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झील

एक झील है यहीं पास में

तेरी आँखों से गहरी और मेरे अरमानो से ज्यादा थकी हुई

किनारे उसके टहलने चला जाता हूँ कभी

वो जो गाना था हम साथ में गुनगुनाते थे

पत्थर बाँध कर उसी झील में फेंक आया हु|

 

यूँ  घबरा मत, वहां हो महफूज़ है|

झील के ताल में धरा है|

पापा के स्कूटर, लकड़ी-गारे के पुराने घर, दादी की कहानियो, नाना के पेड़ो, माँ के गुर्दे और दोस्तों की साइकिल से निकली हवा के साथ|

 

वैसे तो गोता भी मैं ठीक-ठाक लगा लेता हूँ

पर इस झील में कम ही लगता हूँ|

अन्दर जाने के ख्याल से ही सांस रुक सी जाती है|

 

लेकिन आज बात कुछ अलग सी हो गयी है|

अब तू आ ही  गयी है, न चाहते हुए गोता तो मैं लगाऊंगा ही

 

पता नहीं फिर कब बदन सूखेगा?

पता नहीं कब मैं उबर पाउँगा?IMG_4772.JPG

 

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Book review : आज़ादी मेरा ब्रांड – अनुराधा बेनीवाल

वैसे तो मैं कोई पेशेवर समीक्षक तो हूँ नहीं| अजी पेशेवर तो छोडिये, शौकिया भी नहीं हूँ| तो फिर किस क्षमता से मैं ये रिव्यु लिख रहा हूँ? सच कहूँ तो कोई भी नहीं| क्युकी इस किताब को निकले ज्यादा वक़्त नहीं हुआ है, और इन्टरनेट पर अभी तक ज्यादा रिव्युस नहीं आये हैं, मैंने मौका देख कर रिव्यु लिख डाला, शायद अपना ब्लॉग इसके चलते ही चल जाए! और फिर एक आम पाठक ही वो आम पाठको वाला रिव्यु दे सकता है न….

अगर आपने स्वदेस फिल्म देखी है तो आपको उस फिल्म का वो सीन ज़रूर याद होगा, जब मोहन(शाहरुख़ खान का किरदार) से गाँव वाले अमेरिका के बारे में पूछते है और जैसे ही मोहन अमेरिका के बारे में अच्छी बातें बताना शुरू करते है गाँव वाले उनसे वितर्क करते है| और फिर एक ताऊ कहते है कि हमारे पास कुछ ऐसी चीज़ है जो किसी और के पास नहीं हो सकती – संस्कार और परंपरा| और फिर वो ये कहते हुए वहाँ से उठ के चले जाते है कि भारत दुनिया का सबसे महान देश था, सबसे महान है और सबसे महान रहेगा| और ये सीन मेरे लिए उस फिल्म का सार था| हम भारतीयों में खुद की कमियों या गलतियों को अस्वीकार करने की जो प्रवृत्ति है वो हमारे बेहतर होने की कोशिशो को बेअसर कर देती है| उस सीन का मेरे मन पर एक चिरस्थायी प्रभाव या अंग्रेजी में कहे तो लास्टिंग इम्प्रैशन रह गया| और अनुराधा की किताब ‘आज़ादी मेरा ब्रांड’ भी कुछ ऐसा ही प्रभाव छोड जाती है|

‘आजादी मेरा ब्रांड’ कहने को तो एक अकेली भारतीय लड़की की यूरोप ट्रिप का यात्रा वृतांत है, लेकिन ये कितने सारी सतहों पर उससे कहीं ज्यादा हो जाता है| सिर्फ यात्रा-वृतांत कह देना इस किताब के पोटेंशियल को क्षीण करके दिखाना होगा| अनु की यात्रा जितनी सतह के उप्पर है उससे कही ज्यादा उसके भीतरी भी है, एक आइसबर्ग की तरह| और सच में अनुराधा(जिन्हें मैं अपने आलस्य के चलते आगे ‘अनु’ कहूँगा) एक ऐसी घुमंतू है जो बिना किसी लाग-लगाव, दुराव-छुपाव अपने हिसाब से हर नए अनुभव को एक बालिका की मासूमियत से आपसे अपनी कलम के ज़रिये साझा करती जाती है| वैसे तो मैं कोई अथॉरिटी नही हूँ उनके या किसी के भी साहित्य पर टिपण्णी करने के लिए, लेकिन ये मेरे अभी तक के पढ़े किसी भी यात्रा वृतांत से बिलकुल अलग है| क्यों अलग है, कैसे अलग है ये कुछ तो मैं लिख के बता सकता हु और कुछ आपको खुद पढ़ के जानना होगा|

सबसे पहली बात तो ये कि अनु की लेखनी सकारात्मक उर्जा का एक धमाका है| पढ़ते वक़्त न जाने कितने ऐसे क्षण आये कि मैं खुद को मुस्कुराने से रोक नहीं पाया| अनु की लेखन शैली बेहद ही सहज है, वो बिलकुल भी साहित्यिक लगने की कोशिश नहीं करती| लेकिन कोई कुशल संगीतकार या कोई कुशल बारटेंडर जिस तरह उपयुक्त चीजों को सही मात्रा में मिला कर आपको मुघ्द कर देता है ठीक उसी तरह अनु भी आपको अपनी बातो के मधुर कॉकटेल से बंधे रखती है| इस किताब को पढ़ते-पढ़ते कितनी दफा तो मैं ये ही भूल गया कि मैं एक किताब पढ़ रहा हूँ| अनु के ऑब्जरवेशन और खुद से संवाद इतने व्यापक, इतने रेसोनेंट है कि पढ़ते हुए कितनी बार तो आपको ऐसा लगेगा कि शायद ये किताब आपने ही लिखी है या अनु ने आपका दिमाग पढ़ के लिख डाली है| कम से कम मुझे तो कई बार ऐसा लगा| जैसे की – नदी का रास्ता पकड़ कर शहर घुमने का नुस्खा, पेशाब न कर पाने की मुसीबत, भाषाई रूप से खुद को अनाथ महसूस करना, हिंदी-अंग्रेजी के बीच हर दिन चल रहा द्वन्द, अर्रेंज मैरिज का कांसेप्ट न समझ पाना, पूर्वी और पश्चिमी सभ्यता के टकसाली ढांचे की वैधता, भारतीय समाज में लडको और लडकियों को एक उम्र तक अलग अलग करके रखना| लिस्ट बोहोत लम्बी है, जनाब!

पूरी किताब का सबसे रोचक हिस्सा या हिस्से रहे अनु के विविध प्रकार के होस्ट्स| फिर चाहे वो प्राहा के कम्यून रूपी घर के फ़क़ीरनुमा होस्ट, या बर्लिन के नौकरीपेशा मध्यम वर्गीय आम शेहरी| ये अनुभव पढ़ कर आप सोचने पर मजबूर हो जाएँगे कि कैसे कोई किसी अजनबी के लिए अपने घर के दरवाज़े बिना किसी शक-शुबे के खुल सकता है? और घर के दरवाज़े खोल देना बस घर तक ही सीमित नहीं रह जाता न| चंद दिनो के लिए होस्ट मेहमान का और मेहमान होस्ट की ज़िन्दगी का हिस्सा ही बन जाता है| सच कहू तो हमारे समाज में तो आजकल रिश्ते-नातेदार भी इतनी आत्मीयता और सहजता से अपने सगे संबंधियों को ओने घर में, जीवन में प्रवेश नहीं देते| हो सकता है रिश्ते-नातो के पूर्वपरिभाषित नियमो का अभाव ही इस तरह के मेल-जोल को जन्म दे सकता है| अनुराधा की एक होस्टेस के उनकी माँ से खट्टे-मीठे सम्बन्ध के बारे में पढ़ कर तो शायद ऐसा ही लगता है| हर रिश्ता अपने आप में अलग है, क्युकी हर माँ एक अलग शाख्सियत और और हर बेटी एक अलग| क्यों हम इन रिश्तो को एक ही सांचे में ढाल कर देखना चाहते है?

