Friday, December 5, 2008

The city that was…

The word “terror” means a lot more today. It began to mean a lot to me not on the day the attack happened, but recently, when I witnessed an attack of another kind. It was a week since then. It was the Tuesday of the Peace March at Gateway. I was reluctant to go there first when I heard about the huge numbers gathered. Why add to their troubles, I asked myself. But then I heard an acquaintance needed help distributing some leaflets there. Something about starting an awareness group. Well, I believed this was a little more constructive that lighting a candle and wishing terrorism flies out of our lives, so off we were to Gateway.
Seven of us from Wilson College walked upto Gateway with a simple placard in our hand. It read-“One Month from now, will you still care?”
We walked all along Marine Drive, crossed over at Oberoi, past Mantralaya and to Regal. Everywhere people looked at the placard with curiosity, to say the least. On the way I also witnessed an odd phenomenon. Generally people on Marine Drive sat for hours on end, staring at the water, the setting sun, the city skyline. Today it was different. Opposite the Trident, people sat the other way. To hell with the sun, broken glass was the new tourist attraction of the city. TV cameras still rolling and Mumbaikars in every shape and size available were speculating where exactly the terrorists were taking people hostage that day and which window the commandos shot at. Even as the police and the management struggled to piece the hotel together, onlookers enjoyed themselves.
I feel ashamed of my city and its people today.
Gateway was another story altogether. There wasn’t an inch of empty space to stand on. But just as I was filling up with pride to see so many people wanting to make a difference, a chill ran down my spine. Forgive the cliché, but a huge contingent of hotel management students marched past me screaming and shouting slogans. They were followed by many more such parties. Anti-Pak campaigning seemed to be the theme of the day. It was scary, to say the least.
We stood there, three of us, as the others went ahead, squeezing through the flood of human bodies. I use this word because most of them there were incapable of being called people…living, loving,thinking entities. It was just a lot of anger manifesting itself in so many people. I couldn’t find any peace in this peace rally.
Film stars gathered, so did the press. But I increasingly began to lose sight of the objective of this meet. Were we here to vent our frustrations? Were we here to shout swearwords to the citizens of another country? Were we here to belittle ours by singing contrived and superficial salutations? What were we doing?
The ‘PEACE’ rally took wearing-patriotism-on-your-sleeve to a whole new level. There were flags everywhere. Mindlessly people waved them and screamed obscenities to Pakistan and our own politicians.
I felt scared. I felt this city scarred. There was no place to put this anger away. Even elderly, wise-looking ladies and gentlemen were spitting bile. My city was no longer the place I loved so much. It was no longer a place where people were at peace with themselves…and we speak of peace in the world.
I cried that day, on the long ride home. I crossed the whole of south Bombay and up to Santacruz. I mourned for the city that was. I cried for the peace that never will be.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In a terrorist's mind..

To begin with, I have absolutely no idea about criminal psychology as the title of the blog would induce you to think. But it’s one of those times when you just sit back and think why. Why would guys, my age, put their life on the line for vague and abstract ideals?
The Mumbai Mirror this morning carried a picture today of the last terrorist to be smoked out of the Taj yesterday. Without the caption it would have taken me a few moments to realize it was a human body. Seeing these images, what induces people to continually subject themselves to years of rigorous training finally to end up in a heap of unloved and uncared for flesh and bones. Maybe unloved is too mild a word. They got people to hate them, despise them and wish them dead.
I know I speak for most people when I say that the mere thought of being hated by anyone is definitely not a very pleasant thought. And these guys work hard for it. Really hard. All their lives, in camps, without their families, with a lot of death, or the idea of death. And of course, religion. But that’s a different story.
Is any feeling so strong that it can overpower every other need? The need to love, the need to be free, the need to be happy and not angry?
I often wonder what they did in there, holding fort for so many hours. Beyond a point there was no television, no communication with the outside world. They couldn’t have known for sure what was going on outside. Imagine being in such position.
There are hundreds of soldiers, armed, just waiting to kill you. All around you are dead people, and their blood. You killed them. Some of your partners are dead too. The place is on fire. How do you keep from going insane? How do you ever prepare for that?
Does a terrorist feel the terror? Did they feel really scared, sitting there with enough ammunition to blow up the city? And what did they do then? Pray? Cry? Regret? Or just the all consuming passion to go on?
I probably will never know. Nobody will. Except them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Zara hatke, zara bachke…

I am a proud mumbaikar. And I know there are many more like me in this city. But I wonder how many of us still have faith left in this place we call home. As I type this in the confines of my safe house in suburban Mumbai, I know this city is going up in flames elsewhere.
I must have been a toddler when the ’93 blasts happened. But I see the memory relived by many in the city. The news channels for which I shall not use any expletives are going from bad to worse when it comes to yellow journalism. Insensitivity to an event so horrifying is beyond my understanding.
I am losing faith in the city, the government, the world, even myself. People are dropping dead before the camera as the cameraperson zooms in on gory images of blood and massacre. I see the crowning glory of Mumbai- the Taj burn like a bonfire.
It is not even painful. It is a feeling so personal, that I can’t explain. Yet I know many others in this city can feel it. The names are familiar- Metro, Leopold’s, Cama, J.J….the list goes on…
It is something that is a part of my life. A part of all our lives. And this part is burning.
I have no words left to describe how horrible this is. Patients, doctors, nurses, held hostage. Foreigners crying for help. Standing on the rooftop of twenty storey buildings.
A taxi exploded in Vile Parle. There were two people inside. They are not to be found..Atleast in a recognizable form. This is what we have reduced ourselves to. Somewhere in all of us a human element has died that we didn’t shed a tear at these news bytes. We didn’t cry to see our city die, bit by bit. The whole of America, in some way or the other is still reeling from the impact of 9/11. We have even forgotten the dates when terrorist struck.
I am probably too messed up right now to make much sense. But I need to get this out of my system. And I send out a prayer. A prayer for all those who died. Policemen, civilians, or even the misguided souls responsible for this. I pray for you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Silent? Valley….

It’s one of those days when if you’d say Good Morning, you would really mean it. I mean not just the usual sun-was-shining-birds-were-chirping routine, but a really nice quiet walk in the forest. And what better name would they have found for this place other than Silent Valley.
After a long jeep ride through the forest and short meal of curd rice, I was all set for a good walk. We walked for a short while and reached the river Kunthi. Several members of the group even had a great time shaking the uncertain wooden-iron-rope bridge across the river and testing its strength, and theirs. Fun.
We sat there for a while looking over the river which we were forbidden to jump into. We were about 3 days into the camp (inclusive of train journey) and this was the first real water body in proximity. I am sure more than one of us had resisted the urge the jump out of clothing and plunge in to the water! So as this joy was sacrificed, the youngest of the troop plunged headlong into a photography session by the bridge, soon to be joined by the rest. It is believed that Silent Valley has ever since been echoing of clicks and flashes.
On the way back however, I began to wonder how much longer the name of this place would stay. We were told that one of the reasons for Silent valley being so silent was the absence of a certain insect called Cicada which happens to be very noisy and compensates for the rest of the insect world being largely mute.
We came to a point in the forest on the way back where it was resounding of Cicada. Not one or two but several of them. The sheer vibration the noise was creating in the air would put a Nokia 1100 to shame! Had Shakespeare been alive, he probably would have used this case instead of the rose to prove his what’s-in-a-name jig. But then again, the forest was good, so you don’t really care about the cicada....or for that matter, Shakespeare or Nokia 1100.
We even sat down at a nice little leech-free zone to pen things down before continuing the walk. Not so bad for a good morning in a not-so-Silent Valley.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maybe, Maybe Not

