The Perennial Dilemma


WRITER'S DEKS

From Google

Of late I have started taking pride in the fact that I possess a skill. A skill that is precious and needs to be honed every moment whether I am physically or mentally at it. You may be wondering which is the skill that I am raving about? You see, I write. That sounds so mundane. Now what’s so special about writing? You may ask. Well, there is something extraordinary about it because of the very fact that it does not come naturally to all and sundry. It also means that I have a medium under my command which is a part of me, an extension of my persona and an expression of my inner self. It’s a strange definition of skill, isn’t it? May be. But it’s something that I have been dwelling upon for long and I believe it defines the verb very well. Don’t you think so?

Now, coming to the activity of writing. Be it blog, review, story, commentary, poem or essay, the underlying nuance is expression of thoughts and feelings. Expression again has deeper connotation. It is indicative of a talent to word thoughts and feelings the way one wishes. It’s something very, very personal or rather individual.

My writings are strewn all over the electronic page and some in print, though, a few look down upon online writing disparagingly, but the matter of fact remains that these are being read if not extensively then at least by a cluster of sincere readers with whom I have grown a deep virtual bond (that may sound oxymoronic yet it’s true). And then there are my well-wishers who keep on telling me how proudly they announce to others that they have a writer in their list of acquaintances/intimates.

So it all adds up to my interest in a hobby which originated in leisure but is gradually acquiring the urgency of a compulsion. However, it’s one of my co-bloggers, Maliny Mohan’s evocative post, which if not prompted then definitely inspired me to write today on a ticklish nag which has been bothering me for quite some time:

  • Why write?
  • Or more specifically why do I write?
  • Is it the thirst for recognition?
  • Is recognition a valid impetus to write?
  • Is it cathartic?
  • Is it therapeutic?
  • Is it the urge for creativity?
  • Is it a stand-alone outlet for ventilating displaced frustration and disappointments?
  • Is it a substitutive mechanism to cover up the lesser degree of attainments in other walks of life?
  • Is blogging equivalent to writing or more debatably can bloggers be called writers?

I shall try to attack each bulleted point/query ad seriatim.

It should not be very difficult to expand on the first one, i.e. why write. But, to be very honest, at times it is hard to justify one’s area of interest or inclination or make others understand the incessant call from within to vocalize in black and white what you feel about your surrounding and society, about yourself and others and sometimes about nothing in particular but just those impalpable, intangible niggles and nibbles in your mind which when rolled out on a page in front of your eyes make so much sense and satiates to no extent the fevered immediacy within. Whenever anyone has put up this question to me with a certain amount of awe tinging the intonation, “Oh! You write ? Is it?” I have felt only one definite emotion overpowering rest of my concern – embarrassment!  Generally, people (here I refer to society as a whole) is very apt in making one feel either misplaced (rather displaced – as though you belong to some other planet) or stupid (as though it’s of no consequence that you have the ability to do something better than others, more so, if that activity is not directly yielding or meant for any commercial/mercenary gain). So the next best quest of why write does never get the opportunity to be ventured upon. So again why? Perhaps because it fulfills a need, a search, a vacuum within? Perhaps because it provides a space where you are just yourself without the fear of being trespassed or intimidated or intervened. Perhaps because it helps you to delve deep within and find answers to questions which at times you are yourself fearful to face or ask. Perhaps it is merely because you are swift and sure and adept at it. Perhaps it is where you find an unknown, unnamed, unseen friend who knows you too well without judging your inabilities and incompetency – where you find yourself, your true self, unalloyed by misgivings and apprehensions!

I think it is the commercial considerations attached to any skill that take precedence than the art itself in contemporary consumer market driven social milieu. Whether you are able to earn from the act is of consequence. Whether you are a best seller is what invokes curiosity and appreciation. What and why you write are secondary factors best forgotten or rather forgiven?

Now, coming to the more specific one – why do I write. Again, the answer lies in all of the above explanations and explorations. At the same time, there is more to it…Writing happened suddenly to me. Yes, it happened in my voyage of ventilation to find that perfect medium which is I, me and myself without a trace of doubt. where I am not fumbling for a foothold by hit and trial method but which is the anchor, the harbour, the  gangplank for my uncertain footfalls. I have always been good at it from my school days, I am still rather individualistic in my style in my older age with the only difference being that earlier no one used to believe that I could express myself so well (they thought I lifted paras and passages from somewhere – from my teachers to my fellow mates) which kind of irked me and stopped me from indulging in the art. Why, I wonder? Perhaps, because at that point of time, it was more important for me that people believed me or had faith in my potentials. Having said that, I now conclude that any foray whatsoever indisputably originates from man’s inner and most primordial quest for finding oneself, isn’t it? I, therefore, found myself in the spill of words…tumbling out of a closet well hidden in some un-locatable attic…but that happened much later, much, much later when I never cared for what others thought of me or my, shall I say, passion (it’s a strong word!). But yes there was always that thirst to be read and understood… tinged with that heady yet unrealized bit of wish to influence and inspire a circle of minds thereby enlarging the periphery of a reach which was physically not so attainable or attractive a proposition but virtually definitely so!!

I think I have partially tackled the third bulleted point…Is it recognition that propels one to write? Even if it is so, then why not? Why do we write? To be read…Had there been no readers would the writings be of any worth other than to one’s own self? There is no shame in confronting a desire and accepting it without an iota of guilt. There is again a vast difference between recognition and ambition. To be recognized is an impetus. It satiates a part of one’s self which is craving to be known for doing something worthwhile, something good for one’s own self as well as others, not absolutely altruistic but something which is a just amalgam of self-love and philanthropy. Ambition is rather an outcome of greed, ruthless competitiveness and narcissism. It has a very definite trace of negativism which is not totally bereft of prejudice, partiality and to a great extent a devouring gluttony for conquest. Recognition is healthy and the desire for it healthier because it facilitates excellence in one’s area of interest and inclination – it satisfies one’s core hunger for self- actualization.

I shall now jump the next bullet as I have already addressed it and attend to the next three altogether. Writing can be cathartic. Yes, very much so. You can fizz out your bottled up emotions, anxieties, agitations in a flood of well threaded verbosity and let out a big, noisy sigh of relief aaaaaahhh! Done it! I think those who maintain a regular diary is more disciplined to this exercise. It is in that sense therapeutic as well because the act does something which no medicines can ever accomplish so quickly and so pithily – it helps you destress and unclog and unclutter. It makes you bounce back from the quagmire of disturbing and disrupting miasma of poisonous vibes. It disengages you from the irrational you to the smart intelligent and focused you…..it does the unquestionable balancing act! The lever is set and the fulcrum is right at the spot upholding equilibrium, poise, composure and grace. You are you….the fine, infallible, flawless spirit. The one which is not you – the mired, the maimed, the molested one left locked in a drawer inside the pages of a cheap notebook or more fashionable daily reckoner!!

However, whatever said and done, I would say the creative part of the whole exercise is irrefutably the prime grosser. Whether we are whistling like a pressure cooker or doing a tough trapeze of verbal acrobatics, on the body of an innocuous notepad, we are in the final analysis, creating a newer self-rising like a phoenix from the ashes of debilitation. Our stories immortalize man’s indomitable spirit to survive the test of time – it is immaterial if the chronicles tell tales of our personal travails and turbulence – the undeniable truth is that, whichever way and form be it, the devastating tsunami within is corked and curbed into something which is beautiful, strengthening and life giving. It is then that one senses the satisfaction of an infinitesimal infinity divinely calligraphed in print.

