Saturday, November 14, 2009

It all happened over a meal

"Ray gushti-r chhele ekta hotel-e kaj korbe?yaarki hochchhe?"....("You mean to say that the Ray's son will serve at a hotel? is this some kind of a joke?"): the breakfast table exploded.


This is one of the fortnightly things that occur at the breakfast table, or at the dinner or the lunch table...or over any meal that the family might decide to indulge in. Usually meals bring the family together...here, meals bring the family together to create a tension that lasts only as long as the meal does itself. And the tension created has a multidimensional nature: I shall be sharing just a few of those.

The head of the family (HOF)comes down, announcing his arrival thus implying that anyone who came earlier were rushing unnecessarily and those who came later were grossly impertinent. This, undoubtedly, brings a smothered smile to everyone's lips, except the grandmother who makes every effort to explain why the HOF is wrong and everyone else is alright, and the son who is unaccountably but evidently irked by these outcries and decides to emerge at the foot of the stairs with a confused as well as angry countenance. The rest of the meal is spent in listening to the HOF about the principles of discipline and rigorous training right from the cradle that has resulted in his peculiar punctuality about meals.

Next, of course, is the turn of the SON to create tension. After spending an evening of splendid isoation in his room with bursts of "music" escaping the thin walls and the door, he chooses not to turn up for dinner altogether and curtly informs his mother and sister of his intentions, who, after mild protests, give up. But WHO WOULD BELL THE CAT? After a lot of trembling hands and cold feet, the mother meekly murmurs something to the HOF.....and then begins the storm. Of course there is a lull before that...AND after a torrent of screams ands shrieks, the son emerges at the foot of the stairs, rushes to the table with all the dignity that he can manage, stuffs a mouthful or two while facing away from his family for torturing him thus and rushes up again to slam the door shut.

Then comes the turn of three people together: the HOF, the son and the grandmother. As the HOF proceeds with his lecture about his infallible opinion on something for a painfully long period of almost 10 to 15 minutes without taking a breath lest someone else should take over, the son bursts out all of a sudden and asks him to shut up and lets out the pent up frustration in a torrent of English. Now it is time for the grandmother to get angry at this turning of the table, at this "impudence" of the "young" to speak to his own father after such a fashion, and to utter, through her degenerating and almost non-existent denture, a 'dignified' discourse about the cheeky youth and asserts the knowledge of English doesn't necessarily imply a higher and better moral stance in life......Exasperated, the mother eats on and shuts her eyes to take deep breaths and the sister tries to create peace by asking everyone to shut up and eat in peace and hurry up since the maid is waiting to clear the plates away.

Finally it is time for the mother and the HOF. The mother discusses her office with the family while the HOF is enjoying a particularly delectable dish, when suddenly the HOF wakes up to the conversation and loudly expresses his strong disapproval of the last comment that was made at the table despite his dearth of knowledge about the context in which it was uttered. Not to be subdued, the mother bravely attempts to explain the context to her husband to bring him round to her point of view, but all in vain...the HOF already knows that his disapproval might have been a little displaced and so while seemingly engrossed in trying to listen to his wife, he is actually thinkning up arguments to support his disapproval, and this is evident in his next comment. Quickly sensing the imminent danger the mother shifts to a harmless discussion of class differences in society, but the HOF is now wide awake to the fact the earlier discussion has been averted on purpose and he decided to make his mark in this conversation. He ends on a declaration of his non-communist attitude and his great pride and dignity in his BONGSHOMARJADA(family- respectability). Shift of topic again: now to the career options available to the youth today. As Fate would have it, the mother let slip her regret at not having been allowed to let her son study hotel management which would have probably been his best career option. But here the HOF really receives a shock...HIS son will serve people, HIS son will not be in a line that values academic credentials over others, HIS son will learn how to live with everyone in the society without much sensitivity to the class-distinctions of his customers and clients.....how outrageous?!?!?!!!#$@&*@! And then comes pouring a discourse on sensitivity to BONGSHOMARJADA and respectabilty in a fiery torrent after which the mother, finally quietened, is left to hum a tune strangely reminiscent of the bugle!

