Blues And Blue



Mumbai City Line


Decades back during my stay in Kolkata, we used to run away from the city during Puja holidays. Once it was to the lush green hillocks of Jamshedpur another time it was to Digha, the sea-resort, a few kilometers away from the main city. I still carry the jungle fragrance with me from the hills but my first love shall always be the salt spray of the seas. The long stretches of shore knew my footsteps by heart, the roars of the waves filled my eardrums, the murmur of the breeze was caught in my saree pleats and the dark stooping clouds peered into my eyes like stern preachers of austere habits.

The next rendezvous was in Goa where I once again was enchanted by the enigma of the turquoise waves dancing in rhythmic unison. And then there was a lull for years when my eyes could only scan dead landscape of people marooned in their own islands of isolation, solitary in crowd and gregarious in silence.

Years I defied the inner spirit of a vagabond. Years I locked myself up in the cold, distant, sky-less dungeon of an attic. Then a sudden spurt of sunshine. And I was again free like a soaring bird heading towards the blue expanse.

This time Mumbai.


Mumbaithe City of Dreams.

It is also the city which eyes you like a total stranger, a little contemptuous, a little distasteful and a little wary. The Best Buses, the all-powerful locals, the bewildered novice of a metro and the curving, sinewy sea-link, its imposing frame dauntless in stance standing tall over the sea bed calm on the surface raging underneath. Its sturdy pillars entrenched deep into the bottomless depths. Man can really work wonders if given to proving their might taunting Nature and grimacing at God!!


After a chaotic rush against time I board the aircraft, stretch my legs in the little space provided between the rows of seats so closely placed one after the other and promptly go to sleep! Wake up a little while after and smile at my own self. Am I the same who couldn’t move her limbs or turn her head to either side without getting a terrible bout of vertigo and nausea the first time I experienced a flight taking off or touching down! That was half a decade back. Life pampers you not without a jolt here and there. Once startled out of that suffocating clutch of dread, you know you’ve won over another enemy inside you – your own self-created diffidence!!

At Mumbai airport, it is pretty much the same – luggage gliding down the conveyer belt, a sudden recognition and a quick haul before it skirts past you….a few steps more and you are out of that diving board positioned on the tarmac within the bowels of a modern architecture of brick and mortar and endless corridors of swift strides and impatient carriage, the only difference being on this slim plank you are volleyed straight up in the air and not splashing down into the cool bosom of the all-enduring liquefied Mother Earth!!

Outside, my nephew refuses to recognize me, “Where have you left your girth?” He asks smilingly. I feel like breaking into a desi-rumba when I glimpse that appreciative awe mirrored in his eyes. He reverses his shining black chariot as I sink in the plush comfort while the maestro’s sonorous voice serenades in an intricate taan in Raag Hansadhwani; the sun, now bleak in grandeur, winks knowingly before retiring to the west wing of his sprawling indigo mansion now brushed with pale violet, dim orange and a raucous red, quite out of place, in that palette of receding colours.

His house is on an unnamed hill. The road goes lopping in and around and then a dash up the incline making me giddy. Then suddenly a dead end. Home! At last!! We spend the evening watching TV and exchanging notes sporadically.


“Auntie takes too much tension!” He drawls without opening his slumber-glued eyes. The allusion is to the innumerable calls that Nil……has already and about to make since she is pretty sure that the city is going to gulp me down as soon as I take to the roads. I attempt at bravado, “You know I am a Delhiwali (the wickedest place on the globe) and have travelled far and wide (all bullshit, have always been a home birdie!!); I’ll be able to make it.” “Have you ever been to this city before?” She sounds stern. “No,” I confess, “But don’t worry.” Again that brazen self-confidence which I don’t normally feel deep inside. Yet….I think it has something to do with the fact that her flat is on the sea-face and am over-excited to have a glimpse of the blue.

The auto-ride is fun and expensive. And as usual the driver breaks into a friendly chat. Why is it that everyone finds me so approachable? Perhaps, it’s got to do with the expression on my face. The auntie-next-door!! I surmise. He tells me not to be too late as it is the Ganapati Visarjan day. I make a mental note to come back home early.



Dear Nil


Arunji….Nil’s Hubby

With the ring of the bell, I hear hurried steps towards the door. A moment later I am lovingly ushered into the most aesthetically cluttered living room that I have ever found myself in my life (Sorry! Was too mesmerized to take a pic :( ) . Surrounded by priceless artifacts collected all over the world, the ornate décor flows seamlessly into a covered balcony overlooking the Arabian Sea. But what’s this?

I stare dumbfounded at the blue sky arching into an ever-stretching bed of dark, restless, muddied waves.

“Where’s the blue gone?” I cry in astonishment and anguish.

“Oh! It’s the pollutants which have lent their hue to the endlessness.” Came the unperturbed reply.



The sumptuous breakfast which is laid after a while is a nutritionist’s delight – a bowl of boiled Moong Dal with crispy multigrain toasts coupled with several helpings of delicious Saabu Daane kii Khichdi with a big, hot mug of green tea to sooth the palate.

A long walk down memory lane thereafter and I bid goodbye to my friend with a promise to reunite again in some other city some other time.

Such is Life…




My nephew hurries me up, “Evening in Powai! Get ready.” We cruise down the not-so-congested highway past the Powai Lake where a few of the deities are ready to be estranged from their ardent devotees. I remind my nephew that we have to be back home in time to avoid the maddening rush of the immersion ceremony. He shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly, “That’s way into the evening.”



Powai showcases the upbeat Mumbai. Broad undulating roads flanked by malls and glitzy outlets of the latest brands in town. But we drive past these and enter into a kind of a desolate heritage building which reminds me of those run-down medieval churches. Parking the car on the ground floor we walk up to the first to find a sprawling market heavily dotted with interesting food joints. “You get lovely maachh bhaaja (fish fries Bong style) here. Ilish, Pomfret, Bhetki… ” I am awed. Miles away from the Eastern hub we get what we crave for the most. It is at Hanglaa’s (the Bong word for gluttony) that we get our fries packed and walk down to have chilled lime ice soda at KFC crossing over to the other side of the road.


Our chariot swerves homewards just as the benign sky takes on a duller shade of greyish blue. Oh! Do I miss out on the name of the structure that stands tall and proud at the main crossing housing the local bazaar redolent with fish smells and noisy with cheerful chirps of weekending men, women and youngsters?

Its Galleria……….!!




Wee hours of the morning! Am wide awake excitement surging up my veins. Though Ola makes me fret for a few hours by refusing to provide a suitable vehicle to transport an impatient traveler from Goregaon to Navi Mumbai, however, I don’t allow my buoyant mood to deflate.

It’s tennish that I finally relax inside the comfort of the four wheeler careening through peak-time traffic towards the outskirts of the city.

An hour and a half later I am watching spellbound the range of green hills fringing the sunlit skyline.

A spectacle unexpectedly serene and beautiful!!



Hotel Ibis

Four or five? I know not the count. The stars are immaterial. Ibis, to my sensory perception, is posh, plush, caters to a niche clientage and lavish in its meal spread. But what is priceless is the bonding of three lone orbiters after light years. Three and a half decades is more than an epoch for a human life span. But we meet as though we were never separated. We laugh, talk and make merry till we forget that we have to lose ourselves again in the concrete jungle of urban survival.

Two days seem like a lifetime….

Every moment is history that we chronicle with our hearts moulded in love and joy. The will to live is exponentially compounded as we bask in our newly rejuvenated togetherness.

