Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Ek daag hai mere haath pe
Yaad hai ek chot ki
Kisi ki hansi ki goonj
Aur unko hansane ke zid ki.

Jab thamayi thi dor kisi ke haath mein,
Tab khwaab bun rahe the hum.
Bunaai mein jab gaanth pad gayi,
Toh haunsle bhi ho hi gaye kum.

Jo shikayatein hain duniya se humein,
Humari hi hai aur sambhalenge bhi hum,
Aakhir humara idhar aur hai hi kya,
Sirf thodi yaadein aur aise hi kuch nazm?

Kyun batayein kisiko humein kya lagta hai?
Zaroori hai bayaan karna apne ehsaas lafzon mein?
Unhe batao dard humara hai aur sirf humara hai,
Kyun aur kis haque se unhe hissa de uss mein?

Koi humein idhar kheenche koi unhe udhar,
Thak chuke hain hum ab iss jaddojehad se.
Haar gayein hain hum iss rozmarra ke kashmakash se,
Tang aa chuke hain hum pe haque jamane wale iss zamane se.

Thaan liya hai aaj aaina dekh kar humne
Ab bas yeh aankhein nam na hongi,
Lekin zindagi shayad ab humein chain na de,
Kyunki yeh shikayatein bhi toh kam na hongi…

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Favourite Lyrics... My State of Mind.

Something about songs of disillusionment and pain always ring true with me... Yet no song captures the essence of our temporariness like this song. Sahir Ludhyanvi- God bless his soul- was matchless when it came to pouring bitterness and anger into words- be it this song, be it "Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabi Ban Jaayein Hum Dono" or any of the classics from PYAASA.

This song has always been special to me perhaps because I have always felt that me, my writings, my love, my feelings are all extremely ephemeral. Good or bad, high or low, it shall pass soon whether we like it or not. And so shall we. Read the last verse carefully- there's no better way to put my biggest fear.

Aaah. Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon... Aren't we all?

"Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon,
Pal do pal meri kahaani hain
Pal do pal meri hasti hai,
Pal do pal meri jawaani hain...

Mujhse pehle kitne shaayar, aaye aur aakar chale gaye
Kuch aahein bhar kar laut gaye, kuch nagmein gaa kar chale gaye
Woh bhi ek pal ka kissa the, main bhi ek pal ka kissa hoon
Kal tum se judaa ho jaaoonga, Joh aaj tumhara hissa hoon...

Kal aur aayenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyan chunne waale
Mujhse behtar kehne waale, tumse behtar sunane waale
Kal koi mujhko yaad kare, kyon koi mujhko yaad kare
Masroof zamana mere liye, kyon waqt apna barbaad kare..."

Most Eloquent Expression of Disillusionment Ever...

Jalaa do isse, foonk daalo ye duniya

Mere saamne se hataa lo yeh duniya

Tumhari hain tum hi sambhalo yeh duniya

Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai...

~ Sahir Ludhianvi... R.I.P.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Of Dead Clocks and Evanescence…

If Ashutosh Gowariker ever decided to make a sequel to SWADES, I will perhaps be the best candidate for the lead role. Born and brought up around the world- with a ridiculous accent and strange mannerisms to prove it- I was always the classic outsider here, trying desperately to fit in. I am also the quintessential urban cowboy, having spent my life in metropolitan centres of this world. It is strange, therefore, that halfway through my MBA, I would find myself wandering around a village, trying to speak Gujarati to domesticated housewives.

As a part of the YI-Net here, I was sent to Telav village to try and coax as many women as possible to come for the Women’s Day celebration that we were organizing. But that is not what this is about. This is about the three little local boys who were accompanying us, guiding us from house to house, speaking to those who were unable to understand us.

While making petty conversation to get to know them better, I asked them what they wanted to become when they grew up- yes, yes, I know, very irritating, very clichéd, but I am not sure what one says to a 13 year old. We had already discussed movies and cricket.

Now, all my life, I have been a pretty directionless, clueless, lost kind of person. So whenever some representative of the adult world decided to develop an interest in my future, I would usually tell them that I had no idea. Which, admittedly, they found strange of a 20 year old. Hence, I felt all the more hypocritical. But I wasn’t ready for their responses.

