What to do in Meditation :-)

Last Friday I was having the customary drink at the bar with a friend who wanted to discuss his start up idea with me. It’s like a game we play may be once a few months. He gets his ideas and I get mine and we create companies  and close them as drinks keep pouring in. By the time we are done a UBER or an Air BNB or a Spotify has breathed it’s last 😊

At some point in the discussion my friend told me that he has this rush of ideas and emotions all the time. The urge to do something, to make something happen and when he is not “doing” something he feels restless. Almost like he is wasting his time or He is not getting anywhere in life. Intuitively, I said – You should meditate. To this he asked a question which I thought was amusing but coming from someone who is totally un initiated it was a genuine enquiry. He asked me”What do you do in Meditation?”. I was so tempted to tell him that it’s meditation not medication that you have to pop a pill and things will be all right. But I restrained my thought and told him:

” Well, you do nothing”

“But how can you do nothing !”

I was in no mood to drag the discussion on a serious subject like this after 2 glasses of Jacob’s Creek inside me. So I just said “You need to practice. I will tell you how.” We let the discussion end there.

Today morning while practising Zazen at Cubbon Park something remarkable happened. Sitting gently and quietly on a bench I could see a number of people of all shapes,forms and sizes walk past me. Once I finished the session I decided to make a small two minute video of what I had been observing. I think it will make it very easy for me to explain to my friend what one should Do in Meditation.

Most people think that meditation is all about closing your eyes and relaxing. But that is exactly what it is not ! When introduced to the technique by many teachers who themselves have little idea the immediate reaction of someone trying to meditate the first time is – Wow it was so relaxing. Of course, it was relaxing because you were dozing off :-)and the effect is the same as a power nap. The real meditation which is Concentration Meditation where you focus on an imagery for long periods in time is actually quite exhausting. Also, the constant fight to remove thoughts from barging in so you can achieve a thoughtless state can be quite challenging. Although, that is the wrong way to approach the practice. So what exactly should a beginner do ? The answer is just sit and observe what is happening around you. Now watch this video as if you were watching your thoughts. Imagine each passer by to be a thought. Let’s start :

  1. A group of thoughts
  2. No thought for a second and then one thought rushes on a bicycle
  3. No thought and then one lonely thought and then another
  4. Thought of you as a kid on a bicycle followed by some more random thoughts
  5. Some more random thoughts then a green thought filled with envy rushes past
  6. A thought of you with a friend then a healthy 🙂 thought
  7. Some more thoughts then a thought of a girl
  8. A moment of thoughtlessness and then a lot of thoughts( constant chatter of crows too)

Now if you keep observing for half an hour, you will find that a pattern will emerge. It’s the same as what you will see above from point #1 to point# 8. This is the nature of our mind. Cubbon Park may be a good place to do this exercise from 8-9 AM because slowly the morning crowd starts thinning and at around 9 AM you will find the number of thoughts aka people are half of what they were before. Imagine they shut out the entry and then there is no one. You are all alone- peaceful, easy, no rush to go or come, no one to bother you. At this point you may get a feeling that I have the entire park to myself. This is your first glimpse of ecstasy. Of enlightenment.

On the other hand suppose you start calling out to passers by. Start to talk or engage with them in some manner or the other what do you think will happen? You will talk to one person for some time and then the other one and then the other and so on. Let’s say you find someone quite interesting and you ask him for a cup of coffee or breakfast together. You will go “with” them and will no longer be present. You may take the opportunity to know the person(thought) quite well and then drop the idea of any further relationship. This is again a good way to meditate. Take that one thought and follow it till the end. Watch it threadbare. Where did it come from ? What do I want from it? Am I feeling good or bad about it? who is thinking this thought? If the thought is not me then who am I ? If I am the thought then how can I drop myself?

You will realise with practise that like waves in the ocean thoughts do not have any existence of their own. They rise and fall ipon the infinite sub stratum of our consciousness. Consciousness by itself is pure like the surface of lake in which we can see everything very clearly -as it is, when it is calm and still but as soon as there is some disturbance ripples arise the picture gets distorted. This is the illusion of maya.

Ok enough gyan for today. I will leave you with this beautiful song that incidentally started playing on my headphones after I finished the meditation session. I think the nature rewarded me with something that reflected my state of mind and it was just beautiful. Irshad Kamil has penned such beautiful lyrics. Listen in :

 

रंग बिरंगे वहमों में मैं उड़ता फिरूं..

 

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Zen Retreat by Om Swami..

Once Swami Vivekanand ( then Narendra) was discussing spirituality with Ramkrishna Paramhansa at his house. As always Paramhansa was trying to explain the nature of reality to his favourite student but Naren was not convinced.

Ramakrishna got a bit flustered and asked Naren to pick up a weather magazine kept next to where he was sitting. He asked him to go through the content and tell him what was the main theme. Naren told him that the magazine talked about weather conditions especially about rain – how it happens, how much is it going to rain and why, which parts of the country will get more rain and so on. Ramakrishna asked him to take the magazine in his hands and try to squeeze it with his full might. Narendra was perplexed but carried out the instructions. Ramakrishna told him he is not trying hard enough and his student put all his strength to the task. His Guru was now smiling. He told Narendra that wasn’t he surprised that no water came out of the magazine. Narendra got the point and Ramakrishna continued to explain “Just like we cant get rain or water out of a magazine we cannot realise what is the truth, what is reality just by talking about it” He added” When an ant is carrying a small grain of sugar it does not know whether it’s sweet or sour. It just feels the burden of the weight and keeps going in the direction where other ants are going.”

For the past twenty years I have accumulated a lot of knowledge on the nature of reality, the various practices associated with spirituality  and have been doing my own meagre Sadhana, if it can be called that ! I know that the plethora of frauds masquerading as Swami’s are no good and so are the likes of Deepak Chopra and Robin Sharma who soft peddle ancient Indian knowledge to gullible western audience. My quest for a rendezvous with truth led me to Om Swami’s blog. I found his writing clear, concise, fluid with glimpses of deep insights and understanding. I also looked up some and later most of his videos on youtube. Since I had subscribed to the blog an email regarding a Zen Retreat which would be personally presided by the Swami came to my email. I dilly dallied for a few days but when I saw the slots filling up by the hour I decided to pay the fee and register. This was in July this year and the dates for the retreat were given as December 18-22. Over the last few months I pretty much devoured everything that Om Swami has written including his books If truth be told, Wellness Sense, Kundalini and A fistful of love. I left out one book As we know him by his disciples as they tend to glorify and exaggerate and another one When all is not well which is about Depression.

