Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pursuing Freedom in Moments

She took a puff, a long drag…kept in her lungs till they were completely filled and smoked it out…looking at the sky!  She kept looking at the night sky for a while…exhaling. It felt as if she inhaled freedom and exhaled fate...

I have known people who believe that they are free in their minds and hearts. I have had conversations about truly being free and what does it mean, but I have hardly found answers. Here, I am not talking about the academic minds trying to link it with the economic equality and human rights but recent events that have occurred around me have compelled me to pursue the sense of the topic of actual freedom at very personal level.

Being conditioned in conservative homes, many young and bright people that I know have tried to find escape routes to freedom. Philosophically speaking everything in this world is just the way we pursue it, yet the complexity behind the perseverance of freedom boggles me.

But recently I saw something that has become a photographic memory in my mind. I was on my way to Ahmednagar, travelling alone which probably gives the sense of freedom to me until the bus stops at the shady food arena that suddenly makes me conscious of being a woman. That evening, the bus was running late and it was dark by the time we reached the Dhaba. I got down to stretch my legs and experienced something like never before.

I saw a woman, probably in her mid-40s, extremely skinny, tall and dark walking towards my direction, she was dressed in a sari and wore rather bold jewelry. She had a pallu covering her head and another woman with similar description was following her. Her appearance made her look as a part of ‘Lamans’- a community of nomads. I remember being scared of them when I was a little girl.
Suddenly both of them stopped at a point away from me and the bus, the woman from the back handed over a beedi to this woman I was curious about. She took a puff, a long drag…kept in her lungs till they were completely filled and smoked it out…looking at the sky!  She kept looking at the night sky for a while…exhaling. It felt as if she inhaled freedom and exhaled fate.She was in no hurry to finish that beedi.

I was stunned; I just kept looking at her. There was a sudden feeling in me of witnessing an extraordinary incident that caught me thinking. She saw me looking at her with my eyes wide open and she smiled…the next moment both the women started sharing the beedi and indulged in a conversation while I still stood there watching them.

What was her name? What she must be doing in her life? What was she doing on a dhaba near highway? The questions started splurging out of my mind and would have materialised into a conversation with her.

But suddenly the honk of the bus brought me back into reality and I was forced to occupy my seat. But I kept smiling and couldn’t gather what was making me smile.
I had just seen a woman, who probably has been treated as a matter of object, walked several miles for food and brought up in the environment beyond my imagination, enjoying a moment of freedom.

Oh yes, she looked liberated than me…

She probably went back to her normal life after smoking that beedi but got me into deep thinking process of what exactly is freedom of being…I just know that the answer does not lie in finding escape routes! 

Probably in the moments that we live…and keep living…

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Down the memory lane

There are some memories which live with you all the time, their gentleness makes you feel alive and fill in hope in you. Following are the two of them which will probably live with me forever.

                       Manjusha posing for us in the 'waranda' of her house 

Almost 3 months ago, while on the tour to Bhandardara , a beautiful place in the Ahemadnagar district, we happened to visit a tribal village. It was a village where not more than 2,000 people lived and they all belonged to the ‘Thakar Community’.  The person appointed to show us around, took us into a house to learn about how the Thakars’ live??? What do they eat? What do they wear? and so on…
The house looked like any other typical village house, but once I entered it I spotted the difference. There were probably 7 to 8 children of all different ages inside. From them only one was a boy and all others were girls. The eldest was trying to make the youngest sleep, while the mother was cooking rice. The other children were reading their text books.
“Would you like some black tea?” asked the man of the family while entering into the kitchen. We were surprised by this question, but we kindly declined the offer. Later, we learned that the youngest baby was named ‘Madhavi’, and others had beautiful names such as Sarita, Manjusha, Lakshmi and many more which I don’t really remember. But the eldest girl told us, “we don’t keep names such as Rani and Priti, they have become too common. So we will always keep unique names to girls who will come in our family.”
When the father of the house came to say goodbye, he was asked by one of the fellow visitors, definitely surprised to see the sheer number of girls in one house, “Isn’t there a problem of female feoticide here, such as there is in Satara district, where they name girls as Nakoshi-unwanted?”
He calmly replied, “No sir, we know enough names to give our daughters. We feel blessed to have them around.”
When I looked back at the house I saw Manjusha weaving at us…she looked happy. She was the only girl to pose for a picture. Looking at her smile I understood how they live…or have always lived.

