Alive For A While

on Saturday, July 30, 2011

I am good with nostalgia. Really good. I can feel nostalgic about almost everything I have had an association with. For the past three years, I created an illusion around me. An illusion of having grown up. Growing up with an ability of tear-free moving on. So far, the illusion did not seem treacherous. The numerous farewells conducted in the college- in music society, the Economics Department, WSDC, and the big-grand-college farewell itself- none of them could lead to even an allusion of moisture in my eyes. It was so different from the school farewell, where I shed an epic amount of tears, right from the beginning, till the very end, and may be later as well. But now, as I graduated out of college, it seemed like the most natural course of things- not even for a second was I in denial. Everyone graduates, some with smile, some with copious tears, some with fondness, some with grudges- I think I was largely impassive. And that was because the emotions had not yet knocked on my door.

"I'll miss you"- this one sentence, when spoken at the end of a seven minute conversation, by a diminutive figure with benign eyes and a humble disposition, a person who epitomized respect, diligence and everything astute during college life, a lecturer who made you want to study, can make even the most somnolent feelings of loss which thus far you had been suppressing away to an obscure corner of your heart come alive. Dr. Ela Trivedi- this name was reverential in college. It still is. And after a rigorous lecture in International Trade to the nascent third year students, as she stepped out of Room 308 yesterday when I visited college, I could realize, with force that too, what will never come back to me after embarking on a journey beyond college. She meant well, inquired meaningfully, did not show any hurry- in short, she sent my way every emotion which did not reek of the slightest formality and which made me realize the strength of my association with this grand institution called Jesus and Mary College- its grandeur more palpable now when I look back as a spectator, not a part.

As she walked away, a faint tear did try to force its way out of my eyes. I wanted to just walk over to the fabled 308 balcony- where naps were taken, fests planned, books read, notes completed, rains enjoyed, gossip sessions held, secrets confided, sadness shared, photo-sessions undertaken- and spend a quiet moment with myself. May be I once again wanted to look down at the parking lot and guess by looking at the assortment of cars which teachers would definitely be inside college. May be I just wanted to stare at the JMC gate and imagine my friends approaching the building, their hand waving fondly at me. Or may be I wanted to just look at the sky and seek an answer to "Where now, what now?"

Yes, my heart did feel heavy, but it felt alive too. I was on a well deserved leave out of the plush corporate ambiance of Gurgaon offices, and breathing in the odours of familiar corridors of JMC. These were the corridors to which we were expelled when we forgot to carry a Sydsaeter and Hammond or an Allen Webster to class, and these were the corridors from which we shouted out desperately to get that one extra attendance when our lecturers did actually expel us. Now the same corridors were brimming with faces, both familiar and unknown. Around ten of these faces came forward to give me the extra-special hugs, typical to the kind of bonding which develops amid JMCites. Two of these faces held my hand and dragged me to the quiter corners of the college to ask, share, discuss everything that came to their mind. I don't know for how long they will, but right now, my juniors do miss me. They wanted to tell me so much, ask me so much- and all I could do was to apologize for the dearth of time. In this one day respite I got from buying and selling currencies(my current occupation), I had to live at least a thousand more moments which office life heartlessly deprives me of. It does, of course, more than compensate by giving me fun moments of a different kind; but the charms of the carefree yet responsible college life do inveigle me as of now.

Remembering the highs, consciously forgetting the lows, I write from this room which sequesters me from the travails of the life being led and the uncertain future to follow. I am, right now, allowed the luxury if being engulfed by memories which make me smile into nothingness. And as I do so, I remember faces
My professors-irrespective of the way we opined in college, they were not just the best professors, but sometimes, more than just professors. Friends do tag along, but these are the real treasures we leave behind.
My mentors- Nivya Nair and Swati Iyer- two seniors who lent me that knowledge of music which I never had the luxury of understanding..and they helped a lost kid find some comfort, some solace.
My juniors- they just made me feel like the most special person in college. The respect and the love I got, and I still get, leaves me indebted.
My friends- few,  but prized.
My best friends- fewer, but mine for life.

PS- And the book-shop wale uncle. I don't think anyone in the college can function without his kindness. I owe him so much, monetarily. Hopefully, my first salary will lessen the debts. Only the monetary debts. The near filial benevolence he showed, how can I ever pay back for that?

