Wednesday, July 10, 2019

LIFE DIVIDED

Keep your voice down dear. 
Even if they hear us, they will start barking. 
I hope they haven’t smelt us. 
Bloody bastards.

Mumbai rains are partly poetic, partly poignant. Hiding our heads beneath jumbo, large, medium, small sized umbrellas; we never raise our heads, to witness the stories which are struggling to survive around us. Calling it a selfish virtue would be wrong. But tagging it ignorant won’t go against being not so right. 

So here is that story, which made me feel again; lives stand divided irrespective of caste, creed, status or season. 

Two girls had just stepped out of a banquet hall. Carrying the leftovers from a plush dinner party of last night, these two girls in their worn out attire, kept walking barefooted towards a slum. The rains had grown thicker. The girls didn’t have an umbrella to protect themselves. Neither did they try covering them with the plastic sheets, which they had wrapped their waists around with. As I walked a little closer to them, I realized their clothes were torn. Thus they had peeled off the plastic sheet from the top of an unattended cart, which could have belonged to a vegetable vendor. They must have then tore it into two pieces of same size and tried covering their torn parts of the dress. 

Looking at their faces, I realized they were not much older than ten or twelve years. Yet to hit their teens, they kept walking towards a slum, which stood at the end of a narrow road. Plush housing societies lined this narrow road, which led to their slums. I too was walking into one of the corporate structures of the same locality. Before I could enter the gate, I saw these girls taking an unannounced pause. 

One of them remarked, ‘Wait. They are out for their first feed of the day.’

The other agreed, ‘Oh Yes. This is the life they are lucky to live.’

The girl who spoke first seemed to be slightly elder than the other one.

Thus the elder one spoke again, ‘Do you think, the food they are served is specially cooked for them?’

The younger one said, ‘Looking at the regularity and the time they are served by, I guess the food is cooked every morning.’

The elder one then cautioned the younger one, ‘Hide. Before they see us, just hide.’

Huddling besides each other, they sought cover behind a parked car. It took me some time to realize; not too far from where I stood and the girls sought cover at; around five to six dogs were being fed by few women. Every dog had its mouth deeply sunk in plastic boxes, which looked similar to each other in size; only differentiated by the women they were attended by. Every time, the box seemed to be running out of stock, the women standing alongside would reload them. 

The younger one said, ‘Look how spoiled they are. What’s the difference between them and us? Those dogs live on the same road as us. But they are being fed every day.’

The elder one said, ‘I know. My sister was saying that they are well fed indeed; three times a day.’

The younger one replied amusingly, ‘Three times a day! These rich bastards, living in their plush homes, can throw food out to those dogs. But when we go begging for it during days and nights of our hunger, the building security shoos us off. On many occasions, they have kicked you and me both.’

The elder one then remarked, ‘Keep your voice down dear. These dogs are so sharp. Even if they hear us, they will start barking. Whatever we are holding dear to us, we may have to throw that too to these tailed bastards.’

The younger one spoke up, ‘I hope they haven’t smelt us like they did the last week. One of them barked furiously and almost caught me by my feet. Such sharp are their tooth and claws.’

The elder one then added, ‘With the kind of food they are feeding upon, do you think, they are ever going to grow frail!’

Both concluded their conversation by remarking unanimously, ‘Bloody bastards.’

By the time, the conversation between those two girls ended, the feeding-of-dogs ritual was over too. The women feeding the dogs walked into the gates, they stepped out from. They seemed to me like housemaids who were assigned this task every morning. Perhaps the food fed to dogs were also leftovers of last night. Or if the girls are to be believed, it could be freshly cooked. 

Through this story, I am not trying to make any point. Neither am I targeting dog lovers and their feeders. But I am trying to understand my vision and seek attention to the fact that ours is indeed a life divided. 

The dogs, the two poor girls, the housemaids, the rich people of those plush housing societies are a part of the same civilization. Yet, the way, the treatment differs between humans and dogs, the rich and the poor, the homeless and the settled, the successful and the unsuccessful. 

Life definitely is divided. But this divide is not just limited to this story. This divide could be felt within our offices (this will need an altogether separate story), within social hubs, within communities, within families, within friends. 

In this concluding portion of the post, I would like to add the conversation I had with the girls. 

