Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Talking hands

I went through that entire metro ride, with a book in my hand, barely able to read a page.

I don’t know exactly when they materialized before me. I must not have noticed. My sensory receptors generally aren’t good picking up superfluous signals. That is why I don’t know if they came together, or if one of the two had come before and waited for the other. But what I do know, from the time I set eyes on them, is the magic that flowed between the two of them.

Two fair, thin hands, seemed to stem out from behind my book. Her right, his left. Clasped at the centre. Nothing extra-ordinary about that, considering many young things hold hands in public places. It was the chemistry, the silent talking between the two that got me distracted. And how!

I couldn’t hear what they were talking, their voices were deliberately muted, but their fingers symbolized the graphic pitch and frequency waves of their conversation. In the beginning, they only allowed their fingertips to meet. With the careful reserve of a much awaited moment. Sometimes holding back, to derive the final pleasure, of an impatient wait coming to an end. The penultimate thrill of meeting the beloved. Just a finger curled around the other’s little one, a teaser of a slide between unexpecting fingers, or a little tickle in the inside of the palm. Two palms greeting each other, with delight and confession, after a night full of sighs and longing.

The acknowledgment done, the confirmation of love received, the latent passion tested, the hands became more vocal. Her forearm became the entire length of violin strings, and his, the violin stick. He wrote symphony in a way that created waves through me. Lacing his fingers around the entire length on her forearms, the back of her palm, the insides. Following the intricate network of her venous mesh with the tip of pointer. Teasing her hand to twist and move exactly as he desired.

It must have moved her in some way, for I saw her inch in closer to him, urging him to move from light touches to full squeezes. Now he was a ceramist. Moulding his clay with his entire palm, stressing different parts of his hand at different times, to get desired results on the other side. Massaging with a lover’s hand. Honey-drenched. Not leaving a millimeter untouched. As though shaping up her very soul.

It went on for quite some time. His loving cradling of all sides of her forearms...meeting in a crescendo of tightly clasped fists. Fingers clutched so tight that their knuckles turned white, leaving no space, not even for vaccum. A living orchestra of the foreplay of hands, before meeting in a passionate consummation.

That is when I looked up to see their faces. They looked straight ahead, at the fleeting world outside. Hands still tightly held. Two young people, probably in early twenties. Similar looking. Aglow with love. That sight warmed me more than the sun falling on my back. I allowed my soul to hug theirs and return to me. I smiled and look down.

After a while, the hands returned to talking. And repeated the motions. The playfulness first, the caressing later, the impatient brushing, and the final fastening of undeterred fervor.

Sheer marvel to watch. To get immersed in their loving aura. To borrow some moments of light from their very source.

Friday, September 19, 2014


हिंदी. मेरे बचपन की भूली-बिसरी सहेली.

बोकारो तक इसके साथ जम कर खेली, याद है. लेकिन दिल्ली आने के बाद सब कुछ बदल गया. चौथी क्लास के बीचो-बीच बैठकर पहली बार यह अहसास हुआ कि medium of instruction अगर अचानक से बदल जाए, तो दिमाग का सन्नाटा बहरा बना देता है. उस साल पहली बार, और आखिरी बार, अंतिम परीक्षा में मैंने 80% से कम स्कोर किया. दिल चूर-चूर हो गया. वो अलग बात है कि काव्य पाठ और वाद-विवाद में मैं हिंदी की ही होकर रह गयी. आज भी मुझे स्कूल के कुछ दोस्त 'हिंदी वाली सोनल' के नाम से बहतर पहचानते हैं.

बड़े बोझिल हृदय से मन को अंग्रेज़ी की ओर झुकाया. कई साल लग गए अपनी प्राथमिक भाषा बदलने में. मानती हूँ कि शुरू शुरू में बड़ी कुढ़न हुई. दिल्ली वालों के चक्कर में अंग्रेज़ी सीखने पर विवश होकर. लेकिन जैसे जैसे मैं इस नयी भाषा को जानती गयी, समझती गयी...लगा जैसे मेरे मन कि बात को मुखरित करने के लिए ख़ास बनाई गयी है ये भाषा. अंग्रेज़ी से प्रेम का सिलसिला स्कूल से शुरू हुआ, और इस तरह रम गयी उसके प्यार में कि आज अभी रूह को तिनके का सहारा चाहिए होता है, तो वो roman alphabet के रूप में ही आता है.