इसी तरह के कई प्रत्यक्ष और अप्रत्यक्ष सवाल पूछते हुए अनु पढने वाले को यूरोप के एक अलग चेहरे से पहचान कराती चलती है| इस सबसे उप्पर इस किताब में सबसे अहम एक नैरेटिव है – भारतीय समाज में महिलाओं को मिलने वाली आज़ादी| और इस पुरे नैरेटिव को समेटता हुआ अंत में है अनु का भारतीय लड्कियो के नाम एक बेहद प्रोत्साहक सन्देश| लेकिन शायद यही इस किताब से मेरी सबसे बड़ी शिकायत है(दूसरी शिकायत अंत में बताऊंगा)| इस किताब का असल सन्देश सिर्फ भारतीय लडकियों के लिए ही नहीं वरन भारत के हर युवा के लिए है| सबसे पहले तो इस लिए कि जितनी ज़रुरत लडकियों को अपनी आज़ादी क्लेम करने की है उतनी ही ज़रुरत लडको को ये जानने-समझने की है कि समाज का दूसरा हिस्सा उनसे क्या अपेक्षा रखता है| ये किताब एक बहुत अच्छा वाहन है नौजवानो के ये समझने के लिए कि वो क्या सब है जिससे हम अपने समाज में लडकियों को वंचित रख रहे है| अनु के संस्मरण भरे पड़े है ऐसे कई मर्दों से जो कही न कही ऐसा माहौल बनाने में मदद करते है जिसमे कोई भी व्यक्ति, मर्द या औरत, निर्भीक हो कर अपने आप को व्यक्त कर सके| ये आइना है हमारे लिए और हमारे समाज के मूल्यों के लिए| अनु जब पेरिस में अपनी भारतीय सहेली के घर की हिपोक्रिसी को बेपर्दा करती है तो वो सिर्फ एक दंपत्ति को ही नहीं, हमारे पुरे समाज को कटघरे में खड़ा कर देता है| और इसी तरह मध्य पूर्व से आये प्रवासियों में भी महिलाओ को असमान अपेक्षाओ का होना कही न कही भारतीय समाज में मौजूद वैसी ही मान्यताओ को प्रश्न करता है| हमारे नेता और निति निर्माता हमेशा जात-पात के चलते समाज में रहे शोषण और दमन को लेकर तो हर तरह का शोर मचाते है पर एक भेदभाव जो समाज के हर तबके और हर जाती में साफ़ तौर पर पाया जाता है, उसे सामाजिक व्यवस्था या नियम मान कर नज़रंदाज़ कर दिया जाता है| ये हमारा ढोंग, हमारी हिपोक्रिसी नहीं तो और क्या है कि एक तरफ तो हम सबको बराबर का मौका देने की बात करते है और दूसरी तरफ आज भी महिलाओ को धर्मस्थल में प्रवेश के लिए भी आन्दोलन करना पड़ता है| सरकारें इस आन्दोलन के विरुद्ध कोर्ट में केस तक कर देती है| और हिपोक्रिसी को चुनौती सिर्फ मर्द-औरत के बीच की दुरी के मुद्दे तक सीमित नहीं है| कई जगह अनु हमारे खुद को पश्चिम से आध्यात्मिक तौर पर बेहतर होने या संस्कारो में रिच होने के दंभ भरने की प्रवृत्ति को भी चुनौती देती है और वो भी पुरे साक्ष्य के साथ| लेकिन क्या ये सच हो सकता है? हम जो की खुद को विश्व गुरु बुलाते है, भला किसी से आध्यात्म में पिछड़ सकते है? ये और ऐसे कई सवाल है जिन पर चिंतन करना हमारे लिए बहुत ही ज़रूरी है| खैर मुद्दे पर वापस आते है, दूसरा कारण कि ये किताब सिर्फ लडकियों के लिए प्रेरक नहीं वो है उस मेंटल कंडीशनिंग को चुनौती देना जो हमे बचपन से किसी चीज़ को बिना जाने बिना समझे उसके बारे में मत बना लेना सिखा देती है| कही न कही हमारे समाज में, हमारी परम्पराओं में शुरू से बच्चो के मानसिक अनुकूलन कर देने का चलन है| जहां एक बच्चे को अपने जूते के फीते तक ढंग से बंधना नहीं आते, वहाँ उसे ये सिखा दिया जाता है कि बीस साल बाद उसे क्या बन जाना है| उसे ये घुट्टी में पिला दिया जाता है कि क्या अच्छा और क्या बुरा है| स्कूल की किताबो के साथ-साथ, छद्म रूप से उसे एक और किताब का पाठ दिया जाता है – समाज की नियमावली या सोशल रुलबूक|  मुझे ये बताने की कतई ज़रुरत नहीं है कि किस खूबसूरती से अनु अपने वृतांत में हमारे समाज की इस टेंडेंसी को आइना दिखा देती है| वो अपनी किताब के हर अध्याय के साथ उस रुलबूक को पुर्जा-पुर्जा करके विसर्जित करती जाती है| वो हर नए अनुभव को उसकी योग्यता पे आंकती है, बिना किसी पूर्वाग्रह के| और यहाँ अनु के विचारो में न तो कोई ‘colonial baggage’ है जो यूरोप पे लिखने वाले अधिकतर भारतीय लेखको की किताबो में मिलता है, जिसमे की अंग्रेज़ ही हो जाने की चाह हो और न ही ‘मेरा भारत सबसे महान’ वाली विचारधारा का कोई अंश है| वो तो बस इस यात्रा को अनुभव कर रही है| लेकिन वो अपनी इस यात्रा के दौरान हर मोड़ पर अपने मन को टटोलती है और खुद से, हमारे समाज से कई ऐसे सवाल पूछती है जो हमे असहज कर सकते है|

हर समाज का किसी मनुष्य की ही तरह मेचुरिटी लेवल होता है| लोकतंत्र को अपनाने के लिए भी समाज को एक स्तर तक मेचुर होना पड़ता है, जिस तरह गाडी चलाने का लाइसेंस एक उम्र के बाद ही मिलता है| हर कोई अपनी ही गलती से सीखता है| जिस तरह चलते हुए गिरने पर कोई बच्चा फिर कोशिश करता है, गलती सुधारने की उसे बेहतर करने की, अनुराधा भी हमारे समाज के लिए वही कोशिश कर रही है| हाँ इसमें कोई दो राय नहीं कि भारत में सभ्यता आदि काल से है और हमारे समाज में कई ऐसी चीज़े है जो बहुत अच्छी भी है| मगर इस बात में भी कोई दो राय नहीं होनी चाहिए कि हमारा समाज आधुनिक काल में अपनी धुरी खोज रहा है| और इसके लिए प्रमुख कारण है परिवेश का बदल जाना| एक समाज जो कि सदियों तक राजा-महाराजाओं का दास रहा, जिसको हर नियम एक आदेश स्वरुप थोंप दिया जाता था, आज अपने नियम खुद बना रहा है| जहां कोशिश ये है कि हर किसी को अपने विचार रखने की पूरी आज़ादी हो, वहाँ कई तरह की विचारधाराएँ एक साथ होना लाज़मी है| अब ये समाज के उप्पर है कि इस तरह की डाइवर्सिटी को वो कैसे हैंडल करता है| अगर वो किसी नासमझ टीनएजर की तरह बर्ताव करे तो वो होगा जो आज हमारे समाज में हो रहा है – टकराव| और अगर किसी समझदार तीस की उम्र को छुते हुए व्यक्ति की तरह बर्ताव करे तो वो होगा जो होना चाहिए| लेकिन जनाब समझदारी तो आते-आते ही आती है, या यु कहे इसे लाना पड़ता है| कैसे? अपनी गलतियाँ पहचान के, उनसे सीख के| ये समझ के कि इतनी सारी जो विचारधाराएँ है उनमे से सबके लिए सुगम कौनसी है| और अपनी इस किताब के साथ, जाने-अनजाने अनुराधा एक्सेक्ट्ली यही कर रही है|

