Life is beautiful – again

Is he a superman?

How did he do this?

How could he… do this?

Does anyone think he had it in him?

This level of endurance,

Capacity to tolerate the unending tortures

Self-inflicted or even self-consumed

A lone man

Encircled by layers and layers of

Unbroken chains of moments,

Days, nights, weeks, months

Year after year, after year, after…

Surrounded by never ending                                    

Powerful suffocating situations,

Circumstances

The lone man felt insignificant

Like a scrawny Jew

Begging for his life in front of Nazi guns

Like a blade of grass being tossed around

… But, he had no idea

He had the tolerance of a superman!

Looking back

Even a single moment of his lonely life

And times gone by

Years of sinful separation

Unbearable heaviness of carrying an unfair heart

Inside his chest

Each such moment

Had power to blow away his breath

Or stub his life out

With a careless stamp of a giant’s shoe

He looks up in awe,

What is this magic about?

Who did this?

Where have those impossible

Snarling snaring days gone?

How did his life turn around?

Without Harry’s magic wand

Now… that life has turned around

Will it matter how it happened

Who did this?

And what was the reason for it to happen

But for him…

Life was beautiful again

So beautiful, that it had never been…

That beautiful

He does not remember feeling so happy

Light hearted, carefree, unconcerned… ever

He claims this is the best phase of his life

He is not even bothered if this will last or…

How long will be the life of this new life

He is not concerned because

He feels for the first time ever

He is in control

He knows he is going to make it work

This time there are no alternates

No excuses, no pressures

No one can deprive him of this bliss.

Now or ever

Mad, you are

He thought she looked beautiful

Wherever she was,

Whatever she was doing

In kitchen

Bent over a dish

Stirring the potatoes

In living room having tea

May be watching TV

Looking at him

Looking away

She was never ‘not’ busy

And to him

She always looked beautiful when busy

Being busy meant she was engrossed in something

Immersed in it

She was her natural self

With whatever…

Not bothered about how she looked

That made her look even better…

I told her just what he felt

She said flatly, ‘you are mad’

And continued…

Chopping ginger, filling water

Turning the vegetables in the pan

Her eyes getting watery

Due to spices and steam

Making her eyes glisten and gleam

I just told her exactly what I saw

And felt

About her eyes…

Mad you are

She was sitting in the chair

Reading news paper

She clicked photo of daily forecast

And sent it to him quickly

He replied “wow that’s so lucky

I am feeling just the same

As though it was written for my own name”

Confirm Mad

How long will it take the rice to get done?

Why?

Had something to say that’s why

Don’t disturb me, it will take 5 minutes

Not disturbing

Can I hold you for these 5 minutes?

Since 5 Minutes rice will take

Let me hold you and wait

You can never change

… Mad

Sea, it’s easy for you

Gautam was up at 5.30 and in a relaxed hurry he got ready. He changed into his walking attire, wore his sports shoes, a watch and a belt pouch with his specks, phone and house keys. He stepped out sharp at 6 am. It was quite bright. Slowly he moved as per his plan to walk along sea side road to Yari road and then turn around to return. Last time he remembered it took him 50 min. He thinks that’s a fair amount to cover in a day.

He normally does road walks early mornings. Because the traffic is scant. So roads are comparatively less dangerous. It is also less noisy. As he reached near the first turn to the sea on Versova beach, he decided to take a look if there was space to walk on the sand. If the tide is high then one cannot walk there. But the tide was receding. So a large stretch of sand though very wet; was available. He decided it was a better bet to walk here than road.

He tested the sand. The beach was tilted badly. So his feet were very unbalanced, left up and right way down. But he found it better as he moved towards the water line.

Gautam picked up pace after examining the beach till the end. It seemed about 750 meters. One round trip makes it 1.5 km. There were very few people. One young guy sitting cross legged was chanting Aum in various pitches. Other sounds that he heard were of sea gulls, crows and waves.

