Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Charmer


Boy, I swear, I’m gonna nail you
for the tricks you pull with your charm
for the crimes you do, and get away
with that smile you use to disarm

my petition is ready, and I’m coming strong
with a mind to get all even
will knock all doors, and I’ll be heard
my mood, today you can’t leaven

I’ve had enough of gritting my teeth
ending up a slavering schmuck
swept away by your wordless beauty
bereft of will, devoid of pluck

pray, tell, how you con me
and what do you dissolve in the air
making me forget, every little defense
unraveling me from far, layer by layer

it’s merciless you know, to have this effect
on anybody who loves you so
making them exist outside their skin
exposed, vulnerable, slow

today, honey, is a different day
i’m prepared with a battery of guns
just don’t turn back, oh my killer
coz I’d be dead, if you looked at me once

Friday, December 13, 2013

मैं क्या-क्या हो सकती थी


सुना है रोज़ सुबह उसे चाय की तलब सताती है
सुना है एक डाइरी है, जिसे वो काँख तले दबाये चलता है
लोग बताते हैं, वो कोने वाली गुमटी से पान खाता है
और पुरनकी बजार वाला पेड़ा पसंद करता है
जाने कहाँ से बनी हैं वो ऐनकें
जिन्हें वो सोते वक़्त भी बगल में रखता है
और वो गर्मी वाली खादी की बूशर्ट
जिसे हर तीसरे दिन पहनता है
एक लंच-बॉक्स भी लाता है
जिसे चाट-चाट कर खाता है
और वो सुनहरी ठेपी वाली कलम को
सीने से लगी पॉकेट में रखता है...

हाय किस्मत! मैं क्या-क्या हो सकती थी-
वो प्याली, वो डाइरी, वो पान, वो चश्मे,
वो कमीज़, वो बर्तन, वो कलम, वो पेड़े...

 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hot!


So you think you are hot. Others have contributed to this notion too. And meant it as a compliment.

In all honesty, I too think you are hot. You have a way of turning up things, including people, in flames. Flames that burn. Swinging between extremes of an unctuous boyfriend and a vengeful jilted lover.

When you are pleased, you lay out an entire garden of daffodils before your object of appreciation. And mind you, you don’t marvel yourself any less for doing that. When you are displeased, you take a perverse kinda kick in trampling the other person in the meanest of adjectives. Not loving yourself any less while doing that.

You seem to have led yourself into believing that this macho, irrational and filmy-hero type behavior makes you look like a demi-god. Polite and tolerant people let you swim in this fantasy, knowing well that disturbing your turf with objective feedback will only dirty their hands, not change your course. If you only had the eye for self-introspection.

You are rare, that is a truth. And thank goodness for that. It is nice to see you exploit your talents to the fullest, but doing it with a brazen, pig-headed, show-you-down approach, only takes my attention away from your core genius to your pathetic insecurity. Garbed under the cloak of rugged over-confidence. Some people say one has to be like you to sell in this world. I refuse to believe that.

But yes, I do get intrigued thinking, what a gem you would have been, had you known moderation. Balance.

I know you don’t give a damn to my opinion, or to anyone else’s for that matter. Which is quite fine with me, as long as you stay a safe distance away.

Warm people make one snug, soothed, comforted. So yes, you are hot indeed. You scald. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

कभी तो तुमसे रूठेंगे

ऐ प्यारे। ऐ मेरे ज़ालिम। ओरे मेरे डार्लिंग।

एगो बात कहें? तुम ना, एगो चाकू लेके मेरे आर-पार कर दो। ई साल भर मीठा-मीठा आंच पर पकने से अच्छा है एक ही दिन में मामला खतम हो जाये। तुम्ही बताओ, तनी बेसी नहीं कर रहे हो तुम?

बताओ, कोई लिमिट ना होना चाहिए जी? इंतजार का?

हम बता दे रहे हैं। अब तुम इसको धमकी समझो या गुंडई। अब हमसे और नहीं सहा जाता। तुम हर बार जाते हो तो लगता है जैसे जीवन ही रूठ गया हो हमसे। चाह के भी तुमको रोक नहीं सकते। जाने कैसे आदमी हो तुम कि तुमसे लड़ने में, या तुमको बुरा-भला सुनाने में, अपने-आप को ही खराब लगता है। सच्ची बताओ, टोना-ऊना सीखे हो क्या कहीं से?

हमको पुराने जमाने की कहानी के राजा जैसा फील होता है। जिसका प्राण दूर किसी पिंजरा में बंद सुग्गा में कैद रहता था। काहे रे मोर सुगवा, लाजो नईखे लागत हमरा ई हाल कर के?

