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. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hurriedly Scribbled #2

This one is a little late, but since my blog crossed 8,00,000 views a few hours back, today's countdown post is very much in order.

So, if someone were to ask you, what was the one thing you discovered in the year of life which just went by, what would you say? Really - its a question to which you must write an answer in the comment box below. What I want to see is if you can actually stop at scribbling one thing down. In an entire year, one could discover so much about himself, about life, about people. Can there actually be that one, overpowering thing which towers above all the other experiences of life, establishing itself in a position of dominance, from where it stands a chance of influencing and shaping your life?

As is apparent, I asked this question to myself. I often do, but I wake up to different answers. As of today, my answer would be, that the 24th year of my life was significant because it was in this time period that I discovered feminism. I am not sure if my discovery was related to unearthing a mini-feminist sitting crouched somewhere inside me, but I have definitely become more sensitive to the misogynistic strains which permeate the air we unconsciously breathe. Honestly put, its troublesome, to see how stereotypes relating to gender and sexuality are just accepted without challenge, and to find yourself become sensitive and reactive to them. Its an honest admission. I reckon I was better off when I could laugh at those of my ilk when others chose to make a joke out of them. This day, I cannot. I don't get messed up with anger, but rightfully indignant I do become when I see biological limitations becoming a curse, and social conditioning getting more regressive by the day. Try as hard as I might, I cannot laugh at what Kapil Sharma puts up as humour. It was funny for the initial bit, but to make a trend of laughing at women, servant class, and obese people - no, it just doesn't work any more. I did hear someone call Kapil the Shekhar Suman of our times, and with whatever little I remember of Movers & Shakers, I tend to disagree. Lets leave the rants at that.
A magazine I edited while heading the Women Studies and Development Cell, back in JMC

I don't like cooking. I don't want to cook. I always knew it was a difficult position to assert, but the fact that I would have to negotiate with not just individuals, rather entire communities to have this fact understood was not known to me. Ask Neha, please, how I routinely burn my eggs even in the simplest of recipes, or how I almost always end up adding extra salt in my maggi, sometimes even twice the amount of that extra salt, and you would know what kind of a culinary cripple I am talking off here. A few years back, I had even heard of a phenomenon called 'Mageirocophobia', which is the fear of cooking, and had conveniently adopted the label, till it was shrugged off by the dust of sookha aata on the chappati I was learning to flatten with a rolling pin. I can finally get them nice and round, but its only as enjoyable as a once-a-fortnight craft activity for me. I would enjoy painting the kitchen walls with vegetable dyes in an equal proportion. Unfortunately for many around me, this was the year I discovered Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Simone de Beauvoir and Parveen Shakir. I discovered Virginia Woolf and via the might of her quill, I understood the possibilities which would have been snatched from the hands of a certain, fictional Judith Shakespeare. (Among many of my professors, Dr. Baran Farooqi I specifically need to thank here). I learnt how economics influences the social, and how soon the personal starts becoming political. Vague? Well, yet again, a coffee invite is open. By the way, do you have any theories about the origin of the concept of incest? Try researching, some awesome nonsense might raise its ugly head in front of your eyes then.

The above is only a minute fraction of what has been festering inside me since long. It was the most pleasant journey of my life which probably ended up turning me into a feminist. Probably. And no, it is not because of some harsh experiences related to my body or sexuality. Yes, those are avenues of study for anyone wanting to delve into the politics of gender, but this is not the trigger for me. My problems started surfacing with something much more basic, perhaps even trivial to the world - emotions. Caught teary-eyed in certain situations, I realized that my valid concerns were being overlooked, undermined, just because tears, or sentimentality have come to acquire gendered connotations. I was not always PMSing while I was trying to make the world understand what part of me was hurting and why. In case of conflicts, primarily with the other sex, it was always expected of me to see reason, logic, and abandon emotions as they stifle fruitful outcomes. I failed to find logic in situations which had feelings attached at the very core of them. If I cry, I am emotional. If they show temper, they are not. Its sort of baffling, and ridiculous. And this did not end till one day I decided I will not go down to the level of logic till they decided to rise to the level of emotions. The process of othering, which I always found ludicrous, is the only refuge my expressions in this case have come to adopt.
Aaqib Raza Khan and his magic lens, yet again

I have a paper on gender, two days from now. You can see I am decently prepared. Superficially yes, but I'll conquer my syllabus soon.

The 24th year of my life was also the one where I discovered poetry and mythology. And some fantastic relationships. I'll pen them down soon too. For now, 6 days to go!
(This post is an hour late, hence I quote the figure 6)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hurriedly Scribbled #1

If the last year was the year of possibilities, this one turned out to be the year of impossibilities. A lot of things I deemed impossible happened, and no, I don't mean in the achievement sense. I do not mean in any positive sense. I mean those things which make you withdraw, which make you look at the world with renewed amusement. However, since those sad-kinda-impossible-things have been continuing for sometime, I am hoping their days are numbered. Since I like dates, and turning points, and all those things which have romance-like-connotations attached to them, I am hoping that the end of this week will bring some novelty in a life which has its happy moments, but against an overall pall of gloom. At the end of this week lies the start of a new year of my life - and for a week, I thought of hurriedly scribbling these little notes to myself, about things which are whirling in my head at the precise time I sit down to write them. My attempt will be to count blessings, to delineate incidents in a cryptic manner and to decode them in an evermore frustrating philosophical tone. Now, since I never listen to philosophies others waste on me, the typical bull-head that I am, it is imperative, that time and again, I formulate junk philosophies of my own. I have a whole trash-can full of them, did I tell you? Well, invite me over for a coffee and I shall entertain you. If you don't like what I philosophize, well, too bad, since I won't be listening to you in any case. You see, I can pretend to listen very well - but, yes, it stops at pretension. What is left then is the lovely, stubborn world inside me.