Waves! He remembered his last meeting with the sea about a month back. He had a conversation with it. Gautam basically does not need anything for himself, as he is totally self-content… And that’s the kind of general perception. Everyone knows that. But he had another responsibility on him and he was not sure if he can handle it by himself.

He started his talk to the sea; “last time I told you that I have met someone very important. She is from the ancient times, when the world was very different…”

He heard a roar of waves.

“Yes, now I have taken this as my life’s sole purpose that…”

Big roar again.

See now I have told you in so many words… You are so strong… You cover and control most of the earth… You can easily help us… I am also in conversation with trees and wind.

Large wave splashed on the beach.

Okay okay. So I take it as we have a deal. I don’t want to see her upset ever again… That I know, but Gautam is just another name for someone who roamed around here. He listened to the waves of your teachings intently and tried his best to figure out what each of those waves meant.

Who me? No, I will be okay. I really wouldn’t consider myself to be one of the greatest souls you met in your life time. So you don’t have to keep any thing for me. This pretty shell will do.


MV PAVIT is the second ship to get stuck at Mumbai’s popular Juhu beach. A large ship bang on the beach makes a very weird sight. It attracts many eye-balls. But it can be a tremendous security hazard too. A large ship moves aimlessly in India waters, without being noticed by coast guard or Indian Navy and lands directly in the financial capital of the country! There is something seriously wrong. Previous ship MV Wisdom was aground vertical to the beach. So its propeller and rudders were in water which helped tugs to pull it away. But PAVIT is parallel to the beach and its propeller and rudders are stuck deep in sand! This one is not going anywhere for a long long time… on August 14 another salvage operation was started and successfully ended on 15 August. The ship was floated away into the high seas and sailed off to Alang port in Gujarat.

Now you see God…

“God!” Might be the most used exclamation! But strangely enough it is used rather casually or even indifferently. We are not even thinking about god, when we say, “god, how did this happen?” But surely what went wrong is always of more significance than the word, god itself.

I wonder if this phenomenon needs an analysis. May be it doesn’t. But ‘may be’ it can be mulled over… or maybe not. But let me do it. I have a different take on this.

When someone talks about God, I would imagine she/he is talking about ‘the’ most powerful one, someone who is believed to have created this world, entire universe, runs everyone’s life, etc.

Every religion has few smaller entities like Ganesh ji, Hanuman ji… These entities have faces and they can be identified by looking at their paintings or their idols.

But the biggest power, ‘the’ God, stays unseen across all faiths. She/he has no face, no identity or presence. No one can figure out at which point or moment where that God might be. Everyone says She/he is omni-present, She/he can see everything, knows everything, is running this world from top…

But no one gives any thought to so many gods, who are present right in front of our eyes, in our day to day life! They are all the time helping us. Infusing life in us and we are able to function because of those small little gods all around.

Guys, isn’t the air that we breathe is being given to us by some god! Could any insignificant identity provide us with such a vital form of life support? I guess only a god can have that kind of power. And she/he does it without any selfish motive. She/he doesn’t want anything in return. Just take the air, breath in, stay alive and move on. I am sure many have guessed the name. It’s a tree. Thousands of them are lined up on the roadsides, in forests, in barren land… What are they doing there? They are collecting the stale air that we breathe out and converting it back into breathable air for all of us. Why do we need to worship any other god in front of a healthy green tree?

I wouldn’t talk about what kind of respect people give to these tree gods. It is shameful. If this is how people treat a living real god, then they should not call themselves ‘god fearing’. I think gods must be afraid of them.

Actually my opinion about god is even more widely elaborate. It includes so many things, people and animals. We should include everyone and everything as some kind of minor gods. If anything or anyone does even an iota of good to the other selflessly, then that person has experienced god. Someone guided me in long distance running. He is god enough for me. When I see him jogging I see god. When a tree sheds hundreds of tiny leafs, just as I pass below it. I thank it for acknowledging my presence. As a habit, I never pluck flowers from a tree. I always pick up them from ground, because those the ones god has dropped for me.

