Sunday, December 20, 2009


"Bless the food, dear Lord! Bless us!"
They said thus, and began to discuss
On God, his being and being not,
Till fists were clenched and dry all thoughts
Then someone said something I cannot remember
It made them forget all that split them asunder
I think it had something to do with the wine
that lay untouched while they dissected the divine
Merry again, as are dinner tables often,
mellow were the atheists and the devout had softened
I have no intentions to cause outrage
Is this what they call the 'spirit' of new age??

Saturday, December 5, 2009

यंग इण्डिया

कॉफ़ी शॉप पे बैठा  
युवा  ग्रुप 
चर्चा का विषय 
सोनल का देहाती एक्सेंट 
ठहाकों के बीच
सहसा एक आवाज़ 
जैसे आता देख 
दूध में उबाल
कोई चिल्लाई हो
" पिज़्ज़ा खाना है! "

एक लड़के ने मोबाइल उठाया 
होम डेलिवेरी का नंबर मिलाया
महत्त्वाकांक्षाओं से 'बर्स्ट'  होते
यंग इण्डिया ने
' चीज़ बर्स्ट ' पिज़्ज़ा मंगवाया

Thursday, December 3, 2009


एक सौ बीस रुपये में बिकता
समस्त जीवन का अर्थ
ग्यारह लाइनों में सिमटा 
ग्यारह हज़ार वेदनाओं का दर्शन
सेकंड-हैण्ड किताबों के बीच, अनछुआ,
एक कवि का इतिहास 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Basic Instinct

Creeper in its life, creeper in its death
Down goes a tree and on another starts to spread

With arms wrapped around who would not see its love immense?
The only love it has is that of love for dependence

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thoughts In Brownian Motion

A thousand words
spoken in my head
all in a second
leave me speechless

i feel like i'm dying
but i know i will not
because i do not want to
not as yet

and yet my life flashes
before my eyes
scene after scene
picture after picture
all blurred
smeared boundaries
between the real
and the imaginary

was i awake then?
am i awake now?
whatever it is
amidst this buzz in my head
i realize
there will not be a second..

there will not be
a second this life
a second that laughter
a second those words
a second that evening
a second same sister
a second those tears
a second this second..

greed grips me
i want to collect
bittersweet nothings
panic seizes me
i realize
there is nothing anyone
can ever "recreate"
for if magic
could ever be recreated
wouldn't it then be
cold science?

it is rolling
rolling like a mad stone
and all the moss
that it can ever gather
is blurred images
of the grass
of the gravel
it rolled over
and called its own

i close my eyes
and take a deep breath
then another
and then many other
and then tell myself
that this shall pass

this shall pass
into another tomorrow
whence i will begin again
the same game
of creating images
of owning images
of playing work-work
playing love-love

and it won't matter then
that i know
what i know
for it is seldom that
the puppeteer does not
become himself
the puppet

an ugly truth
a beautiful dream
an ugly dream
a beautiful truth
whatever it is
i'll play along
as ever before
for i am

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Silly Point

1. Give every batsman benefit of doubt.
2. Bowlers don't get benefit of doubt
3. Moral?? The game is unfair!
4. But isn't that a cynical view of life?
5. Yes it is!
6. Whoever said a cynical view is not true?
7. Just kidding! I will never be a cynic..
8. Lets come back to the game then
9. A revised Moral?? "Minority gets the sympathy."
10. Isn't that cynical too?
11. A third revision: "Majority does not always win."
12. That was a lame excuse!
13. Okay... a final try:
"All the mathematical/empirical/computational/logical/
semantical/experiential knowledge in the world cannot
predict with a 100% certainty what WILL happen or what
could have happened.
To allow for that, the batsmen should get benefit of doubt."

14. Give every batsman benefit of doubt.
15. Thankfully, in the game of real life, you can give every other batsman benefit of doubt, without necessarily losing the game..
16. But then how do you decide whom to trust?
17. You knew it was coming! The Third Umpire!!
18. Oh.. but I forgot! You are an atheist!
19. We can fix that..
20. Trust your instincts. Your intuition.
21. Now don't tell me you do not believe in your own existence!
22. Despite the fact that to most people you are practically non-existent! :P
23. Okay.. i'm sorry.. that was hitting below the belt.
24. Will that be a "no-ball" then? :P
25. Are you wondering why am i ranting meaningless mumble jumble at 4.32 am??
26. Actually i'm wondering that too..
27. But i can answer one question that surely has been bothering you all this while
28. Why the fish am i writing all this in points? Isn't that what you've been thinking?? Hun?? Hun?? :)
29. Because I was told in school that when you are basically saying just one thing but want to sound more learned, break the same thing into 29 points.
30. Oh and also that you can make people read crappy stuff if it is written in points :)
31. Now that i've made your night anything but good, Goodnight :)

32. P.S. : I think i prove a "point" :P

Friday, June 5, 2009


It was the 1st of July, 2006, when my marriage with New Delhi was solemnised. It was an arranged marriage, a marriage of convenience. We did not know each other before then. We sure had met before and I had found it to be an attractive match. But the trouble almost always begins only after you start living with each other, when there is no coffee table between the two of you to hide what is best kept hidden.

So when the coffee table of malls, stalls and all no longer blinded my vision, came the time I was introduced to my in-laws – the people of Delhi. Like a coy, newly wed bride, I had hopes of settling down in an independent house of our own, as in a flat, for some much needed privacy. But One BHK Independent Flats is a concept still a few decades away from the heart of Delhi. And so rare are they to find that only the lottery winners of DDA or the disposing-income-with-vengeance MBAs can afford the few that there are.

I realized that the city was never made keeping in mind the privacy of the Rs. 2.3 Lakhs per annum baby engineers like me. For us the only option was the top floors of the houses of the kothiwalas. Our options were exponentially reduced when we wanted a separate entry. And like one of the K-series Nanads (sister in laws) who are sugar-sweet to the new brides but are back-biter-Komolikas actually, the overtly friendly brokers did their best to get me the rawest deals in the city. Finally, I settled down for a one B , no H, and K-on-the-terrace place , with entry right under the nose of my landlady!

This was my first stint with my in-laws – the people of Delhi. I soon realized that paying the rents was not enough. You have to be on “sweet and friendly” terms with your landladies. That’s because when they speak about you with the other aunties of the colony, you must be something they can show off as “sweet and friendly”, the trophy tenant. It certainly helps if you can help their day-dreaming child with algebra, and it jeopardizes your chances of stay if he then gets a D in algebra. You must be available at all of their lazy lamhe to sympathetically participate in one of those sessions when they bitch about everyone else they are “sweet and friendly” with. But mind you, you cannot call upon them in one of your lazy lamhe. For that is infringement of privacy!

By the way, soon they’ll get bored of you and you must now graciously make way for the other “sweet and friendly” tenants.

No wonder that I soon began disliking everything about the city. From the cloyingly “sweet and friendly” aunties who couldn’t care less if you ate a frog to the apathetic bystanders who too wouldn’t give a damn if a frog ate you! From the goggled, nose-in-the-air beauties that spoke in affected accents to the cars blaring Punjabi MC in bass-boost, the back of which almost always reads something like “ziddi jaat”.

The autowallahs who’d come up with excuses as lame as “madam aaj bahut garmi hai” to up the fare; the pepper sprays waiting to be sprayed in the eyes of a potential rapist; the DTC buses still running like mad bulls, stopping at whim, running people over with chutzpah… I have been cursing it all for three years now.

