Over A Virtual Cup Of Coffee : With Jitendra Mathur


Qatl Kii AadatSocial networking sites, for many, are just virtual space where you come in ‘contact’ with people of your liking for a while and then disperse as easily as you have ‘met’ because unlike physical intimacy, your chance interaction and mingling do not bear down upon you with the constrictions of physical proximity or commitment I was lucky to have ‘met’ many like-minded friends on various sites with the difference that the friendship has more than once transformed therefrom virtual to real.  By real, I mean a more tangible connect by way of tele talk or actual face to face acquaintance or exchange of notes.

When I say like-minded, I refer to the common thread, per se, or more elaborately, the symbiosis of benefit, not in the least in material terms,  but more in the lines of an unpremeditated mutual growth which for all ideal purpose should be the keystone of any honest and evolving relationship.  I was lucky to have known Mr. Jitendra Mathur for the past so many years as a thinker who has always been sincere and ever ready with his valuable comments and appreciation whenever I have tried to express my views, in my limited capacity, on any sundry topic, on my blog space or on sites of  mutual indulgence. To get a friend by your side, who understands your mind, is a blessing of divine proportion. Oft-perceived lightly, the sense of understanding is an unflinching assurance that our intersecting thoughts promise not to malign.

JITENDRA MATHUR

Shri Jitendra Mathur

Mr. Mathur has always charmed me with the sincerity of his intention. Even his critique has been perceptive, directional and more than often presentation of an alternate viewpoint which my microscopic takes have bypassed. A movie buff, an avid reader, an honest reviewer, a talented playwright and a compulsive writer (by his own confession), words fall short when it comes to sketching a multi-faceted persona like Mr. Mathur. However, I think it is our addiction to that factor of unknowability that has actually spurred on our association over the past so many years. In short, we are both huge fans of murder mystery and detection. I am still to make out what kindles a man’s perceptivity – is it profession or is it the bent of mind which eggs him towards his chosen vocation? Being a Chartered Accountant, analytical acumen, clarity of thought and the ability of distinguishing the necessary from the clutter, come naturally to Mr. Mathur. But it is reading his reviews, be it of Christie’s or Surendra Mohan Pathak’s, I became increasingly aware of a mind which is endowed with the power and precision of logically deducing the truth, from a haystack of deluding facts, in an almost unforgiving manner.

I would not like to take the credit of what followed suit because the seeds of the future is always sown somewhere in the past and watered by the present. Even though it’s a doer’s prerogative, It was the latter that I unashamedly boast of triggering and I am happy that the result is so awe-inspiring that even the one who coaxed him not to stop, is stunned by the outcome. Writing a full-fledged novel, taking out time off a demanding career, is no mean task. And it is also an occasion to celebrate with a virtual cup of coffee and as stimulating a conversation as the caffeine in the coffee beans could provoke. So here it goes…

Me : Writing is cathartic or therapeutic for you?

JM : Both – to vent out my frustration and stuffiness and to anoint the wounded heart.

Me: From playwright to novelist, would you call it a quantum leap, a gradual process or an inevitability?

JM : I became a playwright because of the demand of the situation in 2003 when a play was required by my friends for participating in the cultural event of the then organization I served. My second play was also written on someone’s request. But after writing many plays, when one fine morning, a thought came to my mind that I should try to write a full-fledged novel also, then it proved to be an altogether different business because of the genre. After successful materialization of my dream, I can call it a quantum leap. Had I written a romantic or a social novel, I would have termed it a gradual process.

Me: You have often remarked that my short stories lean towards abstraction not easily followed by many. But when we talk of hardboiled murder mysteries we are actually veering towards that dark realm of performance which is as abstract as confounding. Your comment.

JM : Well, that’s a ticklish question. To some extent, I agree that mysteries also contain an air of abstractness. The thought of murder is a result of mental abstractness. However, this abstractness is subjective. All the same, murder mysteries can’t be completely abstract because the acts preceding and succeeding a murder (especially unraveling the mystery) are nothing but tangible incidents.

Me : Qatl Kii Aadat, your maiden novel, is of a steamy mainstream genre. Yet, a Christie or a Sir Connan Doyle fall within the purview of classics. What according to you are the requisite ingredients for thrillers and suspense dramas to acquire literary stature?

JM : The requisite ingredient for a suspense drama or a thriller to acquire literary stature lies in the psychological aspect or element finely and subtly embedded therein. Murder is only an act but the background and foreground of the act decide its qualitative quantum – the crime, the process of detection, the quality of investigation and the finale. This applies to mystery movies too, a very few of which, achieve the cult status. In a nutshell, a mystery or thriller can be considered a classic when it is much more than a suspense or a thrill story.

