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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|

 

 

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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?

My Room

Suffering, yet again, from a relentless attack of insomnia I lie down in my room looking at the ceiling. I have long given up on trying to find a solution to my sleeplessness. I turn around and look at the state of my room. To an untrained eye my room would seem like an ultimate mess, but to me it is as organised as a military arsenal. I know exactly where I have kept something. I love it this way. I love the chaos and I love how I can still find things amidst all this.

But today when I look at my room a thought strikes me. Something much more than just a commentary on my lifestyle. Isn’t my room a perfect manifestation of the state of my mind? The more I look around the more this makes sense. Memories, faith, insecurities, fear, chaos, passion, prejudices and filters everything was there.

At the far diagonally opposite end stands the cupboard. It is stuffed with random things and I rarely open it. There are things in it which I avoid to confront on a daily basis. Maybe if on a weekend I have some time I would open it just to rearrange the things and then forget it for the rest of the week. The only use it finds through the week is as a mirror.

Behind the cupboard lie things now unknown to me. I remember chucking some useless stuff behind it in the gap between the wall and the cupboard. But the dust of time has changed the appearance of most of those things. I can’t identify them anymore. And perhaps that is the corner of my room I am most afraid to go into.

A whole quarter of my room is occupied by a mattress given away by a friend as she moved to another city. I rarely sleep on that mattress. It is all covered with my clothes, books and bags. The mattress is just visible in-between things, in some patches .

Just opposite to the mattress is the small table which houses the various idols I have. A place of worship. A place where I keep my faith, secured. I do spend time there, but not more than 10 minutes. But I spend that time daily

The fan goes around with a squealing sound as if something inside is broken. Nonetheless, it still works. Moonlight comes in through the window. My room has a fairly huge window with glass panels. I rarely open it, the glass allows the light to come in and leaves the noise out. But then sometimes I pull in the curtains for I do not like the light always.

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The door, how can I forget the door! The only way into the room. From the door looks down on me, my favourite poster of The Iron Man and also a Bat-sign placed just above it. Somehow looking at the Bat-sign and The Iron Man poster is the most comforting sight of my whole room. But if I close the door I would lose the sight of them. Have I been keeping the door closed too often lately?

Is this even making sense or I have gone crazy beyond repair?

As I said earlier it just seems like someone peeked inside my mind and created the ambience of my room. Or has this happened by itself? Something which is bound to happen. Maybe the world is not so fluid as it seems. Maybe there is just one state to which all things want to tend.

Is there a cosmic pattern that is revealing itself upon me? Are all things just manifestation of something else? And it is just the matter of scale. Why else would a tiny particle of dust resemble a mountain? Why the atomic model so much resemble the cosmic systems?

Is there a common code which reveals in everything and everyone? As if repeating itself over and over in all forms, shapes and sizes. And we are just too busy in looking at the variations that we miss the commonality.  Maybe it is something which was once known to us but we have lost it over the time. The knowledge of trivial things has replaced the wisdom of universe.

Why else our old teach us to greet each other by saying Namaste? A simple word which we might use several times in a single day, still missing the meaning of it. Namaste (Namh + Aste)- I  bow to the one that resides in you. What is this that is said to reside in all of us. Isn’t it the connecting link, the cosmic code.

Isn’t it the same thing that is inside my mind and in my room.

How to become a Jedi in less than 100 Rupees (Just over 1 pound, without any fancy software)

It was a boring Saturday evening with nothing to look forward to. I sat watching my flatmates chat over whatsapp or watching some discreet football match. I kept staring at the things kept at my desk and suddenly my eyes fell on the uncared for torch light. And it lighted yet another idea in my mind. Being a single child makes you competent enough to not get bored even in absence of company.

‘Let me make a light sabre’ I told myself.

It took me 2 hours, a torch light, some used A4 size papers, cellophane tape, my digital camera and some help from Picasa. And what resulted was this

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Which is quite neat looking at the price at which you can do it. So I thought why not to share this with all of you. Although are lot of software available to create this and light saber toys in market, but for those who do not want to get into the complication of those graphic design software, less time at hand or restricted access to light saber toys (like many people in India) this one is probably the easiest way.

STEP 1 – Building a light saber

Get a torch. Most of us in India do have these at homes, due to the spontaneous nature of our power supply companies. If you dont have it is available at cheep rates in the market, thanks to Chinese labor and export laws. I got mine a few months back for just 90 rupees(about 1 pound with current exchange rates). wrap it with some paper. You can use any colour paper. I picked some waste printout available with one of my flat mates. And wrap the torch so that it conceals the light coming out of it and concentrates within the cylinder created by itself  Add some paper to it for height and it should look like thisImage.

Switch it on and it wont look too much of a light saber if you dont have an imaginative mind. Notice the print visible on the other side of the paper after switching on the light.

