Thursday, December 25, 2014

Winter Notebook - The World Is Not A Wish Granting Factory

Merry Christmas people! Wish you a great one.

Wishful thinking. That is what I am indulging in for now. I have realised, negative emotions make me write more than positive ones do. Is it the same with you? The world, including me, needs to take a serious course in 'Count Your Blessings'. However, the pathetic state of humanity we are all living together in, we cannot all help but ponder constantly over that one grand moment which will come in our life and set it all right. Reality check - it does not happen that way. No. Your life, as well as my life, will remain a constant tussle between the highs and the lows, the goods and the bads, the brights and the darks. I also think I am descending into the thought patterns which tells me only sorrow is real - happiness is but a break from it. Something like how only darkness is real and all.

Among the many stupid things I keep thinking about, one is recurrent. I am talking about wishful, idiotically optimistic thinking. Every time someone cancels a plan, or expresses his/her inability to meet me, at some deep corner in my heart, I am convinced (foolishly, of course), that the cancellation is a mere decoy to give me a surprise! I hope to be that special for everyone. This happens every single time. If my friend says I am not coming to office/college tomorrow, I always travel in the morning in the hope of seeing the same friend waiting to surprise me with a hug. If a friend cancels a lunch date, I am hopeful that the same friend will barge into my house and carry my favourite food and we'll have the time of our life. I hate being surprised, but I still keep planting these scenarios in my head. This is what keeps me going.

I guess the easiest way to be with people in inside my head. Very few of us realise that sometimes, a casual promise, casually uttered, is something our dear ones are hanging onto, with dear life. Cancelling plans, treating promises with scant respect is a way of life, you see. When I look pleadingly into the eyes of a friend and say, 'But you promised...', the same friend looks back at me incredulously, as if the logic I am basing my argument on is long dusted away under the covers of Grimm's Fairy Tales. But what to do, the world is something you still believe in. People are something you still believe in. Your wishes are tied down to moments of togetherness, of love shared and concern showed.

So, is there a way out? Sure there is. I mean, as far as I have been able to crack, the only antidote to 'The World is not a Wish Granting Factory' statement is becoming material in your wishes. Yes. Then all you need to do is earn enough money. Lots of money. Or pass on this list to a friend. Trust me, friends find it convenient to parcel you a (material) gift of your choice. It is best if it can be found over Flipkart (and the likes). Ease of ordering and delivery - now that, is precious.

Anyway, the five things that would make me super happy this Christmas are the following. Feel free to gift in dozens :)

1. Mittens!
I love the ones with fingers open, but, then, do they serve their purpose well?

2. Ring - this one!

Source - BoredPanda

3. All things Silver
You can start at this for reference.

Source - Etsy

4. Books
Romance, that is what is lacking in my thinking.

Source - Ubbcluj

5. Hugs and Gossip and Coffee
The most expensive item on my list, but I hope I get a lot of it :)

You know why I particularly love winters? Because this is the season of funny hats and funnier feelings. More on that, on the next page of my notebook. Share your wishlist with me, and I will try my best to be your Secret Santa :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Notebook - Saudade

At times, I feel like cleansing it all. 
All of it. 
The faces. The love.
The simple. The tough. 
The pleasure. The groans.
The kisses. 
The races, against time.
The words, which seldom rhymed.
The bonds. The myths. 
The cuddles. The rifts. 
The playfulness. 
The kicks
I got out of
Knowing I am the special one
For him
And for her. 
You know what they do? 
They shamelessly display glee. 
In tasteless pictures
Clicked in abhorrent corners of the world
Which now they call new zones
Of friendliness. Of love. 
I feel like cleansing it all. 
All if it. 

I'll just hold memories. 
You know, I own them. 
I can kiss them gently 
Or smother them in my imagination. 
They're fine, really. 
These memories I use to torture myself. 

Of moments that will not come back ever, 
Or which perhaps did not exist in the first place. 

Photo by Achint Mathur

I do not have great things to write about, but the irony between the word (shared today on twitter by Tarique Anwer, a dear friend) and my thoughts struck me. This irony was special and ironical, because all the thoughts of 'cleansing' are borne out of a 'yearning'. So, the paradox is actually the essence. Okay. I am losing it. But you get this story, right? At some point, it must have been your story too. Now, it is my story. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winter Notebook - December Arrives With A New Theme!

December is a reflection zone for me. This month brings with itself the smell of nostalgia. It does also, usually, carry along the wonder of winter, the comfort of blankets and the thrill of cosy moments with friends, but, well, that, I believe, is a burden of expectations which January will have to bear. I can say this, because I am writing this post sitting on the floor in the drawing room of my house, wearing half sleeves kurta with a thin, cotton salwar, killing mosquitoes as I type. December should not feel like this. I mean, by now, I should have been shivering inside a blanket wrapped around an oversized gharwali jacket. And by now, all mosquitoes should have died of merciless cold. But, aah, well, none of those has happened.

PC -

The nostalgia is here, definitely. It has got a little to do with winters, which carry along the pleasant lull of thoughtfulness. It has got a little more to do with the timing. Another year is dying, only so it may live with its best and worst moments inside us. A new year starts looming in imagination, with its promises of great things and nervousness of new experiments and performances. Is the prospect of a new year always exciting? I don't know. However, for me, personally, I am glad 2014 is going to be gone.

It was a tough year for me; probably the toughest in my memory. The scratches of bitter moments are still red, and they itch now and then. It was a year in which I saw myself refusing to mature with experience. I found regression comforting. This was a year in which I challenged life, looking right in its eye. Then, I won some, I lost some. Good things happened, of course they did! But somehow, I am looking at December to serve as a grand compensation for all that went wrong. So far, it has behaved, umm, in a lukewarm manner. But it has only just started, and probably great things are in store. Or probably they are not. I don't know. I don't know how welcome is it to think of planting experiences and not allowing them to come on you naturally.