Me: You are a huge Christie fan (like me). Has Christie in any way been an influencing factor in shaping your novel?

JM: Of course! Though the plot emerged out of my own life experiences, the Christie influence on me has something to do with its shaping and presentation.

Me : Do you wish to see your protagonist SI Sanjay Sinha on the same pedestal as Christie’s Poirot or SMP’s Sunil in coming days?

JM :Yes, why not?

Me : Coming to Hindi pulp fiction, your reviews have inspired many, including me, to have a taste of these. However, the very coinage “pulp” is somewhat derogatory given their huge salability and readership. Do you agree and why the nickname “pulp”?

JM : The nickname ‘pulp’ has been derived from the quality of paper used for publication of such novels. And it’s because of the poor quality of paper, cover page and other production related aspects that led decorous people to look upon them derogatorily. And once they got tagged as ‘cheap’, the tag continued to stick to them for ages.

Me :Given the present scenario, do you think writers are now more motivated by commercial interests and less by literary thirst?

JM: Yes. Though I have come across authors and poets who create purely out of passion and literary thirst, it’s to be admitted that the commercial interests has taken over the scenario. All the same, it’s nothing new. We have to admit that the basic needs of life are the same for creative people as they are for the others.

Me: Your experience and views on self-publishing?

JM : Self-publishing is the order of the day. Due to diminutive readership and in turn printed publishing, this is the only viable option left to new authors and poets. It’s a known fact that a couple of today’s celebrity Indian authors had begun through self-publication only.

Me: Is crime an art or a craft?  Your take in view of contemporary times…

JM : Crime can never be an art, Geeta Ji because art always exists for its own sake whereas crime cannot be contemplated for its own sake. There has to be a motive for it. However it can be called a craft. Mind it, if the criminal is willing to accept the legal punishment for his crime prior to contemplating it, then the crime is neither an art nor a craft. These terms are to be used only when the criminal has to make a plan to escape the law of the land after committing the crime. The art lies there and not in just carrying out the crime and surrendering to the law thereafter.

Me: Logical detection and plausible finale are something which we find lacking in many contemporary novels. Do you think writing a mystery novel requires a different bent of mind? How difficult or easy is it?

JM : Yes, writing a mystery novel requires a different bent of mind. It’s definitely difficult than writing a social drama or romantic stuff. The author has to know well in advance what his detective hero is going to know and then reveal in the climax. All the loose ends are to be tied up in the end, all the questions are to be answered and all the activities of different characters are to be logically explained. Else, the finale may leave the reader dissatisfied. Hence it’s a unique style which the author has to develop and refine by practice.

Me: Political intervention in policing is a necessary evil yet an acknowledged fact. Your reply as SI Sanjay Sinha….

JM :Political intervention in policing is an evil for sure but how can we call it a necessary evil ? There is no necessity for it except for the vested interests. Hence it should be stopped and the dutiful and committed officers should be allowed to function without undue pressures.

Me: Who would you like to see as Sanjay in a cinematic adaptation of your novel?

JM : That’s a hypothetical question. If it really becomes possible some day, then yes, Arjun Kapoor.

Me: A little about Qatl Kii Aadat…..

JM : It’s a murder mystery set in an industrial town which is small in area with   smaller villages connected to it. The nearest city is miles away. The local police chowki suffers from want of manpower and resources. Still a very young and inexperienced but honest and dedicated chowki in-charge investigates the case which is entangled like a spider’s web and ultimately succeeds in reaching the culprit.

Me: If you had to review your own novel ….

JM: As the author I am subjective. For a more objective analysis, an independent reviewer should be entrusted for it.

Me : About your next venture…..

JM : Not planned yet.

Me: All the best to you for your novel and next venture, whenever that is due, Mr. Mathur!

With that we took the last sip of our coffee. Needless to say, I am as eagerly looking forward to reading Mathur Sahab’s creation as my other friends are.

Qatl Kii Aadat is now available on www.pothi,com in e-book form. Be the first to review it.

But before signing off, I promise I shall come back again in another Coffee Session with Mr. Mathur after devouring the book.

Till then …..Happy deducing….

Nesting Dreams


 

Nest : Shot at Dadhikar Fort

Nest : Shot at Dadhikar Fort

Nesting is primordial to living beings. Nest represents love, comfort, care and creativity. How we build and maintain our nests depends on our intrinsic sense of workmanship and beauty.