अंत में बची हुई दूसरी शिकायत! किताब के अंतिम दो चैप्टर थोड़े जल्दी समेटे हुए लगे| जिनको पढ़ते हुए एक अधूरी चाह सी रह गयी| जैसे चार रसगुल्लो की जगह तीन दशमलव नौ शुन्य ही खाने को मिले| लेकिन हो सकता है ये पहले के कुछ चैप्टर्स के अत्यंत प्रभावी होने के कारण हुआ हो|

‘आज़ादी मेरा ब्रांड’ ऑनलाइन आर्डर की जा सकती है, इस लिंक पे|

 

 

The Sunset Journey

inside-victoria-terminus-mumbai-bombay

I dashed through the dysfunctional metal detector at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Or rather the Victoria Terminus, as it is called by people who want to assert their inherited linkage to the city. The beautiful city by the sea, Mumbai. To me these people are in denial of accepting the fact that the city, which had its origin in the colonial era, had evolved out of its colonial past. I have always been baffled by this strange tendency to keep holding to very trivial memories amongst a lot of people. They clinch to it like a creeper does to a wall. Although accepting the change would not make an ounce of difference. I mean, would the magnificent, imposing Victorian structure change if we called it the CST instead of the VT. But then, whatever the name, it hardly bothered me. I am not made for Mumbai and I never had hesitation in accepting that. As far as the standard Mumbaikar mold goes, I am a diametrically opposite entity. I am lazy and slow; I cannot remain focused for even a minute; I hate crowded places and I really, really hate humidity.  My sprint through the platform was a metaphor for my desire to escape. I felt like a lab rat put in the condition most inhospitable to its species, just to see how fast it escapes. I had already made a fool of myself when I came down to Mumbai wearing a business suit in the month of May. My shirt was already sticking like a postal stamp to my body, all drenched in the costal sweet, beneath the expensive suit.  But that annoying feeling needed to be pushed to a lower position in the priority queue, top place taken by – Make your way through the sea of humanity and board the train before it leaves. Making your way through Mumbai crowds should be a recognized globally as an urban adventure sport.

Deccan Queen, one of the most famous trains to run in India. It plies between Mumbai and Pune on a daily basis since the times of the Raj. Had I not been in a hurry to board it I would have taken a minute or two to wonder about why the name of the train, another reminiscent of the colonial era, has not been changed yet. And how long till someone notices. The insides of the coach was no different from the overcrowded platform, but it had a promise. A promise of escape. In Mumbai you would see creature of only your own species everywhere. This should be what an ant sees when it looks around in a huge colony of ants.

The announcement that the train would be leaving shortly, came like breeze of cool air in hot summer. I tried to figure out, amidst the splendid chaos within the cramped up coach, the seat number that I was assigned by the benign online booking website of Indian railways. The reason why I am talking of the website with such reverence is because the website is a living entity of its own! It is manifestation of the great Indian government machinery, which like a tribal deity needs to be coaxed and cajoled to deliver your wishes. No Indian, willing to travel through the world’s largest railroad network, would risk angering it.

’26’ I mumbled. Sitting there was girl whom I had already noticed through my peripheral vision. Without looking towards her, I started settling my bag above the seat.

“Is 26 yours?” She asked, I was still struggling with the various straps of my bag. Without paying much attention, I just responded in an indifferent ‘hmm’. But as she spoke my brain almost alarmed started sending signals that said something is happening which is departure from the usual

“Actually I have some problem sitting in direction opposite to motion, would you be fine to switch this with mine? It is this one” She pointed to the seat just in front of mine. But by this time the talk about swapping seats appeared to be immaterial.

“Anku!” I exclaimed almost instinctively

“Rohan” She screamed. Her eyes lit up with the same sparkle that I had associated so much with her. Instantly I knew that there won’t be a dull moment in this whole journey. Ankita was seating in front of me. It took me a minute to realise that it has been 4 years since I had last seen her. She was wearing a salwar kameez which to me seemed a departure from the usual Ankita that I knew.

“You can’t believe, can you?” Her quizzing eyes looking straight into mine

“What?”

“That I have changed so much. The bindi, the mangalsutra, this whole Salwar Kameez thing.” She giggled. She enjoyed surprising people.

“Well, I have seen stranger things happen. So, I would not say that I cannot believe that you changed. But what surprises me is that we meet after so many years and that too on a train. I mean, we have so many friends in common but never did it happen that we meet at someone’s place, maybe accidentally. We meet on a goddamn train.” I shook my head

“True. And look at you. All suited up. No stubble. Show your nails to me” She pulled my hands infront of her.

“See. All nice and cropped. Kya baat hai?” She threw in her usual gesture of admiration

“Yes. You are not the only one who has been hit by life. Everyone gets a fair chance. I had a meeting in Mumbai, with a publisher. So had to present my best self.” I admitted

“Publisher! So are you finally getting published?” She almost screamed

“Yes”

“What is the book about?” Going by the Ankita from college I was expecting her to jump up and down, right and left.

“Some science fiction bullshit” I tried to play down

“What!? When did you start writing that? No love stories?”

“Not anymore. And moreover there are too many idiots writing love stories. But science fiction is niche. I wouldn’t have got published for next 10 years had I kept writing those candy floss love stories.”

“Oh my God. I cannot believe it. You know when I used to tell Aakash that you deserve to get published he always mocked you.”

“Well, as it happens to be, he is the one who helped me to get through to the chief editor of this publishing house.” I flashed the information for her

“I know. You guys are like this. You would catch a grenade for each other but would always make fun in each other’s face.” The light in her eyes seemed to die as if the source of her energy had been turned down. I knew what the reason was. When I first saw her calling my name, I knew this moment would come. Could I have avoided discussing on this? I asked to myself. Maybe not. Because Aakash was the link between Ankita and me. It was because of him that we knew each other.

Suddenly both of us went quiet. Unexpectedly we ran out of topics to talk. I kept evaluating things that we could talk upon but rejected each one of those in my mind, because some way or the other each thing linked to Aakash. She kept looking out of the window. The urban landscape of Mumbai, with all the chaos and disarrangement, was getting left behind. The queen, as it is called, raced away from the city by the sea towards the city by the mountains – Pune. The distinct costal smell of Mumbai was getting lighter and the temperature lesser. Sun went down somewhere behind the cluster of concrete giants, which from a distance were looking like half made sculptures of a novice.

“So, when are you getting married?” She asked trying to break the envelope of awkwardness

“I don’t know. Maybe 2 years from now” Unknowingly she had now pushed me into a more awkward territory not that I was comfortable already.

“Why? Are things alright between you and Kalpana?” She asked with a concerned voice.

“Well. She is not there anymore. We separated.” I tried not to look towards her as I kept gazing out of the window. The sunlight still shone on the face of the distant cliffs which came closer with each passing moment.

“Why what happened?” She asked. Although I didn’t want to bring up any discussion about Kalpana with anyone, but the simple fact that Ankita didn’t think twice before asking what happened made me feel glad. It is only with people who are really close to your heart, that you can ask anything without the fear of hurting your relationship. I had always felt that I was the closest to Ankita, among all of Aakash’s friends.

“The irony is, I don’t know.” I shook my head as I half smiled and half did god-knows-what.

“She simply left. And it appears that she doesn’t want to have any contact. Although she never told this to me and when I asked she just said that she needs some time by herself. She seemed to be intimidated by the fact that I knew her too well. I stepped back and it has been two years since then. So many times I think of calling her but then I don’t. We were not in a relationship where we could not have talked if there had been a problem. I mean, she could’ve told me what the problem was.” I just stopped abruptly there were so many things on my mind that I simply could not process the whole chunk of thoughts.

I turned to her. Her eyes still fixed on me. She had a look of a mother who had just seen her child fall down but would not help the child, just to let it learn.

“Don’t worry.” I tried to brush away her worries with a smile

“I am alright now. I am over her now” I assured

“Are you?”

