Monday, February 27, 2012

With A Smile

When I entered the festooned gates of JMC on the morning of 23rd February, I found the atmosphere inside ridden with confusion, with some palpable heat and anxiety flowing around. Reason? The Women Studies and Development Center, my alter ego while I was still in college, was waiting to launch one of their most prideworthy initiatives of the year in the august presence of the Mayor of Delhi, Ms. Rajni Abbi. Quite obviously, my juniors, who now hold the reigns of WSDC, were facing essential bouts of pre-event jitters.It is not everyday that the Mayor of Delhi herself agrees to walk in through the gates of your college to give to your endeavours her blessings and encouragement. However, that is precisely what Ms. Abbi consented to do- to be with a bunch of enthusiastic young scribes wanting to make their quill their sword of revolution- and the kind of person she is, we were easily stunned and mesmerized by her.

"Still I Rise"- this is the name of  a recently launched monthly newsletter by WSDC, JMC, which seeks to address bold topics relating to gender issues- the concerns and the celebration. It is a unique and unprecedented initiative, at least as far as the history of JMC is concerned. If the first issue of this journal is anything to go by, I am more than sure that the forthcoming issues will only get better and more interesting, and will carry lots of informative and entertaining content which will definitely appeal to the sensibilities of the young, the concerned and the daring. You can know more about this newsletter by clicking here. This link directs you to the blog of this still nascent product of young imaginations, trying hard to mark its presence among people who take interest in issues relating to women empowerment, gender parity, inter alia

A simple half hour rendezvous with Rajni ma'am ensured us that their could not have been a better icon of female strength and achievement whom WSDC could have invited to launch the first issue of Still I Rise. The fact that they invited me, their ex-President alongside her is something that makes me swell with pride. Tantamount to pride also lingers the humbling feeling of gratitude. Rajni ma'am had a personality that makes one instantly like her. She is a teacher by profession, a teacher at heart, and somehow, I always believed that teachers make for excellent leaders. They already know how to shape futures, mold young minds into mature ideals, and be inspirations without having to try too hard. 

Professor Rajni Abbi heads one of the three municipal corporations of Delhi, namely the MCD. The designation of a Mayor has a lot of pomp associated with it. So while we were expecting a VIP to enter our college at 11:30, Prof. Abbi nonchalantly walked into our campus at 11:25, not as a VIP, but like a humble leader who belongs to the masses. Her punctuality and humility were immediately noticeable, but what was even better was her keen understanding of a student's life and an urge to cooperate with us. She was friendly, and gave us helpful sermons which we ought to remember for our own benefit. No moment spent with her lacked the dynamism she effortlessly exuded. It was the first time I met her, and though I have no idea of what her accomplishments are, I still felt like sharing the first impression she left on me. Political ideologies, I have none. But an addiction to recording the best of experiences in life I certainly do. This was one of them.

My best wishes to the WSDC team. Make sure each step you all now take only takes your forward. What you have began should not end with college. Your passions should accompany you everywhere you go. You all make me proud, for all the right reasons.

PS- Sometimes, its just a smile you need. A smile that you carry, a smile that you can lend. I think some of you reading this will understand what I am referring to :)

With Ms. Rajni Abbi and a copy of Still I Rise in my hand

Friday, February 24, 2012

Freedom At Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins

Here, I am attempting to review a classic historical treatise, which has won acclaim for itself from diverse corners of the world. I feel inadequate. To exacerbate my feeling of inadequacy, the fact that it has been more than a month since I finished this 700 page long book looms large over my head. Still, I have now been infected by this incurable urge of expressing my view about any and every book I read, here, on Nascent Emissions. So this post, essentially, is my 'view', not a 'review' of Freedom At Midnight.

History is not a hailed discipline in our education system. It is pursued by those whom science rejects and commerce repels. Even still, those who brag about their knowledge of historical occurrences do so on the basis of extensive reading of world history- the wars, the revolutions, the socio-economic evolution. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with it, but how many of us are actually aware of the history of India, and I here mean that part of Indian history which has perhaps been pivotal in shaping the landscape of India as we know it today? All of us have a decent idea about the Indian National Movement, the struggle for freedom, the Gandhis, the Nehrus, the Patels, the Partition; but are we really aware of what was it that went into making India one of the world's most successful secular democracies?

