There is no doubt, just delay and long days of waiting. Days rolling into months that I know now would soon be a year – another year – of waiting.
In a series of scores of others but not like this one. This year is different, in this one there is smell of rain. But no respite.
The path lay hidden under futile efforts, attractive options that I know would detract. To be hacked clear of obstacles with the machete of thought, difficult decisions.
There is fear. Fear is the familiar constant.
I let it flow, through me, like the water I must drink. I let visions and wishfilled thoughts that would one day transform today’s reality, play, out in the sun.
I smear words, thoughts, wishes, dreams, desires of the burning, now restless, but not impatient heart, on the walls of chatrooms, hollows, dark cavernous, crowded, unknown, strange human minds.
For, if you can see them, you can find a way to hold ’em; if you can hold them, you can feed ’em, if you can feed them, they shall live and if they live, you can hope for them to thrive and if they thrive, I can cover the one hundred thousand miles.
Where I shall walk a few years hence is now a visible street, four walled spaces, lined with sound of distant voices, strange and cold.
The signs, though, are not always easily readable. But I see them – now – all the time. People, ideas, chances come together in curious synchronicity.
If wishes were horses we would still need the plane: through the pathless way, to a gateless gate, in and out of a life I have lived so far.
The Prince Dances – First View August 09
The first morning at my new place am gifte with this gorgeous sight. First time ever in my life I spot a peacock outside a zoo znd watch it dance! Very happy, very excited, wonderfilled with nature’s welcome to me…ran inside to grab the camera…my first video shoot too with a Nikon 5.0 megapixel digital, the distance is too great I think. Don’t have the software to render – so just wanted to share the rush with the world for those like me – that have never seen a peacock dance. Hope you like it.
One curious thing is Prince calls me when he comes in on that roof. Then when I come out he begins. The first day there was no pea hen in sight – so I presume he danced for ME! Now, when he calls to wake me up, I go out say “Hi” and feed him a banana or bread.He prefers the fruit. Other members in the family are not that friendly. They fly about – I didnt know peacocks couldfly that much!
A moment alone together before the family flies in
Gottacha: a moment alone together before the family flies in
Foursome – Peacock Style September 09
Here is the whole family. They come together for their family time only once, early morning, on the roof of the pumphouse across from my building. My room is on the terrace, so I get a good view 🙂
Notnowbaby – Peacock Dance September 09
He has been trying for over four weeks with her now. Perseverence, my boy, Prince needs to keep at it I guess, he really likes her a lot, won’t even look at any other – there are three females in our compound.
Prince’s love: this is the one he fancies
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance …. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”
From the historic All India Radio broadcast Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, had made….
We have come a long way since then. What remains of what India was and what I wish for in the days ahead, to retain as Indian, is what this post about.
What remains are some of the things I would work to cherish and ‘retain’.
The essence of Indianness: the willingness to accept, working from the abundance mentality, “jodi hao shujon, tentul pataey nau jon” (translated from Bangla, it means, ‘if you are good neighbours, if you are good people, nine of you can easily fit onto a single leaf from the tamarind tree’ 🙂 I love that. About my country.
Since ancient times, for years there has been a constant influx of people from different parts of the world, from different cultures – they came, brought their horses, clothes, food, religion, books, art, philosophy, technology, wisdom – blending into the melting pot called India.
Persians became Parsis, set up their fire temples, their businesses; the wild war like pardesis from the middle east of Asia; the Greeks came with Alexander and settled in Kashmir; the Sindhis, the Afghans crossed the silk route across the Kyber pass in the northern frontier; the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the French crossed the Indian ocean; the Turks, the Armenians, the Chinese (you have Chinatown in Kolkata); the displaced Tibetans, Nepalis, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis.
There has been only one kind of discrimination ever in this country : the Hindus vs Muslims.
It flamed into devastating riots breaking the country into three parts, (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India) only after the Brits lit the fire under the bomb before they left India. The LoC is one of their legacies too. The Koh-i-Noor sailed away to England as did numerous priceless paintings, documents, with the last English ship leaving India at last to its own fate. They had left the famous muslin industry crushed, having cut off the thumbs of muslin weavers to sustain the textile of Manchester. That I would never ever see a genuine piece of muslin silk is thanks to the Brits.
And yet – irony is we learned our first lessons of Nationality from them!
And this is what is the typical Indianness I admire about my country, every single Englishman, Scotsman, Irishman, Germans, every single philosopher, missionary, teacher, doctors, musician, nurse, soldier, benevolent tea planter, wives, husbands – were welcomed with open arms. Not one of them would have a single tale of woe to tell of discrimination on grounds of colour or creed to recount to grandchildren.