“Well, that’s what I tell myself everyday”

“You know Rohan, people say that all the time that they are over some person. But actually that never happens. I know how it is. Once you are with someone, completely into the relationship you allow that person to touch your life and alter your life like no other. If and when that person goes away the impressions still remain. Like even the sculptor leaves a work incomplete still the work speaks of the sculptor’s art. That incomplete statue will always be there even if the maker has gone away. So don’t tell me you are over her”

“Maybe you are right. But there is no other way to overcome. You know, when this happened I would not sleep for days at a stretch. Everything in my life was a mess. I could not remember even the slightest things. Sometimes I would keep staring at the mirror in the bathroom thinking whether I have brushed or not. I realised how important she was to me. She was the one thing that stablised my life. For a very long period of time things stopped making sense at all. There was no real value attached to anything I did. All seemed worthless

Without her my life was like a plane without a wing, somersaulting on its way to a crash. But then one day I questioned myself – how long would I be living like this? Either I end everything or I get out of this mess. It was not just me but everybody around me who was getting affected by this. And then I think I decided to move over her.”

She smiled as if rejecting the whole justification. I still remember the day when I was leaving for Aakash’s wedding and Ankita bunked her office to see me off. It felt so strange at that time. But now it made complete sense. She would never meet him again. I still remember that wedding, it lacked the euphoria, so characteristic of any Indian wedding. I remember Aakash sitting on the mare staring into a distance while his kin and friends, fuming with alcohol, danced around him. He was unmoved, only if the baratis took the effort of looking at his face.

“It is not that you forget someone or get over them. You just get used to living with the void in your life. Months after Aakash’s marriage I would go into these strange moods where I wished that a car runs me over the next time I cross the road. I would carry on with my life like everything is normal but on the inside I could feel the burn.”

“I know how it feels. I still do not have a routine, you know why? Because there is no one thing that holds my interest for long. I would start off with a thing and by the time I would get really interested in it the thought of Kalpana would strike. How this would seemed if she was here? And boom. I lose all the interest.”

“Is that why you started writing science fiction? Or rather why you stopped writing love stories?”

I was speechless. I was amazed how well she could understand me. It was scary but at the same time, soothing. Close friends always remain close no matter how much time you are away from them.

“Never mind. I know the answer. But yes I know the feeling of restlessness and disinterest. During our courtship, Anirudh expected me to talk to him daily and be excited about our marriage. Initially I had no interest. But then I realised that, maybe I need make him feel that I am interested. Because what I have lost in Aakash is already gone with him. I cannot keep holding onto it.”

“You are contradicting yourself. You just said that we cannot get over a relationship but now you are saying that you realised holding on would not help”

She smiled again as I her follower and she was a seer who knew what I sought.

“Life in itself is a contradiction, isn’t it? We are not born by our will nor we die by it, still we call it our life. Now how contradictory is that?” she quizzed “Also I didn’t say I was able to forget him. It was just that I was able to fake my happiness.”

“But how long can you do that?”

“I don’t know. It has been four years and here I am. You get up every day and put on a mask. As you said, you tell yourself every day that you are over her. That is what I would call putting up a mask. Like an actor training yourself to behave in a manner which announces to the world that you no longer live in shadow of the one whom you loved. You are over her. You change yourself, your habits, your routine, basically anything and everything that people, or even you, associate with her. You stop listening to the song that the two of you sang together, stop going to that restaurant, that book store and even stop eating ice cream of her favourite flavour, even if it was yours favourite too. And you keep doing it every day. You create the mask. But beneath the mask you still are the same. Till the point that everyone else starts believing the mask to be the true you.”

“…And then?”

“Then what? It continues that way forever. You are confused that whether the mask is the true you, which all believe to be or you have lost yourself somewhere in the past.” Her brown eyes were now moist and her voice shrill. She wiped her tears with the end of her dupatta

“Leave it. Thoda zyada funda ho gaya nahi?” she tried to put a smile on her face. Perhaps her mask.

Nahi yaar. I think you are right. Things that hurt us in life change us more than things that make us happy. The fire in the furnace moulds the tool and not the water in which it is quenched. You remember college. How optimistic we were, perhaps over optimistic. We believed everything would work out and we would have our way with life. And look now here we are crying over the memories of people we lost.”

“You know, I no longer die to watch a Shah Rukh movie first day first show. Shah Rukh, Salman they are all the same for me now. I simply do not feel the excitement. Sometimes I miss it but then I do not see the point of that. Maybe this is what people call maturing”

“Somewhere inside I feel that this change that we go through, which you just called maturing, teaches us to adapt. It teaches us to respond to the circumstances and to face this world in a better way, but it drives us away from our true self. We may be best suited to take on the world but we are not the actual us. For example you losing the excitement for a Shah Rukh movie, that’s not the actual you but you have learnt that getting excited earns you nothing. It is survival of the fittest. The fittest version of you lives!”

She just smiled and somehow I knew it was a real one. We just crossed Monkey hill. The train curved on the edge of the beautiful Sahyadri range. Sun went down in the distance, it was orange and almost touching the horizon. The haphazard urban landscape was far removed and the slopes of Sahyadri dried in the sweltering heat lay around us. I my opinion the Western Ghats had the best sunsets in whole of India. I often rode to a small mountain near Pune on the weekends just to enjoy the spectacular summer sunset from there. I loved sunsets. Kalpana hated them. She always considered sunsets as moments of parting, but I detested any such categorisation.

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“Sunsets in Sahyadri are so beautiful” I spoke in its awe

“Absolutely” She concurred

“I think this is the second best part of the whole journey” I told her as the train curved through the mountains towards the tunnel.

“What’s the best part?” She asked

“Meeting you” and we both broke into a laughter which only those would understand who have really close friends, who share a relationship where words are secondary or maybe tertiary.

“Trains always mesmerised me since I was a child. Not just the machinery, but the whole concept of travelling with completely unknown people for lengthiest of distances.”

“Is there any specific train journey that you remember?” I asked her

“Not in particular, but yes there are many”

“I had this one journey cemented in my memory. I was travelling from Indore to Bangalore. And there was this couple from Rajasthan who had a very beautiful baby, just above a year of age. The baby was very cute, but sadly it had a hole in its heart. They were going to the Sai Baba hospital in Bangalore of baby’s surgery. They had just got a phone call and had started from their place without thinking twice. It was really heart breaking. And there was this Bengali gentleman. He would have been around 60 years of age. When you talked to him he was all negative about life. He told me how when he was young his family astrologer had predicted great achievements by him but he didn’t. He just turned out to be a mediocre medical salesman. And in the night when everyone was asleep I kept thinking that will I be the same as this old man towards the end of my life cursing everything and repenting how I spent my life. In the same compartment I saw despair in that old man and hope and optimism in the young couple who were traveling for getting their baby operated without any guarantee, just on basis of a phone call. The sheer emotional expanse of life overwhelmed me. And I cried that night, for hours.”

She listened to me with a radiant smile on her face

“I think, you should start writing love stories again, Rohan.” She suggested

“Maybe one day I would. When I have a name and people would by any bullshit with my name.”

“Oh come on! You would write great love stories”

I shrugged. The train rolled in an out of the tunnel and had covered most of the mountainous terrain, now reaching the plateau. Pune was not far now. Our beautiful journey would come to an end soon.

“But you are right. As we grow up the way we see life keeps on changing. I feel it is because of the experiences that we accumulate throughout our journey that shapes our view of life. And somewhere it is up to us how we treat these experiences. It is like, various combinations of same set of musical notes give us different tunes.”

“True. I think it would be a good idea to just note down our current perspectives so that four years later when we meet again, we would be able to compare how things have changed”

“Shut up! I need to get going. Anirudh will be picking me up at Shivaji Nagar.”

“What? Are we already there?” I asked and looked out of the window and I couldn’t believe we were already in Pune. Sun’s light had almost died and the road running parallel to the rails was full of vehicles, like fireflies in a field at dusk.

The train pulled on the platforms and we bade goodbyes. I would be going on till the next stop. She waved from the platform as her husband stood politely behind her. Would she tell him who I was and how she knew me? I asked to myself.

In the last few years I never had felt as contented as I did that day. Neither she nor I asked to exchange numbers or addresses. Maybe we would meet again, like this, in one of the sunset journeys. Maybe…

The Storyteller’s curse

Yes it is true. Anyone who has ever dwelled in the unfathomable universe within his or her mind know what being a storyteller is. You create characters and you create their joys and sorrows within the layers of your consciousness. You bring them to live, you give them motive to live and to die. You fill their lives with colours or you drain all the colours from their lives.

