Bahadur The Braveheart

Bahadur has been with us for decades. No fuss, no nuances—he is no Jeeves, but our Man-Friday for sure.

Assisting the families of three brothers on three floors and managing no man’s lands, Bahadur is everyone’s favourite punching-bag. Not as stoic as Buddha, he takes it from all with equanimity—allowing just the right twitch to his left eyebrow.

He manages the garbage, grounds, and the grimaces. He drives us nuts, but doesn’t bolt; and produces the priceless screw n screwdriver just in time to overcome many a mini crises. Like feudals, we shout n clap “koi hai”, and Bahadur emerges from the shadows like the ghost who walks.

He has mastered the survival stratagems—he ducks, reflects, and deflects the blame-balls with aplomb. He has stood the tests of time, our idiosyncrasies, and bewildering behavior.

Time and trials have taught him when to take us for granted, and to play one against the other. His subterfuge is not subtle. Unsophisticated—unlike the city-born and bred—he  is often caught. But haven’t his small sins and cunning little leeways—albeit harmless—resulted from our own selfishness?

He has lived more of his life with our family than his own. He has played with our infants, seen children become adults, and witnessed young grow old—while his own hair has thinned, and temples turned grey. If ever he had dreamt, he had merged them into ours long ago.

We mess with him when he is around, and miss him when he is not. Like the “unhappily married for long”, we wouldn’t leave each other…Till death do us part. Caught between “Goodbye” and “I love you”, we retire to a corner and hum the mutual dilemma:

“Can’t live with or without you” (U2);

and

”Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin…Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi to nahin” (Aandhi)

Bahadur

A Tale of Two Sisters

Puja in pink and Maya in red—are sisters. Puja joined us a few months back to look after Maa. Soon after, Maya—younger of the two—came to help my brother in household affairs.

From the bits and pieces that are thrown at me by Maa, I learnt—their father doesn’t earn anything, is a drunkard, and drowns in alcohol every last penny these sisters bring home. Puja and Maya are two among the six sisters—born in quick succession. The youngest is six, and the oldest—Puja—is 22. Their mother lives the nightmare created by her husband day and night.

I never ask them anything, lest i dent their dignity.

From what little I have observed, both are neat in their methods and manners. They are cheerful while working, at peace when resting, and carry themselves well. They don’t complain, but are straight forward.

Puja and Maya hug or have arms on each other’s shoulders whenever they meet. Naughty Maya has an attitude. Puja acts the elder sister.

When I returned from the office today, both had an earpiece each in their ears from the same mobile cord—talking to their mother. They accepted my request for their pic with grace, Maya managing to remain still for the shot.

These two sisters and the other four don’t know what the future holds for them. I don’t know about the other four, but Puja and Maya live each day as it comes.

Puja maintains a Diary…Perhaps writing what remains unsaid. Maya doesn’t…Perhaps she is weaving a fairy tale.

Puja & Maya

We Are Strange

We act one way with the people of equal or higher social standing, and another way with the less fortunate ones.

We fight for and snatch the restaurant bill of thousands to have the privilege of paying it. We also fight with the rickshaw puller or a vegetable vendor over a Rupee.

Humans are strange. The overfed overfeed the overfed and underfeed the underfed. But at times, those who have less, give more.

Humans have double standards, Nature one. Nature only gives, never takes.

Nature doesn’t discriminate. It invites all to eat, drink, take, see, explore, enjoy—all that it has.

Nature teaches, but we never learn.

Nature has failed to change the human nature.

Pic: joshua earle-unsplash IMG_20200908_201545

The Insensitive Me

Staying with Maa* in confined spaces for a year now, I have seen her suffering from close, seen her reducing, losing. But the sparkle in her eyes and mischief in the smile don’t diminish. Taking care of her at night and whenever I could during the day, made me feel her feelings, look at things from her eyes, and discern what can’t be expressed.

Four months into the government job, it became difficult for me to be with her at night due to lack of sleep. Nearly a month back we kept a lady attendant to take care of Maa. She replaced me to a great extent. This has created a distance between Maa n Me. Now, I spend less time with her. I used to be with her entire night, now we go to different rooms at 9 p.m. Earlier I was very patient with her, now I get annoyed.

But Maa hasn’t changed except that her concern and love for me keep increasing exponentially.

