October 31, 2007

1947 – An Unknown Story

History has never been discussed openly in our family. Not much is known of what happened when my grandparents fled from Pakistan and came to India in 1947. As an inquisitive child, I pestered my grandparents on several occasions but in vain. All I remember is the real-life ‘story’ my nani would relate everytime I asked her about that historic journey from Pakistan to India. “You won’t believe, we had a swing adorned with gems and gold chips back in our haveli in Pakistan,” she said with an air of spontaneity. Each time I heard that, my eyes would gleam with surprise. It was hard to believe that my nani used to live in some kind of a palatial house. I would imagine her lying on a gem-studded swing, the kinds they showed on Tipu-Sultan series on Doordarshan. “But we had to leave all of that behind and rush to India. All we could bring along were the many silver and gold coins we had,” she continued. I knew what was to follow – the most designer belt I had ever heard of. “I had this belt with a zip running on its back side. It served as a secret pocket and I hid all the coins in there and wore it under my saree.” Next to follow were the long train journeys with unknown people who shared the same sense of insecurity; the survival stories in unhygienic camps; passing through jungles where snakes would simply slither away and hiding in unusual places. Finally, after many days they reached Mumbai and from there they shifted to Ahmedabad.

That’s it; my excitement level would suddenly dip. Everything that followed seemed very routine and took place in a country I live in. I wanted to know more about Pakistan – as if it were a country very different from India. So nani would tell me tales about her village in Pakistan – how she would play with her friends there, the household tasks she would do….She would get transported to some other world – a place she once called her home. “Aisa nahin nani, kuch alag batao,” I would suddenly interrupt and break her trance. My demands would snatch her back to reality - to a place where she was compelled to unlearn the old ways of learning and start from scratch. It was disturbing for her and that clearly reflected in her tone. “Aur kya sunaun? Mujhe aur kuch yaad nahin,” she would dismiss me and I would leave disappointed. Then for quite some time she would sit all alone and get lost in her world once again.

I knew she lied. She did remember a lot about her days in Pakistan but never wanted to tell us. Perhaps she didn’t want anybody to intrude in the little corner of her world – the fields where she could run carefree; the friends with whom she could share her dreams; the people who didn’t hold any prejudices; the haveli with its overarching doors and the gem studded swing where she could lie down peacefully.

October 28, 2007

In the name of God

i came alive
from the burning flames
while she stood there
succumbing to the political games

they slit open her womb
and flung the foetus in the pyre
who would say they are humans?
they were beasts
in human’s attire

‘in the name of god we do this’
they killed mercilessly and said
one ghastly act provoked another
and soon the untamed fire spread

six years have passed
but those screams still haunt me
the bloodbath, the horrifying sights
flash across unexpectedly and jolt me

‘you were lucky to have escaped the genocide’,
they thank the lord and say
somebody go tell them
i was saved once
but i die every single day

October 24, 2007

Urban Escape

As I drive to office, I cannot help but notice the dichotomies surrounding me at every juncture. I find myself staring at streets and pedestrians, looking for a deeper meaning hidden behind each of them - the tall buildings juxtaposed against the slums of the construction workers; an old man struggling to peddle his cycle being overtaken by a minor riding a kinetic; an empty restaurant next to a roadside tea stall thronging with customers; a man selling low-priced clothes on a hand-cart parked under a huge hoarding of Benzer; a group of IT engineers crossing the road while being cautious not to step on the coconuts and lemons sprinkled with sindoor and placed on the crossroads in order to ward off evil... Every single day I come across a new story and find myself getting lost in the details of urbanity. The multi-layered essences intrigue, inspire and enthrall me. The city in its myriad facets weaves a reality that is so hard to believe and so convenient to ignore…

October 20, 2007

A fly without its wings would be called a 'walk'.

October 18, 2007

Of Old Times and New

When I was a kid, birthdays were such a simple affair – streamers and balloons adorning the room (ma would spend the entire evening on it), home-made snacks for friends (samosas and wafers were the favs), playing passing-the-parcel and musical chairs (the best part :)) and giving away pencil box or pens as return gifts (everybody would fight for a colour of their choice). The occasion was more about having a good time with friends and family, not bothering about the shape of your cake or the colour of the wrapping paper on the return gifts.

Cut to the new-age birthday parties. First and foremost, you need to think of a theme -Barbie doll parties (where everyone dresses in pink) or jungle theme parties (where kids behave wildly as ever) are passé. Today, ‘A journey into space’ and Harry Potter themes are the favourites. Once you have decided upon a theme, plan the decoration. It doesn’t matter if it implies hiring a professional who’d charge thousands for the paper mache models and the paper cut-outs – the decoration should transform the birthday party venue (preferably a restaurant or a club-house) into a space station or Hogwart’s school of witchcraft. Invitation cards, birthday cake, games and return gifts – everything needs to be in sync with the theme. Some people go to the extent of coordinating the colours too! Such is the madness that the preparations start almost a month in advance – frenzied mothers surf the net for suggestions, the shape of the cake is decided, the cooks are booked - making the event nothing short of a marriage…infact, it’s an annual headache.

And after having attended many such parties and seen the tamasha, I wonder – is it really worth it? Whom are these people trying to please? Do the kids really want such stuff or is it the parents who are the ones conscious about their status? What was wrong with the kind of birthday parties we had? And can such celebrations match the innocence and joy of those humble parties we had not so long ago?

October 12, 2007

'ello Mr. Moth

We exist.
Life persists.
And light travels.

The planet heaves.

Moths hang around
attracted to the light
and the life of the night.

Shaam ke parvane,
they troop in,
gather their selves, and pop out.

You can see them doing the Salsa at times.

They leave behind their visiting cards:
pairs of wings you can almost see through.

Munir Kabani

October 09, 2007

Dreaming of You

there’s something about the look in your eyes
something I noticed when the light was just right
it reminded me twice that I was alive
and it reminded me that you’re so worth the fight

October 03, 2007

compromise v/s adjustment

When you reach a suitable age, your parents start getting worried about your marriage. They are more worried that you'll have some weird ideas about the kind of life partner you want. So they keep telling you, "Beta, shaadi mein thoda compromise to karna hi padta hai."

I keep saying, "I'm ready to adjust, not compromise."

Many do not differentiate between the two, but there is a stark difference.

Compromise is letting go something of your self in order to create some kind of balance in a relationship. It may become mandatory since the relationship demands it, or more often than not, because of major ego clashes.

Adjustment can be seen as a voluntary act. It's at your own free will. You think of making things better, of creating a perfect blend and hence are ready to alter the degree of one or more of your characteristics. I repeat, you alter, do not shun the characteristic completely, which happens in case of compromise.

In a relationship, two people are like two musical notes. Both the notes are equally important and have a role to play. When one is high, the other ought to be low and vice versa. Only then can they produce music that sounds melodious. Adjustment is all about moulding yourself according to the situation. When you compromise, you are losing on one of the notes and hence taking away the essence of music.