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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Zodiac



Know your day.

'Your social life is set to soar and you'll become popular with opposite sex'  Neeti stared at the lines.
Could it be... well going by her zodiac sign, it had to be true. She folded the newspaper, staring out of their balcony. Her social life was a mess and being popular with the opposite sex was a distant cry. Why... she herself was not sure why. She was average looking and mediocre in academics but that could not be reason enough. Neeti had finished her graduation with lots of hiccups and heaved a sigh of relief once she was done. These were not meant for her. Ma and Baba did stress for some post graduation... just to think Neeti had headaches. She did not mind sitting home, sleep, watch television , help Ma sometimes when she felt like, may be catch up with some girls of their small town locality in the evening, giggle , talk about boys, catch soaps with Ma at night and settle for a blissful sleep while parents would  look out for a groom for her.

That was the life of most middle class girls in their locality, she had watched her aunts and cousins go through this, then get married and visit home once or twice a year with kids following. But it seems her parents were not interested in groom hunting and tried to persuade her for further studies . Just when she thought she was done with this tedious task, there was this pressure to take the plunge again. She wondered why...that's what women were upto in their families, why this pressure to ram the notes and reproduce them in exam! She had seen Sheetal aunt flooded by marriage proposals and was whisked away by an engineer groom even before she could complete graduation. Yeah yeah she was pretty and tall and light eyed. Well studying means she can go to class everyday, buy new salwar suits and kurtis, meet friends, have gol gappas from the street vendor,talk about boys. And would her social life soar this time... and opposite sex take interest in her...should she succumb to her parents' wish and fill the form for university. But the exams and assessments...Neeti was in dilemma.

She had no intention of working, hardly any women in her family worked for a living, all were looked after and pampered by husbands. They do cook and clean, boss their husbands around, minds their kids... then why were her parents not looking for a groom for her!! Arya,s wedding  date was fixed after a month, Neeti had made sure the news registered in her mom's ears, brain and heart.  But no, she hadn't even overheard any conversation in whispers regarding any match for her. What a fiasco. She didn't ever dare to think of having a boy friend, nor were boys interested , her hope was after her graduation the procedures would start like in case of her aunts and cousins and the prospect of having a man in her life finally. Guess parents had messed with all her hopes.

Thankfully Neeti did not qualify for any post graduation course entrance exams , much to her parents' disappointment. Though Neeti did express her displeasure and disinterest at pursuing higher studies to her mother, she could not be upright about the reason... Mom i want to get married , love a man, look after his house, go to honeymoon. Her Baba had consoled her... perseverance and dedication would help her crack the exams next year!! Seriously!! With persuasion and nagging all around, Neeti enrolled herself in some basic computer course in one of the many institutions mushrooming in her town with some girls of her locality. At least that would ease the pressure off a bit. Classes would start in a week, would her social life soar...

' Na Meena we must not force her'  Neeti heard her dad speaking in a hushed voice as she finally rose with the newspaper in hand.

' Nitesh, the match would be good and almost perfect, even the zodiac signs match.Let us speak to Neeti at least'

' Meena let her study, settle down and then decide' Baba spoke ' We always hurried in our family. I want her to excel, may be decide on her own, find her match... and not blame us afterwards like the others do'

' Hmm' Mom,s voice was not heard any more.

Arey listen   Neeti wanted to speak out   What about the perfect match... zodiac signs match. It is written in my zodiac forecast, opposite sex would take interest.

She did not find the voice of course. Her mouth twisted in distaste. After all the women in the family it fell on her to settle with a job and as if that was not enough find her own man!!! She slumped in her bad in utter hopelessness. The next week forecast would bring something better, it would... no social life upsurge or opposite sex attraction, just change Baba's mind... let them fix her match and all will fall to place.

She waited for next week,s newspaper.




Friday, 29 April 2016

Year of solitude







Dear Ninni

It is over.. our time at Barapani..and we are on our way...and since I could not complete writing on the go..I  just  thought I would finish it in the sweltering heat of Delhi. Yes this has been our home for a year. You, me and your Pishi and sometimes your grandpa grandma.Nestled in between hills, bathed by rains , swept over by clouds at times..and lush green all around was our ' home' a year.




    

This is how you looked when you followed your Ma to office with the invisible umbrella in hand.



You were closest to earth as you ever could be..



Gudia was the first friend you made in your life. Some months elder to you, moody.. she looked just like a doll. And both of you spent hours playing..I was so happy that Gudia was there and I could leave you comfortably with her and go for some badminton in the evenings.









This black one.. she gave birth to twins.. one black as her another grey.. they were so weak..we fed three of them.. fish, rice...biscuits..


                                           Ma's office was the best place to hang out




                   
                        

You loved Shillong.. you could always blackmail into getting unnecessary stuff for you



We are posing in front of the Centre Point restaurant Shillong..

 This was ma's FB profile pic..:) Taken at Elephant Falls Shillong


We had several visits to Orchid The Lake Resort




                                                   This is ' Gungun' another friend of yours





                                     

                                   Thanks to the few jigsaw puzzles and   cards ..kept u busy



Ma spent her time in SUDOKUs why would you be left behind....







               
                                                          Baba was there too sometimes..
 


  
                          
                                        Cherapunjee with Baba , we were stuck in incessant rains... 

She brought you up....

We are so thankful to her..sometimes I used to get irritated..I still do..but at the end of the day she did a great job.


It had been a short stay may be.. but an eventful year for you and me..from a tiny two bedroom apartment locked from inside.. we were somewhere where stepping outside was being close to nature.. the hills and the greens..where getting daily vegetables and grocery and keeping sufficient inventory level was a matter of awesome management..' managing' a trip to the near by army shopping complex in the office vehicle.. or hand over a list of groceries to anyone going to ' city' or the shopping complex.. aww it required some management, the place where there is no other option but to walk two kilometres for a public transport or procure a decent packet of biscuits. And you know after many days I talked the way I used to.. the languages I have known throughout my childhood.. though I don't know how you picked up Hindi so well... Grandpa grandma ( my parents) made regular visits here.. they won't anymore..  how my dad and i would walk some kilometres for a handful of veggies or some fish, or a gas connection!! How my colleague and i would go for walks in the woods and farms!! So many stories to tell.... we have moved on from Barapani to Delhi in the maddening heat and madder crowd but the year of solitude wrapped fresh in my memory.

