Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lijiye Saahab, Chaat Khaiye!

सलाम साहब! क्या लेंगे? चाट, पापड़ी, भल्ले टिक्की? आज मौसम तो देखिये जनाब, काले घने बादल और ठंडी हवा। पानी की हल्की बौछार में मस्जिद और भी सुंदर लगती है। बारिश में गर्मागरम टिक्की कर दूँ? चलिये, अभी कर देता हूँ।

पंडितजी राम-राम! अरे, एक बार देख दो लिजिये। ये देखिये साहब, कोने वाले हनुमान मंदिर के पुजारी हैं। हमारे गिने-चुने ग्राहकों में से एक थे, जब मैं अपना ठेला वहाँ, मंदिर के पास लगाता था। पर वहाँ कुछ ज़्यादा ग्राहक नहीं थे। जामा मस्जिद के बाहर ज़्यादा लोग थे, बिक्री भी ज़्यादा थी, तो ठेला यहाँ लगाना शुरू कर दिया। तबसे पंडितजी ने यहाँ आना बंद कर दिया है, शायद इसलिये क्योंकि पास में ही सोनू का चिकन-कोर्नर है। 

मेरे ठेले की जगह बदली है, मगर नाम आज भी वही है।
“लैला ने कहा मजनू के कान में,
चाट खाना पप्पू की दुकान में।”

जामा मस्जिद के बाहर जितने लोग हैं, उतने ही ठेलेवाले। बिक्री कम हो जाती है। वैसे मुझे एक बात आज तक समझ नहीं आयी। भगवान् ने भी एक अजीब ही दस्तूर चलाया है, हर जगह अलग भगवान् और सभी के भगवान् सच्चे।

चलिये छोड़िये हुज़ूर, मुझे तो खुद कुछ समझ नहीं आता, आपको क्या समझाऊँ?
यदी रात को बीवी-बच्चों का पेट भर जाए तो गनीमत मानिये। और आप, कंधे पर बस्ता पहने हुए, गर्दन में कैमरा लगाए, लगता है घूमने निकले हैं। लाजवाब जगह है चांदनीचौक। पुरानी है, मगर है अपनेआप में बेहतरीन।

वैसे सोच रहा हूँ कि गुरुद्वारे के बाहर लगाऊँ अपना ठेला। आजकल वहाँ लोगों का आना-जाना बढ़ रहा है। कोई चाटवाला आस-पास है भी तो नहीं। आप छोड़िये इन बातों को। लीजिये चाट खाइये।

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Her God- A Visit to Vrindavan

It was on my recent visit to Vrindavan that it stuck me to think about the commerce behind a
religion. Vrindavan is near Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, and holds great
importance for Hindu devotees. In a market around the very famous Bankey Bihari Temple,
there are a lot of amusing things. The whole market is filled with the fragrance of Pedas and rose garlands.

Dus Rupaye ki gulaab maala. Bihari ji ke liye.” the vendors were shouting.
Le lo, le lo. Aage bees ki milegi.” was a great deal. He wasn't lying.
The whole street seemed to be crowded with beggars. I mean so many arms spreading towards
you. Many of them deformed, weak and frail. There was sympathy, but little could be done. As
I continued my way, one of them followed me. Pulling one end of the shirt, the old woman said
Beta paanch rupiye de do. Chai piyungi.” She was looking too sad and frail. I scanned my
purse and the least notation was a ten rupee note.
Bihari ji bhala karein tumhara.
But this wasn't enough. The fellows had really sharp eyes to ignore a ten rupee note. In a few
moments, I was being followed by three of them, and i realized it was not a really good idea to
give the old lady a ten rupee note.

Another very interesting thing about Vrindavan is the huge population of monkeys there. The
little street had many monkeys, spread over the entire market waiting for the perfect
opportunity. My amazement on watching these monkeys was replied by the rickshaw wala in a
poetic manner.
“Vrindavan ke teen adhikaari.
Baba, Bandar aur Bhikhari.”