I reached the venue Golden Palms Resort and Spa at the outskirts of Bangalore on the 18th afternoon and after a long check in process for some 250 odd seekers I was finally ready to get the first glimpse of the man who had claimed to see God. As we remained seated for the moment to arrive I felt a bit anxious even sceptical about being where I was. The gathering dressed in white was a mixed bag – there were family’s which probably wanted to combine vacation with some soul searching, old men and women either with each other or on their own, professional devotees who are ready to place their faith with little self enquiry or self doubt and the usual westerners without whom no spiritual gathering looks complete. Only few of us were by themselves. I thought if nothing else I was at least meeting the first condition for a true seeker – of being alone on my journey;-) As I listened to the beautiful Buddhist chant Om Mani Padme Hum I decided to stop judging and focused my undivided attention to what I was there for. I took a deep breadth, chanted Om gently and resolved to make the best of my time for the next 4 days.

At exactly 4:45 PM Om Swami appeared in hall from the door near the lifts and walked briskly towards the stage which was at the other end. The devotees bowed down with respect in their eyes and humility in their posture. I did the same. As Swami sat down I noticed that the room was filled with a very strange but pleasant fragrance. I later guessed that it could be coming from the air freshner in  AC units or may be not.But there is no doubt that the fragrance was quite heavenly so full marks to the  brand which made it. Swamiji very humbly asked everyone to get seated and after offering his obeisance to the divine and his mother he started the discourse. He was giving an introduction to the Zen practice. I must mention something extraordinary which happened at least to me.To give us a glimpse of what he meant by ‘slowing down’ he asked everyone to look at him and hear his words for the next 30 seconds with utmost concentration. As I did that I felt as if the entire hall with everyone in it was in slow motion. I tried shaking off  the feeling but it was not possible. I had once tried some weed in college and the experience was very similar to that. As Swami spoke more about the topic I was convinced that even if I don’t end up having a vision of God I would certainly learn a lot of new things.Also, I had this consolation now that if someone had in fact seen God he would probably look like Om Swami.

I am now going to give you an account of some of the  leaning and the various practices that were taught by Swami ji as part of the retreat.

What is Zen 

It is the Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasising the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures.

The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chan which has its origin in the Sanskrit word Dhyana (ध्यान ), which can be approximately translated as absorption or a meditative state.

Satori is at the heart of Zen practice.It’s a term for awakening or the experience of kenshō, – seeing into one’s true nature.

The Heart Sutra

The heart sutra is perhaps the only sermon that the Buddha gave on the subject of Zen. He pronounces that the world as we see it is empty(different from Nihilism – life is meaningless). The insight in Heart Sutra refers to apprehension of the fundamental emptiness (Shunyata) of all phenomena, known through and as the five aggregates of human existence (Skandhas): form (Rupa), feeling (Vedana), volition (Sankahra), perceptions (Samjan), and consciousness (Vijana).

प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयसुत्रम् ।।

ॐ नमो भगवत्या आर्यप्रज्ञपारमितायै ।।

आर्यावलोकितेश्वरो बोधिसत्वो गम्भीरां प्रज्ञापारमिताचर्यां चरमाणो व्यवलोकयति स्म

पञ्चस्कन्धास्तांश्वस्वरुपशुन्यान्पष्यति स्म । इह शारिपुत्र रूपं शून्यता शून्यतैव रुपम् ।

रुपन्नपृथक् शून्यता शून्यताया न प्रुथग्रुपम् । यद्रूपं सा शून्यता या शून्यता तदेवरुपम् ।

एवमेव वेदनासंज्ञासंसकारविज्ञानम् ।

इह शारिपुत्र सर्वधर्मा: शून्यतालक्षणा अन्नुत्पन्ना अनिरुद्धा अमला अविमला अनूना अपरिपूर्णा: ।

तस्माच्छारिपुत्र शून्यतायां न रुपं न वेदना न संज्ञा न संस्कार न विज्ञानम् ।

न चक्षु:क्षोत्रध्राणजिह्वाकायमनांसि । न रूपशब्दगन्धरसस्प्रष्टव्यधर्मा: ।

न चक्षुर्धातुर्यावन्नमनोविज्ञानधातु: ।

नाविद्य नाविद्याक्षयो यावन्नजरामरणं न जरामरणक्षयो न दु:खसमुदयनिरोधमार्गा न ज्ञानं न प्राप्तिर्नाप्राप्ति: ।

तस्माच्छारिपुत्राप्रप्तित्वाद्वोधिसत्वो प्रज्ञापारमितामाश्वित्य विहरत्यचित्तावरण: ।

चित्तावरणनास्तित्वदत्रस्तो विपर्याप्तातिक्रान्तो निष्ठानिर्वाणप्राप्त: ।

त्र्यध्वव्यवस्थिता: सर्वबुद्धा: प्रज्ञपारमितामश्वित्यानुत्तरां सम्यक्संभोधिमभिसंबुद्धा: ।

तस्माज्ज्ञातव्यं प्रज्ञापारमितामहामंत्रो महाविद्यामंत्रो ङनुत्तरमंत्र समसममंत्र: सर्वदु:खप्रषमण: सत्यममिथ्यत्वात् ।

प्रज्ञापारमितायामुक्तो मंत्रस्तद्यथा

गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा ।।

इत्यार्या प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयं समाप्तम् ।।

You may want to go through the link below :

Heart Sutra with music and translation

 

The practice of wall gazing and Zazen

It is said that when Prince Bodhidharma went to China from South India he was disappointed by not being able to get the favour of the king and failed to impress him. He went to a cave outside the city and started his practice of Wall Gazing. A deep meditation which he continued for the next 9 years till he was able to know the nature of reality.

zen-mind-preview720

After chanting Om 20 times when the mind becomes calm and the breath settles down we used to start by practising the wall gazing meditation. As there was no wall in front of all the participants Swami ji asked us to concentrate our gaze on a stone instead. The stone was provided by the volunteers. The posture in which we practice wall gazing is most important. As you can see a meditation cushion is used to support the back which must be straight at all times so that the energy can flow freely within us. Apart from that the tongue should be touching the palate, teeth resting on each other not clinched, mouth should be slightly parted and a gentle smile should always be on the face. There are two more aspects of wall gazing meditation – at no point should the eyes be closed for more than lets say 15 seconds and one must have the hands on top of each other with the thumbs and he fingers forming an egg shape as below.

wall-gazing-hands-posture

All through the meditation Swami ji kept reminding us not to close our eyes, to keep the back straight and to have a gentle smile on the face.I will confess that while they do not look like supremely arduous tasks they are most difficult to accomplish even for a short period of 15 min. Even more difficult is not to think of anything else past, present and future. The mind has been compared to a monkey and I could not agree more with that statement.

Last in the meditation session was Zazen which is a slight variation to wall gazing. There is no object to concentrate or focus on. Posture remaining the same one has to just sit quitely fully aware of the moment,the surrounding, the breath and the fact that one was alive. Be here and now in this beautiful moment is the key idea. The only difference between wall gazing and Zazen is that the eyes should remain half closed and not fully open as in the first case. Again, this is not something you do intentionally but if you are not day dreaming with eyes closed or focusing on some object it should be the natural position of your eyes.

buddha-sculpture-third-eye

Here is a link on Zen Practice that may be of help.