But the point to be noticed is that it all happened over a meal....after the meal, as the maid clears up remnants of the war, and the warriors all get back to their daily humdrum lives with memoirs of the war, each still believing strongly in his or her own triumph and in the incapability of the other lesser mortals in the family to see his or her point. Ordinarily, meals follow the signing of a peace treaty: here the meal necessitates a war that ends without a peace treaty. Every meal brings the tidings of a new war....a war that ends without an agreement to ensure more meals and more wars thereafter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Sisypherian task after all...

But attempting to roll a stone up a slope.

Thrown back to the margin whence I came,

Just as I was approaching the centre of the universe.

Like a spider climbing up the wall

Again and again in an endless repetition,

Must I try to approach the centre,

To open the door,

To arrive at the intimacy

That wears the mask of darkness

the guise of nothingness,

the garb of hostile indifference.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Burden of a Turban

I ever knew that a conversation with an autodriver could be so different.

Ay madam! How much will you pay me?
No, not sixty...lets see now, eighty.
Yes Eighty, for you, just for you madam,
I like you a lot: your face and gait
Is like a friend from yester years,
A friend of sometime 14 years ago
She's no more madam, she's no more.

What's your name? AH, that's nice,
Even your voice resonates with my friend's tone.
You know she was killed in the border skirmish in '95, yeah I am from Srinagar.
I asked them not to kill her;
So, they undressed her and...she died anyway.
I made her suffer a double death-
Once from shame and then from pain.
Don't think that I am a bad man,
I just see my friend in you,
Same salwar, same shawl, same streaming hair.

I am a Sikh madam, as you must've noticed,
Turban, beard and all...
Do you know what this black strip is for?
Kirpan...the dagger I keep on my person.
5 K-s have we- Kesh, Kanghi, Kara, Kirpan, Kacchha:
Hair, Comb, Bangle, Dagger and modest clothing.
I tell you madam I am a religious man,
I keep all 5 with me day and night.

Do you like music? I sing. Ghazals primarily.
It was my music that took me to Australia.
I was there with my family for 8 years,
Late night concerts, lots of money, respect, fame.
And one day my wife told me:
"Which do you want? Money or Children?"
The decision was made. We returned next month.
Back to Delhi in 1983.
Got myself a job as an engineer in a company.
Got a house right next to your colony
Towards which we head now.
A happy modest family with 3 children.

And then came 1984, we fled under the cover
Of dark, before they could lay their hands on us.
But where could we go? Back to my ancestors:
Back to Srinagar, the paradise on earth.
Should I turn left now? yes, that's right.

Where did you get your shawl from amdam?
Kashmiri is it? Even I sold garments there.
Never found myself a job in a company.
Garment industry seemed good enough
For our family of modest needs.
My business thrived by the blessing of
Wahai Guruji. And then began the troubles.
And soon the brethren turned enemy.
It was now "us" and "them",
A binary that still baffles me.
Again we fled from our homes
Bearing the burden of the turban
And the trauma of the friend who died,
The same friend who is mirrored in you.
I'll pray for you madam, YOU must live.

Our minister went there to inaugurate some train
That she named after her mom.
What about the hundreds of mothers
Who died before their children?
What about the thousands of children
Who were left orphans?
How many trains shall we inaugurate
In all their names madam?

What do you want to be later in life?
Professor eh? Suits you well. Which is your religion?
Ever been to Vaishnodevi? no?
Must go once...go after your marriage
The two of you together, you'll get what you want.
I got both my daughters married off to Singapore,
Graduates both of them, independent girls.
My son's doing a computer course
Will go to Singapore once he passes.
Don't believe me? I have a picture...here, take a look.

I still stay in my ex-company flat,
The groundfloor is given to tenants,
The 1st floor we inhabit.
A singer reduced to an autodriver am I,
Still happily bearing the burden and at peace.

Ah! Should I park it here?
See you again! Come sometime
To the Sikh temle from where
I picked you up today.
Till the I'll pray for you, I swear.
In the name of Wahai Guruji,
Madam, I'll take your leave.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The One

Cancer, did you say?

So you think that it might be curable...

Why, pray, the emphasis on "might"?

Ah! now why is your gaze so shifty dear doctor?

I thought that you were the panacea in this world of woes:

The Divinity of God almost, Destiny reincarnate:

The One who decides the earthly traffic, who comes and who goes;

The One who has a solution for every physical need(save one!),

The One who knows best when some petty man must die,

The One whose mere glance will know in me which disease has a seed...

