Cry, my beloved country

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2012 by unrelentingdreamer




She has gone to a safer place, where she will find the peace that eluded her in life. What a gory end to a life that was just blossoming, nurturing dreams of career, love and more dreams. She is just one of the faces of the Indian ignominy. I don’t say that out of apathy but out of awareness. Who could know it better? I was born here; a girl in the family of two boys.

Echoing many observations and analysis, why do we always find ourselves confronted by rape? In every dark corner of a metropolis like Delhi, or in a nondescript hamlet that could well be in Bihar or Karnataka. Perhaps the crime knows no discrimination. Any women, whether she is a working professional like me, or a non-specific domestic help or a labourer in a kiln, stands as a potential victim.

No rally or no TV panel discussions can give a solution; a fool-proof solution that can be replicated across the states and pockets in our vast country.

We live in a place that worships the Goddess, but on the other hand it says it is helpless when it comes to killing the womb that carries a daughter. And, it claims even more helplessness when it cannot assure its daughters a safe world.

On one hand, it is a country that wouldn’t bat an eyelid before teaching daughters to dress appropriately in public, but it never thought of teaching its sons to respect women. A country where there are politicians who would embark on a witch-hunting spree, if a cine artiste voices her opinion about premarital sex. But the same politicians are not even a mere bystander, if a brutal rape brings its people on the streets.

Her death has stirred the conscience of many, but it doesn’t guarantee that those consciences would not slip into a deep slumber yet again.




Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2012 by unrelentingdreamer

My friend’s book will be out on the 15. Do grab a copy for a delightful take on Chennai, formerly Madras, where modern India began

PS: He hardly needs the publicity through my relatively unknown blog. But, my two cents

A New Year resolution worth keeping

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2011 by unrelentingdreamer


It was sometime in 1993-1994, I remember darting up and down the street near my house, looking for greeting cards. I was 10 then and had just discovered the joy of gifting, especially those cards in all colours- from pastels to bright shades with funny messages- for birthdays. That was the only special day of my friends that rang some excitement in my mind.

Every other day, I haggled with my grand mom to lend me a 10 or 20 rupee note to buy cards. She never understood why I insisted on gifting cards. But, after constant coaxing she finally relented.

I dashed to the decrepit shop next door that sold everything from foolscap sheets to knickknacks, to pick up a card. I remember jotting down some messages from the cards to reproduce on some other occasion. This one I know verbatim; I had memorised from a card that someone had gifted my elder brother on his birthday:

On this day, a volcano erupted in Italy.

Two hundred people died of plague in Britain.

A fire broke out in France.

And the worst of all.

You were born.

I had a huge bundle of 100 cards that my friends had gifted me during school days. Today, I don’t’ know where they are. Maybe, they got lost while we shifted houses. As years rolled by the good old greeting cards were elbowed out by e-greetings, and bulk smses shot at one go to all in the phone book.

So, why did I remember the obsolete greeting card? Recently, a friend on FB had put up a message, declaring she would start sending cards for the New Year. I decided to send greeting cards to my friends for the New Year. That is one resolution I am determined to stick to.

On days when we decided to get caught in a time warp, we can only sigh at our helplessness. We can only wish that we could actually get back to our old ways: restart a practice, or recreate something that is long gone. But, I am eternally grateful that good old greeting cards are still around, giving me a second chance to get back to them.






