Sunday, 16 August 2015

Planes in the blue sky

Planes in the blue sky
they roar or silently sometimes
but pierce through clouds
that are heavy. They rain.
Planes flying away or
landing close by
roll a hum heavy in my chest
for a land far away.
There must be taxis plying
yellow black and white.
Planes in the blue sky;
fly, and there they lie
my anchors in the blue sky.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Rainbows of Facebook

There are more rainbows than rain this season, at least in Delhi. If not umbrellas, we have multi-hued filters to put up on our faces in our parallel digital lives. There’s enough reason. Congratulations America.

There are at least few who deem equal dignity as a given. While our land laws and leaders look astray, our courts interestingly walk backwards. However, netizens look bright and have taken to the cause. So what trended this week was an avalanche support for the LGBTQ. What also got tweeted (by the Prime Minister) and hence trended was #SelfieWithDaughter. Simple smiles that started in Harayana caught attention and how!
But that’s the thing with it. Trends fade away. And the social network ones even faster. My Facebook friend-list is retreating from a rainbow trip. The two picture frenzies of the week have little in common. These are campaigns in support of equality, campaigns to correct gross imbalance in our society. However, we might miss how these are rather imbalances in our social thinking. I wonder how much a profile picture change would help. Cynics have taken their lines too. Not discounting it being at least an iota of positive energy if nothing else, campaigns remain after all, just campaigns.
Since most of us communicating and interacting here have moderate to heavy internet lives, we see a sea change in the world around us. We see fathers from an acutely gender-skewed state Harayana putting up pretty pictures with their daughters. With terrific circulation over social networks the mainstream media picked them up. But we forget in a celebration that only a mere 19% of our population has access to the internet. The larger set of our society knows no selfie with their daughter nor paints their faces with rainbows. The root problem is deeper. The prejudice penetration is way more than the internet penetration.

Even with the lovely folks in all support for the much discriminated LGBT community, I wonder how many understand the cause they colour. I’ve come across few with their coloured pictures who say they’ve heard about it; though don’t know what BTQ stands in LGBTQ; but it was cool to update the picture. It won’t be difficult to find people who believe homosexuality is unnatural (forgetting whatever’s in nature is natural), to the extent of calling it a disorder, or a gross choice made by deviants in the society. In fact there are voices that say homosexuality is a trend, some sort of fashion that has come up recently in India (many adding, from the West). Wonder where our all accepting, all respecting, all celebrating Hindu myths have gone missing. From disowning to ostracising to brutal tortures or discrimination are few reactions, very frequently meted out to people identified as not straight, or normal as they’d say. The very idea of being repelled by a homosexual makes it an imbalance difficult to assume being corrected at large with Facebook being painted bright. The severe ripple effects are a far idea to be dealt with at this stage, even for the daughters of India.

Many educated well-read friends and family do not wholly understand what homosexuality is. And maybe they are not to be blamed for there is no education or an attempt to understand the complexities of genders and sexualities. Even if a proud rainbow filtered display picture person does understand, our social DNA usually prompts a reaction of shock, heartbreak, denial or discomfort if a close loved one steps out of the closet. It holds true for being in any of those several closets.
The PM endorsed #SelfieWithDaughter. A person well versed with the social media, I imagine must have access to volumes of information – scientific, historic and mythical to make an attempt to understand what alternate sexualities are. But perhaps that precisely is the restraint – the misplaced stigma to even make the attempt. Whatever happened to @narendramodi tweeting away #LoveWins.

Having said that, Facebook looked gorgeous with smiling fathers and pretty daughters and rainbows splashed all over it. They are a good talking point to start with and that’s precisely what we haven’t done yet – talking.     

Monday, 29 June 2015

I must drop the song

First showers at last
See how they tumble down,
Out and far, all that was heavy
and swollen and pregnant
with months of heat, cries at last.

How it’s nothing new, never,
and just a repetition every year.
Yet so piercingly fresh the pour
brings along, every season all blue
and grey some new and little old.

Parched poor pensive, no more
It pops up surprised, having waited
and so sure. Look, the window’s wet;
Springing sprightly singing, smiles
sighing smiles? But what a somerset!

It’s a routine well learnt
Sighing and all sung.
The wait’s vain, a wetting wont.
A welkin’s cheek and one here
washed, in a wonderful song.

Ha! The sun is setting.
… The blues drip.
There’s also an orange.
Wait, hey!
I must drop the song and go get drenched.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Why in love?

