Sunday, August 25, 2013

Those three days

It seems so long ago…when I first smelled the stench wafting towards me. That August morning, as I saw the crescent moon giving way to the rising sun, I asked, ‘How timid of you that you arrive gleaming shamelessly every evening when your bully rests to return bright?”

Before, I got a reply, the stench took over my senses and got me uneasy. Quickly it grew denser, hovering closer and began suffocating me. Gulping to breathe in when I looked up, they poured it. Dumped it. Over my head. Sticky, yucky, I felt it reach my toes.
The filth in their minds, they dumped on me and walked away with impunity.

I washed away the dirt. But the stench lingered.
The following day, they brought another bucket of sewage washed from their insides.

I washed away the dirt. But the stench lingered.
The third day, they had no more mirth. Yet they wrenched and spat.

I washed away the dirt. But the stench lingered.
And then he came to me. Neil Gaiman. He advised: ‘Make mistakes. Make glorious mistakes, because it means you are out there doing something!’

I sat up, puppy-eyed looking harder at him, desperately reading his lips, greedy to learn the words before it spilled out. And I held dearly to his mantra, “…in good times and bad, when the going gets tough, remember – Make Good Art! Someone on the internet thinks what you are doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before, Make Good Art! Time will take the sting [read stench here] out. But do only what you can do best. Make Good Art!”
So here’s raising a toast to Gaiman,

For making me wiser than those men!
I plead to Thee, to give them peace

As I turn the stench into what only I CAN!
Make Good Art!

The next morning when I saw the crescent moon give way to the rising sun, I smiled and said, “How humble of you to arrive gleaming every evening, unmindful of the bully sun, artistically changing shapes in a rhythm of your own!”
My modesty makes me say… This, indeed, is a Good Work of Art… [By the optician and my husband Sanjeev]

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Compromise is the name of the game

[This appeared in TFW on Aug 21]
Whenever I sat fingers on the keyboard ready to communicate to the blogger world, of late, a voice had been pinging me saying I was receiving only selective readership. Recently, when the voice became a nuisance, I stopped and put up my hands.
The foolish ping thought I gave up. Little did it know that’s the power pose. With my arms outstretched I let an extra dose of testosterone rush in to force my inhabitants into a trial settlement. Mind – the plaintiff and Heart – the defendant were ready for the experiment I suggested. The headlines to my writings will be decided by the mind and the rest by the heart.
So I began pouring out sonnets and verse and gave it sultry, steamy, oola la, headlines. Readers lol’ed over.
Compromise is the name of the game. Ah! it’s just me that’s affected.
My friend’s daughter, who wanted to study creative arts, was forced by her parents to study science and math combo. “Children who take arts do not understand the seriousness of life…,” they advised. When they began threatening, the teenager struck a deal. “Okay, but only science.”
Today, when her classmates have progressed into medical and other higher institutions, she’s yet to clear her Physics paper.
Compromise is the name of the game. Ah! It’s only a child’s future that’s screwed up.
My cousin, who was in a relationship with a guy, was forced into an arranged marriage. She agreed after her mom popped sleeping pills by the dozen.
Six years and two children later, she’s been treated for chronic depression.
Compromise is the name of the game. Ah! It’s only a family that’s ruined.
When Durga Shakti Nagpal, the fledgling IAS officer, hauled up trucks she was abiding by the laws that she learnt. Either she is too naïve or too righteous to look for ways out. And Akilesh Yadav is doing his duty by the rules of the book that he has grown up on. Either he is too frightened of his dad or too intoxicated by his power to look for ways out.
Courtesy: Wikipedia
IAS associations, who ought to stand by the young lady officer, choose to stare ahead, ignoring her like a plague. Compromise, they know, is the only name of the game. But, this affects not only the morale of thousands of aspiring youngsters who believe in the prestigious services but the entire nation who now feels like a pack of worms that can be squashed by politicians.
It sucks!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

24 hours of freedom - a friend's Independence Day memory

On the eve of Independence Day, a dear friend shared an incident with me...

My friend Shalini Menezes' tri-colour painted nails. Pls note: The story is not hers

Last year she had gone to office in a tri-colour dress.

Don’t I have the freedom to choose what to wear! she thought.
She strutted in and none of her suited and booted colleagues commented; She slurped up cups of masala chai and no one sneered; She hummed a song and the stiff-lipped boss smiled. She rang up the husband to say, "It’s no cooking day," and he replied, "Chill."
Everyone in Independence Day spirit! she thought

Her teen cousin screamed that he bunked classes to go to the cinema and his parents wanted to know more about the movie.
Another announced she’s seeing a guy and her until-then orthodox mom patted her cheeks.

