Heart

A Girl

Fandry-upcoming-marathi-film

As a little girl Ill at ease with the tenderness of her age ran across the road I saw in her running into me a rage of perplexity. A bag she carried clung to her frail bones, eyes had sunk deeper into the underfed face and the palms faced me in the crotch. Left to wonder if she was trying to avoid being run over or running into a stranger, I reciprocated with a gesture. The older woman behind her made note of the conversation and pretended being indifferent and preoccupied with her own errands she was out for.
I met the girl again later in the evening in my moment of recollecting all that had transpired through the day. She reappeared as the same malnourished bony creature bereft of a sense of health and affluence. This time around, her hair browning in the sun, the logo on the shirt she wore and the pleats on her skirt too rose in my thought. Mindless as it was thinking of her, I found myself ruminating aloud of education, abdication and adoption. What would the city, the school and the books do to her? Leave her alone or drag her into the grind. Will she be the older woman walking at ease behind her or will she grow into a caged sparrow always in need of unneeded attention and artificial affection?
It has been a while that I crossed a road. Had crossed a railway track as a child on my way to school. That was an initiation for me into the belief that one is ultimately left to fend for oneself. I wish to preach. Preach to the little girl. Preach health, reading and a lot of freedom. It would be difficult to find her at the moment. If I do later, I might just be busy crossing another path. Roads choking with vehicles are quite easy to walk through. Sparsely sprinkled with little girls are not. Vehicles don’t come home with you. Little girls do.

Advertisements
Heart

Breaking Free

IBreaking Freen a rather first, today, a whiff of anxiety and scare lashed by my soul. For a moment I found myself lusting for being amidst the unseen and the exotic. The moment when one despairs at being fettered to inconsequential chores stood staring me in the face. It so happened that I ran into a gentleman who had that care free aura around his congenial face. A short striking conversation with him made me brood over for a while and I sat down to think of his talk about racism, about visual communication and of temples and beggars in far-flung corners of the country. In the rest of the journey that he alighted somewhere in the middle of, my mind flew away to distant shores. I heard the storming, gorgeous waves and saw those picturesque tides. The inability to have that world surround me for real meant that the world was no longer at my feet as it always used to be. I cannot recall the last time I yearned for anything not within my immediate reach as strongly. That fleeting moment I was yearning to break free. As someone who has maintained, if not professed, that breaking free is not an option available to the human race, that desire of doing so came as a tough pill to swallow. That leap of imagination has left me weaker in terms of my suitability for a set pattern that I have tended to follow and fall by.

Curiously enough, I was haunted yet again, equally ephemerally, when in the market I saw this group of young boys selling chillies and gourds. Sitting side by side, attending to buyers, weighing the greens, they were jostling their things at each other and constantly conversing about things I could not know much about. Amidst the shrillness and the chaos was their world- unfettered, jovial and supple. It is funny to admit but I will. I felt like being one of them for the evening. Oh that I could travel back with them to their fields on a rainy noon and tend to their crop. Thankfully, I was done buying by the time I could take a firm decision. Smiling to myself and at the pretentious sounding plans that got sketched in my head, I headed back home.

These fleeting distractions today in a way have left me confused and right now I am thinking about my confidence in things, about the levels of my contentment with everything that I have until now not taken very seriously. I seem to be scoring lower on these counts than ever before. Should this be a cause for worry? Be it or not, twice in the day today, I was not myself. That is the best face I can put up right now to account for a weakening of my faith in conformity and austerity, in being content and in being oneself. The day has seen me split into two. Another defense, I think it should calm me down- I am no exception. Its only natural to vie, to be jealous of others and to dream of not being one’s real self.

