Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ram Ram Shaab!


(A real life story, loosely based on a true incident that my Father, an ex infantry man, narrated to me many years ago. Despite what he shared, I believe, spirits never harm humans).

Read on ….

The storm was coming. I could make out. It was hardly 7:00pm. But the dark thick clouds had already wrapped themselves around the snow peaked mountains surrounding the scenic Tukla valley in East Sikkim. The dark, cold night was deadly quiet. Not a soul was outside except those on duty. They too were stuck to their respective posts.

Our pickets were all in different directions and the closest of them was a little more than a kilometers walk. Owing to the difficult terrain and snow covered path, even on good days, it used to take us almost an hour to reach the Officer’s Mess which was the largest bunker in the area and the most comfortable of all.

The others had already started having their dinner. After all, they had to return to their respective pickets before they got caught in the storm. The Jawans had been ordered to be ready with their powerful torches and accompany each officer. Orders had been directly passed by the CO (commanding officer), to not venture out alone during the night. Especially during stormy weathers. One could easily get lost.

Why isn’t Qureshi here as yet? I thought impatiently.

‘Hey PP, why haven’t you finished your drink yet?’ Major Pratap Singh enquired. He had already finished his soup. I noticed.

‘‘Sir, just coming…, waiting for Captain Qureshi.’ He must be already on his way,’ I replied with a tentative smile.

‘Hmm… Do hurry up. Yours is the furthest,’ he said referring to my picket. He did not seem very pleased.

After all, being the second – in - command, he was responsible for our safety and well being. While I was mulling whether to ditch Qureshi or not and absently sipping my glass of whisky, I saw him walk in.

‘Good evening, sir,’ the booming voice announced Qureshi's arrival to one and all.

‘How are you old chap? And why so late? All OK?’ Major Pratap Singh asked somewhat tersely.

‘Sir, the visibility is extremely low. And the route er…you know is extremely slippery. That slowed me down,’ he responded tentatively. After all, the others had also walked and yet managed to reach on time.

‘Okay, finish your drink fast. And join us,’ Major Singh ordered not wanting to get into an argument with Qureshi.

‘Sure, sir. In a minute,’ Visibly relaxed, he walked towards the small bar where I was waiting for him.

‘Hi PP! Thanks for waiting.’ He almost sounded jovial. I marveled how he managed to keep himself so guilt free.  

‘Hell of a day man..! Nothing seems to be going right for me,’  he said softly without a hint of regret in his voice.

‘Hmm, I know. Let’s finish up fast. I don’t want to be on the wrong side with him,’  I said quietly pointing towards Major Pratap Singh who seemed to be already engrossed in his food.  

Major Singh did not like his officers to report in late for meals.  And Qureshi was invariably the last one to arrive. He had been pointed out the same on several occasions. But to the extreme displeasure of his seniors, had not shown any interest in improving himself. We all knew the matter would go to the CO, Colonel Aman Bajaj, sooner or later. But Qureshi on his part remained unmoved.

‘Oh! You worry too much,’ Qureshi responded with a wave of his hand.

‘You are gone for sure boss! You are in over your head.’ I said trying to instill some fear in him.

Qureshi just shrugged as he ordered his drink. ‘Give me a large one,’ he directed the bar man before turning towards me.

Que sera sera...’  He said with a wink as a wicked smile played on his lips.

We quickly finished our dinner. Most of the other Officers had already left. I could see Qureshi was slightly drunk. The old monk, for once, had hit him.

‘Do you want me to come with you tonight?’ I asked him.

'What rubbish! I will be fine. Good night PP. Sweet dreams,’ he smiled looking foolishly at me.  I knew it was no use arguing with him in that state. Besides he was in good hands. We parted ways.

The walk back to my bunker would be tough, I knew. The wind was extremely strong and visibility absolutely nil by now. I could not even see my own hands clearly. Not a soul was outside except the sentries in their respective guard points. The whole atmosphere had an eerie feeling.

I wish I could be near the sigri and my warm quilt as soon as possible. I thought to myself as I slowly followed my Sahayek who was leading the way.

The shrill sound of the sentry whistles followed by the sudden switching on of the powerful searchlights piercing through the dense night sky rudely pulled me back to reality.

'Sikander, just see what is the matter?' I asked my Sahayak immediately.  He came back in matter of minutes. 

'Sir, lagta hai mine field ke paas kuch hua haiAwaaz wahin se aa rahee hain.' (Sir, it seems like something has happened near the mine field. The voices seem to be coming from that direction). He responded excitedly.

‘What?’ I was alert. This was not at all good news.