Storytelling in not an art that is developed over time, but is an innate instinct. It is something you are born with, a birth trait. And it comes with a cost. Or rather with a curse, a curse that you can never get rid of. I call it the storyteller’s curse.

The ability or in this case the tendency to tell a story makes the person in question to go through the angst and agony of his characters. Willingly or unwillingly the storyteller lives the troubled lives various characters and in this process rubs off their hopes, disappointments, ambitions, jealousies, envies, loves and hates. Sometimes it is the kindness, the compassion of the fairer characters that seeps in and sometimes it is the wickedness or the dark side that envelopes the storyteller’s imagination. The storyteller is always at a risk of becoming the worst of the characters he conceives, because they are nothing but a fragment of imagination that the storyteller lived in a parallel universe. You will spend nights thinking about how a particular character would have behaved had they faced some situation that had occurred to you. You would spend hours assessing which action of yours is a reminiscent of which character you have created. Every person you know, every new person you meet is a source material to create new characters and modify the existing ones. It is not something you can control. It is an autonomous brain function that runs like a daemon process which cannot be killed. Sometimes it is a please and sometimes an agony that your own brain subjects you to, as if the problems of your own life are not enough. As a storyteller it is not just one live you. It is a crazy mix of numerous lives that the storyteller goes through to tell a story.

This is what I call a storyteller’s curse. There is no remedy for this. Not one that is known to men.

काल

 पिछले दिनों सामाजिक कर्तव्यों और पारिवारिक संबंधो के चलते कई जान पहचान वालो के घर जाना हुआ| यूँ तो अक्सर ही ये मेल-जोल लगा रहता है मगर इस बार कुछ अलग सा था| जहां भी गया वहाँ एक सवाल तो हर किसी ने उठाया, मगर अलग बात उस सवाल में नहीं थी| “शादी कब कर रहे हो?” इस सार्वभौमिक सवाल के बीच मेरा ध्यान दीवारों पर टंगी तस्वीरो पर गया और कम से कम तीन घरो में मैंने पाया कि जिन लोगो को मैंने अपने अभी तक के जीवन काल में अपने सामने चलते, फिरते, बोलते, हँसते देखा था, बस अब दीवारों पर उनकी तस्वीर मात्र ही बाकी थी| इससे पहले भी परलोक गमन कर गए लोगो की तस्वीरें मैंने दीवारों पर देखी थी पर न मैंने कभी उन लोगो को अपने सामने उतना करीब से देखा नहीं था| क्योंकि वो वे लोग थे जो या तो  उस वक़्त गुज़र गए जब मन में स्मृतियाँ उतनी गहरी नहीं उतरती है, या तो मेरे जन्म से पहले ही गुज़र गए थे और मैंने बस इनके बारे में किस्से कहानियों में सुना था| इस बार कहानियां सुनाने वाले ही खुद कहानी बन गए थे| ये वो थे जिनकी बातें, यादें एकदम कंचन की तरह साफ़ मेरे मन में अंकित थी|

मैंने मन ही मन हिसाब लगाया तो पाया कि ऐसे लोगो की संख्या तीन तक सीमित नहीं थी| और इसी विचार के साथ एक ऐसे बोध ने मुझे चित कर दिया कि मैं सोचने समझने लायक नहीं रहा| बात कोई नयी नहीं है, रोज़मर्रा की ही बात है – म्रत्यु| जी हाँ, म्रत्यु यानि की मौत| बड़ी ही आम सी बात है और क्यों न हो, जो भी पैदा हुआ है उसे एक न एक दिन मरना ज़रूर है| और मरने का मर्त्यु के सिवा कोई और तरीका नहीं है| जिन लोगो की शादी हो चुकी है वो इस दावे पर मुझसे एकमत नहीं होंगे, पर खैर|

म्रत्यु और उसके साथ जीवन की समाप्ति एक अटल सत्य है| युधिस्ठिर ने भी यक्ष को यही कहा था कि विश्व का सबसे बड़ा आश्चर्य यह है कि रोज़ लाखो स्त्री-पुरुष दुसरो को मरते हुए देखते है पर खुद कभी यह स्वीकार नहीं करते कि वो खुद मर सकते है| सोचिये तो कितनी देहला देने वाली बात है यह| जो लोग कल तक आपके जीवन का एक अभिन्न अंग थे, एक चिरकालिक सत्य थे, साक्षात् उपलब्ध थे, आज नहीं है| और ऐसा नहीं है कि उनकी मौत से आप अनजान रहे| लेकिन जब आपको इस बात का एहसास होता है कि एक दो नहीं पूरी की पूरी पीढ़ी ही साफ़ हो गयी है तो मनो धरती डोलने लगती है|

फिर ध्यान जाता है छोटी-छोटी बातों पर| हर पीढ़ी एक-एक सीढ़ी उप्पर चढ़ गयी है| जो कल तक जवान थे, स्वस्थ थे आज वो बूढ़े और कमजोर हो गए है| आप सब जो कल तक बिना वक़्त की चिंता किये अथक क्रीडा करते रहते थे आज समय के पिंजरे में कैद पंची है| है न!

 

एक मिनट, क्या कहा मैंने, समय? हाँ सारा खेल समय का ही तो है| अब जा कर समझ आया कि ‘काल’के दो मतलब नहीं एक ही मतलब| और काल का चक्र अपनी निर्दयी चाल से अनवरत चलता ही जा रहा है| आज तो हिस्सा उप्पर है कल वो नीचे आ जाएगा और जो आज नीचे है कल वो उप्पर| और इस पहिये की गति में फँसी है हमारी जान|

और यही बोध मुझे हुआ जब मैंने उन तस्वीरो को देखा| कहते है न कि एक तस्वीर हजारो शब्द कहती है, मुझे भी कुछ ऐसा ही एहसास हुआ था| हर कोई मनो कह रहा हो कि बेटा इस चक्र में तू तो उसी दिन फँस गया था जिस दिन तेरा जन्म हुआ था, बस इसका ज्ञान तुझे आज हासिल हुआ है| उस क्षण ऐसा लगा कि बस उठू और दौड़ लगा दूँ, जब तक कि उस जगह न पहुच जाऊ जहां दुनिया अभी भी वैसी ही है जैसे मुझे याद है| सड़क का वो मोड़, वो पेड़, वो लकड़ी का दरवाज़ा, वो चौराहे का टुटा सिग्नल, वो चाट की दूकान, वो गायो का तबेला, कहाँ गया वो सब? काल के उदार में|

 

तो क्या ये सिर्फ मेरी मनो स्थिति है जो मुझे परेशान कर रही है? शायद हाँ| मैंने अक्सर यह अनुभव किया है कि जैसे-जैसे हम उम्र में बड़े होते जाते है, काल में पीछे देख कर दुखी होने की प्रवृत्ति हममे उतनी ही बढती जाती है| इसे नास्टैल्जिया या विरह भी कहा जाता है| बड़े-बड़े लेखक इसके चक्कर में चुकता हो गए तो मैं किस खेत की मुली हूँ|

तो मुद्दे पर वापस आते है| इतना सब सोचते हुए मैं एक ही निष्कर्ष पर पंहुचा कि मनुष्य उससे कही ज्यादा शक्तिहीन है जितना वो खुद को समझता है| काल और उसकी शक्ति के आगे न तो कभी मनुष्य की चली है न चल पायेगी| मनुष्य की महानता वही तक सीमित है जहां तक काल उसे सीमित रखना चाहता है| और हम चाहे जितना भी रो-पीट ले काल हमे एक बहेलिये की तरह अपने साथ घसीटते हुए आगे ले ही जाएगा| तो भलाई इसी में है कि काल के साथ आगे चल दें| पीछे देखते रहने से कुछ हासिल नहीं होगा| भला को सफ़र पीछे देख कर चलते हुए पूरा हुआ है क्या?