One, the eager-to-please kid, just smiled, while the other said, very prophetically, “Jo bhi banna hoga, ban jayenge”.(We will become whatever we are to become). The third, the most serious one, simply said “humein aapki tarah English mein padhna hai” (we want to study in English, like you).

The child-prophet was perhaps simply trying to sound smart, he may have only meant it as a throwaway comment, implying that he will decide when the time comes, but it is nevertheless a very strange feeling to have a thirteen year old stranger echo your feelings. He probably had no idea how limited in scope his future might be, given his economic and social background, but here he was, at peace with the fact that he will be what he is to be. I doubt if he got this attitude from his parents- I can only wonder where his thoughts come from. I am not trying to hint at any deep, life changing truths here- I am simply trying to articulate what I felt at that point of time.

What struck me most, however, was the third child’s desire to study in English. Now, when you live in India, you kind of get used to the fact that even though you are paying nine lakhs to sit in an air-conditioned seminar hall, two kilometers down the road hundreds are studying in small dusty classrooms with clocks whose dead batteries have not been replaced for months. In such a scenario, millions grow up wishing to speak English, recognizing the language as both a passport for upward mobility as well as a status symbol. But this child was not content with that. Like millions of others, he wanted to learn to speak English, but that wasn’t the end of the road for him. He wanted to go one level beyond all that. He wanted to study in English. Now, that was a kicker.

I think living in Indian metros somehow desensitizes us to the presence of these dusty classrooms two kilometers away from us, the eager-to-learn students who probably will never get an opportunity to, and all the dead clocks. The existence of millions of such desires sprouting all around us is also something we have happily blocked out of our conscience. Our English medium educations, too, are easily taken for granted by us. It took a thirteen year old and his prophet friend to disorient me- temporarily, of course- from my secure cocoon.

It has been several days since my trip to Telav. In the meantime, I have happily settled back into my wonderfully materialistic existence, surrounded with good food, funny movies and plans of bunking classes. I am not really sure what I have been trying to say in this piece. That we should do something for these children? No, I don’t think so. That’s just a cliché. Certainly, I thought about it, as does everyone else who is confronted with all this, but just like cigarette smoke, it is a fast evanescing thought, prone to getting overshadowed by various other, more immediate issues like what to have for dinner.

My determination to change the lives of these children was lost almost as soon as I came back. Yes, that sounds shallow, but I can live with that. Dishonesty- particularly with myself- is what I cannot accept. I think my only aim in writing all this was to sort out the millions of feelings and thoughts that passed through my miniscule mind that day, and for various days since then.

I have not done anything for those children yet. Somehow, I don’t think I will end up doing much either. Nor will anyone else. No matter how much we try, one day these children will wake up and find themselves alone. That day, perhaps, they will try and become comfortable with their existence, and I will be at peace with my conscience. As that prophet-child said, whatever is to be, will be. Until that day, all he and I will do is wait. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I do not know how long we will be waiting. This might be a good time, then, to replace the clock batteries. Or I might do that for them.

That, at least, is something I can do.

Frozen Images…

Bullets shatter the eardrums, as pellets spear through a million bodies at a time. In a bed decorated with corpses and fertilized with blood, a butterfly lands next to a trench on the Western Front, and slowly, slowly, a hand comes out from the trench. A hand that craves for freedom, for happier days, for the comfort of his home, for the love of his family… A hand that just wants to touch the elusive, beautiful butterfly, even if it means disclosing his position on the battleground... And the hand progresses, further and further, inching closer to one last moment of happiness…

An Indianised NRI lover steps onto a gently moving train, destined for a place far, far away, as his lady love and her fierce father look at him from the platform. Slowly he turns around, and looks right into his would-be father-in-law’s eyes. The train is gradually gaining speed, the girl is hysterically weeping, and two men simply stare at each other. A thousand words, a million promises, a billion agreements pass between them- and not a word is spoken. And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, the father lets the girl go.

“Jaa, Simran, jaa- jaa jee le apni zindagi.”

Millions endorse a book launching; an anthology by a poet whom no one ever gave due recognition, who they all believe is now dead… A door opens, and, framed in a harsh, bright background light, he stands, wrapped in a shawl, hands spread out, shrouded in the darkness that has engulfed his entire life. He then looks up, slowly, gradually, full of disgust and pity for the people around him- and, in words glittering with poetry that no one has ever matched since, spits out his fury, his frustration and his disillusionment with this world.

“Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai…?”

A deaf-blind girl, after years of perseverance and persistence, finally graduates. In what must be the happiest moment of her life, she comes back to meet the one man who taught her everything, including the ability to live and fight. That man, however, is now in the depths of Alzheimer’s, and, confined to a hospital, has not recognized anyone for ages. Yet she believes her achievement will mean something to him, and, dressed in her graduation robes, she hands him her degree. Like light tip-toeing into the night at dawn, recognition slowly dawns- he touches her robes, her hat, and in a moment so sublime that it transcends all celebrations, he dances.

“Come… Into… The light.”

An intensely lonely man stands in front of a mirror, armed with a gun and believing it to be his destiny. He has spent years alone, irreparably scarred in Vietnam, and has spent hours and hours alone in his room working out and writing his thoughts down. In a moment of inspiration and full of attitude, he cockily talks to himself in the mirror- for he’s the only one there.

You talkin’ to me? There ain’t no one else here.”

Confronted with overwhelming evidence, a strong-willed, concerned wife asks her husband if he is involved in his family’s crime business. He is reluctant with his answers initially, and soon graduates to full blown retaliation, warning her never to ask him about his business again. Then, after much insistence and a very long, pregnant pause, he looks right into her eyes and- unexpectedly, unbelievably- denies all we know to be true. She leaves the room, a relieved, rejuvenated, satisfied woman, but suddenly turns around- only to find a door being closed on her face forever.

“That’s my family, Kay, that’s not me.”

I sit at the table with her, holding her hand under it, facing her mother. Her mother has known about us for some time now, and decides its time for a tete-a-tete. Gradually, over the course of a meal in Lajpat Nagar, she tells me all about her husband, his life, his ideologies, his dreams. And what we must do if we want our dreams to be realized. It’s not an easy task. As I look at the girl next to me, however, she and I are both filled with an inexplicable and surprisingly clear sense of purpose and calm: armed, finally, with the knowledge that no test is too difficult; no mountain too tall. If this is what we must do to continue holding each other’s hands, then this is exactly what we will do- and more.

“Aapni chinta korben naa, Aunty.”

She refuses to be seen with me when I wear my favourite dark green shirt. My limited eye for aesthetics hides anything hideous in that marvelous garment. We have had numerous arguments about it, and it still creates ripples. Then I find myself penniless before our anniversary, and, in a moment of sheer lunacy and true filmi inspiration, I gift her my shirt, with only a smile and a simple logical statement to clear her evident confusion- as long as she has it, I cannot wear it. Clouds part somewhere and sunlight bursts through- she smiles…

I walk into my kitchen and see her frying puris with my mother and sister. They laugh together and my mother curses the ever-absent housemaid. It’s not a sight I expected to see- and yet, somehow, it seems so… right. They don’t notice me, and I just stare, enveloped in bliss. This is my life. And I like it.

These are not moments which have altered my life in any way, nor have they changed me as a person. True, they are discontinuous and disjointed; each is a part of a larger continuity which gives it meaning. However, as I sit alone in darkness, submerged in reminiscence, I find- more than anything else- these images recurring in my mind. They have all given me momentary happiness. And in a world where happiness has to be snatched from every single fragment of every single breath, they have taught me one thing- happiness lies in seemingly insignificant, inconsequential moments.

Each of these moments have one common thread running through them that bind them to me- somehow, at certain junctures of our being, our meaningless little lives are so filled with love and happiness, that what happens next is absolutely irrelevant.

Happiness is here. Now.

A Thousand Deaths...

Will we ever wish for them,
Does it ever bother you and me,
That we have never really missed
Things that were never meant to be?

Roads we have never crossed,
Places we have never been,
Windows we have never opened,
Sights we have never seen.

Words we have never spoken,
Things we have never said,
Hands we have never held,
Promises we have never made.

When the morning will not find us awake,
And our names will only bring tears,
Will we be remembered for being strong and noble
Or for our regrets, our doubts and our fears?

Give us a thousand deaths,
I would still wish we had lived,
I wish we had lived,
I wish we had lived…