उम्मीद के ग़ुब्बारे

शाम लगभग हो चली थी, गुनगुनी सी धूप थी जो अब किसी भी वक़्त ढल सकती थी। कुछ रोज़ से बारिश की फुहारें पड़ जा रही थी जिसकी वजह से धूप चुभ नहीं रही थी। मैं छत पर बैठा रेडीओ पर गाने सुन रहा था, शाम के वक्त पूराने हिंदी गाने रोज़ आते थे। नीचे से मुहल्ले के बच्चों के खेलने, चीखने-चिल्लाने की आवाज़ें आ रही थी। शाम के वक्त छत पर जाकर आसमाँ में लौटते हुए पंछियों को देखने में एक सुकून सा मिलता था। अभी कुछ देर पहले ही माँ शाम की चाय पहुँचा गयी थी मुझे ऊपर और वापस नीचे जाते वक्त सूखे कपड़े उठा ले गयी थी। अब छत पर रह गए थे तो बस आधी कप लगभग ठंडी चाय, मैं और मो. रफ़ी जी के गाने।

जहां मैं बैठा था वहाँ से ठीक सामने के घर की छत कुछ दिनों से वीराना हो चला था। उस घर में रहती थी तिथि। कभी उस से आमने सामने बात नहीं हुई थी पर लगभग दो तीन सालों से अजीब सा रिश्ता बन गया था उस से, मानो कोई आपसी समझौता की जितनी देर वो छत पर रहेगी उतनी देर मैं भी रहूँगा। उसका एक निर्धारित वक्त होता था ऊपर छत पर आने का और मैं वक्त का पाबंद था। मजाल है कि कभी एक मिनट से भी इधर उधर हो जाऊँ मैं।

आँखे अगर मिल गयी कभी हमारी तो परिचित पड़ोसियों की तरह एक मुस्कान का लेन देन हो जाता था बिना किसी शर्त के। बातों बातों में पापा से एक रोज़ पता चला था की हम दोनो एक ही कक्षा में थे पर अलग अलग स्कूल में। मैं खुश था की सब अगर ठीक रहा तो आने वाले साल में शायद एक ही कॉलेज में पढ़ने को जाए दोनो। पर बारहवीं की परीक्षा में जहां मैंने औसत परिणाम लाए थे वहाँ उसने कुछ ज़्यादा ही अच्छा कर लिया था। अब वो जा चुकी थी राजस्थान आगे की पढ़ायी की तैयारी के लिए। उसकी कमी में अब छत, शाम और शहर — सब फीका लगता है पर शायद मैं अब अपने ही शहर के किसी कॉलेज से आगे की पढ़ायी करूँगा और जब अगली छुट्टी में तिथि घर आएगी तो बिना झिझक उस से बात करने जाऊँगा। वो अगर अपना पता देगी तो उसे बाद में चिट्ठियाँ भी लिखूँगा पर बात ज़रूर करूँगा। साँझ हो गयी थी, आसमान नारंगी हो चला था। मन में जो उम्मीद थी वो लाल ग़ुब्बारे की तरह मेरे सामने के आसमान को और सुंदर बना रही थी।



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Film Review: Kadvi Hawa (India, 2017)

I heard somewhere that the director of the film ‘Kadvi Hawa’ (2017) worked on this topic for 9 years before it was finally turned into a full film, and I must not forget to mention that his film was the first Indian film to focus specifically on climate change.

Nila Madhab Panda, a skilled Indian filmmaker, has directed several films about social issues such as child labour, education, and climate change etc. His film “I am Kalam” received critical recognition around the world. While “I am Kalam” won numerous international accolades, his film “Kadvi Hawa” won a National Award and earned worldwide acclaim for its subject.

Na jaane kya ho gaya usko, kaise bimaar ho gayi woh‘ (Wonder what’s wrong with the wind; it’s as though it’s plagued.) – The director takes us on a tour of the arid environment of drought-stricken Mahua village in Rajasthan’s Chambal region, where the soil used to be the source of life once but has now turned to dead stones. Even an old blind man played by Sanjay Mishra—can’t put his hopes in such a land. Years of drought have put his knowledge to the test. For many years, the winds have failed to bring rain-bearing clouds to his village, and he wonders what has gone wrong.