 

गुजरी हो भले पीछे बहारें अनेक

प्रिय हो भले तुझे ग्राम प्रत्येक

राह की यही पुकार, मुसाफिर तू आगे देख|

The bullet

What makes the bullet, not any ordinary but the one that kills, different from others? It looks and feels like any other bullet. So what is so different in this bullet that when it leaves the muzzle hell may break loose it hits the target and hits to kill. Is it the way it is forged or is the metal. But each bullet is created the same. They all come out of the same assembly line. Can anyone looking at a carton of bullet tell which is the one, the one that would hit to kill?

Sitting in the magazine of the gun, along with other bullets which would be fired but will never fulfill their aim, is our bullet’s fate already sealed or is it only when our bullets makes it way to the chamber that it’s destiny is stamped. But, isn’t it the hand that pulls the trigger which guides the bullet to it’s target. Is it not the bullet that is destined to hit the target but the hand that fires makes it hit?

The hand pulls the trigger which in turns pulls the plunger. Ready to hit the bullet and ignite the charge which would sent the bullet flying out of the muzzle, towards the target. The plunger waits for the finger pulling the trigger to pull it beyond the threshold, the point after which nothing could be reversed. After this point the plunger will hit the bullet, the charge will ignite, the bullet will be fired. But wait, doesn’t that happen with every bullet? So what is so different with our bullet that it hits the target? Overcoming every obstacle, flying through wind and water, piercing the protective covering it kills the target. And once it exists the wound is not as small and as precise as when it enters. It takes whole chunk of flesh with it, spinning aimlessly trying to find a way out.

Bullets, like humans are created the same. But there is something that makes a bullet special. Something which differentiates the one that hits to kill and one that is wasted.  But bullets have one and only one aim. Once they achieve it, there is nothing left for them. Their life is over. Are we the same as bullets?

How to ‘almost’ kill a faculty member in an engineering college

Disclaimer: This is a true incident that did happen. No matter how unbelievable this seems, it happened. Please don’t ask when, where and with whom. I have withheld names for reasons of privacy.

This is story of a batch from one of the zillion Indian engineering colleges. The batch was in its first year of college. February was the month and the college annual function was closing in. The first year in college is daunted by seniors though but in this college the management also dominates the freshers. Some over enthusiastic bunch of guys, trying to gain overnight popularity, decided to participate in the annual function. The best thing they could do was mock someone. So the wise one suggested that they should participate in the annual function with a skit, which was a spoof on the Indian film industry. They were initially told that being a fresher you don’t dare such kind of thing, as the seniors will not like this. But like most Hindi film heroes undaunted by the threat they went ahead. The skit was to be presented in front of selection committee and they needed time to practice it. In the college they couldn’t think of bunking the class for that. Even if they were able to dodge the faculties the wrath of seniors was bound to catch them. So they realized that they had only two options either they back off from the scheme or they must bunk the college and not come at all. But as the saying goes Pran jaye par shan na jaye, even the greatest of fear would not have distracted them from their path. Because, ek baar jo unhone commitment kar di to wo apne baap ki bhi nahi sunte.

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Apart from the skit a dance item was also being prepared by their classmates, who were more interested in the booty shaking and body aching form of art. So it was about half the class involved in the activity and all had the same big question. When and where do we practice?

As it happens in all good masala Hindi films, the help came from the Gods. Lord Shiva came to their rescue. It was not that Shiva himself came down from the icy abode of Kailasa. The God of gods doesn’t even need to blink one of his two eyes (shhh, we don’t talk about the third one! Pralaya). It was Maha Shivratri or the occasion celebrated as Shiva’s birthday (if I can call it a birthday, because technically Shiva was never born, more on that sometime later). The college had not declared a holiday for this occasion. Although none of the people planning to do the skit would utilize the holiday for any religious purpose, almost all were offended. They took the matters in their hands and some how convinced the rest of the class to go on a GT (General Tadi or GT means as mass bunk, a local slang)

If the college authorities had enough funds they would have put speech analyzers all around the campus for monitoring the word ‘GT’. It was the one thing which should not be named. But had our protagonists stepped back just because of this fear, thing would have just like the usual – boring. And this story would not have been there.

Coming back to what happened next. Over all it was a successful feat, they had successfully performed the first GT of their college lives.(Pat on the back! Applause)

After practicing the fine arts of acting and dancing for a whole day at a friends place. When the next day they came back to college there was a buzz. Everybody was talking about a serious action been taken against the class. Soon the thunderbolt came upon them. Dr. Lion King (AKA Chin 2.0), the director of the college along with Mr. Mother-of-groom, HOD mechanical department came to our class. They were all much tensed for what they will do to us. They had heard a lot about Dr. Chin 2.0. Even the Bravo seniors (4th year guys) wet their pants due to fury. There were legends about how he punishes the culprits. It was rumored that he will hit with anything that comes to his hand. He holds your hair tight in one hand and makes you bend over your back before he starts punching your back with his other hand, holding anything that comes in front of him.

Mr. Mother-of-groom on the other hand was not so famous for anything. At first look he seemed like a regular old guy who has had enough from life and had a significant bald on his head. On the other hand Dr. Chin 2.0 was a big man, his appearance was intimidating, and he had a huge belly and used suspenders to support his pants. The most freighting thing was that he was a retired army officer and had that hostile air that army men have for their enemies.

It was couple of days after the GT feat when they came to the class. Mr. Kyu-Sir was lecturing on Engineering Physics. Mr. Kyu-Sir was a flatterer; he was always trying to impress Dr. Chin 2.0. As they came in, in true filmy style everybody was stunned. Nobody spoke a word, not even Mr. Kyu-sir. Dr. Chin 2.0 started writing something on the board. The class thought that finally he has taken the matter into hands, frustrated with the stinking notes that Mr. Kyu-Sir taught us, and will teach physics from now on.

But to everyone’s surprise, what he wrote was a numbered list. Everyone was totally confused. The numbered list said

1)      Get suspended for 30 days

2)      Deduction of 5 marks from sessionals

3)      Rs 500 fine on each student.

These were the three options that the class was given. They were to choose their own punishment. A true act of typical Hindi film villains. Moreover at that time Kaun Banega Crorepati (Indian version of Who wants to be a millionaire) was quite popular. So it was not very difficult to guess from where the inspiration came.

“We won’t talk about what you have done or why you have done. We just want to know how will you pay the price.” Declared Dr. Chin 2.0

“You have three options. Get suspended for 30 days, deduction of sessional and a fine of Rs. 500.” He said.

“What will you like?” he asked. This question frightened the hell out of everybody. No one had a clue. And the biggest fear was that if anybody told about the skit and the dance they will face the rage and also will not be allowed to perform.

Nobody in the class dared to answer everybody was trying to think. Some wished that they had the lifelines the participants had in KBC. They would’ve gone for 50-50 so only 1 and a half choice would’ve left.

But they couldn’t ask for anything here. Suddenly a student spoke. “Sir these 5 marks are to be deducted from total of the sessional or from each subject separately?” It was Paw-on. Everybody was shocked to hear that. How could he ask a thing like that thought.

Even though the situation was tensed. The simple question from Paw-on brought in an unintended laughter, students tried to conceal it. As soon as he asked this something happened to Mr. Mother-of-groom. He started having nausea. He started having shorter breaths and almost fell on the chair and was almost unconscious.

They thought he had a heart attack after listening to what Paw-on had uttered. Dr. Chin 2.0 was helping Mr. Mother-of-groom to recover but it seemed Mr. Mother-of-groom was fast getting unconscious. People were frightened as nobody understood what to do. “Sugar” Shouted Dr. Chin 2.0 as if he had broken the code and got the cure.

Mr. Kyu-Sir soon dispatched a student, Go-rub, to fetch sugar from the Physics lab.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mother-of-groom was still lying unconscious taking long and distant breaths.  Dr. Chin 2.0 was trying to talk to him. I wonder what an effect Paw-on’s question had on this old man that he is knocked down to unconsciousness.

His situation started worsening and he turned down to puke. He vomited on himself and the disgust was clear on the students sitting close to him. He also started groaning. Sounds that people make when they are possessed, came out of him. It was getting scary and bad. Mr. Kyu-Sir had almost shitted in his pant and was standing there trying to think (!) what to do.