The One who knows best if Euthanasia is the only way out,

The One who decides if a patient deserves his body to be shredded for treatment,

The One whose presence relieves even his worst enemy when in need,

The One who has strength to bear deaths everyday and move on:

You doctor, do you flinch now,

Do you hesitate to tell me the truth?

You shuffle, you cough, you smile with a fixity of purpose:

But why?

I need neither your doubt, nor your assurance.

I want the truth, the Truth alone.

Now tell me doctor,

Tell me the One Truth,

Don't blend it with considerations,

False hopes, loving words, sobriety,

Spirituality(which I lack), Faith, Time(which you lack),

The progress of science(an illusion anyway),

The stages of cancer(the only reality for her),

The loans available for funding the treatment,

The brighter-side-of-matters...

Just tell me.

Tell me now: Will she live or no?

If yes, how? If no, why?

Will she live to see my death,

Or do I have to see her perish away...

Day after day, decaying to dust?

Speak Doctor, you have the horrible task, I admit:

But speak you omniscient, tell me when she'll die.

Language

Some words issue from blissful romance,

some from love(specifically, gratitude),

some from despite(to be specific, abuses),

some from pain (mostly outbursts),

some from nothing at all...meaning nothing.

It is the silence of frustration that says it all:

the words inaudible,

the screams shapeless and clueless,

the blort of a helpless mind, an aimless soul.

I wonder, what is the language of Death:

is it words...

or is it silence that that dismisses every word as trivial?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Death Closes All

I had recently attended a talk by a writer called Sampurna Chattarji where she had mentioned something that had stirred me greatly. She was telling us how paranoid she was about losing her eyesight during a stretch of time in her life when she was told that she had a detached retina which could come off with any form of physical exertion including a hard slap across her face. It was then, she claimed, that she had started looking afresh at the very act of "looking" itself....and during her extensive research she had come found out something rather interesting: Death, in the Hindu mythology had sprung from the eyes of the venerable Hindu deity Brahma. This had struck me immediately: how could Death, something so final, so shattering, issue from the source of life itself? Brahma is the God of creation...it is the part of Shiva to destroy, not Brahma's. And it has been stinging me for a long time till last night I received a shattering piece of news...a friend of mine had committed suicide.

Brahma has four faces...Lucifer falls short of him by just a count of one. Lucifer's face is half-frozen, with Brutus and Cassius as the other two faces (I wonder why though...Brutus had always seemed nobler than Cassius; maybe it is just the act and not the person which is considered really!). Brahma is equally frozen: despite being the creator his eyes have given birth to that which puts an end to his creations. My friend, who has committed suicide, was a person with a gentle heart: though not quite prudent, very gullible, yet adorable. She decided to end her life for the sake of a relationship...a relationship which had left her devastated, a relationship that had drained her of all that ever possessed. I wonder....when death had sprung from Brahma's eyes, was it aware of its own grim finality of character? Did my friend know it while in the act? Hasn't she received a treatment like Brutus did, being punished for her acts and not her soul? Is that what Brahma desired? The sceptre that he holds, proclaiming the victory of justice: could it pass a similar judgement as just and necessary? Is anything worth the finality of Death? I wonder...
"Death begins with a voiced stop,
glides fast on a middle front breath through the nucleus
to a dental slit fricative,
voiceless." (A. Gartrell)

I think this is all incoherent: the rambling of a perturbed mind whose logic is coherent only internally. I can't think, I don't want to think: there's a cleavage in my mind...my brain has spilt: "sequence ravelled out of reach like balls upon a floor".

Sunday, August 30, 2009

At the Traffic Signal

His eyes sparkled with fun,
His laughter rang out with sincerity,
His limbs strained with perfect concentration:
The little boy at the traffic signal.

With a queer disproportionate moustache
Painted across his face
And the confidence of a professional,
He confronted us:
The little gymnast at the traffic signal.

His pride in his simple paraphernalia,
His energy as against his fatigued sister's despair,
His confidence in his prowess to earn for them both:
I saluted the little master-of-the-family at the traffic signal.

Flaunting his shabby, dirty, scanty, tattered rags,
Twisting his emaciated body through the tiny hoop,
Attempting cartwheels and risky somersaults:
The little champion at the traffic signal.

