Friday, April 30, 2010

Do kadam aur sahi.

For the past week, I have been watching this old DD series Mirza Ghalib based on Ghalibsaab's life on youtube. T. told me about it. Unlike T., who hails from Lucknow and learned Urdu in school and can read, write and speak it (as far as I can tell), my introduction to Urdu comes mostly from whatever Gulzar and Javed Akhtar wrote down in the songs that Bollywood fed us over the years. Therefore, my relationship with the language is somewhat tenuous. But I sense the beauty and grandeur of it. And it makes me long to learn the words. Even though I may never master the script, I can still read it as written in good old Devanagari. Watching my best friends struggling with French, I realised I may never have a thing for the Romantic languages but intricate Indian tongues endlessly fascinate me.

Maybe, just maybe, Italian is captivating (becoz of my fascination for Latin mostly, or perhaps my fascination for Italian men, whichever). But thats about it for the Europhiles and me.

For now, Ghalib's delicately created poetry is inspiring me to dive headlong into these lovely sounding, resonatingly beautiful new words.

Starting with his mostly widely known poem, I just want to have this on my blog. So I'm stealing it off of my veritable friend T. 's blog. I know he wudnt mind.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi Ki Har Khwaish Pe Dam Nikle

- मिर्जा गालिब (Mirza Ghalib)

हजारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी कि हर ख्वाहिश पे दम निकले
बहुत निकले मेरे अरमाँ, लेकिन फिर भी कम निकले

डरे क्यों मेरा कातिल क्या रहेगा उसकी गर्दन पर
वो खून जो चश्म-ऐ-तर से उम्र भर यूं दम-ब-दम निकले

निकलना खुल्द से आदम का सुनते आये हैं लेकिन
बहुत बे-आबरू होकर तेरे कूचे से हम निकले

भ्रम खुल जाये जालीम तेरे कामत कि दराजी का
अगर इस तुर्रा-ए-पुरपेच-ओ-खम का पेच-ओ-खम निकले

मगर लिखवाये कोई उसको खत तो हमसे लिखवाये
हुई सुबह और घर से कान पर रखकर कलम निकले

हुई इस दौर में मनसूब मुझसे बादा-आशामी
फिर आया वो जमाना जो जहाँ से जाम-ए-जम निकले

हुई जिनसे तव्वको खस्तगी की दाद पाने की
वो हमसे भी ज्यादा खस्ता-ए-तेग-ए-सितम निकले

मुहब्बत में नहीं है फ़र्क जीने और मरने का
उसी को देख कर जीते हैं जिस काफिर पे दम निकले

जरा कर जोर सिने पर कि तीर-ऐ-पुरसितम निकले
जो वो निकले तो दिल निकले, जो दिल निकले तो दम निकले

खुदा के बासते पर्दा ना काबे से उठा जालिम
कहीं ऐसा न हो याँ भी वही काफिर सनम निकले

कहाँ मयखाने का दरवाजा 'गालिब' और कहाँ वाइज़
पर इतना जानते हैं, कल वो जाता था के हम निकले

चश्म-ऐ-तर - wet eyes
खुल्द - Paradise
कूचे - street
कामत - stature
दराजी - length
तुर्रा - ornamental tassel worn in the turban
पेच-ओ-खम - curls in the hair
मनसूब - association
बादा-आशामी - having to do with drinks
तव्वको - expectation
खस्तगी - injury
खस्ता - broken/sick/injured
तेग - sword
सितम - cruelty
क़ाबे - House Of Allah In Mecca
वाइज़ - preacher

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Build me up Buttercup

"If you want to be happy, be."

- Leo Tolstoy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On finding stuff..and some more girltalk..

Disclaimer: If you're the squeamish type or the excessively moralising type, please do not read ahead. It is seriously not the best material to read either. There. You have been warned.

M: Its very difficult to locate the clitoris! I totally sympathise with guys here.

S: Yeah! I know! They just dont have such complex genitalia na..

M: As if you know how to locate it, S.!

Me: Yeah, S. have you found it?

S: Umm, yeah, I'm 90% sure that it really was the clitoris..