Heart

Work

 

band-party-BX69_lIt is 11 a.m. Woke up to a pale sunny morning which was to soon lose its innocence to the maturity and the haughtiness of the noon. What sounded like a marriage procession in the street (at this time of the year??) was the prominent trigger to the whisking away of  lethargy that kept me cuddled to myself all through the dawn and the wee hours. The band procession goes away. The images of the bright red dress and the flashy turbans of men in the band linger for a bit longer. I have wondered about these professions and professionals. I once again think of the ways in which these men explain to their near and dear ones about what they do for a living. The question seems quaint. However, it keeps coming back to me. It also comes uninvited to me when watching a mythological series on the television where actors put on the demonic make ups-unreal eyes, crumbled hairdo, protruding teeth and made to act out those horrifying and yet endearing laughter sequences. The ‘hoohaahaha’ and the costumes make me think of the lives of these actors as it would unfold beyond the stage and the set. Do these professionals carry their ‘jobs’ back home to their kids and spouses? In what ways are the intricacies of such engagement articulated in speech? I know of my friends employed by multinational giants, some businessmen and others who call themselves ‘artists’ for whom ‘work’ is all about being respectably tired. How is fatigue talked about by the others who in a way remain oblivious to the social eye because of the ephemeral effect and the obsolete occasional needs that they are called on for fulfilling. Play a tune for an hour, beat the drums, blow into the trumpet and then vanish with the ‘payment’ only to adorn another gathering in another locality with the music that is surely more strenuous than the one that is played in a studio orchestra with a ‘in demand’ playback singer lending her voice to it!

In the street is the work for a new building in progress. Marble tiles are being cut to squares. The grilling noise reaches my ears and I visualise the stream of beautiful sparks landing on the fabric of my shirt. The men who work with the tiles sit too close to the machine as it cuts into the substance. The sparks leave holes on their shirts. I haven’t seen any of them ever using a bib. I look at my shirt, find it safe. The floor in my room looks dirty as ever, the commode needs a dose of disinfectant and the bed sheet has already begun reeking of dust and endocrinal exudates. The broom is nowhere in sight. The clothes are in disarray and badly need some hot iron pressing over their crushes. With respect to the kinds of work people do for a living, all that I have to do today, if I am able to, I heave a sigh of relief. I will be doing all this for myself and not because I will be paid for it, not because if I don’t pay attention to these chores the chances of my evening bread shall suffer. Not because these chores involve my limbs and my senses in positions they would surely not want to be in. Alienation from what one has to do sends me pondering.

Believe me, a cup of hot coffee and some pretentious reflection over a blog post are best ways to make oneself forget the strangeness of lives we have all come to lead. It obviously does not matter if we have time to think of things going on around us. Thinking about it and reflecting on it is just a choice that one has to make. There are no penalties for not doing so. Honestly speaking, there are other more important things to do. Watch a film on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and go to sleep while it is half over. Relax…that’s life!

Mind, Uncategorized

Gasha (Hindi/Urdu/Kashmiri.140 Minutes)

24sm_gaash_JPG_1372191fFor me Gasha turned out to be a curious sound. Pronounced as Gaa-Sh-Aa it is the name of the latest play produced by the Bangalore based theater group Indian Ensemble. As a nominated entry under several categories (including Best Play and Best Director) at the ongoing theater festival organised by the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, it was performed last evening at the Kamani Auditorium. The production tries to explore the convoluted frames of the conflictual socio-political zone i.e. Kashmir and makes an earnest attempt at laying bare the subjectivity and the everyday lives of people severely affected by the ongoing conflict in the region. The only two actors we see on stage are Adhir Bhatt (as Gasha) and Sandeep Shikhar (as Nazir). Gasha is the attempt by the scriptwriter Irawati Karnik to bring to light the various facets that come to constitute the fate of two childhood friends. Gasha and Nazir are neighbors from a locality in Srinagar who are separated because of Gasha’s family leaving Srinagar for Mumbai in the wake of ‘militancy’. The narrative goes back and forth in time. Gasha’s family revisits their hometown after a gap of twenty years for the ritual worship of the much revered deity Kheer Bhavani. At the Srinagar airport, Gasha chances upon a loader whom he identifies as Nazir. The encounter makes him think of events past and of the days gone by. For the audience it is a pleasant and yet a very serious detour across the landscape of such remembrance.