She carefully placed all the dishes on the dining table. She set two plates. Two scented candles in the centre. Perfect. She walked back to the kitchen to get the glasses. On the way she looked into the glass of the cabinet. She was looking stunning. She smiled and continued to set the table. He would come any moment now. She had been planning this surprise dinner for weeks.
It was eight o’clock. He was a little late. She didn’t worry so much. Better give him a call. “The number you are trying to call is currently not reachable. Please try again later.” said the polite recorded voice. For the twelfth time she kept the phone down. It was nine o’clock. He was really late now. Where could he be?
“I know!” she thought. “He’s probably lost his job. The boss was giving him a lot of trouble of lately. He must at the bar now. He must be sulking away. I wish he would come home. As of now, my salary should be enough for the house but I hope he finds a job soon. Our investments should last us till then. I wish I could talk to him. Why can’t he just come home……”
Just then the phone rang, breaking her chain of thought. “Would you be interested in a car loan madam? Our bank can give you a great deal.” said the telemarketer.
“No, thank you.” She said with a sigh and slammed the phone. She sunk into the couch again. It was nine thirty.
“He’s gone to get a car. Yes! That’s why he’s late. He hasn’t lost his job! He was insisting on getting a new car for the longest time. He must have bought it without asking me. I told him we don’t need it, the old car is fine! But who listens to me? He went straight to the showroom after work and he must be driving it around town right now. He’ll come home with that sheepish look on his face. How dare he buy the car after I told him not to! Hasn’t the decency to consult me!”
Suddenly she got startled when the windows shook in the wind. Within a few minutes, thunder and lightening burst over the city and it began pouring buckets. She stood by the window and saw several people running about to shelter themselves from the rain. She looked at the clock. It was ten. She was getting even more worried. Just then a car on the road came to a screeching halt and narrowly missed a fruit cart on the road. She watched absent-mindedly from the window as the fruit seller and driver bickered.
“He’s had an accident! Oh my god! I hope he isn’t very hurt. Maybe he skidded on the road in the rain. What if someone got killed? He must be in a hospital right now…or maybe a police station! Why can’t he call me? I should do something to help him. Maybe I should call the police.”
She went to call the police only to discover that the line was dead. Just then another thought came to her mind. “He couldn’t have had an accident. It started raining just an hour ago. He should have been here by eight! Where could he be? Oh I know! He’s having an affair. He hasn’t been himself of lately! I bet it’s that new client that he keeps talking about. He must be having dinner with her right now while I’m waiting for him like a fool. Let him come home! There will be a showdown today. How can he cheat on me!
She waited impatiently for the next half an hour. It was eleven now. She was very angry. She couldn’t wait to lash out at him. Then the bell rang. She rose slowly and opened the door. He stood in front. He was soaked to the bone. His clothes were covered with mud and grease. In his hand was a bouquet of wilted and almost smashed roses. She was completely startled by his appearance.
“Where have you been?” she asked, still in a state of shock.
“You won’t believe it! I got promoted today.” He said, handing her a soggy letter from his pocket. “I decided to surprise you. So I got these flowers, but there was this horrible traffic jam on the way. I was stuck or over an hour. As if that wasn’t enough, that stupid old car broke down. I had to walk two kilometres to find a mechanic. It started raining on the way. My phone got wet and stopped working. I tried calling you but because of the rain, all the public phones were also dead. This is such a bad day! So what have you been doing at home all this while?”

Lyrics I Love

These are parts of songs I really. Not in any particular order. Don't really know why I am posting it, but I listen to the whole song only for the couple of lines...

1. दफ्न करदो हमें कि साँस मिले,

नब्स कुछ देर से थमी सी है।

2. बावरा सा हो अँधेरा बावरी खामोशिया,

थरथराती लौ हो मद्धम, बावरी मधोशिया,

3. The touch of your hand says you'll catch me whenever i fall,

You say it best, when you say nothing at all.

4. I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.

5. ..And the silence makes a beautiful sound...

6. ...and you never ask questions, when God's on your side.

Through many dark hours I have been thinking about this,

That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss.

But I can't think for you, you have to decide,

Whether Judas Iscarious had God on his side.

7. What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us,

Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.

8. You were to close for comfort, too far out of reach.

9. दोस्तों से झूठे-मूठे दूसरों का नाम लेके, तेरी मेरी बातें करना।

10. जैसे झील में लहराए चंदा,

जैसे भीड़ में अपने का कन्धा

The Stuff You Write Poems About

Of drops of rain falling on the earth,
Of love and faith and joy and hurt.
Of fire in the night in a field somewhere,
Of pretty garden trees and eyes that stare.
Of a million stars shining on the night sky,
Of a spider trying as much as he can try.
Of walruses and carpenters and daffodils and all,
Of tigers and hunters and Humpty Dumpty’s fall!
Of dreams of believing you can fly,
Or maybe the scream of a butterfly.
Of hopes and dreams and a lonely night,
Of victory and defeat in the same fight.
Of strangers and wonderlands far away,
Of loss and love and growing up someday.
Of cold winter afternoons spent reading,
Of warm summers with friends singing,
And snuggling in someone’s warm fuzzy coat,
And sometimes of poems, other people wrote!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Meeting

When she saw the paintings first, she could never even explain to herself what she felt. It had been so long but her world stood before her again. A world she had left behind twenty years ago. A world on the street and a world she shared with him. The same streets, the same fort and the same people.
She suddenly knew that he was there. In the same room. So many times she had imagined seeing him in the crowd, on the streets, in her dreams. But she always imagined the ten-year-old boy she had known. In a flash the realization came to her that he too had grown up in the past twenty years. He would look different now, talk different, and behave different. Would he recognize her? Would they ever be as close as they had been? Was he there right now looking at her?

When he saw her that day, nothing else seemed clear. It was just her face in the crowd. A crowd of people seeing his paintings, analyzing them. They all had something to say about them. They all had their judgments. She was the only one who spoke to them.
As he stood in the corner, watching her, he heard her conversations. It was like she understood them. She didn’t need to analyze. She knew them. She had always known them. Them and the hands that created them. He watched her every move. As her pallu slithered over one of the vases in the corner, and as her hand reached behind her ear to tuck a disobedient lock of hair.
It was only a few moments before he recognized her. The eyes that had haunted him for years. The thick messy hair that he had reached out to in his dreams. The voice he had waited for so long to hear. And there she was. Two steps away from him, too far away. He was about to turn away. He still doesn’t know why.
He was afraid maybe, even awkward. He had expected this moment for the past twenty years. But now as it stood there, staring him in the face, he wanted to run away. He wanted to be away from her. He knew he was pulled towards it and he couldn’t stop.
As he stood before her, he was scared. Scared that she wouldn’t recognize him, scared that too much time had passed. Reality kissed him on his cheek, like a butterfly, and the truth stung. He was a painter, in his shabby kurta and unkempt hair. She was a socialite, Married to a businessman, Living in a sprawling house. She attended parties and featured on page three. He, at thirty, was still struggling to pay rent. For a moment he didn’t want her to recognize him.
Life had a way of causing him pain when he had thought that it couldn’t get worse. She did recognize him. Almost as soon as she saw him. Almost like she had expected him to be there.

They now stood before each other as the rest of the room spun like a whirlpool. Everyone disappeared. It was only them. They had known each other so well and so long ago. After all this time, they didn’t find words to talk to each other. Curled up under the railway bridge stairs, the two children had shared their fears and dreams. Today, even the handshake was awkward.