I had heard they snatched purse, spectacles, food items and other things. I myself witnessed a
couple of snatching by the clever thieves. Behind me was a short man, probably in his early
forties. I became aware of his presence only when he shouted. His spectacles were gone. The
little monkey sitting on the top of the Mithai shop had a clean pick.
Another monkey was already sitting at some distance on the top and chewing something shiny.
Some people were standing beneath him, requesting him to return back the object. It was later I
realized that a lady had just bought an idol of Lord Krishna, which was very small. And this
same idol was in the mouth of this monkey.
He was eating their God.
The hall of the temple was really crowded. The people were struggling, pushing each other to
reach nearest to the idol. The priests were taking the garlands along with some money to be
offered to the idol, which then ultimately goes to the authorities of these priests. This
commercialization of religion was not pleasant.
On my way back, I had to go through the same market.
“Wo jo beech mein hai murti. Kitne ki hai?”
“Tees hazaar.”
“Arre wo badi waali nahi, chhote wali.”
“Haan Haan. Tees hazaar.”
Such prices, Much wonder. I walked past the shop to a sweet shop to taste some delicious Pedas,
inhaling the fragrance of the abundant rose garlands, wondering if that old lady would ever be able to buy that idol for her. Probably not.
It was her God that was helping her make the two ends meet. Her God was the means of her
existence. But more important to her was the meal, one or two, at the end of the day.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Songs Next Door

Door chaahat se mei'n apni chalta raha
Khamakha bewajah khwaab bunta raha.

The accent was perfect. The pitch a bit too high. The guitar was a faithful complement. Such sweet music floated through the air of the summer night to please my ears. Life had not been happening. Nothing much to do. Studies. Social Media. Stuck up friendship. Illusions of success. Realities of failure. As I type this, the man next door, Ayan, restarts his song. The notes went wrong somewhere in the middle. And it was a difficult turn to take. And he starts again, this time, making a much better attempt.

Ye ho'nsla kaise jhuke,
Ye aarzoo kaise ruke
Manzil mushkil to kya,
Dhundhla saahil to kya,
Tanhaa ye dil to kya...

His next song is a masterpiece from Shafqat Amanat Ali. The composition is engaging. The words are inspiring. For a moment, the smoothness of his voice compells me to think over the life again and again. Inspirational thoughts start to rush in, when suddenly he fumbled over the high pitch of the song. Ali's voice is too sharp and trained for the song. He tries again to reach the level, fails, again, fails. This time, he starts with a couple of notes lower than the earlier one. He manages to sway through the composition with ease.

Udta hua wo aasmaa'n se Jakar gira zamee'n par,
Aankho'n mei'n phir bhi baadal hi thhe wo kehta raha magar...

Kailash Kher's voice echoed in the brain as Ayan played the very beautiful song. He was trying to take similar notes as the original version, and his vocal chords managed to do that for some extent. Only his guitar went a little off stream. But he does not stop. Instead continues and plays the later part flawlessly.

Kisi ki muskurahato'n pe ho nisaar,
Kisi ka dark mil sake to le udhaar,
Kisi ke vaaste ho tere dil mei'n pyaar,
Jeena isi ka naam hai...

The old classic by Mukesh has been one of my favourites. I find myself listening to Ayan with more concentration and fail to engage in the assignment I was typing earlier. The song stands for the meaningful lyrics that Bollywood produced in the 80s. The singing was swift and pleasant when suddenly my room-mate started singing a Bollywood number in his loud voice. Only if he was not wearing those earphones would he realize that he should stop singing. Probably, this harshness was reality. Well, I could restart with my assignment. And Reality.

P.S Ayan sings really well. And my room-mate sings really bad.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Habit

The following is an informal interview/questionnaire.
I ask questions.
She answers.

