Hope? What hope?

The man in dirty rags had managed to drag himself near a railway station. But it was weird. Everything is dark there. It is not the period that we know of. at least not yet. It is the future. Much after politicians had finished looting the world. They were being very stupid, though they thought they were very smart for themselves. They did not know when you steal from your own home (planet), you are stealing your own stuff. Gradually they lost significance, then importance and worse was when they became irrelevant. Unnoticed, they kept dying one by one; meeting their fate.

He stepped into the dark station building. Taking support of a pillar, he looked at the ticket window. It was dark there too. No one seemed to be manning it. He entered the platform. No one asked him for a ticket or identification. He was on the first platform. As his vision adjusted, he noticed numerous people everywhere. It was difficult to guess if they were waiting for a train or just… being there. He was almost dead, as in dead tired. He looked around to lie down or sit at least with the support of a wall. There was no place to perch even on the floor. Every chair, cement benches, carts, book shop, tea stall everything was taken. People were lying all over. There was no tea being made. No fruits being sold or any newspaper on the stand. Just people, everywhere! He looked at a distance, towards the end of the platform. He decided to walk towards the end of the platform. He had to dodge people all the way; sometime even jump over few of them huddled together.

He reached the post where the name of the station is written in large alphabets and the platform slopes down to meet the ground. He was not interested but just thought to find which station it was. He touched the large slab of stone and moved his palm over it to find the name, like brail. He thought he found the name, but did not find it familiar, ‘zomboutipod’. He had never heard of it.

Any ways he was not here to find where he was; but to find a six feet space to rest. He found it one foot short, under the name board. He sprawled on the ground and placed his legs up on the pillar of the board. Comfortable was not the word. It was more like heavenly or blissful.

He was dreaming soon.
…he is a four year old travelling in Delhi metro with his elder uncle. The trains ran on electricity. They were so smooth. The stations were brightly lit. He thought, if by chance that light suddenly returned here, he might have to close his eyes for a long time to avoid over exposure. Suddenly he dreamed his eyes were covered with a film filled with red liquid. It took some time to realize that sun light was filtering through his eye lids. He was still on his back. He had a company though. A dog had snuggled next to him. Slowly, he opened his eyes and turned sideways to look in the distance; for a train, for some movement, for some one walking… all he saw was rail tracks which playfully wound themselves like a pair of snakes and disappeared into the oblivion. Just like the reality. Just like the life once he had, everyone had.

There was no hope for a train, no hope from and for the people laying all over, no hope from and for the system. There has been no system for as long he could remember, unless he went back 65 years.

Only hope that was there was from the dirty little dog, sleeping next to him.

Damn! My heart

A little scared, unconfident and unsure

I managed to say

‘I love you’

You turned away

With nothing to say

Making me much more

Scared, unconfident and unsure

Just when I was confident

It was end of the tale

You bit the corner of your nail

Looked at me shyly

And said something softly

Hesitating, unconfidently …

Till date I curse my heart

For beating so hard

That I couldn’t hear you at all

Power of letting go

It was 4am and Gautam had woken up with a strange feeling – a feeling of control. The feeling of control strangely came from the feeling of ‘let go’. During the last few moments in bed, he had let everything ‘go’ mentally. It happened just a few moments ago. He lost interest or rather did not feel interested in controlling anything or anyone. He suddenly felt light as a feather because he had decided to ‘not’ hold reigns of any situation. He was enjoying this new feeling of lightness. It amused him. He might even be having a smile on his face. No, he did not regret that he did not learn it earlier. Everything and everyone has an assigned time and duration to enter the stage to perform an act and exit, exactly after it is over.

Gautam has been underperforming in his family scenario. He was either not interested to act, not expected to or not allowed to act as the decision taker in his family, of which he was the head. He was eldest; but over a long period of time he had allowed the leadership to slip from his hand. It may even have been taken away from him, which too he didn’t care, too much about. Whenever any family discussions took place, he occupied his favorite back seat; that is if he was in that room at all.

But what happened all of a sudden? Gautam just woke up and instead of feeling drowsy, he found himself so comfortably awake. He went to the kitchen, made tea, lit a few lamps and sat down with his palm leaf, peacock feather and the inkpot to write.

He has made up his mind or his mind itself got into this new phase, ‘today when the sun rises; it will show Gautam in a different light’. He was feeling completely renewed. New, lightness, new energy, new thoughts. And new power of control. Now he is not afraid that he might lose. He is not confidant that he will win. All he believes in is that all will be well. Regrets from the past don’t bother him nor do any hopes from the future. He just thinks it’s all right. It’s all fine. He was ready to be a part the natural flow of the universe without altering or correcting it. He felt immensely powerful to ‘be with what is’.

Understanding Past Today

If events happening around you don’t inspire you or kick you enough to start writing, then it may be a good idea to write about your past. I mean use some strong, loving, moving or scary incidences from your past that should make it easy to start punching the keyboard. But I seem to have lost both areas to pick a topic from, present or past. Past is over and present is so uninspiring with all this price hikes and political puppet dances… But recently I read a very nice a piece from someone I know dearly and I thought that it was a very good idea to express what I felt in some special professional moments of my life.

