Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Purani Jeans

I fit into my old pair of jeans today.

My size 26, low waist jeans.

The jeans I used to wear before I got pregnant last November.

The jeans my brother had predicted I'd be able to squeeze into by my birthday next year in January. I beat his prediction by 17 days.

The jeans which I have been waiting to wear, ever since my daughter was born 4 months and 26 days ago.

The jeans which for me is my identity, my self, my individuality, my confidence, my 'me'.

Sayema did a connect with me on Purani Jeans today on Radio Mirchi. I had no idea that the show I had conceptualised and named five and a half years ago, would become such a personal reality and delight for me one day.

I love my old jeans. My Purani Jeans.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I have not been able to get this one thought out of my head.

What if, on that fateful night in Mumbai, some of the guests at the hotel - maybe those who were in point blank range of the terrorists' rifles and had sub zero chances of survival - had decided on the spur of the moment to hurl themselves at the gunmen, instead of towards the floor? What if four or five of them, emulating th jihadis, had decided to say bugger all to personal safety and in a moment of insane passion, had decided to take the gunmen down, with them?

Nearly 200 people dead. More than 300 injured. Over 500 people against a mere 5.

Just imagine if, the next time something like this happens, a few regular, common, normal Indians just decide to become as suicidal as these fanatical men, and make up their mind to take the bullet head on, but not lying down?

What if some of those guests at the Taj had gotten disgusted enough with all these terror attacks to forget for a moment about instinctive survival? What if eight or ten or fifteen people had jumped each rifle wielding maniac?

Sure. The first few would have definitely died. But even with rifles and grenades, its impossible to stand up to over a dozen people charging at you, people disgusted enough, frustrated enough and pissed off enough to risk certain death.

Can you imagine if that happens the next time? Can you imagine what'll happen if these jehadis actually pass on their frenzied way of being to us? Where we are matched as equals with them - because just like them, we no longer care if we die. For the larger cause.

Except, in our case, the larger cause is Peace & Security.

Just imagine.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


This good looking man is GORKY. RD Burman fan, film maker and best friend. GORKY insists that a passing mention of him in my previous post is mighty inadequate and he must be given an exclusive, in bold, all caps. So here it is. A post specifically about this phenomenon in my life called GORKY. And yes, every mention, I promise, will be in all caps and in bold. Just for the pleasure of embarassing the daylights out of him. I hope many of our common friends see this post. Just so they can ensure he never lives this one down.

So then. First things first. Why does he have such an unusual name? Well, a bit like the Namesake. His dad was reading a book by Maxim Gorky when he was born. As GORKY says, thank god he wasn't reading Munshi Premchand. Ha.

GORKY came into my life when I was in college. For the first 2 years, as we got to know each other, spent hours drinking tea and sharing cigarettes at Jai Singh Lawns at Hindu College, I mistakenly believed that GORKY studied somewhere else and only came to Hindu to hang out with pals. It was only in the third year that I realised that not only was he a Hinduiite, he was apparantly in my class. I hadn't realised it over 2 years because he never attended any classes. How he managed to pass is a bit of a mystery. I suspect it had something to do with a lot of luck and some of my notes.

After college, GORKY moved to Mumbai and after months of scrounging around in that grand phenomenon called the 'mumbai struggle', he finally joined Kundan Shah (of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron Fame) by telling him an appallingly bad joke about a man in a desert with a camel. GORKY had been shadowing and stalking Shah for days before this joke-telling meeting, and when finally Shah asked him if he had a sense of humour, he discovered quickly that what GORKY had was more akin to a nonsense of humour, and hastily hired him. I've always had this suspicion that he basically wanted to get the meeting over with as quickly as possible, after that disgusting joke. A few really bad movies later - Shah was obviously half the man and less than half the director, without his charismatic and quirky writer by his side, Ranjit Kapoor - GORKY was back to struggling and to one meal a day. So he did something extremely strange. He went to Indonesia to make TV serials in Bhaasa. Ya, I know, kinda weird. Whoever thought Indonesians needed us to make their serials for them. But apparantly they did. When GORKY went there, they were still, in terms of production quality, inhabiting the DD days. Apparantly introducing things like slow motion and montage made GORKY a veritable legend in that land. Wheee.

Djakarta is also where GORKY met his future wife, Gul. They made these phenomenally slick, but story wise largely Ekta Kapoor inspired, serials together - what a blissful way to fall in love.

Today GORKY lives in Mumbai and makes TV serials. He and his wife are the producers of Chaand Ke Paar Chalo on NDTV Imagine. One day GORKY will make a film. A great film. An award winning film. And he has promised to invite me on stage when he receives his award. If he has not managed to meet my daughter by then - she's four months old and he still hasn't seen her, which is unforgivable - I too will refuse to attend the awards ceremony.

Now, why is this post about GORKY? Well, largely because he said he wanted a solo. But partially also because, like most other people, my mind too has been caught up with myriad thoughts on what FAITH actually means in today's world. Ever since the Mumbai terror strike, many of us have been debating issues of violence and hatred, liberalism versus intolerance, hatred vis-a-vis love, inclusion in the face of exclusion, world peace as opposed to an Us vs Them mentality. These issues are hugely complex, riddled with potholes and prone to many layers of interpretations.

What has all that got to do with my best friend? Well, in a way, nothing. But then, there is this one thing. Once in a while, very rarely, one is fortunate enough to have a person in one's life who becomes the measure of one's value system, of good and of bad, of what relationships are about, what constitutes the emotion of trust. On countless ocassions, I have found myself referring to my friendship with GORKY to understand wildly disparate things in my life: my relationships, my interactions, my choices, my priorities. My husband knows that GORKY is a reference point in my life that helps me unravel many complicated knots, solve many thorny issues. Everytime I have a problem with somebody - anybody - I ask myself the simple question: "if this was a situation between me and GORKY instead of me and this other person, would I still react the same way?" I have been amazed at the number of times my anger, mistrust or hatred for that other person has vanished immediately. Whenever I doubt a person's integrity, loyalty or committment, I put GORKY in that person's place and realize how easy it is to empathise, trust and forgive. Because I choose to trust, all my reactions flow from that trust. Anger dissipates, suspicion dissolves, hurt vanishes. Because I choose to understand, my responses are born out of that understanding. And I find myself a better, warmer, less angry, more generous person.

GORKY doesn't even know that I do this. But I have figured on countless occassions how simple and easy human interaction can be, because of this blessed friendship in my life.

These aggressors, who are waging war on the world, obviously believe everybody is against them. That their very identity is threatened, that sanctioned by a holy book, it is their beholden duty to wage battle against those they consider pagan. These young men have been brainwashed into believing that injustice has been done to their ilk, and it is time to seek vengance. These young men are misguided, confused and very very violent. They are extremely intelligent, very focused, very committed individuals. As a pal of mine said a few days back - with a different orientation, these same men would be an asset to any country and institution. But these young men have been taught to disbelieve, disassociate and distrust. And their distrust begets greater distrust, casts larger shadows of suspicion over the whole world, makes countries retaliate in anger and horror towards their communities, thereby fulfilling the wishful prophecy that they are discriminated against. The inexorable wheel of mistrust turns and becomes a vicious cycle.

