Beauty In Anonimity


This is the handiwork of my maali who is, at present, playing truant. And I am no phenomenal photographer. All my pics are just impulsive clicks on my mobile, sometimes my canon! And I know they are flawful and not always very pleasing. That apart…. Flowers are joyous blooms in any garden. Though I do […]

The Clone


I once wrote about how I wished to sketch, draw, paint but my hands were too shaky with the pencil and every line, stroke and shade that I intended to bring out on paper came to naught. However, recently I have had this great urge to be creative and decided not to let my handicaps and shortcomings come my way. So, what I did was to surf the net (Pinterest mostly), select sketches, copy them , take print and carbon them out in my sketch book and colour them to my heart’s content. Result is something like this:

THE GIRL

The interesting thing is that I tried to colour the copied sketch in my PC with the paint brush and it came out like this:

THE GIRL 2

A word of caution. One has to have very steady fingers in order to paint on-screen. Control over the mouse is most important otherwise the colours may run out of boundaries. It is also difficult to maintain the fine edges with this one. Chances of spill over are most. Perfect fingers, right amount of pressure, accurate sense of direction of maneuvering are required to make/paint an error free picture on the computer. But for a first timer, with all its flaws and failures, I think the try was not so bad.

And here is the original sketch from Pinterest:

THE CUTE GIRL

In writing when one copies it is known as plagiarism. I do not quite remember the exact word for copying an art work. It is not a done thing, of course not! And I am guilty of the crime. But all said and done, the fact that stares at me right through all these trials of the art type, failed or otherwise,  is that a copied/plagiarized product cannot compete or match with the original. There always remains a dissimilarity, an inconsonance, a difference, minor or glaring, between the two. And the original will always be the original with all its beauty, subtlety and fragrance and a copy ( a carbon one at that) will always remain dissatisfactory and quite not up to the mark.

Then, will I not commit the crime again ?

You bet! I will, a hundred times and more……………with due respect to the original creator!!!

MY “TWILIGHT” FRIEND


(This Short Story was first published in CLRI October 2013 issue. However, the link is now not operative. That is why thought of reposting it in my blog for interested readers)

VAMPIRE

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“How on earth can anyone fall in love with a vampire?” Disgust was well writ in my tone.

“Well! Love is blind”, was Mann’s usual sardonic reply.

“Writers!” Sanjeev shook his head in amazement,” Their imagination knows no bound. Thank God it’s a vampire and not a Rakshasa.”

“What difference would that have made?” I snorted.

“Guys! Don’t criticise without reading.” Ritu was offended. She had read the book and was heading for the sequel.

We were gathered in the Club after a hectic game of badminton. It was mid- December. The thermometer had touched an all-time low of the season – four degrees. It was a kind of crippling cold this year. But that wouldn’t prevent us from ganging up in the Club every evening for a game or two of shuttle and an after-the-match follow-up on the latest happenings in our lives and around. However, all our discussions had this disturbing quality of degenerating into vociferous arguments. This evening the apple of discord was Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel “Twilight”.

Ritu had ventured to give us the outline of the story that had started off the debate. The heroine, a ‘normal’ specimen of the human species chooses to fall for a guy of the vampire clan. There was much brouhaha when the novel and its sequels hit the bestseller’s list and were later made into successful movies. Neither had I read the novel nor seen the movie as the theme itself repulsed me.

Sanjeev, with his much flaunted fetish for Management Theories, hardly had any interest for fiction.

“Vampires!  Those nocturnal creatures surviving on human blood!!!”  Mann scoffed at the very idea of their existence which Ritu was inclined to lay a wager on. She even supplied some dubious historical data in support of her claim.

“How can you even think of believing such things?” I was incredulous.   Ritu insisted that we lacked imagination and an innate sense of drama.  We agreed that it wasn’t in us to let our imagination run riot and that even the most ridiculous should have some remote resemblance to realism.

On this agreeable note of disagreement we parted for the day.

____

Google Pic

Google Pic

In the middle of that night…

An odd dream startled me up.  

Strangely, I remembered it later only in parts.

A dark, dilapidated castle…its turrets almost tearing through the sky…cold floors and corridors leading nowhere…and then this squalid room full of gigantic cobwebs and a window with a broken pane drawing in the chill from outside…faded moonlight streaking in through cracked glasses…and this odd feeling that I had been there before…a long, long time back.

 After that blank…

But the feeling stayed on even after I was wide awake.

A hard-to-describe-uneasiness, something I had witnessed in that room but couldn’t recollect now…Deja vu?

Next morning I was late for my tutorials.

____

I pulled the strings of my hood in a tighter knot around my neck. Our maid, Malathi, had smugly predicted a snowfall in the Capital this winter. We had had a good laugh over it during dinner. However, the day next it rained preceded by a hailstorm. The temperature dipped to a degree less. Malathi had this grim satisfaction that her prediction was at last coming to pass. The days were somehow tolerable but the chill grew as the evenings deepened. A boisterous wind made things worse. I found the interiors of the over-crowded Metro cosier during these times.