हमको बहुत दिन से सच्चे लग रहा था कि हम राफत कि मूरत बनते जा रहे हैं। तुम कहते हो ठहरो, तो चुप-चाप ठहर जाते हैं। तुम कहते हो चलो, तो तुम्हारी दुल्हनिया लेखा पीछे-पीछे चल देते हैं। तुम कहते हो बात करो, तो खुसी के मारे बौरा-बौरा के बक-बक करते हैं। तुम कहते हो बात नहीं कर सकते, तो आँख बिछाकर खाली तुम्हारा राह ताकते रहते हैं। सुबह से साम तुम्ही में लिपटे रहते हैं। बरदास्त से फाजुल हो जाता है तो सुबक सुबक के रो लेते हैं। बाकी तुमसे चूँ तक नहीं करते हैं।

हम जानते हैं, कि तुम जानते हो, कि हम तुमपे कितना मरते हैं। इसलिए तुमसे मुंह फुला के नहीं बैठ सकते।

बाकी तुम हमको कम मत समझो। बूझे ना?

किसी दिन हम भी पिक्चर कि हीरोइन जैसा नाराज हो जाएंगे। फिर तुम बाप-बाप करते हुए आना। दस गो कपड़ा-लत्ता ले के मनाने कि कोसिस करना। जलेबियो लाना। सर पाओं का ज़ोर लगा देना बाकी हम टस-से-मस नहीं होंगे। तुम्हारा सब दुष्टई का बदला एक्के बेर ले लेंगे। कह दे रहे हैं, एकदम रुला देंगे। जितना आंसूं हम घोंटे हैं न...सबका चुन-चुन के बदला लेंगे। कैसे-कैसे तुम हमको तड़पाये हो...ऐसा रूठेंगे न, ऐसा रूठेंगे...कि मनाते मनाते नानी याद आ जाएगी। 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Love is magic

(Angry. Waiting. Brow-knitting. Teeth-grinding.)

Full 6 hours since morning. Since 9 am in fact. From the time I woke up, full 9 hours!
What does he think…am I going to crumble and collapse if he doesn’t call?
Is he even thinking about me at all? Does he realize it’s more than half a day gone without hearing his voice even ONCE?
My voice too is not so bad. Sorry to sound haughty, but a considerable few would give away something precious to hear it once.
And look at me. Reduced to hands and legs and fingers and toes…fumbling with every damn familiar thing (forget the zone of unfamiliar, I’m too ashamed to reveal my ineptness). Scatter-brained and hare-focused (if the latter means anything). Attention span reduced to sub-zero. Distracted like scared pet in a new house. Tch. Whatever.
Let him come to me the next time. If I don’t bleed his lips kissing…if I don’t dig in my nails and sink in my teeth…If I don’t simply ravish him right left and centre…arrghh.
Not that I’m dying to hear him. Huh. Whatever.
But I AM dying to hear him. How can he not know, not remember, my sheer, abject, complete dependence on him? What does he think I am? A saint?
Ah! A saint. That is what he is, and that is what he’d rather have me be. Thinking on these lines, the entire world deserves to be that. But are they? So, enough is enough. I too won’t be. Let him tell me that I’m one in a million. But if he can’t make time to call that one, why should I be that?
Damn it. That’s the trouble with loving him. In the moments you slip, you feel pathetic. Excuses sound rank feeble. You’ve a constant responsibility of being the best of you. NEVER LOVE A PERFECT GUY.
But then why hasn’t he called? (sob, sob). I am really not going to talk to him now. Worse, I will talk, but act nonchalant. As if I too didn’t notice the hours (what a whopping lie).

3.30 pm. He calls.

Him (soft and sweet) “Hello.”

Me (transformed from a towering tigress to a whining child) “oh baby…oh my sweetheart. Muah. Muah. Muah. Why didn’t you call earlier honey…I’ve been waiting since morning. You could have simply called while talking to others na, at least I could have heard your voice. My beloved. Muah. Muah. Muah. This is not fair, keeping me waiting for so long, I’m going stocking all revenge points and will redeem them all when you are here. Mmmmmuah. How I’ve been aching to just feel you breathe on the other side of the phone. Goodness. I love you. My shona, my darling. Muah muah muah……