Me: 90% sure??? What does that mean?

S: I mean, I read about it in Cosmo..and umm, tried it out..

Me: What??? Cosmo??? Seriously???

M: Sweetie, listen S., if you had found it, you wudnt be saying you were 90% sure. You wud *know*.

Followed by raucous laughter for the next eleven minutes.

Some time later in the day, while discussing if alien life cud exist in the universe as Stephen Hawking said he guessed,

S: You know what I really hope exists..the G spot!

More laughter.

(I just had to, had to, had to get this out of my head and onto somewhere.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Strawberry Swing

Everyday you think the world can be predicted. That human nature is constant and unchanging. That if you've seen enuff of humanity, you will know with certainty how a person will think, feel, and react.

Just when you despair of this regularity, this uniformity, this sameness that characterises the human condition, you will find someone who will turn around and surprise you.

And for that, I think humanity, for all our faults, can still redeem itself. That there are good people out there. And their collective goodness or our abiding good luck is probably why the world hasnt fallen to pieces yet.

Enuff of us are cynical enuff to scorn inspirational emails or quotes as clichéd or pointless, but today I was surprised to see kids from a school, inspired by an email one of them read out in class, marching thru our colony planting saplings and seeds of fast-growing plants, to grow into trees that are the lungs of our planet.

I stopped one of them to ask what they were doing, when she replied that they were creating the "sustainable forests of the future" becoz an email one of them received warned them that there wud be no forests left by the time the 22nd century arrives.

She said, she was saving the planet for future generations. I went up to their teacher, Mrs. Bharuch who was their Environment Science teacher and asked what they were planting. Neem and eucalyptus, she said, 'to purify the air.'

She gave me a packet of seeds to plant in our building compound. She said if I planted them now, I'd have to water them for a month before the rains begin.

So now I know what I'm doing every morning for the next month. The kids are taking time off from their summer vacation to water the seeds and saplings they planted.

I was very moved by the whole thing. I remembered when I was eight or nine and Environment Science or EVS as we called it was all about making posters and decorating notebooks and writing a year-end exam. I'm glad these kids are doing so much better.

And I'm glad that I was so pleasantly surprised today. They say, cynics are never surprised. So I guess, there's hope for me yet. :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Its a girl thing

Its incredible how much a woman's world can revolve around a man. And I dont mean only in real life. I mean, look at the movies people make. And I dont even mean the Bollywood wedding dramas that are born out of a quasi "traditional" society's obsession with the institution of marriage. I dont even want to talk about the regressive soap operas that pass for primetime entertainment on Indian television. I mean the movies churned out by Hollywood year after year. So-called "feel-good" romantic comedies that my girlfriends and I have grown up on.

The ones where a cutesy, oddball heroine (I wont say actress, coz to call it 'acting' wud be a bit of a stretch) after overcoming several comedic-themed obstacles ends up with her perfect man, bidding goodbye to singledom forever, knocking on the doors of her very own happily-ever-after.

I think now they've started to call 'em 'chick-flicks' coz obviously what self-respecting, virile, masculine 'man' wud want to watch them anyway, and what post-feminism, evolved, confident, assertive 'woman' wud either. These movies must necessarily be for airheaded foolish romantic 'chicks'. Obviously, right?

Piyu, Mits and I have been watching these movies year after year on Star Movies, HBO, in movie theatres, on laptops, separately when we're miles away and on dvd players for our sleepovers when we happen to be in the place at the same time.

There must be dozens we've seen and discussed. Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, My Best Friend's Wedding, Runaway Bride, America's Sweethearts, the whole Julia Roberts romcom repertoire. 27 Dresses, What Happens in Vegas, The Women, Love, Actually (which I've seen like five times), Just Like Heaven, Jerry Maguire (okay, this one only barely qualifies), The Other Sister, In Your Shoes, Definitely, Maybe, 13 Going on 30, Mona Lisa Smile, Maid in Manhattan, He's Just Not That Into You, A Lot Like Love, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, When Harry Met Sally, Princess Diaries, Enchanted. And I'm pretty sure there were more that I cant really remember right now.