Just tried to assemble some pics so that when you grow up and look at me blankly when I speak of 'Barapani' .. that magical land where we stayed for a year.. I have something to remind you..

Love
Yours Ma






Thursday, 28 April 2016

X.... unsolved





The unknown has to be X. You work your way out and evaluate X. And there lies the answer. Was life as simple as that! Priya was helping her eleven year old with the newly introduced algebra. Surely it could  be so simple... whatever we do not know was  X and once you find out X... voila  your job was  done.

Ahan was solving the problem with full concentration. It gave her pleasure to look at her son, his face beaming with the thrill of learning something new, discovering X to be precise. The whole week mom and son was caught up with x, assuming x, multiplying x, dividing x and then discovering x. Like unfurling a mystery, an enigma Ahan was hell bent on assigning a value to x and Priya was enjoying every bit of Ahan,s restlessness. The boy was sharp, Priya knew and she did not need hours of teaching experience she left behind to tell her that, the thrill Ahan feels looking at the numbers was enough to have fun Maths sessions with her son everyday.

Like many women in her country Priya had to quit her job after Ahan was born. She tried everything to keep her job, no they won,t allow her leave  and Ahan was so tiny and nor anyone was there who could look after Ahan. She did not have the heart to put him in day care and she knew her job was not worth all the trouble she would have to take, apart from a decent salary it offered nothing more,no growth, no leaves and besides as everyone advised she could again find another job when Ahan grew up. It was way difficult for Priya to settle at home, initially Ahan took all her time and she knew being a mommy gave her a joy nothing else could. Priya adjusted slowly... what they call a-stay-at-home-mum, household chores never gave her the adrenaline rush as her Maths books did... if she could have cleared NET , six months of maternity leaves and additional leaves in a college or university she would never to be a stay-at-home-mom or whatever.

She did try for a job once when Ahan was sensible enough, but with problems galore, mismatched timings she could not make the ends meet. Frustration, managing the chores entire day... making life easier for Shubham and Ahan...Priya almost lost hope to find herself between her students again. Finally she had joined in Ahan's school as a junior teacher...the gap she had in her career no one was ready to take her for senior classes now. Priya had settled for that.It was difficult with the young kids and the easy lessons but she needed a beginning and this was it may be.

The maths lessons with Ahan reminded her of the lessons with numbers she had with her father and the fun they had. Then why she could not turn up brilliant, Priya did not know the answer. What if she tries again, Ahan was big enough, she has a responsible domestic help, may be a doctorate, may be NET... was it possible. Ah she was crazy did she imagine she could open her books again and catch up from where she left!!! Could she decipher the theorems and postulates , Laplace and Fourier, Calculus and what not! If she tried , tried real hard... where were her books and notes, which rack exactly...tears blurred her vision.

' All solved mom' Ahan gave her a hug, jubilantly. ' X am not scared of you, figured you out totally.'

I could not Ahan, figure out the X, figure out a living from what i love, i could not solve anything dam it.

'Let,s have dinner mom. Uuh this X making me hungry.'


With malice towards none...




The girl gang was waiting. Messages beeped in the whats app group, confirming where all of them were, if they have started from home and in between what was the outfit chosen. They were five, within a span of ten years in the same job and...friends...yes Rima hoped so. There were sub groups within the group and she was closest to Aastha, the youngest of the lot, remaining three were friends of course but Rima knew they were more friends among themselves and two were closest out of the three. Let it be, she adjusted her palazzos , pulled her crop top, put on her danglers. She knew she would be subjected to a scrutiny, an acid test and coming out unscathed was almost impossible specially from Shreya, the most successful of them among all and they all were very smart, waif thin and creamy skinned. 

As a teen, Rima consciously made an effort to avoid the pretty popular girls as friends, she wasn,t sure because she was jealous or simply because it made things easy for her, it helped her spare any effort to look chic and updated. Things began to change though and Rima,s friend circle had expanded and had all sorts of persons and for her it was a great leap when she began to wear jeans, trousers, dresses at ease and salwar suits took a backseat. That was when she guessed her friend circles began to include all types of girls she avoided consciously before.

It took a real lot to dress up and sometimes Rima just wanted to give it up all, but it was not possible by any means now. She screamed at her domestic help to take out a clutch matching her outfit and of course her help screamed back.

' I can,t... always you will shout in the last moment.' 

Lots of tussle, clutch pulled out, rejected and ultimately she settled for golden a sling bag.

'Didi , put my wallet inside the bag and my cell as well' Rima asked her help again. 'And didi please click some pics before i go out.'

Didi shot back with a volley of answers to which Rima paid no heed. She was almost done now, a touch of gloss and kohl, dabbing powder at cheeks.

'Didi those golden heels please' 

Rima was on her way now,  to a plush mall in the city, that's where they go to celebrate birthdays generally. Honestly Rima was a bit bored of mall hopping and eating the same old stuff but the group rules. And come to think of it she didn't know much of their personal life as well except for the tit bits they shared with pleasure. For instance she had no idea Aastha  was engaged before two months until she spilled the beans a week back! Was this friendship.... Aastha had sited uncertainty as an excuse she could not disclose!! Oh really but Rima had mastered the art of nonchalance , coat some layers above where it hurts and there she is cool and breezy off to lunch and shopping.

Five of them met, hugged, touched up their make up in the washroom, complemented each other, subtly pointing the flaws ( ah how she hated this) .

You could have skipped the danglers.

They clicked lots of pics, posed and reposed, pouted and giggled.Lambasted the male colleagues, made sub groups, gossiped and shopped. Shreya tried to control the herd but the girls were wild. Lunch was another dicey affair, they were conventional veg eaters all except Aastha and they would survive on minimal food guess that was the reason for their petiteness. Rima ended up not liking the lunch at all at most of their gatherings!

I will make up when i go out with Shekhar.

She thought of their sinful sumptuous meals with lots of meats as she had naan and potatoes quietly. Even ordering for herself and gorging alone wasn't fun so she complied with the group. And as usual the petite girls would be full after a few bites and a piece of half naan would do the rounds until she or Shreya ( who did have an appetite after all) would gobble it up.

They shopped for Preeti whose birthday they were celebrating and eventually tried loads of outfits on themselves as well. Evening coffee, some more clicks and they were ready for home.