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STEP 2 – Photograpy

This is the trickiest part of the whole process. You need to have a decent enough digital camera. I have a cannon SX220 HS a bridge camera. A dark room, to hide the paper work of the light saber and elimate any background which can destroy the surreal effect of the light saber. Also, to look the part you need to put on something which resembles the Star Wars costumes. The cheapest one is a hooded jumper. I used one. So get into the dark room, switch off the light and start posing for the camera. Since I did it alone initially and then one of my friend took the pictures, I used a tripod. Tripod also helps because the picture needs to be clicked at low shutter speed. Now you need to set your camera at following settings

– A low shutter speed. I used 1/4 of a second. This ensures that even in a dark ambiance your light saber is captured along with the part of your face illuminated by it

– High enough ISO to  make your light saber look glowing and eliminate the inconsistencies of the home made light saber. I used 3200 which was the highest available in my camera

– Low f number, so that the background makes as less appearance in the picture as possible

Strike a good pose, no one can teach you that, you should be born with that talent to do that. So, below are the two pictures that came out of the shoot

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STEP 3 – Enhancing the picture

Now this is the most tedious part of the whole process. I used Picasa for video editing, it comes for free. There are several softwares available in the market to edit a picture or a video for the light saber effect. But they are either expensive or complicated for someone like us to get excited. In Picasa I tried a few effects and came up with following sequence which produces best results

– Crop the unnecessary part of the picture. Keep the dark areas, they make it look more mysterious

– Use the fine tuning option of Picasa to increase the highlight, then increase the shadows. This will further eliminate background if any, and accentuate the glow of light saber.

– Choose the Glow effect. This further makes the saber look glowing

– Warmify the picture to reduce any patches caused due to increase in the shadows

– Now use the soft focus so that the end of the light saber is faded a bit and your face is in focus

This should get you a good enough image. Now if you wish to add text then there are lots of online resources for getting the Star Wars font. I used this link http://www.dafont.com/star-jedi.font. Add the desired text and voila, your Jedi-lightsaber picture is ready.

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So, if you are getting bored just like me and have nothing to do. Use that forgotten torch light and become a Jedi with almost no efforts.

Do share your pics if this post helped you in coming up with any. 🙂

UK ke side effect

So I wrote this about an year ago but you may still find it fresh

ब्‍लॉगते रहो! (Keep Blogging)

It has been weeks since I moved to UK. And those who think UK implicitly means London are wrong. Because I am living in a city known as Ipswich (I feel the name has a Punjabi flavour) . If you think that all the cities in UK are similar to London, then it is a mistake. Ipswich is in no ways like London and nor does it aspire to.

 When I was travelling to the UK I had decided not to write anything about how I am finding the new life in UK. I decided this because I never wanted to write something which has already been talked and written about. But last week something happened that made me think otherwise. I was chatting over the internet with one of my friends when she mentioned something which surprised me, or rather inspired me to think. I took a step back…

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UK ke side effect

It has been weeks since I moved to UK. And those who think UK implicitly means London are wrong. Because I am living in a city known as Ipswich (I feel the name has a Punjabi flavour) . If you think that all the cities in UK are similar to London, then it is a mistake. Ipswich is in no ways like London and nor does it aspire to.

 When I was travelling to the UK I had decided not to write anything about how I am finding the new life in UK. I decided this because I never wanted to write something which has already been talked and written about. But last week something happened that made me think otherwise. I was chatting over the internet with one of my friends when she mentioned something which surprised me, or rather inspired me to think. I took a step back and looked at how change of residence has resulted in changes to me.

This is not about how clean one finds the surrounding, or how organised things are, or missing the feeling of water on your bum every morning. This is about somethings which are more subtle than these, which one misses to notice and slowly gets used to them. Hence I decided to write about these things which happen but nobody mentions. Also, this might act as a guide for people travelling to UK in near future.

Thanks to this friend of mine, I was forced to notice them. What follows is list of these unalarming things which if noticed are as annoying as Himesh’s voice, or probably more.

 You will be born again

Yes. Coming into a new country is like being born once again. You need to learn the way of the land, just like a child would learn about the world. You will have to learn what to say if you want to buy a snack from a shop, how to get a bus stopped, how to open doors, how to switch on lights(believe me these guys are nut, they hang strings all around the place instead of using switches) and even how to cross roads. It takes a month to learn the denomination on the coins. You will find yourself being frowned upon by people in the queue while you are counting coins like a toddler. And it does not stop here, it goes on and on with addresses, doctors and what not. Those who have been here for a long time will either flash a patronising smile or will go nostalgic about how they were when they first came.

 You will realise that you are a Superhuman

At least that is what the people will think of you. It is like Lord Hanuman discovering about his powers and abilities, as for quite some time even you would be in a state of shock when you find out that the amount of work you can do(or people think you can) is beyond the capacity of mortals. You will be expected to do double or maybe triple the amount of work that you would be doing from offshore/India. Moving to UK changes something, something in you which increases your capability, just like it happened with Superman/Clarke Kent. Superman hailed from a planet called Krypton which had a red Sun, but when he came to earth our yellow Sun made him a superhuman. But you are a far greater being. India is no krypton and even if the same Sun shines over India and UK(assuming it is not raining in UK) you will gain super strengths. So bring red underwear with you, in case you want to look the part as well. Up, up and away!

