Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

William Butler Yeats

Dil tho baccha hai ji

For those who came in late, Dil tho baccha hai ji is a song from the Hindi movie Ishqiya, which is delicious movie about the life of 3 dacoits. It means, heart is juvenile.
Yesterday, I watched two Hindi flicks, back to back : Rocket Singh and Chance pe Dance. Both these movies portray the life of a person who is struggling to make a place for him in the busy tramp of the world. And in both the movies I discovered that throughout the movie I was either hoping that their big-plans work out for them, or feeling bad when something un-toward happened, or exalting when they hit the bull’s eye. I guess that the directorial motive of any movie maker is to tap this particular aspect from his audience – correlation. I guess if one can relate to the character or the set at any point, then the target is achieved.
But on deeper inspection of many movies that have done really well in the past, be it Indian movies, or on the International front, it has always exalted the victory of a person, a group, or a nation over something ill. This particular aspect can be augmented with graphics and mystery and fantasy, but the core issue that is addressed is this. And deep inside this framework of ours, I guess we all are genetically programmed for peace. I know this sounds absurd, but I will try and explain.
The examples are many, but the feeling, the high we get when the hero goes ahead and does the unexpected brings us close to our innermost yearning, our deepest desire – peace, love. In spite of so many different costumes we wear on a daily basis, isn’t this that we all are looking for? I cannot see a single person, or in the mirror, who doesn’t wish that his boss died of an infarction, or the car of your fierce competitor crashes onto a tree, or that your fellow super snobby and arrogant classmate who could top the class –would fail, fall ill, miss his bus, be caught copying when he wasn’t or at least a bee sting him –in the eye! Well, I’ve done a lot of that. But that never happened. What really happened was that a friend skid from the terrace after a roof-top party and died a few days before a university exam. And I saw it. A glimpse. A sight I wouldn’t forget forever. Never. Ever. It left me shattered, for the misunderstandings we had before we had stopped talking to each other a year before this day when he breathed his last. Very many times I wished that I could rewind time and go back into time so that I could say sorry for things I would not have done, patch up things over a mug of beer, or hear Floyd while sitting in the balcony staring at the stars. I wonder if anyone would have wished something so bad for him. And if they did, why did they? But there are so many questions for which we really cant find any answer to, right? No matter how much we try!! And they are best left like that. Gosh! I deviated so much from what I was trying to tell about my analysis of the psyche.
Yes, deep inside we all want to see people happy. We want to see ourselves feeling happy just because they are. And it’s really not that hard. It’s hard to try, but once you are there, it’s so easy to be doing that. As the prophets have said, if u seek – you will find, even in chaos! The movies try and focus on this particular feature about us, a feature that which isn’t used much, that which we don’t know much about in spite of it being paramount quintessence. And just by discovering it you can see yourself so much more in equilibrium. You would disagree with me when I say that many times than one, our miseries have more to do with other’s victories than our own failures. So the next time you are forced to think something ill for someone, do not forget that that someone is nothing to you, but everything to some other. The way I do is, I just say God, Bless them! And its really worked for me, and I am sure it will for you too.
Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of that friend of mine, and I survived it. Again. I feel that the sky falls onto my head every year on this day. I run from everything that could make my mind even minutely remember the 2 years of thick friendship I shared with him in college, that which I had really cherished and that really kept me going, before he left the all of us. I know that this year it was a lot better for my heart than the years before, and I know that the ache would diminish in the days to come, but the part of myself that died with him long back, I really don’t know if it would breathe. I even don’t know if I want it to.
Our hearts and mind are essentially very pure, very delicate, with lots of good things and thoughts and blessings to offer. We should listen to it more.
Dil tho baccha hai ji.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The journey of my dear barber...

