That Moment

The colour deepens, and the smile widens
and then there is a moment
between smile, and parting of lips
there is a moment
when narrowing eyelids
come together
to close in ecstasy.

That moment, for me,
is a slice of heaven.

Fingers run through hair,
and then there is a moment
between push, and release
there is a moment
when the dark strands
fall down
to frame the perfect full moon
in deepest, darkest of nights.

That moment, for me
is a vision of heaven.

The eyes squeeze further
and the lips squeezer
and then there is a moment
when the rose pink petals
part
there is a moment
between bud and flower
when the tentative guards
open the soft gates
to love, to nectar, to life.

That moment for me
is heaven.

There is a moment
between cup and the lip
there is a moment
between longing and fulfilment
my eyes see the world
and then they see you.

and as the wine, touches my eyes
that moment for me
is you.


images

 

Categories: Poems | Leave a comment

One

Dusk had fallen on the Himalayan peak. A white fog lay over the all-encompassing snow. A gush of wind blew across her pink face, ruffling her moist hair. Shivering, she tugged at the large collar of her overcoat and wrapped it tightly around her neck.

“Baby…” he breathed into her ear.

She turned around into his open arms and snuggled up to him. His warm breath caressed her flushed face as she felt him on her breast through the thickness of their woolens.

He looked down into her, his eyes darker and deeper than ever.

“On the toes no, my jaan.”

She took the first step. They were enveloped in white – white of the snow and white of the fog. In this world was nothing except him, her and the whiteness around them.

The only sound was of their hearts, beating together.

He wrapped his arms around her. She exhaled, and let go as she took the second step.

She had never felt safer. She had never felt more content.

Categories: Short Stories, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Fluids

“My baby…!” she cried as he lay in a pool of blood. His eyes belied pain. Hers grew moist.

Through her tears she saw him reckoning “Jaan, come here.”

She crashed into him, bursting into tears. Tears mixed into blood and sweat and became one.

It was impossible to tell one from the other.

Categories: Short Stories | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Changing Landscape – II

The sun had begun to be visible from above the lush green fields. The winter crops in the few flat patches amidst the rugged countryside bathed in the sun, and the resulting golden-green hue set off in sharp, bright contrast against the deep blue of the sky.  It was a perfect morning for a bike trip.

A canine popped its furry head out of the growth. It was a full, solid, muscular head with strong features and authoritative eyes. My eyes met those eyes for a fraction of a second as my Klashni* approached, and then left them behind at the side of that country road. I asked Parshuram, the guy sitting pillion behind me who I had befriended and given a lift in Etawah -

“Bhaiya, ye kya tha? Bhedia?” (What was that? Wolf?)

“Haan.” Came the nonchalant reply of the villager.

I had traveled some 15 km off the main road at the MP-UP border (at the horn of MP) into the hinterland of Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. We reached Parshuram’s house in the village, and his Bhabhi made a fuss about me riding bike in such icy weather and so much away from home. But then she went away to arrange tea for me. Parshuram, meanwhile, was busy letting me in on the village.

“Vo dekhiye bhaiya, ve saamne wala kuan hamara hai, thakuron ka… vahaan tak hamari zameenein hain… aur us taraf brahmanon ka kuan hai, aur vo taraf neech jati walon ka.” (See brother, that well is ours, the Thakurs’. That well belongs to the Brahmins, and that to the lower castes.)

I was curious. “Sabhi jaation ke kuen alag alag hain? Aisa ab bhi hota hai?” (Different wells for each caste? This still happens?)

“Bilkul hota hai.” (like hell it does.)

“To, agar unke kuen mein paani khatam ho gaya, to aap log unhe apne kuen se paani nahi denge?” (so, if their well dries up, would you guys give them water from your well?)

“Vo pyaase mar jayenge, par is kuen ka pani unhe nahi milega.” (They can very well die of thirst, but they won’t get a drop out of this well.)