Well, to earn my bread I do ‘sound recording’ in entertainment business; in medias like films, documentaries and television. I can write about my take on it from the past till present.

When I landed in Mumbai in 1972 (3 May), I started working as an assistant with one Mr. Singh, then a popular senior sound recordist. Normally working as an assistant could give no one any artistic satisfaction or professional, because you are always under the shadow of your boss, well, mostly for most. But just by chance some of my individual sparks managed to spill out, which thankfully also got noticed by some. In arty businesses, getting appreciation from appropriate quarters is much more satisfying, compared to getting adequately paid for it. To give myself a few points, I can count a few incidences which give me healthy satisfaction. First one was from 27 Dn, my first film as an assistant. After the film was over the producer told me, “you will do my next film,” which meant that the producer/director was happy enough with my work to make such a statement. For me, as a new comer, this was a huge compliment but totally private. It had to be kept as a very well-guarded secret. At no cost and through no channel, it should be allowed to reach the ear drums of my boss! I just couldn’t share my elation with anyone else for a very long time ;-(

It was lucky and also professionally practical that I assisted only one recordist that is, Mr Singh. Well, in some contrived and strange circumstances I got my first direct compliment from him only. It was connected with the shooting of a film called ‘Raja Kaka’. On one particular day, I was to do that shooting all by myself – with absolutely no one with me. Those days there used to be a lot of checking by our association (which honored me recently), to find people working without recording team of 3 people. So to handle the shooting in Filmistan Studio, Goregaon, solely by my-self for the whole day, with nearly a hundred people on the set lead by a popular character actor, needed something that I didn’t know I had. Let me explain the real stuff…

It was the set of a factory/mill, where workers are on a strike and this tipsy mill owner is screaming at them to ‘go to hell’. So there was lot of pushing and shoving by junior artistes as well as other high strung assistants in direction, camera, makeup, light boys, spot boys etc running around. So I requested the cameraman to tell me the ‘frame’ so I could place my microphone safely on a chair. The idea was to keep it far enough to be safe from the melee and close enough to pick up the dialogues clearly. I had to whisper my request to so many people to be careful, pointing to the mike on the chair. Then just before they were ready to roll, I would run back 100 ft outside the stage to the recording room to be ready for ‘rolling’ the tape. Those days the 35mm tape recorder was placed in the inside room where actually the assistant rolls the machine. After the speed stabilizes he shouts to recordist, ‘rolling’, then the recordist presses the ‘talk-back’ button connected to the set and shouts, ‘sound rolling’ and then rest of the camera, action etc happens. But the main tension was that I had to rush back to the set the instant the take was ‘cut’, to pick up the microphone and move it as per the next shot…

There was also huge weight on the head in case association’s vigilance team lands there and fines me for working without prescribed 3 people; recordist, assistant and boom-man. How I missed my boom-man that day!

Cut to 2 weeks later. The ‘mill worker’s scene’ has been edited and there was a trial show at Mahalaxmi Lab & Studios, Mahalaxmi. Lights dimmed in the very opulent private viewing theatre and the show of that scene started. I was too tense to find what I had done. I was happy to realize that it could have been used as it is, without any dubbing. In 20 min, it was over. Now the biggest surprise was in store for me! Unit members stood up and clapped for the ‘sound’! You may see an assistant ‘sound-man’ being applauded only in my business and also if unit like you a lot. I felt sheepish and kept looking down. It was my first taste of real professional satisfaction. But it seems applause was for my boss, who was sitting just next to me. He did not tell anyone that it was ‘me’ who should have been applauded. After a lot of ‘wah wah’ and handshakes we both walked out. As me and Mr Singh stepped out of the gates of the studios, he whispered in my ears, “you got such an applause for your single handed recording.” It was nice of him to say that; but even at raw age of 23, I realized, couldn’t he have said that in front of the unit members inside the theatre, “here is the guy who did this all by himself”? Suddenly something cracked inside me. I hate it when you realize cunning comes into a relationship. Worse, it then enters inside you too.
More later… perhaps.

Mehboob Studios, main gate, Bandra West

Whose dream is it any way?

Oh, how come you are here?
Huh! Why is it so dark
And at this odd time?
What! I called you?
But I don’t think so.
Really?
Let me try and remember
Could you please just help me
When was that
I mean when, did I call you
At night! This last night! Shocking
So… did I call you on your cell
No no, I am not smiling
Then how?
You just heard me calling
Oh my dear, I am sure you were dreaming
He he, finally
Someone is dreaming of me
And has reached the point
Where I wanted her to be for a long time
Nice for me, ehh
Let’s go to CCD and celebrate with Cappuccino…
Where are you?
OMG! Not again
Thank god, you are not here,
Thank god, no one is here
To find me behaving so utterly silly
For the nth time
It was not about her dream
But mine

Life Boat

when i am sailing alone
life is drab struggle for survival

if you look at me from the shore
perhaps i can row with some hope

if you join me on my boat
I may need nothing more

if you smiled sitting opposite at me
it’ll become a flight of fantasy

with your hand on my tired shoulders
life will turn into a space without border

but if you pick up the sail and row with me…

umm, sorry; writer’s block
can’t imagine that far!