I asked them both, ‘Aren’t you both scared? The dogs might still bark at you or come for you.’

Both replied with a chunk of laughter in their voices, ‘There’s no chance. Look at the way they have eaten up the whole stock. They don’t have the strength to move a step ahead. Leave biting alone, even barking is out of their capacity.’

I then asked, ‘How often do you take this road?’

Without batting an eyelid, both replied, ‘Almost every day. And every day we have to wait till those bastard dogs are done with their ritual of feeding upon.’

As I stepped into the corporate premise, I looked out for those girls. Carrying the stuff on their heads, they were walking merrily again beneath the heavy rains. Paying no attention to the dogs, which were still lurking by the roadside, they mustered the courage to tease each other and made their way home with their survival kit for the day. 

- Virtuous Vociferous | July 10 | July Blog-1 | Never Settle | 2019

  

Monday, June 24, 2019

THE CHOOSING CEREMONY


It is all about the time spent
In preparation to start reading
A new book. During ‘The Choosing
Ceremony’ I feel closer to the
authors and their splendid
imaginations.

I think, this interesting hobby of writing something at the tail end of a Sunday, is fast turning into a tradition. A kind of tradition, I would love to keep alive happily. But this is just not one of those traditions for me to feel happy about. There are many others too. Traditions adds value to life. So keeping up with the journey of keeping traditions alive, I’ve been spending some time in staying indulged with a new ceremony. I call this ceremony – The Choosing Ceremony.

‘The Choosing Ceremony’ was not born accidentally. A considerable amount of quality time has gone into the organic evolution of this ceremony. I would love to pass on the reigns of this ceremony to generations of future. It could be my own generation or to the generations, created by others.

This special ceremony, which I now call ‘The Choosing Ceremony’ is usually held over the weekends. I’ve been holding this ceremony ever since my mom and I designed this special library of books for us. So, what is this ceremony all about? Let me help and put some light on this so simple, yet unique ceremony of mine, which might also at times I feel, is too personal.

The Shooting Star is my pick
for this season of The Choosing Ceremony

‘The Choosing Ceremony’ has got lot to do with the books, I choose in succession to read over a week’s time or during upcoming vacations. Since I dabble with multiple genres of fiction, nonfiction, crime, autobiographies, travelogues; at times, the entire experience of choosing between books can get a little overwhelming. Therefore, after I am done reading a book, I don’t take up to reading almost immediately. I allow the experience of the last read book to sink in. I love the entire process of imbibing the mood of a book. The way a book is written also takes me a little closer to the author and the beautiful mind of her/his, which gave birth to mind-boggling imaginations.

To put it in a simple manner, ‘The Choosing Ceremony’ is all about the time, I spend to prepare myself, my mind and my interest levels to start reading a book. I hold the ceremony to choose a particular book; select a particular author; zero in on the genre; run through the prefaces; admire and appreciate the covers; read a few reviews or analyze the author’s overall journey and the book’s journey as well. And for this simple reason, I prefer holding ‘The Choosing Ceremony’ over a weekend; especially on a Sunday. During this ceremony, I sit facing my library; I love gently touching the books, which I arrange almost in a manner of uniformity. Over the years, this practice or this tradition has helped in bringing in discipline to my hobby of reading and to the hobby of buying new books.

‘The Choosing Ceremony’ is also based on my mood of the moment. But strangely on most occasions, when I maybe feeling low or high due to some reason, ‘The Choosing Ceremony’ brings me back to my senses. I pick up a book almost sacredly. I cover the book with a transparent plastic sheet to save it from getting soiled or crushed by other items of my sling bag. And I guess, this ceremony will continue till the time, books are alive in this world and my relationship with the hobby of reading continues unhindered.

Thus, till the next episode of ‘The Choosing Ceremony’ unfolds, I shall read happily and wish everyone Happy Reading.

- Virtuous Vociferous | June 24 | June Blog-3 | Never Settle | 2019

Monday, June 17, 2019

'UNDECIDED'


But before the train starts
to help us reach our desired
destinations, I hear an announcement –
Trains are running late by UNDECIDED hours.

Today being a Monday, Mom isn’t putting boiled eggs on my plate. Like all other Mondays, I am continuing with my vegetarian routine. Mom isn’t even asking me to peel off the skin of that extra mango, which she picked up from our neighbor's grove. I’ve just taken my bath. I step out of the bathroom with my hair still wet. I switch on the fan; I increase its speed. I comb my hair; offer my prayers; start dressing up and take my position at the dining table.

