Monday, January 30, 2006

Aloha Rajgad!

Yesterday was absolutely fantastic. The day started at 3.30 am and oh, what a day it was. Probably a day that will remain with me for a long long time, not just because it was a fabulous experience, but also because it was the last weekend I would be spending with A and M. Geez…I am so gonna miss you guys, yeah I know I keep saying that all the time, but yesterday the finality of the situation really hit me.

Anyways this was my first trip to Rajgad. The climb was a lot of fun, though it was only while I climbed back down that I realised what hap‘hazard(ous)’ shortcuts Mola had devised for us trekkers. Scrambling up through trees, shrubs and bushes; the thorns would reach out to welcome us; slipping and balancing grip and foot, we made our way up to the last laborious patch of Rajgad. Well M was apprehensive all through, about whether she would make it; but the poor girl kept reassuring (more threatening) herself that she would. I guess it was more anxiety about her hubby’s mockery than apprehension. Bounding far ahead of us was Mola and team mates, one of whom, christened Hey..mya by me, was thrilled at the idea of hustling us slow walkers and then grinning back to ensure that his comments had had their intended effect.

Well the last 20 minutes of the climb uphill and the first 20 minutes of downhill are only remembered as credits to my trekking skills. With concentration at its peak, watching each step, I slowly made my way up an almost 90 degree combination of rocks; reaching the top only to wonder how the hell Mr Shivaji (I had better be respectful I realised!) managed to haul himself and his horses on top with such ease. But anyways the fellow once up there, used to camp for several days together, only encouraging his men to tire their poor legs running up and down. Plus, now I know why they say that ‘Mr Shivaji scurried from place to place conquering fort after fort.’ Obviously if you build forts at precarious heights and out-of-bounds locations, you would have no choice but to scurry!

A was especially enthusiastic and only to happy to play guide around the fort. Of course, a slightly over enthusiastic guide who ran far ahead of us, disappearing over the horizon of the cliff every once in a while; wading his way through bushes, while we tumbled down gravel paths; and basically making the most of this trek, ensuring that we found it adventurous enough to test our skills and capabilities. The Sanjeevani machi opened out into the valley below, from where you could see an enormous chunk of the Sahyandris stripped with shades and layers of red basalt rock that made it look like it was blazing in the rays of the overhead sun.

The Hatti machi (I hope I got the name right) was equally nice. Well by the time I was here, I knew we were nearing the end of the trek… which kinda bothered me, for reasons I wish not to disclose. Little boys hung around the place selling their nimbu-paani, a supposed to be a tangy mixture, - sometimes a little too sweet or otherwise bland, but never just right - happy to show us their possessions, such as a goggle minus the glass. One of them was even in the ninth grade and when I questioned him about it, he was only very proud to introduce another one of their clan who had witnessed the same success. Afterall it is in the eyes of these young children that you see the value of our education system and the pride that contains them when they hold a degree. Like they say - ignorance is bliss - and for those who don’t know about ‘options’ and ‘combinations’, well just E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N is what matters.

Sandwiches, lasanachi chatni, pickle, bananas, pealed sweet lime, buttermilk, nimbu-paani, laughter, stupid jokes (like the one about, A alone can ‘treat’ you, because he is a vet), huffing and puffing and the sheer joy of coming together with people you have known only a few hours made the day memorable. By the time I got to the base, hot tea, spicy pohe and an idle old man ready to blether (which was inclusive of gossip and jokes tinted with male chauvinism) at the drop of a hat awaited us. The amateur-enthusiastic, yet creative and fine photographer from our group clicked his way through the entire trek. From barn owls, to Rajgad by sunrise and sunset, he captured them all with extreme proficiency, but remained humble enough to complement one of the photographs I shot, where I have managed to create pitch darkness in the bright sunlight!

Back home tired, yet exuberant…there is sense of rejuvenation within me…one that reminds you that this carpet of life which is woven by someone else (HIM for me) is definitely worth it.
May these moments live on…

Monday, January 16, 2006

Three's Company

One evening I sat in the rear seat of a car, where my only companions were two men who had grown up together as boys. Soon my silence drew a curtain across my existence and I became a silent spectator to what followed.
Their plan was to drink together, but since the decided lounge had cover charges; the easier (still enjoyable) option was to drive around town with a bottle by your side. So bachelors + no money to splurge = drunken driving.