Good, or bad, one thing I am fervently hoping is that December leaves me with experiences I can translate into stories. Oh yes, I am high on writing stories these days.

I am also high on eliminating clutter from my life, a start of which has been made on this blog. I loved the rich red shades of the earlier theme, but I guess it was time I made things cleaner (and leaner?) here. What do you think of the new theme? Not that I am going to change it if you advise, but I would love to know your thoughts.

A wintry smile, from last year.

I'll introduce you to my memories this month. You don't really have to be on this journey with me, but I will be glad if you are. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kitaabon Sa Rishta - Part III

Woh yaad hai,
Aur woh yaad bhi hai.
Yehi toh ruyon se jhagadta purana sweater bol raha hai
Woh kuchh toh afwaah hai
Aur kuchh raaz hai
Laut-ti sardiyaan aas-paas phusphusa rahi hain.
Sard raatein maano ki yaadon ka kaarvaan hai
Phir chai ke pheekepan ki bhi toh apni zubaan hai
Jo gehri-kaali pyali se jhaank kar
Subah ki kirno par ankhein moond leti hai
Kitaabon par gaadhi syahi bhi ab
Dhundhle lafzon mein yaad sikod leti hain
Aaya toh tha na?
Aake gaya bhi tha na?
Ya is aane jaane ke khel mein
Kuchh toote-bichhde se mel mein
Bas ik chhalava tha?
Pyaar ka dikhava tha?
Kuchh toota dil
Kuchh tooti main bhi
Ek raasta woh dhoondhne aage badh gaya
Ek raasta main takte peechhe chhoot gayi

Picture by Aaqib Raza Khan
PS - This is the third in the series of a 4 part poem. You may read the first and second part on the links mentioned below.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kitaabon Sa Rishta - Part II

Meri sard kahaani mein kahaani nahi
Chai ki chuski jaise aaya woh
Kitaabon par jo dhabbe chhod jaati hai
Mehekti adrak ki pyaali jaisa aaya woh
Barfeeli raaton mein rooh ko garmahat de jaaye
Behkaate, chuskiyaan lete lamho jaisa aaya woh
Har roz chai chadhaane ka hausla de jaaye
Subah ke zayke jaisa aaya woh
Dil kuchh khush hua, kuchh majboor
Uske paas ja baithi, khud se door
Ab usmein hi toh main rehne lagi thi na
Khushk haathon mein mehendi mehendi mehekne lagi thi na
Usne safed nahi, laal sehra bandh liya tha
Mujhe laal dupatte mein samete, saath dhaank liya tha
Uski athkeliyaan mann mein goonj uthi aise
Ki ris rahi ho uske hasi mein bachpan ki maasoomiyat jaise
Khayaal dar khayaal woh mere paas aata raha
Lamha dar lamha mujhse door hota raha
Aankhri saans tak saath nibhaana yaad raha usse
Woh saans mere aaghosh mein leke ka nata yaad raha usse. 

PS - This is part II of a four part poem. You can read the first part here - Kitaabon Sa Rishta - Part I

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kitaabon Sa Rishta - Part 1

Main kitaabon mein uljhat-ti
Kabhi kahaani ki parton mein sulajhti
Nazm si khoobsurat
Ghazal ki nazuk
Ashaar si daqeeq
Aur sher si bebak
Meri zindagi zard panne samete
Phalsapha ban chali thi
Gham ka sabab na thi woh
Khushnuma ho chali thi
Khayalon ka anjuman
Safed chaadar se dhaka tha
Sard fizaaon ka majma
Kitaabon ke oopar khada hai
Yeh kitaabein, mulaayam baatein
Kadak panno mein bolti hain
Sardiyaan hi toh sach hain
Yeh raaz kunkuni aankhon si kholti hain

Source -

P.S. - This is the first of a four part poem. Next part to come up in a few days. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Starry Sky

An hour ago I cried
At the thoughtless thoughts
Of my mindless mind
And incessant buzz
Of crude connections
Wired and wireless
Which firmed up and fractured
Into a dozen cracks
Now visible in creases
Ageing around my eyes.

Eyes, eyes have water
Not tears, but water
Pure, watery water
Flowing in frenzy
Down and out
As if gravity were a better friend
Than I could ever be
As water flowed out
Memories settled in
Calm gathered,
I scribbled a message of hope
And hope sure is sinless sin.

Sin was it.
To love and be loved.
Then tear and be torn
Into a million stars
Which now light the darkness
Of this ephemeral, and eternal

Existence is a starry sky
With dark as its cloak
And night as its cradle. 

Pic Credits - @TheWishingChair

Monday, October 6, 2014

An Isolated Incident by Soniah Kamal - A Review

When you see Khaled Hosseini endorse a book right on its cover, the fan in your stops thinking and picks up the book with high hopes and expectations. An Isolated Incident by Soniah Kamal, fell prey to this burden of expectations. One could call it a wrong way to approach a book, or one could hold the endorsement fortunate for it tinges the critical eye with rainbow colours. This novel written by a Pakistan born American author gave me both highs - that of a confused critic eager to verbalise the disenchantment, and that of a fascinated reader, comfortably giving herself over to the deft penmanship of the author. Let us get along to exploring both these aspects of the novel now, shall we?

