Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nothing to tell

I have nothing to tell you
Nothing to define
No portraits to show
No Goddess divine.

Silent streams 
Of tired dreams 
Flow across the soul
With bursting seams

A fire is breathing its last
The taste of ash on my tongue
The burning within
When hope dies young

A song of abandoned shadows
Sung by ruins of temples
Where no gods rest now
Only pigeons sleep

I am waiting
At the end of this bridge
That shall crumble before us
The moment you step on it
And yet
I am waiting.

Don't leave the doors open
There is no breeze tonight..

Sunday, September 14, 2014

For a Star.

I vividly remember the introductory class in IIMC where our teachers had paired up the entire class and the two individuals had to introduce each other. When the woman behind me was being introduced to the class, her partner in the list of things she narrated, also said that this lady liked reading "classical" novels. Immediately an agonized but feminine voice corrected in a disappointed, embarrassed and hushed tone, "Classic!"
Curiosity has to work rather hard to come to my generally indifferent self. But I must admit that this act caught my attention and I turned to look at her. She still had the traces of exasperation on her heart shaped face. I thought her rather arrogant and snobbish. After all, Calcutta and Literature is always an intimidating combination. In hindsight, after knowing her for more than two years I can understand that her profound love for literature had given birth to the anguish. It was like a devoted priest correcting his Lord's praise from the mouth of a layman, It wasn't arrogance, she just couldn't help it.
In the months that were to come, I realized that my initial misgivings about her were more than unfounded. Far from the arrogant literature Nazi that I had thought her to be, Krittika turned out be the most beautiful, most touching piece of poetry. It took me time to decipher the genuine warmth of her smiles but when I did, they instantly became deeply cherished. She displayed an understanding of human emotions and character that was far beyond her years. Also she was someone who would easily go out of the way to help the people she held dear. She would step in when most of the world steps out. And she didn't even hesitate to keep her own interests at sake.

The qualities she had are found but rarely in this darkling world and very very seldom in the same person. It was not that she was naive to the ruthlessness and aridity and disenchantment that the world had to offer. But inspite of all, there was something pristine in her soul. Something in the stream of her being that the desert winds could not touch. Something in the rise of her waves that no dam could break, something in her fire that no water could extinguish. Was she not damaged? Was she never hurt? You wouldn't ask the question if you knew her. Her pain wrote sonnets in her words, told stories through her eyes and sang the songs of lonely larks in her enchanting voice. She knew pain, she knew betrayal, she knew alienation, she knew what it felt like to lose everything but she did not feel it was reason enough to lose her humanity, to not begin again, to not trust or love or help again. I was in awe of the seeming ease with which she forgave unforgivable things. Was it that easy? It would be foolish to assume so. Krittika just compulsively chose love over hatred, second chances over self pity and being herself over being everyone else.

Ernest Hemingway said, "The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed." Nothing could hold more true for the woman I am talking about. And she is very well aware of it. She knows that she'll be taken advantage of, she'll be betrayed, she'll be given a lot pain but a few days back she told me, "Rohini, you know...people broke my trust always, everybody I loved, the used me, trampled me and moved on. There were days when ma found my whole pillow wet, when she heard me howling in the washroom for hours. But I decided I am not worth it. I am special and there are people who love me and care for me and if I stayed in self loathing, I can never move on. So you have to leave this behind." She is as human and as vulnerable as you and me but she chooses a different path to turn to instead of the ever tempting self loathing and self victimization. She chooses to struggle instead of giving up. She chooses to carry on smiling. And for that I have a sacred respect for her. 

Its unbelievable, how the seemingly ordinary people in our lives are so extraordinary. I have had so much to learn from Krittika, most importantly the importance of forgiving, if not for anyone else then for my own sake. She has been there for me in the most trying and hopeless times. She has never judged me and allowed me to sink in the quicksand of the existential crisis that I am so prone to do. I have nothing less than wonder in my head, love in my heart and gratitude in my soul for her existence,

You're in Calcutta now and I am here, decaying in Agra and I must tell you that I miss your presence terribly. Our conversations, sharing of happiness and grief, of hope and disillusionment, of warm quilts in winter and maggi noodles. I hope we meet soon and I hope we make friends with our demons and have tea and red velvet cake with them together at Elma's someday.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The books I love..

I am neither a great reader and nor is my taste all great but some books are very close to my heart. Here is the list.

1. Waiting for Godot- (Samuel Beckett)..where nothing happens twice, where you don't know whether there is a light at the end of the tunnel at all and even if it don't know what to do with it. I can write a book on this play for its emptiness rings through all of my being.
" We always find something eh give us the impression that we exist"
"Yes yes, we're magicians"

2. To Kill a Mockingbird.(Harper Lee) For I want to spend my life trying to be one tenth of the person Atticus Finch was.
“Atticus, he was real nice."
"Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

3. Mrs Dalloway (Viginia Woolf) For some reason I have always identified deeply with Woolf and her stream of consciousness. She expresses the deepest fears of my heart.
"She felt very young, at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything, at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day."

