Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Disentanglement

Disentanglement, like swathes between shrubs, exists between us
Separates you from me and me from you, can this be true?
The middling yet meddling distance
Wide enough to leap, deep enough to keep

Like a painting only sightless can see
Like a thought that can't exist but only be
Like a promise that isn't kept but not broken
Like a fate than isn't detested but not chosen

I am a rooted tree one moment
while a drifting cloud the other
I am a happy novella one moment
while an incomplete poem the other


Monday, March 21, 2016

The Known Answer

Too small a heart, harbours love, happiness and sadness
Too small the eyes, behold beauty, calmness and madness
Too small the feet, toddle a little and run to far off places
Too small a face, prepares for a thousand smile-worthy faces

Much little a time, to decide on the countless indecisions
Much little a time, to revise the cherished visions
Much little a time, to destroy, create and destroy
Much little a time, from day to night for the interim ploy

Known all along were the dismays and desires
Known all along were the blossoms and mires
Known all along was the web of known, unknown and surmise
Known all along was the eternal question- to fade or to rise

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Reflection


Staring into the mirror, I looked at my reflection
I smiled, popped out my eyes,  waited for its reaction
Copied my every move that piece of another me
Showing no intention to come out, no will to break free

"Come out", I thought and she understood
"The life outside is happy, the world here is good"
She looked unfazed, ignoring my thought
A sardonic smile on her lips, my fine words brought

"What makes her mock my plight? ", I thought hard and deep
She shrugged helplessly,  it's the secret she had to keep
"Come over to this side", I heard her say
"The world here is better, night doesn't loom over day"

Never had I thought of a world beyond mine
"Break the mirror and she'll cease to exist", it's just a matter of time
"Oh wait!", I thought of result of my action
"What if it annihilates me? What if I am the reflection?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lyrics and Lyrics

A taxi ride to office this morning reminded me how much I used to enjoy listening to songs. Grappling with fast-paced city life, I realized that it has been a while since I sat down peacefully just to listen to my favourite tunes and get lost in their melody. How I miss that world I was transported to? The tracks I heard on my way to office made me appreciate the beauty of simplicity more. There are certain songs that are literary masterpieces and you can’t help but appreciate their writer’s vivid imagination and choice of words. However, there are some songs which have only a line or two which very unassumingly leave a profound impact. These lines either hit us hard with their straightforwardness or they single-handedly help us paint a picture of lyricist’s thoughts. I have tried to compile a list of such lines from some of my favourite Hindi songs (one of which I heard this morning), not specific to any era, which have marvelled me time and again.

1)      ‘Khaali bore dopaharon se-  ‘Bunty aur Babli’
www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVKRSQ6ujK8
The idea of a chhota shehar could not have been put better. Whenever I go to my home town, which happens to be a small place in western UP, the afternoons just don’t seem to end. The entire neighbourhood becomes spookily silent and many a time, I have found myself feeling pleased after hearing sound of footsteps on the road outside.
2)      ‘Farvari ki sardiyon ki dhoop mein,……,haule haule Marwa ke Raag mein- Saathiya’
A kind sunshine during the pleasantly cold month of February with the serene Marwa raag playing in the background, there can be no other setting more aptly characterizing the tenderness of love. Absolutely brilliant!
3)      ‘Apni to haar hai- Saagar’
Whenever I hear SP Balasubramanium sing this poignant line with a slight chuckle, partially to conceal self-pity and partially to laugh off the unfairness of life, my heart just melts.
4)      ‘Beh jaaye rang meri chunar se- sung by Shubha Mudgal’
A woman unapologetically wishing to get drenched in such a heavy downpour that the colours of reticence, restraint and repression get washed off her existence; she no longer wants to be caged to get some figurative respect.
5)      ‘Masti bhare mann ki bholi si aasha- Roja’
As much as AR Rehman was lauded for his outstanding music, the lyricist of this song, Late PK Mishra, is equally responsible for the subtle blissfulness this song creates.  This line in particular, captures the aspirations of an innocent and carefree mind which doesn’t realize how big its dreams actually are and for this reason per se, is more likely to fulfil them.
6)      ‘Bhool na jana mujhe sab poochenge warna-Guru’
Such a naive appeal from a simple, homely girl whose lover stays far from her.  An undying trust, a moment of slight doubt, a little restlessness and a perennial fear of their love being questioned by others in case he never comes back; all this is so ingenuously stated in this one line.

One of favourite characters, Winnie The Pooh, rightly says- “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.” 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Toy Story

Aman, a fair-skinned and dark-eyed 8-year old boy, is an epitome of spiritedness. An alcoholic father, a loving but perennially tired mother who works as a daily-wage labourer, a make-shift living arrangement under a busy over-bridge of Mumbai and the daily struggle to make ends meet; nothing dampens his desire to stay happy. He loves the twinkle in other kids’ eyes when their parents buy them a toy. He started selling toys in an attempt to stop everyday squabbles between his parents when his father demanded his mother’s hard-earned money to spend it on alcohol. He hands over most of his share of earnings to his father while some he secretly gives to his mother. It has made their lives much more peaceful if not easier. However, soon he started enjoying selling toys.

