Ciao, La Vita

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

Image Courtesy: BlogAdda

#DearZindagi,

It’s been long since we had a chat, or met with a cuppa reckoning the balance sheet so far. I believe I’ve crossed the threshold called ‘half-life’, and like an unstable radioactive element, will continue to decay exponentially for the rest years. This isn’t just a chemist’s blabber, dear life. It is the exact summary through midway, rather midlife.

Let me begin with gratitude for not deserting me. I know it has been difficult for you to put up with a brooding brat like me, but – you’ve been damn good so far! Since I gained enough maturity to ponder upon stuff, I’ve realised that you have clung to me. When the going got tough, you were tough enough to get me going against childhood bullies, teenage crushes, adulthood heartbreaks, or the corollaries of wedlock. Do you recall the huge transition that I had to make from a suburban school to a metropolitan high school? I was lost in the sea of people, everyone rushing past me in a bloody busy city, pushing and jostling me to the brink of oblivion. While I would sit alone on the penultimate seat of the school bus on chilly winter mornings, the fog mixed with strong but sweet charcoal fumes from tea stalls would remind me that you were right there, with me. When I have ambled along the college lawn, both alone and lonely, you have thrown surprises with vibrant yellow petals of Radhachura (Gulmohur) strewn all over the trail, just for me.

You’ve been holding my hand during every major decision I ruminated upon and led me carefully to what my heart desired. I would have been a failed, incomplete scientist if you hadn’t put words in my pen and prodded me to be a writer. It’s been quite a few years now, and I know you still stand by me despite a number of futile results. I’ve been worried that I can’t write as well as others, distressed that I haven’t been published yet, exhausted of rejections and writer’s blocks. And yet, when I open a new page and tap at the keyboard, you make me a writer – impervious to the mediocre and convoluted world. You’ve manoeuvred quite enough to get me a little accolade, a tiny prize, a monthly salary and exciting work to keep the ball rolling. Each instance I falter and risk crumbling down, you’ve sprung a sweet surprise and motivation to clench me up.

It’s you, life, to whom I owe the joie de vivre, the pleasure of creation in the form of words and stories. I have scooped up inspiration from you, life, and woven stories that have touched a few peoples’ hearts. They have praised me, but it’s you whom I should shower with thanks. If I have ever felt the fear of losing you, I’ve resorted to poetry and reading and waited patiently for you to resurrect. Because –

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

So long,

Yours.

————

I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda.

 

Of Rain, Calcutta, and Other Lores

It’s raining in Calcutta now. And I’m writing about it sitting in a sunny, humid, sweltering city a couple of thousand kilometers away. That itself should be proof enough of my yearning for rain, in Calcutta. Every year at the advent of monsoon, there is a part in me which unfailingly craves to be in Calcutta to savour the climate. The dilapidated city looks surreal, feels surreal, and infinite memorable moments are born with each earthward drop.

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

I have lived in Calcutta for eight years only. I have also lived in a few other metropolises of the world during rains. Miami – yes, Mumbai – yes, Hyderabad – yes, New York – briefly yes, London – briefly yes, Belfast – yes. I have watched the preparation, the actual precipitation, soaked and froze myself in those rains, and yet, whenever it rains anywhere it reminds me of Calcutta. I have eons of memories as I spent the crucial monsoons of my life in the city. The shadows of deep dark pregnant clouds on the moss-lined walls of our old Ballygunge flat used to bring out the poet in me each monsoon. They were not necessarily works of art, I must assure you, but they never failed to fill the pages of my diary. I was naive then, yes. Even an edged word from my best friend drove me to melancholy and made me seek solace in the rain. I could sit hours on the window sill and day-dream with incessant patter in the background. That is something I still do. The rains compel me to day-dream. They make even amateurish dreams seem achievable.

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Conjoined By Distance

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Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

I met her for the first time fifteen years ago. Both of us had travelled from our respective suburbs to the huge city of Calcutta to appear for admission tests and interviews after our secondary board exams. We faced each other for the first time during one of such admission tests. Our parents were waiting outside as we were writing our tests in a classroom. I still remember the room, though later we couldn’t locate it anymore. We didn’t pay attention to each other, neither to the other girls. Yes, it was a girls’ school. Some of them knew each other and chatted gleefully. I knew none, and was silent as a wall, the way I was back then. The first time I actually noticed her was on the day of the interview. A tiny, thin girl with curly cropped hair like a halo around her head. Her parents were probably a little tensed about the interview, and kept talking to my parents but she was cool and chirping her way with all her certificates, academic and extra-curricular – drama, elocution. I was quite nervous, with exclusively academic credentials and being already rejected from another school for not being a Calcatian, or Calcuttan, whatever they meant. My parents were trying to boost my confidence and she was calming down her parents with confidence. I guess neither of us paid attention to each other, we were busy with our own chores and let the parents chat their way.

