Thursday, April 24, 2008

The crow…

It had been a couple of weeks since my grand mom left us all for the abode above, she was known as the authoritative woman of the family, strict and tremendously particular about administering household matters, the servants and especially the kitchen front. Although she lived in a separate apartment independently, she made sure things in her house and ours were done exactly as she wanted and her large hearted gestures were welcome and well known among the servants and other household aids. 'Thamma' as we called her, loved food and topping her list of likes were fish and sweets, particularly 'rossogolla's.

Quite expectedly, my parents kept worrying about her declining health yet ever so healthy appetite for sweets and despite all the warnings from doctors and after numerous visits to the hospital(which of course were not ONLY because of her sweet intake), thamma refused to surrender her desires. It was a distressing sight watching her reluctantly dig into bowls of mashed, boiled veggies in the hospital and I did see her cry at times.
Two weeks after she left us, the 'Shraddha' ceremony which was nearing its closing stages brought with it a wave of relatives from dad’s side and with them came sweets, more sweets! For two whole days people kept coming, paying their last regards and dropping off a box of sweets before leaving. After having fed every relative, every neighbor, every shop owner in the locality, every servant, every driver, every beggar, every urchin, every domestic animal in sight and after donating a car full of food to the school for underprivileged kids nearby, we still were left with a 160 litre refrigerator crammed with sweets!
The morning after the Shraddha ceremony’s conclusion mom was cleaning the kitchen when she discovered that a few rossogollas kept away in a vessel had collected a green coating of fungus. She picked one up and placed it on the kitchen window-sill for the crows and disposed the rest. The minute the sweet dropped from mom’s fingers a crow swooped in from somewhere, picked it up and flew away.
Having finished her work she headed downstairs to Thamma’s apartment, accompanied by a servant to clean it up.
This is according to mom’s account of what happened there, seconded vehemently by the servant; while mom wiped the kitchen wash basin near the window, a big crow landed outside the window. It had what looked like a rossogolla between its beaks. Gently, it bent down and placed the sweet on the ground and then flapping its wings, it took off.
Clearly, the bird wouldn’t eat it.
Mom looked closely; it was the very same moldy rossogolla that she had placed outside our kitchen window for the crows! Quite possibly it could also have been the very same crow that picked it up from there!
For weeks thereafter this queer incident became food for a great deal of deliberation in the family and every discussion meandered towards one common conclusion, an uneasy one, one that hinted at the theory of life after death and that of incarnations. But pray, a crow!!?

Since that day mom has always served fresh eatables to the birds cause, you never know!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Another day goes by, what a waste…!

I lay on my bed one unbelievably hot summer night….tonight! and stared at the ceiling fan up above. It spun and wobbled so joyfully it almost seemed as though the thing had a life of it’s own, I wondered at times, if it would dislodge from the hook and fall straight on my face. Considering the way my life has been proceeding I would be happy if it actually did. The weird part was, I couldn’t even feel so much as a faint draft of the ‘Cold thunderstorm’ that the fan assured. I perspired like a derby prize winner, my bed felt like a flat bed of rock somewhere out in the middle of the Thar and my temper soared dangerously... !

The idiot box blared in my parent’s room….women wailed, men hollered, babies cried, guns roared, cars revved and some more women wailed and some more men hollered and some more babies cried and some more guns roared and some more cars revved and lots of people laughed raucously at another one of those so-lame-I-could-go-buy- a-gun-and-make-a-thanksgiving-dinner-outta-my-brains jokes on yet another one of those stand-up comedy shows on yet another one of those television channels…sheesh!
The earsplitting decibel level made me want to tear my armpit hair out one by one and all my pleas for a slight diminution in the volume stood hilariously ineffectual against the Goliath of a din that blasted out of that room. My parent’s are ruthlessly protective about their ‘TV time’…No hanky panky there!!

My eyes sailed to the little space, a passage of sorts, between the balcony and my bed. Those precious few square feet that housed my drum kit till about a year back are now just an empty patch. All those arguments about that little bit of space and how my ‘dabba’s and ‘plate’s blocked a free and comfortable way to the balcony and the final, melodramatic expulsion of my ‘dabba’s and ‘plate’s which now repose proudly in the musical room of some local school for the needy, reaped a rich reward of an empty patch on which now, stands a chair!
For long have I dreamt of that red TAMA Starclassic…MY red TAMA Starclassic with shiny rims and water-clear skins, with a Gibraltar drum-rack going around it, propping up Crashes, Splashes, Trashes and Chinas, a PEARL Piccolo and Iron Cobra chain-powered double pedals. I don’t even know when I’ll have the money to buy a ‘desi’ kit to at least keep the practice going. Right now I am worse than a beginner.