And the signal turned green,
And the bus shook out of dormancy,
And he looked at his worldweary sister for help:
The little brother at the traffic signal.

"Money"! he cried and chased us...
But the bus rolled nonchalantly along,
With us perched upon it leaving the performer behind:
The little beggar at the traffic signal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

and you thought i was a racist?

When I got really high marks in my social psychology test, I had thought no end of myself..."an expert in interpersonal relations...yeah, that's Supurna"...what an immature statement, how abominably presumptious...and of course, as most would say: "how pretentious"! Even if I prepare myself to overlook such follies, today's experience has taught me something quite contrary to what has been flashing in the newspapers over the last few months.

"Aussies beat up an Indian", "Are we still racists?", " Before blaming the Aussies, look into the Indian fabric", "Chinky- an insult?"....is THIS what today's globalitarian world is coming to? Is this the desired farfetched land of utopia where "ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony"? But of course...to be discriminated on the basis of one's place of birth is not "racism", it's mere regionalism. And to be asked to leave a gathering on the basis of language is not "racism", it merely reflects the linguistic heritage of our country....does it not?

Racism is to feel discrimiated agaist for your social identity...where your dentity as a individual is deliberately overlooked. Racism is not merely being called "chinky", "mallu", "gujju", "small-town girl", "bong", "maru"...racism is to perceive a contempt, a sense of being different attached to such tags. Being tagged is comfortable, it gives one a sense of belonging, but being slotted rigidly the most profound ( and incidentally the most disturbing) feelings of detachment, of ub-compartmentalization wtin compartments that are already too limited to be fragmented further.

Racism is to be deliberately ignored amongst a group of people who are "alike", racism is to be deliberately paid "special attenion" to the point of indecency. Traditionally the "whites" have discriminated agaist the 'blacks", the "chinkies" have been discriminated against by the rest. Today however, there was a mini-revolution in our college cafetaria: where after having been warmly included in a huge group of "mallus' (malayali-s), I was startled to discover that all the while they have been messaging each other about me....

Racism is to know with an unnatural force that you are different from the rest...different in ways that make you unaccptable and an object of ridicule. When I call someone a "chinky" I do so only to make others understand who I am talking about...just the way I would say "that short dark girl with curly hair", or.."that boy with a really funny nose and a goatee"...being chinky is just as normal as being any other Indian.

After today's experience I really discovered another facet of racism...I still remember how I was scolded by my aunt when I had said "chinky" a litle too loudly in a restaurant...I wonder , was I being a racist then? In fact, when I discovered the whole messaging affair, it was my aunt's face that had flashed before my eyes..."and you thought I was a racist?"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Horns of a Dilemma"

Now I know what it is to be caught on the "HORNS" of the aforementioned monstrous creature. I have got through to JU, that too with considerably high marks, and NOW I have to choose between Stephens and JU. I have already made up my mind though....it IS Stephens.

Life is strange indeed. Till a couple of months back I was worrying about my ISC. After ISC results, the object of worry shifted to College. After St. Xaviers, matters improved, and the question was no longer of certainty but of choice. After Presidency-failure I immediately knew with a macabre force that I have got admission to colleges only because of my marks, I really don't possess enough talent to get into any college through any written test of merit. Perhaps Destiny took pity on me and gave me a tremendous morale booster: I topped JU entrance test...look look, now THAT'S surely an achievement! but how the hell does it prove my merit? It just goes to show that it was a bad day for everyone else and an immensely fortunate one for me!

And now at last, after a lot of vacillation last night, I have decided to go off, to act selfish, to leave everyone, to pursue a dream that migh not be real at all, to chase some distant reality that might as well be a mirage. Yet it is this illusory reality that I have chosen to embrace.After an exhausting race, the end of the farce called "college admission" is drawing near. AND, thank God for that.

And NOW, like Auden's "Miss Gee" I would pray: "lead me not into temptation but make me a good girl please."

Monday, June 29, 2009

A choice never made

For them it is a new beginning, for me it is an end:
a beginning that guarantees nothing,
an end that guarantees one thing for sure- separation.
Now which should satisfy me more....
ambiguity,
or certainty??
Usually it is certainty that I embrace,
for I can live with pain but not with doubt.
But this time it is this very same doubt that bears the seeds of hope.

