Sunday, December 18, 2011

A journey unto unknown

I was seized of the idea. It sounded so romantic. I was restless to see it through breathlessly waiting for sanction of my leave. 'Where would you be going' asked a friend. I blurted: Agyaatvaas. She said: 'Wow !! But where is it?'  And I fumbled with words as I had no cue-naturally. A senior colleague said humouredly: History is replete with evidence that onset of leave period is the most creative so whether I would mind mailing him my ideas on organising a workshop !! I was already feeling the hiccups. But smiling I slept albeit with my fingers crossed to start the next morning my journey unto the unknown fantasizing on how Pandavas must have felt when their agyaatvaas was to start. Their fear was so very genuine lest their being caught send them to 'Vanvas' of another twelve years' stint. The thick grey fog welcomed the day and inhaling all the wonderful uncertainty the fog offers, I set on my journey. The world is definitely too much with us and how carefully we remember to take along a blackberry or a tablet, chargers and sandals, water bottles and pen-  drives, medicines (oh ! Am ageing, my God!) Who dares to go unto oblivion? Who wants to go to a place unknown? Who can afford to be away from just-a call-away-zone? I remember going to a friend's place where network was scarce and oh! How many times I would go outside only to check a missed call or a message. And I would complain to my friend: out of sight, out of mind. How sad! Nobody bothers to call or message!  Once I had seen Shah Rukh Khan's Face-to-Face on BBC and he said he doesn't wear tinted glasses lest he missed seeing the recognition in his fans’ eyes-the recognition he had worked so hard to get! The sorry tales of actors, politicians, bureaucrats getting pangs of depression on retirement are quite common. But a holiday must be quite an enchanting, rejuvenating, enthusing experience.  In fact we are afraid of the uncertainties, apprehensions, doubts hence, we seek to reach out to the solid certain ground of a known, cool, settled-nature of a place. Having traversed half a century plus years’ journey, going in oblivion and to a place unknown may have in offing a lot of healing, quietness, solitude I love minus all its pensive and vacant feels. And who wouldn't let me be, after all, it’s my life, isn't it?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Khushi- on my 51st Birthday


वर्षों के दरीचों

ख्वाबों की खिडकियों से

ठोस धर्तीले फर्शों पे

खामोश उड़ानी अर्शों पे

तलाशती रही

तुम्हे ही तो


सवालों की भीड़ों से

गुज़र गुज़र

व्याकरणीय चिन्हों में

अटक अटक

सच और झूठ

के फलसफों में

उलझ उलझ



तुम्हे ही तो

तलाशती रही,


लफ़्ज़ों के ताने बानों में

भाव भरे अफसानों में

रिश्तों के किस्सों में

कविताओं के हिस्सों में


रिसते से सुरों में

चुप. चुप चुप चुप

बहते, छुपते

अश्रुओं में


तुम्हे ही तो

तलाशती रही,


आज उम्र के

पांच दशक बाद

त्यज्य हैं

सारी कोशिशें

पर मन है

चुरा लूं शब्दों को किसी के

और धीमे से

फुसफुसा दूं

कंही कोई सुन ना ले

कंही अपनी ही

ना लग जाए नज़र

और कह दूं,

जता दूं

चुपके से :


'तेरे बिना जो उम्र बिताई बीत गई

अब इस उम्र का बाकी हिस्सा

तेरे नाम

तेरे नाम....'

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Its all about energies

Some days are bad, some ( by God! ) really good and some a w f u l l y bad for the reason not known nor comprehensible or describable and the easiest words answer: me alrite; nothing wrong , no matter, just- like- that.

We all have strong tendency to become so very skeptic about our own admission of having had a good day that we 'touch wood' and hope the day to come sings in the same tenor without stress and strain and we are pre-cautious like mothers to their children lest our joyful day gets affected by an evil eye.

Before we sleep, we tend to thank Almighty whole heartedly for a good good day and seek His grace and benevolence to continue till tomorrow.

Our own worst fears often lend us in situations we are generally apprehensive about and then we remonstrate to ourselves: oh! I knew -this- or-that- would- happen!!

We ourselves imbibe the vitality, energies and aura that can invigorate and spread sunny positivity, boost, enthuse. But mostly we are more acutely aware of and susceptible to aura of the people who really matter and their energies in all or any form of expression-words, gestures, silence affect us more deeply-both positively and negatively. For sure the people whose very faces, eyes, body language, purity of laughter and genuine, vibrant smiles exude joy, happiness, positivity are more welcome, likable, sought after and loved. Energies of our own dear ones with such aura can fill, elate, soothe and smoothen wrinkled, shrunk, diminished aura of our own. On the other hand sadness, gloom and profuse usage of negative words or silence can affect with such hostility and violence and disturb, cause tumult in normal aura and we seethe, boil and know-not-exactly what has happened, transpired!! Such negativity has the ability to mar our day nay.. days together.

Positive energies are always fragile and need to be handled with care and concern and vigilance. They create connections not just with the people whose feelings matter but also with Divinity. The gesture of blessing by a simple old person with a hand on our head can cause a lump the way a visit to a sanctum sactorum of a temple, church or gurudwara can; the innocent look of our own child asleep enables such rushing of affable feelings and we can feel only immense gratitude in such moments.

So its aura that affects -of a place, person, weather, our own dress that we wear or even others’ look along with smiles that they wear or spread. We often forget we, our demeanor, behavior, reactions, language, speech or silence add to natural aura; our own receptivity increases or obstinacy diminishes others' natural zeal, enthusiasm, zest to communicate and proportionately we either gain, become spirited, elate, widen further expanse of our own skies or close, shrink, dampen-the key factor is within us-our desire coupled with initiative to share, laugh and sing being so blessed human beings.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The grace-all the way

Our moods swing like the Sensex points up surging or crashing. Elated, ecstatic, rapturous, overjoyed, almost euphoric moments are followed by low- downs when we squat, our energies edging on ground zero or further below. Mood on top slot sometimes turns to down-on-the-ground like a Humpty Dupmty having a great fall and we wait for the tides to turn, the hours to change from night to dawn, from darkness to sunshine. Its only sometimes we lack even the capacity to wait; we plunge, sink and watch all this as-if-happening to somebody else; refusr to accept things per se: No! How-can-I-be-thus? No way!

When Time is friendly, it beckons us to smile and in trivialities too we find contentment like Leo Tolstoy's peasant in penury with only a piece of bread he had. All small gestures of kindness and of joy, of love and relief seem to be reflection of the grace, kripa for which we express thankfulness -sometimes silently with eyes soaked or with a heave of relief with eyes closed or through chanting or dhyaan.
Time manifests its moods through the people who matter e.g. our own siblings, kin and their attitudes; our boss, colleagues or subordinates' demeanour towards us at place of work or through friends we turn to or really-do not-even-have- to and they are there to hold, listen, pat, bless and-the most important of all-accept. There are occasions when Time seems to sneer at us on one front and smiles on the other -again exuding the exquisite feel of the grace being showered upon us.

As we grow, we tend to see the grace reveal itself in comparisons- with people we come across, know or meet as public servants and how their painful, aching tales of poverty, homelessness or agonizing loneliness or disease make us sigh with relief and we find our hand involuntary reaching our heart to murmur silently : Oh! I am not least!
This piece is dedicated to all those who love me so generously, graciously, not for the asking but as a matter of course, so very unconditionally and in their love the expectations are conspicuously absent; their caring with concern is so selfless, pure and total -evident of the purest grace that has been bestowed upon me!

Thank you very much for being there as sisters, family, friends, guide and guardian of my heart: thank you so much.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Come September

Come September and there comes along feel of transition in weather, time of sunrise and sunset change and so do the size of night and day. The very aura of an early morning changes for good or better is hard to say. The sweaty, humid late August noiselessly paves way for exquisite fresh air fragrance. No hush hush but there is silence of stillness heightened by the Asvin Mas Krishan Paksha (Pitri paksh) -the days dedicated for paying obeisance to the ancestors-the dear departed.

There seems a definite connection between the seasons and the profiles we assume, wear, garb or adopt – not deliberately but naturally, as a matter of course. But at times, we become averse to sounds, noise of any kind, crowds and confront the situation to plunge into silences, yearn for a vipasana, which means to see things as they really are, in total silence without use of words written or spoken. We become prone to be quiet –devoid of feeling need for using words to bring a point home, justify, argue, counter or plain state things in conversation as we do in normal parlance. We change the profile- loud, normal, and silent on our mobile but it’s hard to change the profile we assume in transition.