Lapierre and Collins, through their characteristic exhaustive research, attempt to answer the above question, and a lot many more. Their research was conducted precisely to recreate the drama and the hysteria surrounding just one event, perhaps the most important in the history of Modern India- that of Independence, concomitant to which was the Partition. The idea that I would be reading about 700 pages delineating just one event, however mammoth its significance, was both, intriguing and putting off. I am glad that intrigue prevailed. This book is not a mere collection of words, or recollection of incidents. This book is a magnum opus. And had it not contained its own set of controversial detailing, it might as well have been an indispensable reading for all students of history in India. For me, it still serves much as an authoritative text. When you go through page after page of tireless details, a certain amount of credibility and an acceptance of the veracity of facts builds up inside you along with respect for the authors for their painful investigation of even the minutest of events surrounding India's independence.

For those not used to Lapierre and Collins' writings- and they do have to their credit other historical works of unquestionable repute, viz, Paris Is Burning and O Jerusalem- the opening chapters of the book can baffle the reader with both, their verbosity and a little over-the-top detailing. However, that is how the authors set the scene. When you revisit events from Indian history via the narration of these authors, you will be certain to feel a thrill and gush of personal emotions even though everything they've written about is a veritable anachronism in the 21st century. Their book is layered with interesting trivia, the most interesting perhaps being the chapter dealing with the lifestyle, the essentially eccentric and amusing lifestyle of Indian Maharajas. Their role in consolidated Indian politics becomes relevant when the independence plan grants them an autonomy to decide which side of the border to join, or to remain independent. More trivia about the division of state property when India was being partitioned can leave you astonished, with anecdotes you would perhaps want to sit over with a coffee and share with your friends.

The book begins with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten as the last Viceroy of India, and goes onto scan in detail many incidents gone unnoticed by famed historians. Particularly interesting are chapters dealing with Cyril Radcliffe's predicament. He was the cartiographer deployed to undertake the surgical division of Indian mainland, the irony being he had never ever visited India prior to this assignment. The bloodbath which preceded and followed partition has been narrated in a manner to leave you shocked and stirred. Marvelous are the portions dealing in an elaborate manner with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

What I personally loved about the book was the theatrics. Many events, including the riots, were not just described, but narrated as a story from the perspective of that one person who could be easily lost in a crowd, but who as an individual was profoundly affected by the same. The story builds up on you, in a way that you understand the magnitude and consequences of events you read as dull parts of draggy history text. The book dithers a bit too much upon the role of Lord Mountbatten, gloriously described, in the pre and post independence times, so much so that you are forced to feel if the authors had a predilection towards him. However, the latter half of the book more than redeems itself with the kind of aura it builds around the person who inhabits the very soul of India- Mahatma Gandhi. Many a book, including his autobiography, have I read about him, but none has made me fall in love and awe of him as much as Freedom At Midnight. The book also paints interesting portraits of Nehru, Jinnah and Patel- the other big players at the fore of the political battleground. And, most importantly, trust me, you really want to read this book to delve into the chilling details of the fanatical plan which was put in place to end Gandhi's haloed sojourn among us mortals.

On a scale of 5, not less than 4and 1/2 stars for me. This is one book we all should read, with a warning, it might just bore you in parts, but at the end of it, you will feel immense satisfaction for having dared to undertake this journey. The following are the protagonists of the saga of independence, and any story which builds on them, along with numerous other faceless characters, can be nothing less than outstandingly thrilling.

Lord Mountbatten

Mahatma Gandhi

Jawahar Lal Nehru

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Of Patch Ups and Filibustering, Two Roses and Some Debating

"Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time".