The three Musketeers. The three childhood mates. We scour the malls, gorge on fast foods, shop till we drop and share the untasted chunks of sweet and sour delicacies of the past when we had been strangers to each other’s happinesses and sorrows, without a choice, of course!

Parting is poignant. So is togetherness when we know it is short-spanned.

But we make up for the ephemerality of everything by making those nano-moments memorable. When we hold hands and sing in chorus, “Puraano shei diner katha bhoolbii kii re haai …” (Shall we forget those days of yore…)

And the silence in the room echoes, “Encore! Encore!”


The Long-Lost Musketeers



Two more days in Mumbai.

Restive. Boring. Caged.

Am not used to lonely living.

I pray I don’t have to anytime in future.


06.00 AM.

We are again on road.

Dawn is yet to spread its smile over the shrouded face of Mother Earth.

Streetlights are still on.

The roads are empty.

And the booming mellifluousness of the maestro renditions a wishful chant to bring in a glorious morn.


Bandra-Worli Sea Link


The Bandra-Worli Sea Link that connects the Eastern and the Western parts of the city is a grand manifestation of human engineering and expertise. It’s impressive diamond shaped pylons bear down on us as we speed through the cable stayed bridge. On our left are the tall columns of sky scrapers rising up along the seascape. What wonders man can achieve if he is not given to destruction!!

A quick tour of the city. The helmet clad cycle riders, the morning walkers, the regular temple goers…the health freaks and the beach scouts. We breeze past Marine Drive.


Bandra-Worli Sea Link

The Gateway of India loses its charm in broad daylight.

A reverent salute past Siddhi Vinayak Temple

Mahalakshmi Temple….the sea waves crash onto the boulders behind the sanctum sanctorum as the sun pours down its blessings on the city line.

Haji Ali…. an oasis of divinity paying obeisance to the sea.

Once again I try to figure out the love-hate relation that I nurture for this City of Dreams. The old world charm preserved alongside the jet-fast razzmatazz of a buzzing metropolis. The simmering underbelly of organized crime and the mirage-like magnetism of the tinsel town. Sapnon ka shahar indeed! A city which lures as much as it leads you astray. The dwellers wrapped in themselves and running against time.


Will I ever wish to come back where I feel not so comfortable and less confident?

Time will tell…


Later in the day the airport raises my heckles.

The unfriendly counter girls, the apathetic security, the congestion of fliers.

Someone informs that a second airport is under construction near Navi Mumbai to divert the traffic.

I am optimisticthat  the next time we come to meet R we’ll take a flight straight to the suburbs so as not to lose on time..

Plans for the future up our enthue and add to our vision. Certitude is the greatest figment of human imagination.

Yet we cherish hopes …

Hopes to meet again

Till then….

Goodbye Mumbai….

Goodbye To Mumbai

Goodbye Mumabi!!!

(Excuse the pics….compromised on sharpness as most of them clicked from moving vehicle :( )

Deva O Deva

Deva O Deva!!


Sound Of Silence

book iiIn school, I used to hate studies because of the regimented time-table. In college, I tasted a bit of freedom but by then I had picked up the nuance of wrongly correlating learning with good results. In workplace, I was in a hurry to grasp quick and fast whatever my job demanded me to grapple with because for me that was the mantra of survival in the corporate jungle. Now, nearing the fag end of my non-illustrious career, I realize that I have learnt nothing. If only I could go back in time, erase the slate clean and start afresh. But given the present system of education of our country, which is nothing less than a grinding mill and a mass manufacturing factory, is there any chance that I will get initiated in the process of “rejuvenation” for one more time? The answer, of course, is a simple no. One can never truly learn anything if one does not ‘live’ the learning, enjoy the journey and derive pure bliss or ‘ananda’ from the source and the reservoir of knowledge, thus gained.

“Excellence begins where expertise ends,” says Debashis Chatterjee, in his unputdownable treatise on teaching and learning, titled “Can You Teach Zebra Some Algebra.” The tagline reads “The Alchemy Of Learning”. But it is much more than that – a must read for all teachers, students and parents alike. I borrowed the book from my elder sister, (before buying a copy for my personal collection), who is a teacher by profession. The book, in her school, is one of the recommended readings for her and all her colleagues.

The author says that you have learnt nothing if you are not able to tutor your mind which is as restless as a piquant monkey, if you are not aware of your own awareness and if you have not discovered the core of your being wherein resides absolute peace. It is this self-discovery, he says, that is all about getting educated. This is what our ancient seers and sages have harped on. Unfortunately, however, this is what our present systems have taken us away from.

In today’s fracas of jarring noises, solutions to unforeseeable immediacies and unthought-of calamities can only be sought and found in unheard silences which is nestling within us. We just have to see beyond the visible realities and pick up the sound of silences around. Otherwise how shall we manage the mammoth and the most unmanageable corporate entity of all times – “Life Corporation”?

It is this integral and integrated “enlightenment” that Debashis emphasizes upon which is not based on fragmented learning. He further urges all ‘learners’ to read beyond the printed pages of recommended readings and syllabi, travel beyond the stark walls of the classrooms and break down the compartments between Science, Arts and Literature. He maintains that we humans are a part of the wondrous whole called the Universe and in order to comprehend “The Incomprehensible” we have to come out of our self-created closet of career-oriented grooming.

In the chapter “A Learned Teacher Can Put A Whole Nation To Sleep”, Debashis writes “There is a difference between a learned man and a man of learning. A learned man is tied to the knowledge of the past. A man of learning is curious about the present. A learned man is bent over the dead wood of knowledge, like an ageing tree. A man of learning is vibrant and inquisitive, like a green twig breaking out of the soils after the rains. How often are teachers in the learning mode?

He cites an example of one of his teachers who after each class would tear off his class-notes and throw them away to the bin so as not to give in to the bad habit of referring to the previous day’s notes thereby committing the mistake of repeating himself in the next day’s class.

 “A learned man can put not just a whole class but a whole generation to sleep.”

On Innovation, Debashis says, “Innovation is creativity + action + interaction.” He shows how a group of learners can be energized by free-flowing exchange of knowledge: “As a teacher, you can divide the class of thirty students into six groups. Each group represents a class of experts – scientists, artists, politicians, farmers, industrialists and the last group represents meditating monks. Through their interaction, you are more likely than not to get a whole new perspective on energy.”

On commodification of knowledge, Debashis writes, “Many organizations in the world describe their wealth in the form of knowledge capital. It makes one feel that knowledge is some kind of real estate that needs to be fenced in by organizational boundaries.

Hoarding knowledge as though it is property kills the spirit of learning. Learning is not about accumulation but about accommodation of knowledge.”

The goal of education is awareness. Education should not qualify a student to be competitive but it should strengthen him to be more decisive. Debashis opines, “Awareness that is not fragmented by choices transports us from a monkey to a meditative mind. In the state of choice-less awareness the learner can discover the freedom wherein she can act decisively without the distortion caused by competing choices.”

However, the best that comes from Debashis is his openness to learn from students whom he unabashedly confesses he could not teach. One such student of his was Manjunath whom he describes as “He was like the bird of the wilderness that sang, not to win a musical competition, but because he had discovered a freedom song inside his own heart.” An alumni of IIM, Lucknow, on a dark November night in 2005, Manjunath laid down his life to the consorted mayhem of the Oil Mafia in a hardship location in Lakhimpur-Kheri. His only crime was that he had sealed three Petrol Pumps that were selling adulterated fuel. “Yet,” Debashis writes, “…why does his voice still ring in my ears, ‘Sir, what is this life if we have nothing to die for?’……I was not his teacher anymore. Honestly, he became my teacher.”