Hedu’s son succumbed to the despair of not being able to produce anything from that land where only bitter wind blows, and thus not being able to repay the debt for years in the hope of a bountiful crop someday, which eventually drove him to commit suicide. Hundreds of farmers commit suicide every year, but the media has always managed to obscure the anguish behind their actions and the widows’ sobbing.

On the one hand, there is a disappointed populace that is fighting to make ends meet, and on the other, there is a system that is more punishing than supportive. The harsh bank loan recovery agent, played by Ranvir Shorey, is the yamdoot for the locals (sign of death). For debt-ridden farmers, his appearance in any village symbolizes catastrophe.

This powerful movie also conveys a powerful message: climate change poses a threat to both the wealthy and the poor. When you watch even the yamdoot (Ranvir Shorey) saying prayers when he hears that a major cyclone has wrecked his native Odisha, it bridges the divide between the powerful and the powerless.

Film Review: The Dog Who Would Not Be Quiet.

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (Argentina, 2021) is a non-traditional film directed by Argentinian Ana Katz.

I can’t say ‘as the title suggests’ because the title says nothing about the film. However, once I finished watching the film, I took the liberty of interpreting the title for myself. Life (could here be represented as dog) would never be devoid of occurrences. Those incidents could be simple, routine, or ordinary, or they could be profound. One thing leads to another, whether connected or unrelated. A life that will never be quiet or still.

I’m a sucker for indirect humour that stems from apathy or a ludicrous occurrence in everyday life. One that makes people laugh uncomfortably because it can challenge and identify every survivor of the oppressed middle class.

Ana Katz has captured all harsh and sweet human events like birth, death, love, separation, or something like a tragedy inflicted on mankind when a meteorite hits the earth in a film that is only 73 minutes long. I mean, can you even imagine!

I read about the film and learned that it was made over a long period of time and by a variety of cinematographers. Daniel Katz, the actor, could easily be seen with and without a beard at different times. In certain instances, he wears his hair long, and in others, he wears it short. And I believe it complements what the film discusses in those 73 minutes. Here, time is relative and you have to watch the movie to feel it.

I won’t give anything away about the movie for those who want to see it (or bear with me if I have already crossed that line) Ana has created a film that is both deep and warm.

You can be nice from the inside and decide to keep a character that tends to, nurtures, and cares for all that exists, no matter how upset and frustrated you are with the chain of absurdities of daily life.

Film Review: Friends And Strangers by James Vaughan

Friends and Strangers (Australia, 2021; Dir: James Vaughan) is not a film I would recommend to those looking for a full-fledged, purposefully cooked proper story. 

A very talented director has created a comedy-of-manners movie with gorgeous shots. Movie, sometimes, is wonderfully awkward and deliriously strange the other times. 

Set against the appealing backdrop of Australian cosmopolitanism, it is primarily a comedy film about twenty-something adults attempting to find a balance between the surrealism and absurdity of modern life.

While watching James Vaughan’s beautiful debut film, I couldn’t help but think of Eric Rohmer (and, for a brief moment, Terrance Mallick). The way James Vaughan’s film gathers documentary-style detailed attention to the architecture and environment, the camera itself becomes an object.

Thirty minutes into the film, we see the director deftly abandoning the previous premise and ushering us into a new one without losing our interest. It appeared to me to be a symbol of the constantly shifting thoughts that young millennials around the world will have. It’s as if you’re deciding what to eat for supper one minute and then thinking about which movie to watch while you eat the next.

‘Friends and Strangers’ is a story of modern malaise that is not necessarily limited to Australian culture, which is why millennials and proper grown-ups in their 30s can’t help but relate to Vaughan’s film. This film is without a doubt one of my favorites from the year 2021.

