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

The town that was – III

The town houses two Assembly constituencies. One of them, Ajmer South, includes Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s Dargah and the nearby substantial Muslim population. This constituency is a Sindhi stronghold. Whatever name this constituency may have been called by, ever since independence, it has always been represented by a Sindhi.

Sindhis were people who came to this part of the country to escape the Muslim majority of their native Sindh. Some prejudice against Muslims would be understood. In all my years, I have never seen any. In the throbbing market surrounding the Dargah are shops of Muslims, Sindhis and other communities. Welcome is accorded to the pilgrims by all. Chaadar, loban, flowers and other materials required for ‘ziarat’ are sold by shopkeepers of all communities. The pilgrims put up in hotels set up by all communities. There is stiff competition for this business, and that is that.

The nearby Pushkar houses perhaps one of the holiest of Hindu shrines, the Brahma Temple. In five out of the last six assembley elections, this temple town, where sale and consumption of onions, besides non-veg food is banned, has elected a Muslim MLA.

Come October-november, and the city goes into festive overdrive. While Ajmer city plays host to lakhs of Muslim pilgrims at the annual ‘Urs’, the ‘Pushkar Mela’ and the ‘Karthik Snan’ attract Hindu devotees and tourists in the same numbers. Any north Indian can testify that festive seasons at places of religious significance of even one community are ‘sensitive’ times. In Ajmer, two places, of paramount religious significance of two communities play host to huge festivals simultaneously. This has been happening for centuries. The word ‘sensitive’ till yet remains out of vocabulary of this season.

Of course, these religious places attract international tourists as well. And while pilgrims from the Arab countries are offering prayers to the Khwaja, boys and girls from their friendly neighbor Israel are running about, scantily clothed, up and down the streets and nearby hills and valleys of Pushkar.

Ajmer, like India itself, is not without its contradictions.

Previous posts in this series:

The Town that was – I http://wp.me/p1jJo-dL

The Town that was – II http://wp.me/p1jJo-ee

Categories: Memoirs, People and Places | 8 Comments

The Town that was – II

It was one of the Karate lessons during summer vacations, in between classes VI-VII. I was waiting outside the entrance to the ground, along with a few other boys.  It was only around 8o’clock, but already sweltering hot.

“Kyon bhai, kaun si caste ke ho?” (So, brother, which caste are you?) Out of nowhere, this question came to me from a bigger boy.

“Brahman.” I mumbled, stupefied. This was the first time someone had asked me this question.

“Oh okok”, the guy said. “Aur tum”(And you?), he directed his question to another.

“Sindhi.”

Feeling weak from all the hot sun, I came and sat beside the older boy on the low wall he was sitting on.

“Ok, aur tu?” The curiosity turned towards another, smaller boy standing nearby. No response came.

“Ye to saala kisi bhangi-chamaar ka lagta hai…”(Bastard looks like some Bhangi-Chamaar’s), the bigger boy said, and looked at the High Brahman sitting beside him for approval.

******

Sahir was the first friend I had. He was in my class, and his younger sister Farha was in Sunanda’s class. This coincidence further cemented our friendships. We were in class I-II at that time. Sahir always used to wet his lips with his tongue. Farha had bob-cut hair and her mom made a ponytail on top of her head like a fountain.

Some of my earliest memories are with Sahir. I remember us going to the park with our Leo machine guns and hiding in the undergrowth and shooting at imaginary Pakistanis. We would wrestle on my sisters’ double bed. More often than not, I would beat him hollow. Often, when I would pin him down, he would try to add extra force to his efforts to topple me by invoking ‘Ya Ali!’. On a rare occasion when he had me down, I remember trying to seek divine help by invoking ‘Jai Bhawani!’.

I think it was the time of the felling of the Babri Masjid. There was curfew in the entire town. The schools were closed. But being Government Quarters, our colony was immune to the curfew. Our children’s group took full advantage of the closed schools by playing night and day. There was strict curfew in the rest of the town. Dad once took us walking till the entrance of the colony, where police guards were posted. As he talked to the policemen, we had the occasion to inspect the area. The usually busy road beyond our colony boundary was totally deserted.

Once, probably during the same days, Sahir came to me and said something like, “Yaar Hinduon ne to Muslims ki Masjid tod di, ab Muslims ko bhi kuchh to karna chahiye.” (Dude, the Hindus have felled the Muslims’ mosque, even the Muslims should do something now).