But with a shoulder bag straining with the weight of thick volumes and fat registers and two tomes precariously positioned on my arms, it was extremely difficult to maintain balance inside the coach. It was the peak rush hour. A tap on my back made me turn around. A dour, pale, almost anaemic face of indeterminate age with a pair of bulging eyes peering through thick lensed glasses, signalled me to the seat next to her. It was not vacant but she motioned the other occupants to shift and make space on the elongated berth so that I could squeeze in. I thanked her. She nodded in acknowledgement.

The next station was a junction where the crowd thinned considerably. A station later, my considerate co-commuter got up to de-board. I noticed an emaciated frame which even layers of woollens and warmers could not disguise. The dark, old fangled cloak draped on her protruding shoulder blades looked positively outlandish.  But in a city obsessed with individualized style statements I attributed her sense of dressing to her personal idiosyncrasy.

She suddenly looked back sensing my eyes on her. Yuck! That crimson shade on her lips! It heightened her pallor – a ‘dripping’ red as though her mouth had just found way out of a bowl of sticky tomato ketchup. How could she even think of applying that regressive colour? Her choice of make-up seemed a little outmoded, summing her up, I instantly felt guilty. Here was I silently picking on her attire and looks while she had so kindly accommodated me next to her. Ungrateful! I castigated myself. With a shake of my head, to shoo away those wicked thoughts, I bent low to concentrate on the latest amendments to Company Law. In doing so, I missed her piercing gaze on me and the slow tantalizing way her tongue licked her lips in a lazy, circular motion.

The train came to a halt at the next station. The door slid open, to admit out a swirl of black, and then closed with a soft thud. As the train moved on I looked up through the huge glass windows lining the compartments. Amidst the crowded platform the quaint figure had managed to vanish like a whiff of smoke.

___

The Club was empty. Sanjeev and Mann had left early. Ritu was the only one available. But she was too engrossed in her book. Taking a chair beside her, I exclaimed. “Why, you haven’t finished reading that trash yet?”

“Exams!” was the succinct reply. If she was angry at my retort she did not show it.

I wanted to ask her what she was doing in the Club then. But she was too pre-occupied. I shivered involuntarily. The room felt a little cold. Perhaps one of the windows was not shut tight enough or one of the several doors left slightly ajar – a draught sneaked in through a truant slit. But Ritu seemed impervious to the environ around. So deep was her concentration that not once did her muscles twitched, limbs moved or gaze veered from the book. It was only the intermittent rustle of pages that warranted movement breaking the silence of the room. I decided not to disturb her any further.

“Carry on girl,” my voice echoed in the emptiness.

Ritu was reading at the table where usually the carom board would be placed. The overhead lamp hanging low from the ceiling was the only light that glowed in the room. It was a big room, nay, hall which on other evenings would be flooded with light and buzzing with cheers and chatters of the players and onlookers.

Tonight shadows hugged the walls and an uncharacteristic, stifling calm prevailed. I looked over my shoulder. Ritu sat still, covered in a woollen shawl, head bowed and eyes glued to the book.

A ghost under the spot-light!!!!!

No, a phantom with a fancy for vampires!  I grinned to myself and left.

____

A blind alley flanked by tall white pillars….No, it was the winding corridors of the castle again. At the far end a light blinked. I moved towards it.  There, I knew, would be all the answers to my query. Though I gathered speed the distance never seemed to lessen. “Run along! Speed along! It’s just a few paces away! Oh, yes I am almost there,” said a voice within.   But just then, flapped in, out of the blue, a black drape of immense weight and settled on my face. I clawed at it ferociously but could not wrench it off me. I wanted to call out to my mother but was gagged out of breath. With flailing arms I tried to grab a support. There was none around. Blindfolded I fought with an invisible enemy. Somewhere, a train whizzed past. If only I could catch it. But my feet felt leaden. I had lost my way and was about to fall when a pair of clammy hands gathered me up. I wanted to thank my friend. At that moment the veil slipped off. And ten long, gnarled fingers closed in on my neck choking my breath out.

I woke up to find that I had broken into a cold sweat.

____

 “Are you studying too late into the night?” My mother looked concerned, “ You have dark circles around your eyes.”

“No! Just bad dreams and fitful sleep!!!”

 “You need a stress buster” said my father looking up from his Daily.

“Yes, me think so too!” I agreed.

I left the breakfast table with a hasty bye.

I was late for the 7.30 train.

***

Google Pic

Google Pic

Metro is the microcosm of urban-scape! The thought always struck me whenever I entered the building. The concourse and the platform pulsated with life. Crowds milling around with purposeful strides, minds focused on their respective destinations.