Nest also implies security and safety. It is the fount of happiness which provides us with confidence and courage to face the world at large. Nest is where we dream and dare as well. It is where we experience and experiment. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. With success comes determination to forge ahead. And when we fail the nest is our fall back.

We happened to spot this nest at our recent trip to Dadhikar Fort. On searching the net, I found that this type of nest is built by weaver birds which are basically from sub-Saharan Africa and a few found in tropical Asia. There are buffalo, sparrow, typical and widow weavers in this family of birds. The male weavers painstakingly  build the nests to lure the female counterparts! These are brightly coloured, seed eating birds deriving their name from  their habit of weaving     nests which are conical in shape with a narrow opening at the bottom.

 Birds only fly and chirp!! But do not underestimate them. They can also build elaborate nests wherein nestle colourful dreams.

Dadhikar……Retrieval Of An Era


Last December we embarked on an adventurous trip to Alwar. A trip one of its kind undertaken by two unchaperoned, middle aged ladies, with the ambitious project of seeking a ‘feel’  of the paranormal at the Bhangarh Fort, approximately 56 Kms. from Alwar, infamous for being haunted.

However, the hauntings proved lukewarm and lacking. But while with the snooper’s cap on, we made it to the exotic heritage hotel in Dadhikar – a ruined fort turned into a luxurious and enchanting haven amidst Nature’s bounties and serene splendour.

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At The Entrance Of The Fort

Dadhikar epitomizes entrepreneurship at its best. Ram Kaushik, the owner of the property, has singlehandedly revamped the entire structure to revive back the glory of the bygone era. The idea is to give the non-residential visitors and in-house guests a taste of royalty – a chance to rejuvenate tired body and mind in real regal extravagance.

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Front View Of The Fort

 

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The Impressive Gate To The Fort

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The Colourful Path Leading To The Fort

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Inside The Fort

The décor inside the Fort is antiquated best with a splash of modern amenities.

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View From The Fort

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A Covered Verandah Turned Into A Playroom

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Patches Of Colour Against The Stark Brown Façade

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The Balconies Open Up To Sky Unlimited

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The Rooms Have Names Too!

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Breathtaking Views

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Meal On The Terrace & A Turbaned Waiter In Attention!

The most wondrous thing is how meticulously and painstakingly the atmosphere of the Fort has been rebuilt by dramatically juxtaposing modern amenities with antique artifacts. We were not allowed to click inside the rooms. However, you can get a wide coverage of the premise in terms of décor, ambiance, location etc. if you take pains to visit their official website : http://www.dadhikarhotels.com.

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Cozy Nook By A Well-Cushioned Jharokha

And that’s me by the way!

For a more detailed review of Dadhikar Fort Heritage Hotel visit the link http://www.mouthshut.com/review/Dadhikar-Fort-review

Experiments With Life …..Not Fatigued At Fifty


Life Blooms

December 2014 I turned fifty. A cool age! As many would say because now there is no stigma attached to being old. Women are discovering themselves at the age of 40 and rediscovering perhaps at the threshold of completing half a century on this planet Earth. But it’s not an introspection on age but more on life in general. How was growing up or may I say growing old? The answer would be experiential. What does that mean? It means moving on in life holding the hands of a variety of experiences and on the way gathering pearls of prudence and an overdose of caution.

Prudence which teaches us the larger implications of mundane actions or inactions. Why caution? Because it is better to count the steps before placing a wrong foot into the pit and plummeting through that tumultuous drop which can put you back to not even square one but square zero.  Yes, you are right! I am talking about that horrid feeling of vulnerability that we all suffer from at times in life. What exactly is it? It is that sense of insecurity and that fear of being exposed to hurt and defeat combined together. After all we are all humans ….social animals with a strong defense mechanism.

Confession time! Yes, this urge to defend the softest core inside called the heart has often frequented me. At unguarded times, I have lain wounded bleeding profusely, at others I have swished my sharp, stinging porcupine thorns and lashed back wisely or unwisely so. And at very extraordinaire moments, I have neither cringed nor conquered but craved for melancholia. Strange are the labyrinths of the mind and those utterly confusing and chaotic love enzymes which have begged me to foray into paths wild and be lost.

Failings have come naturally. They are bound to when you are too innovative or over-confident of your own limited wisdom forgetting conveniently that in the long run you are dealing with that most unpredictable element of this ever expanding Universe, the human species. Then what? Do I get daunted by what did not happen as per calculation or be propelled by that indomitable spirit which tells me “You shall overcome someday”! If one asks me at this juncture what is the remedy, my answer perhaps will be “I dunno”!