I was shocked. A similar scene has been etched in my mind ever since I had read it in a Premchand’s story some fifteen years ago. A scene written almost 100 years back was being played out in front of my eyes, in this day and age.

“Acchha, aur agar aapke kuen mein pani pehle khatam ho gaya to?” (What if your well dries up first?) I was curious if the system worked the other way as well.

“To hum log to tanker mangwa lenge”, came the reply, on an air of carelessness one normally reserves for talks with only those who one considers as so stupid that they are insignificant for you.

The rules of eating in different caste homes were no less bizarre. These days, anyone could go and eat in an upper caste’s house on marriages and other occasions, I was told. Which meant that Thakurs, and selected Dalit families could eat in Brahmin’s house, and dalits could eat in Thakur homes. But Brahmins would come and eat in Thakur homes only snack-type food (poori sabzi), and not drink water.  They would never eat in a Dalit home. Thakurs, in turn, would eat only the kachcha (snack) food in Dalit homes.

Parshuram admitted that these rules were wrong, and were on decline as more and more people moved out, ate in dhabas and hostel messes where such shenanigans could not be afforded. This whole system of untouchability, he was of the opinion, was there only till the time “puraane buddhe mar nahi jaate”.

*Klashni == Name I have given to my beloved Pulsar 180. 

——-X——–X———-

“Sir, ye timer start ho gaya hai, main abhi campus ka round laga ke aata hoon!” I handed over my cellphone to the security guard sitting on the bench beside the temple complex in the campus. I was timing myseld for my quater-to-three km jog of the campus road.

I raced back to my starting point in less than 13 minutes, according to the timer. This was better than yesterday’s time and I happily started on my stretching routine in front of the Bajrang Bali temple. The guard looked at me with some curiosity.

“Aapka naam kya hai sir?” he finally asked me.

“Aniket.”

“Aniket… aage?”

I stood straight and looked at him in the eye.

“Aniket Sharma.”

“Oh, to aap bhi Pandit hain! Hum dekhte hi pehchaan gaye the!” (Oh, so you’re a Pandit! I knew right away!)

“Achchha?” (Really?)

“Ji, bilkul… Brahmin ka chehra sheeshe ki tarah damakta hai… saikdo ki bheed mein Brahman alag se nazar aa jaata hai.” (Yeah, a Brahmin face shines like a mirror… a Brahmin is so outstanding he can be identified in crowd of hundreds) he declared.

I recalled the curious incidence of the afternoon, when coming back from classes, I had seen the security guard sitting on his chair, his finger raised in typical Chaitanya Mahaprabhu fashion, while on the floor sat the hostel housekeeper, looking at him in awe, and listening in rapt attention.

So this guy was a preacher. Interesting.

“Achchha!” I stretched my shoulders. “Main bhi aapko dekhte hi samajh gaya tha ki aap bhi Brahman hogey.” (Really! I had also known right away that you were a Brahmin.)

“Dekhiye, yahaan campus mein sab galat ho raha hai”, the preacher had by now got into his flow. “Ye sab ladke ladkiyaan kaise galat galat kaam karte hain!” (See, all kinds of wrong things are happening in this campus. These boys and girls… they do such evil things!)

“Nahi, aisa to…” (No, that’s not…)

“Ye sab isliye ho raha hai, ki neech jaati wale adhikari aa gaye hain. 1 Lakh vo kama rahe hain, aur 10 hajaar hum. Isliye hamari sunte nahi. Paise ke nashe mein bhool gaye hain ki shreshtha kaun hai…” (All this is happening because lower caste people are running the administration now. They don’t listen to us. They’ve forgotten who is better.)

My heart skipped a few beats as I stood and looked at this curious creature. Till now, I had seen caste differences. Some, and  increasingly dwindling number of, upper class people thought that they were superior to the so-called lower castes. But the reason for this superiority, I had concluded, was because it was more likely for an upper caste person to be more educated, more wealthy or more ‘cultured’. That is, that the superiority complex was due to cultural differences.