It would predominantly be an animated throng of students like me this early morning. There would be others too, nameless strangers. Not exactly, I corrected myself. As we travelled together for an hour and a half, each day, these anonymous men and women, boys and girls, children and aged became very much an integral part of our lives. Just like the ‘woman in black’, yes, that was what I had secretly nicknamed her. I often wondered whether it was by coincidence, accident or a pre-ordained plan, that we bumped into a person, more than once, if not regularly, in the course of our life’s journey.

It wasn’t always that we sat together. Our proximity depended upon how crowded the Metro was or which coach we were fortunate enough to jostle in. But mostly it was the Lady’s Coach where we spotted each other occasionally, no, I think almost daily, waved, said a casual ‘hi’, smiled or just briefly nodded at each other. Coming to think of it, it was I who smiled and mouthed a ‘hi’ more often. She preferred to nod. But her eyes always shone in recognition.

She had once told me her name, a strange one, which I didn’t quite get at first and chose to forget as easily. She had explained to me the meaning too. Something like the Night Farer?

I presumed she worked for an MNC. “Mostly night shifts” she had said. I had to stoop close to listen. An odd way of talking, she had, through pursed lips, and a hiss of a voice. She smelled a little musty.

But I was quite surprised when she said that she didn’t mind burning the midnight oil as her energy level was quite high after night fall. “Feel top in form as the moon settles down”, were her exact words. Day schedule did not suit her temperament. Usually, my friends in BPOs cribbed the night long working regimen. She was an exception!

So, it was generally in the evenings, while returning home from the University, that I saw her in the Metro all perked up for work. Sometimes she brought her six year old daughter along – a miniature of the mother – right down to the scrawny built, high powered glasses, drooling eyes, unsmiling, colourless countenance and the signature black cloak (I often wondered what their summer uniform would be).  Those were the days when her husband would be gone on prolonged official tours. His business made him tread on far flung soil. Moldavia she had mentioned once, I remember.

A typical urban, nuclear set up with all its travails and triumphs, a little strange perhaps, but kind, friendly people was my personal conclusion.

After a series of these meetings, I decided to include her in my list of regular acquaintances.

____

It was a bad, bad day. I had had a disturbing dream again the previous night which still rankled.

This time it was me and my acquaintance from the Metro at Coffee Café Day for a cup of piping hot coffee. But when the beverage was served there seemed to be a horrible mistake. The liquid, a blood red in colour, stank. When I complained, the counter boy said that it was red wine, a special order by my companion.

I almost puked on the bed.

Google Pic

Google Pic

***

I was late for my classes, had a splitting head ache and could not concentrate one bit on the intricacies of Forex Management. Later, helping Mrs. Bose, my lecturer, in the Library, I absentmindedly slashed my little finger with a paper knife. A small cut but the gush of blood would just not stop. As a result, I had to be rushed to the Medical Room, where having administered First Aid, our Medical In Charge, Doctor Rane, insisted that I left for home early for a good rest.

Dr. Rane at times overdid her part but today…

I gave in.

***

Finding a seat in the 4.30 Metro I closed my eyes in sheer exhaustion.

“I say hullo”, a cold touch on my arm made me jump.

“Oh! Sorry to have woken you up.” My nose creased at the dank smell of her cloak.

It was not her travel time. A ‘slight change of schedule’ she informed.

“I too have called it a day.” I showed her my bandaged finger.

She visibly cringed and then went deathly pale.

“H…how?” She pointed a shaking finger, long and bony, with sharp well-filed nails. (The fresh quote of scarlet nail paint was quite expected)

There was a tinge of blood on the bandage which felt wet to touch. It was bleeding again.

I made a mental note to visit Doctor Uncle as soon as I reached home.

My friend however seemed extremely distraught by the sight. The beads of perspiration on her forehead and upper lip and the way she kept on inhaling long and hard at the same time wetting her parched lips with her tongue worried me.

“Are you okay?” I asked with concern.

Without answering she got up, neared the door and turned sideways to stare at me intently through the glass partition bordering the seat – an ashen face but her eyes had an odd spark to them.

She de-boarded abruptly at the next station which was not her usual stop.

I found that decidedly funny.

***

Thereafter, I saw very little of her.

And wondered…

___

  “Ritu’s getting married,” announced Sanjeev.

 “Check the antecedents of the boy first,” said Mann.

“Why?” I asked innocently

“Could be a distant relation of Count Dracula” answered Sanjeev

We broke into peals of laughter.

However, the groom turned out to be more than human, an IITian, who smiled a lot and jelled with us well. He was highly amused when we filled him in about Ritu’s ‘Twilight’ addiction. In short, we had a rollicking time and wished the newly wed our very best.