The lights will remain dimmed

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 by unrelentingdreamer

I remember my early years in school, I always waited for October- November to arrive. The excitement began the day school reopened after summer holidays, in June. As the calendars for the academic year were distributed, I quickly flipped through it for the schedule of holidays. Running my fingers through the white pages, I squealed with delight to see the holidays for Diwali.
My friend’s never understood what thrilled me so much, while I gushed, “I will be at my uncle’s place on those days; we spend Diwali there, as always.”
Come October/ November, a day before Diwali, I rushed back home to prepare for the much treasured holidays. When are we leaving for periappa’s place, I enquired unable to control the enthusiasm any more.
The auto ride from my home to my uncle’s was a joy trip, as I waited to see the familiar sight of the power grid a few yards before my uncle’s place.
An army of grandchildren, three sons and daughters-in-law, every Diwali was a grand get together. Since the time I remember, Diwali was celebrated at my dad’s eldest brother’s home. Like in every south Indian household, we too began the celebrations at dawn, when we woke up as early as 4.
As my elder cousins groaned and complained about waking up so early, I was in a state of euphoria about the whole affair. The highlight of the festival was the new clothes. The clothes too had their share of rituals. A night before, my granddad smeared our new clothes with vermillion. The practice was the Tamil Brahmin way of ensuring auspiciousness in any festival.
For the oil bath, my grandmother lined up the sleepy bunch of kids one by one and sat us on a wooden plank reserved for the nelangu ritual. Nelangu involved applying turmeric and vermillion on our feet. That was followed by the oil massage on our heads before we had a bath.
Much of the festival was completed in the morning, after a sumptuous meal that brought it to the grand close. We burst crackers tirelessly all day till all of us headed back to our homes. We would meet again during Pongal in January.
Years have passed since the first time I got acquainted with the rituals, that I believed were exclusive to my family. Had it not been for my grandparents, who ensured that we followed the customs, Diwali would have been just another festival. We would have never known what togetherness or celebrating with family meant. That was at an age when nuclear families had already become rampant at the expense of disintegrating joint families. When my grandmom passed away in early 2009, we lost half the support. And, now that my granddad is no longer amidst us, the void is more evident.
Diwali shall never be the same without my grandparents. However, the legacy of sense of belonging and attachment among my uncles and dad and in turn between us cousins shall continue.

Co-existence of the opposites

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24, 2011 by unrelentingdreamer

Poles apart, two ends of a spectrum, may sound far enough and draw an immeasurable distance between two happenings or events. But, have you ever wondered how opposites co-exist, or rather are in harmony in our lives. Ambiguous and gibberish as it may sound, it is truer than we can ever imagine.

What is death to anyone? A tragedy, sorrow of a lifetime people are ordained to carry for the rest of their lives. Maybe, the morbidity surrounding death would cease to exist if we take a look from the other side.

Recently, my grandfather passed away at 96. At that age a peaceful death after an extremely fulfilling life, we couldn’t have asked for more. Yet, we couldn’t help but sob, thinking he could have lived for a few more years. Mourning is an inherent part of death, irrespective of a premature or an anticipated passing away.

We prepared to bid my granddad a befitting farewell, which was as grand as the life he lived. According to Hindu rituals, the dead cannot be cremated in the night, is what I am told. My granddad had to be kept overnight at our place and we arranged for him to be kept for the night. In half an hour, four men arrived with an icebox and a glass case. If an outsider was to watch them, it would seem like a group of mechanics had walked into the house to perhaps fix the TV or the AC. The casualness in their stride and conversation intrigued me. They discussed the procedure with my folks in a matter-of-factly tone. ‘We will come tomorrow morning, when are you taking him to the crematorium?” Here is our card, please call us. The men left, leaving us with our duties to follow.

The next morning, priests arrived in scores. There was one team to set up the place for rituals and another to give a list, while relatives poured in to pay their last respects. While the priests started the incantations, chanting the verses to bid the departed soul a deserving farewell, we stifled tears and cries.

The priests went on with the procedures, with the senior most shouting out instructions; he seemed like the quintessential PT master at school, taking his students to task for not following the drill instructions carefully. Multitasking and reciting chants, he adeptly finished the rituals and signalled that it was time to head to the crematorium for the last rites.

Funerals make me wobbly and this was my granddad’s and hence more taxing. In a tizzy, I looked around to see a sea of the grim faced priests and teary-eyed relatives. I could have thrown up out of stress.

For us, the 10th and 13th days following a person’s demise are days to commemorate with elaborate customs. A bunch of priests supervise the proceedings. In earlier times, the priests who are engaged in these rituals are supposed to be poor, living a humble life with minimal requirements. In today’s times, I don’t know how much that has changed but largely these priests don’t make big bucks like the chiefs do.

Justifiably, they await the news of death as much as they look forward to other rituals and pujas. If it a Brahmin household like ours, it would mean profitable business for the next 12 months, till the first death anniversary is marked. Now that sounds crude and cynical, but how does that matter, as long as it is means of living for others?