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The squeeze

She had been married for 2 days. He hadn’t touched her yet.
The marriage, like all arranged Indian marriages, was an exercise in organized confusion. Collective hysteria. Mass pranaams. Deafening music and inscrutable Sanskrit. She remembers catching glimpses of his face while the marriage ceremony was being performed. The time he tied the mangalsutra around her neck, and when he smeared the vermilion-dipped ring on the parting of her hair. On other occasions, she was too lost being herded by her mother and aunts from one ritual to another. Too exhausted to express irritation. Anger doused by an overwhelming sense of change.
But when she did steal those looks at him, a mixed emotion of love and shyness flushed her. Forcing her to bite her lips and suppress her smile. She could not believe her luck. A boy she had loved since her girlhood days was now being given to her in marriage! He would be her man…a distinction too great to be digested in a day. In her honest opinion, four, even five women like her could not collectively deserve him! She thanked her babuji from her all of her soul.
Son of a family friend, he was among the first few males she had an acquaintance with. Even before the families had perceived the possibility of their marriage, she had started seeing him as an ideal partner. Always measured in his words, generous in his manners, soft with children, respectful with elders…he became her bespectacled hero. In a time when boys of his age busied themselves with video games and spiky hair, he remained comfortably old fashioned. Sticking to his loafers and khakis. Not even bothering to shave, or try different haircuts. Distant and sober with girls. Usually found with a book pressed under his arm. Helpful with chores.
They’d not exchanged more than a few lines in all their growing up years, usually meeting in family gatherings, but she could sense her heart going flip-flop whenever the time of his coming came. She engineered excuses to be around him, only to hear him talk to others. His deep, confident voice stirring the chords of her body. She didn’t breathe a word about it to anyone, but she often berated herself for not behaving this way or that when he was around. It was as if his presence dissolved her idea of balance. Did he figure out what she felt for him? How she sized up every centimeter of his 5 feet and 8 inches? Did he notice that she stared at his lips, or his eyes, a trifle too long? The attraction left her weak and fidgety; his lips melted her skin, his eyes drew her breath.
And now, after all these years of idolizing him, she was getting married. To HIM! It went by like a dream. She didn’t know for what joy, but she couldn’t spend the first night with him. In any case, she was too tired to enquire. She slept and slept till she was shaken awake, refreshed, trussed up in sari and gold, and sat on a bed to be shown. A part of her cursed herself for allowing this. Another part of her, flared by exasperation, wondered how he could be so detached. Luck is one thing, but she was now her wife! Where was he?
He met her in the privacy of their room in the night. Thankfully, the relatives had dispersed. It was then that she realized that he was as nervous as her, if not more. He muttered some clumsy words to make her feel home, implying she could ‘get more comfortable’. Not realizing, that the only comfort she had been seeking, every damn second of her life, was the snug comfort of his arms. Head facing down, she listened gracefully, not once revealing the hunger within. He slept on one side of the bed that night, giving her more space than she needed.
Two days of her marriage felt like two decades of deprivation. On the third day, yet another feast was organized and the house was swarming with familiar faces. But there was an interesting change. He had begun meeting her eyes with a look of understanding, of partnership. Over breakfast table, he offered her the menu with his eyes, and she responded with a nod, a shake, a smile, a blush. Romance was seeping in. And she had to try hard to look composed.
Their bedroom was on the first floor of the duplex apartment. The ground floor was where she was generally placed on display, and often ferried upstairs to the puja room for countless offerings. It had become a drill; soon she would be able to do it with her eyes closed. The day smothered along, different sets of people asking her the same questions, well-meaning people asking her to pose for their mobile camera a few hundred times, young in-laws trying to make small talk, almost everyone having an opinion on her sari and jewelry. It was such a constant drone, she thought she could doze off on its very rhythm.
Evening drew in. Golden rays of November sun came in through the slats of window, casting a fiery glow on her orange sari, reminding her of yet another day gone. She was beginning to miss home. The ceaseless clamour was getting on her nerves, and the only person she longed to be with, was engulfed himself. Once more, she was called upstairs. But this time, he came to fetch her. Her husband. Pleased, but tired, she gave a weak smile on seeing him. It was a short flight of stairs, sharply curving to another flight, before leading to the first floor. He went before her, to her right, offering his hand to help her find balance in the heavy banarasi silk sari. She managed herself, taking one step at a time, moving like a zombie.
At the curve of the stairs, when they reached the part which was blind to both the ground and first floor, unexpectedly, he extended his left arm to pull her close by her waist, gently squeezing her side as he drew her body close. It was a brief side-hug, made intimate by his pressing fingers on her bare waist, momentarily taking the breath out of her. He looked in her face as he did it, smiling, showing the first sign of ‘owning’ her. It was a touch bereft of desire, a touch not so much to convey that she belonged to him, as to assert that he belonged to her. She was so thrilled with the gesture, she blushed till her ears, and dug her chin in her chest. Smiling ear to ear. Unable to respond in action or in words. All other emotions washed out from her body, only a lingering sense of sweetness prevailed. The commotion, the crowd…all seemed to fade in at a distance, filtered through layers of atmosphere, the body of the man standing next to her as the only real thing. Overtaken by a sense of deep gratitude. Feeling, for the first time, as his wife.
Decades passed; children were born, raised. Life returned to the pace of normal, with regular troughs and crests in between. The early years of romance gave way to a subdued and stable companionship, laced with issues to be sorted, matters to be argued, happiness to be shared. An entire life transpired in between. But that one evening, on the third day of her marriage, that evening remained the most special evening of her life. Not even in the breathless post-coital panting, or the throes of child-birth, or the collectively hosted parties, did she feel so intimately attached to him as she did that day. When, in a house full of new people, he had stolen that moment of closeness with her. When he had first exercised his authority over her, when he had hauled her with love, in open defiance to the norm of the society. She had never felt so much his, as she had felt in that brief life-packed moment.