***

The ruins beckoned me once more. This time I stood right in front of the broken window staring at an ancient peepul tree. A thin human form in a dark cloak hung upside down from one of its branches. A shaft of moonlight illumined a pale face with red lips. I asked her what she was up to. She said she was in a yogic stance. I wanted to know the name of the posture. “Jatukasana” was the prompt reply…

___

Au revoire to Winter…

I got busy.

Campus recruitment followed by exams.

Erratic hours…

Sporadic visits to the University…

Spring, a hurrying guest, left no address behind…

Time flew by…

***

Having bagged my first job, a lucrative one at that, a new chapter of my life was just about to begin.

Maa was a bit reluctant since the posting was outside Delhi but Dad ultimately got her around to give her consent.

I mailed my acceptance to join the next month.

I was super excited and had almost forgotten her till we ran into each other once again in the Metro.

A shroud of black…

***

She apologized for her last behaviour. The site of blood always made her sick. I told her not to worry as I had quite forgotten that episode. Her daughter was also with her. She was finding it difficult to take care of the household all by herself during her spouse’s long absences and had, therefore, made up her mind to shift base to Jaipur, her ancestral home.

“We are a joint family and my daughter will be well looked after there” she said. Moreover, Delhi was too hectic and rowdy. They wanted some place quiet.

It was a transfer in her present job. So the night shifts would continue. When I told her that even I had got a job in Jaipur, she suddenly became quiet, and then “Oh Good. If you need help contact me any time after ten.” Night, of course!

“And don’t worry about accommodation. We have a sprawling haveli a few kilometres from the city.” I wanted to ask whether it had a dusty room with a broken window and a peepul tree brushing its dangling panes but changed my mind at the nick of time – it would require a whole lot of explaining – an unnecessary exercise, wastage of time, she might find me queer in the upper storey…

She gave me her mobile number and got up to go.

“Oh yes!” She stopped suddenly to add, “I am often bugged by network problem. But do try on. You might get connected, if you’re that much lucky.” An optimistic afterthought!!!

The train took a curve. Mid-summer evenings were generally long in the Northern part of the country. The sun was still strong and at this point hit the snaking tube like a dart of fire. The blinding rays streaming in through the side windows refracted against the glass panes dazzling my sight. As she moved towards the door, drenched in that vast pool of light, her contours appeared almost ethereal, like a nebulous mass, which might evaporate into a curl of smoke any moment. I squinted hard to have a last look at her receding figure.

At the exit, she turned around, one last time. Here the train took another turn just before entering the station. The sun was left behind. I could see her clearly now. Hardly any distance from this corner where I stood and the compartment wasn’t that crowded either. She raised her hand and slowly her lips parted in a “sayonara” kind of  smile, yes, smile, baring a row of slender yellow teeth with sharp, jagged ends, the canines unusually slenderer, sharper and longer than the rest, grazed the corners of her mouth. The cheap, hideous, liquid-red of the lipstick, that she preferred so much, had smudged on these giving them bloody edges. I was sure her child would be having similar set of dentures. It probably ran in the family.

She waved at me.

But I forgot to wave back.

I was too busy watching her toothy smile.

___

A week later, I visited old Mr. Khatri’s second hand book shop and bought the entire “Twilight” series.

Last night I Googled the word ‘Jatuka’ – it was the Sanskrit for Chiroptera – bat in simple English.

And last but not the least, to the utter disgust and astonishment of my friends and family, I declined the job offer in Jaipur.

Google Pic

Google Pic

The End

Of Leaf


“Let’s talk of leaves,” She said.

God's Own Creation

God’s Own Creation

“An unusual request!” I said a little surprised.

“Why ?” She asked innocently

I averted her query and replied, “Leaf as in the cluster of greens swaying in soft breeze on the scaly branches of those tall, ageless trees?”

“No!” Her tone was soft yet firm.

“Leaf as in the yellowed pages of those torn tomes lying askew on the shelves of that forsaken library across the street?” I queried once more hopeful that this time I will get a perfect answer. An unequivocal “yes” or “no”.

But I was wrong. She baffled me with her next retort.

“Leaf as of life!!!!”

“Life?”

“Yes! As you turn the leaf to start afresh….a new beginning! A new lease of deep breath!”

“And the warmth of the sky mingles with the smile in your eyes. With stretched arms one wishes to hug the space in a warm embrace…Yes I get you…Leaf is just not leaf…It is something more… a hint of a venture unintended … a pause unpremeditated…perhaps a serendipitous awakening … a gleam of sunshine peeking through thick canopy of foliage….” I said

“Right! Now you know?” Her cheeks dimples in unexpected delight.

I wanted more but she was abrupt in her parting ways.

“I leave you behind with a novel thought, a revelation of sort….a realization priceless”

“Leaf is just not leaf….it is that plucked pearly moment that bejewels memory and embellishes your garden of now with the flavour of the unforgettable yesterday…a thread between what is and what will be….on the dusty pathway like a forgiven dream… a cadence that could have been a melodious ditty but ditched midway …lost….stolen by time”

Envious of her quick wit and effervescent presence I try stall her passage yet she leaves in a hurry but her words chime in the wind and blush amidst the velvety petals ….. chords and colours infinite!