In this atmosphere of hatred, suspicion and mistrust, I often juxtapose such complexities with a simplicity in my life called GORKY. A friend, a trusted person, somebody who I will always believe is right, before I believe that he is wrong. When GORKY can't keep his word, I don't doubt his intention, I understand his situation. When GORKY is incommunicado, I don't think he has forgotten me, I realise how screwed his schedule must be. When GORKY says something hurtful, I don't examine his words, I examine what in me caused him to say what he did.

I do not extend this spirit, this expansive way of being to too many other people in my life. I am a lesser, meaner, more angry, less loving person towards many other people some of the time, some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time.

That says something. It says Trust is not born out of people's actions always. Sometimes it's the other way round. Actions and words are born out of a space called Trust. Something as tiny and microcosmic as a personal friendship gives me cues on how human behavior may be genuinely impacted.

What we need desparately in this world today is that ability: to see the right before the wrong. To give the benefit of the doubt before the rejection of judgement. To make bridges and not trenches, to first believe that nobody is against me, there is no agenda, there is no conspiracy theory, that life is fairly simple and the whole world is not out to insult me, my faith and my identity. To chill. To relax in the knowledge that the other guy does not weild a sword. Before we question the validity of the agenda that these violent young men have, we need to question why they have an agenda at all. Why any of us need to have an agenda at all. Even before the whole thing is dangerous and tragic, it's all so melodramatic, so immature and foolish. It's like kids playing at chor sipahi or GI Joes. Simulating Star Wars or Spiderman. It's a fantasy led make belief world with the maturity of a 5 year old. Who on earth has time for agendas between EMIs and paycuts? Who the hell needs to lead a diatribe against a community when we hardly notice the individual? In a world where there is barely enough time to love, where do we find all this time to hate?

My friendship with GORKY simplifies many things in my head for me. It tells me how easy human interaction can be. It shows me how agenda-less all communication can be. It proves to me how simple Trust can be.

The GORKY factor in my life is one that whispers gently: There is another way. There is ALWAYS another way.

Ramu ki Aag

Poor RGV. He could well take a note out of Billy Joel's song book and lament "We Didn't Start the Fire". The fuss around his Taj visit, the full blooded condemnation of his trip to the site and the public outrage around his red circled face on news channels has left even the phlegmatic film maker on the back foot.

I don't get what the brouhaha is all about. Isn't there far more worth concerning ourselves with, than who was part of the hapless VRD's entourage to the site? What does it matter to the issues of national security whether a film maker or a CM's actor son went along or not? After all, barely 96 hours before their visit, the Taj had been visited by those whose entry should have been checked and stopped with far greater alacrity. They went in with guns blazing, destroying our very sense of personal security and well being, and now we were going nuts about RGV visiting the charred and crumbling remains?

Hey, some of my friends in Mumbai went to the site too. Maybe it was morbid curiosity, who knows. But that's only human. We saw the drama unfold on TV for days. Why blame somebody for actually wanting to go and see the place where it all took place?

Here's my guess on what happened. Ritesh boy told daddy dear that he wanted to come along whenever daddy visited. Makes sense - daddy has security. Ritesh wouldn't need to take along his own (if he still harbours illusions of being mobbed that is, after his flop career).

When daddy dear called son to join him, son was with RGV. So Ramu decided to tag along.

Isn't that fairly harmless? Deshmukh surely wasn't going there to give his son and the film maker a 'tour' as the news channels alleged. Even if he fails in the sensitivity department, he can't be that stupid. Not after what happened to RR Patil and Shivraj Patil.

But more importantly, here's what I am genuinely nonplussed about. Why on earth is everybody up in arms if Ram Gopal Verma wants to make a movie around the South Mumbai terror attack? Why is it the sign of ultimate crassness and of a profiteering mentality? Why is the very thought repugnant and horrible?

Film making is a creative art. It is a form of personal expression and a vibrant way to make a statement, show one's point of view and speak one's mind. Yes, sure it's also a profitable business, but it can as much easily run into huge losses. And the reason the commercial stakes are so high is because making a movie also costs much more, takes much more time, physical labour and coordination effort than say, putting pen to paper. You can't just wait for inspiration to strike, you have to do a lot of spadework before a movie idea get translated onto celluloid.

After the terror attack, poets have written poems, journalists have written essays. If a musician performs a piece, a composer composes a special tribute or a painter puts on canvas his personal horror and grief we will stand up and laud their efforts. We will read articles, share poetry, forward blog posts and treat them all as one consolidated creative expression of solidarity.

But if somebody wants to make a movie on the same subject, we will call him crass.

My heart goes out to all my very dear film makers friends in Mumbai - Imtiaz, Gorky, Bijesh, Chandu. I can't help but wonder what they are to do, if they wish to express their anger, hurt, horror, grief and frustration. Must they curb and bottle their feelings simply because their medium of expression is celluloid?

I am a writer. Two night after the attack a poem came to me and it is up on my blog since then. I've got emails, comments, smses and telephone calls about its relevance and validity. What if a film maker wants express how he is feeling about the same issue? He is not allowed to work in the only medium he finds himself able to? That is crass and profiteering simply because a film has to be relased at the box office and be put through the vagaries of hit and flop, while a poem need not be sent to a publisher, a painting may not see a galary?

Let's get real. It doesn't cost that much to write a poem or paint a picture. They can be personal forms of expression while a movie necessarily has to be a public form, depending on an audience for its very survival. That does not mean that people working with the medium have simply become desensitized businessmen. It's also their chosen field of creativity. Cut them some slack.

Cut poor RGV some slack. The hilarious sms floating around about him is a telling comment on how things can get blown out of proportion, with neither logic, nor perspective:
Ram Gopal Verma Ki Kamaai, Do Sarkaar Banai, Ek Giraai!!

Ha ha. Yeh aag bichaarey Ramu ne nahin lagaai!

Monday, December 01, 2008

That Thing Called Home

I am overwhelmed.
By the simplicity of our lives,
Holding the largeness of our love.

Like a seashell holding the ocean.
Like a humble meal hiding exotic spices.
Like a skylark unmindful of the mysteries of its song.
Like a night breeze on a balcony fragrant with drunken blooms.

I am amazed.
At the ordinariness of living.
That fills out with the breath of life.

Quote Hanger

If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside. - Robert X. Cringely

Friday, November 28, 2008

यह शहर मेरा डरा सा है

इस शहर को फिर आबाद करो

किसी भी खुदा तक जो पहुंचे

ऐसी कोई फरियाद करो

वो शहर जो लाखों की पनाह थी

आज वो ख़ुद बेपनाह सा है

वो जहाँ भीड़ छटती न थी

आज वही शहर तन्हा सा है

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hey, Its Love!

This falling in love business is an extremely tricky one.

For starters, it has no sense of time or timing. It comes upon you when you are most unprepared, and it stays away when every fibre in your being is prepared and anticipating.

Secondly, it comes with its ancilliary complicated emotions. Emotions that are bloody tough to handle and which come as these unwanted latch ons with the primary feeling. You'd like to shake these unwelcome additions off, but you never seem able to. Feelings like anxiety, worry, tension, insecurity, fear.

Yes. I am in love. All over again. After 5 years of an intense relationship and 2 years of marriage, I need to tell R. That its official. That I am in love.