The process was repeated five times a year on five birthdays , most of the times all could make it, pictures uploaded on facebook....likes and comments.

Rima loved it all, to stand with them and get yourself clicked and almost looking at par was an achievement! At least for her. Only sometimes she was stunned at the friendship part....she did not know of their crushes, of their secret dreams, she did not know why Aastha did not tell of her engagement, for what reason pretty Preeti chose to be single...why Diya stays with her mom.

The entire office knew of their camaraderie and gossips apart appreciated the girl bonding and efficiency they brought to work apart from glamour and seizing the best work slots from the men around or thats what men felt.

It wasn't all fake the cohesivity but not all true either. But who cares really, since she knew to coat herself with extra insensivities it did not hurt. Or does it...na Rima was way past all those days of yore when she would be in tears if she was pushed to a corner of the bench they shared and  Devika and Mithu giggled and whispered. She would know every secret they had and threatened her to keep all to hersellf!

Rima had come of age. She was already planning her outfit for the next gathering.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Verdict

 

'Didi what will happen!' Minati stared at me with horror struck eyes, tension writ large on her face.

I of course did not have any idea what will happen but continued to stare at her with sympathy.

' How could she!'  Minati's expression was a quick shade of anger before changing to horror and frustration.

I was tampering with my cell phone out of habit. Checking update status of friends, browsing their pics. Not sure how to respond to my domstic help's predicament, her much younger fifteen year old sibling has eloped with a boy from her village! Two days of extensive search hadn't yeilded any results and going to police was the option
left now. The boy was the brother of her younger brother's wife who had been staying at their village house promising to help them with some plumbing.

'Look at me didi....i have been staying alone for so many years... and look at her'

Indeed abandoned by husband, Minati had to walk out of the void relation and learn to survive on her own. I had wondered often how was her lone walk and why she didn't settle down again. She was young, attractive.... yet...

' Why your sis had to  elope Minati.... perhaps all would have agreed for a wedding'

'Don't know didi' Minati sighed.

The air on my house was heavy with the tension and the repeated calls from her home. It piqued me at times but the thought of the young naive girl exploited by some rogue, police and the condition of the hapless family and  the life of the girl which was in a way ruined...school, studies all gone for a toss. I heard her plight whenever i was free enough, her father had tried to file a case in the police station and the boy's family had given word to bring back the couple on the run to save arrest of the boy for kidnapping a minor.

A few days later she had informed me her sister had returned home. The couple was brought to police station after few thrashes and warnings they let go of the boy
and Minati's father withdrew the case and got his daughter home.

'The end to her school then....' I had asked.

' What else didi...who would take the chance...if she runs off again'

That was the end to the girl's school, being youngest of all the siblings Minati and often me sent her goodies and ensured her studies went smooth. Indeed it went damn smooth...how fool girls can be!! Did she believe that the plumber was the key to her happiness, was worth giving up family and school for!! These girls were a pack of fools eloping with a man gave the forbidden pleasure! I was filled with disgust or may be the older boy misleaded her, painted rosy dreams around her... who knows.

All seemed normal in Minati's life after some days. It seemed they had managed to keep the episode hush hush and the girl was back in her family without much drama.They had to take off her bangles forcibly, bangles of her so called wedding and the girl was kept busy with household chores.

It was a year i think when i could feel the tension in my house once again and the flurry of phone calls . Minati kept mum and i tried not to pay heed...let her speak when she is comfortable.

It came after a day or two.

'Didi what to hide from you' Minati looked crestfallen. ' She... the wretch had eloped again'

' What!!' I was shocked. ' With that boy only na'

Minati did not reply. Her silence confirmed the doubt i had.

' My god Minati!!!! With someone else you mean.'

I think they had rescued the girl again with all the means they had, thrashed and slapped her and Minati did not mention but gossips had it they had to take the girl to some local clinic to get off the life forming inside her.

Minati blasted her sometimes when i asked about her little sister. Fallen, loose girl was the verdict.

' Look at me didi, i did not look at any other men'

Sometimes i would smile ' Why didn't you Minati'

Someone has given the verdict she was a righteous woman and here she was happily paying the price.

' Are you crazy didi!!'

Monday, 25 April 2016

Utopia






Air Traffic Control Tower




Utopia... that,s what i felt when i first joined the airport.

I used to watch from my tower as the tiny ATR offloaded its passengers..and reloaded itself  and most of the days the half empty ATR took off in the air from the deserted airport. A longing to be home..away from this land locked island..I breathed away my wish in the gusting wind engulfing the tower, gather my things together to go down, winding up the day,s job after the lone plane of the airport takes off. Few offcial letters , routine replies, routine data entry into the computer..routine jobs..routine smiles but outside office premises nature greets you with her open arms..some days a rainbow would glisten in the fresh rain drenched sky..some days the cows would bathe in the water logged fields..nothing routine about this world, a silent world..content with its simple undemanding dwellers..dwellers who haven,t robbed off all the wealth from her, dwellers who have guarded her,protected her against outsiders and chose to live a quiet merry life..life within these hills.



I waited for the local market day, colourful market with so many facets..a day when the village is busy with all the hustle bustle..village roads are full of vehicles...a day for whom I,ve learnt to wait whole 8 days....to get my fill of fruits, vegetables and fish for the week. It is almost like a festival for the villagers and soon I was caught in the spirit as well.. happily munching pineapples and oranges with the deadly local chilly powder with my colleague, packing different types of sweets available fried in God-knows-what oil, missing altogether 2-3 hours of office....(not to be mentioned of course)





Happiness has a little price to pay, this colourful market with fresh vegetables , lures me..makes me plan my entire week ' food programme' , strange but in this land where a proper grocery shop isn,t available in the near 4-5 kilometres, no goodies ,the vegetables are refreshingly fresh and seem garden plucked.I loaded my bags with vegetables, goodies, toys for my toddler..look around for some lift, if anyone is there with vehicle..try to shove in the over loaded bags..and don,t mind walking the lovely stretch with a packet of pineapple in hand and my dear colleague accompanying me.


