Monday, July 30, 2012

When Sunshine Comes

Along the road of life, one pauses to meet people who leave a lasting impression. This is one such account, unforgettable and deeply inspiring. 

I met N for lunch a few days ago, regarding a certain business proposition he was to make. Backed up by a recommendation from a father-figure, I was quite convinced about my decision long before the meeting took place, nevertheless, this meeting proved to be one of sorts which would banish all my trepidations about life, let alone the 'business' we intended to conduct. 

Before me stood a young, 20s something boy, not very voluble, but warm and genuine in his efforts to facilitate my limited understanding of the subject that I sought very much to demystify. Characteristic of me, it didn't take long for the conversation to veer off into individual domains, which told me this was no ordinary 'boy' but someone who continues to battle hard with the singular intention of transforming his life and those others that matter. 

Close to an hour later, after a stirring foretaste of the circumstances affecting those lives that seemed so distant yet somehow connected, I shook hands with my visitor, masking gloom with enthusiasm, comforted and inspired by the thought of an individual's concerted will to overcome life's adversities.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

From Time to Eternity

Deep within my heart is a place, known only to me, cherubic, pristine, warm and ever-green. It is my ultimate resting place, where I will attain oneness with my creator. It is a place that I visit often, when I spend some intimate moments with myself.

It doesn't puzzle me anymore, but makes me happy, that this final destination will bring me comfort in the realization that the self will not, after all, need any identity or role for continuity or attainment of a purpose - a purpose to just be happy, merged with nature and blissful in existence.

And today, I'm reminded of William Penn who rightly said that 'death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.'

Monday, July 16, 2012

Between the Known and the Unknown

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.  ~Daniel J. Boorstin, Democracy and Its Discontents

A few days ago, I had the rare privilege of visiting a popular college here and being part of an interaction with some students over a certain subject, and in the process discovered how much more broader in thought the student of today has come to be. I was absolutely living a dream of wanting to be able to visit a vibrant campus and surround myself with youth, perhaps in a frantic attempt to reverse the ageing process that had set it on my mind!

Witnessing a remarkable sense of passion and fair understanding of the reality of the subject being discussed, I was amazed at how proficient young minds have cultivated themselves despite the inordinate, often highly demanding stakes of the present day. On stating this, one could perhaps face the argument that 'a student of today has access to limitless information along with more relevant examples which help in decision making and better understanding', a claim I will not subscribe to, but will be unable to disprove.

Now, as these already marvelous scholars prepare to step outside of their most prized state of being natural, creative, instinctive, and curious and then subject themselves to worldly forces to become 'analytical, logical and all the other junk', it is more of a social and national loss that will continue to occur - sadly!

And, as for me, humbled by the sights and sounds of an interface that lasted not long, I returned feeling young, blessed, happy and most importantly at the door of my destiny. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bombay Meri Jaan

There are cities and there is Bombay! By no standards would you be able to compare it with any other city in India, or, for that matter, with any in the world! Among the first things one notices about Bombay are its stark contrasts - one of abject and desolate poverty and the other of incredible opulence. Perhaps, it is safe to assume that these disparities do not co-exist in any place else, if not always in such sheer scale and evidence. Yet, the more amazing of facts is that these opposites cohabit in harmony unmindful of one another and their way about within this hideously cramped milieu.

It is in Bombay that one would truly realize the value of space and the premium it carries. At any given moment, a good part of its 20 million odd inhabitants are constantly rubbing shoulders with one another seemingly restive and on the brink. It doesn't take long for one to realize that boundaries of personal space and individual realm are to be re-defined in the context of Bombay's standards.

There aren't many open spaces here, and the only massive open expanse is the sea that borders what once used to be the seven islands, now interconnected and once called the good little bay. It is quite another thing that it often tempts the articulating mind of mine to replace the word good with big, very big! And most certainly, it would be apt to replace the word places with spaces while referring to any part of Bombay.

Bombay is inimitable in its own sense, for there are sights and experiences one possibly wouldn't be treated to any place else. Massive edifices, relics of an era long gone, yet rich and elegant in splendour garland the popular financial esplanade along with corporate houses whose names one regular reads on the pages of Forbes and the like. Yet, not so far away a fishing community has made its home in the buzz of activity, hardly a furlong from where the Executive of the State claims to conduct its business!

If you could meet anyone from across the Earth on Times Square in New York, then on Marine Drive you could easily run into a Shastri, Subramanian, Saxena, Sheikh, Sebastian, Singh, Sharma, Sinha and many more all at once.

Walk eastward along the cobble-stone path and one would come face to face with Victorian structures draped in powerful stately appearance, a little away from the now worn, yet imposing £ 9000, Flora Fountain. Not surprisingly, each one of these super-structures, individually, make any other out-of-Bombay building unusually diminutive.

And then, there is the Kabuthar Khana, which if visited by Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, would shame his "Rats with Wings" statement and make Trafalgar look petty in the face of the marauding flurry of grays and whites with beaks and half-talons!

