You

Once upon a time

In days of adolescence and thoughts so pure

Asked a question to myself, my version of yore

Who is she, the one of your dreams, the one for you?

A name, a picture or a thought out of the blue

The answer, it is here, through life and years

Through exploring myself and growing in layers

 

She is,

This painting of perfect colors

All my imaginations, dreams and fantasies

All my aspirations, hopes and necessities

Every little detail of my vivid desires

Rolled into one, and filled with ice and fires

 

She is,

The perfect poise to my chaos

The sonorous noise to my silences

The seamless rationale to my biases

An easy foil to my follies

A breezy cure to my pain

And an easy allure to a new world.

A world with her

That of unparalleled addiction, of reality and imagination

Of being with her, of feeling her touch

On my body and my soul

Of being with her, in parts and in whole

 

She is,

An imagination blending into reality

Off late, a clear picture of thoughts with a name

A voice, an opinion, a being and a face so pretty

Like the dawn of a morning with drops of dew

I think of all this, and love sprouts out of the blue

She is, need I say, my own precious You.

 

 

Valentine’s Day

…ke aisa beparwaaah man pehle to na tha….

Valentine’s Day music, colors and vibes greeted him everywhere on his way to work. He was still a good half an hour away from the place but his thoughts had already reached there, although in a different time. The first time he had seen her, it took him a few seconds but he did realize that there was something special about her. Something that would make him turn and look at her again. Not that she was one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen, nor was she that sorts of attractive whom everyone would declare as the office (or college) hottie right away. Yet, the manner in which she said – thanks, I hope you have a good time here, made his heart skip a beat. It could have been her name, that of a former beauty queen, bollywood star and his childhood favorite. It could have been those expressions galore on her face which made her eyes have a life of her own, or the slender face on which a couple of long stresses were always there, or her slim frame, or the melodious voice which had so much poise that even in the noise of surroundings it could make one feel calm and had a soothing effect in his heart, or the hesitant, half fulfilled smile on her lips which looked just about ready to break into a heartfelt laughter- it could have been anything.

In next few days, as much as he tried not to let that feeling grow, his heart couldn’t care more. They met, got along well and whether due to only ease of access and suitability, many lunches, tea and dinner happened together. Meanwhile, her best friend, also his colleague in office, probably discharging the duties of a best friend told him to not even think of her as she had someone since many years and they would be getting married soon. He laughed it away, though a little part of him did tell him to stop right there and inhibit himself, the moment he saw her all the caution was replaced by pure happiness, and gave way to smooth flowing conversations. Soon there were many more lunches, coffee and dinners. He started adjusting his work timings so that they could leave together and spend time in the metro.

The train of thoughts halted abruptly, he was already in his office. Only last day he got to know she was getting engaged and that news had once again opened a trail of thoughts in his mind, and he could not decide where and when he needed to stop. The songs playing at the reception were all talking of feeling the love, soaking him in its fragrance. He walked towards his seat, on the way she said hello and smiled at him. In a moment his heart uplifted and a warmth spread through him and all he could feel was a pure positive energy. Through the chit-chat, office gossips and lunch and advices, what remained throughout the day was the palpable feeling of attraction that he felt and how buoyant it made him feel.

He walked out of the train that day happy and upbeat, with the music slowing down.

… deewana hua badal, le pyaar me angdaai…

He was happy, in the least mindful of ways he could ever be. A happiness which didn’t expect anything in return, a happiness of a feeling, of love, of having found an experience which could make his heart dance with joy and lips wide with a smile. It was happy Valentine’s day!

 

Delhi, my friend

It’s a belief I have held for long now – cities are like people. With both, you tend to lose objectivity in your feelings and start viewing them through the lenses of experiences you have had and memories you created with them. More often than not, it starts with a sense of uncomfortable unfamiliarity, progresses with moments of intense dislike and regret and gradually with time you begin to know them, accept them with all their flaws and eventually develop a relationship which is deeper than what objectivity can perceive. So, if Varanasi has been that family member for me which I have just known to love always in that cocooned sense of comfort and ownership, Pilani and Jamshedpur have been those growing up companions with whom I grew up, learnt about what it means to grow up and come out of that protective shell.