And boy. Am I glad I wrote my post Nappy Rash when I did. Because if I hadn't, I'd have clean forgotten exactly how tough this road to amore had been. How fraught with misgiving and fear, how seeped in inadequacy and self doubt...

Yes, its official. I am in love with our daughter. I can't imagine when I said 'I can't cope, its too crazy, I am overwhelmed...."

Because now, no mile is too long, no night too exhausting, no effort too much.

I am in love. I adore her. I dote on her. I could do 48 hour days for her. And still smile.

Pyaar hai hi aisi kutti cheez, kya karein.

So R.... eat your heart out. You have competition. Serious competition! :-)

(except, he seems to be falling in love with the same person, with the same intensity... so.... um.... boy... competition was never this tough....)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Over Exposed

What was the dream again?

Somebody tell me.

What was that thing, so far?

Behind the shadow lines?

Where did it go?

That train that left from nowhere?

How was it sung?

That song with no one tune?

I laughed, I remember.

It was crystal lilac blue.

And it took on hues

From the seas and sand.

But then again, I could be wrong.

Perhaps the prisms in my mind,

Left me blind.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Genetic Coding

She’s made of passion,
She’s made of fear
She’s made of broken things held dear

She’s a song left half sung,
Beside blue seas
She’s the many half faces
Of the many ‘you’s, ‘me’s
She’s the telephone chat
We never quite finished
She’s the empty glass
And the refill in it
She’s the books of poetry
Inscribed, exchanged
She’s the music copied
The moods arranged

She’s the misunderstanding that got resolved
She’s that puzzle called us. The one we solved.

7th October 2008

The Trade of Tradition

I bring my clutter, you bring your mess,
Some floral patterns; sticks of incense
A book leafed through, some prayers read,
Patterned afternoons, what to have with bread
When to bring out the wine, how the tea is had
What god to cherish, which demon was bad
New clothes, old habits, which magazines to scan
What teams to support, in whose life span
The cricket chased
Through lazy days
The music we bought
The poets we sought….

It’s an exchange of ritual.
That cluttered thing,
This trade of tradition
That lovers bring.

6th Oct 2008: Durga Pujo, Mahasaptami

Friday, October 03, 2008

Half a Spoon of Sugar in my Tea

Lets love... but not passionately
Lets protest... but not vehemently
Lets talk in half whispers...
Lets weigh life out in half measures...
Lets just have half a spoon of sugar in my tea

Lets sulk... but still talk of the necessary stuff
Lets quit... but still take the ocassional puff
Lets form only half pictures,
Lets sense life out in half pleasures
Lets just have half a spoon of sugar in my tea

Lose weight but don't be skinny
Make friends but not soul mates
Taste everything but don't pig
Eat all your meals in quarter plates

Don't go overboard
Don't overdo it
Hold back a bit
Don't screw it

Give up sweets but don't make your coffee bitter
Don't laugh out loud, can't you just titter?
Exercise, but exercise caution too
Have a view but pander to other notions too

Why are you so trigger happy?
Why are you so sugar rushed?
Why can't you just have half a spoon of sugar in your tea?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

To a Higher God

There is a disturbing, scary wave in the air in our country today. It is wave that follows every bomb blast and precedes every festival.

It's more sinister than a wave of communal violence or aggression or hatred. It is a wave called communal identity. Suddenly each one of us are retreating back into our rigid religious identities and instead of opening ourselves up to a wider sense of self, we are shrinking into narrower definitions of who we are.

If things continue in this light, soon India will once again fall prey to the worst communal violence ever, maybe not seen since the days of partition. From isolated bomb blasts and area specific rioting, we will rapidly flame into the worst nationwide conflagrations ever. With global intolerance peaking against every community possible except one's own, this Us vs Them fight is poised at a nasty, sinister place.

It's simple. If we don't stop being "Us", the rest of the world will not stop being "Them". So lets take a first step.

If you click on the url provided below, you will find some of the most evocative prayers from every religion. I request you to please put your name against a prayer that is NOT from a religion you were born into. And if you like, then a pledge below that.

It does not matter if you are an atheist or an agnostic. The very idea is to reject a preconceived identity and be willing to put one's name next to an alien one. If every Indian can do that and truly believe that no, they will NOT rot in hell for doing this, then maybe this country will stop exploding every day.

After you've done your bit, and if you feel strongly about this issue, please do mail this link out to as many people as you can. What is important is that this philosophy be passed on: that there is a higher God than the petty gods who create hatred between us all. And yes, it is possible to pray together, crossing all barriers, for peace and prosperity in this world.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

That's the plight of this poor sad crippled corrupt country. And who can blame anyone? In a nation where so much goes wrong, who is going to notice the few times when they don't? Or rather, who is going to notice that sometimes when something goes wrong, it may not be because of the flawed character of our confusing country?

The way we, the westernised, urbanised, public school educated, english speaking cosmopolitan lot, jump to blame the entire system and machinery here whenever we have an unpleasant experience, reminds me of these lines from Tagore's wonderful poem Puraaton Bhritto (the old faithful servant):
Bhooter Moton Chehaara Jaimon
Nirbodh Oti Ghor
Jaa Kichhu Harai Ginni Baulen
Keshta Baitai Chor!

Translated, it means: [The old servant Keshta] has a face like a ghost, and brains softer than pulp; and whenever anything gets misplaced around the house, the mistress automatically assumes that Keshta is the thief!

Tagore's poem of course goes on to paint a tragi-comic, pathos filled picture of this old faithful - a fixture in homes of yore. And similarly misunderstood and short changed, yet loved and cherished, in a curiously confused way by the employers.

Today our country's lot is a bit like Keshta's. Whatever goes wrong, we are quick to jump to the conclusion that it is because of the inherent "there is something rotten in the state of Denmark" situation here.

I had an interesting experience today. A friend of mine had to attend a special function at 8:45am. where his autistic daughter had to perform Gulzar's evocative bhajan "Humko Mann Ki Shakti Dena". Needless to say, he was excited, and made sure he reached the venue well within the time that his ex wife had specified.

When I spoke to him around noon to find out how the performance went, he had reached his office. And was mighty pissed off. In response to my query he rued, "I didn't get to see her sing. I was late for work and the performance got held up because the minister who's the chief guest, was late."

"Late? By how many hours?" I asked flabbergasted, "Its noon now, and the performance was scheduled for 8:45 I thought?!?"

"Are you new to this country?" he asked gruffly. India bashing, by the way, is my friend's favourite passtime. His tirade against all that is woefully wrong here, never seems to end. And his hatred for this country is only matched by his passionate admiration of the west and the values they espouse. Values, that I must confess, I hold very dear too, and often uphold in the face of classic Indian sentimentality and lack of clarity. Though I can't say I share my friend's total rejection of this country. Simply can't relate to that.

On further enquiry I was even more disgusted by the morning's episode. Apparantly the function was to recognise and reward institutions engaged in special education; the minister was to give away the awards and the kids were to perform. Hence my friend's daughter was there representing her institute - Action for Autism.

"Hang on a minute," I said, incensed. "So that means ALL the kids there were special children, right? Either autistic or spastic or retarded....?"

"Yup" my friend fumed. "And they were made to wait for over 2 hours for the minister for social justice and empowerment, Meira Kumar."