I'm beginning to take my baby steps in Bombay. My days begin at a time when any other city would perhaps be pondering over early morning thoughts during a semi-wakeful state, but by Bombay's standards I'm not so enterprisingly early in the crusade. Overpowered more by a feeling of awe than control, I set about and as I make my way to the nearest suburban rail junction, I am conscious of thousands more elbowing their way to begin their day. It doesn't take me long to realize that my ability to get on and off a train is more a matter of chance than will. Eventually, with experience, I'm told that this chance will become habit and routine, a routine that is best described as 'growing on you.'

Bombay is more of spirit than a place. It is a lifestyle far from any defined culture, and more of practical possibilities to ensure survival and eventually thrive. In this myriad world of high-rises, celluloid, furious monsoons, million-dollar corporate deals and sleepless roads, every person nurtures an ambition to make something out of life. Perhaps, Bombay is where one can come closest to realizing one's passion! Some visit and depart, while many others haven't ever ventured outside the city's confines, and yet some others visit and stay back forever!

Of all that has been written so eloquently to illustrate Bombay and its soul, it is the words of lyricist Javed Akhtar that stand out for their aptness. Quite like how he once felt, I'm sure, there are several thousands, like me, who wonder "what a large metropolis is Bombay and how insignificant am I? Once in a while even the bravest can feel fear."


Title, meaning Bombay - my life, adapted from the song "Ai Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahaan" sung by Mohd Rafi and Geeta Dutt, composed by O. P. Nayyar and picturized on Johnny Walker, in the 1956 Hindi film CID.

Monday, July 02, 2012

My Immortal Chennai

I am more than just surprised at myself, for the sense of disconnection towards blogville that I have gotten into. It is hard to believe that I could stay away from blogging for so long, and in such dispassionate manner. 

I cannot say if marriage has been the reason, but I will not dwell on it any more than I already have, for being here is more important and enjoyable than being explicatory about the reason for absence. 

Anyhow, after a long pause, which perhaps may not immediately be remedied, I wanted to visit here and make a mention of some events that have, once again, brought about a change into my life. 

I've been calling Chennai home since September of 2010, and it has been a very different category of experience in this hearty Tamilian hinterland. The city, its people, its culture, most certainly intertwined with temples, movies, colours, dosas, music and vermillion, to mention a few that is, have actually been very deeply connected to the process of my growing up and growing well. The beach on the East Coast Road, with its close-to-arid, yet quiet, expanses, has practically been my courtyard for what now seems to be the most memorably happy part of my life. 

Away from the complex orchestration of collective human routines of commute in quest for destination, and supposed purpose, N and I found comfort in the tiny green oasis where little neem trees swathed in the evening breeze and echoed the calls of cuckoos while people residing in vicinity were returning home after a hard day's labour. Dusk's arrival was signalled by a mellow grey overhanging curtain of dim light accompanied the toll of a distant temple bell, with which followed a long chorus of classical hymns belted out from a creaky cassette player that was perhaps as old as its owner. Now, these scenes are forever frozen in my mind, with the ability to be recalled at ease, hopefully, well into the future. 

To some, Chennai is expressive of true warmth draped in 'absolute' conservativeness which cannot be categorized in any relative term of equivalence. It is an amalgamative state of culture, aspirations, values, youth, exuberance, co-existence, and a laid back attitude and yet home to people who fervently live of unending hedonistic delight, in the most positive sense. 

In a sense its core has changed little with time and perhaps will remain benign and irreversible despite the onslaught of the new age revolution seeking to intersperse the old and the new, the modern and the classic, the concept and the conceiver!

On 5th June, I bid a tearful adieu to this remarkable institution of my life that had so sympathetically and patiently taught me love and compassion. The sun had set as I began my journey of departure, and the roads were crammed with automobiles ferrying many a weary traveller back home. A not so dark sky heralded growing clusters of dazzling lights that illuminated surroundings and minds alike. Musky incense spreads through the air, marking a change of time and the beginning of dutiful rituals in reverence of the divine creator. 

The clamour of the evening hardly distracts my thoughts as I leave. Pausing on occasion, I notice a lull, and return to the chatter of people and the noise of the surrounding. A cascade of strong memories envelope me and I realize I am not departing, after all. A great deal of Chennai is within me in the form of experiences and memories and a good part of me remains through the eyes and spirit of all the wonderful people that I will be connected with forever. 

In truth, this is not the end where there are goodbyes and apprehensions of parting, for this is just another beginning, a mere extension of time and place, deeply interconnecting the future with the past, being played out in the present.


Sometime in the evening of Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, I received an email from a webmaster of Blogadda, a popular Indian blog directory service stating that this post "has been selected as one of the top posts for this week's 'Tangy Tuesday Picks'. We loved reading the post."

I wanted to scribe a few words of gratitude for Team Blogadda for having found this post worthy of such distinction.