The season of mists is yet to arrive but the cool days do not seem distant anymore. Perhaps it is the transitional part of September which affects environs, persons, minds causing apprehensions, uncertainties, doubts, fear, too in absence of desire for reaching after facts, reason, and rationale. The uncertainty in the air coupled with memories play their own role in making us what we become- vulnerable, intransigent and inflexible.

But even amidst distracting energies something there is that whispers inside: this, too, shall pass. There burns inside the intense desire to drink to the lees all that a sensitive mind is receptive for in relation to human beings or nature. Looking back to the seasons bygone does one no good but looking forward to the time to come is not always easy i.e. hopefulness and zest for a tomorrow is something to be carefully nurtured, treasured, saved, cherished and our desire to turn to the positive to be handled with great care and concern. After all, September is for sure followed by the festive season which means fun, frolic, shopping, dance and a lot of noise, too. The pattern of seasons has a definite purpose and meaning as all ‘seasons come and go and come to teach men gratitude.’

September is like no other
It's days change color and weather
No other month can say quite the same
For every day, I can feel the change. (Jessica Millsaps)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

hasta manana

Once upon a time writing to you would come natural, spontaneous, without having to think, a matter of course and unhesitating words would flow like monsoon rain and that was when this Chiquitita was always sure of herself. The meaning and purpose would all fall in place; the mind would not struggle much for choice of words as they were oh, so handy! Remember, the first sharing of the notes taking shape unto bigger notes and then at times nothing less than a few pages would be suffice to say to heart's content? And how an evening would wait for the night to come, be over with it and with hurried steps of morning my words would wait safe in your cupboard dropped from the letter -box-type-inlet and I would wait upon stairs for the very first fresh look of morning on your face, for the entrance slope beneath your steps would be my feast till another morn. The very feel of a Saturday was unwelcome as it would unavoidably be followed by a Sunday and sort of how-shall-I-sing-a- love- song on a holiday with that premises without your presence or an entry!

I was always right to feel you wrote so much better than I ever could-crisp, to the point, intense, utterly meaningful, saying -exactly- what -you- meant, flawless, proficient use of English language you have always reveled to write in. On the other hand my missives would be almost always fumbling with-what-exactly-I-mean, words broken, phrases and profuse use of vernacular in an endeavor to tell almost breathlessly what -I-meant-in fact!!

That time, for sure, is past and all its 'aching joys are no more/and all its dizzy raptures'. But do we always grow in years only? Don't we sometimes overstay in point of time despite space having been lost with passage of time almost like a Sarkari Babu refusing to vacate the quarter long after the transfer?

It’s not possible that you would not have known how every word, gesture, tone, look had power and muscle both to provide me comfort, inspiration or contrary to it-unsure, unsteady boat to sail in the high seas of the popularly known 'system'.After my father it was either my eldest sister or you who helped me understand meaning of a 'vision', an independent thinking, decision making and with sense of commitment for the country. I still am struggling to do -to be a good human being what I told you when you asked me point blank during your first visit to my room : what do you want to be?

I still would whenever I could -have biscuit soaked in glass full of tea: paint an almirah of hostel room myself; heat kadhi pouring in water to increase the quantum; would readily be Miss Paneerwala.

We might now too listen to Hussain Brothers' 'main hawa hoon' and 'chal mere saath hi chal' with equal fervor, go on a vespa scooter ride to university-me sitting on the back; would sit together saying nothing with numerous newspapers sprawled between us; might still on some pretext of urgency beckon you leave your work to clarify a point or sort out what -it -really meant when you uttered something beautiful but not easily comprehensible to me.

I do not see having changed much from so called good and not-good, nor -acceptable truths about me. And for years -though with lesser frequency and only to give vent when the reminiscences pushed me to the wall, I would write to you epistles big and small and never read them again nor those scribbles ever saw them be read by you.

True, we have come a long way –after all a span of twenty seven years is a long time! But all the beauteous things lived, felt together still hold as much of joy as could make all of us dance to the tune of : gallan goriyan de wich toye, aseen marge nee oye hoye..' Time stays not but who says life doesn't stop -it does- on moments of joy, elation, togetherness, love.

Writing to you is not difficult today either as I have overcome quite a bit of self consciousness that would make me struggle so much with words and expressions.

Your 'write something to me...' has put me on trail of lands I have travelled by, city that I had belonged to once-upon-a -time but I am not sad, rather happy to find myself in-command wherever I am, whatever as only that has happened which had to happen starting from a 'que sera sera..' There may not be a 'ring ring' which would cause 'ding dong ding dong', or an SOS but there sure are umpteen times a 'mama mia', 'country roads' and oh! the sweetest of all: Chiquitita!

But somewhere I must stop so let me with 'hasta manana'-till we meet again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tomorrow will be better...

Human feelings, emotions, attitudes can assume different shapes, size, and quantum, dimension- in accordance with mood, timing, context, and situation. The feelings when positive have the capacity like tides leading to fortune, upwards, skywards-on seventh heaven and when negative to low, fathomless ,abysmal low, well of gloom, the withdrawal unto innermost, silent most recesses of mind. All in the tiny little thing called mind and mind you, how vividly we remember each and every count of who did us wrong, when, without knowing why, how dare –and all these we never forget. All dates, time of the day, year are duly involuntarily saved in our memory. Sometimes it leads to perdition - punishment that lasts forever after death as per theory of karma; sometimes it leads to self infliction of pain, punishment- all negative things so why harp on these!

On the other hand the positive is capable of doing all fine things to us which are not easily palatable to us, do-not-know-why unacceptable most of the time? It feels good to be happy, chirpy, bubbly, enthusiastic, and full of life, laughter, smiles and all the allied things which have ample power to chasten and make life look so beautiful!

Our receivers are generally more attuned to negative transmissions and we eagerly receive them, store them, horde them; we possess little inclination to forget them; our hyper susceptibility to painful impressions is inimitable-perhaps no other species has such demeanor, capacity to swallow, imbibe and absorb negativity.

And how edgy, devoid of confidence, hopeless it becomes with all fervor to be and do at stake, haplessly we see ourselves simmer, seethe, shake inside outside, speechless but temples burning with plethora of emotions seeking a desperate outlet if only to hurt and feel more hurt having said. We suffer and let others too and we honestly do not seem to mind it at all at least at that moment.

We know and do not know that when we are angry, hurt, serious, sad or solemn it’s so very lonesome and we revel in the thought: we- are- all –basically- loners. It’s a hard fact that the world shuns a long face, a morbid, serious-looking individual and welcomes when one is all smiles, exuding positivity, and zeal, seeming happy-go-lucky and full of grins or guffaws at the slightest pretexts.

They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going-very true. In the darkest of the moments there something always is to make the show go on, some hope, some flame, some signal which beckons and convinces in heart of hearts: its-going-to-be-alright; some spark would shed the engulfing dark, some music to whisper in the ears that tomorrow will be better-and this something is very valuable, precious like sunshine and smile, love and togetherness and the spirit to go on and on….

Friday, September 16, 2011

An epistle

It has been so long since I wrote to you. Hordes of things have been hovering over my mind so it has become imperative to address you.

You have always been an epitome of my life and work-your perspective as I had understood or known my touchstone to gauge the rightness or otherwise. Your commitment to the country was absolute, unquestionable, uncompromising, and thorough. Your relentless struggle for survival is engraved on my mind and how even a bit of money in pocket would lure you to buy Amul butter and fruits for your kids. Your being so rooted in idealism made you so often oblivious of hard mundane realities and needs of day to day life.

Your love for literature and English language was inimitable and I can recall how you would climb a score stairs to let your children know the meaning of a particular word from the stock of Dictionaries you had got imported in your hay days. The way you would read out articles or narrate from Great Speeches of the World is still fresh on the mind. Imperishable are the memories of how you would make us rehearse to deliver a speech in declamation or debate a topic, how very particular about tone, accent, intonation, pronunciation! And over cups of tea how you would think aloud and make us prepare a speech. We are amongst those chosen blessed children whose doting father would make it to all venues where such competitions were held and your presence was so motivating!

I wonder how many of parents are really like you unmindful of the fruit of the action-the reward or a prize- but most particular about the performance, the action. Remember when I won the city TT championship you weren’t happy because you found that my competitor played better though I had won and I could only agree with you. It was amazing to see you play Lawn Tennis in Abohar Club. I was frail little child then and you taught me how to play Table Tennis- the game I have kept my interest alive in though the degree has lessened proportionate to the degree I have gained weight-something I feel quite uncomfortable about.

Your hospitality was unmatched. Serving a sweet to all guests was bare essential-a mandatory-whether or not there were two square meals!