It is a fact that our survival instincts make us find ways and means of sustenance. Many a times we find replacement channels where we can best ease out and be happy forgetting the remorse and dissatisfaction of lack of accomplishment in mainstream fields of activities. One of my subordinates did himself proud as a formidable union leader to get over the slight of being a non-performer. However, he withdrew himself considerably from the former forum when his work got him a standing and helped him hog a substantial slice of limelight. It would be wrong to generalize that all good writers have done poorly in other walks of life. They may or may not have but then there are many who have found in creative outlets means of greater satisfaction and joy when tormented by life or rather lack of ‘life’.  What I am trying to say here is that there is nothing wrong if writing is taken up not just a leisurely act but a substantive effort to quash the overpowering and frustrating feeling of ‘lagging behind’ in other more socially prominent walks and established exercises which define the normed concept of ‘doing well in life’.

Lastly, I touch upon the most crucial and controversial subject – blogging as against writing. The debate probably is unending. Can bloggers be called writers? Bloggers have graduated to being writers. But then again being a writer is supposed to be an elevation in stature. A blogger is just a blogger, a dabbler of sorts, who is just trying to hop on the first step of the ladder hoping that someday he/she will be heard, known, acknowledged, applauded, and last but not the least, published. Are there bloggers who are only dedicated to blogging because they sincerely believe that they are doing a world of good or making a huge difference by simply commentating on myriad grudges or at best chronologically assembling the day to day mundane flow of life – in short just being bloggers? When I hear of gory happenings of blogs being silenced for good for being true to the owner’s opinions, I tout for the clan. I think it is again that deep-routed attachment to misnomers that prod us to deprecate our own selves. Anyone who has the gumption to put forth their contentions for others to comment upon is doing a service to mankind because ultimately the act is facilitating a clout of opinion to be built in favour or disfavor of a particular issue! Left to me I would rather subscribe to my personal space than to tag on to the ism of a publishing house or a well circulating tabloid. At the expense of being not so vastly read, I’d bask in the glory of being honest to my pen and scrupulous to what my heart says which is much more important to me than being famed and followed.

In brief, any act to be true and meaningful requires to be attempted with enormous courage and undaunted faith. Any act, which is unequivocally honest, carries the danger of being rudely criticized and severely opposed. History has been witness to innumerable rebel-instigating outbursts incurring the wrath of the power be. Writing is not a backseat job. It is not an armchair idler’s languid ideation for useless recreation. It is not a lazy leisurely indulgence in unbridled fancies. It is a mode which has shifted orbits, broken age-old moulds, rubbished obsoleteness and spirited change. Be it blogging, authoring or journaling, writing is an industry in itself, which has revolutionized growth of mankind. Discriminating one form from the other, is childish and futile, as content in this context is of uppermost significance. So, uncap your knibs and let the earnestness of thoughts and ideas sweep away the cobwebs of inutile biases, dogmas and doctrines. Write to your heart’s content, mind’s rest and soul’s satiation. The dilemma is all over as it never was. It is you and your innermost feelings which are perennial and potent.

WRITING

From Google

Odd Vs. Even


KEJRIWAL

Remember Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq, the Turkic Sultan of Delhi through 1324 to 1351?  He was known to be a man of letters, a gallant warrior and an ambitious ruler. However, History knows him more for his eccentricity rather than his accomplishments. In 1327 he promulgated an order to shift his Capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, in the Deccan region. But what came as a burning proof of his whimsical governance was when he allegedly decreed that the entire populace of his erstwhile capital, i.e., Delhi be shifted to his new capital at Daulatabad.  Though he made elaborate arrangements for a so-called smooth transfer of the people along with his seat of power, nonetheless the discomfort, to put it very mildly, caused to his subjects, during this process of migration, was so appalling that the entire incident went down in history as an example of unmatched autocratic and eccentric ruling. No wonder his reign was marred by frequent popular rebellions and revolts.

Analogous to Tughlaq’s temperamental promulgation, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal has once again slapped the odd-even scheme on the unsuspecting populace of Delhi with the noble intent of freeing the Capital’s air of pollutants, i.e odd-number plated cars to ply on Delhi roads on odd days whereas even number plated to run on even days. The scheme is also applicable to vehicles which enter the city from other parts of National Capital Region (NCR).  A very commendable project indeed! However, how much the scheme is going to improve the health and hygiene of the people is highly debatable as the inescapable mounds of dirt and discards still dot the cityscape in abundance. The roads are still ill-maintained and repaired in patches which render travel extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient as vehicles keep on jumping from one bumpy patch to another. Least said the better when it comes to sanitation because notwithstanding his over-blown trumpet, Mr. Kejri has not been able to gain even an ounce of success in getting work out of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. So the stench keeps rising from the clogged drains and the silts scooped out of a lucky manhole are kept piled next to it till the next burst of rain clouds for the smelly, mosquito infested dump to be swept into the hole again. Coming to vehicular congestion and the consequent pollution, there have been days, even under the much touted odd and even scheme, when crossing a single traffic signal has been an onerous affair!

But it’s difficult to make a man, who is so taken up with his own ideas, understand the travails of common man bogged down by drastic reformatory dictates of the Ruling Party. Reforms and resultant curbs are best suited when put in effect in small measures accompanied by alternate arrangements. In Mr. Kejri’s scheme of things, it is either a forceful imposition or nothing at all. Delhi suffers vehicular congestion because of absence of alternate means of transport. The Metros are as it is over-crowded throughout their plying schedule. So are the public buses. The autos are no less expensive either. Cabs charge exorbitantly when demand is on the rise. Other Metros like Kolkata and Mumbai have an efficient local rail service. Delhi has none.  Again, the distances traveled in other Metros are not comparable to that in and around the Capital where day-to-day commuting entails inter-state movement.

Lately, Mr. K has come down heavily on diesel driven vehicles too. I am told that the transport manufacturing companies, even the giant operators, are finding it extremely difficult to produce engines with diesel-CNG compatibility. The cost of converting the diesel-run engines into diesel-CNG compatible engines is huge. The small-time transporters, who are aplenty, cannot afford such conversion. If, as Mr. K envisages, diesel driven vehicles are banned from plying in the city what will happen to these small-time operators and their families? What about the heavy motor vehicles like trucks and tempos which transport goods to and fro Delhi?  How manageable the cost of living be if transportation of day to day requirements is stalled on account of the embargo on diesel driven transports? Will not the Government suffer if the revenue earned from the sale of diesel is curtailed one fine morning in the Capital? And most importantly what are the alternate solutions to all these practical problems?

ODD EVEN II

Change is inevitable. It is reactionary not to allow change to happen. As I write this piece, constant and irretrievable changes are taking place in the surrounds. But Nature’s changes are so imperceptible that these do not jolt the people by their suddenness, except force majeure, which by their very nature, is unpredictable and befall unannounced. Other than the calamities, the import of these regular yet invisible changes cumulate on day to day basis becoming palpable over a period of time without disturbing the daily routine in an unexpected and unanticipated manner.

Likewise, the fortnightly experiment, that Mr. K is indulging in, would have been more effective and welcome had it been injected in the day to day stream of city life in gradual measures, backed by stout infrastructural supports, without largely disrupting the daily lives of the people all of a sudden.

Again, rules are acceptable and court willing compliance if their underlying logic is comprehensible. Vehicles irrespective of odd-even number is permissible on all days  if self-driven by ladies but  the same relaxation for a chauffeur-driven lady commuting on a regular basis is not allowed. Security reasons were cited for relaxing the rules for lady drivers. Then how come the same reason is not applicable for ladies who are accompanied by their drivers? What about those who are not medically fit to drive their vehicles or travel by public conveyance, irrespective of gender? What about commuting options for senior citizens, in and out of service, more so, considering the onset of a scorching summer? Why are two-wheelers allowed to ply on all days under the scheme when they are the cause of 33% vehicular pollution? Does CNG not add to environmental pollution? What about the hazardous fumes emanating from the CNG kit installed in the vehicle? What about lane jumping? What about traffic signal flouting? What about haphazard parking on either side of the thoroughfares, lanes, by-lanes narrowing the breath of the road leading to invariable congestion? What about so many other eye and mind sores which await rectification and keep on escalating public frustration?