Don't read much into it. I just wanted to start with something catchy. And this line more than fitted the bill. Two days of lecturing an unfortunate score of eager debaters on filibustering, and here I am, doing precisely that. However, this filibustering conveys what I dedicatedly follow in life. Each moment we grow, each step we take ahead, we are inevitably heading towards a dead end. Where we arrive, when we arrive, is irrelevant. How we travel is what is important. I like to travel savoring each experience as unique, and not having too many of one kind so as to keep them special. One recent experience which has raced to the top of my favorite moments from college life transpired on 11th and 12th February this year. To relate a little about that is why I hold the quill in my hand today. (Yes yes, I am tapping away on the keyboard, but, you know, this is called setting the mood)

Just so you know, I am not late in writing about an event that occurred almost 10 days ago. Yes, blogs are a lot about prompt display of thoughts, but I intended only to write when the memories in my mind had crystallized. Now, they have.

The Delhi Technological University, on 11th and 12th February, as reported earlier on Nascent Emissions, hosted a two day, multicommittee MUN, called the Deltech MUN'12. As a first, they simulated a double delegation, non MUN committee under the same event, namely, the G20 Summit. Amid an Executive Board with tonnes of experience, and participating delegates with mad and enviable MUN resumes, I felt a little lost. The amazing hospitality of the organizers did put me at ease, but it was not till I met Sakshi Aggarwal, the hastily deputed, charming Director of G20 that I could finally locate my comfort zone. In her, I rightly saw an amazing support for the two days I was supposed to spend at DTU.

The first few moments were spent in anxiety. 'Will we have a good participation' was the only persistent thought on our minds- mine, Sakshi's and Vrinda's, Vrinda being our sweet rapporteur. Little by little, beginning with a warm up session, things get into motion. Rest is indescribable in words. I am not a regular MUN person, only about attending one or two in a year. I resolved last year to never attend- participate or chair- a similar conference ever in life. And I am only glad that that turned out to be a hollow resolve.

We, as a committee, debated two very contemporary, dynamic, sensitive, pertinent, but dry topics over the two day session. Thanks to my well read committee member, the debate was anything but dry. I can safely mention now that Canada, China, UK and USA were my favorites to be the winners at the end of two days. A demure but determined Indian delegation made a strong case for itself by the end of second day, and ensured a High Commendation for itself. As countries, I might forget them, but as individuals, I promise, if you are reading this, I will always remember and recognize you if at all we meet again in future.

Amrita and Anmol- They were my favorites. Clean favorites. Charming and composed, both of them formed an effective pair to keep up with the pace of debating in the committee. (The Laurel and Hardy)
Priyakanksha and Hisham- They were the smartest and most confident speakers in my committee, whose confidence dripped from their faces. They were clearly more experienced than myself, but the respect with which they treated me was overwhelming and precious. (Rangeen Jodi- Runner's Up)
Kirithiga and Pranav- An adorable duo, where Pranav dominated with his eloquent speeches but Kirithiga matched up with her grace and composure, and a very amiable personality. (Rangeen Jodi- Winners)
Bhavya and Akshay- As I said, demure, composed and focused. Whenever my committee went crazy shouting and being uselessly animated, they were the only sources of solace I resigned my attention to. (Hope of Diplomacy)
Anup and Prashant- The youngest bravehearts of my committee, willing to take over those whom I was scared of debating with. These were two precocious school students who effortlessly contested, paralleled and even dominated the other committee members at times. Got into trouble, but got out of it soon enough. (The U-Turners)
Saumya and Siddharth- They were the next best on our list, just missing out on the awards. A little late to pick up, but their NSIT connect ensured they get enough attention from me!

The exemplary deliberations, debating and negotiations were accompanied by a lot of fun moments in the council. Discovering an unnamed rose under my placard was one of them. Breaking into long lectures about reading habits, concept of diplomacy, nuances of public speaking, and a little gyan on life in general was another. I had my tiffs only with the IP, but they too, were so fantastic at what they did that retrospectively, I remember them with a lot of respect. Exhausted after chasing consensus on two lengthy Declarations, a little photo session, preceded by a melodious rendition of Maeri by Pradit was only what was needed as the perfectly sumptuous icing on an already delicious cake.

