Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Reminiscences- To My Fellow Bloggers

Kehno ko, I started blogging in 2009, but the true charms of what has now been endearingly christened as the 'blogosphere' were opened up and understood by me only in the course of this year.Of the 80 odd posts which make Nascent Emissions what it is, roughly 70% have been written this year. As a writer, also as a blogger- since blogging is now emerging as a technically distinct form of writing- I feel I have evolved tremendously in the past one year. Also, I have gone through hundreds of blogs, read more than a few hundred posts, and have felt enriched, amazed and simply blissful while journeying through this supposed endless Universe. I have felt glad to connect with some bloggers at a personal level and have felt gladder to come across bloggers who bear no semblance to any element of mine. Mothers posting pictures of their growing up kids, apprentice cooks sharing their newly experimented with recipes, love lorn hearts ruminating about the priceless moments life gives them, photographers freezing time to display on their blogs, artists sharing the best of their crafts with a world wide audience, nascent poets posting the out pourings of their quill, enthusiastic explorers giving a virtual foray into places yet unheard of, politically charged minds corroborating, arguing, analyzing and educating the uninitiated, inveterate readers promptly posting reviews for the world's perusal- all these are but only some shades which the blogosphere encapsulates effortlessly in its domain. While 'blogger' is still standard and familiar and best for me, services like wordpress and tumblr are the new fads to build a personalized online identity, whether as a writer, a poet, a photographer, or an artist.

I am still this extremely humble species lost amid the world of some seasoned and gifted bloggers. To understand how this world functions, I obviously began by browsing through examples, trying to gain knowledge, and find inspiration. Even before I conceived Nascent Emissions, I already had a list of favorites, a list of veterans I knew I would eagerly follow. When I finally logged into connect with fellow writers in this amazing world, I found awesome support pouring in for me, from people known and unknown. It felt great. The wannabe writer in me, who always felt depressingly suppressed now had a vent, a quite beautiful one at that.

So this post, being drafted just under 24 hours away from a new year dawning on us, is dedicated to the influences, inspirations and the encouragements I met with in the magnificent blogging Universe.

My Favorite Posts from 2011
I read a lot in this year. A hell lot. I was free, unimaginably free for a good 3-4 months in this year, and in that time, I only read. A lot many posts touched me, most of them I have forgotten about. My favorites are the ones which stayed with me, quote obviously.
To Wife- This is the product of the richest imagination I know, so quite effortlessly, it becomes my most read and most favorite post from this year. "But one couldn't call me ambitious, for my dreams are lazy dreams. Instead of ambitious, call me hopeful. And instead of dreamer, dreamy."- I have quoted this line I do not know how many times and at how many places, with due credits of course to the author, Anup Bishnoi. Him, I admire. And even this capacity to admire him makes me feel lucky.
The Shit Called LoveI am cheesy, romantic and a believer. A little fictional narration in this post satiated all those three elements of my being. Written by Rahul Biswas, a blogger with tremendous potential, I love this post for the simplicity of its thought embedded in a very crafty narrative. This, could be the perfect potion for those who because of some unfortunate frictions have forgotten to believe in the 'shit called love'.
Taare Zameen Par - This post has a personal significance for me. Written by Achint Mathur, one of the most self assured person I know, it is a minimalist peek into the lives of three persons I know. This has been written to express, not to impress- and it did make me understand why Achint likes to call himself a thoughtful observer. It is because he is one.
Life And Death- Perhaps the simplest creation of the most incredible artist I know. Incredible and admirable, because I know her art flows in her veins. Besides the beauty in the painting, what I relish is the beauty in thought of this soon-to-be-very-famous,innocent looking, demure little girls called Priyanka Tampi.
Loving...The Artistic Way- This one is my favorite from my own blog, from amongst everything I wrote this year. So nothing to describe about it. It is just the sweetest thought I played with and felt I had satisfactorily put it into words too.

My Favorite Blogs from 2011
This was simple. These blogs I visit everyday. Almost.
Grass On Fire- If there is one person I want to write like, its Anup Bishnoi. You will find exquisite stuff on his blog. Exquisite? Aah! I do not even have words to describe what reading his blog feels like. For me, he is the master. His posts, you would want to read again and again. Richest imagination, grandest language.
Twishmay Shankar (My Life, The Universe and Everything)- He, Twishmay, writes about everything I can never even begin to understand. Surprisingly, his quills not only makes me understand, but fascinates me with the kind of concepts he introduces in his writings. It is the thinker, and the very well read thinker in him that I admire so much. Knowing not just what he writes, but also how he writes has been a treat. And even though he comes across as this exceptionally high-bred intellectual, he is perfectly humble to feedback and criticism. He is smart, and that shows effortlessly in his writings.
Yarn Of ~Words- The perfect virtual hangout for romantics like me. This blog has been nurtured like her offspring by the sweetly awesome author-cum-poet, Aakriti Malik. She attaches herself to her writings, and that is how I like to write. So, in matters of writing (and a few more things), she is like an elder soul sister.The best thing about her blog- no matter how soon is your next visit, you will always find some new and interesting post waiting to be read by you. This blog is her mirror, and it does a beautiful job of reflecting the wonderful person she is.
Aesthetic Blasphemy- I don't know why exactly I like this blog, but I know for sure I do. I do not even know the real name of the blogger behind all the creativity which is splashed across his blog, but he is one hell of a writer, who writes about such diverse things that I would never be able to put his writings into any single category. Creative, and endearing.
An Indian Muslim- I do not, again, know the name of the author. What caught my fancy first was the exquisite collection of quotable Urdu couplets and updates of various Mushairas which the author promptly posted on his blog, and later, I surfed more to discover interesting trivia from the hypocritically secular India's social and cultural and political life. This Indian Muslim is a reporter, observer and a poetry lover- he subsumes in himself all ingredients which make his blog very addictive. I only wish it were updated a bit more frequently.

I Thank
The following bloggers, I thank for liking my blog enough to include in their reading list. I kind of like checking my traffic updates, and I get a good number of readers from all of you. For giving me a little mention in what is supposed to be your exclusive space, thanks a ton!
Aakriti Malik, she pours her heart out at Yarn Of ~Words
Aavika Dhanda, she romances with words at Nirvana
Achint Mathur, he shares opinions at Aman Ki Aasha
Archika Poria, she spreads laughter at The25thHour
Dipesh Mittal, he expresses his thoughts at Tears and Cheers
Rohan Manchanda, he litters his intelligent scribbles at Scribarohan
Saurabh Gupta, he displays his fine penmanship at Almost There...
Shikha Singh, she articulates her beliefs at The Silver Lining

Again, I Thank
The following people, for keeping abreast with my writing, and giving me consistent, constructive and encouraging feedback. If you guys did not drop in your comments, I would not have even known whom am I writing for :)
Apoorv Aggarwal, Sushruti Tripathi, Gopan K, Aakriti Malik, Gautam Kapil, Saurabh Gupta, Jyoti, Rahul Biswas, Kunal, Dipesh Mittal, Achint Mathur, Shakuntala Ma'am, Ebha Ma'am, Pallak Jagga, Mayank Saroha, Tapan Kulshreshtha, Manan Kulshreshtha, Varghese, Cheistha Kochhar, Kanika Chaturvedi, Sanchari Banerjee, Twishmay Shankar, Vrinda Aggarwal, Bhargav, Panvi Poddar, Akshat Mittal, Aavika Dhanda, Ashutosh, Namit Joshi, Nikita Sailesh and all the others whose name I am forgetting to mention here.
My most valuable comments this year came from three people. Giving them a special mention, definitely banta hai!
Ahmed Faiyaz- the author whose book I reviewed left a sweet feedback on the same post. Happiness!
Beni- A girl whose wit dazzles me. Her appreciation simply means a lot!
Anup Bishnoi- A writer I wished I could write like. One comment by him, and I know I jumped in ecstasy.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you, yet again. Hope that in the coming year, you all grow as writers, and as persons too. Stay connected! Keep reading, and keep writing

New Year Wishes with a pretty smile and some chosen flowers. Hope you all like!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Reminiscences- Loss!

