IT”S TIME TO ROCK ON

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“ If there is one regret in my life, its not being able to play football. I was very good ,Ma’am, and believe that it should have been my career….but my father insisted I join the Government”.

That was what a junior colleague, told me over coffee and gupshup on one of those days in office, which seemed to stretch on endlessly for no reason. I heard the catch in his voice and startled, looked up to see him lost and a little bewildered. Something I had not expected ,perhaps, to encounter in a person who was in a secure, well paying, respectable job.

Deep conversations with the right people make you either fulfilled or restless -I have come to this conclusion after many, many such interactions over the years. It has also been my experience that both the feelings are absolutely and strangely compatible. And yes, indisputably, these conversations make you grow. Read somewhere that  ‘ you are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. …you are what you take from these “

It is with this background that that I pushed off , last Friday, straight from work to watch “ Rock On 2”.  The rather grim faces of  moviegoers  who had caught  the first show did not portend too well for the movie. I caught phrases like ‘ without any imagination’’,  “ absolutely lacked direction’,  “pointless yaar…paisa barbaad’’, ‘’so contrived’’ etc.

The movie sadly turned out to be all of these. It was a very superficial, urbane hash of very deja-vu feelings and ideas .  Farhan Akhtar as Aditya is disturbed  and feels personally responsible for the death of a young boy, Rahul Sharma, who had hopes of becoming a ‘modern’ music star . He seeks redemption and retreats to picturesque Meghalaya for some heavy soul -searching. Arjun Rampal as Joe Mascarhenas is now a Mr Moneybags in Mumbai , owning a posh club and a judge of  a reality show ( seriously, when is the world going to wake up to this assault on one’s senses? )  In Purab Kohli as KD , hope springs eternal about a re-union with his former  “Magik” bandmates.  Nothing magical seems to be happening to “Magik’’ though. Its more like ‘’ subeh hoti hai, shaam hoti hai, umr yun hi tamaam hoti hai “ ( Ghalib) , till the  agonizingly cliched arrival  of Shraddha Kapoor as Jiah. Yes, she is none other than  Rahul’s younger sister and musically gifted too. She is troubled by her brother’s suicide and blames her renowned Hindustani- classical- musician- father for  it, naturally. Misunderstandings, heartbreaks, partings all happen but finally end up in a happy story.  We are also sensitized to a have vs have-not crisis in the North East via  Ba Singh–a supposedly old timer from Meghalaya who looks more like the ubiquitous Chinese old man in all the Chinese bric-a-bracs that we love to buy from Lajpat Nagar market. Thus, the sequel to the cult musical drama that had moved us , almost eight years back, failed to elicit any fervor.

Yet, I sat through the movie and pinged my sister that it is eminently watchable.

Why did it work for me ? Well, to be fair , individual performances were rather good.  Shraddha Kapoor deserves a special mention. The cinematography was breathtaking. I rather fancied a red, knitted artsy  jacket worn by Farhan Akhtar ( Damn! I need to visit the  North East emporiums on Baba Kharak Singh Marg). Oh yes, how can I forget to mention the super hot , jaan-leva Arjun Rampal ?

But, it was that yearning in my young colleague’s  voice for a dream not pursued, a passion that was snuffed out and sorrowfully a life not being ‘lived’ but just ‘existing’ which flashed in my mind as I watched the movie. The dark truth of Pink Floyd’s “ Another Brick In The Wall’ as manifest in parental control/aspirations , societal definition of the ‘ideal’  and an alienation of Kierkegaardian proportions  are the intangible but throbbing elements in the movie. It brought back memories also of my father’s wrath when I played the riffs of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ on my sitar. I was being trained in HIndustani classical music , in the Vishnupur gharana tradition- that music flowed in my veins, but so did Jimi Hendrix.  Did Ravi Shankar’s collaboration with George Harrison not produce great music ? Purity in music, I did respect but my gypsy soul  also longed for the music of  that piper at the gates of dawn.Like most of my generation, I listened to my parents too and moulded myself on their expectations, despite my psychedelic sheep orientation. They wanted the best for me and I love them for that. Today, I am middle aged , secure and respectable-I pay my taxes and usually don’t jump red lights. But within the not-too-rigid walls of my life, I do what I love –save animals, wear red lipstick ,read Rumi and rock to Led Zeppelin. Just as Jiah does with her music and life.

Rock on, I tell my young colleague- its not and never too late to live that life you yearn for.  The age factor will not allow him to be a footballer now, I realize.But there are so many other ways he can be connected to the sport in real time. Maybe he will set up a football academy ? Own a club ? And help, support , inspire that little boy whose father possibly says  ‘’ Son, you need to become an engineer/lawyer/doctor/IAS officer! Concentrate on studies not football!’’