 If you are not thankful to the people around you for the next breath you take, you will be

Thanking people is a national frenzy. I mean, it is good to be mannered and appreciating someone for some help is good. But, here it is at its craziest heights. You will find people thanking each other over and over, for things which should be done as part of their job. Even I do not expect people to thank me for doing my job.  Either these guys are too humble or too sarcastic. It will be no wonder one day they will be thanking the key for helping them open the door, or the remote controller for letting them change the channel. I am thankful to the person living downstairs. Why? I don’t know why but I have to be thankful to someone or another, otherwise I will be considered to be rude. Thanks you for reading friends.

 You will not notice when your phone rings

Why? Because you would have forgotten how your ringtones sounds. The number of calls that you get is reduced drastically (assuming like me, you don’t have a girlfriend) as most of your friends in India will not dare call you. It has happened a couple of times when others have pointed out that my phone is ringing. I simply did not realise and had assumed that it is somebody else’s phone. It can even go to the lengths of you forgetting how to make calls from your cell phones and you eventually forgetting what cell phones are.

 You get to live in an art gallery

Ever heard about the theory of relativity by Einstein? It says if you move to speeds near values the speed of light, with respect to a particular point in space, you travel slower in time than the person at that point. In effect for that person the time seems to move very slowly when he looks at you. A situation can be reached when he feels time has stopped for you. Confused? Anyways no need to get into details, you can still feel the same and without any need to travel at the speed of light. You just have to look out of the window on an evening especially, if it is a Sunday evening. Before the clock hits 5 people rush into their homes, roads are deserted. If you look out of the window you may feel that time has come to a halt. You can keep on looking for hours without a slight movement of things. Not even a car passes or a bird flies by. It is like every window in your home has turned into a painting and you live in an art gallery with same exhibits every day. These are ideal settings for suicide enthusiasts. If you are on the edge and just need a slight push, it is too easy to find that. Melancholy finds it true meaning here. Every atom of everything mourns the end of the weekend.

You will come to know that Hate is love

Until I reached here, I believed I hated crowded places. I believed I don’t like chaos, but not anymore. It was the eve of the Olympics opening ceremony when I reached Stratford train station in East London. The opening ceremony was to be held at the Olympics Park just walking distance from the station. It was 8 PM and chaos ruled. The platforms were crowded like they are in India, the ticket windows were closed, all the gates were left open, station staff had no idea what was going on, and most of the commuters were asking each other about where to go and nobody knew. I looked around and I smiled. In midst of that chaos I found comfort. Never after reaching UK had I felt so comfortable. I almost cried. Few you would believe but I actually miss the street dogs. They are a great source of entertainment, when there is nothing to do, you can just peek out of the window and find them fighting, running, chasing each other. Their gang wars are the most exciting part.  Here when I look out to the streets, there is nothing. NOTHING.

The worst one

As you all would have realised by now by reading the above content that you become a bore. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you resist, but eventually you become a bore. And this was what my friend pointed out and made me step back and take a look. Probably, the reason for this is not spending the same quality of time with your friends. The time that you spend with your friends nourishes your sense of humour. But once you miss on that, it you slowly start drifting towards what the world knows as boring.

 

So, any aspiring UK traveller out there should keep in mind that there are things which nobody will tell but which happen to you here. I would suggest you all to start going to yoga or meditation classes. It will prepare you. It will impart the strength to your mind.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti…

Weekend Engagement

Weekend, what can you do in a weekend? There can be a million answers for this question. Lots of people would have done lots of prolific things during the span of the two days that we call a weekend. I am going to tell you a story of one such weekend.

Friday, 23rd April 2010 6:15 PM

I am sitting in the office cafeteria at my office in Pune with two of my colleagues, Sakshi and Poulomi. We are having snacks and I tell them I have to catch a bus at 7:30.

Sakshi : How are you supposed to reach ruby hall by 7:30? (She asked this because of the distance I had to go to catch the bus from Ruby Hall)

Me: By auto… (Gesturing the handle of an autorikshaw). I have done that in past, last time I started at 5:30 to catch a bus at 6:30.

Sakshi : You see, there is a difference between 5:30 and 6:30. You will see.

Me : I am done with the sandwich.

Sakshi : I think you should leave.

Me : Bye… (half walking half running)

I get out of the office, catch the first shared auto to reach the Hinjewadi chowk. It takes me 10 mins and 10,000 words to convince a rickshaw driver to drop me at the bus stop for mere (!) price of Rs. 280. This comes with an added condition; he will also take up fares all along the way.