The narrative begins in Kashmir, which is a land ridden with tensions, but happiness manages to flow in households obsessed with living the daily chores and fulfilling customs and rituals. Zari is the protagonist - a vivacious girl, in a loving family, with a marriage to excitedly prepare and wait for. Conflict strikes at the very beginning when her entire world is ripped apart, and she is uprooted from her native land to be taken to the more liberal and progressive air of the States to heal in the company of her distant relatives. Classic and expected interjection in the plot by an author whom postcolonial theorists would label with hyphenated identity. Diaspora as a literary strain is all too evident here - the distance from culture is what makes the yearning for and awareness of culture prominent - this being further complicated by a tragic heroine mourning the loss of her loved ones and piecing together her identity from a fragmented psyche and erased past.

Memory and History
Writings about lands with complicated conflicts at the very birth of them - a classic example of which is Kashmir - build upon the strains of memory and history to help characters determine answers to the 'Who am I' question. In An Isolated Incident, while Zari deals with the burden of memory and history, her hero, Billy, romanticises both to arrive at a proud and rebellious notion of his identity. His parents deliberately conceal details of his family history which lends him the frustrated feeling of anchorlessness. From conversations of childhood spent in Kashmir that he remembers, he is convinced that he bloodline is made up of great ancestors who fought for the liberation of his homeland. It is in the past that he discerns a destiny and path for future actions. Part of his responsibility towards Kashmir is fulfilled by taking care of Zari, and the other, unfulfilled, burning part is what leads him to the fields of conflict which jeopardise his existence along with that of the family.

Cultural Positioning
I forced a Kashmiri friend to read this novel along with me, for the pleasure of discussion and association. We all like seeing our childhood reminiscences inked as someone else's recollections - and my friend was no different. The novel liberally uses Kashmiri colloquial terms, making conversations rather personal and warm. Cultural identifiers in terms of Kashmiri food, customs, games, greetings are what keep the novel bound together as a unified narrative even as it traverses through vastly different geographic spaces. The keenness to affiliate to your common roots, to draw the source of your existence from there is evident in both the central characters, even as other characters snap or mutilate their past for they see it threatening their future. The political stances taken by the author (through the voice of her characters) is not what Indian audience would be too happy about - but then, if fiction is debated upon within the realm of fiction, then the stances, however jarring, come justified in the fabric of the story.

Characters and Identity

I have a personal proclivity towards novels in which I see characters grow in reaction to the situations around them. What I will laud the author for in her extremely skilled hold over her characters, each of whom had more to it than a mere flat face. The story functions in a non-linear format, and the greater depths of narratives you delve into, a newer shade about the characters are revealed. This applies to the protagonists, as well as all the supporting cast. Also, no character in the story could be called a mere accessory - they all come with a defined purpose, they help further the narrative and each of them make your reflect uniquely in the human condition, the tragedy of never having control over how your life pans out in front of you. I would personally like to congratulate the author for her absolute finesse on creating a pool of characters with unique human identities converging to a common cultural identity.

Narrative and Verdict
Its a good novel. Not exceptional, but an extremely good novel - almost like a rare piece of literary merit that lingers in your head till long after. Soniah Kamal has displayed exemplary sensitivity, sensibility and intelligence while assembling together this beautiful and thought provoking novel on the Kashmir question. In doing so, she has lent a balance to the personal and the political. Her language is leagues above the ordinary, somewhat satiating a literary appetite. The only problem I had with the book was the confusion and fragmentation which surface as the plot jumps between people, perspectives and places. Basically, there were times when the novel refused to hold me together, even thought I was willing to lie submerged in it.  The plot took long to reveal itself to me. For the longest time, I felt that this was Zari's story, but as I put the novel away, I find power in the character and conflict which Billy essays. If that was intended or not, I would not know.

However, no novel has forced me to write a review with such excitement! Since I must stop writing now in order to attend to other chores, let me just give the verdict as 3.5 stars on 5 and a highly recommended label alongside. When you manage to read this one, as you absolutely should, can we get along for a cup of tea and dwell a little on the politics and people of Kashmir, please?

Book Details - 
Author - Soniah Kamal
Genre - Fiction
Publisher - Fingerprint
Published - 2014
Price - Rs. 295
Pages - 379
Source - Review Copy

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chutzpah in Tragedy

And then, while you were lying low, engulfed with the inertia of penlessness, comes a piece of artistic grandeur which cajoles you into putting words together and shooting them out in the world. I witnessed today the sublimity of darkness, and the pure art that emanates from there. Never have I been impacted with the dark as I was today. Thrill hid inside each minute which unfolded to reveal a darker shade of human emotions, and all this, before I had arrived at a complete understanding of the plotline.

I have not read Hamlet, and I knew little about it before watching Haider. Dragging my reluctant body for the first day, first show of the film seemed like a torture - also because I am not one of those who loads her head with tragic tales shown in screechingly over-blown proportions on the screen. And Haider was supposed to be that. It was an adaptation of the darkest and the most tragic of Shakespearean dramas, promising depressiveness; but it turned out to be a perfectly chiselled product of extremely high class cinematic thought, a courageous combination of beauty and annihilation.

The plotline of Hamlet is famous - let us fit some Kashmiri names into it. Haider returns to his Kashmiri homeland to avenge the death of his father, Dr. Hilal Meer. Upon his return, he finds his widowed mother, Ghazala sharing some banter with his father brother, Khurram Meer. Khurram, who also harbours political ambitions is also Hilal's murderer - as is revealed to Haider by Roohdaar - a ghost, or spirit identity in the story. The ghost urges Haider to avenge his father's murder, and thereafter events unfold to grow towards the greatest tragic end that Bollywood has ever seen.