And serving an organization, wherein such indomitable spirits have benchmarked exemplary performance by their diehard diligence towards uncompromising honesty and dauntless march of trailblazing leadership, the process of learning for the rest of the corporate survivors stretches up to the horizon where achieving is just not doing a job well but to put on stake every living moment for what one sincerely believes in …something that one will not be hesitant to die for.

A little about the author: Debashis Chatterjee has served as Professor IIM, Lucknow and Kozhikode. He is the founding Fellow of the Centre for Leadership and Human Values at IIM, Kolkata. His teaching career spans over twenty years and six continents. Recipient of many a prestigious awards, he has trained more than 11,000 school principals and 15,000 managers globally in Fortune 100 Corporations and served as the Leadership Coach to CEOs, Chairmen of Banks and three Heads of State. For the last five years, he has been serving as the Director, IIM, Kozhikode.

Dust To Dust


Pic From Google

The problem is that I have so much to say on everything under the sun that I do not know where to start and where to end. Well, to begin with …this is the festive season…a time to rejoice! But do we actually enjoy this ephemeral interlude between gaiety and gloom?

Now, you may say why oscillate between the two extremes ? My answer is simple because that is exactly what it is. Festivity always brings a horde of  preparatory activities. Coming to think of it aren’t we always preparing for something or the other?

Come August, the excitement begins…”pujo aashchhe…” Durga Puja is nearing! So, a spate of cleaning followed by a mad rush to shop for everything and anything. That “saare ghar ke badal dunga….” type of feeling which results in that unnecessary craze to meet self created deadlines. Now, after more than four decades in the Capital, for us, the probaashi baangali (Bengalis settled outside Bengal), Bijoya Dashami or Dusshehra is not the end of the festive mood. It is just the beginning prolonged till Diwali (and even after) which falls on the day after Baangalir Kaali Pujo. So, status quo continues…

Chalo now warming up to the topic in hand….

The worst chore during this festive season is the bout of house cleaning which we subject ourselves to and which is considered a must before Durga Puja as well as Deepawali. So, we go scanning all those spots inside our habitat, which we never in the routine course of events, even bother to look at or love to ignore looking at. All the cleaning instruments, gizmos and agents are out of the cupboard. And the brooms and dusters (and now leveraging technology to the art of cleaning is the vacuum cleaner) sway nastily everywhere, horizontally, vertically, concentrically till every spec of dust, wherever it is, is swished out of the homestead.

Alas! A dust-free existence, the ultimate euphoria, is Utopia indeed!!

My cleaning spree

He blows a handful of dust

And winks, “Now ! See…!”

Yes, that is exactly what happens. Today I bring down the whole roof wrenching whatever is old and dusty and rusty out of the house and sigh in relief, “At last! Its done! My house is spic and span.” The next moment I see a thin layer of that ubiquitous dust languorously spread on wherever I have ousted it from.

Perhaps it is His way of telling not to look for order in an intrinsically disorderly arrangement. Aah! But we humans!! Will we ever learn a lesson? Since the dawn of wisdom till that insanity called death beguiles us into oblivion, we shall do nothing but be doomed to spend a lifetime in search of permanence. A mirage so to say!

So, having gained this gem of an insight, nowadays, I take everything in slow measures. And after a serious overhauling spree I sit back spectating the obvious aftermath!!

My sister has a more practical way of looking at things, “Don’t be so religious about your dusting schedule. Its going to go dirty once again anyway.”

Its another matter that while we wish to keep our place spotlessly tidy and shiny, we forget to unblock the street drains and unclog the clogged shafts which have by now become happy homes for all kinds of infections and infestations. Thanks to our paralytic MCD!!

At the same time, while I cannot refute my sis’ logic, it is also true that we give too much importance to cleaning and beautifying our exteriors forgetting the fact that the actual cleansing our innards require. A real spring cleaning of all ancient prejudices and obsolete mindsets!!

Having said that, it is also another fact that one day we shall also be one amongst the multitudinous grains of abominable dust that this morning we have so unceremoniously driven out of our homes.

Till then let’s dust away to glory….

Just Dil Se….


Pic from

It was a spur,  I won’t say of the moment , whim definitely, spur of the whim (if there is one such idiom in English language) decision to attend the Raavan Dahan Samaroh on Mahadashami.  Recently, my boy had complained, “Ma’am! You keep me so busy I do not get any time to enjoy life” A serious allegation, indeed! I felt like an ogre and wanted to make amends. “This time we’ll go see Raavan kaisey Jalaate hai. It’s been years I have watched one.” His enthusiasm was infectious. I gave in.

The next thing was to find out where exactly it was happening near about. As it was fated, just spotted the three effigies waiting to be inflamed right adjacent to the main market during the day. There were many others but as I said it was kind of preordained that we visit this particular spot.

Come evening, we set out to watch live how Goodness won over Evil, if not forever, then at least for a day!

06.30 pm.

The crowd was gathering slowly. It was an open ground next to a busy road where as I said the trio was waiting patiently for the Godly Prince to arrive and burn them down. My boy yelled, “Look! All three appear the same.” They did with bulging eyes, blood-red lips parted in a rakshasa-esque grin and that pair of hideous moustache,  all combined together ramified the satanic at its best. I always wondered why did they look so grotesque. For one, Ravana’s nine extra heads seemed abnormally smaller in size appended to his normal one. With disproportionately sized thorax, abdomen and legs ( or the absence of them) and arms too, they looked stunted, perhaps in keeping with the average height of the Indian metrosexual male(?) Well! Ravana and Company were Sri Lankans, weren’t they?

 The expected rowdiness had always kept me away from such community-celebrations. “Let’s watch it seated inside our car.” My suggestion was turned down even before it could be considered by the complete lack of proper parking place let alone the right angle for viewing.

“Let’s watch it from the foot path opposite or the divider.” But the boy had already climbed up the short boundary wall taking support of the iron fence. “Plenty of space inside,” He jumped down. Reluctantly, I made way to the open entrance. The area was cordoned off by men and women in khakii. They looked as disenchanted as the Evil King waiting for his imminent end.

A little further in and I put my foot down, “No, no more, we’ll stand here.” The boy stood behind me with his arms outstretched on either side… I felt like one of those celebrities with personal security guards to boot. In the extreme opposite corner of the maidan a stall was erected  from where all the announcements were being made from time to time. A raucous voice kept on dropping names of local netas, influential big wigs and their kith and kin who had so kindly supported and made possible this bhavya aayojan for us, the insignificant aam junta. He kept on repeating himself, irritatingly so, for the next two hours till the import of the magnanimous contributions of our political leaders were fully ingrained in our dim witted bhejas. In between these momentous announcements, Hari Om Sharan sang to his heart’s content, how the monkey king Hanuman’s devotion to  Lord Rama was of exemplary heights!!

Darkness thickened so did the crowd. There were occasional pushes, pulls and jostles as people thronged in kicking dust. The itching in my throat was increasing. I had just survived a bad tonsil infection. The boy pointed excitedly to the other extreme of the ground.  Big cardboard boxes of crackers, sealed and unsealed, sat in rows. A few volunteers were entrusted to light these up at intervals to keep the crowd entertained. And they did…as the sky lit up in gold and silver and a burst of other colours in  shimmering umbrellas and other intricate patterns…some exploded in mushroom clouds to be followed by sprinkles of stardusts.