Tea Ceremony

This was a most invigorating exercise given that all of us returned to the meditation hall at 3:30 PM after a good meal and some rest or reading in our rooms. We made groups of 5-6 people and served herbal tea to each other. The ceremony was not as elaborate as the original  Japanese one but we got a good understanding of how to do something as mundane as drinking tea, mindfully. We watched as the tea as it was poured into the cup starting with a drop and then turning to a thin  stream forming a pool at the bottom of the cup. As more tea got poured sometimes there were small whirlpools formed in the liquid. The tea was now ready to drink but before that each member of the group served it to one other member with utmost kindness and humility as if serving something precious and holy.

The next you take the cup closer to your nose and smell the aroma, let the steam coming from the cup warm your face and moisten your lips. Then slowly, very slowly being totally aware of your actions you, take the first sip. The mouth is filled with the flavor of the drink and you observe each and every aspect minutely the temperature, the flavor,the effect, the aroma and then how the drink slowly goes down your food pipe into your stomach.Honestly, I do enjoy my cup of normal as well as green tea but had never thought that the simple act can be so uplifting. I almost felt a sense of gratitude towards mother nature for giving us all the spices, the ingredients that had made such a beautiful drink. I realised how thankful we should be to enjoy each cup. Thankful first of all to nature and then to everyone in the chain who helps to bring it to us, never to forget the one who makes and serves.

Kin Hin or walking meditation 

The chief benefit of walking meditation is that we learn how to bring our mind to the present moment even in such everyday activities as walking. Also, when one meditates for long periods of time is sitting meditation it brings untold goodness to the mind but it may not be as good for the body. Movement is essential for certain functions of the body such as digestion, building muscle endurance etc.so walking meditation could provide a necessary break. Video below from a Buddhist monk explains the process of walking meditation beautifully.

Personally, I realised that Walking meditation is more effective in bringing the mind to a meditative state and in building concentration. It may be a good idea to do 5-10 Min of walking meditation before we go into Zazen.

Osoji and Forgiveness Meditation :

Osoji is a Japanese practice of getting out all the stuff in the house at one place and then deciding on each item whether it’s required or not.Typically this is done once at the end of the year and is similar to our Diwali cleaning and the spring cleaning in the west.The goal is to get rid of at least 30% of the articles which are not needed or are not absolutely necessary.

Swami ji told everyone to take the pen and note pad and write down names of people,starting from our very childhood, with whom we have a negative emotion attached. He instructed to even write the emotion that comes to our mind when we think of that person. I thought long and hard but I could not come up with any name except my wife 🙂 Jokes apart, I saw people using the second and the third page while I had just five or 6 names and that too as I had to write something down. When I scanned my memory and thought of a name I remembered what fun we had together or how that person had helped me in a certain way. I really thanked God for being blessed to have such wonderful friends around me. Of course there were few people I have never liked or who have given me a hard time but when I thought about them no emotion came to my mind. The best way for me to avenge someone has been to become completely indifferent to them as if they are dead or they never existed at all. Neitzsche wrote in his book Beyond good and evil :

It’s not that you have deceived me bothers me, I am disappointed that I can’t trust you anymore.

Next everyone was asked to crumple their papers and toss them in a trash bag which went around the hall, carried by some volunteers..

Next day as a follow up Swami ji made us do Forgiveness meditation. As he guided our chain of thoughts we had to think of that one person we hate the most and imagine that they are standing right in front of us. We had to tell them how we felt on their face and let them know that we are going to forgive them from the core of our heart for what they did  – no more grudges, no more hard feelings, no more nothing. Next we had to resolve that we have become totally indifferent to the existence of that person and visualise as if they are dissipating into thin air, never to be back again. It was a most cathartic experience for me. I felt quite light as if a huge burden has been taken away. I wondered why was I even carrying this load up until now. I really didn’t need it. At all.

Some of the other notes which I took from the discourses are listed below. These are all very important if one wants to understand, follow and practice a Zen way of life :

  • Life is transitory. Whatever takes birth must die.We are in a transient state all the time and our time on this earth will be over soon. To remind yourself of this great principle which helps to keep the ego in check and to be more compassionate with everyone around you pick a flower preferably one which has fragrance and keep it on the the dashboard of your car or next to your work desk in office or any other place where you can notice the changes hour by hour, day by day. It can remind us constantly of death as a fact of life and not some distant possibility.
  • Each one of us must have a philosophy of life. A set of rules or goals which we must follow so we become better and more adept in our practice every day. One has to be mindful at all times that every action must be aligned with the philosophy we have chosen to follow in life. Whenever you do something you must validate if it is in line with your philosophy or not. For Example one may chose below virtues and work hard to make sure they guide all our thoughts and actions at all times :
    1. Compassion
    2. Humility
    3. Self discipline
    4. Forgiveness
  • Build your practice one minute at a time. Focus on the quality of meditation not the quantity. 10 min of good quality meditation are far better than 1 hour of day dreaming. Have patience and don’t get frustrated with yourself. If you cannot sit for more than 10 min at a stretch that’s fine. Add just 2 more minutes and see if you can extend that much. To improve posture do the right exercises. There is no point doing meditation in the wrong posture. Respect medical conditions, if any.
  • Finally, the four principles of Zen practice :
    1. Sit quitely – watch the grass grow as simple as that
    2. Take care of your body – it’s like a temple. Live gently in your body.
    3. Learn to handle pain – Pain is natural.When all else fails just breathe. You are still alive. Don’t hurt anyone with painful words.Be kind. Be gentle.
    4. Non Violence – Live in harmony with nature. Nature can heal you.

With that I end this post. बुद्धं शरणं गच्छामि  …

half-prostration-640x320

Harmony ride..