The characterisations are pitch-perfect, and I was bowled over by performances by Tabu and Shahid. For me, probably, they served as the lead pair, with clear sexual tension marking their relationship. Tabu played Haider's mother, and the existence of Oedipal undertones was pointed out to me by Neha - a core thread of the story which became all too apparent by the end. Shahid has outdone himself, especially in his portrayal of obsessive behaviour bordering on delusion and dementia. There is a scene in which Shahid delivers a mono-act speech on a Chowk  - and I am still in disbelief about the superlative theatre skills he put on display. This man managed to match up to Tabu in each scene - no mean feet there!

How Vishal Bhardwaj wove the geographical and cultural topography of Kashmir into the literary stream of a Victorian play is something I am still at odds to understand. Needlessly said, it appears, as thought the central narrative of the tragedy was crafted for a Kashmiri setting exclusively. The songs, background, depiction, attires, art, characters - all give you a very authentic taste of the land, which encases not just natural beauty, but a very distinctive culture of its own. Culture, and devastation - Vishal Bhardwaj is the genius who probably knows how to find beautiful ways of depicting the same. The whole movie, itself, could be called devastatingly beautiful. When you hear the word 'Chutzpah' being used to explain AFSPA, you know you are being exposed to subtle, dark humour.

There is so much from the film which refuses to leave my mind! The white attire of Irrfan Khan, alluding to his ghost-like interjection in the plot. The dilemmas faces by each character, and how tragic fate overtakes their minds. The many shades of Tabu's countenance - her struggle to be the woman who could control situations, but fails upon trying too hard. The hauntingly beautiful music! The theatrical performance put together by Shahid to recreate the tail of his father's death in the song Bismil.

And, to top it all, there was Faiz's poetry. So much about the story, the human condition, and the human conflict can be understood by listening to and absorbing Gulon Mein Rang Bhare and Hum Dekhenge. If Shakespeare lived in Kashmir, probably he would not have been able to put together this intense, dark melody, painfully beautiful to the eyes and soul. I have never reviewed a movie earlier, but if I were to review this one, 5 on 5 stars for me, and standing ovation to go with it.

PS - If you have not, listen to 'Aaj Ke Naam' sung by Rakha Bhardwaj on priority. Like, now. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Winds of Hastinapur - A Review

This year brought with itself the love of Mahabharata. I had always been fascinated by the epic and its various stories, eloquently presented through different classical texts in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. It is specifically the numerous stories prior to the war which I adore delving deep into, but the curious little fact is - out of the 18 Parvas in Mahabharata, the story from the beginning of Kuru race till the point Pandavas and Kauravas come to being enemies is told in just the first Parva.

Now, for a story monger like me, that is too less! Each little story, in fact, feels like an independent little book - and then, authors like Sharath Komarraju come along to present just the literary treat I had been yearning for.

Winds of Hastinapur came my way earlier this year - an interesting blue coloured novel, which I had no clue what to expect from. The title assured me that the story in some way is plotted around Mahabharata - but how, I could not be sure. The epic has a scope which runs over generations. Was this book going to be another of those brief retellings, I wondered. Thankfully, it was not just a recapitulation of the events of the Mahabharata, but a well thought out, well researched and well written narrative, focussed within a particular time frame.

Very briefly put, Winds of Hastinapur is the story of the Ganga and Satyavati, the two strong ladies who appear the very beginning of Mahabharata - women who were responsible for thoughts and actions influencing the later generations of Kuru dynasty in a profound manner. There are two distinct narratives to the book, one themed around Ganga - the River Maiden/Lady, and the other around Satyavati (also called Matsyagandha and Kali) - the Fisher Girl.

The story begins in the Meru Hills, where lived the divine beings, drinking divine fluids to enhance their youth and longevity. Ganga has to descend on the Earth as a result of an unfortunate curse. She then meets King Shantanu and gives birth to the longest living character in the Mahabharata - Devavrata, better known as Bhishma. Interestingly, Bhishma himself is born on Earth as the result of a curse incurred by stealing of a cow - he was a Vasu during his life on Mount Meru (taken to be equivalent of Swarga, the dwelling of elemental deities and other celestial beings).

The other part of the book is the story of Satyavati, born of a fish as 'Kali' and ever surrounded by a foul fish smell. It was upon being seduced by Rishi Parashara that she found an antidote to her stink, and hence was able to attract King Shantanu of Hastinapur towards herself. Devavrata takes the vow of celibacy due to the condition Satyavati placed upon her marriage with Shantanu, thus earning the sobriquet of Bhishma (the one with a terrible vow). Rest of the story, well, many of us would know that.

The wonderful thing about this book is its female-centric narrative. Is it a feminist retelling of the tale? I could certainly see it in that prism. Women are portrayed in this book as rather strong characters, with a mind of their own. While Ganga, I saw, as a woman bound in complex set of obligations, Satyavati comes across as a woman with an agenda, ever-ready to manipulate and dictate to allow smooth fruition of her desires. In the popular renditions of the epic, seldom is such limelight granted to female characters except for Draupadi - hailed and condemned simultaneously, sympathised and castigated for the role she played in supposedly causing the DharmaYuddha at Kurukshetra. For etching out such fine female characters, conscious of and playing with their sexuality as well, full marks to the author! The empowered portrayal of the characters also perhaps insinuates towards the author's conviction of the elevated stature of women in the social codes of ancient times.

Compared to these two leading ladies, the other characters lack shape and lustre. A possible exception to this is Devavrata, but he too is not depicted as the invincible, strong, valorous warrior as seen popularly (remeber Mukesh Khanna from B. R. Chopra's television adaptation?), but rather emasculated.  Brilliant, skillful, but emasculated. His description, in fact, left me a little uncomfortable, for Sharath's sketching of the character was in sharp contrast to how I imagined him.