He likes the feeling of moist sea breeze in his shirt, the soothing touch of beach’s soft sand on his feet, the sound of chirping birds, gurgling water and laughing toddlers. They make him believe that the world is indeed a happy place. He enjoys the amusement in that little girl’s eyes when the plastic dog he has jumps up barking in the air. He revels in the attention he gets when so many kids gather around him and listen to his monkey playing uplifting drum beats. In the last two months, he has seen all sorts of kids and parents. He has seen extremely quiet children who didn’t even bother giving a response when asked by their parents if they wanted a toy. He has also seen adamant children who stomp, squeak and even start rolling on the beach sand if their demand for a toy is rejected by their parents. He has seen parents happily buying their children dozens of toys and has also seen the ones who’ll ignore their crying kid’s plea for one small toy. Aman comes alive in this colourful mosaic of myriad emotions.

Once the moon starts shining bright, the beach tends to get quieter. Aman now hands over his toy basket to a chaat-vendor and runs along the beach. He runs fast racing with the wind. He wants his pinwheel to rotate so fast that he stops seeing its brightly coloured concentric circles, the narrow spaces between each pin and the giant red dot at its centre.  This inanimate pinwheel inspires Aman. It moves joyously when the wind flows against it. It derives its motion from adversity. Hearing the sound of fluttering pinwheel against the sound of massive waves fills Aman with a strange sense of victory.

Today, Aman woke up to find that the weather is particularly delightful with sweet aroma of wet sand floating in air. The thought of more than usual crowded beach made him happier. He lifted up his toy basket, stuck his pinwheel in his pocket, hung his money bag across his shoulders and rejoiced his way towards the beach. He indeed was right. The shore today is more colourful, more vibrant and more lively.  The sun soon set leaving an orange panorama across the sky and now the reflection of full moon on sea is shimmering like a jewel. Aman starts running gleefully on the beach, content to see his pinwheel challenging the strong gusts of wind. He is interrupted by a loud whistle from the chaat-wala. He sees an eager kid standing near his basket with his parents and goes running towards them.

“How much is this pinwheel for”, asked the young lady in a tone more affectionate than Aman is used to.
“Ohh no no, this one is not for sale. There are so many toys with me which are way better," he said pointing at his basket, “Buy something from this.”
The parents looked at their kid who understood that his answer was awaited and grumpily said- “No, I want the pinwheel.”
“Look Baba”, said Aman, “Here is an elephant which can move its trunk. And a dog, it can bark and shake its tail. These birds can actually fly and chirp. Buy something from these.” Aman was visibly uneasy.
“No”, the kid replied with a straight face and pointed at the pinwheel while looking at his parents.
“Look beta”, the lady softly said, “Give us the pinwheel, we’ll give you Rs. 50 for something that is only Rs. 10 or 15. He’ll cry the whole night otherwise and won’t sleep.”
Aman smilingly looked at the child and gave him his pinwheel. He accepted Rs. 50 which the lady offered him. The kid had an overbearing sense of achievement on his face which perturbed Aman a little but he soon started preparing to leave.

That entire night Aman didn’t sleep. He spent it making himself another pinwheel and be ready to take on with his life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Pervasiveness of Stockholm Syndrome

Highway by Imtiaz Ali, which I was watching last night, depicts Stockholm Syndrome with just the right amount of aggression, running away from realism and delicacy of ties between the hostage and captor. What I wondered after watching the movie was if this psychological phenomenon is present in all of us because of the structure of society we function in, though may be in an inconspicuous manner.

The basic premise of Stockholm Syndrome is hostages mistaking a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. During my childhood, umpteen times have I read stories which portrayed a prince who used to share his meal with the stableman’s son as a kind and noble gentleman. Isn’t it right to say that the stableman and his son are mistaking his absence of adherence to the ways of royalty for an act of magnanimity. On the same lines, a mother-in-law who loves her daughter-in-law is remarkable, a guy who never leaches at girls is ethical and a government officer who doesn’t ask for bribes is pompously honest. If I break it down to the core, a person who is in a relative position of power as per societal norms and can do something to harm or belittle the other one but refrains from doing so is considered admirable.

Also, people who often feel helpless or stressful in life-situations outside their bondage are more susceptible to developing Stockholm Syndrome. This is partially attributable to the examples mentioned above and likewise. A girl feeling helpless by incessant nasty stares in a bus will find some comfort by spotting a guy who isn’t doing so. Our classical conditioning trains us to view a particular societal role in its stereotypical light. A prince is supposed to be distinguished and special. If his actions break that aura of distinction even momentarily, it’ll mean a lot to his servants who otherwise live under a constant stress of being admonished if they make even the slightest mistake.