The pallid lives like these that I would never notice otherwise are not as mundane as I make it to be, or are they? I wonder what they have to say about it. Would they sit with the same expressionless face for their father’s or mother’s rituals? The answer is both yes and no, I guess. Human emotions are strange and stranger than we can imagine.

If the shadows threw light….

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2011 by unrelentingdreamer

I remember him as the guitar strumming, soft spoken friend of Shabana Azmi in Arth. And, the next recollection I have of him is the man who Simi Garewal mowed down to death in the reincarnation tale Karz. Raj Kiran stood out in these roles, though they were cameos.

I best remember him as the actor with eyes that were both emotive and dreamy, a performer with potential and someone who had immense screen persona. He wasn’t a heart throb, or a macho guy who could make girls go weak on their knees. His performances were intense and made the role of a second fiddle memorable.

Naturally, the recent news report of him being lodged in an asylum in Atlanta is heart breaking. And, even more disturbing is the fact that he is working in the institution to pay off his medical bills. What route took him from the tinsel town to a quaint city in the Southern part of the USA is another story. But, him resurfacing, at least in the media, is a harsh reminder of all those who see the rise and decline in the film industry.

No one would ever know what went wrong with Guru Dutt’s life. Even today, almost fifty years after he was found dead in his apartment, none can say if it was suicide or overdose of liquor and sleeping pills. Largely, it is believed his will to live was shaken after the disastrous opening Kaagaz Ke Phool, his magnum opus, received; add to that his failed romance with his co-star and a marriage in shambles. The film bore a striking resemblance to his life and his death. Call it irony, or a sublime misfortune, today Kaagaz Ke Phool is rated among the all-time best films by Time magazine.

Or, would anyone ever guess what didn’t work for Parveen Babi, the iconic star of the seventies who made it to the cover page of Time magazine? The striking actor who played the most unconventional female roles, along with Zeenat Aman, is believed to have dumped her career for her love, only to be disappointed. A lot of stories have circulated about her attempt to find solace in the mentorship of UG Krishnamurthi. After two decades, she died alone, as she was in life. Later, many rued the fact that Parveen was a phenomenon in her times and it was a terrible tragedy that she vamoosed into oblivion. But phenomena don’t last forever: is an unwritten rule in the industry. Those who decline, stumble on it to discover that.

There was a time when Bharat Bhushan was rated amongst A- listers like Rajinder Kumar and was paired against stalwarts like Madhubala and Meena Kumari. The face of many melodies like Tu Ganga Ki Mauj mein, Zindagi Bhar Nahi Bhoolenge and many more timeless gems, Bharat Bhushan along with his contemporaries bagged some of the finest songs composed by legendary composers, including Naushad and Madan Mohan. But, that didn’t stop his fading stardom, nor did it help him save for a rainy day. He passed away in his rented apartment as an aged man who was nothing close to the once celebrated actor of the fifties. Incongruously, he was counted among legends of the era like Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand.

The show must go on, a popular adage of the tinsel town, speaks another truth. No one is indispensable here; today you are here, tomorrow you maybe nowhere. The curtains come down on your act, but the show must go on.

Our world, their world

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 by unrelentingdreamer

Recently, I met an old friend after almost a decade. After we got chatting about college and common friends, he suddenly enquired, “Do you know Ms G was engaged to one of our friends, Mr S? But, they called off their wedding just recently, it seems Ms G was involved with someone else and S came to know about it. They decided to part amicably; neither of them wanted a fuss. Ms G is going to marry that other guy in June,” he said. “But what about S, how is he coping with it,” I asked. The friend replied, “He was very upset but now he is okay. He will find someone else soon. Is there a dearth of girls,” he shrugged, as if he had said some irrefutable fact. The topic ended with that; I was neither taken aback, nor did I ponder over that story, given that I have been a witness to many such similar incidents.

Today morning, my otherwise cheerful maid appeared a little sombre and worried. After doing the chores for a while she came up to me and burst into tears. “My daughter’s fiancé has married another girl. We just got to know about it,” she said sobbing inconsolably.