When a marriage goes bad, often people look outside of the relationship. After three years of trying to work it out in vein , my marriage with Delhi fell apart. But sometimes it takes a divorce to be able to see how much you miss your partner. As I now pack my bags for Gandhinagar, suddenly I am filled with a sense of longing, a sense of loss. Just as in an arranged marriage, I never knew when, amidst all the complaints, I fell in love with Delhi. A lot of time what pains you about a break-up is not the bitterness but the memories of all the good times that you shared. And you ask yourself, “Could they have been real??”… So here I am asking myself, “ Did I really hate Delhi as much as I claimed to all this time??”

I know the answer is a No. A No in bold! Suddenly, all the BCs and MCs that the Dilliwallahs hurl effortlessly in a fit of road rage seem friendly, rather than abusive, utterances. The bass-boost Punjabi MC music of the ziddi jaats brings a smile to my face. The metro lines that were only lumps of concrete and steel when I first saw them, now, in their full glory, remind me of a line from a Horlicks ad-jingle “ Kab chupke se hui badi”!!

If Delhi smacks of the arrogance of the politically connected and the nouveau riche, then it is also vibrant with bright, genuine people, brimming with ideas. For every twenty apathetic bystanders, I found at least one person who is willing to help and make a difference.

Delhi has been that marriage the purpose of which is to teach as you grow together. And by the way, it becomes beautiful in the night ;)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Page 11

I have watched Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3 nearly three times. So I had an idea of what the Mayanagri would be like. But what I did not know was that Page 3 is a phenomenon rampant within the Page 11 people too.

My trip to Mumbai and my tryst with the "budding stars" of television and big screen was nothing short of an eye opener. In less than one week, my ears had nearly grown deaf of hearing how talented everyone was. If this appreciation was coming from elsewhere it would have been pleasant. But it came straight from the horses' mouths. Nearly every budding buddy of mine claimed to be as versatile as Leonardo Da Vinci himself. Five minutes of casual conversation with a big/small screen person and you'd know how he/she is the sun around which the whole solar system of cinema revolves. And if it doesn't as yet, it soon will.

Perhaps that is the kind of belief required to survive in that world. And there is no harm in believing in oneself. After all, that is the stuff achievers are made up of. But what I do not understand is the compulsive need to speak about it and that too in high decibels. At a certain level, I found the whole system to be running on mass hysteria. Where the one who cries "wolf! wolf!" the loudest actually begins to see the wolf, and surprisingly, everybody else does too. The whole scenario reminded me of the story of the Emperer's New Clothes.. Interestingly, the Glam-world has striking parallels to the story...

In the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, the emperor was a man more concerned with clothes than with his subjects or military pursuits. He hires two cheats to make the finest robe for him. The cheats do not make any robe and convince the king that those who are stupid cannot see the robe (that is non-existent). Fearing being mocked at for being stupid, he claims that he can see the robe and goes in a procession without any clothes on. Soon the news spreads among the crowd that those who are stupid won't see the king's robes. No one admits to not being able to see the robe when a child shouts out that the king is nude!

In my trip I met many such self proclaimed emperors who donned the invisible robe of self-importance and talent and went about in a procession of vulgar display of it. On many occasions I wanted to be the child who ahouts out "Nude!", but ultimately, I too sided with the crowd for the fear of hurting their monolithic egos. It seems a rather harsh judgment to pronounce, and it certainly does not apply to everybody in that domain, but writing this post, I'm finding it hard to be politically correct.

At a certain level they are not entirely to be blamed. In a community where humility is mistaken for lack of talent and silence for lack of ideas, such behavior is not very out of place. But to anyone who has artistic ambitions and who has still left in him some charge of patience and courage, I'd like to remind, that Sachins speak with their bats, Rehmans with their music and Rays with their films.. Because that is the stuff players of long innings are made up of...

Just as music and dance were once the prerogative of the fallen, but a few good men and women changed that, I end this little write-up in the hope that more such players of long innings find their way to
Page 11 and make headlines someday for their work and their art, with the grace that comes from being humble from within.

Monday, April 13, 2009


He could not remember what had happened. Why was he in the taxi he was in? Where was he going to? It seemed as if he had fallen asleep sometime during the ride. He tried hard to remember what was the last thing that he did. Did he drink? That seemed logical. He must have drunk. A lot. But wait... he'd never drink. He'd get migraines from drinking, except for beer. And beer could never get him that drunk. Then did he have an argument with Tara? He must have. And then she must have thrown a vase at his head. That explains his partial amnesia.

He asked the cab driver where they were going.
"Areasontolivefor" He replied.
"What?", he laughed, "You know, that almost sounded like 'a reason to live for'!"
"It is.", the cab driver replied, matter-of-factly.
"Okay... you mean figuratively speaking??", he tried to make sense of it all.
The cab driver remained silent.
He tried to prod him a little more. "Umm... this place where we are right now, what's it called?"
The cab driver stared at him into the rear view mirror and gave him the expression one would to a lunatic, " What do you mean which place we're in? We're in a journey. Who's ever heard of 'being in a place' when you're in a journey?"
He was now sure that he had hopped into the cab of a mad man. "Wow! I have lost my memory and am being driven to a place that probably does not exist by a loony taxi driver! Could it get any better?"
But he realized that he'll gave to hang on till he got his memory back. He tried to look into the rear-view mirror for any bruises on his head that'd explain his situation. There were none.
"You look fine. They won't notice.", the cab driver said.
"Won't notice what?", he asked.
"You know.. the funny talk.", the driver replied.
"What funny talk?", he had never been so bewildered.
"The funny things you talk about. Like which place are we driving in?", and the cab driver snorted.
At this, he lost it. "I don't believe this! You are like the very epitome of madness and you call my talk funny? I mean, which cab driver takes you to a place called 'a reason to live for'??"
"Then where would you rather go?", the cab driver asked innocently.
" Well, aren't there places around that have regular names?"
The cab driver looked as perplexed as he was. "What do you mean by 'regular names'??"
"Well.. i don't know.. something like City Square or.. or High Street.. or a Park Avenue??"
The driver gave him a look as if he was trying hard to decipher the meaning of what he said. After almost ten seconds he replied, " You make funny sounds too. 'siti squay' , 'paak avenoo'. .."
"Those are names of places, weirdo! Where are you from? Timbuktu??"
" But they don't make sense!", the driver reasoned, puzzled.
" Names aren't supposed to make any sense! Names are proper nouns. They could be anything! What's your name?"
" Conscience, what's yours?"
"Kr..Wait a minute! Did you just tell me that your name was Conscience??"
The driver nodded.
Krisn laughed and shook his head in disbelief, "I know what this is. Either this is a very bad joke or i'm part of a fantasy movie gone awfully wrong."
He then added,"okay.. so Mr. Conscience... Hey wait a minute.. Con-Science! Get it?? Con-Science - The Con Man! That's what you are!", he guffawed at his pun and asked,"what's your girlfriend's name? Morality??"
"No. My wife's name is Courage and we have a kid called Wisdom."
"Rriight... and lemme guess where you live. The Mind??", he asked sarcastically.
"Not quite. The Soul."
"Aah! I almost got that right! Jesus Christ! What the fu... heyyyy... speaking of Christ, and while we're at it, who's the 'builder' of The Soul apartments? God himself, I guess! Tell me I'm right!", he smirked.
"What a silly thing to ask. We're all Gods, aren't we? Including you too.", Conscience replied, a little irritably.
"Whoa-ho! I've always felt like God but Tara wouldn't agree! And here I have the certificate of character from Mr. Conscience himself! I am loving every bit of this!", Krisn mocked.