The third time I saw her was our first day in the new school. Both of us had been admitted there and were about to enter the school gate at the same time. My father came with me as I knew nothing of that part of the city. He was immensely relieved to see the ‘acquainted’ girl and felt that I would be comfortable with her. I was apprehensive though, not very much encouraging the idea since I had been a loner and never really tried to befriend somebody on my own. Our fathers introduced us to each other and went back. We were introduced formally and walked through the entrance of the school towards the classroom.
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So(u)ldiers of My Life

This post is a part of #Soldierforwomen in association with BlogAdda.com

I was apprehensive to write something on this topic, as I felt the term ‘Soldier for Women’ was irrelevant. Women don’t need soldiers. They have been fiercely independent since the Neanderthals started evolving further. They hunted for themselves and the whole gang, worked hard to keep their caves clean, fed their children and elders. As the evolution progressed, various epics all over the world suggested that women created wars, perhaps because they wanted to live independently, breaking through the patriarchy which had started forming worldwide. But now, after eons of human life, women probably need soldiers. I too, like many others believe that women are capable of any and every work that men do. And yet, they are physically a weaker race which makes people gang up on them. Yes, I mentioned ‘people’ and not only ‘men’, since there are many women who gang up on their fellow kind too. It is all a matter of power. Women try to take care of themselves – at home and away – but sometimes, a little push from someone might help taking the battle for survival further.

I decided, finally, not to get carried away by emotions and write about a few souls who have protected me knowingly or unknowingly, whether I needed it or not.

# Unknown So(u)ldier

If I recall correctly, the incident happened about eight or nine years ago. I was pursuing master’s degree at the University and had to commute for about half an hour every day by bus. In my city, the buses are ever-crowded, people love to jostle with each other, climb up and down running vehicles and verbally abuse the ticket conductors. The scenario is not very impressive, neither the vehicles are, but the transport system is quite efficient. I didn’t like the commute much as there were always too many people aboard a bus and all of them were not benign. I used my backpack as a shield quite many times against rough co-passengers. One such day about nine years ago, I had boarded a bus back home from the university. As usual, it was a minibus bustling with people and I had barely a few inches to put my feet on. That day, my backpack wasn’t enough to protect me from men wanting to take a chance in a crowd. I felt somebody wanting to stick around my back, who did not budge even after I tried to shift my position several times. I was just contemplating treating the fellow a lesson amidst a sea of people when I realized he had disappeared somewhere else. I craned my back and had a fleeting glimpse of a very sober bloke who assured me with his eyes and the faintest smile. He meant he was there being a shield, maintaining the best possible decent distance from me and yet acting my savior that day. I never got a chance to offer my thanks to him; rather I’d respect and reserve him a spot in my memory.

# Known so(u)ldier

Us (self-clicked)

Us (self-clicked, copyrighted)

Now this person is closer to my heart, perhaps the closest at this juncture of my life. It is much easier to guess – he is my best friend, my guide and philosopher, my personal chef, my soul mate, and my husband. I refer to him as a so(u)ldier for me because he stood up for me innumerable times at home and away. He fought for me with his nearest ones, never for a moment deserted me. I wouldn’t have dared the aspirations of being a writer if he hadn’t supported my decision of dropping a doctoral degree. I write, in peace, as he is always there for me. I dare to be myself, as he is always there for me.

These are the so(u)ldiers of my life, near and far, known and unknown, thanked duly and unacknowledged, embossed in my memory forever.

The Sutra of Marriage

Woh_Saat_Din_DVD_cover

Image courtesy : Wikipedia

Yesterday I was watching one of my favourite movies Woh 7 Din (1983) when I realized, it might not remain a favourite anymore. The first half of the movie is absolutely endearing with the antics of a typical Punjabi Prem Pratap Patiyala Wale (Anil Kapoor) and the beautiful Maharashtrian Maya (Padmini Kolhapure). The lucid comedy would have you in splits, the gradual development of the love story between an innocent child-man and a matured lady would fill your heart with compassion. You would almost expect it to end on a happier note as the Indians love their movies.