harmony-ride
It was still dark when they started – the plan was to catch the first rays of the morning sun as they headed east and upwards into the mountains. Som was riding at the back and he was the first one to catch the ochre shape as it emerged from its hiding. He cried in excitement – Dad look the Sun is coming up! Parth turned his head and took off his wayfarers to have a casual look. It was nothing new for him as he had been riding in these Mountains and valleys for many years now. But yes this time it was different. He could feel the warmth as his 12 year old son hugged him from behind. He had never felt it before. Not even in the glow of the fireplace at his Ram Nagar home. Som went to school in Somerset, where he lived with his mother. He’d come over for vacations to be with his father, whom he’d known only through photographs and Skype calls.Shivani always felt that he was too young to be by himself and that Parth was too careless to take care of their son. She had relented to Som’s constant badgering this time.
Parth had gone to pick up Som from New Delhi and Som had been visibly thrilled through out their 8 hour car journey. As soon as Som arrived at Parth’ their home in Ram Nagar near Naini Tal he was fascinated by the beautiful Kawasaki Ninja parked in the yard. Som asked Parth “ This was the bike you sent in the picture.Wow ! It certainly didn’t look this amazing. The hunter green looks so awesome. You are a rockstar Dad”
Parth wasn’t flattered – “I also liked it a lot so I bought it. It was way over my budget though”
Som said “ You are talking like mom now.Even she said something about you having no sense of money when she saw the picture. But who cares? Look at this beauty.Dad can we go like on a long ride on this?”
Parth was busy preparing the fish he had caught on the Kali river just the previous day. While he cared little about the source of other meats, when it came to fish, he cooked only what he caught himself.. He believed that having this simple rule allowed him to go to the river, spend some time by himself and feel how cavemen would have felt before becoming civilized. He believed that fishing was meditative and it gave him peace. A glint of excitement lit up Parth’s eyes – “Ya sure we can go but not too far.” Som had other plans. He said “Dad I have heard about this amazing bike ride through the Spiti Valley. I have seen Youtube videos and it looks like you are on some another planet. I know you have been there. I saw your pictures and I think you were somewhere near Kaza when you had Skyped me. Can we please go to Spiti valley? Parth grinned and mumbled – Like father like son.
“Did you say something Dad”Som had heard him.
“Nothing.Your Mom is gonna kill me if she finds out”.
“Come on Dad how will she know if we don’t tell her about it”
“So you want me to cheat her?”
“As if you never have !”
Both of them went silent. Had Shivani told Som about his affair with Linda, Parth thought. He suddenly felt his energy sap out of him and the muscles in his stomach tighten.He did not know how to respond. The whole sordid episode became alive in his memory. Shivani was a strong and educated woman focused to build a career in banking and finance. Her work was important to her and she never cared about putting in those extra hours. Linda, like so many other girls in the past had made their interest in Parth clear. It would have remained a clandestine affair had Parth not got involved emotionally involved. Looking back Parth blamed Shivani for not being his anchor but more than that he blamed himself for drifting away. Parth felt a sharp tinge through his heart. He wanted to hug Som that very moment. He remembered the time when he and Shivani had got Som from the hospital. He was so tiny he could barely open his eyes and whenever he did Parth used to say – look he is smiling at me. Som was just 2 years old then. Parth still didn’t know what got over him. He knew Linda for many years before they decided to go in for a partnership. Being in export business he needed someone who could look at the US side of operations and Linda had proved to be the perfect fit. It’s true that he and Shivani were not getting along but hating someone could never be the reason for falling in love with another. His feelings for Linda were not born out of love he has thought many times but out of rejection and hate from Shivani. In his hear he knew that Shivani would never forgive him but if she ever did he would gladly walk back into her secure arms. He lived by himself in this secluded mountain and he wondered sometimes if it was more of a punishment than a lifestyle choice as his friends labeled it.
After a while he got up from his seat and as he walked down the hall towards the kitchen he stopped for a while in front of Som.
Ruffling his hair he said – “That was not funny Pal”
Som looked up. His eyes met Parth’s and he did not know where to look next.
“I am Sorry Dad. I didn’t mean to hurt you”
“It’s OK. Neither did I.” Both of them smiled.
Finally, they had decided to be honourable men and had called Shivani for her permission. It’s difficult to imagine what went through Shivani’s mind. Usually she was very possessive of Som but perhaps she thought that it would be good for Som to bond with his father. She knew the pain he had gone through seeing all his friends with their fathers. She knew what Som had missed out – playing chess, football games, school functions, Diwali & Christmas ; sometimes just a bicycle ride together after Sunday breakfast.
They had been riding for almost six hours now. Having started from Shimla early in the morning, Reckong Peo was their first stop en route to Kaza. The ride to Reckong was 8.5 hours and they were progressing well. At this pace they would have reached their destination easily before Sunset. It was October and the chill in the air gave a cue of the harsh Himalayan winters ahead. So far it had been quite a scenic ride accentuated by wisps of crisp and fresh mountain air. As sunlight filtered through the Cedar and Silver Oaks, one could see blue snow capped peaks at a distance. The 1500 cc-300 BHP Ninja engine thundered beneath them. Som imagined they were Samurai’s riding a dragon. Parth thought they were the great Himalayan scenery. In the great Universal design the observer and the object had become one. Parth had often told his friends about his life on the road – it is this feeling of freedom about a bike ride – you can never get that feeling in a closed enclosure of a car. Adventure and comfort are different thing and more often than not they don’t go together. Parth took a deep breath and felt grateful. To whom he didn’t know, nor did he care. This was his ‘happy to be alive’ moment. The Beas river was a constant companion for most part of their Journey and it twisted and turned every time with the road. Both Parth and Som were silent. First, the rumble of Kawasaki engine coupled with the wind would have made them inaudible but more importantly they were too immersed in the beauty all around and within them.
Parth turned around and checked with Som “How is it going buddy?
”So far so good dad, so far so good.” Som repeated to make sure his dad heard him.
Parth carried on “I guess the bike may need some rest. We have been driving for more than six hours now.”
Som continued the conversation “more than the bike I need food and may be a leak somewhere. They say you can piss anywhere in India but it looks too nice and clean here for me to spoil it”
Parth got a bit irritated “ Ha Ha Modiji’s Swach Bharat Abhiyan!.He is such a drama queen. We will pee where we want to and ask him to go take a flying fuck! Ooops, sorry for the F word. I am so sorry.”
Som was laughing now “Dad you seriously think I don’t know that word. Those blokes in my school use it all the time just to show how cool they are. What numpty phonies eh”
Parth was slowing down now. He was looking for some roadside Tea Stall or a small restaurant to stop. After some 10-15 minutes they found a small place. It looked neat and cozy and the owner was a lean man with decaying teeth, unkempt hair, crumpled skin,deep set eyes and a innocent smile. He was wearing a light Blue shirt and Khaki trousers and had a muffler around his neck. The shack was named as The Army Hotel and had a soldiers picture on the sign board offering salute. Adjacent to the road was the front of the establishment which had a few Plastic chairs and a table next to which was the cooking and billing counter. Going by the number of seats it was obvious that the place was sparsely visited and would not be having more than 10 customers a day, mostly travellers who stopped on their way like Parth and Som. Once they got fresh Parth ordered some tea for both of them. Their hunger was building up so he picked Parle G cookies from the counter.
Parth offered the biscuit packet to Som after taking a few for himself. He dipped a biscuit in his tea and as he was going to put it in his mouth he saw Som looking at him. He was smiling.
“You know Dad, I am rebuked all the time by Mom for doing that. I don’t understand what’s the big deal? They are going to mix up in the stomach anyways so why not dip and have some fun.” Parth had a loving look in his eyes.
“Now you know what happened between me and your Mom. I think it was mostly my fault but then I also believe that we were two very different people nice and not so nice in our own way.” Parth was beginning to get nostalgic, thoughtful. He pulled out a hip flask from his back pocket and took a sip.
Som asked him “Is that Beer ?”
Parth chuckled “my friend you never drink beer from a hip flask. It’s rum – dark Indian rum.”
Som wanted to know more “Oh I know. Isn’t it the one that’s totally Yuck. Which one are you having ?”
“Oh it’s Buddha Padri.” Parth answered knowing well that his angrez son won’t have a clue. He added “Its Old Monk. Buddha Padri is the translation in Hindi. Just something from my University days.It used to be a code word then.” He took 4-5 quick sips as Som finished both cups of tea on the table.
Parth stood up and enquired “ Kya Khila rahe ho dost? What is your name my friend?”
The stall owner still smiling looked a bit confused now “Sahib idhar khaane ka nahin hai, bas Chai milega.”
Parth enquired “ English samajhte ho ? hamare chote Sahab ko Hindi nahin aati” The stall owner nodded and said “I was with Colonel Saab for many years as his orderly. My Sahib was very strict. He spoke only in English – Colonel Srinivasan. He was the one who taught me English. He said it’s only with English Indian’s can become decent gentlemen”
“Saala Madrasi snob!” Parth mumbled so only Som could hear it. He was immediately corrected “That’s racism Dad.” Parth was feeling the warmth in his body now. He gestured raising his hand “ Aye Aye Captain.”
Parth walked up to the counter.
“Bahadur, do you have something to cook, some masala wasala ? I can cook a wonderful chicken curry for the three of us.” “Hai Na Sahib. I have a pressure cooker, Mustard Oil, Garlic, Onion, Masala everything. What else do you want? My name is Jung Bahadur.”
“I could see that – Army Hotel of Jung Bahadur. You know we should all go to war and just kill and eat each other” Parth jeered. Having lost his father in the 1971 conflict, He hated war and its glorification.
Poor Bahadur was beginning to imagine himself inside the pressure cooker when Som Joined “Dad you can’t be serious. Are you going to cook here?”
“Yes why not. There is time to every purpose but to a purpose there is no time. “
“Wow! Dad cooking chicken on a roadside dhaba in the Himalayas. It would make some story. I will take pictures and put them on instagram. How cool will be that?” Som was excited at this sudden adventure.
Parth had lit up a cigarette and both he and Bahadur were deciding on the dish of the day. The choices were limited so they zeroed down on rice and egg curry. Within minutes all three of them had taken up their roles – Som was doing the dishes, Parth was washing the rice and Bahadur was chopping Onions.
On the Deodar tree next to the stall a Mynah sang loudly. She wanted to let Shivani know how happy she was.