For the next few minutes the cab was silent. Krisn did not know whether to cry or to laugh. Whether to panic or enjoy this crazy ride and see where it gets him. Finally, he decided to just cruise the course for some more time, till he gets a perspective on things. So he tried to engage the cab driver, sorry, Conscience in more conversation. After all, it was a good idea to keep the fun going till the graveness of reality came back to him. He couldn't remember much but he somehow knew that the reality, when it came back to him, would be grave.

"So what do you think Con-man? Am I dreaming??"
"No.. You were dreaming earlier, before I found you. But now you're not."
"Really? And where did you find me?"
"In your dream, like I said."
"But of course. Where did you learn such inverted logic?"
"Where did you learn your complicated logic?", conscience retorted.
"All right, all right. Didn't mean to pique you. I don't want you not on speaking terms with me. Then how'll i ever hear the... 'voice of my conscience'??", he burst into a fit of laughter at his wit.
When he got his breath again he spoke, "you know, you were right, actually. I actually complicate things a lot more than they really are. In fact, most of us do that, don't we?"
" I don't know what you mean by complicating things 'a lot more than they really are'. They really are not complicated."
"There you go again! You're so good at playing with words you almost remind me of my girlfriend Tara. She'd cling on to something I said eons back and argue about it. And we'd go on dissecting my words down to their letters till we would exhaust our vocabulary. And all this ruckus at something I did not even mean to say! I mean, they're just words right?"
" A word said, a thought indulged... is like a child born. It might have been born unwanted, but nevertheless has been brought to life.", Conscience replied.
"Wow... I am beginning to suspect that you are, indeed, Conscience.You certainly talk like that!"
A little shaken at Conscience's last words, Krisn tried to gather his wits about him again. He tried to get back to small talk.
"So how far is this place..'a reason to live for'??"
"It isn't far at all. When you spot it, you ask me to stop."
"What do you mean when i spot it? I've never been there. I don't even know what it looks like!"
"You will when you see it"
"Why do you always talk in riddles? I mean, why do people like know..metaphysical creatures or in codes??"
"You mean not talk in funny language like you?", conscience winked at him in the rear view mirror.
"Oh great! I did not know that the High and Mighty Conscience had a sense of humor!"
"You've never really tried to know me."
"Coming back to your question, I've never spoken in riddles. I always speak loud, clear and simple. Maybe, with the funny language you talk in, it's lost in translation. Or maybe you just need to clear your ears of all the muck."
"My ears are in perfectly hygienic condition, thank you", Krisn retorted sulkily.

"Really?" saying thus, Conscience broke into a song-

A canary sang a song imbued
With life and love and all things true
But all that we heard was "tyoo-wit, tyoo-hoo"

Oh! So are you suggesting that you're the canary and I'm the listener?"
"No. You yourself are the canary as well as the listener. I'm only the song."
"Riddles again!", Krisn rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"okay.. if i have to put it in your funny language, lets just say that you're suffering from some kind of a dissociative disorder. You know, where you can't recognize a part of your own self ."
"If only you had put it like that earlier, we could have avoided such a long and tiring conversation."
"But how, then, would I have flaunted my singing prowess??", conscience smiled at him in the rear view again.
At this Krisn laughed and said, "You know, it's a strange thing. I'm beginning to get your jokes"

Krisn had been thinking for a while. What started as a nightmare had become the most amazing day he had ever had. He spoke aloud,"Did I tell you you were a good conversationalist?"
"That's my job.", Conscience replied.
"And you do it very well. I wish I could ride this cab forever, going on talking to you like this."
"You could, if you wanted to"
"You mean to say if I wanted, I'd never have to get back to the drudgery of my life again?", Krisn's eyes lighted up.
Conscience nodded.
"Wow! No bills overdue, no waking up everyday to a job i hate, no pandering to the whims of an eccentric boss, no coming back home to a list of complaints.... I love you man!"
"For once!", Conscience joked.
"All right man! In that case, lets just go someplace really nice and quiet, like a sea shore instead of the godforsaken 'a reason to live for' and wassay you, we get some cans of beer on our way??"
"Hold your horses! 'A reason to live for' is anything but godforsaken. And we are going there only. I said you did not have to get back to the drudgery of your life again, but that is not the same as not ever going back to life itself.", said Conscience.
Krisn's excitement swooshed out like air from a punctured balloon."Oh! So there was a catch! You tricked me!"
"Well, I am the Con-man, ain't I??", Conscience said, banteringly.
"You are also a murderer who just took an innocent man up a hill, promising him his dreams, and then pushed him off the cliff! I hate you!",Krisn said crossly.
"Well! That was the shortest lived love story ever! You went from 'I love you' to 'I hate you' in precisely forty five seconds."
Krisn continued to sulk and not respond.
Conscience continued,"You like to make judgments a little too soon. Your opinions are like the ground beneath your feet. Without them you'd fall into an unknown abyss. How about trying to put your feet on some firm ground that's not as shaky as your opinions? How about constructing it from what is based on you and not on others? Like maybe your character or your purpose of being. That's what the ground at 'a reason to live for' is like."
Krisn pondered it over for a while and finally spoke, "It doesn't make too much practical sense to me. But it kinda sounds right."
"Such is my voice. The voice of conscience. Marry it with Courage and it will make practical sense to you. That is what Wisdom is born of"
"Oh! So that's why your wife's called Courage and kid, Wisdom!"
"Yeah", There was a twinkle in Conscience's eyes (again in the rear view mirror)
"Did you see that??", suddenly Krisn was all excited.
"What?", asked Conscience.
"That was the first human being I saw ever since i found myself in your cab!"
Krisn had just spotted an old lady their cab passed by.
"Really?", Conscience asked smilingly,as if feigning obliviousness.
"Come to think of it, the old lady looked a little like my mother. Or maybe I was hallucinating."
"There's nothing like a hallucination.", Conscience explained, "At the very least, it is a message your sub-consciousness is trying to get across to you."
"Aha! Sub-consciousness! How could I have had a conversation with Mr.Conscience himself without that word figuring in? By the end of this I will have more than made up for bunking my moral-science classes in school!", Krisn was pulling Conscience's leg now.
"You did well to bunk those classes. They'd have done you more harm than good", Conscience said, matter-of-factly.

"I thought as much. So do you mean to say that was my dead mother that I just saw?"
"Maybe. Or maybe a message from your sub-consciousness. What was she doing?"
"How does that make you feel?"
"Ecstatic! I finally made her smile instead of complain!"
"Does that ring a bell?"
"Then look around again."
He saw his own self as a child, riding his first bicycle, waving at him.
"It's me! This is freaky! Why am I waving at my own self?"
"Because you are happy. Don't you remember what that felt like? Getting your first bicycle??"
"Of course I do! I had come 23rd in a class of 25 in a painting competition. But my dad still bought me a bicycle because he was proud of me."
"Because you stood 23rd and not 25th?? How did you bear the burden of such expectations??", Conscience smirked.
"Oh spare me the sarcasm! It was not a question of my standing in class. But a question of standing by what I believed in. We were asked to draw on the topic 'What I want to be when I grow up'"
"Hahaha", conscience guffawed, "Drawing a maniac must have been difficult!"
"Funny... well i drew Bugs Bunny because he made me laugh."
Conscience gave him a meaningful look (needless to say, in the rear view), "Now do you get the clue?"
"That I must become Bugs Bunny??"
"Of sorts.", Conscience answered, "You made the old woman and the young boy smile. Ever considered a profession that makes people smile? If only for an hour?"
"Well I don't see how a furniture designer like me can make people smile. Unless I stuff the cushions with tickle-powder."
"You might get sued for that. Try laughing-gas."
Suddenly their was a glint in Krisn's eyes. The kind of glint you see in a cat's eyes when she spots a rat."Keep your con ideas to yourself, Doctor Jekyll! I think i just had a better idea!"

