Right now I am at a loss – of a subject or a topic to write on. I don’t know why I wonder why do we always need a subject to start hitting the keys on the keyboard. “Stop thinking and start punching the keys. Punch the keys, for God’s sake!”, thundered Sean Connery (William Forrester) to Rob Brown (Jamal Wallace) in the movie ‘Finding Forrester’. Jamal wants to be a writer and has approached Forrester (a pulitzer winner in movie) to learn the art of writing from him. Jamal is in the same fix I am right now. The only difference is that I am real and my problem too is similar – real; while he was following a script given to him. Seeing my own plight I do agree with the scene. I admit I do like to write, but again I admit, it has been mostly on various mundane subjects, like terrorism, relationships, festivals, movies, events or reality like my own travels… I need to learn how to stop being ‘slave of subjects’ to write on and become independent to ‘just write’! If I can do that, then only perhaps I will be able to move to the next level.
In different context, if you are an adventurous type then I guess it is a good idea, to just get up and start walking; rather than fussing in wasting time planning your trip. If you just walk out you will end up reaching somewhere. Somewhere you had not imagined. And that somewhere which may even surprise you. That is if you are the kind who likes surprises. There are many who hate them, but not me. I absolutely love them. Not only surprises I love shocks and jolts too. I am not the kind who only likes pleasantness and calmness or ‘love and peace’ in life. I would love my life to be a full course meal; concoction of all the available tastes for my pallet. The tongue has to stay in touch with all kinds, sweet, salt, sour, even bitter and bland. And thankfully so far it (life) has been that way.
Another line that film script gave Forrester, “No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”
Wow what a gem! And finally I acknowledged that this could be a way to deal with my kind of writer’s block. It is quite pathetic to feel blocked just because I have nothing to write on!
i realized i like talking to emptiness… we have intelligent conversation one to one i can say what i want in that emptiness no one challenges me wrong me criticize or correct me expand on me shorten me no one can even appreciate me like or love, hate or insult me that emptiness just lets me be me and that ‘me’ is real me
1972, that’s when I adopted this city of Bombay, as my own. Actually I had to, due to my profession, but yet I was so lucky that I had to. I fell in love with it instantly. I enjoyed its rhythm, efficient local trains, buses, discipline, civic sense and work culture. Due to these qualities, I loved bragging, “Bombay doesn’t seem to be a part of India.” Secondly I also fell in love with the most awe inspiring and beautiful hotel, Taj. Visiting Hotel Taj gave me a sense of having arrived. There could be perhaps no higher step to climb. It was the ultimate in luxury, beauty and importance. Though not very often; but I could afford to use the Taj barber shop once in a few months, order a carefully chosen (cheapest) snack at Sea Lounge, Shamiana’s VFM burger and milk shake both costing Rs 25 each and a glass of draft beer Rs 15. I also spent a lot of time in its book shop, Nalanda. Taj gave me a sense of well being, rich feel and immense pride due to its luxurious and strong gothic structure. It also had a very comforting ambiance, ‘cool’ in today’s terms. My father had visited me in 1977. So I took him to Sea Lounge for a cup of tea and a taste of Taj. Sitting by the window opening towards sea, I ordered tea and some snacks that cost me around Rs 25 or so. My father’s face, I remember; became rigid after noticing the ‘fat’ bill…
Well, time has to move on, so after many long years that also included a new millennium; the calendar registered the date of 26 Nov 2008. I was home when I heard the news of a vague shoot-out somewhere. It is fairly common in this rich and industrial city. A gang war is not uncommon. Any ways I switched on the TV. I was sure that it must be a usual case of underworld rivalry. But soon I realized that was not the case. It turned out that some Pakistani terrorists had entered India’s maximum city! They had split themselves in 3-4 groups and had been killing uninterrupted at various locations, like CST railway station, Cama Hospital and Leopold Café at Colaba. Soon it was announced that, Chabad House (a Jewish center at Colaba), Oberoi hotel at Nariman Point and last but not the least, Hotel Taj had been ‘taken over’ by a small groups of heavily armed men. It was beyond anyone’s comprehension. I got glued to the TV. Soon news channels had setup their cameras in all three locations… and soon sounds of bullets, bursting grenades, raging fires and shattering glass panes, all became ‘live’. And it was happening, right in the heart of my city!
There was no chance of me ‘not watching’ it. I did not want to leave Taj when it was being mauled by those three Pakis who were killing guests and staff and setting everything on fire!
State and central government had no immediate answer to this crisis. It took them a lot of fumbling hours to take any focused approach. Finally politicians at ‘New Delhi’ took a lot of risk themselves and spared us a team of NSG commandoes.