The magic did wear off..like everything else..this place was losing its exquisiteness..it was just one of those small villages in our country..where newspapers did not reach except for a local one which some days found its way to the local shops..Khasi language in english script, one of those villages where children walked miles in search of a school,where nearest hospital is some 20 km away..where few vehicles (Tata Sumos) run with people hanging behind as means of public transport,where girls went to the river for washing clothes,where children collected drinking water from roadside taps..huddle containers of water in make shift carts..where men drank in evening and night..where concept of street light is totally redundant..where women gave birth to half a dozen babies within the four walls of home..wherein within the long stretch of unpaved road..if any little shop you could find would definitely have 'kowai' (local betel nut) if not any trace of other bare necessities of life..

In this land I stood partly disillusioned partly grounded..partly lonely wondering if I was missing out on life where..but then what I was missing out on..a fiercely competitive manipulative professional life in the city..where relationships even if  manage to find a place, longevity gets shorter..nothing survives here save a hunger for success..and a family life..where baby husband maid parents friends all strive for a place and I long for space and continue with a super balance act. And here in this land one can have all the space one longs for and more..so much space that loneliness creeps into the soul in one form or other.. That,s it then..solitude and bliss turning to hard hitting loneliness from which there is no respite..there I go.. sounding frustrated , lonely lending substance to the term ' tenure' or ' unpopular posting'. The lush green of August has given way to a hazy dusty February..where spring is hardly tangible wrapped in warm sunny days and cool chilly nights.The hills seem to long for rains, pine trees looking high in the sky..and to me the magic of the hills do not work any more..like magic of new found love giving way to routine indifference..a nonchalance owing to the loneliness bug digging into the soul..the Wanderlust giving way to a longing for ' home'

I was 'home' soon after my term was over and the residue of ' Wanderlust' in me in lone lost moments would build by bits and parts..a picture an image of a bewitching beautiful lonely airport in the laps of rain kissed August green hills..my tiny tower and the thatched ' Meera,s Tea Shop' lurking behind..providing oxygen to one and all..ironed uniform clad airliners..kowai chewing red lipped labours...lazy without work Sarkari babus...hunger thirst driven passengers searching frantically for a cup of tea in days where flight gets delayed indefinitely...


Utopia.... it was. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Time and tide



Just wonder about relationships..where do we begin from and what do we end up with . Pointless wondering yes but..we all do pointless things in one stage of our life, some do it often , some more often.. some are just plain unlucky.

We are born with parents.. parents whom we can,t choose, parents whom we can,t change. Father.. doting, strict, protective, mean and mother loving, caring, friendly, nagging, bragging..types are many. Guess these two characters influence most. And these two people we love, they are the first to rebel against, first to accuse for our failures and they are many ' firsts' we will fail to count. Siblings take over next.... sharing, caring, jealousy envy, fighting for attention , discipline the younger, copy the elder. While my father has been and still is the one I have always looked upon in all phases of life from sharing any odd joke to comment on any book we read, I ponder over the relation I share with my mother..factious, complicated..arguing invariably, fighting incessantly, discussing at length the colours and prices of the outfits we buy, disagreeing vehemently on the same issues over and over again, swearing not to set our eyes on each other after each fight. And my reticent sibling who and I never agreed upon any single thing, for him I was always arrogant know- it -all -academically better -much elder sis ..and for me doesn,t - know-anything , spoiled -massively -by -mother lil' brother. We had hit each  other, manhandled each other and grew apart gradually with time except for occasional phone calls and had settled for an amicable truce with age.

I grew up in a joint family before I knew who was I , I was surrounded by uncle, aunt ,grandpa and a host of other relatives. My neighbours..I always called them aunts and uncles.. the youngest one was four years elder to me. In absence of  a sibling in my early days I just adored the three brothers and sisters, eldest one macho and hero, next one pretty and feminine, the youngest one my ideal and my guru and I followed her like a shadow. The games we played.. teacher student, train train, family family, Durga Puja games where we ended up making mud cakes as Bijoya Dashami delicacies, and those doll house games and the big brother after entry would play havoc with the dolls in a minute!! But the big brother rather the big uncle was the ticket to my love for old hindi film songs, those old unheard off songs..and the beginning of idolising Amitabh Bacchan just imitating him!! At home my real aunt replaced my neighbour as the next avatar.. independence finacial and personal for a woman was intriguing and I guess that was the inspiration when I set my feet outside my home in search for a job. And of course my uncle who reads my blogs, is active in facebook ,who would spend hours with me filling me up with historical mythological political  fables and my first insight into real world. He bought me the first map and taught me to browse the Atlas.. was the first one to fly with me to Delhi when I needed immediate operation.

And in my old home, nobody could miss her presence.. as if the house and her soul were entwined, she filled up the house ,was a towering personality among her peers and juniors.. and how she continues to live after her death..my grandmother. I remember her in white saree ( after grandpa,s death) , two pairs of glasses, the reading glass and ' Ananda Bazar Patrika', the command in her personality, the warmth in her heart, the magic in her food.. I have always felt few persons can live after their death.. she being one of them, her strong presence felt long after her death.

School , entry into social life.. friends, peers..pressure.. Before we know friends decide our clothes , food, they take precedence over everything else unless first crush hits. When crush hits all fades into oblivion..crushes , heart breaks, some hand at writing verses..phew school days roll over to college classes. First try at fashion, beginning of parties though in my time and in my case fashion was just trying another set of salwar kameez with dupatta, and parties meant getting together at someone,s place and cook together and eat!! Drab idea  of party but in our times that was fun.

Then the struggle phase after university days..and close friends drift apart..competition, struggle in the job market, smooth lovely fun days are over and the time to confront the world friendless alone.. Work place gives a new class of ' friends' , with money to splurge and options galore life seems great. But then work place ' friends' never turn out to be the innocent childhood friends of school and college though exceptions are there but they just prove the rule.

Romance, affairs and ultimately taking the plunge. Life gets a new epicentre to move about and the vision narrower, with an infant popping into the scene life is just me and myself.  Centre stage is home.. funny while youth and teens yearns for the entire world as the arena..conjugal life constricts it within the four walls... the toddler fills up life, gives it a new dimension. Life moves on juggling work family..maid plays a central role in life, and by that time one knows to handle the unique eccentricities of the relationship with mother in law.. the most demanding of all the relationships till date..every move you make and every breath you take..counts!!And soon toddler grows into a child and child to an individual and parents keep getting redundant to them.