And yes, I hope ‘’ Rock On 3 “ happens for all of us who seem to have got stuck, for whatever reason, in lives which doesn’t let us /stops us from dancing the mambo.

The accidental sufi bids you au revoir and as usual leaves you with a favorite song ….its fusion music….something which my Dad , the purist, would frown upon 😉

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Have we all not felt that unbearable heaviness of being ?

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There is  currently that delicious nip in the air which I  so love about Delhi weather . Despite the killer smog, Sunday afternoon today was bliss after the totally awesome rajma chawal, which my pug ( adopted from Friendicoes)Tony Iommi ( named after the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist) shared with me.

So great was our satisfaction with life ( read : siesta) that I started having second thoughts about going for “Ae Dil hai Mushkil”. The reviews, even after a 4 star rating by some leading dailies, have been pretty scathing.The movie doesn’t have any of my favorite Bollywood actors. My friends also refused to accompany me– one of them remembered that I had howled my heart out in another Karan Johar film, ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’’, when Shahrukh Khan had died. They didn’t want to repeat the embarrassment, it seems.

I guess it was  the theme of ‘unrequited love’ of the movie which won over the rajma chawal induced somnolence.That feeling of yearning is something each of us possibly can/will relate to. Deep down it  glows like embers…what Gulzar sahab says Ek chhota sa lamha hai jo khatm nahee hota, mai lakh jalata hun, yeh bhasm nahee hota” ( There is a small moment in time, which doesnt end. I try to burn it endlessly, but it dosent turn into ashes).

Great  art, literature, music they say is born when and if the heart is forced to want and weep.From the unrequited love themes in the comic strip “Peanuts’ to  Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, I have been fascinated with the incapacity of the human mind to deal with it and the beauty that comes into existence because of it. It is a beauty which is tender, fragile but surprisingly powerful.Would you not describe Jo & Laurie’s relationship ( Little Women) in precisely these very words ? Or, perhaps, think why does Adele make so much sense to many hard core rocker chicks ( me included) ?

Thus, I thrilled to hear Shahrukh Khan, in a cameo, speak about the exquisiteness of,both, joy and sorrow, that unrequited love brings. That scene perhaps nailed  the movie for me. A brilliantly played out scene which has many complex nuances and bold takes that is usually not seen in mainstream Hindi cinema. We see a middle aged woman with a younger lover–confident in her sexuality  and unapologetic; a wife strong enough to  leave her famous husband for his indiscretion and carve out a niche for herself; a relationship of ex’s which tries to be civil, but hey, we know ‘move on’ is an oxymoron;a young man who is jealous of his lover’s ex but acknowledges his wisdom. I shall refuse to speak about the Hindu-Muslim angle which is being talked about. It is so trite that it  should be insulting to any one’s sensibilities.

The movie definitely cannot be trashed and trolled. Both Ranbir Kapoor  and Anushka Sharma have essayed their roles well. Although, the director fails to bring about the edginess in Alizeh’s character –think Deepika Padukone in “Cocktail” ? And though Saba is poised and mature, I couldn’t help but remember Dimple Kapadia in “ Dil Chahta Hai”.

All in all, go watch the movie, people.

Especially if Ghalib thrills you, like he does me.

aah ko chahiye ek umr asar hone tak,

kaun jiitaa hai teri zulf ke sar hone tak’’ aashiqi sabr talab aur tamanna betaab

dil ka kya rang karoon khoon-e-jigar hone tak

humne maana ke tagaaful na karoge lekin

khaak ho jayenge hum, tumko khabar hone tak

gham-e-hasti ka asad kis se ho juz marg ilaaz

shamma har rang mein jalti hai sahar hone tak’’

 (Translation : Love demands patience and yearning restless

How do I placate my heart till my destruction?

Though I believe you may not ignore me, but

I will turn into ashes by the time you understand my plight

O Asad!, There is no remedy for the anguish of living save death

The candle has to burn till morning no matter what)

Well, the accidental sufi bids you au revoir with a a very favorite song of hers 🙂 

LIVING “SATI”

 

It is not very often that  I indulge in the ardent regionalism which seems to affect my countrymen. I have always considered myself “Indian’’ first and not really got down to being Odia. At times, I do  fall into the delicious trap of measuring people’s vis-a-vis their home-state which I guess we all indulge  in, with malice towards none. That’s  something quintessentially  Indian, right ? So, while I marvel at the handsome Sardars from Punjab, I couldn’t ever dream of dating one….I wouldn’t have been very sure whose long hair , mine or his,I would pull in uh- uh romantic excitement ! Or let’s talk about the people from Bengal….many times I wish to scream from the rooftop that Ma Durga’s surname is not just Chatterjee, Banerjee etc etc. It can very well be  Rawat or Jha!