I wonder whether the relative ease of living after hiring the attendant has made me insensitive? What if Maa was my child? Whether I would be insensitive towards the child as well? I guess-Not.

But Maa now is a child.

*Maa: Mother

Maa sleeping pic

Live Empty

In his book “Die Empty”, Todd Henry exhorts us to finish all that is most important to us, so that we have no regrets left when we die.

This put me to a thought—what about living empty? Can I live a life empty—empty of corruption, coercion, and cacophony?

Why do we allow people to corrupt our minds? Why do we let others to coerce us into doing things we don’t wish to? Why is that the cacophony always shuts our own voice?

The answers to my questions bred more questions. To get answers to the WHYs, we need to know the WHOs, WHATs, and WHEREs—the 3 Ws which weave us into woes.

What corrupts our minds? Who coerces us? Where from the cacophony comes?

I found simple answers. The culprits in each case are the authorities, or symbols and institutions of authority. Culprit is also our own slavery to the false and frivolous. They control, regulate, and mould our minds and lives. They rob us of our simplicity, free will, and joy of living.

Not all, but the worst among the society and its organs, the government and its myriad agencies, the religion and its various instruments, the hydra-headed politics, and the media in its traditional and modern avatars are these Whos, Whats, and Wheres.

Can we break free from their shackles? Bad news. In order to exist, we have to live with most of the monstrosities, including ourselves : )

I wonder whether we can try and choose the lesser evils. Can we select a lifestyle where the impact of the unwanted is minimal? Is it possible to create our comfort-cocoons where we can live the rare moments of joy and bliss?

To steal such moments, I have tried to let go—let go of the toxic, the negative, the nonsense.

I am able to let go when I cuddle the child in me, bring it out more often to play with me. The child in me, then, surrounds me.

In sunny winter mornings, I put my head on the dew kissed grass and leg up in the air, smile, and whistle the signature tune from the Clint Eastwood masterpiece: https://youtu.be/LdLQf1Ef9Ns

At such child, whistle, and leg-up moments, ‘The Good’ stays with me, ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Ugly’ leave.

These moments I live empty— free of cobwebs, clutters, and complexities… So empty, so light, so buoyant.

I live these empty moments every moment I want.

I think I can die empty if I live empty.

What do you think ?

Pics: “Live Empty” Moments

A Professor And A Gentleman

When I met Prof. Indu Mohan Das again in October 2021, and later wrote about him, I couldn’t  imagine he will leave us so soon. With heavy heart, I share below what I had written:

Prof. Indu Mohan Das has decency written all over him. Dignified and gentle, goodness reflects in his eyes and sits light on his shoulders.

Our association goes back to the 1980s when he was a Professor in the Physics Deptt., Gauhati University, and headed University Science & Instrumentation Center. We—at ‘Systems & Appliances’—were taking pioneering baby steps to introduce technology driven solutions from companies such as Wipro, Philips, and Tata in the region.

One winter morning, attired in a blue blazer and wearing a salesman’s hat, I knocked at his office door. This was my first meeting with Prof. Das, and after giving him product specifications, I requested him for a Purchase-Order with full advance payment—what cheek. He looked at me, smiled, and asked: “full advance?” I met his eyes and replied: “yes, full advance”. He signed the Order with a twinkle in his eyes. Business concluded, we sipped tea and talked of this and that. He said how good my tie looked; I returned the compliment about his moustache.

Remarkable this encounter was—he trusted the unknowns—me and my firm, at considerable risk. I doubted the University system to pay us on time; he didn’t doubt our intention. I realised he trusted me—a novice and much junior—because he himself is a man of integrity. We moved heaven and hell to deliver and install the ordered equipment in record time—we had to—to honour his trust in us.

With time, our professional relationship developed into mutual respect and friendship. I shifted to Bangalore. Prof. Das went on to become Dean, Science at the University and retired.

Over the years, the warmth of our friendship remains intact, the understanding never waned. I have been meeting him during some of my Guwahati visits. Yesterday I met him again. His adult son is wheelchair bound since childhood, and now he himself suffers from Parkinson’s—yet his spirit soars undiminished. Oh… How delighted he was to have me in his home. We joked and laughed, reminiscing about old times and old timers. He offered me a ‘Sandesh’—his affection so delicious, I had to have another one.