“Hey she is nice”

“Naah! Not my kind…too slim”

Silence followed until we passed the next appealing hoarding.

“Now, SHE is NISE...she has that just out of bed look. You know what I mean, right?”


Well the conversation lingered over ‘hmms’ and ‘yeahs’, before it took a more masculine twist. Well it wasn’t really about fitness and physique, but they just have a different way of catching up. While the women get directly to the point, men flow with the time (and the alcohol) and get around in a subtle way.

“So how’s the corporate thing going?”

“Well we just did a camp with Rapid Eye” (waits for a reaction; so I’m guessing the company is real big)

“Vow man!” (Aha! I’m sure that is what he was waiting for)

“Besides I have approached some others.”

“BTW, I don’t know if I mentioned, but I changed my job” (now here is the other one hankering for attention. If he has it, I must have it too ;))

“Oh! You left your company?! Ok, so where are you now?”


“Haan, so now I know where to come, if I want a job!!”

Anyways the conversation revolved around the technicalities of their respective jobs, the competitors, the tactics and the trade secrets, that these guys are so proud to possess. Occasionally, one of them would voluntarily pass the bottle behind, but eagerly wait for it to return. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a more personal conversation and I didn’t have to wait too long.

“K, why are you so quiet?”

“I’m sure she is quite disgusted by our discussion of bust sizes. Real locker-room talk.”

“Probably, she is enjoying it - a glimpse of her closeted lesbianism!”

“The only time I have been part of a locker room conversation was back in school.”

“Yes! The debates and discussions about Ms Gupta’s pallu that use to keep slipping off.”

“Mind you, she quite enjoyed the attention. All that time she took to collect it.”

It was at this point that I was suddenly reminded of my school days and Ms Wadan. The popular Wadan-kya-tera-badan phrase that was favourite topic of discussion. Some things never change and are probably never different either. While the guys drool over it, the girls mock their shamelessness. (But secretly enjoy the fun too)

“So where is Andy?”

“Donno man, I wanted to ask you myself. Probably earning loads of money in some multinational.”

“Hehe. I’m sure, in the next ten years we will still be sitting at some roadside and drinking cheap booze and Andy will drive past in a BMW or something.”

“Yeah! And when we ask him where he is working, he’ll say - you’ve heard of that company right, well I own it.”

“And earn a few millions…”


Vow! Men can actually have conversations like women. Simply put, they can also gossip and bitch…well in graceful way, of course. I don’t exactly remember when a long pause that followed this reminiscing ended; and the conversation traced some proficient talk about shares v/s investments, tacky brokers and property prices. With each one making the other feel good about his responsible behaviour and actually setting aside a moment to reflect upon how far they have come, the dialogue finally returned to the all-time favourite topic - WOMEN

“Hey C, there is very pretty and simple girl in love with me. She is quite nice, only …I wish she was a little cosmo.”

“Well mould her, my friend…”

“Would you want to try a hand at someone who ahs lived all her life at L?”

“Well have fun then…she anyways knows off your philandering.”

“No man, I need a girlfriend yaar - someone to mollycoddle and pamper.”

Well, now things were getting slightly senti, so C decided to switch the track of conversation. Well he managed quite efficiently, now whether that was his tact or R’s drunkenness…I don’t know.

“So how come you aren’t spending time with your mom?”

“I wanted to get drunk, precisely why I came to Pune.”

“So get drunk. I have been high a couple of times this past few weeks.”

“Naah, wanted company man.”

“OK, come lets get drunk.”

“but, you just said…”

“Anything for you my friend!”

With this the engine of the car reared and the two head towards a ‘wine shop’ before it got too late. I chose to step out at this moment, but a smile played on my lips all the way back home. There was nothing unusual about this conversation, nothing abrupt, vague or exciting either. But there was warmth to it…very boyish warmth, which maybe gave me one of the most precious glimpses of a relationship.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

When At Ease...