Either prospect is morbid,
I can't choose one over the other,
I don't want to.
But the problem this time is,
that I have to live with both.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

dancing away to glory ....

Destiny always has the last word. Not that I regret it completely. In fact, parts of what it says have been rather joyful. But not entirely of course. One can't expect affairs to be just the way we would like it. And I have had my share of disappointments too. But one of them was particularly overwhelming. Dance...

I had gone to watch a programme today.Little did I know that my dance school was going to perform. As I watched the troup and my teacher dance away to glory, a glow emanating from them, I was flooded by a strange feeling of loss. At once I found my eyes brimming with burning hot tears which started rolling down my cheeks despite my best efforts to hold them back. The troup of which I had once been an integral part, the very production to the concept of which I had made some significant contribution, the people of my institution who still want me to rejoin the classes, all smiling at me from the stage, as if beckoning at me to join them in the revelry at once.....I bit my lips to stop myself from releasing a long-stifled sob.

After the show, I went backstage to meet my teacher, to bid her goodbye, to apologise for wasting whatever little amount of aptitude I once possessed. And as I wept my apologies, I found her holding me, telling me that life at Stephens will be wonderful. At that moment, I felt so guilty for leaving her here, for betraying her, for having led he to believe for these two years that I'll be back after my boards.

Strange isn't it...considering that I had abandoned dance two years ago? At that point of time it had hurt tremendously...it was sheer amputation for me, to hack away one of my limbs from my person. I had decided then that I would never dance again in my life, and despite attending dance shows, I had steeled myself against all urges of the heart that might have led to a waning of my resolve. Yet just three months back I had received an invitation from my teacher to attend her new production for which, she claimed, to be grateful to ME! To make matters even more embarrassing for me she had printed my name in bold letters in the programme brochure acknowledging unabashedly that I had some hand in the formation of the concept. I had changed my strategy then. Such amark of unconditional love, if taken for granted, would haunt me for the rest of my life. I decided to rejoin dance from July

And then Stephens happened. And the mirage of Success is drawing me away from my limb, which, though no longer a part of my being, writhes in pain. I love dancing, I love my teacher, I have always loved them and always will.

Destiny indeed has its way. I am off at last...probably dance was never meant for me. Hearing the call of some mysterious far-fetched glory, I am refusing this love, turning my face away from the pain. But is it worth it? Should I really be dancing away to glory, such an uncertain ambiguous one at that? Freewill is not my card any more, it is determinism that is dealing the hand now.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reading "1984"

A deathly hush shrouding the mind,
A fierce uproar drowning the streets,
A curious paradox creates a din in the ear.
That's what 1984 could have been.

The Party with the Power is God.
To them:
"Ignorance is strength",
"Freedom is slavery",
"War is peace".
And in this kingdom of paradoxes
It is Power that reigns supreme.
The Party is God.
God is Power.

"Power is never the means, it is the end"
Torture is the goal of itself,
Obedience, too weak a proof of true control.
So, make them suffer,
Wrench them dry of all things human,
Because, to be human is prehistoric.
And when they do come round to obey the Party,
Punish them for what they dared decades ago:
Vapourize them: for they never existed.
Doublethink, Thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101,
Let these be the instruments of fear,
The weapons against rebels,
The propaganda during the Hate Weeks,
The ill-boding sceptre of Power.

To live in 1984 is to procreate for the State
And not out of Love,
For Love never existed.
To breathe in 1984 is to obey the telescreen
And respond meekly as though to the gaoler.
To exist in 1984 is to love Big Brother-
A man who never existed and never will.
To know 1984 is to know
What a curse Power can be.
Yes, it is a curse that rings the knell for all.
To possess Power is to savour cruelty.
To exercise Power is to cherish the bloodbath.
Power is an oxymoron, an enigma,
A desirable drug, the most addictive one.

