Knock Knock..Continued..

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There is a reason why when on phone with some people, after the ‘Hello’, there’s just laughter! We don’t need to have a conversation. It begins with a hearty guffaw, as if we are in on some private joke! Meet my partners in crime – Sound, Tania and Sonika. They know in which direction the wind blows! Then there is VS, who can sense if I am smiling or was laughing even as I dialed the number! Our jokes are like a unique bond, taking us back to an era that was special; and looking back now, almost surreal. Herefrom the inspiration to collate all the jokes (and illustrate them ;-P).

As different as Chalk and Cheese, the commonality between all of them is that at any given point of time, one of these knows of whatever significant that’s happening in my life. Each with their own unique brand of humour: sublime, subtle, crass and crap in equal measures, served with inimitable elan with perfect timing and placement! One can’t ask for better friends! Highs, Lows, Breakdowns, breakthroughs, challenges, conquests, bursts of irrational creativity, paint, glue, food, music, books, journals, cartoons, travel, extempore poetry, ideas, inspirations, motivations and madness: this bunch kicks ass! It has egged me on to climb literal and metaphorical mountains alike!

One has to go back to what anchors you from time to time. This is my ‘Go To’ gang in times of need, or when I have a huge task ahead and I look for distractions to shake off the stress! Like Shikha says: “Dude, the only way out is in!” (That’s philosophical, you morons!) this is my way of looking in(wards)!

Looking back at the magical Madras days is like winking at phosphenes. Boss, Sam and Mr. Menon were and will always be a different league and there will not be a time when we will not double up with laughter singing lines from Simon and Garfunkel! And Sound, Don’t we all know what we’d rather be..

Though I was quite clueless then (erm.. not very far from where I am even today), Chennai was a coming of age kind of experience. Right from the decision of moving to ‘Madras’ for work, I have held the ownership of all decisions thereon. It was the joy and comfort of the company I kept (or the company that kept me..) that I did not get whirled off the emotional roller-coaster of living and working away from home. You guys ‘calmed’ me and ‘centered’ me despite all the excitement and hyperactivity (cough cough.. Sound check..)

Boss and the GT gang deserve a special mention too; especially Shiva, whose jokes were, frankly, a little tough to get or laugh at; Sriram, who was too serious most time to crack them, shook his head gravely at ours and Ajay, indulgent and admonishing at the same time.

It was an unforgettable time highlighted with hours of aimless chats wandering through a myriad of topics, practical jokes and not so practical ones, treks up the St. Thomas Mount in wee mornings and innumerable scooty rides!

Mumbai Mania was short lived but wholesome pit stop . WOI and its phenomenal take on HR takes the cake for this period with special mentions to Anil, Poornima ji, Sameer, Dinesh and Rishi. Not a single uneventful day! Here beside the holy trinity of  Yazdani Bakery, Moti Halwai and Bombay House, I learned the nuances of subcultures of this megalopolis: Sindhi and Parsi cuisine, Brun Maska and above all, the Puneri sarcasm.  It was a privilege to work with the folks at WOI.  I still borrow from Anil’s vast repertoire of statements whenever I need to make an impact!

life has gone along; sometimes like a slowly meandering river, sometimes like grade four rapids, and there are so many remarkable people, moments, instances and anecdotes that this post can go on and on.. but that it’s purpose is not. The aim is to set the perspective for the more daunting task that lies ahead.. to collect the pearls of wit and humour that lie strewn across these times and put them together in a place where they are easy to visit. Especially in times when life is more of a wheeze than a breeze and one wants to waddle around in the still waters of time and stir up a splash!

And that will be when I would call up one of these ol’ buds and say “Aur Batao, Aur Batao” .. and we would double up with laughter one more time!

PS: Of course ” Aur Batao, Aur Batao” has a significance. Stay tuned for the next one for that!!