During the whole journey he keeps screaming ‘Teshon’ (‘Station’ in local lingo). Thanks to him we stop at atleast 5 places on the way and I get accompanied by a fat and stout Girl going to meet her boyfriend, a cool and sexy girl who is going for a movie and an insurance agent going for a call. Now don’t ask how I came to know about what they were going for.

I reach the bus stop and manage to catch the last bus leaving for Indore. As I am so late to get the ticket the only seat left was the upper berth at the end of the bus. Those who are not familiar with the sleeper buses that ply in all parts of India don’t get surprised by the mention of the word ‘berth’. The sleeper buses are an amalgamation of the Chassis of a bus and the layout of a train. Search Google for picture of these buses, which will give you a visual feel of the interior.

Travelling with your berth at the rear end of bus is what you call pain in ass, head, back …actually each and every part of your body. The ride is so bumpy that during the sleep (whatever I was able to get) I dream of travelling on moon. I bang my head atleast twelve times after which I stop counting.  At an early hour of morning my cellular communication device informs me of a text message. It says

‘Dear Customer, your outgoing facility has been barred due to negative verification of your documents. Please submit correct documents to continue uninterrupted service.’

Now that’s what you call an insult to injury.

Saturday, 24th  April 2010 9:00 AM

With very little sleep and lots of body ache I manage to reach Indore. As usual the city that I love the most welcomes me with a shower of dust and blow of hot air. I see development work going on all along the way to my place. As I reach home, Mommy – Papa and Anand Mama (Chunnu Mama) are waiting anxiously for me. They think my phone died due to low battery.  A plate of Poha is served in front of me along with a glass of Pana (Green mango squash). Man! I love Indore. As always a plate of Poha is never enough for an Indori.

Chunnu Mama is in Indore as he had to leave for some remote place near Mandla for a training camp for 15 days. The place is so far flanged that he has to walk 1.5 kms and climb a hillock to make a phone call.  (He is still there as I write this).

All during the day I complete various important jobs pending to be done. I present you the list

–        Visit to doctor, as a part of my monthly check up.

–        Get my glasses repaired, which got damaged in my back-of-the-bus journey.

–        Catch up on lost sleep.

–        Lunch

–        Visit to a friend’s place to collect a parcel which I was supposed to deliver to him in Pune

–        Visit to Bhua’s place

–        Then paid a visit to one of my cousin who had recently run into a 75 yr old man. The old guy was now in coma, had broken both his knees and my cousin was held responsible for this. (I never felt so as the old guy was driving a Royal Enfield Bullet and my cousin a TVS Scooty. How can a boy on scooty injure a man on Bullet so lethally).

–        Book a ticket for return journey to Pune.

Meanwhile these things are happening I am constantly planning with my friends for the next day. Sunday is going to be the biggest day in life of one of my friend, Ashish Sharma aka Mathura aka Bhata aka Haapshish aka …..(Sorry cannot produce the whole list; it is bigger than the bible).

He is getting engaged after all.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 5:30 AM

I wake up listening to the alarm. I had to get ready by 6:00 AM as Nilesh sir is going to arrive and we would start for our journey.

Nilesh Sir

Nilesh Singh Chandel, he was our senior in engineering college. ‘Berang’ , ‘Bindass’ and ‘Berang Bindass’ are his word whiskers, but with some meaning attached to them. I have provided the possible meaning for them.

Word Meaning
Berang Literal meaning – Without any colour.He uses it when he intends to say that a particular job was done without any fear. It is more like the just-do-it.
Bindass Literal meaning – Without any inhibitionsHe uses it to denote the carefree nature of things
Berang Bindass He uses it to denote the combination of above two characteristics.

Although a senior of ours he became quite a close friend in the later part of our college years. The bond was strengthened by the mutual exchange of favours among us, especially with Ashish. On Saturday we had decided to go to Sihore for Ashish’s engagement on his bike as I had come back to catch a bus at 7:00 PM for Pune.

While I am bathing, I could hear that Nilesh sir has arrived and is talking to my Mom. I quickly come out and get dressed up. It was 6:30 by the time we leave. We refuel the bike at a petrol station just near the city limits before hitting the highway.

The road from Indore to Bhopal (On which falls the town of Sihore, at a distance of 160 Kms from Indore) is named State Highway 18. Now in the part of world where I live, even national highways are not expected to be in a very good condition, leave alone the state highway. But what we come across was much more than a surprise. The road is unexpectedly smooth and broad. The median is as wide as the roads and there are trees all along the way. We are so taken aback by the quality of the road present in front of us that we go almost a kilometer before we realized we are on the wrong way, near Dewas. At this point we check our phones for the time elapsed (as none of us had watches), it is already 7:45 and we are supposed to reach Sihore at 9 o’clock. We have to travel  116 kms in less than 90 mins. Now that is impossible we both know.

