Monday, December 01, 2008

For those nights of Trauma: Mumbai 26th November

It is as if the whole event has been imprinted on my mind. The reel plays again and again. I could not believe it in the first go. When I heard the news that gun shots were fired near the Taj, I brushed away the news as exaggeration. On the pillion seat of the Royal Enfield, as I rode back with H to Grant Road, we heard a noise. It was far away and so I refused to acknowledge it.
When I got back home, I switched on the TV. They reported a gang-war amongst some Nigerian drug peddlers. A shoot out at Leopold. A shoot out at Leopold?! That is some five minutes away from Mondy’s, the place I would have been at (in all imaginable and unimaginable possibility) that evening, if not for A being stuck at work until so late. “It will be late and we won’t get a table…” A had said. But the gang-war seemed a credible analysis. Afterall Leopolds’ was the place where foreigners flocked for all meals (and conversations).They played a drum-roll sort of music and the dim lighting always gave it the ideal fitting into Shantaram-like novels.
But the news continued to follow the trail. Leopold, Napeansea Road, Vile Parle, Santacruz, Taj, Oberoi, Cama Hospital, VT Station and Nariman House – explosions and shoot-outs continued to wreak havoc in my city. The news channeled flashed images of people lying about on blood-splattered tiles, vehicles twisted out of shape, horror-struck faces with tears running down numb cheeks and men in olive-green uniforms trying to gain control of the situation. The news strip continued to mark the rise in number of deaths – an ACP, the chief of the Anti-Terrorist Squad and another senior police officer were all killed in one shot at the first go. The names didn’t sound familiar – no memories of even having read about them in the newspaper, but I watched their funerals, their families and stories of their bravery with a sense of familiarity.
For three whole days my television was on. Even while I travelled from Mumbai to Pune on the eve of the last evacuation operation by the National Security Guards, I constantly kept in touch with people seated before their televsision sets, trying to remain with the scenes and the situation. I felt as though I was leaving my city at a time when it needed me and so even when I returned at 11pm on Sunday night, I drove into South Mumbai and walked the deserted streets near gateway, the by-lanes behind the Taj, where Bade-Miya was still serving sheek-kebabs; a lonely Leopold CafĂ© which now stood shutters-down and the Oberoi –Trident couple still stood up high, even though the window panes of the lobby were shattered. Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, was not asleep even today; but in fact she was waking up very early, still groggy. Candles blinked along the streets and small groudp of people stood silently, some with cameras, some with their little children and some others with flowers. I hadn’t brought a candle, but like many others I scrounged the small lit-up squares for a candle that had extinguished or probably fallen over. I could make it stand again; I could make it bright again. What a blissful feeling.

Those three nights stole Mumbai’s joy and spritely charm. A bunch of innocent killed a mass of innocent. I can’t help but feel bad for the terrorists, even as I cheer the soldiers who put up a skilful fight. For what fault of these young boys were they brought to a point to “kill unto death.” These boys were just like you and me, of an age where we are on that threshold of life where we begin to question what we have been taught and learn to distinguish between the right and the wrong. But unlike us, these boys didn’t have the time to learn, to question to verify or to rebel. They just had to prove – prove to themselves and to those who taught them that they were worthwhile students. To me the situation was as simple as this: their teachers capitalized on their age, the emotional phase it brings with it, the surge of rebellion and ambitiousness that overwhelms everything else.
It was a similar phase for the boys from the National Security Guards too, don’t you think? They too prove to themselves and to those who taught them that they were worthwhile students that they had applied efficiently each bit of what they had learnt. They were congratulated and hugged, drowned in cheer and appreciation for what they had accomplished.
Neither of the boys have any regrets.
They all came face to face for a cause. Each one had his own motivation and reason to be a part of it. For the lives that were lost as reason for these causes and for the minds that did not have chance to think, to feel to voice, I hope that the circle completes for them – through the thoughts and voices of those who survive them!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Open Court


Well, so that big guy, who sits in that important chair up there - the judge, of course smiled at the cousel who appeared after me and said "Has the uniform changed? I mean am I not aware of a change in the dress code?" The cousel checked his own attire before he noticed everyone turning to look at me. I was busy packing my files, when a lady said "The judge seems to be speaking about you!" I was in a light blue shirt and grey pants - now whats wrong with that? (vibrant? light blue?)

The first thing (I don't know why) did read was that about the dress code for lady advocates in the High Court. It says "That women are allowed grey or black pants and a full sleeves or half sleeves shirt of any sobre colour! (salwar kameez and skirts also follow in the list)"

And so when I did realise it was me the Judge was talking about I said quite promptly, "But pastel shades are allowed." Aha, if not for that associate who hushed me and the friendly counsel who covered up for me, I would have been heard IN OPEN COURT!