I am rooted still and around me is spread a thick carpet of leaves …. red, brown, yellow, green and even blue! Rich, redolent, ruins of a bygone spring… the echo is still crooning in my ears lullaby of soporific remembrances!

And in the midst of those misty lilts, flows a frothy wave of mellifluous strains…”Leaf is just not leaf….just not leaf….just not leaf….it is something more…of life’s nascent theme….. ”

 

Leaf

My Interpretation

 

Amorphous………….My Maiden Attempt At Prose Poetry


Soaring High

Pic from Google

Sometimes I walk past the moon. And check on the stars. Write  nonsensical gibberish on a piece of soiled paper , tear it off to bits and pieces and throw the morsels to the vagabond wind. Let it fly………………………!!!!

See the dancing sunshine on the Neem leaves! The stark branches gatecrash into my attic window. I ask why and spend endless hours in unseen gazing. Suddenly I wish to climb up the ageless tree and pinch the clouds. Can I spread wings and explore the limits of the sky? Aaaah!…………The ultimate taste of freedom. Of leaving the Earth way behind till it is just a speck in the horizon.

Or is there a horizon anymore?

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em


Remember that BBC Television sitcom of the 70’s “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em” , the accident prone Frank Spencer besotted with his mother who is no more yet very much there in his life! Maa ka Beta may have a ladle of contemptuous derogation thrown into the catchphrase, yet, I’d ask one and sundry, who isn’t his/her mother’s child?

We all are. Maa is such an all-encompassing persona – a swathe of love, care, affection, compassion and above all that aura of supreme protection which is the quintessence of that indescribable phenomenon called motherhood.

Whether you suffer from an Oedipus or an Electra complex. Mothers shall always play a dominating, if not, overbearing, role in your life. And be thankful to God that she does because there are so many of them in this world who do not enjoy the leafy shade of that ancient tree and keep craving for it throughout life. You are lucky that you have one to fall back upon when you are actually felled by life, to stretch your tired limbs leaning against her iron body, to cry over her, no matter how frail or strong, shoulder till her pallu is drenched with your saline tears and to share the deepest of the deep secrets with her confident that you will never be snubbed or scoffed at, but rather stand rebuked with that ever-indulgent, “Why didn’t you tell this to me before?”

“Mothers are moulded in the same factory, mind it” would state Jethu (my father’s childhood friend……………..do we have such lifetime friendships nowadays?) dramatically.  Yes, mothers speak the same language, feel for their offspring with the same intensity and devote all their lives the same way for the betterment of their children and family……..they are the direct descendants of the Mother Divine, all forgiving all enduring and all absorbing!!!

I do not remember going up to my mother ever for a heart to heart chat. In those days, parenting had a totally different connotation. It meant showing utmost respect to the point of being scared, maintaining distance to the point of being estranged and never, never letting your parents treat you as their equals……………they were not. The bye word was putting them up on a pedestal and worshipping them!!! Did I have that kind of a subliminal relationship with my mother?  You bet, I never did. For one, my father was too liberal for such distant and dignified address. For the other, I and my mother were too strong a characters battling with each other constantly to earn our independent little space first within the extended realm of a joint family and later within the constricted premise of a nuclear collage.

Yet, there was no dearth of compatibility. Mother-daughter relationship does not always follow the bookish conundrum of ideality. It can always have different strokes and variegated shades breezing still with the symphony and synchronization of a well-conducted orchestration of thousand instruments in perfect cadence and enchanting melody.

This was evident in the fact that I never had to tell her anything. She always knew……………when I stole the butter off the larder, when I secretly mooned over Di’s love letters, when I spent too long daydreaming obviously neglecting my studies, when I was afraid of the next turn in life and when I was ready for the next leap into the Unknown!!! She was bestowed with that Third Eye, invisible yet uncannily aware and penetrating.

Did she ever mentor me through cross roads? In those days familial piety was not marked by verbosity or overt demonstrations. Words were irrelevant and sometimes absolutely unnecessary. Aahs and Oohs were considered signs of weakness best discarded as spoilers. Children were not to be pampered. Spare the rod spoil the brat was my mother’s dictum. The thrashings post a super successful act of mischief resound more in my memory than phrases of placation. Yet, there are those moments which have later got immortalized, especially in times of acute adversity, from which I have drawn strength and forbearance and thanked God fervently for having been brought up the way I have been which has given me the resilience to fight back and sponge in the finer nuances of life.

She was not well educated. In those days they were just Mothers and not Home-Makers as they are now called. But she was definitely well-read. Books were the next great pieces of furniture that we had in our sparsely furnished home. Hiding anything from her was the most difficult accomplishment of childhood.  And I almost did that when I was straddling through that tumultuous phase of growing up called adolescence.