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Knock-Knock and More of Those – A tumble down the Memory Lane

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I had a chance to deep-dive into my childhood recently. Quite like the kind where someone could be sitting behind your couch taking notes. But this is not about that! It is about the fond memories, the moments, the things that made me who I am. It is about the people whom I found affirmation from, acceptance and applause from and those whom I looked up to for their whacky wit and irreverent humour. Their inspiring one-liners that can still choke me up with laughter and make me snort out my dinner – If I happen to reminisce at the dinner table! (I sometimes do that and while my younger one is in splits, the older one just smiles and shakes her head between mild amusement and wild disbelief at what their mum just narrated. She would clap and hoot, but that wouldn’t be cool at Fifteen!) Anyway, I said childhood, but it was around grade six that my funny bone started to grow. That was by the time I was actually reading English comics and magazines and not just pretending to read them! (yes, a late bloomer)

Early and Formative Years: It was my friend and next-door neighbour ‘Guinea’ who was my buddy in this budding interest of Knock-Knock jokes. Her school mag was a goldmine for these and other student-speak and for want of a good one of my own, I had read hers’ over multiple times! This one time, I actually tricked her into thinking that I visited her school by describing features of her school so well that she was cross that I did not bother to call her out of her classroom. Truth was that I gathered the information from a very well-crafted quiz based on the school lay-out, right there in her school magazine! It was super fun! So you got it – It was endless hours of idle banter and we asked each other plenty of these and created some more alongside cheesy poetry and prank calls 🙂

High School and College:  My classmates in grade XI and XII were a riot! Not a dull moment in the class, they were like light-sabres of sparkling wit and humour clashing with each other. They would crack jokes while studying in school then go home and study some more; I would laugh at the jokes in school and then go home and laugh again, remembering the jokes. Dee, my friend, had an amazing sense of expression. From her I learnt the ‘Visual’ aspect of narration. The kind you see in ‘Tom and Jerry’. Sometimes, talking to her used to be like watching an episode of those! My expression blossomed and academics withered. My parents got called in by the Principal at the end of the year for ‘that’ conversation!

Anyhow, I stumbled into English Literature and found myself all over again. Our jokes grew up too as we knocked on the doors of adulthood. Bubbles, the indomitable Sardarni taught us how to cuss and abuse like a true ‘jattni’. She also made having a telephonic conversation (then land-lines) with her impossible in front of parents without going red in the face. My circle expanded and I met more humour and good expression in Jo and deadpan sarcasm in Suj.

After Graduating, I found myself to be a part of a batch of 50 plus students in Masters program. It was a mini identity crisis. Not only did I face the challenge of remembering the names of fifty classmates, but also to have them remember mine. To stand out in the crowd, to be counted equal, if not above my “from Bihar and proud of it” batch mates. What came in handy was jokes. Every morning, as we gathered by the notice boards of DSSW to begin our day, I would dish out a crisp new one to whoever who happened to be there. It was humour that helped me break the ice and form associations. A friend and fellow student married early and her husband, Bala, may his soul rest in peace, took me across the boundary to humor of International variety. I still recall a particular drive back home with them amidst a smattering of those. That day was also my introduction to John Denver’s Calypso.

By then the process was complete. The pattern was clear: I had begun to choose my company neither on the way my peers looked nor scored in exams, but on the way they spoke and their sense of humour. Yes, there have been associations of necessity, and as I look back these have run longer than those of the first variety. But I can say with great satisfaction that no matter how short-lived, the associations of choice ran deep. I look back at them with a sense of fondness. As if they were a part of me. They have helped me shape into who I am. They are a part of me.

Next: Out into the world

But before that, one that I owe to Bhavna:

Knock Knock

Who’s There? 

Agrawal

Agrawal Who?

Agar wall gir jayegi toh chot lag jayegi!!

Evolve:

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Evolve:

We are because we think. We are because we feel, and we are because we change and grow: from one stage to the other, from one level to the next. Else, we will stagnate, degenerate and perish, both physically and emotionally. This is the simple law of evolution: Change or Die.

Change:

There is another powerful law at work: that an object will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force. That. That object is me: Inert and reluctant to budge. Resistant to any form of evolution. Hell, even reluctant to degenerate and disappear!