I tried picking up the book I spent 2/3rd my monthly-allowance buying, to study for that job-interview I am not even sure I’ve gotten a chance to sit for and maybe also for the 4th interview I am going to be sitting with the same law-firm, don’t even know when that’s coming up and my boss ignores my calls. One look at that enormous mass of infinitesimally tiny letters filling up entire pages from corner to corner, no paragraphs, no gaps, no headers and hardly any full-stops murdered even my slightest desire to learn and that trickle of sweat rolling down my chin helped matters hugely!
Anyhow, I spent the entire day wiping myself dry, cursing the municipality and worrying about my job-interview.
And of course…my usage of the internet on the home PC has been banned after dad discovered a little bit of porn in my laptop last week! Therefore last night I walked for a good half an hour to get to the ‘closest’ cyber cafĂ© to check my mail while dad sat at home checking his.

The most exciting addition to the party throughout today was the load shedding that went on to stay for a marathon 18 hours from early morning! And thereafter when the lights did come back the A/C conked.
Its exactly 11.49 pm right now, it’s around 38 degrees outside and the humidity is close to 80%, the television is still blaring in the next room, the voltage is dwindling again, ‘didi’ is planning another Bangla-Bandh soon and I am typing this desperately to avoid jabbing a knife into someone’s eye!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The father and daughter ...

We seldom realise it but life, as we know it, makes it a point to teach us it's most valuable lessons at the strangest of times and situations. And often, when we least expect it.

And it makes sure that we remember our lesson, so profound and intensely powerful are life's examples.

This happened a few years back when I was travelling to my uncle's house in Burdwan, a rural district in West Bengal. I sat alone in my car sulking at an argument I had had with my parents the previous day. It was a rather unimportant matter; the choice of cell phones. I wanted to purchase a rather expensive handset, something to the tune of about twenty five thousand rupees and my father insisted that I save the money and buy something relatively cheaper. He insisted that I save while I insisted rudely on spending while I had the money. I had completely failed to see his side of the argument and walked out on him in a huff.
Midway through the trip something pierced one of the tyres and our car slowed down, jerking and wobbling along the way. My driver managed take the car off the road and parked it near a small settlement of huts and food stalls. There was also a tyre-repair workshop nearby. Impatient and annoyed, I scanned the rural scene outside. I spotted a cycle rickshaw at a certain distance from us, parked underneath a large Banyan tree. And in it, I saw them;

He sat precariously, balancing himself on the tattered passenger’s seat of the rickety cycle-rickshaw. It had gaping tears in it through which purged swathes of yellow sponge. His legs stretched out and rested on the little driver's seat in front; a small, triangular piece of hard leather with smooth, round edges, pinned in place by a series of nails with shiny, metallic heads running all along it's sides. His hair was a disheveled and dirty mess. A stubble enveloped his thin jowl and chin and rose to surround his pair of gaping lips, his arms crossed each other on his emaciated chest looking like a pair of fragile twigs placed playfully across each other by a little child. They were bone shaped and veiny. With a bewildered look on his face he stared up at the sky from underneath the Banyan tree.

She sat next to him, small and insignificant, filthy and un-bathed, possibly hungry and unloved, a picture of neglect and destitution. Dressed in a dusty and torn yellow frock presumably handed to her by some sympathetic samaritan she dangled her little plump legs happily. Smiling to herself,she sang moving her tiny, crow's nest of a head from side to side, singing to an audience of passerbys and tea-stall customers who couldn't care less about the performance and went about their lives with indifferent passivity.

In her tiny hand she nestled a little bowl made of stitched ‘Sal’ leaves. It contained a hard and stale ‘puri’ and a few pieces of fried potatoes acquired from the cheap tea shack cum food stand nearby. Humming to herself she reached inside the fragile utensil with a tiny, careful hand and tore out a piece of that bread. Smiling sweetly, she reached out to her father to feed him. He hesitated initially but relented when she made a pleading face. Parting his lips he accepted the food and looking down at his daughter smiled at her a sad smile.
As his jaws laboured feebly, masticating the contents of his mouth the little human being next to him giggled in glee and asked her father in Bengali, “Bapi, aar khabe..?” ("daddy, do you want some more??")With his eyes fixed at the sky, the man lied; “na ma, amar pet bhora, tui kha!” ("no honey, am full, you eat...")!