"And I think we're there- 'a reason to live for'", Conscience screeched the cab to a halt.

Krisn looked around. He saw his mother, his teachers, his childhood friends, all smiling, playing with colors and shapes. Even Elmer Fudd!
"Wow! This is incredible!", he exclaimed.
"You'd better believe it. And now you must get off and I must get going."
"Hey.. you cannot go! Heck, I haven't even looked at you! I didn't realize until now but all this while I was only talking to your rear-view reflection!"
"I am only a reflection of who you really are. All you have to do is look into the mirror just as honestly as you do when you're spotting a blackhead.", Conscience winked at him (yet again in the rear view mirror) and said," Keep in touch!"

"And that'll be a hundred and twenty bucks."
"What?? I thought this was a free ride."
"And why must this be a free ride, Sir?", The cab driver did not sound very pleased at this proposition. Krisn started. He was staring at the cab driver who had driven him from his office to his place.
"Is that Conscience??"
"It's me, Khalif.", the cab driver said mirthlessly.
"Oh... I must have... never mind! Here you go." Krisn paid him the due.
He got off the cab, his head buzzing a little.
Khalif turned the ignition on again. And just before he started to accelerate he muttered under his breath, "He talks funny."


Krisn soon realized his boss was not as swinish as he thought him to be, but nevertheless quit his job to start an interior decoration firm with Tara. They decided to name it Happy Bug.

Happy Bug
"What's IN, doC??"

Once every month, they choose from a list of applicants, a place to decorate for free. Till now they have decorated for free one orphanage, one old-age home, their daughter's room, whom they've named Sumati- Hindi for wisdom, and Krisn's now ex boss's cabin. He chose the theme of "pearls" to decorate the office of his ex boss. The secret behind it is a private joke that they share- "Pearls before swines!"

Often they are asked what does the capital C in doC stand for? And they joke, "We are Con-men, aint we??"

So does that mean no bills overdue, no waking up everyday to do a job he hates, no pandering to the whims of an eccentric boss, no coming back home to a list of complaints??? Not entirely. There are still times when he forgets to pay his phone bill, still some projects he does only for the money but doesn't really like, still panders to the whims of his new and eccentric boss, his wife, Tara and still comes back home to a list of complaints. But he loves his life.

Oh and what became of Mr. Conscience? Sometimes, while driving, Krisn still checks into the rear view mirror. But all that he sees is the hundreds of people driving through their lives and the inverted image of a rather funny message that his car sticker bears:

A canary sang a song imbued
With life and love and all things true
But all that we heard was "tyoo-wit, tyoo-hoo"

Thursday, February 5, 2009


उन लोगों को समर्पित, जो भारत की संस्कृति के नाम पर हिंसा, दमन, शोषण और अंधविश्वास फैलाते हैं...

ख़ासा इस पर शोर हुआ
कोई कोतवाल, कोई चोर हुआ
सदियों तक इस पर बहस हुई
नहीं जिसका कोई भोर हुआ

हैं रखवारे इसके अनेक
कर्ता, ज्ञाता, रचयिता भी
पर मायावी किसी यक्षिणी सी
यह बदल रूप सबको छलती

जितनी आँखें देखें इसको
उतनी ही दिखें इसकी छवियाँ
सदियों तक इस पर बहस हुई
नहीं जिसका कोई भोर हुआ

वो बतलाना जिसे चाहते हैं
भारत कि अविचल संस्कृति
गंगा जो भर दो गागर में
गागर सी ले ले आकृति

जल की एक बूँद जमाने से
गंगा का क्या तय रूप हुआ?
सदियों तक इस पर बहस हुई
नहीं जिसका कोई भोर हुआ

कोई पंडित है उपनिषदों का
कोई इतिहास, कोई लाठी का
सब एक नाम में ढूँढते हैं
अस्तित्व अपने होने का

चींटी तो ढेले को नापे
पर्वत का उसको मान कहाँ?
सदियों तक इस पर बहस हुई
नहीं जिसका कोई भोर हुआ

जो पहनावे में खोजें इसे
पूछें उनसे, क्या है सही?
क्या वेद-काल का मृग-चर्म
या बिन चोली लिपटी साड़ी ?

मूरत का धातु बदलने से
क्या कृष्ण बदल कर कंस हुआ?
सदियों तक इस पर बहस हुई
नहीं जिसका कोई भोर हुआ

अक़बर , कबिरा, गाँधी, शकुनि,
मंथरा, मीरा, लक्ष्मीबाई
एक मनुष्य में मिल जाते
जगते- सोते किरदार कई

फिर युगों से जीती कथाओं को
कब एक कथानक प्राप्त हुआ?
सदियों तक इस पर बहस हुई
नहीं जिसका कोई भोर हुआ

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


मंशा - कभी कभी सोचती थी कि क्या उसकी किस्मत उसके नाम से है? या फिर उसका नाम उसके माता पिता ने उसकी आने वाली ज़िन्दगी को भाँप कर रखा था? मंशा - जैसे अधूरी सी एक इच्छा , जैसे कोई अंत-हीन कहानी।

" मिस! मिस! छाया ने विदुषी का दाँत तोड़ दिया!"
घबरा कर मंशा कॉरिडोर में पहुँची। विदुषी नाम की लड़की गला फाड़ फाड़ कर रो रही थी।
" ये क्या किया तुमने, छाया?", मंशा ने छाया से सख्ती से पुछा।
अपने हाथ में रुमाल से पकड़े हुए एक टूटे हुए दाँत को हवा में लहराते हुए छाया बोली, " मेरी कोई गलती नही है मिस। मैं तो बस उसे दिखा रही थी की दूध के दाँत को कैसे तोड़ते हैं।"
छाया की इन्ही हरकतों से मंशा झल्ला चुकी थी, " अभी चलो मेरे साथ प्रिंसिपल के ऑफिस में! इस उजड्ड लड़की पे तो उसका भी असर नही होता। नजाने कैसे घर वाले हैं। नोट पे नोट लिख कर भेजो, बेशर्मी से साइन करके वापस भी भेज देते हैं। अपने मम्मी पापा को बुला के लाना कल!"
विदुषी का रुदन सुन कर अब कॉरिडोर की सभी क्लासों के बच्चे बाहर आ गए थे। अक्सर क्लास में बैठे बोर होते हुए बच्चे इसी उम्मीद में रहते की कब छाया कुछ फसाद मचाये और हम तमाशा देखने बाहर जाएँ।
मंशा ने हर बार की तरह छाया की डायरी में उसकी शरारतों के बारे में नोट लिखा। लेकिन इस बार उसके माता पिता से स्कूल आ कर उससे मिलने का आग्रह भी किया। फिर चीखती हुई विदुषी को दवाइयों वाले कमरे में ले गई। इस तरह एक और दिन का अंत हुआ ।