Elegant in looks, thoughts, and action—rare are men such as Indu Mohan Das.

Shadows Image: unsplash

Do Nice People Finish Last?

Do nice people finish last?

It seems so. Being good, fair, and decent to others—we end up being bad, unfair, and indecent to ourselves. If we are good, people take us for granted—they push, pull, and impose. It works at a subliminal level and expresses itself in overt and covert commands and controls.

At home, at work, in public places, or in social situations, nice people suffer. You don’t break the cinema ques and traffic rules, but others do—you end up not getting the ticket and getting stuck in a jam. We offer a seat to the elderly, but others usurp ours.

Does it cost us anything to be socially sensitive, nuanced, and not embarrass people—can’t we avoid laughing or looking deep into their eyes when they commit a faux pas?

This raises questions about the civility of the people from an ancient civilization—about our character and ethos.

This brings us to another question—what happens to the rare breed of nice people surrounded by the unthoughtful, unconcerned, uncooperative majority?

We often see that goodness doesn’t pay. But life is not all about transactions. Call it courtesy or one’s methods and manners—it’s the innate decency in one’s character. What counts is the way we think, behave, and live when no one is looking. It’s the difference between being pseudo-nice on social media vs being nice in real life—when there is none to send us ‘likes’. The choices we make affect the choices of others.

Nice guys, at times, finish last… Still, it’s nice to be nice.

Pic: How light n lit up I felt when i met someone nice yesterday

IMG_20211015_213206

इंतज़ार—इंतज़ार का…और चाय Intezaar—Intezaar ka… aur Chai

जिंदगी  जब  चाय  की  एक  प्याली से  दूसरी  तक  सिमट आती  है,

छोटी  होती  है, पर बहुत  लम्बी  हो  जाती  है…

अलसाई  चाहतें  चुस्कियों  में  तलाशती  हैं  चुस्तियाँ,

बेबाक  बेफिक्री नहीं, रह  जाती  हैं  सिर्फ  मायूसियां…

चाय  की  बिखरती  भीनी  भाप  में  भीगे  कुछ  सवालात  हैं,

कुछ  कश्मकश, कशिश, कुछ  ख्वाब  ख़यालात  हैं…

चाय  के  ऊफान सी  हैं  उफ  ये  ऊफनती  उल्झनें,

परेशान  हूँ, पीता  हूँ  मैं  उसे  या  वो  पीती  है  मुझे…

चाय  से  सने  सूने  सपनों  में  कोई  शामिल  नहीं  होता,

बेइंतहा  इंतज़ार, और  इंतज़ार  का  इंतज़ार  है  रहता…

 Intezaar—Intezaar ka… aur Chai

Jindagi jab chai ki ek pyali se doosari  tak simat aati hai,

Choti hoti hai, par bahut lambi ho jaati hai…

Alsai chahten chuskiyon me talasti hain chustiyan,

Bebak befikri nahee, rah jaati hain sirf maayusiyan…

Chai ki bikharti bhini bhaap me bhhege kuch sawalat hain,

Kuch kashmakash, kashish, kuch khwab, khayalat hain…

Chai ke ufaan si hai uf ye ufanti uljhanen,

Pareshan hun, Peeta hun main use ya wo peeti hai mujhe…

Chai se sane soone lamhon me koi giraft nahee hota

Beintehaa intezaar, aur Intezaar ka Intezar hai rahta…

Image: Clay Banks–unsplash

clay-banks-_wkd7XBRfU4-unsplash

SILENT MUSINGS IN SOLITUDE…As I give more Life to Time and more Time to Life.

Solitude had spread its shadow, and I had slumped into sweet slumber. Rising, I see subtle changes—my spirit soars, my style shines.

Confined in shrunken spaces, I have found soul’s landscape is vast and expands forever. Sitting in silence, I have looked at myself—barebones and naked. I was never a saint and will never be—but feel more evolved when less involved. Oh, I am changing, yet never—though short-changed time and again.

Now I laugh often, cry more, complain little, and speak less. I am writing a bit and reading a bit more; I rest in the arms of music, lose myself in the lap of nature, and play with my perceptions—I have always had love affairs with these stunning beauties, now I lust.