“Oh! They have spent lakhs and lakhs  on these!” The boy looked suitably impressed.

The raspy voice on the mike kept on a running commentary of how the jhaakis  were on their way from Multan Nagar, soon to arrive at any moment! But the wait seemed interminably long. I covered my face with the dupatta. The itching in the throat had graduated to sneezing at regular intervals now.

Suddenly, there was a rush and the voice on the mike earnestly requested to give way to the horsemen, part of the ‘holy’ parade, who had trotted in and now taking rounds of the ground. I wondered whether they were expert enough to control the beasts when the effigies went up in flames!! But there were more surprises in store for me. Followed suit the horsemen, were two more figures on horse back whom the announcer excitedly welcomed , “Behold! Rana Pratap ji and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharajji have just arrived!” Will history be  rewritten now? I gawked. Rana Pratap was an unassuming persona but Shivaji looked like a stocky fellow more like Premnath, the yesteryear Bollywood villain of the 60s and the 70s. Anyhow…

The ground was uneven and it was difficult to keep balance. In fact, too exacting for my arthritic knees. All of a sudden an urchin sprang up from nowhere and collided with the boy to be grabbed by his lapels in an iron clasp, “Paad dunga.” Roared the boy holding me with his free hand. I shouted, “Take care of your mobile!” Where is your purse?” He queried in return. I showed him. It was in my hand. He let the scrawny figure go but by that time the stranger had taken the scuffle to his heart. He threatened the boy of dire consequences disappearing in the crowd to reappear again, with one of the horsemen now on foot. The lady by my side, tried in vain to put some sense into the boy’s head, “Jaane bhii do Bhaiyya! Wo paagal hai!” “Did he try to snatch your purse?” He asked me shaking with anger. “No! No!” I said. There was a hurried exchange with the newcomer who smiled at the end and the matter was amicably resolved. Phew!!

The itch! The sneeze! Now the sweat! “Let’s go.” I told the boy. “Aap kyun darte ho ? Main hoon na.” Reassured the boy, thumping his chest. I cursed the moment I had agreed to come. But by this time the fireworks were becoming more and more stunning. Soon, there was an uproar. The jhaakiis had arrived!! A band was being played somewhere. I craned my neck expecting to catch a glimpse of the oft-projected dhoti clad figure of the Lord dressed as an ordinary recluse (remember, vanvaasi?). Instead, I saw figures in black silk with stone studded crowns brandishing shining blades as thick as khadgas. A girl with a heavily painted face in zardozi. Sita Maiyya ?  My boy searched frantically for Ram Bhakt Hanuman. He was a Balaji devout. There was a saffron clad guy wearing a four headed gear. Brahma of Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwar trinity? What was he doing here?

The ground had turned into a battlefield now as the much touted Ram-Ravana Yuddh was being enacted. It was overcrowded and nobody seemed to be listening to the frantic calls of the compere for making space. Amidst this pandemonium suddenly Kumbh Karn rose in flames followed by Meghnaad. Ravana was to go last. There were jubilant cries of “Shree Ram Chandra Ji kii jai!” And then more smoke, heat and dust..

The spectators in front reversed hastily to avoid being covered by soot. The man next to the boy hauled one of them in rage,”Who had told you to go so close?” A fight ensued. The boy tried his level best to ward off, with one flailing arm, the warring men from falling on me, covering me with the other.  A few more minutes and we were out away from  the skirmish.

It was 08.00 pm by my watch.

Everyone had taken to the roads by now, thousands of men, women, children…I told him to be patient on the wheel as the car lurched backwards. Once inside, I sighed heavily and reclined back.

“Ma’am!” He declared,”Ravana is dead but he has left behind a smog of pollutants for us.” He coughed. Good sense had prevailed at last! I thought.

“So? Will you come again to see Ravana’s death?”

“No.” I shook my head vehemently.


“My knees are swollen and I have an excruciating back pain.” I informed

“Never mind! Agley saal phir aayenge.” It was a resolve not a request.

God save me!!

Anyway, folks wish you all a very Happy Dusshehra!!

The Culture of Corruption

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is gearing up with a new outlook and a shift in their vision of functioning. From Punitive (implementing punitive measures after the misdeed is done/proven) to Preventive Vigilance, the latter approach envisages to put in place appropriate mechanisms at work places  to  kill the viper before it strikes, i.e., to plug in all those loopholes which provide the ubiquitous channels for the plague of corruption to spread within and around.

While human tendency is to look for and put a stop to all those external factors which visibly impair the sustenance of an ideal scheme of things, the crux of the quest perhaps lies in deep-searching inside the mazes of our inscrutable minds for a more permanent and deep-rooted  arrangement. When we talk of aborting the moves of corrupt forces at work, the reliance on sabotage by physical mechanics is only half the work done.

When my driver jumps the traffic signal or switches from one lane to the other on a busy road, on the pretext that it will save time, the thought which eggs such an action is to cross the finishing line before someone else does. When I pay a few pennies extra to install a new water meter at my residence, circumventing the elaborate official procedure, I am saving on that extra paper formalities and a few month’s wait that is required for the exercise to take its own routine course.

My next-door neighbour has that sly half-smile playing on his lips when he chants that “mainey karwa liya” phrase at the drop of a hat. He openly exhibits a sense of exhilaration and unattainable power that he enjoys by brazenly not complying to the laws of the land or flouting laid down rules and regulations.

My influential acquaintance, Mr. X, the pot-bellied seth, employs all the tricks in trade to impoverish the Government by a few crores by the end of every financial year. He humbly acknowledges that he has the capacity to hire professionals trained to do that.

In all these above instances, the underlying idea is the same. To reach faster where others have not or cannot by a shorter cut. Interestingly, it is perhaps the ingrained faculty of competitiveness in human nature that actually instigates recourse to such devious, roundabout and corrupt means to achieve the desired end,  in lesser time, shelling out at times more mullah and (mis)utilizing resources at disposal.

In my earlier post, the vendors would call upon the concerned employees with big baskets attractively gift wrapped  during Diwali.  Since, my aversion towards receiving such “additional benefits” was well-known, they would leave it on the doorstep (of my home) as they considered my non-acceptance an affront to their festival sentiments. At times, therefore, it is also difficult to disassociate  the aberration from the established social culture of a milieu. It is also a fact that living within a rotten system it is hard not to follow its regressive ‘traditon’.  But I say it is difficult but not an impossibility. And anything which is not easy merely needs an extra ounce of push, patience and perseverance. And of course! First and foremost, to unlearn the age-old practices before embarking on learning something new. That’s all.

Conforming to the truism that every action is preceded by a thought, the endemic infestation called corruption, that the law enforcing agencies of the Government are at arms against, thus, also germinates somewhere in the human cerebrum before taking imaginative forms penetrating the realms of physical functioning.

When the Netas raise a hue and cry over cleansing the extant systems, they forget that it is the people’s minds that need a good rub and brush to begin with. But doesn’t that also imply that they should on their own, once and for all, erase from their rule-books the covert mandate of brainwashing the polity, especially, in the name of the holy scriptures?