The thought and feel of your sensitivity still touches the heart. Small gestures of support would always be cherished by you. How you appreciated the doctor’s statement: ‘about payment neither I am in a hurry nor have any worry’-and you would proudly acknowledge this with gratitude. Never in your life you could accept any insensitive remark or observation and retaliated with anger or when you could not, you seemed to take it to heart.

We could assess your mood the moment you entered the house after visit to 'the fort'- if good then you would be telling how the little sparrows had asked as to when Bagloo Gugloo would come to meet them; if it was bad it would embark upon intensive clear the-the -clutter campaign. One thing was remarkable-the total transparency -in doing, thinking, being-no variance ever visible!

I can never forget when I saw you cry asking for forgiveness from your pride-the eldest of your seven daughters-Neelam di after a day long silence mode of both father and daughter following a skirmish during a discussion; and I can never forget how you had jumped with joy on my having got (just! even though only!) 201/400 marks in MA I and you gave me equal amount of money as shabaash from you; and how I was in delirium due to high fever/typhoid and every time I opened my eyes during that night, it was to find your hand on my forehead.

You had not been blessed with much of material wealth and comfort of life but never did we see you in spirits low-always with your Bholenath in your pocket, you always seemed to be living on a higher plain. You were not a believer but the way you recited 'jeev em sharda shatam..' we can still hear the resonance of the same while performing Havan; and how you would believe in 'Shraadh'-perhaps having lost both mother and father at an early age made you do the ritual religiously.

I have often wondered how you could after all afford to remain so positive in thinking and doing despite all the testing times and allied tribulations. Your favourite lines and how joyously you used to sing still reverberate: 'kookaburra sits in the old gum tree/ merry merry king of the bush is he/ laugh, kookaburra, laugh...making us all imagine ourselves as kookaburras !

After almost two decades since we lost you, we realized why you had to go so early-perhaps you would not have been able to bear the loss of your daughters!

Your open mindedness while interacting with us was so precious, it put such confidence in us to be responsible in equal measure. I do not remember if I could ever tell you that I loved you but I just hope you knew it and still do. Life never could be the same again after you left but we had Mom who kept our morale high, enthused us with her never-say-die spirit and never let us grieve!

Blessed are we to have had you as our father and Mom as our Mom.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Rain, when it does, brings along all the things-drizzles, pitter patter, thunder, storm sometimes, memories, nostalgia, flurry of emotions!

I can vividly recall how during monsoon the streets of our town Abohar would get flooded making true my father's asking: jal thal hoga ki nahi?

The fun with chhapak chhapak in flooded streets had such a beauty and I wonder if one ever does a repeat on becoming what the world deems 'grown up'! We certainly miss out a few things as such though there is ‘abundant recompense'. But life was simple, naïve like children playing in rain with paper boats reaching out to friends in other part of the street and nothing ever the growing years can get-the joy in simplicity, that dreaminess and romance, that race to be the first, that child like pain in the paper boat's drowning mid-way, that hilarity in togetherness or contemplative elation I a child’s aloofness.

And how we wait for the rain -not just the rainy season because rain can be willful, mischievous, moody often falsifying predictions. In many parts of the world they find a rainy day ‘silly’. They are also particular about carrying umbrellas in preparedness to cover them from rain. But we love to soak, bathe, feel drenched and involuntarily pay obeisance to goddess rain.

Rain sweetens mangoes and the tantalizing fragrance of 'mellow fruitfulness' of langda, dashari, desi can make one’s mouth water-its another matter that the baggage of weight we carry tends to give such a nasty, forbidding look when we haplessly are face to face with the sight of tempting mangoes !

Invariably relief has been attached with rain-be it from the sky to bring cheery smiles to anxious tillers of the land or from eyes to the pent up emotions providing opening of floodgates.

It’s only sometimes that rain cast a gloom when it showers its magnanimity untimely letting those down who toil hard and hope to reap a rich harvest and rain plays a damper. It does have the power to dampen the spirit too of a romantic heart that it takes to the nostalgic walk down a memory lane or for a ride-neither perhaps welcome nor avoidable!

But rain always fascinates. How very mesmerizing to see the droplets falling from the sky following its overcast look; how very divine the feel of rain drops falling on the eyes of a heart hungrily awaiting rain like a chatak and when it falls, the hot tears may merge with the cool feel of rain and both rains soothe a tumultuous mind with calm –for sure they do.

If rain is God’s bounty and benevolence, love is human beings’-both fill when showered and both blissful. Indeed ‘we are blest by everything /and everything we look upon is blest’(WB Yeats).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Play on...

Playing comes naturally to us not just when we are only learning as babies to babble. Constantly we are at play and all others including the master puppeteer watch while we play on.

Literally 'play' means to do things for pleasure to enjoy rather than work. Playfulness connotes zeal and zest-pre requisites to living life king size. The world we live in is often all- too- ready to connect playing with games. Even that's natural, we all do, and quite innocently, not deliberately to maximize what we deem to be achievable joy for the wholesome thing we call life. Its fascinating to watch and read and hear aficionados playing with words and the magic spell they cast! When I see young students playing games on cell phones and computers I wonder if they also realize and have tasted the joy of playing a game of TT or badminton or even a musical instrument. No gainsay the fact that the gadgets have provided exquisite means of playing plethora of games which we as kids and adolescents could not even dream of.

Play we all do. Sometimes we find ourselves playing involuntarily to the tune of Destiny; sometimes we play only to gain but our playfulness is put to the test when the running goes rough and the earth beneath our feet starts giving way, when the deluge takes over, when the heat of inferno threatens to burn us-its then that the music must go on.

Resilience is no child's play, fine but it only needs to have a child-like obstinacy to have his way. At the end of the day when sun does smile-it has to- after all how can it hide itself and for how long-the music flows and the world stands to listen, for its the finest of the notes which await each one of us who only cares to play on and on and on...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Respect? Do I?

All relationships emanate from the first feel of appreciation and through the corridors of mutual respect towards understanding and acceptance and love leading to happiness and all its synonymic feelings. The pertinent question hanging on me for quite some time is whether in normal parlance we do unto ourselves what we do unto others when in love. Do we really appreciate ourselves (without being complacent); do we respect ourselves as much as we expect from others; do we understand and love ourselves (without being vain and egoist)?

Honestly, I have struggled in answering these questions positively.

Have for long been unforgiving and un-oblivious of rejections (according to me) that have hurt me over the passage of time, complaining quite unreasonably and what-they-say-quite-often ‘indulged’ myself in luxury of brooding and self-pity quite unwittingly though. The other day, a friendly plain speaking: ‘The day you accept yourself, with all your frailties, generously and lovingly, sixty percent of these complaints will vanish’ hit me hard like a thud and I stumbled and fumbled with words but beat a retreat accepting in totality that true, I have not accepted myself as respectfully as I deserve.

No gainsaying the fact that the citadel of a relationship stands on load bearing columns and beams of respect and appreciation, love and understanding-all these have the portent potential of questionability, questionable stability and minus any of these columns, the fate of the structure of relationship quite imaginably is shaky, uncertain, collapsible anytime.

But that’s in relation to ‘the other’ factor. What about our own selves respecting our own privacy, judgment, freedom, choice and right to be, speak, live? When vociferous and confident counterparts demand explanations then the meek, super-hyper-sensitive inside us finds easy escape route in self-condemnation, rejection and sometimes even total denial. As we sow so do we reap: when we choose to show dis-respect to ourselves why we should expect to be respected and accepted? Unable to appreciate our own idiosyncrasies, we really cannot command respect from others-there being such a thin thread between command and a demand.

If only we could learn to sing to ourselves what we love others to hear-be it ‘Chiquitita’, ‘We shall overcome’, ‘Arziyan’ or ‘Chal mere saath hi chal, ay meri jaan e ghazal’.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Bearers of hope
Torch of light
Rays of moon or
In hopefuls
'About  to be'
' With you'...

Can slow or stop
Going back'
'Okay,take care'
'See you'
'Wait outside'...

Harbingers of
Hope or despair
All welcome
For they never can hurt
As much as
The worn silence.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Rain Down The Memory Lane

The sky is overcast and so is inside with clouds of different kind with all the possibility of rain, too.

Its quite un-understandable why we cling on to the memories of days gone by, never ever living really in present only, hardly ever able to forget the dates, events of joys or more often of grief and sorrow. So much so that the shadows of such dates are cast before and sometimes we dread and sometimes we plain let go the trail of events of the distant past as a film vivid, crystal clear and get ourselves in the mould that generally steals all words, speech. Silence envelops and we haplessly watch ourselves indulge in the luxury of brooding.