हिंदी मेरे जीवन से पिछड़ गयी. लेकिन छूटी नहीं. इतना सुन्दर इसका रूप, इतनी गहरी इसकी अभिव्यक्ति...इस भाषा के लिए मन में आज भी वही आदर और प्रेम भाव है जो बचपन में था.

शायद इसलिए, क्यूंकि में दोनों भाषाओं से अत्यंत प्यार करती हूँ, किसी एक के साथ पक्षपात होते देख मन कचोट जाता है. हाल ही में एक ऐसी घटना सामने आई जिसे मैं अभी तक भूल नहीं पाई हूँ. बात पुरानी है, लेकिन सिद्धांत शाश्वत है.

भाषा बाहरी आभूषणों में से एक है. मात्र इसके आधार पर धारणाएं बनाना अन्याय है.

आप भी पढ़िए ये ब्लॉग. और सोचिये क्या बीती होगी उन सोलह साल के लड़कों के दिल पर.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

For bhaujaai. Happy Birthday.

Picture a dainty pahadi beauty stepping into a not-so-dainty Bihari household. As a bride. And the question that follows, yet unanswered, is who changed who more. The bride the family or the family the bride?

She is sweet tempered. As a result of which conscious effort in made by old residents (most of all her better half) to maintain sobriety even when raw impulses are dying to be heard. She loves eating out. In a majority which, when thrilled, prefers to sprawl on the floor and snooze. Her dishes are generously spiced up, which leaves the writer, who is still accustomed to baby food, to grow up her taste buds. When she mentions shopping and finds not a single soul echoing her excitement, she is reminded, as a solace, of her other sister-in-law who shares similar tastes, but alas, is away. Her eyes widen as she hears शुद्ध हिंदी words bandied around with unfamiliar ease, and how each member has not even a passing acquaintance with shyness. They break into a dance, a song, a poem, a dialogue, a anything, at the drop of a hat!
yes, that's our star

Among best thing that these eccentricities have taught her, is unabashed and out-of-box usage of Bhojpuri words. Take this – if and when she doesn’t like something (including food, object, movie, person, any noun for that matter), she has a ready adjective to denigrate it – सरंडी. The literal for rotten in Bhojpuri. The family bursts into peals of laughter at her new found play-word, especially since it is delivered with her trademark innocence. Incidentally, it slipped out of her tongue twice at her workplace. Leaving her mates puzzled at her changing countenance. Now she also knows that frayed old clothes are to be called फतूही. It is another matter that, being a person of good taste in clothes, she write down a lot of stuff considered decent by regular biharis as फतूही. Initially, she was shocked to know that Buddy (her good name is Lakshmi), could be addressed as लछमिनिया by outsiders. With time, she can tell you the funda in straight words. If you are a Bihari worth your salt, add वा or या at the end of each word. You can see, she is learning the tricks.
a happy birthday gift for the gifted one

It gets better. She has mastered that one Bihari word that has enabled generations to pretend to know more than they actually do. That one magic word in Bihari vocabulary, which is joker card for any word/ concept/ idea/ revolution, is अथी/ एथी. My dear bhaujaai exploits that word. I remember my mother making us scamper like rats searching for एथी. Until we realized we didn’t know what we are searching for! Bhabhi does the same. She orders Buddy in a queen-like fashion, एथी के लिए एथी बनाओ, leaving the poor girl to question her very basics, while Bhabhi doubles up laughing as do we.
Trivialities aside, Bhabhi has added a soft and beautiful touch to our house. With genuine love and care at her heart, and the knack to express it with sheer sweetness, she is such a pleasing addition to this family that even my heart aches for the folks who now don’t get to see her every day. Understandably, she is her dad’s favourite. Understandably, her brother can’t get enough of teasing her. Understandably, she is the star for her nieces and nephews.

One more thing to be grateful to life for.
bhabhi aur एथी 

Happy birthday Sapna Bhabhi. Let me express everything in one word – thanks. May you grow, prosper, live fully, happily and continue to shower your love and receive ours all our lives.

Never mind the vegetarian food. From, Buddy and me.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Try you may, hope won't fail

waves of time, unrelenting
unleash with fury on the bunds
of hope, frayed yet enduring
slipping 'n standing, alone 'n shunned

up come the clouds threatening
destruction at heart and aim
vainglorious in terminal attempt
to leave nothing to proclaim

rain lashes out an angry downpour
intent on the show of power
under the knifing blows of spear
the crying bunds stand that hour

in the wrath and fury of nature
melts all but the sturdy trail
against character, strength 'n love
heap up the odds, hope won't fail

Monday, September 1, 2014

Endurance Testing

Bigger the Prize, Larger the Price

I have fainted once. In the summer of 2010. Cause – Neck spasm. Reason – doing 200 breadths in the swimming pool, that is 2.5 kilometers, at a break-neck speed, literally.