Soon Go-Rub came back with a glass of water and some sugar. Dr. Chin 2.0 ordered Kyu-Sir to mix sugar in water. Kyu-Sir put all the sugar into the water only to find that there was no spoon to stir. Mr. Mother-of-groom was still unconscious. Most of the students were convinced that he is surely going to die and they might get another holiday and this time officially ;).

But Mr. Kyu-Sir found out a way to stir the water by using his finger as spoon. He was also very afraid of Dr. Chin 2.0 and didn’t want to upset him. He was in double thought as what to do. If he is late in mixing water and sugar and something happens to Mr. Mother-of-groom, Dr. Chin 2.0 will certainly do something bad to him. But on the other hand if he was not able to find any spoon and using a finger which was dirty and was covered completely with chalk dust will only inflict more dangers of infections. But Mr. Kyu-Sir went ahead to deal with the present problem first.

As he finished stirring the water Dr. Chin 2.0 poured it into Mr. Mother-of-groom’s mouth. As soon as the glass of sweet water went in Mr. Mother-of-groom stood up quick like a rabbit.

“So what is your decision?” he asked. The class was stunned once again as what was all this. This guy nearly escaped a life threatening situation and they are still bothered about the GT. Still nobody answered, all were freaked out with what had happened. There was a stunned silence as no one could think of a possible answer. Some thought of the Addad-Bakkad method used for objective type questions in India, some were thinking of asking – Sir answer kya lana hai? As they always do in practical experiments.

The dashing duo didn’t have enough time for the students to come up with anything concrete so they went away without any solution and told that as the class had not opted for anything, they will decide it by themselves.

Later it was informed to all that Mr. Mother-of-groom was a diabetic and the situation he was in when he fainted was of hypoglycemia, the lack of sugar in blood.

Paw-on, the croaker, didn’t stop his big mouthed adventure jut there and after all this had finished a circular came to the class. Paw-on in his heavy and loud voice said “ek gaya nahi aur yeh dusra aa gaya” he should’ve considered the position at which he was sitting. He was sitting in the first row and was clearly heard by Mr. Kyu-Sir.

Even if it wasn’t the first row Paw-in’s voice would’ve made it to Mr. Kyu-Sir’s ears. It was just to hear this that Paw-on was sent out of the class for rest of the time.

You want to know what happened next. Well, this is pretty much it, the annual function got cancelled that year. But they surely became a rage in college afterwards, with their plays, stand up acts and dances.

I would come back with more such incidents from the engineering colleges. If you have one which you think should be shared with everyone here for the sake of spreading the smile. Do write to me about that and we (you and me) will put something together.

Note: People who have a ‘Kidda’ for knowing the real names of the people involved in the incident can either try to translate the names that I have given or try to find a name which sounds familiar in pronounciation 😉 