Pedro

It was my second day in Lisbon. I had to be back for some urgent work and it was such a shame. I had always wanted to visit Portugal and the reason was not exactly tourism. Vasco de Gama with his curious name and all the tales of his exploration was an object of fascination during my school days. I had always wondered why would someone risk their life and steer into the unknown for the sake gathering riches. It had to be something bigger an adventurous spirit, a wanderers curse, destiny or who knows even Gods own will. I had always imagined Portuguese as industrious folks who were willing to cross the mighty oceans on ships they built with their toil, their grit and with their bare hands. This myth was broken when I visited Goa I found the people there quite chilled and laid back – they won’t even go to Panjim from Palolem unless they were pushed into it. Perhaps all the riches that De Gama hoarded had made them lazy. The question that how on earth did Vasco De Gama brave the mighty oceans in his quest for making a fortune remained and may be the answers that I was looking for in Goa were waiting for me in Lisbon. It was some five hundred years ago but I could still get some clue if not through human endeavor then by divine intervention.
I was packing my stuff when the phone rang. It was Anant, my 12 year old son.
“Hi Dad”
“Hey buddy. How are you doing? Tell me what you want.”
“That’s not fair. I was missing you.”
“C’mon out with it. Are you done with your football and friends? Dad I was missing you.”I mocked.
“OK listen. You know there is a football final today between Portugal and France. How about getting me a Ronaldinho jersey from there? It will be so cool.”
“See I told you it had to be some gift for you. I will get it but remember the last time I got you a Manchester United one it cost me a bomb.”
“C’mon Dad it was a fake. You know it”
“No it wasn’t a fake. It was of dubious origin that’s all. You want the jersey or not”
“Ok whatever. Just get something that looks original. I don’t want my friends to think that you are a cheapo”
“Let me come back and I will tell you what a cheapo is. Bye” Both of us laughed and I kept the phone down.
I changed into Jeans and a linen shirt and carelessly stashed away my suit into the suitcase. I had hardly anything to pack so I was in the lobby for the check out. The clerk at the counter was a lively good looking girl, possibly in her 20’s. She had big bright yes and long black hair which she had streaked with shades of light gold. I thought she would have easily passed off as an Indian if you saw her somewhere in Mumbai or Delhi. I gave my credit card and room keys and checked if there were any cabs available for a drop to the airport. The Oitavos resort was in Cascai just outside Lisbon and was located in a somewhat secluded spot next to the beach.
She asked me “What time is your flight?”
“It’s at 9 in the evening”
“But then isn’t it too early? It’s just 2 in the afternoon now. What will you do at the airport?” She said smiling.
“Good Question” I said wanting to match her friendliness.
“May I suggest something if you don’t mind?” She said.
“Ya sure.I am always open to ideas especially when they come from pretty ladies” I said trying to flirt.
She had finished the checkout process by now and handed over my card and invoice to me with a mischievous grin on her face.
“Well, have you been to Lisbon before?” I said no and added that having to go back without seeing the city was such a disappointment.
“Let me check if I can arrange something for you. I will try if the same cab which drops you to the airport can give you a short city tour. Hope you don’t mind paying a bit extra as it will not be a regular airport cab”
“I am fine as long as I have enough money to go back to India. I trust you”
She made a few calls after that. It seemed to me that she was not able to get the right deal. I didn’t mind it at all as I was in no hurry. It was a pleasure watching her make an animated conversation in Portuguese, negotiating on my behalf. As a man you never want to let go of a legitimate reason to stare at a beautiful sight so I started enjoying my few minutes of ignoble behavior. Finally she kept the phone down and addressed me” Your cab will be here in the next one hour or before that. It’s not an airport cab but a Private city Taxi.”
“Thank you so much. By the way does the driver speak in English?” I asked. She gave me a are-you-crazy look and confirmed “Of course, Yes. Your driver will also be your guide”. “I am sorry Miss.” I said and smiled back telling her to let me once the car is there. Meanwhile I will grab a quick lunch at the restaurant, I thought. All I could eat was boiled Potato and Rice so it had to be quick anyways.
After about 45 minutes the bell boy came to me. I was catching up on social media making use of the free wi-fi in the hotel. He said the Cab has arrived so I put my laptop in the bag and walked out after him.
“This is your cab Sir and he is your driver” the bell boy said gesturing towards a decade old Mercedes Benz which was an old but in good condition. The driver jumped out of the car. He was a bulky man, not fat but over weight just like me. He would have been in his early 50’s and with his gold framed specs and grey hair looked more like a University professor than a cab driver. He was immaculately dressed for a cabbie – wearing a dark grey trouser and a crisp white shirt. Wrinkles were beginning to show on his white skin and they got highlighted when he gave a wide grin before introducing himself ” Hello Sir. I am Pedro. Your driver for today” Instinctively I held out my hand for a handshake and he grabbed it with both his hands shaking it vigorously, the smile on his face and the sparkle in his eyes made the welcome genuine and heartfelt. I had a feeling that we will have a good time togeher.
As the Merc swivelled around the corner of the street and came on the main road the vast blue ocean next to the road greeted us. It was a gorgeous sight. Having arrived at night I was half asleep when I came in so I had no idea about the road being next to the sea. Sensing my excitement, Pedro switched his role to a tourist guide ” Sir, we are in Cascais which is like a town outside Lisbon. I will be taking the longer route as it is more scenic and you can see a few things on the way. This road we are on will run next to the sea right up to Lisbon which is about 20 Km or half an hour away. Do you wish to see anything special? “He had turned back slightly to address me. “Honestly I don’t know much and I am not sure what I would like to see but if possible I would like to see the tomb of Vasco d’ Gama.”
I told him.
” Sure we will go to see the tomb of Vasco D’Gama. You are from India. Right?
“Yes I am. And have always been fascinated about this great explorer. We were taught about him in our school books. I think he was an amazingly brave man to have dared to cross the ocean to explore an unknown land. And that too with such basic equipment hundreds of years ago”