None of us spoke a word for the next one hour which we took to reach Astha, a town 40 kms from Sihore. We had to have a stop here because our bums are so hurting that I start believing that I would not be able to return by same means. A refreshing cup of tea and a plate of Poha brings back life into us. It is still cool and sun is not up to its full glory. We gear up for the last leg of our travel.  All through the journey it never happens that due to the quality of the road we had to shift to a lower gear.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 9:30 AM

At 9:30 we reach the venue, as soon as we entered the marriage garden where the engagement is supposed to happen, an SUV also enters with us. Out come four boys, Aanil Pandey, Davendra Raikwar, Vaibhav Gupta, Vipul Gupta.

Aanil Pandey

Anil Pandey, he is Ashish’s school  friend. His voice is so heavy that a you could crush a can of cola under it. Presently in Delhi he is famous among the friends as ‘the confiscator’. He gets hold of whatever belonging he likes of his friends and is reluctant to return that. He is also famous for his love for black coloured clothing.  Ashish attributes his mischievous nature most to Aanil, who influced Ashish a lot in their school days. Pandey now seems to be grown old as considerable amount of his hair is grey and he has grown thin.

Davendra Raikwar

Davendra Raikwar, He is among the people on whom I can go about writing a book. But will wind it up in short. Anna, is how we address him. He has absolutely unpredictable temper. He can make anybody go mad with his annoyance if he wills. One of my favorite partner when it comes to nag somebody. Both of us combined have produced many disastrous incidents where people got very hurt, which can be recalled by lots of our friends (angry friends, rather). He is very parsimonious when it comes to talking and keeps most of things to himself.  Presently working for Delhi Metro, he holds the most prestigious job among us, as majority of us are software engineers. You need to be his friend for a long time before you understand what he really means when he remains quite. During our college times he used to hate the silly text messages on friendship, love and etc. But now he is the one who sends all such messages and the one who sends them the most.

Vaibhav Gupta

Vaibhav Gupta, again a figure who can be a subject of a book. He is the favorite prey for Davendra and me and he also very well appreciates this. Kaka is how somebody from us will address him. The reason behind this is that he used to play the role of famous ‘Ramu kaka’ from Sholay in the skits we staged during our college. He is also known as ‘the altruist’ due to his helping nature. Very few people know that he lives a dual life. For those who see him from a distance don’t know this. And even no one from us know exactly what his other life is like but all of us know discrete bits and pieces. Below is the list of certain things that define him.

  1. Loves listening to songs.
  2. You will find him always chewing cinnamons.
  3. When it rains it is out of his control to not get drenched.
  4. He cannot help helping others, especially if the other is a girl.
  5. Needs Dal-baati at least once a week.
  6. Loves philosophies of Osho, Sri Sri Ravishankar and anybody who can profess.
  7. Visit places with only some of his selected friends, especially by bunking classes.
  8. Occasionally sleeps at night.

Presently at IIT Roorke, I hear that he had created a fan base there with his altruism and stories he narrates to everybody. I think that is enough to give an idea about him.

Vipul Gupta

Vipul Gupta, Vaibhav’s younger brother. If I consider all the siblings of my friends he is the one we are friendliest with. Our relationships with him have reached such a level that Vaibhav doesn’t matter when it comes to rapport between any of us and Vipul. Monu, as he is fondly called, is a humble and happy-go-lucky creature. Although I have heard incidents of his stubbornness from his mother but I have just heard them. He always comes across smiling. He is always ready on his toes to respond to orders of his elder brother. A Charted Accountant in making he is a dream of a brother.

Before me and Nilesh sir finish catching up with these four guys, Ashish, Pavan, Deepak and Anil Upadhyay along with some other friends of Ashish come to us.

Ashish Sharma

Ashish Sharma, already you all are aware of his various names. The most popular and catchy one is Mathura. Now I am not going to tell you about the story behind this name. Mathura, as everybody calls him is a weird character. An ardent gym devotee, he always believes in doing what he wills. He can talk to a stranger for a whole day, till the stranger is no more a stranger. He loves photography but only if the one who is posing is he. He can sleep for days and remain awake for more days. When we were in college he was a terror among the juniors and was the most dedicated junior to all the seniors. Pavan Rungrecha holds the key to Ashish. Nobody save Pavan came make Ashish agree to certain point. One more striking aspect about Ashish is his Bike. A black Yahama Libero is the one possessed by him. He is famous (or rather infamous) for his trademark U-Turns on a busy road. He has achieved various accomplishments with his bike, the latest and the most daring one is a bike ride from Ujjain to Mumbai (nearly 700 Kms) in 16 hours. Now I won’t go boasting about him. He is the one getting engaged and we all have travelled from different parts of the country for him. As I have mentioned earlier about some of my friends on whom I can go about writing a book, the book on Ashish would be the most massive one. Presently, he works for a software company in Mumbai.