I could never end this post without mentioning some more names.
Saad and Akhil- Prior to meeting them, I never realized that conference staff could be so diligent, endearing and eager to help. They displayed hospitality at its best. Water, coffee, projector, charger, chits, pens, stationary- I think we harassed them in every possible way. The only thing they gave us in return was a heart warming smile at the end of it all.
Soham- He is a school junior I am proud of. Had it not been for him, I would have suffered because of my over punctual self. Thanking him in few words is simply not possible. I can only say that the warmth, concern and respect  he loaded me with I shall never forget.
Shobhit- The sheer awesomeness he displayed at handling an event of this scale is something I could write essays upon. For now, I'd just mention that there could not have been a more perfect Sec Gen for Deltech MUN. Being invited by him was humbling and pleasing at the same time.

The best frames from then.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dear Delegates

Today happens to begin what must be one of the most eagerly looked forward to conferences of the year 2012 in the Delhi college circuit. Delhi Technological University is organizing DeltechMun'12 over the next two days where delegates from pan Delhi colleges will congregate to discuss issues encompassing Human Rights, Global Security Concerns, Financial Stability, Climate Change, inter alia. Though not a regular MUN person, I do have my fair bit of experience now spanning more than 6 years in this genre of debating. As I write this, I do feel excited and happy that in some hours, I will be Chairing a non-MUN committee at Deltech, one which I simulated in my own college (JMC) without any precedents to look up to. The Model G20 Summit. Being an economics student, a committee which simulates the debates between Finance Ministers and Central Bank governors of 20 significant economies of the world on core financial and policy coordination issues, G20 seemed like the ideal platform to extrapolate arguments contained in text books and ET to a conference where we talk like world leaders making important decisions. The responsibility associated with researching and understanding is manifold when we prepare for such conferences, and it is this academic bent which appeals to me- not the flamboyant oratory or chic ensemble on display.

Today, when we assemble for the two day G20 Summit we are looking to simulate, two agendas of immense contemporary and future relevance would be put to debate. These are-
1. Coordinating economic policies and reducing global macroeconomic imbalance
2. Need for a global strategy to reduce carbon emissions and its growth implications.

As the Chair, these are the words which have been conveyed to my committee members, who I am hoping bear these in mind and end the two days of informed debating on a successful note (devoid of filibustering and neck-grabbing tendencies)

Dear Delegates

What we are entering today is an era unlike any seen earlier in terms of doubts, uncertainties and magnitude of issues which plague us as a global community. In matters financial and otherwise, it is truly quoted that the only prediction that will hold true is that no prediction will hold true. The meeting of G-20 nations has thus been convened in February 2012 within the precincts of Delhi Technological University to see if we may locate ways of mitigating uncertainties in matters of global financial stability and sustainability as we pursue growth objectives with a mad zeal.

It is only after the 2008 Washington Summit that G-20 was able to establish its credibility as an effective forum for promoting cohesion for a salubrious financial climate throughout the world and to debate issues which transcend the concerns of any one organization. Stepping into the shoes of Finance Ministers and Central Bank governors, as delegates, we are expecting you to take on two issues that the most erudite experts in the world have failed to arrive at a consensus on. The threats of a worldwide recession unprecedented in scale are looming large over our collective psyche and the skeptics are already out in the open conjecturing if the world will end in fire or ice given the hypocritical attention global warming concerns are receiving. Both these topics shall hopefully be debated with a professional, solution oriented, in depth analysis by the enthusiastic delegates who will constitute my committee.

As for myself, I am a Economics Honors graduate from Delhi University, aspiring to become a proactive, change inducing bureaucrat in near future. With my academic areas of interest encompassing the issues we have put forward for debating, I shall be serving as your Chair along with Sakshi from DTU as the Director. Together, we shall be hoping to provide you with an experience which enriches and entertains.

Being a part of Deltech MUN 2012 is as much a matter of pride for me as if for all of you. Congratulations on being short listed for my committee. Feel free to touch base for any query.

Looking forward to an amazing session.

Saumya Kulshreshtha

Friday, February 10, 2012

Trek Up To The 100th!

Yes. Through this post, I am out here celebrating the century of nascent words which have escaped my heart over last 3 years. It feels incredible. When I go through the neatly drafted older articles, I often sense pride and warmth serenading my being. The words were always reflective of my thoughts. Honest thoughts. Not one word here has an element of fabrication. Each single post of mine is written with personal care, tenderness, love and thoughtfulness. Emotions have been my guides. People my inspirations.