Book Review: ‘The Palace Of Illusions’ by Chitra B Divakaruni

One of the most talked-about books by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni “The Palace of Illusions”, is a fan fiction book that retells the epic mythological story of the Great War of all time, Mahabharat, from Draupadi’s point of view. 

There is scarcely any doubt that the theme of the book was one of its kind. Even though enough has been written and created around the heroic saga, the character of Draupadi (or Panchaali, as she liked to be called) has always been victimized. Chitra has simply taken a story that has been told millions of times over the centuries and has made it into a piece of admiration through her craft. Her storytelling creates an ideal platform for Panchaali to reveal her true self, not hiding any aspect of her personality, good or bad, and leaving it to the readers’ comprehension to stomach her perspectives on whatever happens between her birth and the day she dies.
In Chitra’s “The palace of illusions“, Panchaali is anything but a victim and that perhaps is the only point of alteration from the original story. As you dig through the book, you discover how, since her childhood, Panchaali has felt every tiny emotion known to mankind. She felt everything, from being unwanted to being loved, cared for, having desires, and being betrayed.

Chitra, as she had confessed, had chosen a very bold yet intriguing subject for a book. A premise that many would not dare to touch for fear of hurting the feelings of millions. I liked the introduction of a new angle with KarnaI was amused. However, it can be very deceptive for somebody who gets his hand on this book before he reads/hears/watches the original story. 

The fact that this book does not spend quality time around the character building of other significant mortals is why it is precisely Panchaali’s version of her own life; her yearnings, her vengeance that was born out of her anger and desires, seeking attention from the ones she cared for etc.
Throughout history, Draupadi has been portrayed as a headstrong, self-centered, and complaining woman who brought about the greatest war known to human beings. But in a bold attempt, Chitra has brought forward the innocence and naiveness of a young Panchaali. The way she abruptly questions everything, judges quickly and confronts loneliness and unwanted/rejection throughout her life.

If only our author was not so straightforward with her undisguised foreshadowing, reading could have been more fun and less predictable. But then there can hardly be any spoilers for those who have read the original story, as nothing changes except for a few additional mythical details, which make it a decently fabricated piece of writing.

Realm Of Pain.



There are different phases of pain. Any pain. Any chronic pain. 

Let us talk about the headache – the kind of pain that some of us have.
There is this headache that just stays and during the initial days of its stay, it makes you feel quite uneasy. 

There never is a moment of mindfulness or any clarity. An unfriendly heaviness clouds the mind almost all the time. You stay in this phase of pain for a long time – or perhaps it just seems long because there hardly is anything that you could do to fight it back. No hangouts, distractions or music can soothe it out. 

Then after some time (maybe a year or even more), you bring yourself to a point where you are kind of comfortable with it. Like you can make a phone call to a dear person and have a real conversation. However, this pain always remains in the background but it doesn’t make you feel uneasy to the extent that you wished you didn’t exist. You are aware and cautious. You know that you don’t have to pay attention to it. It has become more like a stubborn, spoilt teenager who has discovered what pisses you off and would continue doing it as long as you pay attention. They settle down as soon as you stop to care.

Then comes the phase when the pain finally stops reminding you of its existence. It becomes so abstract that you can barely recognize it – not until you have been left alone with it. It becomes more like a piece of background music. Most of the time, there are so many things going on in your life that it almost makes the background music sound faded.

It is more or less like you are having a cup of tea with your wife on a Sunday morning and you rest your head on your hand while talking about the new movie trailer you watched last night. She asks you – “Do you have a headache”? In all your senses, you reply with – “No, not a headache. I just feel unusual“. 

Now, this is the phase of your pain at which you don’t just stop acknowledging its existence but also become unaware of it.

A Draining Journey



My hand tries
to reach out
and stop
that deafening cacophony
from wherever it comes.

But
I don’t seem to find
anything
that I could stop
or ask to buzz-off
or blame.
Dear Mind, you play
what a wicked game!

I try
not to over-think
and crumble
until the noise fades
like that tick-tock
sound of the clock
in the morning.