Come to think of it, it was the doctor’s negligence that made me faint, not so much my own extremism. The swimming only gave me a bad cramp, which I went to get cured from the doc, who insisted on turning my neck and bringing it back to a neutral position (and she was a physiotherapist, lord help her patients!). I had resisted, telling her it was too painful to bear. But she labored on, till I passed out in pain. Till two weeks after that, I could not move my neck. Had to exercise my eyeballs way too much that fortnight!

Post that incident; I have done 200, and even more, without committing the mistake of going to a doctor after that. I learnt that muscles will ache when fatigued.

So why do I fatigue myself to that extent? Why do I stretch myself to the point that it squeezes out the last ounce of energy from my body? Why do I push my boundaries? Why can’t I take it easy? Ask my friends. I’m attempting to answer these questions here.

Endurance testing. There’s a kick in pushing your boundaries, to see how far you can really go, to test if you went farther than your last attempt.

It’s a continuous race with yourself. Your previous best. Because somewhere in your conscience, you know that you can’t afford to be standing still. No, it is not to prove anyone anything. It’s just to realize that in this one life you got, including its evasive destiny and pervasive gifts, in this sufficiently inadequate one life-time…if you don’t pack yourself to the brim, if you have not experimented with your own calibre, if you have not so much as tried to optimize yourself in things you love doing, if you have not put in the blood and toil it takes at the brink…with what face then do you thank life for giving you this one lovely chance?

Add to that my love for water. Hence swimming. There is something to improve in every stroke even after I’ve performed it a thousand times. Is there a limit to how you can keep improving your freestyle? Of attaining that perfect positioning where friction with water is least. Swift, smooth and really fast. And then the breast stroke, I’m always left feeling I can do with lesser moments of face over the water. And that the kick could be stronger. Or in the backstroke, getting the accurate posture so that the leg motion stems right from the hip, without bending the knee. As for the butterfly, the constant struggle for getting more strength in my arms to get farther in each dive, and more power in my lungs, so that I can reduce my mid-resting time from ten seconds to zilch. In a nutshell, cease to be a 206-boned human body, and learn to be a strong and nimble fish.

It’s crazy. Possessed. Obsessed. I’ve heard several words thrashed about for such single-minded pursuit of betterment. So far, my pool manager has expressed it best, through a not-so-dainty question: मैड़म, आप खात्ते क्या हो? No, getting the best in my pool is not enough. That was never the target. In fact, there is no target. Fixing a target means limiting your horizon. If at all there is a goal, it is to surpass my own expectation. And trust you me, I expect a lot from myself.

Damn the pain in my thighs. Urgh, that nasty cramp in my upper arms. The sore neck. The chlorine spoiled hair. The tanned and swarthy face. I know it won’t get easier, but I know equally well, I will get better.

I remember once jumping in the pool with 102 fever. And coming out cured. The body is a great indicator. If you treat it right, it tells you exactly what it needs. If you’re prepared to listen, and ready to take chances.

There is nothing about life that sports can’t teach. Discipline. Concentration. Effort. Toil. Consequences. Persistence. Patience. Consistency. Conviction. Ceaseless learning. Love. The ability to lose without losing hope. The acceptance of limits, open to be challenged at will. And above all, endurance.

Whether it is swimming, or running, there is one thing common in any sport you do with passion. For that matter, anything you do with passion. The ability to lose track and sense of your immediate sphere. Be it your worries, your thrills, your anger, your love, your frustration, your achievements. Everything dissolves in space and time, and gets congealed in a single entity. Indestructible in spirit – YOU. Give this phenomenon any word you may. Spiritual. Religious. Realization. Whatever.

But YOU the runner, YOU the dancer, YOU the writer, YOU the swimmer, YOU the yourself, know that if thought had struck you to run 8 kms on a winter morning, it better be 9 when you the hit the track. Yes. Exactly. Beat yourself. And while doing the extra stretch, the point where you are challenging your limits, when tiredness is catching up, when sweat is dripping in your eyes, when your mouth is parched dry, when exhaustion is making you weightless in a dizzy sort of way…tell yourself what Friedrich Nietzsche told the world – That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

So let them come. Let them rob you from the outside. Let them cast thorns in your way. Let them conspire to destroy. Let them come and burn you down. For you know you will rise from your ashes. Again. And again and again.