So sat father and daughter sharing their miserable meal, food, stale and hard yet condimented with generosity and sacrifice. Love radiated through their wretchedness and outshone everything else. Suddenly the dirty and dishevelled weren't dirty and dishevelled any more, the miserable wasn't miserable any more and their stark poverty was reduced to merely an insignificant blot in their refulgence. It engulfed my insides with an almost overpowering assault of shame and guilt and I cried. I was ashamed of my profligacy, ashamed that I was so small and the rickshaw-walla and his daughter, so immense.
The car tyre being repaired my driver rushed back inside, pulled out the keys and proceeded to start the engine. As the car jerked back to life, I turned and looked at the two of them and kept my eyes on them. Soon they turned into tiny specks and gradually disappeared into the far horizon.

God's ways are strange but through his oft imperceptible methods He manages to show us the light. He showed me that day that one's family was one's greatest asset, one's most treasurable wealth and absolutely nothing came close to matching it's relevance in one's life. I was stupid to have fought with my father over something to trivial when there were people out there with graver problems who knew how to smile and survive in the face of unsurmountable odds.
Just another 24 hours…

I sat up wide awake on my bed and looked directly into the pitch-black darkness of the summer night brimming outside my window. It was a late 2.30 am of the 28th day of March, of the year 2008 and for some reason my eyes weren’t influenced by as much as a speck of sleep. It could possibly have been the unbearably high temperature, it could also have been the excessive vodka that I had indulged myself to the previous night with the guys, but there was no sleep…none at all. A sickeningly rotten pain lurched in my stomach walls and I felt a lump in my throat.

It was deafeningly quiet and not even the crickets sang outside. Sitting up, I glanced around my room, from corner to corner, it looked so much cleaner now. There were 2 cupboards, one with expletives and the choicest abuses etched on it and the other, that always made a deep guttural sound, similar to a gastronomic discharge, when opened; a study table and a chair; not to mention, a bulging heap of clothes in the middle of the room, books and magazines scattered around, bottles, drum sticks, sundry articles, CDs and underwear, on top of my chair, on top of the cupboards, underneath my table…underwear everywhere!

I saw Shreya di, Rachita, Babu da n I going out for those late night walks and cold coffee from Zaika…how we laughed and scampered away when our landlord peeked outside his window to see what that din was all about..

I saw Avishek n Deba sit in each other’s company, getting lost amidst the depths of thick smoke and philosophy…philosophy inspired by the former, Satadeep rushed authoritatively towards the mirror to make sure that hairstyle was perfect, whether those glasses sat perfectly on his nose and took Anirban aside for last minute advices on dating, I saw Anirban n Arunima cuddle and exchange sweet nothings….

Bajju barged in, in his underwear, clutching his cell phone, talking to someone important, followed by Prad who sailed in, his belly leading the way, one hand put out, asking for a cigarette or a light…I saw Aravind struggle to light his first cigarette and Prasad taking a run-up before piling-on Avishek…
I saw the landlord, Mr. Patil scream at us for making too much noise and letting girls into the apartment.

I saw Yudi appealing to his mom on the phone, wanting to go for that one last party before the exams, the exams that began from the very next day…and Addy Mehta lifting that heavy barbell with one arm and discussing the Indian Penal Code with me at the same time.

I saw Da, Mayukh da, Sam, Jeetu, Karan and myself singing loudly with the nonchalance and abandon attributable only to madmen, I saw Babu da waddle in and out of my bathroom complaining how clean it was…

I saw the little boy, ‘Sajal’ who’d come by every afternoon carrying lunch for Deba and Avishek bragging loudly about the fights that he had gotten used to getting into…
I saw those little, un-healthily frequent ‘booze parties’ that the 5 residents of 24/B, Kapila Housing Society, Gokhalenagar, Pune used to find excuses to organize…

I saw the girls from the next-door PG screaming out my name and challenging me to play Holi with them….

I saw, seated amidst a haze of cigarette-smoke in the NCC, the Magnificent 7 making plans for Ehsaas, singing, taking ‘case’, planning gigs, composing songs, making lots and lots of noise....

Then I saw myself and almost immediately with a ‘pop’....the ghosts were gone…!!