For sure, 'missing' has great ability to slow us down, stop us like a treadmill coming to emergency halt with power failure; missing someone snatches precious today and its treasurable moments and forces us to live, re-live what we belonged to or long for the time we can never be sure about; missing bogs us down, douses the spirit to carry on, eclipses our own resilience and still we miss. There is no way we can deny that past and future are integral part of our very being as anything or any person.

Why don't we have a child like memory that does not allow him to remember beyond a split second what transpired, how it made him cry; easeful forgetfulness of a child evades us, the grown ups. Is this the price we pay for growing?

The fading memory of the elders is something not easily palatable to themselves or to people around as sometimes (as in dementia) their concentration gets fixed on any point of time in childhood, youth and they live the same moments over and over again much to chagrin of the listeners who are hardly endowed with patience with which the old people love narrating.

There is a 'calendar' in all of us with circles, asterisks, scribbles all intact and unwittingly we renew it year by year-such colossal memory which can beat all i -pads and i- pods, cards and hard discs !

Sometimes we miss with stoic acceptance; it does not make things any easier. But when we miss without a hope- near or distant- it’s hard, indeed.

The tiny droplets have started trickling down. Oh! It’s raining.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ah! Freedom

Freedom! The very word imbibes the exquisite sense of elation unmatched by any other kind of happiness. We are at our best when we feel free-the feel which cannot be ‘given’ by anyone to us, no one can give us freedom. This feel is so positive in itself that we cannot say that it’s only the absence of feeling chained that makes us feel free. I think it’s in the mind that we first taste the beauty of feeling free. Sense of freedom, for me, is the real feeling of joy of being when soul celebrates its totality, when the whole being feels the elation of existence, when you cannot be happier than what you are with your mind unfettered. It is bliss which people leave the materialistic world to enjoy-the bliss which sometimes is resultant from deep meditation.

It’s not just enjoying the free will, free choice. ‘Being lonely and being master of our will is not being free. That’s anarchic. Real freedom is when you stay attached yet free to let your soul and mind breathe openly-not suffocated by the presence of other but supported and fostered and strengthened’, a friend opined. Then is it in relation to ‘the other’ that freedom is to be understood? In normal parlance it’s the tendency to break free when caging suffocates but I think we do not seek to be ‘allowed’ and let fly, it is inherent, natural in us to crave for the totality of togetherness which makes us feel we can fly and touch the skies. With all strings attached, we yearn for ‘mind without fear’. And this we need not for the asking but as a matter of course.

I was wondering what is it that we like so much about a walk in the morning or a walk around Brahmsarover? I think it’s being in close proximity with all or a few of the elements that we are made of that holds for us the feel –good- phenomenon: the sky, earth, water, air, fire. Basically we are bad masters and good servants but no way to deny how we have the tendency to spread, sprawl, break- free and how we love to revel in joie de vivre, the joyful abundance. And this is the truth which is also beautiful that in freedom lies our essence.

Nothing more or better than love can fill one with the joy of being, of totality, freedom of soul and beckon and bring forth the best we hold being what we are. We ‘tell’ that we love to be monopolized but it’s against our grain to be commanded and subjugated, instead governing and leading and flying and walking free come more naturally, for we are after all, born free.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This, my space, I love

The most cherished of all the fundamentals, I think, is freedom, independence, liberty. An inherent urge-live 24/7 is the freedom to be, to do and above all to feel free. Nothing is more sacrosanct, prized and precious than the fulfillment of latent burning for space-our very own, personal space, a sacred zone where soul revels in undefined joy. The independence of being and living, breathing free as a spiritual being does not really ever crave to be expressed. It’s the feeling of unfetteredness which makes us feel complete, total, not-lacking in anything. An infant wants to break free off any restrictions despite his love for huggy care and comfort the moment he grows enough to resist; a child wants to have all the freedom to play or do whatever he wants to do as much as he can without being told to do this or that; an adolescent hates to be stopped from going somewhere or asked to explain the why of an action in spite of the fact that he craves for the security and comfort of encompassing human relations. As we grow old, I feel, the urge to freedom, the thirst for independence grows and does not lessen. It’s but natural to find older people more vulnerable to hurts by being unnecessarily cajoled to do something or being thwarted from doing another. The need to be economically empowered is also motivated by the desire to break free while fulfilling the responsibilities we owe to family, clan.

With passage of time the awareness of our own space gets more defined and inexpressible boundaries get drawn more in the mind of course. Somewhere we know clearly 'thus far and no farther' and somewhere our actions, reactions, attitudes speak more loudly than any words ever could how much access is allowed to the innermost recesses of our heart to all the outsiders coz when it comes to gauging the impact of feel-free concept on our psyche, more often than not all the human beings we love so deeply, intensely, with all our heart become the people outside our special space the boundaries of which are fathomable only by us. And in our sway of being free- thinking-individuals we don't mind becoming (involuntarily, for sure) curt, discourteous or cutting other person short while silently we are busy drawing the lines!

All our lives are woven around building relationships as a mother, father, sister or brother and later as husband or wife. Throughout our life, the threads of kindredness keep weaving silently friendships, affairs, bonds of emotional attachments and we love it all abundantly, give us feeling of totality, completion at least from our own perspective we crave for the ultimate ! Somewhere uncompromisingly we are committed only to our deep seated sense of freedom and privacy of space and we cannot bear the brunt of any rude, harsh comment or an undesirable sarcasm, an unwelcome third- party-intrusion howsoever unwittingly and un-deliberated.

No wonder that the sacred space of ours is secret space, too to which only we ourselves have an access password. And that space means all the freedom we never feel need to define. We can take anything in a stride except the intrusion in our sanctum sanctorum where the deity of liberty resides and we are the guardian angels of this-the most sacred space of ours which gives meaning to our very being.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Are we really growing?

Of late, I have been ruminating over our abilities vis-a-vis ageing especially the issues related to our intellectual capacity, understanding and comprehension, communication, self confidence and our susceptibility to negativity, anger, sorrow or painful impressions.

Forty, I think, is a cutting edge when we start feeling hiccups in acceptance of things happening to us emotionally, physically, intellectually. The ability to grasp and understand enhances backed by life's experience. We are able to look into the heart of the matter but sometimes also mess up with our uncanny reading between the lines. The maturity asserts itself and we grasp more than we blurt that we do. We feel amused finding adolescent babbling immature and appreciate depth and intensity wherever we find it in expressions verbal or written. Acute awareness of 'growing old' does not go well with most of us and the fear of fading enthusiasm and zeal lurks loud, asserts and squirms.

Anger is difficult to handle with growing awareness of passing years. It does not increase or decrease in intensity but the diverse dimensions it takes in its display is something to be watchful about. Having become 'grown-up' as a parent or a sibling or a friend we find it hard to bridle it once it simmers. At the same time an avoidable feeling of being even slightly 'ignored' ignites it and this feel has the power to mar the joy of (otherwise) growing , maturing. On the other hand if anger is suppressed and ignored as if it really does not exist, it is bound to leap forward sooner than later with all its fury and rage that can cause an irreparable damage to one's own being, relationships, family life. Endurance is good only up to a certain point and beyond that it only enhances suffering raising serious issues relating to self -affirmation/ denial. We endure because we are sometimes afraid of losing on relationships but it only adds to and in no way lessens any suffering in degree.

The ability to communicate gets better with passage of time but I feel the will and desire to communicate takes a back seat. More stuff is prone to be put in account of so-called mutual understanding. Moreover, when it comes to explaining anything, the doors of communication are felt as closed more often than not. The years gone by might have witnessed one with one's heart on platter but heart has its reasons to shut up, behave and desire not to mess up. Life goes on and so does the desire to live it king size but the urge to open up, express and share stays in its sanctum sactorum not easliy accessible.

True, we are what we are but we are also ever changing in attitudes often learning the hard way. To me, the most challenging aspect seems to be our susceptibility to pain and gradually increasing inclination to sadness as compared to enthusiastic responsiveness to zestful, casual approach to life. I have seen friends reluctant to approach, afraid to communicate, apprehensive of being mis-understood with this our (sometimes hyper, sometimes even ultra-hyper)susceptibility to painful impressions, our incorrigible ability to draw negativity out of nothing and resultant icy silence that can make anyone dread us by the distant look we bear!! With growing years we should be having increased number of friends, persons who love us surrounding us but the loneliness we ourselves sow is something we owe to ourselves to reap -alone.