‘Let’s go and check,’ I told Sikandar. We hurried as fast as we could towards the area we all knew, was covered with mines. It was a cordoned off area. All the Jawans and Officers were well informed about it.  No one was allowed near it at any cost.

 I could see the crowd, once I neared the spot. Half of the night sentries on duty were there.

To my surprise I heard Qureshi’s loud voice blasting the night Havaldar on duty.

‘What happened?’ I asked him without preamble, as soon as I reached him.

‘Oh. I am trying to understand that myself,’ he replied looking pale and extremely vexed.

‘I was walking through the mine field! Can you believe that?  I was having a nice little bloody walk … towards my death!’ he said excitedly.

‘...I don’t know who was detailed for me today? My own Sahayak was nowhere in sight. And suddenly that weird looking chap appeared…’  Qureshi took a pause here as if trying to recollect the exact chain of events.

‘…he just said, Ram Ram Shaab! Chaliye..., (Salutations Sir, please follow me). I never checked, thinking he must have come for me. The others had left already.’  This was the first time that I saw Qureshi looking so disturbed. It did not suit his personality. He was a fearless man and nothing could destroy his jovial mood. But today it had, I could see.  

‘….His torch was quite weak,’ he continued, ‘but I did not pay much heed then and followed him, till I noticed we were not walking on our regular path. And the bloody idiot was walking so fast. Soon the torch light grew faint. Within minutes he just vanished,' Qureshi paused again.

I could make out he was still shaken. But like all the others I did not want him to stop now. All of us needed some answers. We waited for him to finish.

 ‘It was only,’ he continued quietly, ‘when I heard the whistles and saw the flash lights that I realized; I was in the midst of the bloody mine field. He was planning to get us both killed. Thank God, I heard the whistles and stopped on my track.’ Qureshi ended looking a little less distressed.

The night Havaldar was the first one to break the silence.
‘Saheb but your regular Sahayak is waiting for you at the Mess.’ He informed us that you had left on your own.  That is why we switched on the searchlights and spotted you so soon. There was no one else detailed for you,’ he said with a solemn face.

‘Then who was he?’ I asked him looking as baffled as Qureshi.

The Havaldar cleared his throat as if trying to decide whether to go on or not.

You know something Havaldar Sharma? I probed gently.

That was all he needed.

‘…Err…sir, there is a story in these parts that a Gorkha Jawan used to live in a village, not so far from this place. He was killed in a mine blast during the war. From then on, it is rumored that his restless soul guides people into to the mine field and then disappears, leaving them stranded inside it in the dark.’ He ended quietly.

A chill ran down my spine. ‘Hmm.’ I barely managed to nod my head and gave Qureshi a sideway glance who also seemed to have turned into stone.

Qureshi and I decided to go to my bunker for the night after all.

(Even after several attempts, the man who took Captain Qureshi inside the mine field could never be traced).