Pavan Rungrecha

Pavan Rungrecha, a plump shaped, preoccupied, self conscious guy who wants to look fit without any effort. Genda aka mama aka pakoda … he too, just like Ashish has wide variety of names. He is always bothered about his appearance. During the college time he used to get smitten by every passing girl. He very skillfully pretends to be the most responsible, the most mature and the most thoughtful guy among us, and is very successful in doing so (although we know the truth). If you tell him the symptoms of a disease he is sure to catch that within few hours. He thinks he is the leader of all the mankind and is the one who should speak on everybody’s behalf. Now I should refrain from writing much about him as it will be harmful for him as well as me. Presntly, just like me he is working for a Software company in Mumbai

Deepak Sisodiya

Deepak Sisodiya, a smart looking guy (he just looks smart) from Mandsaur (along with Pavan and Davendra). Pavan calls him Lala and so do some of us. He always keeps smiling and laughs out loud at every joke. You never know when he actually understands the joke and when it’s a dumb laugh. He is one of the few people who actually enjoy listening to incidents narrated by me(this is what he tells).  Apart from Davendra he is the one who sends a message per day. But his are more comic rather than dull sentimental messages. Presently he handles his family run business and manages a sari shop.

Anil Upadhyay

Anil Upadhyay, another character who hails from Ujjain and is Ashish’s childhood friend. He is one of the most astonishing characters I have ever seen. Some of his deeds are so prolific that if I cannot think of doing those. His friends fondly recall his famous suicide attempt. During the college time he seldom prepared for the exams but often passed the exams. Sometimes we knew how he did that and sometimes not. He was managing all the activities for Ashish’s engagement.   Presently he teaches in an Engineering college.

Ashish: BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA!!! (That’s our trademark greeting. Bawa pronounced loudly 7 times in a rhythm, with your hands up like you are held by a cop. We even have a community for that on Okut!) Abe to bike se kaise aa gaya? (He asks to me).

Me: Kyun, main bike se nahi aa sakta? Koi problem hai kya bikes ko?

Ashish: Nahi be, main is liye aisa pooch raha hoon ki tu itni der bike pe baitha kaise?

Me: Ab teri sagai me aana tha to tere tarike se hi aa gaya….

Soon Naushad, Amit, Pravin and Ritu (Sharma) arrive. Everybody is talking to each other.

Naushad Ghori

Naushad Ghori, tall, fair and handsome (argh…) male (?). I don’t know it is his habit or he does that intentionally but he can never be serious. Back in college he was an integral part of our team that staged skits in which we spoofed the Hindi film industry. And it was during the times of cultural activities that the two of us interacted the most. He used to play Sanjeev Kumar aka Thakur Baldev Singh from Sholay and Vaibhav Gupta was Ramu kaka (Hence he came to be known as kaka). He is one of the most irritating creature I have come across, there were times when during the rehearsals I used to shout like anything at him and Shikar (I won’t describe this creature here). He always tries to impress girls with his greasy talks. Every time you will find him loitering around girls. During our training days in Kerala he still remained the femalephillic organism. We both were put in the same group for preparing a mock project.  There were instances where he did something which could be called as productive for the mock project, but those are very few. I feel I have wasted enough space on this good-for-nothing rascal.

Amit Hasija

Amit Hasija, slim, tall, fair brown-eyed guy. Amongst all these people he is the one whom I had known for the longest. Both of us went to the same coaching class in high school. He and Naushad are schoolmates. Ashish, Amit and Naushad are flatmates. Ashish, Naushad and me are classmates from college. It is interesting to see how the net of friends interconnects two nodes through different paths. So coming back to Amit. To be honest, during our college times I had minimal interaction with Amit. It was only during our training days in Kerala that we got to spend some time together. He used to come and stay at the hotel in which we were staying, even though he was allotted a different accommodation (God knows why).  Presently he is working for the same IT firm as I am and lives in Mumbai.

Praveen Kaushal

Praveen Kaushale aka chupchap, a dark, reserved guy. He also is one of the flatmates of Ashish. He and I used to travel in the same bus during our college times. There is an interesting story about how he came to be known as Chupchap. Once when we were in second year of college there was an event organized by a local newspaper in our college. Somebody from Praveen’s branch knew one of the reporters. They decided to do one piece for the local supplement of the paper where senseless bits of information and meaningless college news are published (Usually the last page on the city supplement). In that article a picture of group of friends was published (Praveen was also a part of it) and there was a small description of every member in it. Praveen was named as chupchap by his other friends and it was written ‘ab mileye Praveen se jinko inke dost pyaar se chupchap bulate hai….’  And some other shit. Next morning he came out in the bus flaunting that his picture has been published in the paper. When Abhishek (another of my friend) and I read out the matter we couldn’t help needling Praveen. It was so hackneyed and so chutiyatic (sorry for the slang). Even Praveen was embarrassed with that, he never mentioned that article again. Presently he is chupchaply living in Mumbai and exploring new boundaries.