In all their after-years, she continued to smile inwardly, flooded with a gratefulness towards him, feeling time and again like his new bride, every time she thought of that squeeze.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Literature

Mornings. That’s when you kill me most.
On many nights, I dream of you. On many other, I can’t recall my dreams. Irrespective of the night, I wake up CRAVING for you. It’s almost as if the need to see you is compulsive. Biological. Physical. I keep thinking about you, often wet and wild thoughts, till I can think no more. Till my head is all choc-a-bloc with mosaic of your photos. Your lips, eyes, face, neck, chest….. Looking at the world through the darting eyes of a hunted animal. Desperately searching for the only sign of hope. You.
Sweetheart, it’s not fair to unleash all the assault, with such ruthlessness, right at the beginning of each day. I know, wherever you are, it must be giving you some pleasure to watch me squirm for your touch. I know you know, how badly I need you to squeeze me in your hug. How elaborately I want you to love me. Kiss me to the point of suffocation. How you occupy every available space of my consciousness.
Pray, why don’t you help me then?
For starters, ration your thoughts equally throughout the day. The morning dosage is too heavy to be borne without inviting suspicion. Also, it leaves me in a suspended state of animation for the rest of the day. As if I belong nowhere. And all I can see is the curve of your neck, right above your collar, where I like to nestle my face and breathe in your skin.
Further, ask your memories to behave. They have a way of breaching all boundaries of experience and comfort, often leaving me breathless and flushed in their wake.
So what do I do with you?
Mark Twain said, “There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer them, or turn them into literature.” If he was a woman, he’d have known it’s equally true the other way round.
I however, replace the OR with AND.

I love you, I suffer you, I bathe you, I wear you, I spread you, I immerse in you, I cry you, I apply you, I see you, I eat you, I drink you, I breathe you, AND I turn you into literature.

Friday, October 11, 2013

the Void within


There is a part of me that is made of wax.
It lies between my ribs. Somewhere between the throat and the stomach. Right at the centre. A fist-sized portion maybe, its size varying with time.
In tender moments of love, fear or anxiety, the wax melts. Giving way to a space that is void. An aching vacuum of nothing. Life keeps happenings on the sidelines, the mind witnessing it with the detached patience of a disinterested audience.
Tears don’t sting the eyes. They flow without pause or permission, quenching the pillow that has smelt only oil and shampoo. The voice remains placid, speech tempered. The quiet of a death fills that empty space between my bosom.
There are times when the void cracks, the crevices going up and down, tearing skull and toes. It pains. A wincing sort of physical pain that forces me to seize it with the flat of my palm and press it hard. Breathing returns to normal, but that deafening silence remains. That high-pitched siren in the ears never quite ending. Consciousness floats on the puddle of existence like the discarded foil floating in rain-drains. Direction-less.
Tell me, won’t you allow me to hold you face at that centre and fill it back with life? And will you stay there…for as long as I ask? Won’t you allow my marrow and bones and blood and veins to be reformed? You are the agent of my life, you know. Won’t you return it to me?


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Distinguished, ain't I?

I see a hapless little squirrel chasing its tail with hysterical speed bang in the middle of a driveway.
I go close, hoping to scurry it off to a safe corner. It doesn't budge.
I bend down, run my fingers over its delicate, smooth back. It becomes still. I take silence as assent.
I try to lift it, to move it to the grass, a safe haven.
In a split second of ferocious intensity, it bites my finger and blood spurts out. I lose the grip. I have to borrow tissues to staunch the oozing blood. When I turn back to look at my attacker, it's doing the same ridiculous stunt...before gradually coming to a final halt. A few seconds, and it's dead.
In coup de grace, an Innova runs over it.

The legacy comprises a nasty finger, one tetanus injection and 6-dose anti-rabies vaccine. Friends express concern - for the poor little thing that died after biting me.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blank