They spoke for a while about random things. Things that didn’t matter. The real questions lay hidden. He knew all about her, at least all that the media said and wrote about her. She somehow knew that. It had been years since then but she could still read his mind.
She stayed with him the whole day. After the exhibition got over, they went to the beach. Still talking. They were the two urchins again. Now with twenty years of baggage. He told her about his fragmented life on the street after she left; his unnecessary schooling and his messy life after that.
She told him her adventures in the past twenty years. Her perfect teenage, her perfect family, her perfect marriage and her perfect life. Perfectly incomplete. Perfectly unhappy. But she didn’t tell him that. He already knew. As they sat watching the waves jump up to swallow the sun, they spoke about a lot of things and read all that was unsaid.
As he saw her sit in the taxi, she looked at him with those same eyes as she had so long ago. She smiled at him and he tried to smile back. As the taxi drove off, she looked at him from the window. Just as she had before, but only this time, he saw the sindoor above those two eyes, and smiled to himself. Something told him they would meet again. They hadn’t exchanged numbers, but he knew he would find her again. Just as he had now, he only didn’t know how much later ‘again’ would be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I wrote this a couple of days ago, soon after my visit to a relief camp in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa.

To begin with we raised a total of Rs.1,09,000 which was divided among two relief camps- for the riot and flood victims. Some people also donated stationary for children which include notebooks, pencils and crayons. With the money collected we purchased 500 saris and lungis for the people. Some people had also donated medicines. These were handed over to the local Red Cross authorities. Besides, some families were also given small amounts of cash to sustain them for some time.

When I entered the riot victims relief camp, there wasn't much more than a dilapidated YMCA building filled to the brim with 700 people. These people had been displaced from their houses in the riots.

As I handed out stationary to the children, an over whelming sense of despair came over me. I haven't seen o much misery in one place. The more relief mater we distribute, the more inadequate we felt. We sent back many children empty handed. There wasn't enough. I doubt there ever would be.

They were all Christians by conversion. Several of them who could speak hindi asked us if we were hindus. I asked myself the same question. I don't know your views of conversion. But there are times when it ceases to matter anyway.

I saw women with new born babies in their arms. Children with what I can only assume were chicken pox scabs. The government provides food grains and water. Nothing more. No education, no sanitation, no work. We met many offcials and heard many excuses. But none can compensate for the little girl who didn't get an eraser or a sharpener.

The horror stories are many and varied. All I can do now is to just send a prayer to whichever god is allowed to exist in our world and hope it gets better. I thank you once again for being a part of my experience.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I held her for the first time,
Like sunshine's first kiss,
I felt so complete now,
Nothing in life amiss.

She let out a silent yawn,
And twitched those tiny toes,
And whisked away in a breath,
All my worries, all my woes.

The world seemed brighter now,
As I held that fragile body of hers,
Like sunshine came from behind the clouds
And melted frosty winters.

I wanted her to stay little forever,
And always be by my side
and today is the when I begin to dread,
Being the father of the bride.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

P-I-E-C-E Day

How many times must a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see?
- Bob Dylan
August 6th- Peace Day. P-I-E-C-E Day.
Today we had an interesting session in college. Our professor spoke to us about war and peace. About death and destruction. About the World wars and the concentration camps. About Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He threw a lot of numbers at us too. Numbers running into thousands, millions, billions. Dead, injured, missing numbers. After a point they began to bounce off me. I listened on and on, till he played this song. How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?
And that really Is the question. Those weren’t mere numbers. They were actual people. People with lives, homes, and families beyond the purpose of war and all annihilation I once heard this line in a movie- “In the nuclear world, the real enemy is war itself”. This is because war doesn’t see beyond destruction. Destruction of cities, towns, buildings, monuments and people…
People. The one factor that makes a piece of land, a country. I place worth living in. a place worth dying for. But what is a country without the people on it? Without the smiles and the laughter? What is a country filled with tears? A country filled with emptiness.
All of us tend to think that just like completely utopia; complete dystopia is also a myth. The truth is, that the horrible world of our nightmares is already here. This afternoon, I was at Mumbai Central Station. Beggars with all sorts of deformities lined the railway bridge. Inside, where they load the cargo, three street children ran around. They jumped on the sacks and ran around the carts. Suddenly a police man came and shooed them away. His voice was rough and he had a stick in his hand. He cursed them. He yelled at them. They ran away and disappeared somewhere in the throng of people mechanically flowing in and out of the station.
If a nuclear bomb were to be dropped on the city that very moment, our last memories would be ghastly. The policeman would have the memory of yelling at the children. The children would have the memory of being lost in a crowd. And I would have the guilt of not having done anything for them. Still do…
In a very scientific, objective world, all of us have become mechanized robots. We look at the world in black and white. In right and wrong. In good and bad. In numbers and not as people. In the virtual and not the real.
But someday the boundaries will blur. Even for us.

This is truly a rambling of my mind. It makes no sense to me. But I hope it makes sense to you.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another Chance

I don’t remember mom and dad,
I don’t remember all we had.
I don’t remember sweet dreams,
School notebooks and football teams.
No one to wipe off the tears,
No one to fight all my fears.
Never had a big warm bed,
Or anyone to stroke my head.
I want to sing I want to dance,
All I want is another chance.

Another tear, another day,
Another breath, I take away.
Another tune, another song,
Another right, another wrong.

I roamed the streets everyday,
Blank eyes, and nothing to say.
Used, abused and tear-stained,
My face so immune to all the pain.
After a while I forget to cry,
Violated, and feeling undignified.
Every face in the crowd was his,
Every voice in the noise was his.
I wish I could leap, I wish I could prance.
I wish I could get another chance.

Another tear, another day,
Another breath, I take away.
Another tune, another song,
Another right, another wrong.

And as I lie here, alone on the street,
Wrapped up in rags, and barefeet,
I look up at the sky and ask all the stars,
Tell me, will I get another chance?
Another chance…
Another chance…

Thursday, July 10, 2008


There are times what everything stands still. A stillness that is so quiet, so threatening, it screams from the insides of the heart, tearing its way out, splitting open every inhibition, every restriction in its way. And it is still. The calm so untamed, so wild and so wanted. And you are still.
She sat by the window, staring at the road below. It was after sunset. Could have been six, seven or even eight o’clock. She didn’t care. She didn’t notice. The cup of coffee before her cooled in the evening air as a deep brown film formed on the top. The street below was crowded. Cars, buses, taxis, rickshaws, motorbikes, carts, pedestrians, dogs, hawkers and salesmen; were hooting, yelling, running, walking, barking, honking, scooting and flowing on the street. So many people who didn’t care about her, about each other and about a world beyond themselves.
She sat there, in a pool of her violent, raging calm staring at the obscenely orange street light that fell on the road. There was nothing soft, subtle or sophisticated about it. No attempt to mask what was real. Just the strong light.
Then, suddenly, as if someone had shaken her, she dropped the blank expression and turned to her coffee. As she sat on the window sill sipping on the cold, tasteless coffee, she tried to do all she could to dissolve the calm at the bottom of her stomach. She wanted to be busy. So busy that she could forget all that had happened that day…
He was lying on a hammock, hands loosely thrown on either side. He stared at the mesh of coconut leaves on the sky and the half moon sifting through the net. An incomplete moon, for incomplete lives and their incomplete stories. He pretended not to think for a while. He liked to believe that he was stoic. He knew he wasn’t. He was thinking, faster, louder, stronger than ever before. A million thoughts rushed through his mind. It was all noise, chaos, confusion. Yet it all seemed to fit in, like a symphony. A symphony of noise. He felt a strange sort of calm through the storming thoughts. The more he felt the noise, the more he enjoyed the peace.
In the moonlight he saw where he was, as if almost suddenly conscious of his own presence. The resort shone white. He realized that he had been hiding from his reality, a reality so extraordinary that it almost seemed like a novel, one that lonely people read in lazy afternoons. The resort was just his physical hideout. He had switched himself off from the world he knew in the city. But he slowly accepted that this remote beach only kept him away physically. He still didn’t stop thinking about her. All the time he kept thinking what she would be doing, and more importantly, did she think of him as often as he thought of her?
It was like he was nine years old again, sitting on Marine Drive, crying for the only friend he had, for the only purest love he had known. He wanted to cry again. But it was too late. For the fifteen years since that day, his world had conditioned him not to cry. Tears had dried somewhere deep inside, and he looked for them desperately.
Both of them, so far away, separated by space and a very long time felt a nearness to each other. She, in her calm, held a raging storm, he, in his storming thoughts, felt more at peace than ever before. It was like they fitted in like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It was just that all of the other pieces were lost, over the past fifteen years, leaving them incomplete, and together.