After all, what is Life
if not the sum of
small journeys
from one miserable
to another,
and holding on
through each journey.

Picture Courtesy: Pinterest

Summertime Nostalgia – A Memoir!

Trees

Some of our days do smell like childhood. Every movement that we make, every thought that we think and every sound that we hear reflects the nostalgia of the day that we have already lived decades ago. As if our mind and body are wandering separately in two different days of two different years of our lives. This is exactly how I felt when I woke up this morning.

Chotu handed over the freshly brewed cup of black tea as soon as I went outside my bedroom. Seventeen years ago, when Chotu first came to us to be our house help, I was told his name was Govind. But looking at his stature at that time and how convenient it was for me, I soon started calling him Chotu.
I took my tea and went to the study room. That is where I have always taken my morning tea. I enjoy the fresh air more than the television during the first few hours after I wake up in the morning. I have my study room combined with the living room. Metaphorically speaking, I am more alive in my study than anywhere else. Hence it completely made sense to call my study as a living room too. My east-facing study faced the lawn and the brown entrance gate of our house. I mostly kept the study door locked and prohibited its usage for usual going in and out of the house. Anybody, who visited us, had to take the second door which led to the thin passage adjacent to the left of the study.

I have my writing table right by the big wooden window which was painted sky blue. Of all the other great things in my life which they have blessed me with, I especially thank my parents for this window. This window is my special free pass to get into the most artistic landscapes of my imagination. There is a semi-circular multicolored stained glass window on top of the wooden window which made the study look colorful with the lights reflected during the early morning hours.

Sitting at my table I could see all the trees planted in our lawn. Starting spring until the end of the summer, our lawn smelled of Jasmine flowers and Guavas. Flowers on the Gulmohar tree (Delonix Regia) added a different vibe and pleasure in looking outside the window. Together they raise a toast to my senses, particularly to the eyes. What we have seen through our eyes works dominantly with the memories that we create of our yesteryears or of every passing minute. Like I can still remember the fireworks during Diwali from my childhood and how much the sight of it used to fill me with joys or the summer evenings which I used to spend in our lawn looking at the stars. Every evening, Chotu would pluck some jasmine flowers and put them in a ceramic bowl of water on my writing table. One can only think of pleasant thoughts when surrounded by the natural aromatic fragrances.

Ours is a two-storeyed house in Vasant Vihar, Delhi which was constructed at least 37 years ago by my parents. When my father was still working with the Indian Railways, he was confused about choosing between Delhi and Kolkata to build himself a home and get settled. My mother used to write articles and short stories for local magazines, and it was easy to access multiple big, medium, and small publication houses in Delhi for her work to get published. They had lived in a rented house in Vasant Vihar for a couple of years after their marriage and they honestly believed that they felt at home in this locality.

Today as I sit by the window sipping from my cup of tea, I can vividly feel all the summers of August I have spent in this house. Being the only child of my parents, I had always discovered my ways of keeping myself busy and entertained. During the daytime when my father was at duty and my mother was busy writing in the study where I am sitting right now, I would sneak outside and start playing with Chotu’s bicycle. My father had bought this bicycle for him to take care of the outside chores. His bicycle was slightly bigger for my age. I used to drag myself on it, nevertheless. As a teenager I was curious to see if the leaves of the trees or plants felt anything when we touched them and I used to spend long afternoon hours observing the plants, hanging guavas and collecting the fallen jasmine flowers and leaves and stuffing them in the pockets of my dress. Later, I used to decorate the study table with those flowers and leaves.