An Unexpected Disappointment.

on Monday, July 25, 2011

It is not often that I am compelled to express my disappointment with things. However, of all the things, this time, a little book left me disappointed. Books are ideally supposed to elevate me from whatever lows I am traversing through. This time, the reverse of it happened. And I do not reckon I am overstating even a bit. It was a book which I almost bought about ten times, but a quick calculation of the sum left in my already very light wallet had I actually bought it prevented me from doing so. Why I wanted to buy it? Simply because it appealed to my eyes. Its cover is a remarkably attractive shade of purple, with a title that would certainly make the non-guilty fans of chick-lits like me salivate. "Hello, I Love You, Good Bye"- Now I know that being in love with chick-lits is kind of derogatory for people who call themselves devotees of literature, but for once, just think yourself to be a fan, or at least fond of these light, funny and romantic tales and imagine how imaginative this title can make you. It certainly influenced me, to my huge despondency but.

For all those who looked down upon me when they caught me reading this supposed chick-lit, let me tell you, its not. Okay fine. My fault. I should have checked. It is not even proper fiction. What am I saying? It is not fiction at all. Not a story, but a travelogue. Now, travellogues should be exciting, shouldn't they? This one was not, because of the anachronistic setting. This book is the tale of  world odyssey undertaken by the protagonist, the author himself, who does only a decent job of creating imagery of the places he visits. Quite frankly, his travels would not even enthrall you for the lack of imaginative element if you do not occasionally flip over to the black and white photographs he has made the effort of including. Having said all of this, what I did truly enjoy were

1.the little anecdotes littered here and there in the book suggestive of the human touch which subtly binds the world together,

2. the learnings acquired by experiences both harsh and sweet,


3. the travels near and within the subcontinent, which despite belonging to an anachronistic global political scenario sounded familiar- closer home.

Wondering what such a catchy title has got to do with a tale of travels? Well, the most genuinely deserved compliment I can bestow on the author is for the choice of title, which, in the most laconical manner establishes the very essence of the predicament and desires carried by the author in his heart throughout the narration. Apologizing for the unavoidable usage of slang henceforth, this is the story of a frustrated and hapless and indecisive man, who looks forward to screwing a female at every stop during his journey, but for reasons too many to remember, is never able to. His interactions with women- sometimes fellow tourists, sometimes arcane locals, and at other times plain whores,- somehow remain restricted to saying a hello, building a conversation, and developing feeling. The next step towards the actual act invariably ends up in a dejection- a goodbye- sometimes fond, sometimes difficult. And, at every such encounter he is reminded of his (assumed) lady love back home, who for her own insecurities had rejected his proposal before the beginning of his expedition, but he is positive that one day, probably at the end of his trip, he will win her back. Does he? I would not tell, for I do not know. It is a tiny book, which for the lack of intrigue even after reading 80% of it, I had to abandon before the climax. Of the story of course. Oh, just to mention, this lady love of his, he did not have any luck with her too. That is where it all started, you see.

As for rest, I would request you not to be fooled by the very beguiling book jacket, which you will come across many a times at local book stands. The popularity of Mr. Steve Reichstein authored memoir may be guessed from the fact that a google search yields not even a single review- good or bad- of this book. Mine is the first. If  you do happen to google it, you might just be tempted to assume I am lying, for you will come across the review of a book called Hello, Good Bye, I Love You but please, do notice the subtle difference in the title. This one is not the tale of a frustrated traveller, but a 'touching tale of a guide dog for the blind', as one the review quotes it.

Read at your own peril.

Of Balloons and Caffeine...And Idleness at Work

on Monday, July 11, 2011

11:30 am
Tower 9A
Cyber City

Here I am, sitting in the office with a fork in my left hand poised to attack the wonderfully delicious looking maggi which rests in a plate on my desk. My right hand, now tired of typing numbers continuously since an eternity is lazily howering over alphabets, keen to put my thoughts into words. Right over my head hangs a bunch of white and red balloons, attached to some glittering strings of decorative curtains extending all across the office. They were put in place to surprise our boss, whose birthday was celebrated with much gaity last evening after work. The chocolate trufle cake from Barista and the informal atmosphere the celebrations created left with me fond memories from my first week at work.