The cry of the peacock tore through the early morning mist of the desert. In the palace, servants rushed about doing their daily chores. The king was getting dressed for another day. In the east end of the palace, the sun rays crawled into the room. She moved uncomfortably in her silken bed clothes as the sun rays disturbed her sleep. Indignantly she pulled the covers over her eyes again and continued to sleep.
A few minutes later eight-year-old, Princess Chitrangada crawled out of bed and opened the windows. She breathed in the morning air and stared straight at the young sun, defying its power. It was a miniature victory for her when she felt that the sun couldn’t defeat her.
When she came down, the king was busy.
“Good morning, Your Majesty.” she said to her father. The King smiled at his daughter and returned to his work. He was having a meeting with some white men. They were very fair and, momentarily, aroused Chitrangada curiosity.
Not bothering herself much, Chitrangada ran out into the lawns to play. All along a maid would be with her. The princess was never to be left alone. But Chitrangada was high-spirited. She didn’t like being monitored all the time.
“Get me my new doll.” she ordered the maid.
“I can’t leave you alone, Your Highness. The Queen has forbidden me from doing so.”
“I will also be the queen someday. Now get me the doll!” said Chitrangada indignantly.
The maid looked around to see if there was any other servant in sight. Seeing no one, she had no option but to leave. As soon as she was out of sight, Chitrangada dashed for her favourite spot on the lawns which she had discovered only a few days ago. It was near the wall, behind an old well. There was a hole in the wall. Chitrangada could see the village from there.
Just then she saw a small figure running up the hill towards the palace. A little girl, not much older than the princess was running. Chitrangada called out to her. The girl seemed a little afraid, but nevertheless came closer. She climbed in through the hole. She was dirty. Dust on her face and hands and even her clothes were torn.
“Who are you? Why are you running?”
“I’m Lakshmi. I was playing with my friends in the village. They’re trying to find me. This seems to be a good place to hide. They’ll never find me here. Are you the princess?”
“Yes I am. Will you play with me while you’re hiding from your friends?”
“Alright. Have these berries first. I just stole them from the garden”
And that was the innocent and humble beginning of a friendship that would change their lives forever.
Chitrangada and Lakshmi then met frequently. Secretly, of course. A queen in the making wasn’t supposed to mix with the commons and Lakshmi too would be scolded at home if she was found playing with the princess. The royal family were supposed to be revered and not befriended. Lakshmi too knew this but she liked Chitrangada so much, she didn’t want to break the bond between them. So nobody knew of their secret friendship. Whenever possible, Chitrangada went down to the lawns and Lakshmi would come to meet her at their hiding place.
Chitrangada learnt from her all about the people in the village and how different their life was from her own. They were all poor. They didn’t have silken robes nor did they eat lavish food. They worked hard all day and even in spite of that, went hungry every few days. In drought, many would die.
“Why don’t the villagers grow their food Lakshmi?”
“Some do. Others are forced to work at the factory by the white men.”
“What’s a factory? And who are these white men?”
“It’s that big building in the city. I have seen it once. They make something there, I don’t know what it is but it is sent it in big carts. And the white men! They are very cruel. They whip the workers if the work is not done. They don’t pay them very well too.”
“Why doesn’t my father ever help the villagers? Does he know how bad the white men are? I’m sure he’ll help if he knows how troubled the villagers are.”
“No, no Your Highness! Please don’t tell your father anything. Especially about me!” said Lakshmi abruptly.
“I have to leave. It’s getting late and mother must be looking for me. I will see you later.”
“Hey wait! Don’t go!” cried Chitrangada, but Lakshmi was already gone. The princess thought lot about that meeting. She didn’t understand a lot of things. She wanted to talk to Lakshmi. Ask her why she left so suddenly at the mention of the name of the king. Lakshmi didn’t come to the palace again. A week passed. Then another one. Chitrangada would evade all the servants and sit alone behind the old well all evening waiting for her friend. No one came. She was really worried.
The little princess then made the first important decision of her life. She took her oldest cotton robes and cut them here and there, rolled them in the dust and rubbed some on her face and hair. Princess Chitrangada then, dressed as an urchin, climbed out of the hole in the palace wall. She gathered all her courage and went to Lakshmi’s house. Lakshmi had told her the way once. Chitrangada reached a little deserted hut. She looked around to see if she could find Lakshmi.
“Go away, there is nobody in that house.” said a shopkeeper.
“Where is that little girl who lived here?”
“You came a little late. The white men came to take her father Bhim Singh away. He refused to leave his family. They troubled him for many days. Then, last week, they shot the little girl and her mother dead. He tried to save them. He too was killed.”
Chitrangada heard all this silently, shocked beyond belief. Without another word she walked back. “I won’t cry.” She told herself. “Princesses don’t cry. I’ll talk to father. He will help me. He’ll punish those bad men. I’ll tell him what they do to the poor villagers. They couldn’t have killed Lakshmi. I have to go back and tell father.”
That evening when she went back to the palace, there seemed to be someone in the Divan. The king often met people there but it was rather late for visitors. She stood behind the netted curtains. She would talk to him as soon as the visitors left.
“We need more people for the factory Your Highness.” said a white man.
“Take as many as you want from the village. As it is the crop always fails and they don’t pay tax. Useless creatures. You had might as well make them slog in the factory.”
“They keep protesting. They can’t leave their families behind, they say.”
“I told you to force them. Tell them it’s my order. They’ll do anything the king says. If they still resist….that’s a fine pistol you have there. Use it. As long as I get the revenue, I don’t care.”
“Your Majesty, don’t worry about that. We are already using that pistol very well. After that farmer’s family we killed last week, all the villagers are frightened. I don’t think they will hold up the protest much longer. Your payment will arrive from the city in a week’s time. Anyway you charge double the tax to those who work in the factory!”
All three men laughed heartily. They were in total oblivion of the little girl behind the netted curtain. A single tear stained those royal cheeks. In complete silence she went to her chamber. She lay on her bed, eyes wide open, not awake, not asleep. By morning, Chitrangada was reunited with Lakshmi.
Not all of the king’s riches could revive his daughter. Nobody even knew how or why she died. The little princess, in spite of her father’s riches, died in the attire of an urchin.