Wow! Now she pinched herself, to check if she was not day dreaming. Convinced, she wasn’t, she sat conjuring up an ideal India…if only we were so patient, understanding and accommodative of one another…
In the evening, the husband called to say, "I’ll be late. Don’t wait for me."

This is freedom! She sang, rolling in bed.
The next morning she found him beside her. "Get up. It’s time." She shook him awake.

"Can you leave me alone!" he barked.
She walked into office and heard colleagues chuckle, "Someone’s fancy dress is over." She logged on the computer and an email stared at her, "Give me one good reason why the file was not forwarded yesterday?"

Dazed as she sat, the mobile rang, "Mom’s threatening to stop me from going to college!" the youngster cried.
"Freedom lasts just 24 hours in a year, my dear," she sulked, but within ear shot of her colleague.

"Thank God, for that. What all would we have had to put up with," her colleague sighed aloud, and others broke out in a group laughter. Even their laugh was alike, she noted.
"Pity!" she spat. Stood up and said to no one in particular, "There’s something called individuality. Gluing on to lines drawn by others, so much so one day you’ll suffocate and you wouldn’t even know if it’s you or your neighbour gasping for breath."

"Answer the boss first before lecturing us," mocked her colleague.

"You are sure to die your neighbour’s death!"

I regret being nasty to my colleague. But that was me last year. In the last one year, I've made it a habit of exercising my freedom to live my life every single day. No more am I offended by silly comments.

"So?" I asked.

"I'm wearing the same dress to work. But this time with matching accessories, colour-cordinated nails and a tri-colour hat to boot. Howz that?"
Good Luck!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hyderabad will remain my home until…

[This appeared in TFW on August 6, 2013]

My lil girl at my parents' home
When politicians tore Andhra Pradesh into two, I was reminded of my Journalism class. Our professor had asked us a question then – ‘why no other newspaper matches the popularity of Deccan Chronicle in the state.’ The class gave varied answers. At last, he replied, holding up an edition in hand: “Because this smells of the land.”

So even as numbers, graphs, pie charts and analysis are inundating the atmosphere, and political ramifications, social disruptions and economic effects are being deliberated upon, I, but, cannot concentrate on any of these so-called crucial factors.
The 29th state may or may not contribute to a stable government; may topple the one at the centre or the left or right or at the coast. It could possibly tilt the demography on religious counts even and lead to other states aping the same. But the twin cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad, will continue to remain my home.

So what if it’s called Telangana or Andhra? By colouring your hair you don’t become a blonde at heart; by them draping a saree they do not become Indians either. You cannot dip a swan in charcoal and pass it off as a crow. It will still be a swan.
So, even as I hold the new map given to me to check if I am now an Andhraite or a Telanganaite, my feelings for the place remains the same. The administration will change; the infrastructure may look different in the years to come from that what we collectively envisaged, but the numbers and stats that reflect progress or regress will continue to remain as abstract to the layman as it has always been. And, everyday life of these people, whom a handful of representatives chose to re-christen and re-group and lead, will continue to be the same.

Will it? Hopefully. I believe in the adage that the fish rots from the head down. If the intention of the split was genuine, then the ripples of change will be positive. If it was anything but the welfare of the masses, trust for all the fears projected to come true.
And then, the masses that have been living and building their dreams on this land will have to abandon them. That’s when the actual bifurcation will happen. When people who comprise a state, those who give definition and meaning and life to mere geographical lines, shrivel their hearts and despise the mud beneath their feet… when they fail to inhale the smell of their land!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Two artist friends who'll dress you smart

Keeping with the spirit of friendship, I have to share two faces. Look hard, close, from far, afar and...no, don't spot the difference.

Ashvin and Blu at one of their art exhibitions

If one is a doctor and another a journalist then their difference ends there. Yes, one is male and the other female, too. I know all of you can see. Before you bang hard on your keyboard to slap me, they are friends. Now, I can see faces sneer at me. Yes, I know what my opening sentence to this piece was. 
Well, they interest me because they are as different as chalk and cheese and yet as one as only they can be! Friendship can do wonders to people. You can conquer the world along with a true friend. Your world can be your window sill,  the Everest  or the Red Planet. But when it's your passion that your share with your best buddy, your world has no limitations.

Ashvin and Archana RD aka Blu who have several credentials in the artistic field, has now ventured into another form of expressing themselves. Youngsters who love to be different can now pick up a trendy one-off T-shirts, hand-painted by them. Their venture Freakybunny will freak out an art enthusiast for sure, but it will leave all of you - fashionistas and those who shy away from the term; adolescents, youngsters and all those young at heart - tired of exercising your arms and shoulders. So, you see, here's a reason for lazy souls, too.
All you need to do is click on this page https://www.facebook.com/freakybunnytees and place your order. It couldn't get easier to dress uniquely!