The sea has a very enticing element to it. Its calm is teasing, but the vastness is welcoming. Every time I look towards it, it lures me and as the waves shuffle against my feet and I walk deeper; I can almost see a naughty smile playing on it, as if saying - “Come…come…discover me!!” And this is exactly what deters me from going any further and I retrace my footsteps onto the beach. Some how, I can’t get myself to have faith in the tranquillity that the surface of the sea displays.
However, this time I went to Goa, I decided that the fear must be overcome. Fear, I have realised, is an illusion that merely keeps you from enjoying life to its fullest. So it was this year that I put my first foot forward and stepped deeper into the sea. I allowed myself to stay afloat the waves until I was at a comfortable depth, where it was only the tips of my toes that could feel the firmness of the ground, even though the sand slipped from between my toes. My friends and me played ball and swum around in this area; the Frisbee that took direction of the wind had me splashing all over the place, and I slowly got used to the waves engulfing me every once in a while, the salt water stinging my eyes each time I ducked underwater and tiny sea creatures probably stumbling over my feet. I was learning to enjoy the sea, but cautiously.
Soon, I puckered the courage to walk my way over to an island with my friends and I said that I’d follow all the way until I could feel the ground below. The expedition was completed and I felt like a warrior who had returned from a battle, bringing back himself and his horse without a wound. As I was prancing along the seabed, towards the shore - happy and confident, there was this one point, where I suddenly lost hold of the sand underneath. I wasn’t slipping, nor was I walking too fast - it was just that the seabed had disappeared from below my feet.
OK this wasn’t my imagination, because when I crosschecked with the ‘tallest’ member of my group, he grinned - only to confirm my doubts. “It’s ok, probably we have just wandered afar… let me check a little further,” he said. Ok, I put my best lessons of freestyle into practice and began to swim towards the beach. Each time, Chiraag’s eyes would meet mine; he would disappear into the sea to remind me that ‘shallow’ wasn’t yet here.
Well I only remember swimming, not furiously, but with strength spurting out of each stroke I practiced. The beach didn’t look far, but the swim seemed long. As I turned around to look out into the open sea that lay behind me, I could picture a wink (!) that mocked me for being at ease and I found myself saying - THIS IS WHY I DON’T TRUST YOU.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Moving Beginning - Khaled Hoessini

A life that began in the cushioned strata of Afghanistan and ended in the growing society of America. A tale about the vine of emotions entwining through the ethos of class, caste and politics. Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hoessini tells the story of Amir and his friend Hassan. It brings out the reality of the present-day social situation in the backdrop of Afghanistan, where though the politically correct throw a veil over the customary thought of caste discrimination; it has percolated to the coming generations.
The intellects may shy away from it and the radicalists might run away, but the fact is that it exists and there are many who play it to their advantage.

Amir is brought up in an aristocratic family, where respect and discipline top the priority list. Though this timid boy enjoys a lively childhood in the company and shielding of Hassan, a street smart boy from the lower caste; for most part of his childhood he is perplexed by two primary situations that lay the foundation of his life. Firstly it is his relationship with his father, Baba, whose affection extends to a mere pat on the head. Secondly, it is the contradictory situation of Hassan’s life, where though this boy is his servant and belongs to the Hazara caste, not only is he Amir’s best pal, but he also enjoys a good proportion of Baba’s affection. While this situation remains the centre of Amir’s life and finally makes his existence meaningful, the political situation in Afghanistan takes Amir to USA, where he matures in age, experience and relationships and learns to take responsibility of his actions. Work, love and marriage follow a regular course until destiny brings Amir back to Afghanistan - the Afghanistan, now under Taliban - a country, no more the reflection of his memories. The trip is almost a twist in his fate as it unfolds the truth of his life - which begins from the day he opened his eyes to the world, until date when he is learning to stand his firm ground.

In the course of this book depression almost became an addiction. Hoessini has interwoven politics and love with such subtlety that is hard to draw the line as to when he switches from one to another and back. The personal touch to his story makes the unfolding of events extremely interesting. As you read on to know more about Amir’s life, you learn simultaneously about how religion can be the root of sadism and that there is more to this life than what just meets the eye.