Disbelief, anger
And a smile.
They who held hands
Apart by a mile.
Love's scary vision
Life's daunting trial.
A moment more of pain
Then grace on a calm heart's isle.

With great things comes the possibility of great losses. 

Our best bet, as I always say, is to live it while it lasts! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Tree In A Fern

The Christmas tree is said to have its roots in the mysterious concept of the "tree of paradise". Of the more credible stories I have heard about it, one relates to Saint Boniface. Saint Boniface was the patron saint of Germany, a missionary who preached Christianity during the 8th century in the Frankish Empire. A legend of the Christmas tree, perhaps the earliest, relates to the time St. Boniface (Apostle of Germany) was sermonizing against idolatry to a tribe of Germanic Druids. To prove that oak tree was not sacred and inviolable, he fell one on the spot. As the tree toppled over, it crushed everything which came in its way, except for a small fir sapling. Saint Boniface conjectured the survival of the fir as a miracle, and proclaimed it as "Tree of Christ". It thence became a tradition to celebrate Yule Tide by planting and nurturing fir saplings.

As a child, I did insist on buying a glitzy little replica of a Christmas tree which I would decorate with shiny bells and stars humming away "Star of wonder, star of light." I knew many carols in my innocent days, which are now fading away from my memory. One which I remember distinctly still is
Long Time Ago In Bethlehem
So The Holy Bible Says
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas-day
Hark now hear the angels sing
A new king born today
And man will live forever more
Because of Christmas-day.
This carol has a nice chime to it, which recreates all the memories from my school days, where our teachers genuinely endeavoured to inculcate in us the spirit with which the festival should be celebrated. Whether it was those innocent 'Merry X-Mas' cards we made, or the repeated story telling sessions of 'A Christmas Carol'- there is much I miss as I type out this post with my fingers freezing over the key board. Yes, a nice family dinner, complete with a ritualistic plum cake will form a part of my celebrations. What I do not have this year, though, is a nice Christmas Tree- which I really wanted to decorate and which would have added a glow to the otherwise blanketed by winter, lazy atmosphere of my home.

However, not having the tree is not really making me morose for now. In fact, thanks to the plethora of wonderfully positive statuses I have read since oooo hours on facebook, conveying wishes from virtual unknowns to more unknowns, I have this feeling which has begun to grow on me with surprising intensity. I'm being lulled into believing that occasions like Christmas are to step back and invest time on counting one's blessings and making efforts to preserve and cherish them. The wonderful charisma of the Yule festival does, for some signify the impending close of a year- for others, it brings with itself the optimism of preparing and planning for an altogether, yet untouched new year with promises and opportunities we neither know nor can guess about. More often than not, life becomes pretty or ugly simply by what we choose to see in it. Said a very smart man once- 'Twixt the optimist and pessimist/ the difference is droll/ the optimist sees the doughnut/ the pessimist the hole.

Alright, so now I am happy, and looking forward to not just a day, but a whole week of fun, optimism and celebrations, till I settle down into a new year with some new responsibilities and some old dreams firmly planted in my heart and mind. What is the most beautiful thing about Christmas for me? It is the description defying aura which this festival builds around itself. So powerful is the spirit surrounding the festival, that it ensnares all- who own this festival and those who simply choose to flow along with its bliss. I began my Christmas by making a wish- a secret and seemingly impossible, but a wish nonetheless. Baking a cake is next on my agenda. Calling friends, catching up on missed details will form a sure part of my day today. And when I am done laughing and sharing this festive mirth, a Christmas movie, tucked away in front of the tv in a warm quilt on my couch, would just be great to end my day with. Should it be Its A Wonderful Life? Or, no. Since romance is the flavor of the season, may be Serendipity, with all its lucky coincidences, and faith igniting madness would be a better prescription for my romantic health.

And for all the lovely people I know, and who know me- I wish you a very happy holiday season! I hope you all have the best time of year today, and still better times as more days and years go by. May you create the happiest memories for yourself and others, and learn to value everything of value in your life. Count your blessings, if you are to celebrate the day as I will. May be, share with me what are the things that make you feel blessed, or simply happy for existing. The love and blessings of our parents, the warmth and comfort of near and distant family and the infinite care/concern/love showered on us by a few close friends are the common blessings we all should be happy about. I know I can witness life's largesse in the small blessings it bestows on me. I can imagine my whole  elusive tree in a little fern which serves me more than that tree as a favorite bookmark surviving all the seasons of a year. I'm sure with a little effort you all can see God's infinite  grace too.
Psst...for all my special ones, and you all well know I am talking about you, I do remember you all in my prayers. No kidding. I actually do. 

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Warmth

Giving gifts is essential. Call me a nutcase for it, but I firmly believe and maintain it. I read somewhere, that gifts are better than promises. I do not know under what dimensions, but this seems like an uncannily true line. Now, gifts do not always have to be tangible. At times, they can be in the form of just gestures. In either case, what counts for me is not the size, cost, color, texture, usability, et al, of the gift- but simply the thought behind it. Thoughtfulness is what separates a perfunctorily exchanged gift from a truly special, heart warming, talking,loving gift- which someone would adore and remember for centuries (as we may delineate time under the influence of cheesy romanticism)

So why these random murmurings today? Well, in the past two days, I have been blessed with two new people in life- each who brought a different kind of gift-cum-gesture for me with his/herself. While what they gave me was really special, what was more special were the people themselves. They, I am forced to believe, were the actual gifts the holiday season brought along for me. A little something about them.

A Listener
She has elaborately mentioned details of our first meaningful tryst on her own blog, Yarn Of Words, a perfect virtual hangout for hopeless romantics like me. So,what I will tell you of Aakriti Malik, an elder sister for me, is not that she gifted me an image of my own while she sat in front of me; but that she blessed me with the valuable comfort of listening to all my ramblings without judging me in the least. Yes, it is a blessing to be able to stumble upon someone unexpectedly, who connects with you instantly at more levels than you can recognize at once. And if the same person also is an amazing listener, who promises not to judge you while you share thoughts and angst intimate to you, who respects you even for your mortal shortcomings, who wants to hold your hand as you start shivering a little under the influence of your own uncomfortable thoughts- you know the moment you are living is a gift. A rare, special, precious one.