As a law abiding citizen of this country, I am bound to adhere to the Government’s strictures, whether acceptable/convenient or not (irrespective of the Rs. 2000/- challan followed by an immediate-off-the-road-firman for flouters). I have an even numbered vehicle. Being a single earner maintaining two cars is simply no-no for me. Having completed more than half a century on this planet earth, I consider myself in the category of senior citizen in spite of the misnomer that a senior citizen is one who has superannuated from service. Endowed with arthritic knees and enlarged ankle bones, driving is not a very appealing prospect for me.  Traveling by public conveyances is equally unthinkable as I am not supposed to be standing on my two feet for more than ten minutes at a stretch. Since, I commute long distances every day to attend to work I am compelled to depend upon my driver. Surprisingly, Kejriwalji’s odd-even scheme does not take into consideration such cases. Therefore, on odd days I have to either depend upon autowallas, who make it a point to make the best of commuters’ inconvenience by demanding higher charges outside the meter, or cabs, both adding excessively to monthly expenses of a service person with limited income.

Had only spending more resolved problems, it would have been still endurable to some extent. The other (odd) day when I took an auto from Doctor’s clinic to my residence, the distance being in NCR’s parlance at a stone’s throw, the autowallah after reaching my residence told me quite irritatingly that I could have walked up from the main gate of the block instead of bringing him inside since now he had to take a longer round to take the exit gate of the colony which was not even a three-minute route from where he had stopped!! While Mr. CM keeps raving about how he has himself gone for car pool with his ministers and party people residing close by, for us hapless ones, that option is also not available.

And talking of inconvenience, I remember in the first phase of this odd-even scheme, my sister and brother-in-law, travelling an odd-numbered vehicle on an even dated day, had to wait interminable hours at the border till the stipulated hour the scheme was in force. For readers, who are  unaware, in its second phase, the scheme is in force from 08.00 am to 08.00 pm for the latter part of the month for fifteen days as part of a pilot project i.e. 15th of April onward.

This is an inspired scheme for our CM who had come across this idea on one of his trips abroad(?) But what did not strike him while enforcing the same in his very own land is that blindly borrowing schemes and ideas do not always pay, especially, in a country with an overflowing population, minimal infrastructural backing and an uninspired junta who is readily inclined to find out ways and means to break the law or bend it as much as their preferences and selfish benefits require.

Yes, this is a jugaadu nation. Going by the first phase of odd-even scheme in the month of January this year, the residents of the Capital have prepared themselves for the worst. Now one out of every three cars on road flaunt the much-in-demand CNG sticker (how these are being procured is a different story altogether). So, CM’s dream of having lesser number of vehicles on-road does not also seem to be materializing.

The Kejri Government went for an online opinion poll on the scheme. The outcome of the plebiscite has not yet been disclosed. Instead what we are subjected to on a daily-ten-minutes-interval-basis is a monotonous self-broadcast on FM (which has almost become the propaganda machine of the Party in Power) about what wonderful difference the odd-even scheme is making to the city roads and to the city dwellers as a whole.

ODD EVEN

From Google

 

Written for entries under TOI’s #OddEvenDobara

Spring Fest


a clean day

the world goes on

in its usual way

Its early summer. Going by the season, Spring is bygone or at best merging gradually into the desultory lull of sunny siestas. Soon the blazing sun will proclaim its monarchy with a blinding ferocity that will be stunning in its gorgeousness and calamitous in its devastation.

It is said that Spring is in the mind. To overcome the trauma of a grievous end, the abundance of greenery can be sublimated into a way of living where thoughts will not be perpetually intimidated by the finality of a recession…..of an ephemeral avalanche of rejuvenation or the paralyzing fear of approaching decay.

Yet we err as humans and wish to  imprison the grains of pleasurable times in capsules of immortality or prolong the trickling of the sands of memorable moments through the inescapable slits within clutched fists  fighting the eternal evasion of progression.

As seasons follow seasons we are deluded by a sense of forward movement……where we lack is our inability to realize that at times we are stilled in our onward journey lagging behind in evolving with the passage of time.

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………spring

in her balcony

a riot of green

 Again why are we so infatuated by the idea of beauty….of novelty ….of a fresh beginning? Isn’t it just a flow……a never ending course towards unimaginable discoveries? From soothing to scorching to shedding …..revolving within  a cyclic procession of no start-ups and no give-ups….just an well-guided order by which the prevailing arrangements of the cosmos are kept intact without the insecurity of toppling over upside down!!

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 bunch of leaves

I breathe in deep

the morning mist

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cacti blooms

I sniff for fragrance

but in vain

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patches on leaves

a stormy evening

leaves its marks

The storms of the past shall always blemish the present and shape the tomorrows in its turbulent hues yet…..

goodbye to spring

in her balcony

shadows shrink

The Retreat


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The Retreat of  Yogada Satsang Society 15 Kms. from Shimla near a village called Panthi

He asked me in his piquant way

“What did they teach you at The Retreat

When you went away….”

I wrapped my mind around the globe of silence

Undaunted by watchful mountains

And guarded by a benevolent sky

I tried to word the typhoon

Welling within

Failing, I gasped for a reply

Simple and succinct

Which will reinforce his faith

In his world of friends and foes

Beliefs and dis-beliefs

He waited patiently

As I looked deep into his twinkling gaze at a loss

Tumbled out an answer at long last

“I did not go to learn anything as yet…

Just wanted see….

How the Formidable Silence works on me….”

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In the Presence of the Omniscience Silence – A Vintage Glimpse

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The steep winding pathway to the Aashram

This is just the preliminary to a riveting Travelogue I am soon going to etch…

Chase The Philosopher And Not The Stone


I took more than a month to finish an unputdownable novel, which to be honest, is inexcusable. My friend, Shri J Mathur, was baffled, “How could you take so much time. I finished it in two days. And it was gifted by you, remember… and now you say you don’t have time!!” This was in-between thanking me profusely for introducing him to this new genre of suspense thriller.  It had always been a pleasure to share with like-minded people what I found interesting and worth discussing and debating upon.  It was rather overwhelming to know someone felt obliged by this not-so-altruistic-act.  

True, lack of time was one of the pretensions I often resorted to, perhaps to cover up my other inadequacies. But as I put on my thinking cap to analyze this present shortcoming of mine several untouched factors peeped in from behind undrawn curtains of the mind.

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Myth and Mythology go hand in hand. It is those unresolved premises of myths that timelessly evoke intrigue. Mythology feeds on this foggy feast gluttonously. From a litterateur’s view point, Mythology is a layered chronicle pivoting around larger-than-life characters. Krishna, is undoubtedly, the most awe-inspiring and dynamic persona of Indian Mythology. The quest, whether he is a figment of imagination of ancient narrators or truly the Divine Incarnate, has always led to more intricate queries. Time and again, we have also come across the premise that the King of the Cowherds may not altogether be just a fictitious entity. What if historical facts indicate his iconic presence in an epoch ravaged by political upheavals? Why is the birth-story of Christ so damned similar to the birth-story of Krishna? Will the edifice of Christianity inexorably crumble to dust if the West accepts its subordination to the oldest religion of the world? What is the basis of this conflict between Western Theologians and Hindu Mythologists over precedence and predating of religions? Is there a proven scientific explanation of all that has come to be known as pagan worship in Hinduism? Over and above, if all these seriously contemplative issues are tangled into one complex terrain of a chase and hunt thriller? Then what….?

Blurb: Ravi Mohan Saini, a well-known Professor of History, is charged of murdering his childhood friend, the famous Archaeologist Anil Varshnay. Saini flees with his favourite pupil Priya, from the clutches of the ruthless Police Inspector, Radhika Singh, aided by Priya’s father, Advocate Ratnani,   in a desperate attempt to gather proofs to establish his innocence.  However, those who can save him from being convicted are all murdered one after the other by an unknown assailant who somehow has clue to Saini’s every moment’s  moves. Unfortunately, each murder points a finger at Saini. But what Saini does not know is that, in this macabre game of find and finish, he is merely a pawn in the hands of the mysterious Mataji and that the key to his innocence lies in the grip of none other than the formidable underworld don Sir Khan. Alas it’s going to be too late before Saini realizes that the name Sir Khan is just an anagram for Sri Krishna….  