And that is what makes life so interesting and quixotic and a seeker so inquisitive and overwhelmed by a surge of adrenaline. The inability to foresee what is going to be….which makes me cling to that evergreen dictum….”what will be will be”………..embracing it as the sovereign mantra of survival ….physical, psychological and emotional…

The experiment is still on…..the excitement is insatiable…..the endeavour is relentless….

I am happy to feel the warm rush of that crimson liquid in my veins, the lyrical cadence of that tiny throb in my pulse and that sharp inhalation of springy breeze which tickles my nostrils and that wild thud, which reminds me of the African jungle beats,  in my heart….

In short, I am still alive…

What will be ….will be….

Hey! I Am Simply Not You


A Quiet Evening By The Fireside

A Quiet Evening By The Fireside

He says why don’t you go out

Late into the night

And party hard

Its a stress buster you know

I smile wanly

A quiet evening with a book

By the fire side

Is what soothes the soul

Oh! Don’t be a home bird

Fly high traverse skies

With wide wings

And a traipsing heart

I turn around and say quietly

It won’t make me

He says with force

Yes it  will, it did for me

And it will do for you as well

I shake my head slowly

No you don’t understand

It won’t work for me

Coz I am simply not you

He still pursues

I see glimpses of you

Carefree, outbound , buoyuant

Bouncing on breeze wild

Untamed like a mountain brook

Unheard of I say

Not me perhaps someone else

No, its you its you its you

Dashing on a broomstick

Past the glowing moon

I throw back my head

And laugh loud in mirth

He says, see that’s you

You’ve forgotten perhaps

No, I say, its your imagination

Fertile, Its not me cannot be

Even for a while

He doesn’t let it go at that

And presses his point more

I give up in a huff and say

Oh! Why don’t you realize

I am just not like you

You see yourself in me

Which just cannot be

He shakes his head undeterred

Let time decide what shall be….

The Prism


The face looked strangely familiar to her – the well brushed salt and pepper mop,  the pair of big, bulging eyes staring with all earnestness through a pair of thick lenses and that walk with a slight stoop – everything reminded her of something, somebody, which she could not, at the moment, honestly place a finger on. He was standing by the roadside –  his tall frame hunched up against the sharp, piercing draught of ice-cold wind,  his ungloved hands dug deep into his trouser pockets trying to hide his ruddy face into the folds of a well-used muffler tied loosely around his neck – when Sonu, the driver, taking pity  on the solitary figure swerved the car close to a stand still. The man took the seat by his side thanking him profusely for the unasked lift. She appreciated such acts of kindness. And the man looked decent enough. So she kept quiet.

“This is Loveleen Nigam with the headlines….” blared the car stereo. Soon after, the songs would follow, she thought. Old Hindi Film songs which she loved so much. They sat quietly, all three of them, as the car covered distances in a smooth glide. Forty five minutes later, Sonu pulled the car by a tall tower which was a testimonial of flawless workmanship of glass and metal. It was the office arcade in the centre of the city. The man turned around and looked at her gratefully,” Thank you very much for the lift. You saved me from the painful one and a half hour bus journey to the office. Anyhow, I had missed the usual one that I take and was waiting for the next one which would have taken half an hour longer to reach me here. Thanks once again.” “Hope you will get the right bus and not have any problem going back home in the evening.” She replied softly. He nodded quietly. However, he took a few more minutes to get off the car. She thought his eyes were moist when he had looked away. But she was not sure…It could be the refracting sunlight.

Sonu drove away through the throng of traffic.  “Tum mujhe yun bhula na paaogey….” The sad lilting voice of Lata Mangeshkar filled the inside of the car like a swirling mist. Sonu was looking at her intently through the rear view mirror. Madame had again receded into a cocoon of forgetfulness. What had Sahab said? It was a disease with her…a disease with a complicated name…Al….Alza…He couldn’t pronounce it easily. So he left it at that. The song had now changed to a foot tapping, romantic number. Sonu loved the song. “Pyar mein kabhie kabhie aisa ho jaata hai.….” The lyrics made him pine more for Mamta, whom he fondly called Mammo. She was the tea-seller’s daughter. They had their stall at the far end of the gully where he stayed. Sonu would one day marry Mammo. It was all decided. He would work for a few years more and then buy a second hand car from his savings to start his own transport business. And then he would ask for her hand from her father. Until then he had to take care of Madam whenever Sahab was not around or at work.

