Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Tea Pot

                                                                                                                 (Section 9: Impressionist)

It was around 2'o clock of the early morning of 24th December 2009, we were traveling to Dwarka in a train from Mumbai.

Expectedly everyone around was sleeping. Kuhoo and Adi were on the lower berth. I was trying to sleep lying on the upper one.

I looked at Kuhoo. She was..careless and beautiful. In the start of the month she had complained that I was getting too involved in office again.

Actually I was; therefore I had a taken a week break to spend some time with her and to catch up with life.

Few memories came by. Remembered the planning we did about our marriage and the honeymoon. I liked the hills and she liked the beaches; I asked her choice and she chose my choice. We went to Darjeeling, during an almost off-season, where we talked and walked endlessly across the winding roads in and out of the town. I promised her I would balance my work and life. And six years had passed since I had made that promise, and more or less, I had failed every year.

On one of those evenings at Chowrasta, we had stopped for tea. And Kuhoo asked about my priorities in life, which actually I had never thought about. Incoherently I spoke something and she smiled, “Hope you will include me in your priorities”.

I still remember her filled eyes when she started telling about her childhood, her likes and dislikes, every little thing she wanted to try but couldn't start, the dreams she had but could not pursue, her priorities and the expectations that sourrounded her.

Unfortunately, in some of the smaller towns in India a girl child is taught more don’ts than do’s, and the circumstances, those impact her confidence and independence. We talked for hours during those quiet moments. I promised her the world. She told I was her world.

As years pass by, I see some changes in me but she fights to protect her world. I try to act practical, but she stays in her dreams. And her belief in those dreams does challenge the reality I live in.

We spent good time together during the Dwarka trip and lived through the old memories. On return journey we sat by the window, and we're having tea when I tumbled the cup and tea fell over. Bit disgusted, I said, "Moments of happiness come to everyone's cup; it depends who enjoys the sip and who tumbles it over".

"I will fill your cup again", she smiled. "Ain't I your tea pot"?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ancient Evenings and Distant Music..

                                                                                                                      (Section 6 : Impressionist)

On an early morning of June 2004, we were crossing Rishikesh, the pilgrimage city near Dehradun, known for Lakshman Jhoola and Ram Jhoola and historically known as the place where Lord Rama and Lakshman came for penance after Lanka war.

We were going to Kedarnath Dham. My parents had, for the first time, planned a trip among high mountains. And Sonu and Rishi too had joined the group.

“It’s going to rain”, Papa said slowly, looking up at the dense dark clouds.

“That’s how it’s going to be throughout”, I smiled back as we moved ahead. The Garhwal range of Himalayas surrounded us with enthralling views of the valleys, forests, butterflies and flowers. We had got up early morning to start the trip. I dozed off.

Since childhood, we wish to be somebody who we see and admire. But in the pursuit, we tend to lose ourselves. And then a point comes in life, it becomes so difficult to just be ourselves. My trip to Kedarnath Dham was to re-discover the ordinariness that we normally let go while growing up.

Got up with few sprinkles on my face. It was drizzling and we had reached Dev Prayag the place of confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini, two tributaries of River Ganges. We got down for a while and saw ourselves in a sea of mountains.

I sat on a stone bench, at the edge of the lonely road. The silence and the fragrance of the surrounding engrained my belongingness to the place. I felt I have been there for long long time. Not sure how to associate that feeling, may be something like those lazy mornings on a holiday, when we sit quiet and from the silence comes the distant sound of ringing bells or the prayers or the chirping birds. A music that makes us breath easy, a music that affirms our existence.

We had bhutta and shikanji there and re-started our journey. Our aim was to reach Gaurikund, the origin of Mandakini River, by 5 p.m.

Dipak (our driver) warned us about the weather as sometimes due to heavy rains and landslides the roads to Gaurikund get blocked. The message was clear that we had to cut down such stoppages to minimum.

I sat in front. From there started the journey among the scenic valley, breath-taking mountains and eternal waterfalls. We crossed Pipalkothi, Srinagar, and Rudraprayag and then headed towards Kedarnath. Bemused, I was again lost in thoughts again.

“Come back monu. It is too late now”. This instruction was usual when we played for too long. Our games weren’t structured. We just played and chased the wind, butterflies and kites.

And then we used to sit down for a while resting. Those evenings were beautiful. I always felt Mummy called us a little too early. But I liked the view of the setting sun and seeing other boys playing till dusk, laughing occasionally.

I remember how the sky would lose its color slowly. The frozen moments when the trees became a matter of debate on whether they looked like a dragon or an elephant. But there was never a need to win the point or argument. The evenings, we were just ourselves, living every moment of it.