Does the plot ring a bell? By now, my readers must have already guessed that I am talking about none other than the Dan Brown of India – Ashwin Sanghi. Krishna Keys – the third of his trilogy – has distinct similarity with the path breaking Dan Brown sagas. The wrongly accused expert on the run for his life coming across serendipitous clues to his freedom which also at the same time open a floodgate of disputable and indisputable hypotheses which if accepted inarguably can topple the age-old beliefs of the masses upside down!!

Krishna Keys, as I said earlier, is a page turner, for those who are in the habit of gulping down a whodunit for the simple attraction of finding out who the culprit is which usually is the last chapter’s trump reveal. For an always questioning mind Ashwin Sanghi presents a maze-like matrix twined with a slew of conjectures and a volley of well-researched dig outs, which are at times unpalatable by virtue of their voluminous pile.  From sacred Jyotirlingams to nuclear transmutation, from the epical battlefield of Kurukshetra to the contemporary Shining India, from the Godly Krishna, the multi-dimensional diplomat and astute king-maker to the harassed modern-day Historian, Ravi Mohan Saini grappling with a slew of mind-boggling factual as well as misleading data, the novel Krishna keys is stupendous in its sweep.

The redoubtable fact about Sanghi is the enormity of his read and research. His contribution to present-day Indian writings in English is trailblazing. He has pioneered and popularized a genre hitherto not much explored in Indian mainstream literature, though there are many who have later followed suit, to the point of saturation. Yet, I have certain permanent grievances against Sanghi:

  • His plots are unnecessarily complex
  • The barrage of information, though well researched, blurs the narrative
  • The reader gets lost in the mesh of innumerable speculations leading to nowhere
  • At times it is difficult to distinguish the story from documented finds
  • There are numerous trails intertwined in the narrative which are left open-ended
  • The climactic theory is most times either too simplistic, too oft-repeated or too unfathomable
  • I personally have a definite abhorrence for his fondness for copious bloodshed and grim violence
  • The gory flow of the story, thus, ends up being absolutely antithetical to the intent of the theme, which is designed to be subliminal in essence
  • Sadly, the long-drawn nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat thriller, more than often, falls flat in the conclusive chapter, in the absence of logical demystification of conventional isms

The Krishna Key, especially, has unmistakable flavour of Paul Coelho too. As a reader, I fail to appreciate the forceful interjection and analogy of the legendary life-story of Krishna with the mainstream narrative of a wild hunt for Saini, the supposed perpetrator of serial crimes, who himself is more a victim than a victimizer. Again, there is nothing earth-shattering about the key-message of the story.  As is usual with Sanghi, the theorems he propounds is more engaging than the story he tells.  This time, he has overdone himself. The improbabilities and implausibility embedded in the storyline, to say the least, is appalling.

Having said all that, I still concede the fact that given a chance I  may once again give his upcoming novel Sialkot Saga a try. And that goes a long way to define Ashwin Sanghi for you all.

Make it intelligent reading…

Over A Virtual Cup Of Coffee With Munmun Ghosh


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Anupam Kher at the Book Launch

I know Munmun Ghosh from the time her second novel “Unhooked” kicked up a storm of controversy with my readers when I happened to review the book. It wasn’t surprising, I mean the protestations, as candidness is as arresting as it is challenging. More so, when you are dealing with formidable  taboos like intellectual mating (“Unhooked”) and childlessness (“Thicker than Blood”), both from the perspective of female protagonists in a contemporary milieu. But what has always intrigued me is how men have endorsed Munmun’s views notwithstanding the fact that her books are distinctively women-centric. They have empathized with Anamika (“Unhooked”) and sympathized with Mayuri (“Thicker than Blood”).

It was, therefore, not at all surprising when Anupam Kher launching Mummun’s third novel “Thicker than Blood” on 16th February 2016 evening  at Title Waves bookstore in Bandra, Mumbai, confessed with engaging frankness “Kiran and I have gone through this rigmarole ––  the doctor giving you the time to do it, and rushing for the same – which is sometimes not so funny and sometimes funny,  so I can fully understand what Munmun is writing about in “Thicker than Blood”. It’s not just about a maternal urge, even a man has that urge to see his child grow up before his eyes apart from that feeling ‘Wah maine kya paida kiya hai.’ I must recount an incident when Kiran and I were trying to have a baby. She would go to Dr. Soonawalla and it was not happening. One day I was shooting for this comic song Eji, oh ji…for Ram Lakhan, was funnily dressed in a dhoti and chotiya. Kiran was told by the doctor that this is the right period and you have to make love. And so she called me up on the landline and said, ‘Please come.” I looked at the roomful of people. Subhash Ghai, Jackie, Anil and 18 other people were on the sets, I said I can’t. She said, ‘I am waiting.’ It had to happen within the next one-two hours. So what do I tell the director? And also it was important to me because we had been wanting to have a child for three years then. I said finally that I have to go. Ghai said. “Pagal ho gaye ho kya? Kya hua? I said, “Income tax raid ho gayee.’ That was the only reason one understood those days. When I reached home, Kiran took one look at me with that dhoti and chotiya and said ‘Go back.’”

…..One browse of the smashing success story of the book launch and I was a simmering cauldron of questions and queries. So wasn’t it obvious that I would invite my friend Munmun to an intimate tete-a-tete over a cuppa steaming cappuccino?

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Anupam Kher and Munmun Ghosh at the Book Launch

As she settled down gracefully, I couldn’t contain the excitement bubbling within me any longer.

“So, how does it feel when a man after reading your book says that the emptiness of childlessness resonates with him?”  I blurted.

She smiled patiently and replied, “I think it needs a person of great courage to admit having pursued an important desire in earnest and not met with success. And Anupam whom I have known for many years is both a man of great courage and sensitivity. But still I had not expected that he would endorse my book so completely by narrating his own personal experience of the tabooed subject I had written about in the book. It reconfirms my faith in him and also validates “Thicker Than Blood”. I hope Anupam’s words will induce more men and women to read this book so that they have a clearer idea of available options, and also can explore these unapologetically, with  courage and enthusiasm.”

I quote Anupam Kher, “The world tries to frighten you with what you think is your shortcomings. That is their weapon. But if you speak about these yourself, then they can do nothing to you. Like if I think oh, it’s so sad I am bald, the world will make me feel it. But what if I say it as a matter of fact. Like it’s a fact I had facial paralysis ten years back. I am saying it. My company almost went into bankruptcy 12 years back, I am saying it. So now what will you frighten me with? Self-pity is the most unattractive thing in the world, especially in a man.” 

“I loved what he said  Munmun, especially, about  self-pity. What say you?”

Munmun nodded her head in assertion, “Me too. We need to obstinately look at what we have going for us in our lives and appreciate the same instead of lamenting about what we don’t have. For complaining does not get us anywhere; it can’t change our destiny. However, as Anupam pointed out, we need to be also aware of our shortcomings for only then can we overcome these through conscious effort. And there is no harm in discussing one’s weak points with a friend, mentor, parent, sibling or any well-wisher as long as the intention is to seek guidance and discover ways to overcome these weaknesses through the talks and not to wallow in self-pity.”

“I will again reiterate what Anupam said at the Book Launch, “Not bearing a child can sometimes leave a woman feeling incomplete, it should not be so. Also, society tells her you don’t have a child and makes her feel so sometimes. So we went through that whole phase, Kiran and I.”

…..Do you really believe in today’s DINK (Double Income No Kid) times, when a woman has so many varied avenues of expressing herself, not having a child, can really pull her down to such abysmal abyss that she will be even ready to cross the borders of fidelity to bear her own child?”