But this guy was different. He actually believed that he was superior to others, on the basis of his birth, on the basis of his genes.

And recalling the way the housekeeper had sat on the floor, listening to his preachings in the way he was, the same was probably true in the reverse as well.

The lower caste person probably actually believed that he was inferior to the Brahman, on the basis of his birth.

———-X———-X————

I have tried to understand the caste phenomena for long. I must have read hundreds of articles on caste system in my lifetime. I never could understand how a system so unjust and detrimental could persist for long.

I think I have stumbled upon a good lead. Some more research on this would be in order as and when I get time. But this is my hypothesis.

For thousands of years, people have probably believed that they were superior or inferior, on the basis of which caste they were born into. It was this belief which was sustained by the unequal, rigidly hierarchical social system. And even as that system had been officially broken, and a semblance of meritocracy, and not heredity, was prevailing in India now, the belief still existed.

Although it took me 26 years of living as a Brahman in India, to come to experience and realize this. Which gives me the relief, that this belief now only exists only on a narrow, lunatic fringe.

*The Changing Landscape is my ongoing series of blog posts about life as I see it in Uttar Pradesh. Here is the link to the first post in this series http://simplyani.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/the-changing-landscape/)

Categories: IIM, Observations, Uttar Pradesh | Leave a comment

A long, hard look at Satyamev jayate

“I am not an activist, I am an entertainer”, says Aamir Khan, when lavished with praises of social uprightness for his show Satyamev Jayate. And this honesty is indeed commendable.

ENTERTAINER. One who, as per Oxford Dictionary, provides amusement and enjoyment, to others. What essentially Aamir Khan and his team are doing through Satyamev Jayate is that they are aiming to fulfill some particular emotional/ psychological needs/ wants/ desires of the audience. Emotional needs – the need to empathize with our fellow human beings and their sufferings, which is inherent in us all. There are sufferings about which the middle class keeps getting hazy bits of information from various sources, but seldom gets anything specific or concrete. Harassed women, sexually abused boys pouring forth their own tales to an empathetic Aamir fills up this vacuum.

The need to understand exactly how much corrupt our system is, gets satisfied through live footages of doctors aborting babies as a matter of routine.

A hidden need to feel a connect with our fellow people when the community lives of yesteryears are gone and people suffer more and more from loneliness, gets satisfied when all of ‘us’ watch this show ‘together’, either live in the studio or on our TV sets – and share the anger, the grief, the disgust, the helplessness, together.

And most significantly, by taking the program to every nook and cranny of India, by telecasting it in various regional languages, on prime time, and then asking the people to SMS/ email/ write to them, with the promise that those will be petitioned to the Government; by asking people to donate, with the promise that an equal amount will be added by the philanthropy partner, makes people get rid, in a small, but significant measure of the one feeling that keeps gnawing at us.

The feeling of guilt.

Guilt. Of seeing it all, and doing nothing. Of getting sloshed in masala entertainment after coming home from a tiring day at work. Of forcing ourselves to forget the ‘social initiatives’ and NGOs we once started in our college days.

By giving us a channel to express ourselves in front of the Government, and by giving us a reliable NGO to donate to, Aamir helps us absolve of some of that guilt.

In return, he makes Rs. 3 crore per episode. Entertainment, after all, is a very serious business.

If someone crowns Aamir as a great social crusader, which is what is happening right now, one should take it with a pinch of salt. It is NOT social activism. If anything, this business of Aamir has, what we call in economic terminology, a positive externality.

It has a positive side effect. It is like a factory which instead of spewing net poisonous gases in the atmosphere, causing a net pollution to water sources and laying to net waste precious agricultural land, emits pure oxygen, and spreads good vibes and empathy around.

And for that positive externality, and just that, Aamir deserves praise from the nation.