Yes, it has now been a week since I have been coming to work. Work is a big word. I have not exactly been working. I have been toiling hard, alright. Have been tiring myself. But whatever definition of work be applied- I am not working for sure. I have been honing up my typing skills. I have been trying to get ease with numbers. I have been lending an eager ear to office gossip, which truly lives upto its reputation of being an ultimate entertainer in what would otherwise be a drab office feel. I have been meeting people, lots of them- batch-mates, seniors, watchmen, cooks, etc- and learning, or simply fooling around. I have been clandestinely peeping into my favorite web content from office- my actions surreptitious for we, officially, are not supposed to be doing so. I like it here. It is warm and comfortable and friendly. I can sit idle and think. I can gulp down unrestricted amounts of free caffeine. And I like the work. I really do. Skepticism inducing thoughts about my future do often manifest, but the excitement of doing what I am doing comfortably washes that away.

Reclining back on my chair, as I lazily stare at the ceiling, my eyes gleam with the reflection of red and silver bunting adorning the entire ceiling. I cannot help getting dreamy, especially after someone texted me that it is raining in Delhi. I miss being out. I do not totally abhor being locked away in the corporate ambiance on the eleventh floor of a majestic tower in the heart of Gurgaon's Cyber City, but I would have liked to be out. I would have liked to be sitting in the Central Park if its not wet, or beside the huge picture window in the Janpath McDonald's, and reading the umpteenth number of time the weather beaten copy of Wuthering Heights. Or, I would have been writing a story, about a girl, lost among the alleys of love and longing. Or would have simply been gazing at the pearl dotted window, glistening with trickling down raindrops, with my hands cupped around a cup of Cappuccino, its aroma filling me with fondness. One thought leads to the other, and against a backdrop of cacophonous sounds emanating from the idle chatter of my colleagues, I again start pondering over the forbidden question of how right or wrong my decision of taking up this profession was. I would have definitely been happier at a few other places, had things happened the way I planned. But that is the beauty which life presents. Plans do not always become reality; except for those of us who are resolute enough to tilt even the heavens in their favour. We often have to make the most of what comes our way. I think that is what I am trying to do at present. And I think I am doing well. 

Balloons and Caffeine. That sums up my first week at work.

A Bouquet of Flowers

on Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flowers- to say 'thank you'

Ritually, as soon as I log on, I open my Gmail account in the first tab and then display Nascent Emissions in the immediate next tab. Its like I cannot do without seeing my blog page opulently displayed on my computer screen less than twice a day. As for more, there is no limit. Of late, one of the fetishes to have become for me a source almost unfailing alacrity is an involuntary scroll down the blog window to the Comment Box. This box has without disappointment been providing me with the most kind of words which I in no way feel worthy of. Nevertheless, since modesty is not my forte, I smile, laugh and sometimes even jump when people I least expect leave some words of appreciation which just make my day. A big, heartfelt thanks to all of you. When skepticism related to my writing begins to take seed in my head, positive feedback from all of you  simply weeds it out. It is not like a hundred comments litter after my blog posts- but whatever humble number of comments I get, I assure you, they are deeply valued. 

Very specifically, a very earnest and warm thank you to Vrinda AggarwalAavika Dhandha, Achint Mathur, Aakriti Mallik, Nikita Sailesh, Bhargav, Mayank Saroha, Shakuntala Ma'am, Dipesh Mittal, Pallak Jagga, Namit JoshiSushruti Tripathi and Snigdha Menda for always keeping my spirits up.

However, there are a few of my coy friends, who routinely leave their feedback to me in a more personal manner- through text messages or mail. I do not understand why they do it; I would much rather have them express themselves here. Anyway. Its not important. Important is that they let me know what they felt, they recognize it is important to me. And, receiving feedback is most important to me when my blog posts are dedicated to someone (they most often are), from that someone. While rummaging through the now yellowing pages of my diary, I stumbled upon this comment left for me via a personal source by someone very special. It is pasted below. I could not do without sharing it. These are the most special words someone has ever used for me. With all my heart and lots of love, I thank you.

"Life is beautiful when you know you have someone so special, who stands by you forever, come what may, whose hugs mean the world to you, who is the happiest when you are happy, who is with you in moments of pain and glory, who rests her head on your shoulder and feels protected and pampered, who makes you feel so positive just by being around, who is a true companion and a selfless lover. Life is truly beautiful when you know you are loved and cared so much- all this and more is about you Saumya. Thank you. The post mean a lot to me."

PS- Before ending this post, I cannot do without thanking, very suitably, one of my most decorous friends-cum-critics, Akshat Mittal. When he appreciates my quill, I know it has worked wonders. Thank you, for helping me stay humble. 