Needless to say, the story made me furious. True to my trigger happy style, I instantly started working the phones. Being with the TOI group has its advantages. Within the hour I had passed on the story to the programming head of Radio Mirchi Delhi as well as 2 different editors from the TOI, as well as the brand head of Indian Express.

Which is when my friend got a bit miffed with me - after all, not everybody wants to spend a regular work day rubbing ministers the wrong way. An argument on integrity versus hypocrisy followed. He agreed to do the story. And that is when he decided to cross check the facts with his ex wife. Ex wife confirmed the facts but couldn't be sure.

At some point my friend realised that with such a vague and unclear picture, it wasn't right to give a story out to media. So when one of the journos finally called him, rather than giving some half clear account, he passed on the phone number of A.F.A so that the journo could get her story directly from the institute.

The journo called back in five minutes. Apparantly the minister was only 15 minutes late. The kids had all been called early for rehersals. The performance had happened as scheduled.

My friend had missed it because he had been told by his ex wife to be there at 8:45, and he had planned his day accordingly. And the reason he'd been given that time is because she had been asked to reach by then, and she had obviously not bothered herself with further details on what was rehearsal time and what time the performance was. After all, she had to be there early anyway. Perfectly reasonable, perfectly understandable.

Obviously I sent one round of apologies out to the various people I'd contacted. They all generously said it was ok - guess they are used to false leads.

A slight bit of confusion handled without too much fuss. But what I was really taken up by was that mid day conversation about "the sad state of India".

India. Guilty until proven Innocent.

No matter who actually gets what facts wrong, at the end of the day, it's a classic case of 'Keshta Baitai Chor'.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Lady and The Throne

One is my mother and the other my daughter. Can't tell which one is more pleased!!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Neck to Neck

I was telling Ranjit the other night that while many of the things that have been said about motherhood have seemed like hyperboles and cliches to me, and, as I'd mentioned in my post titled Nappy Rash, a lot of it appear to be hand downs from male fantasies, there is one strange thing that does happen.

The committment to the child's well being, the sense that nothing, absolutely nothing in the world should make her uncomfortable, is an almost matter of fact setting I find in myself.

It's weird - it doesn't feel like a new emotion, or a wonderous new sentiment. There, in fact, is nothing sentimental about it. It's so part of me, it's almost as though the feeling always existed, and has simply been switched on.

And the sheer unacceptability of her discomfort is, as I said, almost cut and dried; matter of fact. Her pain is inconceivable, like walking naked down the road is inconceivable, like peeing in your drawing room in inconceivable, like not eating for a week is inconceivable - ya sure all these things can happen, but one doesn't think of them in the normal course of things.

They are simply not done.

My baby in pain? Yeah, happens probably. But it's just not done.

Getting Cheeky

Can't even begin to tell you how it feels, my friends!!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bottle The Bitch

No, I'm not talking about pickling and bottling any villanous bitch in my life.

I am talking about bottles. And what big bitches they are in a new mother's life. I have envisaged many scenarios in life, I am fully aware of the 'aggressive person' tag that I carry and therefore have often thought there could various types of rivals in my life... funnily enough, there never were any. Maybe its arrogance; maybe I never considered anybody good enough to be a rival in the school, college or the work space.... call it absent mindedness; maybe I never noticed when one popped up... whatever the case may be, the fact remains that I don't remember ever having a rival....

Until now.

When I was planning and shopping for my new baby, right up to the 7th month of my pregnancy, I bought many things. My mother in law, sisters in law and my mother too put together a lot of stuff they thought I'd need.

Therefore, one of the very first things I acquired were bottles, bottle nipples and bottle sterilisers. Simple enough, you'd think, right?


As soon as the baby's been born, and your stitches hurt, you look like a bloated balloon and all you want to do is sleep, one ham handed nurse appears out of nowhere and starts squeezing your breasts pretty much with the same delicate touch and sensitivity as one juices a lemon. With pretty much the same results. A reluctant sticky trickle.

Then she makes a disgusted face, picks up your precious wrinkled bundle and stomps off. You look on bewildered.

Thats when the head shaking and tongue clicking begins. Congratulations. A nemesis called Breast Feeding has just entered your life.

Little did I know when the bottles, nipples and sterilisers were acquired, that the very use of them will be considered akin to black magic. All real mothers, all good mothers ONLY BREASTFEED.

Get used to these two words. In large font, bold, all capitals. They will come back to haunt you, new mom, every day, every moment, every miserable inadequate trickle by trickle in those first few nightmarish weeks. Doctor's prescriptions to friends' advice, notes comparing colleagues to internet information, slightly older new moms to slightly interfering old maids - everyone and everything will extol the virtues of great milk engorged breasts and of mothers who have gushed out rivers of the white nectar for their babies to draw sustenance from.

Every single paediatrician's prescription I have so far - whether I went for my baby's vaccination or a common cold - had those formidable words printed at the bottom: BREAST FEED ONLY. NO BOTTLE FEED. The icing on the cake was what I noticed on my second visit to the doctor's clinic, on the soft board in the reception area - believe it or not, a roll call of honour, of all those babies who'd never been given the bottle! With a little 'take a bow, mothers' congratulatory line at the bottom. The sheet of paper had row upon neat row of babies' names, mothers' names and mothers' mobile numbers - apparantly these milk flowing demi goddesses had happily consented to having their phone numbers plastered all over a doctor's reception because they didn't mind their privacy being invaded if they could be of some help to us hapless lot.

Ok, so you're still not getting the drift? Whats the big deal you ask?

The big deal my dear is the simple truth that some women simply don't have enough milk. They need to either add on formula feed to breast feed, or at times, totally substitute with formula. HOWEVER, when you are a new mom, you NEVER seem to come across such women. All the moms you meet were milk river gangotris. They had so much milk their breasts hurt. They had so much milk they had to let it all out during their baths. They had so much fucking milk that their babies gagged on the mighty streams.


Except for one very dear very honest friend who called me from the U.S. and told me not to feel guilty about formula at all, none of my contemporaries said anything about inadequacy. They were all splendidly adequate. If anything, they didn't know what to do with all this milk of human kindness. They spurted, they soaked, they overflowed. Paucity? They had never even heard of such a problem apparantly. I was a freak.

Well, my baby is nearly four months old now and I know I am not a freak. Many women face exactly the same problem. Some don't realise or recognise it. Some are in denial. Some hide it. And yes, of course some also genuinely don't have it. But guess what? The genuine ones don't send you on guilt trips. They tell you to chill, relax and enjoy your baby, and let good old lactogen step in to save the day if need be.

God bless my mother, my mother in law, my gynaecologist and my husband who relentlessly encouraged me to give my baby girl the bottle whenever I felt inadequate, restless or tired. God bless them for being practical, sane and yes, very importantly, funny. Thank god for my nut of a husband who kept saying - "look at me, bottle fed and VP at a radio network. Look at you - bottle fed and another VP at the same network." Idiot.

Their support helped me cope with the fact that I had had a baby in my mid 30s, and after my history of huge gynae issues it was a miracle in itself that I'd conceived naturally and delivered a healthy child. Their lack of judgement of me or my milk supply allowed me to rediscover my real self sooner, because I could step out for a meal or a coffee and not worry about my baby's next feed. Their refusal to see the output of my breasts as a sign of my competence as a mother helped me get back to a dieting and exercising regimen sooner than I could have otherwise.