But it never really occurred to me to think about what men think about romantic love, if they're really equally delusional, and enjoy this delusion just like we do. Atleast for the two hours that it takes for the movie to pan out.

That was until I saw (500) Days of Summer today. I could not connect with the movie for more than ten minutes at a time, and by the end of it, I just could not bring myself to care about either character. I was surprised to that I actually disliked it so much, when a lot of my guy friends claimed to have really, really liked it. Finally, a sensible romantic movie, they raved.

I thought the movie was adequately glossy, deliberately quirky, and pseudo-realistic. But what struck me was the extremely insincere, vapid character that the glorious Zooey Deschanel played. The woman has strange mood swings, she's intense but depressive with a fear of commitment and she unceremoniously dumps poor quirky lil Joseph Gordon Levitt's character simply coz she doesnt think he's the one and she doesnt think its working. He is supremely heartbroken and mopes around thinking of all the great times they had together, till he realises that she's just a heartless bitch who turned around and married some other guy.

Until the very end, the woman remains a pretty toy with unreadable intentions and absolutely no ambition. I was horrified that my friends had related to this movie and enjoyed it so much.

I finally got what it was like to be the guy for once. To be straitjacketed into the roles of Mr. Right, the One, the Perfect Guy. Or alternatively, the Jerk, the Oversexed Guy who cant seen your Inner Beauty, the Jock, the Sensitive Guy, the Metrosexual, the Power-Hungry Boss, the Effeminate Guy and so on.

Women complain about being stereotyped all the time. Well, we do the same to the guys, dont we? Do women care less about good looks in their partner than men do? Are men really more shallow than women are? I dunno, I think only fools make such generalisations. Gender politics is way too complex for me to decode anyway.

But then I also watch 'guy films'. The superhero movies, the espionage thriller, the mindless action flicks. And strangely, even serious Oscar dramas like There Will Be Blood and Gangs of New York, The Hurt Locker or The Departed. Women barely make an appearance, they hardly even register their presence when they do. If you look at these movie's and their version of reality, a man's world wud appear to revolve around himself and other men and gadgets and war and cars and saving the world. Men talk about women a lot lot less than women about men in the movies. Which strikes me as strange. Coz I really dont think we cud be that different really. We are essentially the same species, right?

Piyu once wisely said to me, "A chick flick is so much fun! But the end ruins everything. The ending is always too unreal! A guy like that wud never pick a girl like her. The Prince wudnt even look at Cinderella if she werent so beautiful. Fiona marries Shrek, but wud Fion ever love Shreka? What if the ugly duckling turned into a plain old goose instead of a lovely swan?"

For all their failings, these movies are very entertaining. And I think that is precisely coz they have unreal endings. We want a fairy tale to assure us, that somewhere out there is someone who will love us for what we are, without asking for compromises. I cant believe I've written such a pointless post today, but what really got me thinking was my conversation with Mits and her obsession with Ally McBeal.

Mits has got to be one of the most rational, logical people I know. A thoroughly modern thinker, and my music buddy and paradoxically, a true romantic. She also balked at (500) Days of Summer like I did and said something very very interesting.

She said, "I dont think I'll ever fall in love with a guy coz of how he looks, or what perfume he wears, or how much money he has, or even what books he likes, or what movies he watches or what musical instrument he plays. I think I'll only fall in love with someone who's been a true friend to me, who's stuck with me and helped me and who really knows me and can take all my shit. Coz that is really what love is. The rest is just infatuation."

She messaged me an Ally McBeal quote to put on my blog when I told her I was writing this post. So here it is,

"I've spent my entire life loving my perfect man. Somebody I've never met. I have a rough idea of what he looks like. I have a more specific take on what he thinks and what he feels. But I have an almost exact sense of how he makes me feel. I may never meet him. I've actually been told he's not even out there. The men or women in our dreams live in our dreams. And in the real world, the best we can do is settle for someone who comes close. Becoz it is the reasonable thing to do."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No more by thee my steps shall be..

