Saturday, April 22, 2017

I am a Dead Man!

The water is cold at this place.   
River flows in its rhythm, fast at places and then in a playful mood. I remain beneath the water, hardly moving from my place. The water is not of bluish tinge as you would imagine, its colour resembles mother earth; or mud to be precise. There are small ripples in between where water dances in joy but everything slowly flows, as if everything is at peace and tranquil.
He threw me, or what remained in the end, into the river but I did not get far. I settled around the bank where many others lied; for years and centuries. The place is cluttered with many small pieces of burnt bones and ashes but I feel lonely. There is no one to listen to my stories. Perhaps loneliness is death; or this silence; or when everything stands still.  
My son did his best to throw me far but he is a frail boy. He is tall and somewhat thin and is not at all as smart as I wished him to be. He does resemble me when he smiles but he often doesn’t do it in front of me. I have seen him laughing aloud with his friends with whom he would spend hours idling. Yesterday too he was with them when he heard the news. He wept like a child and they consoled him. Some of them even cried and had they not been there, I wonder how he would have taken it.
When he came to the pyre, his eyes were swollen red and he looked like a little clown totally out of the surroundings. He looked strange in that shining bald head and white wraparound. I so wanted to hug him and say all would be fine; I do not recall when was the last time I did it. When he was small, he would come running to me and embrace me tightly; now he would not even laugh in front of me. When I saw him yesterday, a frail sixteen-year-old boy accepting condolences, I felt he is not yet prepared to take on this world.
Shama wanted a large doll house, the one she had seen in movies. They are magnificent and large, and extremely expensive. She would often make unreasonable demands and then force me get everything. For a twelve-year-old girl, her father means everything. She was more angry than sad yesterday. She was angry as to how I could have left her like that without warning, my sweet little princess. Her anger betrayed helplessness and disbelief. Her dad who could have never been wrong left her disappointed.
Her life will be different now and she would never get that Doll house. She would also not get many other things and all that will be left is a big vacuum. I know her well, my little angel. I know she would want that doll house all her life. We never give up on our unfulfilled desires, do we?
The sensation is unique. I cannot describe it but I do feel the stream. It is like your hairs being ruffled by the wind. The sky is dark but you can see some stars, they are shining brighter tonight. When was the last time I looked at the sky?
Will I lie here till eternity?
I wanted to say many things to my wife. On a rainy day, we sat together in a veranda and watched it rain. Occasional drizzle came on us with the wind and brought taste of rain. We sat there for long, quietly and still at ease. I held her hand all the time; I can still feel those water droplets that came with the wind and softness of her hands. Whenever I think about our relationship, that day comes to my mind. Our relationship was probably those held hands, or that comfort of being at ease. Our relationship was probably being we.
 She was a young bubbly girl when we got married. On her first day at our place, she was surrounded by ladies of the neighbourhood and she looked uncomfortable in a gaudy wedding saree. She looked at me with pleading eyes and just fainted. In that crowded house, she was sent to rest quietly in our room and I was asked to look her after. As I entered the toom, she opened her eyes mischievously and smiled. That day, I fell for her smile.
Yesterday too she fainted twice; a dead body lied in her front that resembled me. The body was swollen and strange; and almost ugly. She often looked at it and closed her eyes and a tear would trickle down her eyes. Her face was sweaty and sad and she was no longer that young mischievous bride she had been one day. She was the lady who shared my joys and sorrows; she was the lady who shared my life. I wanted to hold her hands and sit beside quietly.  I have this eerie thought that I will never be able to do it.   
When they lifted my dead body, I also walked along with the crowd. They were busy doing their worldly things and I waited for all that to get over. At times someone cried and I found his face funny. How people look different when they cry or smile! When the pyre was lit, I saw the flesh burn and bones crumble into small pieces. Within less than an hour, all that remained of this body were few pieces of white. My son carefully separated them from wood and ash and then threw it in that river. It was almost midnight.  
The stars are twinkling in the sky. I remember nights when a young boy would sleep on his rooftop and look at this sky. Some days his grandmother would tell him a story and on others he would count stars and constellations. He was timid and shy and lived in myriad dreams. He loved stories.
 I see his mother kiss him on forehead and he cannot hide his smile. She is now caressing his hairs. His dad is full of joy looking at him. Next, he is sitting with his friends. He laughed till his cheeks started aching. There are memories long forgotten but they came back too.
I remember a night when stars twinkled in the sky. There were houses far across and their illumination made them look like Christmas lights on a mountain. It was cold outside but her presence comforted me. Music and wine made everything more beautiful and I softly held her in my arms; her eyes acquiesced that she wanted me too. I held her tightly as if I could always keep her close. I felt her body full of life, her heavy breathing and the fire that lied within. After we made love, I rested my head on her bosom and closed my eyes. If I was ever alive, it was in that time.
I guess I am floating. I am young, I am old, I am not bound now by the restraints of time and age. I am the wind, I am the sea. I am also a song that someone is humming far away. I am a petal, I am a cloud, or I am one strong memory of a song or a smell, or of an embrace. I am the cold wind, I am the heat, or I am chill of the morning, and fog, and mist.