I did try approaching the judge in his chambers later, but he refused to see me. I wanted to clarify my stand, but what the hell... he didn't want to see me , he said. And of course the associates who clamour out side his court, who thought it wiser not to let me in.

But what about the fact, that I was so right!!!! So right in what I wore and what I wanted to say.

The general custom is to wear black and white. But the rule of book foms the base. After all you are in court and the law is what is LAID DOWN. It is not a custom, nor anyone's likes or dislikes - it is just about what is written in that rule book. What if someone has not read it, shouldn't he be informed, lest he points a finger at some one else again?

I feel im going to catch hold of someone who knows him and meet him sometime to tell him my story! So what if it is in a closed chamber....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Special credits: to the bike ride from Grant Road to Goregaon.- it lasted one hour in peak traffiic hours. This made for entertainment.

In an act to be different,
I ordered beer one day,
And, oh!, my friends,
It all went this way.

We went to a place called Mondy's,
They serve only beer and wine;
They didn't have the vodka - with crand\berry juice,
Which I had particularly in mind.

So I agreed to beer.
They ordered; a pitcher, that too.
They placed a mug before me,
But drink, what else could I do?

It had to it a bitter twang,
Not so friendly for a first time, I'd say,
But half glass through, the taste lingered on,
But this time there wasn't a reason for dismay.

We had the whole and ordered another,
More pitchers were passed 'round,
The yellow liquid rose to my head,
Each time to the loo I bound.

Beer and me, weren't friends-at-first-sight,
It all went like this, you see;
It fills my tummy and makes me happy,
Each time I visit the bar and have a limited penny.

Budweiser's my favourite,
Kingfisher ranks two,
Castle Nager, though my first,
It all depends on my mood.

That's not what I pick first, off the bar menu
The choice of vodkas and shots is vast,
The beer comes then, right before the end,
We say we save the best for last.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random sentimality - Part I

I just read a mushy-mushy post. Almost gurgling- cooing- calling it whatever you want - over times of love and lust. I am quite tempted to pretty much do the same, but then on a second thoughts, Ill just write about some people. People...

Kabbu - the name sounds like a character from a childrens books with rosy cheeks and chubby elbows, a grin spread across the face, large yellow sun shining right above his head, some tall flowers with pink and red petals around him. Well, that is a description much unlike the real-him. The most important man in my life, my soulmate, the centre of my world, work and play, I wouldn't be able to live without him... blah, blah, blah. Well the relationship is far from this. It isn't even close to my Howard Roark with his ravishing girl friend (I forget her name) fantasy. But it's good and is here to stay, or that is what I claim to believe, because of its nature. No head over heels behaviour, no rushing into each other's arms, no hour-long phone coversations, no escapades for privacy... Kabbu and me are more like living together because we like each other's company. We don't get bored of each other. We enjoy 'travelling' to the same places, eating the same sort of food, metting similar kinds of people - i guess that is about it. The list sort of ends there. he likes watching cricket (like almost every other Indian guy), I don't like watching sports; he doesn't like the taste of beer, I trip over the mere thought of it; he drinks water from every flowing tap, I ensure I carry water with me; he'd rather take pictures of the sunset and the depth of the valleys, I must have a human in my frame (or else what the fuck are you looking at?) . But still Kabbu and me are compatible. We dislike each others friends - prior to when we met, that is and mock each others habits; but Kabbu still surprises me by waiting outside my gym, brings me chocolates (those that he got at birthday parties), buys me expesive gifts (when i demand them) and forces himself to eat cheese and maccronni ('coz that is the yummiest meal ever created) Mmmmm...