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sweet Caroline

They were playing my favourite number: “Sweet Caroline.” The mellifluous song however did little to pep me up.
‘So where do we go from here?’ Shekhar asked, trying to meet me in the eye.
The same smiling brown eyes, I had come to love so much were listless today. The Song was his favourite too but he was oblivious to it.
 ‘We…good question. I really have no clue. I guess we will find out..,’ I left it at that, not meeting him in the eye. Instead focused my eyes on the buttons of his stiffened – with – starch, formal shirt and tried to concentrate on the song which was about to end.
 For once his blackberry was out of sight and so was his iPad. How nice it felt to see him without his irritating gadgets. He must have left them in the car. I thought distractedly.
‘You are late again!’ I complained mildly as he kept looking at me.
Even after so long when he looked at me with those intense eyes, I felt butterflies in my stomach. The lines he had scribbled long ago, on a paper napkin for a jingle I was working on, in this very place and had made me read aloud suddenly flashed in front of my eyes:
I see you even in - between my sleep states when I am not dreaming about you..., said the misty eyed lover boy.
He took my cold hands into his large warm ones, breaking my reverie and said, ‘well, not that I wanted to. The parking lot was full. I had to park the car outside the market and walk back,’ he ended giving me one of his dimpled smiles. One of those melancholic ones that tugs at your heart. Or maybe I was being over -sensitive.
Despite myself I smiled at him. He was the best thing to have ever happened to me.
Cuppucino and some Cheese – on - toast, Shruti?’ He asked breaking the magical moment.  
I nodded.
My eyes followed his tall and handsome frame as he went and stood in the queue to place our orders.
 Our favourite place was cheerfully noisy as usual. It was a Friday evening after all.  The most sought hour of the day to catch up with one’s friends or colleagues over a mug of hot steaming coffee and an array of delectable snacks. The uppity market place was a little far off from our respective offices. But both of us preferred to meet here. The reason was purely a sentimental one.
This was the place where we had met first. Three years ago. This was the place where we always met after that first meeting.
How vividly I remember that foggy winter evening. Just like today the temperature outside was freezing cold. But despite the chilly weather, the entire city was either out shopping or taking a coffee break. I belonged to the later group. I had stopped by after work to have my regular – cappuccino, brewed extra strong.
It was while I was waiting for my order; I had caught sight of him sitting on a sofa opposite me. Frankly, I had not been too excited to see him for the second time that day. After all, he was a stranger. A client whom I had met only that morning at my office for work. A demanding client who was bringing in good business. We needed him as much he needed us. So we went out of our way to woo him. At least my boss had. I had kept my formal stance. Polite and distant.
On recognizing me at the Cafe, he had waved. Actually, he had been trying to catch my attention for a while. I had been lost: busy scribbling some jingles for the new advertising campaign while my coffee lay untouched. Finally unable to catch my eye he had decided to walk up to my table.  
‘You look even nicer without your glasses,’ the opening lines of his conversation had left me bemused.
But I had been too flustered to respond immediately. Why is he carrying out a conversation with me? I had asked myself as he continued making small talk about the traffic and the weather.
He was so drop - dead good looking. I was sure he had better things to do. Why is he bothering himself with a non glamorous woman like me? I felt stupefied and had reacted in the same manner. The evening had been a disaster for me. Of course, he gave me his undivided attention while I rambled on about work and this and that. How I had wanted him to leave but I could hardly snub him. After all, he was our client and an important one at that. I had sworn to myself, next time client or no client, I would not let him entertain himself at my expense.
But some things are meant to be repeated. The same week we met again. At the office. He was there with my boss, Meeta. Both were discussing his project. As soon as he saw me he smiled, and asked if I could also join them in the discussion. I had no option but to join the meeting. Again, I had behaved like a blockhead. Thankfully, Meeta, the angel she is, had read the distress signals and had come to my rescue.
‘Would you both like to discuss the next step over coffee…,’ Shekhar had asked towards the end of the meeting looking at us with a funny expression. I had a strong feeling that he was thoroughly enjoying himself. I also suspected it was all at my expense, again. Meeta readily agreed and I had to tag along. It had turned out to be another one of those I- really - don’t – like - it days for me.
‘Hey…lost one! Here’s your cappuccino, just the way you like it!’ The man of my thoughts offered me the steaming mug and brought me back to the cold present.
‘So…what have you decided?’ He asked tentatively.
‘There isn’t much to decide,’ I said quietly.
The freshness of our relationship had never faded instead there was always something more to look forward to. Moreover, we felt so comfortable with each other. In fact, I still felt the same way about him as I had the day when he had revealed and I had accepted the fact that what we shared was indeed love.  That was one of the best moments of my life. Never before I had been so happy. Never before I had believed that love existed. But now I do. With all my heart. He taught me to live and not merely exist. He taught me to love myself for what I am. And the more I loved myself the more I fell in love with him. I never knew that I had so much love inside me. It was he who made me aware of it.
I looked at him now. We were both trying to appear normal. Like nothing had changed. But I knew each one of us was struggling. The stream in my eyes was filling up fast threatening to overflow any moment.  
The silence between us grew.  For once, I wanted to let our silences speak for us. I hoped they would come to our rescue. But of course, they didn’t. They never do.  
I was the chatty one. Always. Shekhar liked to listen. Or so he made me believe. During our initial days it was so awkward. He would just keep quiet while I went on with my ramblings. Just to save us from facing some awkward moments I talked about everything from my favourite plants to why don’t people mind their steps while walking. He patiently listened.
This went on till we opened up and became comfortable with each other. Shekhar decided to take the initiative. Hesitantly, he invited me over to his house for coffee instead of our usual haunt. That was the first time I saw his sensitive side. The side he hid so well from the world. It was as if I was his alter ego ad he was determined to make friends with me. What a wonderful night that was. He made me feel like a queen.  We made love and then we talked. Or rather he talked and I listened.
The silence between us lengthened now as each of us looked for excuses to avoid facing our destiny.  We, the two of us, who had fallen so deeply in love with each other, despite knowing that one day we would have to part ways, never once voiced it to the other, secretly keeping our hopes and dreams alive. But reality knocked. It knocked sooner than I thought. And to my dismay it knocked at my door.  After all, I was the one who was married.
Actually, an unhappily married woman. Not that there was much to complain about. Life was good to me. Only, I wanted more than the quota allotted to me. My husband and I were like good acquaintances who lived under the same roof. He was perpetually busy. Of course, he loved me in his own way. Like a child loves his favourite toy. I, on my part, felt no particular sentiments towards him. Over the years I had come to accept his unusual love for me and reciprocated in equal measures. But Shekhar showed me another kind of love; that which gives and gives blindly.
‘Can we meet once in a while?’ Shekhar asked tentatively. You know just to...,’ he left his words hanging.
There was a time when I used to believe that things work themselves out. But that was a wrong belief. Things don’t move by themselves. And one can’t live a suspended life.  One has to decide and then more importantly, act.  
 ‘I don’t think that would be a good idea. We…oh…it would not be right,’ I said gently.
‘But why?’ he exploded suddenly, ‘why can’t we meet?’
‘Because it would not lead us anywhere. And you know that,’ I kept the gentleness in my voice. There was no other balm I could offer except a few sane words….of advise.
‘I…won’t be able to live again,’ he whispered, a lone tear streaming down his left eye. The right one was still holding its ground, I observed.
‘You are my life,’ he whispered, not really wanting me to hear those words. But I caught them anyway. The painful lump in my throat refused to ease.
‘Sir, may I get you something else?’ Interposed the polite waiter breaking into our muted conversation.
‘Oh no, thank you. We are enjoying ourselves,’ I jumped in as always, giving the kind waiter a wry smile.
Shekhar was grateful. I read it in his eyes. In the past he had always teased me, calling me ‘the man’ in our relationship. Even today though my heart was shattered into pieces, I was behaving like the man alright.
I could see it clearly now. I would die a proud and wise woman. But also a sad one. A woman, who would never be able to bring out her honest emotions, her true feelings about her deeper wishes. One who would remain in her own self-imposed chains of righteousness.  But was it of any use? Would I gain anything out of it?  All I needed to do was break these invisible shackles and move on in life. I could….maybe one day I would do just that. I promised myself.
 It was time to leave.
 I smiled at him. He did not.
I held out my hands and said, ‘come let’s take a walk, then you can leave,’ he kept quiet and stared blankly at me.
 ‘…if you feel like… give me a call tomorrow,’ I added.  It was then his eyes lit up again.  
I smiled back as they re - played Sweet Caroline.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