Here's a peep look at what's in store...

Sakura series from Freakybunny
Dreamcatcher series from Freakybunny

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My plump pumpkin of a friend

The wedding venue at which I first met her...the yellow-saree clad feet at the far-end is what I first saw of her

The first time I saw her was from a distance in a huge hall teaming with people and deafening with noise and music. One of my cousins pointed a finger to a woman, and said, “There, do you see her? The one in a yellow saree who’s laughing?” I craned my neck. Numerous shining and oily heads as well as droopy, broad and muscled shoulders and some derriere of various proportions blocked my view. “The one standing left to the bride?” I checked. “Second from right, with a baby in her arms,” specified my cousin.
As I spotted her, I heard, “Yes, she’s the one. She also lives in Dubai…” and I lost the rest of the sentence as I was taking in the sight of my target. A rotund body on which hung two arms that could take on a dozen wrestlers at a time. It also hosted a plump forever-laughing face embedded in the mass in the centre of her shoulders on which was a pair of owl eyes that seemed to smile at me from that distance. A petite nose that I assumed should have been somewhere above the large parted lips that never seemed to sit still just like the toddler that was forcibly perched on her side-seater – the culmination of her waist cum hips cum stomach.
Just then a young lad, about 6 years old, came crying calling her attention. She caressed the boy, rubbed his cheeks and whispered in his ears and the youngster stood beaming beside her, wrapping his tiny arms around her knees. A little later came two teenage girls and took away the boys and the woman was visibly freed as she got to animatedly talking to the newly-weds. “How much does that woman speak,” I blurted when I saw her wave at my cousin and in minutes she was with us beaming full volt.
Then it was a round of firing. “Where do you stay, which area, which street, which building, where do you work, where’s the office, which management, what timing, no. of kids, husband, maids, laundry, cooking… and I lost track as I was now massaging my arms.
Her each query physically landed on me. It started with a nudge, a tap, a slap, a pull and then she was hanging on my arm laughing at her own joke.
When the tornado rolled over, I told my cousin, “Hope she doesn’t track me down in Dubai. Collecting personal details in the first minute of the first meeting…I can’t stand such people.”
That meeting was five years ago.
Every alternate Thursday since then she has been calling me and laughing on the phone. I endured her onslaught with monosyllabic replies initially. Slowly, I started taking a liking to her. I liked the way I heard her laugh. Four months and about 15 calls later, I decided to ring her up. And I heard her laugh as always. “Oh, at last, you’ve decided to include me in your friend’s list.” I was lost for a reply.
“You might have thought what a crazy pumpkin I am, right?” and she laughed. “Oh, I’m an insult to pumpkins even. That’s got a better shape, yeah,” and she laughed more. “You know Nisha, I love talking to working women.”
“So every Thursday you ring up working women?”
“Ha, ha, ha. Three days a week. I have 30 working phone friends. I call 10 each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”
 “That’s some dedication.”
“This is my way of living my dream.”
I was all attention now.
“When my dad passed away, I was just 18 years old. My mom wanted to get rid of her responsibilities so married me off the next year. And here, I am today. A mother of four kids…”
Shortly, I learnt she was my exact age and something tugged at my heart.
“What did you want to become?” I asked, ashamed that I knew nothing about her.
“I have doctors, teachers, engineers, pharmacists, an artist, a chef, two dancers, a social worker, nannies, two nurses, a radio jockey, a freelance photographer… name a career and I have them on my phone list. I could have been any of these. But I would have been only any one of these. And end up like all of you. You’ll live pathetic lives, Nisha...”
What the heck! I was just beginning to like her and there she goes!
“…All of you just crib and complain of work pressure, politics, price hikes, future fears and when you are done with these you attack yourself of how your tummy is bulging out despite your fancy diets; how helpless you are to see the boobs sagging, how your hair is not bouncing over; how your cuticles are peeling out...”
Now I began laughing.
“At last, I heard you laugh. I have a selfish motive, Nisha in speaking to you’ll. I collect details about all professions and live them while I’m cooking or cleaning or putting the younger one to sleep. When I’m making use of you’ll shouldn’t I give back something? So I call you, because I am confident of making all you stressed out souls laugh for a few minutes. There’s no one on the surface of this earth who can hold a tight lip against me, Nisha.”
Now I meet her once every month. She’s on my list of close friends.
I have stopped judging people.