Now that introductions are over, I will move the spotlight away and talk about another topic that I have spent hours thinking about in the ‘inert’ episodes of mine! See, even when I am inert, I think, and therefore, I am! So, here’s to the topic that I have spent hours thinking about: The ‘force’ that acts upon an inert object to make it move: the Agent Provocateur, the Impetus, the Stimulus, the Motivation…

Force:

It comes in all forms and varieties. In shapes of events, people and epiphanies even. And some of them have long-lasting impact on how you move and the direction you move in: if at all, that is. Here, specifically, I intend to talk about people. People, who wield enough influence over you to make you move, budge, shuffle or at least wince.

These people are there in your life, IMHO, not by a mere coincidence, but by a Grand Design. They are there suddenly in your path, for no rhyme or reason and have an effect that is somewhat similar to a slingshot! Take a moment to think about it. Even as you read this, the provocateur is somewhere working its influence over you, changing your life in sometimes slingshots, and mostly other times in subtle ways, therefore making you change. Amazing, huh?

Now, though it may sound like jest, but I am serious.. I have come to believe in the Grand Design, and the presence of these people in your life as a part of that Grand Design and also the belief that they are there to help you evolve on a different plane.

Lives:

I believe in life after, the life before this and the evolution our soul has to go through in order to attain a higher level and eventually actualize. Earlier, I was quite a fence-sitter, neither dismissing, nor embracing the notion with great enthusiasm. But see, I have changed, evolved and therefore given some thought to the idea. That is, in each of our lives, we toil to ‘grow-up’, mature and overcome certain impediments that lie in our path to becoming an actualized soul. Eventually.

Eventually, because it takes several lives to evolve from one level to the next.  And each lifetime may present you with an opportunity to work on certain ‘key-issues’. Now, by a stroke of luck and luckily, by mild power of observation, I happen to have recently gathered my own KRAs for this lifetime. This discovery or realization is actually inversely related to the identification of the ‘provocateurs’ in my own life. Pondering over the question of Grand Design I mused over the presence of these very agents in my life and wondered why they were placed in my life-path like slingshot machines as I went past unsuspectingly.

Force:

I have reasons to believe, nay, have evidence, concluding proof, that for sure, evolution has not been a painless process. From my experience, mere signing up for a shot at it should be like being violently whirled around at a dizzying rate while wondering wide-eyed “what the hell is happening here?!”

Yes, I have been bombarded every single day with a megaton evolution zap gun, but like I earlier said, I am a little slow at this business, and without realization, it was water off a duck’s back! No one has it easy. I resist change. Physically and behaviorally.  While there is an incredible amount of stuff going on in my mind, it happens while I am perched on my couch. A huge deal gets a go within my mindspace, but only a faint glimmer of it escapes to see the light of day and needless to say, this very great deal of goings on inside of my mind prevent anything on the outside of it getting accomplished! So all these zap rays bounced off, causing no change except stiff irritation and huge inconvenience.

Change:

But I think now the time has come when the evolution has to happen, must happen. Time is right and I see no escape. There is none because I see it clearly and urgently. I recognize it and feel it. Some weird, celestial gears have clicked into place starting a change. The external forces, the shenanigans of l’provocateurs have reached the optimal, and have delivered enough force to set the inert object into motion, at two different levels. One, physical: To get my shit together (simple words, huge order!) and the other at a more subtle, metaphysical level: To understand and embrace true nature of love. Profound? Yes. Very much!

Let me explain just a bit, because it is only so much that has come to me so far… and although I have known all along, it has sunk in recently, as the gears have clicked into motion: That I cannot find happiness if I am unwilling to work towards doing what makes those around me happy (I had got it backwards all along!) and second: That I cannot find love if I am unwilling to see its potential in everything and everywhere (I had tried all this while to demand it, capture it, label it and rid it with conditions).

So now, I will do what I have resisted so far. Change. Evolve. By giving more. By embracing the possibility of finding happiness and love and by turning the feelings of entitlement and discontentment a notch lower.