We let them be even as we studied them, learned from them, explained to them gently our ways (India never has been an aggressor), waited patiently till they learned to value what was our age old customs and traditions and we were rewarded at some point with their excited discovery and ‘show the world India’ enterprises.
We are proud of these Europeans that made our country their home. Mother Teresa (a Macedonian), Sister Nivedita (an American) assisting Vivekananda at the RK Missions, the Mother (French) with Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, numerous others working with Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan. William Hiki’s Gazette is still revered, remembered.
Back home in Kolkata, we still like to call New Market ‘Firpos’ because we feel sentimental about the foreigners that we loved and that loved us 🙂
I remember with respect today the numerous European, Scandinavian, Italian nuns and priests, Mother Provincials, that taught us who we were, when we were young and in school.
We proudly named our roads after these foreigners ( ‘aliens’ as they are called in the US) awards, grants, schools, colleges too. Annie Beasant was the first to set up her Theosophical society where Bengalis from different communities and religious backgrounds got together to study ‘planchet’ and theories related to the spiritual legacy of the dead.
Bethune College is where fellow OS er Traveler1 studied, one of the best girl’s collegiate schools in India, not forgetting the Lady Brabourne College for Women in Kolkata or the St Xavier’s or the La Mratiniere or the Scottish Church College or the Loretos.
Then there is the German that India loves, Karl Marx, (Max Mueller Bhavan is looked upon as an important cultural hubs in cities like Kolkata and Pune) that in a way ‘presented’ India to the world as it were, for the first time, translating our ancient Sanskrit texts into modern world languages for us, proving how nearly 80% of world languages were born out of it, initiating India studies, causing the Asiatic Society to be formed.
Through him we learned that Sanskrit has the world’s first documented grammar! If it wasn’t for him, it would surely have taken another hundred years.
Religious bigotry is a pain in the ass, oppression of women is a headache, social development is dragging, economy is struggling to keep up with pressures from within and without – terrorism is ripping the tapestry of our psyche – and yet, every time I attempt to – I can still find my self, untarnished, the spirit in pieces, chipped, but mended with the cellotape of the slightest support it managed to glean from all over the geographical space inside the earth.
We have been attacked, plundered, devastated by invasion – yes – but I would like to remember today, how without these ‘encounters’ as it were, we would not have been what we are today.
We have a history of living with Strangers that came and became one of us. We welcomed them in our space even when we didn’t have enough. And at the time when we were one of the richest worlds of the ancient times.
I am proud that we are culturally not scared of strangers. I do not feel threatened to expose myself to alien cultures. Or communities. That is being Indian for me.
On the occasion of our Independence Day, I salute the legacies that thousands of pardesis have left behind as their loving tribute to India.
I made some changes to the appearance of the Front page of my Log. You must have noticed that you cannot see your URL anymore, the Blogroll only features Paul, Ian and the WP standard.
I also pasted the Blue Ribbon Movement logo right at the top as I support the movement from my university days and feel all right thinking individuals and organizations ought too, if content and right to expression is important to them. I do believe these are crucial to the survival of a ‘people friendly’ world order and must not needlessly be politicized or stuck in grooves of petty, narrow domestic, regional interests.
I recently learned to use the text box in the side bar feature on WP, where you can embed widgets. I used to stare at the lovely little things on people’s blogs and wonder how they do it, when I chanced upon it by accident (with a bit of nudging by Sushant) although, as you can see, I could not embed “where you come from” Map of the world. But I was very happy to see how little alphabet like signs transformed themselves into fun little pictures that moved and danced.
I played around with it for a bit 🙂 like a child with a new toy – it still doesn’t fail to excite and amaze me how that little blue button down at the bottom of the page ‘knows’ how many people are reading the page! How does it do it? It is so tiny and only a colored button!!! I wish I knew.
Anyway, I recently got some query about my favorite subject for discussions – Bangla Bands, regional ‘rock’ (well not all of this contemporary stuff is that, but the kids like to call it that 🙂 ) music. I realized am supposed to keep people posted. So, like Ashok who writes the absolutely hilariously serious blog called “Doing Jalsa Showing Jilpa”, I made space for the Bands in the side bar – as you might have noticed, so you can easily find them all at one place, now, the links to the website of all the Major Bands.
Artist like, most of these guys are not bothered about such things as beating their own drums. They are too happy to be able to make music and live on their own rocking terms. So these sites suffer from neglect – they need a vigilant secretary – someone like me to keep at it I guess 😉 but I don’t think any of them are listening…
At least, for those that are interested, now, you would get ‘some’ information about them in their own words, their album listings, labels, press, band members names with their email ID and contact numbers from the sites.
