February 2007


  
It is a warm February night in Hyderabad. All the lights in the town are switched on – except the lights in this flat. Naresh sits in the dark, thinking about the light in his life that was suddenly extinguished eight months ago. He no longer has the desire to live. He does not eat at proper times and skips meals quite often. Today he has given dinner a miss again. Since his sister knows that he doesn’t cook, she always calls him over. Her house is just a five minute walk, but today he lied that he is going to a colleague’s place.
He does not feel like going to his office. He still does go though, just to try and keep his mind busy. But then at the end of the day, he loathes the idea of returning to a flat which is empty & lonely now.

He does not answer his cell-phone most of the time. He hates cell-phones now, although there was a time when he thought that it was the next best invention of mankind, after electricity. This is the same person whom you could always find with either the cell-phone stuck to his ear or else talking non-stop into his Blue-tooth ear-piece. He used to attend conference calls with his colleagues in the US, while he drove home in the evenings. Naresh liked to make good use of the hours he spent in driving – by calling and catching up with long-lost college friends, or by calling the architect, to discuss details about the large house that he was having built on the outskirts of town.

That house was Sunita’s dream home. Sunita had so many plans … about decorating, about the colours for each room, about the setup in the huge living-room, about the mini garden on the terrace. At that time, the house was going to be ready in another five months – which would have been exactly a month before their first child was due to enter this world.

All those dreams were shattered in a matter of seconds. That week, eight months in the past, Naresh was out of town on work. Since he could not make it this time, Sunita had gone by herself for the Doctor’s monthly check-up. After all the clinic was just a few streets away. On her way home, Sunita stopped near the road-side vegetable market. It would be nice to surprise him with some Gajar-ka-Halwa, when he got back the next day. She was standing on the narrow footpath, next to the street-light, and bargaining with the vegetable-lady.

Mr. Govardhan, the owner of the big electronic-goods store down the road, was driving home. And he was speaking on his mobile phone, instructing the distributor about the delivery of more 29″ TV sets. In a flash, the flower-selling boy’s bicycle came right in front of his car.

With one hand still holding the phone, Govardhan tried to swerve a little to the left to avoid hitting the cycle. His single-handed pull on the steering turned the vehicle far too much than he would have liked.

The car went crashing toward a street-light pole on the footpath. The vegetable-vendor, who had setup shop right next to the light, had a very lucky escape.

It all happened so fast that the lady in the cream coloured salwar-kameez, buying carrots, did not even see the car coming !!!

This world that we live in is as much about “Generation-Previous” as much as it is supposed to be about “Generation-Next“. It is the young sexagenarians & septuagenarians out there who are more willing to ‘run that extra mile’ than lazy old people (like me) who are yet to complete four decades on this planet. They are there in all fields of life, matching each step with us.

For example, watching the Oscar Awards telecast gave me my ‘Lesson for the Day’ — Life begins at 60 !

The great director Martin Scorsese has given us cinema masterpieces like ‘Gangs of New York‘, ‘Cape Fear‘, ‘Goodfellas‘, ‘Raging Bull‘. But he had to wait for his sixth nomination, to finally win a ‘Best Director’ Oscar – at the age of 64.

The charming ‘Queen of England’ Helen Mirren had to cross over to the other side of 60 years to make her Oscar debut. For her it was a case of “3rd time lucky”.

Alan Arkin also had his lucky stars alligned around the number 3 – his third Oscar nomination. He won his first Oscar – ‘Supporting Actor’ for his role as the grandfather in ‘Little Miss Sunshine‘, after having blown out 76 candles on his birthday cake

78 year old Italian film composer Ennio Morricone won an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar.
Mr. Morricone, who had been nominated five times – but never won, is credited with the original music compositions for many great movies. But I feel he will be most remembered for the grand music from some of the famous Clint Eastwood Westerns, like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly‘, ‘For a Few Dollars More‘.
Anyone who has seen ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly‘ cannot forget the iconic theme music of the movie that plays every time Clint Eastwood rides onto the screen … to the effect that the music is always associated with an image of Eastwood, a cigar in the corner of his mouth, his cowboy-hat pulled almost over his eyes, astride a horse & meandering into the town’s Main Street.

What does all this show us ? That our own Big B is at the ripe age to start & try getting those Oscar-chasing roles (ha ha ha)
And that Deepa Mehta will probably have to wait at least till 2010 before thinking about winning an Oscar !

I used to look forward to visiting Gumsar’s blog everyday. Every day lunch-time meant, getting something edible from the cafeteria and sitting in front of the PC, reading his latest story-post. Gumsar was the name he had given himself on this blog, and I chose to believe that it was inspired by the poet-lyricist Gulzar.

He did not write things about himself, his job, or any general “my-day-today” like posts. All his posts were fiction – short stories. He spun such beautiful tales. His stories never stuck to the same type. They transcended across various genres. Some of his stories were wonderfully spooky – they could scare the living daylights out of the reader. So much that the reader would keep all the Laxman Sylvania bulbs in his house burning from dusk to dawn, so that one does not wake up in the middle of the night & get scared. But the reader would always want more.