I stare out of the window; the overcast skies leave me thinking about a million more unplanned things. I break my bread. I dip it into the thick mixture of vegetables. I bite into it and keep chewing that little piece till it takes the form of a delicious paste within the mouth. Post which, I allow it to slowly travel down my throat, through the food pipe, straight into my hungry tummy. I am feeling better.

The wall clock makes for some happy viewing as well. It’s 7.45 AM and I know, I am not running late. My bag is ready. I am done with my breakfast. I pick up the lunchbox and shove it into my sling bag. It’s time, I need to leave. I know, moving out at 7.50 AM sharp is not going to leave me breathless. I am not going to walk in haste but, I shall walk at ease. The station road, at this hour is considerably empty.

Bidding mom good bye, I start walking towards the railway station. One step followed by the other; the other followed by another. I am feeling happy within. Today I am not in a haste at all. I shall be reaching the station within my estimated time of 7.5 minutes.

I skip a skidding bicycle. I take the left to avoid being knocked down by a speeding auto. I walk past the temporary food stalls, which spring up every weekday to sell everything; from breakfast of hot piping idlis to herbal juices. And here I am, finally on Platform Number 2 of the railway station.

The railways station, which I am talking about, is packed to the core. The indicator flashes 7.17 AM Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus bound train. Puzzled, I look at my wristwatch. The indicated train is already running 60 minutes behind its original schedule. My wristwatch tells me, it’s 8.10 AM and my regular train is not expected to come any soon.

Almost restless, I decide to board the now stationary 7.17 AM fast train from Platform Number 2. I am expecting it to be crowded. To my surprise, the train is empty. Most of the travelers seem to have already left by other trains. I get to grab a window seat. The train isn’t moving. The motorman isn’t even blowing the horn. After almost 15 minutes of wait, there’s a power cut within the train. The power resumes, the fans blare, the lights glow. The motorman blows the horn. But before the train starts to help us reach our desired destinations, I hear an announcement – Trains are running late by UNDECIDED hours.

As a result, I reach office late – Undecided.

As a result, I earn a late mark – Undecided.

As a result, this journey continues to get delayed by UNDECIDED hours.

#TrainSpotterUpdate #June17 #2019

- Virtuous Vociferous | June 17 | June Blog-2 | Never Settle | 2019

Sunday, June 09, 2019

A VERY PERSONAL STORY

To that place of our lives,
we were born in, we might
end up feeling indebted 
to the author who’s penning
down the book for. 

We don’t live there anymore. But we never miss revisiting that place in our conversations. The place is such. It always manages to find a mention in some of our anecdotes from yesteryear.

I would also like to say that we grew with the place in our hearts.

Even though it took me some of those job interviews of initial days to figure out, that this place was yet to find a geographical confirmation. I never gave up mentioning it proudly in my curriculum vitae.

I still remember how people would make faces. Some would say that they had never heard of this place.

During one of the interviews, I had to put up a skit of ten minutes to lie about this town being a place closer to Navi Mumbai.

Yet, the significance of this place remained unexplored.

Until it took one of its own to decide and put this place on a broader spectrum of conversations.  

This place that I’ve been writing about for long is none other than KALWA.

Still a small town of innumerable possibilities, thriving by the banks of the stupendous Thane creek and for once actually serving the common link between Navi Mumbai, Northern Mumbai and Greater Mumbai. And one should not forget to mention; Kalwa even today proudly matches its steps with Thane as its neighboring town. In much better ways as well.

But who is this one of Kalwa’s very own, who has decided to put it on a broader spectrum of conversations? He is Mr Nishant Mhatre. My best friend Mr Anil Mhatre’s younger brother and a son of the same soil that we grew up playing with, shaping our future with.

Nishant’s pursuit is exceptionally interesting. He still prefers to call Kalwa as his native place or his ‘own’ village. He makes it sound more personal when he says it – My Village Kalwa. He supports it with a sub headline, which brings to fore his love for Kalwa. In his sub headline, he mentions Kalwa as his place of birth and his place of workmanship. 