Now that I have gotten over the guilt and the angst and the sheer sense of failure, I hear of new mothers who can't go anywhere or do anything with themselves because their babies are stuck to their breasts like leeches. Hey, thats exactly what I went through. 5 hours non stop and the baby still cried and still wanted more. First of all, I didn't want to be cruel to the poor kid: she obviously wasn't getting enough. Secondly, hey, is it a crime, I DIDN'T LIKE BEING THAT WAY. Stuck, rooted, bored, fat, useless, brain dead, baby breasted and glassy eyed. I am sorry for not being sorry. I am sorry for opting out of that way of being. I don't think that that kind of exhausting, demotivating and completely energy sapping way of life was the only way to prove to the world that I was a caring mom and my baby was my biggest priority.

Heck. Why should their be any way to prove anything to the world? What my baby means to me is something for me to know and her to feel. A few bottles of formula will not determine how much I love my child.

Trust me, I am not making a big deal of a small issue. If you are planning to biologically produce a a baby, or if you partner is, believe me, this will become a bigger deal than you can even begin to imagine.

So whether you are male or female, in case you are planning a family, here's my little bit of advice: do certainly breast feed / encourage your partner to breast feed because it is genuinely beneficial, genuinely healthy for the baby. Nothing compares to breast milk in terms of nutrition, immunity and basic bone building. But, please please please don't kill yourself over it if you find that you can't do it, or can only do it partially. It is ok. Genuinely ok.

Because, like my mom said: if you go insane, its unlikely to help your baby.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Month of Motherhood

1. A "wailing baby" graduates from being an irritating experience to a heart breaking one.

2. Within a span of 30 days, your middle of the night thoughts gradually shift from "god wish I could go back to sleep" to "god wish she could be comfortable again"

3. Smells stop bothering you. Any kind of smells.

4. You change 5 times a day, for the first time in your life, not for vanity.

5. Checking email becomes the biggest adventure of your life.

6. Taking a bath becomes a luxury and a high point.

7. You develop a whole new sense of respect for a phenomenon called 'silence'.

8. All sense of personal privacy goes for a merry toss. You can expose your breasts in front of nearly anyone.

9. You can't remember what lipstick looks like.

10. You make the world's most boring conversation.

11. You look like shit. A lot of shit - since you're grossly overweight.

12. Your concept of time gets redfined into 2 hour slots.

13. You define 4 hours of undisturbed sleep as a "relaxed easy night".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Short Bark of a Poem

If I wasn't so tired, I'd be in rage.

Only neanderthal men refuse to change nappies in this day and age.

Nappy Rash

Now, I must word this post most carefully, because I do hope that when my daughter grows up she will be sufficiently interested in me to want to visit my blogs - current or old - and read up on old posts.

So nowhere must I express a sentiment in a manner that is either inaccurate, or exaggerated, or unfair.

However, I also hope that my daughter's mind, moulded as it will be in her formative years by the way her parents think, will be lateral enough, if nothing else, to understand and empathise with the sentiments expressed ahead. And she will not take personal slight.

The bald fact remains: adorable though new born babies are, the first few weeks after their arrival is not fun. No, its neither an enriching, nor a fulfilling, nor a heart stopping, nor an "I was born for this" nor a "this is the true meaning of life" type of experience.

It's plain exhuasting. And bloody dull.

And whoever first introduced the myth that its the most fulfilling moment in a woman's life, was definitely a man.

Nappies and bottles, feeding schedules and milk adequacy, farts and burps, baths and belches, diapers and sleep deprivation, is not the stuff that "life's purposes" are made of. Plus, if the baby cries in that especially heart wrenching baby way, there is distress to top it all. You hate to see her in pain. And you want to do everything in your power to ease it. And sometimes you can't.

No, its not fun.

What sees me through however, is the constant image of a toothless toddler chattering to me. Or a voluble five year old asking me ceaseless questions. Or a confident ten year old telling me exactly how things are. Or a confused teenager not quite being able to articulate her shadow world of pain and perplexity. Or an opinionated young woman taking me on with her radical political views.

Every time I wake up in the middle of a tired night, and try and prise open sleep stuck eyes, what gives me the ability to smile at that tiny, helpless, vulnerable infant cradled in my arms, is not that present moment but the dream of so many future moments when I will tell her about these back breakingly exhausting nights; her giggles and my belated indulgent admonitions.

Basically, a strict eye for hygiene may well prevent my tiny one from getting nappy rash. But women like me tend to get a metaphoric layer of it over the surface of our minds, during these first few crazy weeks.

The fact remains, my darling Shaayari, my beautiful little piece of alive poetry, that I already love you more than I am capable, and to the infinite limit of my heart's capacity. However, that doesn't prevent me from wishing that your neck was firm, that you were potty trained and you could talk to me and tell me about your troubles, rather than leaving me guessing and fretting at your every wail.

As for all my single women friends who are still contemplating the idea of having a child: remember that most of what is said about new mothers and their experience of motherhood is a product of male fantasy - a fantasy that many women have adopted and started believing to be true through years of socialisation and psychological percolation.

I personally have come to believe that there is nothing especially different between a man and a woman when it comes to parenting. It's an acquired skill and a slowly developed taste towards worlds of delight. The first few weeks are formidable, and while a man can chose to participate at will in those few weeks, a woman has been declared by nature and by history as the primary care giver. She, her mind and her body have no choice in the matter. She cannot frown, display irritation and walk into another room. She cannot pull a pillow over her ears in the middle of the night and she cannot shake off the sheer guilt and in-built separation pangs and anxiety, should she even attempt to take off for a couple of hours - hey, I've tried this one, so I know. It doesn't help.

The woman is bound. By hormones and sociologically adapted and mutated genes, and by nature's inherent building blocks and by social expectations.

The fact that her mind may have become more androgynous in the intervening centuries does not help. Because nothing else in evolution has kept up with that one rapid change. Neither the rest of her, nor the process of pregnancy nor the needs of an infant.

So ladies, be forewarned. It is the dream of a future delight that should tip the decision in favour of procreating. Not the anticipation of any sense of immediate fulfillment. Because as far as my limited experience goes, the latter is a bit of a handed down myth; the former a genuinely beautiful vision.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Daughter and I

Not uploading any images of Shaayari just yet, since she still mostly looks like an old man. And since all new born babies look the same, will spare all visitors to the blog the insincerity of having to exclaim "oh how cute" and "looks just like so-and-so".... the moment she stops looking like a fried egg, I promise to load many pictures.

She has grey eyes, by the way. All smokey, yet sharp. Quite lovely.

In the meanwhile, will give in to a moment of vanity and upload this picture that Ranjit took of the two of us in hospital, barely a day or so after Shaayari was born. I think Ranj captured quite a quiet little moment. I like the mood of the picture. And the glow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

All Out of Scheduled Status

Apparantly my husband can give the gujjars Scheduled Tribe status. Especially if his train reaches Mumbai 8 hours late and arrives at 6 in the evening instead of 10 in the morning. Or at least, the gujjars and meenas seem to think so.

What else would explain their ripping off a part of the tracks that the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani runs on and therefore forcing this super fast express to divert via Bhopal and then reach Mumbai Central? The people whom we consider to be decision makers and powers-that-be, in our dubious democratic structure, will never travel that route, never face that inconvenience and never get impacted by this novel form of protest.