Full of faults and failures, but with fewer presumptions and prejudices—I now judge less and try to understand more. Now I search less for motives, and look more for compulsions behind behaviours. I guess I am growing, but am sure about my ego—it is diminishing. Though much more intense, I am now nuanced.

I am more at peace being less cynical, less critical; and happier being more content, more accepting of myself and others—as I am and as they are—with idiosyncrasies and imperfections, wrinkles and warts. Now I am better at tolerating the rituals I hate, braggadocio that I despise, and stupidity which I abhor; but I still shun sham, sophistry and sarcasm with contempt and disgust.

I have forgiven those who betrayed me, though can never forget their treachery—tormenting wounds run deep and traumatising scars remain raw. Memories live within me forever, for my soul sucks and soaks deep—every bit, every drop, every ounce—be it nectar, be it poison.

I understand it is unnecessary to have all the knowledge in the world; it is fine to possess less; and it is OK to stand second or third or even last in life’s lines. I had never found fault with frugality, now I see abundance in it—yet paradoxically, the hedonist in me seeks the small little pleasures life tempts with.

I had always missed my family and friends, now I realise nothing and no one is more important. Feelings are heavy and moist remembering those I have lost, and light and joyous thinking of those I have. The naughty twinkle in my eyes shines brighter at the slightest prospect of back-slapping bonhomie with friends—over beer or tea or nothing. Unabashed, I hug in my thoughts those whom I love but dare not reveal; and I hug openly with my eyes and arms—all those whom I love and can flaunt.

Deep within I know it does not matter to miss out on many, but how important it is to hold on to a few who matter; and even as I extract more from life, I now give more of myself to such men and women.

Now I have less of many which were more, and more of some that were less.

I realise it is awesome to love and be loved, it is indispensable to have integrity, and imperative not to break the trust—ever.

I hear my thoughts echoing in these beautiful words of Pablo Neruda:

“…And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song — but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human….”

As my wondering thoughts flow into wandering feelings, my words whisper :

I am more human, more humane, and more of myself n me…

As I give more life to time and more time to life.

Image: Keegan Houser/Unsplash.com

Solitude

I stole but I was never a thief

I stole but I was never a thief.

In my early childhood in Sujangarh—when I knew neither a kiss nor a miss—I stole dadi’s kissmiss n cashews, kaka’s kites, cousins’ crayons, and friends’ fries.

As a young school-going kid in Guwahati I stole stamps from ‘Pick Me’, coins from maa, and comics from the Wheelers’ station stall. And in typhoid’s hungry stupor I engaged with a distant relative’s engagement laddus in stealth while the satiated slept.

Stealing cashews n kissmiss were hit-n-miss affairs and earned me terms of endearment camouflaged in the choicest Marwari curses—O’ let your nerves shatter, O’ burn alive wherever you are, O’ go sell balloons etc. Kites or crayons, I came out with flying colours in my exploits.

Stealing coins was never a big deal. Though the danger of getting picked up always lurked in ‘Pick Me’, the triangular ‘phoren’ stamps lured me time n again. The whistling trains pumped adrenaline in the book-thief turning him into the ‘ghost who walked away’ with the ‘Phantom’. The pleasure that I derived from devouring king-sized laddus during my nightly prowls surpassed that of Count Dracula when he sank his sword-length sharp canines in an unsuspecting succulent neck under eerie shadows.

Paradoxically, I stole when I was innocent—when neither money nor material mattered.

With innocence, I also lost my appetite for stealing.

Coming of age, I have been at the receiving end of the organised thievery perpetuated by many business associates, most lawyers, and all governments. They steal in ways subtle, in-your-face, or crude. I am left winking while they hoodwink with impunity. I harbour no ill-will towards my lawyer friends. I too have LL.B—“Best in Legalized Loot” degree, though I don’t practice : )

My childhood stealing skills are no match for the sophistry of the sophisticated.

I stole, but I was never a thief.

The thief in me was a child.

(Sujangarh: small town in Rajasthan, India; Guwahati: city in Assam, India; Dadi: grandmom; Kissmiss: raisins; Kaka: uncle; Maa: mother; Laddu: Indian sweet; Marwari: language of Rajasthan; Phoren: foreign/imported; Pick Me: A popular store in Guwahati)

Dracula neck bite