Needless to say that the script beautifully peels quite a few layers deep into a number of issues. The director Abhishek Majumdar succeeds in making Bhatt and Shekhar impeccably don the role of several characters- of children in a classroom, of Bukhari sir- their teacher, of Gula- the Muslim attendant at the Kheer Bhavani shrine, of the angry-old controlling Arjun Mama and the most endearing  of them all- Dadi Jaan. An innovative stage design, intelligent handling of the lights, an apt sound arrangement and a minimalist use of stage props are other noticeable aspects of this production.

Apart from making for insightful angles from which to look at the Kashmir issue, the play leaves the audience with interesting material for further reflection. The characters for instance ask some very evocative questions in jest, as exclamations or dumb anguishes, satires or even as morose ramblings. Notice Gasha’s mother asking- “Bhala Koi Churaai Hui Kaaleen Pe Namaaz Kaise Padh Sakta Hai?” (How can anyone offer prayers on a stolen carpet?) or Arjun Mama asking Gasha “Daikin badi company kaise ho sakti hai jab maine uska naam hi nahin suna?” (How can Daikin be a big company when I have not even heard its name?” and further on “Tu Kashmir ka Mausam bechta hai?” (You are selling the weather of Kashmir) referring to Gasha’s job in a company that manufactures  air conditioners. All the more funny is Arjun Mama scolding a seemingly uninterested Gasha to concentrate in prayers before the Goddess and to “feel the tiger”!

I see the play to be about the problems with our reliance on memory as a tool to reconstruct and make sense of all that happened years ago.  It presents in vivid details the ways in which children make sense of their world. There is this just right dose of genuine comedy sprinkled all across the duration of the play. The ways in which violence gets appropriated by the imagination of a child is well documented through very subtle injunctions in the script and in facial expressions that aptly correspond to it. Where should a child play and where should he study, what has happened to schools in Kashmir post militancy and what are the possible future careers that the ‘unschooled’ children in Kashmir will have in the years to come, Gasha is a nuanced comment on all these social issues.

Yes, the briefcases as props seem too many in some scenes, they are dragged too often on the wooden floor, the repeated falls and the thuds of the actors at times insert a break in the flow. Despite these glitches, Gasha is a play  that has a message, ranks high on entertainment quotient and oozes a meaning that might require repeated attempts in order to be gleaned. I sincerely hope that the team comes up with more such creative productions and do the little possible so as to bring sanity back to where it belongs. In troubled times, sanity often happens to be the resource that becomes scarce. Even when available, it gets under or over-represented in discourse. The impact of counter currents that an artistic work like Gasha is capable of creating remains to be estimated. I wish this team all the very best for its future productions.

Uncategorized

Sleepy Men

10:15 p.m.

Inner Ring Road aka Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Delhi.

The stretch of this road from Rajghat to the Maharana Pratap Interstate Bus Terminus.

The broad, impressive expanse of this road is interrupted by the narrow divider where Alistonia has just begun to welcome the autumn with its fragrant flowers.

Lie untroubled and asleep on this divider scores of men. Feet of this one touching the head of the one below. As seen from the window screen of a moving car, this chain appears never-ending. Ah Woe Betide! The bronze spoon I was born with in my mouth! The riches, the ‘society’ and the obligations I have to take care of. Thanks to these aspects of the worthless life I have come to lead, I can’t get to spend this night here like any of these souls have to. A poignant morose sounding blog post about this sight should be great!

Millions of vehicles from both sides of the road traverse the scripts of hundreds of those dreams. Fairies come close, kiss and get crushed under the screeching wheels of the speeding cars before their palms get to fondle any further. Damsels in the other dreams get picked up by the cyclists and the autos before they uncork that wine and offer to the parched lips. At home, a wife in a yellow saari with a story and a child with an embrace wait. The words of that tale are not audible in the first go and the arms are at such a distance- the noise and the bright lamp posts. The city never sleeps!