Sepia Relationships

My work was over and I was passing through the crowded passage of the office, when I heard a ‘hey’! The voice was familiar. I looked at the person. The gait was familiar too; beard also was same, except the color. Siba – Siba Misra, a photography student from my batch. In forty years all he had developed was hint of a paunch. Earlier he used to be like a banana leaf. He was completely recognizable to my forty years weaker eyes, even in that dim evening light. ‘Siba’, I shouted and we hugged. We barraged each other with, ‘How are you? How is your family? Children? What are they doing? How is wife?’ and then answered each other. Don’t ask me if the answers are still in my system. I told a fellow recordist in the office that we know each other since 1969!

You joined them recently? He asked. I said, yes, less than three months. Very good. It is the best TV software company in Bombay. They are very strong. I did not know those details, so I said, I am sure. Siba said he is in the team of directors that make CID. His production team surrounded him, so he got busy discussing work. I patiently watched him do that. After he finished we both walked out together. He was limping. I knew the story. I also knew that when we meet and time permits, he will narrate it to me himself with all the details and underlined passages. Although, the incidence had happened more than six years ago, it still is a strong experience for anyone…

He was accompanying his son to a college in Pune. They were going by train. As the train moved, Siba lost his balance and fell between the track and the platform wall. Train wheels pulled off a large part of his flesh just above his foot. There was panic. His son pulled the chain and jumped off the train. Soon he was pulled out and made to lie on the floor. As Siba lay unconscious, his very upset son was making calls. One of them was to owner of this TV production house. Brij reached there and got him required medical care until he was fine and ready to go home…

On the staircase of the office, he pulled up the bottom of his pant and showed me his right foot. It was jet black and was very badly swollen. He wore a sock over it to keep it hidden. He was always in chappals. But that was his usual style too.

We walked talking for about 10 min to reach his humble Maruti 800, just stood there and kept exchanging more notes. We had missed personal contact for years. I asked if his foot pains while walking. It is always paining, he said flatly. Only when he gets up in the morning and swelling is less, pain is a bit less; but as the day passes it swells up and pain also goes up.

We spoke about ‘Aangan Ki Kali’, a movie that we did together. We had many good things to talk about it: it was a clean, well made film on child adoption as its central theme. You couldn’t find any part that was done unprofessionally. It was shot well. Actors were good, Rakesh Roshan and Lakshmi. The child artiste, Geeta won a national award. Music was very nice too, ‘na rona munni na tu’, ‘saiyan bina ghar soona’, ‘tumhe kaise kahoon’. Bappi da was at his melodious best then. Siba said many years back he too directed a movie, which did not fare well on the box office, forcing a setback in his career. We spoke about a lot of setbacks in both our careers. In our unorganized entertainment business, there is no security. You can be out of job for years and then suddenly bounce back sometimes without even working on it.

We both were in no hurry for anything. Our comfort zone was completely in place. I said let’s find a place to sit and have a cup of tea. It was a bit noisy there. We looked around and found a decent Udipi restaurant, but he said, forget it; we will have a ‘cutting chai’ from the pavement. We walked some more and found a tea stall. As we sipped tea from little plastic cups, he said his injured foot reacts a second late to the mental commands. So he has to be very careful while driving.

There is so much to talk about so many people you have spent time with, especially as young students. They say every human being is a volume, if you know how to read him/her. So if the story is about two people it could become an epic…

On my last day, rather last night in the FTII in 1972, we both got very drunk on desi ‘ilayachi’ liquor. We slept in the same room. Due to overwhelming insecurity, we started making promises to each other that would make us feel better: we will stay together in Bombay too. If possible even work together.

When I took an auto for Poona railway station on May 3, 1972, I don’t remember if I was upset and to what degree. But I noticed that familiar places like the main theatre, wisdom tree, canteen, badminton court that I started, security cabin and finally the overhead sign board of FTII seemed different that day. All that had been a part of my every moment for the past 3 years. I also knew that it was going to be lost for a very long time to come. No, I don’t think I had time to feel sad, because I must have been too tense about my immediate future in the most ruthless dream city. To put it on record, I went back to FTII just for a day in 1974 for my convocation and then could never go back for next ten years!

It was about time. We walked back to his car. I said I will take an auto from here, but he said; I will drop you to the signal. So just for hundred meters I sat in his car and 15 seconds later got off; jumped in an auto and waved him bye. Strangely the content of our entire conversation was far from pleasant. It was mainly about sickness, failures, accidents, joblessness; but we went through it without feeling emotions attached to such conversation. I guess because the positivity of our meeting did not allow the sadness to take over. With such friends you are always on the same page, same pitch. No loss occurs in relationship, due to time lost.