I can go on and on about all the diversities, which we pick on, despite our unity, but allow me to be unashamedly regional/parochial  today and declare that my heart burst with a gladness at the actions of a fellow Odia and my home state Odisha.

I am talking about the Chief MInister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik.

And here is why this man needs to be applauded.

He has reached out to the widows in the holy city of Puri.

The holy month of “Kartik’ began from October 16th . Thousands of widows assemble at Puri to perform ‘Habisa’ (penance) as a mark of respect to Lord Jagannth during the month of Kartik.The Government of Odisha launched the ‘Kartik Habis Brata Yojana’ which is aimed at facilitating free lodging, health care and food for the Hindu widows during the holy month in Puri. ,As many as 2000 widows will get free accommodation, Mahaprasad and health care under this scheme.The government plans to accommodate even more beneficiaries next year onwards.

Perhaps, one of the most heartrending scenes is that of  scores of widows sitting with a vacant look in the holy temples of Kashi, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Mathura, Puri. Some are old and infirm;some are young and beautiful. What unites them is that they have been shunned and abandoned by their families. They lead lives shorn of dignity. Over the babble of the hymns they recite, no one really hears their cry for begging to be considered ‘living’ beings. For although ‘Sati’ ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice) was abolished aeons ago, the utter desolation of/in the lives of widows, cannot be termed anything else than ‘living sati’. Every single day they burn in a hell created by misogyny, patriarchal hegemony, societal conservatism and apathy.

Many days the widows do not get enough to eat and depend on the compassion and conscience of random strangers. Deepa Mehta’s powerful cinema ‘Water’ chillingly portrays the fate of a young widow who is sexually exploited. Art always mirrors life. And ‘life’ for the widows is that of merciless abuse by those who provide ‘shelter’ to them. In ‘’Benares: The Sacred City, In verses & hymns’’, Mandira Ghosh pens down these poignant lines about the fate of widows ‘‘Still tears/Of widowed women/Her reflective grey hair/Shaken by wind and attitude/Broken by sand/Still their voices are still.’

There are many individuals and organizations who have taken up the issue of widows welfare in right earnest.  The efforts of Sulabh International are praiseworthy in this regard. What touched me most about the measures was that along with financial, housing, health issues focussed upon, they sought to bring back colour  and beauty into the lives of widows — these abandoned women played ‘Holi’ in Vrindavan, saw the Taj Mahal and very recently also participated in a fashion show in Delhi ! (http://www.sulabhinternational.org/news/ )  Being widowed does not stop her from being feminine…from wanting to wearing bright colours….jewellery….makeup.My eyes became moist when I looked the photographs. I felt ashamed too. There are so many things that I take for granted.

On every visit of mine to the Jagannath temple, I sit amongst the widows and talk to them, buy them Mahaprasad , offer small amount of money.This is the proverbial drop in the ocean, I know. Rehabilitation of widows needs to be institutionalised.Yet, I cannot help but think that if/whenever  each of us visit Kashi, Varanasi, Mathura, Puri, Vrindavan such small individual gestures would go a long way in filling up the ocean of humanity.

Thank you Chief Minister, Shri Naveen Patnaik. I would like to believe that  your’s is a similar individual gesture of compassion and reaching out.

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( photograph from the Internet for illustration only)

THE PACEMAKER

The story heading seems straight out of a Harold Robbins novel, doesn’t it ?

 But, it  doesn’t have the remotest connection to the fast paced and steamy novels which most people my age now( *sigh* well into middle age) surely stole from their parent’s collection to read .

Rather, its about a small device that is placed in the chest to help control abnormal heart rhythm. It is about how this small device has led to such big changes  in my world.

It needed much coaxing, cajoling and finally outright threats – of the ‘no single malt & kebabs’ type–to get my Dad to agree to  a cardiac check-up at AIIMS ( All India Institute of Medical Sciences), New Delhi ,this August. Despite the long queues and tiresome waiting, it is always the doctors at  AIIMS that I trust with any health issues of  my loved ones . It is here that the finest medical brains with an impeccable commitment to the noblest profession of all, work tirelessly.

Daddy’s cardiologist, since the last five years, has been Dr Ambuj Rai. I really have no words to praise him , so I will turn to Shakespeare  for help :“His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up, and say to all the world, this was a man “. The immense faith I have in Dr Rai’s professional brilliance as well as approach will possibly be echoed by all his patients and more importantly by his patient’s families.