Evolve:

In my recent journey, a wise man told me what anyone on the street would have. “Your problem is Desire”. And when I asked him what should I do about it, he said “Control your mind” and like any cryptic, wiseass mystic, he added the complete opposite in the same breath “ Don’t bottle your emotions! Breathe.” Go Figure! His smile seemed to be telling me as I stood perplexed. Being the utter romantic that I am, I imagine that was the exact time, that somewhere in my evolution quadrant, a click was happening.

When Festivals Fester Misery

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‘Don’t stop bursting crackers, plant trees instead’ said a fellow mom in a post this morning.

I am amazed at the thought. I am saddened by the misguided logic, but I am also hopeful. This is evolution of thought in my opinion. Evolution that straddles the desire to celebrate the festival of lights (and noise) the usual way; i.e, bursting crackers, eating mithai etc; but is quick to justify the resultant pollution by the tired cliche of ‘plant more trees’. But in the least, there IS an a knowledgement of the problem. Good! That’s the first step.

Hopefully, one day, the author of this post will be able to appreciate the extent of damage done by smoke to the immediately affected; the asthmatic, the toddlers, the old and wheezing, and us in the middle, caring for these. Surely one day she will realise that standing under a tree and bursting crackers does not cancel it’s effect! And also that the existing green lung of capital and NCR is already in great duress.

How do we celebrate the festival then, she laments, if not by bursting crackers?

Well, you have answered it yourself, unwittingly. “Society Is Human made” Indeed it is! Do you know that Diwali predates the cracker industry? It is ‘us’ who at some point in time decided that bursting crackers is the ‘new’ thing in celebration of Diwali (just like a DJ in a wedding) and it has become synonymous with the festival overtime. Since that’s the only way we have seen it being celebrated, we think that it is the ‘only’ way! The way that gives us choked lungs, respiratory issues and misery, long after Diwali is over.
But you know what redeems us? Our ability to make informed decisions, and our ability to change. Let’s change the way our children will remember the celebration of this glorious festival. It is high time we evolved, as individuals and as a society.

I digress here, only to bring the point home. Many years back, on a New Year’s Eve, I visited a friend in the suburbs of Mumbai. His condominium wore a festive look. Shamiyaana, garlands of marigold, mattress-lined carpets; ready and waiting for something beautiful to happen. A wedding? I asked. He said that his condo brought in the new year with night long classical music performances!

Now, I know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but this is just an example. An answer that can lead us to how do we want to celebrate diwali, find alternatives.

Years ago, we chose to burst crackers as a way to celebrate this festival. Now, we can choose again. Remember the line: ” Societies are human made”. Together, we can create a new norm. One that is in tune with today’s reality. After all, all of us breathe the same air!

Why Holi Always Gets Me High!

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Yeah, It Does! And not on ‘substance’ of any kind, mind you! Well, maybe a couple o’ breezers, that’s all. Nothing more. And yet, this festival gets me like nobody’s business.

Just to compare notes, Deepavali is the brighter, shinier, more prettier of the Indian fests. There is family, friends and feasting. There is new stuff, silks and sweets and yet, this messy, noisy and mucky festival just hooks me, grips me and gets me grooving!

I always thought that it was the colors, the music and the ambiance. That has its own intoxicating effect for sure and yet, if I look at it from a distance, actually it is at a more subtle phenomena that really makes me joyous.

It is a heady blend of letting go and letting in at the same time. It is as if this day, you expand your mental, physical and emotional boundaries to a large, large extent. You become one with the surroundings. You soak in the fragrances of gulal through every pore of your skin. You let down your barrier to allow mere nodding acquaintances and dear ones alike put a pinch of color on you as you return the gesture. And just like that, in a surreal moment, your own tangible, physical boundaries become fluid and all-encompassing; receptive as well as reciprocal.

Maybe my ramblings do not make much sense. But if you look at it on a more macro level, once smeared in a cornucopia of myriad hues, there is no difference between people. They look like each other. You look like them, they look like you. Now, in a world divided by color, race, religion, opinion, egos and such, if everyone appears the same, goofy and all; wouldn’t that give you a high?