            The end is just a beginning!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The day that wasn’t!

1.     It is a Sunday morning. You wake up with a big smile and do first things first; check your mobile. You receive Good Morning messages from three unknown numbers and they have profile pictures of Lord Shiva, Marigold and Deepika Padukone. You wonder for a moment is that the real Padukone and then you smile at your joke. The messages have heavy images of garden and a rose and one good morning video that eats up mobile data yet doesn’t download. Your day has begun by getting annoyed.
2.     There is another WhatsApp and it is a forward sent by your uncle regarding heart transplant help for a poor child. It talks about forwarding it and the help that WhatsApp is going to provide. You have received this message for the thirteenth time and the same uncle had forwarded it six months back. You type a long message about hoaxes on social media and internet and just before pushing the send tab, you take a deep breath and delete it instead.
3.     You love Urdu poetry and read it to cheer yourself. You spend an hour with Ghalib, Jaul Elia and Faiz Ahmed Faiz and you have found that one couplet that has already made your day. You cannot resist sharing it on Facebook and within one minute, there are three comments and no likes; ‘All ok?’ ‘What happened?’ and ‘समझ नहीं आया पर अच्छा ही होगा’. You feel like banging your head on the wall but hold yourself.
4.     You want to be a rebel and think about torn Jeans for the first time. You contemplate about your old-fashioned self and the urge to be with times. After couple of hours you decide to take the plunge and now debate in your mind regarding from a store or online. It is an hour of serious thought and the deciding factor is indolence. You spend entire afternoon browsing online shopping websites. After risking credit card details at myriad places, sharing your mobile number and email id for receiving future spam, you are successful in payment. You pat yourself on your back and smile on being a man keeping pace with times; just then there is a curt auto generated sms that the product is out of stock and you can claim your refund.
5.     You spend another hour trying to locate the refund section on their website. You know all about their offers and products but you fail to find what you were looking for. You give them a call at the toll-free number and the auto-response system offers three options after every one. The diagram of the nuclear reaction chain comes to your mind and just then you hear a beautiful voice. The lady is extremely professional and polite, and asks you a dozen times as to how she could help. Just when you ask for refund, she cajoles/forces to go for another online purchase and you buy a Water jug. Your first online purchase was a success.
6.     You are desperate to rebel this day and you head towards a swanky apparel outlet.  Salesmen there outnumber shoppers by a ratio of ten and their hungry eyes struggling at their sale target evaluate the new sacrificial goat. Two salesmen are always behind you trying to sell perfumes, wrist watch and a best friend of the bridegroom outfit and you look at your receding hairline before discovering courage to ask for jeans that is torn (You mom already has many old ones that she has never thrown and some could be further torn but rebellion not prudence is the primary objective). You are embarrassed to look at price tags with prying eyes evaluating your purse and you end up selecting a seven T-Shirts and two trousers instead.
7.     You head towards the payment counters and scan length of the queues, efficiency and age of the billing clerks. You run various algorithms in your mind to decide which one would be the fastest. The time spent in the queue is full of anxiety and you hate to see three other queues moving fast. Just before your turn is about to come, you find a beautiful smiling girl heading towards your counter with just one item in hand. You pray that the person standing behind objects but even he does not and the obvious happens. Word stupid comes to your mind but you try to beguile yourself with chivalry instead.
8.     You come home tired and open the Idiot Box. Gaudy looking housewives are busy taking revenge and there is a beautiful lead who took two years to get married and will take another three to consummate. There is also a Nagin nearby along with black magic and predictable storylines. You convince yourself that you are here for the background music score and you love to see the camera focussing on face when it plays. The solace is that they always have some beautiful faces prepared to directly attend a wedding function after shoot. You become snobbish after sometime and tune on English news. Arnob Goswami is taking to task a timid guest and though the guest tries to murmur a protest, his mike has already been muted. It brings on that eerie memory of a unreasonable teacher/bully who could never be wrong and you turn the television off. 
9.     You open your diary to clear your heart and try to pen down things you do not like. The list goes on and on. You scribble that you don’t like stupid people and the majority in this world is already left out. You hate pretensions so you have nothing much for those who pretend to be smart. No one should be banal hence you can’t even tolerate one neither dumb nor smart. You also hate those who don’t get sarcasm. You think about a perfect man and after a long time you can only find one; the person scribbling these notes in diary.