Ajee. My grandmother. She is one lady who no one in the family can get along with, except ofcourse for me. She has a wild imagination, which runs way ahead of time and imaginatin itself. Once I wanted get the duplicate of my house keys made. Of course, my anxious grandmother sent me all the way to the other end of the town (or at least thats what it felt like after I had changed two buses and taken a taxi for minimum fare) to get the duplicate made. her explanation:"You never know who is copying the key, he might make an extra copy and decide to enter the house when we are not there!" That is the most bizarre explanation I have hear - A raom man, makes copy of the key (which he apparently knows to be your entrance key), knows where you live, knows when you'll leave your home and decides to make th most of the opportunity. of course this is true of all key makers living withing a radius of 6 -7 kms from your house. Jesus Christ! It not just key makers, but garbage cleaners, pest control men, a new milkman, fruit vendors and the list goes on. Even at 90, her skills of interpretation are admirable. You must not say anything to her without prior thought. "Where is that watch I gave you to repair?" she one day asked my servant. "You never gave me any watch" - Servant. Later my servant for my grandma's 'FYI' made a passing statement "Now-a-days, watches are so cheap, why would you waste time repairing one, just buy a new one." (Servant exits) Ajee (in a whisper): "No wonder, he doesn't remember having taken the watch. Must have thrown it away. Since watches come so cheap, he thought I'd be better of buying a new one. Guess he thinks I have enough money to buy another one!" So this way, we flip rom one trail of imagination to another. For the rest of the family, they have gotten sick of her mood swings and false accusations. I treat it as entertainment. I learn as to how many perceptions one person can have about one particular thing in one day, but at different times of it!
Ajee almost mothered me - well she did mother me. So I have this compassion towards her, it is love to some extent, but more unilateral. At her age, Im guessing it is difficult to love as powerfully and devotedly. There are contradictions in feelings and everything is measured in how much s/he has done for you v/s how much you have done for him/her. She can get very difficult to be around, but that's ok. At least she gives me a subject to think about, to write about?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I have been trying to make my blog more technologically friendly.
The one thing I have been trying to figure is how does one find out the staistics of people visiting ur blog. Blogger offers options, but my technologically challenged brain, doesnt seem to be getting too far. A pen and paper was far less complicated!

Monday, September 29, 2008

It is not a pleasant day today,
I don't know why I feel so sad,
Grandma said "It's the most inauspicious day in the Hindu Calendar"
As though, that would make a difference, to 'my' world, playing relay.

It is sunny
A bright day I say,
Something bad is going to happen,
Engulfed with dismay.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Many a thoughts topple over one another

I don't know which one to follow

Make space for 'nothing' to exist

More for something that is hollow.

Nothing, is what I want to do;

Nothing is what I want to be;

Nothing is something, that makes me feel complete;

And so be something, nothing can meet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I met a friend

A few days ago, I met a friend. An old friend. A friend who was once my teacher. Not a very liberal teacher, but a fun teacher never the less. Komilla Aunty, as we all addressed her, taught me to appreciate the humour in Edward Lear's poetry, the flow of events in Prophet Mohammed's life and the task of researching your subject through encyclopaedias. I probably would have never known of these joyful secrets, were it not for her and Shiv Niketan, my school, then.
Komilla Aunty made us write a journal every morning. It later became a habit for many years thereafter, until someone pryed into my diary one fine (for them of course) day. One of my last memories with Komilla Aunty, before I passed out of the school and she moved to newpaper office, is a picture of her sitting with mom along the log table in my class room. The stools used to be low and they would often talk after school hours, like this, when I would pass time wandering around the empty courtyard, as I was restricted from entereing the same room as them.
When Komilla Aunty had gone on a break, one time, it was Namita Aunty who made up for the absence of a class teacher. While Komilla Aunty gave us stars for doing well, Namita Aunty drew 'smileys'. Komilla Aunty would make a birthday boy/ girl stand before the classroom and have everyone share one nice memory they has of the boy/girl to make his day even more special. Namita Aunty used to bring chocolates for the birthday boys and girls along witha little sharpner in the form of teddy bears or hippos.
There was one time when Komilla Aunty went on her annual break, but this time she didnt come back. There was no offcial good-bye. Mummy said she had begun to work with a newspaper. I once say her thereafter at a birthday party. It felt nice.
I recently searched "Komilla Raute" on facebook. And the search didnt heed any results. I was slightly disppointed. But then I search just "Komilla" and there she was... a picture of hers. She still looks like what she did many years ago.
Then she was teacher, she always will be; but now she is my friend ( as Face Book puts it), she always was.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Its wet and muggy

It is wet. The rain hasn't stopped since yesterday.
Everytime I would step on the road, brown paint would splatter on my calf.
My nose has been running all day. I have a terrible cold. Lemon and honey in warm water is the cure, says somebody. The recipe sounds quite tempting. I mean, with a small shot of vodka tipped into that glass, a tempting cocktail it would make, don't you think?
Yesterday, we took a long drive at Worli. We saw a barn owl hovering in mid-air and we ate bread pudding. Yes, it wasn't as good as the one we get at Good-Luck Cafe, but it made for a good treat. Atleast I could taste its subtle sweetness, unlike today when I can't even taste something as sour as a raw lemon.
That is why I think I should gulp down a shot of vodka. It doen't have a taste that you can define. But its effect lingers and you can see the positive effects so obviously. Now a days, of course I prefer it the beer-way. But beer is cold and it is not good for my throat. It is not as if there has been a draught of alcohol in my life, lately... it is just that I am on a random wander!
There were seven bomb-blasts in Bangalore some days ago. There were 16 in Ahmedabad, just yesterday. Wonder if anything will shake Mumbai. I would get an extended holiday. Or maybe, with the rain gods playing football with thunder and lightening, the bomb might get wet and never explode. That would be a funny headline: "Bomb defuses due to dampening by rain!"
Haha, but for the misfortune of those who intended the chaos.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dear Tanvee...