Some emaciated, some hungry, some newcomers, some old timers.  A few sit huddled together and smoke. Once in a while this philosopher breaks this chain as he stares at the stars and wonders if it would rain tonight. Nine out of a hundred awake and calculating the hours of the night that remain. As night falls, the vehicles would be less frequent. At around two, they would almost disappear and allow for some sleep that will be a mix of relief interspersed with annoying aphids, lice and arachnids of all kinds. Thinking of food, this one weeps. His top down neighbor might get a good job in the morning. He is thinking of tomorrow’s evening already.

Some lie adjacent in pairs and share the sheet. Must be from the same place ‘back there’. Talking about the quarrel with their common childhood friend over the two thousand rupees that he did not return, their eyelids have just gone too heavy. They just mutter to themselves- Bahinchod!

Of an alley where the grand old man lies cremated on the bank of the Yamuna. The big brave King’s name shining on the main building of the Bus Station. In the midst of this greatness rests a banality- one that I have not ever lived. I should be wisely wishing for anything here- what if a segment of that wish were to come true! ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is another axiom I have to sleep thinking about tonight!

In the dead of the night, one would tell me tomorrow, came to him the spirit of the Mahatma pillion riding on Maharana‘s horse and wept inconsolably at the comfort and at the bliss that this divider teems up with as and when the stars appear brighter and shinier! On the parallel, outer ring road aka K B Hedgewar Marg must be dozing off another set of nationalists and nation builders!

Uncategorized

Showcasing My Friends-5

(For the fifth post in this series, for which I have interviewed people I am close to, I emailed Sharmishtha a set of questions. Her responses have been reproduced here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. The series is to be continued with other friends as and when possible. Sincere thanks to all readers who commented on and appreciated the earlier posts).

Three posts ago, I wrote a few things about the person Sharmishtha Basu is- an artist, a nice friend and above all an active blogger who is not just regular but also remarkably consistent with regard to the quality of her posts. I hope this interview serves as a little window and brings us face to face with some of the unnoticed aspects of the person behind the lovely colors that she employs to illustrate the rhymes of her delicate words.

—-

Personal Concerns- To start with, I would like to ask you something about your blogs and your experiences with WordPress?

Sharmishtha BasuAs you already know, I am obsessed with writing. I started with Mydomainpvt, so I could use my blog in Intent.com properly, the posts of WordPress can be copied in intent without any editing. Then intent.com shifted to Facebook and I concentrated on WordPress. Two of my earlier blogging experiences- with MSN ( a mixed experience) and Blogspot (horrible) initially made me a bit skeptic about WordPress. Now I feel that WordPress is the place every writer who loves to write and wants genuine readership should be in. It’s an amazing site, the more I compliment WordPress the little it shall be. I have found the very best people of the world both at intent.com and here. I just love the readers and writers at WordPress. They are amazing.

PC- For you, how is Haiku special as a form of poetry?

SB Haiku is the form that unleashes the dreamer in me fully. I love writing Haiku because its main concept is to capture nature, being a great lover of mother earth I really love to play with this form, trying my best to capture mother earth’s beauty in every way I can.

PC- You have lived both in Delhi and Kolkata. In what ways do you find the two experiences different?

SB-I love Kolkata because of its people. It’s the best place for a single woman to live in. Delhi is the scariest place in India I believe. Even when I left Delhi at the age of sixteen, I could feel the scariness of that place. The worst part is that one had to be cautious about family men, neighbours – something which fortunately is still absent in Kolkata. Most probably because Bengali men respect their wives…. Ha ha. They don’t want to get spanked by their wives for eve teasing. Kolkata is full of warm people who let others live in peace.

PC- How many languages do you know? and which of them are you the most comfortable with?