A Flight
Manjusha, reminded me of a 12 year old girl I met almost 7 years ago. She was thin and exuberant, the only one who was ready to join the Sunday school to be conducted in her small village by an NGO that I worked for. Her father owned a grocery shop in the village and was pro active in her education. He told us, “teach her English, she will attend your classes.” But one girl was not enough to conduct a Sunday school, so we took her along and started visiting houses of her friends to invite them to join our school. She was jumping, running and too fast to keep us pace with. She was definitely different than the girls I have seen in those villages of Pune district.
While reaching the school building, we all heard a sound of an aero plane passing over us. She jumped with joy and suddenly held my hand to ask, “Didi, will you take me inside the biggest aero plane one day, I have heard there are many of them in the city.” I held her hand tight and said yes, while looking up at the passing plane.
This happened when even I used to look up to the sky and dream about flying one day. I remembered while holding her hand that even I am yet to take my first flight. But when I took my first flight last year to Delhi, I remembered her. I remembered how her eyes had lit up when she saw that plane passing over us. I was almost choked with her memory. Frankly, I do not remember her name, not even the name of that village which I visited almost 7 years ago. All I remember is her face and her excitement.
Even today while walking on the streets of Pune, I think of her. I imagine her to have grown up in to a smart woman. I wish that one day she will recognize me from the crowd and come to me running just to ask me when I am going to show her the biggest aero plane possible. Ahh…someday I will get a chance to tell her that I have been showing her many aero planes everyday in my dreams…

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


There are certain things around you which you neglect for years and one day they make you realize their existence in their own way.
Just like a coconut tree in the backyard of my house! Yes, I have an inevitably growing coconut tree in the backyard of my house right in the middle of our garden.

When I look at it now I am always left wondering about how  it has grown taller than my house and its shafts have spread all over. Its root has grown stronger and looks old, whereas it has covered itself into the brown layers of net. Many insects have made it their home. Some of its branches look immersed in a conversation with the mango tree standing  in the neighboring house since many years and others are busy covering my bedroom’s windows by its shadows forming various shapes on walls.

I have seen the moon through its branches and it looks enchanting. Looking at it now, I remember it was only 2 feet tall when my father got it as a gift from an old neighbor few years ago. There were a lot of talks about its identity, many of our acquaintances thought that this tree is a Singaporean coconut tree so it will not bear the coconuts that we find in India. 

For me, this tree bears several identities.It can call itself a witness of my teenage years, a gift from an old neighbor, a home to various insects, a proud member of our garden or just a coconut tree which is ambitious to rise above all and bear the fruits containing water as sweet as sugar. 

Identities!...which one will it choose? Or will it just stand on its root and keep itself aloof from all the identities associated to it?

Thinking about this makes me realize a sentence I heard some time ago which says,
‘Identity is not static and always in the making but never made.’
 So what is my identity?…I wonder!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Letter to RK Narayan


R K Narayan

Subject: I wish you if you were here...

Dear Sir,

If you were present in this world today, I would have written you a letter at least a week. I would have looked for your number or would have dropped in your house to seek answers to some of the very simple question that I have been asking myself. The questions are similar to the questions that those characters in your book ask themselves, those characters through, whom you have been still speaking your mind to us.

I have recently read your ‘The English Teacher’ which kept giving me a hint that the protagonist is going to be alone soon and then he becomes lonely and explains his loneliness so beautifully at the end. Sir, I have been reading you and every book of yours has made me realise that ultimately everything boils down to what ‘I’ want. Your characters are always in pursuit of their ultimate goal, they are alone in their journey yet they are in love with people, places, simplicity and they speak their mind honestly.