M- It's when my brother hides my packet of light before Mom sees it, he feels that she shouldn't feel a lot awkward about my habit.
K- Will you leave it, the habit?
M- I don't know, K.
K- Do you write after you smoke? My seniors say they write after smoking or drinking. Being High!
M- I can write otherwise too.
K- Could you call any of them better than the other?
M- Purely subjective. Sometimes I write only to erase.
K- Does it work? I mean writing about something make you forget the feeling?
Or is it a short term, temporary alternative/shelter?
M- I can not write while I am still under the effect of feelings.
I mean, I do random writing, and then not show it to anybody.
K- Oh. I think many people follow the latter part. Some for the fear of the work being too dilute/weak. Some to maintain privacy. You?
M- It's not worth, simply. I keep it, nevertheless, because it reveals new ideas sometimes.
K- And do you ever read it? I remember reading my poem, written long ago. 'Seriously Keshav. You wrote it?' was the reaction.
M- That is how it is supposed to be. Your mind has to evolve. Sometimes you will write better, and sometimes it will be pathetic.
K- Well, I rarely find mine better than pathetic.
M- Someone once told me that undermining yourself is only good until it starts hindering your flow. Let it roll.
K- Do you mind if I share it? Anonymously?
M- No worries.

Here is the link to her blog:

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Living Day-to-Day

Shailesh’s mother was suffering from a disease, about which I didn’t know much. The doctors had given a strange name to it. The family was one of the reputed families but the sufferings inside the family were persistent to not disappear. Shailesh has always tried to be nice and hopeful. He was one of the very calm and peaceful personalities I ever knew.
“It has been almost eleven years.” Shailesh said.
“We have been visiting doctors. There has been regular medication.” his father added. His voice was cracked, with some weariness and exhaustion dissolved in it. “I long to sit in the sunshine on the terrace. But I can’t climb the stairs. I’m too weak for that.” said the lady encircled by the quilt. There were short sentences, partially broken followed by long uninterrupted moments of complete quietude.
“The doctor of FORTIS hospital, Dr. Amish, says that she will be better soon.”
“The previous doctors had been claiming the same.”, replied his father.
During the conversation, Shailesh’s sister entered the room with the tray in her hand. Her striking eyes spoke of high ambitions she had. After serving me some snacks and tea, she went to the other room to study. Barely a few minutes had passed when the old man in the house called her.
“Make me a cup of tea, your dadi says she is not feeling well.”
“Okay dadaji,” was the obedient reply.
I realised how different chores in the house swallowed the few hours she wanted to devote to the books. But, was there any choice?Life rarely comes with alternatives.
Their father is a small businessman. The expenses of the treatment of the lady forces him to toil more. The fatigue surfaces on his face when he speaks. Shailesh himself is pursuing graduation from Panjab University. It was after his first year that he realised her mother’s health had worsened. Now he spends most of his days at home and misses the routine life at the University. The illness,
she said, was affecting the other parts of the body too.
The walls of the room had a number of sea landscapes and few happy photographs of the family. There were smiling, bright faces in the frames, which now had vanished. Endless dullness had saturated the surroundings. It was quite apparent that the complete focus of the family had shifted to her health.
I remembered the time when my mother was in a similar condition. It was one of the hardest times for the family. We would help her in every chore of the house. Sometimes, we had to do all the work. There was helplessness, but there was hope. Mummy would weep sometimes in the middle of the night. She did not want to bother us for every little thing but, was there any choice? There were clouds of sadness.
There were rains as well.During the little time I spent there, I spoke very less. With a heavy heart and wishing her a soon recovery, I walked out of the room, followed by Shailesh. There was an atmosphere of complete silence. I could not find any words to suit
the moment.
“See you soon.” I nodded, smiled and started walking outside the house. The fog had become very dense and the visibility had decreased in the same proportion. Nothing, beyond a few yards, was visible.
Take a step forward and you’ll see what life has in stores for you.The freezing temperature made me shiver. I tried not to stop, for one may not find sources of heat in this chilling cold. It just goes on.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Story

The three bodies in front of me are not moving at all. Other than the moving fan, which adds to the cold atmosphere, everything else is still. The waste wrappers of eatables lie on the desk, disturbing the sight again and again. The eyes are half open, ready to be hypnotized to the sleep, at the extended night. And at the little washroom there in the left corner, there is no light but darkness. The darkness of the little room spreads to this room and overlaps its light. There is something heavy, something too huge to swallow.