" साम , दाम, दंड , भेद! आपकी बच्ची पर तो किसी का असर नही होता ! कल ही एक बच्ची का दाँत तोड़ दिया! वो भी पक्का दाँत! उसके माँ-बाप ने कैसा बवाल मचा दिया कोई अंदाजा भी है आपको? अब मैं क्या जवाब दूँ? मेरी तो नौकरी पर ही बन आई है। सारा दिन क्या एक ही बच्ची को नज़रबंद करने का ज़िम्मा ले रखा है मैंने? आठ साल की बच्ची ने तीस-पैंतीस साल की टीचरों की हवाइयाँ उड़ा रखी हैं!", मंशा छाया की माँ, नियति , से पिछले बीस मिनटों से उसकी शिकायत कर रही थी।
और पिछले बीस मिनटों से नियति के मन में बस एक ही बात चल रही थी- "हे भगवान्। जल्दबाजी में मैं गीज़र तो खुला ही छोड़ आई। ये अगर घर आ पहुँचे तो कोहराम मचा देंगे। कल ही सब्जी में नमक ज़्यादा पड़ गया था। ये सच ही कहते हैं। मैं इतनी गैर जिम्मेदार हूँ। तभी तो छाया..."
"... तभी तो छाया को अपनी गलतियों का एहसास होगा।" कुछ सुझाव देते हुए मंशा ने अपनी बात पूरी की ।
" जी मैडम। अब आगे से ध्यान रखूंगी। अभी मैं जल्दी में हूँ। घर पे कुछ काम अधूरा ही छोड़ के आई हूँ।" नियति ने गीज़र के बारे में सोचते हुए कहा।
"इसके पापा क्यूँ नहीं आए?" मंशा ने हड़बड़ी में जाती हुई नियति से पुछा।
"वो... वो उन्हें कुछ ज़रूरी काम था । " नियति ने बहाना बनाया। वो कैसे बताती कि उसने पावक को बताया ही नहीं ? कभी भी नहीं। कि आज तक सारे नोट्स पर साइन भी उसी ने किए थे। कितना गैर जिम्मेदार समझेंगे वो उसे । वैसे भी कल सब्जी में नमक ज़्यादा पड़ गया था।


दस सालों में कितना कुछ बदल जाता है। जितनी बार ये दुनिया गोल घूम चुकी होती है उतनी बार परिस्थितियाँ बदलती हैं, उतनी बार सपने बदलते हैं, उतनी बार अपने बदलते हैं। खुशियाँ कभी कभी त्रासदी बन जाती हैं... और त्रासदी समय के साथ एक मज़ाक! बस रह जाती है तो एक उम्मीद। क्यूँकी उम्मीद की बुनियाद पे ही तो दुनिया गोल घूमती है।
दस साल पहले बाईस साल की एक लड़की दिल्ली से रतलाम आई थीदिल्ली से रतलाम दो तरह के लोग आते हैंएक वो जो अपनी सारी ज़िन्दगी बड़े शहरों की भाग दौड़ में बिता कर अब आराम से किसी छोटे शहर में, अपना बड़ा सा घर बसाना चाहते हैंआख़िर जुड़ी हुई सविंग्स से एक बड़ा प्लाट खरीदने की उनकी क्षमता भी तो सिर्फ़ छोटे शहरों में लेने की होती है । दूसरे वो जिनकी मजबूरियाँ उन्हें खींच लाती हैं । जैसे कि बीमार माँ, या फिर ट्रान्सफर
मंशा की न तो उम्र हुई थी न ही कोई मजबूरी थी। फिर बाईस साल की कमसिन उम्र में उसका रतलाम जैसे शहर में क्या काम?
उस दिन , सड़क के किनारे , बस स्टाप की बैंच पे बैठे बैठे नजाने कितने घंटे बीत गए होंगे। घर जाती तो फिर वही आईना दीखता जिसमे वो दोनों अपनी शक्लें साथ साथ देखते और कहते "हैं न हम बिल्कुल मेड फॉर ईच अदर?" ; फिर वही बालकनी दिखती जहाँ रात रात भर बैठ कर वो उससे फ़ोन पे बातें करती। अब वो घर दोबारा कैसे जाएगी? ये सब कुछ सोच ही रही थी की सामने एक गाय दिखी। दिल्ली की सडकों पर गाय दिखना भी एक अजूबा ही है। M.C.D की वैन्स को इन बेचारियों से कुछ खासा ही लगाव है। उस दिन मानो वो गाय भी भगवान् की ही भेजी हुई थी। दुर्बल सी गाय, जिसकी पसलियाँ बाहर दीख रहीं थीं, इतनी दुर्बल होते हुए भी अपने छोटे से बछडे को दूध पिला रही थी। क्या खाती होगी जिसका ये दूध बन पाता होगा ये तो अल्लाह ही जानता है। ख़ुद अन्दर से लगभग खाली है लेकिन जितना दूध उसका बछडा खींचता उतना दूध उसके थनों में भर आता। वाकई आश्चर्यजनक है।
"क्या वाकई इतना आश्चर्यजनक है?" उसने सोचा। "क्या ये सच नही कि कुदरत ने हम सबको एक ऐसी ही ताक़त दी है? कि हम अन्दर से खाली होने के बाद भी कुछ चीज़ें दूसरों को दे सकते हैं और ऐसा करने से वो चीज़ें हम में वापस भरने लगती हैं?"
उसी दिन उसने फ़ैसला किया कि वो रतलाम जाएगी। वहाँ बच्चों को पढ़ाएगी। उन्हें शायद उसकी दिल्ली में मिली अच्छी शिक्षा से लाभ हो। इस तरह उनकी मदद करके शायद वो अपनी मदद भी कर सके।


आज छाया स्कूल नहीं आई। "चलो! एक दिन तो शान्ति से बीतेगा!" , मंशा ने चैन कि साँस ली। पूरा दिन गुनगुनाते हुए काम किया। यहाँ तक कि बच्चों को एक पीरियड फ्री भी दे दिया। उसी फ्री पीरियड में उसने सोचा कि कुछ अधूरे काम पूरे कर ले । कल का क्या भरोसा किस नए फसाद में उलझ जाए? बड़े समय से बच्चों के रिकॉर्ड बनाने का काम वो टाल रही थी, तो सोचा कि उसी को निबटा ले। एक रजिस्टर में पाँच खाने बनाये। एक में बच्चे का, दूसरे में माता का, तीसरे में पिता का नाम, चौथे में पता, और पाँचवे में फोन नम्बर।
" नम्बर ग्यारह... छाया मिश्रा... माँ... नियति मिश्रा... पिता ... पावक मि..."
पावक मिश्रा। पिता का नाम पावक मिश्रा। मंशा को मानो साँप सूँघ गया हो।
उसने झट से नम्बर देखा-9425311709

नम्बर के आखिरी चार अंक 1709 थे । पावक अपने नंबरों के आखिरी चार अंक 1709 ही रखता था। सत्रह सितम्बर- उसका जन्मदिन।