Munmun’s unperturbed gaze never left my face as she answered me in her quiet, modest way, “I think it depends on what you make your priority in life. For a homemaker like Mayuri, my novel’s protagonist, understandably having a child is kernel to her happiness, to her idea of a complete family. And once a desire grips you, be it Mayuri’s for a child or a young man’s desire to become an actor or maybe even my own desire to be an author, it can make you go any lengths, depending on the force of the desire and a host of other factors. I have seen even extremely successful career women holding top-drawer jobs in corporates pursue motherhood with all-consuming passion, nay desperation. Attaining motherhood can become an obsession.”

“I believe “Thicker than Blood” is inspired by a real-life story of one of your friends. Can you elaborate?”

 Munmun was quite ready with her answer,“Yes, it is, a good friend’s experience. Her story moved me because of the sheer intensity of her struggle and the growing importance of its core issue. I felt it needed to be told. Also, the story appealed to the romantic in me because it’s basically the tale of a man and a woman and their relationship as it evolves over years. This novel  is really my ode to love.”

“Well!” I said, ” My question is a double-edged sword. Now comes the second part. Do you think love can overcome social dogmas of childlessness? Also, do you  think that any individual, family or for that matter, even society has a right to raise an accusatory finger on a woman charging her of barrenness?”

A few minutes passed in deep silence, before she replied, “No, of course not, no one has a right to do that any more than one has a right to point fingers at a person for being ill. What such a situation calls for is compassion, not blame. And to answer the first part of your question, I do like to believe that love can overcome an obstacle like childlessness and as I have written in the book, there are so many ways of addressing this situation today. A couple need not remain childless, just because the woman is not conceiving naturally. Childlessness is a choice today.………”

We were both quiet after this for a very long, long time. As the rays of the parting sun slanted over the window panes, I poured two more cups of smoking coffee and said, “You’ve had a long association with Anupamji. His fondness for you and your work is quite apparent when he says, “I always believe your first reaction to a person or thing is a truthful reaction. When we meet someone for the first time, we either like the person or don’t. You may call that first reaction an instinctive feeling or gut feeling, but I think that is the most important feeling. Later our minds manipulate it over a period of time. I have dealt with my life on my first feelings, first reactions to people. So when Munmun first met me as a journalist years back, I sensed in her an earnestness, a sincerity and a certain quality that is called as bebaakpan in Hindi, I do not know how to translate it, but that appealed to me. I believe there are certain relationships in life which are like a pause button on a tape recorder. You just press the button and you can begin from wherever you left.” 

“… How did you associate your novel with a persona like Anupam Kher? Was it a natural choice given your association with him or was it something special and uncommon which we, his fans, don’t know about?”

Munmun took a long sip of hot coffee before she spoke, “Well, I have known Anupam for many years, from my days as a journalist. He always impressed me as being extremely well-read with a keen interest in literature. I remember, when I would meet him on the sets for interviews, he would sometimes recount Anton Chekhov’s short stories to me. When I wrote my first book Hushed Voices’, I met him with a copy of the book, just to show it to him as a friend. He took it in his hands, flipped through it, and said, “Munmun, I like the feel of this book. I am going to launch this book.” And he did so with flourish and set me off on my literary career, so to say. That greatly boosted my morale.  My present novel, Thicker than Blood, comes out of a lot of research and hard work, and is my most serious literary endeavor, so I sought Anupam to launch the book. I was apprehensive of whether he would find the time for a launch given his busy schedules. As usual, he allayed all my doubts and agreed to do it readily, maintaining, “I have absolute failth in you as a writer.”

“I think that’s what he reiterated at the launch.” I said, “To quote him once again, “There is so much of joy to do things for people you believe in, you want to put your stamp of conviction on them in your mind,   that’s the biggest test of any relationship, so Munmun, this launch is not for you but I am doing it for myself.”

“…..Believe me, the same is the feeling here. Do tell me what you have next in mind?”

She chuckled and said, “Well, I’d like to keep that a secret. All I can assure you is that I won’t stop writing. I can’t stop writing for words are breath to me. I breathe words. Capturing the beauty of life in words is my driving passion.”

We were on our third cuppa when I remembered how Anupam had reacted when Munmun had tried to correct him on a factual point at some point on stage. He had turned round and said to her, “Let me speak. Isn’t life also about talking wrong things? Why should we be perfect? I am not perfect and nor is Mayuri, the protagonist of the novel and so she is believable.”  Yes, we all are imperfect and we should bask in the glory of our imperfection and rejoice our mistakes because it’s the way that we take life on to the next level through our blunders and failures. And that is exactly what Mayuri does in “Thicker than Blood”. She stumbles and staggers before realizing that in order to stand erect and strong you need to overcome your own inhibitions and inner weaknesses. You have to expand your horizon to move on and vice versa.

When Kher asserted, “I believe women are much stronger than men as God has entrusted the task of giving birth to another life to a woman.” I thought herein lies a woman’s true empowerment in her power of creativity. When I said that aloud, Munmun agreed with me absolutely, positing, “The urge to create is fundamental to humans, one can create biologically, artistically, in any way, but create one must.”  And on that note of strength and conviction we said goodbye not to part ways forever but to meet again, probably on her fourth literary venture, over series of virtual cups of piping hot coffee.

Till then…

With warm hugs and wishes to Munmun Ghosh of unending success and literary creations…

Anupam Kher

Anupam & Munmun

 

To my readers: In this virtual interview I have unapologetically quoted Kher, not because he is Anupam Kher, but because his words ring true and are so much in tandem with what the book “Thicker Than Blood” stands for. It may seem as though Kher is present in our midst without being there.  And who knows someday I may be discussing the subtle nuances of literary expressions with him over series of virtual cups of coffee as well!

With those wishful thoughts!!

Saayonaaraa…….!!

You can read the review of the novel “Thicker Than Bloodhere 

All In The Name Of Aandolan


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The Jaat Aarakshan Aandolan is raging beyond the borders of Haryana and now touching the neighbouring states as well. The ongoing agitation is all about reservation of the Jaat Community in OBC Category. The Jaats from other states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are also pledging solidarity with those of Haryana. It is only in agitation that the unity in the diverse population of this biggest sub-continent in the world comes to surface. Alas !!

There are 325 villages in Delhi which are predominated by this particular community. So, it is quite obvious and expected that the sparks fly soon to these patches of the Capital as well. This morning I was heading for my physiotherapy session (within the radius of 2-3 kms from my residence). On taking a U-turn on the main crossing, rows of Riot Control Vans and swarms of  Police with shields and helmets came in sight right in front of the District Court. Alarmed I called up home to pick me back if suddenly the junta decided to go mutinous.

Last evening my chauffeur informed me that his village, situated on the outskirts of Delhi and infested by the agitating community ( he belongs to the same), had been cordoned off by the agitators disallowing the traffic to flow to and fro. I told him not to report on duty if the barricade persisted. He advised me, for the nth time, to stock up milk in good quantity to survive for at least a week’s time as the Dairies were going dry due to the agitation. Incidentally, the supply of milk to the Capital is also majorly from Haryana.

Thankfully nothing untoward happened on my return from the physiotherapy center but for the quaint incident narrated by the rickshawwallah who brought me back home. His previous passenger, also a lady, had while alighting told him to wait for two minutes and did the disappearing act. Poor chap was not paid and had been in wait for half an hour when I took his rick for the ride home. Strange are the ways of the humans!

Coming back to the agitation. It was sometime later during midday when my regular vegetable seller, Kaliya, a shrewed Bihari, hollered to everyone in general and no one in  particular that the area was under curfew,”Jo bhi lena hai fataafat lelo. Abhie do-teen din aur kuchh nahin aayega.” It was enough for the panic button to be pressed. I made mental notes while grabbing whatever left-overs he had on his cart.