Then some of his other stories, were his funny trips down memory lane. These posts would have his readers laughing away to glory and until tears came down. There would be instances of some reader breaking out into loud peals of laughter, very much like the ones we see in those Close-up Toothpaste ads.
Some of Gumsar’s stories would transport you to a different world altogether. If one story of his had you travelling in a Mumbai B.E.S.T. bus, along with the two protagonists of the story, then another story would make you feel like you were actually present on the day when Manori-Bai went around searching for her lost cow Phulgo in the dusty lanes of Sotkargaon.

All this until one day in July, he put out a post, much to the sorrow of his 50 odd regular readers, saying that he was going on vacation to Kerala for 3-4 weeks and that the next post would be in a month or so.

Soon, it was August, and everyone was expecting Gumsar to start posting soon. I used to check his blog daily even though he had said that the next post would only be in August. And everyone of his readers was sure that with a lot of fresh material from his visit to his hometown, he will come up with many more magic filled posts.
August gave way to September, which was then pushed to make space for October. Then November, December & January marched past to the tunes of the Republic Day parade – but still no further post from Gumsar. My daily checking on his blog had long ago diminished to visiting the blog ‘once in a full moon’

And then came the pleasant shock. His post on February 19th read like this …

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Good News … & Thanks 

Friends, there will be no more Fiction posts on this blog. While I was posting on this blog, I was in parallel, trying to get in touch with various publishers. And finally all my efforts have paid off. A small setup, Triad House Publishers, have bought my book of short stories.
The book, name still undecided, will be out in August this year. And since I am now saving my material for this book & future possible books, I will have to prevent myself from putting these stories out on my blog here.
So, dear friends, thanks a lot for all your encouragement & feedback. If it were not for readers like you, this may not even have developed into something concrete.

All my regular readers, please send your postal address to my e-mail id and I will make sure to courier you a copy of the book when it comes out. After all, you are what has made it possible. Lets keep in touch through mails. I will keep posting updates about the book and other stuff on this blog.

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After reading that, I was happy for Gumsar – happy that he was fulfilling what seemed to have been his long-cherished dream.

And I was also sad – sad that I will now have to go & find some other ‘Gumsar’ for brightening up my day … & my lunch-time reading.

7 Decades ago …
Her parents & his parents – they were yet to be born

7 Years ago …  
She was busy pursuing higher studies, after her graduation.
He had long back given up any plans of further studies after struggling through graduation itself. And he was beginning to think if he had spent a little too much time at his current job & if he should change.

7 Months ago …
They are a happy couple with a cute little son, and are in the US on his current assignment

7 Weeks ago …
The three of them are driving back home, after a nice vacation break. They had been wanting to visit this place since some time now. And they sure had a great time !

7 Days ago …
Its yet another manic Monday morning for the family.
On this day, he is told that his current assignment has been again extended, this time by three more months.

7 Hours ago …
She is busy giving Junior a bath.
Junior loves splashing around all the water. And Junior always feels that his bath has ended sooner than he would have liked it to.
He is scampering about the house, as happens every morning, getting ready to leave for work.

7 Minutes ago …
She is at home, reading out to Junior, from a ‘Thomas The Train’ picture book.
Junior loves flipping through his books. In this particular book, Junior loves the pages where ‘Thomas’ comes out of a dark tunnel & where ‘Thomas’ sprints away, showering everything with mud.
He has just settled down at his office desk, with a fresh cup of coffee from the cafeteria.

Time sure seems to fly …… !

And now, to set the values in this equation of Life …
He     = Taks
She    = Taks’ better-half, Meera
Junior = Their 2 year old son, Yash

Operator : Thank you for calling Blog-aholics Anonymous. This is Farrah, How may I help you today ?

Hello, I am Simran Malhotra. I am calling about my husband.

Operator : Yes, ma’am. Please tell me what is the problem you are facing ?

I first met Raj in 1995. He said “Come, Fall in Love” … and I fell for him.
After all those lovely duets we sang in the Chopra-esque Swiss Alps, and after my Gatorade sponsored sprint, to board an Indian Railways train, me & Raj eventually got married. We came back to live in London. Ours was a “happily-lived-ever-after” kind of life, the kind you see at the end of most Bollywood movies.

Operator : Yes. Everything seems perfect. Then … ?

Everything was fine … until Raj started this ‘anonymous’ blog – and eventually became obsessed with it. Since then, he has forgotten me – his wife. And he does not care about our 3 children – Poggo, Disnii & Nicky.

Now, all he thinks 24×7 is for posting about anything & everything under the sun. Instead of thinking about how poor Poggo is faring badly in his Physics class, Raj is busy writing a post about his old crush for his Class XI Physics teacher.

Operator : Ma’am, to start with, are you 100% sure that your husband’s blog is an anonymous one ? Because, we allow only bloggers who have an anonymous-blog to join our group, and avail the facilities.

Yes, I am sure. He blogs under the username – “srk_raj”. And the url for his blog is “******-dot-********-dot-com” (* — URL not disclosed here to prevent hacker attacks and hatred-comments)
Nobody knows that this is his blog, not even Sheena, my friend from Europe. In fact I came to know about this blog only a year after he had started.