The fact that we have the same proclivities, same phones, same kind-of crushes, same convictions, same romanticism ingrained deep within us only adds to the beauty of what we shared in the short time we've known each other. At times, what we write for ourselves curiously answers the other person's predicaments. I've known her from my pre-blogger days, as a senior in college- but its only here that I could connect so beautifully with such a beautiful person. So even though I have hated online interactions for taking the soul out of human attachments- blogger made a reverse process happen for me. Online interactions, for once, intensified attachments for me. And sure as hell am I glad for that!

A Smile. A Huge, Persistent,  Persuasive Smile.
This was the second most amazing gift I received in a span of two days. More than just a smile in fact. In parts, I have a sequestered existence. With that, I have my sequestered old world notions, a crippling inability to get over things which the technology driven world is leaving behind. Having my ecological austerity in the right place, I still love the whiff of paper. I have always favored greeting cards (the tangible, paper-made ones)  as an amazing mode of conveying simple and warm thoughts, at times even without any reason or season. My ill luck- in the past one and half years (I remember distinctly), only 3 greeting cards have made their way to my collection (In my charming younger days, around 30 cards could be exchanged on any single occasion). To make matters worse, out of those three, two I bought for myself on MY birthday. Desperation, you see.

However, deeply thankful am I to an ever smiling and outrageously humble person, who goes by the name of Rohan Manchanda, for recently making that significant addition to my collection. A year my junior, Rohan, besides being one of the smartest, is also one of the humblest species of BITSians I have come across (oh yes, he totally belongs to that distinguished institution), While I was preparing to greet him with my foul morning temper, exacerbated by the fact that I was a little cross with him over something, the thoughtfully prudent Mr. Manchanda gifted me some colorful scribbles in a dainty little card. If I were a little less sleep deprived, I might have sat down and giggled as I read through the first line of his creativity. It could be my compliment of the year. But, that put aside, I was happy to have made a new friend who was capable of sharing contagious smiles. Himself a brilliant writer, Rohan has been a constant source of not encouragement, but enthusiasm behind many of my recent writings. And the kind of respect he has held towards me, despite me not seeing any reasons behind it, has given me those secret, narcissistic moments of bliss.

Thank you Rohan and Aakriti Di. December began on a particularly morose note for me this year. I sense that changing.
Thank you Saurabh, for just lurking around and being the support I often forget to acknowledge.
Winters feel pleasantly warm now :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Perfect Bride by Brenda Joyce- A Review

I had no inkling when I bought this book for an unbelievable bargain price of Rs.25 from a shady corner in Janpath flea market that I am going to be in for such a treat. This book, however, surpassing all my expectations took me on a glorious journey of romance and passion, one I am not likely to get over for at least some months to come.

The Perfect Bride is seventh in the sequence of de Warren dynasty books- historical romance penned by the much loved spinner of compelling tales of passion- Brenda Joyce. In the beautiful and flowing language of Joyce, it narrates the love story, of Blanche Harrington and Rex de Warren, a perfect English woman and a damaged war hero. Blanche is a fine, dignified, composed and graceful woman, who ails from a dark past. She has a family fortune to manage, and hence an immediacy to marry and settle down with one of the 228 suitors lined up for her. She, however, has always been smitten by an old family friend, Sir Rex de Warren. On his part Sir Rex is also more than fond of Lady Blanche, but he is the classic de Warren hero- intense, regal, powerful and not easily the emotive one. He, I reiterate, represents the classic hero from English historical romances- he is a recluse, not for once wanting to adhere to or participate in the customs of English polite society. He has a tortured past, a heartache and a lost leg, and he prefers the confines of his estate at all times, abhorring any company except for that of the charming Lady Blanche.

Common friends connive to bring together Blanche and Rex, but the scene of their re-acquaintance is what neither of them could have imagined or wished for. Upon her visit, Blanche finds him in a compromising situation with his maid. He, of course is flushed with awkwardness and embarrassment. But that is where the beauty of their latent love becomes visible. Their fondness for each other is based not on physical attraction or lust, but enormous mutual respect for each other. The forgettable reunion is soon left behind, and a tale of haunting romance is set on course.

However, here is where the flames of Lady Blanche's dark past are reignited. This is the point of 'crisis' in their love story- but this is not the stereotypical impediment you would expect in the way of two lovers who yearn togetherness. 'Sanity', for all you lovers of romance, would not form one of the usual hindrances in the consummation of a love story. Blanche, as we come to know, has been rendered incapable of all emotions following the traumatic death of her mother. She has an unnatural composure; more apt to say that she is simply passionless. Rex de Warren, with his inveigling persona, however, changes that for her. Their growing intimacy leads them to a night of intense passion, following which Blanche's emotions reawaken, and that too with shocking intensity. Her heart, which she deemed was hard as glass, undergoes an admirable thaw under Rex's embrace, but not all for good. Accompanying the new found feeling of love and passion are horrifying memory trips back to the death scene of Blanche's mother. She has episodes of dementia. She shrieks. She's petrified. She discovers that all truth about her mother's death had been concealed from her. She feels she is losing her sanity day by day. And the only way to protect her, she feels is to shut herself from all feelings of love which are beginning to melt her hard acquired equanimity. In a desperate logic acquired from panic, she decides to run away from everything that caused these paroxysms of insanity to ruin her peace- including Rex.

Thus our lovers are torn apart. In the almost velvety narrative, I found myself many a times weeping, many a times frustrated, because more eager than them was I to see Rex and Blanche together. This love story was unique in many ways. The underlying emotion, the desires, the end might remain the same for most mushy romances, but the path this book treads on was definitely not run-of-the-mill. Here we are not talking of love at first sight, or some mundane physical attraction which leads to intensified lust and passion. Here we encounter long sustained, yet dormant feeling of love borne out of remarkable mutual respect between the protagonists. 'Sanity', as I mentioned, as the main conflict in the storyline adds another dimension to the intrigue which compels a reader to keep turning pages. You would, however, want to pause a few times to absorb the beauty of certain heartwarming scenes described unto perfection by the seasoned love ink of Brenda Joyce.

My favorite parts in the book begin after the introduction of the conflict. That is where the narrative acquires pace. And what might touch you most is the point in the book where Rex decides to watch over and take care of Blanche as she battles her terrifying memories, knowing very well that he is the person keeping her away from himself. So, in order to help her, he needs to restrain completely his emotions for her. It is concern, care and selflessness which then helps sustain whatever little love they had experienced in each others embrace.

Sigh. It is a lovely read. A perfect wintry read. Tucked away in your quilt, with moist eyes and a cold red nose, trust me, this is the book you want in your hands even if you're half as much a romantic as I am.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter Reminiscences- Favorite Delhi Moment

Delhi is a city for the romantics! Whether the Victorian air which greets you as you enter its heart in Connaught Place or the priceless remnants of Mughal and Sultanate architecture which grant it the haunting, old world feel- Delhi will offer you numerous picturesque backgrounds to write your story against. All it needs is the explorer in you, which wants to indulge in its deep set history, and usurp those facets- tangible and intangible- of Delhi life, which grant it its distinct charm. I am, veritably, in love with Delhi! And why not- this is the city which makes me the incorrigible romantic that I am, by giving me such moments which become fond, indelible beauties on the canvass of my memories.

A pity it is, that despite having spent my whole life here, I have primarily explored the city through books and internet. Growing up constraints. But independence brought with it the coveted opportunity of actually going out and understanding and appreciating the city in all its hues. So then, whether it was the monuments, the food, the culture, or the people- I reached out to all that I knew made Delhi special. And this time, the smells, the touches, the emotions, the tastes, the smiles, the textures, the colors- they were all exclusively mine to savour.