And as this terrifying vision engulfs me,
I am jerked back from the nightmare:
Love still exists, for my sister is in love....!
Oh! to know that Love exists..
To know that the deadly Party is yet to be born!
Let our own dear God be the only Omnipotent we ever encounter.
We, the mortals, the ordinary, do not need Power.
Only too weak are we to bear this brunt.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

O Bondhu aamar

I am known for the weirdness of my dreams...my dreams feature everyone from my mother to Sigmund Freud, from the porter to Will Smith, from the gateman at Gyan Manch to the salesperson at Pantaloons. My dreams have an abnormally long range of setting, from school, to market, to home, to Park Street, to the grand mansions shown in the T.V. serials. Never before have I felt the urge of putting down my dream on pen and paper, to be more specific, of recording my dream.
I was sleeping peacefully in my room when suddenly the hammering noise woke me up. My neighbour was getting some renovation done and the intelligent mechanic had chosen te peaceful afternoon to do the sole wall that my room shares with her flat. indignant and annoyed, I had thrust my pillow on my ear and had tried to resume my siesta.Thank Heavens I did, because, it was in this slumbery state that I had the most intriguing dream of my life.....
"I was scribbling in my red leatherbound diarya (looking painfully like my theory copy)when suddenly a tune drifted in:Bhenge more ghorer chaabi niye jabi ke amare... a Baul! I ran to my verandah, by then the baul had crossed my house and was dreamily dancing away. As I looked at him sadly with a strange craving in my heart to join him at once, He made a curious little comeback with a happy little dance (strongly reminiscent of a jig) and started dancing in front of the entrance of the house opposite ours....the same clarion call rang again, and the reiteration only made the yearning in my heart grow..bhenge more ghorer chabi niye jabi ke amare, o bondhu aamar. Na peye tomar dekha eka eka din j amar kate na re....I am an emotional person by nature so I scrambled downstairs without waiting for the elevator and stood at the entrance of my house, my face streaming with tears...tears of happiness, of loss, of separation, of anticipation. As the baul danced away, my dream gradually faded like the slow fadeout at the end of a film....I woke up."
For whom do these bauls leave home? In the anticipation of which joy do they find peace even amidst the squalour of their simple lives on roads? From where do they imbibe the energy to dance round and round in the sheer of the act? And this baul, why did he have such an effect on me? I have encountered innumerable gypsies in my life, never has one had such an impact on me. I am reminded of a childhood poem :The Princess and the Gypsies. In the poem the Princess, tired of her cocooned life pleadsthe gypsies to take her along. But the hard life scares her and as the gypsies walk away making merry, she cries:"my heart, it broke in half". I can recall yet another poem called Poetry of Departures by Larkin, where the poet wants to "swagger the nut-strewn ways" and be "free at last". But the poem ends with an anti-heroic climax as he refrains from leaving the equanimity of the present life that he leads, he calls it a "deliberate step backwards". But which way does life go? "Dust thou art to dust returnest": is that what life truly is all about? Because if that is the case, then trying to return to the caressing joyful cradle from where we leapt onto this world, calling back the divine innocent joy of childhood, attempting a union with One who had created us all, is not a step backward...since life is a circle. The bauls have embraced this gospel from Genesis....their efforts to return to "bondhu" to the eternal Friend portrays this belief....
I feel I have held myself back for a long time waiting for the Friend: "shomukhe oi heri path tomar ki roth pouchhobe na more duyare...."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I did a strange thing today, something that I have never done before: I completed my shopping from the first shop that I entered. Something seemed to tell me that I if I keep looking for "the best", I will keep looking forever. My parents have often told me, that they know what's the best for me. In youthful anger I keep defending the superiority of my knowledge and choice over theirs. However, today, I was startled into reality. How can anyone know what's best....because noone, mark my words, NOONE has ever savoured everything to draw a comparison.....leave alone the possibility of being in a position to claim the unquestionable superiority of something, or someone, or some plan over everything else.

And as I write this, I am being reminded of a rather striking dialogue from a very cliched film: the bride was asking a stranger how could someone be so sure of his/her choice during marriage, what if he/she found their true soulmate later in life...the stranger had replied "nahi dhundogi, toh nahi milega","if you dont search for someone who is different, you will not find yout soulmate in someone different". I had watched the film the day my class ten boards had got over, which was two years back. The film and images are now but a blurred panorama in my head, but the dialogue still lingers. It depends on us when we want our search to b dammed...else it'll flood our lives with sceptic inconvenience and discontentment.