Oh. Their conscience is meant to get pricked because my husband's day has just gotten wasted. Yup. Righto. I can see that happening.

My husband, on the other hand, DOES get hugely impacted by this loss of a precious Monday. He's traveling to Mumbai to pick up a duplicate of his high school certificate from his alma mater, since he's misplaced the original. And the reason he decided to go by train is, firstly, to control expenses and secondly, to avoid rain related interminable flight delays and diversions. Ever since we heard about that infamous Jet Airways flight that took off from Delhi at 8:30 in the evening and arrived in Mumbai 5:30 the next morning, none of us really want to see the inside of an aircraft.

However, all this clever budget management and pre planning didn't really help. Because the gujjars believe that if my husband gets disgustingly delayed in picking up his high school certificate, somehow they will get their scheduled tribe status.

An obscure bit of logic that escapes me. But then, I must be dense.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Singled Out

Rainy days and leafless trees
Silhouetted birds in grey frame freeze
A random city crossing from a car window
At a red light pause in life.

Today I am a wife.

Yesterday I was single
And pain had this grey blue touch.
Today, it gets too much.

Sad songs and rain songs and staring out of windows
Needs a solitude of sorts.

The hurt and pain
And the entire bargain
Within the dark framework of twosomeness
No longer retains the rainy day quality

Of a sad day of those single years.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Misery Mapping

"Why do you girls keep talking about us men?" Asked my husband once. There was exasperation there, and let's face it, some degree of condescension, maybe a dash of arrogance.

"I mean, you are perfectly emancipated, perfectly self aware, perfectly liberated, thinking, randomly talented, myriadly gifted, world-view oriented, financially independent career women. So why do even women like you talk, if not only, then largely, about us men?"

I stayed with that question a long time, and it actually brought about behavioral changes. Best friend and I actually did stop discussing men and discovered we had many other things to talk about. That was good.

BUT. The fact remains, we do talk about men. And apart from it being weak and demeaning and needy and dependent and a pile of horseshit, it's also great therapy. I tried to figure for months why perfectly intelligent, perfectly world-aware blah blah women keep swapping notes on men and their behaviour and their actions. And it's not because we are deeply caring in our sisterhood bond and it's neither because we are heartless bitches dying for a slice of gossip.

The truth lies somewhere midway. I call it Misery Mapping.

It may be an ego trip, it may be an empathy moment. It may be an epiphany or it may be a superiority complex. Where our minds and our psyche fits into the mapping varies from woman to woman and conversation to conversation. Sometimes, your man is so crap you make me feel good about mine. Sometimes your man is so similar to mine that I realise my situation is not so unique. Sometimes your man is so much better than mine that you help me make up my mind.

Misery Mapping is like a home grown remedy to a common cold. Its not always accurate, its not entirely scientific, it often takes much longer than medication would, but guess what. Its often effective.

Yes, I agree. Women should not spend all their time talking about men. But Misery Mapping achieves a few things men don't benefit from, because they don't do it.

Because its cathartic, becuase it behaves like the safety valve of a pressure cooker, it prevents us from drinking and beating you up. It prevents us from chasing hot things in tight clothes the moment our belly expands and our jaw line sags. It prevents us from leaving your committment and loyalty of several decades to go chasing after a younger, flimsier dream. It prevents us from giving in to the infantile need of turning every emotional moment into a joke. And it prevents us from bursting out one fine day into cholestrol and heart attack and high blood pressure and hyper tension and dying in your arms leaving you to pick up your pieces.

Simply because we rely on this supremely non-intellectual, home grown remedy called Misery Mapping.

We talk about you. We discuss you. We dissect you. We analyse you. So that you don't kill us. Our insides, our values, our emotional integrity, our fidelity.

Of course we also do all those other things that are considered typically 'male'. We cheat, we lie, we sleep around, we abandon, we are cruel, we leave, we forget, we ditch, we inflict hurt, we humiliate, we forget. This is not a piece about making women out to be angels and men to be devils.

It's simply a relatively straightforward point. Misery Mapping - whoever should chose to do it -gives the participants a context and a rooting into their own lives. And allows conversation to achieve what would otherwise only get achieved with a lot of dangerous action.

Its Lipstick Therapy. Part II

Midday Lipstick

What do men do for Midday Lipstick, I wondered to myself, as I applied those reassuring strokes of confidence and self worth, bang in the middle of the day, just as your overall sense of self seems to be wilting, with pending mail, unattended tasks, unanswered phone calls and undone to-do lists.

Midday Lipstick is a good thing. In fact, it's a great thing. It's sort of this moisturising, plumping, rejuvinating, glossing, shining, re-attractivising feature of a working woman's day. And its highly therapeutic. Especially when you've bought in a new shade, or a new variant of gloss.

It sort of builds you back up from the ashes of a dull day.

Mid day deo is in the same genre, but unless you're really stinky, it doesn't quite have as dramatic an impact.

What do guys do? Honestly. I'd love to know. Felt damn bad for them today, because they don't have midday lipstick in their lives.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jaipur Blasts, 7:30p.m. IST

Isko koi chalna sikhao bhai, ye kaisi ajeeb si chaal hai

Ye do kadam aagey leta hai, to paanch kadam peechhe!
Ye aasmaan ko chhookaar bhi girta hai neeche.

Kahin karodon mein khelne waale vyaapaari
To kahin bhook ki mahaamaari

Sau karod ki abaadi mein
Kitne karod ki barbaadi

Yahan ummeed pe bhor hoti hai, to aatank mein sooraj dhalta hai
Aakhir ye desh chalega kaise, yahan to sab kuchh chalta hai


Soulmate was formed about five years ago. The band consists of blues-guitar player, songwriter and singer, Rudy Wallang and Vocalist Tipriti ‘TIPS’ Kharbangar who also plays rhythm guitar,Ferdy Dkhar on Bass Guitar and Sam Shullai on Drums. They all come from Shillong, Meghalaya which is one of the North-Eastern hill states of India.

Lou Majaw (b. 1947) is a Khasi guitarist popularly known as the "One of the Biggest Fans of Bob Dylan in the North-East [India]". Born to a poor family, the Majaws could not afford a guitar or a radio. In a friend's house he was introduced to the music of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, and taught himself the guitar in school. Majaw then moved on to Kolkata where he played in bars and pubs for various groups such as the Dynamite Boys, Vanguards, Supersound Factory, and Blood and Thunder. In 1966, Lou was introduced to Bob Dylan's work. Inspired by his music, he later organized a "Dylan's birthday concert" in Shillong May 24, 1972. Since then he has organized the concert each year on 24th May to pay obeissance to Dylan, with the shows eventually gaining national and international fame.

Do you care? No?

I thought as much.

I would never have heard of either Soulmate or of Lou Majaw had it not been for an over enthusiastic, irritatingly in-your-face restro-bar in Vasant Vihar called The Haze. The owner, called Kiron Somebody-or-the-other, is obviously from Shillong himself, and has taken it upon himself to promote all the artists of his idyllic home town, single handedly.

And if that means spamming the brains out of poor unsuspecting folk like me, so be it.

Worse still, if after getting the 89623rd sms that you're not interested in, you call him up very politely and ask him to remove your number from his mass sms list, he says he will take care of it, but does nothing.