What I would want to dedicate my 100th post to is my inspirations. The three people who have been a distinct part of me and who have inspired me not from around me, but from within me. Their faces lurk behind most of my writings. What I share with them prompts me on. Whether the happy moments or the sad, they either cause them or help me live through them. Invariably, they metamorphose into some exquisite thoughts which my quill itches to paint into some precious words.

Here they are. Here is who they are. Here is what they mean.

The Love
He is the Guardian Angel of my solitary heart. I read about love. He taught me about love. The feeling that filled me with his arrival in my life was so overwhelming that it needed to flow out. It had to flow out. He made me feel so much of love that I could finally begin to understand it. Once I understood it, I felt a need to write about it, share about it. Love has been an experience of learning and unlearning. Nothing stands absolute in its path except for the fact that it exists as an Absolute need for all of our survival. I did mention about having understood it. But love is a spectacular panorama. Not one to be understood easily. He says, "So what? Live it, feel it, flow with it." And the words flow along too. Gracefully. Dancing under his magic.

The Care
He is solace of my heart. My reason for feeling good. My reason for looking forward to a new day. In his face, I've seen a frown which I sensed a need to smoothen. In his eyes, I've seen some pain which I always yearned to help flow out. In his heart, I've seen a coldness which I felt I could help thaw. He is the majesty which stands tall to the respect of the world. He is the softness which has always been cared for by me. In caring for him, I have felt infinite warmth being reflected back towards my heart. Each time I watched over him, I sensed some faith building up in me. Can there be a more potent inspiration that faith itself? The care, taking care, being cared for, lent me that faith, and the consequent inspiration. Its friendship at its best. The fights inspire me more than the good times. My writings carry lessons and emotions I gained via the periods of distress, the periods of taking care. Its is not the cherry on top of the cake I am claiming, it is the whole cake of memories I am sharing.

The Smile
She came into my life with the glow of sunshine. Funny I call her that despite heliophobia being one of her prominent attributes. Her innocence, silliness and childish purity has been comfort of my heart in the darkest of hours. Happiness deep down within has been ascertained by me to be a prerequisite to aid clear flow of thoughts out into comprehensible words. She channelized the best of positive energies towards me with that one bright smile she flashed at me on the first day I noticed her, and continued to flash the same at me each day we met and began getting closer. Her brightness, her contagious positivity, her infinitely pretty face, and the stupendous happiness she is always sprinkling around- all these factors have been the greatest motivations whenever I have sought to make anyone happy through the words I share on my blog. If she did not lent me all that bliss, I could not possibly have passed it on.

And We Turn 100
 I am not thanking them. They're all mine. My own. And they've stuck by in my good and bad times. I've fought each one of them with bitternes. I've loved each one of them with passion and tenderness. I was in three different worlds while I wrote the above three, but that in now way means they are distinct or isolated sections of my existence. They inspire and encourage me together.
In his love lies tender care and plentiful smiles.
In his care I find smiles and the warmth of love.
In her smiles hides a reason to love and to take care.
They all hurt. They all are close. They all are behind my expressions.

For having come a long way. from writing my post #1 to now writing post #100, I am ecstatic. Each one of you reading it has been a part of my journey. Thank you so much! I know you are happy for me and are sharing that ridiculously beautiful smile with me. Thanks again. Hope to keep seeing you around.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Montage Of Memories

What is the time of the year that as a college student you most look forward to? Definitely not the exams and assessments. It is, indubitably, the time your whole college is drowned under a spirit of celebration- your annual college festival which is not just a time to have fun, but also to work your asses off and proudly show off your college to the whole world out there.

I'll add one more thing to the above generalization. Not just for the incumbent college students, but also for the nascent alumni, the most looked forward to occasion is not the Convocation or the Reunions, but again, the college festival. I say this from personal experience. Reunions are good in their place, but they do not recreate the fervor and frolic associated with college life. Festivals certainly do. With a bunch of old friends, heading down to your own college with a cup full of memories in your hand and a sparkle of expectations in your eyes is an exercise many of us would like to undertake to revel once again in that relaxed, carefree air. My lips widen in a huge smile as I recall to mind that a similar trip I shall be undertaking towards to my college just about a fortnight hence. It is that time of the year again. It is MONTAGE time again!