Monday, June 2, 2008


An account of my experience on evening on the banks of river Kameng in Bhalukpong, Arunachal Pradesh, this summer. This is the closest I could have come to describing it in words...
I am sitting by the river staring at the water. Its flowing away to someone else. The white rocks on the river bed shine like giant dew drops perfectly round. And there is silence…
It is a silence I haven’t known in a long time. No people talking, no TV blasting, no vehicles honking. Just a silent gushing of the river. A faraway bird calls from the trees on the other side. For a moment I try to place it in an encyclopaedia, in a bird book, in my mind. Almost immediately I give up, chasing away every thought. A strange thought-free floating state. And there is silence…
There are people around me, who like me are hearing the silence. I lie down to move them out of my sight and to stare at the sky, free from human beings. A blue canvas spread across my eyes, till a cloud floats in to interrupt the monochrome. And there is silence…
As I lie there, for a moment, I experience the rawness of being alive. For a moment, I have a sudden realization that I am but a part of the landscape, a part of the web, and my senses absorb it all. My clothes, shoes, watch, backpack….all seem alien, like they are distancing me from nature. And then, in my mind, for one moment, the boundaries begin to blur and I feel a sort of sinking, like I am melting into the rocks, becoming a part of them. For one moment I am no longer human, just alive, as alive as could be. And the moment is gone, And there is silence…

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


She woke up suddenly as if from a nightmare. She looked around; the streetlight outside her window cast an obscene orange glow on the room. Then, just as suddenly, the silence of her surroundings began to scream inside her head. It was a silence she hadn’t known for a long time. An eerie calm…
For as long as she could remember, her nights had been full of men. Men of every shape and size and kind. They all needed one thing from her and she came with a price tag. The whole thing was nothing more than a business transaction, nothing less than her way of life.
Human rights, exploitation, cruelty, women trafficking, were just big words. They didn’t mean much for a life on the streets. Now, as she stood by the window seeing the road below, she remembered each and every one of those men. Every face, every smell, every touch. It was all imprinted in her memory. But for them, she was just a faceless stranger. A faceless body that was meant for their pleasure. She knew that, and as hard as she tried, it was a fact she could not deny. But neither could she forget them and often they haunted her. Even on those rare times when she was alone at night. But somehow, she didn’t see them as her perpetrators. She never thought that she was being used or wronged. The matter was as simple as fruits on sale, only here, she replaced the fruit.
But the previous day had changed a lot for her. Some NGO, in an attempt to ‘save’ girls like her, got the police to raid her brothel. They were then sent to a home far from the city to be ‘cleansed’ and made fit for claiming a respectable position in society. Calm and sophisticated women, in crisp cotton saris spoke to them for hours on how they sympathized with their condition and how together, they would make the world a better place to live for them.
And then he came. His wife worked with the NGO. He had come to pick her up. His six-year-old daughter sat in the backseat of the car. He came up to each of the sex-workers and politely sympathized with them. As he spoke to her he didn’t notice her staring straight into his eyes. He didn’t remember this face. He didn’t care. He, along with his picture perfect family, drove off in the car. His daughter stared at her through the rear window. She remembered the car, she remembered the backseat…
For the rest of the day she kept thinking about him. She had been with him twice and he didn’t remember her. She had always believed that her way of life had been the best for her. Today he reinforced this belief. And it all seemed fake. The promises the NGO made and the life that was laid out before her. At the dinner table, they spoke about how women should be respected in society. She looked at the food kept before her and thought about his wife. The food would be eaten, whether it was laid out on china dishes at a luncheon or served in a steel bowl at the street corner. There was no difference.
That night she made a decision. She packed her things in a plastic bag and quietly stepped out of the gate. The night air was still and warm, as if someone had switched off the wind. She paused for a moment before walking back towards the city and its lights, and its noise and its people and its men…

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Looking for 'Someday'

Kohima is a quiet town. Quiet on the outside, but look closely, and everyone is screaming within, silently. The manifestations of anger here are many and suppressed. It shows itself in a villager’s dao or maybe in that soldier’s uniform or in as a little child playing in the alley and in those quiet eyes that stare at us from the dingy houses in the bylanes. The anger is all around us in a cry for independence and a daily struggle for survival.
In the middle of this chaos stands the Kohima War Cemetery. It is a gruesome reminder of the battle in Kohima between the Allied forces and the Japanese during the Second World War. The graves of the soldiers of the Allied forces lie in rows next to each other with a simple stone plate to tell the tale of the boy who lies six feet under.
I use the word ‘boy’ for a reason. The soldiers were no older than twenty-five. Most were much younger. Lives cut short by a pointless war in which all nations were destroyed in victory or defeat. As I walked past the epitaphs, one in particular caught my attention. As I read it, it felt like something within me was sinking and falling away, leaving behind a void. A void with a question. A 22-year-old soldier’s parents had inscribed on his headstone:

“Our Beloved Son, gave his life so that we may live,
Someday we will understand.”

The question wasn’t whether that ‘someday’ ever came. The question is that even today in Kohima and so many other parts of the world, parents are still looking for ‘someday’. At that moment nothing matters- patriotism, politics, war, peace, independence, courage, victory, defeat…hollow words. All that mattered was that a boy had lost his life. I began to wonder what his last moment could have been like. That one last painful, painless moment. The pride of having fallen at war? Or the regret of a life unfinished? Could anyone ever know?
My eyes welled-up for a stranger who lay there below the ground. Why? Because his reality was no different than mine. A cruel irony, as I stood by a soldier’s grave, a convoy of military trucks passed by on the road below. There were boys there too. A fragile boundary between the soldiers above the ground and those below it, even sixty-three years later. Sixty-three years after a boy’s parents wished to come to terms with his death, we are still struggling to come to terms with our lives.

Someday we will understand

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Me, Kash and Cruise

It isn’t often that you come across a play that tells you your own story, or at least gets as close to it as ‘Me, Kash & Cruise’ did. It really isn’t just my story or the story of the three characters on stage, but of everyone who has ever lived in this city.
Rahul DaCunha’s play is about the journey of a city through the lives of these three people who inhabit it- Puja Thomas, Rajesh Kashyap and Pervez Bin Khan. Spanning a period of over twenty years, the play takes the audience on a trip down the average Mumbaikar’s memory lane- through the riots, the blasts, the Ganpati visarjans and the traffic jams.
The four actors on stage- Yamini Namjoshi (Puja), Amit Mistry(Cruise), Neil Bhoopalan (Kash) and Rajit Kapoor (umm…well, the spirit of the city) tell their tale in a sort of unorthodox format. The stage is 3-tiered, joined by stairs and the scenes shift from one level to another. A sort of a representative technique- Brechtian maybe? Whatever it maybe, ‘Me, Kash & Cruise’ is intimidating, endearing and definitely moving.
Amit Mistry- the most dynamic of them all, both in role and performance- steals the show. Yamini Namjoshi and Neil Bhoopalan do a fairly decent job; Rajit Kapoor is admirable by the range of roles he plays from a pimp to a psychiatrist. The script itself is strong- sewn together well with in-your-face hinglish dialogues. The humour is what can be called ‘just right’- not too slapstick, not too intelligent. A fair bit of sarcasm and a couple of jabs at politics. One of the remarkable aspects of ‘Me, Kash & Cruise’ is it’s take on religion. The three main characters belong to different religions. The difference isn’t too pronounced, yet not completely masked. Somewhat like the city itself- with the exception of riots of course. The stage dynamics, however, are the most interesting part of the play. Not only do the levels represent a physical shift in the scene, but also represent the mood of the story at that juncture.
Rahul Dacunha brings Mumbai on to the stage- living, breathing, laughing and crying through the lives it touches. Almost every Mumbaikar on the stage, in the audience, in the world, can identify with the characters and the Mumbai within them, within us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tyger Tyger, Burning Away!