Sometime gods get created for a short period, like a flash and then they go away. Another time, we can see them just for a moment in an activity, in the movement of a wave, in expert flight of an eagle, in unending breath of a flautist, expert play of sitar or santoor… there so many gods all around. We just need to be alert in discovering beauty and intelligence in whatever we see. Everything in our vision is a cosmic dance and we are a part of it. If anytime we have managed to spread a smile someone’s face, if we made a child happy, if we petted a dog, helped a struggling butterfly, a limping bird… I would say that we were gods in those moments. We all are gods. Real ones! And now you can stop looking for that God, which you know only too well – you will never find.

A temple in Singapore

Finding inner peace

I can see a street from my window

Actually a small part of it

Though the street mainly consists of potholes

Yet it attracts many

Cars, tempos, scooters, autos

As their loud horns blare

Further raising the decibels all over

Restlessness seems to have taken over

People trying to cross the street

Between many a brake screech

Scared old men women children

And the dogs scampering frightened

With their tails between their legs

Everyone seems so high strung

Someone wants to go across that way

Others are waiting to walk this way

Many have phones pressed to their ear

So they can listen to what they want to hear

This tiny part of a street has so much energy!

I was scared to add up the entire city…

My heart now was getting heavy

I left the window and shut it

Noises did reduce substantially

But my heart remained heavy


I thought about the sea

I love sounds of the sea

Waves make same sound

Their action very persistent

Each wave hits the shore

And spreads around all over

Then follows another

Another, yet another

Energy of the waves seems to be endless

Where in the sea must be their source?

Let me tell you a secret

Sea waves give me a therapy

With their sounds and energy

Soon my eye lids turned heavy

And I began to feel sleepy

As my mind sank further

I began surveying the world deeper

Noise of waves had considerably reduced

As though even this window had closed

The world below was different

In fact, very different

I swam even lower

Then even more

A bit more

Until there was no sound

Except smoothness and calm

A shell was crawling on the sandy surface

The fish seem to have lost their pace

It felt like a heavenly place

No one chased another to eat

No one seemed to want nothing

No one had to convey anything No one wanted to know anything…

As we dive in our thoughts, we find peace.

‘Waiting’, the art of procrastination

It has been quite long that

I did something,

Something worthwhile

To talk about

If not to brag… about

Something useful to me

Or anyone

To write a new exciting blog post

To come up with a unique new painting

To read a serious science article

Or a spiritual one or one on health or finance

I am not interested in new friends

At least not from around here

May be in another city or perhaps from a village

People who are not like me

These guys are all like dated boring flop movies

All scratchy, dramatic and staccato

They are far from exciting, in tune

Bright or witty

After meeting with such a friend is over

I do not feel richer…

With a new idea, a new word or thought

I am not interested in friends,

Who are helpful or kind or plain amazing people

Concept of a helpful friend is boring

People who make friends because

One can depend on them in need

Is a very selfish idea

I want friends who are bright,

Spread knowledge and cheer

There are number of people

Who offer never ending flow of advice

And are ever ready to correct me

Improvement me, make me like them…

So very kind of them

But I feel none of these are qualified to improve me

But it would be politically incorrect

To not feel indebted for their genuine concern about me

Their belief that without their help

I might be left behind

I wouldn’t be known

Will not succeed

And will remain in the background for ever…

So I have decided to act on this urgently

There is hardly any time

Procrastination is a terrible activity

Or shall we say absence of any activity?

But waiting for things to happen isn’t

So without any delay I have decided to start ‘waiting’

To Light From Darkness

Look. There, in that direction

Can you see that?

A huge slab of darkness

Like a dark mountain

Yes right, that one

That’s a mountain of darkness

On the other side of that

Behind it

Yes, right through it

There is a light

My light!

Why, can you not see it?