I’m no addict. The only knowledge I have of dope is through Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and its sequel novel River of Smoke. In the former book, where a great deal is written about opium, I particularly remember one sequence. It depicts a scene where an addict is forced to undergo de-addiction.
No, don’t ask me who that character is. But what I can tell you, in good detail, is how he craves for his drug. There is a reason why I can recall the scene so vividly.
So this addict begs for his cake till he faces a near black-out. He wakes up with immense pain in his limbs. It’s a peculiar pain. He feels that his innards are being twisted with iron hands till he can’t breathe. And multiple claws are gouging out his eyes, gagging his mouth…and suffocating the life out of him. He thrashes, he kicks, he shouts, he salivates, he implores. He’s garrulous with deprivation. All he needs is one sniff of his wonder drug for everything in the distorted world to return back to a silken state of normalcy. Of bliss. Until then, it’s haunting chaos in a sea of debris.
The reason why I remember this is because that is how I long for her. MY wonder-drug. Only, she is a beautiful addiction. The health-giving one. Truth be told, even though my insides bruise without her, and every part of me aches to touch her and hold her again…her love never allows me to do a wrong. In that sense, she’s the exact opposite of opium. Addictive in a purifying way.
All of us give in. I did so today. Breaking my resolve, not hers. I smsed her. What the world calls a blank message. But I know she knows better.
She had once forwarded me a mail. Of a little girl who gifts an empty box to her dad on his birthday. Angry, the dad blasts her. The girl breaks into tears, and tells him how she had blown kisses in the box all night until it was brimming with love.
In this case, I am the daughter. Our relationship is such, we keep exchanging roles, and fit them all like missing blocks of a puzzle. Gap-less. So, I know. I am confident. She would have understood the meaning of that ‘blank’ message.
It meant nothing, yet everything. It meant a relationship of no expectations, yet bursting love. Of no ego, yet total sublimation. Of no claims, yet hundred percent surrender. Of no words, yet complete understanding. Of no definitions, yet perfect balance. Of no interference, yet eternal involvement. Of zero, yet infinity.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

inter-mingled


sadden not those sweetheart eyes
nor burden that lovely heart
in each second, i am with you
for there's nothing to do us apart

your lashes are laced with my scent
in your breast-pocket lies my strand
pressed against the cushion of your palm
is my committed steady hand

pages of your book hold my voice
my fingertips are alive in your hair
find me present, oh! beloved!
in your every song 'n prayer

my taste still lingers on your neck
your eyes can paint my face
a part of me will throb in your arms
whoever with love you embrace

know i watch you in all your moods
as i stand against your fear
you are of me, and i of you
the ring in your laughter, the salt in your tear

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Practical Love


through the chinks of a mauled heart
seamless tears ooze
into the drain of everyday life
traded in the name of practicality.

an entire love story
lies scattered in pages
and the cup is held away
from withering parched lips
the distance of cruel years
is yet to be sealed.

faith's test passed
is a youth wasted away.

Monday, August 19, 2013

OLIVER

He was asked to report at 3, but he came at 4.20. Upon enquiry, he said he mistook my name for a Mr Solanki! He sounded apologetic over phone, but I was miffed.

He couldn’t have chosen a worse waiting spot, for I had to go ankle deep in puddle to reach his car. I was ready to give him a piece of my mind when he turned to me. Instinctively, I smiled. And decided to like him.

He reminded me of my grandmother (all old people do). Only, he’d be a decade younger than her. Aaji is 94. Let’s call him Oliver, a kind of portmanteau for Old Driver. In his prim blue suit and cap, dear Oliver looked rather cute. His driving, though, was a complete disaster. He held the steering with unsure, fidgety hands, peering ahead with blinking eyes. The machine, least to say, was as old as the man himself. Every part of the Santro shuddered; it had the talent of sputtering to a total halt in most difficult traffic situation. Every time that happened, dear Oliver took a good one minute to restart the contraption, after several nervous attempts of igniting it on petrol and switching over to CNG. Angry passers-by swore at him and gave me shame-on-you looks for employing an octogenarian.  

When the vehicle did move, dear Oliver drove without a care in the world, at 40 km per hour, even when the road ahead was smooth as makkhan. I had to constantly check my urge to trade seats with him. The car gave the word ‘rickety’ a new dimension. Seasoned drivers would flinch from touching it, but dear Oliver? He under and over geared the vehicle to wheezing and tectonic proportions respectively. Worse still, a hopeless sleeper like me had to force my eyes open, because I feared he would doze off seconds after I did.

A zany journey it was. Even though my heart was in my mouth all the time, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Skin like parchment paper, clouded eyes, obsequious loquacity and apologetic mannerism…I kept comparing his image to my aaji’s.

What was it that I felt for him? That I feel for all old people? For my aaji? It’s a feeling between pity and kindness, and a cry for that part of humanity that leaves behind their old.
Aaji, my granny
While signing him off, he asked if I needed the car the next day. I nodded. Everything given, I really did (him, not the car, I wanted to add). He took the slip, gave me a sunny smile and a short salaam. ‘Meherbaani’, he said in parting.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I prefer BMWs (sic)

As the swanky white car came around the bend of the porch, I narrowed my eyes to search its occupant. I had been waiting for ten minutes, and it was a dry, drab, professional wait. More to help himself, the person standing behind me offered an explanation for the white wonder. “It’s my car, you know,” he said with undisguised heroic. “I prefer BMWs”, he added to complete the kill.