Delhi, on the other hand, over a period of time (3 years, and more) has become like that close friend, who you might find many flaws with, constantly crib about yet develop a deep sense of affection and a sense of belonging. From the tall towers of Noida – Ghaziabad, to the affable and loud neighborhood of Patel Nagar, to the superficial posh of the South Delhi to the glitzy shine of the Millennium city Gurgaon with a dark underbelly, all of them seem familiar now. Few years back, it was this big halt on the way to my college and my eyes would never get tired of staring at the tall buildings, wide roads, curvy flyovers and the metro in construction. Even today, the magic remains intact – only with higher intensity and with a mixture of many other emotions. The wide roads which would seem like the route to a different world altogether, today after 3000 kms of biking on them seem like my own companion who share the joy of the wind blowing on my face leaving the metropolis behind. The flyovers which teased me with their twists and curves and rise and fall take me along with them in their joyride. The metro which seemed to be digging a whole new world into the future now seems like a way of life, no more than taking a rickshaw back in the towns of hinterland. The pubs and bars with their edgy lights and sounds seemed alien now embrace me with all the warmth- mostly of the memories of good times. You don’t really belong to a city unless you know its ways, its lanes and roads and getting across it. The joy which I feel on covering the width and length of the NCR on 2 wheels is something which will always fill my heart with a warm feeling, and a belief that yes I know this city, I know its roads.

Delhi is not just another city, it is actually a combination of many of them, each with a different flavor of its own. Like a giant beast with many limbs, it goes on expanding ever and not always in dignified proportions, often out of sync with each other and resulting in case when it grows so big that one part does not know about the other. Noida and Ghaziabad – with its mixed contours of UP and sprinkling of the metropolis, offer a comfort the kind of which you get from meeting a person from your hometown in a new place. Greater Noida is all that, only in a much more beautiful, planned and evolved way, mostly due to lack of the population. The connecting link – The Expressway will always remain the first love of my bike, and the memories we share their together will be precious. Gurgaon, (no, not Gurgram) a living metaphor of the classic Indian metro planning (i.e. a disaster) is a different breed altogether – with its super posh and rich skyline, drinking addas and of course that place called Cyber Hub. Delhi, of course the center of it all (literally and figuratively) remains that heady cocktail of political storms, bits of history round every corner and the origin of all things big in the country. Move beyond the borders to the interior and you find a city of civilization in process and in construction co-existing together

And that is something which is common to all part of this monster called the National Capital Region – construction. As if the capital wants to stand as a metaphor to the ever growing dreams of the Indian populace, it is since time immemorial (at least in my life time) has always been a work in progress. Large stretches of lands in Noida and Gurgaon offer a scenic (in a weird way) views of towers getting erected one floor above the other, one tower behind the other. Before the roads and people kick in, there is this whole another world of slums of the construction workers and their families which inhabit it, and a few years later the same places are inhabited by the people who occupy the other end of the divide of the society. Some areas just seem perpetually under construction, with the ever changing demographics of the NCR. As if along with my personal growth, the mega city also grows, and both of us still struggling to identify if this is the point to stop, or if all went right.

It seems alright though, both the city and the time spent here. The single required and sufficient evidence for that is the pain that I feel as I move on, and the wonderful people and memories I share with them, and the roads, the metro, the malls, flyovers and all things which shape and define the city. This city has given me a lot – in material, emotional and financial all terms, but as I leave, I leave a part of my soul behind. A part which will always care about the status of that proposed tram network in Chandni Chowk, the trial runs of the Jama Masjid metro line, the launch of new luxury townships in Sohna Road, the Noida-Greater Noida Metro line, the taxi-pods of Manesar-Gurgaon, the happy hours at CP, the new stores and skiing zone in the Mall of India and the pollution levels in the air. Even though I might live somewhere else, love someplace else, and objectively find some other place better, the time spent here and my relationship is with Delhi will remain the same. For all your flaws, Delhi you have been a great friend, and a friend for lifetime for sure. Until we meet next, keep growing!

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Udta Punjab -Stunning, hard-hitting and an absolute high!

* * * 1/2

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Alright, so this is a brilliant work by Kashyap and co, though it makes you uncomfortable and concerned about more than one cause.

  • The problem that the movie very effectively portrays – that of drug menace in Punjab. Reading about it print is different from watching it unfold in front of you, and the movie makes you very uncomfortable about the situation in the state. But more than anything, it makes you aware (and in a much better way than those anti-smoking ads before the movie) of how substance abuse is injurious to health and life!
  • The problem that the movie inadvertently drew attention of the country towards – the actions and logic (or lack of it) behind them of CBFC, voiced by our very own Mr. Nihlani. It is strange to think that someone could perceive this movie as promoting substance abuse, verbal abuse or defaming Punjab. This shamefully points towards a severe handicap in artistic understanding, or worse, a political hidden agenda.