An Autowallah To Remember

on Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Humne zindagi mein paisa toh nahi kamaya, lekin izzat bahut kamayi hai"

Sounds filmi. Doesn't it? This, was a pet line of the autowallah who dropped me home today, all the way from Lajpat Nagar. And, at the end of a journey costing more than a hundred and fifty rupees on the meter, when he refused to take a paisa from me, I was forced to believe each part of his life's story, narrated lovingly to me, with exquisite detailing- at times making me stop and wonder if everything he said was actually true.

He was a happy man. A very happy man. Driving auto was a pass-time for him. What he actually did was sing sufi bhajans of Sai Baba, professionally.. I have his card, which I received with a smile in return for a forced payment of half the actual amount on the meter. This is the second time an autowallah has refused to take money from me, though both stories belong to extremely different contexts. His', like many of his ilk, was a life of struggle. But, if I go by his version of things, he had emerged more than successful. More curiously, it was not success that intoxicated him, it was devotion to Baba. He was a man, who no doubt still met with troubles, but the image of Baba in his heart took care of all. The story was the same (forgive my nonchalance)- his father expired while he was still young and the onus of running his family fell on him. This drove him towards his current occupation, but the love for Baba kept enticing him. And today, when his whole family is settled- his first sister married in UK, his second sister an air hostess with Jet Airways, his younger brother an aspiring IPS ("I'll do everything to make him one"- he said with a father's tenderness and concern), and his two little daughters secure under a father who, under the evil shadow of skewed sex ratios prevalent in our nation since forever, takes pride in not having any sons, takes pride in having daughters who "at least ask me for water when I reach home fatigued. Didi, its only daughters, sons don't do this."

Yes, he called me didi, and it was refreshing to hear him talk. He was cautious. When I looked too much into the mobile screen for texting my friends, he immediately withdrew from talking. The disappointment in his features, so clearly visible via the rear view mirror, ached my heart. I have not done this for the closest of people, but for him, I abandoned my cell phone, and heard him through. And I do not regret it one bit. He spoke little of his family, a lot of Baba, and how singing for him made him feel like the most fortunate of people alive. It all started at a phone call, perhaps to invite him and his mandali for an evening of Sai bhajans. After inquiring a little more, tho Sufi chord struck. He sings Sai, and I sing Bulleh Shah and Khusrau- both of us have immense and inspiring respect for each others devotion. To call me a novice and him a veteran- both would be understatements.

My mother would scold me if I ever, even inaudibly hummed while travelling in an auto. May be she found it embarrassing; but sometimes, the weather would be so inviting, that I would be led on, beguiled to sing. Today, as the fickle weather played its cards, and transformed the day from a scorching morning into a pleasant, rain washed evening, I was once again forced to hum a sufiyana song, which I usually sing for my little angel, my cousin. Only this time, I had familiar and agreeable company. The autowallah did not join me to sing, but when I stopped humming, gave me a few tips for polishing my singing, which left me both, astonished and thankful.

There is a lot which still comes to mind, and not all of it I can record here. I do distinctly remember him shedding a few tears, given their due time to flow out, and then suppressed and forgotten behind a striking, yet a calm smile. He disclosed philosophies with which he lived his life, and there was an unmistakable truthfulness in them. In today's time and age, where Delhi autowallah are infamous for all their notorious behaviour, people like Deepak Chaddha (oh thats his name, I have his card, remember?), help re-instill faith in the goodness of human existence. Things even out. Even when I met the most annoying autowallah, I endeavored to keep my cool, and be as nice as possible, for fighting, calling names, never helps. Because of the remarkable man I met today, all of the previous ill memories of autowallahs I would hate to travel with except under situations of extreme duress were wiped away effortlessly. I never talk to autowallahs, I am scared of them. Today, when I did talk to one, I felt I met a really noble soul. Not being judgmental about people helps, doesn't it?

My only regret, I wish we spoke more Sufi. Right before I got down, he quoted one couplet, one of the most common ones- "Laali mere laal ki, jit dekhoon ut laal/ Laali dekhan main gayi, te main bhi ho gayi laal." I do not remember the context he uttered it in, but I was convinced this was going to be the line that'll ring in my heart when I sat down to pen my journal at night. Not quite. What remains in my heart is the line below, which he uttered along with his exceptionally simple and humble smile.

"Aadmi bada paise se nahi banta, vyavhaar se banta hai. Main aapke liye baba se dua karoonga."