We had a sheltered existence, a battered radio and a horde of unfulfilled wishes. One of them being acquiring a black and white television, that enviable possession of the neighbour, which we got glimpses of by peeking into other’s darkened living rooms through open windows during summertime when Chitrahaar would be aired, perhaps tuned up a decibel higher, just to let the residents know that the owners had what the rest did not. In short, we lacked what today the children enjoy in plentiful – exposure. So, the only sources of information were newspapers, books (if your family had the taste for it) and friends who always knew more than you did!!

For me newspapers were just lead scribbles on yellowed paper lacking charisma, friends would often be uppity when it came to divulging precious knowledge but books were there forever. And who could resist laying hands on the most lucrative of these – the adult stuff, especially, when the line of demarcation between what you could read and could not was stiffer than the rod that would be played on your back once you got caught? I recall reading Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s ‘Charitraheen‘ (which was akin to reading Salman Rushdie in a guarded Mosque) lighting a torch under the rajai lying next to Maa. Quite a feat! Knowing very well that getting nabbed would mean losing an ear or some other essential body part. I am still unsure that I actually succeeded in befooling her. Sometimes, I feel she deliberately let me trespass on forbidden territory because that was her way of preparing me for the facts of life which in those days were not conveyed directly by mothers to their daughters.

Transmitting values were more by deeds than by sermons. I saw my mother shuttling to and fro managing one household and the other when my Maashi took to bed after a cerebral attack. And I understood how important it was to stand by family in times of need. Playing the conch, lighting the dhunuchi and singing “Jaya Jagadish Hare…” meant prayer time – a must every day. She was a martinet (still is) and I learnt the value of time and a disciplined routine, though frankly speaking, I still get astray at times.

My engineer friend says “All said and done, mothers are machinations of God. They are designed distinctly for some specific purpose. They have their own censors, antennae and transmitters.” And I can vouchsafe that.

He would often pick me up in his lap. Stroke me. Play with me. But I always squirmed in his arms. Repulsed by his touch. Afraid to confide as we were closely related. Visits were unplanned and frequent. And dreaded…..My excuses of not accompanying her to their place would be turned down as lame. Yet one day she eyed him sternly when he cuddled me. I wriggled out of his embrace and ran to her hiding my face in her sari pleats. She did not say much. But she never took me there again. And then the goings stopped altogether.

In later years, I have emulated her often in applying management techniques – be it relationships, professional rapports or plain business dealings. Her expertise is rooted in experience. Her mentoring is a strange mixture of admonishment and lenience. She has taught me to love unconditionally and perform duties uncomplainingly. I have learnt from her how to put people in their places by making them aware of the lakshmanrekha which they dare not cross. Above all, she has inspired me to live life on my own terms. She is my mother –  my homegrown expert and all-time mentor.

Written for My First Expert Contest on indibloggers.in:  http://godrejexpert.com/single_used_pack.php

Over A Virtual Cup Of Coffee : With Ankita Sharma


WEDDING TROUSSEAU It is an art to express yourself in simplicity. That is the reason why I have always been attracted to Ankita’s stylistic blog. Be it the Humming Words or the Pencil Sketches,  her flair is evident in the  fluid flow of thoughts and strokes. When her debut novel “Wedding Trousseau And Other Short Stories” made to th e book stores, I did not waste time to invite her over for a stimulating cup of coffee and a delightful stream of conversation which did not remain restricted to her penmanship or her maiden foray into short story writing. What I had expected I am not sure. But what I got was way beyond my Ankitaimagination. My friends tell me I have a knack of asking difficult questions. But from Ankita pat came the replies, eager, unhesitant, well thought of and very, very smart.

So here is how it went :

Me :Why Short Stories when everyone is keen on penning novels ?

AS : I have a personal liking for short stories and prefer them to novels. Each story allows me to express emotions clearly and this way variety of emotions can be expressed in one collection/ book. A short story gives you a good control over shades of characters and events. Also, if the readers find one story uninteresting, they can easily jump to another one, unlike in a novel.

Me : Today every Tom, Dick and Harry is a writer. Your take?

AS : It is a good sign that more and more people are taking to writing and expressing their hearts out. However, the flipside is that I often feel that the quality is being compromised. Also, most of the works are exploring the office/college romance and girlfriend-boyfriend theme which can be a bit monotonous at times.

Me : Tell us something about your maiden collection of Short Stories “The Wedding Trousseau and Other Stories”.

AS : While some stories in this collection have been inspired by real life incidents, some come from my imagination. These discuss the subtle feelings that we all often experience and subconsciously register but do not express or discuss about. Each story carries a different setting and plot and I have tried my best to make the characters seem as real as possible. Societal evils and unstated stances are explored and presented.