Abhishek Chaubey, who already impressed the critics and audience with his Ishqiya franchise, ups the ante here and succeeds in giving the audience a film which is cool, fun, entertaining, explicit, bold, socially relevant, and technically brilliant without ever being preachy. Despite having easy temptation to fall into the trap, the movie not for a single moment glamorizes drugs and that is a major achievement. Yes, there is a lot of cussing but nothing seems unjustified or out of the place given the characters and their milieu. Infact one shudders to think what the CBFC would have made of the movie if the makers hadn’t gone to the court.

The film tells the stories of 4 characters in a drug laden Punjab. Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor) is a coke snorting rockstar idolized by many in the state, Sartaj (Diljit Dosanh) a cop living in cartels with the drug mafia and police until his own family gets affected by it, Preet (Kareena Kapoor) a doctor and drug rehabilitation worker who along with Sartaj tries to fight the problem, and an unnamed Bihari migrant worker (Alia Bhatt) whose encounters with the powder lead her places,  not all being the ones where she’d have wanted to. Though all the performances are good, stars of the show are definitely Alia and Shahid (arguably, in that order). Alia Bhatt has to be seen to be believed. The way she has modified herself completely- right from accent to body language, she is a revelation. Hats off to the young actor, she is no more a student, rather actor of the year! Shahid Kapoor excels once again his role, bringing alive both the madness and humane side of the rockstar. Diljit makes an impressive debut and is very likable. Amit Trivedi scores big again, and the way music has been integrated into the script is commendable. The abuse-laden dialogues are as real as they get hence are effective in conveying the intent of the story.

To nitpick, the first half cold have been a bit more clear, the deliberate steps to say ‘’drugs are bad’’ often come into the way of story-telling. Also, a particular sequence in the end seems to be a deliberate attempt to take the story in a certain direction instead of flowing free and organically. But even with these, Udta Punjab scores high, scales new heights and makes you care for the characters, people and the beautiful state in a strong way.  Go watch it, not to be missed at any cost!

Wanderlust

Amidst days of mundaneness

Through nights of restlessness

A wave of pulsating thoughts

A flash of craving, of images of wilderness

I am gripped by this sudden surge

Of breaking free, of forgetting fears, of forging a fable

Of giving in to this feeling

This feeling of living a dream,

A dream which was lived through

A fable which is real, only it doesn’t seem so

Even the mortal evidences seem to lie

That feeling that sensation continues to weaken

The images in mind and in physics keep blurring

And the craving gets stronger

To break this mundane routine and revisit the dream

To relive the wanderlust

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Memories

10th May 2012

I am reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. It is the kind of read which has a slow but moving impact on the conscious. There is a certain weird sense of excitement mixed with a hint of sadness. The constantly changing dials of time leaves you with a certain sense of melancholy, stillness, of being stationery while everything else is moving in time and space.

If I could travel in time, I would perhaps go back to a sleepy summer morning of an early 2000, the time when responsibilities meant finishing the homework and fear meant being grounded in the evening for the previous evening’s wrongdoings. I would probably hide myself in one of the numerous attics of that old, small ancestral home and watch myself enter the place, all excited and happy about being in the ‘’big’’ city, Varanasi. The big city of Banaras offered so many luxuries which my sleepy little town of Sultanpur didn’t. There were fewer hours of powercut; there were better places to eat, and there was actually a building with a lift in it. There was the second channel on TV – DD Metro, which broadcasted soaps like Kundli, Kalash and the most awaited of them all – Kabhi Sautan Kabhi Saheli. As the 11 year old me would update myself of all the happenings from my cousins, in the attic I would watch and laugh at the absurdity of it, and think of watching Youtube clips of some of those shows.

I would probably come out of the attic on her sight- Dadi (my grandmother). But then would stop myself remembering that she was a heart patient, and then I would perhaps suffice myself only with the sight of an 11 year old me eating from her hands, and hiding my face in her lap if she tried to make me eat the lauki ki sabzi. Then I would watch her walk to the washbasin, with the little me holding her hand. As she would pass through the perennially accumulated pool of water , I would definitely jump down from the attic to stop her, only to remember that it would be two years later when that water would make her rest on the bed forever. And the helplessness, sheer futility of my being there would make me cry, perhaps.

I would like to sit in the small window, (which opened to a vast playground, full of people, and trees, and cows, and dogs) hidden behind the curtain, in the breaking hours of dawn, and watch Baba (my grandfather) wake me up forcibly as I pull my sheets higher and higher, and him never giving up in his efforts despite the disapproving looks from Dadi lying in her bed. And 5mins later, would follow Baba and myself in the narrow lanes of Banaras, as we set off for our morning dose of fresh, healthy air. A group of cows would approach, lost in their own paradise, and seeing the scared look on my face, I would try to tow them away, but Baba would already be there. Now both of me (s) would be equally excited on seeing that beautiful little temple outside the Sanskrit University Gate. The 12 year old me, because the road was so wide there, and the median was decorated with plants and designs, and it felt an achievement to stand there; and the 22 year old me because of seeing that temple after years, and with the knowledge that it was the temple where ‘Ganga’ in Ram teri Ganga Maili stays in the movie, and that would most probably bring to my mind the picture of a white saree clad Mandakini under the waterfall, and I would shake away the feeling disapprovingly with guilt.