I wonder the range of reactions I could have given him. I enjoyed thinking it up:

(with big suggestive eyes) “Oh yah? If I sit in your car looooong enough, will you give me one of your cars that you DON’T prefer?”

(the complete baby look) “But what is the full form of BMW, sir?”

(the naughty-you look) “And so do the brats who mow down street dwellers”
I have a feeling he would have loved the above reaction.

(flatly) “What’s the big deal? I’ve done it in a Hummer.”

(bluntly) “I still prefer my office peon.”

(laughing) “You bet I sleep better in my chartered bus!” 

(matter-of-factly) “I prefer Marooti A-Star.”

(sweetly) “Actually, I prefer anything earned with honesty.”

 The last one, you can guess, is my personal favourite. Yours?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pyaar, and gifts

A conference room turned studio. A young girl and a coroporate-ish looking man are laughing self consciously, feeling silly and witty respectively. The set is ready, and on they go:

Girl: Mr Pyarelaal, thanks for joining us….

Pyare (interrupting): call me Pyare, please

Girl (unprepared for this intrusion, racing her mind to pick up script lines): Oh! Umm…sure…umm…Pyare ji, thanks for joining us on this show

Pyare gives her a smile that would have appeared hilariously constipated to anyone on the road, but in the corporate world, it is read as a grateful gesture.

Girl: so Pyare, you’ve been elevated to the post of Director (Pyaar). This is unprecedented in the history of any corporate. What made this possible?

Pyare: Gifts.

Girl (flabbergasted): What?

The anchor is surprised. Even she knew the truth, but didn’t expect this uncharacteristic candour from Pyarelaal. She didn’t know he was prepared.

Pyare (with the air of a sanyaasi): You see, life is a gift. Our birth and death in our mother earth and father sun are gifts. Our parents, friends, and above all, our bosses are biggest gifts. We are born of, and will be buried in, gifts!

Pyare ends with a near-thunder. He re-adjusts his sitting posture in a way that suggests he’s obliging the chair, firms up his tie, nods at the camera and looks around to survey the annihilating effect of his short gospel (he had worked for days for this interview). He imagines an apoplectic audience going berserk over him.

Girl (a little uncomprehending): umm..sure…yes, you’re right. Of course. But that still leaves a question hanging in the air. What is the connect between gifts and Director (Pyaar)? The world knows your proficiency in PR; when and how did the nomenclature change to ‘Pyaar’?

Pyare: It was my suggestion. Look, PR is all about relation building. The father of economics Sigmund Freud once said…

Girl (interrupting): You mean Adam Smith, right? (feeling confident for the first time).

Pyare (brushing aside): ya..ya...whatever…so, father of economics said that there’s no free lunch in the world. Not even the relations with public. It’s give-take. Give-take what? Gifts! Now you see how everything is connected to gifts? I didn’t change my name for nothing!

Girl (mumbling consent): So Pyare ji, what inspired you to change your name?

Pyare (reminiscent in a very Dilip Kumar way): Once, a long time back, our top boss had a problem. The flush of his latrine was not working well. He called up the Administration to sort it out. But you know me, don’t you? (winks) How could I let go of this golden opportunity?! I rushed to his room and personally checked all the nozzles of the flush. Yes yes, I did. I kept flushing and inserting my fingers in all the six nozzles till I found that two of them were not working. Then I instructed the plumber to fix the problem, who, obviously, was looking at me with fascination! In management language, this is called as getting into the root of the problem. Seeing my dedication and worship for him, he gifted me a card on my birthday. On it was written – प्यार सहित। Even though it was my certificate birthday, just to pay a tribute to that gesture, I re-named myself. He was such a kind fellow, such a my-dear-aadmi…I have learned so much from him…he gave gifts to everybody…he was such a master of PR and such a great great man (Pyare’s voice getting hoarse as he says this).

Girl (near moist eyed, consoling): Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about this loss…

Pyare (perkily): Oh! No no no no…he’s not dead. Just as good as dead. He retired, you see.

The anchor is still deciding the kind of facial expression she should use, when to her relief, Pyare starts off,

Pyaare: Actually, PR is all about Pyaar. And you young people know better than us, the only way to initiate and maintain pyaar is through gifts. All this talk of the best things in the world coming for free is nonsense.

Girl: but the people you gift – they are in any case paid for their jobs…so why give them gifts?

Pyare: Oh come on! It’s like saying, if you’re eating rice-daal, why ask for chutney and desserts? It’s human nature, we always want more. Remember Coke’s line – yeh dil maange more?

Girl: Umm…wasn’t it Pepsi, sir?

Pyare: Again you are getting into frivolous details. आप भावनाओं कों समझिए ना

Girl: Yes, yes…I agree. People want to have more. But doesn’t it set a bad precedent? I mean…doesn’t it fuel greed and corrupt..

