Monday, January 22, 2018

मोह मोह के धागे


जाने कैसे घूम फिर कर हर बात, हर रात, तुम्हीं पर आ कर टिक जाती है.

तुम्हारे छोटे चड्डे के उधड़ते हुए धागों पर.
तुम्हारे बौराए हुए घुंघराले बालों पर.
तुम्हारी कविता जैसी आँखों-पलकों पर.
तुम्हारे चंचल भाव-भंगिमा पर.
तुम्हारे माँ जैसे स्वभाव पर .
तुम्हारी कल-कल बहती हंसी पर.
तुम्हारी इतराती-बलखाती अदाओं पर.
तुम्हारे सुकूनदेह स्पर्श पर.
तुम्हारे गालों के भंवर पर.

अनुभूति कुछ भी हो, दिनचर्या जैसी भी बीते. अहसास जैसा भी हो, माध्यम जो भी रहे. अभिव्यक्ति कुछ भी हो. निष्कर्ष तुम्हीं तक लाता है.

जब हर दिशा, दशा, मंज़र, रस्ता, गली, चौराहा एक ही मंज़िल दर्शाये - तो जान लेना चाहिए के वो भीतर तक घर कर चुका है. कि हम उसके उतने हो चुके हैं कि उसके बिना अपना पूर्ण परिचय देना कठिन पाते हैं. अपना पूर्ण होना भी. पूर्ण जीना भी.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Women Gossipers


They are everywhere. Slavering with stories and theories on women. They are found among both sexes. Gossiping about women is their chief pastime. Like herds, their thoughts on the subject are all the same.

That women envy each other. That women can never be true friends with other women. That women are poor drivers. That women nag. That women are family breakers. That parenting is a woman’s responsibility. That women are born to be homemakers. That career women are social threats. Etcetera.   

“You know what, when we men become friends, we barely care about each other’s wealth or assets. We simply chill out. But when women are together, all they notice is the jewelry and clothes of other women.” I’ve heard self-appointed social commentators explain. Let’s ask them – do you remember the cars and official positions of your male friends? Yes, you do. Because you take interest in cars and designations. People remember what interests them. Social conditioning is a significant determinant of interests. You and your sister saw your father driving car and chasing career. You and your sister saw your mother engrossed in daily management of household and fashion and cosmetics. Your sister is as good or bad as driver, as you are as cook and nanny.

It’s no rocket science to infer why men and women behave like they do. The human mind makes impressions right from its days in the crib. In absence of absolute examples, people grow on to consider their parents’ values as ideal values. Author of the book The Road Less Travelled, M Scott Peck puts it in a simple and brilliant way: Our first (and, sadly, often our only) notion of God’s nature is a simple extrapolation of our parents’ natures, a simple blending of the characters of our mothers and fathers or their substitutes. If we have loving, forgiving parents, we are like to believe in a loving and forgiving God.  If our parents were harsh and punitive, we are likely to mature with a concept of a harsh and punitive monster-God. And if they failed to care for us, we will like envision the universe as similarly uncaring.

Upbringing is hard to overcome. You are a living example of this fact.

It’s quite comical to see you talking about women envying each other. You get burnt to your last bone marrow if a fellow male colleague gets promoted ahead of you. You go hungry for the blood of brothers over family property and money. Your ilk leaves no stone unturned in impeding growth of your so-called brethren. 

The point is this. Envy, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, pride are sins of humankind in general. They are not appropriated by any gender. Mind is not a sex organ.

If you haven’t seen women who are honestly good friends, I can understand that. Going by the quality of your thoughts, it’s not surprising to know the quality of women who surround you. I nevertheless hope that you get to witness true friendships among women. You have no idea how empowering, enlightening, and enriching friendship among women can be. If you had real friends among men, you would understand.