With fifty years already on my back I wonder if all that I am ruminating upon helps me overcome what is necessary to overcome for all the good reasons, the positive reasons so that the music could go on and so would I till the curtains get drawn on drama of life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hindustan Hamara

It’s first of June and look at the weather!! The early morning sky welcomed with thunder and it has been pitter patter pitter patter since then. June has always been associated (in the North) with sweltering heat, dust storm (haneri), piercing loo and no hope of rain till time takes us to July. I recall how we used to sit under a shady mango or shisham tree to identifying old age pensioners, or holding Panchayat land auctions (in 1989-90) or distributing 'olavirshti relief' in 2002. Awfully hot afternoons with no electricity in villages can be quite an experience to remember for not all the good reasons. When I completed my post grad in Community Education from De Montfort University, Leicester my friends really tried hard to motivate me to stay on in UK. They laid so much stress upon better monetary prospects and quality of life while trying to motivate. I would then recall the hot June under the peepal tree experience and the very thought as such would make me sweat in 5º C of angrezon ki bhoomi and I was quite clear that I would go back to the lands I belong to. It was not just 'pashchim ke paale se paala pada to /apna watan sach, bahut yaad aaya' it was also the variety of weather in our country which is such an attraction. In the foreign lands more often than not you would find them mildly cursing the weather calling it 'silly' or 'stupid' with not so unfriendly frowns. Weather is always the first mention in any of their conversations which they would amicably start with: 'nice weather, isn't it? You alrite ?' It’s a common belief that without the mention of weather, half the conversations would not take off. It’s the variety of hues and texture that fascinates me so much about weather in our country. For two three days we complain of 'whooof ! too hot!' And do our best to beat the heat with cold sattoo or lassi or paanna. And lo! we wake up to find it all drenched, cool wind, overcast sky, soaked leaves and road surface and sondhi khushboo after the droplets touch the dry hot crust! Unparalleled! And see! The sun is already there staring with June-ish smile!! Where else would you find such extremes, change at so quick a pace and all this happening so frequently? Something there is in the weather, too that fascinates so much and keeps us grounded and in love with 'hinduatan hamara'.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Goes on…..

Grief like joy is a personal thing. We grieve for what is not, what is no more and what was once there, ours. Life goes on, they say but what is it that diminishes us, sometimes half-kills us and creates an unfathomable vacuum, a void hard to understand, emptiness indescribable? An absence of the person makes all the difference- when the person is Ma whose very existence gave our beings a lot of meaning. But now what? All the words of wisdom, the sharing of others’ sorrows, the silent consolations, the warm hugs or feel of friendly togetherness, the hordes of people visiting to offer condolence or support enable us register the hard truth but it’s being back to routine which offers all challenges in acceptance of the painful reality of the absence of mother.

She was the centre of our universe and its hard indeed to overcome the feel of falling apart of our small world. But what an enriching feeling to have been mothered by her-the most beautiful woman of our world who was indeed epitome of dignity, grace, self respect, hospitality, warmth of goodwill and courage of conviction besides her ever increasing love for literature and craving for spiritual upliftment and constant endeavoring to be free of all aaskati and moh.

She touched the lives of all those who happened to meet her though even once with her affection, humility and never failing hospitality even if it meant bringing on her own a glass of water to offer to the visiting person or serving homemade delicacies. I vividly remember the tradition of serving something meetha as a must even during the times when food for children was scarce.

Never did we see her with unkempt hair or crippled suit nor without a hanky or a watch- never acting lazy or asking for a glass of water- always hadd houle and ready to move to fetch salt or pepper; ever ready to go to kitchen to cook garam garam chapatti-her exclusive way of showering laad.

In March this year when she was to undergo angiography and we all were anxious, keeping our fingers crossed. In an effort to ease out the atmosphere we all-Ma, Archana, Rashmi and myself started singing together: tu hi raam hai, tu rahim hai, tu karim, Krsna khuda hua/ tu hi waahe guru, tu yeeshu maseeh har naam mein tu rama hua...and on seeing tears trickling down her cheeks I lightly hugged her and asked why she was crying and she said she was praying that May God give strength to the Japanese to stand on their own again!! An hour after that the test was conducted without bringing rays of hope but she was so calm and told how she felt Krsna all around protecting, caressing her and that there was nothing to worry at all.

At dot five daily she would lit up the Jot and sit for Jap/ dhyan. Though a devout sanatani, she loved to perform yagna, had read all Upnishdas, Vedas, Puranas and hordes of books by Swami Ramkrsihna Paramhans, Yogananda, Vivekanand, Avdheshanandji, her own Guru Swami Gianandji. One thing was quite pertinent that she was unfazed by the diversity of opinions and nothing deterred her from her faith in her isht. That feel of her having risen above symbolized her gradual heading towards total samarpan before the Supreme Being. She was prepared, we feel now and she was also a sankalp-siddha. Everything fell in place just the way she wanted when time for her to leave the world came- self-dependent, healthy, walking, working, in her home, at peace.

The grace and dignity she personified all her life was perhaps to enable us imbibe these traits in grief of her absence. Life goes on but it can never be the same again.

There is an answer, some day we will know
You will ask her, why she had to go

We live and die, we laugh and we cry

You must take away the pain
Before you can begin to live again

So let it start, let it start

Let the tears come rolling from your heart
And when you need a lightIn the lonely night

Carry me like a fire in your heart

(Chris de Burgh_Carry Me Like A Fire In Your Heart)

Ma's gratitude to ABOHAR-her last speech


Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Angels

We had been waiting for them. All preparations had been made by my team of very fine teachers and officers. Our effort was to make arrangements with all sensitivity as to make our tiny little young guests feel comfortable as a matter of course and not for the asking. I was wondering how would they -being in age group of 6-14 manage away from home but I was told that their parents/ teachers would be there in ratio of 1:1 on an average and it was comforting. While overseeing arrangements for their arrival was shocked to find the whole system utterly unfriendly to my esteemed guests with little or no provision of ramps, unruly stair cases, distant bathrooms and high headed drinking water posts. Even our schools were not found to be equipped to make comfortable our special guest children coming to participate in the third tournaments for the children with special needs. They were to come from all over the state so our first and foremost priority was that they should have neat,clean, safe and healthy stay and hygienic, tasty food while with us. And lo! they arrived descending from the buses in twosome, threesome and I saw, in a row of over ten students each one holding the other one from the back shoulder led and followed by a guardian/ teacher. They were spirited, beaming,excited to be in a strange land.
Some of them were using plain sticks as crutches to move, some just hand on the knee but their speed was amazing, their zeal to quickly do things something to marvel at.
Sadly, we had not anticipated that the tables we had laid for them would not be a friendly serving either. At the spur of the moment, mats on floor were laid to seat them, plates brought from gurudwara and we all were there serving in langar/bhandara mode!! My angels were so disciplined, standing in rows and taking seats quietly when available.
Soon a circle of mutual appreciation seemed to have built up and a group of children came with a notebook in their hands with questions scribbled: what's your name? What's your job?
Where do you live?
My heart went out to them on seeing their mute questions. we were soon getting photographed together !
During the time of serving of meals while I was standing there awed by the hundreds of live symbols of fortitude and resilience, suddenly a row of children of Bhiwani started bending to touch my feet much to my discomfiture and I was unable to hold back my tears -neither could I stop them nor let them, I struggled but hugged each of them blessing.
In one out of four venues where activities were being organised, a child was crying miserably , I went near her, hugged her and wanted to make her comfortable. Offered her some sweets and I was about to leave and saw her crying again gesturing she wanted me to be sitting with her!!
And how they ran on the track-with sticks as crutches, on wheel chairs or spreading their hands in front and running ! I wish all the children ,wherever such sports events take place, must watch for only seeing is believing what 'we shall overcome' means literally despite odds, barriers, disabilities!!
The two days that the angels were with us were different from the rest of the days. Most of the time my eyes were tear soaked -no..not out of any sense of bechargi, sympathy but out of overflowing admiration and appreciation for what my angels showed unknowingly, without a sense of 'display'.We may thank our stars on seeing them that we are not them but I realised in those two days of the Special Sports for the Children With Special Needs that we often miss out on something which they possess abundantly- that there is no choice except to succeed,the never-say-die spirit to overcome, to prove, to be despite anything and everything and above all the ability to smile simply, purely the divine smile. They are angels of hope for sure.
Jai Ho.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hamara Abohar

'Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong…country roads'  (John Denever)

After a span of twenty one long years I happened to be in my home town for eleven days (shagun element unintended) as my Ma had a 'sankalpa' for performing an 'anushthan' there at the place has always been so much a part of us all not just because its our 'janmbhoomi' but also because of the all pervasive ' fitartan ikhlaq' that makes Abohar a very special place. Till 1989 that I was in F.C.College, Hisar and the summer vacations were spent with Ma in Abohar but after joining the services it was for the first time that I had taken earned leave to be in Abohar by my Ma's side and partake in preparations for the prestigious Srimad Bhagwat Katha by renowned Swami Avdheshanad Ji.