-

Sourced from my work done for Sharda University blog: http://www.sharda.ac.in/blog/satya-mev-jayate-entertainment-or-social-crusade/

Categories: Analysis, Critique | 3 Comments

The Changing Landscape

Last 7-8 months, living in UP has been a revealing experience for me. I had had my apprehensions about this sea of humanity before coming here. Not that IIM-L undergrads have much to do with what goes on ‘outside’, but I am a person who likes to explore at the grass root level, and I wasn’t without my concerns about what I was going to see over here.

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Categories: Memoirs, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

The French Window

The dark mahogany door opened into a room with full length dark mahogany cupboards on the right. To the left was a four-poster double bed, its head, another dark mahogany affair, to the wall behind it. White sheets covered the bed. To the other side of the bed, a white lampshade rested on top of a dark cabinet.

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Categories: Relationships | 5 Comments

अरावली

बड़े दिन हो गए कुछ पोस्ट किये हुए. टूटी हुई टांग लेकर जब बैठा, तभी आई आई एम आने के बाद पहली बार अपनी पुरानी कविताओं पर नज़र मारी. नया तो आजकल कुछ लिखा जाता नहीं. इतना कुछ बदल गया ज़िन्दगी में – सोचा कि बचपन से आज तक जो एक चीज़ नहीं बदली, उसी पर कुछ पोस्ट किया जाए.

नए दोस्तों को भी पसंद आएँगी, ऐसी उम्मीद कर रहा हूँ… नहीं तो मेरा कुछ वक़्त तो कट ही गया :)

अरावली

पानी बरसा,
और जाने कब की प्यासी धरती ने,
ज़रा प्यास बुझते ही
इत्र छिड़क लिया.
तन को ढांपने की नाकाम कोशिश कर रही
अरावली ने भी
झूमकर
अपनी चिथड़ी हुई साड़ी लहरा दी.

कौन कहता है कि जश्न मनाने का हक़
गरीबों को नहीं होता.

——–x————x ——

अरावली कोई प्रेमिका नही है
जिसकी घनी जुल्फों में खोकर
उसके यौवन का आनंद लिया हो मैंने.
वह तो वो दरिद्र, बूढी माँ है
जिसकी झुर्रीदार बाँ और फटे आँचल
में खेलकर
बीता है मेरा बचपन.

—–x—–x—–

शहर में बड़ा शोर है,
और यह शहर बड़ा सभ्य है.
जी करता है आज फिर
उन्हीं सूखी, कंटीली, पथरीली
लू के थपेडों में
अकेली, मदमस्त झूम रही
वादिओं से जाकर कह दूँ,
कि कहो, कैसी हो…

—–x—–x—–

Categories: Poems | Leave a comment

World Cup Victory

I had the confidence, or call it faith, that we were going to win this one.

Confidence, as India had won the last two matches in pressure-cooker situations against strong oppositions while Sri Lanka had had it easier. And therefore India were in a better position to handle the pressure of the final. It was like, after lifting 200 kg in two bench press sets, they had been allowed a half hour break and then asked to lift a sparrow. For Sri Lanka, well, it was a world cup final.

Faith, is kind of unexplainable, but Sheila Dixit, the aunty-CM of Delhi, put it really well. 121 crore people of India were praying for an Indian victory against 2 crore of Sri Lanka. Surely the vibes, if not the Gods, would give at least a helping hand? And this team had it in it to make any extra helping hand count.

Sri Lankan wickets kept falling at regular intervals but Jayawardene held fort and the Sri Lankans scored in the last power play to reach a healthy-looking 274. It did not matter. If the Indians batted with the intent they were bowling and fielding, nothing could stop them. Even otherwise, all it needed was about 15 overs from Sehwag. During the break, as we went out to replenish our beer stocks, everyone in the market was betting on a Sehwag blitzkrieg.

Sehwag fell, and Sachin followed soon after. Malinga was smoldering, and the next few overs were actually a bit tense. But once India reached to about 100 in 20-odd overs, the match was in the bag. There was a long line-up of players in good form playing or yet to come. Everyone somehow give their best when Sachin is out cheaply. And Sri Lanka bowling was now looking ordinary.