My family and I had attended the daughter’s engagement in November last year. The function was a gala affair, much similar to engagement functions that happen in my family. My mom had even remarked, “I am sure she will not compromise on anything, after all, this is her first daughter’s wedding. See, she is going to astonish everyone with grandeur.” True to my mom’s words, more than 200 guests were invited for the function and the dinner was nothing less than a grand feast.

It was shocking to hear about this unexpected turn of events. I didn’t have any words to console her. She was in a pitiful state, as she sobbed out the story in detail. My parents counselled her, saying her daughter was fortunate to have learnt about her fiance’s intentions. Imagine what you would have done, if he married another girl after marrying your daughter. Say good riddance and help your daughter move one, they told her.

It was easier said than done, we all knew. For people like my maid, it all boiled down to their honour. Daughters’ happiness, tears, anguish and sorrow drowned in honour. Now, my maid’s husband is contemplating suicide, my maid has lost all hope and her daughter is totally broken. The incident left me wondering if some strata of the society lived in a completely different world. How drastically do the definitions of honour, pride and humiliation differ among various sections? An event can be perceived in multiple ways according to one’s economical and social status. What is a mere bad experience for one can be a tragedy of a lifetime for another.

In my friend’s case it was about heartbreak and coping with it but for my maid’s daughter it is a tug of war between upholding family honour for the society and her misery.

A year and still going…

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 by unrelentingdreamer

Exactly a year ago I started my blog, after too much deliberation. Despite being a journalist, somehow, having a blog was a disconcerting idea.
What if I end up getting overboard with my deepest thoughts?However, with great courage I brushed aside that lurking fear to start working on a site.

First, I wrote a poem, an absurd train of thoughts rather, to set the blog rolling. I quickly followed it with a couple of posts on topics related to movies, books and music.

It is easy to write a blog; the tough part is getting people to take notice and react to it. Somewhere after a few posts I realised that blogging is a must for anyone who wants to shape their writing skills. Having a blog gives you a voice and an identity. In contrary to my fear of revealing too much to known and unknown people, my blog has given me the access to the darkest recesses of my mind.

But, I must admit that I haven’t made much of a mark in blogosphere. My biggest motivation has been a friend who writes some of the most compelling posts. He has 77 followers, while I have hardly half a dozen readers. Yet, having a blog, or two, has made me tap the writer in me. Maybe some day, I would reach the 70 followers mark, but till then I will continue. Thanks to all those who read my random musings and a few verses that I manage to come up with. And, double thanks to those who like, or leave comments for those posts. You inspire me to write more.