Me : I find a thread of commonality weaving through the anthology of eleven short stories – the darker, uncertain, insensitive side of human nature. You don’t preach, poke, condemn. However, there is a kind of ruthlessness in your portrayals. Explain.

AS : I completely agree with you that each story has these underlying emotions. I do not mean to be didactic and as you said preachy; I just wish to throw light on these dark cobwebs that we often see and forget and even ignore. I did not want the stories to have typical happy endings like those we come across in moral science books or children’s magazines; the main point was to make the reader feel as if he/she is experiencing the situation and emotions in place of the character.

Me: I kind of like the abrupt endings which rather underscore the author’s statement on the issue. Was it deliberate?

AS : I beg to differ in this regard Ma’am as I would call the endings ‘open’ rather than ‘abrupt’. I think, an ending is abrupt when because of it, one is unable to logically conclude the story but here, each story leaves the reader with a thought and even a point to ponder upon. I concluded the story when I felt what I wanted to convey was properly expressed.

Me : What is more important to you – the story telling or the perspective?

AS : Perspective is a dish presented to the reader garnished with good story telling. If a dish is beautifully presented but lacks taste, you won’t order it again; on the contrary, a good preparation presented badly won’t please you either. I think there must be a perfect balance of both, though personally, I give somewhat more importance to perspective.

Me: Does online recognition facilitate graduation to an author in print?

AS : In this digital era, I think it does and it helps very much. A popular blog, for example, is a great way to provide your writing ‘samples’ to the readers and creating a base of likeminded people and readership

Me: How do you see yourself ten years hence as an authoress?

AS : Honestly, most of the things in my life yet have been unplanned, because a decade back from now, I never had imagined even in my wildest dreams that I will be writing a book of short stories! So, what happens a decade from now is uncertain too. Nevertheless, I would like to focus upon penning more books.

Me: Women writers are often seen as a marginalized segment. Your view.

AS : Honestly, I feel that they are not because we have many women writers in India who are exploring their abilities in every genre, be it fiction, non- fiction and even erotica and romance-novels.

Me: I quote V. S. Naipaul “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.” Your comment.

AS : This statement is beyond my comprehension because I feel a writer is a writer, irrespective of gender and just by reading few lines, I do not think one can fathom if the author is a man or a woman. To me, these words seem somewhat unbecoming of an author of such great a stature.

Me: Today a writer also needs to be a hard-core marketer of his/her Product (read books/writings). Do you agree?

AS : I completely do because, writers have to promote their work as it has a direct effect on the sales and readership.

Me: Brief one-liners on……

(a)     Print Publication in India

AS : Is here to stay; India is experiencing a literary boom!

(b)    Blogging versus full-fledged writing

AS:  Blogging is an important part of my love for writing.

(c)   The snobbery of writing in English

AS :  India is the largest English speaking nation so I feel writing in English isn’t snobbish anymore.

(d)    Target -> mass or class?

AS : Class, without an iota of doubt.

(e)    Compromising literary value for commercial success

AS:   Never, that would be a sin! 

(f)     The run for the “Best Seller” tag

AS :  My aim is to write worthy literature, best seller tag for me would just be a bonus.

With the end of that rapid fire round, we sipped the last dregs of coffee in our cups. As she said goodbye I wished her all the very best for a prolonged literary career and many more virtual coffee series! Her eyes twinkled and my heart swelled with pride to have had acquaintance of an authoress who is not one of the league and definitely have farther horizons to conquer in near future.

A Big Cheerio for Meaningful Literature !

Read the complete review of “Wedding Trousseau And Other Short Stories here

Tug Of War


GOOGLE PHOTO

Well! Well! Well!

There goes the bell

Time to excel

Or is it the Death Knell ?

For Happy Hours tell

Life’s gonna be Hell

Pick, Push , Propel

To possess the coveted Grail

Life’s a Challenge swell

So precious and crucial

To prove You can do as well

Beyond the prejudged Level

Or is it just a Battle?

Of greed and forsaken Will?

No one need foretell

Just surge ahead and sail

smooth or sink and fail

Victory or Funeral

In the end its a mere struggle

With your clone, the inner Devil

Well ! Well! Well!

Echoes the Jingle Bell

Modi’s Mission Versus His Countrymen


Modiji’s clarion call for “Swacch Bharat” has deeper and more significant implications than merely being an initiative to beautify the country to attract tourists from all over the world.  Even a dirtier Bharat has had million foot falls on her soil than a cleaner, more hygienic and upbeat India can ever compete or crave for.  Then why a “Swacch Bharat”? The  slogan raiser’s zealous drive towards nation’s image building is commendable provided its apathetic populace grasp the slogan’s true meaning and import.