When in English Teacher, Krishna thinks that he is doing nothing but filling his students’ heads with crap, I could relate to him. When the guy who completes his ‘Bachelor of Arts’ goes haywire in finding what he really wants I could relate to him. When ‘Guide’ covers up his mistakes and only lives in his self interests, I could relate to him and When the protagonist who is ‘Waiting for the Mahatma’ becomes vulnerable and lets his mind get influenced by an ideology just to impress and satisfy someone else, I felt as if I should tell him that he is not alone.

Sometimes I wonder how you could understand people and their feeling so well. Is that because you were very honest with your self or people were very honest with you. For me, everything today has boiled down to confusion.

Sir, do you know that when I close my eyes, I see almost 100 forms of myself! One of them is climbing a difficult wall but she is well equipped to do so. The other is sitting at the beach, watching the sun set and writing a poem, another one is waiting for a politician to take his quote. There another one, sharing knowledge with hundreds of youngsters. The one form I desire the most of me is walking hand in hand with someone into an endless, natural road invading forests, taking us into oblivion. And one is reading you and understanding herself through your characters.

Just like your characters, even I am alone, waiting for answers of several questions. I am in pursuit of something that I am not sure about. I am loved by people but not realising its intensity but my state is unlike your characters that lose their way in the middle and then…they discover themselves and then the need for money, love, company, job, status for them become secondary. Something else emerges inside them which is more meaningful!

Kindly tell me how you made it happen, Sir? If you were here, you would have asked me to look within and find my answers…But I wish if you were here to tell me…


Yours faithful explorer

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kaleidoscopic Vision: a colourful night in Mumbai

Once the sun sets and series of yellow streetlights are on, something new awakens in the city that actually never sleeps, under the bright yellow lights I saw a sepia toned Mumbai, where every colour looked as bright as shiny and as deep as its meaning. As I sat in the black and yellow taxi at Sion, it felt as if I am wearing kaleidoscopic glasses as every aspect of this city at night looks different than ever.

I could see the place of pani puri wallahs was now taken over by the Bhurji Pav wallahs. Eggs were neatly arranged in the blue and red carts and bread loafs stacked besides them.The eggs crushed on the oily pan looked yellow, a little dark due to the sprinkled pepper and sported a green colour in between with the spicy green chillies. Even while sitting in the taxi and being far, that colour of Bhurji dipped in oil made me almost smell its pungent, spicy odour.

The stretch that is between Sion and Mahim is as colourful as it can be; the taxi driver was driving carefully as we entered the part of Dharavi. I could see men mostly wearing white caps, women covered in black strolling the streets, it looked like an old black and white film but I couldn’t ignore the five coloured flag representing an ideology from nowhere in the side of the road, to be honest it looked very lonely in the midst of black and white.

As we moved further I saw a red sari, glittered nail polish and golden bangles, they covered a dark body and a wounded soul, that body had eyes, deep black eyes. “She belongs to my kind” I thought, “a kind that I am most afraid of.” As I passed that figure I thought she dissolved in this night making sepia tone darker, how many nights she must have dissolved in, I didn’t know.

Suddenly, I realised that I couldn’t recognise the road i was on. It was dark, and all I could think of was colour red, red for danger, as we entered small lane, it was crowded by group of young men giving friendly curses to each other, it was 11.45 and I found the man in khaki who was driving taxi was unusually talkative. My spine went cold and the sepia tone was now turning in to dark brown as the manhood is capable of making life colorless within seconds in this symbolic society and suddenly i reached the holy road.

The LJ road of Mahim is as holy as any road can be, it starts with the Mahim church followed by the Darga and Shitaladevi temple, at night these holy places look like standalone pictures of old building. I could see the stack of small statues coloured in blue, white and red of Jesus Christ left uncovered due to the sea breeze in front of the church. Somehow my spine came alive as i saw series of familiar streetlights, the unusual journey ended but I am still not able to remove those kaleidoscopic glasses.

Every colour in life whether dark or bright represent emotions...some colours have got deeper meaning, some have the capacity to hide several things!

Monday, June 6, 2011

I wish to write an ordinary story

I want to write a story about a woman who travels everyday in the local train and uses that time to remember god by reciting Jay Jay Ram Krishna Hari, she recites at least 100 times.