10.  Your day wasn’t the one of your dreams but you always believe looking at the positive side. You thank god for everything that you have and whisper a small prayer in your mind. You turn off the light and are fully prepared to doze off. Just then your mobile beeps and a SMS declares that a lady on South Africa has bequeathed you ten million pounds. You just need to send them five hundred pounds as fund transfer charge. You smile and thank God for all the humour that goes around in this world. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Dear Darjeeling!

It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape. – Ruskin Bond
One day there was a big hailstorm which went on and on for an hour. Hails like stones hit entire town and everything turned white. Shaking trees, squealing tin roofs and thickening layer of snow all around, looked petrifying. When it ended, a big crowd gathered at Chowrasta and they started playing with ice. There were kids throwing snowballs at each other, a big snowman standing in between and mesmerized tourists who could still not believe their fortune. I was standing wide eyed at a corner, awestruck and completely in love with Darjeeling.
I have left a part of me in that moment; a part of that day still lives within me!
Finally the day has come to bid adieu to the place we called home for almost two years. There is something about this place that made farewell so melancholic.
The journey till Sandakphu is as difficult as it can be. There is a collection of rolling stones which is sometimes called road. The scenery is breathtaking yet altitude of almost 12000 feet makes breathing heavy. When we finally reached, we forgot our aching body parts because we first needed to survive biting cold. That night was difficult and we swore thousand times that we will never again make such a mistake. In the early morning when we witnessed the Kanchejungha in all its
glory, we could not believe something could be so majestic. The rays of the sun first kissed its peak and then embraced entire mountains. All of us were sitting quietly imbibing we just witnessed something so mesmerizing.
I remember a night at Dello Guest house. It was somewhat cold with pleasant breeze blowing all across Kalimpong. I was the only one taking a walk in that big garden and caretakers probably knew I am a Ghazal aficionado. They played it in the background and I stayed in that moment for a long time relishing solitude. I can still feel that cool breeze caressing me.
Once we got up at three in the morning to see the sunrise at Tiger hills. We cursed the shivering cold and the crowd, and big serpentine traffic jam that snarled uphill. There was a group of youngsters who sang and danced, and I wondered what made them so jolly in this cold. When the sun peeped in and myriad colours danced on the morning sky, I could not help but feel how small we are in front of this beauty. The sharpest memory of that day is the first ray of sun hitting the horizon and how fast colours change in the sky. I also remember those happy youngsters dancing in the crowd.
Once some of our friends came down from

Kolkata and we stayed at a Tea Garden. The bungalow was one of the finest I had ever seen and was surrounded by lush green tea bushes spread across the valley. It had hills on all sides and the breeze made a continuous buzzing sound while knocking at gigantic trees. We sat in the open balcony and debated religion and politics. We fought and argued and almost reached the verge of tearing each other’s clothes. We stayed awake almost entire night and then our dear A played guitar, as he often did. I will always miss those heated debates and those songs that I heard in numerous such gatherings. How will parties look without his guitar strings?
Many other images have stayed on with me. The forest drive of Sukhna looked so pristine that one could find zillion shades of green in it. The vast bank of river was like a scene out of apocalypse. There were times when did breakfast in our garden and had Kanchenjungha’s view in front for company. One night a leopard crossed the road in front of my vehicle and looked at us with his shining eyes before disappearing. When I traveled to Kalimpong, Teesta flowed along and its emerald green water gushing with fast pace looked serene yet intimidating. There were clouds that came and embraced
entire town and the fog that made everything appear mystic. The rain once started poured together for days. There were stories of Ghosts which came back haunting whenever I was alone in my bungalow. Everything was so silent at that time of night that only those who have ever lived that silence can understand it.
And then there were people who were strangers before and became part of our life. We shared good times and sorrows, and cemented our relationship with those memories. They changed me in many ways and all those times of happiness or of melancholy, made life worth living. They took away a part of me and I often find them in my personality. They may always be in our life, or this might have been our last meeting but whenever I would look back in life, I would remember them fondly.
I remember sitting idle one night in a balcony watching myriads of twinkling lights on a hill in front of me, and a strong overpowering feeling came along with it; this is how life is meant to be. A sign of ageing perhaps, the feeling that I may not be able to relive all this is unnerving.
I loved you my dear house. You allowed us to call it home and gave us pleasant memories. I loved you
dear mountains, and your fog and your mist. I loved your serpentine roads that revealed your beauty from different perspectives. I miss you dear friends and maybe I will never get to say this, I would always love you. I always felt that I will never belong to any place but I was wrong; I belong to you, my Beloved Darjeeling!