It was amazing to see the growth, the prosperity of the people if the number of four wheeler luxury vehicles and congestion on main road is any indication. The ever increasing number of shops swarming the narrow street lanes was shocking but bespoke of 'samriddhi' nevertheless.

While walking through the streets, I could not resist the temptation of peeping into Arya Putri Pathshala premises where I studied upto fifth class and I found myself literally feeling the earth we trod. I was reminded of how I had been punished with a stick on the back because I had scored much less than my sister Archana used to in General Science. The painful memory of the day when result was announced for fourth class also flashed before my eyes and I was bracketed first with Saroj having scored 165/200 yet half a mark from my aggregate was deducted as I played 'kanchas' with boys-a taboo for students of Putri Pathshala. I was so hurt because it was openly announced in the assembly. That was perhaps the day when I had resolved not to ever play again 'kanchas' or 'gilli danda'.

Ms Ajinder, our Punjabi teacher in Govt. Girls School, Abohar met me one day after the Katha session. She taught us Farid, Bulle Shah, Shah Hussain and Amrita Pritam with such passion !! Her recital of : ‘ajj aakhan waris shah nu, kite kabran wichon bol’ still reverberates. I touched her feet, she hugged me and reminded me of my maiden speech on stage that I had forgotten midway but she quoted from it and said : Sumedha, 'yadi asantosh na hota to pragti na hoti'. I enquired from her about her sister Balwinder who had scribbled once on my notebook a line: 'mukk jandi e samen de naal dil di khalbali' and how I wanted to tell that she was wrong.

Had an opportunity to meet a number of my teachers and class mates in school or college that I had studied in. It was very kind and generous of them to have cared to come and meet me-Rajbala, Neelima, Renu, Urvashi, Sarita, Madam Usha Kiran, Shashi Bala-all are so very pious, full of affection, pure hearted. They are the people who belonged to the golden era. Meeting them again at the same place was so very blissful and overwhelming. I visited a friend (Manju)'s parents in Anar gali-the place that was frequented by us daily for playing table tennis as her Papa had put TT table at home to encourage his children learn and practice the game earnestly. Manju's mom hugged me and during the span of the hug what was melting was the intervening years, all their pains and agonies and ensuing joy of meeting once again in this very life time. Uncle also showed me the family tree they had made to introduce all siblings with their photos and names scribbled therein.

My Abohar has always been epitome of the purest joy-simple, plain, filling, unconditional affection and love. The route that takes me to Abohar has indescribable healing power. My Ma was on dias to thank everybody.She said: we have always got so much of love and respect from Abohar; we also love Abohar. True, we now live in Kurukshetra ‘par hum jahan bhee hain, khush hain kyunki saara hindustan hamara hai'.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A thing called happiness

They often say that happiness is not something you can buy, dispatch or receive. Further, if only happiness were 'available' in stores, there would be long queues with people apprehending a no-stock situation. They also say there are no discounts on a thing called happiness on special days like Christmas or Boxers' Day, Diwali or Akshay Tritiya albeit at times you may bag it free when you invest for another things ( buy -one- get- one ?).

Not always one can find it lying on-the-way. Sometimes, a bit of an extra effort is needed to go (as much required for initial visits to Gymn or going for a morning walk) what may seem out-of-the-way to give and get joy like a pleasant surprise.

No. A complete thing called khushi cannot be 'but an occasional episode' in the general drama of pain. True, it may oft seem to have its finger on the lips bidding adieu but the wholeness, the totality, the aura of ecstatic moments is not something which can be wiped off with movement of time in moments, days, years. It stays on and wakes up at slightest invocation but alas! We believe more in evoking pain, morbidity, melancholy, brooding and revel in their luxury while all the joys sit back and look at us haplessly.

Is it not that our mind gets ‘fixed’ on notions created by ourselves that this- would and that surely would not bring happiness? Many small things that elation consists of get swept off failing our touchstone of pleasure. We may not endorse to it but happiness also believes in giving surprises. Sometimes it just stands before us to hug and tell it loves us. Caught unawares we see its ‘beaded bubbles winking at the brim’. Such a be-mausmi barsat of joy soaks our dry crust, our eyes as well and we inhale it like a deep breath with gratitude feeling the presence that disturbs with elevated thoughts.

Infact we lack the tendency to take joy and all its expressions through smiles, laughter, guffaws or grins seriously. This callous attitude misses out intensity and depth of happiness we tend to associate only with serious (no -nonsense) talk, sadness and gloom.

Happiness flows flawlessly, an easy going thing but we are 'difficult' and become still more difficult with our natural appreciation for clinging to dates associated with past or prospective events, happenings and thereby in equal proportion we mar simple joys by blurring their flow leading to us.

Thanks to all the high tech 21st century and the hand holding gadgets which have facilitated quick recipes to joy. The sixties' Abba “Ring Ring’ is true for sms being 'the happiest sound of the all' but most of us only stand and wait not caring to reach out and acknowledge forgetting that happiness is also in giving as much as in receiving. I think all the ‘sound and fury’ of this business called life, all the ‘getting and spending’ is futile if khushi is elusive and conspicuously absent. We are the least harmful when happy and vice versa.

The Total Woman

She is the most beautiful woman - a total woman. I can vividly recall how I used to keep beholding her mesmerized by her captivating charm. I loved to watch especially her glowing hands –soft, pinkish white after she had washed the clothes, touch them and that sensation sweet which filled me reverberates even now when she puts her hand on mine –her gesture to show she’s there. In childhood, it used to hurt me to see those beautiful hands blackened by the dust with which she cleaned the wares but she would not allow any of her daughters to clean bartan come what might.

Simplicity, grace and dignity are her hallmarks. I don’t think any of us-her seven daughters could ever question her sense of justice or equanimity. She has had her share of suffering, hurts and pain but never did she fail in any of her duties as a wife, a mother or a grand ma. Un-complaining she has carried on without carrying any negativity fondly pursuing her interest in literature. And I bet none of us has read as many books including the Vedas, Puranas .

With her passion for self-respect and dignity of labor, she started working as an agent for the LIC when she was 58. Till date she has pursued her work motivating women in the neighborhood for small savings. Not only she has always earned her livelihood, she cares to send her contribution to Prime Minister’s relief fund whenever a disaster besieged the country besides being regular contributor for education for the disabled or poor girls and to Gaushalas and a number of social activities of the town.

Her zidd to overlook her pain or discomfiture caused her MI. In 1981 When we lost our father, she showed so much of fortitude, gracefully hid her tears and put a bold front before us exhorting us to concentrate on studies reminding us of how Pitaji would not have liked his daughters to be weak-hearted or sad ever. Just after a few days of the tragedy, she wrote me while I was in the hostel to remember: unhe aansuon se nafrat thee, udasi se ghrina. When she lost her eldest daughter-her first officer daughter, her guroor who was like a pivot of our family, we could feel how deeply she had been shocked and shaken. Perhaps that was the turning point in her life. We have never witnessed her complaining to God but she could be seen spending more time than ever before in the worship room in early morning hours and at night. Untimely demise of another daughter and son-in-law further enfeebled her but she has seemed to keep her grief to herself not really sharing in words. At times, a quiver in her voice or involuntary soaking of her eyes before Guruji chokes us but beyond this we have never seen ay display of pain or sorrow.

At 82 she still cherishes fondly the memories of her role model, her saintly mother whose hands had great healing power and is often reminiscent of how her father worked in a shop despite his failing health to enable his daughter to continue her schooling. My father, too, respected her sentiment and she finished her schooling appearing in final matriculation exams from Dev Samaj Boarding school in 1946. Her regret seems to be her inability to pursue further studies and doing college and that personal sense of loss she has abundantly embalmed by ensuring the best of education to all her daughters despite tremendous financial constraints and testing circumstances.
She has always succeeded in making each of us feel special. I often wonder at her incorrigible sixth sense. Whenever I have attempted to hide whatever is bothering me (really I do not know how) she finds the heart of the matter and is around me caring, not asking anything ever just being around me silently understanding. She has always made sure that whenever her grand children care to come, they must get what they love most. When we try to restrain her from working in the kitchen, she finds ways to do the needful in our absence cooking things in bits and parts and only on arrival of Guddu, Sugi, Megha, Varun, Mira, Shivani we find the surprise of their choicest nani ke haath ki bani choorie or pinnies.