4. Chokher Bali-(Tagore) Its sad that I can't read the original work in Bengali but I love this work by Tagore for its bold theme, for its expression and its insight into the complexities of human mind and sexuality.
“It is easy to drown yourself effortlessly into that which is truly profound and do no realise its true worth. And since the restless illusion which brings no pleasure even if you drain it to the dregs lead us by the nose and makes us dance a merry dance to its tune and we take it to be the lost desirable thing”

5. Look Back in Anger- (John Osborne)- The play conveys the disillusionment and frustrations of the ruined youth in the post war era. The kitchen sink realism at its best.
"I suppose people of our generation aren't able to die for good causes any longer. We had all that done for us, in the thirties and the forties, when we were still kids. ...There aren't any good, brave causes left."

6. A House for Mr. Biswas- The best dark comedy I have come across till yet. It has those moments when you laugh in agony. Brilliant is my word for it.
“attributed the decay of Hindu society in Trinidad to the rise of the timorous, weak, non-beating class of husband.”

7. Any work by Anton Chekov- I would have stalked this man and proposed him if he were alive.

8. Serious Men- (Manu Joseph)- Another great dark comedy. The sarcasm can bite through your flesh and yet you'll laugh.
"From the point of view of pure chemistry, it is more miraculous to make wine into water than water into wine. But he did not do that. Because if he had gone to someone's house and converted their wine into water, they would have crucified him much earlier. He knew, Jana. He knew making water into wine was a more popular thing to do.”
9. Man's search for Meaning- Viktor Frankl- A chronicle about survival at the Auschwitz concentration camp and a slap on the face of everyone who thinks their life isn't worth living. Including me.
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”

10. The Wandering Falcon- (Jamil Ahmed)- A book that dwells on the lives of the frontier tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan and their struggles with the monster of modernization and boundaries. Both the man and his work are deeply awe inspiring.
“...One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions.”

Brevity has never been my strength. :)

The Shweta Basu scandal shames me. Here's why.

I remember the movie Makdee vividly. I remember being in awe of the little girl delivering such a good performance. I remember her as the bubbly kid in Kahani Ghar Ghar ki and Kutumb and Iqbal, and I was no less than shocked when I heard the news of her being involved in the sex scandal. I am truly ashamed of what happened. Not because what she did, but because of what we did to her.

Marvel at the irony. A girl with promising talent turned out to be a woman who had to sell her body for money. Indeed the choice she made in desperation were wrong. But is she to be blamed alone? Why did the profession of prostitution lure her? Its because beyond the curtains of the high and mighty Indian values, morality and culture, lies an ugly world of hypocrisy, exploitation, lust, violence and perversity. The world which still treats women as objects of sexual satisfaction and household maids. Would prostitution thrive as a profession if every man was as faithful and holy as he proclaims to be? Every evil exists in the society because it is allowed to. Prostitution, sex trade, human trafficking, drug abuse, they are all, the illegitimate children of society. The society has given birth to them, the society sustains them, albeit secretly but will never own it up. Our roots as a culture have rotten and decayed. We are sustaining an illusion by the convenience of the option to ignore.

Indeed that has become the hallmark of us. We always chose to ignore and yet we never fail to judge. Just to cash on the sensationalism of this piece of news, the media without a trace of conscience and sensitivity splattered Basu's name all over the news papers and tv channels. What about the men who were her clients? What about the man she was caught with? Where are their names? Why have their identities not been made public? Are they less culpable of the crime? Why should this woman spend three months in a remand home getting scarred for life while these men, these rich, influential men sit in their drawing rooms with their families and call her a whore? Why is there no such institution for them. Where they learn to curb the desire of their loins and learn to treat woman as human beings?

We express horror at rape and hold out candle light vigils and marches, yet almost 100 women in India are raped everyday. We upload facebook statuses claiming women's rights and freedom, yet a hell lot of our abuses are connected to mothers and sisters. Do we have the right to judge Basu? Are we evolved and mature and holy enough to do that? Do we have the right to violate her right to privacy and permanently scar her psyche and life? Just to fulfill our hunger for gossip? Basu sold her body for money. What is the quintessential item girl of Bollywood doing? Why does the public hoot and whistle when the song "Main toh tandoori murgi hun yaar, ghatkale saiyan alcohol se" is playing to the thumkas of Kareena Kapoor? The line translates into something like "I am just flesh, consume me with alcohol". There are complaints that Bollywood is a fence sitter in Basu's case. What else can it be? Its good they are silent. The self proclaimed messiahs who tell you the importance of being human and satyamev jayate. Because the heroines of their films don't go far beyond item numbers and skimpy clothes. It would be a laughable irony if they were to speak for Basu's rights. Don't blame Rani Mukherjee for staying mum on the issue even when she played the role of a cop who is out to bust human trafficking. Poor woman had to be "Mardaani" to make a mark.

To the Indian men. Should you be talking about the rights of rape victims and victims of human trafficking when you do not have the courage to marry one of these women? Should you be talking about the emancipation of women when you hardly fail to check out a woman's "front" and "behind".
Should you talk about the girls "without characters" when you practically can't exist without pornography? Let us cease to be the hypocrites we are. Let us only speak up when we have the courage to follow up on our words. Our society has been nourished on the double standards for women. It is ingrained in the grooves and ridges our cerebral hemispheres.  And we have a very very very long way to go to make ourselves better people.

Until then, we can only apologize to Shweta Basu for what we have made of her.