Its three years since you left us, left me. I think of you often, and I think of all the things you shared with me, gave to me. The copy of Great Expectations you gave me on my thirteenth birthday with the warning, "You deserve the one you choose to love." in your writing on the first page. Pickwick Papers. Your love for Dickens that I think I inherited from you. That and my nose.

Cezanne. Van Gogh. My first box of poster colours. The "Sunflowers" you stuck in your old red book, I remember you seemed truly excited when I gave them to you. Dali. Your pencil sketch of me, made when I was seven years old, standing in the park with one hand on my hip, and my eyes searching for mummy.

The red Ferrari car pencilbox I insisted you buy for me. I sat down on the road outside the shop till you bought it and placed in my chubby hand.

The endless times you defended me against mum or dad's scoldings, when you shouted so loudly the first and only time mum beat me.

Your fascination for Readers' Digests and the words you taught me.

Remember when you said, you dont have to read the Geeta to know the truths of this world, something nobody else's grandparents had the gumption to admit.

When you gave me aaji's delicate pearl bangle and said, "This is for when you get married." and smiled toothily.

All the times you giggled with me as you brushed your dentures.

When you held my hand and wiped away my tears outside mum's hospital room. The way you comforted dad, the first time I'd ever seen him cry.

You helped me make flower garlands out of zendu flowers for mum's next Diwali when she was too weak to make them herself. How you taught me to roast papads on that Sunday, setting a stool under my seven year old feet, to prop me up to the level of the kitchen range.

The way your chest expanded with pride, when dada told you Carnegie Mellon had accepted him and he was going to be the first of us to go to America.

The time you asked me if I was sure I didnt want to do a B. Sc. instead of MBBS.

You knew me so thoroughly that I dont think I needed to answer any of the questions you put to me anyway.

I prefer not to think of the last days. That was not you. The 'you' we knew was already gone. That body was somebody else. Somebody who wud never sketch or solve the Times crossword, or collect Readers' Digests or buy Amul chocolate, or talk to us about Picasso.

When we heard, I cud not bring myself to cry. Tears wud not be enuff. Nor wud words. Ever.

Last year, this day, the neighbour we both secretly hated asked me, "Havent you learned to live with it already? Its been two years now."

I wanted to say to her, the death of someone you love, is not something you learn to live with. Its something you learn to live inspite of.

I miss you. I love you. Happy Birthday, aaba. :)

"The dead we loved never truly leave us. We recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble.They live on inside us."

Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Friday, April 23, 2010


"Dil ki takhti pe naam likha tera gehra"

from the song "Pardesi" in the movie, Dev. D

Some people take time to fade away. Like old scars. Others never do. Like tattoos.

Of course, you could always burn them into oblivion. The tattoos, I mean.

(Out)Growing pains

Growing up really puts a lot of hitherto confusing stuff into perspective. Stuff such as how "some" infuriatingly dumb guys never outgrow their schoolboy crushes. And how "some" girls are so friggin' embarrassed by the shockingly pathetic taste they once had in guys (namely, the aforementioned "some"). And how "other" people are stunned by how they cud possibly have been such dreadfully poor judges of character.

Gratefully, I belong to the last group of people.

Phew! *wipes cold sweat off brow* As F. frequently and rightly says, "Der aaye, durust aaye!"

Amen to that.

P. S. If only I cud find myself a time machine, get into it, travel back in time and explain to my irritatingly naive fourteen year old self, the sheer futility of it all. But there's no point really. She (being me) wont even try to see it. Not for another decade anyway.

All's fair in..

How come all your words are only efforts to fill
all my silences?
How come you'll never admit you're wrong
but you wont say how you're right?
How come you wont fight dirty
if you've sworn never to surrender?
How come our differences are so much sweeter
than our promises?
How come you make me chase you,
when you say you're already mine?
How come all the ways in which we make war
are only prelude to all the ways in which we make peace?
How come?