Corruption-free society is neither a misnomer nor a Utopian dream. It is just that we need cleaner, healthier, incorruptible minds to perpetuate a healthy, clean and in-corrupt systems. In these lines, therefore, it is much more imperative to figure out how to cure a corrupt mind of the disease first, in favour of a corruption-immune present and posterity, than to spring clean the arms and agencies of the Government of the virus which actually is just the outcome of the vicious working of a whole bunch of corruptly thinking minds. The second line of action would automatically follow suit once the initial exercise meets success.

At the individual level, I think the first step would be to halt and ask oneself  the following preliminary questions when the devil within clamours for attention:

Whether to choose the right or the easy path?

What are the pros and cons in taking the right path?

What are the pros and cons in taking the easy path?

What do we ultimately gain by doing it right?

What do we ultimately lose by doing it easy?

What do we actually put a premium on – the quick gains or the forever losses ?

I strongly believe that, somewhere during this Q&A session, we’ll see the light within directing us on the destined track….

Is Murder So Easy?


Pic from Google

Well its not a review….no. of course not! That you can read here and here.

When my dear friend Mathur Sahab forwarded the first ( or second…?) draft of his novel “Qatl Kii Aadat”, I thought that it was one of those ‘inspired works’. (I knew how ardent he was a fan of Hindi pulp fiction and Agatha Christie…Quite a contrast that is!!) So here it was, I thought, a combo of Christie and Pathak! How wrong was I…

Don’t know why I took such a whale of a time to finish reading it? But once I did … millions of questions hounded me day and night. And prime amongst those that sought an indisputable answer was: “Was it that easy to kill?”

Now to kill or murder has varied connotations. Going by the dictionary meaning killing is that act which leads to the end of a mortal body. End here means a physiological or biological disconnect. When inhalation and exhalation of breath stop and the body goes limp and the tongue hangs out if one is strangulated and the eyes pop out or go vacant ….uff! that was quite a graphic description…in short it means when a living thing is pronounced dead!!

But is it the ultimate end? No, there are thousand reasons why it is not and there are thousand more reasons why one should not think death is the sovereign remedy to all maladies of life…it is obviously not! Why? Because the highly spiritual ones will say death is just the beginning…while the mind steeped in materialism will say let’s see what was left behind….in terms of accumulated wealth….all boring non-living things (movable and immovable ones at that!), you see! What else?

So death has its own consequences….some are relieved, some are morose, for a few days, at least, for various reasons, some are indifferent and some are genuinely sorry that you died without saying goodbye to them. Strange I feel when I talk of death…that cold, limp feeling which has an awkward permanence about it….the feeling that there is no U-turn next..

Tagore says, “I shan’t die before I am dead”….yep! this is what it is….regardless of the fact that we are going to leave this planet earth for our heavenly abode one day too soon…………the realization which has about it is that doomed feeling of certitude and that despairing panic of never-to-return-again to this world of happy incongruities and topsy-turvy turmoil, yet and yet, we still have innumerable occasions of dying before we are actually dead!!

Do we realize that….ever? No, we don’t because we are idiotic enough to believe that breathing in and out is the sole proof of “staying alive”. It is not! I have killed myself several times when I  succumbed to a compromise after each failure or at every cross road where my aspirations suffered a head-on collision with the hard hitting realities of life…….the objective and the subjective considerations…………the former told me ‘go grab it’ and the latter pulled me back whispering into my ears ten thousand ‘good’ reasons of not doing so.

I killed myself again when I suppressed my inner most ‘self’ in the quest for survival. Did I take the easy route? No, I did not. I took the wrong turn? Yes, a number of times. There was a point in life when I thought doing the difficult thing was being brave and bold. Today, I am undecided on that issue. Yet, just very recently, when I chanced open a rusty cupboard and wrenched the creaky doors open, tumbled out a bunch of ‘clothes’ which were stashed in the unreachable recesses of those lightless shelves layered with dust and hinges  jammed with rust. As they poured out, [those old, forgotten, forgiven or must I say forbidden too(?) sartorial remnants]  on me unawares, for a moment, I was nonplussed and did not know how to handle them. Should I smoothen these rumpled ones out? And rearrange them again in neat stacks? Keep them back where they were? Or untie the bundle, sort them out, discard the ones which are ‘unusable’ and try those out again which are ‘wearable’? I couldn’t do any of these as they lay scattered around me. I died again and again and again as I failed to gather my wits and clear things out within me.

When I was young, hatred seemed to be a great motivating force. It kept me going for many, many years. I kept the abominable part of my life alive within me, prized battling strength out of these and thought how extraordinary was I to have them in my possession till it was revealed to me, one fine morning, that what I was doing to myself was arsenic………..slow-poisoning. I was killing my soul!!!

As away I move from my own vortex, I suffocate myself each and every way. As I hurt others with my indifference, I kill myself all the more. As I burn with desire unfulfilled, my death becomes inevitable, perhaps untimely. As I repent I murder that part of me which had once had faith. As I aim higher I get buried in an airless hole with no opening to let the oxygen flow in. I kill as I grill myself to be the best, to be the most obedient, dutiful, honourable, anxious to please and hard to get. The devil sharpens his claws and his horns shine in the sun, as I bow down to pray forgiveness to the Lord.

Sometimes, in the dead of the night I wake up and cup my palm to my nostrils …yes, am alive but dead……….a living dead! Can you hear me cry out in pain as my breath gets choked little by little and the hands of my karma lovingly squeeze my neck like uncorking a long-necked bottle of choicest wine…I smell death close behind…

And you said I was living? Eh? Haah!!!!

Murder is really not that easy but at the same time we kill ourselves so often, so easily without our knowing…………..strange, isn’t it?

To A Journey Beyond…..

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGIThere are some books which entertain, some which educate and some which make you emotional. But there are certain others which prove to be life changers and you dare not  even think of reviewing such books because you are too small, insignificant and incompetent to do that. It takes more than luck to come across even one such book in a lifetime.

Eight years back I had arranged a Training Program in office. The faculty was not the usual stern speaker who confined himself to Management tools and techniques. At the end of the day’s session he suggested a few books which had inspired him in many ways. One of them caught my attention because of its strange title – “Autobiography Of A Yogi”!

A few months later I came across the book in Oxford Book Store. However, looking at the price I decided  to wait for a version which would not be so heavy on my pocket. And a few years later, the same book arrived by courier at home absolutely free – a gift from one of my co-bloggers! It reinforced my belief that the book had breezed into my life for a specific purpose. And how correct was I.

I am a slow reader but I finished this book soon enough and then there was no looking back. In what ways did this book change my life? To this my answer would to a certain extent be censored because I am not at liberty to disclose full facts of the case. But of course! The book intrigued me. It did give a perspective to my till then aimless life. And it certainly made me aware of the vastness of the Universe and the immense possibilities that our limited span on earth hold.

Well, there are certain chapters in this book which are a little taxing to human intellect because of the very fact that our knowledge is confined to what is perceptible and tangible to our five senses. But there is a world out there which is not visible yet existent, incomprehensible and incredible, at the same time.

Till I came across this book, my idea of renunciation was that it came easily to some and was not so for others. I belonged to the latter category, obviously! However, after going through this book I realized that renunciation is a process…a journey…..a vow to one’s own self. And that there are hurdles in this path which are beyond the imagination of mere mortals. Like all other laborious tasks, you have to be at it, give your hundred percent to it and yet fail to make it, at times.

Swami Paramhansa Yoganandaji describes in fluid, mellifluously lyrical language his trajectory from life in a middle class family to which he was born to life as a yogi – the entire spectrum dotted with subliminal encounters and exchanges with various yogis and rishis of higher stature and how his intense desire to follow the spiritual path was inspired and influenced by them.