A slow whine
will break through the quiet of the night,
you will wake to see
Little eyes, wide open in fright.

A thump, you'll hear
It's soft, but rough'
You'll peek to see
Little feet that are having it a little tough

A little hand,
Will clutch you finger;
When you turn, you'll meet
A tender someone, scared to linger.

Those unsure footsteps shall become confident strides,
That toothless grin will make way for a beautiful smile,
The delicate hands will mould creative shapes,
All, but in a little while.

And then your baby
Will become a beautiful girl,
She will make you proud,
And within her, you'll see the world unfurl.

P.S. Little Tanvee, I have not seen you yet, but I imagine you to be a bright little girl with round cheeks and long hair. By the time I meet you, you'll be recognising people and will have a set of likes and dislikes. It will be challenging, but I will definitely befriend you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Old habits die hard, old memories die slowly

The frangrance of eau-de-cologne always takes me down the nostalgic lane.

While i was still curled up in bed, Ajee would wake early at the break of dawn. The only birds you can hear in Mumbai at that hour are the crows. A steaming cup of tea would await her at the dining table. Ajoba and she would sip in silence. For whenever i saw this composition, i remember it to be very brief. Ajee would never linger over her first cup of tea, even as of today.

Picking up her thin white towel, blouse and petticoat she would begin her day with her bath. Luke warm water - only a bucketfull was sufficient. Another bucketfull of soapy water, she used to wash her saree.

By the time I awoke to her morning call and the sunlight seeping through the transperant curtains, often made from her old sarees, the first fragrance that my nose would catch was that of her eau-de-cologne. Probably that was the first smell my nose, when it was more tender, learnt to identify. So fresh the whiff was eventhough she didn't use much.

Ajee never really appreciates 'other' perfumes. "Such strong fragrances, you people use. It is almost suffocating." - she always comments, every time i walk out fresh from my bath. The Eau-de-cologne, however, has never seemed to entice me. Probably because I was introdued to the variety of the fragrance industry, at the beginning of my teenage or maybe because even today the eau-de-cologne comes packed in an open headed bottle to be unscrewed and poured onto... 'a hankey' probably? I mean what were the manufaturers thinking, when other companies were instroducing spray bottles or roll-ons.


This is probably only one of the many memories that Ajee has etched for me. Her banana milkshake (where she squished the banana in a bowl with her hand , sprinkled sugar and poured milk over it) became a part of my breakfast in the later years when i went to college very early in the morning. Her morning walks, story telling sessions, singing poetry on cold evenings as we sat around the fire in Lonavela... these moments have all, in some way, become a part of my life. Their impact will probably reflect when I grow older and have more time for people around, than alone for myself.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

it's been some time, it seems like a short time

I was extremely excited to see little Gaurav.
The place seemed like home. Familiar faces (this time) and everyone remembered my name.
When you have a name difficult to spell, sometimes it also becomes difficult to remember. But i realised how nice it feels when people remember your name. Especially people you have met not more than once. Probably I smiled onl once at many of those faces that called out to me while passing through the field. It was almost like i had ben a part of their extended family - the village.
Well the hills were cloudy and mornings were misty. I ate a lot of kafal: they are red berries that grow in abundance, once in two years. This was a lucky year! Every home i visited offered me kafal, not handfulls but bowl fulls. I often thought i was taking away all that they had, but when i stepped into their storage, i realised they had basketfulls - some to give, some to store and some to eat now. Eating these berries is a good pass time. They are sour and have a sweetish tinge to them. A tingling is left on your tongue for some time after you have eaten the first one and before you pop the next one into your mouth.
At Rashmi's place, i ate khurmani - apricots.
The trip was very satisfying. the girls were happy with their anklets.
The little kids were overjoyed about their new clothes.
Deepa and Kedar were most pleased with endless photos i took of little Gaurav.
I wish I could have stayed a little longer.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

im heading out!!!