It was later afternoon when Dipak stopped the car again. We were hungry. The place was 'August-Muni' where the river Mandakini levels the ground. We ran towards the river and sat there having snacks. Sitting on the bank of Mandakini River, I saw the canvas again. The canvas of the evenings, that I have been seeing since childhood.

We resumed our journey. And reached Gaurikund aorund 5.30 p.m.

It was late evening by the time we could get a place to stay. We had Aaloo parathas for dinner; and those were the tastiest parathas I had in those years. That night it rained heavily and I slept dreamless.

By the next morning, rain had stopped and the shining sun greeted us a promising day. The whole atmosphere enchanted ‘“Jai Baba Bholenath”.

The main temple is 14 Km from that Gaurikund, up on the steep climb. I decided to take Palki for Ma and Papa. I looked around.

A boy came and asked “Bhaiya, Palki karenge kya”? He was around 20. With him were two more boys of around same age.

I smiled. Thought there were too young to take papa on Palki on a 14 KM steep climb. “Tum log kaise lay jaoge”? I tried to shut them up from asking.

Looking straight into my eyes unfazed, the first boy replied, “We can take both of you (me and papa) together”.

I may have ridiculed them but actually I felt ashamed to see their ability or necessity. We (except Sonu) took ponies after climbing half the distance as we were climbing too slow to reach the temple in time.

En route, I watched them. It appeared that our so-called reasoning or mindset has impeded the growth of original abilities. Climb was getting steeper. My pony stopped for water. I gave her a pat. She responded with a puff. “She likes you”, said the pony-man.

I looked around. Those Palki boys, dozens of ponies climbing, I saw how difficult was for those boys to step up, and then the main temple from a distance. It was difficult to tell who the true worshippers are. We pretenders learn some techniques, set some mindsets, declare ourselves logical, and throughout the life live like a parasite. Our prayers remain self-centered, our laughs practiced, our methods parasitical and still we act 'honest' or 'devoted'.

We reached the temple. I don’t remember what I prayed for. God did communicate to me all the way as I'd understood that like the times of those ancient evenings and distant music, I have to just be myself. No more setting conditions or standards of shoulds and coulds.

Pic by Piyush

Evening fell among the mountains. On the way back on my pony, I heard the enchanting bhajans slowly getting imperceptible as we came down. That evening and that music is eternal, deep inside as I see the canvas and hear the music very often, from who has always answered my prayers.

God bless you all.

Sunday, July 1, 2012 break bought it..

“How do I look”, I wore a dark blue t-shirt and looked into the mirror. We were going to meet Nidhi and rest of our friends yesterday evening.

Kuhoo did not respond. It was difficult to understand whether that silence was deliberate or she meant ‘how does that matter’?

I tried again. “Do you think this t-shirt looks good”?

“Yes”. Kuhoo gave a half-a-second look and resumed with her work.

It was too short a response. I was expecting more. “I think black will look better”.

“Wear black then”, and this time she didn't even look at me.

Normally I keep quiet after that. But good sense did not prevail. And yesterday like one of those rare in year days, I attempted to tease her.

"You know there are lots of girls there".

"Yes. Bhaiya". She smiled.

I retaliated,“They call me bhaiya to show their affection, don't you see that"?

“I do”. But sometimes even her affirmative words sound like 'don't fool yourself'.

Indeed the problem is, most of the girls call me bhaiya. Don't I look 'dangerous' enough? The bigger problem is they are not like those 'behan ji' type girls; so my treating them as behan will also be so incorrect. But for some strange reasons Kuhoo doesn’t see any threat, and that makes it, my biggest problem.

We came out of our flat talking.

“OK. Leave those girls. They are lots of Korean, Chinese and Iranian girls in this apartment those give me that long look”.

“So haven’t they asked you to join them at the swimming pool yet”? This insult was deliberate. And she knows I am bit uncomfortable bathing in public and then I can’t swim.

The issue is, the longer I continue the fight the more miserably I lose. As we entered into the lift, we saw a Chinese (or may be Korean) girl. And I continued to my peril. “See that girl ? She smiles whenever she sees me”.

Hardly had I completed, the girl actually smiled and said hello.

I shrugged my neck as if I am used to of such greetings. Gosh she sounded friendly, but to me, she appeared lovelier than ever before.

Then I made an extra effort to show acquaintance, “We are going to meet our friends”. She smiled again as we came out of the lift.

The girl walked ahead of us, stopped and then turned back, “Have a lovely evening, uncle”.