Eventually, you get fed up and ask your lawyer friend to give him a stern call and warn him about being a public nuisance.

He roundly abuses your friend, and then calls you up and abuses you. For sending you smses that you never wanted in the first place. Wow. Now that REALLY makes sense.

I guess Soulmate makes decent music. I'm sure Lou Majaw is a great man. But forgive me, I am a philistine. I like Dil Haara from Tashan and Pretty Woman on my DVD. And if I wanted a crash course in Blues music, there is noone better to teach me than my husband.

Sigh. Why do establishments, organisations, institutions and such like, send these irritating, pissing off, get on your nerves spam smses? And then act tough about them? I don't want to know about your festivals, your artists, your menus, your special discounts, your performances, your product enhancements and your new improved anythings. I don't care. And your smses are the one sure shot guarantee of you not getting any business from me. Not now. Not ever.

This is a larger deeper malaise. As the world gets more isolated, more cocooned, more wrapped up in its own selfish spaces, paradoxically the sense of privacy seems to be vanishing. This malaise spreads its tentacles through social networking sites, carries on through spam mails and smses, rears its ugly pathetic head through features like AdSense which everyone applauds.

Uff. I'm fed up. If, everytime I searched Poetry on an interesting literary site, I actually wanted to know about Poetry in Pottery, Poetry Foundation of India and Poetry Encyclopaedia at discounted rates, I'd HAVE ASKED FOR THAT. Your ads may make sense to you Mr. Google, they DO NOT to me. When I am searching for poetry, I only want to read beautiful resonanting poetry to get away from this very clever world you've woven. Not because I want Poetry in Pottery.

Somebody tell google that inspite of their great work, it doesn't all make sense. Somebody tell Shopper's Stop that if I want to shop on Mother's Day I'll go there and shop. I don't need an email telling me that I must. Somebody tell these 5000 teleshopping networks that when I want to make strong abs, I work out. I don't buy shitty belts with vibrating batteries. Somebody tell the entire advertising and marketing community, that advertisements on TV, radio and print are clean, ads are straight, ads are good, and when required, I respond to them. This new virus called 'personal touch' is neither personal, nor touching, its in fact bloody irritating.

Somebody tell Kiron something-or-the-other that he's an irritating oaf.

Or hang on a second. Maybe I can just send him an sms.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Love Poem???????

Love sings
Love glows
Love yells
Love bellows

Love is like vine
It creeps up your mind
Love is disaster
An unbroken landmine

Love deepens
Love flattens
Like middle aged ladies
Love broadens

Love pinches
And snorts
Love makes all sorts
Out of all sorts

Love slides
And love sidles
Love grunts
And love bridles

Love makes love poems
Some average, some bad
But the loveless poet
Is most definitely sad

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Green Card Safron Sun White Thoughts

I smelt the dusty Indian summer sun while driving to work this morning. This despite the fact that the windows were rolled up and the AC was on.

I saw a wicker basket left askew on the corner of the road, in a way that can only happen in really poor countries, where the street is an extension of home for so many. And household goods can just be found lying around on main crossings and kerbs, much like a dishevelled kitchen or bathroom.

I saw the three irritating temples that fall on my route to office and that exasperatingly slow me down with their sequined thread, red cloth, meandering crowds and crushed flowers pace.

I saw a stray dog. Or two.

Abida sang Ghalib on the very western CD player, in my cocooned and conditioned world: my protection against the onslaught of an India that can drown me in an overdrive of sensuality. A battering that the eyes, the ears, the nose, the skin and the tongue cannot take, without taking violently ill.

I must temper the India that I live in; dilute it to make it digestible. My system is fragile.

I saw dark green leaves, still, and then mildly ruffled by a summer breeze that carries no shade or solace.

I saw a 'tempo traveller'.

And Abida with her 'patthar-phek' style of singing, as I call it, bellowed out, Bekhudi Besabab Nahin Ghalib, Kuchh to Hai Jiski Parda Daari Hai.

Don't get me wrong. I like the way she sings. It's part of that overwhelming in-your-face, like-it-or-not Indian experience (ok, don't force me to say subcontinent; in the context of what I'm talking about, its the same dusty terrain, LOC be damned).

I saw, in my ten-minute drive to an extremely international style office, Lata Mangeshkar and Gol guppas; cows and colony parks; cotton kurtas and crows; dusty feet and sweaty ideas; bus rides and whirling fans; struggling grammar and corrupt politicians; visionary men and characterless charlatans; inept tellers and unreliable plumbers; fantastic domestic help and useless colleagues; dirty maroon rajdhanis and cholera infested waters; steel plates with pockets for daal and subzi, kele-ka-pattas and roadside pottery; paanwaalas with tinny radios and hot rotis with daal.

I saw Kishore Kumar and sequined chappals, I saw sufi concerts and kulfi falooda. I saw so much though my eyes were blurred with tears.

I saw so much. Because today my husband said, "Lets Move to the States. This country is shit".

Monday, February 11, 2008

Horse Trading

It's one of my most favourite sights, all year round, but especially so on crisp winter nights in Delhi. As a mist rises from the roads and meanders into the neon lights, and car headlights pinpoint prisms into your eyes.... the sight of a young horseman galloping a white steed back to the stables. Back from a wedding that must have just about begun with the jai maala, after the baraat has been recieved with due ceremony...

For years I've watched this streak of a visual on random Delhi roads. There is a wedding hall of sorts very close to my mother's house; my brother's reception happened there. We of course, the boring bengali sorts, did not have horses decked in red and gold, but a sedate white ambassador to do the honours.

But from the gates of that wedding hall I have often seen this exhilarating sight. I don't know why the rider is invariably a very young fellow, a lad almost. And the horse, a white mare, never seems so unfettered than in those perfectly free moments.

At times I have been lucky enough to see both pre and post. While driving out to the market or to a friend's, I have seen the baraat arrive. At its simplest, the horse is draped in thick velvet cloth of red and maroon, brocaded in gold, and the groom, his face hidden under the canopy of flowers from the sehra streaming from the pagri, rides gingerly, clutching both reins - I mean, what are the odds of the average Delhi groom having equestrian skills? - a petrified little boy, the 'sarwahla' sits in front of him, looking dangerously close to slipping off. A motley crew of absurdly overdressed people follow, stomping their feet and flailing their arms to the tired tunes from the brass band. Wizened and rickety thin men carry gas lamps on their head. More lights on an open bed truck, drawing their power from a noxious and noisy generator, blaze into the night air, and between lamp hiss and generator drone, the sound of the band fades. Never did understand why they play 'ye desh hai veer jawano ka' in any case. A tongue-in-cheek dig at the brave man going to war?

There is always a white maruti van at the back. Filled with the naughty young men of the family, and their 'car-o-bar'. Indulgent looks from elders. Flirtatious ones from the women, especially from the bride's side. Laughter. Bling. Tinkle. Guffaws. Pagris. Aiye, aiye...

Now that's the simple version. As it gets elaborate it stops short of nothing. Only the traffic stops. For hours. The circus can go up to an unbelievably elaborate horse drawn carriage. And miles of bad dancers behind. Expensive cars. Sweating armpits. And red gold signages held by more impoverished looking men.