You take special joy in highlighting the detrimental role of working women in upsetting family balance. “The financial independence of women has caused imbalance in the society,” goes your narrative. Decoded, it means that women are no longer ready to bear with injustice because they can fend for themselves. Decent people call it liberation. Your kind feels threatened. Let me voice out your unsaid concerns: Damn, if my wife starts earning she will (a) not take shit from me or my parents, which is a huge problem (b) she will become street-smart and difficult to manipulate and (c) she will expect my equal participation in all the annoying house-work, potty-cleaning and homework-doing stuff. Arrgh.

You often point to biology to build your logic. You say women are natural parents because nature has endowed them to get pregnant and lactate. Meaning thereby that pleasure organs come with a responsibility. About time to look your biology with the same logic, no?  

I know there is very little hope in you, but I still bank upon it, so that your sons and daughters turn out different from you. And the world becomes a better place to live in. 


At this point, I bow to parents who spare their children such an abject image of women. They are the men who are too confident to feel insecure with power. They are the women who are intelligent enough to see through the farce, and courageous enough to call the shots. Thank you, Ma-Papa. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Life lessons from Airtel Delhi Half Marathon


I ran my first ever half marathon on November 19, 2017. Had it not been for the inspiration of my colleagues, I wouldn’t have known the joy of it. I thank them deeply for infecting me with the spirit.
To put it simply, a long distance running experience so unique and challenging, that it’s worth undertaking. That indicates why thousands of us have taken to running long distances. If this isn’t convincing, let me take you through the lessons. Learned in a hard way. And we know from experience, the harder we learn, the longer it stays.

1.       Humility is gold. We might be the best of our clan and society, but out there, one is a speck in the universe. There are so many people better than us. They could be younger, older, fatter, shorter, taller whatever. Let’s accept it – they are better than us.

2.       Limits are imaginary. Before I donned the Fitbit, I used to run comfortably. I could run hours without tiring, and I thought my stamina was good. Bullshit. I ran hours because my hours didn’t pack much. Fitbit revealed to me, much to my shock, that I ran at my peak heart rate only for 30% of my entire running time. I determined to improve, and I did. I took up the count to 90% during my practice runs. On the marathon day, I clinched a neat 100%.

3.       Teams achieve more than individuals. I was a comfort runner, or so I told myself. I would intersperse my runs with very slow jogs to restore my breath. On that day, running with hundreds of people of different ages and backgrounds, I realized that I could not slow down. Not even when my knees were knocking and my feet burning. It’s only then that I understood why humans accomplish the most daunting tasks in groups. Pilgrimages and treks are group activities. That’s why organizations achieve better than individuals. It’s the power of collective spirit. Humans are meant to inspire and be inspired.

4.       We become who we follow. Parents in childhood and Pinterest in adulthood instruct us to keep company of people who are driven and motivated. Marathons demonstrate why. Let’s observe ourselves. When we’re driving, we follow vehicles that are swift; that can cut through traffic like hot knife through butter. When we are in office, we migrate to leaders who perform best. Among friends, we find solace in those who can find solutions even in a haze of confusion. In life as in marathon, good followers go on to become good leaders.

5.       What you can’t measure you can’t achieve. Running is a joy, agreed, but one needs to measure its indices to improve the sport. Before practicing for the event, I never cared to measure my own performance. And when I did, I achieved what I previously thought impossible. Fixing goals beyond our perceived capacity is the trick to outperformance.

6.       Keep reserve force for the end. Any long drawn and difficult project requires persistence and truckloads of willpower. However, with some tact, the goal becomes easier to achieve. Marathon is a classic example of how one must strategize the run. Pace is important, but not at the cost of burn-out. In the end, what comes of use is the penny saved for the rainy day.

7.       Excellence is a habit. I was in the 5th km of my run when I saw the first runner on the opposite side heading towards the finishing line. They were the professionals. Unlike me, they followed the right diet, the right exercise schedule and the right running routines throughout the year, and not just for two months. They glided like human machines on the swanky bituminous roads of Delhi, inspiring awe within onlookers. They did the right thing all the time.

8.       Dance along the way. I do not know if 2 hrs 21 mins was a good finishing time for a first timer like me. What I know for sure is that I wouldn’t have achieved this without music on the way. Organizers of the marathon must have known that bhangra can be a legible drug for runners. There was live music and drums at every few kilometers throughout the run. However spent and fatigued my body was, I was infused with a strange freshness in my limbs when the beats of drums came floating through. For that duration, I doubled my speed without effort.