Later, curiosity had the better of me. Needless to say, the snooper in me was tickled as well. Strolling out of the block on the service lane, I found the entire neighbourhood on street. Empty DTC buses parked by the sub-way and a massive traffic jam right on the Outer Ring Road as the main crossing ahead was reportedly freezed by the Police not permitting any vehicular movement beyond. In Kaliya’s lingo freezing was curfew which made it easy for him to vacate his cart of the burden of half dried, half rotten sabzis purchased from the Mandi yesterday.

There are many more of Kaliya’s ilk – those who are looting ATMs, burning buses, resorting to hooliganism, destroying public assets – all in the name of Aandolan. Talking of manhandling public assets, the divider on the main road fronting our block has been hacked off  in the middle, the railing attached to it dangling crookedly on one side, so that the stranded cars, autos, three-wheelers and two-wheelers can take a U-turn and go back the way they have come from as the only other way to do so is from the main crossing which has now been blocked. As I was lamenting the mutilation of a public asset, my ‘thinking’ neighbour uttered, “Necessity is the mother of all inventions.” And that settled the matter.

The biggest blow the agitation has dealt on Delhi is the water crisis which was quite expected because supply of water has  always been a kind of a trump card in the hands of the Haryana Government. Whenever the latter has been miffed, the fitting reply has come in the form of stoppage of water supply to the Capital. This time it is none the better.

While we were standing out and watching all the rigmarole, an unknown gentleman came up to us and remonstrated how he had tried to cross the border twice or thrice last night but failed eventually and how his wife had to spend the night alone at home in Sonepat. He was still stranded and did not know how he would reunite with his better half. People in throngs had taken to the roads and was now walking down the service lane. My maid, who had decided to come to work on a Sunday, did not know how she would go back. I asked her to leave as soon as possible.

The cynics say that the entire fracas is politically motivated. The experienced roll out statistics. I am reminded of an oft-quoted adage in Bangla which goes like this: “Jakhon rajaay rajaay ladai karey ooloo khaagra poorey morey” which if transliterated will stand as “When the kings are at war it is the weeds that burn to ashes.”

Back inside the house, my prime worry is to fill up the larder. So, I ring up the Meat Shop to order a variety of non-veg items, just in case, the situation worsens and veggies are hard to find. I am a bit taken aback when the shop owner informs that the prices have gone up by at least Rs. 40/- per item because of what else but the Aandolan. Everything seems to be hailing from Haryana – from the Jaats to Milk to Water to Chicken to Veggies. “Arrey Sahab ! Saarey farms to Haryana mein hii hai,”  supplies the meat vendor. Bhugol was never one of my favourite subjects. “You cannot even draw the Earth what will you do in life?” Was my Geography Teacher’s favourite tch-tch. In response, we the back-benchers had rhymed the worst possible limerick on her. Had I taken her or the subject seriously I would have been more knowledgeable of the richness lying on the other side of the border.

However,  the mortifying fact is that even after more than 65 years of independence we are still asking for privileges like reservation. Those, like us, who have no claim to reservation, want that the Center should take a strong stand and abolish all  types of reservations forthwith so that na rahegii baans aur na bajegii baansurii.  Those who have the littlest scope of seeking reservation froth in the mouth angrily and growl, “If those buggers can have then why not us?” In the ground analysis, these are the banes of a pluralist society where every sect, group, guild competes to out-lobby one another for privies.

However, in this Machiavellian game of pressuring the Authorities to accede to the demands of a section of society, the magnitude of loss suffered by the ex-chequer  is unimaginable! With the stoppage of road and railway services, damage of public utilities (railway tracks, roadways etc.), capture of public resources (water supply points) and rendering them dysfunctional, adoption of various violent means to acquire what the agitators believe is rightfully theirs prove once more that we have discarded long back the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and means-justifying-the-end-line-of-action because in a terror-ridden world the only language that is understood and heard is that of might and menace. Agitation can never be peacefully effective any longer because the corridors of power consider peace to be a weakling’s excuse to cover up the inability to crash into hard-core bargaining.

In this entire fiasco, our Kejri Government is the one who has taken  the only  momentous decision  – that of closing down the schools for the next few days because of water shortage, milk shortage, disruption on road and such other obscure excuses which are yet to be identified and enlisted. This is nothing new because K Govt. is in the habit of  taking such orbit-shifting steps which always boil down to downing the shutters of the educational institutes kyunkii politics mein education ka kya kaam?  Remember the Odd-Even Scheme of Things to free the Capital of pollutants, sorry, pollution?

While on the subject of netas, my simple question to all those king shapers and speech makers  is how do they now defend the image of a Shining and Incredible India with so much of  disharmony and outrage spilling over on streets? I believe, here also we apply the same universal funda of sab chalta hai?

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Just to break the ominous atmosphere of the post, my nephew ordered pizzas  for lunch from none other than Dominoes which is more than 2-21/2 kms. away from our place. While we were debating with bated breath whether he would be actually able to deliver the goods on time given the blockades, police barriers etc,, the delivery boy did arrive that too within the much advertised 30 minutes time. Commerce has that inherent drive to thrive under any circumstance!

Before I ramble on forever, the one thought which has really been nibbling me, since my resourceful sabziwallah Kaliya, innocuously announced the possibility of a curfew is, what will happen to  our Ms. Rinky in case of such an eventuality? Where will she romp around and relieve herself as the Service Lane which runs parallel to the block and is adjacent to the main road is her favourite joint for such activities? Her freedom of prancing around will as much be curtailed as our busyness for subsistence? And under a Shoot At Sight Order who will secure the fastest mover award – the trigger-toting man in uniform  or the insanely merry  canine who has a penchant for flinging herself on whosoever nears her wagging her tail in  frenzied speed  and  licking the wit out of her poor victim?

Point to Ponder…………….***

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Sarah….!


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From Pinterest

The electric blue sky was like a sequined canopy overhead. The moon smiled wanly. Intimidated was it by the cluster of  stars twinkling gossips and poking fun ? I wondered as my foot steps echoed on the cobbled path steeply rising and then dipping low to disappear unto the night. Lined by houses with closely shut doors, heavily draped windows and unlit porches, their stone facade held secrets of centuries archived in the primeval past, stolidly indifferent to the humdrum of a rocketing present. The alley pirouetted past to where there was no return.

I wondered what I was doing here. It was not the time  to be out on the desolate streets of a run-down corner of the city. Behind the stunted row of houses loomed the monolith of the Mosque, its minarets spiraling up in a frenzy to tear through the damask of the firmament. The imposing structure always left me awestruck – its pristine white dome astutely set against the darkened casement of the night like a Sufi seer who has found answers to a lifetime of seeking.

I could have gazed at the cold exterior of the architectural wonder for hours forgetting the count of time but for the trundling noise of wheels on the cobbles which distracted me for the time being. A rickshaw had come up from nowhere, the puller standing silently, waiting for the lone passenger to settle down – a young girl in her unspecified teens in body hugging jeans and an equally clinging top, a little reluctant to take the journey wherever she was destined to ride to. A stream of instructions emanated in whispers by a lady standing next to the appendage. A lady in white of indiscriminate age. A lady who must have been a robber of all sane senses in her heydays. Yet she glowed like the wan moon high above, a little unnerved perhaps by the sprinkle of stardust carelessly strewn around.

I could not take my eyes off her face. A face so pure and perfect redefining beauty in its most pious personification. Her contours shrouded in attires a little alien to ours. The flowing texture adding a mist-like aura to her slightly obese form. Stood apart on her spotless visage was a pair of kohl-lined eyes reminding me of a pair of softly blushing lotuses floating sedately on the body of a ripple-free pond. Serene yet holding havoc on leash!!