Splashed all across my twitter timeline and facebook wall are updates and more updates about this year's edition of Jesus and Mary College's Annual Festival- Montage'12. It is heartwarming to see juniors take the oars in their hands and row towards the D-Day with such skill and innovation. With each successive edition, we at JMC have gone a notch higher in terms of the quality and enthusiasm with which we decorate the fest. More spunk has consistently been added. More shimmer sprinkled. More care observed in organization. More efficiency achieved. More events conducted. More participants attracted. More fame gained. And if I am to go by the words of the college president, Kanika Chaturvedi, this year, Montage promises to be nothing less than EPIC. Dear Kanika, make it an advanced version of epic. I know it lies in you and your team to do that!

The team. Aah. Now they are an enviable lot. A bunch of young, smart girls, who put the most passionate sections of their heart and the most creative sections of their brain into making certain that the fest is pulled off with uncomplicated meticulousness and stylish grace. One of the many new things they have tried this year is reaching out to people via an interesting blog. Oh, they have made some awesome teaser videos too, but since I am a blogging person, I am glad that my lonely, nightime occupation is being taken seriously by some cute damsels. They are churning out some cool posts with a candour and lightheartedness I wish God blessed all of us with. The feel you get while reading all those posts just makes the air around the road leading to the fest all the more energized. The countdown has begun.

Hit the fb page, or the Montage official website, but what I will strongly recommend is that stop by Montage's official blog by clicking here. Take a moment. We want you to laugh with us. We can be pompous about ourselves, because all the awesomeness JMC lends to us is prone to spilling out now and then. But with this blog, the creative scribes of JMC are out there to make you feel at home even before you step into our campus.

Its here. Montage '12. So, are you ready?

PS- If you are one of my male friends reading it, FINE, I know I have to make sure I take you along. I will. I promise. But don't you dare pester me to introduce you to femme fatales from my college. Please.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An Era Of Mausiqi Ended

Log kehte hain Jagjit na raha. Ghazal ro rahi rahi mera manmeet na raha. -Manoj Kumar on Jagjit Singh's demise on 10th October, last year.

Ghazal kehna bahut zimmedaari ka kaam hai. In other words, conveying the pathos of a poet with musical embellishments is a job of immense responsibility. Jagjit Ji, without fail, discharged this responsibility with enviable perfection. Ghulam Ali Sahab was true when he remarked on Jagjit Ji's demise that "With the going of Jagjit, a pillar of mausiqi has been lost." However, more touched was I on reading as a eulogy Manoj Kumar's above quoted expression. Jagjit ji's loss cannot be captured more lucidly in words. In his going away, ghazals have been left bereft of their most beloved humraahi. Humsafar. The face of ghazals as catches the popular imagination today had been chiseled by the dexterous of doyen of contemporary Indian light classical music. On 10th October last year, he decided that it was time now he serenaded the heavens with his silken voice. If he had not been so hasty in his departure, today we would have been celebrating his 71st birthday.

Jagjit Ji's voice is a magic potion. Much about him shall always be said in present tense, for he has immortalized himself via some priceless jewels. Rare gems like him never recede to the past. Their worth and glory enhances as time progresses. Jagjit Ji's soulful renditions of some great poetry can make reality hit you hard, or transport you to a surreal world. They may intensify your gloom by echoing with surprising precision a personal sorrow. The same ghazals could exude a salubrious air- an air capable of setting right the ills concomitant to deeply, passionately felt love.

Besides being a prolific singer, Jagjit ji was a great storyteller. Ask me what sung by him is my favorite ballad and I won't spare a nano second in pointing towards these lines. These lines are a chain of thoughts. Lyrically beautiful. Rendered sublime in Jagjit Ji's soulful voice.