9.       Encouragement comes back in double measures. Barring a few groups, most running participants were strangers to each other. But that did not stop them, or me, from egging on fellow runners to not give up. This warm human goodwill unfolded all by itself. There was a raising spirit for every flagging spirit. And it came back to help the helper without a single miss.

10.   Choose your game. Marathon was a great experience, undoubtedly worth doing again. However, that might not be our best game. Dedication and practice will improve us, but we may still never reach the top. However, if that same dedication and practice was to be exercised on the sport we are born to live, the journey to the top will both be enjoyable and rewarding. That game, to say it Japanese way, will be the IKIGAI. 

I’m sure the more experienced fellow runners have other points to add here. This list and its author will feel enriched to know their views.
x

Saturday, September 2, 2017

All for one, one for all


The image of the three of you.

Standing barefoot on Candolim beach; clouds gathering over the horizon. The sky a stormy shade of grey. The breeze in your hair. The ecstasy in your hearts. The silent bonds of love all around and within. The sea swelling and roaring in its full glory.

The image of the three of you.

Sprawled on one of the beds of B-204. Shoving and pushing and making and giving way. In order to accommodate four adults in a space meant for two.

The image of the three of you.

Poring over a sheet of paper. Blank as a bare wall. Motifs and messages shaping up in all eyes, waiting to be drawn. Glitters, water colors, paint brushes, round chips of mirrors, ribbon, balloons, bustings reading HAPPY BIRTHDAY – all Itsy Bitsy branded – strewn over the place. Like a riot of colours. And then, the perfect idea strikes. Thoughts start taking shape on paper. In cards that will become most cherished possessions of life. Achingly beautiful patterns. Soulful messages.

The image of the three of you.

Sitting around the dining table. Laughing hysterically over yet another banal matter. Comments and wise-cracks adding pitch and length to the laughter. Like camphor to fire. The droning fan, the puffed red heart over the kitchen wall, the teddy-family on the TV table, the small hearts in the living room, and the wood of the very table itself: all standing witness to days & months & years of pure bakar. Of friendships that start off without a purpose, and turn into, a purpose itself.

The image of the three of you.

Under the forceful jet of Munnar waterfall; gasping for breath. Holding on to each other like children to mothers. Of dancing away to glory in cool Bangalore nights. Of sharing food and all things good, each person faking being-too-sated, to let another have more. Of gentle touches and soft kisses packed with most potent medicinal properties. Of antaakshri in sleeper buses. Of meditation. Of chores. Of feigned annoyance. Of endless teasing. Of innumerable memories, moments & conversations – all enshrined within the deepest recesses of the heart. Locked safe. Keys thrown away to the winds.

Of Baby – my Queen. Her child like honesty. Her unveiled swagger. Her ability to conclude with a finality even pope wouldn’t dare question. Her staggering intelligence. Her sheer honesty. Her apolitical viewpoint. Her bargaining style of ‘don’t-say-no-to-someone-as-cute-as-me’ suddenly transform into ‘do-the-hell-as-I-say.’ Her cunning at cards. Her forceful charity. Her confident lies and even more confident confessions. Basically, her confidence. Her undisguised affection (or the lack of it). Her eloquent eyes. Her sexy goddess body. Her being born to rule. Her call of ‘Sonal didiiiiiiiiiii’…pure music to my ears.

Of Telugu Auntie – my gorgeous. Her heightened olfactory powers. Her accented English. Her calibrated Hindi. Her lady-like grace in public. Her child-like insanity in private. Her waterfall like layered laughter. Her winking as she does that. Her deep sense of purpose. The weight of her personality.  Her irresistible tresses. Her dreams and her power. Her unquestioned professionalism. Her self-enamored throws at the mirror. Her simple heart, coupled with a logical mind, making her vulnerable and terrific at the same time. Her poise and self-esteem. Her being vehemently strong.