The movie starts with Maya attempting suicide on the first night after her marriage with Dr. Anand (Naseeruddin Shah). Her love story is shown in flashback until the marriage happens. After getting to know that she was in love with another man, the husband decides to find the man and surrender his wife to the other man (as if she were a document or property, mishandled). Despite being forcibly married to the man she didn’t love, Maya refuses to go back to her lover because everyone in the movie (and the audience too in 1983, perhaps) believed in the power of the Mangalsutra. And exactly this part of the movie has always been disagreeable to me. The girl refuses to leave the state of marriage because she believes that a Mangalsutra once tied cannot be undone, her lover believes that he cannot take her back because she belongs to somebody else now and wears a Mangalsutra of the husband’s name, not to mention the confused husband who simply doesn’t know what to believe and had a perpetual perplexed expression. Why can’t forced marriages be shown in the movies as they ought to be? One might give it a benefit of doubt being in the 1980’s era and about two generations back from now. But I have another recent example for you – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

This one takes its story loosely from a Bengali novel Na Hanyate by Maitreyi Devi (1974). The movie is pretty much on the same plot – Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) meets Sameer (Salman Khan) who comes from Italy to Gujarat in search of a music guru who happens to be her father. They have their share of tussles, fights and fun-fights before realizing that they are in love. But the girl’s family would not have a ‘foreigner’ among them and ask him to leave when they forcibly marry her off to Vanraj (Ajay Devgan). The husband, besotted with his beautiful bride slowly realizes that she is still immersed completely in the memories of the man she loved. He feels too, that he ought to ‘return’ her to the other man who deserves her (gift unwrapped, of course). Their journey in search of Sameer is shown quite explicitly throughout the second half, and none can forget the frantic shrieks of ‘Sameer, Sameer’ by the girl on some bridge in Budapest which was marketed as one of the high moments of the movie. Finally the girl is to be handed over to her lover at a concert and the husband is teary-eyed (because he too is in love with his wife of a few days and he has confessed it to her when he was drunk).

What happens then? No brownies or points for guessing. The girl meets her lover, the guy is ecstatic to have her back and the moment he wants to touch her, he notices the Mangalsutra. Bang. Phiss. Fizz. Freeze goes the screen. The girls goes back the same bridge, or some other (who cares!) to the husband who was retreating as slowly as possible. I’m sure his character had watched the earlier movie too and knew the wife would come back *evil grin*. He ties the Mangalsutra round her neck and we have a super hit movie of the 1990’s as well.

Why? Should we be encouraging forced marriages on the basis of religion and belief? Having a break-up, moving on, marrying a stranger and finding new love is NOT the same as being married off to a stranger just because the family doesn’t approve of the lover. Its time we ask these questions, to ourselves and to the older generations. Mangalsutra might be a very wonderful thing to adorn yourself with and hold on to, but it should not compel people to carry the burden of unwanted, forced marriages which do not bring joy to either of the spouses.

Its time, seriously. Before another such movie is made. Or watched.

Mus(e)ical Bel(le)Fast

I haven’t yet lived in a city which I can claim to be mine. Perhaps Gainesville would come close being the only place I lived on my own terms. Calcutta-buffs, I know, will scathe at me for being ungrateful to the city which doesn’t cease to amaze me. Still, I don’t seem to devour Calcutta the way others have done. Something hinders me, I can’t surely say what it is – perhaps my inability to adapt nuances of the city at a later age than required. It is technically my hometown now, but having stayed there for only eight consecutive years hasn’t given me the chance to imbibe the city into myself. I long for it when I’m away and yet I feel the longing is just for the sake of it. It is in human nature to try and own – places, people, relationships – without justifying the ownership. I haven’t consciously tried to let Calcutta engulf me into its charming tentacles, consequently being open to immerse myself into any other city in the world.

Belfast was different from all the other cities I’ve lived in because I already knew the exact number of days I was going to be there. I did not seriously know what to expect from the short-term affair with a city radically apart from the ones I’ve been to. Visiting London confirmed the hypothesis we created, that united Ireland resembles more with Europe than the rest of United Kingdom. Belfast has all the European qualities, right from pebbled streets to open-air cafes and the afternoon drinking culture which is too lethargic for London to accept. The people have a laid-back attitude, they drink – morning and noon, evening and night – because they are Irish.

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It’s amazing.

I was wondering, is it just me or the world still has an infinite capability of amazement. A single day has had me amazed so many times that I’ve practically lost count.

It’s amazing how

– t.v. serials still portray freeze shots at intense situations, when in reality, certain nano-moments can freeze your whole existence to nothingness with you still smiling stupidly and ‘normally.’
– people think you’ve changed, everyone. Except perhaps, a very old friend or two, who could read you inside out sometime.
– little things, words, can light up your whole being, coming from the most unexpected person at an equally unexpected moment.
– friends, whom you expected to ‘understand’ : fail. always.
– certain deja vu that you absolutely abhor, keep coming back, and back, and back, and back, until they succeed in nullifying all the goodness you have, wanting you to puke over them.
– certain stuff nurtured within your existence with utmost care, are torn, piece by piece, and trashed. just.
– you accept what you have to accept. and still keep arguing why you have to.

There must be more, many.