A nation where cleanliness  implies keeping your hearth spotless at the expense of other’s front or back yard, ‘swachhata‘  seems a distant ideology to imbue its denizens with the sensibility and the sensitivity towards a better, healthier and shinier India! However, it is a spectator’s delight to watch  how  the ‘abhiyaan’ has inspired collective effort and community programming which were hitherto totally missing in the Capital.  Cosmopolitanization  has robbed the populace of that deep rooted belongingness which propels them to think and do something worthwhile  for their city. Strangely, we love to  count the years we have been staying at a place. But do we ever for a moment ponder what we have done for that place in those so many years of our stay? The honest answer is a single no.

PICTURE 1

Accumulated garbage in park

Urbanites are a busy lot managing their respective  pigeon holes  drawing lakshmanrekhas around   thereby narrowing  perceptions and performances further. My second floor neighbour has this habit of volleying garbage bags into the park fronting my flat.  In the cold of Capital’s freezing winter, the lady of the house takes special pleasure in washing clothes in her verandah and putting them to dry on the clothesline without squeezing the excess water out. Resultantly, the clothes drip on my balcony and if we are (un)lucky enough to invariably get sprayed each time we walk out, it is our carelessness  if we complaint or lack of humour if we to fail to enjoy the untimely shower.

PICTURE 4

Oh! What a mess!!!!

While commuting to and fro office, it is a regular coincidence that the vehicle next to mine will be having at least one passenger (usually it is the driver) who will suddenly take a fancy to open the car door and spit on the road. Least can be said about the men lining the pavement they consider their birth right to wet. The idea of Public Convenience is lost on them. Why then accuse the rural habit of visiting the railway tracks early in the morning if the so-called educated urban dwellers do not feel one bit ashamed to relieve  bladders in full view of a crowded road?

The discarded sideboard

The discarded sideboard

But the best is the time for spring cleaning. We completely forget that a healthy and hygienic surrounding is not just a topic confined to our eighth class Civics book, it is our duty to maintain the same in letter and spirit wherever we reside. Last Diwali, our RWA (Residents Welfare Association) took it upon themselves to clean the MCD parks dotting the Block. Amidst roaring slogans of ” na kuda daalengey na daalney dengey” ( neither will we dirty the place nor  let others dirty it) full hearted efforts were made to tidy the Block. Surprisingly, by the end of the day, a broken sideboard surreptitiously found its way into the adjacent park . By whom and when had the (mis)deed been done was neither known nor disclosed. However, it was quite apparent that some family  had found this extraordinary way of getting rid of household junk at the expense of  the neighbourhood !!!

PICTURE 6

Park or Junk Yard?

Our country is still in the making. So is the populace who not only needs a lesson or two in hygiene,  civic sense and healthy cohabitation but also require to be strengthened of moral fiber. Habits are born out of sanskar and therefore die hard. It is our moral obligation to give to our environment as much as we get from it. Training imparted during the formative years holds us in good stead throughout life. We are a people who believe in Education. Children begin to be taught and groomed from tender age by the family and thereafter in school and college. Yet,  the people of this bulging nation have remained uninitiated into the basics of good living.  Is there any lacuna in the syllabi? Perhaps, yes because notwithstanding the schooling that we receive from the age of three plus till the late teens, our perpetual inability to transmute theoretical knowledge into practical application remains our undoing. We in school had these regular, weekly  classes on SUPW – an acronym which expanded would stand for Socially Useful Productive Work – wherein we the girls had to learn sewing and the boys whiled time doing mischief. Never were we organized in groups to take practical lessons on being actually socially useful and productive within or outside the school premise. So, keeping the surrounding clean, planting trees, imbibing eco-friendly habits, taking part in community programs to develop the residential area could not take root in our scheme of things and thoughts because the lessons that are mugged up and not practised upon, do not stay for long in our minds.

PICTURE 2

Will this help?

It is perhaps this reason that we still need public awareness  programs,  large bill boards to drill in the dos and don’ts of hygiene, constant counseling on sanitation, workshops on the significance of being environment friendly,  seminars and conferences to  not to treat the city as an extended dump yard.

PICTURE 3

Glaring reminders…..in vain ?

 

Fact also remains that we Indians are not a race dedicated to our soil unlike the Japanese.  We love to be ignorant of rules. We love to be disobedient because in some insane way it makes us feel above the law of the land. We take pride in turning our faces to the other side when a fellow Indian knowingly soils the surrounds. We are self-centered and irresponsible with a “sanu kii farak paindaaye” mantra of life.  In short, we are the quintessential Indians who are congenitally averse to being alert and disciplined.   We are also the successor of a colonial past.  And therefore we rather take up a sweeper’s job abroad than keep our own city clean.

In this national scenario, Modiji will a mere blood boiling speech  be enough to inspire the nation to take up the broom and swipe away the generations of cobwebs which have not only settled in the nooks and corners of the cities and towns of India but also dug deep roots in our minds?

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….