I want to write a tale of a mother who brings her mentally challenged child at least twice in a week in children’s hospital that is there on the second floor of my building.

I...wish to know the story behind the person who stands for at least 8 hours making Kababs in a nearby restaurant; I would like to know if his tireless efforts make the Kabab desirable.

Today, I feel like writing an ordinary story of ordinary people. Story about you and perhaps a story about me!

To tell you the truth, my story is not even ordinary. I am not capable of reciting god’s name. I do not have another life depending on me (I can barely handle my own) and I am a soul that is still searching the purpose behind the work it’s engaged with everyday.

It’s like one of those curious cases when your childhood, amateurish dream actually comes true and then you come to know that the idea of dream was better. Then you start feeling unsure about everything because the thing that you were most sure about all the 21 years of your life turns out to be something entirely different and here the story begins!

When we read in extraordinary stories that how extraordinary people whether real or fictional, always emerge from his or her lows, from mud to touch the sky, but my story is different, the story that I wish to write is about sustenance. It’s about a plateau, a poised situation in life where anything and everything that a person does, he or she feels “’s not working out or this is how its going to work out.”

I wish to describe that frustration, that very feeling that you are a looser or failure. I want to give words to the feeling that every ordinary person must be feeling when he is choked in fear of life, fear of failure, fear of social taboo, a fear of god...a fear of death. I wish to include in this story how every second person cursing the current situation reaches a point where he feels “it’s never going to work out ever” and still is able to motivate him or her to pick up a bag and reach office.

Every day when I go home walking on my holy trail from Office to home...those 15 minutes, I guess fate always takes them away from me and makes me look around, it makes me appreciate the efforts made by people to live that very ordinary life, it shows me those people who have learned to enjoy the poise, a stagnant stage of their lives.

Well, it’s not easy to be make yourself understand that this is it. This is what your life is and it is going to prevail till the very end and whatever exciting may be in life will come with certain limitations.

I wish to write such an ordinary story...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let the discontent be phased out: it’s just a beginning

From the mountain the valley looks beautiful...when you stand in the valley and see up to the mountains they look beautiful from a farther distance...then you taken the route and start climbing it and they reveal their actual tough nature and brings out the best in you...Yes, the best of your stamina, your fighting attitude, your rigour and passion and urge to reach the top and see what beauty you left behind in the valley.

Well, what amazes me is that the point where you start climbing from looks so beautiful after sweating off your life climbing that mountain; isn’t everything feels and looks beautiful from farther distance?

But bet you, I enjoy climbing mountains more than running between CST and Churchgate to look for stories. It’s better to see a valley filled with natural beauty rather than entering an empty room in state exactly the same that I leave it every morning.

So, here I am... I am feeling what I never thought that I would be feeling...a quarter life crises .To be honest it took me a 10 day leave, an exam and a trip to Mahabaleshwar to cool down my temper, to vent out my frustration and to believe that world has not come to an end. Now, as my nerves are under control I feel as if I am foolish to waste my time in being frustrated and there are so many things left to do in’s just a beginning and mind you ‘life’...ahh that is a big word.

But what happens when you continuously feel discontent towards what you are doing. The discontent that lives within you and makes its presence felt through tears, fights and zingers that fly out of your mouth. This discontent makes you believe that you are not innocent any more, you have no room to make mistakes and the discontent that tells you what you are doing is not enough...

“How much you think Girl, leave it, just chill don’t be impatient” they say...

“Things will change, don’t worry it’s just a phase that is going to pass,” I advice to myself and my friend who is feeling the same!

So is it like nothing that is revolutionary, interesting and worth achieving will phase out and some extraordinary opportunity will come my way and change my life?

Ahh my ultimate realisation says...Dreams are better seen when your eyes are closed. The couple of things that i have learned from last 10 months is that nothing comes your way and nothing can be achieved by you...what you have to do is sustain, fight and prove. My realisation tells me it’s a constant’s an ever rising mountain, if I conquer it I will able to see the most beautiful valley in my life.

So to all those in quarter life crisis...let the discontent be phased are capable of getting what you decision is what matters.