Phew.. relations are many with varying demands and most change with time...like we ourselves do.. The golden days of childhood cannot be relieved only watched through the hazy veil of present, wonder years never come back and the grey days of  mid life overlooked , unaccepted take over...with aches, ailments, some amount of financial affluence, some recognition, some sense and some memories cherished and nursed in some corner of the heart.

The tides change with time. And sooner we learn to flow with it...peace follows.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Scrapbook





Not a scrapbook exactly,  a songbook of sort. 

In her beautiful writing Surabhi had scribbled lyrics of  songs.We used to hum, stealing some moments in school ..Assamese, Hindi and well.. one in English as well!! No CD,s , audio cassettes, all copied from the umpteenth broadcasts in radio.The Trio...Surabhi, Luna and Me,that,s what some called us in school.  Long forgotten zealously guarded  Surabhi,s 'friendship' scrapbook ( with Leander Paez cover)  in some sentimental farewell  moment presented to me was recovered from the old book rack in attic.

Days of school began breathing through the stale yellow pages, long lost friendship outweighed by husband, kids, career stirred from long slumber, struggling to make her existence felt murmuring through perched throat...

Are you two listening...



Thursday, 21 April 2016

Road to Nirvana


In this land of Gods and Godman sometimes it needs a great deal of skill to survive without a God. Didn't know exactly when, raised in a family where God was worshiped everyday thrice as a ritual, a special puja being performed every alternate day, fed on a diet of fables i loved to hear from grandma, I stopped believing. It began as a stop gap arrangement what if i don't believe and actually i started non believing!!     

It was no big deal actually. Initially didn't get into any arguments with anyone as was apprehensive of being taken as arrogant, may be silly and may be who knew i had to revert to believing again braving any sort of personal crisis. Though logical mind told me resorting to a supreme power to take care of me is only the proof of my weakness and vulnerability and in no way a proof of existence of anyone supreme. The non believing struck slowly and steadily and in a country society and family where religion is strikingly dominant i survived happily. Well i didn't have to do anything ,didn't claim myself to be atheist for once and there was no declaration of my non believing. There were still pujas at home though numbers were less with grandma getting old and once or twice i began to question myself  participating and celebrating our yearly most awaited festival Durga Puja but then it was more than religion , it was simply a part of our existence which i can't deny and i was happily celebrating puja with everyone without being an integral part of the more religious rituals. Was it a dubious existence... it just might be. I was into the fun and happiness of it and deftly avoiding the serious part. Though i admit watching puja being performed with the evening aarti rituals raise a trance like feeling and a series of emotions i do not have much control upon and when following family members or friends after a long queue i face God at a temple and join my hands with closed eyes i do not know what i should do and make way fast for the next devotee waiting anxiously.

So my non believing went on. Gradually was a stranger to all kinds of pujas , vrats ,fasts etc etc and stand awkward, silent in a group where people talk fervently about the rituals. Visiting temples too became very rare and only when i was compelled to. In between life did have very tough and challenging times and i did feel succumbing myself to some divine power who would give me the strength. Does the divine power lead one to do something exemplary, something for the lesser mortals... the questions can be best answered by those who believe. For other confused stressed souls it is simply best not to bother as i try to convince myself i don't know if God exists if he/she does it's fine and else it is fine as well.

Well well on a subject where volumes have been written and so much said, where so many preachers and sects thrive can all be brushed off with a wave of hand!!! I do not know really, the emotions, the 
sensations, more exist than normal senses can perceive. The mysteries of the universe yearn for an answer and hence the quest for the supreme being or for the storms within the soul or for the most mundane... a respite a panacea for all ... i have wondered often with no answer of course.

Yet it is difficult to stand your own ground as a non believer, wish the best for your love , child and family , strive hard for success and prosperity and stand nonchalant and non believing and harder to derive the strength from within for a cause , a purpose ,to motivate oneself for a cause other than self. There were and would be moments where i would falter and give up myself and for other times God and me have drifted apart and happily!!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Que sera sera




Mom was dead up against the whole idea. But growing up wasn't fun listening to mom all the way. So here she was twisting and turning in her berth waiting for the morning when she would get down and take a vehicle to Chopta where she would join the trekking team. Her heart was beating with excitement though Mom's face pried in between... all right mom i will be back soon she murmured to herself, besides weren't you like me once

Morning she traveled to Chopta , the travel bug pinching her all the way and the first time she was on her own. The mountains greeted her cheerfully and in a while she would have her first date with the Himalayas. Her fingers scribbled on her phone, reached Chopta, she texted mom and was eager to send a mighty mountain pic to mom....but who knows she may call the next minute. 

' Let us go together' mom had pleaded almost 

' No' was Teesta,s firm reply. ' I want to do it alone mom.'

But it seems defying the lady and undertaking this trip wasn't as easy as she assumed.

The team leader greeted her warmly the next morning and she was introduced to the group. Armed with backpack, camera she was ready with the group. The mountains left her speechless and the group squealed with excitement at the glimpse of snow covered peaks. There was this cute boy smiling and making weird jokes making everyone laugh.

' Beware of boys Teesta'  Mom,s words echoed.

' Am going to meet him on the Himalayas... don't worry' she had chuckled.

No signal on her cell phone now. Last night she had a talk with both mom and dad. None too happy of course. But nothing she can do about it, they will understand... they have to. The cute boy was waiting as she was bit behind.

'Hurry up'  he smiled. 

Teesta caught up with him and soon they were talking all and sundry and gaping at the Himalayas at every curve. She had the most mesmerizing time with the boy, his name was Hrehan , the mountains, the trek .

'We have to do it again' She gasped when at the top.

'We will'  Hrehan stared at her ' just give me your number'

Ok  mom will avoid the boy thing but no promise.  Teesta had told mom.

Numbers exchanged happily with Hrehan she was all breathless and flushed as they reached downhill. Time for tea and snacks in a shack. The cell phone has sprung to life at the proximity of a village, calls and messages from both of them , mom and dad. She sent the best pics she had clicked. She wanted to tell more, of the fun ,of the Himalayas ,of Hrehan like she used to after school as mom waited eagerly for her to get down from the bus.

And as she grew up and began to speak less of school, mom used to speak a lot about her adventures in life.