What are the Publishers looking for?

As a mainstream fiction writer, I would be glad to share my own experiences with other prospective writers on the subject. (Though my views on it are completely subjective).

My first fiction ‘In pursuit of Infidelity’ was published in 2009 by Rupa and co.  
After my MSS was ready, like any other writer, I also approached almost all the known and established national and International publishers having their offices in N. Delhi. Two of them responded back positively. Rest all politely, exited. All my observations are based on my interactions with these two publishers. Of course finally, as you all know by now, I decided to go with Rupa and Co. as they were not only the best among the two but also offered me a fair deal.
  1. Every publisher looks for a unique idea, concept or story that will appeal to a large readership group. It also works if a completely new side or perspective is brought out of a widely covered, read and thrashed out issue.
  2. The idea or story must be clearly reflected in the synopsis. Most of the big publishers get close to about 1000 manuscripts in a month (that includes fiction and nonfiction, both). So, the first selection is mostly made on the basis of the synopsis. If one wants to be noticed, the synopsis has to be powerful and succinct.
  3. Another good way to attract attention to your MSS is to have an attractive title – Easy to remember and appealing. The title also needs to convey the exact idea and yet be catchy, especially in case of a fiction.
  4. A brief yet well written ‘Author profile’ (that includes the author’s qualifications, profession, and writing experiences), also plays an equally important role.
  5. The most important thing about the MSS is to convey one’s main idea/story in an engaging and clear style.
Also, I believe, that publishers are our first readers. And an experienced lot at that. They are also there to do business and would only take up a project if they are convinced that the book they take up will generate decent revenue for their agency. Thus, even if one’s MSS is rejected by the first set of publishers, it is important to take their suggestions & feedback before submitting the same to the others.

Keep writing, keep smiling. 