Back home in the village, he had always seen his father returning home late at night horribly drunk abusing and beating his mother in anger and frustration. Her only sin was that she was married to a person who did not have the spine to retaliate back to the  world outside which was too powerful and demanding  on him. Notwithstanding, she would wake up each morning to serve him tea and pack his lunch with a smile on her bruised lips and shine in her blackened eyes when it was time for him to leave for duty.

Later in the night, Sonu wondered what made a marriage tick ? Was it love or something more? He did not have the answer. And thinking too much about anything gave him a head ache. So he sighed deeply, changed side and closed his eyes firmly. Tomorrow, he had to take Madam out for her morning ride to all those places where Sahab thought  she might be able to regain her lost memory. Everyday, they would play the same game of picking Sahab up by the roadside and dropping him to office pretending that he was a total stranger asking for a lift as he had missed his bus because that was the way Madam and Sahab had first met almost thirty years back.

Would Madam ever  remember anything or ever recognize Sahab for that matter? Sonu did not know. But one thing was certain. As he was losing himself in the soporific maze of  wispy  dreams, Mammo would be there waiting for him….to show him the way.

Cigarette Stub


Tangy Tuesdays

Image from Google

Tanisha opened her eyes to the pale light of dawn filtering through the half closed window. Another long and dreary day stretched ahead, thought she dejectedly. The Grandfather Clock in the hall, one of Dhrupad’s antique collections, struck the hour – 05.00 AM. She missed the sound of water running in the toilet, the soft flip-flop noise of Dhrupad’s slippers on the floor and the manly fragrance of his after-shave lotion. This was the time he would prepare for his early morning stroll by the Chamboli river – a serene strip of lush green meadow where the only sound pervading the atmosphere would be of the birds chirping in the trees. Yet, Dhrupad made it a point to be spic and span for the occasion which was the butt of many a jokes between them. Before moving out of the house he would nudge her hard, “Get up and be about girl!” Sprawled lazily on the bed, she would just about manage to open one eye and drawl sleepily, “Not now!” And he would be gone with a half-smile playing on his lips, “Lazybones!” His words would echo in the empty hall beyond.

She clung to the silences now – the silence in the bedroom and the hall beyond. Dhrupad was gone. Gone forever. Deven, Dhrupad’s friend and physician, had shaken his head in sheer despair, “Too late Taani.” He had said,”I had told him to stop smoking a long long time back. But he wouldn’t give up. Now both lungs are badly damaged. Beyond cure.” He had sighed heavily, resignedly.

Tanisha had sat dry-eyed on the floor while Dhrupad’s mortal remains were taken to the crematorium a fortnight later. From then on life had been an endless march on a lonely trail.

She turned her face into the pillow. Memories were like gaping wounds oozing blood and raining tears. Nevertheless she could have let herself be flooded by them but for the soft whimpers and scratches at the door – “Dodge!” She smiled through  searing pain. Six months after Dhrupad’s death, Neela, her sister, had  one fine afternoon come along with this tiny, black furball curled up in a cane basket, a heart warmer of a Pug, just forty five days old. They had named him Dodge perhaps with the thin hope that he might be able to broom away the agonizing emptiness that not only gripped Tanisha but every nook and corner of the house with his furry presence.

Dodge did make a difference. He was furnny, amiable, very, very persuasive and a stickler for discipline too. 05.00 AM sharp and he would be ready for his morning walk! He had his favourite spot too – by the river side. And he made sure that Tanisha was up and agile at the pre-fixed time to take him out without fail.

Now as he scampered down the bed of velvety grass, Tanisha wondered how time rushed by. Dodge was a year old now – playful and inquisitive as ever. The other day he had made it a point to wiggle out a piece of scrap sticking from beneath a rock. He had spent almost fifteen painstaking minutes to scratch hard at the boulder till he got what he wanted. And then he had sat on the grass with his possession safe between his paws, proud and victorious. On a closer inspection Tanisha had realized it was nothing but a burnt out cigarette stub.

Today again he was after some small grub which he had scooped up off the street and flaunted about like a long-lost valuable. Now he was chewing at it hard and romping around merrily. Did he whatever but he wouldn’t let go that tiny morsel which he held tightly between his front teeth. Tanisha, a little distance away, scolded him in vain. He ran back to her and squatted on the ground with the dirty piece of paper poking out of his mouth. Dodge had a quaint look in his eyes – mischievous almost challenging – same as Dhrupad would have, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, when Tanisha chided him for smoking.