Baat niklegi toh phir door talak jaaegi
Log bewajah udaasi ka sabab poochhenge
Yeh bhi poochhenge ki tum itni pareshaan kyun ho
Ungliyan uthengi sookhe hue baalon ki taraf 
Ik nazar dekhenge guzre hue saalon ki taraf
Choodiyon par bhi kai tanz kiye jaayenge
Kaanpte haathon pe bhi fiqre kase jayenge
Log zaalim hain har ik baat ka tana denge
Baaton baaton mein mera zikr bhi le aayenge
Unki baaton ka zara sa bhi asar mat lena
Warna chehre ke taasur se samajh jayenge
Chaahe kuchh bhi ho sawalaat na karna unse
Mere baare mein koi baat na karna unse

Now, doesn't this story sound all too familiar? If you have not, I implore you with all my heart to lend an ear to this just once. For this composition, veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar is said to have remarked - Baat nikal bhi gayi, aur door talak jayegi bhi. These were Jagjit Ji's early days. Javed Akhtar's words proved prophetic for the heights extraordinaire which Jagjit Ji was destined to climb.

He shimmered like the brightest star in the sky of Indian music. A sitara, however, has not been lost. He is, in fact, shining ever more brightly, firmly, coruscating in the hearts of millions who loved him and will continue to do so till eternity.

Today is his 71st birthday. I wish it were in my capacity to reach out to him and wish him just once.

Achchha sa koi mausam, tanha sa koi aalam
Har waqt ka rona toh, bekaar ka rona hai.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Down The Road- A Review

My short sabbatical to an internet free zone was spent with my nose poking deep into the pages of Down The Road- A collection of short stories by various authors about life on campus, edited by Ahmed Faiyaz and Rohini Kejriwal. What I felt about the book shall come later, but I must share with the readers that I was often found by concerned family members sometimes sharing a ridiculously personal smile, at others a worried pensive stare with the pages of the book. It was not merely because the book was handsomely engrossing. It was certainly because the book shared stories which seemed personal. 

Life on campus is a rigmarole for most of us. It, invariably, occupies a very special place in the chest where we preserve our precious memories. Growing up, finding ourselves, making friends, understanding love, learning, unlearning, failing, trying, enjoying, crying- you look back at college and you find yourself enveloped by a dozen emotions you once lived through, the ones which have played an important part in shaping you as you know yourself today. Quite obviously, I had my hoped pinned high on Down The Road, especially because I am fresh out of DU, and still not quite over the feel of campus life.

The book lived up to its name. Quite effortlessly, it took me down the memory lane. It is a fresh and pleasant collection of short stories by young authors from diverse background and with diverse writing styles. It tells simple tales of incidents we've lived through in school or college. Most of the stories which appealed to me dealt with love and friendship- the discovery, the innocence, the misunderstandings, the whole experience in fact. The book is divided into five sections with 28 stories by 16 authors. The individual authors have explored many different facets of campus life including elections, politics, ragging, teachers, passions, lessons, crushes, placements inter alia.A thumbs up to the editors for selection of stories included in this anthology. Some of the stories will make you smile as you remember the hazy face of that first crush, some others might touch you where you are most sensitive and feel some pain or regret. Narrated with an almost personal tenderness, many of these stories make you reflect on those trivialities which seem to acquire meaning only in retrospect.

What I did not enjoy was the last section of the book, with two essays about campus fiction and campus based movies. I was riding high on the nostalgic atmosphere which the stories created around me, and quite honestly, I did not feel like forcing myself through those passages which seemed a little dry after the wonderful and touching stories. I would give the book 3 on 5 stars. It is worth a read, in fact a few stories are worth reading many times over. Some warmth and some nostalgia you are sure to feel while you involuntarily find yourself living your college days.

My favorite five from the stories published in this anthology-

1. Smells Like Home by Aashish Mehotra
About the reluctant return to his homeland of an NRI student, who experiences comfort in the company of a girl whose presence he takes for granted.
2. Bellow Yellow by Chinmayi Bali
A commendable, mature and intense story about the darker tendencies which inhabit a student's being. Well narrated, delicately handled.
3. The Music Room by Ira Trivedi
The forbidden love story of a bright young student and a docile, out of place music teacher.
4. The Cafe With No Name by Sneh Thakur
A gently narrated tale of the brewing relationship between a student of limited means and a concerned and doting Parsi owner of the roadside cafe. Heartwarming.
5. Remember Me? by Ahmed Faiyaz
This one because it made me revisit Ruheen and Aditya's love story, one I had gotten quite attached to while reading Another Chance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another Chance by Ahmed Faiyaz- A Review