Still not making sense? Well, may I suggest you a couple o’ breezers then?

Say something. Leave a comment!

From a distance

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She pressed her chin to the window and watched her breath fog up the glass pane. She was quite cockeyed with the strain of it. The light blue sky in the horizon was dotted with dull grey fluff of clouds with wisps of rose and amber as they caught the setting sun.

Tall structures rose up in front of her but it was lush green below the eye level as she peered from her high-rise balcony. The river was slowly turning black from grey as the sky darkened and the lights came on along the path hugging the river bend, making it look like a tiny fairyland.

It was her favourite time of the day. Since the day she had moved in here, this view had uplifted her and pulled her down at the same time. It always amazed her how the same thing could have such diametrically opposite effects on her. She looked on longingly, wishing she could grow wings and fly out. Here in the middle, she could neither grow roots nor sprout wings! The restlessness shook her again. She winced. 

Lights shimmered on the river. Cool breeze rising up caressed her and she breathed deeply. Her mind cleared as she blinked away the tears rising at the thought of friends she had left behind. Laughter of weekend revellers carried over the breeze and she saw a bunch of women walking and chatting excitedly along the walkway. She couldn’t hear them, they were too far away, but could sense the happiness and comfort they shared in each other’s company.

It dawned on her then why the view always filled her with joy and sadness at the same time: She was watching it from a distance!
She smiled. She was going to walk down and be a part of it. Only if she grew roots, she mused, would she sprout wings!

Say something. Leave a comment!

Maa Ke Haath Ka Khaana

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I found this story interesting on so many levels.

One, because my dad told this one to me. Second, because of the spontaneity of the setting while we had breakfast this morning and discussed how I can never get a dish to taste exactly how my mom makes it and third, just because of the way the story turned out to be.

It was also so very interesting because it has been a lifetime of listening to so many men go on about the way their mums cook and how it tastes. The natural extension of which has also been watching the women (read wives) toil in search of the Holy Grail.

Here’s the story…

A fine young man got married after his mother passed away. His wife was a fine cook but he longed for the taste he grew up with. No matter how hard his wife tried, the food could never taste like his mother’s cooking. The wife never gave up. Nor did he.

Once, the oven malfunction and the casserole got a little overdone and burnt. Wife had no choice but to serve the dish as there was nothing else. She waited for her husband’s comments apprehensively.

The guy ate a spoonful and his expressions changed. ” just how mom made it!” He said.

Living in the moment

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Okay! The ennui has to end and the thoughts that I have been filing away in my mind have to be penned down slowly.

It has been an amazing few months and I have been on several journeys; both within and without! In these few months, I have rekindled some old friendships and have managed to wage Some new wars since my last post. But details of the wars later…. First the journey that marked the end of last year and beginning of the present one. I have been really wanting to share this one. Although it meanders a bit, but like all memorable trips, does get there in the end. So here goes!

This winter vacation I went on a road trip with family. Our original plan was to visit Jodhpur and Jaisalmer but we could not find a suitable place to stay in Jodhpur at short notice. So, instead of letting the plan fall through, we decided to do Jaisalmer and then meet our friends, the Purohits in Baroda.

Keen to do Jaisalmer together, they decided to drive up and spend two days in Jaisalmer with us, and thus, our plan started to change. We decided to drive back to Baroda from Jaisalmer with them and go further to Mumbai, in time to ring in the New Year.

It was fun catching up with them after a gap of six years and all of us soaked in the gorgeous vistas of the golden city together.

Being on the road in our own vehicle has always been a liberating experience. This time too, it allowed us detours from the beaten track and we packed in quite a few of them. We were keen on enjoying the journey instead of being fixated upon the destination. It was going to be one long road trip and I decided to live in the moment.

We drove back with them to Baroda via Barmer and set off for Mumbai the next day. Almost half-way from Mumbai at Navsari, we took a detour to Dandi, a place we wanted to visit during our several Mumbai-Baroda car trips, but never did. As we drove, we read out the details of the Salt Satyagraha to kids thanks to our smartphones.