Dodge was looking straight into her eyes mocking her, daring her to snatch the stained object from his mouth

Tanisha stared hard at it. It was the remaining of a half-smoked cigarette.

A wave like feeling rose up her spine…… Could it be true? Could this really happen?

Yes……………..it was happening right in front of her eyes.

A miracle……….unthinkable……………..unimaginable…………….delightful

Dhrupad was back….

Chicken Changezi, Chaff & Chi


People have family physician. We have a family Orthopedic surgeon, which rather explains the situation. Simply putting, we are a family of ‘brittle bones’. Maa’s been suffering from chronic Arthritis. Since when? I don’t even remember the exact day/date/year.  As far back as my memory travels time, I have always seen Maa limping. And it has always been like that.

“Arthritis is 25% hereditary,” says Dr. M, “You’ve got to take great care.” He peers into the X-ray for the twenty-fifth time and lets go a single sigh – deep, resonating and ominous.

“What’s wrong now?” I whisper.

“Nothing extraordinary. Your heel bone is protruding out.” He points at the X-ray plate and I stare incredulously at the slim, white curvy thing sticking out by the right side of my right heel. It is quite apparent. Somewhat like the curved edge of a sharp blade. Or more like a curly baby horn popping out on the soft head of a calf. It nods its head incessantly – a vigorous attempt  to get rid of the monster plonked on its head. But  as much as it may try the appendage won’t disengage and is determined to make its presence felt.

So is the case with me. I feel the pain 24 x 7 – an excruciating, throbbing, debilitating sensation which increases ten folds as I place my foot gently on the floor. The thought of a sedate walk is something of a luxury now. The painful inheritance enriches me  with newer devices to keep me balanced on my two feet, however weak and handicapping these may be. Necessity is the mother of all inventions, as they say !!!

“And it is going to get worse day by day.” Dr. M’s prediction coagulates in my brain as soon as the words drop from his lips.

What nonsense! I have never heard of such….

My physiotherapist  Kapil is more illustrative, “What happens when you press a gob of clay hard with your hand from the top ? It gives in under the  pressure and spreads out like melted butter. So is the case with your foot. It is unable to bear your body weight… ”

And my heel is spreading out its tentacles….” I finish for him.

“There’s only one solution to your plight.” Says Dr. M, “Reduce a few kilos in three to four months time and you’ll be much relieved of the present discomfort.”

This is the first time ever that Dr. M has spoken of dislodging the carbs off my girth that I have so fondly accumulated over a period of more than two decades. Earlier whenever I have broached the subject, he has been emphatic that a few kilos are essential for an influential persona. It kind of adds to your personality.

Now…. How? How do I say good riddance to my body fat which has always been so stoically loyal to me in every season of my life – my days of adversity as well as merry moods? Ooooh! The unfaithful me!!!I am sure I’ll suffer from identity crisis when I see my scrawny self in the mirror months later?

My sis has a ready solution, as she always has, “Join a Diet Club ?”

What? You pay to lose what has been yours for sooo long ? I am aghast.

“That’s the in thing.” She says and counts examples of all those illustrious colleagues who have exerted supreme will power and got converted into trimmer bodylines in no time.

“They’ll put you on husks, chaff and bran.” Informs my 03.00 am friend (or foe, I wonder!)

“Thanks”. I grimace.

***

It took a few weeks more to put me on the path of renunciation. Had it not been for my chauffeur, who by some quirk of fate, one fine evening pulled up right in front of Sweta Nakra’s Diet Clinic by mistake, I would have endlessly bidden time to get mentally prepared to give myself a break off the platter of ‘good food’ and that chilled glass of swirling calories.

But that is not all.

License precedes check.

Last that I entered the cardiologist’s clinic, I made sure I had a sumptuous fill of chocolate pastries before he could tell me to be off all that I lived for.

This time before Sweta took me over completely a sudden spell of gluttony had a stronghold on my palate. It so happened that the week previous to my fateful visit to Sweta’s, everywhere that I went, people were talking of Chicken Changezi and how forebodingly delicious it was. Even those who were on a strict  regime, gave examples of how their fridge, at that very moment, was loaded with bowls full of Chicken Changezi to which they had said a disinterested no and looked away, amazed at their own will power and lack of desire, which in turn, proved how a nutrient rich diet could make you think differently and elevate you to a higher mental plane where you easily gave up on what was so dear to you just a few months back, without batting an eyelid.