The book reads like a fantasy sometimes, and like a history at others. If you are not a know-it-all of Mahabharata, Winds of Hastinapur can give you many new perspectives to dwell upon. The language is not archaic, hence easy to follow, and the flow of the book is maintained throughout.

I only hope this is the first in a long list of books that Sharath writes on the Mahabharata, revealing story after story, from points of view of lesser understood and explored characters.

Its a 3.5 stars on 5 book for me. A writing job well done!

Book Details -
Author - Sharath Komarraju
Publisher - Harper Collins
Source - Review Copy provided by the author (Sorry for the delay in writing Sharath!)
Genre - Mythological Fiction
Price - Rs. 299
Pages - 320

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Water Memory - Guest Post by Anurag Vats

Do You see those drops falling?
Each drop of water that falls on Your skin has tales to tell.
Each swig of the drink You take; taste, or no taste, has moments.
Water retains memories. 
Hence each time You see rain falling,
Each time You share a drink,
Each time You drink water, sharing that glass,
You share a part of the memory.
You wouldn't realise. 
But it takes a place in Your head.
Memories of Centuries.
Memories of moments.
Memories of the moments past.
Memories of present.
It is absorbing a part of You as we breathe. 
It’s good that You live here, and we've shared a drink. 
Perhaps that's the reason, a part of You lives in me,
And You wouldn’t realise, a part of mine in Yours. 
It is neutral, it is transparent.
Because it is so opaque, with memories that You won’t be able to see.
They say that a kiss can transfer a bit of You in the other.
Who knows why?
Water memories, watermarks and water colours.

What are waters?
They are eternal. I swear.
Imagine, water goes up and precipitates, for millennia.
Ancient water.
Water sipped an unison, they speak.
Water fallen on the paper. 
Water kissed from the cheeks.
Water absorbed from the other's body.
Watery eyes.
Ever imagined saline water that runs in tears and in oceans.
We are almost water.
So is most of the Earth.
Uncountable memories.
Countable instances.
Memories make Us, most of Us.
Memories lead to love, to procreation and it doesn't end there.
Memories conjure water too and water conjures memories.
Drop by drop.
They fall like drops of You and i.
Drops of us. 
Dropped through Us.
On Us. 
In Us.

About The Poet
Anurag Vats is among the many young, promising poets I met over the past year, who leaves the listeners of his poetry exhilarated and incredulous with his deft, bordering on fantastical use of language. Anurag, besides creative expression, has the blessing of a mesmerising baritone, and even if my description of his poetic brilliance is going a bit over the top, it is still all justified, you can trust me! The above poem, if just one example, and you can find more, here -

Image Credits (For the dewy-leafy picture) - Vivek Nambiar (another awesome friend I made over the many gatherings I attend and organize. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Little Something On Me

There is a tag going on around at Instagram, where people are asked to state 20 random facts about themselves. I remember a time when such tags were routine in the world of blogs. However, I feel, with the coming up on multiple social networking fora, where the content you write is instantly and easily share-able and tag-able, blogs have sort of gotten relegated to a secondary expression position - laborious, slightly inconvenient.

Anyway, so I wanted to do the same tag here; for old time's sake. Also, for archiving purposes. Here we go.

Lodhi Gardens

  1. I am in love with the world of written words - I want to own it, play in it, learn with it, carve it, destroy it, reconstruct it and flow with it. 
  2. Ammi - Letters To A Democratic Mother by Saeed Akhtar Mirza is the book which has influenced me most in life. Following it at a close second spot is a book called The Assassin's Song by M. G. Vassanji. 
    Saeed Akhtar Mirza
  3. Faiz Ahmed Faiz is the poet who tugs at the cords of my heart most strongly, though I will admit to not being able to comprehend his language completely. 
  4. I have always been a people's person, but that manner of existence has begun disenchanting me lately. 
  5. I am crazily in love with Silver Jewellery - buy me some and be assured I will instantly fall in love with you. I am also slowly opening up to the idea of gold and bling. Dang is my favourite place to pick up gold-funky-accessories from. 
  6. I discovered Mythology, specifically Mahabharata as a huge ocean with depth as yet waiting discovery, earlier this year. I hence started a club called Maha Varta with a bunch of mythology enthusiasts which has opened my eyes to much which would have otherwise been left elusive. 
  7. I desire to be married to books and nature, with a cottage all to myself, high up in the hills. 
  8. I have been blessed with a friend who remains with me to grant me unconditional love and support even when I am a witch. Such friends, companions, lovers are rare. They are a blessing most of us fail to understand. 
  9. This blog has been dearer to me than most journals I have written in moments of intimacy with myself. Each time I see the ticker at the right hand side move, I do a mental jig. 
  10. My day job is that of a Content Strategist; but then, so are my night jobs, one  of which is that of the Poetry Editor at a forum called Positivally Cynical (intentionally spelt that way). Here, my boss is someone way younger than me, but this fine young man hides within him an ambitious entrepreneur I love seeing come of age.
  11. I love experimenting with new flavours of tea. You want to take me out for a date? Sunset and tea, or monsoon and tea work wonders!
  12. I was a coffee addict at one time. The incident which changed that was when I collapsed due to drinking 12 cups of coffee in a span of 8 hours. Don't ever try that at home!
  13. I am in love with my voice.
  14. If I were to venture out this moment for a holiday, I would pick between - Udaipur, Jaipur and Sattal. 
  15. I go to the fanciest of restaurants to savour the fanciest of dishes from the most exotic corners of the world, but my favourite hangout remains Janpath McDonalds', with their breakfast menu served to me on rain-fed or foggy mornings.
  16. I want to keep exploring arts - all forms of it - throughout life. Right now, playback is the weird ambition I have been day-dreaming after. 
  17. I think faith is a tough concept to hang onto and that we all need our Krishna in life - living, breathing, wise entities who have something very humanly admirable about them. My Krishna exists in combination of real and imagined entities. 
  18. I love getting clicked. 
  19. I met poetry last year. It made me happy, but then caused immeasurable pain. I am trying to meet it again now, through a concept called Poets' Collective. I have no clue where it will go - but I do know that I will not try too hard again in life. 
  20. I am trying to lose weight these days. Extra volume doesn't bother me. Alarmingly low levels of stamina do. 
Bonus - I am obsessed with the idea of becoming the flow, whatever that means. 