Of Nani-dadi. My sanskari babe. Her need to organize. Her selfless giving. Her absorbing attitude. Her endless ability to assimilate. Her relapses into tradition. Her being ‘traditional with a modern outlook’. Her hung-up habits. Her powerless protests. Her unfathomable contradictions. Her boundless energy. Her frugal living. Her maniacal sense of responsibility. Her talent for small talk. Her monumental simplicity. Her enormous world-view.  Her prompt helpfulness. Her self-effacing humor. Her lateral, naughty mind.

The image of the three of you. Of each one of you. These million montages…they’ve segued into  the fabric of my life. I have invested myself in you, without knowing, or trying to. Standing transformed beyond imagination. From a self-sufficient person, to one in need of counsel and care. From being happily-fiercely alone, to being from you. From seeing myself from my eyes, to seeing myself as you would want to. From being completely independent, to luxuriating in the joy of surrender.


The image of the three of you pulls together parts vital to me, hitherto scattered, forgotten, or ignored; and makes me whole again.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

शिवी



मस्त पवन सी चाल चले वो

चुटिया पीछे झूली जाए

जाने कैसे वो हंसी खेल में

छू कर देती गम के साये

 

काम करे ऑफिस में जब वो

मोदी का भी सर झुक जाए

रसोई, कपडे, घर, इस्त्री में

रोज़ नए इतिहास बनाये

 

बात रही जहां आवभगत की

लोगों को पलकों पर बिठाये

खाली पेट आप चल दिए तो

पोटली बाँध कर घर पहुंचाए

 

Friend, philosopher, guide कभी,

कभी बकैती की पुल बनाये

dance करे मवाली वाली

Mimicry से सबका दिल लूट जाए

 

परी, घुंघराले बालों वाली

नानी दादी सी गुणों में समाये

चुलबुली, चटपटी, प्यारी, कोमल

तुमसे दिल-घर रौशन हो जाए

अब तुम बिन हमसे रहा जाए

अब तुम बिन हमसे रहा जाए…

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Story of the Ring(s)


This was her third flight in the day; finally taking her home. Toying with the silver ring on her finger, Janhavi, for a change, was too tired to entertain thoughts. There was a time when the mere sight of it lifted her spirits, or doomed them, depending on where she stood on the wave of love. Whether she was riding the crest or drowning in the troughs. That was years ago, when hope still nestled in her heart. That’s when she had cultivated the habit of running her fingertips over the smooth curve of the ring. Strange bittersweet comfort would suffuse her nerves upon feeling that circle of love. Presently, she turned and toyed with the ring absentmindedly. In plain mental ennui.

That’s when his voice fell like sledgehammer on her conscience. Suddenly alert like a dog, she sat up with a start. All senses acutely at work. Within seconds she searched the source. Sitting two rows ahead of her, on the right side of the aisle, she saw the head whose every contour she knew. By heart. By hand. By every living cell in her body. It was him, unmistakably. Engaged in banter, joyous and lively as always, his vicinity flooded with laughter.

Her heart sank into her shoes. Breath eluded her body. Her ears burned. Copious tears emerged without warning. Oh! It was him! The bliss of finding a lost god. Oh! The pain of holding oneself back. Her stomach gurgled loud in the absolute stillness of her body. Sandwiched between two strangers, Janhavi dug her face into her chest, and took long breaths to stay alive and sane. Wiping her eyes and nose discreetly to avoid becoming a sight.

Holding her heart tightly between her teeth, turning her ring vigorously by now, breathing heavily and slowly, Janhavi put her focus four feet ahead; on the head she would press to her chest like life itself. The recall came then, and her fingers paused mid-way. She looked at the ring beneath them, the silver ring, which was bought by her for herself. After having found him, she had handed over her only piece of jewelery to him. To the love of her life. He wore it with pride and love around his neck as a pendant on a silver chain. The ring touched the centre of his sternum – her sanctum sanctorum. A million kisses had transpired between that place her lips the day before he returned it to her.