I would have emerged so called ‘inspired’, had I not laid my eyes on that tumbler full of  rich, brown Chicken (Changezi what else?) curry, with the oil spilling all over the plate placed  strategically underneath, in my sis’ fridge. And the inevitable happened…

The next few days were spent battling with stomach ache and cramps precursor to an intestinal malfunction…

So much so for the taste of the tongue.

***

My chi is back in town. No, I am not talking about my maid. Chi – the  Pranic life force, the core of my being, is now right in place, whirling around the seven chakras of my body in perfect rhythm as I munch on salt-less salads, sip on insipid soups and gulp down oil-less curries with glasses of warm water, I am in seventh heaven. As long as my jaws get their regular biting exercise, nothing is distasteful. In fact, I have come upon the  gateway to a whole new world where everything is healthy and healing.

And I am happy coz I still have something fresh and untested  to hog on…..

Thanks to Sweta who have kept me alive sill with her ‘scientifically’ planned meals.

Happy Munching….

Image from Al Jawahar’s http://eatyourworld.com

The Hangover


Bengalis have this incorrigible habit of romanticizing about Durga Puja in the first half of the year, i.e. from the months of January to August and in the second half of the year, i.e. post Puja,  from the months of September to December.  ruminating over how this time the Puja was not so great as it was last year and how it could have been more enjoyable had it lasted a few days longer. Odd the race is and its capacity to kill time with tireless debate over what was not and what could have been.

 

However, it is also the race which has the most extra-ordinary power of imagination, creativity, devotion, intellectualism and gluttony. There is not one Baangaali or Bong, as they are lovingly called, who doesn’t keep a bottle of Gelusil MPS Liquid handy in all seasons to combat the acidic belches or the favourite choonwaa dhekurs, as they are fondly called. These disruptive dhekurs are the biggest hurdles in a Bong’s peaceful existence as they leave that bitter coat on the taste buds preventing them from munching on a few more freshly fried maangsher shingaara (Mutton Samosas).

 

Talking of imagination, ask a Bengali and he will tell you a thousand clever ways of stalling work with crafty unionism. How the soil of Bengal is not at all suitable for any rail, metro, road or any other upcoming project which are otherwise running smoothly and successfully in other States of this country. How the ‘centaar’ is conspiring against the red/brown/black government of the State with a hidden agenda of wiping off the entire Bengali populace with one swipe of a Rightist’s/Leftist’s/or whichever arm that be it.

 

Technology is a subject they can chew on with relish like the Meetha Patti Paan they chew after every meal. How all technologies invariably fail due to the duality of thesis and anti-thesis inherent therein, is something only a Bong knows best. Futility of Maya, is the pivotal concept around which a Bengali’s life is thematically constructed. Therefore, not to do anything is the sovereign and sublime path to immortalization, is a stubborn belief that a Bong can swear by and die for.

 

The race’s devotion to lethargy and armchair intellectualism, at its pinnacle if the room is air-conditioned to the right degree, are enviable traits which none other race can compete with. However, when it comes to creativity, let me take a U-turn and proclaim that this is a race which stands tall and apart. Be it weaving, crafting, sculpting, cooking, writing, painting, designing, filming, singing, composing or just plain gossiping or adda, Bengalis have taken all art forms including elocution and conversation, to the ultimate level epitomizing human prodigy at its exemplary best. As one surfs from one Puja to the other in the Capital, the decoration of the idols and the pandaals manifest the unique conjugality of  worship and creativeness, devotion and enjoyment, bonhomie and the sincere urge to attain greater heights of  spiritual intent. Amidst the festive celebrations of the yearly Durga Puja, the true essence of Bengal and Bengalis come to surface and can best be evaluated. Some of the pictures that I sporadically clicked during various Pujas :

Panaecea https://panaecea.wordpress.com Panaecea Image0336

In The Name Of Religion


ALBERT EINSTEIN

When we pick up an issue like whether religion is overrated, we are actually trying to look for an alternate which is less hyped and more efficacious. The debate instantly spurs the following questions:

 What is religion?
 How is religion so important?
 Can we do without religion?
 What is the hype all about?
 If not religion, then what?

Genesis of Religion

Perhaps it’s our consumerist mindset that provokes us to view religion – its utility and futility – in terms of rating. Religion is no goods or service which can be ‘rated’. It is a way of life. The way we think. The way we act. The way we perceive life and how it should unfold. Whatever good things that we have been brought up with and taught repeatedly traces its origin back to religion. However, here a distinction is necessitated between religion and ism. When we talk of religion we tend to equate it with either the ism that we are born into (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity etc.) or the rituals (Pooja, Vrat, Brahman Sewa, Teerath Darshan etc.) What we fail to understand is that religion is much beyond all these things and more pervasive and all-encompassing than we realize.