The view from our living room window

The view from our living room window
You and I,
Beautiful people!
We once lived in a lovely cottage.
Our tiny living room window,
overlooked the thick pine forest.
How we both loved to stand by it,
while sipping our evening tea,
glad and at peace in each other’s company.
You loved to narrate the day’s happenings,
I loved to listen to your excited prattling.
You also used to write a lot then,
they were make - believe folklores,
written to amuse me, while I did my evening chores.
You made me laugh,
with the silly stories you had written.
Not one of them made sense,
yet I listened to them again and again.
Then there came a time,
when your writings grew scanty,
and our lovely cottage took the shape of a shanty.
Even the Nature around us looked bleak, just like you,
I noticed the change but remained aloof.
It will pass when the spring approaches,
I'd thought,
so I continued making tea on time,
waiting for the spring to bring some sunshine,
and hoping it would get you back beside
the tiny living room window and me.
But the spring never came;
the winters were full of blames.
I was bewildered,
did not understand how it was my fault.
The view from the tiny window was the still the same,
The pine forest still held its ground,
of course the trees - they were slowly turning brown!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I too tried to understand ‘What the Raags told me’ – And all because of Prof. Vasudev Murthy

Before I talk about this lovely book that I amazingly read, finished, and even understood to an extent, I must frankly admit that I have, whatsoever no understanding about Indian classical music or the various ragas’ that are used to compose them. Neither did I have too much of an inclination, until just a few days back when I found myself thinking about ‘What the Raags told me’.

Though, I must admit that as a youngster, my parents did try making me learn Hindustani classical music. But their efforts were in vain. Not that I did not have an aptitude for it but I refused to learn. The reason - My teacher an elderly gentleman was more intent on scaring his students, with his impatient gestures and negative stance then really making them see and understand the beauty of Indian classic music. We found it boring and incomprehensible. I, (together with few others), rebelled. My parents might have tried convincing me but to my great relief my father got transferred to another station. That was the end of the matter. And I never felt like going back to it again. Until I came in connection with Prof. Murthy.

Strangely, I connected with the extremely wise and talented author of this beautiful book on Face book, through another friend, who informed me that Prof. Murthy and I shared the same publisher. But even after connecting and few ‘formal’ chat sessions later, we had not moved much. One day however, he sent me a link of a recorded Oudh play. It was him playing the Oudh. (Incidentally, he is a great violin player too and has been playing the violin since the age of 7), Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link and to my surprise thoroughly enjoyed what I listened to.  The piece was refreshing, soothing and non intrusive. I loved it. I must share with my readers that while writing my books, I like to listen to soft music. But the Oudh play he sent me surpassed all the songs and musical pieces I have heard thus far. They all have their benefits and are nice in their own way. But I found the Oudh play better only because of its pleasing effect it had on my senses, while I worked on my writings. I found, I could concentrate better. The thought clarity was greater. Also, one of my best poems of which I am really proud of - ‘Boat without oars’ (which you can look up on this blog itself), was written while listening to the Oudh play. The poem titled – Boat without oars, itself was taken from a conversation with the author in which he advised me to think as if ‘I am on the sea in a boat without oars.’

Now I was so charged up with my above experiences, that I became quite curious to read his book. (I already knew, his book was on one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music – The Raags). And so I bought it. Still, at the back of my mind there was this apprehension of whether I would be able to grasp anything from it. So very hesitantly, I randomly scanned the pages.

The first thing that caught my unsure eyes was the vibrant hues sprinkled throughout the book. The beautiful illustrations. The imaginary pictures of the different Raags were fascinating and gently egged me to learn about them. So I began. And once I did, there was no looking back. I was drawn into this story of a person, a gentle soul, who after many sessions of playing his tanpura every morning finally decided to release his spirit in order to seek and learn about the music of the land and then return back to enlighten him about them.

His spirit (which was etched by the author quite adorably), traveled wherever it pleased. No specific plans. It traveled according to its own wishes. But the aim was clear. To understand, learn and report back to its master all that it has learnt. Often, the spirit brought back the essence of one or the other Raag with it. The lovely Raag then slowly revealed its own secrets to the seeker.

I found myself completely enjoying this journey in understanding all there is to know about music of my land and expressed in simplest and most engaging manner. I loved Raag Kamod’s cheerful nature. And how it loves to spread joy and laughter. I was deeply moved by Raag Chandrakauns and how it reminded the narrator of his own adolescent daughter. And then the Raags Gaur Sarang and Raag Bageshree, both meant for lovers to take inspiration from. They can make even the non believers fall in love with their romantic and erotic melodies.  There were some extremely powerful and deeply introspective Raags that were also covered by the author that impacted me – Raag Bhairav, serious, serene, destroyer of the ego, Raag Jogiya, all powerful and which only aims to merge with the Absolute at any cost and then Raag Jhinjhoti and Raag Bhairavi – the former being the raag of experiences and memories and the later mother of all the Raags.