"ये कैसा मज़ाक है भगवान् जी! सोचा था कि वो एक बुरा सपना था जो मेरी ज़िन्दगी में होना ज़रूरी थाशायद मेरे कर्मों का फललेकिन ये भी सोचा था कि आप मेरे साथ हैंऔर मुझे उस अंधेरे से बाहर निकालेंगे जिसमे आपने मुझे शायद कुछ सिखाने के लिए धकेलाऔर आपने निकाला भीतो अब ये कौनसी नई परीक्षा? क्या मैं कई परीक्षाएं दे नहीं चुकी? क्या ज़िन्दगी भर मैं बस परीक्षाएँ ही देती रहूँगी, अपने आप को सिद्ध ही करती रहूँगी? किस लिए? एक दिन मर जाने के लिए?"
भगवान् से इस तरह संवाद करना मंशा कि आदत बन चुकी थी। उस रात उसे नींद नहीं आई। लेकिन ज़िन्दगी के बुरे से बुरे वक्त में भी सोना, उठना, खाना, तैयार होना, सब्जी वाले से दाम पे बहस करना, उसने सीख लिया था। तो सुबह होते ही उसकी आँख लग गई। नींद खुली मोबाइल फ़ोन की घंटी से, जो कि सातवीं बार बज रहा था।
"मंशा, कहाँ रह गयीं तुम? कोई ख़बर नही। सुबह से फ़ोन लगाते लगाते आफत आ गई।", प्रिंसिपल की आवाज़ दूसरी तरफ़ से गरज रही थी। "छाया ने यहाँ बवाल मचा रखा है। दो बच्चियों के टिफिन छीन कर खिड़की से बाहर फेंक दिए। जल्दी आओ!"
" बाप पर जो गई है", मंशा ने मन ही मन सोचा

" मेरी गलती नही है मिस। सब इसी की गलती है। इससे पूछो इसने मेरा कहना क्यूँ नही माना?", छाया ने अपनी सफाई दी।
"कौनसा कहना?", मंशा ने पूछा।
" जब मैंने कहा कि अपने टिफिन से एक रोटी चम् चम् को दे दे तो दी क्यूँ नही?"
"चम् चम्?", मंशा का सर घूम रहा था।
"मिस, चम् चम् वो गन्दे, काले कुत्ते का नाम है जो नीचे गार्ड अंकल के बूथ के पास बैठता है।" विदुषी ने पुराना बदला लेने की एक कोशिश करते हुए कहा।
" छाया, सारी दुनिया तुम्हारा कहना माने ये ज़रूरी नही हैसबकी अपनी अपनी सोच हैकिसी को चम् चम् पसंद है किसी को नहीअपनी सोच दूसरों पे थोपना बंद करो! और अपनी ग़लती मानना सीखो! समझीं?", मंशा ने छाया को डाँटते हुए कहा।

और कड़वाहट भरे मन से सोचा, "तुम्हारा बाप तो कभी नही समझा"

स्कूल जाना अब मंशा के लिए एक सज़ा सी हो गई थी। वैसे तो छाया कभी भी उसे फूटी आँख नही सुहाती थी, लेकिन जबसे पावक वाली बात का पता चला, तबसे तो मानो उसे उसकी हर हरकत में पावक नज़र आता हो। पहले तो वो उसे झल्लाहट में डांटती, लेकिन अब उसकी डांट में एक अजीब सी कटुता थी, उसके शब्दों में घृणा का डंक । कई बार वो अपने को समझाती कि छाया एक आठ साल की बच्ची है, दुष्ट ही सही, और वो बत्तीस साल की औरत। उसे अपने पर इससे ज़्यादा काबू होना चाहिए। ये सोच कर जिस दिन वो स्कूल जाती भी, छाया की हरकतों को देख अपना आपा खो बैठती। मानो २२ साल की वो लड़की बाहर आ जाती हो। २२ साल की वो लड़की भी तो बच्ची ही थी...
एक दिन छाया क्लास लेट पहुँची। जब मंशा ने लेट आने का कारण उससे पूछा तो उसने मुँह चिढ़ा कर अपनी गर्दन फेर ली। छाया के लिए ऐसा करना आम बात थी लेकिन मंशा के सब्र का घड़ा भर चुका था, और उस दिन उसने अपने अध्यापन कार्यकाल में पहली बार किसी बच्ची पर हाथ उठाया। गुस्से से तिलमिलाती मंशा तेज़ी से क्लास से बाहर स्टाफ रूम को बढ़ी। क्लास रूम से स्टाफ रूम के छोटे से सफर में उसके हाथों की कम्पन और गालों के फड़कने की वजह गुस्से से बदल कर पश्चात्ताप हो रही थी। स्टाफ रूम में घुसते ही दरवाज़ा बंद कियासौभाग्य से वहाँ कोई नही था दस सालों बाद वो फूट फूट के रो रही थी।

" मैं पापा को बताऊंगीSSS! तुमने मुझे माराSSS! वो तुमको खूब मारेंगेSSS!", छाया अपने आप को टॉयलेट में बंद कर के ज़ोर ज़ोर से दहाड़ रही थी।
"छाया ... बेटा ... दरवाजा खोलो... तुम अच्छी बच्ची हो ना ?" मंशा ने उसे बहलाने की कोशिश की।
" मैं अच्छी बच्ची नही हूँ SSS! मैं अच्छी बच्ची नही हूँ SSS!"
" अरे नहीं बेटा। किसने कहा तुम अच्छी बच्ची नहीं हो?"
तपाक से जवाब आया, "सबने SSS... तुमने , प्रिंसिपल मैम ने, पापा ने SSS"
मंशा के दिल की एक धड़कन उस समय सुई जैसी उसे चुभी। वो ये कैसे भूल गई की पल पल अगर किसी को उसकी कमियों का एहसास दिलाया जाए, उसे ये बताया जाए की वो कितना बुरा है, कितना लापरवाह, कितना गैर जिम्मेदार, तो वो इन पे यकीन करने लगता है ?"
" छाया बेटी। आय एम् सॉरी! तुम तो इस क्लास की सबसे प्यारी लड़की हो!", मंशा सच बोल रही थी।
अचानक टॉयलेट के उस पार खामोशी छा गई। एक धीमी सी आवाज़ आई, "सच्ची? तुम मुझे बाहर निकलने के लिए झूट तो नही बोल रही?"
" नही बेटा! एकदम सच्ची!"
चिटकनी खुली। मंशा ने छाया को गले लगा लिया।


"प्रिय मैडम,
आज छाया के गाल पे हमने उँगलियों के निशान देखे। पूछने पे पता चला की आपने उसे थप्पड़ मारा। पिछली बार जब उसके पुराने स्कूल में मास्टरनी ने ऐसा किया था तो हमने उन्हें अपनी पहुँच के दम पे स्कूल से निकलवा दिया था। हमें अपनी गलती का एहसास कभी न होता अगर आज उसने हमेशा की तरह ये न कहा होता कि गलती उसकी नही थी। आज उसने न केवल ये स्वीकारा की गलती उसी की थी बल्कि एक सवाल पूछ के हमें शर्मसार कर दिया। उसने हमसे पूछा, "पापा, थप्पड़ तो टीचर ने मारा, पर फिर सॉरी उन्होंने क्यूँ कहा ?" शायद छाया ने हमेशा अपने घर पे गुस्सा और दमन करने वाले को ही सही सिद्ध होते हुए देखा था।
हम में इतनी शक्ति तो नही कि आपसे मिल कर ये बात कह पाते इसलिए पत्र के माध्यम से आपसे माफ़ी मांग रहे हैं और आपका शुक्रिया कर रहे हैं। वैसे हम कभी भी किसी से इतनी बातें नही कहते लेकिन नजाने क्यूँ आपके बारे में सुन कर ऐसा लगा जैसे आप ये समझ जाएँगी।
हम कोशिश करेंगे कि भविष्य में आपको शिकायत के कोई अवसर प्राप्त न हों।

आपका शुक्रगुजार,
पावक मिश्रा"

पत्र को सलीके से तह कर मंशा ने उसे अलमारी के लॉकर में रख दिया जहाँ वो अपनी यादों से जुड़ी हर चीज़ रखती थी। उन चीज़ों में पावक कि ये पहली और अकेली चीज़ थी। पुरानी चिट्ठियाँ और तोहफे तो उसने कब के फेंक दिए थे। दस साल पहले ही। इसलिए क्यूँकि वो उन सब चीज़ों से बाहर आना चाहती थी। और उसे लगा भी था कि वो उन सब से बार आ गई थी। लेकिन शायद नही। क्यूँकि किसी चीज़ से पूरी तरह से बाहर शायद तभी आया जा सकता है जब मन में अतीत के सामने आने का डर न हो, अतीत के सायों और किरदारों के प्रति मन में घृणा न हो, बुरी यादों की कड़वाहट न हो और अच्छी यादें मन में न पैदा करें - मंशा ...