The Deathless Babaji

The Deathless Babaji

Memorable (though the others are no less significant) amongst these are experiences with Lahiri Mahasayaji, who had to voluntarily resign from his job in the Railways because his divine calling aroused in him such intense detachment that he was unable to continue with his day to day routines of material existence, Swami Pranabanandaji, the saint with two bodies, the legendary Babaji who is believed to be ageless and deathless and above all Tiger Swamy, the body-builder-turned-yogi who had the physical strength of a giant and played with and could easily subjugate  fearsome tigers!!

The most novel thing about this book is that it inspires you to give it a try – here I mean that even the laziest, the most apathetic, skeptical and indulgent of souls, on reading this book, can  feel an urge to be a spiritual seeker.

Another remarkability of the narrative is how lucidly Swamiji has explained the most complex nuances of spiritualism that it becomes easily comprehensible (?), though am not sure I should use this word…graspable (read does not seem so confounding) will, I guess, be better!!!

As I have said earlier, one can rave and rant about this book but evaluating it is definitely not a lay person’s cup of tea… I shall quote, therefore, at random, a few of the paragraphs and portions of this book for readers’ appreciation, however, for me the book in its entirety is quotable: :-)

Just as cinematic images appear to be real but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusive seeming. The planetary spheres with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. Temporarily true to man’s five sense perceptions, the transitory scenes are cast on the screen of human consciousness by the infinite creative beam.

In the concluding chapter, Swamiji writes :

The wisdom garnered by India, the eldest brother among the nations, is a heritage of all mankind. Vedic truth, as all truth, belongs to the Lord and not to India. The rishis, whose minds were pure receptacles to receive the divine profundities of the Vedas, were members of the human race, born on this earth, rather than on some other, to serve humanity as a whole. Distinctions by race or nation are meaningless in the realm of truth, where the only qualification is spiritual fitness to receive.

What more secular a view could be!!

The beauty of this book lies not only in its spiritual quotient but also in its literary content:

The tropical darkness had fallen. The light of a small kerosene lamp flickered fitfully over the heads of many villagers squatting silently in the shadows. The darting glowworms and distant oil lanterns of the hut wove bright eerie patterns into the velvet night. It was the painful hour of parting; a slow, tedious journey lay before our little party. 

To this, I would add my experience of visiting the Yogada Ashram,  (run by Yogada Satsang Society founded by Swamiji in the year 1917), in NOIDA. There is a Delhi Centre too but it is not as sprawling as the former. The Ashram is a haven of peace, to say the least. It has a big book-room-cum-library and a huge Meditation Centre where in pin-drop silence you can ‘find’ yourself.  If tranquility can be enticing it is here and here alone where you can sit endless hours and recoil into your inner most sanctum sanctorum to seek your own self far away from the ‘madding crowd’. During lunch time, the Ashram canteen serves simple food for free for the residents as well as the daily visitors. Attached to the Ashram building is a well tended garden where you can spend hours in a meditative trance. But of course, its the Meditation Centre – the choicest and the most captivating part of all the Ashrams (so far visited Delhi and NOIDA)!  It does not take time to realize how well-oiled the entire machinery of the organization is. Once in such serene environment, one does not feel like leaving. But alas! Return to the every day mundane time table is the karmic fate of us mortal men. So, we did, but of course, with a more peaceful mind, rejuvenated body and attuned soul.


Yogada Ashram, Noida

The Tact Of Being Tactless


Does honesty make you vulnerable? This is the question that is pestering me day and night, of late. In a world of reigning hypocrisy, disguise, exploitation, dishonesty, back-stabbing, cut-throat rivalry and perversion in the name of everything that is human, where does an honest person stand?

It is utter stupidity to be scrupulously honest would say the skeptical. Most honest people are because they do not weigh the implications of their forthrightness. What impact it may or may not have on the other person. They are just happy that they have expressed their mind and kept their conscience clear. They go for the absolute not the surface value. But there is nothing absolute in this world. It’s a myth! Utopia!

Tactless? Yes, definitely so, to be honest. What is tact then? It’s the other name for diplomacy. When one minces words and tries to give a nice picture where there exists none. Or paints half-truths in overly convincing manner so as not to induce ripples on the surface of calm waters. Tact reinforces human faith in illusion and beguile, in misguided expedience and in deliberate pretense.

Honesty, like sincerity, does not always pay. Why? Because honesty is not in the larger interest of the society/civilization/creation et all. It is divinely engineered for the demon to reside with the angel in the name of ecological balance in this vast matrix of cosmic interplay. And honesty being an angelic quality has to make way for the satanic vices. Otherwise how would God make His presence felt?

Having said all that, one would take for granted that it is prudent to have a blanched variety of virtues in any equation be it personal relationship or any other arrangement of work convenience or social obligation. Remember what happened to Tess when she bared her heart to Angel Clare? She was condemned and left alone to fend for herself, definitely not forgiven. Or can you think of giving a no-holds-barred appraisal of what you think of your boss at work place? It will be blasphemous! Disastrous!

So, honesty runs the highest risk of being misunderstood, misconstrued and mangled. Like all other virtues, honesty too has an inbuilt quotient of defeat… of being compromised. So what is the option we are left with? The exact opposite one where you let situation decide how best your moves can be so as to have an upper hand over your opponent/partner/rival/negotiator/boss. And the smarter and cleverer your maneuvers are, successful and worldly wise you stand to be in people’s eyes.

Strange, that is, I always wonder why then the virtues have at all been conceived, classified and brandished as timeless? The only reason seems to be that eternally they exist to be shortchanged and increasingly devalued, invariably diffused with certain amount of opportunism and our damned sense of convenience.

I have tried to be honest in most situations. Again, I have tried and that is an honest statement, idiotically so. And always made myself prone to jeers, conjectures of the worst order and misrepresentations. Yet, unfailingly I have pursued the path which makes me feel good and unalloyed. So is there a feel good factor about honesty? Yes, to those who wish to have a stronger voice and a clearer conscience in life! Who feel they have never intentionally betrayed or made use of others or benefitted at the expense of the ones whom they can easily trample upon and emerge victorious. But then honesty is just a feeling…a feeling perhaps a little down market. A feeling which does put you on a pedestal. A feeling which does not lend you an enviable fan-following.

And is it easy to be honest? To those who are prone to this disease? No, it’s not. More so because honesty is basically of two types – (1) when you are honest about others or given situations and (2) when you are honest about your own self. And it is the second type that is the hardest because it is not just a tendency or a knack, it is a continuous yet disturbing process. A process of finding yourself out, a process to probe your fears, a process whereby you come face to face with your darkness of mind and soul, a process by which you realize that you still have so much to overcome – your inhibitions, your dreads, your failings, your follies. Harder it is to confess. You may be true to yourself but to be true to others? That is when you become victimized of other’s perceptions. Whether those perceptions are correct or incorrect is relative. But it is then that you are judged, evaluated and thrown aside as an ignominy and seldom extolled for your courage and commitment. A commitment for being true to your own self and others.


So in the final analysis, the utility value of honesty is sub-zero. The risk hazards are aplenty. Then what does one gain out of honesty? For being foolishly open to criticism and falsehood? Mere soul satisfaction? Mere adherence to your self-inflicted principles? Ego fulfillment? Or is it something beyond these experiments with your own self?