I remember quite clearly that thinking on it with whatever logic I was capable of, I had replied, “Haan yaar, sahi hai, kuchh to karna chahiye”. (Yeah buddy, you’re right, they should do something.)

We had then carried on with whatever we were doing.

******

There was a boy, Satvik Reddy, who used to live near us. He was two years junior to me. I was in class IV and he in class II. While coming home from school in auto rickshaw, there were 3 boys who were usually picked upon by the rest. Satvik was one of them.

I still don’t know why the remaining two were picked upon, but I think Satvik was picked upon because he was, well, different from the rest of us. He had very hard, curly hair and he spoke Hindi with a different accent and came to the auto everyday smelling of some funny food item. (I was to later know that it was chutney). While the rest of us came clutching a rolled up paratha or a sandwich, Satvik usually had an idli stuffed in his mouth.

Nobody could make out his uncommon-ish name from the accent he spoke in, and so he was called ‘Saabje’ by the rest of us. As for his surname, it was taken to be ‘Grid’. He was what we took to be a ‘Bangali.’ His nickname was ‘Kabootar’.

There was a distance that we had to walk to our homes after getting down from the auto, and most of the times me and a friend of mine made sure we made it hell for Satvik. His last line of defense on us teasing him would be to spit on us, upon which we would thrash him.

There had been a few more South Indians, mostly Andhraites,  in our neighborhood and in our class across the years. None of them was a particular target anywhere, which gives me consolation that it was not as much as Satvik being different ‘culturally’ but him being different as a ‘boy’ on the usual parameters of boyhood which made him a target. But the cultural difference, no doubt, played some role.

******

Perhaps the biggest brunt of the society, which differentiated between people on the basis of their birth, was borne by the Sindhis (of which there was a substantial number in Ajmer). They were always the target of derogatory jokes. They had no manners – if there were some people heard throwing abuses, they were taken to be Sindhis until proven otherwise. Sindhis were the biggest cheats of all people who one should never do business with, unless one wanted to get swindled. One should never befriend them unless one wanted to get stabbed in the back. Their boys were useless pricks who one should stay away from. Their homes were the dirtiest. Their kitchens smelled and their women who were loathe to do any housework did not cook proper meals for their kids who made do with some random snacks at mealtimes. The Sindhis were tasteless people who had no sense of dressing and propriety. Oh, and yeah, their girls were whores. And so on and so forth.

Suffice to say this, that calling someone ‘Sindhi’ was a big, sharp gaali. I cannot list down specific instances for the kind of prejudices I saw people holding against Sindhis. One blog would not be enough.

PS1: I am no longer in touch with Sahir. I have a bagful of memories with him, from which I have chosen those which hold some interest in the light of the political knowledge I have gained over the years.

PS2: Now as I see the kids, Telugu and Non-Telugu, in my building in Hyderabad,  playing together and none being targeted, I feel glad that children today are intrinsically cosmopolitan. More that what perhaps, we, growing up in small-town North India, were in our time. The idea that my behavior towards Satvik could have been influenced by our cultural differences rankles me no end to this day. Especially in the light of the humbling behavior the amazing people of Andhra Pradesh have accorded to me over the past six years.

PS3: About Sindhis, I don’t know how things are now in Ajmer, but if you were growing up at my time in Ajmer, you could not stay immune from these prejudices. I could start getting rid of them only when I left Ajmer and went to Kota and saw the world with my own eyes. Later, as I built friendships with some other people of that community, such notions became a thing of the past. Today, I have nothing but respect for the Sindhi Hindu community, who despite migrating to India 6 decades ago with nothing on them save the shirts on their backs, till now without a homeland, have today made themselves to be what is perhaps the most prosperous community in the cutthroat competitive environment of India. I regard them as among the finest of ‘our’ people.

Related Posts:

The Town that was – I http://wp.me/p1jJo-dL

The Town that was – III: http://wp.me/p1jJo-eR

Categories: Memoirs | 8 Comments

The Town That Was – I

The town was my home. And it will always remain home. In the sense that it will always the same for me. In the sense that it will always remain the same for everyone. In the sense that nothing will ever change there. It’s a town frozen in time.

It’s been 8 years since I left home. And whenever I go back, I never face any of the troubles that one usually has while driving on unfamiliar roads. The pattern of the potholes on the roads has been the same, ever since I’ve been seeing them. I could drive blindfolded on this road. The maneuvers, the twists and turns come naturally to me. They’re a part of me now.