'Que sera sera Teesta '    She remembered mom singing. Some days she could glimpse a carefree independent woman with a wanderlust soul trying to tame her daughter, who was proud of the spirit her daughter had inherited form her and yet like all moms didn't want to let go. No she did let go yet Teesta knew mom would spend sleepless nights at home. But mom has to learn... wouldn't she! The world was unfurling its mysteries for Teesta, she can't whine for mom.

Her mobile was flooded with texts from her parents.

'Teesta you lucky girl'  She smiled at dad's message.

' Que sera sera  Tees.... have as much of the Himalayas as you can. We are loving all of it'   Was that mom!! Wait till i tell about Hrehan,  Teesta smiled.

Que sera sera ,whatever will be will be, mom. She dared not text though. Some other time. For now only the Himalayas.







Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Peers and Pressure


Ah this pressure!! Well most of the things in my life fell in place just in time  with this pressure.

In early school days it was Baba..he would give example of all peers scoring maximum in Mathematics, it was quite subtle though, without getting pressurised technically but an emotional jolt and i ended up beeing stuck in late eighties or sometimes beginning of nineties and always with a stab in the heart of missing the ton (We were allotted marks then). Baba continued through out the years, sometimes over phone.. and i would remember the eyes with the question ' how was your exam'...the anxiousness and my anxiousness at faltering, missing out on all he was aspiring..  Again i,ll have to say it wasn,t a parental pressure technique, may be he wove some of his dreams around me..and though always very short of outstanding or excellent.. i was able to make it to the average.. i can state fairly without being modest and guess never disappointed him if not made him a very proud parent.

Teen days were confusing, intriguing. The pressure to look happening gave this immense urge to be ' different'..the safe way out..discomfort with an almost unknown body, falling out of sync with peers..outsmarted in looks and deeds led to shelling of self amidst piles of fiction beginning from  Mills and Boons to Tagore and Sarat Chandra Novels to those 'adult' stories published in ' Desh'. ' I,m different and hence looking for someone different!!' Not a bad concept to deal with peer pressure really when the others began to date or had boys wooing them.

But how long can one survive being out of sync with peers, holding on to a make believe world frantically.. As the body turns familiar the soul emerges out of teens , tries to fall in sync with peers and without facebook likes at that time, a coveted ' like'  from any boys around would achieve it..at least being one of the peers though way down the line.Twenties would weave a bit of personality one would carry over for a  few years at least..and craft a ' my life' kind of thing. A dash of 'gyaan' about self, a pinch of confidence, stepping in the work arena from dreamy college university days...thrill of taking on the world and finally meeting up the  'one' who would put an end to all peer fears..and the twenties turn to thirties.

Thirties.. initially promising, also gradually time to be aware of the lines built around self, the secret desire to break all the rules which have eroded 'my' from ' my life'. And finally the health issue so unhealthily overlooked, staring blatantly with years of massive negligence... Thirties also characterised frequent visits to parlours and salons, the desire to be 'in sync' with all the hot thirty somethings and forty somethings. Some money in hand...branded clothes, may be finally coming up with a-not-too-sure style quotient and  some admiring gazes...if from men.. definitely excellent but a winner if from women!! Times change..they do. Admiration (not jealousy) from women is a sure shot victory.. to your style, your shopping , your gym sessions if any. Constant struggle really.. workplace full of twenty somethings now, basking on limelight while you take a mild bossy position though no total authority, a middle level stage..whom the newbies love to avoid if you are choking with unwanted gyaan!! Hair colour or henna is mandatory , still the silver lining shines through!! And you do not miss to scan over the head of anyone near thirties..for a peer like feeling..any streaks of silver will do.

Huh.. dread the forties.. more peers and more pressures. With a growing child, waif thin moms would be the new peer group.. endless list.. And to think of fifties and sixties...can i relax with a head full of grey hair, acidic stomach, high bp and ' sugary' body, arthritic knees and what not,  perhaps admiring looks from men would clinch the deal...and perhaps flirting would be smooth and easy with no baggage of goody image hanging over head....and without a bit of make up applied!

Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle
Bohat niklay mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle...

A thousand desires, each worth dying for
So many realised... yet i yearn for more

:-)


Monday, 18 April 2016

Offline



She made another cup of coffee and stared at her contact list once again. No green dot visible. He was not online. Staring at the contact list won,t help but what option was there. Loneliness was killing, the day and evening kept her busy, but the nights at home... the unknown chat rooms lured her and kept her awake till late. She knew the virtual world was nothing but real and basically those logged in who were as frustrated  and as lonely as her, or those who just looked for dates and some fun or may be those who in some odd moments had a desire for the unknown.

In one of these rooms she came across ' stranger11' , though she had long chat sessions with many...things lingered on between her and ' stranger 11'  till it became a habit and a necessity. He had divulged the details about himself, few years younger than her and in software, well that,s what everybody says. Besides was she interested...the chat sessions were fun and captivating. And she was happy it wasn,t  coming to ' let us meet' , the part she avoided and disliked. Reason being her looks and age though she wouldn,t like to believe, that the one deterrent and she was contented in the virtual world which at least didn,t need a make up and latest outfits, grey hair cover and a flat tummy. Was she unsocial, introvert... well forty four years of life had sown an aversion for social life which she didn,t and couldn,t get over.

Stranger11  called himself  Deepu and never asked for her pic to her relief. Chats, texts  used to pour in through out the day making her smile at any odd time when she was totally immersed in her work. And they stopped one fine day, this is what happened in chat rooms she knew. Yet the pain was there invariably, the suffocating unbearable pain.. like it was when Sanjay had left her. Only this time she did not have to answer  the prying eyes, her parents... it was her own private hell  which gnawed at her from all sides once she reached home. She would log out of the messenger, re log try to ping anyone else she finds gets frustrated to the full then drift off to sleep. She knew it wasn,t Deepu , it was just her loneliness... if Sanjay hadn,t left her... tears pricked her eyes. She could settle again, why wander in these bogus chat rooms, mom always insisted....incoherent thoughts stumbled one upon another and she couldn,t remember any more.

Mornings found her fresh and active, being friday she was in a extra cheerful mood. Time to pack her bags and get ready for a lovely weekend with mom and  Rishu her nine year old son. The ' stranger11'  mourning seemed exaggerated and irrelevant. End of a hectic day at work she cheerfully sat behind the wheels, couple of hours and Rishu. She was humming her favourite tune when the messenger beeped, she opened her inbox absent mindedly.

stranger11   Hey was out of network for a while, problem with SIM card.