To make space for these guys, and fit in all the links of my own friends, I created a whole fresh new page for my Blogroll separately. The list of people I wanted to be able to view and go read at will, was expanding by the day anyway, the space had to be bigger.
I made a new blogfriend called Mike lately, a wonderfully grounded, amazingly affectionate and warm and family and life oriented geek, that is so much fun to read and get to know. He just loves his life so much, it is a pleasure to hear him talk, in his blog. When I had said I wish to understand why men go crazy about Linux Ubuntu, he went and did a whole post about it and made sure it was NOT geeky at all so I could ‘read’ it!
He is a bit like Priyank and Vee and Alok and Crazy Sam and Sunny and all these bright young people I happen to know, who light up your world with their zest for life and freshness of being.
I also discovered Anchal Tyagi, a feisty woman of my age, who thinks the world is her oyster when she is in a good mood – love the way she thinks and writes and loves her beau 😀 and writes her blog, recently she was into the pink chaddi movement in a prominent way too.
And found Doug at Open Salon and discovered Open Salon. I had stumbled upon Doug Moran on EBlogger last year, when he had done that spit-out-at-the-world post on “why bloody should it matter to the State if my friend is a Gay or Lesbian and how does their marriage affect mine”. Now he has moved to OS, I have updated his link. I like OS by the way – you could check it out when you have time.
Through Rambodoc I discovered a great ex Army man that does ‘cool’ posts on exercise regimens and diet, would have to link him up here for you, but I would like to ask him first, feel a little shy right now…but would get him here for you sometime, so you can sometimes enjoy his blog too, if you are curious about such things, that is…
Also, read a wonderful piece at firstname.lastname@example.org dated Navratri…she says, one has to go away sometimes, to come back stronger! Really loved that. It is as poignant as Priyank’s post about that nine year old alter-ego of his had been…
With no TV, stereo and the VDO drive on computer not working, no friends or family or boy friend here in this strange city of Ahmedabad (feel uncomfortable socializing with ‘colleagues’ being basically a shy person), I blog surf like crazy these days. So that list of fav-reads continues to grow. Some of you are such amazing writers, you take my breath away. I am very fond of words. Even now that am grown up, they still conjure sound, sight, dreams for me and transport me the way nothing else but only love can!
So, then, hope you would let me know if there is any other way I can shift things around to make my space a little more roomy. Haven’t heard from Odzer, Vee, Alok, Priyank, Ashes, Lakshmi in a long, long time. I really miss you guys. I know I haven’t posted anything nice to draw you here, but am sure we are friends enough, now, for you to come and say a virtual “hi” now and then?
She looked around. Could not see him.
The couple sitting on the table across from theirs caught her attention. The woman wore a lovely red-yellow-brown Shantiniketani batik silk saree, her hair was pulled up casually in a loose bun behind her shapely head. Strands of black curls that just wouldn’t stay tied-in, framed her face. It was a typical Bengali face, slightly heart shaped, with dreamy large black eyes that made one think of the bottom of a dark inky black well. She had creamy olive-brown complexion and a very straight, slightly oily, shiny nose, the end of which resembled the chiselled tip of a bamboo flute. A large maroon dot adorned her little forehead. It was a tired but kind face that looked like it could break into a smile any moment.
Her mate looked pensive and he had a face that was hard around the edges, but it shared the same quality of easy gentleness with hers. These people looked like they had never ever slapped anyone or screamed or uttered a word of profanity ever in their lives…they made a fascinating stareable picture together – like a Subrato Gangopadhyay illustration…
But where is he?
Ever since her divorce years back, she hardly ever saw anyone. Reason being, her profession. She was naturally prevented from meeting unattached men. The people she met on a typical day would be parents, teachers, computer professionals and domain experts. They came, they did what they had to do, called her “Madam” and then they left and that was it. She never ever saw any of these people again.
He had been a different story. The first day they had met in the library, she had been excited, they had discussed Contact, a Jodie Foster film she had watched the night before. Turns out that’s his favourite actress too.
She had talked – he had listened quietly. Later, he had asked, “Have you read Atlas Shrugged?” That had seemed to her to be irrelevant and absurd at that time. No, Fountainhead. “Well, you would like this one, I would get it for you”. With that he had disappeared from her space.
She had seen him again six months later. One cool dry spring morning as she walked into the staffroom, she had seen – no, not seen, she isn’t good at seeing people, she senses them or at best perceives their presence with her peripheral vision, so, she had sensed this young man there, and had raised her eyes to give him the customary polite good morning. He had silently handed her a battered copy of the classic with an almost inaudible “your book” in English. What?
She had frowned….
Is he making the ice-cream or buying it?