“You are right.Da Gama led two of the Portuguese armadas to India, the first and the fourth. The latter was the largest and departed for India four years after his return from the first one. Vasco da Gama remains a leading figure in the history of Portuguese exploration. You would not know that the Portuguese national epic, Os Lusiadas, was written in his honor. Because of him for a 100 years Portugal had supremacy over the sea route from the African Cape. The English, French and the Dutch could catch up much later. If you ask me Sir, Vasco D Gama is considered our national hero. Never has Portugal been at the top of world economy as it was during D Gama’s time. It’s said that in his first voyage he got back with riches that amounted to 60 times the cost of the voyage. Can you imagine that?”
“Wow Pedro. You know so much. I rightly thought that you were a professor when I saw you the first time” I joked.
Pedro seemed a bit embarrassed” It’s nothing like that. Actually, I wanted to study world history when I was young but I had to leave my studies at 18 after my father passed away. Being the eldest I had to take care of the family. Sir, with such a great history, I feel sad that Portugal is a very small country today which no one cares about. If we did not have a bit of Textiles and Tourism we would have perished.I feel bad about it”.
“Coming from India, I totally understand how you feel. Ours too is a great country but it does not have its rightful place in the world thanks to our politicians and corrupt officials. But Yes there is hope and thing seem to be changing for better.”
I tried to offer some consolation.
“It’s different for India. You have a big population and lot of Industry. Portugal is very small, we struggle for our identity now. By God’s grace we have reached the football finals and today is the big match. If Portugal wins at least we can create an impact in the world news. It will really be a moment of glory for my people. This match is like everything to us today”.
I was pleasantly surprised by the sense of national pride and glory in someone who drove a cab for a living.
“I will pray that Portugal wins.” I said.
“Amen. That’s so kind of you” Pedro seemed to be relived and back in his spirits now.
The drive from Cascais to Lisbon was beautiful. The road meandered parallel to the sea on one side and the houses and streets on the other. The similarity to Goan architecture was striking in many of the buildings. Lisbon was full of tourists and looking at them Pedro suggested:
“Sir, I think you must come to Lisbon next time with your family”
“Yes, even I was thinking about it. There are so many people here and they seem to be having a good time”
“Actually, Lisbon is much cheaper than other European destinations and one could enjoy a lot for less money. It’s a different thing that we Portuguese revel in sadness” Pedro said rather thoughtfully.
“How do you mean? Revel in sadness?”
“It’s kind of difficult to understand for outsiders. We actually have a word for this joyful sadness. It’s called Saudade. No other language has a word quite like this so I can’t even translate it for you.”
“I know what you mean. In Goa they have a word similar to this. It’s called Susagade and means chill out. You guys have a way of coming up with unique words” I said smiling.
“Saudade is a longing, an ache for a person or place or experience that once brought great pleasure. It is akin to nostalgia but, unlike nostalgia, one can feel saudade for something that’s never happened, and likely never will. At the heart of saudade lies a laid back sense of absence, of loss.I think our country has become a good example for it.” Pedro mocked.
As we entered the city our first stop was The Belem Tower. Pedro told me that it was built in 1500 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland. It is a monument to Portugal’s age of adventure. Pedro was very considerate and dropped me at a point where I have to walk the least. What surprised me was that as soon as he parked the card he jumped out of it and came back to open the door for me. This was something totally unexpected. I was reminded of the Taxi drivers of New York and the cabbies of London who would throw you out if you wasted a minute! I got down and spent some time looking at the monument imagining the ships sailing out, the sailors praying to Our Lady of safe home coming and that how a sailor would have felt going out into the unknown some 500 years ago. I took off my shoes and let the Ocean wash my feet. I had a strange feeling that the same water stretched out to Calicut where D Gama and his crew landed . There were some small shops selling knick knacks. Among them was an old lady selling mulled wine in cups. I bought one and sipped it on my way back to the car. By this time Pedro had already parked at a different spot so it was easy for us to get out of the place. We didn’t have much time and this little gesture saved us a few precious minutes.
“So what next Mr. Pedro?”
“We will now go to Jeronimos Monastery. It is a symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the age of Discovery.Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. Vasco da Gama’s tomb is placed inside by the entrance, as is the tomb of poet Luis de Camões, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he glorifies the triumphs of Da Gama and his compatriots. I think you will really like it.”
Pedro drove quickly but with precision as if he knew the angle of each bend of the road, even the pace of traffic as it approached us. He was deftly quick but unhurried. Pedro had told me that he has been driving on Lisbon streets for past 20 years. I could see that in his driving.
The monastery was really quite impressive. After seeing the tomb of Vasco D Gama I took a short tour of the place to get a glimpse of its superb architecture.
The cloisters were magnificent, each column minutely carved with coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs bringing the spirit of sea adventures to life. There was also the entrance to the former refectory that had beautifully reticulated vaulting and tile decoration on the walls depicting the story of Joseph. The church interior was spread out with octagonal piers richly decorated with statuettes,outside was a garden consisting of hedges cut in the shape of various municipal coats of arms of Portugal.
I had taken enough pictures to boast of my audience with the great Vasco Da Gama who changed the history of the world through his spirit of adventure. I came out and could not see Pedro. The parking space was a bit far so I had taken Pedro’s phone number. As the phone began to ring I saw Pedro approaching and waiving his hand so I could spot him. Once again he stopped and jumped out of car to open the door for me. I told him it was absolutely not required. He said it was his duty to make sure his guest is comfortable. I knew He was not going to give up easily.
“Are you hungry Sir. We have the famous pastry shop Pastéis de Belém close by. It is not to be missed when you are in Lisbon”. Pedro asked me.
With all the walking around I had built up an appetite and we decided to make Pastéis de Belém our next stop. It was a typical pastry shop in the city center. I was intimidated by the que in front of it but Pedro who had walked after me sensed my apprehension. “It won’t take long. They are very fast. Most people go for their famous egg Tarts and coffee for the take away. The seating place is inside where they spend more time and even the service is a bit leisurely.”