Past year was especially brilliant for me, as far as exploring Delhi is concerned. It was a little slow too, because I thought I had discovered my favorites in the city. Janpath, Dargah of Nizam-ud-din Auliya, North Campus alleys, SDA Market Coffee shops, Lotus Temple, Taj CCD, inter alia, top my list of favorite Delhi hang outs. But a decisive winner made its way to the top of this list in October this year. With my best friend in Delhi, and a cooperative weather to make me smile, I thought I might not get a better chance of visiting this one place in Central Delhi I had always wanted to explore. Agrasen Ki Baoli. For those of us who are in love with Mayank Austen Soofi's Delhi diaries, we cannot not know about this place. But visiting it in person is an altogether different experience. And this I discovered on the 19th of October, 2011- what I also like to remember as my favorite Delhi moment from this year.

We reached there early morning. Me and this extremely special friend of mine. Situated a little further up on a small detour off the Hailey road (near Kasturba Gandhi Marg)- one which you are most likely to miss- Agrasen Ki Baoli is not an easy to find monument for first timers. But a cooperative autowallah, content to receive 30 bucks for a 25 rupees worth of journey from Rajiv Chowk, helped us locate it in no time. An unmistakable mustiness greeted us as we stared down the 104 steps of this Baoli. As we later learned from each other, my friend and I resolved almost in our first glimpse down the steps to be back here, back whenever we felt like escaping the pace of life, back whenever we thought serenity would not come so cheap to us at any other place.

Baoli-literally a stepwell. Stepwells were constructed by ancient and medieval rulers as respite zones from scorching heat of Indian summers. There are some more in Delhi, but this one is known to be the most charming. As you will figure out when you visit, the plaque outside its entrance declares it as 'Ugrasen Ki Baoli', but common nomenclature replaces the 'U' with an 'A' to alter the eponymous ruler's identity who is credited to have built this stepwell. At its sides are built some mysteriously inviting niches and chambers, and a staired passageway which leads you to the very top of the reservoir which has now dried up completely. Its popularity and maintenance are both poor. Not many people frequent the place, and in the close to three hours we spent there, it was mostly college students who came, descended to the base of the stairs, and then left as quickly as they came.

We sat around for a long time. It was just very peaceful. Seemed like the perfect place to think, to slow down, and to have a heart-to-heart conversation. When you climb down to a sufficiently low level, you can see just the CP skyline merging with the ancient stones of the Baoli. Nothing else of the concrete world is visible. You feel like you are in two different eras at the same time. Your ambitions want to see you ascend to the top of those tall buildings, your emotions want to restrain you to the tranquility this musty, stagnant well has to offer. Ennui can sometimes be pleasing. And satisfying.

My reverie was broken by the thoughtful look on the face of my friend. Something told me that what I am about to share with this really special friend of mine now is going to be entrenched in my memory forever. I was not wrong. He is a friend I like to call my own; but complications and complacency had both crept in to portend a ruin for perhaps the most special relationship I have nurtured over the past few years. May be it was the feel of being in a time warp, may be it was the calming lull of the surroundings- something enabled me to confess my fears and sadness to him from behind a blur of tears. Some intimate thoughts were then shared. Some dreams, some responsibilities reminded. We went home with a better understanding of each other. We went home a little happier.

A friend, some tears, some words. Delhi's old world beauty in the background. Does one need more to live that cherished, loved, special moment?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Reminiscences- Words To Touch & Feel

Ashutosh, from Indiblogger, flattered me with his review of my blog. Of the many sane and humbling things he wrote, one was that I should include social topics in my writings. I pondered for a while, and thought which is the immediate issue which grazes my mindscape as soon as I start thinking about social concerns. Lots of things came to mind. I've spent the past two years in college working diligently in the area of women upliftment, voicing out concerns of gender based discrimination, yet not subscribing to the conventional 'feminist' outlook. I've joined hands with Mr. Sanjeev Sachdeva and done my bit to sensitize general public about issues of accessibility. I've felt passionately about wanting to work in the field of education as soon as I find myself able enough.

However, none of the above rang a bell so strong in my head for me to feel attached with. When it comes to writing, attachment with my thoughts and expressions is an absolute necessity to churn out any decent post. I then resigned myself to the pages of my journal to feel the power of some poetic gems I had collected for myself  from various sources in the past year over my mind and soul. Many amazing poems from contemporary writers, and literary legends, in English, Hindi, Urdu, Sanksrit and Punjabi were strewn across my journal with each single one summoning a distinct event from memory right in front of my eyes. I could pick out two as my finds of the year. The first one is called Jo Beet Gayi So Baat Gayi, by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, and is already mentioned elsewhere on my blog. Its the second one which moistened my eyes yet again as I read it. For me it is the most brilliant poetic compositions of Kaifi Azmi, who is reckoned as one of the greatest shayars of the 20th century. Giving due credit to Winnie Saghan, my most interesting yet least discovered friend from college, who introduced me to this poem, I would like to share these priceless words from the great shayar with my blog readers. The poem is called 'Doosra Banwaas'. Read on to find out why.


Ram banwaas se jab laut ke ghar mein aaye,
Yaad jangal bahut aaya jo nagar mein aaye,
Raqsse deewangee aangan mein jo dekha hoga,
6 december ko Shri Ram ne socha hoga,
Itne deewane kahan se mere ghar mein aaye?

Jagmagate the jahan Ram key qadmon ke nishaan,
Piyaar kee kahkashan leti thi angdayee jahan,
Mod nafrat ke usee rah guzar mein aaye,
Dharam kya unka hae, kya zaat hae, yeh janta kaun?
Ghar na jalta tau unhe raat mein pehchanta kaun,
Ghar jalane ko mera, log jo ghar mein aaye,
Shakahari hae mere dost tumahara khanjar.

Tumne Babar kee taraf pheke thhe saare patthar
Hae mere sar ki khata zakhm jo sar mein aaye,
Paun Sarjoo mein aabhi Ram ne dhoye bhee na thhe
Ke nazar aaye wahan khoon ke gehre dhabbe,
Paun dhoye bina Sarjoo ke kinare se uthe,
Ram yeh kehte hue aapne dwaare se uthe,
Rajdhani kee fiza aayee nahin raas mujhe,
6 December ko mila doosra banwaas mujhe.

So, this was a priceless jewel from the quill of Kaifi Azmi, written remembering 6th December 1992- the black day which cast a shameful shadow over the hypocrisy of our secularism. To be honest, I feel we have come a long way since the fundamental elements dictated the course of our day to day lives.This was evident in the calm which accompanied the Ram Janmbhoomi verdict which came out last year, almost 20 years after the ignominious incident. We were almost a generation ahead in time, and today's generation chose not to attach any uncalled for hysteria with the verdict. Good.

However, the fact that strong communal identities are on the path of dissolution is nothing but a delusion which overtly optimistic people like me foolishly want to believe in. I wanted to believe in it because if I did not, I stood the danger of losing something valuable in my life. My optimism has been replaced with mute resignation now. Banners against perpetrators of communal crimes might be flying high, but almost nothing has changed as far as common man's religious mindedness is concerned. May be our generation has moved on, but in parts we're still controlled by the one which chooses to stay where it is- in glory of its own, and in rejection and contempt of the other.