On this occasion, I find my imagination recalling what the previous night contained for me, for all seven of us rather. Those who were unconscious had a great advantage, but those who did not find it worth sleeping on a Saturday night got something valuable. It all started with a moaning sound that was coming from the top. This was told to us by other friends in the PG. So it was interesting for all of us to explore the source of the sound. Shivam took his imagination to a wrong place and was predicting some love making in the direction. Ravinder was assuming it to be crying of a six year old. But we had to be confirmed. So two among us, thrilled and nervous, climbed up the stairs and sneaked through the well lit corridor to announce that the second floor is clear. This was a clear indication that the roof had stores of secrets. They progressed their way upwards in the same fashion. The hearts were beating louder than anything. The steps became shorter and shorter. There was some old broken furniture lying on the left side of the stairs, which was partially visible in the light coming from the gate of the terrace. The leader of the army, Deepak, was trying to have a look in the partial rays of light and finally concluded with a sigh that it was nothing but two cats and their cries.

All of us began to scream realizing the folly and returned to the room with some relief. Since the topic was fresh for the night, the room was locked from inside and the conversation started among the seven. Anyone who had ever heard of the most interesting stories of ghosts and corpses began explaining in the bright room, until he was interrupted by some laughter or another 'claimed' more interesting story. What lay outside the box, full of darkness was something surprising. There was a knock at the wooden door. The expression on all of the faces was of suspicion and dubiosity. All were left clueless. Still for that precise moment. Aashish, who at times claimed to be the strongest was also scared. It was Shivam, the sexologist in the group, who stepped ahead, slowly towards the source of the sound. We all stepped back waiting for the disaster to happen.

As the door opened, there was some darkness which entered the room along with a tall guy. He was Salim, Phew! We were panting as heavens, and welcomed him inside the room. He was a smart guy, blessed with a good height and a pleasing personality. 'What beautiful mehfil you all have organized.' 'And your coming adds to its beauty, Salim.', greeted I suppressing my ghastly emotions. We all sat on the beds and chairs. As the discussion progressed, our obsessed minds made the new comer aware of the fact that the content of today's discussion is nothing merry. Aashish started throwing another story of his village and the witches there. 'Could you please switch off the light?', interrupted Salim and added, 'The light is too radiant'. Some of us agreed and asked to switch off the light. But the bulb of the washroom was turned on, which then made the room dim. After a few minutes, Salim again interrupted, this time the story of Anshul. 'Do you all want to hear a story?'
Most of us nodded in yes, unaware of what he had in his mind. 'Do you really want to hear one? I have a masterpiece.' We agreed waiting for the magic tale to boost the spirit of the night.

So Salim took his seat in the center chair of the room and all of us circled around him. 'The story dates back to thirty years ago. There was a house in Aligarh, in which resided a man, tall and strong. He had left the house twenty-three years ago and migrated to Bombay for business purpose. And now, his son, Ajmal had returned to the long forgotten house. (It is believed in Islamic culture that any place abandoned for forty days is occupied by the Jinhaat.) So, many people in the neighborhood feared that there might be some existence of Jinhaat after such a long period. But the young rationalist man ignored their advice.'

'He was rational', distracted Aashish. 'Who anymore believes in Jinhaat?', Anurag provided stamina to his argument. 'Arre listen for once', continued Salim. 'Don't detract me from the story.', and he continued with his anecdote. 'For the first few days, everything was fine. Ajmal would remain busy with his business and sleep, and sometimes his friends, Shahzad. He also would visit some of the houses in neighborhood and interact with them. They were often seen together, as it was Shahzad who had helped him settle in the new place. But after eight nights, Ajmal felt there was something wrong in the house. One fine day, he felt some tremors in the old wooden cupboard. But he took it too lightly and continued his stay. This took place for some nights but the man, ignoring the little indications.

'That was a fine Sunday morning, Shahzad had enjoyed a good feast at a friend's house last night. The Sunday was to be spent with the new friend in the town, Ajmal. He reached his home and shouted- Ajmal, Where are you, my friend. He entered the room and discovered that he was not in the house. The walls of the house had developed cracks with the span of time. The paint had fainted and the wall was covered with a few paintings and a calender. Not finding his friend, he left the house towards the railway track, at the edge of the city. There was a crowd there surrounding something in the middle. As he struggled through the crowd, Shahzad was shocked to watch his friend's body lay on the railway track.'