Ritu Sharma

Ritu Sharma, a cute, lovable and what-is-happening sort of girl. Hers was roll number 48 just before mine. She has been the victim of my wrath during the practical session in the college. I was always concerned with finishing the experiment as early as possible and she and Ritu Kapse were the two other member in our practical group. I used to tell them to sit quietly and not utter a word till I have done the practical. It was only after I had finished that they touched the apparatus. Presently she is teaching at an engineering college. When I asked her what subjects are you teaching she replied that, who actually teaches at an engineering college, with a chirp.

And our talks continue till we go into bath. The bathroom doors has slits on the top. Somebody starts taking pictures of the ones bathing inside and that turns into rage with each one bullying another. Now I am not going to describe the intricate details of it. After getting ready we sit below a tree which is very soothing as heat starts mounting. While we were bathing Sandhya(Ashish’s fiancé) had  arrived.  Soon two other creatures had arrived namely Kapil Saluja and Banakdeep Singh Saluja

Kapil Saluja

Kapil Saluja, a smart, young and stubborn guy. He is the younger brother of our dear friend Rishi. As Rishi is in Chandigarh and could not come to attend Ashish’s engagement Kapil came. He would’ve come even if Rishi was there. Kapil considers Ashish as his guru. Both share traits as far as thinking goes. He is also famous for his stubborn nature. I had heard incidents of his beating up a policeman even before I first met him. Presently he is studying in Indore.

Banakdeep Singh Saluja

Banakdeep Singh Saluja, a slim, fair Sikh with genuine turban. He is Kapil’s friend and flatmate. I have met him only on certain instances but the impression I got about his is he is an amiable and cool tempered person. It was during Ashish’s engagement that I came to know about the meaning of his name, Banak means Honey. Although we had a very less interaction there have memorable incidents one of them being his bike being taken away by traffic police. At that time he had even lost all the papers for the bike and his license too. He is also presently studying along with Kapil.

The ritual requires the presence of the girl for most of the time. Hence we are with Ashish in a room where he was getting ready while the rituals are being performed. He will only have to make a presence for exchanging the rings and some trivial rituals. But that is also delayed as he had forgotten a special tika that is worn by the Boy at the time of engagement (Anil Upadhyay is held responsible for this). Two of his friends are dispatched to bring that from the local market. As they aren’t aware of where to get it from, it takes them time to find it out. Meanwhile, everybody starts thinking that we have held up Ashish as a sign of the groom’s ego. People from family keep saying that it is not a marriage let him go, and we have to explain them the real problem.

Just before the auspicious time is about to pass, they arrive with the tika and out comes Ashish dressed in Purplish blue Kurta payjama.  He goes straight to where Sandhya was sitting and also the priest. All through this time, Pavan is taking snaps of the happenings. He thinks he is some world class photographer and expects us to feel privileged to get his services.

It is very crowded as everyone wanted to see the exchange of rings. Davendra, Deepak and me slip back and as soon as ceremony is over we signaled the Dholi(Drummer) to start his act(actually he was already into it) and then we start dancing. For next 10 minutes what happens I don’t know. It is so hot and the dancing resulted in sweating and perspiration. I am dehydrated; I go and drink from whiSchever water body comes to me at first. Despite of doctor’s warnings of drinking only distilled water I gulp 4 glasses of water from a drum kept just outside the hall where we were dancing.

After all this we take time to calm ourselves and retire to the same tree. As many of us meet each other after a long, long time we couldn’t get enough of catching up. Naushad, has a bleeding nose due to the heat. Poor guy couldn’t enjoy the whole function. Soon the lunch is served and we the groom’s friends with the entire attitude enjoy the first serving.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 2:30 PM

After lunch we go back to our temporary lounge(The tree shade) and keep chatting. Nilesh Sir points out that it was nearing 2:30 the time we had decided to leave SIhore. We start bidding goodbye to all and it is not before 3:15 that we could actually leave.

This time the heat is on. We cover ourselves with white cotton cloths one of which I had brought with me and one each was given from Sandhya’s family as an acknowledgement of appearance in the function to us. We are now aware of the route and the time we would take to get back hence we are more confident. But certainly the conditions are different, it is almost 41o C and the highway is going to be hotter than this.

Nilesh sir rides the bike for the first leg of 60 Kms till the MP Tourism highway retreat. Then I take over and it is never a time in the journey that we have to pull down the speed due to the poor quality of the road. It takes us just within 3 hours to reach my place. We cover more than 160 Kms in 3 hours.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 6:15 PM

I reach home, took a bath while mommy prepares a cup of tea. I realize that I am having a headache. Papa gives me a painkiller. I quickly pack my bags and leave for the bus stop. When I reach the bus stop, the bus is already there.

Before I could arrange my belongings the bus has left the limits of the city. And here I am wondering about this adventurous weekend that I had. If I see it in retrospect I could’ve never agreed to the idea of riding a bike all the way to Sihore and coming back in one day. But sometimes you do most unusual things for the people whom you love. At no cost I could’ve missed Ashish’s engagement. At no cost I could’ve missed meeting so many friends at one place. Soon I fall asleep.