A lot of you might not associate closely or personally with what I have written above, but I have a reason for all this stifling acrimony against fatal caste/communal loyalties which exist in our society. The reason is that I  have already lost something precious because of them and their subtler manifestations in my life, or may be just in our collective psyche.

And that is all I have to say.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love, Life & All That Jazz by Ahmed Faiyaz - A Review

"How I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me. It's like a book elegantly bound, but in a language you can't read just yet." Lyrics from 'I will possess your heart', Death Cab for Cutie.

For the above quote, and many more, I am thankful to Ahmed Faiyaz, the writer of the book I am attempting to review presently. A book I was contemplating leaving unread after completing some fifteen pages made it's way quite unassumingly to my heart. So much, that my heart felt heavy when it ended. I wished it lasted longer, just to grant me some more of those amazingly real and relatable moments. But even as it ended, it made me believe in the concept of a silver lining, for a moment motivating me to find my own.

Love, Life & All That Jazz (LL&ATJ) is a contemporary tale of love, of dreams, of coming of age. It rotates around six central characters, aided finely by a few more who help shape and pace the story as it moves ahead.
  • Though some readers might differ, but for me, the main story in the narrative of LL&ATZ was that of Sameer and Tania- the couple with whom the story begins and ends. They are in love, but want different things from life- a fact that complicates their co-existence. While Sameer to make it big in life by pursuing and MBA and career in the UK, Tania is a focused interior designer with her own ambitions and plans to put to reality. Their story is about their long distance relationship, the yearning and the frustrations, and about growing up.
  •  Vicky and Naina, a rich and affluent charmer and his sultry, ambitious model girlfriend are the second couple in this book. They make for that killer couple on the page 3 circuit, a culture towards which Naina gravitates because of the demands of her career and Vicky avoids because of the fatigue emanating from constant attention of nosy shutterbugs. The possessiveness and ambitions, the love and temper- all accessorize their exclusive story woven into that of their other four friends.
  •  Tanveer and Tanaz, the third couple, are adorable and my favorite. Tanveer is the typical small town lad lost in a big city, with pressures and demands of his financially unstable family always looming large on his mindscape. He is bright, diligent, but insecure- and what comes as the proverbial ray of hope in his life is a vivacious Tanaz, the daughter of his Parsi landlady. But religious differences and responsibilities on Tanveer as the sole bread winner of his family bring in more than just complications in the beautiful life they both look forward to sharing.
This is broadly the set up of the story. Author Ahmed Faiyaz has done a wonderful job of finely interweaving each individual story into the over all narrative, with a pace that does not allow you to lose focus or interest. I'll be honest. I did not so much like the book after reading the initial twenty pages. It seemed one of those many books written by amateur, wannabe writers, which litter the book stalls with their jazzy covers and cheesy titles. (Oh! And this is not disdain. I am guilty of having read and thoroughly enjoyed many such books. But I kind of had had enough) So while I was contemplating leaving it and moving onto a historical treatise which lay unread beside my pillow, something in the narrative struck a nerve and I carried on. I am so glad I did.

The story begins with about five characters, and to confess, it is initially a little difficult to shift focus between all of them as they develop their distinct identities in the narrative simultaneously. However, as the story progresses, the author does a brilliant job of giving definition,background and a distinct flavor to each character, so much so that recalling any single name to mind after you're done with the book will make you picture clearly his/her character in  your head. What also helps is that all the characters and situations in the book are extremely relatable. With simplicity in his language, the author has managed to churn out some priceless dialogues and heart warming scenes. This is not one of the grandest of books you will read, but with literary opulence staring down and intimidating modest readers like me from all angles, the humble, breezy and comforting narrative of this book is what you might fall in love with.

Even though  I have labelled it a review, I don't think it is one. I will not rate this book. I cannot critique it. The hopeless romantic that I tag myself as forced me to find way too many familiarities (actual and imagined) with this book, and the consequent predilection just asks me to recommend this book to readers like myself. Heartaches, dreams, pressing family situations, uncertain careers- we are actually coming of age. Want to see a mirror, the kind which promises a silver lining at the end? Do grab this book.

Ahmed Faiyaz has decorated his book with exquisite quotations, one at the beginning of each chapter to give you an abstract peek into what lies ahead in the story. I end this post borrowing one from Chapter 10 of Love, Life & All That Jazz...
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." -  Thoman Merton

Leonid Afremov again. Can I ever thank him enough for adding all these colors to my life?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Reminiscences- That Story...

Did you witness what was supposed to be the last complete lunar eclipse of this year? I missed it! By some fifteen minutes. So when I finally did climb onto the terrace, the majestic moon was not clearly in sight. That was because, it was right overhead. Putting her knowledge on display, my sister pointed upwards and said "Aapko pata hai didi, jab moon sar par hota hai, tab hamara weight sabse kam hota hai." I grinned and looked up to thank Mr. Moon for granting some respite to a universally-criticized-for-being-overweight-girl. I do not know the logic behind this fact, nor the veracity of the same- but I am glad I locked eyes with the famously romantic moon.

With a halo of soft glow surrounding it, the moon surpassed it's own reputation for being one of the most alluring celestial objects. It glowed right down at me, and like a loser out of some romantic bollywood flick, I smiled back at it. On fewer occasions have I seen it more beautiful. Nascent out of an blanket of darkness, which first consumed it, and then revealed with care and titillation its radiance to the world, the moon was like this fresh damsel waiting to be appreciated by all. Why would I not get poetic? And then the focus shifted from its beauty, to its blemishes. These otherwise obscure spots were strikingly visible today, may be adding more to the moon's beauty (as the cliche goes), may be taking away from it. For me, they played the role of a memory bell, which rang hard to bring back to my mind the most touching of stories I heard this year, which is fast fleeting by.

It interests me to know the story behind each new individual I come across. All of us do have our stories, each distinct, each worthy of being told. I met many interesting people this year, heard many interesting stories, but there was this one which stuck by with remarkable obstinacy. I do not think I am the authority to be telling this story, still I will. Because I know this is one tale which will not simply breeze past my head once I feel I have absorbed it enough. I feel a need to put it into words. A simple, subtle, short story.

There was a girl in my college, a junior, who with humility in her disposition, sincerity in her eyes and sweetness in her smile immediately warmed my heart to her. She was one of the most active workers of WSDC, the society I presided over when in college and with whatever responsibilities she was given, did never let me down. I often noticed some hints of recalcitrance in her social interactions, but once given the confidence of being the ablest at discharging duties entrusted to her, she would work with tireless dedication to translate all our visions as a society into reality. I did also notice some abnormality in her skin sometimes, it appeared to me too wrinkled for her age. But I didn't think much about it, partly because of the fear of developing awkwardness while looking at her, and partly because of her face which I genuinely found wonderfully beautiful to look at. I did ponder over the possible story behind her ever smiling face, but never had time to ask or to sit down and listen to her.

This was till she herself told not just me, but our whole WSDC family a small part of her life's story in blue ink, on a couple of A4 sheets. We had organized a bilingual creative writing competition for pan-Delhi students, the best entries of which were to be published in our annual magazine "Being A Woman; Being Me". She participated, chose to express herself in Hindi and picked up the simplest, yet the most sacred of the themes to write her entry on- "Mamta Ki Chhaon". While I received the best of poems and powerful prose works under the same heading, hers was different- it was a simple tale of concealed poignancy.