आज ये पत्र वो इसलिए संभाल सकी क्यूँकि उसके मन में उसे ले कर न कोई भय था, न कोई मंशा। थी तो बस एक भीनी सी मिठास, जो लम्बी बीमारी के बाद स्वस्थ होने पर होती है। ये पत्र उसे ये याद दिलाता रहेगा कि किसी के मन में अगर रावण है, तो राम भी। कि कड़वाहट कड़वाहट को नही मारती। कि कहानी का अंत सुखद हो या दुखद- ये हमारे हाथों में है। और ये कि भगवान् जो भी करता है, अच्छे के लिए करता है...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I always thought I’ll never write a travelogue. But just as another of those things that I vehemently, and even sanctimoniously, say Nevaa…hhh to and then one day find myself in the thick of, here I am, writing one of sorts.

If I were a pro traveloguist (if there’s a word like that), I would have mentioned the exact coordinates of my destination, but not before I physically landed in the village of Karauli did I even know the name of the place. I was a reluctant part of a documentary-film-making unit that was to shoot for the ministry of Panchayati Raj, a ministry I had, hitherto, not known to have existed. Rajasthan is a preferred location for all such shoots that show “Rural India” because of the stunning contrast between its earthy and undulating landscape and the vibrant colors that the Rajasthanis don. Not to mention the lingering effect of their folk melodies and the naiveté of the locals- both used equally deftly by the film-makers. All in all, it is a complete value-for-money destination.


We woke up early in the morning and went in our white, monolithic Sumo, further into the interiors of the village. I did not know what to expect from this expedition because this was going to be my first real experience of being in the “other side of the world”. Was I to expect the hapless and downtrodden villagers of Swades or the cheerful and quaint ones of Sajjanpur?

We zeroed in on a location that had lush green fields on the backdrop and a solitary tree under which my co-artist and I were to stand and play the roles of two really smart journalists who knew more about the ministry of Panchayati Raj than, I guess, even the Prime Minister would. About fifty odd villagers, completely caught unawares, were ushered into the scene at the “request” of their Chief or Pradhan. Apparently, they were told nothing but to just sit down and do as they were asked to. As the shot was being readied, I was trying to acclimatize myself to being stared at unapologetically by children, men and women, as if I just landed down in a spacecraft. I did not know what to do but to smile and twitch my eyebrows in a rather silly way. But because that did not work, I decided to ask them a few typical questions that smacked of my urban, patronizing attitude.

Of a little blue frocked girl, I asked, “School jati ho?”

She smiled, looked around, as if seeking approval from her elders to answer a funnily powdered and patched stranger’s questions. She then nodded.

I tried to make her comfortable and asked her in pure Hindi, “Kaunsi Kaksha?”

Pat came the reply, “4th Class”.

That was the first blow to my assumptive urbanness. But it could have been a one-off thing, I thought.

A partially veiled lady then asked me, “ Je philim ki sooting ho rayi hai?”

“Haan”, I answered.

Kay ki philim?”

A young lad dressed in a pair of jeans said “ Salman aur Aiswarya ki”

The crowd laughed. I smiled embarrassedly.

Then I tried to explain them in a Hindi so impeccable that my school teacher would have cried tears of joy.

“ Amma

Someone remarked Ee chhori ne amma bana diyo tujhe and a few little ones giggled.

I continued, “ Ye film aapke gaanv mein kya kya vikas hua hai, aapke kya kya adhikaar hain aur sarkari aur gair sarkari sansthayein aapki kaise madad kar rahi hain, inke bare mein banayi ja rahi hai”

Je kahan dikhegi?”, Amma probed on.

I myself didn’t know. So I made a smart guess, “Doordarshan

Maari photu bhi aaegi?”

Haan” I said, not very sure of my reply.

Humein pata hoti to hum nha-dho ke taiyyar ho ke aateen.

I smiled. But I, for the first time, realized that our counterparts, just like us, like to look good. Why did I assume otherwise?

Koi baat nahi Amma. Aap to waise hi acchi lag rahi ho.”, I wasn’t entirely lying.

Someone remarked. “Fair and lovely lagai aao

The crowd roared in laughter this time.

And I was nearly gaping in astonishment. Both at my ignorance of their beauty consciousness and at HUL’s market penetration.

The shoot went on the entire day. We rambled on like two lunatic journos who could write a thesis on the ministry. The script was in such cumbersome Hindi that even the villagers could not understand it. And without food and water, gradually their excitement turned into restlessness.

Je kab tak chalega?”, A disgruntled man asked.

Pata nahi. Madam se poochho.” I replied.

Hum to soch ke aye the ki naasta paani milego

Hum bhi” , I thought.

Ab poora din na khaana khayo, na kaam kiyo. Iski majdoori mile kya?”

They were right. This was labour and labour needs to be both paid and consented. But my ideas on HR and labour relations would not have been very well received by my director. The downside of being half a management aspirant and half an artist is that the two worlds don’t see eye to eye.

We packed up in the evening. I was too tired and hungry and thirsty to inquire if there was any payment set aside for the villagers and too enervated to brace myself for a confrontation with Madam, who was not exactly in the pleasantest of her moods.

But now, I cannot but ask myself- Will I ever stand up??


We got up even earlier today and frankly, I was wondering what stuff are these film-makers made up of? They get ready in ten minutes stat and I wonder if they’re all constipated or have ingeniously trained their evacuation systems to function at will, like true yogis.

We went to a different village within the Karauli district today. I don’t know why we did not go to the same village as the day before but my guess is that after the previous day’s experience we wouldn’t have been very welcomed. So to maintain the continuity of the shot, all throughout the rest of the shoot, we had some or the other puzzled villager hold for us a broken branch of a tree, brandishing it behind our heads, so that it gave the effect of the tree that we stood beside the previous day. Only I know how I kept a straight face during the shots. Acting ain’t no funny business!

Yet again, I found myself surrounded by men and women, gaping at me like I was a circus lion in chains (They weren’t very far from the truth.). A young woman offered me a hukka or a smoking-pot. I politely refused, a little taken aback from seeing even rural women smoke. But I was getting used to all the surprises and my urban presumptuousness was being humbled.

They asked me the same question- what were we doing? I answered verbatim as I had the day before. I noticed that each crew member was giving a different answer. Guess we were a very confused lot!

A young lady suddenly said something that I was totally unprepared for.

Mhare ko bhi Dilli le chalo madamji

Dilli mein kya karogi?” , I asked.