Its always such a delight to discover a new bookstore! My very first memory of a bookstore brims with the lovely smell of fresh new paper, the feel of plastic covers and the whirring of the table fan on Kamat kaka's counter. I was tagging along with mum on a summer afternoon when I was about six. She was looking for some obscure Marathi book while I ran excitedly amidst rows and rows of Tinkles, Champaks and Chandamamas stacked in doddery towers that threatened to fall over if I pushed them and mum kept warning me about running there. Kamat kaka was the one who kept telling her it was fine if I played there and 'Mangesh Bookstore' in Worli was the place I was introduced to Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Asterix & Obelix, Tintin, the famous Young Scientist and Childcraft books and much later, Harry Potter and Roald Dahl. Mum, of course, insisted I read Pu La's books which I did, surprised when I liked them as much as I did.

But by then, I could tell the onslaught of the Crosswords of the city had hit them hard as Kamat kaka and his son were forced to stock Hindi music cassettes, and the bookstore turned into a circulating library. Mum and I were there when kaka told us they were selling the store which was suffering losses anyway. I was in my last year of school and although, I felt really sorry for Kamat kaka, I cudnt really put my finger on what it was that I was left feeling exactly.

I was still not old enuff to understand nostalgia, and I was just young enuff to scoff at adult sentimentality. But I think I realised she had lost something intangible and important, when mum said the bookstore of her childhood was gone.

A coffeeshop now stands in its place, not a real coffee-shop really, you know, like Cafe Mysore is, but just another of those generic air-conditioned, glass-doored outlets of a chain thats mushroomed all over the city, where the coffee tastes the same if you drink it in Saki Naka or SoBo.

Of course, I also fell in love with the Sion Crossword and the sprawling Landmark, and Oxford with its lovely Cha Bar, and Mangesh Bookstore seemed nothing more than a quaint little anachronism to me when I thought about it.

But that was only until recently I discovered the joys of buying books in Strand, where there was another Kamath kaka (albeit with an 'H' at the end of his name, and a Karwari nasal twang that comes with it!)

The first time I entered Strand, I was struck by how tiny it was as compared to the acres of Landmark. "Where are all the sectionplates?" I exclaimed audibly as C. dada nudged me in my ribs and muttered something about me being a birdbrained idiot in my ear.

We bought a ton of books; he turned his nose firmly up at the Dan Browns in the corner while I carried on moving to the usual suspects. Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse.

I picked up "Aunts Aren't Gentlemen" and "Right Ho, Jeeves!" to add to the pile of esoteric books he'd made.

As kaka made up the bill for us, we realised we were three hundred short of the total bill. Dada shrugged and gave me a look that said I cudnt have my books. I sulked as he picked the two books off the top of the pile and put them to a side on the counter before saying, "We're not taking these."

Kaka looked at me, smiled, called to me and pressed the books in my hand. "You like Wodehouse, na? Take these and read. Pay next time."

I was hardly a kid, but he'd just treated me as kindly as if I was one.

I glanced up at dada who looked like he didnt know how to react to this. He shrugged again as Amit uncle put the books into two plastic bags and held them out to us.

As we exited, dada said, "That wud never happen in a Crossword, y'know? Arent you glad we came all the way here to buy books?"

I nodded thinking to myself. He was right. That wud never happen in a Crossword. They didnt have a concept of "pay next time". That requires trust and a shared love for books.

And a love for books can only be found in a real bookstore.


I found this today while I was deleting old stuff, in the My Documents folder in my pc in a MS Word file entitled simply "Strand"; the date stamp says it was written on 22nd May, 2005. I dont know why I wanted to put it up today but I did. I thought it wud be a good way to start a new blog. Also, its interesting to note that five years down the line, my writing style has scarcely changed.

Of course, Kamath kaka died a couple of years ago and his sister now sits in what was once his chair at the annual Strand sale. I dont know why I feel so oddly attached to Strand Bookstore though I only discovered it when I was 16. I wish I had been able to cherish Kamat kaka's Mangesh Bookstore as much as I cherish Strand today. Perhaps, now I am old enough to know nostalgia and no longer young enuff to scoff at adult sentimentality.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This ship is taking me far away..

This beginning comes from another beginning's end as all beginnings do. Except, perhaps, for the very first one.

To put it simply, it was time to start another journey. With hope, that it will end less abruptly and last longer than the ones before it did.