He was right. Our turn came in not more than five minutes. The que was well organized and was being served by several counters inside the shop. The counter clerks as well as the customers knew exactly what they weredoing and everything moved with clock-work precision. I bought two servings of egg tart and coffee, one for me and one for Pedro. We took our packets of food in one hand and coffee in the other and walked back towards the parking lot. The tarts were Oven fresh and made a great combination with coffee. I checked with Pedro about his family and told him about mine. We chit chatted about how different yet similar it is to grow up in Bangalore and Lisbon. The more I talked with Pedro the more I appreciated his knowledge of various subjects, his clarity of thought and his polite manner of putting his view point across. When we saw the statue of General Albuquerque, for example, at the Central Square, Pedro was quick to add after his description of the great conqueror that coming from India I may have a different view. Had he not been forced to discontinue his education he would have made a great teacher. Life had dealt him a bad hand and here he was trying to make the best of it.
We were ready to go once more and Pedro informed me that he will now take me to the Alfama neighborhood which represented the oldest part of Lisbon. We will be driving through to the highest point in the city and would start heading towards the airport on our way down.
“Pedro I need to buy a football jersey for my son. He is a big fan of Ronaldinho and will be supporting your team today”
“Really Sir ! I thought that France was the favorite team.”
“No he is supporting Portugal as I am travelling to Lisbon. He supports Manchester United otherwise.”
“Isn’t it amazing how sports unites and also divides us at the same time?”
“Ha ha you should have been a philosopher too. But I think sports unites us more than it divides us because one sports man knows how hard he has to work to reach the top. He respects his opponent and knows that either of them could win. Can we say the same thing for politics?”
“Just before we enter Alfama there is a showroom of Adidas. We can stop there and buy the jersey.”
“No I don’t want to spend a fortune. My champ won’t bother about them once the world cup is over.”
“Ok then I know where we will get a copy. Do you know I was born here?”.
“Oh that’s great. Let’s start our age of discovery then”
The Alfama neighbourhood was quite a step back in time. A village within a city, it comprised narrow streets, tiny squares, churches, and whitewashed houses with tile panels and wrought-iron balconies adorned with pots of flowers, drying laundry, and caged birds. Pedro drove through the zig zag alley ways like a true local. I imagined him playing in these streets as a kid, hanging out with his friends as a teenager, cycling up and down the slopes with little care in the world. Pedro took me to the shop which was on the way but tucked away a little in one of the narrow alleys. He said it belonged to his childhood friend. The shop had a variety of T shirts in all shapes and sizes. They were also selling ceramic wares along with some other curios, gifts and keepsakes. The shopkeeper was very polite and gave me a good discount on the shelf price. Having got the jersey We drove up to the highest point in the city. But time when the car stopped I jumped out and pretended to open the door for Pedro. He laughed and said “I like doing that. It’s my duty” I said “No its not. And even if you think it is I am not used to such majestic treatment. Just like you I am a working man who deserves no special treatment” Pedro smiled back at me and we started walking up to the view point. There were a number of tourists but the place was not crowded. There was enough place for us to stand and have an uninterrupted view of Lisbon city. The red roofed building many of them with painted domes looked magical in the setting Sun. At a distant I could see the ships sailing by in the Ocean and the Tagus river. It was quite windy and a TV crew was struggling to set up their shot. It was amusing to see how they moved their equipment from one spot to the other to avoid the gust. I asked Pedro to click a few pictures of me. He turned out to be a great photographer and I had several perfect shots of myself with Lisbon in the background. I asked Pedro for a picture together to which he readily obliged. We stood behind the iron grill with padlocks for some time just absorbing the serenity of the moment. There is something about the time when the sun is just about to come up and when it is just about to go down – time just seems to stop as night hands over the baton of creation to day and vice versa. It is in this change that the message of infinite continuity hides somewhere. We can hear the hum of life clearly at these times only if we are still enough in our actions, in our thoughts.
The ride to the airport was uneventful .Lisbon is a small airport and there was not much traffic on the way. Pedro was his usual courteous self and put my bag on the trolley so I can carry it without a hassle. I told him how thoroughly I had enjoyed his company and that I will always remember him when I think of this trip to Portugal. I tried to thank Pedro with a small tip but he refused saying that I was more of a friend than a customer. I couldn’t agree more and we bid farewell.
I arrived in Bangalore a little after midnight. As I pulled my bag out of the lift I heard a loud roar coming from my apartment. I was greeted by a band of boys dressed in French and Portugal T shirts. The French had just missed scoring a goal and the Portuguese supporters were ecstatic. The atmosphere in the living room was electrifying and resembled a stadium. However, I was too tired to enjoy the game and went to sleep.
I woke up next morning and life started as usual. I had to catch up on a few things, make a phone call to my parents, update my colleagues about the meeting, stack up groceries and so on. My son was still sleeping. Around noon when he finally woke up he came to me and asked
“Dad did you get my Ronaldinho Jersey?”
“Yes I did and you will be glad to know that it’s the latest design. The picture you sent me was from last year. What I have for you is the latest and the greatest. By the way who won the match – France or Portugal?” I asked.
“Portugal won the world cup by 1-0 and it was so awesome. Imagine I will wear this Ronaldinho Jersey coming straight from Portugal. I will certainly score many goals in the evening game today” His imagination was running wild.
I was reminded of Pedro and how both of us had prayed for Portugal’s win just yesterday. I checked my phone if I still had his number. It was there in the last dialed list and instinctively I pressed the call button. After a few rings a voice answered at the other end – “Hello”
I knew it was Pedro. “Hi, it’s me calling from India. Portugal won!!”
I will have to become a writer to describe the happiness in Pedro’s voice.
“Oh my dear Lord. You remembered me. I am sure it’s your prayers which have been answered. I can’t tell you how happy I am. Thank you so much”
“I wanted to share your joy. I knew how important it was for you and I did sincerely pray that this happens. I am so happy for you and your people”.
I kept the phone down and pondered for a while. Whenever I think of Portugal or football or Vasco D Gama or buying a fake football Jersey Pedro will get exhumed just like Da Gama who was originally buried at Fort Kochi.