Yeah, I took a haircut today. I guess it was long overdue. But I got a good one. And I had a nice time, because the barber gave me a nice cut, a fantastic hair-massage, and narrated his journey from a school boy to this far, and I got up refreshed and light-headed, after all that hair was cut away, and so proud of him. Not just because he did a nice job, but because he was good - at living a good life.
Rifleman Poonam Chand, comes all the way from a small town in Maharashtra. As a boy of just 8 yrs, he knew that the responsibility of the two members’ home was now his. His father had succumbed to a massive heart attack and he now lived with his widowed mother in a rented home. His mother had to do a lot of odd jobs to support her son and herself. The rent, the food, school fees, and the endless expenditure list looked her into the eye. In a situation like that, I cant be surprised when he said that his mother never slept at night. Poonam stopped going to school, because he could see his mother struggling like this. He instead worked as a flunkie in a bada-seth’s (big-lord’s) home and brought 30 Rs. home daily. Life drifted by and Poonam was now a boy of 15yrs. He realised that his income wasn’t enough for the family and set out to learn hair-dressing, which he says was the new craze in his part of the village. Poonam became an instant hit with the villagers and he specialised in the Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan hair-dos, and the time came that he should set up his own shop and relocate himself from below a tree to a shop in the bazaar. He along with his then friend joined hands and set up a shop, which was his reason for pride just for a quarter of year, after which with fake documents his now enemy, took charge of the shop.
Life did not end there for Poonam, he went as a home nurse to an old age home and earned some money daily for a square meal daily, but it really did not help his mother much, which was the sole reason why he was here in the place place. That was when he knew about the army recruitment in Nashik, and from there till here, it had been an eventful ride. He got married, has a kid and the family of 3 including his mother stays happily in his village while he works here.
After listening to the entire story, I concluded about his quasi-non material psyche and I realised that there was so much to learn from him. If you look at Poonam’s job profile, one can’t help but appreciate the fact that he had almost always worked in which he could help someone. The not-so-in ‘service’ sector. And his being here was again because he wanted to help his mother. I wonder, how many more ways than one are many of us blessed...for homes, family, love, luxury. And for some the definition of luxury is nothing more than a square meal. And once you realise this, how can you actually complain about the things you don’t have, about the flamboyance you missed, when actually we do have the silver spoon in our mouths. Ok, I might sound like an old hag here, but, seriously, I will remember this guy for a long time. Yeah.
Ok, this is my new hair-cut... Good right?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pleasure of being an Indian Army Man

Yesterday I had a long chat with a friend, also from the army, where we were catching up on various stuff in the personal and professional front. We talked about life was so different at both our ends, in spite of being in the same organisation. As army men, the major chunk of our conversations are based on the balls-less/steel-ball-ed seniors (yes, it’s the same balls you are thinking about), the stupid/dumb/over-ambitious boss, the unforgiving terrain, the long talks we have with our beloved, the surprises we have in store when we would go on leave and the list goes on. But one thing we never would forget to touch on is about the place where our next posting would be from here. Where we would head to. What would be the kind of home we would get. How good it would be if we (him and me) would be posted together in some establishment and how then we could paint the town red. Oh, it’s always a welcome thing to have conversations like that and plan things one after the other which we both knew is like building sand castles in midst of high tide. And it is a conversation we had before, with different people, at different places, at different times. I have had conversations like this in medical school, where we were cadets. As cadets, we used to plan while studying together that we would all join one particular hospital and we would, as mentioned earlier, paint the town red. But then the results came and our ranks were dispersed like white light through a prism, into various ends of the spectrum, and before we even knew, we all had assorted hospitals in our hands. But then, as it had to be, we assured each other that there would be no day where we wouldn’t call each other and update each other about all that is happening in one’s life. It did not seem difficult at all then. What must have been herculean thinking would have been how the hell we would not have. I mean, come on! We have been literally been together for almost 15 hours a day for the past 5 years and not a vacation passed when we dint call each other and yap yap yap to glory. So, this wasn’t a test of time at all. But then like a bolt from the blue, we were catapulted into our respective locations. And life started playing its symphony. I know how i felt then. I felt like as if the entire shit was being directed at the ceiling fan, and I was the only one without an umbrella. And I would call and emit like a 4 year old kid just out of class, who was missing mommy so much. But then, that too did not stay long, because the demands of the job were such.
Time just ticked away, and like the unfailing minute hand, we discharged our duties, one after the other, many ours and many more of others because, we were the lowliest creatures that walked the hospital. Anyways, time passed and a call a week become the norm, which progressed exponentially (deteriorated rather) to once a month, and now three years down the lane, yes Vasu did call me to wish me on my birthday, and texted me on my wedding. LOL! Well, what I am trying to get at is that, no matter how much you plan and work out an agenda, things will happen the way they are supposed to. We really can’t dictate it. All we can do however is to try and mould it, in some way, so that you rush your way into the train you wanted to catch.
Being in the army, you have that chance to build so many castles in the air. Especially since you have no idea as to where you would be tomorrow and also since we have a very friendly neighbourhood. We would be at war at any second, and the posting that we are happily pinning, would just give way into some trench or bunker near the enemy lines, where the plans to go to a rock concert would evaporate into the drilling sound of heavy artillery fire and machine guns. But then again, it’s still so wonderful to be planning all this. My wife Babitha and I are almost sure as to where our (more she, less me) furniture would fit in, what our crockery would be like, where to stack all the china we got for our wedding, what our wall paint would be, the curtains, our electronic item list (now this is my forte!)...we’ve planned it all...but we still don’t know what our home would be like, where it would be, and when we would get it. That is the level of uncertainty.
They say ignorance is bliss, and the army man soldiers on ignorant about his tomorrow, oblivious of where the roads will take him tomorrow, but with that unfailing hope and faith, that tomorrow, he would be far from chaos, far away from line-of-control, far away from long days and lonely nights, close to the ones he loves, who love him – at home, where he would gather grace.
Hope they say, in the flick Shawshank Redemption,” is a good thing, probably the best of things”. Because it allows you to see things the way, not as they are, but as you would want them to be, and there is happiness in it, because your dreams and your love make the warp and weft of it. I am also dreaming about that dream that I hold so close to my heart, that which I hope will come true, someday, anyday, not far from today.
And anyone who comments along the lines of "you get paid well to do all this" can kiss my ass.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A day for love in a world stripped of it!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! February 2010-02-14 is going to be a day I will not forget for a long time.

