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.


Double-Dolphin said...

So, "There is another way" is Gorky's maxim?

Anonymous said...

I came across this article vis-a-vis your friend's plug on his article on Gulzar ji. Let me not call it an article and do a dis-service to you or what you penned down Riya.

I am a nobody, just trying to find meaning in the simplest things.

I found your thoughts and thought process pretty enriching and enlightening.

Thank you.


Shubhra said...

wow. what an utterly beautiful write up. Its a sunny Sunday and I thought I would reward myself for a few tasks by watching IPKKND; then browsed on Gul's latest work, then landed on Gorky's page on Gulzar then landed here... and loved this write up.

thank you for sharing. and reminding of all simple things that make life beautiful, like tea in Delhi University lawns, and reasons why bright young people choose the wrong path, and the globalisation of Indian talent and about friendship.

Neha said...

I love the way your and Gorkys friendship is above the shades of black and white and grey. You have written an article about someone totally unknown to me, but makes me feel that it would be interesting to know him.

Riya said...

Thanks Saraswathi, Shubhra, Neha - thank you for reading, and taking the time out to write a comment.