I am still musing…trying to find an answer in the maze of unsolvable riddles. What lies beyond the choice of not taking the easy route and stumbling along the difficult path? It is the fire which is kindled to rise above the ashes of your own labyrinthine mind, your own camouflaging intellect, your own blinding truths, your own judgmental intelligence and your own spineless endeavours of evolving in spite of yourself into a better human being. And that itself is reason strong enough to be foolishly yourself in a world of astute go-getters.

It is that torch that lights your way to ultimate freedom of unshackled and unburdened existence. And it is to this light that I bow my head and pray that may I be provided the strength to be on this route forever at the cost of being a loser, of being isolated and left alone.

May I pursue undeterred that leads to YOU…………the divinity of my core!!! The Honest One…


Ode To Odette

Odette & Me

(I envy those who can solidify in ink what they are actually living through – pain, ecstasy, frolic or angst. I call it penning the moment. But am unadapt enough to let the sediments settle on the riverbed of life for me to gather them on the trough of my palm one after the other and shape them into a tale of pearl and oyster)

The train chugged in slowly but steadily… was six to seven hours late. The scheduled time was around tennish in the morning. But we were actually entering the station close to evening. The platform was well lit as the Railways would have it. Yet what rolled out was a dismal kaleidoscope of varied shades of grey. The only rush of colour was the bright red contrasted against the soiled white and the loosened grip of the brass badge desperately trying to stay still on the thin, sinewy arms. A yellow grin…a pair of greedy myopic eyes….”Didi, coolie?” A harmless enquiry which left me parched at the throat and sent a shiver down my spine. I shook my head vigorously. He shrugged and left in search of another prey.

If only I could go back………..that sudden thought volcanized despair which was dormant somewhere in the pit of my stomach. Fervently eyes sought for a known and empathetic face. But the deep frown that appeared to have marred the soft contours was unexpected. “So! At last! You made it. Why did you resist the invariable?” In response my garbled excuses could hardly find merit in his cynical sight. Soon I discarded all hopes of a winning rationale as the deluge of humanity engulfed me into their clammy vortex….

Oh! The cavernous hollows of the City of Joy….


I was not welcome. It was apparent in her forced gaiety and his guarded queries. Yet, I was supposed to make this my home for an indefinite forever. I tried to be of help. Thwarted I wormed into my cocoon – the only defense post of an armless soldier.


The job was an undisguised blessing. Countering ill-restrained skepticism I accepted it. God had always lent me support to put up a brave front when I was least up to it. The first day to work was as much as His test as was mine.


The brightly lit interiors belied the façade of ageless antiquity wrapped around the somber monoliths. An overcrowded fish market bustling with aimless activity – that was the first impression of the workplace where I was destined to spend the better part of my life. Soon I would learn to inhale the stench of what lay rotten underneath the haloed externals.

What I exhaled out was my initiation into unlearning…..


It was a slit of a room dominated by two ill-placed, over-sized telex machines. I would soon learn that it also doubled for a very interesting and cozy getaway, the Ladies Washroom being annexed to it.

If I were expecting a long waiting it wasn’t to be. The door to the cabin burst open and breezed in an imposing figure straight out of some glossy tabloid! From her    well set curls to shining nail paints to powdered feet – her perfumed persona in its entirety was a complete antithesis to the pale yellow plastered walls, the noisy pedestal fan sticking out stubbornly next to the wooden cabinets, the steel top table, the old fashioned, high backed wooden chair and the dwarf revolving stool – in short, it was as though a swirl of glittering colour had just spiraled its way onto a monochrome canvas rooting a flabbergasted painter in awe and inaction.

She sized me up with shrewd chink eyes. At the same time, her “Hullo dear!” was a full-throated address laced with gurgles of laughter, “You new here?” and to my affirmation she extended a plump well-manicured hand, “I am Oddie…” and my emaciated palm was grabbed into a warm clasp….

Which translated into an indescribably beautiful bond to outlast piddle grievances of mortal existence…


It was a difficult season – neither spring nor autumn – an edge-of-the-sword-survival which left both of us gasping for more. We picked up shards of laughter and morsels of gaiety sieving dunes of dust. Humour was a scarce commodity, steeply priced, yet we traded it for hard pressed sanity.

We had our hideouts of secret amusements and disastrous rebellions. The sleazy Limelight Hotel at Dalhousie Square where we gorged on new found delicacies and burped in delight. Nahoum’s rich Jewish patisserie at New Market where our frenzied overeating was levels beyond culinary ventures. Nitai Babu’s sleek shop on Bowbazaar Street wherein we were suavely persuaded to give in to thoughtless extravaganza. The laughter parades outside the immaculate sanctums of Meghalaya House. Exploring the infamous maze-like gullies of China Town where even Laal Bazaar would think twice to invade. The sudden expose to the impermissible world of Rai Chaand Boral Street in the half lights of dusk which culminated in sleepless nights. The invisible Carmelite nuns and their electrifying hymns which momentarily moulded our malleable souls to curve towards the inevitable surrender. The stolen matinee hours on Esplanade! The languorous tram journeys….the hilarious rickshaw rides….the adventurous street hunts….we did it all which sometimes bordered on the forbidden and dangerous fun.

Oddie knew Kolkata like the back of her palm and she made it a point that the city grew on me….


There were times when we just bitched and made fun of those who were unreachable. There were times when we peered into the deep recesses to find our own selves afresh. There were those very precious moments when we let our eyes cloud and tears well. And then there were times when we wished we would never have to say goodbye in this lifetime.

She was fond of life and I had just started learning my lessons. An odd combo of a snarling bear and a doting mother hen, the brood of greedy eyes and suggestive smiles, knew better not to rub her the wrong way. A safe anchor for a rocking boat. A stream of sunshine at the end of a pitch dark tunnel. She was an oddity in my life which was stranger than fiction. My mentor! My friend! My sister! My guide! She taught me to be meticulous in work, scrupulous in ethics and bold in stance. In short, she taught me the basic rudiments of conduct. She would call me the unconscious comedian. And I laughingly nicknamed her the Lady with an Oxford Bengali.


Life took its undulating course. Soon we swung back to reality. It was time to bid Au Revoire. She kissed me goodbye. I hastily suppressed my inner turbulence.

And then that long dreary stretch of isolation which I took in my stride. Sometimes, a lone telephone call, a chance missive, a casual reference would invoke nostalgia to be overtaken again by a dry spell of unmindfulness.

It took a little more than a decade for us to reunite but the joy of union proved to be short lived…


April 2014…

Kolkata after twelve long years – a distinctly modified vista! A pleasant surprise indeed! It was a hurricane trip. Familial duties….obligations….and a golden opportunity to reignite old flames….flames that were simmering under the ashen heap of time…

I had heard that she had not been keeping well. She looked pale and yes, the years of struggle she had to put in to survive in a mammoth organization showed in her exhausted bearing. We hugged and kissed and spoke of the days of sunshine and shadows, the days of togetherness and separation, the days of playfulness and forgiveness, we shared all that was pent up and sizzling within.