It was a serene beach, an antithesis to the action it witnessed in the thick of that movement. It threw us at least two hours behind the time we wanted to enter Mumbai, but the satisfaction of having seen the epicenter of one of the momentous events in our country’s freedom struggle more than made up for it!

And so, eventually, we reached Mumbai on 30th December. Next evening, we were perched atop our friend’s terrace in Vile Parle. Those who have lived in Mumbai will appreciate the priceless view it offered us. Being in the flight path, there were no high rises around and we had the unobstructed view far into the suburbs, with just trees punctuating the horizon. Neon glow from hotels and the beacon of the new ATC tower at the airport lit up the other side. It was a serene night; unexpected as well as unusual in Mumbai. And then, just before the clock struck twelve, the magic happened!

We had a panoramic view of fireworks going off all along the horizon. It was a captivating sight. Then, as if it was not enough, somewhere in the midst of all this, faraway, someone started sending up paper lanterns, slowly, very slowly, one after the other!

The fireworks were over and our bonfire was but ambers, yet we sat there enchanted by the little golden globs that rose up every few minutes and floated along the breeze.

From the molten gold at our feet to that dangling in the breeze, I gazed transfixed.. There was some deep thought within me but I could not pay attention to it. It kept trying to rise to the surface and I kept ignoring it… The spectacle outside was too sublime for once to tear away and look within! The ‘moment’ was outside and in front of me; and I was living in it! The magic was complete!

In Love And In Strife

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I remember many instances from my childhood when after a fight with siblings or friends, I did not speak to them for months on end. It is that age when there were no half measures – you love and fight with all your might. The reconciliations too, even though clumsy at first, were equally heartfelt and true. Done and dusted, I picked up from where I had left and continued without a residue of what transpired in between.

But this changed while growing up. The ‘ability to adjust’ became my biggest strength and actually proudly stayed on my resume for a very long time. It did help me grow, persevere and achieve a lot – personally and professionally. A balanced frame of mind and a sense of fairness won me many friends and helped me create lasting impressions.

It also had its pitfalls.. I nursed grudges, did not speak my mind much and tried to maintain status quo at all cost. What I did not realize is that such associations last only till the time you keep up the balancing act – one move amiss, and the balls come crashing down! These are after all, built upon your ability to stretch to maintain what it is – an act!

But old habits die hard, and when recently, faced with an altercation, the big question that stood in front of me was: Whether to be true to my self and feelings and go to the mattresses, or, to be a ‘bigger person’ and forgive and forget?

I agonized over it, admitted that I was deeply hurt, and yet, tried to keep up an appearance. It was a turmoil and my own personal mini hell.

I could not forgive and forget. And worse, could not express my anger and hurt. I could not turn up my nose, ignore and walk away – It felt petty; nor could I keep up the charade of ‘all is well’ – I felt like a flake. I was awkward in both situations.

I felt at ease only when I made peace with my bruised self respect and realised that I was not ready to waive a white flag. I decided not to tread the middle path and find half measures. And it feels good to know where you stand.

Love and fight with all your might – I finally took a leaf out of my childhood.

Hi There!

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I admit, since Monday, the day I started this blog, my chief occupation has been visiting it several times and inundating my friends and colleagues with requests to visit, comment and follow it! I may have been quite a pest I realize 😛

The fact that I have not put it “out there” and have been treating it like ‘By Invitation Only’ goes to show my initial trepidation with a medium I have not gotten familiar with. It is also due to the fact that though I want to write, and there is so much to write, suddenly, I feel out of my depth and at a loss of topics!

Stage Fright?? I guess so.. I do feel as if I am peering out into the darkened auditorium, searching for familiar faces, looking for encouraging smiles and glances that can gently prompt me to go back to the lines. So here’s to you guys – it is up to you! The Hitchhiker is taking baby steps and you can help it walk steady, sprint and soar!

Come On!! Press the “leave a comment” button! Follow, Follow!! 🙂