She must have sensed my gaze on her. For a split of a second her attention freezed on my shadowy presence. A lightening sparked somewhere and thunder roared afar. Pearly drops made way from heaven wetting the parched path underneath. Relief! I thought as I looked down. The cobbles would now be a bit slippery by that sudden unburdening of  tear-filled clouds. Strange! From where did these come ? The stars had taken hurried shelter into the bosom of the night and the moon had pulled a gossamer sheet over its face just like the lady in front.

But she wasn’t as fast as God’s sleight of hand. Before she could hide herself, within the folds of her crumpled dupatta, I had seen her clearly even though for a nano second! Those dark, deep set eyes had pulled me back in time when we had played pranks and laughed aloud taking pride of the callous wind that had ruffled our hair and knotted our dupattas behind our carefree backs. Her anklets had murmured songs on the beach and her eyes had showered innumerable hints. Her playfulness had got us into trouble and my waywardness had made me infamous.

SARAH….!!

I could have screamed her name curdling the silences around but she was gone…like the vagabond wind…like the searing lightening….like the distant blaze of the thunder…

But those deep pools of her eyes remained with me for a very long. long time tempting me to walk a few more miles with echoes of silence all around!!

2015 – On Hindsight  


 

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It’s February. My co-bloggers have already dissected the year gone by and enlisted their achievements of the year previous and resolutions of the New Year. I am lagging behind as usual.

It’s funny the way we look forward to another year. It’s just another day, isn’t it? However, from the dawn of seeking, mankind has tried, in vain, to measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, nights, weeks, months and years. Time’s linearity is debatable. It’s easy to assume the circularity of motion. Seasons come and go, so do day and night. The contrarian query whether history repeats or does not repeat itself have perpetuated and inveigled human quests to baffling proportions. Notwithstanding, we mortals have defended our illusion by scanning the calendar for a hopeful beginning and a quick end to miseries.

Truth is as evasive as Time. What we know today is not what we have not learnt before. The mirror with a thin spread of dust over it does not forget to capture an image. We just have to wipe it clean to witness a sparkling vision. Perhaps it is the only way to compulsive learning that hurdles be mounted and the travel made deliberately exhausting. Each step we take is towards horizon unlimited subject to our unwavering will to move forward. 2015 gave an impetus to that will and wishes were fulfilled on their own. Perhaps a few remained undone too. But let’s not dwell on the vagaries of life and laugh it away as long as we are comfortable with what we have in hand overlooking the remnants that have gone with the wind.

***

Mid-April – a short trip to Kolkata. After twelve long years and harrowing seven days I was too homesick to extend my stay. But irctc refused to comply. With a waitlisted ticket in hand I ran from pillar to post imploring for a berth in the train impatient to leave the station. The TT was most kind, “Not a single seat available ma’am. Yours is an online booking which cannot be confirmed against last minute cancellation.” My brother-in-law had advised me to go back and try for the day next. I was adamant. Not one day more in this godforsaken city.

The imposing red bus had just ambled in. I vaguely remembered seeing it while de-boarding the train a week ago – from Howrah Junction to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.  A flare of a spark and I had hopped in with my luggage toed along my side.

To the Airport…..a little more than an hour’s time it would take. If I were lucky it would going to be my maiden air journey alone…on my own – an experience I dreaded and dodged. In brief, altitudes made me sick, airports scared the hell out of me, luggage could so easily be missed rolling down the conveyer belt  and I could always bank upon myself to get into the wrong flight and land up in New Found Land!!!

Evening had spread its wings when the bus cruised into the Terminus. “You have to walk the last leg…” the Bus Conductor was off-handish. I wheeled in me and my baggage to the ticket counter following sign-posts and a few considerate directions later.

“It’s the last flight. You’ve little time in hand.” Could the counter boy read my inner phobia? It didn’t matter. What did was to reach home safe. I let my wheeler bag be checked in thanking Providence for that thin red strip tied around its body – a marker for easy spotting on the belt! God was with me…

Yes! He was… as I left the check-in counter clutching my boarding pass  a  tall, dark and graceful figure at the adjacent window caught my attention. Was I dreaming? It was S, wasn’t it? My long lost childhood mate whom I had been frantically trying to trace amidst the urban jungle of one Metro and the other, in vain, was now standing right in front of me.  A bear hug…volley of questions and a promise to catch up soon upon reaching destination…Airports were not such bad places, after all!!

Two and a half hours later as the wheels touched the tarmac I was surprised to note that the flight was not as scary as I had always thought it was, my head was not reeling as much as I knew it would and checking out the luggage off the conveyor belt was not as bothersome as it could get in my imagination.

The starry night glittered overhead. The cars honked past merrily. Crossing over to my hatch back a sudden realization jerked me off balance. I had, without my knowing, left behind a shoulder bag at the Airport. But I couldn’t care less. There was personal stuff in it which I was happy to give up – my age-old inhibitions! And what I carried out with me was more valuable – a stronger, lighter and freer me!!

***

His incessant nagging irritated me to the extent that I was ready to jump out of the car or push him out of it anytime. He was as unmoved as the headmaster would be with an errant child. I said I did not wish to travel with him.

“Please take the car back home.”

“How will you go to office?”

“That’s my problem…”

He was cheeky enough to ring up home and inform the patriarch, “Chhoti madam says to take the car back home. What do I do?”

A series of instructions and exasperation preceded the change of direction. He was as temperamental as I was stubborn. The car took a sudden swerve and he was out, “Okay! Take the car back home. Am off duty.”

I stepped in on the driver’s seat in a huff. The bugger had taken the car keys with him. I had a pair in my bag. Inserting the same I revved up the engine. Pressing the clutch I shifted to first gear and pushed the accelerator softly while simultaneously stepping off the clutch. The car smoothly came into motion. A few rolls and again a repeat performance. This time the gear shifted to the second position….soon after the third and then the fourth. No, I could read the signals well. No other car seemed to nudge me out of my space on the road. The machine did not misbehave under hesitant command of a novice. And my knees did not crumble under the pressure of managing a vehicle on the over-crowded roads of the city. It was almost a twenty five minutes eventless glide.

As I pulled over inside the block, the chipmunk with a broad, triumphant grin confronted me with a “See! I made you do it.” I could have happily punched hard on his bulbous nose but I refrained as the innate truth of his words hit me. I had done it. An almost half an hour’s solo drive on the congested road of the Capital during peak hour. Incredible!!  

***

I stared at the unfeeling eyes of the bureaucrats pinned on me. A sudden constriction down my throat made it hard to swallow. As I faced the Board Room I had a sudden desire to take off without uttering another word. Public speaking was not my forte. But I had promised my Head of the Department that I would take care of the entire show just before the meeting had commenced. Uptil then the regular monthly meetings had been basically a one-man show – my boss, now on transfer to another location, used to singlehandedly take care of convincing the hierarchy of our unflinching dedication to manualized policy. The fresh crop that had taken over was still not completely inducted into the fray. So, it was I, the continuity factor, who had to ensure that the show went on without a glitch.  

I could hear a strange voice droning out statistical figures as though mugged up by heart punctuated by paraphrases substantiating factual data. Was it me? The presentation was over in no time and so were my jitters! By the end of the session, a tongue-tied presenter was swept over by a strange conviction that the next time would not be so formidable and unnerving!!

***

The trick of the trade is not to be intimidated by the surroundings. I do not recall who had said it but the irrefutability of the mantra is unquestionable. “FEAR,” says Swamy Sukhbodhanandaji, “Is Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real.” Throughout our lives, we operate out of fear. Throughout our lives, it is this fear that we fight against consciously or subconsciously. And the winner is he/she who overcomes it in the long run. It is not an overnight journey. Perhaps, this is what we call growing up not in the literal but in the true sense. It is this inner war that rages till the last breath of our lives. But I suppose this is what keeps us going too.