It’s almost been a very long time now since the last tiger roamed in the wild. The jungles don’t exist anymore. The balance was upset. The apex predator, a natural indicator gone, herbivore population explosion, deforestation, climate change, global warming,….., the list goes on. There are very few of us left today. We thought we’d make it, but the technology we created wasn’t enough to insulate us. In fact, that is exactly what did us in. While sustainable development is still just a bookish idea, we’re endangered, and edging dangerously close to extinction. Yes, we the humans. The web is upset, and nature is getting back at us. Natural disasters, epidemics and an environment on earth that is hostile to life forms. There are fewer of us than was ever imagined before, and we too are dying out. This is it. They say your entire life flashes before your eyes just before you die…

2008: A few weeks ago, it was discovered that the tiger population was just over a thousand individuals. And that too, is an official estimate. Don’t we all know what a notorious reputation “official estimates” have! So while state governments are in denial mode and most of us anyway don’t care, the stripes are gone for good. Even if they do accept the figures and make genuine attempts to “Save the tiger”, how possible is it? The gene pool has already been reduced. Even if we can make the species go on for a few more decades, it won’t be long before genetic mutation gets the better of the tiger. In breeding will lead to cubs being born with defects that will make survival in the wild even more difficult. They too will be gone some day. All the tigers. Just pictures left behind, to teach the kids. In those pictures, somewhere among the stripes, she’ll look at us again. A blank stare.

The 21st century: I remember standing in the Shahu Palace of Kolhapur. It’s a museum today. There were glass cases full of stuffed animals. One particular case had several tigers. There were cubs, males, females, almost every size. I remember being told that killing a tiger was considered a sign of valour for the royalty.
Picture this:
A hunting party vs. a solitary animal
Men armed with guns vs. a tiger armed with nothing but its own ill-adapted body
Men on elephants vs. a tiger on foot, soft velvet paws
A planned murder vs. a struggle for survival
… and valour they called it. I remember those eyes looking through the glass. Those dead eyes. A blank stare.

The 20th Century: independence, many were to discover, didn’t come cheap. I live in a village in India. I don’t know what freedom means to me. It hasn’t brought me anything. The forests were my land. It was taken away from me. I know I need to feed myself, my family. When people are willing to pay money for poaching, for buying fur, bones and almost every part of the tiger’s body, I don’t hesitate before I shoot that animal stuck in my snare trap. But I remember that face, which haunts me sometimes. As if it were saying something to me. A secret message. A blank stare.

Late 19th century: “Buffalo calves were tied in the jungle as bait. About fifty elephants were sent out to circle the place where the tiger was likely to conceal itself. Then, when the ring was ready, orders were given for a couple of elephants to go inside and find out where the tiger was hidden. The tiger which remained encircled for such a long time usually got enraged, charging at the elephant that went near it. In the beginning it’s exciting, but after a while, the tiger becomes exhausted and lies down… With two or three rings being made a day, I have seen hundreds of tigers being shot.”
-Maharaja Bahadur Banali’s Acount in a Manual on Tiger Hunting.
I came across this account while I was watching a documentary on the British Empire. This documentary also went on to say that in just ten weeks, Viceroy Lord Linlithgow’s hunt killed 38 rhino, 27 leopards, 15 bears and 120 tigers. The visuals were shocking. Men standing over the corpses of scores of tigers. Congratulating each other for having brought home another rug. A rug with a blank stare.

There are centuries of memories. I have seen the tiger. I killed it. I will pay for it. I am the last Homo sapien left on earth. Possibly the last in the universe. I look up at the blank, cloudless skies. Just as blank, as the blank stare.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shaurya Kya Hai?

शौर्य क्या है
थरथराती इस धरती को रौन्गति फौजियों की एक पलटन का शोर
या सहमे से आसमान को चीरता हुआ, बंदूको की सलामी का शोर
शौर्य क्या है, हरी वर्दी पर चमकते हुए चंद पीतल के सितारे
या सरहद का नाम देकर अनदेखी कुछ लकीरों की नुमाइश

शौर्य क्या है
दूर उड़ते खामोश परिंदे को गोलियों से भुन देने का एहसास
या शोलों की बरसात से पल भर में
एक शहर को शमशान बना देने का एशास
शौर्य, बहती बीआस में किसी के गर्म खून का हौले से सुर्ख हो जाना
या अंजनी किसी जन्नत की फिराक में, पल पल का दोजक बनते जाना
बरुदोसे धुन्धलाये इस आस्मान में, शौर्य क्या है

वादियों की गूंजते किसी गाँव से मातम में, शौर्य क्या है
शौर्य, शायद एक होसला, शायद एक हिम्मत, हमारे बहुत अंदर
मज़हब के बनाये दायरे तोड़ कर, किसीका हाथ थाम लेने की हिम्मत
गोलियों की बेतहाशा शोर को अपनी खामोशी से चुनोती डे पाने की हिम्मत
मरती मारती इस दुनिया में निहात्ते डेट रहने की हिम्मत

शौर्य, आने वाले कल की खातिर
अपने हिस्से की कायनात को, आज बचा लेने की हिम्मत
शौर्य क्या है

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


गर्मियों की एक रात में, बुझी हुई candle,
उसकी जलती महक, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
भीगे बालों से टपकता पानी,
उसकी भीगी हुई सी धार, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
जब अचानक से बिजली चली जाती है,
अजब से अंधेरे की आहट, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
खामोश कई वह लम्हे, जब यूही बैठे रहते है,
उन लम्हों की खामोशी, तेरी याद दिलाती है.
पुरानी कोई किताब खोलकर, पीले मुरझाये पन्नों में,
कोई अपनी सी कहानी, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
बारिशों के पहले पहले दिनों में,
हर बूँद की छलकने की आवाज़, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
जब कभी तेरी याद आती है, येही सोचा करते है,
कि सिर्फ़ याद ही क्यों आती है?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hold on...

Hold on...
He stared at me with those huge grey eyes, and swallowed my world into them. He made no sound, but said so much. I found myself talking to him, pleading him and crying out, not wanting to let go. Yet, there was silence between us. The silence there is between a human and an animal…between me and a kitten.
It’s difficult to let go,
I still hold on.
The very last strand of hope-
He will live on,
He must…
My beliefs are shattered,
As I convince a hollow self,
Of ideas I consider ‘right’
Lost is love in a proper world,
And emotions in the appropriate.
But I still hold that little paw.
I still hold on.
What would he want? Would he want to live a dependent life or die an induced death? Put to sleep- a gory euphemism. If only he could talk and tell me. If only I understood what he said? If only…
Euthanasia- the right to live with dignity, and the right to die with it too. There he was, no bigger than my cupped hands, a hypodermic needle between life and beyond. I hope there is a beyond…even then I still hold on.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Special Holi