She has come a long way from being part of Arya Mahila Paropakarini Sabha, Abohar as it President working for the upliftment of the down trodden women and empowerment of their daughters through vocational education to Saarthak-her brain child- formed in the fiftieth year of independence to inculcate amongst children patriotism and to make enabling interventions for the disabled children; from Badminton playing young member of Ladies Club, Abohar to anonymously contributing her mite in creating community feeling amongst neighbours through weekly satsang . One thing has not changed ever since-her hospitality and her ability to make people feel special with her home made delicacies.

I have not told her often but through this I want to say: ‘I love you, mamma and on this hundredth Woman’s Day, I salute you, the epitome of a total woman’.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are you still carrying?

         Hmmm…it is difficult, tricky, hard, complex, intricate, nay beri difficult indeed jee to simply ‘let go’. How can we? How is it possible? Naaaa..this is really not sambhav, bhai. ‘jaane bhee do’ was possible when I was a thumb sucking, kanche playing child. Then it was easy not to carry a loss, a pain, a hurt beyond the sleep-full night. The heavy baggage of heartfelt pain could not be carried by lean, thin, tiny, little me (how hard to imagine that, my God!!). Memory card of a child consists of only a few bytes. It is easier for him to clear the cache (pronounce kaish) and this fifty year old me had not even known the meaning of this phrase till the other day when a friend used it in an sms.

I could never understand when somebody would use the word be-faltoo-a double negative. Now I do. It meant ‘By God, really faltoo’- clothes, utensils, bags, purses we hoard so fondly in our homes like wires in a bureaucrat’s office. We may have lost the ability to remember our phone number but our hyper-susceptible to painful impressions wali memory possesses card of thousand of GBs. In proportion to positives we carry so much of negatives that an imbalance is created and its like getting along the waves of the sea and then crying: ‘oh, am drenched!’. Year after year the expansion is taking place like our own flab.

       Not only this we also talk of loutna, going back in time again and again from what is, where we are, unable to accept things as they are. A reprimand from a mother would generally be: maine kaha than na? Driving at break neck speed and crossing a stupid-jumbled speed braker followed by a PWD B&R hoarding: You had been warned-aapko  soochit kar diya gaya tha. It lessens the pain or enhances is anybody’s guess.

      Carrying comes naturally to us. Letting go does not. We are making it booming business for so many to teach us how to take a deep breath in, release it, open the eyes and feel relaxed. Like zen Ekido we continue to ‘carry the girl’. It is painful to let go the I of a  you and I.  Naturally it is hard to feel and be like the people, the mob, the mass, the crowd that forgets, does not remember despite having its best sucked out and wasted. But to be fair to ourselves, we do forget too or else how shall we sing a love song in a strange land when we have been through the stage when everything but death comes. We carry fire in the heart and go on.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Knitting

I always loved to play kanche, gilli danda, pitthooPaak kala or other arts which girls are generally supposed to learn were not really my cup of tea. When I was in college, my friend Sarika, so proficient in cross stitch was adamant to teach me how to embroider. May be she thought that it would enhance my shadi ke prospects. Morally bound to do a friend’s bidding, I made two embroideries-one consisting two angels and another castle. It felt like an achiever proud of doing something deemed impossible!
During my stint as a lecturer in FCC my friend insisted that I must knit (actually knit, bhai) and I chose double knit yarn as it involved thick needles. I did knit a sweater for myself. The border was done by my friend (using thin knitting needles was quite a nightmare for me!). I do not know whether any one ever came to know that on finishing the knitting,  I ironed the sweater fondly and lo! It became so misshapen! It was catastrophic! For quite some time I kept gazing at the deformed baby of my labor of love. It was depressing indeed. After that I gave up the chase to be ‘samajhdaar’ woman and never tried to prove my mettle in this arena.
But I confess I love knitting - it’s easy, less complex, more comforting, cozy and provides such a nigh. They all,  who have witnessed over three and half decades of my good old fifty years would agree (I am uncomfortable at the very thought of all of them getting together!) that I have loved to knit words and expressions. It has been my endeavor not to create knots but more often than not I end up with so many of them that a life time seems insufficient to un-knot and resolve; that sometimes I would  use patterns, too with lexis-presentable, attractive, soft and intense; that I would know where my designs were going beyond the hedge and yet nothing would stop me; that the yarn would look soft when afresh but like a brat I would not take much time to spoil the broth, spill it on the lovingly knit sambndh; that I have been (sort of) an expert weaver unmindful of being watched what was being woven at dawn, noon and dusk. For sure I do not know one thing that the patterns get noticed by the people very soon and that it is their fitrat to forget, its their simplicity that they forget, its not theirs to ‘learn to remember’ or else all my designs would get known and then they would not be fooled anymore.
But then I have not learnt knitting either. It is something which comes naturally to me. I do not know how to create designs, shapes. Nor have I ever wanted to impress any one with forms, colors of what is spontaneously knit by me. Besides, I know it is easier to get into a complex design but very difficult to manage that. The situation gets messy like packing before a take off with heaps scattered in front of you.
I have not been a deft weaver and dread being shown the knots (gaanth) in my knitting; have often left loose tand here and there callously unmindful of how thin threads can get entangled to the extent that cutting them apart is the lone solution as I possess absolutely no ability to untangle the tiny loops. They may make a beautiful design in crochet but when it comes to prem ka dhaga,  Rahimji has the last say.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

whats cooking?

The day my daughter got engaged to a strapping handsome young man, a friend literally tried to drag me on to the dance floor. I mumbled: ‘I can do anything but dance. That’s the only thing that’s beyond me’. But was it? I heard a voice – Can you cook Sumedha? While I tried to find an easy answer, I was transported back to my school days. Those were beautiful times. And to match, I was khoobsoorat too then, I surmise. That was four decades ago. Whether it was in the Arya Putri Pathshala or the taton wala sarkari school- I don’t recall clearly. What I remember is that I always looked forward to the annual ‘rasoee day . It was like a rapid fire cookery class with lots of emphasis on the art of cooking, serving what you dished out, garnishes and what not. Well, frankly, that’s all I know about cooking other than eating of course.

It’s not that I didn’t try even if forced by circumstance. As a teacher of English at F. C. College in Hisar, I regularly dined at the oily smelling hostel mess. One fine summer day, Dolly, a hot-headed lady who served the food was throwing her tantrums and she rudely threw the food tray in front of me. I could not stomach the insult and decided I was better off without food rather than eat a humble pie.

That was the day of revelation. Or perhaps,reckoning. I bought a messy kerosene stove and all the grocery stuff like rice, noodles, spices which cost me quite a fortune in those good old days. But the real challenge lay ahead. How do I cook for this paapi pet? I couldn’t find an answer even after trying to make dough out of flour umpteen times. Lost like Alice in Wonderland, I went on a diet of butter and toast for several days. I realised that our revered DDJ who taught us Linguistics at Panjab University had a lesson for us when he he would say learning a language and its pronunciation was like cooking and swimming. Nobody could master it by reading books. You had to actually do it to master it. I now realise he was stating a universal truth.

I recall another time I flirted with cooking. Those were the days when mobile phones and Spectrum scandals were yet to be born. On a karwa chauth eve I thought that a close friend might have forgotten about the fasting. So I took it on myself to remind her. What better way to do so than offering her sargee in the wee hours of the morning. And, so I cooked a ba-kayda food, hired a rikshaw and landed at her place with the dabba. I don’t remember whether she partook of it. Half a century can erase many memories! But she was touched, for sure.

Months later, frozen ‘bawarchee’ food packets were introduced. Whenever I visited Delhi, I would bring a few packets from Gainda Mal Hem Raj stores. We loved to share it. And everytime we ate we prayed that the Bawarchee brand would prosper. Delicious, is all I can say about Bawarchee.

But gradually I learnt the difference between frying and deep frying, a half and a hard boiled egg, regular pakodas and pakodis for kadhi. But this learning had its lighter moments too. I can’t forget how my friend had a mighty laugh when her hubby asked me if I had added water to the leftover kadhi while heating it. How could I deny it when I had done exactly that. Those were the days when I earned the fond sobriquet of Miss Paneerwala for the matar-paneer I could cook.

When I donned the garb of a mother, my favourite pastime on any Sunday came to be cooking for my daughter. But, uttapam and upma were still a taboo for me. I bought a microwave cooker too, but, the machine looked to me as if I were an alien. I salute all the good mothers who have had the good fortune of cooking delicious food for their offspring. In that sense, I have not been a complete mother. That remains a regret.