Enduring Love

“Doddabetta is the highest peak in the Nilgiris” informed the jovial guide, who was sitting in the front seat of the SUV. The SUV curved through the bumpy roads, lined up with huge Eucalyptus trees on the both sides. Although trees blocked the view of the valley but whenever the vehicle approached the curves, on the edges, one could get a glimpse of the distant mountains. A blue mist settled over the thick green cover. True to their name, these are the Blue Mountains of India.
I and my wife took this half-yearly trip to one famous tourist spot in India. It had become a ritual. Both of us were crazy about travelling. Meeting new people had become an obsession. Ooty had been on your radar for quite some time but things never materialized until I got relocated to Bangalore. Within a month of coming down to Bangalore, we planned this trip and went for it. Arriving at the resort on the golf club road, we could not wait to hit the hills. It was already afternoon when we reached the top at Doddabetta. A manicured garden surrounding a tower was situated at the top. The tower housed a telescope which provided a beautiful view of the city. But much to our dismay, it was July and the only things visible with or without the telescope were clouds. Endless, Infinite Ocean of clouds. Most of them were dark which reflected the potential in them to drench any hill, any mountain coming in their way. Some were lighter, humbler siblings of the former. The wind was strong at the top. As we got out of the car and walked towards the tower, we could see groups of tourists clicking pictures. The older ones were shivering due to the damp, cold atmosphere created by the mating of strong winds with wet showers. Few young couples sat over the benches, indulging in the quintessential activities that happen between young couple. And the younger lot ran hither-thither to burn out extra energy that you have at that age.
“There is nothing much to see here” Commented Mithila.
“Right madam, but have you been here on a clear day, the view of Ooty is mesmerizing.” Endorsed the guide. His full name was something which I could hardly gather but it was a relief to know that one could refer to him as ‘Mani’.
It seemed Mani had been in Ooty since eternity. He knew everything and everybody. According to him, we were there in the wrong season, but we were there. He suggested taking the train ride from Ooty to Connor. It was a famous mountain train route; its claim to fame was the famous song ‘Chaiya Chaiya’ which was filmed on the same route. Ooty was sprinkled with various places which featured regularly in movies. But first we were to visit the Rose garden and the Tea museum, on our way back to the Resort. The train ride was due next morning.
The tea museum, named as ‘The Tea Factory’(written in Capital Red letters) was a functional tea factory producing the Nilgiri Tea, grown in the tea estates in and around Ooty. These museum-cum-factory hosts a tour for the visitors to let them explore the process of conversion of the green leaves from the waist high plant to that black powdery thing which each of us had in his kitchen. Visitors can also buy, various flavored teas at the end of the tour. As we completed our tour, the rain started to pour down heavily; still the better half of the day was left.
Mithila and I sat on one of the bench, which was comfortably placed behind the glass panels which sheltered us from the downpour. The view was breathtaking. The Tea Factory was situated on an elevated platform on the lower edge of a mountain. It overlooked the town of Ooty and unlike Doddabetta, it was at a lower elevation which spared us from the cover of clouds we encountered there. The droplets of water dripped down the glass, and the winds blew them in various directions. Some drops flowed straight down the glass; others bent their course due to powerful wind to reach the ground through a different route.
The town of Ooty appeared to be frozen in time from that distance. Like a masterpiece from a great painter, curtained from us by the rain-drop-tainted glass. We sat there savoring the view and absorbing the spirit. We liked our individual privacy and had a respect for that. There had been moments in relationships when we had just sat for hours without saying anything, and letting each other do his/her bit of introspection. Often those moments happened to be on a holiday, at places like these.
I cannot recall where the train of my thoughts was headed when I heard a voice familiar enough to attract my attention instinctively towards it. It was not Mithila who was speaking. Kalpana, I couldn’t have guessed to find her here.
It had been 7 year since I last met her. The last thing I remember about her was from the day our results were out and we exchanged the usual lines on each other’s result. What remained lingering from that day was the feeling in my heart which comes when you have known someone so well that you do not need to talk to understand the other’s mind, but you act like you are just acquaintances, and indulge in foolish conversation. Every time I looked back on that day I found myself more and more stupid in doing so. But we had decided to part our ways, and that too consciously.  Having been in relationship for a good length of time, there was hardly anyone in the college who did not think that the two of us are going to marry. But we knew each other way too well, to go into the bond of marriage. We were awesome together but could not have settled for a marriage with each other. Hence, towards the end of the college we decided to end it, formally. And end we did, on the night of the Farewell bash. The metallic taste of our last kiss still thrills me, as we hadn’t slept the whole night, roaming around the city on our bikes. She was a live wire then. I enjoyed every bit of time spent with her.
Her face still bore the same radiance, which I think was due to the overwhelming enthusiasm she had inside her. I could see a man following her, they were walking towards us. Mithila was still looking into the vast enormity of the Nilgiris. Before I could utter a word, Kalpana’s eyes met mine and I read the same astonishment in her eyes which I felt in my heart. I rose from the bench and my name came out of her mouth in the same way I recognized her voice.
“How are you?” was the first question she asked, it almost is every time you meet someone. But this was with a different meaning. I just nodded and smiled, with restraint. Mithila had caught the notice of our small conversation; I felt the obligation of introducing my wife to her.
“Kalpana, she is Mithila, my wife. And she is Kalpana, my friend from college.” I did the formality.
“I think I have seen you in his college pictures” chirped Mithila. She probably had an idea of our relationship but never really enquired about it. The pictures she was referring to were quite explanatory about what existed between me and Kalpana.
“Oh really, I look so bad in those pictures. I am sure he wouldn’t have told you anything about me.” Kalpana half blushed and half smiled as she said that.
Meanwhile the other guy who followed her was standing patiently, waiting for someone to notice him. I looked in Kalpana’s eyes and then towards him. She knew what I was telling her.
“Oh I forgot, he is Omang. We got married last month.” She said flaunting the Heena patterns on her hand. We exchanged pleasantries and discovered that they were staying at the same place as we did. They had arrived two days ago but didn’t go out before today. It was their honeymoon. Eventually it was finalized that we will be sticking together for rest of the day, as tomorrow they will be leaving for Chennai. A lunch was quickly planned.
Lunch was marked with several discussions about our college days and surprisingly Mithila was more interested and active in that. Both Kalpana and Mithila shared this common attribute of getting comfortable with anybody very easily, I liked that. Maybe that was one of the reasons for me to choose Mithila as my life partner. But the similarity ends there; Mithila had this quality of giving ample space to you which Kalpana couldn’t. She had to know everything about you and everything you did. Perhaps that was the reason why I thought I decided not to go ahead with my relationship with her.
“You know Mithila, once Rupak and I planned these serial blasts in the college…” Kalpana was boasting about our not so praise worthy achievements. The blasts mentioned were not actually bomb blasts but fire crackers planted in college toilets. We had planned that along with few of the friends, it was figment of Kalpana’s wicked imagination.
“… And the catch was that boys had to plant the bomb in girl’s toilet and girls had to plant it in boy’s toilet.” Continued Kalpana with naughty giggles. Mithila was enjoying every bit of it, as her arsenal was getting strengthened with information that she could use to embarrass me. It was her special weapon. Omang was just a silent listener and came across as a shy person. I wondered how the two would have got to this point.
“Oh, and why don’t you tell us your misadventures with Ms. Thakur?” I said, teasing Kalpana. We exchanged glares and she still had the naughtiness alive in her eyes. I grinned and chewed on my lunch. Ms. Thakur was fresh faculty who taught us Microwave engineering. She was single and Kalpana fooled her by sending SMSs in name of a boy from our class, for a whole semester. Later when the truth was discovered consequences were not worth mentioning.
Kalpana moved her lips to say something, without a sound. I knew what she said. ‘Jerk’ was her favorite swear word and when you really irritated her, she would turn to you mumble it. I couldn’t help but smile in wonder. As I turned I found Mithila looking at us in amazement, while Omang just smiled.
We then moved to Rose garden, which was not much exciting, at least for me. It was not something which I looked forward to; the only consolation was the scenery around that place. Omang did not enjoy it either.
“I think I will smoke a joint and come back” He said and left. Kalpana looked at me with a question in her eyes. I knew what her question was. I nodded in disagreement, with a faint smile. She smiled back. We strolled through the garden with a lazy ease as the two ladies admired beauty of the flowers.
After being done with the garden we came out to the parking where Omang stood smoking probably third or fourth cigarette.
“How many?” Asked Kalpana, with a hint of anger in her voice.
“Only second, darling.” Replied Omang with a cajoling tone to pacify Kalpana.
I used to smoke during my college days, and Kalpana didn’t like it at all. Every time she saw me smoking she would snatch the cigarette from my lips and throw it away, and would mumble ‘Jerk’ in her trademark style. I just loved that.
It was already afternoon and we went back to the cottage resort. The cloud cover was still very thick over the sky. And the winds started getting colder. After a cup of tea(Nilgiri tea, obviously!) and snacks we retired to our rooms. Although Mithila usually did not ask too many questions, I expected a few about Kalpana.
“It seems you had too much fun together in your college days?” Asked Mithila as she did her thing infront of the large mirror. I agreed with a ‘Hmm’.  She didn’t ask a question more. And soon it was dinner time. The resort was an old English villa turned into a resort. The majestic dining room was place for dinner and all the guests gathered there. We were to meet Kalpana and Omang there.
I tried not to dress too formally, and stuck to the usual cargo and T-shirt. Mithila considered Salwar kameez to be apt. When we reached the dining hall, Omang and Kalpana were already there. Kalpana wore a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Omang was in similar casuals. We chatted over the dinner, much to irritation of other guests, most of whom were Europeans. But nobody from us cared about it. After finishing the dinner we decided to take a walk in the lawn outside the villa.
Omang went away for smoking yet again. I was left to accompany the two ladies who were busy talking about thing varying from Movies to religious practices and what not. This conversation was broken by the ringing of Mithila’s phone. She excused herself to a more private area of the lawn. I found myself in the position that I wanted to avoid since morning, because when Kalpana is around with other people it is easy to act the way we were acting. But with just me and her, I just couldn’t be what I was supposed to be and at the same time I couldn’t act the way I would’ve. It was so awkward that I kept looking at the night sky, which was full of dark clouds. The moon registered its presence as a circle of white light behind the clouds.
“So, when did you quit smoking?” Kalpana asked breaking the silence. I knew that was the question she wanted to ask in the Rose garden but did not ask. The answer to that question was something which I wanted to avoid, as it would call for more questions.
“After college.” I did answer her. She turned her head towards me in a sudden jolt as if surprised by my response.
“I almost died asking you to quit, but you never did. And after college you quit. Why?” She was angry in asking for the explanation.
I wanted to tell her why I quit. I quit because, there was no one who would pull out the joint from my mouth and mumble ‘Jerk’. I quit because she was not there. The very reason I used to light a cigarette was not there. The day when we last met, someone lit up a cigarette and passed it. She was standing there watching me, but just overlooked it. We had promised to move out of each other’s life, she was keeping the promise. That was the last one, which I ever smoked.
I looked back at her, into her eyes. I didn’t know what was going through her mind. But I felt like she got the answer. She withdrew the eye contact, blinked her eyes in quick succession as if she was avoiding something from entering into her eyes. Mithila walked back smiling; it was her mother’s call. Soon Omang came back and we were back to our rooms.
The next morning Kalpana and Omang were to leave. Mithila decided to wake up early in order to see them off. We went down where Kalpana and Omang stood with their bags packed and loaded. After numerous good-byes and promises to catch up in either Chennai or Bangalore, they boarded the SUV. We waved as the vehicles started to move, Kalpana turned towards me and mumbled. ‘Jerk’
I could do nothing but smile.

Love or Death – Part 4

The last installement!!!

ब्‍लॉगते रहो! (Keep Blogging)

We ran for about 10 minutes, but we never seemed to find our way back. The bells were now silent and we were exhausted. She had a mysterious smile on her face. “I told you we’ll have to stay here if we don’t catch this boat.” I explained in panic. “So let’s stay here. We’ll get back tomorrow morning.” She said with ease. “Well we don’t have any arrangement for shelter and do you know how cold it is going to get in the night.” I was irritated with her attitude. I knew how cold it would be. This was an island and due to the water all around us the wind gets colder than the mainland.
Finally we got out of the forest and the temple stood in front of us. I ran towards the river but the boat was long gone. I was agitated. Now what stood in…

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Love or Death – part 3

The third installement. Now when I read this, even I am amazed about what I could write 5 years ago!!!

ब्‍लॉगते रहो! (Keep Blogging)

*******

At the farm I showed her around the different places and at last we reached a place covered with trees; Teak, Tamarind and Rose Apple. The trees made the spot a little island of shadow where only little of the sunlight penetrated during the daytime. “In summers when I came to the farm, this was my favourite place. It was almost like a sanctuary to me. The harsh summer heat dared not to penetrate through this protective covering of nature. I sat here and thought for hours. When all the children sank into the safe refuge of their homes avoiding the scorching heat I used to come here.” As I said this I pulled her between the trees.
These were my friends, among the best I ever had. They always supported me. Just the sight of these trees standing there infused a confidence in me. They gave me a…

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