2015 has been a milestone year of my life in many, many ways than one. Triumph over one’s own self is just a partial achievement. There are many more fears which may stalk us in bends and turns of life unseen. There are many more fears which lurk in the deepest recesses of the mind to be uncovered and challenged with grit. There are many more fears which remain to be won over in gradual progression. The years to come will see continuity of a never ending battle of wit and will. 2015 had just flagged off the hurdle race. And therein lies its significance. It had begun the beginning. Rest will automatically follow suit.

That was my 2015 in nutshell. Am sure there are many more who will have greater tales of dauntlessness to recount. Am eager to hear them out. So are you, aren’t you?

However, this is not where I put a full stop. Victories and achievements, resolves and decisions are outcomes of inner confrontations. However, the process of learning is incomplete if we negate or neglect the external influences and inspirations – of friends who touch hearts and kindle the inquisitive in you, who teach you to be truthful and face your own self, who lead you to newer paths and sometimes leave you on crossroads never to return again…of promises broken and dreams shattered, of renewed enthuse and discarded ennui.

Perhaps someday I shall weave another tale of laughter and loneliness…After all how can a year be only of gainful experiences and not of irretrievable loss and abysmal pain, the rudiments of learning and unlearning. Surely, we must talk of them too, mustn’t we?

Yes, I may, someday…..     but now for the time being..

Saayonaara….!!!

Pawn In The Game


wazirLife is the biggest illusion of all times. Hindus believe that this world is merely a playground where we all mortals are undergoing hardship-training to get prepared for an afterlife called death. What is that afterlife like no one has a clue. However, going by experiential knowledge, it cannot  be worse than what we are going through right now while we are still ‘alive’.  The moot question here is, are we actually living, though clinically speaking, we are breathing in and out without any internal or external hindrance?

Perhaps, for some, the answer is yes and for others, it is no. Those who have a pessimistic view may have reasons to harbour cynicism. Those who always see rainbows at the end of a deluge are the ever optimistic survivors born to conquer the ills and blaze the trail.

For me, life has always been a dilemma between right and wrong, between ease and unease, between righteousness and self-indulgence. Do I follow this path or the other? Is it correct to do it this way or that way? Am I choosing the easy get-a-way over a difficult course of action? Am I always to be in such a state of indecisiveness and self-castigation? Do I always have to repeat the mistakes from which I never seem to learn lessons and move on?

It is obvious that the answers are not always a strict affirmative or non-affirmative. It never is and never will be. The only wise action, in all situation, is to tight rope walk on thin lines of correctness and incorrectness, right and wrong, ease and unease, conviction and compromise before the demarcates get blurred unalterably, making it absolutely impossible to leap backwards, erase one’s faulty footsteps and start afresh.

What makes life so hazardous, so problematic, so confoundingly chaotic? Is it our unwise decisions born out of foolish impulses? Or the drive to fulfill those ever-niggling ambitions which are not to materialize anyhow? And what happens when our dreams deceive us day and night? It is then that we take recourse to willful engineering and devious maneuvering. We wish not only to will the course of life but also the people that we are associated with or around us. We, use them as pawns in our game of ulterior motives, seldom realizing that in doing so, we ourselves become pawns in the larger game of this cosmos.

No! You are wrong. No calamitous event has despaired me. No catastrophe in my uneventful life has instigated such philosophical ruminations. No disaster has made me distraught enough to conclude that life is nothing but a hopeless mirage. No! Life, in the final analysis, is not a mirage, but an overpowering mind game. A mind game which distracts as much as it stimulates, baffles as much as it motivates, checkmates as much as it stalemates…..

These are the thoughts which nibbled and nagged me as I sat on the edge of my seat watching Pandit Onkarnath Dhar (Amitabh Bacchan) consistently manipulate ATS Officer, Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar), in the most engaging manner, in the name of friendship, the gripping drama made all the more riveting, by the spellbinding performances of both the stalwarts. Coupled with that, the tight script, the taut direction and excellent execution of an unusual story-line made “Wazir“, a fascinating experience.

Danish Ali loses his daughter, Noorie, in a sudden encounter with a wanted terrorist named Rameez. Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari), Danish’s wife, blames him for their daughter’s untimely death. A broken Danish takes revenge by killing Rameez in the midst of a well-planned encounter to capture the culprit live to get him to reveal the name of the politician he has secret alliance with. The ATS top brass feels that Danish has bungled the entire operation beyond redemption. He is suspended and is about to commit suicide when life takes an unexpected turn.

Danish meets Pandit Onkar Nath Dhar, an ace chess-instructor a dauntless survivor of life’s Tsunami, abandoned on the shore of his last inning, confined to wheel chair yet bubbling with the spirit to fight back. Danish, needless to say, is irresistibly drawn to this enigmatic man, who on one hand mentors him to come to terms with his grief, and on the other, systematically eggs him to investigate his daughter, Nina’s death, who had supposedly died of a fall in Yezad Qureshi (Manav Kaul), the Welfare Minister’s residence where she would pay regular visits to teach Roohi, the Minister’s daughter, the game of chess.

Danish’s purposeless life now finds an anchor in Panditji’s relentless strife for justice. But does Danish know that unwittingly enough he is being drawn into a death-defying plotting of  intricate conspiracy, wherein he is just a pawn in the game, like so many of his ilk, in the hands of a mysterious, faceless and nameless vizier?

A little far-fetched, a little over-the-top, a little inconsistent, nonetheless, engrossing, intriguing, incredibly fresh, Wazir, in a span of one hundred and four minutes, captivates the mind of the audience in a puzzling game of well thought of moves and retreats. The whirlwind narrative is, indeed, essential to the plot. It takes time for the viewers to grapple with the speed with which the frames shift from one plane to the other. Perhaps a little more time should have been given to the characters to develop and the sequences to unfold rather lucidly. Having said that, one cannot blame an expert like Bejoy Nambiar, for not letting even a slip of a moment for the spectators’ grip to loosen or gaze to falter from the screen.

The implausible account has been made unbelievably believable by the stupendous acting prowess of not only the veterans but also the equally newer talents. Manav Kaul is an on-screen power to reckon with! Big B steals the show. Akhtar Junior is not far behind. Hindi Cinema is coming of age. Movies like Wazir are burning examples of revenue grossing mainstream films with uncommon themes. It is not only the screen play or the enactment but the overall treatment, composition of frames and interesting and intelligent usage of background score that notch up the cinematic build up and story-telling to greater heights. It is also refreshing to note how infrequently and peripherally flash backs have been used to recreate the past. Big B’s recitation in place of a voice-over is a superlative directorial experimentation.  At the same time,  it would have been more effective if the reliance on lyrics for conveyance of emotional upsurge or turmoil could have been minimized.

We Indians, have been, from our very childhood fed with the staple diet of the Good ultimately emerging victorious over the Evil, however powerful that be. Thus, our psyche is attuned to this nuance to such a massive extent that anything which is opposite or not exactly in sync with the notion is a defeatist’s pogrom, and thus, arguably undervalued.

Throughout the narrative, the implausibility of the story, however elating that be, strikes as ridiculous.  The amount of money poured into the making of a Bollywood venture foretells its debacle. The total lack of concern for sourcing funds manifests the weakness in the script. In the entire game-plan, the audience is left in the dark how Yezad Qureshi, once a Pashmina weaver comes to walk the corridors of power, how a physically handicapped octogenarian Onkarnath Dhar finances an elaborate game-plan and how a suspended ATS Officer manages to garner enough infrastructural back-up and support to stage a total wipe-off on a massive terrorist group singlehandedly.

So, again coming back to reality …..The hapless pawn becoming the victorious vizier is indeed a challenging win-over. But how many of us get the opportunity of a life-time to turn the table on our stunned opponent by our mind-boggling moves? How many of us eventually witness poetic justice, or rather, make it happen? How many of us graduate from being an exhausted pawn to an exhilarated vizier, in one’s life span?

Point to be noted Mr. Vidhu Vinod Chopra…. !!!

But again a game of chess is a patrician’s prerogative and not a plebeian’s privilege, isn’t it?