I would love it if the following people to repeat the exercise on their respective blogs - Achint Mathur, Manan Kulshreshtha, Neha Menon, Navin Dutta, Sudhanshu Shekhar Tiwari, Neelkamal Pandey, Yogesh Pandey, Aakriti Mallik, Kunal, Archika Poria, Varun Rustagi and anyone else who happens to drop by here. Leave a link to your blog in the comment section below. I would love to visit and know a little more about you. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Picture Perfect - August 2014

I was contacted by a pleasant toned girl, named Sarbani, a while back, who had a couple of really broad based question to ask me - about myself, and the passions which have driven me thus far. Well, I answered those questions, and this frame happened. Its nice and yellow, and what makes me absolutely ecstatic is that this picture features in a campaign which as some very famous names of twenty-something persons doing stellar work in their respective fields. And these fields, of course, were those determined by their warm hearts and not cold conventions. 

Here is the description to this photo - 

Driven by her passion for writing, Saumya is the content strategist at Drizzlin. She loves the world of written words. But according to her, this field is not seen as professionally sustainable.

While she struggled to make it big in IAS exams, writing stayed with her like an undying passion and today, with close to 2 million hits on her blog, and being published in 3 separate genres of books - she can confidently claim joy and peace.

I wish more power to all those trying to heed the call of their heart. Dream Big, Begin Right away!
Thanks for the recognition, The Education Tree! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Night

It was a pleasant night.
About right.
Your passage through time,
Through me.
Through the gaping holes which
Were damn well sealed. 

It was a purple night.
'Nuf bright.
You held my wrist,
Gave past a twist,
Leaving me curled up within.
Are we, again, desirous of sin?

It was a quiet night.
No fight
Of fancy conflicts of charged minds,
Of love once lost,
Of kisses to find
The numb corners of untouched soul,
The empty colours which painted us whole. 

It was a sultry night,
But flight
Was granted to imagination fleeing fast
To a past left aghast.
For stories were real,
Both here and there.
Yet we dance
In the midst of nowhere.

It was a nasty night. 
Did bite
Into the scars of darkness healed.
The scars were kisses,
'Tis now revealed.
And life gets tough
Love is but a bluff.
Mine for me.
Yours for you.
Ours for us,
But coloured blue. 

Picture credits - Daakshi Kushwaha 

Monday, June 16, 2014


Part I - Unwritten

Part II - Rewritten

Part III - Erased

It rained today. It rained all over my story today.

It rained with ferocity. I witnessed the mad love making of rain and wind cast gloom and bliss together in the city. I had a crazy schedule and a dozen tasks to finish in remote corners of the city, but I knew to which centre my day would converge. By six, I had to be where I was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. The first two days I spent beside the green water of a still lake, located within a bubbling hub of urban jabberwocky, were what enticing aromas of Earl Grey were made of, or what the smoky seduction of his piercing gaze was made of. The third day made the Earl Grey go undrinkably cold. It also made smoke smell like the irritation that smoke is.

I had first met him at this secluded, pretty spot beside the lake, flipping the pages of his little green diary, throwing down velvet caressed words as impalpable ripples on unbelievably still and lifeless water. His words were what he was made of. His expressions - casual, yet precise - were his weapons of choice to illuminate a moment by voicing them, or sadden the climate by withholding them. I loved listening to him - to whatever he said. So, when the next day, he was reticent (but charming as hell), even the usually garrulous girl in me felt it pressurizing to be the one talking. I could clearly not think myself saying anything half as worthy as the lamest thing that came out of his lips. I would have loved to speak the language of silence with him, but he did not know I had already been doing that since the first hour we spent together, and I did not know how to actually make this language known to him.  I was with him in my mind, and, I had a feeling, he was with himself, in his own.

I walked back to the same spot beside the lake yesterday, but he was not there. It felt odd. I walked on, sat down there, opened my diary, and scribbled whatever I remembered of the earthy countenance of his. Amicable, and inscrutable dwelt beautifully within the features which now seemed distant. I had his number, hesitantly yes, but I called. No answer. And so became the trend for my next eleven calls made over several diurnal and nocturnal hours. I slept with the trepidation that he has disappeared on me - my chance at poetry had disappeared on me. Today, amid a hectic schedule of dry powerpoints and dull meetings, I managed to find time to be fearful and indignant at the same time. How could he disappear on me?

Braving rains now threatening to be violent, I reached the same spot today as well - but he was not here. How could he be - it was raining, right? But then again, he was not here, or anywhere around. Drenched, I smiled helplessly, and leaned across to the same place where his hands had caressed mine. His fingers, rather boldly, had then curled around in a firm grip - the embrace of gestures ever so natural that I had failed to notice it till I actually did. I did not feel coy, I just lived.