Look right at the center of the dark mass

Try

Yes, concentrate in the middle of it

Well, I can see it easily

So what if it is dark

I know, light can be seen anyways

Darkness is darkness

But light is light

I agree if light is there

Then darkness cannot exist

Both can’t co-exist

But what can I do

If it’s there, it’s there

We can’t help it

Alright, I understand

You cannot see it

I agree

I also have been trying

Sorry, but I too cannot see it very well

But, I know it is there

Behind that dark entity

I was trying to find

If you could see that

Or anyone else

Soon I am leaving to get to it

No, don’t worry, I will find a way

They say

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

May be I will find some light on the path

May be… not

So plan is to walk in a straight line

When you can see nothing

You must remain focused

And alert and follow a line

You never know what you might come across

Stones, thorns, ditches, ravines

Snakes, scorpions, other animals

There can be anything

I will be in total darkness

But… I could also say

I might bump into a person!

Like me, someone,

Who might also be looking for a light!

You think people on the other side

Are not looking for the light from this side?

Or any side?

Isn’t it possible?

It is, isn’t it?

Let me be me

Nothing raises waves now,

Inside me, I mean

Something surely seems to have quieted

Don’t know how, but

Waves are not high and violent

They… the waves

I noticed

Had been getting smaller and weaker

Until… one day

They couldn’t be noticed

Now I don’t see any movement

Even in the far off horizon

My stormy ocean now has stabilized

The surface has become flat

It looks like…

Like a desert of water

Without dunes

No grass, shrubs or trees

Yet, one in a while

A wave of breeze arrives

And tries to shake the ocean

Wake it, make it talk, play

Excite it

Or at least look excited

Breeze wants ocean to make waves

Become same again

But… after trying for a while

She tires herself

Feeling helpless

She turns away

She doesn’t like my ocean’s disinterest

But the ocean doesn’t feel bad

That she is feeling bad

He gets thoughtful though

Breeze is wind, air

She can move,

Travel the world over

She could find another ocean

May be…

Shutting his eyes he thinks

Let me be me

Sea shows its strength just before the monsoon sets in.
Marine Drive, Mumbai

Affectionately yours

We remember our past either due to associations with some people or because of certain unique unforgetable incidences. Past always comes to our mind not as a date or a period; but as its various association. There is no reason to think about May 3, as a date, but when I know on this day I came to Mumbai for good that makes the association and significance of a date gets established. In everyone’s life there are faces and voices that keep surfacing in memories.

But whenever I think of about love, affection, friendship; Jackie’s face emerges in my mind. Jackie was a female Doberman of pure breed. She was very agile, alert and smart. She lived with Babu Family, in the house of my sister-in-law in Pune. It is a large house, with open space all around, large trees and lot of foliage.

Jackie had company of Zara (again a female Doberman) and Gypsy (a female German Shephard). In the morning all three would be kept locked at the back of the house, because Zara was capable of attacking odd guys bringing news paper or milk. But all three of them were allowed to roam everywhere after awhile. Our trips to Pune were good fun because of these three highly entertaining dogs. All three were trained to not enter inside the house, unless it was raining or it was too hot. Pune does get very hot in summer…

Jackie was a very understanding person. It showed in her tolerance towards children. She was always very mild with them. She never ran up to them or played high energy games. Many toddlers in the family would sit on her, pull her ears or even try to poke her in the eyes; but she would sit patiently and take it. Only if the condition turned too difficult for her, she would get up and walk off.

Although Jackie and I met only on occasions, she became very close to me. I was always greeted with a lot jumping and licking every time we visited Babu Family. She wanted always my hand petting her head. If I moved it away, she would lower her head under my hand and put it back.

We hit out very well. We played games like grabbing the ball. But the ball would always end up in her mouth. Obviously it was impossible to beat her in it. She also loved ‘find the right stone’ game. In this, I would choose a stone, memorize its shape, rub my hands over it for smell to stay, make her smell it and throw it away hard. She would dash off in that direction, find the same stone and get it back. She it did every time. She was so swift that many times she grabbed the stone while it was still in hopping in the air. She had become so fond of playing stone game with me that many times her teeth bled while grabbing at the moving rough stones. But she would be too excited to bother about it. In fact I would stop playing or try to find lighter or smoother stones for her.

