मंज़िलें

तुझे सूंघ सकता हूँ
तेरी गंध मदहोश करती है
शीशगंज की इबारत
विश्वनाथ का धुंआ
मोईनुद्दीन की चादर का माथे पर स्पर्श.

मेरे क़रीब है तू
तुझे जीना चाहता हूँ
तुझी में समाना चाहता हूँ
रोमियो या रांझा नहीं हूँ
या टाइटैनिक का जैक डॉसन
तेरे बिना भी जी लूंगा

लेकिन तू  है, पूरी ज़िंदगी
शायद जिसके लिए तैयारी की थी।

सफ़र लम्बा तय किया है
मंज़िलें अक़सर सरक जाती हैं
लेकिन ऐसा क्यों लगता है,
कि घूम फिर कर जहाँ भी जाउंगा,
मंज़िल तुझे ही पाऊँगा,

हम्म?

Categories: Poems | 1 Comment

खूबसूरत

आँखें मिलीं,
 तो दिल कुछ ठंडा हुआ.
 चल रहे हैं दोनों, एक साथ
 खुद को बनाते, खुद को संवारते
 खुद में जीते, ठोकर खाते
 ठोकर खाने पर देखते, अन देखते
 उठ खड़े होते
 कपड़े झाड़ते
 बढ़ जाते।
 एक पल का जीना
 एक पल का मिलना
 पल, जिसका इंतज़ार था
 पल, जो खूबसूरत था
 पल, जो एक पल भर था.
फिर से देखते एक दूजे को, प्यार से, और बढ़ जाते
 हर उस राह की ओर
 जो मंज़िल को क़रीब ले आती हो.
 नदी के दो तीरे 
 उलट धार चलते हम;
 चलना जीवन है, या मिलना
 या मिलने की आस में, चलते रहना?
कल फिर शोख नयन दो-चार हुए
 तो लगा कि ज़िन्दगी खूबसूरत है.
Categories: Poems, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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 | 1 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: , , , | 2 Comments

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 https://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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 | 1 Comment

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