Monday, 26th April 2010 12:00 PM

I am sitting in my office and it seems as if nothing has happened. Although I have travelled more than 1700 kms by road in just a span of 2 days including 320 kms on bike in one day it makes no difference. I have loads of calls and issues. The usual life has resumed……

Love, actually

(This might seem a bit filmy and dramatic but its a real incident from my life.)

You missed your bus yet again, but how does it matters you are in the last semester of your engineering. It will not matter even if you don’t attend your classes. This was exactly what you were doing since last week. Today is a different day you are experiencing a strong urge to go to the college. You can take the second trip bus, which comes in after an hour or so. However, you decide to go by public transport. Immediately you take a city van to reach Rajendra nagar, from where you would get the bus for your college. You are waiting there and as usual, there is a lot of crowd. It is almost crunch time here. You realize you will have to go hanging and balancing in several poses all along the way.

                        The first bus that arrives is overfilled so much so that it seems to spill. You have a theory about busses: – the bus that follows an overcrowded one would be less crowded than the first. Therefore, you decide to wait for the second bus. Soon it arrives and stops exactly where you were standing. As you look into the bus, your heart misses a beat then a second and a third. You feel like having a stroke. No signal from your brain. No it’s not the crowd that is bothering you. It is the girl sitting in the front seat. She someone you know from your school. Both of you were in same class. Now even the college is same but the streams are different. You are in love with her since high school. She was a good friend but now she ignores you as if you do not exist, as if you are invisible. You still love her. People say she has a boyfriend, you still love her. She has acted many times as if she hates you. You still love her. As you see her, she also sees you. She immediately looks away, into a book she is reading. Soon you realize you have to hop onto the bus else, you would miss it too.

            It is January, pretty cold. You are wearing a pair of jeans teamed with a white cotton shirt along with your college blazer, which you are wearing just to recover the money you have (over)paid for it. You get inside and you see that although this bus is less crowded but still there is no room inside so you have to stand at the gate, right in front of her. Fortunately or unfortunately.

                                                                                                            The two of you are not on talking terms since second year of your college. You start thinking that it is so unusual that you took the public transport first time in the semester and you banged into her. You remember how you were in engineering college in Hyderabad and you quit there and came back to Indore for counseling. The moment you entered the counseling hall the name being announced was hers. You were totally unaware of the fact that she was also having counseling the same day as you. And unknowingly you two took the same college. You thought, at that time, that this was your destiny and your belief in your love towards her became stronger. Like it happens all the time in movies, only in movies. Now your misconceptions are corrected.

                                    The radio is on in the bus. They start playing a song from the movie ‘Jab we met’ it is “Naa hai yeh paana …” (Romantic Hindi song – ‘Neither this is losing, nor winning it is’)now your emotional turmoil starts to heat up. You remember how good friends you two stated to be in the school. You remember the first day of your college. When due to some incident you were apprehensive about talking to her and you remember how she came to you and relaxed you. You start thinking why you to have stopped talking? But you don’t find an answer. She is still reading the book. It is Ayn rynd’s ‘fountainhead’. She is not looking up at all. You know why, because if she looks up she would have to see you. She does it all the time, ignores you.

                        Bus is moving on the full swing. Conductor-cum-cleaner-cum-usher-cum-ticket clerk comes at you “Where to?” he asks. But you don’t answer. “Hey where to?” he asks again, you still don’t answer. “Have you consumed bhang?” he snaps his fingers at you. Your trance finally breaks. “Oh Medicaps” you give him five rupees. You realize that lots of noise and ruckus is going around you and even after that, you got lost in your thoughts. “Bheed me khamoshi hai thodi si behoshi hai…”(There is a silence even in the crowd, a bit of intoxication lingers) the song goes on.

                                    She ignores you. She doesn’t want to talk to you or even see you but you still love her. You are obsessed with her she is on your mind almost every time and this has been so since last 5 years. You need to forget her, for that, you must ignore her as she does. You have tried it but you know ignoring is not going to do the trick. You are not able to ignore her. You need something more drastic, more severe, and more effective. Hate her, you must try to hate her, after all what she does to you isn’t right. You try to do that but not unlike ignoring hating is also unyielding. You can’t hate her no matter how bad she treats you. You realize your feeling you start thinking what went wrong? You weren’t that bad a choice. You almost cry, but you cannot. This is the irony of being a guy, you have to act strong and even if a tear rolls down your cheek you have to blame it on the strong wind blowing in or something that struck in your eye.

                        You decide to try hating her once again, for the last time. “Medicaps” shouts somebody. Both of you get out of the bus. She starts towards the college walking on the uphill road. You stay back and walk behind her, even if you can go ahead. Just because you can see her for few minutes more. You know you can’t hate her. Now you understand this is what they call love, actually.

 

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