Its been close to five or six years since I played holi. Reason? I don’t think I have an excuse good enough! I guess I never had good friends to play with, ever since my friends ‘grew up’, which is just a better way of saying that now they went to play holi with their respective girlfriends and boyfriends. Odd isn’t it, the way we drift from one set of friends to the other. Needs changed, priorities changed, and so did my holi-playing companions…so did I.
This year though, things were a little different. I was invited to play holi at Advitya Kala Sangam- an NGO run by my friend’s mom. There were about a dozen mentally challenged adults who played holi with us. Although I had been to the place several times before, this time I somehow witnessed Advitya from a slightly different point of view- one that was up, close and personal. As soon as the celebrations began, it was just about five minutes before each of us was coated in a thick layer of gulal. I was pink from head to toe and resembled a badly animated monster from a B-grade flick!
The whole frenzy of throwing colour all over the place died down after a while, and that’s when I began to see something that made my holi so special. We all sat to eat after a while. Busy munching on a samosa, Julian sat next to me and quietly pointed out to me all the girls he liked in the crowd of about fifty of us. It so turned out, he liked all the others but me! Heartbroken, I returned to my plate of food, thinking about getting rejected by the most flirtatious student of Advitya! The complete innocence with which he stated his liking for the girls was touching. It’s cruel isn’t it when the mind and body don’t work in sync? But then again, for the so-called “normal” ones in our sane world, how often have misused this mind and body sync? He wasn’t like the rest of us. Thank God for that! His sheer bluntness was moving…and that I call special.
Swati was another excited student. She kept singing her version of “Rang Barse” all along, doing a little dance with it too! When we all sang along, she laughed. Simply, loudly, and genuinely. This is probably a word most of us take for granted. We probably consider it unnecessary. But her laugh was just so wonderful, so clean…and that I call special.
Then there was Anish- the most enthusiastic of the bunch. He was the star of the show! As soon as I entered Advitya, he was the first to come charging at me, almost ferociously to wish me a Happy Holi. I’m not sure if he understood that it was a festival. But for Anish, absolutely any reason is good enough for celebration. He showed me how we really don’t need anything to be happy, do we? Its all there. You just have to reach out to get it. Apart from the fact that he almost choked people with all the gulal, he was considerate enough to go around telling Swati to take a bath to wash of the large quantities of colour on her, and me to take off my glasses before he poured another packet of colour on my head! When most of us go around finding reasons to get upset, to brood over, here he was, with no a care in the world…and that I call special.
These were just a few of the very special people I spent m holi with. It was amazing, the conversations they had. I had a lot of trouble deciphering what they said to me, but among themselves, the communication seemed fantastic. They all seemed to understand what the other said, or meant. This again reminded me of the conversations we have. I don’t think I have ever had a heart-to-heart with my sister. Not so much even with my mum or close friends in a while. Communication is so different today. The Family dinner conversation has been replaced by a couple of words exchanged during commercial breaks in serials. You fail to find common ground between children and parents, spouses, siblings, colleague, even friends. There just isn’t enough conversation, communication and just that random cup of coffee. Just being understood is difficult. This was something happening with so much ease in Advitya…and that I call special.
Johnny Depp once said, ““If there's any message to my work, it is ultimately that it’s OK to be different, that it’s good to be different, that we should question ourselves before we pass judgment on someone who looks different, behaves different, talks different, is a different color.”
I was with people who were different. People who were made different…and probably for a reason. If they too were like you and me, in all the good ways and the bad, we would probably never know of human being so pure. Ones who so blatantly live their lives. They bring to us the possibility of being like that, going through life with a little less dishonesty-with ourselves and others. It is these guys who make the world a little more inhabitable. A little more unreal.....and that is truly, what I call, special.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Tryst With the Gods

It was a fine morning. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and a handsome young man was walking through the ravines in the Chambal valley when suddenly- Dhishkyaooo! A bullet from Dakoo Bhairo Singh’s gun pierced the silence and the man’s chest muscles. Dakoo Bhairo Singh curled his eighteen inch moustache and grinned a 440 watt-yellow-toothed-smile.
About four hundred miles from all this, with nothing to do with Dakoo Bhairo Singh or the unfortunate (but handsome) nameless junior artist of our story, I was in a train, on way to college. In perfect oblivion of all that, I was sitting in the first class ladies compartment, staring out of the window at the dozens of residents of this city who live in toiletless homes and use the railway tracks for a variety of purposes- the earliest in the day being the smelliest. The sights and smells however managed to distract me from the perfectly offensive obscenities scribbled on the seat before me. Besides, odours from the woman sitting next to me were fiercely competing with those coming from outside, to the extent that I was contemplating suicide by holding breath.
Amidst the odour mania, general train squabble and the faraway, inaudible roar of Bhairo Singh’s laughter, Dadar arrived. Along with several other women (and their respective smells), she entered. Not a word escaped her mouth but all women showed signs of reverence to the “Western Railway” badge she wore. Automatically hands reached into pockets, purses, wallets and other places of storage (ahem) to bring out passes and tickets. I too conformed to this glorious tradition.
She looked at the tattered document I held out and then at me. After a tense moment she finally uttered, “Expire ho gaya hai!” My world was shattered. Those three words spelt doom. But not much could be done. At Elphinstone Road she led me to the Station Master’s office, or rather a dingy room which resembled those used by the armed forces for torturing POWs. Other passengers looked at me with sympathy, contempt, ridicule and Thank-God-I-Wasn’t-Caught looks.
But what could be worse than getting caught the very next day after your pass has expired? I was soon to find out, when I was made to empty my wallet, pockets and bag for money to pay for a fine of Rs250. I had a sum total of Rs.170.25.
The station master looked at me, as if to gage if I was a seasoned railway rules offender. He waited and thought. Finally he made a slip of “Extra Luggage” for Rs.165 and issued a ticket back home for me as I waited there like a criminal in trial for murder. Finally he smiled a 440watt-yellow-toothed smile, picked his nose and handed me the receipt and ticket ( using the same hand of course), but personal hygiene isn’t high on the list at such times.
I ran out as quickly as I could and silently thanked the railway gods who had smiled upon me. The situation could be well described by the Hindi films of yesteryears when the hero came out of the blue-grey metal (or thermocol) doors of Central Jail. Relieved and broke, I made my way back home, with a vow to check the expiry dates on railway passes in the future to avoid any tryst with the Railway Gods.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gajodhar Bhaiyya vs Shankar Bhau

This is a tale of not very long ago
When two young men lived in a city next door.
One was born there, the other came later,
Both were the same, none the better.
They toiled together and earned their bread,
But in different directions were they led.
The peace they lived in wasn’t too exciting,
To earn someone votes, it wasn’t inviting.
The others saw a plan and hatched a plot,
Hit the hammer when the iron was hot.
They made them fight for no good reason,
The city was plunged in a deathly season,
Bhaiyya and Bhau couldn’t stand each other,
Two words, both meant brother.
The culprits were caught finally, by their own kin,
But so were they let out as soon as they were put in.
They got their mileage, and their votes and all,
The lawkeepers too stood proud and tall.
The media too had a field day,
Watching the cat and mouse play.
The only ones who died were the two naïve neighbours,
Someone else to enjoy the fruit of their labour.
Clichéd as it might be, this story is just as common,
For in this city, common sense is most uncommon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do you?

Do you think of me the way I do?
Do you wish for me, upon a shooting star,
Or sit with a lonely sun,
as the waves rise to swallow it?

Do you share your lonely silent moments,
And those amidst all the noise,
With the me of your imagination?

Do you wonder what I would do,
Or say to you right now,
If I were there with you?

Do you dream often of smiling
wrinkled smiles together,
and still not running out of things to say?

Do you wait for me when you know I won’t come,
and look for my face in the crowd,
even when I couldn’t possibly be there?

Do you see my picture in those impulsive,
Stolen moments, and wish that it would,
Come to life somehow?

Do you chat with me at night,
When I’m not around,
Desperately wishing I was?