I was right when I thought that the wrinkly skin she has was kind of abnormal. From what I got to know later, she was born with it, born with a rare skin disease. Belonging to an extremely humble background, she related how her mother told her later on in life the reaction her birth met with from the elder and insensitive relatives. Her's was not a celebratory welcome to planet earth. Her welcome was one ridden with shock, dejection and, as I hinted earlier, insensitivity. Firstly, she was a girl- and yes, my experiences within the framework of WSDC have taught me that large sections of Indian populace are still obsessed with the wont for a male progeny, which often leads them to lament the arrival of a girl-child. Secondly, she was not the prettiest of babies, as her so-called astute relatives saw it. The concerned relatives did not hesitate from labeling the new born as inauspicious, as a burden and best to be kept away from. And yes, I hope you could guess I am writing as euphemistically as I can.

However, God's abundant grace, encapsulated within the single body of her mother was what proved to be a lifelong blessing for that still unaware infant girl. Her mother was the one who saw all the beauty in the world in her daughter's innocent face. She was the one who resolved to not just take care of her child, but to help her grow into a smart and educated young lady. Her mother was the one who ensured not a single speck of dust ever touched her daughter as that could trigger off immediate allergic reactions. Her mother was the one who stood by her daughter and inspired her to consistently progress ahead. She always tried and is still trying to find a remedy for her daughter's skin condition, but that without ever letting her daughter feel that she lacks something or is different from others in anyway. Her parents have fasted for her; told her she is their adorable and intelligent daughter. The girl, on her part, admits, that if she is alive, it could not have been if not for her mother. She prays that each daughter born on our land be blessed with the kind of affection her mother showered her with.

I do not know if this is her story, or her mother's, but the beauty of a mother daughter relationship is that they are both inalienable parts of each others stories. Because their lives overlap, their stories do too. It is only one of those many stories I know, which is in the process of unfolding. I only hope the best for this girl who gave me the most memorable story of the year. And since this post has turned out to be very long, and I cannot find a fitting end to it, I will just leave the readers with these lines I read somewhere on the occasion of mother's day-

Motherhood makes women crib, complain, eat chocolates and cry. But ask any mum whether she'd barter it for anything in the world and you'll get one hurt, definitive answer. A big, fat, "NO".

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Diary Of A Social Butterfly by Moni Mohsin- A Review

Now this was a book which made me nervous of my nocturnal reading habits. Why? Because I had no clue when I would fall off the sofa laughing at insane decibels even as my family rejoiced in hitherto peaceful slumber. Fortunately, nothing ugly did ever happen to hinder my night-time trysts with Butterfly Khan, and for all those guffaws which continued for 3 nights and 2 days, I have only her to thank!

Eminent Pakistani columnist Moni Mohsin takes you for an roller-coaster ride through the world of socialites- whom, by the way, Butterfly calls 'Socialists'. But what to do! Poor Butterfly, caught among her own rigmarole of thoughts, often find herself prone to adorable malapropisms, which literally spice up her journals. So, you could find yourself wide eyed as you see an 'angina attack' transforming by the virtue of Butterfly's innocence into a 'vagina attack'.  Later you would just settle for howls of laughter as the luscious malapropisms transform 'botox' into 'buttocks', or 'Bangkok' into 'Bangcock'. You will meet business 'typhoons', and see Butterfly becoming 'historical' with laughter.

The Diary Of A Social Butterfly is a book devoid of a plot or a storyline. Rather, it is a compilation of articles published fortnightly by the eminent Pakistani author, Moni Mohsin, in The Friday Times. Moni Mohsin has to her credit other works which gathered much acclaim, like Tender Hooks and The End Of Innocence. This particular book, The Diary Of A Social Butterfly, takes the form of journals written by a Punjabi Convent Educated Socialite, who can think of little else, other than attending parties and maintaining her up market status. Butterfly's journals were scribbled during a crucial and sensitive time for Pakistan's internal stability and international relations- between the years 2001 and 2008. However, our central character, Butterfly, couldn't care less even if the world was on fire- what she needed were parties, and social engagements, and perfect attires, and shoes, and hairstyles, and shawls, and accessories, to remain among the creme de la creme  of the Page 3 crowd of Pakistan. Something in her journals reminds you of Sophie Kinsella's Shopoholic series, but Butterfly has that distinct identity which can makes this exaggerated satire on an incorrigible socialite's life totally worth a read! Each of her journal entry begins with two news headlines- one perhaps sourced from the Reuters, the other, from her own life. Whether it is about firing a maid, fighting with her husband, celebrating Eid, or buying a new jora(dress)- Butterfly takes her life very seriously; she, after all, plays the lead role in it. The lesser happenings, like bomb blasts, terrorism, tsunamis and political turmoils the world can itself take care of. These not withstanding, Butterfly will always stay focused and prepare to fly elegantly to the next event in the city.

The characters in Butterfly's life as as colorful as her own self. She has a Oxford alumnus (an 'Oxen' as she calls him) for her husband, who is smart and learned and everything that Butterfly is not. Fondly called Janoo, her husband is routinely abused in Butterfly's diary as 'crack', 'sarrhial', 'donkey', 'dog', 'zinda laash, 'boodhi rooh', et al, especially for holding strong and empathic political views and social concerns. Butterfly has a 13 year old son, named Kulchoo, and even at that tender age, Butterfly can't help but be far sighted and prepare for his wedding each time she is inspired by a novel idea or some innovative decor technique in one of the many weddings she attends. She has a mother-in-law, addressed as the Old Bag, and two sisters-in-law, called as the Twosome Gruesome- the perpetual sources of misery in her otherwise blissful life of glamor and glitz and parties and more parties. Other delightful characters in Butterfly's colorful life include her Mummy, her Aunty Pussy (whose husband has a curious epithet as 'Uncle Cock-up') with her unlucky-in-marriage son Jonkers, her friends- Mulloo, Flopsy, Furry among others.

My ecstatic bit of writing so far would have made it obvious that I LOVED the book. It has humor bordering on insanity- you can ridicule Butterfly for all her ignorance and self obsession, but you can't help loving her for all the light moments she grants you. And, if Khushwant Singh endorses on the cover that this book is 'hilarious', the book has to be just that- hilarious! Huge thumbs-up to the crafty malapropisms- some of the absolutely refuse to leave my head. And the local slangs, aah, they are what make Butterfly's ridiculous English all the more gorgeous.

All in all, Butterfly makes for a highly recommended read. The only caveat I would like to put in place, sourced from a fellow blogger's critique of the same book,  is that dumbness as the source of humor, begins to tire out readers towards the end of the book. It is one thing to read this content in the form of fortnightly commentaries with contemporary happenings to relate with, and quite another to read it as a book of chronologically arranged articles lacking any storyline to adhere to. Still, I would regard this book as one of the best I read in the year 2011.

Generously enough, its 3 stars on 5 for me. For all that laughter. :)

Moni Mohsin- the author

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

At The Edge Of Sunshine

I mugged up this line when I was 11. Partly because my favorite teacher reiterated it time and time again, and partly because I found it fancy and inviting at my age. "Life is like a bus. People come and people go, but the bus does not stop. It keeps going on and on and on." Seems like a simple thought at present. Simple enough to not even have any significance.