All of us who were born and brought up in Kalwa, should appreciate Nishant’s passion for the place. At the same time, we should support him with whatever we hold closer to our hearts and has to do something about Kalwa. 

I still remember being at his elder’s brother’s place in Pune. As the conversations rolled out and Anil’s wife Anita served me a glass of water; we had Kalwa on our lips. Anita, Anil and I grew up in the same locality. Anil made it more interesting when he called Nishant one of the most important custodians of Kalwa. 

Nishant’s project of passion came into limelight when my mom showed a WhatsApp message. In this message, Nishant had asked her about old photographs of our school; our very own Jnan Vikas Mandal’s New English School. He too remembers our school from our days of black and white memories; a thatched roof, a modest beginning and a memorable metamorphosis of sorts.

If Nishant’s passion for the place is to be believed, he has put himself up for a mammoth task. I only hope he manages to weave in together the time, the energy and the vision to complete this project on time. 
Exclusive copyrights are with the author

He might be writing this book in Marathi. But if he agrees, I would like to be the first official English translator of this book to take it to a wider global audience.

At a stage when I am yet to properly finish work on my second most book, Nishant has already lit the mind with a tiny spark of gigantic inspiration. I would happily want him to surpass me.

For whatever Kalwa has been waiting for, Nishant is going to be the pioneer to make it happen.

To the Kalwa of our lives, we might end up feeling indebted to Nishant Mhatre for his dream to come true.

- Virtuous Vociferous | June 09 | June Blog-1 | Never Settle | 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

IT’S NOT TOO EASY BEING ME


I mean it when I say – It’s not too easy being ME.

The ME possesses a name. The name, which serves as an identification of who this ME is.

Addressed as somebody or someone, this ME sounds selfish; yet stays real!

As ME as I might sound, you can still reach out to ME and grow compassionate for being a fellow human being (not mandatory).

Perceived as complicated, adamant, arrogant, stubborn; this ME is immune to nothing and still not averse to anything. Because it is never necessary to agree upon what ME thinks and what that ME in that YOU begs to differ upon.

Is ME a daydreamer? Unsure on that front; but definitely sure that ME dreams; big and small.

ME is taken for granted! Does it seem so? Then there could be an area of concern. Or once again, perceptions could have missed the train!

No more haunted by bets on intuitions of others, this ME is far from being one among them. This is a better version of ME.

ME did take time to realize the fake doctrines, dated principles and rotten motives. Yet ME survived. ME lives on.

Trust ME, this part of ME is a revelation for ME as well. An undiscovered, unexplored ME.

Strangely in every ME, there is a ME and yet the entire community of ME lies in dire state of unawareness. Once enlightened, thoughts of ME multiply, sometimes fly.

ME is mortal; made up of blood and flesh. A heart pounds within. An immortal soul lives within. ME is visible. But longing to be visible with certain group of people, with certain kind of mindsets.

As times change, ME needs to change. Yet resistance is a specific feature, ME loves to harp upon with great pleasure. ME resists bad language. ME resists bad influence. ME resists anything that’s bad at the core.

Right now, ME continues to seek shelter from the only table lamp and continues to write. Too much of a ME that it is all about; definitely is potent enough to grow brutally painful or infectiously lovable.

Yet, to conclude let ME add, it’s not too easy being ME; it will never ever be too easy BEING ME.

- Virtuous Vociferous | May 31 | May Blog-3 | Never Settle | 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

MAA IS THE FIRST WORD


Maa and me - 1978

My eyes are moist. My heart is numb. 
My mind is rewinding every moment, which have held my mom and me together.

“I am going off to sleep”, she said.

“I will go off to sleep too”, I replied.

But I didn’t.

I quietly slipped into my bedroom.

I was too excited to write on two topics, which had just started trending in my mind:

  • ·         Topic #1 – Excitement over exit polls (it’s a known fact that I am a huge fan of our country’s Prime Minister)
  • ·         Topic #2 – In the cities that we live in (inspired from a debate over liking/disliking the cities we live in)

I switched on the laptop and before the screen could come alive, I was browsing through some news items on my mobile phone. Little did I know that I would discover an amazing tribute to the first word we utter, when we start speaking – MAA. The tribute that I am speaking about is this song - https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=28&v=Fia1gcooPlQ
Maa - Amitabh Bachchan & Yajat Garg | Anuj Garg | Puneet Sharma |
Shoojit Sircar and team

Yes. MAA is the first word. From the time, we are born, that’s the first word and the last word as well.