Oh really, and problem with wi fi and cell number as well, she murmured, her eyes on the road.

stranger11  Arey believe me, dont stare with those eyes. Ok fine it was my wedding  so kept the number inactive.

She stared disbelievingly.

stranger11   ( lots of smileys) and you believed it... arey baba i,m dad to two big kids. So can,t be my wedding. And please rule out the ideas of old and new girl friends, i have a big fat wife.

She had to smile. There were many questions, but did they need answer...

stranger11   ok will ping you after you finish your hug sessions with Rishu and bitch sessions with mom. Can look at the road now.

And she did, looked at the lovely road ahead, road to Rishu, road to her existence and went offline.







Sunday, 17 April 2016

Near Miss


Near miss. That was what it was called in aviation. Just saved by whiskers. The car screeched to a halt. The auto rickshaw driver ahead was showering a volley of cuss words, Palash tried to wave him off.

Palash pressed the accelerator and swerved  his car around the auto lending a deaf ear his yells. Fault was his, Palash knew that well but here in this city you are never at fault... always it has to be the other. Besides the other here is an auto driver so it doesn't count really. But why was he so lost, that he almost had rammed into the auto!! Palash bit his lips hard surely Shraddha wasn't the only girl in the world. But she just seemed the one damn it!! The anger swelled inside again as he tried hard to gain composure. Why not me!!!!  He was the topper and definitely the better looking. Was he exaggerating.. .not at all.. tall and fit he definitely could give anyone a tough fight!!

 Four  months of training together gave him enough time to woo her which he did the best he could. He knew she was impressed or at least he thought so.  Not that she was the prettiest girl around, yet being in the same profession he had a feeling she would be good for him.They did have a chemistry and when they were posted in the same city their bond only strengthened. Why... he always helped her pull through all the assignments and interviews. In fact the boys were jealous of her as she had all his attention and all his tips and she was doing almost as well. While on the job they continued dating and it was obvious very soon they would tie the knot. He knew it would be a bit tough convincing his parents and extended family but that was nothing he could not get through. He had met her family and he knew they just waited for them to get together.

So what was it... he  wasn,t fully unaware of the laid back shabby pseudo intellectual Neeraj getting close to Shraddha, yet no way he could take them seriously. He had expressed his displeasure to her at his advances...but seriously!! He did feel left out when they laughed their hearts out at jokes he couldn,t get hang of. And finally today with his first promotion he was in the perfect mood to fix the date with her. She had rejected politely, he was stupefied to say the least. He  had tried  to reason, plead.... do you need more time.... she had nodded in negative firmly. He had lost his patience finally.

' Tell me who is it' he had fumed ' How dare you'

Finally he left in fury.... ' I don't care less'

Alone in the car he felt lost, cheated, mad. Women!!!  But did he lose to Neeraj.... Neeraj of all the people. Or was it Shraddha who lost him.

Anger seethed through him, self pity swayed him.

The beeping cell phone caught his eyes. Ma.

He switched on the speaker trying to park the car in sideways.

'Beta....this match is excellent! I have sent you her snap. You will love her....'   Ma went on

' Are you coming down this weekend... we want to finalise'

' Yes Ma i will'

Palash had checked the pic putting his mom's call on speaker.... and a breeziness filled his heart past the gloom and despair.

' Next weekend'

Ah near miss all right. He put on the music as he started the vehicle.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Music for the soul


Music would be one of the best things to happen in  life. Though i know my knowledge of music is limited and in one of my sulking days would feel had my knowledge of classical music been sound...perhaps i,m missing out  on another world, world of raagas, thumris and tappas.. but so much to my lack of knowledge of sur and taal, it couldn,t deter me from loving wholeheartedly the world of Hindi film music.

It began with Ma taking me to theatres to watch the latest Amitabh Bacchan or Rajesh Khanna flick in the small town of Assam we lived then, unable to make out anything then some bleak pictures of the songs reinforced sometimes by broadcasts in radio! And then the God of all Hindi songs programme ' Chitrahaar' on Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 pm. I never knew love for Chitrahaar and so called contemporary hindi songs to keep up with peers would some day result in a genuine love for music. The little radio my Baba had, and how the little magic box would be mine in his absence and my first lessons on loving music.  Though my love for radio was to keep up with peers, the world of Kishore ,Lata, R.D was mesmerizing...and i remember Ma raising her head from her chores... ' This song .. i really love.. watched the movie' and we would listen to the song together... ' Actually we bunked college and went for this movie..' She would smile.... I would wonder how ' daring' she had been..

From all the Anand Milind, Nadeem Shravan songs i forayed into Kishore Lata duet.. and then with a little sense the poetry of Gulzar, dash of Urdu..then semi classical songs with Manna Dey . I  began to love the classical song programme which used to come on Mondays...My days activities were scheduled by programmes on radio,doing Math assignment or any sort of writing work listening to radio in the tiny room i had  .. Chhaya Geet , Aap ki Farmayish at night, Phone-in Kalpataru.. mix of Assamese and Hindi songs from Guwahati radio station weekly. Though my mother would take part actively in rebuking in my mad obsession with the ' magic box' along with everyone else but that would not stop her from humming and remarking offhandedly ' I have heard that song "live" from Bhupen Hazarika'..

Somehow i got my first tape recorder in my class twelve..it was left over by aunt as she got a CD player...my happiness simply knew no bounds to be able to listen to the song i wished and not wait for the radio to play.. the first cassette i bought , ' Nikaah and Umrao Jaan' from HMV...the poetry was a discovery for me.. faza bhi hain  jawan jawan, beetein huye lamho, zindagi jab bhi teri bazm mein lati hain hume.. my entry into the word of poetry and ghazals. My next one was ' Khamoshi and Safar'..Wo shyam, Humne dekhi hain un aankho ki.... i used to listen again and again...for the first time songs transcended into something more than film adaptations but something with a soul of their own. My neighbour in my home town thought himself to be a bit of ' Bappi Lahiri' and as i felt later all Bengalis with a love of music have this urge to be a Kishore Kumar clone.. implicit explicit!! Nevertheless he loved music all the same and had a huge collection..i remember listening to Bhupender, Suresh Wadekar.. also from my aunt some Rabindra Sangeet.. i liked that  too but somehow since exposure was less...my love for this genre did not bloom really as it should have and i have a feeling i missed out on it...