Why am I thinking about it then? Perhaps because something happened recently, a chance meeting, which influenced me so much, that it is not leaving my mindscape. Even after 4 days. Each day we go out, we meet people. Few we do not as much as notice. Few we click with, or feel happy in the company of. Few we look forward to meeting again. Few, we know, stand apart from the crowd. They constitute a category of people who are mighty charming, who impress with the first word they utter, the way they move, the sort of respect they command from others, but who are also beyond your reach, despite being extremely humble in their disposition.

It is precisely this last category of people I look forward to stumbling upon during my social interactions. My good fortune, I usually do. The charm, and aura which they create is something I feel drawn towards. A new person, a good person, an interesting person always leaves your heart a little more elated than before meeting him. And December gives me the best of such meetings to cherish. However, my last such meeting was a little different. I was happy, but with tears in my eyes. Not the cliched khushi ke aansu. They were what they were supposed to be, tears because something pinched hard, very hard.

You don't give yourself a lot of chances, do you?
I had had breakfast at the All American Diner in the morning with my sunshine friend, and so, I was ebullient. Happy, and smiling to myself. I was happy also for a completely unplanned rendezvous with this person (the subject of this post), still an alien to my world, to whom I had been introduced via lengthy eulogical testimonials from some common friends. Two cups of Barista Cappuccino to start the conversation, what more could I ask for?  Then came this one question, rhetorical-I reckon, which completely caught me unaware. Who was this person asking me this question anyway? It was just a polite coffee I had looked forward to sharing with him, with loads of thought-provoking exchange of ideas embellishing our meeting, just like it happened the last time. This one line, not only provoked my thoughts, but kind of intruded in my personal space. Am I that easy to read? Was he even right?

Something told me he was. Why would that ebullience otherwise plummet so low that I would start averting my eyes from him, and in stead, focus all my attention on two Barista paper napkins hitherto inconspicuously lying on the table? Why otherwise did I catch myself tearing a sugar sachet when for years consistently I have liked my coffee bitter? My mind was bugged by this person's piercing gaze, which I knew was resting on me, waiting patiently for me to assimilate myself and come up with an answer. I could come up with none. In stead, I came up with a question.

What does not giving yourself enough chances mean?
With eyes gleaming of confidence in his own thought, and a mute kindness in his tone, he explained to me the meaning I sought. And that sounded completely like something delineating me- the part of me I try and keep concealed. It sounded painfully like me. By now, that points comes in your meetings with new people, where you realize if the two of you share a kindred connection, or if the initial charm you felt for someone a consequence of a misplaced adrenaline surge, which now has dissipated for the best. As for me in that weird situation, neither of the two happened. I was sitting with someone clearly smarter than myself, but not to intimidating limits. He had lofty ideals in his head, but his head firmly atop his shoulders. His thoughts were a treasure to observe, but suffocating when I tried stepping into the world they created. This was a person I knew I wanted to hear and learn from, but he was definitely a person whom I would not like to have another prompt tryst with.

Of the many arcane things he uttered, one was that he liked making people uncomfortable. Now that was not the most chivalrous of things to say, and hence my response was an obvious grimace. But of all the things I will remember his for, just in case I do never meet him again, this will stay with me. When discomfort settles in, ousting a crippling complacency,  you feel a need to come out, feel alive, make mistakes, learn from them, make mistakes again, and keep learning from a stimulated, active existence. These might not have been his thoughts, but they are my sentiments for sure.

For two days, I was brooding. I had been shaken out of my comfort zone, and pretty badly at that. I am not saying it was a life changing meeting. In fact, it wasn't. But it was one worth remembering, for my own good. His distinct sentences have now condensed in my mind as an elegy to the lost promises of youth, to the unabated acceptance of things as they have come my way. When I think of it now, the gaze- his gaze, coupled with that curl of lips which unnerved me no end as I sat in front of him, seems sort of beautiful in retrospect. I am definitely not meeting up this person again, for being unnerved in an alien company is not an experience I would rush myself towards. For that, I might hate him, but for the warmth which spreads through me as I write, I will definitely admire him.

Most of the worthy, beautiful things in life lie but a step away from us. May be they lie even farther away, but its that first step which we often deliberate too much over taking. By then, the proverbial butterfly has flown away, to a new abode. And we, we lurk right there, right at the edge, still hesitating to take that one step. Insecurities, fears, irrationalities- they exist in each heart, but whether we submit, or make them submit is what differentiates the ordinary from the outstanding. It is not a very well developed thought, but I want to leave it at that. I have found myself lurking at the edge of sunshine many a times in life. Now, with this little, abstract realization, I think I want to step into that sunshine, and open my arms, and feel the rays make my heart their home. Can't help getting poetic, foolishly may be, but it conveys the thought, right?

To end, I again found a painting by my favorite, Leonid Afremov. This one is called
Sun of January

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter Reminiscences- Expectations of Love!

Have you ever gotten a taste of your own medicine, as they proverbially say? I mean, have you ever landed in a situation which is like this giant mirror of your life, just that you see your own role being performed by someone else? And all this in a pleasant and amusing way, not with any masochistic or depressive undertones.

It happened with me, at the beginning of the 'month of musings', as I call it. December, as insinuated by me in Flakes Of Love, is that month where besides indulging in hopeless romanticism, I also take a stock of the big and small details of the year gone by. Right from the best books I read, to the people who mattered to me- I like revisiting things that made my year special. Introspection, on the problems faced, moments lived and lessons learnt is perhaps the most important aspect of this yearly catharsis of mine, and this post is precisely about that.

Unlike the previous years, this year's cathartic recollections began on an extremely amusing note. I am known to be this extremely insecure person, who craves undue levels of attention from people she loves. When that is not becoming, situations have been known to get ugly. At times, certain unfortunate friends of mine have been caught in pugnacious encounters with me without any apparent fault of theirs, specifically when even a tiny figment of my brain assumed that they've been sharing with a third person some part of their life which I rightfully think to be my own. Though I am learning to grow up, envy and a certain degree of possessiveness towards people I love have always characterized me. The closest to me suffer the most. Anger and tears follow. Acrimony, thankfully, is kept at bay.

So what was so amusing? The fact that I got a taste of my own bitter medicine. In one of the most harrowing situations in my life, I entered into a confrontation over issues of attention and insecurity where I was on the receiving end! It would've seemed implausible at one time, but it did happen. And the person wroth with me, wroth because of hurt feelings of extreme love, was my mentor. She was the first person ever in life I looked upto, and I know I fell in love with her even before my brain acquired sanity. She is much elder to me, and as much as I wanted to see my future in the strength of her character, she liked seeing her own past in my childhood achievements.

Maturity is often confused with passivity of emotions. May be that's why I was dumb initially when I saw that unmistakable hurt in her eyes caused by my callousness in loving her enough. I was in disbelief and denial. Here is how I defended myself in my thoughts- How could she feel hurt? How could she doubt me? She should know that even though I don't lurk around, I always hold her dear, shouldn't she?