Blackened with oil
Red with some vermilion.
Bells hanging big and small
With a huge hum or a tiny tinkle.
They cling to the walls
Inside and out
Wrapping each other, in stone
And in love.

Red with some vermilion
Blackened with a lathi
God! You chose your neighbour!
Your misplaced ideas of rights and duty
Forgotten that beardman's principles
Of modesty? You,
Wrapped in fabric - some passable decency
Oh! But why in love?

Pink! Let's stereotype
But colors others too you must fancy.
Your fancies; please don't cite
The sculpted ancient temples of yore .
One says, you man lie next to a man
You be stoned. What love, warring leaders of faith
Are together
Wrapped in ignorant prejudice they forget, sermons of
Touch only in love.

God belongs to them
Temples books and the priest
Guardians of faith and being
So much for love
It must stand behind bars
And hate
Roams freely on the street.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Once in a while I smoke

I light up a cigarette.
One off the pack that you left
It makes me sick,
and it always has.
But habits have a difficult death;
For you, to quit
and me, to feel you close.

Once in a while
is it that I light a cigarette
Once in a while
is it that I take that route
Once in a while
why, is it that I see you close?

And for the taste
you left with me,
But I sip some liquid
as I smoke
I see that bottle of wine
you left uncorked
it is just for your taste, that I lit a smoke

Once in a while
I know, I asked you to quit
Once in a while
I faltered and lit along
Once in a while
for you, I carry some fire to the port

May be to finish that bottle
or just help me quit
its unhealthy you know-
this habit and the one to smoke.
Either way, it makes me so sick.
But I promise not to light, for
you are the remedy and my reason to be lit

Once in a while
Is it that I light a cigarette
Once in a while
Is it that I take that route
Once in a while
just to feel you close
Just, just to feel you close 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Twenty love poems

Twenty love poems and a song of despair
Gone over a thousand times every layer
My songs once dived chasms within
My words today, fall short and bare.

it used to be in the ripples blue and green
Or a drifting yellow leaf for the breeze to do
The pen lies wasted today
and the blank paper just stares, with nothing to brew

There’s a grey ribbon of smoke and a cigarette burns
It burns me within for you won’t light it again
The day smells of good coffee, mine, but my songs
they only hum, to a whiskey lullaby in vain

Clouds cast a colour to the white sky and
I dreamily gaze into the open from my pigeon hole
Some colours of passion I’d waited for, but
the clouds remain such grey, such is my dole

Its only sighs as I engage with myself
what a poet whose songs are half sung?
Few memories, yellow sheets and a rusting nib
Am left with just twenty love poems
and plenty songs of despair

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The 2 million and a 100 crore club!

“Bhai agar bore ho raha ho na to novel padh lio. Sahi hai ekdum… “
“wohi jo tu uss din padh raha tha?”
“haan... chaar ghante mei khatam kardi… mann hi nahi tha rukne ka.”

Three, tall in their early twenties hung from the handle bars in the yellow line of the Delhi metro from Gurgaon to Delhi. Bags slung at their backs and earphones dangling from big Samsung phones, the trio discussed of how one of their acquaintance (batch-mate/friend) is exceptionally rich. Oh! And the novel was Half Girlfriend.

September, last month, India Today did a cover story on Chetan Bhagat. Aroon Purie, the Editor-in-Chief confesses how after having ‘path-breaking personalities’ from the pool of Indian literature graced the cover of the magazine at different points in time, the particular week’s choice is slightly ‘unusual’.

Rather unusual is his popularity then if the Editor passes the word ‘unusual’. 5000 copies were considered to be a bestseller in India. Bhagat’s latest – Half Girlfriend was launched with a massive two million copies countrywide by Rupa. The numbers surely are in such disarray. That is his popularity. One of my friends; he hadn’t read a book in his life till he graduated and stumbled upon five point someone quite later in its cycle at the bookstore, pulled me back as I scanned the books in one of the many sprawling-on-the-floor book stalls in Connaught Place for a copy of Caravan.
“Arre bhai, yeh Chetan Bhagat ki nai book aa gayi na?”
(Chetan Bhagat’s new book is available, right?)