Well, all these years, just some minor hitches in Dad’s  splendid Leonine heart and little up-downs in the blood pressure were indicated. In August, the doctor after a thorough check-up, said that it was time to install a pacemaker.

I remember my Dad’s face when he heard it. A myriad emotions flitted across. The dominant one was that of denial. He refused to accept  that now he would need a machine for his heart to beat properly. He could not believe that age had caught up with him despite his exasperating/melodramatic  taunts to me and my sister about ‘his sunset years’.

And , let me confess, I was devastated too.

The father -daughter relationship is a very special, very beautiful bond.

Adriana Trigiani in the ‘’Big Stone Gap’ says  “I’ve made it my business to observe fathers and daughters. And I’ve seen some incredible, beautiful things. Like the little girl who’s not very cute – her teeth are funny, and her hair doesn’t grow right, and she’s got on thick glasses – but her father holds her hand and walks with her like she’s a tiny angel that no one can touch. He gives her the best gift a woman can get in this world: protection.”

 I realized that my Dad had become  old . That it was a time for a role reversal . That it was I who needed to protect and care for him. So Adriana Trigiliani says again “And all the things that the world expects from women – to be beautiful, to soothe the troubled spirit, heal the sick, care for the dying, send the greeting card, bake the cake – all of those things become the way we pay the father back for protecting us…”

Oh, let me hasten to add, he doesn’t look his age. At 79, his hair hasn’t greyed, his back is ramrod straight, he has a bounce in his walk and his smile still gets the ladies all weak kneed ( much to the annoyance of his Scorpion wife).

But, who can beat age ? It is inevitable.

So the pacemaker was installed.

I was a wreck on the day of the surgery. Foolish tears crept into my eyes when he was being wheeled into the operation theater. He looked a little lost and helpless.You see , I had never seen my Dad, in any situation in which he was  not in command. From a very daring young SP ( Superintendent of Police) to a highly respected DGP ( Director General of Police), I  had seen my Dad totally and always  in control-unflinching in his dedication to policing and the people of his beloved home state, Odisha. And yes, facing  many difficult/delicate/desperate times with an arrogance that comes out of impeccable integrity.

Those few days in the hospital marked the start of a new phase in my relationship with my Dad. While he still treats me as if I am still fourteen and not forty, I have turned into a benevolent despot. I watch what he eats like a hawk, his medicine timings have been fed into my mobile,his walks ( which he hates) are closely monitored,the air conditioning and room temperatures  are regulated for his comfort etc etc. All this , of course, is complemented with the occasional butter chicken, long discussions on music,  a late night movie on TV and me ,.meekly accepting his tirade against Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram. ”All this is criminal activity”, he rages thunderously when my mobile pings 🙂

And I realize, that it is these tender moments of love, laughter, silly fights and half-hearted tantrums that will stay on with me ,till very long-perhaps till the time when I might require a pacemaker.

Life doesn’t stop for anybody.

So go hug your Dads,guys.

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WISE ONES 26 #

 

‘The very essence of romance is uncertainty’ ( Oscar Wilde, The Importance Of Being Earnest & Other Plays)

This is a favorite song of mine 🙂

I am curious- the question is for the ladies- what would you do to a guy who throws your lipstick like the chap does @ 2:29/30 in the video clip ?

I would never bloody smile & forgive! 🙂

Insane with Rumi

A friend reminded me that it is Rumi’s birthday.

I smiled.

I celebrate Rumi every single day.

I whirl.

To the sound of the B/beloved’s voice.

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 Yes, Rumi had whispered in my ears ,many, many years back…”Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.”

RIDERS ON THE STORM: A GREAT DANE CALLED LAYLA & ME

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( While you read , listen to this

)

 

This story is about Layla, a Great Dane.

 

Layla wasn’t just a dog who was rescued by Friendicoes and adopted by me five years back.

 

She and I , in the words of the beautiful JIm Morrison, were riders on the storm.

 

She came into my life and rescued me ,actually. Layla silenced my demons and danced with my angels.

 

I was going through a major personal crisis.

 

My marriage of twelve years had broken up.Although, I was very sure that I would not spend my life with a man who had turned into a stranger,  all those who have gone through it would agree that it is tough. And tough if you are a woman. And especially more tough, if you are and also perceived to be from a higher “ status’ family vis-a-vis the husband who spared no effort in painting  a picture of me as a  spoilt-arrogant-rich- bitch.

 

Rant:I am so bloody glad he is out of my life. It was my mistake all along. I failed to read/recognize the warning signs! The chap didn’t like dogs or Led Zeppelin

 

Auto suggestion: Stop!