SBBengali, Hindi and English. I am equally comfortable in Hindi and Bengali. I love Bengali the most because it’s a very sweet language. It really sounds sweet to the ears. I have heard a lot of languages, some of them with a little bit of understanding and some without any understanding at all. Bengali really sounds sweet to my ears more than most of the languages, and a lot of my non bengali friends say the same. My English is not bad I believe.

PC- Sharmishtha is a nice sounding name. What does it mean ? Do you also have a nick name?

SB– Sharmishtha means extremely lucky- which I am. My self-given pet name is Trisha.

PC- Who is/are your favorite poets? Any particular poem that you would like to share with us?Kuakata, Bangladesh. Tomb of Kazi Nazrul Islam...

SB-My favourite most poet is Rabindranath Tagore, then comes Kazi Nazrul Islam, Wordsworth, Frost, Shakespeare (I love his sonnets). Its tough for me to look for one poem, song, movie etc. but one that touches me very deeply is Tagore’s Jethay Thaake Sabar adham (where the poorest of poorest dwells)

Your feet dwells

Where the lowest of the low dwells

In the lowest place of all

With Those without anything at all

When I lower my head at your feet

It stops somewhere midway

It cant reach the place

That lowest of low place

Where your feet dwells

My arrogance cant reach you

Down there where you dwell

Like the poorest of poor

Amongst the poorest of poor

I seek your company

Sitting on my pile of wealth

Surrounded by loved ones

But my heart never reaches

Down there where you dwell

Amongst those without anyone

Amongst those without anything.

PC-Any memory from school/college that strikes you as special ?

SB- I was a student at Burdwan Raj College, two of my fondest memories of that college are that of our history teacher Alok Chakraborty- India really needs such teachers, and the five girl gang we had formed- me and Nilanjana, Rimita, Shampa and Swagata. We used to have so much fun. I graduated in 1995 and my combinations were Economics, Political Science and History. Well, Alok Chakrabarti confirmed my firm belief that even the rowdiest students respect the sincere teacher. Quite a handful of the students were older than him, yet the moment he walked inside the class it fell silent and his students almost never missed his class. He was not just an amazing teacher but he gave us suggestions that worked so well. 

Well, we used to spend a lot of time together, I used to visit Swagata at her house regularly, and Rimita, Nilanjana and me went to the same tutor. It was girlish fun mostly, both Rimita and Nilanjana had boyfriends and we had to lie to their parents 🙂

One day Nilanjana did not come, we went to her house to ask how she was and to give her the notes of that day. Her mother opened the door and was shocked to know that Nilanjana had not been to the classes…because as she knew it, Nilanjana had gone for the tuitions. It took a lot for us to convince her that actually it was us who had bunked the classes and were looking for her notes. We used to go out together, and Nilanjana was the one with tight purse strings, always trying to convince us not to spend 🙂

PC- Censorship on the Internet has become an issue around which there are so many opinions. What do you think?

SB- I am absolutely against it. The websites may keep an eye on their content but not the governments. I believe they are scared for the way truth is spread through the internet and the manner in which it has resulted in the collapse of so many corrupt governments.

PC- What have you been reading these days?
SB- Recently I was reading Reader’s Digest, this magazine has been in our home since 1949, way before my birth. My father was its regular subscriber. Heaven only knows as to when did I start reading it. After 1985 I started reading them all, from the start till the end. It is amazing, but now it seems to be slowly disappearing, mostly because it’s not trying to glamorize itself, I hope it doesn’t and I also wish that it gets back its readership once again. My favourite section in the same was that of the real life drama, it was an amazing section, that was so spirit lifting- to know how brave human beings can be. Apart from that I love its various humour sections which have one thing in common- they are not vulgar and really funny.
PC- I wanted to know about one of your favorite films.

SB- I have favorite films and the films that move me the most. There are too many in the ‘favorite’ section starting from all Jurassic Park movies, The Lord of the Ring, some horror films, some thrillers and quite a number of Bengali movies.