It has been a year since then. Phone calls had followed, but were rare and far between, they hardly ever spoke at work – he was extremely careful not to push, or break into her (sense of) privacy. This is what had endeared this young person to her. Eventually, they had had a few long silent hours together, so comfortable that he had blurted out one day that hearing her over the phone felt like being wrapped up in a cozy warm kaantha on a holiday winter morning! She had laughed to hide her confusion.
Then she saw him, walking tall, striding easily across the grounds of the Nandan Film Complex, towards her, with a couple of cones in each hand. He held her for a couple of minutes with his eyes even as he continued walking.
She broke away from his gaze, got up from her seat, walked over to the parapet towards the roadside, and hitched herself up on the broad wall. Perched there, above the heads of the milling film festival crowd below, they ate their cones, silently watching, until the sun set. In the purple darkness that followed, they noticed that couple walk down towards the snaking line in front of the entrance to the main auditorium.
A thin kid in a crumpled white shirt with rumpled black hair standing in a group nearby, forlornly watched the lucky crowd now entering the hall. When the breeze rustled the leaves of the deodar where they sat, a couple of leaves shook loose and fell where the kid stood. For an instance the kid looked up. He looked puzzled when he had spotted them. Their eyes met.
He turned towards her once and then took out their passes from his back-pocket, raised his left hand slightly in a beckoning gesture. He held up their passes. The kid looked away as if he hadn’t noticed anything at all and pulled his friend closer and they seemed to have a quick consultation. They looked up, at them now. . A moment of hesitation, then the kid walked over. He reached down and handed him their passes.
The kid dropped his eyes, murmured thanks and looked up at her; the look in his eyes didn’t say “we are grateful”.
She didn’t care.
He hesitated for a moment, then his lips twitched and he flashed her a smile. “Aapni shundor” ( “You are nice”). His friend, waved at them from where he stood. When the kid reached him, both of them walked together to the entrance of the auditorium. While the usher checked their passes, the pair had turned back for one last look at the silhouette of the young man and the woman perched on the wall.
He glanced at her. “Do you know how you look right now?” She ignored him. He was far better looking than she was. He always complained about how she neglected to take care of the way she dressed or let her skin go dry and chapped in winter. He held up his hand and pointed. She looked up. “Exactly like those.” He was pointing at the straight-back slender Asopalav trees skirting the grounds, covered with new-born-frail-pale lime green leaves, swaying gently with the cool February breeze. The baby leaves shone, like sparkling happy eyes, in the neon lights of a city getting busy with its evening chores. What? The leaves? The tree? She was puzzled. What did he mean – good or bad?
He watched her as she studied the trees thoughtfully, then everything around her, really taking in the scene now.
He felt something stirring deep inside of him, clawing at his young heart that made him want to get down from that wall and run. But he didn’t budge. He knew he never could bring himself to tell her. She turned to him.
He knew she could not read the expression on his face in the darkness.
“Aren’t they pretty?”
She stared, unsure. She would not exactly call them pretty – they looked good together, that couple…if that is what he meant.
He shrugged and gave up. “Well, if I hadn’t said that, would you have looked? Or have noticed how beautiful they look when the wind blows?”
Well, probably not. For a minute she hesitated…
What??? The bad – bad man! So, that was about those silly trees? And she almost thought for once he was going to….O well, never mind….she flipped her hair impatiently and turned away. He is only – well, he is just him. He isn’t her date or anything.
He watched her frown gather and then disappear. He lifted his hand in a sudden jerking motion, that jolted her a bit, waving it over her head, fanning the air in front of her face and legs – brushing imaginary mosquitoes away from her. Her face doesn’t quite look right. Stupid woman. Impossible woman. Who is going to waste time with someone like this? His suddenly felt tired inside of him. He fidgeted. Without looking at what he was doing, he drew her bag close to him. It felt warm and nice to hold on to. So he hugged it and held it close and looked away and watched the night traffic.
She relaxed, the sound of his voice felt like a caress to her restless soul. He was wearing a loose warm flannel shirt – it flared out when the wind blew and broke the bite of the chill in the wind shielding her from it. It felt cozy and warm to be near him. She sat still, looking completely at ease with the world around her.
Everyone was inside by now although the grounds were not entirely empty. The chai wallahs wandered lazily about with a large kettle propped in the crook of their left arm and the right holding styrofoam cups arranged in a long white pillar. One looked up at them expectantly but moved on when they smiled down at him.
This was Live – a concert under the open sky, a show they had thought might turn out to be much more interesting than what was in an imported Made in Italy can, inside.
A whiff of breeze blew his hair over his head and his face became fully visible as it caught the neon light of the post in front of them. He is so…quiet and young and clean and like a little bird… lovely – she smiled – as one would, when a huge round full moon, suddenly sails into view in the summer sky.