Lightness was in the head when Yuvraj got two near misses. Music started playing in the 46th over. ‘Aarambh hai Prachand‘ was playing for the second time when Dhoni hit the six and brought things to conclusion.

Within 2 seconds, dhol started playing in the Galli. Me, Pawan, Murtuza and Siddharth ran outside. The entire Galli boys were there, dancing their assess off. We were stopping the oncoming traffic and making people dance. We were lifting each other up, sharing high-fives with total strangers. Girls were staring and smiling at us from balconies. Some were making videos of us. Out of the irresistible beats of the dhol, one could clearly make out the words ‘India… India’ and ‘Jai Bharat Mata’.

Soon after, we left for India Gate. It was my idea. I wanted to take a look at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the most inspiring sight I have found in Delhi. We were three people, me, Pawan and Murtuza on my bike. I was riding without a helmet. Around us, people were riding four or five people on a single bike. Whatever four-wheeler there were, people were dangling out of the windows, swerving and shouting like crazy. There was police all around, but for once, they were not interested in the fortune that was there to be made. To every Indian, and firang, that I saw on the street, I screamed ‘Jai Bharat Mata’, or ‘Jai Hind’ Or ‘India… India’. Although it later came to me that it was ‘Gali gali mein naara hai, world cup hamara hai’ which was the most popular line everywhere.

About 2km before India Gate, I realized that everyone had had the same idea as us. The entire Delhi, it seemed, was going to India Gate. As a result, the roads were blocked. And once they got blocked, Everyone opened their car doors, and turned on the stereos full blast. Dancing, interspersed with a snail’s place of traffic movement, was everywhere. Everyone was dancing or shouting. For once, cars were standing in the middle of the road without a volley of abuse deluging from behind. People were shouting, but in glee. The only expletives flying around were out of pride or love. “Duniya ki M* C*** Di!” and “B****** utro na gaadi se neeche!” followed by the best improvisation of salsa over Bhangra music you could ever find. Girls were roaming around in Delhi, making videos of boys at past midnight and nobody was paying any attention to them. Horns were honking loudly, but for a change, today they were conveying bonhomie rather than an intent to decimate. I brushed my bike with the side of a Wagon R, looked sheepishly at the aunty sitting at the passenger side, and said Sorry. All I got in return was a ‘Arre bhaiya, aaj ke din sab chalta hai!’ I suspect I would have gotten away with murder.

We could finally see the Chhatri behind India Gate beyond which it was impossible to go. A lone policeman was manning the barricades, forbidding people to go anywhere nearer to India Gate, even on foot, and for once, nobody argued with him.

Traffic had come to a complete standstill now. After another half hour of frenetic dancing, I came to stand at the side of the road, staring at the Chhatri, gazing at the Tiranga flying everywhere. A guy had somehow managed to get a piece of road cleared and was doing bike stunts on his Karizma. Some body-builders had taken off their shirts and were posing from on top of their SUVs. The entire town was partying together, and each one in his own way.

I danced like mad, soaking in the moment, catching a glimpse of India Gate now and then, and had the very indescribable feeling that I was in the middle of things. That this was it. That I belonged. That at this moment, we all belonged. That we were where we ought to be. Ahead of everyone else. That we hadn’t achieved anything extraordinary, but had taken what was long overdue to be rightfully ours.

And that is the emotion in me. It’s a great sporting achievement for the players, support staff, selectors, board and everyone else involved in the process. As a nation, it is great, but not extraordinary. We haven’t achieved anything which was out of our limits. We haven’t pushed our limits. We have merely reached where we are supposed to be. A nation of 120 crore cricket crazy people which provides for 80% of cricket’s spectators deserves to win the World Cup 80% of the times. As simple as that.

Just that even breaking even out of repression is an ecstatic feeling, too.