******

It was all in the air. The classrooms where boys adjusted walks and strides and fidgeted with desks to get an optimum ‘view’ of the correct Geography (or Biology, whatever). Where ‘mast’ History (imagined and otherwise) of others’ lives was drooled and smacked over enough to make Akbar turn in his grave with jealousy. Where Life Processes – II was the most interesting chapter ever.

The temple atop a hill in the middle of the town, on the stairs of which every to-be couple could be found in the infancy of their relationships. The more ‘advanced’ couples could be found behind the curtains of the cubicles of the sleazy cyber cafes. The college where boys went (they still go, I’m told) to see and imagine. And where girls went to display their wares within permissible add-on limits and with ‘allowed’ decorations and other visual effects.

The gaolish girls’ hostels which restricted its girls to step out of for only six out of every hundred sixty hours. Out of the fear that they might have sex, if allowed out for longer hours. Ostensibly.

The mobile SIM card shop owners who sold girls’ cellphone numbers at face value of 1o bucks per number. The market rates depended on another kind of face value, though.

******

Every Nikita stepping out of her house was protected and seen over by 5-6 unpaid guards on a voluntary, area-divided basis. From her home to Gandhinagar – Bunty, from Gandhinagar to Gulab Bari – Veeru, from Gulab Bari to Mayo College – Yasin, and so on and so forth. There was perfect understanding of healthy competition between the Buntys and Veerus and Yasins. Any chikna who went to the same ‘tuition’ as Nikita and tried to ‘do’ ‘phrendsip’ was beaten black and blue and thus, effectively eliminated from causing any harm to Nikita’s ‘character’, thus saving her from being ‘set’, in the eyes of the unpaid guards and from being ‘corrupted’ in the eyes of the aunties of the colony.

And yeah, of course, Bunty, Veeru and Yasin, all could claim Nikita as ‘meri wali’. If anyone else was heard making such a claim, well, his claim was settled in a manner described previously. Blood eventually spilled in the lane where Nikita’s scooty turned.

All this could go on for years without Nikita getting a clue about it.

******

In my sixteenth year, I fell for her. Like Ali bhai in ‘Dhoom’ falls over Rimi Sen. I remained in this ‘fallen’ state for a year, after which I talked to her. Her tone and accent were such a turn-off that my crush evaporated. She called me up to ‘clear’ things at which point I told her that she wasn’t worth my attention. She got so pissed that she got her ‘brothers’ to beat me up.

A few years later, I see her at the ice cream shop. Pretend to ignore, but in reality examining her wares. To try to gauge how much is she worth in the market, on the few obvious parameters.  She being a girl is of course one step ahead of me. I know she’s trying to gauge my market value. How, though? Maybe by gauging the subtlety of my gauge.

We both buy our ice cream bricks and go our separate ways. She has grown really, really sexy.

******

There’s a caterer, who has on display some 4 types of ‘sabjis’, 3 types of ‘poodi’ and ‘non’, salad, dahi bade, 2 types of rice, 3 types of ‘sveet’ etc etc. Then there’s the Tawa, which has another 4 types of bharwa-type sabjis. Then there’s the Kadahi, which has dal-fry, one with onion-garlic and one without.

Then there are the ‘stalls’. A Rajasthani with huge moustaches pouring milk in earthen kullads from a huge kadahi. There’re chow-mien, dosa, cheela, ice cream, coffee, paan and what not.

Someone would be excused for thinking that India was a powerhouse nation. Well, it is actually. In the field of digestion.

Under the milk-white lighting across the huge marriage-lawn, there are girls. Girls trying to impress potential suitors and their parents, and girls going red and green with jealousy of other, better endowed girls. There are uncles, the ‘modern’ ones, who prefer to greet such girls by hugging them. There are aunties cocking a snook at such uncles.

Introductions are done, and even relations built. Among the mature people. Like uncles, aunties and girls. Boys are too sloshed in the bevvy of lehengas and zari and sari and skin-hugging jeans and the occasional short skirt competing for their attention. They have attained Nirvana. They desire nothing more.

In a remote corner, the bride and bride groom are sitting on thrones. One of the gatecrashers from the nearby Medical College is slipping a gift-wrapped packet of condoms to the groom. ‘Happy marriage boss…’

******

Related Posts:

The Town that was – II http://wp.me/p1jJo-ee

The Town that was – III: http://wp.me/p1jJo-eR

Categories: Memoirs | 39 Comments

Wide Shut

“Thwat!”