By the time I was done with the book, I had got an inkling as to what the raags were trying to tell me – They were gently asking me to appreciate the music that plays in our land. They were also asking me to live life humbly, compassionately, lovingly, wisely, peacefully and joyfully. And for this great understanding, I thank the author deeply.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fear less

Now I know of this dame, who loved the woods.
She found it deeply mysterious and beautiful. 
People warned her to not venture there alone,
‘God knows what all secrets a jungle hides’,
They said, and instilled in her the Forest - fear.
Curiosity though got her better,
One fine summer morning,
when the Sun was well above the sky,
The dame decided to give it a try.
Picking up her old back pack,
putting in an assortment of required things,
she set out for the woods Unknown.
The path that led into the Jungle was a sight to behold,
It made her forget all her apprehensions,
humming her favourite tune, she went along.
Joining her, she noticed were few other creatures,
A couple of noisy sparrows,
a busy squirrel, few shy rabbits and a curious deer.
She was at ease as she wandered deep,
without any specific plans,
Observing, marveling and philosophising life.   
But then the forest grew bleak and the sun became meek,
It was then the girl grew conscious
as she noticed the shadows;
they were competing with each other,   
Some stayed deadly quiet,
others made terrible noise,
frightening her, was their big game.
Strangely, she was not daunted anymore.
The Unknown Jungle was now known.
She was facing the great fear on the face.
She was now Fearless!

Friday, September 9, 2011

"I wish I was better than I am"

"I wish I was better than I am"

How many of you have wished the above at least once?

I am guessing – All of you or at least most of you. (And of course, that includes me too). In this article, I have attempted to try and find out what all contributes to the above oft thought/expressed wish of being better than we already are.

- A Sense of Importance or self worth
William James, the American psychologist and philosopher has famously said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the ‘craving’ to be appreciated.”

I second him. We don’t merely like compliments. We go out of our way to earn them. We want others to come and shower it on us. And this is a common urge across the board. No one is untouched by this sense of feeling important, howsoever humble that person might be. Even God loves to be praised. We are but mere mortals. 
So from the moment we are born we look for appreciation for our actions- Be it taking our first awkward baby steps, learning our alphabets haphazardly or even giving a stage performance that simply includes waving at the audience. The “Wows” “Bravo” and “Wonderful” goes a long way in building up our self esteem.
On the other hand, if we are out rightly admonished we feel extremely hurt. Thus, parents always encourage their children by praising them no matter what. It is the sincere effort of the child that counts.
So basically, we, humans, inherently like to feel Important. And there is nothing wrong in that. Each one of us is important. In our own way we have our parts to play. We must develop this attitude of sincerely encouraging others. It makes the world so much more happier place to live when we encourage others and are encouraged in return. 

But the question is what keeps us from not exploring our great untapped potential?

 Fear of being ridiculed/criticized –
An extremely vital factor that contributes to the feeling of – ‘I wish….,’syndrome is that we are all scared of becoming a laughing stock in front of others. We like to come across as suave, sophisticated, cultured and wise people. Committing mistakes is a big no - no. What will others think? The fear of being looked down upon by others for our behavior, action or thoughts restrain us from trying out anything openly. And so we either do not make an attempt or make a feeble one.  But when we see other friends and fellow members of Society overcoming the same obstacle easily we are in awe of them and switch into the ‘I wish’ mode. But friends we forget, we got too busy thinking what the others might think or say. Be foolish. Let them laugh. In fact, if it would even better if we can laugh at ourselves. And what if we feel bad about the whole thing? Why not? Let the emotions flow. It is quite normal to feel bad. But the important point to remember is  to -never give up. Getting over our apprehensions is important. Committing mistakes is important. They are our lessons. There will be a point when the mistakes will either completely vanish or will be well under control.   But the best of all we will come out of our ‘I wish…,’ mode.

Lack of proper knowledge –
Knowledge is important. For anything we want to achieve, we must know as much as possible about it. Learning is an ongoing process. So the more we learn the better. Maybe we cannot grasp as much as the other who is studying the same subject as us. But each of us has our own way of understanding things. We should not try and compete, (though the urge is strong). Just being ourselves and picking up things that we think are relevant for us is enough to move on. It will curb our urge to say I wish….’coz we are fulfilling our wish when we are learning about it.   

Lack of courage –
Just like swimming against the stream requires immense mental strength and perseverance (besides of course knowing, how to swim), to be able to achieve what we want requires inner strength. A little self doubt here or a pint of distraction there may cause us to be forever hanging in the ‘wishing mode’ and never actually attempting to do something about it as many of us remain in self doubt or are not confident enough about ourselves. In such cases again a supportive environment helps tremendously in overcoming our doubts on our abilities.
So come, let’s make a wish and then work for it! :-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What if Mukesh Ambani came to the Sub Registrar’s office in Delhi?