Categories: Incidences | 1 Comment

At Ajmer

It had been Seventeen months since I had last been to Ajmer. My shoes had, in between, trodden on the islands of Andaman, across the beaches and backwaters of Kerala, through jungles and fields of interior Andhra, on people’s feet in the local trains of Mumbai and had been removed outside the temples of Rameshwaram and Srisailam. After having finally shifted to Delhi, I was going to spend my first weekend in Ajmer. Not too bad, I thought, as I drew virtual lines on the map of India as I waited for the bus to Ajmer at Iffco Chowk, Gurgaon. The primary emotion, bewildering though it was to me, was that I was going to Ajmer, going to my parents, going to be among the Aravali hills, but not that I was going ‘home’.

My thoughts turned towards the concept of ‘home’. ‘Home’ for me has been a little different from most people. I always refer to the place I am living in as ‘home’, and not as ‘flat’ or ‘room’. For example, I had a home in Hyderabad where I lived for 21 months. I now have a home in Delhi. I don’t own that home, but it is my home nevertheless. Why is Ajmer ‘home’ for me? Because I was born and brought up there? Then in that case, isn’t Hyderabad a home, As I earned my degree there, got my first job and bought my first vehicle there? Is Ajmer my home because my parents live there? Then what if they leave Ajmer sometime? And anyways how does that make Ajmer ‘my home’? Can a person have several homes? Or is the entire India my home? Or the entire world…

The bus stopped on the turning on the bypass. There were a few shops already open at 7o’clock in the morning. I adjusted my backpack and hopped over the debris of the construction material lying on the road. As I crossed the road, there ambled along a brightly decorated truck, a Rajasthani song blaring out of it whose lyrics I couldn’t make out.

As I crossed the road, a barren hilly terrain and the black topped, single lane road snaking through it beckoned me. Behind me, the sun was rising. With a quiet ‘Adi Deva Namastubhyam’, to the sun, I squinted my eyes. It was very bright. So bright that I had trouble keeping my eyes fully open. I realized that it was probably the brightest morning I had had in months. Welcome to Rajasthan, the land of exceptional sunlight.

My mom had yet to arrive with the car, so I started walking the 4km road till my home. The almost completely barren hills on both sides reflect almost all sunlight all the time. And the hills are low, really, so you can see till far. The cool morning breeze carressed my hair. This was the road, running up and down which I became the athlete I once was. Up ahead, was a small, roofless ruins of God-knows-what, where one evening many summers ago under an halfish, but beautiful moon I had opened my first beer. These surroundings have been as barren and pollution free since I have been seeing them. And the road as free of traffic.

I plugged my Ipod to my ears. Shubha Mudgal was crooning

Hai kitne baras beete, tum ghar na aaye re.

Raah dekhe kaale megha, dariya pahaaadi!

Under my feet, the road was hard. Turning to the soft, comforting loose sand at the side, I concentrated on the brightness of the hills, trying to perceive the change in their height since I last saw them. Turning a picture perfect bend, I squinted to register the furrows caused by wind erosion on my favorite hillock at the side.

Tum laut aao sajanaa, mera dil bulaaye re…

Tum laut aao sajanaa, mera dil bulaaye re…

Tum laut aao sajanaa, mera dil bulaaye re…!

Round the bend, I was able to see the Mazaar of Madar Sahab atop the hill at the base of which my home is located. As the concluding strains of music faded away, I kept looking at the Baba.

The song had ended. Another one would start now. And in between the songs, I could listen to the chirping of the teetudi. Of the chugging of the spokes of the bicycle of the Dhoti-clad Gujar riding by. A train was whistling in the distance. Wind was ruffling my hair. A polythene bag from a nearby garbage dump was fluttering in the breeze. Up ahead, a runner was plodding down the gentle slope. I removed the earphones. These were sounds I wouldn’t trade for any song in the world.

I now had the full view of the hill above my house, as also of the colony below it. Looking at the Madar Sahab, I raised my hand to my forehead.

Categories: People and Places | 8 Comments

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