Today, I felt raindrops run in a ticklish path down my neck - and I sat down, wishing, if that tickle could have been caused by him, his words that touch. He could not have been here in this downpour - I was mad to think that. But I was here in this downpour - mad enough to do that.

He was glorious, sure, but undecipherable still. He was beguiling, yes, but unwritten still. He gave names to feelings I had not felt since ages, but he demanded to be erased now. He was my chance at poetry, but probably I was not his. At some core, insistent, crying part of ours, we all want to be written, but while I was writing him, probably he was sketching someone else. To think again, I was writing him, and I was sure he was writing himself. And it hurt. Hurt enough to make me calm.

I walked away, drenched. I will probably come back here tomorrow, when the sun would be up there, winking at the lake. However, I will not forget him not being here when it rained, and when it was dark, and when I was alone, searching for even the tiniest reflection of his. He will probably be back here, but he will not be back here.

As I said, it rained today. It rained all over my story today.

Clicked by Aaqib Raza Khan

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Part I - Unwritten

Part II - Rewritten

There are these mornings when you step out of the bath and have your hair eerily smell of him. And this, with the smokiness of his smell alive in your shampoo. How does that happen, I have no clue, but I believe that smell makes a man. Smells help you remember people, especially those you've met only a few times and have happened to draw too close for comfort. Of course, I am not talking of people -I am talking of him, whom I had tried to breathe in via the cup of Earl Grey. Too close for comfort. At this nervous proximity, features dissolve and olfactory senses takes over. Do you remember your breath quickening the last time he touched you - not with his touch, but his vulnerabilities? The classic search and yearning for your own, personal Byronic protagonist takes over all senses - and ridiculous, smoky smells become enticing. Smoke is addictive, they said. Its bad, but addictive. So perhaps is he. And I still say perhaps.

The initial impact is always the strongest - matched in intensity by a brackish wave crashing against your senses to leave you psychologically and emotionally uprooted, with little premonition left of the good and the bad, the right or the wrong. You're submerged, and you might even begin to enjoy the floating, light sensation, scarce reflecting on the fact that in moments the salty, scratchy liquid would have entered your nostrils, choking you; your eyes, burning you; and your heart, stopping you. You're not floating, you are drowning. But do you still fight for survival? Do you shake yourself up and urge the delusions of a grand journey to vanish? Do you apply all your might and push out this thing that is choking you from the point at which lies the source of your existence? Or do you give in, and flow and hope that perhaps in time you'll reach an island all yours. Not pretty, but yours. After drowning that deep, coming alive to humanly necessities would irritate, at least for sometime.

It was not easy to grasp him, literally and figuratively. However, that the difficulty would begin manifesting as a corrosive, intense force within me so soon was something I was not prepared for. I cried, but even worse, I did not stop enjoying. It was like the romance which fatalities inherently comprise of. The ride with the jerk was getting jerkier - but would I like it as much if it were any different? He was not as indecipherable now as he seemed dubious. He was unwritten still, and gloriously so, but I rewrote him in the moment I saw him allow me to walk away. Our acquaintance was a few days old, but we had begun expecting some ridiculous, scarred part of ours to be tended to by the other. Weighed down, and weighing down.

He smelled of smoke. Not just that, I reckon he was a creature of smoke. If you could hallucinate molten smoke, that's how his eyes would look at their worst, and their best.

My memories of him are of the moments I spent with him inside my head, no necessarily in his arms. And this should change before smoke rises to narrate its own tale.
By Leonid Afremov

Sunday, June 8, 2014


There is this clear, brown, whiskey-ish tinged glass of Earl Grey resting lazily on the table in front of me. Its been sitting like that for ten minutes now, and even though I really want to sip in the warm liquid and feel my nose and throat react to the subtle strength of the concoction like a cold child wrapped in the benevolence of a blanket, I merely inhale the aroma and stop. And smile. And remember. Wasn’t he similar to this cup of tea – magnificent in his beauty like amber in a crystal goblet, but someone to inhale, not someone to sip from too soon? Or ever?

I wasn't falling for him. I did, however, for a brief moment, fall into him. He had a careless stare, but one which could pierce right through you when he so desired. He had a million irrelevant details to talk about, but somehow, when his velvet voice touched the words, they acquired importance, even if they were mouthed out in a slumber-deprived, slurred speech. There was so much visibly wrong about him, and yet, there was nothing I could point at that I did not like. He had it, he flaunted it. And no, not in the average style of a self-possessed narcissist. I mean, narcissist he was, but strangely enough, he flaunted his vulnerabilities with, almost, a performative ease. Perhaps that’s what he was – a performer, and a darn skilful one at that. Perhaps I was seeing him exactly as he wanted to be seen by me, my own judgement feeling miniaturized under his imposing (yet not arrogant) personality. In plain terms, perhaps he was a jerk. But then, perhaps he was not. And this dint of a fiercely enticing possibility kept my senses in an overdrive – for I had to use some, and curb some. I was not yet sipping, you see.