Operator : Ok, let me quickly verify the blog. Meanwhile, you can continue. Give me further details. When did you feel that the situation has gone out of control ?

Well, yesterday we were talking about some of the trash movies that get released these days. I asked him about his fav movies from his college days. He did not say anything. He just gave me the URL for his post about his favourite movies.

And then, today morning Karran.J called to ask him his address – to send over a few DVDs. Raj gave him his Blog URL – because that is all he thinks about all the time !!!

He may forget to brush his teeth on some days – actually almost every day, but he will not sleep without having atleast made 2 posts on his blog daily

Operator : Ma’ am, this certainly is very serious. He needs to be immediately put in the ‘Internet-less Care Unit’ (I.C.U) and his “de-blog-ication” treatment has to be started. Give me your address, and I will send over the blog-ulance to your home right now !!!
 

Khuda se Mannat …”  –  have you listened to this song ? Meaningful lyrics … I love this song.

During my school days, when I used to watch the old Bollywood movies & their songs, when Shammi Kapoor was Yahoo-ing down snow covered slopes, the only place I wanted to visit was Kashmir. To me, Kashmir seemed the most beautiful place on this planet. I suppose it still is the most beautiful place … but since many years, not many tourists are willing to visit it.

Recently, I watched a Malayalam movie ‘Keerthi Chakra’ – where the story basically is about the protagonist being a part of the Indian Army contingent fighting in Kashmir.
The below Hindi song is from this Malayalam movie, sung beautifully by Kailash Kher.

Just listening to this song gives me the same feeling that I felt when I watched it … of floating on the Dal Lake in a small boat, with the snow-capped peaks towering all around. It is is a touching song, showing the emotion of the people who long for the old & peaceful Kashmir.

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Khuda se Mannat hai meri
Lauta de Jannat woh meri !
Woh Aman, woh chaman ka nazaara
O Khudaya, lauta de Kashmir doobara !
Meri rooh ki tasveer … mera Kashmir
O Khudaya, lauta de Kashmir doobara !

Charon taraf to pehle sukoon hi Sukoon tha
Awam ko Watan se Ishq ka Junoon tha
Ab Yahan qatl hai, ab Wahan khoon hai
Meri aulad mere Kashmir se mehroom hai, mehroom hai

Mera Kashmir savaanra kyon,
Jab isko yoon Ujadna tha
Khushnuma manzar pe khanjar kyon chalaya
O Khudaya, lauta de Kashmir doobara !
Meri Rooh ki Tasveer … mera Kashmir
O Khudaya, lauta de Kashmir doobara !

Chaahe Kafan ka joda mujhko pehna de Tu
Mere Bacche ko woh Jannat, woh Kashmir dikha de Tu
Woh mera Gulistan ban gaya shamshaan
Yahan maut ki dehleez pe khada hai har Insaan

Tamanna hai guzaarish hai, Dard-e-dil ki khwahish hai
Doobti kashti ko dila de Tu kinara
Woh Aman, woh chaman ka nazaara
O Khudaya, lauta de Kashmir doobara !
O Khudaya, lauta de Kashmir doobara !
Meraa Kashmiiir … Merra Kashmiir !
Merraa Kashmiiir … Merraaa Kaashmeeeer !

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 If you would like to listen, go here – musicindiaonline & check out the song titled ‘Gudase Mannathu‘, sung by Kailash Kher.

As some very wise man had said long ago …

Agar zameen pe jannat hai, to wo yahin hai, yahin hai, yahin hai ” (If there is heaven on earth, it is on this land, it is here, it is right here)

I sure hope to be able to visit Kashmir some day soon, and stay a few days in a house boat on the Dal lake

Last week, I had gone to the post-office – which by itself is a rare thing nowadays 🙂
One of my colleagues had moved onto a new project, in a different city. And I had the last few letters & bills that had come to his old address here. I was to send the few important ones to his new address.

In the post-office, I went in and took a few envelopes off the shelf. I thought that, while I was here, I should pick up a couple of bigger envelopes for myself – to send some prints of the latest vacation photos to the folks back in India 🙂

I put in all my friends’ letters into one of the envelopes. When I proceeded to write the address, I found that I did not have a pen. Surprisingly, the pens on the desks at the back, which the post-office provides for its customers, were all missing too.
I remembered that I had a pen in the car. So, taking the half a dozen envelopes with me, I walked out of the post-office, into the parking lot, opened the car — and then it struck me.
I had taken items which were on sale, and walked out without paying for them. Of course, I knew that I had come out only to take a pen & that I was going back in. But, technically, I had committed a crime …  ‘stealing’ !
If at that moment, a postal employee had run out, shouting that I was a thief, I would not have been able to deny it !

With the pen in my hand, I made a sprint back into the safety of the post-office. I quickly proceeded to pay for all the items & services that I wanted.

Thankfully, nobody seemed to have noticed my ‘crime’. At least nobody made any mention of it.
And when I returned to my car, there was no car waiting outside, with flashing lights & wailing sirens. Only one thing has been nagging me since then – do they have CCTV surveillance at the post-office ?

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