Only when the flight touched earth in a series of bumps did she realize they had landed. Hundreds of thoughts, dialogues, possibilities and climaxes, that could be in the one-hour flight, presented themselves in all histrionics to her mind, and escaped with equal speed and agony. She hung in a state between indecision and delirium, unable to say or do anything. She only watched him ceaselessly. She rose with him, and followed every move of his. His getting up, taking his bag out from the cabin luggage in one brisk move, giving way to his neighbor. Feeling the gaze of someone standing like a statue in the middle of a row, oriented towards him like a sunflower towards the sun, he turned in that direction.

Their eyes met. Time froze where it was. Unsaid words were gulped down the throat.  Tears rammed their way through his insides to reach the frontier of his eyes. Eternities were exchanged through sighs weighing like a few million galaxies. Time and space hung in suspended animation. The spell broke when a hand rested itself on the man’s shoulder, enquiring if everything was alright. “Of course,” the reply came a bit too quick. Visibly dishonest.


The moment, after four years of endless yearning and longing, lasted only a few seconds. She saw his back moving towards the crowd, exiting the airport, getting lost in a sea of bodies. What she didn’t see was his hand clutching tight the silver chain that still hung on his bosom, and an invoice of a platinum ring lying in the crevasses of his wallet, dated four years ago. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Of People and Papayas

http://healthremediesinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/woman-holding-two-papaya-halves-smiling.jpg


Of the few mercies granted by life, one is ensuring supply of things. Things, not people. One would rather opt-in to be supplied with desired people, but life doesn’t grant anything that’s people dependent. Except oneself. If you get what I mean.
Thrifty hearts, however, find solace in ascertaining anything little they can. Even if it’s something as plain as papayas.

And so it’s heartening to note that it’s within my reach to plan my fruit supplies every week. Being working and managing home all by oneself has its challenges. One has time to stock up the fridge only once a week. While other fruits don’t play very hard to get and survive, papayas are particularly snobbish. I mean an apple will taste the same on Monday and Friday, so will pomegranate. But papayas and bananas belong to the category that have to be picked carefully, their ripening stage staggered day-by-day, to make sure that you get the correct taste on your breakfast table each day.
After a year of buying my own supplies of my breakfast papaya, I understood one thing it wanted to teach. That a papaya will never be on a Friday what it is not on a Sunday.

When fresh stock arrives on a Sunday, the ripe ones that you will use within week’s first three days are easy to choose. You look for babies which are a pastel orange and firm to hold. Neither too soft, nor too hard. In a sweet-spot between the two. The choice is usually correct. As in, you have to be partially blind and touch-insensitive to get that part wrong (if you are a true lover of papayas).

It is the week’s later part papaya that would be hard to select. Rows upon rows of unripe papaya would lie there, staring blankly at you, while your head buzzed with the problem of plenty. Those cross-roads were very confusing for me, till I learnt the lesson. There would be greens with the pallor of yellow, there would be yellows with the promise of orange. Then there would be those whose one half were olive green and the other half bright orange as though only one side saw the sun. Which of these would you select in the hope that it would provide the desired taste after being wrapped in layers of paper for three days?
After a year of experimenting on this subject, I have found the answer validated and established through experience, which my gut had told me in the first instance. That a papaya will never be on a Friday what it is not on a Sunday.

No matter how unripe, how green and hard, if the fruit has a promising hint of orange, it will emerge right. It will tickle your palette with delight a few days later. It will sate your senses. Why? Because it had it inside from the first day itself. Whereas if you were to pick up a green or a yellow in the hope that it would ripen to sweetness, you will get in the end what you saw in the beginning. It may be perfect to touch and visibly ruddy, it may even be nutritious and juicy, but it will be shorn of that essential sweetness. Shorn of the exactitude that your heart yearns for.  

Now you see the uncanny resemblance between papayas and people? If they are not from the very birth what you desire of them, if that streak never existed in them…it will not come. No matter how hard you try. No matter how hard they try. These people, these papayas…they may look perfect from outside. Perfectly ripe, perfectly healthy, perfectly coloured.

That they are tasteless, you alone will know.