My best memory of Jackie is very sweet. It was during a hot afternoon siesta. Everyone was asleep. I too was sleeping on a mattress in the hall at the ground level of the house. Except for the whirring of fan and scant calls of afternoon birds, it was quiet…

And suddenly the silence broke with a loud crackling bang- very close to my own head! It sounded as if a piece of brick or concrete had fallen. With a shock I opened my eyes to see from where it fell. I looked up to see if any part of the ceiling had come off. It was not so. Then I saw Jackie was sitting next to my bed and staring at me anxiously. Just there on the floor was half a brick. I realized that it was her who had brought the brick and dropped it down as an invitation to play. I don’t have any memory of real people approaching me like that for anything.

Jackie was very affectionate, gentle and fun and she displayed it too very well. She was very sensible and attached to her family and vice versa. Due this she lived a very full and very long life. Of course she did turn very week towards the end. Once I was helping a vet who had come to check her up. I was holding Jackie while vet gave her an injection. After it was over, doctor said she must be very nice to you otherwise we always tie up dog’s mouth in case they bite due to pain.

It is nearly 5 years that she died a mysterious death. Early morning of Dec 5, 2002, she was found dead under a tree, some distance away from home. No one had seen her going out and perhaps no one saw her dying too. There are two versions to this mystery. Firstly there is a belief that dogs never like to die at home. When they know it is time, they just slip out quietly and meet their end. And perhaps that’s what she did. Another version is that when Aarti left for her gym, perhaps the gate was left open and Jackie followed the car without Aarti’s knowledge. Later street dogs chased her and perhaps she got cardiac arrest trying to outrun them. Jackie was nearly 17 years old, when she died, which is equivalent to 17×7 or 119 human years! I had felt very bad for many days after the sad news was conveyed to me in Mumbai. Everyone in her family mourned for days. Her memories are still cherished by all and that is why I took more than half a day putting this piece together.

Reviving Immortality

This is dedicated to a person having practically no significance in the glittering world of cinema. I would not claim him to be a great friend of mine too. He had much more important and closer friends in his life. Late Prabhu Dayal or Prabhuji, was fairly senior to me. In fact on paper Prabhuji is not even as someone totally ‘down under’ kind of guy. He acted in a few films like Hum Dono, CID, and House No 44… and also assisted in direction in early Navketan movies like Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Kala Pani, Gambler, Farar… I am happy to say that if you Google, ‘Prabhu Dayal’, you will not go empty handed. IMDb too has a page on him.

Well, I decided to write about Prabhuji, because a five years old incidence got suddenly refreshed in my mind. But before I talk about that incidence itself, I will have to project a long flashback sequence…

I met Prabhuji in 1974 when I came back from Nepal after the shooting of film, ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’. Soon I became a Navketan man and started regularly visiting their office in Khira Nagar on S V Road, Santacruz. Prabhuji would also drop in once in awhile, have a cup of tea, make some loud noises with his old colleagues like Gogi Anand, Vishwa, Sehdev, accountants Raman and Mr. Pisharodi and then leave. Prabhuji’s professional association with Navketan was over much before I joined them. Physically he was a very thin and scrawny looking person. He was bald, had a boney face, sunken teeth and a hooked nose. The veins in his arms seemed embossed extra high. He might have been very athletic in his younger days. He always walked in with a lot of energy and spoke in a loud and energetic voice. In conversations he used a fair amount of bad words but he did it almost poetically, without meaning any of it.

Inside his head he carried an amazing collection of English quotes, Urdu shayari and Farsi (Persian) poetry. On every occasion he had something profound to render. Being a fan of Sher-o-Shayari myself, I liked him immediately. He would narrate an entire Nazm or Ghazal (Matla to Maqta) in Farsi or in chaste Urdu without a hitch. Such was his memory and knowledge of both the languages. The more I did not understand those poems, the more I was impressed by him. After he would finish the narration, his lips would curl in a way that said ‘isn’t that deep?’ Among us all perhaps Gogi Anand was the only person who got some hang of all that.