At the end of it all, I reckon I could finally arrive at a safe inference about him. He was not a majestic idea bound in the rhythmic prosody of a refined poem. He was the gloriously unwritten plot of a novel which held the promise of indecipherability since its inception in the author’s brain. If anything, he was that. To top it, he had a cute smile. And since remembering that smile puts me off-track in a strangely lunatic sort of way, I should probably focus on gulping down the cup of Earl Grey, now cold, but also pregnant with reflections of my thoughts, or him. A cup of tea, sometimes, is all it takes. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

10 Things You All Must Know About My Birthday

Long story short - I had an epic birthday. Well, an odd way to begin a post about the most special day which greets me in an entire year, but that is it. Epic could well be an understatement. Crazy is more like an apt word, and I mean the highest degree of crazy at that. Birthdays, or any celebrate-able occasions have always been kind of big affairs for me. My dear, dear friends, this time around, proved how affairs could be made bigger and grander and unforgettable. The celebrations began four days early, went on for about a week (if you could include all the pleasant hangover) and left me exhausted, but with a happy smile on my face. I cannot name and thank everyone involved here, in this post - because open display of affection and honest admissions have their pitfalls, and because all content is not for everyone - but I will still whisper gratitude to all those awesome people who inhabit my world, and who make life a brilliant journey to travel through.
That's how it began at Jamia

There are a few things I would like to tell you all about my birthday though. I am not sure, but I think I will go and name this post as 10 Things You All Must Know About My Birthday. So, here, the ten things which will always make me remember turning 24. I am not just promising cheese and flowers, but salt and lemon too. Let's begin.

#1 The Birthday Poster

Now, did you ever have a poster proclaiming your birthday has arrived? Well, I had not one, not two, but three of those posters promptly made and displayed by two of the most awesome, creative, innovative artists I know! These posters were pretty and funny and so endearing, that I ended up believing my birthday this time was going to overshadow all the previous 23 ones put together. When it begins at gorgeous, it ends at gorgeous. Mostly, yes.
Aastha di and Neha - thank you for this one! 

#2 A Day Out With Mamma

This was new, and special, and fun. I like using 'and' a lot. It projects a chain for me, which could keep subsuming experiences, and thoughts, and words in an unbroken connect. Having 'and's' is kind of cosy - you can have it all, and have it at one place. And with Mamma, and my sister, and two of my dearest friends, I had the first of its kind shopping day out, which was topped by a quiet lunch of tea, pasta and sandwiches, and which got rounded off by some more shopping off the Janpath flea market. I've made a mental note of making more such days happen!
On our way out, for shopping!

#3 The Afremov Connect

Now, people just know that it was Leonid Afremov who made me fall in love with colours. And so, two of the most awesome painters in the world got down to task to paint me some breathtakingly gorgeous Afremov-like paintings! I am keeping them safe and closed. On the most appropriate day, they shall come out and decorate a space which is an extension of all that I stand for.
Some colours and some light - all wrapped as perfect gifts!

#4 The Twitter Chaos

Some fantastic brains adept at handling social media were employed to run a 'tweetathon' two nights before my birthday to just talk sweet things about me. Honestly, it was embarrassing - but it was super fun too! There was a guy on twitter who called it an ego massage. It could well have been that, but for me, it was also a positive reinforcement my life had been severely lacking. Thanks twitterati!
Very creative invite for the Tweetathon!

#5 More Social Media Chaos

They all wanted to make me feel like a celebrity, and the first step in that direction, which my extremely loving and irritatingly creative friends took was to develop social media profiles in my name. So, there was (is) a functioning twitter handle, a Facebook page, and an e-mail id created to keep me flooded with electronic updates loaded with excitement of anticipation. This is, veritably crazy stuff. Crazily crazy.

#6 The Kids

There are too many to name. And they are always around, to show their love and also to ask for love. They are all a gift God has given me to feel special, and to be privileged enough to make them feel special too. The paint, draw, ask for longer hugs, want to take me out on dates, or for bowling; they let me in on their secret conversations, they even cry with me when times are rough - and they basically love me as much as I love them. And this, my dear friends, is a gift. To love, and to be loved back.

#7 Mr. Ashok Chakradhar

How awesome could it feel when a bunch of friends conspire to invite your favourite poet as a surprise for your birthday? Ashok Chakradhar ji has been a favourite since I first saw him on television in a show called Wah Wah! I could meet him only for a little while, but cutting the cake with him, hearing him recite his poems and being gifted a heart-breakingly pretty crystal lotus by him are sweet bits of memory I shall always savour!

#8 Bhagwan Das Ji and Cultural Extravaganza

No part of my body was not enjoying when Bhagwan Das Ji, the legendary puppeteer, singer, poet, performer came down to perform specially for my birthday! He is a repository of dying traditions and cultural practices, facing his own share of apathy from those authorities which have a reputation of being insensitive when it comes to their own interests. However, personal hardships aside, he sang like a true performer - filling us all with Rajasthani and Sufi melodies. Kailash bhaiya, his second in command, took over to then put up some fine showmanship, which included puppet dances which were breathtaking and unbelievable. An artist who knows his craft can breathe life into the lifeless.

#9 Mr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan

He could definitely not have come down for my birthday, but I invoked him for some solid life advice. We're all transient, and dispensable - and if to this truth we do not awaken, we're being plain unjust to ourselves and the world around us. Leaving behind things which are dear is never easy - but sometimes, moving on, even if with tears, is the only option. One of the greatest poets of our country taught that in a perfect poem his scribbled ages back. The beautiful consolation was that his son, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, sent me an autograph scribbled on my portrait, along with four other famous names - Gulzar sahab, Shaan, Hariharan ji and Mr. Manmohan Singh. How do my friends even make these things happen is crazy.

#10 The Magicians

And there are so many of them. They're also known as friends, but for now, I shall call them magicians. I can never say enough about them, so let's leave it there. Over past few months, I've lost some, gained some, reconnected with some and fallen madly in love with some. My cup is full, so full, that it continues to brim over in a smile or in a fond tear.
These are only two of the many faces which make my world special

Such celebrations should happen only once in life. To all the gorgeous people who were a part of my day, I'd just say - stay close, you're all valued. And my life makes sense and has meaning because of all of you.
On that note, the day ended.