Anyway with time in this day of net and ' downloaded' and online music.. my first love still remains radio..guess i love the surprise element..FM Gold, Big FM... FM gold still has ghazal based show ( Andaze Bayan) , raag based show and Big 92.7 has this ' Yaadon ka idiot box' i have begun to like recently.. songs are ordinary though but narrative captivating. In college days i had some short affair with MTV and some western music but short lived since Indian MTv soon moved to Hindi contemporary film music and i had to move on

So many genres unexplored...life  is so short.. i would like to hear more of Rabindra Sangeet, Shyamal Mitra, Hemanta Mukherjee, ghazals of Ghulam Ali , Hindustani Classical, Bhupen Hazarika ....but am happy with Gulzar and his poetry..Kaifi Azmi.. and the timeless songs together they have woven with the music makers..the ' Bhatiali' ( music of the boatmen) genre of S. D. Burmaan, the timeless creations of Bhupen Hazarika the songs of my land..creators create and mundanes like me rejoice inthese ethereal creations..

Travelling and music i can widely connect.. roads and music...throws life into another realm, another reality, another heaven... Music the food for soul... though at times i do feel and as my brother ridicules me i could not move on, my taste almost same  it was years ago, i am caught in that era of old mellifluous music and somehow the new era of music could not captivate me rather not able to pull me out of the old world where i am stuck with the songs i have listened for the umpteenth time.

Time to move on... really!!!



Thursday, 14 April 2016

Locked


She could hear them screaming, yelling, all cuss words filling in the room along with giggles and squeals of laughter. All snacks served, glasses refilled Aarti was helping her domestic help tidy up the kitchen as Revati  was babbling continuously.... these kids boudi...my Angshu Ria...both had parties last week.

The girl i could see at least... but the boy boudi...he is the master of all!!

Revati rubbed the glasses vehemently, Aarti thought of reminding her to go gentle as another squeal caught their attention. 

'Have you seen the girls boudi... could we ever imagine....'

We... Aarti smiled to herself there was no We, she and Revati was no we actually but Aarti refrained from remark as if she could make any. Nia,s voice distracted them once again.

'Ashlesh da is smart.'   Revati gave a wide smile. ' Don't you like him boudi'

Aarti could not think of what to say, 'Aaah Revati.'

'Remember when you brought Nia first in this house...'    Aarti knew Revati was in her flashback mode. She kept listening to Revati,s blabber halfheartedly smiling in between at anything Revati mentioned that she could recollect. Aarti knew she and Revati shared this bond of raising Nia almost together and while Varun her husband was away in long tours it was Revati who was her pillar. Now Nia  was in her room with her herd of friends, Ashlesh being one of them whom Revati has chosen for Nia!!Would she settle down... Nia was too young and has a lot to see in life yet. Aarti was in no hurry at all, rather Varun,s  continuous imploring... What,s she making of her life had her a bit worried. Though she knew Nia was smart enough to take care of her life.

' Here hold the cup'  Revati handed her the cup.... Aarti nodded with pleasure as she took the cup. This woman knew her so well, endless times they spent with Nia when she was not well, when she first went to school, her first birthday, endless cups of tea they had together over so many years. They had watched Nia grow, change her boyfriends, save her from Varun though he was the one who pampered the most at times.

Nia wanted to move out. She had already chosen an apartment. Aarti could not bring herself to share this with anyone.  Would Ashlesh move in as well... she dreaded about breaking the news to Varun , let Nia do it herself. She wanted to tell Revati sometimes badly, she stared at the dark face with all the marks of wisdom scattered everywhere.

' You will give me a Benarasi at Nia's wedding'  

' Uuuff    Revati!!!!'    Aarti nodded in exasperation.

' Of course boudi you have to.'   Her eyes shone as she sipped her tea.

' Revati Masi please refill some chicken pop corns .' Nia's voice came from the corner.

' Yes a minute' Revati finished her tea and began to rush to kitchen.

'  Ask your dear Nia to get you the Benarasi.'  Aarti quipped, long days of frustration and loneliness without Nia loomed large,and the question and answers from all... she didn,t know what to do!

' Don't worry boudi Nia had already promised me a gold chain at her wedding'  Revati smiled shyly.

I stared wide eyed.... ' Did she...'

' She had locked her word with me. She won,t go back like you'  The wide smile continued and Revati was inside the kitchen humming some latest popular number Aarti hated.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Knotted



Family, kids… responsibilities the words played havoc. She dodged them as best as she could. Once you taste your freedom other tastes shun you. The taste of freedom… and she loved hers loved it dearly. From the time she woke up when sun rays rush way past her heavily curtained windows to the time her domestic help gets her coffee and newspaper on bed to the late night movies and parties she attend and trekking tour she takes. Freedom all the way.

Her job was steady, decent, fair enough salary and gave her ample time. Credit to the exam she had cleared once her job did not take the life out of her as she had seen others engaged in more gruesome sectors. There were nagging parents, more inquisitive relatives, dying for men but more than all her group of girl friends, colleagues who crib with husbands, babies and mother in laws. Most likely they were the ones who put her mind totally off any sort of commitment and gradually the resolve tightened.

Men… they have been around and gradually seem more of a nuisance. Sometimes she would reject one her parents chose siting the reason he was not intelligent enough other times he was not earning enough and the remaining time he was not good looking enough. But then sometimes out of turn things happen and that trekking trip brought her close to this man… not his looks which were indeed very good and not his career which she was hardly aware of, it was his charm which blew her off her feet. Though she wanted to badly and was hoping he would ask for her number which she would politely reject…nothing of the sort happened and she continued tasting savoring her own freedom.

The twist when parents got along with the prospective grooms’ family like house of fire and she came to know the man was the prince charming of her trekking trip her freedom penchant faltered and she was eager to taste the fruit of the forbidden bliss.

A romantic courtship, dream wedding, more romantic honeymoon and the beginning of a lovey dovey wedded life all fell into place. She glowed with love and pleasure. And then…mother-in-laws chiding remarks which kept her on toes more than any competitive exam ever could, making secret phone calls to parents and cribbing and the prince charming…. a male chauvinist mamma,s boy who irked her in no time. And before eight in the morning she was ready with tea and after an hour with breakfast before she rushed madly for work.

Knotted she was....