It was 4.00 am outside, a couple of crows whizzed past kawing loudly….on my bed again in the middle of what can be described best as a bare, desolate wasteland, I looked around, empty walls, empty spaces, empty patches, the last piece of furniture sold, the last bag packed, ready to leave Pune, ready to leave all of it behind, shut it tight and forget all about it. The injustice was excruciating.
At that specific point in time I realized that the greatest mistake I’d made living in Pune was taking the ample time I had in hand for granted. I oh so took it all for granted and now, it was time alone that I could kill for, just one more day.

Just 24 more hours and I’d have time enough to go meet the old man from the temple who always blessed me before my exams and in spite of my prolonged absences from the temple, would say; “Sai Baba is always with you!”. I could never meet him before I left.

24 more hours and I’d finally, after all these long years, somehow conjure the courage to go and tell her how much I’d loved her. Tell her about the battles I’d fought for her in my imagination, how I’d kissed her lips and gazed into her eyes without a care in the universe. I’d tell her that I held her hand all these years without her knowing it, I’d tell her that I’d prayed for her and how I’d stood soaking in the rain one day, underneath a tree, far far away, just to catch a glimpse of her getting inside that rickshaw and make off after classes. I’d tell her that, the real reason behind having organized that outing for a lunch and movie, in our first year of college was actually so I could spend sometime with her. I’d narrate to her about all the pain I’d been through all these years just because I couldn’t tell her how I felt, I’d tell her how I cried when I came to know of her predicament of late, I’d tell her I had no problems when she was so rude to me. I’d tell her that I’d rock n roll in Kashmir just for her. I’d tell her that I still loved her.

Just 24 more hours and I would almost make Da go buy that Bass guitar and start practicing for our future gigs, a grand Ehsaas reunion, subsequent recording and stardom!!. One more day, I’d tell Mayukh da how valued he is to us and how I miss him and his little scooter, I’d tell Jeetu that I’d trust my life, my family with him and Sam (after slapping him for not writing me those DVDs) that I’d have liked to see him before getting inside that train, I’d like to have thanked Karan Singh for those long conversations we had had during those rainy nights of 2006 and for showing interest and faith in my abilities. One more day and I ‘d tell Babu da once again that he was such a dude in my eyes. 24 more hours and I’d be able to spend some more time with Smita aunty…talk to Prachi and Asmita and tell them I thought they’re the sweetest girls I’d ever met in my life.

24 more hours and I’d whizz past Lonavla, Khandala, Khadakwasla, Mahabaleshwar, Mulshi in a rocket, a bottle of vodka in tow, 24 hours and I’d race into T.Oaks, down a few pitchers of Barman’s red and make off for a late-night flick at E Square.
24 hours and I’d have gotten drunk with Shashwat and Swati and gone ahead and gotten into some major trouble with the cops...again!!
24 hours and I would’ve made sure we’d jammed one last time at Barista and prayed that we get kicked out from there...just one more time.
24 more hours and I’d have had that one last booze party with the guys at 24/B…
24 hours and I’d scream out to the entire city how damnably desperate I was to relive my last 5 years, in another 24 hours I'd desperately look for ways to stay back!

5.30 am…faint beams of sunlight shot out from behind the thick clouds that had gathered in the northern sky, outside, Pune was still asleep. Deba who was dead asleep nearby, turned to his right after what seemed like ages and breathed heavily. Avishek was already gone a couple of days back. Anirban and Satadeep slept in the next room.
I walked out into the balconyand a cool breeze washed up against my face and all of a sudden I felt alive. I was looking at a beautiful dawn for the first time after so many years, something I’d completely forgotten about all this time; a dawn in Pune…the city that I loved so much, the city that taught me so much, the city that I was to leave forever in a few hours time. I dressed up and put on my sneakers for one last climb on the Taekdi and breakfast thereafter at Goodluck.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Presenting a set of interesting photos I'd clicked sometime back in Pune...just random stuff!

I'd like to know the subjects they teach in that University...I'd really like to know.

"Ki deen eshe galo
Shobar hatey hello...
Behala-r Jam-e poro
Taratalla cholo!"
...I think I get what he means???
(Clicked this from the front seat of my car, the rickshaw was at a considerable distance, bless the camera in my Motorola V3i ).

Well folks...the unthinkable has finally pet roach, Papa has found a mate!!
NatGeo would've paid me top cash for this but alas, for Papa's sake...

we'll keep this one private..