With the dawn of reason, the primitive men realized the strength of unity in order to survive the wrath of Nature and that of fellow humans. Men united to form tribes. To sustain cohesion and harmony within these tribes and prevent men from warring with each other and getting divided into factions religion came handy. It was used to induce fear of isolation, punishment and the inevitable end; at the same time it also introduced and encouraged the ideas of goodness, ethics, propriety and brotherhood. So for early human civilizations, religion acted as an adhesion.

ON RELIGION

Misuse of Religion

With the growth of social order and its various complexities, religion changed colour and shape. It donned the drapes of various isms, dogmas, practices and rites. And like all other human endeavor, it came to be misutilized as well.

We misuse religion when we use it as a tool to:

 Resort to fundamentalism
 Create and pursue divisive and discriminatory means
 Distort and re-create history on non-secular parameters
 Spread hatred and disunity amongst people
 Refuse to understand or respect the beliefs & concerns of fellow beings, and above all
 Use it to secure personal profits and power

AE II

Significance of Religion

Religion is a body of supreme knowledge, revelations and realizations accumulated over ages. Even though a high-powered microscope may not be able to spot it in our DNA, yet it is somewhere mapped into our genetic matrix. Whether we consciously admit or not, we cannot do without it or some form of it in our lives. And that something may or may not fall strictly within the purview of any particular ism but can definitely be what we live for and value the most. It can simply be good deeds like helping the weaker sections of society, providing those who deserve support and assistance, involvement in community service to keep the environs clean and healthy, imparting knowledge and education, shouldering familial responsibilities or simply doing your day to day jobs with great honesty and sincerity. In that sense, religion is very, very personal and your very own.

Misunderstanding Religion

Problems arise when we restrict religion to what is written in the Shastras and Scriptures which we may or may not be able to follow or assimilate ourselves in its true sense or may be influenced to understand the way these have been interpreted by others. Keeping all complex jargons aside, what we tend to forget is that the very basic aim of religion is to sustain our lives, society, this entire world and the vast cosmic creation beyond, of which we are a part and parcel, in a healthy and wholesome manner. That is what is Manav Dharma all about. This we can only do if we keep away from and discourage the spread of dissenting and destructive factors and forces which time and again crop up within and around us. So, for our own survival and sustenance, it is important that we embrace religion.

Hype about Religion

With the advent and development of modern means of communication, the globe has come to reside next door. When modern day Swamis can travel in extravagance (Mercedes and BMWs) and dedicated TV channels be aired for twenty four x seven telecasting of motivational talks by gurus and professional speakers, religion automatically comes under the spot light. Perhaps it is unavoidable. And why keep it under wraps when we need it so much? But again behind all this avoidable glamorous entrapments we have to seek the true meaning and motive. Otherwise chances are that we may be befooled and beguiled without our knowing.

The Ultimate of Religion

From time immemorial men have taken a break from day to day work and asked these questions:

•Who am I?
•For what purpose have I taken birth on this Earth?
•Where do I go when death takes over?
•Who has created me and this Universe?
•What is the sole motive behind this entire Creation?
•Do I really have a control over my Fate and Future?
•If no, then who is the Creator and Controller of my life and this entire Cosmos?

And again, it is this eternal search that has catapulted men the world over to seek the answers in religion. This search is universal – the ultimate query of every human discipline, study, research and discourse. The ways and paths are merely different. Science and History have sought these answers and Religion has provided the support. Similarly all religious beliefs have spoken the same thing over and over again albeit in different languages. There is a oneness underlying all diversities and divergences. It is we humans who have confused and contorted what is simple and lucid.

Alternate to Religion

When we debate over the relevance of religion in today’s world, it is the doubt embedded therein which comes to the fore. Religious beliefs and the way these have been preached the world over have augmented ambiguity and scepticism more than quenched our thirst for the Ultimate Truth. A seeker must never doubt. A Doubting Thomas can never come upon what he seeks. To know you have to surrender. And in unquestioned submission is reposed Knowledge Absolute, Truth Absolute and Divine Absolute. It is the only alternate to religion.

However, in order to surrender you have to eliminate the unnecessary.
In order to eliminate you have to know.
In order to know you have to perform.
In order to perform you have to believe.
In order to believe you have to practice.
In order to practice you have to take to your own religion which suits you best.

Would you still say that religion is overrated?

 

(This post is a part of Indispire’s Topic of Debate Is Religion overrated?)

 

ON RELIGION III