The movies that moved me the most are fewer. I am afraid I will not watch most of these movies again. Schindler’s List, Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Edward Scissorhands, My Fair Lady, Twelve Angry Men, Hirok Rajar Deshe, Sound of Music- I can watch these any day anytime.

PC-Please share with us a song of your choice. I would like to know what makes it stand apart?

SB-The same song that I added as a poem above- its lyrics; it’s amazing in Bengali, it touches your soul in its deepest place and moves it, asks you whether you have such humility?

PC-Do you consider yourself a good cook? Which are your most favorite Bengali recipes?
 

SB- I am a horrible cook, I cook a lot and have been into full fledged cooking since the age of sixteen…a thing really uncommon for Bengali girls fortunately to juggle between cooking and studies, my expertise is some day to day Bengali cookings such as the poshto (poppy seed paste) and jhol (mixed vegetable curry)- just two out of many others. 

(All comments and suggestions about the format and the presentation of the interview would be deeply appreciated. Friends who wish to be included in this series, please let me know. It would be lovely to have you here on my blog. Cheers!)

Uncategorized

Tiny Teeth

A mole comes calling on a rat that waits impatiently saying to himself “a minute more and I hop on the next train and leave the city”. Gulping down his tears and nibbling at the shreds of a five-year old memory, he waits and minutes slither away like cream. The time  comes. Jumping out of her taxi, the mole embraces me from a distance of meters. The rodents feel at pace with the universe. Sun continues its westward trip and both see it dying of curiosity. Sun! you shall miss all that is to follow. Red its face gets and soon it sets. Just like the moon that wishes to stay around longer so that it could witness the much talked about frolic of the matinée.  Hehe! you will always miss it moonu!

Abusive they turn and try slapping each other. Only to end up as miniatures of well fed kittens that chase and bite each other after a sumptuous suckle. They race against the world. Having thrown most of their contempt at each other, lightened claws enter a market. Not enough money clipped in their little beaks that they could throw away in the lake of recluse that both forcibly and happily swim each day, each moment.  Hunger directs the two to joints where taste is on show. Stories of each other and of others they know of intertwine the chews and the chilly sighs. Food over, next item to be hunted. The plates are picked up, the rat still eyeing the sauce that he could not lick away. “People I tell you and their manners. Why are they so intrusive all the time?”. The rat is taken around like a kid coming to a country fair for the first time. Designs, henna, dresses, utensils and faces. All around them. Two nibblers forget all the world and choose to explore it afresh once again. So much discovery on cold nights in the past and adding up to nil. Rubbing shoulders against the other they walk. A walking ethnography that they do not wish to ever write. Forgetting at times their special distance, they hold hands. The rat sniffs sweat and tries getting closer. The mole pushes him away and delivers a smile that kills.

A stall they choose and take rest. Rat mishandles all the heat of the tea and spills it over the market. The alarmed mole offers her own. The rat refuses. And yet does want to snatch her cup and sip it all. “Why should she be sipping when I am not?”

Beings part. Take opposite routes. Call each other to confirm their trains. The rat comes home to a dirty bed sheet that he throws away. Spreads the green and the saffron and the room resounds with the cries of chicken that Afghani dishes are made of. The windows open to a view of lotus ponds and the wardrobe just begins to reek of roses. The rat infused with a delicate energy runs around hysterically on his computer keyboard. ‘Tik tok kit kot’ the keys go clapping. Scattered words stream away. Wish they reach you O Mole! The rat thinks of the very first fruit that would be slaughtered on the chopper that you bought today. Let me know that Mole!

Dear Molu, can you do something for me? Yes yes! once again.

Please tell your friend life something. She should learn something from rodents. They just nibble it all away and never complain. We will take her along the next time if she wants to! What do you think mole? Should we invite the sulky sun and the moon when we go out next? Send a scribble. I will wait.