Monday, November 12, 2012

The happiness of "happy diwali"

Two days from now is Diwali... While in India I had stopped feeling excited about Diwali, or any festivals for that matter!! I guess...years of celebrating so many festivals of different types had depleted me of enthusiasm for them. The last few years in Mumbai & Pune were a sheer formality towards the festivities, my culture and very often my religion. Festivals in India can be socially a very busy time, and off late the unsocial temprament that I had developed just kept me non-chalant towards social events like them; but out of sheer duty I often pretended to celebrate them. This year was different,I guess when you are away from your homeland, you start missing subtle things about her. You know the perks of your current sitation, but your greed demands that you can get the best of that world too. You crave to hear an echo of "Happy Diwali" and you wish you didnot have to explain your peer at work that "Deepavali and Diwali" are the same thing. Homesickness on occassions like festivals are common sentiments that not only me but diasporas for times immemorial have experienced. Hence,its no point touching upon the homesickness aspect, but to look at a more fundamental underlying principal of what makes Diwali, "Happy Diwali". Just as I would have, if in India, today I continued the annual rhythm of performing my duty towards this festival, I went for Diwali shopping to Little India (in Singapore). Infamous for its mob like crowding on Sundays, Little India's "Diwali village" streets looked worse than usual, and immediately I was reminded of the droning crowds on Indian streets that made the festivals look and feel happier than an average Indian could concieve. Not having too many acquaintances or friends in Singapore made "Diwali shoppoing" feel more of a chore today than it did in any of the previous years. The unusually narrow and suffocatingly busy streets of little India, didnt help the cause of instilling any excitement about the festival. When I entered the "Diwali village" street of little India, it was like one of those nose blocked plunges (that we call "Dubki") into the ganges which is done to wash off your sins. During the dubki u know that the cause is noble (that of washing off your sins), but the act is scary (that of immersing your breath under water). Similarly, as I entered the Diwali village i knew i was risking my life to the hands of a suffocatingly large mob, but at the same time I was going to do justice to my culture by preparing for Diwali. So I took the plunge, and emerged alive, but utterly displeased -cursing the one who created the idea of festivals!! After the ordeal, when I returned home and logged into my facebook account, I found a friend in Delhi post a pic of a well-lit up Delhi neighbourhood - each balcony of the multi-storeyed building lighted up by fancy bulbs, some of which I imagined must be flickering to catch attention but the still photo couldnot capture the excitement they were conveying.I looked at the pic, and re-looked, stared, gazed, and admired not the aesthetics of the snap but the fact that I was craving for the live view of the inanimate presentation. Several Diwali celebration scenes of childhood flashed through my mind, and the common theme across all those scenes was the sheer excitement of the occassion - company of family, the sweets we shared, the crackers we burnt, the prayers we offered and most importantly the time we spent together.It was all about "we", which was not a well-defined single set of people, in each scene i remembered, I could see different friends, family members, relatives and acquaintances appear. And then I remembered Alexander Supertramp of "Into the wild.." and what he said about happiness - Happiness is real only when shared! And I immediately knew why this Diwali felt a forlorn formality, while so many others were truly "Happy Diwali"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Trying my hand at writing again

As anyone would guess, i am writing a post after ages, and even as i wrote some posts in the recent times, the frequency and content has been minimal.

I am trying really hard to be back in sync with my writing skills, i enjoyed it, but I dont know why i cant write again...i dont think i have lost the creativity, because creativity is more of nature than acquisition of a habit over the years. Still whenever i start typing on this mundane editor i just go blank - i dont know why!!

And then when i go back to the good ol' days when i was doing all the writing on this blog - i realize the situation that i was in then; and what appears unique was the fact that i was going through a period of huge emotional challenge, and it was my first independent encounter with the "big-bad-world" outside as a full grown adult. And all the badness of the world was teaching me so may lessons that my creativity had enough trigger to outflow.

I am in a unique situation again, it is a first of lots of things in my life. I am hoping that the same creativity will flow out once again just like before and that before the list of first starts getting overcome by the mundanity of day-to-day life I would have rejoiced the pleasure of writing, yet again!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why India should win CWC 2011....