Pyare (clearly annoyed with a pathetic grimace): Oh! Come on, seems the young don’t read the Geeta anymore-

तुम्हारा क्या गया जो तुम रोते हो
तुम क्या लाये थे जो तुमने खो दिया
तुमने ऐसा क्या पैदा किया, जो नष्ट हो गया
तुमने जो लिया, यहीं से लिया
जो दिया, यहीं पर दिया
आज जो तुम्हारा है,
कल किसी और का था
परसों किसी और का हो जाएगा
परिवर्तन संसार का नियम है

Girl (mesmerized): wow sir! You are truly great

Pyare: Haha! Thanks, I know. Now onwards, even you’ll be on my gifting list.

Girl (sycophantic): Oh! How generous of you sir..

(Off the camera) so I’ll await to be delighted by you this Diwali…

Pyare: are you mad?

Girl is shocked.

Pyare (dotingly): you think I will wait that long? There’s Holi, Eid, Labour Day, Mother Day, Friend’s Day, Dog’s Day, Valentine’s Day…so many days before Diwali. All these days are because of gifts. Gift is the soul of festival. It is the meaning of life.

Girl (obsequiously): I’m beginning to understand sir.

Pyare: see around yourself. Government, business, politics, justice, marriages – everything rests on the virtue of gifts. The sooner you understand it, the more ‘gifted’ will your life be. Gift more, receive more. Remember, from toothbrush to toilet paper, from pencil to tablet, nothing is small. Life is too short to think of saving money, whoever it belongs to. Spread PR, spread the Pyaar.

Girl (lying prostrate): ध्नय हो सर, आप महान हैं!

Pyare gets up and hands over an expensive looking packet to the girl. Off camera, of course.



Monday, June 3, 2013

The Perfect 10

Two decades after the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci first scored the Perfect 10 in 1976 Montreal Olympics, a girl was born in Bokaro General Hospital, who would go on to score a Perfect 10 in her Class X Board exams years later. Meet Nupur Singh, a darling of her teachers, a student of Bokaro Ispat KalyanVidyalaya (BIKV) from Class sixth to tenth, and a topper throughout.


The Topper Singh
It takes Nupur some time to get settled in our conversation. She admits she is a little shy; has been from her earliest memories. But when she does open up, what an insight she allows in her world of struggle, uncertainty and achievement! Born to a contractual worker Mr Niwas Singh and a home-maker mother Ms Gauri Devi, Nupur speaks of her lack of resources in a very matter-of-fact manner, not once blemished by self-pity. “I feel a wee-bit out of place when children of my age discuss their i-pods, i-pads and other gadgets, but I ignore these conversations and get on with my work”, she adds with a candour that makes one marvel at her maturity. And she’s not even 18.

Talking to Nupur is unlike talking to any other school-girl. A study in simplicity, Nupur is made of stuff which is far from simple. When her CGPA 10 score came out, nobody – her parents, teachers, friends, or she – blinked twice. Her reputation as the cream of the crop is so strong and wide-spread that everyone expected her to be the numerouno. “To me, the result came more as a relief than an achievement. The pressure of performance and the weight of expectations can be unnerving at times. I try to use it as a motivation, rather than letting it bog me down”. Dearth has its own way of teaching depth. When children of Nupur’s age are busy Facebooking or mulling over their future choices, serious concerns bother Nupur. Will she be able to crack the IIT-JEE exams? If she does, how will she finance her studies there, since bank loans, she realises, are not easily available to students of her background? And if she doesn’t, which professional avenues could she pursue? And, when she leaves Bokaro, who will mentor her younger sibling Aditya, currently a Class 5 student at Bokaro Ispat Vidyalaya?
Nupur with her parents and brother Aditya

Eighteen is an age she looks forward to, not for the license to drive or vote, but because it will qualify her to write employment exams. As if she has sensed my melting heart on the other end of the phone, she adds to comfort me, “I will take up a job because I need to earn, but I will keep trying for IIT-JEE”. Some people have tried telling her that in case she qualifies for IIT, she should not take up Electronics, since that field is ‘not meant for girls’. Just like a few others who told her to opt for Commerce and not Science after Class X, for the multitude of career options it promises. But thanks to the eternal support that flows from her family and teachers, Nupur didn’t budge once. “If you take up a subject that interests you, success is guaranteed”, philosophizes the young girl who is an avid reader and a keen quizzer. She has mopped up tomes like Mahatma Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth, APJ Abdul Kalam’s Wings of Fire and Premchand’s Godaan. Thanks to her open and encouraging family environment, and a father about whom she talks with an unmixed pride, she has developed a good sense of general knowledge. Winner of two Gold and two Silver medals bestowed by SAIL's Bokaro Steel Plant (BSL) for excellence in academics and over-all performance, Nupur has several other essay and quiz titles to her credit.