My thoughts on the subject may sound amusing to some but believe me - I cannot be more serious.
Yesterday, I had to go to the Sub Registrar’s office in (South) Delhi for some work. My personal presence was mandatory and so the fortunate visit to one of the most ill kept and equally ill managed government building, I have had the chance of visiting. I call it fortunate because it sprouted the idea of writing this article.

The experience -
The initial sight that greeted me, as I got down at the ‘forever in make shift mode’ parking area, was the long row of expensive cars. Almost all possible types, sizes and brands could be seen. Though their surroundings did not justify their price or grandeur. Even the tiny yellow Nano that I saw parked unobtrusively behind a black Sonata deserved more respect than the dusty, run down, uneven grounds that bore the rusty signage – ‘Parking area’. Well, this is almost normal in Delhi, so I did what any Delhiite under the same situation does – Ignored and moved on.

 The Observation –
I walked towards the office, along with few others who were also under compulsion to accompany me to the Govt.  Office. Just as we reached the gates, I noticed a couple of things together – the chaos and the extremely lost and flustered faces of few hundred people who were also there to give a test of their ‘Tolerance’ levels.  I took a deep breath and prepared myself for what I knew was going to be one hell of a job.

The uninviting main gate of the office was hidden by few sets of broken tables and chairs on both sides with an army of people; I assume were lawyers or people who had the stamp (thus the power) in their hands. They checked our documents hurriedly, took our signatures on certain papers and gave it back to us and let us go (but not before charging a handsome fee, for the stamp they gleefully showed off). A token number was obtained. Our number was 68. The ongoing number was 26. We had a wait of more than an hour, somebody informed us. That somebody was a vendor selling mineral water bottles and cans of aerated drinks, just next to the main entrance. He looked at me hopefully when he shared this piece of information. Ignoring him, or rather his words, I looked around the place bravely – hoping for some respite from the very angry and unforgiving sun. But to no avail.

Looking at my discomfort, the kind gentleman accompanying me advised that I might want to go and sit inside the courtyard (still under the sun but with the merciful trees that protected all us mortals from the wrath of the seething SUN). I took the advice, not because, I thought it was a good idea but because there was no other alternative.

Inside the picture was even more disturbing than outside. Rich or poor each had the same fate –WAIT endlessly in the most uncomfortable and unfriendly environment through no fault of theirs.
The heat, the lack of space, the mind boggling number of people standing/sitting in a chaotic manner on the cemented benches in an open courtyard compiled with dilapidated and dreary looking office building which lacked even the basic facilities and had the helpless employees sitting behind tiny claustrophobic windows, trying to do their jobs, added to the desperate environment that cried out to someone, anyone who could come to its rescue.

The original parents/guardians having completely ignored and abandoned it, after its inauguration in 2003, it begged to be adopted! How on earth did the Sub registrar bear to be seen as the boss of this ‘ghost’ of a so called important build? I wondered. Soon the answer presented itself to me in the form a locked door. The registrar’s Office bore a completely deserted look.

The question –
Now the question that popped out of nowhere in my mind as I waited for my turn was - What if the fourth richest man in the world, our very own, Mr. Mukesh Ambani, decided to build another ‘Antilla’ (what a name for the biggest residential building in the world) in South Delhi?
And what if he had to personally show up at the Sub Registrar’s office (South), to ensure all his documents were legally approved?

The possible options –
He might be taken to a Sub Registrar’s office all right but the location might be a 5 star hotel where all the required employees of the Sub registrar’s office would be present. And for stamping his papers, they might be treated to some of the best meal they might have ever had in their lives with few other benefits thrown in - like a holiday package, as a bonus for their extra effort of walking to the very doors of the applicant and help him out.
Ambani ,  suffers the same fate as the rest of us and experience all that I have described above and then out of sheer irritation, offers the Govt. to revamp the whole place up. (I would sincerely pray for this option)
Of course, the most likely scenario is the first. But if the second one happens, people of India will really not mind him building another Antilla. Come to think of it they might in fact encourage him to build one such property in each of the cities of the country!

The wish -
I wish DELHI either has a powerful ‘voice of dissent’ that is heard or have a slew of benevolent businessmen who under their CSR policy take it upon themselves to construct and gift Public buildings to the Government because it seems people in the government cannot be bothered about such trifle things.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chanakya's Sacrifice - A short story

She sat waiting by the window. But he had not turned up. The streets were deserted. It was a cold and quiet night. Most of the lamps had been extinguished. People were deep in their slumber. A small lamp was all she had kept for herself and that too was threatening to blow out, leaving her alone in darkness. Finally, with a sigh Suvasini gave up. Why is he doing this to me? She asked herself for the umpteenth time. He promised….and yet I could read his mind. He was merely avoiding an argument. Chanakya never really loved me.Magadha’ and ‘Akhand Bharat,’ are all his mind has been occupied with…since… She did not want to remind herself of the painful past. So she tried shutting her thoughts.