That was a September evening, almost a month before the launch of the book. Full page ads had spread the word. The same friend on a different evening dragged us for a movie. I had resisted, in vain. Nonetheless I had quite a time in the theatre. Not very surprisingly, if you have good company you can enjoy a movie – either immersed in it, or laughing hysterically on the very fabric of the film. We chose the latter, the two of us, but the one who dragged us was quite happy watching Singham Returns; a 100 crore club film? The movie indeed was hysterically hilarious, but what makes it such for me is my liberty to stand somewhere and watch it from there. Oh! And that somewhere I’d even agree at times to be called a platform – The movie’s for the masses.

What’s two million minus five thousand? Who filled up the numbers? One is this graduation friend of mine, I know three more from graduation who have read either all or at least one of Bhagat’s previous books. One of them has ‘graduated’ to reading Khalid Hosseini now.

His works are not complex, subjects not deep enough and the linear formats lack layers in the characters. But that does not mean they could be less entertaining, one of the prime purposes of a novel and that also means catering to a segment, a massive chunk, which was by-far not written for. Movies are slightly opposite in nature in the country. We had the melodrama and the masala that catered to the masses, as much as I would not want to use the word, and few films, now growing in numbers and popularity – the once art house movies or now experimental cinema. The moment the word ‘masses’ is used it straightaway gives the other little segment, the classes, a little high creating a problematic dichotomy. There sure is segmentation of audience, but not for one set to commit this:
“I always judge people, excitedly, when I see them reading in the local train. And I judge them again when I see them reading Durjoy Dutta.”
That was my colleague over the phone.

Singham Returns is an important movie. The villain gets beaten up for being nasty with a woman. Hero No. 1, Govinda’s super hilarious blockbuster does the same yet is troublesome. After the goons are thrashed the woman is reprimanded for being out of home alone late in the night. Ajay Devgan’s Singham sequel works because it speaks what needs to be spoken about – corruption, social issues, communal harmony, respecting equality of sexes in the language that those spoken to understand – in humour, melodrama and insane action. Bhagat’s ‘five point someone’ too speaks to those who read it religiously. Dispelling the north-south divide and the stereotypes, 2 states should work well. Why should the boy be interviewed in English for his entrance in DU, would a Hindi speaking chap be a lesser economist or a historian? His latest Half Girlfriend is important for it picks on the language class divide. The millions who pick up his books or watch ‘crass’ cinema convey an essential economic, social and a political message, that stands a chance to be overlooked.

It’s a separate debate whether to credit Bhagat to draw in the millions into a reading culture, and foster altogether a breed of new writers. His writing for a segment is deliberate or is that his natural flow? May be he’s just a very sharp marketer of his own work, coming out with his first novel priced at a precarious Rs. 95. But sometimes credit pours down as serendipity – He’s a reckoning point in the Indian publishing industry. The critics mock at his number titled books and the numbers in millions – his fans essentially know not who the critics are. It’s just a matter of who has the last laugh. And much unlike its movie adaptation, Two States was quite a breeze of laughter on a four hour bus ride some years ago.          

Sunday, 7 September 2014

PC for MC Mary Kom

In a single sentence – not so terrific yet so very important; and important in so many ways. That’s the latest Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra. Nothing goes past acute scrutiny and outright verdicts passed by a million judges on smart phones. And perhaps this is one.

Its problematic, the production and the casting. It’s well debated why not Lin Laishram (played the role of the boxer’s friend and auditioned along with many other Manipuri actors) but PC for the MC biopic. Why, PC, irrespective of her skills, or not, looks nowhere close to a legend who’s story is being told? It’s troublesome because the movie is peppered with the quintessential bollywood melodrama. While many from the region and beyond would really not want a masala film dished out on someone who’s made us proud. May be it is cultural imperialism, may be sheer formula to mint money on a pressing story.

Nonetheless, it is an essential film. To start with the business of films, it made news that Mary Kom could not be screened in her home state. Something that should have been taken notice of a decade ago, it has pushed the envelope, rather late though. Those oblivious would read up on why it won’t be released in Manipur, shall be exposed to what grips the state and its situations.

It is an important movie because nowhere in the past has the north eastern culture, language and presence (however namesake and stereotyped at worst) made for a full throttle bollywood flick consumed by millions of the ‘mainland’ Indians. We conveniently club it as North Eastern seven sisters.

An inspiring story for millions, even how not very impressively scripted, reflects on few important themes - the sordid state of sports and its politics in India, the dreams and the passion to realize them among the youngsters, the woman who breaks the moulds thrust upon her – for her to be an individual and not being bogged down to roles we otherwise justify prescribing to her – a daughter, a wife, homemaker and a mother. It’s a beautiful story of an ever so doting and supportive spouse – husband or wife. It makes it an important story to be told.     