"At the end of love there is unloving, when you can engage in the ceaseless hunt for all those things to be taken out, and somehow discarded, when you can fight against the new roads and try, futilely, to return to what you were before." -Page 180, Another Chance.
Much thought goes into deciding the title for a book. No matter what genre, what subject, what type a book, a title is supposed to provide just enough peek into a book's soul, without revealing too much about it. It is your first impression of the book, and in case of novels, fiction novels such as the one I am attempting to review, the title of the book is supposed to hold the story together, even guide the reader when he feels lost about the direction the book will take after the next turn in the story. Ahmed Faiyaz's Another Chance boasts of a title which is precise and perfect. It encapsulates the very essence of the book in a mere two words- Another Chance. To a romantic's heart (read:me) these two words are almost a philosophy. In Ahmed's novel, they are a simple expression of the desire which harries many a unlucky-but-still-in-love hearts. The Desire For Another Chance.

The plot of the book revolves around a single girl-Ruheen Oberoi, described by the author as a depressingly gorgeous woman in the prelude to the novel. She is a hep, free spirited girl, sought after girl, brought up by an indulging grandfather, who lost her parents when young. Aditya Sharma, Ruheen's enduring lover, a young corporate trying to make his mark, is the second protagonist in this novel. His commitment to Ruheen is almost dreamlike- but much comes in the way of consummation of their love. A string of men enter Ruheen's life at successive junctures- A politician's son and Ruheen's obsessive stalker-Vishal, Ruheen's childhood friend with feelings for her-Varun, and then Ruheen's good-for-nothing, abusive husband-Rohan. Luck, as is guessable, does not favor Ruheen's relationship with any. At a young age, battered by the chicaneries of life, Ruheen gives up hope for finding love and comfort in a man's arms, when Aditya re-enters her life. However, love, as we know it, is not a simple road to tread on. It comes with its own complications, its own compulsions, its own tests. Will Ruheen finally find happiness? Does love deserve a second chance? Is the human heart, with all its weaknesses, a sound guide to consult while making life altering decisions? All this, and more, you ponder as you flip through the pages of Another Chance.

After Love, Life & All That Jazz... it is the second book by Ahmed Faiyaz that I am reading. Like the earlier one, this too has done a decent job of providing me a good, entertaining, and moving story which is not too heavy and easy to relate with. Having read these two books, I can conveniently say, that Ahmed does fabulously when it comes to painting close-to-home, real life characters. While in the last book, what could have been three independent stories were intertwined in the narrative, here it helps to have just one rather simple story to follow and focus attention on. Simple, but replete with exciting twists and turns.

It took me about quarter to four hours to read the book, and I am by no means a fast reader. It is much like a bollywood romance, which engages, touches, entertains, and leaves you with happy tears in the end. Do not pick this book to satisfy the literary critic in you. Pick this book for catching some fresh air, a simple break from your otherwise ridden-with-anxieties life. As I said, not heavy duty stuff in this book. An easy, light read, whose climax builds up like that of a mushy, romantic flick. When during the course of the book you start sharing the agony of the character and get desperate for them to achieve happiness, you know that the writer has succeeded in casting his spell on you- in binding you together with the narrative. I have a proclivity towards falling for nicely narrated romances. This one gets 3 on 5 stars from me for primarily two reasons. First is its ending- they way it builds up, gives you hope, then perturbs you, then leaves you with fond tears. Second is for the author's handling of human emotions- their gullibility and resilience- and for his treatment of the dynamics of a new age, urban relationship. The narrative of the books shifts between many locations, Indian and foreign- and the screenplay like storytelling makes it conveniently possible to imagine vividly the characters and their setting. If you read with as much passion as I do, you'll lose yourself to the story. And in my view, that is how one should read to draw maximum satisfaction from a book.

I cannot end this review without mentioning the brilliant cover portrait of Bruna Abdullah which almost brings Ruheen's character alive in front of your eyes. Her expression on the cover was the first thing that made me want this book. For all of you wanting to a read a little mature and not an utterly cheesy romance with no load, do remember to pick this up on your next trip to a book shop.