Yes, the incredible feeling of having someone to love and to be loved for an entire lifetime will overwhelm me, today, as much as any other day I have met her. I have seen my feelings escalated over the past few months ever since I have met and known ‘the’ person in my life. I also remember the time when I was stag and used to preach doctrines on the lines of, “why should there be a separate day for love? Why is any other day any less important? Why are we blindly bootlegging the west?” ...and things like that, which I now assume was the hormone surge in the rebellious mind. And ever since I have been where I am, with her, I want to grab every other occasion to celebrate out togetherness, our love, and I want to reach out and do everything that would bring her to smile. One thing I am positive about is this – If I have reached here, anybody would have.

Its 2010-02-13. Saturday. Eve of Valentine’s Day. German Bakery. A haven of myriad colours. Colours that are flavoured by the aromatic masala chai, fresh mango soufflĂ© and the exotic egg omelette being dished out and served by the chinki waiter. You get to meet all kinds of people here, of all shapes and sizes, of all colours, genres, race and robes. Yes, robes ranging from denims to skirts to boxers to rags. You’ll find them all, but not without a liberal amount of maroon clad white skins(and the occasional coloured) who seek nirvana/bliss from their crazy karma at the wilderness of the Osho Ashram. It’s a strange place. There is usually a strata of smoke from tobacco to cannabis to the best quality marijuana that would blind your eyes with its varied type of intensity and blur, but yes you’ll find it all. There are lovers, losers, pupils, Portuguese, damsels, devotees, oh you’ll find them all. A not so exquisite ambience, with just wooden stools and tables, under the shade of a huge tree, and asbestos covering your head in the sidewalks,but still unique in its own special way - it’s a place I loved to be and where Id never been tired going over and over again. But in the wee hours of that fateful Saturday, just like the fizz of the champagne bubbles, with an explosive noise, this haven blasted into just a blissful memory of days in the sun. A 8kg IED tore from our lives a place that many of us would but often meet in our walk down memory lane. It also tore into shambles the lives and limbs of many that were in there and a dozen who were around. Official records claim that 9 were killed and 38 others injured in what is said to be the most destructive blast in neo-Pune in the recent times. And what was once a happy spot for memory to rest is just all rubble and blood and ash.

I still recollect the horror that gripped me when a dear friend called to me with baited breath that GB was no more. The violent shock just quadrupled to know that 9 were brutally murdered at spot. That was the evening I was happily contemplating how my wife would respond to the valentines gifts I have send her, and that which would reach her the next day. I had just finished talking to another friend of mine who also was planning a special day with his love. So bang-on into this beautifully romantic feeling came a sight showing heart of the real world, when it was least expected. I think the master mind behind the explosion had a very clear message and he gave it loud and clear. It was that no place is safe anymore and more importantly, life isn’t a dream we are living. It also meant that love for one another is just the lines on the card or maybe a national anthem, but in reality, they are out right there for your blood. Your very lives. I can’t imagine how the skies should have fallen on the heads of all those who loved the ones who died that evening. A day for love just a few hours away, and like a candle in the wind, its been blown away. Brutally. Mercilessly. The initial video clipping show bodies that are beyond recognition, charred and fragmented. Imagine the pain to not even see the face of someone you so dearly loved even for one last time, even to say good bye. What wrong deed could have sentenced them so hard? What action could have unleashed hell onto them and their family? We really don’t know. We really cant say.