Main bhi tumhari tarah acting karungi”

Well! It could be true that looking at me she must have thought that if I can act, anybody can. And I dare say she was right! But as I smiled at her (my only weapon when I don’t know what else to do) and looked at her closely, I realized she was not just anybody. Give her six months of not working in the sun, a good face cleansing and threading regime, a blow dry and Shopper’s Stop and Voila- She could have been Nandita Das! And minus the tan she would have looked a little like Sonam Kapoor.

Humko padha do behenji.”, A veiled woman intercepted my musings.

Tum school nahi gayi?”, A lousy question, I thought in hindsight.


“Ye gair sarkari sansthayein padhane ka kaam nahi kar rahin yahaan?”, I asked in the true spirit of my script.

They looked around trying to figure out what Gair Sarkari Sansthayein meant. I got my answer.

“Je sooting ke chakkar mein aaj roti na pakaegi ghar mein?” , An elderly man asked his wife.

To which she retorted, “ To tum roti bana lo, Main bhi to kamaa ke laaun ab.”

I smiled again. This time a genuine smile of relief that came from both this small glimpse of women empowerment and the humour with which both the man and his wife conversed.

Kaam karti ho tum sab kahin?”, I enquired.

Haan. Yahan khudai chal rahi hai.”

Narega (NREGA) se?”


I don’t know what exactly about this made me happy. Was it the knowledge that a Government scheme is actually helping them or the lessening of my guilt at not being able to help them become literate?

Anyway, time was up and I made some mumbled statements of trying to bring them help.

DAY 2.5

Our final destination was a village in Savai Madhopur. This was a much more developed village. The villagers here brought us loads of guavas and some radishes, fresh from the farm.

I was overwhelmed by their gesture. They needn’t have. After all it behooved us to treat them to naashta-paani after all the work we extracted from them. But the white, monolithic Sumo, for some odd reason, bestows the status of learnedness and power on its travelers.

Dhanyawad”, I thanked them.

“Welcome”, came the response!

What is your name?” , asked a villager, trying to talk to me in what he thought was “my” language, English, just as I had been trying to speak with them in “their” language, Hindi. Weren’t we both equally ignorant of each other?

Mayukhini”. I replied.

“Hain? Ke khini?” someone asked. They giggled.

I giggled too. This time, again, it was genuine.

The sun was going down and that meant, much to my relief as well as that of the villagers, that the shoot had to be wound up.

My patchy foundation had become even patchier and cracked and my real skin was showing, finally getting a chance to breathe. I wanted to wash my face, splash it with some cold water, so I could remove this layer of lie from me and become “Ke khini” again!

I was too tired on my way back home, but as I write my “travelogue of sorts” now, I wonder which villagers did I meet? The hapless and downtrodden villagers of Swades or the cheerful and quaint ones of Sajjanpur? Guess I just met the hapless and cheerful and downtrodden and quaint people of incredible India

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Beginner's Survival Guide To The Gym-Assault (Part 1)

This new year, cuddled up comfortably inside my razai, binging on Haldiram’s New Year Celebration Pack of an assortment of sweets, I sat, watching on television the highlights of 2008. According to the channel, one of the biggest and life-changing stories of ’08 had been Kareena Kapoor’s weight. Now I had seen pictures of her often, but on this particular day, when I saw her lithe size-zero flash on the screen, for some reason I was hit hard. Such was the impact of this imagery that had I not been as fond of good food, I would have dropped, in true Bollywood shocking-news-revelation style, my pack of Haldiram’s goodies.

There are times in our lives when we truly mean to be a better person, meaning every single word of our resolve in all earnest. New Year Day is one such time. An engineer by qualification, I used to think that size- zero is a paradox, an oxymoron. That had also been my excuse all these months for not wanting to be one and for even mocking at it. But on this day, the New Year Day, the one day that you dare to be honest about all that you’ve done and not done in the bygone year, I asked myself the obvious question that I had been eschewing for a long time now:

“Theoretically assuming that a size-zero is physically possible, if I calibrate the measuring tape with Kareena as size-zero and Rani Mukherjee (and not Adnan Sami of yester years, for one must be ambitious) as size-ten, where will I ‘figure’??”

The answer was written in bold all across the Haldiram’s Pack, “Drop it! And hit the gym!

Deciding upon a New Year resolution in itself is a gladdening activity. You haven’t even begun following it but you feel much better already! So smiling ear to ear, the very next day, I enrolled for a gym membership, greeting everyone with the air of “having arrived”.

It took me exactly fifteen minutes to realize that imagining a Mayukhini jogging full steam on a treadmill is very different from a Mayukhini actually jogging even partial throttle on one. Beyond the first ten minutes, even the peppiest of Enrique Iglesias numbers blaring at the highest of decibels cannot salvage your plummeting morale.

It is in such dire times that you call for divine help, needing something, anything to keep you going. I was reminded of one of those self-help stories where God shows a man after he is dead something like a Performance Evaluation Report in the form of footprints on sand. There are four footprints all his life, two his and two God’s following his. Then in troubled times there are only two footprints and according to God , He was carrying him in His arms all those times. I could not but wistfully conjure up images of God jogging on the treadmill, carrying me in His arms.

But they say that necessity is the mother of all inventions and so, gradually, not only did I learn the tricks of the trade but also discovered some handy ideas to keep you going while you work out.

Because I have already exhausted the word limit beyond which any post becomes scary, I have elaborated on these ingenious ideas in a sequel to this - The Beginner's Survival Guide To The Gym-Assault (Part 2). Check it out!

The Beginner's Survival Guide To The Gym-Assault (Part 2)

(The Leg Extension Machine)

(The Cross Trainer)

Disclaimer: The following ideas will be helpful only if you consider the chances of their occurring a real possibility.

Statutory Warning: In case of any signs of over-exertion viz. fainting, nausea, please stop imagining.

Following are some ideas to survive some popular gym equipments and exercises.

1) The Treadmill: Imagine. You are Basanti of the Sholey fame. Your beloved is handcuffed by your gym trainer who is laughing maliciously a la Gabbar and saying “ Jab tak tere pair challenge tab tak iski saans chalegi

2) The Leg Extension Machine: This is the one where you have to lift a load on your feet. Now , in case you aren’t married or are married but haven’t had any kids as yet, this could well be a possibility when your little brat asks you to papa-papa/mamma-mamma-pair-mein-jhooli-jhooli. And should you fail to do so he is gonna wail his vocal-cords out and you can safely kiss your good-night sleep goodbye. Better be prepared.

3) The Cross Trainer: This is the machine that simulates running without its jerky effect on the knees. So to a bystander, it’d look as if you are doing a slow-motion run as in a Yash-Raj movie. Now what if the guy doing ab-crunches next to you is actually a secret Yash-Raj movie agent. You won’t want to jeopardize your starry dreams and let him find out that you cannot do a slow motion run sexily.

4) The Exerbike: It is the year 2058 and we have run out of all gas supply. Your fancy car is in the garage in abeyance and you have to get back to using good old bikes. Because of human tampering with the food chain most rats have been killed and hence most cats have died from starvation. The dogs are hungry and you are fat (read a lot of meat), hence smack of big returns on their investment. Run for your life!

5) Push-ups (where you can’t bend your knees): You are at the Oscar Award Winning Ceremony wearing extreme slim fit jeans. Your name has been announced for the best actor, singer, director and script writer –the first time in the history of Oscar. As a natural fallout of your excitement you trip over the stairs, lying face down. If you bend your knees to get up, the world will witness your slim-fit jeans come apart at the seams, literally.

I have personally tested these ideas and have found them useful. Any improvisation is most welcome. Until next break-through, Happy Work-out!