Do you ever think of me the way I do?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Chaos of the Mob

A salty teardrop fell from a frozen eye
And lost itself in a stream of salty blood
And lost was a person in
The chaos of the mob

He knew not his religion,
He couldn’t remember his faith
His Gods were lost in,
The chaos of the mob

He did hesitate once, before he plunged,
But others urged him on,
Blame them not, either, they too were lost in
The chaos of the mob

He now shivered with excitement,
A lust to kill, a thirst for blood,
His peace, and his dreams, lost forever in
The chaos of the mob

He burnt his own children,
Raped his sisters and stabbed his kin,
But blame him not, because he was lost in
The chaos of the mob

It was all over now, as the fires died out.
He sat in the corner over a pile of ash.
His own house burnt by
The chaos of the mob

There was no one left to blame,
No one left to kill,
All his senses muted, by
The chaos of the mob

It was his own salty teardrop,
And his own salty blood,
The only one left to blame was
The chaos of the mob

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chromosome XX

Dear world,
It’s dark here. I can’t hear much. Just a dull vibe of the ultrasound, maybe. Te fluids about me dance as the machine gages my form. This moment is dense. I ca feel her heartbeat, now, louder than ever. I can feel her pain, now, more than ever. I wish I had a voice to scream. I wish they had ears to hear. I wish all of us could feel.
But it doesn’t matter what I feel. To the world, I am yet, unborn. I am yet, not “alive”. I am just flesh and blood and bones, with life…and with a gender. After today, after the machine speaks its truth, I may never see the world. I might be severed from her and from the nourishment I need. I might be severed from the protection of her body. I might “die”. But as no one yet considers me alive, no one will mourn my death.
Even if I am brought out into the world, for fear of law, society or just someone’s conscience, my fate will not be much different. I will be deprived of food for satisfying a brother’s appetite. I will be deprived of an education to further suppress my being. I will be dominated over and my own defences will be shattered as others invade me. My body, my soul. My voice will be muffled so that a calcified voice can be heard. My strength will be termed a weakness and my wishes left unfulfilled. I will be made to work, without ever being acknowledged. I will be made to cry, without being heard. I will be sold, without receiving a price. I will be ostracized, if I ever dare to live my own life.
I will try and fail to show the world, that “he” is but a part of “her”. He cannot exist without her.
And now, it is growing darker. I feel strangled. I feel suffocated. I see my small world, in a bag, drain away before me. I know this is too soon. I know I can’t survive in this world so soon. I am not ready yet. But no one care. In fact, this is exactly what they wish. They wish to kill me. They wish to have only a son.
It’s coming to an end now, and before me, I see the future. A future, in a world without me. Where only sons exist. Where they cannot find me to torture, to invade. So they are driven to but each other. To vent their frustrations, which they were so used to inflicting on me. There are only the last few of us remaining, and they live a life which doesn’t fit into the definition of the word. Mere objects, being passed on from one son to another. They choose to end their life. And now it’s only him. Only he reigns supreme in the world…alone.
And now there is a stagnating human world. They slowly die out. Without me, they are unable to have a ‘son’. And the world comes to an end because there isn’t any daughter.
As the darkness grows deep, as I suffocate more, I wish to die this death than to live in the man’s world. I choose to leave before I could enter. Because if they cannot give me a life, they do not deserve me.
I refuse to live in this “Man’s world”.
- Chromosome XX

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cos my cup has overflowed...

Someone forwarded me this poem. It isn't mine, but I relate to it a lot.

I've never made a fortune,
and its probably too late now.
But I don't worry about that much,
I'm happy anyhow.
As I go along life's way,
I'm reaping more than I sowed.
I'm drinking from my saucer,
'cos my cup has overflowed.

Haven't got a lot of riches,
and sometimes the goings tough.
But i've got loving ones around me and
that makes me rich enough.

I thank god for all his blessings,
and the mercies He's bestowed.
I'm drinking from my saucer,
'cos my cup has overflowed.

I remember when things went wrong,
and my faith wore somewhat thin.
But all at once the dark clouds broke,
and the sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe,
about the tough rows I have hoed.
I'm drinking from my saucer,
'cos my cup has overflowed.

If god gives me strength and courage,
when the way grows steep and rough.
I'll not ask for other blessings,
I'm already blessed enough.
And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.
Then i'll keep drinking from my saucer,
'cos my cup has overflowed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Stream of Consciousness

"O poor, unthinking human heart! Error will not go away; logic and reason are slow to penetrate. We cling with both arms to false hope, refusing to believe in the weightiest proofs against it, embracing it with all our strength. In the end it escapes, ripping our veins and draining our heart's blood; until, regaining consciousness, we rush to fall into snares of delusion all over again"

Tagore wrote this more than a century ago. But human emotion, our behaviour is quite independent of space, time or context. I don’t think I can ever let go completely. I don’t think anyone can ever let go. Even when you have been used, abused. Sometimes I wonder what authority I have to say this. I haven’t been in a relationship of this sort ever. But over the past few years, seeing the relationships my friends have been in, I wonder whether it is ever possible for me to handle anything of that sort anyway. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, I started taking life very seriously. Frivolous ties are not for me.
In the past six odd months, all I have been hearing of is my friends getting two-timed by their partners. Cheating on someone is just so easy, isn’t it? Was watching the Roadies 5.0 auditions the other day. Their prelim questionnaire had a question- “with the guarantee that you will not be caught, will you cheat on your boyfriend/ girlfriend?” The answers were even more appalling.
When I did an “India Changing” ad campaign, I never really thought of India changing this way. Even though I am a part of the youth and the so-called youth culture, I am finding myself getting old-fashioned and boring for my friends, for their beliefs and though process.
Why is it that when I find smoking and alcohol so repulsive, my own friends think it is “cool” or just an ordinary of their life, and why is it that I cant let go of this fact?
Why can I not let go of my friends even when I want to. When there are these times when I want to be alone, why do I still be with them. When I want my alone time, why is it that I am never able to tell everyone to leave.
Why am I not letting go of those invading me, my space. Why has it become my space? Is it simply because I don’t have anyone to share this space with? Will I ever find that one person?
Its odd isn’t it, the way all of us are just wandering, billions of people all over the world, looking for the one person to share their “alone time” with. I often try to imagine what that time will be like when there is that someone. Maybe it will be tomorrow, years later, never. I don’t really care. But whenever it will be, all I know is that, it will be that or nothing else. When I do something I love, or start loving something I do, I don’t let go easily. I will sit with it. For as long as it takes and mend it. But when I know its beyond repair, it takes me a second, in the bat of an eyelid, I will be gone.
Virgos, they say, are organized clean people. Working with the precision of a surgeon. But somehow, even though I find myself practical and brash, I have often been accused of being rude. Under the pretext of calling me “frank” most people do intend to say that I am rude. Someone once tried predicting my future. She said that I would lose my friends. Slowly, but surely. Sort of just waking up one morning and realizing that you have no friends. And you don’t know where they are. You can’t remember when they left. You don’t know if they will be back. You don’t know if anyone will ever take their place.
That is probably the scariest of all my thoughts. Being in a situation like that. Being lonely. Not alone.
All I can do is pray. Hope that my friends understand that. I hope they don’t leave. I hope they are replaceable, even if they do. I hope there is always someone to cry to. Someone to laugh with. Someone, with whom I can sit in silence.
Silence is something I enjoy. My friends at college find it very weird when I just shut up at times. Sometimes I like to listen rather than talk. Stand still and observe. There are a lot of things you forget. Take for granted. When you are quite, you see all that. All those things that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
This stream of consciousness has been long. Very long. I don’t even think I will ever read it again. Doesn’t matter. This piece started nowhere and ended nowhere. A sort of a lose straw in the heap. I fragment of information in my brain. What began as I stumbled over a quote I had read a long time ago, led to an entire page full of my mind spilt out on paper, in ink. And now I see myself running out of energy, even if I am not running out of thoughts…