Gradually I came to know that his wife Uma, was one of Dev Saab’s nieces. I thought that made him an insider in the camp. As a newcomer, I was impressed by anyone who had an easy access to Dev Saab. And Prabhuji was one of those few who could just fling open boss’s room to say ‘hi and bye’.

One fine day there was no shooting and Prabhuji had casually walked into the office. He saw many pretty young girls (wannabe actresses) perched on the brown wooden benches in famous long Navketan passage to meet someone; or anyone who was involved in casting. They were all well dressed and were there for one obvious reason, ‘for getting a chance to face the camera’ in a Dev Anand movie! Prabhuji pushed open the ‘Production’ cabin. He found many young guys, assistants in production and direction chatting away loudly. I too was one of them. He asked us to shut up with a harmless swear word. Then he said, ‘what is wrong with you all Navketan men? So many young girls are waiting outside and you men are happily chatting here like women? Have you all lost your virility? What has happened to this film company?’ He looked up and mourned. Then he stretched out his left arm towards us and ended his outburst with a ‘you all are no men, shame on you all’, before walking out. That was Prabhuji in his elements…

Some years later, I too got married to a girl in the periphery of that family. After which he became very nice to me and started treating me as a younger family member. He had a daughter, Abu. He doted on her. In fact she was the only bright patch in his life; everything else was dark and pointed south. Soon he started keeping unwell and thus stayed home. For years he received a small supporting pension like amount from Navketan office and some of his bro-in-laws too contributed for his survival.

One day his Abu suddenly fell very sick and soon died. She was a young girl of about 20 or so. This shattered Prabhuji down to the core. I met him during one of those bleak days. He hesitated to talk to me, to avoid getting choked with emotions. Another day, I saw him chewing a ‘paan’ in 4-Bunglow area. He was so weak that he could not stand straight due to that mild tobacco’s intoxication. He walked away with unsteady steps. I felt he was justified to intoxicate himself to cover up the huge mound of sadness that had become a part of his weightless personality…

Later I learnt that he lost his eyesight and soon, his hearing.

It is not hard to imagine, how a man must feel when there is total blankness around him. No picture, no sound! No communication. There was no one to say anything with a touch. Situation was, ‘someone has to guide your hand to a plate and you eat, puts a glass in your hand and you drink’. But how many people’s touch could he recognize? Except for his wife, no one was in touch with him anyway.

Now, I am at the point when I am ready to write that, which made me start writing this, to start with. One day I was coming from the market when I saw Prabhuji sitting outside a shop right under his home. He was sitting there, may be for fresh air. But I was really happy to see him. Very warmly I said ‘hello Prabhuji, how are you?’… There was no answer. I placed my hands on his knees and sat down in front of him and spoke again. He kept his hands on mine, but did not react. Then I remembered about the loss of his hearing and blindness. I got up and stepped back in order to gauge what else I could do in order to communicate. My head was not working. I kept looking at his face and noticed his eyes well up slowly. Suddenly I realized that there would be no man poorer than him at that moment. I walked off before my own face got wet…

This is the incident that crossed my mind last week and in a flash I had the solution to that day’s problem, although way, too late. I could have communicated with him… by writing my message on his palm with my finger! I could have told him my name! He had not lost his speech, so he might have replied. He needed to have a conversation with someone; with anyone and at that time I could have conversed with him. But my brains had deserted me that day.

I would imagine that meeting between us, as one of my most intense moments of my life. No dialogues, no communication, no looks; just a situation that could not be overcome. Maybe there is no reason for anyone to remember Prabhuji, think or talk about him; fondly or otherwise. He might not be a material worth remembering or worth giving a thought to; but I am so happy to have written this piece. After all everyone is entitled to some years of immortality after death. This is my sincere effort to inject immortality in the nameless and weightless soul that was, Prabhuji.