The family of four shares a SAIL quarter with a close relative, who is an employee of BSL. “SAIL is not just an organization or a family of people, it is an institution. For me and many others, it is an inspiration. I’ve received so much from SAIL that nothing that I can say will suffice”, is how the little wonder feels about the company. For someone who has been showered with praises throughout her growing up years, Nupur has not lost her touch with reality. She says she needs to ‘work’ on her nature and be more extrovert and adaptive and achieve an emotional balance. That she gets only 4 to 5 hours of shuteye every day, she mentions in passing.

One person she remembers with extreme fondness and gratefulness is the retired Principal of BIKV Ms Madhu Malik. “I do not know if I was born special. What I do know is that my teachers’ faith in me made me what I am today. Madhu ma’am believed in my abilities, she treated me like a star, and I became one. She never allowed a fibre of negativity seep in my thoughts; she never let me think like a loser. Once, when I scored a perfect 100 in mathematics, she told everyone how I was the feather in her cap and how proud I made her”, recalls Nupur with warmth that softens her voice further.


as you sow so shall you reap
A thinker that she is, Nupur separates her short-term goals from her ultimate aim, which is making it to the Indian Administrative Services. “I will try, and keep trying till I can”, she says decisively. Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, she knows. For that 1%, she collects interview clippings of IAS toppers and visits them in peace. The walls of her room bespeak her determination, with quotes like ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ neatly pasted all over.

It is difficult to end this conversation with her, for she’s such a fountainhead of optimism and beauty. Just imagine, Nupur Singh belongs to a family living Below Poverty Line, and yet she says that she is born lucky. Lucky to have got everything she needed, lucky to have found people who help and inspire her, lucky to have a family that supports. Talking to her, while and after, leaves one walking happily in the lanes of one’s own life, thoughtful, blissful and grateful.

Her parting line is just how she is – simple and prodigious. “When I turn 30 and look back at life, it should be a life of no regrets”.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Devjani the Dreamer


“You guessed it right, it’s a baby girl;
a girl, who has no idea whether she’ll go to live or not…”

As she recites lines from a poem called ‘Why is a girl never wanted’, Devjani’s cheeks get inflamed with passion, her brows furrowed and eyes darting, hands moving to enunciate her point. The fiery delivery leaves her audience with a lump in their throats which doesn’t melt for a long time. Maybe this is why she won the first prize for this poem in a pan-Bhilai poetry recitation competition. Devjani Chaudhary, 9, daughter of contract labour Jyotirmay Chaudhary, fluent orator in Hindi and English, is one of the 295 other first generation learners of Bhilai Ispat Kalyan Vidyalaya (BIKV), an English-medium school catering exclusively to children coming from below poverty line (BPL) families.

With an intention to alleviate families living in abject poverty by providing education to their children, BIKV was started by SAIL Bhilai Steel Plant in 2007. Every year, a new batch of students is inducted with a girl:boy ratio of 15:10. The students are provided with meals, sometimes the sole reason for which parents allow their children to attend school. Other necessities such as books, stationery, uniform, travel arrangement etc are provided for.


Listening to the riveting orator, quite an experience!

Younger of two sisters, Devjani belongs to a family of supportive parents. Unlettered parents have their own limitations in understanding the demands of school and pattern of learning, but her parents try hard in helping her with her assignments, even if it entails foregoing a day’s wage. But all families are not alike. Grinding poverty takes its toll in many other ways. Children of such families live under conditions of privation and associated negatives – drunkenness, drug addiction, violence and abuse. Teachers of BIKV often have to double up as parents to closely monitor the habits and progress of every child, and prepare themselves to start from scratch every day.

“If a child misses school for more than four days, our teachers go to their house to find out what the matter is”, says Ms Ruby Burman Roy, Principal BIKV. She informs that parents of students are mostly daily wage earners working as mechanics, rickshaw pullers, labours etc. A veteran teacher, Ms Roy asserts that even though the IQ of these children is the same as other children, they have an unmatched hunger to learn which sets them apart from others. Teachers of BIKV often have to sit with students during lunch or post-school hours to help them pass their grades, even if it take six to eight re-tests. In absence of parental guidance, their work load gets multiplied.

 “During the Annual Day celebration of the school, when children dress up and perform on stage, we see the look of pride on the parents’ face, often streaked with tears of pride…that is our reward for this job. 300 families will have a better future tomorrow”, adds the Principal with a smile.

 
With the Principal, BIKV, Ms Ruby Burman Roy
 
Meanwhile, Devjani surprises us with another of her feats. She stood second out of nearly 200 students in Bhilai Bharatnatyam Dance Competition. This is besides her talent in painting and playing kho-kho. Clearly a girl of many talents, she harbors the dream of being a doctor when she grows up. She doesn’t mind being a dancer either. Or a sports-woman for that matter! Asked about what has been her proudest moment in life, she demurely responds, “when I told my parents about my grades in class, they told me that I’m better than a son”.