There was a momentary pause in his speech. We all were stunned. This was almost impossible. How would a man suddenly reach the railway track? Was it a suicide? Was it a murder? Who would murder such a nice man? Was it really done by the spirits who lived in that house? Many questions were flooding in our mind. The pause was necessary, to digest the story we had learnt. And the narrator was well aware of that. He did not rush through the story. Slowly and steadily, he was uncovering the great story. 'After this, Ajmal's younger sister Sakina came to that house. She was so much attached to her brother that she wanted to spend her rest of the life with the memories of her brother. She knew that would hurt her, but she was ready. She believed that this was the only way she would be the closest to her brother.

'Sakina was friends with a girl in her neighbourhood. This also helped her to maintain a contact with the neighbours. She would often chat with her, sometimes had their meals together. The time was passing and after some days, Sakina too faced the same problem. There were some shakes in the house, that would make the objects in the house tremble. Also while sleeping, she had heard some voices which threatened her to leave the house. But the strong willed lady did not leave the old-abandoned house. One morning, there was a little pungent smell in the street. And some of the folks discovered that the source of the smell was the old house. In the verandah, there were a few trees and bushes. There were the withered leaves, which were piled to form a huge heap. And under the heap was found the decaying body.'

The dominating silence, the strong darkness and the narrator's voice of unknown long lost stories had woven a web of illusion on our minds. A few of us had slept, the lucky ones. Those who would miss the story and the horror, which was trapped in the narrator's eyes. There was complete stillness, no movement whatsoever. There was hunger for more while enough had been taken in to be digested. Salim continued his tale of horrors, 'After a few years, a young man came to live in that house. He would not speak to anyone. He had no friends or no contact he had with the neighbours. There was only one characteristic of his. Whenever he would pass the tea stall at the corner of the street, he would wish the old man Aadaab. The old man, whose mind was an epitome of peace and tranquility, would kindly reply the young man. The same was with the solitary young man. He looked lost in peace, stable, untouched from all the worldly worries and wars. There was a different level of intimacy between the two. They never talked a lot, they might knew each other's name, but none of them would miss wishing the other.

'One fine morning, the young man did not appear. Already been the witness of two suspicious deaths, some worry had coagulated in his mind. And his disappearance consolidated the anxiousness. He sent his grandson to look for the young man. "I'm completely fine, It is some dizziness, nothing else." informed the little boy. The old man was relieved after becoming aware of his well being. The next day also the young man was nowhere to be seen. The little boy this time reported that he was sleeping in the room. That evening, the old man himself visited the old house. He straight away went to the room of the young man.'

'The funeral procession of the young man was the last from the old house. His body was in a terrible state, swollen, half-eaten, decaying and smelling very strongly. The Forensic reports indicated clearly that the young man had died at least a week ago.' He was finished. His long tale had done the job. No one after that dared to enter the sealed house again. Salim left the room and went upstairs, leaving our minds to imagine the most extreme moments of the story. Aashish was left pale, fear reflecting from his eyes. With a false hope that we could sleep after this tale, we closed our eyes and slid in the bed. No one dared to switch off the light, which was turned on after Salim had left.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Dragonfly

The Dragonfly

Travelling the Terrace time late
Yet another moon-lit night
Creating self... Beyond,
On grey wall is thrown,
A tall-small fly form of Dragons...
Knocked by blowing breeze.
The wings like the shade,
Of ice.

Wore by eyes a burgundy shade.
Skinny bent legs, now deny
To support it.

Green Helmet of safety,
Proves futile on the back.
And a long tail, stepping down,
To that sharp sting,Harmless.

How would you wander in gardens.
I catching you, opposites sometimes.
How that buzz stole my attention.
To green, from that black board.

How you would irritate us,
Arriving in almost lost soccer game.
Or a story of dragons, those blues n pinks.
And greens fantasized toons!

Keats' pen at time walked,
"Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever!"
You bring me shadows,
Of the gone, Sweet 'Rose' Memories.