It is sad to read that we need a big star for the movie to be sellable. But if a Priyanka Chopra (or others of her ilk in the industry) draw more people to experience a story then why not. It’s a debate of a movie being fine art versus being a medium for mass communication. Discounting that very few would actually be a piece of fine art communicating to the masses, for this story of a heroine, our pride, I’d rather opt for the latter – a story to be told to many.   

The boxing star’s struggles against hurdles of all forms, the distance at which the state and the region are need a voice. PC’s Mary Kom might not be the most convincing voice but it’s good for starters.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The last hug

What’s in the last hug that eyes well up and your forearms flex so much, tightening over their shoulders that you don’t want that embrace to end?

Is it in the last hug, hurriedly made, for a lifetime, on a railway platform or by a waiting auto that you embrace all that has ever been, packed in a single memory unit?

Or what is it with the last hug so mandatorily made that you forgive and apologize and apologize and forgive all your mortal errors made?

What is it with the last hug that it suddenly occurs that you won’t rest your head on their lap while pushing space for your bum on a crowded bed?

Few things won’t happen ahead in time with few people, even if they be around, is it in the last hug that encapsulates it all that pretty place posed for, provided for?

Is it with the last hug perhaps, even through a season of teary farewell that you seal your love?
What is it in the last hug and the trickling tear, the promise of meeting you?

Is it with the last hug that you for one last time push a part of yourself into them; grab a part of them to keep – a prized souvenir?

Or has it been, whatever that has been for us to be such, such tight and teary in our last hug or is it that last hug that we live whatever we’ve been, making us whatever we’d be?

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Pickle Jar

It was a strange evening. But how strange could it get from any other evening? The big golden ball was floating on the far west end of the river; perhaps slightly leaking. Its molten gold blended with the deep blue of the lousy river. The bazaar was buzzing, tourists swarming the little old quaint part of the city. She drew the curtains over the first storey quarter where she was, leaving the window slightly ajar.

Her head swung back as her eyes looked over the stove for the voice. Shaking, her quivering lips made some sound, “It’s an illness.” She reminded herself.
“There’s no one here. No one said a word. It’s an illness that I hear words every evening.” Only boiling water gave company to her noise. Yes, one could hear the electric din from outside the window. She poured some in a chipped china cup and added little spice from a jar. “It’s an illness. There’s no one here. There’s no one bringing diamonds.”

She wasn’t all alone. There were visitors. Mostly foreigners, men fair from faraway lands. Few told her stories of their places; few spoke of their stories of her place. Few did not speak to her. She spoke to none. As soon as the sun disappeared in the lazy lilting blue waters, she lit the half melted candles in the corner. Electricity has always been a trouble. This was routine and she hummed it away in songs that no guest identified. The hum though was indeed a melody, the only sound in the sleeping street given company by the clinking bangles she adored.

She’d stopped examining her visitors now. It did not matter to her. All that she examined was the direction of the wind sitting at her window. “Next summer,” he said. “Diamonds” he said.”

Days drudged by, months moved into years. The winds have changed their ways and returned. They’ve made her routine and she is disciplined. The muffled noise dies with the dying moon and the waking bazaar drowns her wails. Prayers all forgotten, confessions to a starry night guest all poured, she weeps; weeps till she falls asleep or till the sun travels his tour over the city to the river.

Once few years ago, the room used to be lit well, an old stereo played some popular songs of the time. She used to talk to passersby when she stood at her window, but she rarely shows her face now. Long ago one remembers, a muffled echo from the green tinted window as the day broke, “Now, don’t take my nights away.”

It’s a strange evening, and a tall young man from distant land has come to see her. His eyes brim with excitement and his words, endless.
“The food really did not suit me. What do they put in it? All I could manage doing that day after the fort was camping in the loo.”
Something lifted her drooping eyelids and she curved a smile for him.
“I pray and bless the lady; she poured some hot soup and gave me some bread. Pickle she said was something I would not have had tasted my entire life. What a lady she was. What do they put in that pickle?”
The winds had changed perhaps, “I would love to give you some, but the pickle jar has been empty for three summers now.”

A naked confession so easily made. The response so piercing.
“Really? Don’t worry. It’ll be summer in a month’s time. I’ll bring good pickle for you this summer.”

It was a strange evening again, as strange as it could get behind the green windows. It was a beautiful evening a tourist remarked as he clicked away the melting sun.