 

Yes, let me not digress by talking about a deplorable human and a loser .

 

Let me tell you , instead, about a beautiful animal and a winner.

 

Layla’s story is a typical one which I have seen in my many, many years of being associated with animal rights and welfare. A pedigreed puppy bought for a huge sum of money to enhance status. The puppy grows into a huge Great Dane who requires love and attention,daily walks,exercise, grooming, nutritious food and supplements- all of which cannot be handled by Chotu or the private security guard, who proceed to abuse/hit the dog and keep her chained.The  Great Dane turns aggressive, falls sick and is then promptly dumped in Friendicoes.

 

‘Can you take her in , Aparajita ? “, asked ( the very wonderful) Geeta Sheshmani of Friendicoes, a trifle desperately. That evening, I remember, nine dogs of various pedigrees and age  had been abandoned at the already overflowing shelter.It was human callousness and cowardice at its worst!Abandoning that dog who was completely dependent on you for no fault of his except that he was either sick or old or you were leaving town!

 

I hesitated. I had never kept a Great Dane before and knew nothing about the breed. I worried that I stayed in a first floor apartment. I had a demanding job. The dog was aggressive. And  I also was not ready for another dog I felt. I had just lost my Boxer girl and my three other ones had been dropped off in my parents’ home as I planned to take a break and just travel ( Read: wander)

 

One look at that regal face and the  Eric Clapton moment happened ‘Layla, you got me on my knees”. We both fell for each other! ‘’Alpha females bonding” , laughed my sister, when I told her about bringing Layla home.

 

That is how a great friendship and love story started . MIne & Layla’s.

 

Her world revolved around me and me alone. Though she was attached to my family when they came visiting, her eyes would search mine out and signal that she loved me best. She would sleep the whole day ,  only to wake up at 6 pm, when she knew I would be returning.She never lost that aggressiveness towards people and her fierce protection towards me sent many a Romeos wanting to come up for coffee, scurrying. Those fact and fiction about a single woman being ‘hunted’ ? Well, Layla jaan pooh-pooed them away with her  deep throated bark that struck fear in the most amorous male heart and other male appendages! Great Danes are called gentle giants. Yes,  with me she was gentle …an exquisite tenderness which wrapped my heart and soul in deep layers of unconditional love.

 

As for me. Layla was the most important person in my life too. Even in the dead December cold of Delhi, I would wake up at 4 am and take her for a two hour walk every day in the Jahanpannah city forest and park.  That did me a whole lotta good actually , saving me from stress binging!When my  Bong cook would disappear because of the repeated excuses of “ami bemaar”,’’ bou bemaar’’, ‘baaacha bhishon bemaar”, I would exist on leftover pizza, but  would cook Layla’s food every day. I preferred spending time with her instead of attending all the happening do’s that I keep getting invited to. My holidays were infrequent too. Not because Layla wouldn’t have been looked after, but because even a few days away from her seemed an eternity. Life felt so incomplete without that beloved face next to me in the morning.

 

LIke all Danes, she was great fun and goofy too!  Those moment of Dane craziness resulted in many broken vases and punctured cushions. And the Lord help me,she honestly thought she was a lap dog ! Her great weakness was Britannia’s ‘Little Heart ‘ biscuits and chicken tikka, a weird snack combo, we adopted for our Friday night JIm Morrison, Led Zeppelin, JImi Hendrix etc etc jam sessions.  Oh yeah, we were solid , old school rocker chicks!

 

I lost her to the dreaded bloat disease.It was very quick.She thankfully did not suffer much.I rushed her to the vet praying like I have never prayed before in my life. But, we both knew in those fleeting seconds before she collapsed, that we have to let go of each other. Her eyes looked into mine and I read them .’’ This is the end, beautiful friend…..my only friend”, she told me.

 

She died in my arms.

 

I wept like I have never wept before and understood for the first time what being broken meant .

 

I know I will never get over that feeling of complete loss and abandonment. I dont want to also.It is a very bitter sweet feeling ,you know. Thinking about her causes me great pain and great happiness, both. I will adjust to live in that love and loss,once again…slowly rebuild myself. I will become whole again but I will never be the same.

 

I grieve her and I know it is forever .For grief and love come together.I realize that no one can take Layla’s place . I have loved many a times…all the beautiful animals who have been a part of my heart and life. But, she will rule over them all . ….the queen of hearts.

 

Here are a few photographs of Layla & me. I smile , through my tears as I listen to the very recognized, very loved riffs of Clapton’s ‘’ Layla’….remembering and yearning .

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