I am no cricket expert, and have been reduced to an infrequent follower owing to paucity of time and often patience (with most forms of the game demanding the most useful part of your day - it is often difficult to even stay updated). But for whatever little i know of cricket, and especially of Indian cricket, i know about one man "Sachin Tendulkar".
He needs no introduction, and often no description, he is no stranger to cricket and feels like the guy next door to every Indian. He is the one whom a di-syllabically blessed growing up infant in India could name, and he is the one whom even a disinterested cricket fanatic would have heard of. If u live in India, no matter which genre, segment or portion of the country/society u reside in, you would have definitely heard of him - thats the omnipresence of Sachin's personality in India!
When u talk of sports - u exemplify his passion, when u talk of cricket - u eulogize his talent, when u talk of field presence - u highlight his attitude, when u talk of commitment - u say Indian cricket is indeed blessed!
No wonder the cricketing community describes him as God, and it would be only fair to say Sachin has fewer fans than he has "disciples".They worship him, revere him, love him, praise him, salute him, bless him.....and for many he is the only reason why they follow cricket!
There is so much said, written and heard about Sachin that a novice like me can never do justice to the same, but why I even attempted to describe him at this point of time is because he has given 20+ years to Cricket, and is perhaps the last worldcup he is playing in his international cricketing career (although with his passion i wont be surprised if he squeezes in another one ...but to be honest that will be too much to ask from an aging sportsmen).
At the beginning of the Cricket World Cup 2011 India were arguably favorites to win the cup, although critics have never refrained from banishing their chances of a victory - some times on ground of batting, sometimes bowling, sometimes fielding, and more often than not because of teamwork. My knowledge of cricket is so rudimentary that forming an opinion on India's chances is a distant thought - even agreeing/disagreeing with the critics is often a task for me. I dont know whether its fair to call Indian cricket team the favorites for the cup, i dont even know if they bat/bowl/field well or not, and as i said i am no expert, no critic, not even a fair fan, but i know for sure - if there is one reason why India should win the Cricket World Cup 2011, it is HIM - this is his last chance!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A sigh of relief!

One of my most hated places in Mumbai city is the American consulate. Not that the rest of Mumbai is any more lovable for me, but this is definitely not the place i would crave for, and especially if its early morning office hours. The scene outside the consulate on the main road can be described as a swarming beehive, with all aspiring applicants buzzing in anticipation to be mated with the queen bee aka 'the consulate interviewing officer' - the only difference being that there are multiple queen bees (interviewing officers) instead of the single one in the actual beehives, and to make it worse - i have heard that in recent times the consulate has undergone expansion, meaning more queen bees, hence more drones and the worst - more buzzing!!
A typical writer would describe to u the anxiety of the applicant and how overwhelming the crowd over there makes one feel, but i guess i have something more interesting to tell - so let me detour. My recent visit to the consulate was in mid-December - while most parts of the world look forward to festivities at this time of the year, we Indians enter the sabbatical from one of the biggest festivities of our lives "weddings" - actually between the mid of December and mid of January due to Hindu calendar showing inauspicious dates weddings get stalled in India. But the brighter side of this period is that you get to see many more newly weds (those who got married in the pre-sabbatical wedding period) or newly engageds (those who are waiting to get married in the post-sabbatical wedding period)- whether you bump into them doing the new household shopping at supermarkets or in the finger-lock around the malls and movies - they seem to be ubiquitous. The American consulate on that morning was not spared of this ubiquity either!
Right in front of my eyes was a newly wed, wherein the woman's bangles were shinning so bright under the scorching sun, i almost felt i would turn blind if i looked at it for too long. I guess the idea of donning them was to just shove it into the interviewing officers' face and ask him to approve the visa as a But as i said, i could not strain my eyes looking at the lady's bangles for too long, so i just bowed my head trying to spot some pebbles to trot, just then my eyes paused at another newly wed's footwear - it had some kind of mirror or reflectors (to be precise), believe me they were causing such great reflections of the shining sun that i thought when she enters the consulate office she may set the fire alarms ablaze and may give rise to an emergency situation. As it is the consulate is such a sensitive area, i thought this was the minimum precaution madam should have taken when cladding herself. Anyway, the visa rules don't make any allusions to the loud dressing sense of applicants, so the newly weds can take all liberties...and boy they were really taking liberties!
Right at the beginning of the line was a lady- who looked like she hailed from south India - i could tell from her south silk Saree - bright maroon with the golden zari conveying her newly wed status loud and clear. I wandered my eyes on her for some time - observing her obsession with the crisp pleats that she had set around her waist and bosom. I think she wanted to enter the consulate in the most prim and proper saree the interviewer would have ever seen if that was the basis of getting her visa
All around me I could see every third woman carrying a huge file like looking thing, which after a few glances around i realized, were wedding albums. They are gotten to the consulate to show the interviewer authenticity of the wedding status. As most of these ladies who travel to united states after their wedding travel as Dependants of their husband, it is an imperative to prove as much of the dependency as one possibly can. While getting bored, in the long ever-lasting queue outside the American consulate, I actually wished that one of those ladies would offer to run me through their albums - u know wedding albums are real good time-pass activities.
Looking for more entertaining stuff i ran my eyes across the length of the line to see what proportion of interviewees were newly wed. They say - Indian weddings, no matter in whichever part of India, never disappoint u with their celebration. Even, as the celebration of weddings died they echoed in 70% of the interviewees that day at the consulate. What a statistic: Nearly 70% of Indians entering USA in the next few weeks will be newly wed!! - and we though the great Indian consumer growth story was limited to India alone...we forgot about the diaspora!!
The entertainment i had that morning was good...and it also brought back the memories from my Visa interview some 3 years ago. Of course those memories werent as entertaining because i was not applying for the newly wed dependent visa myself and neither was it the post wedding season of India (although few newly weds were still seen- u know na recession ho ya inflation India mein shaadiyan to hoti hi hain.
When i had awed at the album carrying newly weds 3 years ago, my coworker had mocked me then - he said "Don't laugh at them, for all u know u could be standing here in this line in the next few months, carrying the load of your wedding album"...I had laughed at his comment resenting it from my heart and shrugging off at it because you never know what the future has in store for you. Three years later, i was still laughing at that comment, only much more confident this time and sighing relief at the fact that i never got into that queue again!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I am learning to appreciate the obvious!!