She shot him an alarmed look as eyes turned in their direction. Surreptitiously fiddling with her bra in crowded malls got him off. This particular adventure under the hook, however, had gone a bit too loud.

With curious eyes on them, she walked quickly. She wanted to get as far away as possible.

“Well, even Amma would never have imagined me holding hands with her dad before marriage”, reasoned the bespectacled, sari-clad woman as her shocked expressions melted into a sigh.

Categories: Erotica, Short Stories | 24 Comments

Flame

His jaw dropped as she walked out of the trial room.

He could smell of her in the soft, lacy material in her purse she allowed a glance at.

Lightning bolts zapped through her as the raw silk of the topper rubbed against her tender, erect lobes as she snuggled up to him on the bike.

They were burning for his touch as he shut the door behind her.

—–x—–x—–

Inspired by the works of Kunal and Sangfroid.

Cheers!

Categories: Erotica, Short Stories | 18 Comments

3 Idiots

The wannabe photographer revved his bike. The speedometer needle pushed, and then finally crossed 90. And then, into the stillness of the highway night, he screamed

“AAAAAALL IIIIIIIIIIZZ WEEEEEEEEEELL”

And for that moment, he felt that his life wasn’t so bad after all.

The wannabe researcher pushed his cellphone into his desk drawer and banged it shut. He could hear the cellphone collide with the inside walls. And then with finality, he went out and locked his flat.

His phone rang after some time. To the beautiful tune of

“Saari umra hum, mar mar ke ji liye…”

“A good way to pretend that I am still doing research…” thought the researcher.

The confused software guy sat in front of his office PC. “Shit, WTF is the problem with the fucking memory allocation! ”

All of a sudden, despite the looming deadline, the memories of his first year in college, when he and his friends had mastered Malloc and Calloc together, came to him. And like every other memory of college, came rushing with it his friends the photographer and the researcher. And with them, their wild, free spirits and the fierce will to break free.

A  song automatically came to his lips.

“Behti hawa se the wo…”

Meanwhile, the balatkari was entering IIM for another two years of non-stop balatkar.

Categories: Short Stories | 21 Comments

दो कवितायें

इस वर्ष की शुरुआत हुई थी दो कविताओं के वागर्थ के जनवरी अंक में प्रकाशन से. ब्लॉग पर डाला ही नहीं, न कुछ एक दोस्तों, जिनसे कि रोज़ बात हो रही थी, को छोड़कर किसी को बताया. न जाने क्यों बताने की ज़रुरत ही महसूस नहीं हुई.

अभी ट्रिपल आई टी ब्लॉग जगत के लम्बे समय के साथी कुनाल की कहानियाँ प्रकाशित होने वाली हैं. कुनाल को ढेर सारी बधाइयाँ! आपकी किताब प्रकाशित होने का इंतज़ार रहेगा. जो अभी प्रकाशित हो रही है उसका, और जो आगे प्रकाशित होंगी, उनका भी.

कवितायें बहरहाल यहाँ.

बाँझ

इतिहास के सूखे कुँए में
वीरता का एक खँडहर है
जिसके परकोटे से झांकता,
पान मसाला चबाता हुआ एक युवक
दूर कहीं एक गगनचुम्बी इमारत
की सबसे ऊपरी ही मंजिल
को देख पाता है,
ठहाका लगाता है
और मूंछ मरोड़ मरोड़ कर
कमर तक घूंघट किये बैठी
अपनी औरत को
अपने परदादा की
अँगरेज़ बहादुर से दोस्ती के किस्से सुनाता है .

दूर उस इमारत की
हरे कांच की दीवारों
के पीछे बैठा मैं
एस्प्रेसो की ठंडी चुस्कियां लेता हुआ
एक गर्व भरी मुस्कान के साथ
उसे देखता रहता हूँ,
और फिर टाई की नॉट सीधी करके
घुस जाता हूँ अपने कंप्यूटर में
किसी और गोरे की चाकरी करने.

हम दोनों के बीच में जो धरती है,
साली वह आज तक बाँझ है
क्योंकि हमारी जैसी औलादें पैदा की हैं उसने.

__________________________

मेरे साथ

लोग बैठे हैं दुकानों पर
कि बढ़ाते समय
भारी से भारी गल्ला साथ ले जाएँ.

लोग बैठे हैं दफ्तरों में
कि महीने के आखिर में
मोटे से मोटा चेक साथ ले जाएँ.