My academic pursuits too led me to the kitchen. The greatest learning experience in culinary arts I had was when I was studying in England. I loved to cook for my host AJ and Geeta who worked double shifts to find their feet in the alien land. AJ would often complain that ustadji’s paronthe were solely responsible for all the flab. When my younger sister came calling I enthusiastically told her how I had learnt to cook broths and pastas, Spinach Spaghetti, Shepherd’s pie and Yorkshire pudding. She was not amused. She was in tears and all she said was “let’s go back”. She found it hard to accept I had worked so hard to be a cook of sorts. I can’t imagine what would have been my fate, without my siblings and mother. But for them I would not be having a regular meal. I can’t even thank them enough.

In fact, I lack all that makes a good cook. It’s so easy to blame the lack of time. Or the belief that I am one mortal made for higher callings. Yet, I believe I am a shirker. I can’t seem to work hard to cook a good meal though I can word hard to earn it. But, that’s how I am. If I can’t cook, knit or dance, I can always cook an excuse why I can’t. That’s me!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh, February!!

         The transition in the weather always unsettles to the extent that everything seems so unsure-even the ‘earth beneath the feet’. I cannot think of clutching of roots or branches growing. The imminent ‘change’ like the coming events casting their shadows before can be felt in the air and felt along the heart. The fragrance in the air becomes conspicuously different, the gait of early morning breeze becomes unsteady, unexpected drizzle adds fuel to ‘ its different ’ texture of the dawn or the dusk.

Decades ago the approaching March or October would dread but significantly over the years that scene has shifted to January ending or February beginning or November end or December beginning (global warming!). What has not changed with age ever since adolescence is the association of transitional phase of weather with people and relations we grow up with. During the phase, all the dilemmas we read about in literature like ‘two roads diverging in a yellow wood’ or ‘good fences make good neighbors’ or ‘something there is that does not love a wall’ stare on the face like the famous ‘to be or not to be’!!

With all the huallagulla of Valentine’s Day round the corner and romance- in- the- air, as they say, I have not been prepared (caught unawares as always!) for yet another change (have I not had enough, my God?) and  (please don’t blame me!!) naturally I find myself squirming with discomfiture. No, I have not questioned God (hardly know Him!) about the why of it nor muttered my resentment. My own silence is disturbing as it is not matching the storm within. Definitely ‘I am not prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be’ but then this, too,  is true that I have always been nagged by ‘And then how should I begin?’ with the comforting carpet of warmth having been sort- of –removed from under my feet, the protective glance having been shifted leaving me dithered.

Haven’t I seen it all already? Haven’t I learnt to protect or shield myself from the overwhelming pain? Hasn’t my intuition seen it coming and how come I would one-fine-day-find myself left in the cold despite the Basant? Every time it comes, it diminishes me to the extent I feel nothing-can –hurt-me-anymore.

Huh, resilience? Hardly!!  Pure and simple ‘dheethaee’ to go on despite come-what-may and over and above keep ismiling till the temples ache. ‘Accepting challenges of time?’  Oh, no. Have already grown too old to do that. ‘Wanna prove the mettle?’ Come on, its all grayed now. Then must be fearful of the ‘heat of the sun’ or ‘winter’s furious rages’ ? I really do not know what makes it all go on despite the pain that seems to tear me apart; I really do not know what moves me through all the testing times; I really do not know how do I survive all the hopelessness, nagging negativity and jeopardized my never-say-die spirit of whom I have been so proud a partner.

Suddenly, it has started drizzling assuaging my dizziness due to transitional dark before rising of the morning sun. The show must go on, after all. Oh February, you have given me so much that I can hardly thank you for everything. Most of all you have introduced me to my that self whom I hadn’t known existed. 

Morning Buzz-II

I owe it to you, my morning buzz, a sincere ‘thank you’. Not much long ago did I discover how easy laughter came to me, that I too ( et tu brute?) possessed some sense of humour, wow!

You made me re-know how to breathe coz often I had heard Sri Sri jis and Baba Ramdevs  that we breathe only 30 percent and lo! I discovered what it meant to breathe one hundred percent. To be honest, I have also fumbled with my breaths (as with my words I often find myself fumbling)when my ’kambakht’ dil would seem to dance to a different beat, the ‘chaal’ in ‘its  different masti’ and ‘saanso ki mala’ humming an altogether makhsoos dhun. And I also owe it to you, my divine mornings that something there has been that would always sing in my ears: ‘I believe in angels, something good in everything I see’ though I know when someone sings this song-that sure one would when ‘the dream’ comes true-I would definitely be there from where I no more could hear.

True, of late during my walks across all the four landmarks, I have heard more of silence than ‘yogic’ laughters. Sometimes, I have also wondered what enabled those meaningless tears trickle down when there were no droplets falling from the sky. Infact, so many good things have happened that would ‘hairaan’ me (surprise, amaze, shock, astonish-nothing seems to say what ‘hairaan’ can) e.g. my ankles no more hurt me, my shoes are worn out but I do not feel the need for new shoes any more, I may miss the beat now and then when I go for walk in the morning but I miss my walks every time I am not able to ‘prepare’ myself to respond to the morning buzz with positivity; the lights on the fourth land mark still attract me as much as the lights of University of Christminster would lure Jude; the brightest star seems in more hurry than before to leave the sky but my competitive spirit has not given way.

I know..I know a ‘yug’ is over and that ‘that time is past’ and sach, its ‘aching joys’ are no more (coz those laughters would ache my temples), sachmuch,  I cannot paint what then I was but I do realize that time has chiseled me, chastened me, humbled me and to say the least taught me as always it does to all of us that ‘happiness is but an occasional episode.’

Oh! The crust of the road I move on is the same; the air I breathe on my journey back home is as ‘khoobssorat’ as it always has ben; the sky can be seen often changing its texture allowing the clouds sometimes, sometimes plainly looking at me ismiling; Sharon seems almost  always prepared to let me go provided I let him get to the main gate to see me off; the ‘dheeth’ me has found its feet again (oh, my God, yet again!!).

And for this and everything I am grateful- sincerely grateful (if the phrase means anything) to you for the first morning buzz. I am yet to rise, yet to awake fully, the fog is still there, the cold is gone yet its ‘sheet ta’ shivers me but I am grateful, for there is ‘abundant recompense’. Thank you, my morning buzz.

Morning Buzz

And lo! It buzzed at 4.58am. Was I prepared? Did I want it? Why was I conscious of the impending ring? Had for long been hearing the warning bells, giving them a damn and continued with the I-don’t- care but the latest signal was a bit rude, its shadow hanging around like wide eyed parental reprimand ‘this-won’t- go-on, understand!’ And when it buzzed with all seriousness of purpose, I found myself excuses for a good ‘muhurat’ like Holi, Diwali but it exhorted ‘lets go, shall we?’ A hard nut fumbled with what-to-wear? Where are my walking shoes? Oh! It might be cold, was I prepared? And everything seemed to be laid on platter like a well knit design to drag my ‘unwilling steps’ as a birdie wind sheeter winking with scribble ‘fly with a smile’ found on opening the cupboard, my reebok (albeit in dire need of ‘mujhe badal dalo’) and one tool still missing-my walk ‘danda’ to save me from wagging happy –to- help’s meharbaniyan. And I was getting impatient with myself : ‘ki-ab-chalo-bhee-bahut ho gaye nakhre’ and there I was opening the door only to find a surprised Sharon with questioning look of ‘where sirji, early in the morning ?’ I heaved a heavy hearted sigh but just then a whiff of fresh air made me close my eyes like a majnoo breathing in fragrance of a Ponds’ talcum model.

Why was I behaving like a ‘dheeth’ child telling myself ‘I have come but no farther than the first landmark of Major Nitin Bali Road’ where I reached in no time, saluted the warrior and speedily walked past as the second landmark of Zila Bagwani Vibhag was just close by. Thought I would insist on drawing my feet back home but they went on to the third, fourth land marks reaching the Sector 5 turn, My toes had started asserting with ‘enough!’ So there I was on my way back only to feel awe for almost a decade older person jogging and hordes of people thronging the bye-pass for a morning walk. And I thanked the morning buzz for all its spontaneously enriching freshness which I had denied myself for no valid nor sound reason. After ages I welcomed the doodhwala and prepared the morning tea, managed the morning chores of boiling the milk, putting the morning bhog to apne kanha ji, having a cup of tea and feeling free having contributed my mite in domestic management for the whole day! This above all- turning to my writing that I had missed all these days. Thank you, my morning buzz. I am awake at last.