While taking each other’s leave, she embraced me once more and promised to keep in touch on the virtualscape – FB and WhatsApp, “I always knew I had a sister in Delhi who was ready to be with me whenever I would need her”. I smiled. “We’d now keep in touch..” and I nodded my head robustly in acquiescence. As I moved towards the door she called out,” Don’t mind Geetu, I wouldn’t be able to see you off. Doctor has told me not to stand for long on my feet.” I looked down at her feet encased in house slippers. Feets, as light as feather, which had traipsed the drawing hall of Hastings House in quite a number of merry jigs. I left in a hurry without looking back traversing the length of the corridor towards the lift…


Odette Rita Piperno died of multiple organ failure in October 2014 while I kept on wondering why I was not receiving her regular Good Morning Messages on WhatsApp of late…

It was a chance conversation with one of my senior colleagues that the heartbreaking news was offhandedly passed on. It took a few more days and a substantial ounce of mustered courage before I could dial her residential number. Dear Alby, whom we fondly called The Celebrity, a veritable package of energy and die-hard spirit strapped on to wheel chair since childhood! I wanted to reach out to him in his loss and mourning but he seemed to be worried about his days of severed companionship, “She was good to me. She provided me with the best of medical facility.” Did he speak of estranged love? I thought I had heard wrong. This was a man for whom Oddie had given up on everything that was good in life. Dear old Alby sounded like a man hounded by loneliness and an immediacy to jump into renewed relationship. The call ended in de-spirited silence. I failed to contemplate an apt epitaph which could justify such an abrupt end.

Looking up to the azure bedspread with sparkling white downy pillows of cloud, I thought God must be having a tough time biting a giggle here and a chuckle there with Oddie around – her infectious bonhomie and rib tickling humour gathering ripples on the tranquil premises of heavenly abode wherever located that must be. Wait on Oddie….When time comes for me to join in we’d throw open one another gala fest of afterlife…..up there!!

 Till then….



Pic from Google



Pic From Google


(Those who have not read the first part can read it here)

There’s an odd kind of silence in the room.

Fury giving way to stillness.

It’s only the clock ticking on the mantle shelf and the strong aroma of filtered coffee that justified our presence in the room.

I cleared my throat to repeat the question

Me: How would you like to be known as ten years hence?

Amitji: I am not ambitious enough to wish how I would like to be known as! Life is a mystery…if my wish comes true I would rather be with an NGO working for an environment related cause, or in a sanyaas ashram tucked away in a small Himalayan village, meditating, studying Buddhism and Zen with the Masters.

Me: What about experimentation in writing?

Amitji: I am all for it! Writers, and especially poets, must not restrict or confine themselves…should give free wings to their flight, even at the cost of losing purity of language. Expression of feelings should be primary and unalloyed…the vehicle may be otherwise!

Me: And commercial success……………….?

Amitji: Lucky are those who enjoy it, but it must not deter those who don’t. It has its negative side as well…perhaps the pain of deprivation and want will vanish in a rich man’s poetry, or at least it will not be genuine.

Me: Pick any one of the quotes which is closest to your heart and why?

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words – Robert Frost

Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not an expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But of course, it is only those, who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things – T. S Eliot

I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing the least what they mean – Socrates

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth – Jean Cocteau

Amitji: Only a fool would attempt to counter any of these geniuses. I dare not be judgmental about Mr. T.S. Eliot’s statement, one of the most learned poets ever, but will however submit that intellect in my opinion does not have an edge over emotion(in poetry). A combination of what Frost and Socrates have said, hence, comes closest to my heart. I am not being diplomatic. The ‘why’ part is left on you to assess and analyze.

Me: Do you really live in a glass house of your own making as in Chitakte Kaanchghar?

Amitji: Yes, I do! And it is very painful, suffocating in there!

Me: Poetry reveals as much as it distorts. Your comment in favour or in disfavor or both.

Amitji: Tough question indeed…leaves me without a reply. Kindly excuse.

Me: Your maiden anthology seems like a linear travel from real to surreal, from verbosity to silence, from material love to awakening. How would you define this journey – experiential or evolutionary?

Amitji: Both! Experience is useless without evolution, and evolution without experience will not be real!

Me: Everyone has his or her own favourite – call it influence or inspiration. Who is it for you?

Amitji: I have many favorites, but am afraid they don’t inspire me, some of them may have slight influence on my writings, subconsciously. I am saying ‘slight’ because I can’t write as impeccably as them. I feel flattered when my work happens to remind a reader of a great name.

Me: There is a kind of cynicism in many of your verses – Ishq, Libaas, and Haal to name a few. Does one have to lose faith to be an ace wordsmith?

Amitji: Ha ha ha! I did not, and do not aim to be a wordsmith at all. O.K. let’s put it like this: all three of these poems were a result of real life experiences, and not a trace of word play was intended when they ‘happened’. Never anticipated that ‘cynicism’ would be observed in my poems at a later date. An example of word play, however, can be seen in ‘Unki Adaa’

Me: You may not be tempted to answer this one: Poets have a very distinct persona. They are sensitive, reflective and rebellious. How would you describe yourself as a poet?

Amitji: I am very tempted to answer this being an easy one I am sensitive, reflective and rebellious! Disillusioned, pessimist and an introvert too. Hoping against hope that way a dreamy optimist as well!

Me: Do you think perspective is gender specific? Would a woman poet feel or express differently than a male poet?

Amitji: I don’t feel so. Why would perspective be gender based? Oh yes, women are more sensitive and refined so their points of view are bound to be deeper and more beautifully expressed. In my view women are superior to men in almost all respects, and their innate delicacy make them a divine being virtually.

Me: How is expressing in haikus different from expressing in lengthy verses?

Amitji: Haiku is an admirably amazing metre! I am currently writing haiku in Hindi. The limitation of seventeen syllables is very challenging sometimes and leaves you exasperated. It flows in smoothly and effortlessly at others. Creating a haiku is a pleasure indeed! It must not be a straight, prosaic statement within seventeen syllables. The element of awe and finesse of poetic rhythm are its fundamentals. It is a challenge for the reader too: the utter compression needs quite an alertness to be understood and appreciated. Its poles apart from writing in conventional lengthy verse.

Me: Publishers, world over, shy away from publishing poetry. Do you think poetry is getting increasingly marginalized by lack of hype or organized publicity?

Amitji: Yes, it is! But not a matter to worry about! Its time will come again…

Me: Your remarkable proficiency in Hindi and Urdu is manifest in your writings. However, I have also read your bilingual haikus in Hindi and English. Both are equally effective. How about then preferring English over your mother tongue?

Amitji: Thank you for your nice words. My ‘bilingual’ ones are only English translations coupled with Hindi originals, meant for non-Hindi speaking friends. The translations may look like haiku but are NOT haiku in a classical way. Nor were they intended to be. You are kind to say, and I am pleased to learn, that the translations were found equally effective which was a painstaking effort…preserving delicacy of thought and maintaining compression of verse simultaneously.

I have not yet written a classically true haiku in English. Will try my hand soon…thanks a whole lot for this great idea Wonder why it didn’t occur to me earlier.

Well! That gives us some more reason to look forward to – an anthology of haikus in English next!!!

But before we could close the interview I had to…had to…had to request him to recite at least one piece from his book and the thorough gentleman that he was, how could he refuse a lady….

So as his voice resonated time stood still and I was ecstatic to note that it was the one that was my favourite as well…..

मुस्कुराहट  से कहाँ  छुपती है  आँखों की उदासी

आँसुओं के समुन्दर आस्तीनों से नहीं पुंछा करते’

Oh yes! When pain is the soulmate, life can anything but be lachrymose.

But the stars gathered outside my window twinkled a different story.

And when Amitji left with a big smiling “cheerio”, I knew there was always a ray of hope, even if faint and fading, out there somewhere in the horizon for us to make way in the darkness!!!


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