i am a happy child.
the heat is getting to me now. by the time i dress well in pretty clothes, im soaked in buckets of sweat. plus then those train rides , everybody is always travelling in this city.
anyways the much awaited break is now here. i am heading to the hills again. to Avani! i am quite excited.
there will be a little new voice to welcome me. i have so many things for him - socks, diapers, jumpers, rattles! Oh... this is surely going to be fun.
i don't know a part of my journey, though. the trip from delhi to haldwani. im wondering if i will get a train ticket. or else a bus journey is my only option. it will be hot and sticky (not sweaty, though). i will be dropped at haldwani at 3 am. the shops will be shut. not even a place for a glass of lassi! Hmm, the wait will be till 7 am. i am not exactly looking forward to that.
but well, i know im so committed to this trip, that all will be well... or i will make it well!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Happiness ...

I had gone for a friend’s wedding to Amalner.
Amalner is small town in Jalgaon district in Maharashtra. The married women still wear large pearl studs in their noses. The village is divided into four quarters, one end where families of the Maratha caste are collected and another end with people of the Sonar (goldsmiths) clan are in majority. There is also an area where the Muslim community is concentrated. Wealth is in abundance and its show too.

In the narrow alleys of the town, you can now see Maruti 800 cars squeezed inbetween scooters and rusting bicycles. And here amidst this chaos, my friend positioned a shamiana, where loud music played for the better part of the night before his wedding. This was street - it was created was public use. It was developed to enhance interaction between unknown people and create bonds. We share and joys and sorrows. This was the most joyous time of my friend’s life and so everyone was happy to be a part of it. Imagine setting up a shamiana, along the road in Mumbai. You would have half the town honking at you from their cars and very soon the police would come knocking at your door.

For my friend of course, this was a DJ night. ‘A DJ night’ in a place, where majority of the public - participants in the wedding as well as on-lookers - would not know the full form of DJ. But as for my friend, well, he is now a Bombay-iite. He is a regular at the discos. He savours Fosters and Sula. And so what if the wedding party was insisted on being held at Amalner, the life of Bombay’s highlights could be brought down here as well. Never matter the charm of the twinkling lamps in his home’s window and colourful rangoli outside his doorstep. The remixed lavanis, those little boys with chest open shirts and the hip thrusts of half drunken men overwhelmed that all.

It was the wedding of a city returned boy. And so it happened the way he chose it to. Going by her town’s norms, the bride-to-be refused to join in the fun. She decided to have her own little party a few metres down the road, but ‘separately’ outside her ‘own’ home. But, once in their own surroundings, the women let down their hair. Watching even grandmas do an enthusiastic jig, not once, but again and again - was definitely pleasing. Who would say, that in an ordinary circumstance, these ladies don’t even lose their composure. The educational values and talents are all kept aside, once they get married. Thereafter, there is only one goal: to build a family and keep in together - ‘happily’. But in this atmosphere, they had a chance - to dress-up, dance, laugh and break free from those reins and that too without an objection from anybody. Neither their husbands and in-laws, nor their neighbours and sister-in laws; for right now they were like sisters in crime. The one phrase that defined this all was: A permitted path to their (until-then) overshadowed desire for liberalism.

There was one particular lady who did catch my attention though, when I saw her moving in a finely choreographed style to the music. She knew her steps and worked her toes in precision. Around her, the young girls followed. A little kid came running upto her every now and then. But she was not deterred. She would grab him in her arms and move along, never the less. She shied away from the camera lens, though. Some times I even saw her standing aside, with a man, who had the same kid in his arms. Later I learnt that he was her husband. The kid was her child. Then, she told me, “I used to be a folk-dance teacher. But now I am very busy with my little boy.” The friend’s family and her family had shared this common street for many years.

In small towns like these, neighbours and close friends are all a part of the extended family. They must help in washing vessels at the end of a feast, but at the same time they are made a part of the fun, whe the bride is adorned with jewels or when the room for the wedding night is decorated!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Paanwallah

He plays a lively role
In everybody’s life
With a shack that he throws open
On the road side.

Saffron-coloured powder
Marks his earlobes and forehead;
His dhoti-kurta, a striking white
But fingers are dotted red.

“Kulkatta” he says with pride,
When I ask,
About his roots, which reflect
In the expert movements of his hand at the task.

He lays the betel-nut leaf
A maroon paste spreads over it unevenly
Layers of gulkand, supari and sauf
The last of the ingredients are only sprinkled

The paanwallah smiles and chats as he prepares
This traditional betel-nut delicacy
Wrapping up the leaf, he dips it in syrup
And feeds you the first bite, as part of his proficiency.