Someone had said "I get up in the morning and I have two choices: either to be happy or to be sad. I choose to be happy." It depends on us whether we WANT to be satisfied now....sometimes it's essential to be dissatisfied, in order to nurture an ambition, an aspiration; but is it not much better to feel happy and be satisfied at times? Satisfaction breeds peace; it's your choice: peace, or somnolent agitation? Which would you choose?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

For my brother: "INTEGRITY"

My brother had asked me to send him a mail explaining my notion of the term "integrity". As usual, I didnt bother. Today, I was advised to keep my blog updated, to blog regularly. Lack of activities breeds utter nonchalance. Lack of thoughts breeds unconscious incoherence. Keenly aware of the nonchalance and incoherence in my words, I had stopped blogging. But today, yes today, I do have something to write on. Get ready for some incoherent ramblings, because I don't know WHAT exactly IS my notion of integrity. I'll discover it now as I write, and if you want you can come along too.
What are the words that flash in our minds when we hear the term? Truth, Loyalty, Dedication, Fidelity, Interest....but surprisingly enough I cannot, by any means, confine the bounds of this abstraction called "integrity" within the narrow limits of any single word from the above list. Yes, Truth is essential to it, but so is Loyalty. But WHAT do we mean by Dedication...how much Interest can it actually take to make way for Dedication? And Fidelity is a highly debatable topic, because at the end of the day, is it truth that matters more or does loyalty assume a superior stand...because, now that I come to think of it, Fidelity implies both! Slightly out of the context, but I had heard these two quotes which I am tempted to put down here. The first one says,"History is a sacred kind of writing because ruth is essential to it."; and the other says,"fidelity is the primary merit of history". Therefore must I think that Loyalty assumes a lower status in the pyramid that defines "integrity"? But what is at the top, the peak...what distinct element sits perched up at the very apex?
At the very top, the very point where everything merge, the tip where we see the various facets meet, is where resides the most essential element of all, Faith. Faith is what reigns supreme. Note, I say Faith, not trust. Trust is ephemeral, and irreparable once broken. But Faith, it lingers on... Faith in life, in the course that life has taken. Natural pessimists have only one abstraction to fall back on:Faith.
And what lies at the base...the very bottom, upon which rests this pyramid? Hope...the sand that slips and trickles but can never be exhausted. The pyramid is reputed for its volatility, for its instabilty, but on its immortality not a question can be raised. And THAT is Faith, that is Hope: the unwavering and the elusive unite to form the eternal, Integrity.
So finally, where did we arrive? Did we reach a definiton? But wait, "integrity"cannot be defined...it is a collection, a rich compilation well-known for its opulence. And that is what integrity means...the entire pyramid may be called integrity...being an integral part of it is the very nature of all its elements. Integrity satisfies the appetite of Gestaltists the best..."the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".
Oh, to think that I told my audience at an electionspeech that they could trust me because of my integrity....! I wonder how they ever believed me...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Schooling

Caught up in the tangled mesh of our own lives, we forget to cast a glance at those whose lives are dictated by squalour alone. This one has been composed from the point of view of a teacher employed in a school meant for slumchildren. No, this is NOT inspired by Slumdog Millionnaire, far from it. These are true incidents that my mother had been fortunate/unfortunate enough to experience.

Ila was late to school, very late.
She scrambled in during the third period.
Of course she had to be punished...
She deserved it.
So, she was made to stand in the sun for another period.
In the recesstime she came down
Pleading for leave to go home early.
Imagine the impudence!
"Of course NOT!" declared the principal.
She went back, scowling.
Next day, once again Ila was late:
She limped in during the third period this time
Her hair dishevelled, messaging her arms.
"Do I deserve a punishment again?" she asked.
She got late the previous day cooking for her father,
And was due to serve him tea early in the evening.
She was late coming home, and so, punished once again.
As we looked away in shame, she asked a second time
"Do I deserve a punishment now?"

Piya's father was a drunkard.
Her mother left with another,
Her father married another and turned Piya
Out into the street.
That first night she had spent there
Like a harlot without a job.
She came next morning to bid farewell.
From that night she had a job...every night.

I was late to school one day.
I saw a woman waiting outside the gate, agitated.
When asked, she exploded:
"That bitch, who studied in your goddamn school,
Has stolen my husband...."
And then she broke down:
"I have children...fathered, and fatherless."
I hurriedly went in and informed the parents of the girl
To come and collect their ward;
Lest a fight should begin on the streets,
Bickering over the claims of love and lust.

