurled the umbrella to dive into the pool of dirty, pollutant-ridden river to wade  through to and fro workplace.

And as for myself…Well, I always wanted to canoe through the water ways of Venice knowing fully well that this wish is never going to be fulfilled at least in this janam. But the angels heard me and in an expansive mood brought the waterways down to our Mahaan nation Bharat.

While Ms. Dixit sits comfortably in her secretariat, which from the exterior looks like a plush five-star hotel, twirling her grey locks, with one impatient finger, waiting for the clock to strike the closing hour whence she can swoosh past all traffic back to her cozy den, the common man sweats it out on the choc-o-bloc roads adding some more H2O to the already lapping torrents around its mud-caked feet . Haai re kismet!

Untitled

 

 

 

Destined To Be Doomed


Rock Star

I have just finished watching “Rock Star” , the Ranbir starrer,  on TV.  A not-so-recent movie (released in 2011) which got Ranbir ample critical acclaim for his performance as the protagonist in the movie. Then why talk about it now ? Because Rock Star put me on a quandary and unsettled me to no end. So, what’s so disturbing about this high strung emotional drama?

The Plot : Janardan Jakhar (JJ), a rustic Haryanvi Jat and a student of Hindu College (surprised?) , aspires to become a Rock Star. Khatana, the college canteen owner, tells JJ to seek pain and heartbreak in order to notch up his singing to the ultimate level. JJ is infatuated by Heer (Nargis Fakhri), a Stephanite, whom he chases mindlessly at the expense of being humiliated and royally ignored, till one day Heer changes her mind and the pair becomes partners-in-crime watching raunchy movies, visiting sleazy joints, downing cheap liquor and having a gala time together.

In due course, Heer is married off to  Jai (Moufid Aziz) and leaves for Prague and JJ gets thrown out of his home for allegedly stealing money. Thereafter, begins JJ’s nomadic journey through life and his meteoric ascendance to  controversy-ridden stardom. Somewhere, up the chequered path to elevation, Janardan is transformed into Jordan – an impulsive, volatile, violent offspring of misguided passion -  and lands up in Prague.

He, coincidentally enough, accosts a depressive and melancholic Heer, in the quiet streets of Prague, and its like a wet match-stick bursting into flames! Ensues a whirlwind affair translating the hitherto platonic relationship into a torrid tangle.

The consequences of the fatal attraction is predictable. Heer is not entirely bereft of guilt sharing bed with JJ. She tries to separate ways  but to no avail. A love-sick JJ lands up at her doorstep, in the dead of the night, raising the house alarm and life is never the same again for Heer or JJ.

My Take : Conventions, blatantly  scorned, make for attractive love stories. JJ and Heer are birds of the same feather. Both have a nomadic streak in their genes. Both have a congenital disregard for societal norms. Both wish to scale limitless heights driven by passion and amour! Hence, destined to be doomed.

Introspection :  The questions that torment me while watching this stormy saga are many.

What do characters like Heer and JJ want from life?

In the lap of understated opulence, Heer is unhappy. Her clandestine rendezvous with JJ and ultimate adultery border on the licentious.  Bawdy strip tease,  nocturnal sprees to red-light districts and posing as a titivating prostitute define that quirk in her born out of boredom and monotony of an easy life.

JJ,  on the other hand, is not exactly after celebrityhood,  is he? He suffers from an almost suicidal disconnect from his ardent fans , vents ire on stage with his inflammatory “sadda haque aistthey rakh…” arousing an already crazed audience and is not bothered two bit whether his stardom is  set forth or ready to fall back upon its haunches. Hounded by Police and Paparazzi with equal fervor, JJ is hell bent on swimming against the currents of life.

Is it love or lust that compel JJ and Heer to orbit around each other ?

Well, tempestuous it is, bringing them that close and pulling them further apart as well. Rather a satire of fate, how the two seek each other in vain throughout life knowingly or unknowingly. Miserable one without the other, yet, courting disaster, when together.

Would  this unconventional bond have sublimated to a higher plateau had they got an opportunity to be together ever after?

The dangerous liaison crosses the fine line between license and liberty more than once and necessitates an urgent rethought on  what is right or wrong. Again, it is this disenchant for the established scheme of things that distinguishes the alliance between Heer and JJ from the usual. Also, it is this absolute unminding of social bindings that is suggestive of something greater, something larger.

That brings me to the next question.

Are we limited by our obedience to laws, rules and norms?

We are indoctrinated to believe that rights entail duties. Personal liberty does not allow  trespass in other’s territory. True enjoyment requires exercise of a certain amount of self-control and responsibility. If the entire society is given to disobedience the fabric may burst at seams. Yet, there are those who cannot care less. Is it pure selfishness then that provokes Heer to cross the lakshmanrekha ? What does JJ seek? Pursuit of pleasure? Or something which is beyond earthly longing that makes him unstoppable even if it is hurtful to others?

Performance :  Superlative is the word for Ranbir. Nargis Fakhri is as wooden as my kitchen sideboard. But somehow she depicts exactly what JJ is not – the finer things of life.

The Other Things : A.R. Rahman again succeeds in composing some milestone music for this movie vocalizing JJ’s inner turbulence and the impatience of youth in general . Therefore, it was no surprise when the youth of India  pounced upon the cult phrase “Sadda haque, Aitthey rakh….” as the figurative statement of freedom and birthright.

The Camera recounts  the saga as violently pacing at rakish angles and quick silver movements justifying, and at the same time, adequately visualizing the plot. There is a strong undercurrent of sexism which narrows down the perspective of love and freedom. Imtiaz Ali, as the writer, needs to concentrate on how he would like to redefine both.

Conclusion :  I always wanted to watch this film not because it is directed by someone whose debut venture (“Jab We Met”) was so enamouring that I have not stopped watching it as yet but because I was curious to follow the protagonist’s graph. I have met quite a few of them in my life who have left me wondering whether shackled to our limited bounds of family and society we have clipped our wings and consequently achieved less or nothing.

JJs always fascinate because they are different. They instigate and make us ponder on our limits.  Perhaps subconsciously, we desire to be what we are not and emulate a Heer or a JJ. Perhaps some of us do float against the tide sometime or the other. But most of the times, we are cowered by what the society has to say or whether the consent of the family will be forthcoming.

Those who don’t, either spearhead revolutions or are destined to be doomed.

Destined To Be Doomed