Now there would be no point of hiding, with the hoards of people jogging away their morning blues in the lush green campus of the university. I would try to decipher the hymns which Baba always chants, but his voice would get lost in the temple bells, chirping of birds, and bhajans playing in the Shiv temple in vicinity.

Perhaps sensing my fatigue, Baba would ask me to go rest in the temple while he completed his rounds of ‘vyayam’. Then I would be confused where to go- with him or with me. I’d probably stop with myself, on the opposite side of the pillar, with shoulders back to back. I would try to listen to my thoughts, to know what was I thinking at that moment. Perhaps about the jalebi-samosa that Baba would get my on the way back, or the breakfast that Mummy would be cooking at home, or the Chutti-Chutti episode of last day, and praying to Shiv ji  that there is no power cut at that time.

And then our stomachs would grumble. Some things stay the same over years, and the bowel motion is one nasty little such thing. While I would prefer travelling back to my time, the little me would cling to Baba as he appears and in a very nonchalant manner, and brings a bottle full of water and directs me to an empty space guarded by shrubs. I would run, holding my belly tight.

And I too, would move back to my time, to avoid the sight, and the overwhelming power of memories. Will it make me happy that it was, or will it make me sad that it is not, is something I do not know. Such is the nature of memories, intriguing.

Neerja – Soars high

* * * *

Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Ravijani, Yogendra Tiku

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Just a few weeks ago, we had a movie based on a real life incident which tried its best to create a hero, often forgetting the thin line between creative liberty and distortion of facts, yet at best emerged as an average fare which sailed through thanks to the nationalist flavour of the week. This week debutant director Ram Madhvani shows us how it is done. Simply put, Neerja soars high, and before landing at its rather tragic destination, makes you feel for the lead character, Neerja in a way so strong that it is a testimonial to the power of cinema, or to be precise, good cinema.

That Neerja Bhanot’s story is inspirational and the young woman did something extraordinary is an established fact. But often good stories do not result in good movies, and thankfully this is not one of those cases. The movie tells the story of a (yet to be) 23 year old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), who lives with her doting parents (Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku) brothers. Post a successful modelling career, she has just got her first opportunity as the head purser in a Pan Am flight directed to Frankfurt via Karachi. Amidst the ill-fated plane that gets hijacked, her past consisting of an abusive marriage that haunts her, and supportive parents, how Neerja shows exceptional courage and human spirit forms the crux of the story. The makers get the 80’s set up right, though the Rajesh Khanna reference is overdone at times. Also, a few of the Bollywood clichés about parents could have been avoided in an otherwise realistic movie. Thankfully, the director doesn’t waste much time in build-up, and is very effective in maintaining an atmosphere of tension and distress throughout the movie. The moments before the main event kicks in work well to establish the characters we care for, before the calamity strikes. Once we are in the plane, there is no looking back. The fear is almost palpable, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats throughout, despite knowing what is about to unfold; and when is does, it is heart wrenching. It is probably the saddest that you’ll feel at the movies in a while, (except the times when your choice of the movie makes you sad) and that’s the power of this beautiful story, told in a very powerful way.

Sonam Kapoor must be applauded for her choice of the movie, for this might very well be the career defining role for her. While there were doubts about how well she could pull this off, there is no denying that this is her best work yet. In a role that demands a lot from her – looking picture perfect as an air-hostess and channeling her inner strength on screen, she excels. In the scenes where she is about to break down and yet derives strength from her past, she is exceptional.  Shekhar Ravijani and Yogendra Tiku play their roles well. However, expectedly the performance which breaks your heart, and is sure to move you to tears is that of the veteran, Shabana Azmi. Her reactions when she gets to know of the hijack are priceless. And then there is the climax speech, which is bound to make everyone reach out for tissues. The music, cinematography and dialogues are all controlled, devoid of any unnecessary frills and offer able support to the emotional core of the movie, the main strength of it.

Emotional core, a necessity for any work of art, yet a rare phenomenon in our industry. Movies like Neerja show us cinema can do more than giving you a good time and making you laugh. This is a story which deserved to be told, and has been told in such a real manner that it is often uncomfortable. But then, comfort isn’t the point of art, well not always.

Must watch.