As a child brought up in the northern part of the country, I was introduced to the sight of hijras rather early in life. In fact I should say that I was introduced to the concept with a positive flavor. They often said in Delhi, "seeing a hijra, on way to work is a very auspicious sign".
I spent my childhood laughing at this very thought, and also at the same time I worked out a plausible justification for why it is so said; and the justification was nothing but what is conveyed by the gazal 'dil ko khush karne ke liye Ghalib ye khayal achha hai'. Indeed, when u see a sight as repulsive as a hijra, u have none better to convince yourself than saying "you are likely to have a nice day". So be it!!
While I never took this belief/superstition so seriously in life, in recent times I did start acknowledging the fact that I sighted a hijra, whenever I did. Infact, in Mumbai i have noticed hijras ask around for money like beggars ask for alms at red lights. Of course the hijras exhibit much more vanity in the way they accost the whole business of asking for what the giver may believe is alms. Eversince in Mumbai (two years now, oh my God!!...time just flies) i make it a point to give these hijras some money whenever they accost me for the same. In fact nowadays even before they approach i fish out my wallet for the smallest notes i have..."Note" - yes I did say "Note"...i never give hijras coins...for the sheer pride with whch they open out their palms. I would rather be deemening them by giving them coins, so I prefer the more expensive way out.
As far as them being auspicious, I am still not sure if that superstition is completedly described using only the word "auspicious", because my personal observation is that whenever I come across a hijra, my day/evening is spent tackling and appreciating what is so obvious in life, which we otherwise can never appreciate. For instance, only when I see a hijra that i manage to appreciate my obvious right of being epithet "madam" by any Tom, Dick or Hari on the street. Yes, whenever I see a hijra, I end up in a situation which though is difficult, but fondles the very obvious foundations of my life, and the realisation of the very presence of them in my life gives me immense pleasure, eventually.
Today was one such day, I encountered a hijra at the marol naka red light, on my way back from work. I handed it a ten rupee note, and allowed it to place its palm on my head. I must confess, it gives me a feeling of charity alongwith appreciating the ignored obviousness of life whenever I see a hijra. And not to forget the fact that it does fill me with the anticipation of something auspicious likely to happen. After all, childhood foundations, are deep seated, and though life may want to teach me otherwise, I wont deny that I am waiting for something auspicious to happen today!!