In a world where nothing is sacred anymore, we can’t be sure of anything more than the moment we live in. Destiny and fate have been overrun by terror and vengeance. And it is like a forest brush-fire, gaining strength exponentially and leaving a charring trail in its way. We can only hope that we live long to see a day where love is the essence of life, for our family, our friends, our people, our country, our species, our planet. I know many of us will meet our fate somewhere in the crowd someday, maybe not long from today, but the days we are here, let love surmount us. Let love lead our way, for the time we stay.

Once again, Happy Valentine’s day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This tiny thing called friendship!

As a child I remember feeling very happy when my friends used to scribble in my slam book with multi-coloured glitter pens, saying You ARE my BEST friend... I will miss you... and life wouldn’t have been the same without you and things like that. The kind of high lines like those gave me, I wonder if it would again, now. But it would sure make me happy and smile. That I know.
But as they say, time changes everything. And for me the concept of BEST friend became a thing that was meant just for kindergarten and did not hold much weight till a really long time. And then history repeats, because time erased that too.
I think the best thing that can happen to a person is to have a somebody in their lives with whom he could discuss about everything under the sun, chaff and grain together and not conscious that he stood a chance to be judged or ridiculed or discussed about or laughed at. That is the definition of trust. This kind of trust never comes overnight and it stands as a testimony to the strength it has gained over tides and time. It is like giving a person the key to destroy you with your own secrets but believing that they never would. Belief! Trust! It sounds do powerful, don’t they?
In a time where morality and trust and faith is being replaced by ultra modern lifestyles and material well-being, to get someone to rattle your hearts out is more than a mere blessing. Everybody has had their set of experiences which re-enforced their faith in a person. How your friend had this one chance to doubt you and let you down, but without doing which they gained all your trust just by proving your doubt wrong. How they suddenly change from a dear friend to your best friend. YOUR BEST FRIEND! When it comes to finding someone with whom you can discuss your darkest secrets, your most intimate feelings, your true motives – you realise that your never ending friends list has finally shrivelled and shrunk into a mere digit, if not zero. And that is a really overpowering feeling, having no one for you. When the fact that you don’t have THAT person in your life to share your heart with stares mercilessly at your face, you scroll down the list of friends debating with yourself that he/she might be the person with whom one could unnerve. And many a time, s you feared, you will find your feelings being so trivialised, making you end in thicker shit. I remember an incident in college where a common friend tried to create a ridge between two of us. He fabricated stories one after the other, but all my friend said was that: “I know he couldn’t do something like that, and even if he did, I would know that before you”. And the best thing was that my friend, Sahai, did not even ask me if such a thing happened. He just trusted in me so much to never make that mistake and also to ever hide it from him if at all I had. If not for a third person who saw and heard all this who informed this to me, I would have never known about this ever. When you have that kind of friend in your life, you really can never be thankful enough for all that they have done to make your life easier and better, for all that you know that they have done and for the many others, which you don’t even know! This is the definition of trust, definition of grace, definition of never-ending friendship.
And this other dear friend who was gone far away, just as I started to know him, made me think that that season of friendship met the swan’s song. But with his actions and deeds, he proved to me that the distance in miles is just arbitrary, as the hearts can never be too far away, when one cares for the other. And today, not a day goes by when he isn’t thought about and a smile doesn’t flash on my face.
I have a friend with whom I have fought for more times than one and with whom I stopped talking, after a bitter, nasty fight and behaved like strangers to each other for around 3 years. But like how two separate paths merge into one...we finally got back, with a more intense feeling, a more intense understanding. Something like a passion or frenzy or something like that. It just made me realise that deep inside I had been missing her all the while, I just wouldn’t allow myself to agree. I just wouldn’t allow me to be the first one to admit that his mistake. But I can’t be gladder that we did break the ice and are finally bum-chum buddies again.
A friend, whom I spoke to after 10 years, after we said adieu in school; a dear colleague with whom work-environment seems much more comfortable; a friend whom I have met just thrice but who knows me in and out; a school buddy who’s soldiered with me for more than 14 years now; and many more that have contributed into making me what I am today by their actions both big and small, has made my journey so far complete. They all have different stories to tell, with no intersections, all different in every aspect, but yet so similar in the place they occupy in my heart. I have had my fair deal of bull crap, but today I know that when I need someone to pull me out of neck deep shit, I would see hands out there.
And today, like play school, I do have my set of best-est friends. Haha, the juvenile feelings that every human mind is capable of! I have read in places many that a man starts as a kid and ends as one. I ‘still’ can’t imagine how life would have been without all of you.

(If Babitha and Shiju are feeling left out, don’t be. You are lifeline. Family!)