Violence in the form of sounds of blasts, flames and smoke from inside Taj were going on unabated. I thought that some part of the hotel might cave in. It was very frightening. As news switched between Taj, Oberoi and the Chabad House, I felt I was in a theatre of war, right in the middle of my city. I lost track of time; eating at odd hours and sleeping very little. I would get back to TV first thing in the morning.
Gradually there was clarity – there were 10 terrorists in all. But these are not like those cowards who would cowardly plant the bombs in trains, in markets or in theaters. Experiences of bomb blasts seemed nothing compared to this. How well prepared and motivated these 10 Pakis must have been to battle India right here! And it wasn’t over yet! They had come with full knowledge that they will not be going back from here. Only ‘they’ can have that kind of motivation.
In the meanwhile commandos were dropped on the roof of the Jewish Center from a helicopter! Utterly unimaginable! A chopper dropping commandos in the most congested part of Mumbai and that was ‘not for a film shooting’. Both terrorists there were killed by our forces; but not before they had killed everyone inside there. There was a heart-warming story of a little boy being saved by his nanny.
Oberoi was next to get sanitized. All the terrorists were killed by NSG not before many guests and staff had lost their lives. To face bullets inside the most familiar and secure place must have been utterly unbelievable experience for everyone. Dozens of grenades were hurled inside the plush suites of the old wing of Taj in an effort to destroy them somehow. Most rooms were on fire on top two floors. Smoke was bellowing from large windows under those prominent Taj domes.
Finally 9 terrorists were killed. I saw one of them falling out of a ground floor window in Taj in the hail of Indian bullets, ‘live’. That was satisfying; but other than this, I had seen so much of real blood on the floor of CST, innocent poor passengers lying around. Print and TV started showing images where they could not reach during the carnage, all this was adding to collection of images on my mind…
This piece is being written in an effort to get back to writing. I take my motivation to write from incidences that unfold and affect me. But after those 60 hours long war, nothing else felt important enough to affect me. Everything seemed too small or insignificant to care about. I suffered a 3-year long ‘writer’s block’ borne out of ammidyphobia… I had a fright that Taj would collapse right in front of my eyes or it will never look the same again.
This year will be the 3rd anniversary of 26/11 and I wish to turn the leaf over and get back to my earlier sensitive self, by becoming ‘writer of small things’ once again. (29 October, 2011)
When I went for my walk, there were very few people. I kind of like it, when walking track is less crowded. I hate clutter in life. My house is so full of unnecessary things; curios, wall hangings, show pieces… its no one’s fault though. The house is 31 years old and things keep coming in at a faster rate than they go out. So much for my dislike for clutter.
Today I did not have much time; may be 30 min or so. I like to be back at 8 to make tea etc. During my rounds of that smallish rectangular track I noticed 3 sikhs. No not together. They were on their own. One here another there and third one somewhere else. The oldest one was sitting on a bench with few others, second one walked one or two round and also sat down. Third one was doing stretches after his walk.
These are the fleeting images that I notice as I walk. Obviously I don’t stop to see who is doing what. After 2 rounds I saw the 3rd sardar doing stretches and a dog watching him. The dog was only 3 feet away from him and looking at him with full attention, just like the HMV dog. It looked weird. But I moved ahead. I know that dog well. He and few others are always lazing around in the garden. In next few seconds, I thought that the dog must be knowing him well or may be he has been given some eatable, so he is waiting for the next piece. But in next round again I found the dog exactly in the same attentive posture. That was very unnatural. I had to stop now. So i did and asked the man (sardar), “does he always do this or is it the first time?” reply was, “he has done it few times earlier.” Okay I thought and I moved on.
in the next round I saw a girl was talking to same dog. I had noticed her earlier. She was walking and listening to music with earphones. The dog was responding to her well. I stopped again and asked her,”do you know him?” “No”, she said. I moved on thinking this dog was behaving really strange familiar to everyone. He is so comfortable getting so close to unknown people!
Like I do mostly, I marked (made note of) out one large leaf and one red flower fallen on the ground. I mark out such things, only when I get a clear signal from them. Signal being, ‘they want to come home with me.’ The leaf was from a badam tree. It had lovely hues of green and red on it. The colours were mixed in an impossible to conceive or recreate pattern. Green color meant it had fallen off, when it was still young. There was still some time for it to leave the branch. it might have fallen due to strong breeze or heavy rain drops or may be another leaf fell on it, taking it along with it. Somehow it did not seem to have any regrets or rejoices.
I picked it up and the red flower and brought them home. I gave them place from where they can show off their beauty.
They will be here for 2-3 days. They are are not here to become a part of the clutter and make me uncomfortable… on the contrary.