Brihaspati was the schooltopper,
But her mother married her off
At sixteen...
"excellent groom...no dowry".
The "excellent groom" returned her daughter
When he felt that she could not mother an heir.
Brihaspati was back in class:
tears in her eyes,
horror in her heart,
no vermillion to add to her insults,
only the customary bangles.

And then there was Sheetal who eloped with a boy.
She stammered so we wondered how she ever expressed her love.
And Manisha, the orphan, who serves as a domestic
And studies by her salary.
And so many more that stayed together under
The rotting roof of the school a few hours daily.
The school taught me more than I could ever teach.
My schooling- extended beyond my school-life.

Year after year we merely look on...
hearts brimming with intentions of helping, yet helpless.
With fruitless hopes that forever keep us going
Even when it's disconsolate, hopeless.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Neverending wait...is it?

I have just watched Antaheen, the much-hyped multistarred Bengali film by Aniruddha Roychoudhury. Beautifully made, no doubt about that. The sensitivity of the director supported by the the most talented actors together have produced such a blend that one is bound to leave the theatre with a feeling of fulfilment.
But, (and I am not going to be the ruthless critic here)I wonder what was it that the director had wanted to say. It couldn't have been just another narration of the fastpaced urban life, nor could it have been a purely philosophical piece. It definitely has the taste of Anuranon, his first film, both bearing his unmistakable signature, but it has left me more confused than enlightened. After all what is it that he has tried to drive home through Antaheen? The venerable man who reviewed this film had said that it had made him feel guilty, that it had compelled him to spend a little more time than usual with his wife. But what has Antaheen got to offer to me?
Antaheen narrated the tragedy of an eternal wait....but, (and HERE lies my doubt)not just the tragedy, also the beauty of it. It speaks of lack of communication, but it also speaks of understanding. To know that, even without acknowledging it, someone's always there as a source of support, by itself is beautiful. Antaheen is essentially nuanced with pathos, but not laden with it. To find the morbid murky world lurking behind the glimmering veil of urban sophistication is distressing, but don't we ALL know it already? The director is sensible enough not to repeat and exaggerate what is being said innumerable times through all the megasoaps, films like Life in a metro and Page3. But then, he has stressed on a wait that never ends, that is eternal, waiting for the beloved to return, waiting quietly, without a complain, without any expression of pain or deprivation. Waiting to hear just a word, waiting for but a touch, waiting forever for the other one to make the first move. So, has the director tried to persuade us to pay more heed to our own seniments, to be the one to make the first move, NOT to wait? I wonder....
Antaheen made me shed tears....it does remind you of all the bonds that you have left behind, that you have felt lighter without, like wornout castoff skins, like exoskeletons of hideous pests.....it twists and wrings your heart like a drenched dress that has to be dried...it fills your heart with an excruciating pain, that is, at the same time, surprisingly inexplicable. But I still don't know what Aniruddha Roychoudhury wants to convey... I for one, am quite contented with the state of affairs in my life, but it too, has gaping voids, it too, is characterised by neverending wait....am I expected to attempt filling up those voids, to rid my life of those nullities that are painful but beautiful...am I expected to communicate my pains to the ones for whom I wait.... ?
Perhaps some periods of waiting never end...they are never meant to either...perhaps it is only fair to keep waiting for the birds that have flown out of the nest, never to return...it is important to wait, to feel that I too, am a human being with normal sentiments, normal aches, normal expectations...but perhaps it is just unfair to expect that the wait will end, will culminate in a joyful reunionthat might be (mind you, MIGHT be) ephemeral. Mr.Roychoudhury, is this what you wanted to say? Well, I must admit, your way of saying it was, in one word, beautiful....raat jaga taara....Antaheen opekkha....I am tempted to quote Tagore:
"Amar ekti katha banshi jane, banshi-i jane.
Bhore roilo buker tola, karo kachhe hoini bola,
Kebol bole gelem banshi-r kane-kane.
Amar chokhe ghum chhilo na gobheer rate,
Cheye chhilem cheye thaka tarar sathey.
Emni gelo sara rati, pai ni amar jagar sathi,
Banshi-tire jagiye gelem gane gane..."