I begin my day with the first word every day – Maa. And yet, I feel, I haven’t said it enough or I haven’t felt it enough.

Maa. She has been through every pain of her own and mine as well. Yet, not a single complaint.

This April, Maa turned 65. She was in Kolkata during her birthday. And yet, on her birthday when I wished her, she asked me to take care of myself. Such is Maa.

As I continue writing this, the voices of Master Yajat Garg and Mister Amitabh Bachchan are still flowing into my ears. I am emotional. My eyes are moist. My heart is numb. My mind is rewinding every moment, which have held my mom and me together.

Since my birth till today and right now, I am my Maa’s first concern. Even before I am awake at 5 AM, she’s up and away for a walk. Her addictions are limited to gardening, tending to flowers, worship and cooking for me.

Every time, I question myself, if I’ve done enough for Maa. But it’s never too enough. She is Maa. I was born out of her. For the nine months that I kept growing in her womb; did she ever hold any expectations. Even today when I grow emotional, she’s the first one to know about the reasons behind my restlessness.

I thank Mister Shoojit Sircar and his team for changing my mind and inspiring me to write this down.

After all, Maa is the first word. Maa is the world, in which I still feel safer!

- Virtuous Vociferous | May 20 | May Blog-2 | Never Settle | 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019

AFTER A LONG VACATION

Clicked by: Purnesh Bhattacharya | May 2019

Technically speaking, I should be tired; I should be extremely tired! Nine days of vacation is a long time. If counted in hours, it would be somewhere closer to or more than 216 hours of vacationing in one of the colder parts of India. After my return, it did seem like – I was gone long, long ago. It took me some time to acclimatize myself with the comfort of my home. 

Being away and being on vacation almost seems like resettlement. And yes, I did resettle or move out for a span of nine days. Cushioned between the hustle bustle of McLeod Ganj and Dharamkot, I found myself a home, which overlooked the town of Dharamshala. Through long rows of Pine and Deodar Cedar trees, the town of Dharamshala looked like a toy world. Absolutely closer to the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) that I stayed for all these days of vacation, I realized how important it is to just leave some things behind and embark on ‘a journey of passion’.

When I say a journey of passion, I mean it. For all these days that I’ve been quietly working on my second book and proclaiming to complete it someday, I never felt that this little hill station of Himachal Pradesh would also end up being the epicenter of my first ever collection of short stories; the title of which is simple but can continue being an unending travel series of places, I plan to visit in the near future.

So, as monkeys kept toggling between branches for their ounce of livelihood; as Buddhist monks walked in and out of monasteries; as footloose hippies gambled over cheap dumplings and secret stuff; as the uncertainty of weather continued to make or break my plans of sightseeing; as the immense trek to Triund left me feeling victorious, I kept making mental notes. Very soon, I will weave all these notes together and create the most special fabric of stories, to be dedicated to my most favorite part of Himachal Pradesh – McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala.

Yet the question remains unanswered - How am I still awake post 1 AM, the beginning of a May Sunday? The answer to which will not be too tough to be shared, once I conclude my most special collection of short stories from my recent vacation to McLeod Ganj.

But some things remain indescribable. I had never imagined to get the opportunity to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. At the age of 83, he is both; the Guru and King of Tibetans, who left Tibet amidst heinous atrocities of Chinese government and made India their new home; also known as the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile). Every Tibetan still feels – TIBET WILL BE FREE. Therefore, it was an indescribable experience to not just see His Holiness in person but also hear him and be a part of his teachings. His Holiness conducted three days of intense teaching sessions between May 10th and 12th. I couldn’t resist the opportunity of staying seated in his monastery on the second day and hear him speak in pure Tibetan language. 

Despite all that, the trek to Triund will continue being the major highlight of this vacation. The walk through the partly restored Kangra Fort will remain special. The car ride till Gyuto monastery will punctuate many conversations. The moderate trek to Bhagsunag falls will continue to bring comfort. And yet, after a long vacation… technically speaking – I AM NOT TIRED.

(To be continued with pleasure)

- Virtuous Vociferous | May 19 | May Blog-1 | Never Settle | 2019