But they leapt back taunting her.  She directed all her anger towards the love of her life. He really can go to any extent for it. And how he has used me!  That cunning and shameless Brahmin. What had I seen in him? That queer poker faced man with protruding teeth and large piercing eyes. What did I have to fall for him when I could have had any man? I must’ve been mad. I am mad. Despite chiding herself she knew she had loved him with all her heart.
Have I not already suffered enough? Does not Vishnu realize what torture and humiliation I must have undergone since the day my beloved father was treacherously captured? And now he wants me to marry that uncouth Rakshahas? What about me? What about my feelings? I love him. And I am paying a price for loving him blindly. Why? Am I just another one of his pawns in the scheme of things? Feeling extremely upset and sad at not getting an audience with her childhood sweetheart, Suvasini cursed Chanakya. May he rot in hell! May all his knowledge becomes useless for the future generations and fades into oblivion. And as if she knew her curse was no more than a lament, she wept. For the first time since she had become a Nartiki at King Dhanananda’s court, she wept openly. She knew they would never meet after tonight. Her fate was sealed as was his. The knowledge grieved her. She wanted to die. But then there was no escape. She couldn’t die. There were greater responsibilities to be fulfilled and she had made a promise. She could not die like a coward. Even if meant she would have to sacrifice her love. She cried without restrain. That was all she could do. She let the bitterness and sadness flow. She cried for herself, her father and the love she had lost forever. Her softhearted Vishnu was dead. What the world now witnesses is the heartless Chanakya!

Chanakya picked up the lota of milk and drank directly from it. The milk was sweet and cold. Chanakya almost gulped it down and finished the milk in matter of minutes. It was still dark. He had skipped both his meals and was hungry and thirsty now. His trusted disciple had brought him some fruits earlier but he had refused even that. The day had been very busy. There were preparations to be made. Everything needed to be planned carefully. One little slip of tongue or careless action could change the course of history.

Sauvasini must be cursing me. My beautiful Suvas! With large innocent eyes and petulant lips. My moody Suvas.  How she loved to fight with me. But she was always a bad loser. Deep in thoughts Chanakya smiled at the old memory he seldom allowed himself the pleasure of. But I used to love to be defeated by her. Just to see her smile. So many times, I had troubled her before begging her forgiveness. She was always kind to me and forgave me always with a smile. My sweet Suhas! My childhood was beautiful only because she was there. I did everything just to make her feel proud of me.

His features softened as he was lost in his past. But suddenly, jerking himself, as if he could not bear it any longer, he cruelly pushed down the memories from his childhood.

 How times have changed? I am no longer the Vishnu. They took him away when they brutally killed my dear father. My loving and gentle father. They took him away when they decided to plunder Magadha and cause its ruin. Chanakya was born. And Chanakya has a great mission.  I cannot give in to my heart’s foolish cries. He reminded himself. I must forget her. She’s the only one my heart will truly belong to. The only woman I will ever love. But I cannot give in now. The ruthless resolve was back.

One wrong move on my part would cost me Magadha. It would cost me Akhanda Bharat, (United India). He continued contemplatively. All that I have dreamt of and diligently worked for will collapse like a pack of cards. I must not listen to my heart. Oh Suvasini, how much I love you! And to bear the pain of losing you forever, how shall I live without you! But I must sacrifice you. Forgive me my darling. You are and will remain my only love. With these thoughts still lingering in his mind, he left the small window, by which he was standing. The dawn was nearing, he decided to rest. He had much to do.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In a boat without oars!

I would love to float in a boat without oars.
Neither beginning nor an end,
Only the mysterious deep blue sea and its wealth.
Diving deep in, whenever I please,
I shall discover my own treasures, each.
Treasures, that are meant to be opened and felt,
Deep, deep down kept tightly shut in a chest.
As if that is not enough; I would find other things,
A dream, wishes, smiles, a tear,
 A dance, a romance, a life well lived.
When I have floated well and far,
A gentle push, and a rough pull, will ensure I reach my shore,
The soil of the land will greet me with open arms,
After all, I went to the sea in a boat without oars,
It will be a mighty feat achieved, and my only pride.
'O' how I shall love to float in a boat without oars!