Well, no! She is not obligated to assume that I love her, if I do not care to show her enough the love and concern I hold in my heart. Her getting hurt is not her fault, it is mine. The disbelief and surprise was soon replaced by delight, translating into a smile on my lips. I felt really good in my heart. Firstly, because of the realization that I mattered so much to someone, and secondly because I kind of felt at home. When I threw similar tantrums in front of others, I was assumed to be immature. So, I vowed to 'grow up', implying that I vowed to close myself to such extremities of emotions. No more! I smiled because her one outburst assured me that I wasn't some abnormal being always sulking for attention. Her words were my words, used many a times before. My problem is that I verbalize my thoughts too easily and too often, and ride an emotional high throughout my existence. It is the reaction I get which makes me doubt the very person I am.

I narrated this incident to a friend late at night, with palpable alacrity in my heart. It was a weird state state of excitement. I ended my narrative with these words- "and there I stood, smiling, but with absolutely no idea what to do now!". His query- "So, what will you do now? In fact, is there anything at all that you can do?". Poor chap, his query was obvious. He has been the victim of my outbursts way too often, and this is what I had to say to him- "I will now do everything for her, which I expected others to do when I put them in the same spot. No matter how hard I try, I cannot erase the bad memory, the hurt-that is how it works with hyper emotional beings like myself. But what I can do is to lurk around, and create enough happy memories to make that bad one inconsequential. She matters to me enough to put in that effort, and it is just that I need to let her know."

Lost somewhere within the pages of my journal was a five point mantra I devised for myself long back- more like compiled from various sources. This incident, fortunately, compelled me to find it once again. These five points were put together by me in not some gloomy-reflective condition, but in a state of perfect bliss, when I wanted to pamper my self, and feel proud of the person I am, but with responsibility. Time is good to share it on my blog. This constitutes my treasured lesson from the year 2011. They are not some divine secrets which promise a glorious existence- but five simple lines which if understood simply do have the potential of helping screwed up situations get a little better.

1. Stop lying to yourself. Harms no one but you.
2. Ask for help. Give your near ones the right to interfere while they still can.
3. Do not rationalize, i.e., do not make excuses for yourself. There cannot be a good enough reason for failing to do what you did not.
4. Count your blessings. List your motivations and rewards. Naive, but  has the awesome potential to make you feel great.
5. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change the person you are. When it comes to that, let go; with an understanding that holding on and letting go are divided by a invisibly thin line based on personal discernment

I think the best note to end this post on would be a painting by my favorite, Leonid Afremov, titled

Expectations of Love!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Unlikely Hero: Om Puri- A Review

The book cover- quite inviting
When the subject of a piece of writing is as rich and extraordinary as the much hailed actor Om Puri, a reader's expectations from it shoot right through the sky. Not only the reader, but the writer too should feel blessed for getting a chance to take an intimate peek into his life, and winning an opportunity for leaving  a permanent mark in the literature of Indian Cinema.

Alas! This biography does nothing to enthrall the reader, or increase the esteem of the biographer, or of the subject of the biography itself. Om Puri has been one of the most admired Indian actors now since an era. His acting skills boast of an almost preternatural glow, which accord to him an immutable hallowed status in the history of not just Indian, but world cinema. He has been one of my firm personal favorites. I had, for long, been watching his movies without any specific admiration for this glorious character actor he is, but it was a chance viewing of Govind Nihalani's Droh Kaal which left me completely enamoured of both, Om Puri, and his equally talented co-star, Mita Vashisht. There after, his cameo in Gandhi, his riveting performance in East Is East and My Son The Fanatic, his brilliant cop-act in Ardh Satya and his powerful baritone- all drew me towards discovering with awe one of the finest and most consistent of character actors ever.

Naturally, I was expecting a lot from this book. Visually, it fulfilled all my expectation. Interspersed in to the biography are a large number of photos, both from Om's personal and cinematic life. Though not placed in any logical order, they still aid the reader to help translate perspectives into lucid images in his mind. As far as the story of Om told in the book is concerned, it tells you that he was a child born and brought up in extremely adverse and perverse environments. He was the last born, and one of the very few surviving children of his parents. He grew up earning his own bread from a very early age, and diligence and sobriety were permanent traits of his character, especially as far as his devotion to his art is concerned. He studied at NSD, and subsequently at IIFT- Pune, in the august company of some of India's best known parallel cinema actor and directors like Rohini Hattangadi, Naseeruddin Shah, Saeed Mirza, et al. His looks did not fit the the conventional criterion for an 'actor, villain or a comedian', thus he had to work extra hard to prove his mettle, and establish himself as an extremely bankable character actor. Today, he is well recognized face in India and abroad. In fact, the finesse he brings in each act of his got him more fame abroad, specifically in the UK, than in India. This is ironical given the fact that Om could barely speak Englisjh as a student and carried a heavy Punjabi accent when he could. He is settled at present in Bombay with his wife Nandita and son Ishaan.
With Smita Patil-the queen of art cinema, in Sadgati. His portrayal of an untouchable , Dukhi, won his instant acclaim from film aficionados far and wide.

I am late in mentioning it, but Nandita C. Puri, his wife, is the author of this book. Unlikely Hero- the title was coined by Shyam Benegal, and Nandita was the one trusted with telling Om's story to the world. I must've forgotten mentioning her, because she does an extremely disappointing job of giving words to Om's tale. The tone of the biography is patronizing, to say the least. While I wanted to read a biography, I ended up reading a critique of Om's life, which spent more time delineating on the amorous escapades of a young Om (highly interesting, if I may confess) rather than providing perspectives on Om's nuanced growth as an actor and expounding on his relationship with his art, and fellow artists. Professional relationships I mean.

Om Puri as a rickshaw puller in the City of Joy.
Nandita is 16 years younger to Om, whom she met as a reporter in Calcutta. Their love took flight there and then, as Om battled a crumbling marriage back home with Seema Kapoor. She might have been a good reporter, and this I say because even the honeymoon phase of their relationship she has 'reported', with a glaring lack of any emotional appeal to it. What she does well in the book, the only salable  attribute perhaps, is the job of peppering the narrative with inconsequential minutiae which titillate the gossip friendly nerves in the reader's system and help him keep turning pages. Two pages in the book are penned by Om's son Ishaan- but like the rest of the book, they too are disappointing, for they talk not of much else but Om's addiction to smoke.

Saving grace- the sections in the book penned down by Om himself. He reflects, albeit concisely, on each of his film projects; something which as an Om Puri fan you look forward to. Also, tidbits of a lecture he gave at Whistling Woods make for a worthwhile read. The prologue by late Patrick Swayze is perhaps the highest point in the whole biography; its appropriate placement at least helps a reader to start on a good note.

Concluding gossip- Om Puri's married life, ever since the release of this biography has been on the rocks. It has been reported, rather recently, that Om wants to divorce Nandita and return to his ex-wife, Seema Kapoor. Speculations are rife that the sleazy revelations of Om's life, which include his 'curious caressing of his maternal aunt's exposed tummy', his teenage 'deflowering' at the hands of an old 'toothless' maid, inter alia , made by Nandita in the Unlikely Hero are the cause behind Om's decision. For me, more important than this gossip is the hope that Om gets another biography to his name, which does justice to his persona as it is remembered on the pages of cinematic history.

Ishaan, Nandita and Om at the book launch. The happy family in the picture is not going through tough phase, and this very biography is rumoured to be the cause.