In this world of constant tussle between equality and efficiency, some people will have to go out of their way to prove their generosity to others and some people will end up feeling obligated because of certain gestures by the so-called powerful ones. And till some people at both the ends of spectrum continue doing so, this fine balance will be maintained.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Because I am...

A discussion about what is 'morally' or 'ethically' correct with a friend triggered a sequence of thoughts. Aren't the words like 'morals' and 'ethics' over-glorified? Who decides what is morally right any ways? We ourselves or the society we live in or the long evolution of the continuous interaction between the two? Or is it the result of drilling in of certain notions in our minds which classically conditions us to 'behave' and even 'think' in a particular way?

The discussion strayed to Ramayana and the morality of the characters it has. All the kids, including me, in Indian households grow up listening to stories about Lord Rama and his dignified wife Sita. I remember how watching Ramayana on television used to be a family affair. The grandmothers consider telling tales about the glory of Lord Rama their duty and an indiscernible method of inculcating righteousness among their grand-children.

I am not going to talk about how dutiful Lord Rama was, if at all he was. Not because I am apprehensive about putting forth my rabid and not-so-acceptable thoughts about him but simply because it'll be going against my own premise--"Everyone has their own definition of morally right behaviour." I am not going to question anybody's piety or rectitude here. I'll just try to paint a picture of the setting in which the two most prominent females in the story of Ramayana functioned and try to delve into their thought processes.

The first character, of course, is Sita-- a compliant wife, a conscientious princess and an unrelenting woman. Her parents found her while ploughing the earth and she, therefore, is considered to be 'the daughter of earth'. She inherited all the so-called feminine virtues like patience, endurance and tolerance from her mother. All her life, she stood by her husband like a pillar. Her overtly generous nature compelled her to cross the line called 'Lakshamana Rekha' drawn for her by her brother-in-law which till date is considered to be an unforgivable mistake, particularly when it is committed by someone as pure and untainted as Sita. She also readily agreed to prove her innocence by giving an 'agnee pariksha' because her husband was prompted by some man in his kingdom to make her do so.

It is important to add here that Lord Rama was a dutiful king whose primary concern was the well-being of his subjects. So by asking his wife to prove her purity, he was just taking care of his subjects' welfare. He was deeply saddened about it otherwise.

When our irreproachable and angelic Sita could no longer bear the social dichotomy, she quietly retreated to a quaint jungle. She never indulged in finger-pointing and did not raise her voice against the injustice done to her. Such immense was her strength, her ability to seep in her pain. Once her children (whom she brought up single-handedly) were accepted by their own father, she returned to her mother, her forbearing mother earth.

The second character is Surpanakha, the demoness and Ravana's sister. Widowed Surpanakha enjoyed traversing the forests. She loved getting lost in the wilderness. She enjoyed wandering aimlessly, stopping by waterfalls to quench her thirst, plucking off fruits from trees to satiate her hunger and sitting amidst birds and beasts to watch the sun rise and stars twinkle. She enjoyed being free, self-contained and unregimented.Her eyes fell on Lord Rama while he was on exile and she was immediately smitten by his suave looks and stately demeanor. She had no qualms about making advances towards him which were turned down. Heart-broken but still hopeful, she now approached Lakshamana, the charming younger brother of Lord Rama. Instead of being happily accepted or politely turned down, she was ridiculed, scorned and disdained by the two noble and honourable men.
She saw Sita standing with them and felt sorry for her for she was everything a man desires but nothing what she herself wanted.

Please note the usage of present form of 'desire'. It came spontaneously; probably because nothing much has really changed on that front.

She was also envious of Sita for Sita had what she desired. Infuriated at the way she was disrespected, she vented out her anger and jealousy by attacking Sita only to have her nose chopped off by Lakshamana.
She didn't believe in quietly bearing this mockery and hence, went to her brother to seek justice which, it is said, triggered the battle of Lanka.

Clarifying again, I am not sharing my opinion about who was right and who wasn't. I don't want to comment anything about anybody's intentions or modus operandi. I am just trying to think the way these two women perhaps did.

Till today, we frequently hear phrases like-" We believe in giving independence to girls but we also teach them never to cross the line." Isn't it figuratively close to what Sita did and what was inflicted upon her subsequently? Even if you have been virtuous by social standards all your life but happen to go over that invisible line drawn for you just once, you deserve to be punished for it throughout your remaining life.
'Naak mat katana', a very popular idiom in Hindi, I feel, has its roots in the Surpanakha story.

I, any given day, will like to lead my life like Surpanakha. I know I won't be considered an epitome of elegance, grace, purity and character. I know no mother will ever tell her daughter to emulate me and imbibe my characteristics. But I'll at least be what I want to be.