Salaam, Bombay

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2010 by unrelentingdreamer

I finally realised my dream of visiting Bombay. I would still call it Bombay; screw Shiv Sena and its likes. The city is still Bombay to me. For one, I like the name Bombay more than Mumbai. Secondly, Bombay brings back the first images of the city that are deeply embedded in my memory.
I am not mortified to say my fascination for visiting the city stems from my love for Hindi films. And, last week when I made a hurried visit to the city, I was in awe. For, the city was exactly as I imagined it to be. A confluence of dreams and setbacks, hopes and despair, and a connect between the past and future.
As the plane touched down on Bombay, on a foggy and pleasant morning, I bravely (I suffer from severe air sickness) peered through the window to catch a glimpse of the city. Towering buildings that dotted the huge landscape seemed huge even from a higher altitude, I was surprised to see lanes of hutments just adjacent to those magnificent structures. That was Dharavi, the grandest example of Indian disparity, where palatial bungalows rubbed shoulders with one of the biggest slums in the world. Ah, this is the Bombay I have heard of, I told myself.
Since it was a day after Diwali, the city was still in a festive mood; the noise of crackers everywhere, house brightly lit with serial bulbs and a huge crowd at the markets.
In the evening, I took a stroll down Juhu beach. It was a Saturday, a holiday, a day for family outings. I am a bit disdainful when it comes to appreciating beaches, for I come from the city that boasts of the second longest beach in the world (that is debateable though). I sat on the wet sands, silently watching the most transient images, wondering if these were the sands Anand played by Rajesh Khanna walked on humming Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli haaye while Amitabh Bachchan watched him despondently.
An urban Indian would know at least ten places in Bombay, thanks to DD and other satellite channels that have their head offices in the city. I remember, as a child, I often wondered why all DD programmes had Worli postal addresses.
Each place conjured a flurry of celluloid images and I was fervently trying to place each image with the names of the places, much to the amusement of my friend, who volunteered to show me around.
Bombay is much more than just a large, thriving metro. The city attracts chagrin and admiration at the same time. Perhaps, this paradox is its greatest asset, giving each person a fair chance to survive. How else can you justify the city attracting both a labourer from Bihar and a working class Madrasi? For both, Bombay is an ideal destination and surviving in the city a litmus test, determined by one factor, perseverance. Here bombings and resilience are brothers in arms; stardom and religious fanaticism find the most random link; and struggle and success aren’t poles apart.
Even to those who reproach the city for its ruthlessness in filtering incompetence and complacency, it is a metaphor that stands tall among all odds. It is baffling how so many paradoxes can co-exist and amalgamate to become the epitome of agglomeration.
My stay in Bombay came to an end in a jiffy. And as I stood exploring the labyrinth of human existence, I heard a group of urchins fussing over a heap of crackers. Diwali celebrations were still on and in full swing. This is the city that doesn’t want to forego the excitement of bursting crackers, despite surviving deadly bomb attacks that has left a mark on every inch of its space.
Maybe that is what prompted Majrooh Sultanpuri to pen the famous lines: ‘Aye Dil Hai Mushkil Hai Jeena Yahaan. Zara Hatke, Zaara Bachke yeh hai Bombay, meri jaan’. Is there a more befitting tribute to the spirit of Bombay?

Otherwise Nondescript- Part II

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 by unrelentingdreamer

This is perhaps a sequel to the story of Amma, a maid in my neighbourhood. However, I believe, every life tells us a different story, though on the surface they may sound similar to somebody’s saga.

Living in India, it is not very difficult to spot a life lead on the edge. Us city dwellers have perhaps grown so immune to them that it seems futile to stop and give such lives a look, or get into any introspection. They are nondescript lives; so easy to ignore and move on. “Yes he / she is suffering, but that is fate.” Rarely, do you come across anyone lauding the spirit that propels fighting adversity.

Last Sunday, I had an interesting encounter; an encounter that has refused to be out of my mind since then. There is a small beauty parlour that I visit frequently. It is just another parlour that one might mistake for a shop selling trinkets, or cheap accessories.

Enter the place any time you will find an awkward silence welcoming you, indicating that there is no hot business happening there. I reckon the parlour is run by a lady from Assam who has found a good location for it in the bustling Eldams Road.

Such beauty parlours are always run by women from the north-eastern parts of the country, Darjeeling and Assam. They have a knack for running such set-ups. What I like most about them is their cheerfulness, their readiness to toil hard, even if it means working in a place that is so far from home. Some might reason that it is natural, for these women have little choice with vocations. But, there is little to feel cheerful about a job that involves threading uneven eyebrows, and waxing hairy arms and legs.

This time I managed to strike a long conversation with a couple of girls in the parlour. “I am Victoria, one of them said, grinning from ear to ear. And, she is Enrita. We both are from Assam; I am from Guwahati and she is from Tezpur.”

How long has it been since you visited home? I go home once in three years and she is planning to go next month. But I don’t know when my next trip will be.

While Victoria was talking, I made a mental calculation. She has been working here for the last nine years and visits home once in three years, meaning she has been home just thrice. Don’t you miss home, I asked, quite hesitantly. I was scared that it might be too personal a question to ask. I shouldn’t sound too inquisitive. It was not my business at all. However, I wanted to know what makes someone come to an alien land and spend ten years of their life, doing the same monotonous stuff.

I could easily visualise the scene at her home in Guwahati: A family of almost a dozen children; each in a remote place, trying to make ends meet at home. All of them are likely meet each other at least after three years.

I opened my eyes to see the cheerful Victoria again. ‘Is the wax too hot ?’ I smiled and nodded; she continued her banter about the weather and latest films, while I took a mental trip to her home in Assam