Summer has the longest days and even though the father used to come back home from the duty by 5pm, it never felt early. Once my father was back, we all used to sit on a big jute mat on the lawn and Chotu used to join us after he had served the evening tea and snacks. Father would tell us about his day at work and the mother would talk about the signs of progress on her articles and stories. I used to listen sincerely whenever my mother talked about the stories she was working on. I think I get my reading and writing habits from mother as even when I played alone in the lawn during the afternoon hours of my childhood, I used to observe my mother sitting by the same wooden window of our study and working on her stories.
After listening to my parents talking about their day, I used to engage myself in playing and chatting with Chotu. I would insist if he could tell me some stories from his village or what he used to do in the afternoon when he was a little kid. He would tell me how he would sneak outside of his house without letting his parents know and go swimming with his friends in the small pond which they had in the village. When they had swum in the pond for a while, they used to catch fishes using the bamboo stick with a hook attached to one of its ends. His stories were fascinating as I never had done any of those and I would listen sincerely as long as he would go on. After he ran out of the stories, he would lift me up and help me pluck guavas from the tree.

Today felt like one of those summer mornings of August in Delhi when our house did smell of guavas and Jasmine flowers. It did smell of the incense sticks that father would light before he would have breakfast and leave for the duty. It did smell of all the spilled inks and crushed papers around the mother’s study table. It smelled like raw memories.
I firmly believe that our past gives us the most precious gift of memories only when we live completely in our present. Imagine if, twenty years ago, I didn’t notice closely how the trees of our lawn looked like in this month or how my mother would work inexhaustively for long hours on her stories or what ingredients Chotu used to put in my favorite snacks or what my father would talk about during the evening teatime – then my senses would not have collaborated well with my brain to create the most cherished and honest memories for life.

A FAMILIAR MISLAY

vsco_012417

How much happiness is the enough happiness for your heart to hold?
If it is much more than what you could carefully handle, then what do you do to keep it intact – making sure it doesn’t flow over the edges during the course of you being excessive careful with it?

July 31st

With great struggle I found the cab I had booked almost 40 minutes ago. I boarded it in a jiffy and thanked my driver for not abandoning me while I waited patiently for the cab.
In a minute or two, I had settled down with the damp smell inside the cab and rested my head on the window pane of the back seat.
I stared right into the falling raindrops playing with the reflections of the lights from the stores and the traffic on my window.
My cab was barely moving and yet I was neither in a hurry nor impatient. Its stupid!
How can one possibly feel arrived before they actually arrive somewhere.
You know that feeling – you see an unknown, unfamiliar number flashing on your mobile screen. You want to take that call, you want to see what lies on the other side but you hesitate. You are so made up of your thoughts that nothing really seems to talk you off the ledge.

Driver must have sensed the pain and anxiety one would normally feel as soon as they board a cab in the city right after the evening rain. He switched on the FM and the station ‘accidentally’ started playing Nothing Else Matters from Metallica.

Wait!
I should not feel anything anymore.
How can one feel nearly perfect being stuck in a never-ending traffic?
With every moment moving ahead on that road in the cab, I felt as if I was travelling in an entirely different direction on the parallel lane as if the completeness of that moment was enough for my delicate heart to hold. Sometimes we have to make assumptions that maybe this is it now! That’s all I can handle.
Wherever that cab was supposed to take me to was the most beautiful trap of life – you have seen it, you have known it, you have addressed to it and later you have either felt incompetent or devastated. It shows you where you need to go but it never takes you anywhere.
Years later, I feel as if I never got off that cab. I am not lost for sure but I am still trying to figure out where I had to go, where I am to go.

Thoughts Marathon

april 27th

The world out there is in deathlike silence,
there is no pretentious chaos and haste
and I can barely shut my ears and eyes
to the planet of thoughts inside my head.

Hush!
Silent!
Stay in there but stay low –
you – like a maddening sound of taiko.

I reckon there is no running away,
there is no hiding out,
but can there be no pause,
no break-outs, no respite?
Do they not run on electricity?
Is there no load-shedding?
These millions of tiny,
hyperactive thoughts!
Do they never run low on battery?
Ain’t they ever sleepy?

So, I thought yesterday
when the Sun will set,
I will take these covert
voices in confide,
take them with me
to shower,
bargain with their pride.

These non-dying thoughts,
their consistent buzzing,
they will float free
in the hot shower
or will just sink.
But in either cases:
It will free the soul-bird
from the cage,
and put at rest the thoughts
that otherwise would pierce
my lungs with rage.