And the over bedecked horse sniffs and snorts and stamps in impatience, as it is reduced to an uncomfortable .05 kmph with its unwieldly burden. The lad leading it looks dazed, gripping the reins to ensure the horse doesn't buck and heave, the lights in his eyes blinding him - he should wear blinders too, like his charge.

And a voice in your head tells you - in all probability, the bride and the groom have met barely once, or twice. Maybe done a coffee if the family is progressive enough. Perhaps indulgent bhabhi jee sat discretely at the other table. And from then till now, that resplendent bride inside has focused all her energies on the wedding. And nobody is prepared for the marriage. And nobody will know when the flowers dry.

Thinking such half thoughts, I have then returned an hour or so later, and the gates of the wedding hall have been more or less deserted. The ceremonies have begun in earnest inside and apart from some stragglers, some really late, hasty smile expression arrivals, and some of those guilty tipsy boys rushing out for another plastic cupful, there is hardly anybody around.

And then out of those gates bursts forth a vision. A horse. And his rider. Unfettered. Unblinkered. Unswathed in velvet and gold. Unchained. A trot, a canter, and then a full gallop as the night air swallows them in its cold crisp neon-laced mist.

A laboured, laden, slow mare, traded in a few hours for a gloriously free beast. And its master. Enjoying the night air whipping through hair and mane. Leaving behind all that they have been asked to deliver for a paltry sum of money - duty, responsibility, role playing, expectations, exasperations, alterations, adjustments - all of it shed with the weight of the gas lamps.

A few more minutes, and other burdens may grip. Poverty perhaps. And loneliness. And villages connected by distant trains. Money orders and bad hay. Cold quarters and a rough brush on diseasing skin. Worries, both human and animal, as exhaustion makes both sleep on their feet.

But for the moment, the gallop of the truly free. For this incadescent instance, without a care. Wind in the hair.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Quote Hanger

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion. - CP Snow

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mother's Blossoms 2008

26th January dawns sunny crisp and cold over Delhi. The slighly droopy somewhat fading Mother's Blossoms wake up groggily to a vague sense of something pending - almost impending - although it should ideally be a lazy jobless saturday which is ALSO a national holiday....

No... I definitely did NOT have to watch the parade on TV, the blossoms are thinking in their respective flower pots. No, I did not plan to start my gymming this weekend, and even if I did, well... those are hazardous decisions best left unrealised....

Ah, 4 cups of tea / coffee later, the slow realisation sinks in.... I am a Mother's Blossom and today is the day I foolishly committed to a bunch of pals on the email that I will wend my way schoolwards and be a part of the MIS annual reunion.

By this time its past 11a.m. Riya calls Pavita. Pavita sounds somewhat muffled, through layers of think quilt and thicker sleep. Pavita would like Riya to figure it all out and inform her sleepiness. In the meanwhile, 2 old seniors Oroon and Shounak surface. Hey they are headed to the reunion too. Super charged by caffeine and phone calls Riya says this is seeming worth it. Lets head towards Sarvodaya, ahoy!

Riya calls Pavita. Fails to inject similar enthusiasm. Pavita hos and hums and yawns and mumbles something that sounds like 'mebbe lezzee'.

Miffled (thats a combo of miffed and stifled) Riya smses Sudi. To a much better response. Sudi is waiting for Soggy who's waiting for Debu who's waiting for a car and then they are all headed to the blossoming moment. Things appear to be perking up.

Pavita is still not sure.

Double salvos of Oroon and Shounak are liberally launched in her direction. She capitulates. Riya calls Shounak back. Hey how are we going to find each other in that 'area-wise the largest school in Delhi'? Shon replies "Don't worry, we are Mother's Blossoms. We'll smell each other out".

Yuck. Gross.

Ok its 12 noon now. Everybody is attempting to get dressed and rush for this largely unnecessary rendezvous. Riya calls Sudi. Yes, that ship has sailed. Let us now meet at the haloed portals. We all arrive crisp and fresh, in varying degrees of unpunctuality to the 'sarvodaya' side gate. (Oroon and Shon enter from the main road gate and therefore reach the football field before us).

As we are about to run in slow-mo towards above mentioned field and fall into each other's arms at the 'Sunlit Path', an imposing shadow falls upon us. "Have you registered yet?". Boy. This alumnus must've been trained by Shekhar sir himself. The Legendary Bull Dog. "Gulp. No. I just wanted to meet my pals first."

Unknown voice + face thunders "NO!! Please register first!!" The years melt away as one sheepishly heads toward the wobby wooden desks with askew white table cloths (bedsheets, one suspects). One is handed a form longer than the US VISA form. I lost track after year of joining MIS, year of leaving MIS, number of years spent in the school (duh, can't you add, you sadistic form-fillerer???), current job, marital status, designation, number of children.... I have a vague feeling I must've also filled in blood group, number of siblings, terrorist affiliations etc, but I can't be sure since my mind was that familiar numb din by then. Ah. How nostalgic.

You pay Rs. 50/- afer filling that form - by this time you're thinking somebody should've been paying you instead. Or, you are told smugly, you can pay Rs. 2500 for a lifetime membership. Sorry you murmur stupidly. I don't have that kind of money. Do you have a credit card set up? The much more involved mother's blossoms frown from the other side of the rumpled white sheets. Credit cards? Certainly not.

Your eyes then fall upon this splendour that each one of them is sporting. Its a sleeveless grey sweatshirt with a Mother's Blossom emblem on the chest, top left corner. Soggy and Debu promptly rechristen it Mother's Bosom. Its so corny you want one for yourself. Well, if you take the lifetime membership you get it for free. Whoopie. Or else you pay Rs. 600. And NO no credit cards sorry.

I want one. I only have a hundred buck note. I forgot the purity of the MIS environs where plastic was ALWAYS frowned upon. Sigh. I beg and plead many to buy me one but nobody does. This is especially after I spy the back of the sweatshirt on someone. Ok, this is the prize winner. This grey unassuming Mother's Blossom sweatshirt says in about 300 font size in the center of the back I AM BLESSED.

Yes. Its true. Today I could've been the proud owner of a sweatshirt that proclaimed my blessed status to the entire world staring enviously at my back if ONLY Shon, or Oroon or Sudi or Soggy or Debu or Tej had coughed up a measly Rs. 600.

Cheep Cheap.

But all was not lost boys and girls. In return for the Rs. 50 we all got a bright purple-pink square of a sticker that we were supposed to slap on our sleeves / pockets / jackets / foreheads or any other prominent body part and in return we could eat for free from all those stalls lined up at the side of the football field.... Golguppas, Aloo Tikki smashed in front of your eyes on a paper plate and bathed in chutney, pao bhajji with an overdose of lemon, poori alu daal and paneer, gaajar ka halwa and something called Daulat ki Chaat which was sensed more than tasted because it looked and felt like shaving foam on paper plates.

Old teachers looked older. Bhalla, who's now vice principal, was asked by Oroon 'hey heard you are now the vice president?' Ass. Mrs. Pillay looked positively alzheimered. But she was sweet, pretending to remember everybody. All of them said the same predictable things. Spouse, children updates clearly won the day over career updates. What you had achieved clearly played second fiddle to what you had married and what you had produced.

And as you walked away, towards the 'Sunlit Path' and beyond, gaping at Sri Aurobindo in grey, still peeing benevolently over all things big and small, you heard a voice in your head ruefully saying 'nostalgia isn't what it used to be....'