लोग बैठे हैं पढाई करने
कि कॉलेज छोड़ते समय
ऊंचे से ऊंचे ग्रेड साथ ले जाएँ.

मैं भी हूँ बैठा, भादों की इस रात में,
जंगल में तालाब के किनारे.
मेंढकों की टर – टर,
झींगुरों की झाँये – झाँये,
या इस काली सतह पर
दूर तक फैली नीरवता
का ही शायद कोई टुकडा
चला आये मेरे साथ भी.

(वागर्थ, जनवरी २०१०)

लाल्टू सर और उनके हिंदी कोर्स के बिना शायद मैं तो कवितायें लिखना और छपवाना तो दूर, पढ़ना भी शुरू नहीं करता. यह अतिशयोक्ति बिलकुल नहीं है कि जो कुछ कवि मैं हूँ/ रहा हूँ, वह उन्हीं की वजह से. शब्द छोटे हैं, पर फिर भी कहूँगा कि थैंक्स, सर.

Categories: Poems | 7 Comments

Book Review: Kashmir Blues

Kashmir Blues - Urmilla Deshpande

Today, Kashmir is a topic discussed in almost every Indian household on a daily basis. The pictures of the neo-Islamists of Kashmir – young boys and girls who grew up more in the shadows of Kalashnikovs and Grenade Launchers than of Chinar or Devdar grab the maximum eyeballs in the media. In these times, when the tradition of tolerance, of peace – “Kashmiriyat” – that was native to Kashmir has  remained little more than an academic term, Kashmir Blues deals with the struggles of a man to revive, retain and preserve that  tradition in the part of the Kashmir valley that is his.

The story begins with Naia, a young American woman, who discovers through her dead parents’ letters to her that she was lifted from India by her mother. Turmoiled, Naia leaves for India to find her biological parents. She is joined by Leon, her photographer friend, always on the look-out for adventure and with a penchant for discovering life beyond the cocoons of the safe American life.

They almost immediately meet up with Naia’s biological parents – the stiff, hard headed diplomat Viren and his neurotic wife Saroj, who had never really got over the loss of her baby. While Naia trying to bond with her biological parents and individualistic, self centered brother Karan, Leon meets up with Samaad. Samaad has a front business of selling carpets, but in reality, he is the leader of a group of villages, who, having stumbled upon a mine of precious stones, are now trying to use that bounty to fight off outside infiltration, to preserve their traditional way of life.

Things have been interesting and tight till here – the premise at the start of the story having reached its conclusion – Naia having met her biological parents, Leon having a whale of time clicking the diversity and cohabitation of India.  At this point, Leon befriends Samaad and leaved with him the beautiful, treacherous mountains of Kashmir.

The story changes completely here, and the story loses plot. Among the majestic mountains of Kashmir, the character of Leon loses his individuality, and gives himself up totally to Samaad, forgetting who he was in the beauty of his surroundings and in the power of conviction and strength of Samaad’s character. Similar is what happens to Naia who had joined Samaad in Kashmir in a lopsided love, and even with Karan, to a certain extent, who joins them later.

While all these happenings show the power of Samaad’s character, it does so at the expense of the other characters, who become passive, almost irrelevant to the story. This thread drags, and the simplistic goings – on in the corridors of power in New Delhi do not help. The experiment in the villages is ultimately found out and politics wins over love and emotions.

While the novel starts with Naia, her characters itself is not fleshed out in detail. She is a passive character, things happen around her, to her, rather than she making them happen. Leon is perceptive, but even he is too engrossed in experiencing and capturing what is already there, rather than making things happen. These characters ultimately become very diffused and give themselves up to Samaad, and remain so till the end of the story.

In the absence of a central protagonist and with a meandering, diverging storyline, it is Deshpande’s perception of groups of people and places that hold the reader’s interest. Her observations about the feel and smell of the cities of India, the food, the sights is uncanny. The common thread of the metaphors of brown dog and characters smoking Hashish and references to Lord Shiva are the high points of the story, and maintain a continuity.

All in all, a novel written through a keenly observant eye for detail in places and objects, but one which could have done with more  coherence in the core areas – central theme and core characters.

Rating: 2.5/5

Title: Kashmir Blues

Author: Urmilla Deshpande

Publisher: Tranquebar Press.

Pages: 355.

Price: Rs. 325/-

Categories: Book Review | 8 Comments

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