So, if someone were to ask me, what was the most amusing, and heart warming thing that happened to me in the day that went by, I would have the following to narrate. Four individuals, not much younger to me, wished me a happy Mothers Day. One of them even recorded a beautiful song to accompany the wish. Now, I am only 23 (about to turn 24), and completely unmarried - so messages like this are amusing. What is furthermore amusing is the fact that I unconsciously reciprocate with motherly emotions. Some awesome mess of wiring in my brain might be the enabler of these seemingly funny relationships I build - but then, all of these relationships are extremely dear to me.

We all have those principle things in life which we gravitate towards, in which we locate the source of our existence. I locate them in these relationships, these bonds which nurture me. People - who are all essentially eccentric - and their stories are enough to make my days and my thoughts seem full. My first scribble is dedicated to all of them, and the roles these people play and not play in my life. When certain people forget to fulfil a certain role you had expected them to play in your life, it adds to you. Let's not get into the mechanisms, but I just know it does. So, yes, to people. Cheers, to all of you, for existing, and not-existing in my life. You're all awesome.
Isn't life too like an awesome illuminated cage? Sometimes?
The countdown to my birthday begins. Really excited :) 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sonnet II - The Eye Which Closed

A fierce stare, ambling, crawling up
The scar which charred her happy visage
Sour tea bubbling in her brittle cup
She drinks and smiles at the grand mirage

A hand then grips and clutches hard
To press the open wound which oozed
Not blood, just bloodless hymns that start
Talking, while she looks on, amused. 

In a chamber overwhelmed by violence
Of subsurface thoughts felt too deeply
She tries hard to shrug the piercing lens
The whiteness spreading its fangs ornately

The mirror, the frames, the sights weakened, tore asunder
Calming, she closed her eyes, to travel through wonder.

The comment I left at the exhibition

For all those who could not head out to Triveni Kala Sangam in the week that went by, they missed the sight of sheer magic being splashed on the pristine white walls of the Shridharini Art Gallery. The magic was keen, curious, penetrating, and, as they say, stupid! An exhibition of photographs by the name of "Stupid Eye" was on at the venue, where in, a veteran psychologist - Harsheen K. Arora, and a seasoned photographer - Vipul Amar, had collaborated to undertake an intense journey through the inner selves of fourteen people and then paint them out impeccably in front of the world through breathtaking photography. The frames, which were the net result of the inner journey of these people aimed at finding and liberating their true selves, were devastatingly beautiful. At first, they were just frames which you would interpret. Later, they became fields where you would try to locate yourself, or your experiences. How an event trapped inside four walls can be liberating for the creative and the unexplored that hides inside you - this could be learnt at Stupid Eye.
These booklets had all the stories, sans which, my experience at the exhibition would have been incomplete. 

The above sonnet-structured poem was scribbled in a mute response to when Prayas asked me as to what I found there, and if I could locate myself in any of the frames. I failed to do so. I am one of those who is scared of discovering too much - I find my liberation in uncertainties. A picture, too clear, eliminates the possibility of fascinating interpretations - and if the possibility of impossible fancies vanishes from life, it doesn't augur brightly for me. And I seek bright. Blurry, okay, but bright. For some, the frames presented a figment of reality which they thought reflected off their past, or their inner self. For me, the frames served to shut out much, and delve within myself, happy in the cloistered, yet connected existence. And amid this rant, I am stupid if I forgot to tell you that Prayas is that dear friend because of whom Stupid Eye became a rather personal (albeit short) experience. He is among those people who charm you, and make you feel comfortable with the warmth they exude. Its a pleasure to know him.
Posing with Prayas, or one of his manifestations.

I met some tremendously fascinating people up at the exhibition, engaged in insightful dialogues. Harsheen ma'am and Vipul sir were gracious hosts, not refusing anyone an audience, discussing freely what went into conceiving an executing the Stupid Eye project. The opinions of attendees were given weight; there was no one who could stand there and feel wrong. Welcoming smiles and warm hugs - they were my fond takeaways from the brilliant people I met there.
The creators and their creation

So yes, the time I spent at Stupid Eye exhibition was fabulous. It will stay with me. The grand event was made more special because two of my very dear kids - Kamal and Vaibhav - won an art event conducted by the organizers. At the end of this post, I leave you with a gorgeous interpretation of 'Stupid Eye' as painted by Kamal, a kid in whose growth and achievements I take personal pride. And Vaibhav, you deserve another treat.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sonnet I - To An Ancient Lover

A series of messes, so dear and rich,
The wonders of love did drench me through,
Our paths were crossed by a river bewitched,
Slicing emotions that were set  to brew.

Your silhouette, tall, dark, confused,
Managed to salvage before it could flee,
I pondered if your visage shaded a recluse,
A self that perhaps could merge with me.

The mirror reflected less than it protected,
A glimpse was ours, a gift in parts,
Locked behind doors, moments perfected,
In parts, we discovered the wholeness of hearts.

Step aside, observe how you dwell in my eye,
Form an image of love, subsuming 'you and I'. 

Picture Credits - Madhurjya Saikia

P. S. - An attempted Sonnet written in a stupor. I have no idea what an 'iambic pentameter' means, so yes, judging me on that count is out of question.