The Veggie Seller..

Paris is an old city and when you are in the city center everything has a sense of nostalgia. My hotel too was an old building facing an open park like area called Square d’ Anvers. It had a circular staircase made of wood that made a creaking noise with every step and the rooms were so small that they ended as soon as they started. The funniest thing was the shower enclosure in which a large guy like me had to enter in the state of ‘attention’ make a swirl without spreading my arms and pretend to come out refreshed. Then there was this awkward thing about how the French write and Pronounce so differently so I had to try every version of Square D Anvers with the Taxi Drivers to come back to my hotel! Surprisingly it seemed all of them had their own way of saying it and finally I Had to say ‘whatever’ just take me there.

 

I had been in the city for a week now and was looking forward to the first weekend having slept late as we usually always did. It was a bright Saturday morning and I was lazily lying around in my room. The weather was nice which meant you could open the classic door sized french windows without getting Frozen. When I looked outside I could see a hum drum of activity. There were lots of Vans parked outside on the road and men were busy setting up temporary stalls on the pavement of the park. It was quite similar to what we had back home as in Wednesday Bazaar Flea markets. The only difference was that it was much better organized and professional.

While the stalls were being given the final touch, the vans started unloading their content and setting their house in order so they can occupy the stalls as soon as they were ready. What was interesting to note that while there was so much activity there was no noise or confusion and everyone seemed to be in a relaxed and happy mood. I guessed it was perhaps a regular feature so all of them knew exactly what they were doing or they had to do.

 

My curiosity grew as more and more vans downloaded their merchandise. It was amazing to see the sheer variety of goods – Bakery, vegetables, meat and Poultry, knick knacks, Herbs and spices, Dry fruits, accessories, Plants, Cut Flowers, Decorative stuff, painting replicas and so on. However, loosely the whole pavement was divided into two parts – one for Fresh produce, bakery and meat which was perhaps the largest, then for Herbs, Plants, flowers and few stalls at the end were setting up for decor and Accessories.

 

By this time I had started to feel a bit hungry and realized that the On the House in house breakfast served by the hotel would get over in another half an hour or so. I took a quick shower, changed my clothes and feasted myself of freshly baked croissants, fruit bread, Cheese cake and Coffee. It was the same stuff everyday but the good thing was that it was fresh! After the breakfast, I came back to my room and started doing the usual stuff to kill time – check emails, facebook updates and so on. By this time, it had become quite sunny and warm so I shifted my chair alongside the large window to enjoy the warmth. I noticed that the stall right in front of my window was getting ready too. There was a van parked next to the stall and they were unloading crates filled with fresh vegetables pumpkins, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes and lots of leafy greens the names of which I had no clue about. Just then I noticed something unusual, the girl setting up the stall was not somebody you would identify with being a vegetable seller !  With her looks she was more suited to be a model donning haute couture than to be selling veggies on the street side.

 

I was in this semi thoughtful mood when someone knocked on the door. I was waiting for a friend who worked with me and we had planned to complete some pending stuff from work plus have lunch together at the Indian restaurant. Sunil walked in with his usually cheerful smile all excited about the day ahead. Soon we opened out our laptops and started discussing about what all we had to accomplish. But with all the activity just across the window it was kind of difficult to concentrate. Somehow we worked for an hour or so before we decided that it was time for Lunch.  The restaurant Au Palais Du Grand Moghol is conveniently located around the corner and because of the customized service it offered to us regulars it had practically become more of a ‘mess’ than a restaurant. The owner Mr. Gafur, a friendly old man always offered either a starter or a dessert on the house and even made stuff that was out of the menu – I mean who could boast of having Lauki ka kofta curry and besan baadam halwa in a faraway land.

 

After the heavy lunch, to avoid sleep we planned for a stroll and the best thing was to explore the flea market. We started from one corner which had the clothes and trinket stalls. It was interesting to note that a couple of stalls which were selling Euro 2 clothing had the maximum crowd – all of them women! They were all shapes, sizes, age, economic class and all of them had a Single focus, how to get hold of the best as quickly as possible from the heap which looked no less than a treasure island, at least to them. I realized that when it comes to women – SALE was the biggest leveler whether you were in the city of joy or the city of fashion. Moving on there were stalls selling fresh Bakery stuff croissants, baguette breads, Pastries, muffins, tarts, pies and Bagels. Let me tell you that there is nothing better than freshly baked French goodies especially if one has a sweet tooth! At street smart prices we certainly had more than what we should have all in the garb of just tasting. Before ending our stroll we thought it might be a good idea to check out the vegetable stall and of course the seller ! I was curious to see Sunil’s reaction to the shop owner and just as I had thought he shared my surprise and excitement. Just as girls and women have a sixth sense that tells them ‘the look’ is not right, men and boys too have a common language that allows them to sniff something that is of common interest. We casually enquired the girl about some vegetable prices and so as not to arise suspicion bought a box of plums. Who would eat all that fruit we had no idea. We were particularly amazed by the confidence with the way she transacted with a cigarette in hand, the smoke from the cigarette puffs giving her an air of confidence and authority. I think it had more to do with our conditioning about women smoking in public than anything else. It seemed everyone in Paris smoked so it wasn’t really anything special.

 

We came back to our room and started discussing how life was so different here vs. back home In India. With the drudgery of having to work on a weekend the conversation soon drifted to working for a corporate vs. working for your own self. To put things into perspective Sunil pointed out to the vegetable seller we had just encountered. According to him She probably grew the vegetables in a farm outside Paris or bought them from an upcountry farmers Market, drove her own little truck, setup her own stall, decided the prices of the produce, transacted business at her time and finally went home satisfied after a day’s hard work. Her business could be small but at the end of the day she was her own boss…and she was doing what she loved or wanted to do. I argued that though it sounded quite romantic it involved a lot of hard work and thinking, even creativity. This further led to the conversation about how a typical day would be for her. We agreed that it was a lot of hard sowing growing and harvesting or even buying out wholesale at different markets and consolidating to make up the wide variety of product mix she offered. She would have to wake up quite early and by the time she reached home it would be late in the evening. But then the idyllic country life was any day more rewarding and healthy than the maddening city (which I didn’t quite agree as we were talking about Paris). Our debate had turned into a discussion and the discussion had finally yielded to a unanimous understanding that It is best to work for your own self and there is nothing like being your own boss. The grass being always greener on the other side notwithstanding. Make the debate a conversation.

 

It was evening time and the buildings around us had transformed into something magical in the soft and warm light of the setting sun. When you see all the carvings and beautiful architecture with statuettes of Cherubs adorning he corners of edifices it seems as if they were conjured up for this very moment. We had made some tea and we hanged on our balcony stretching out of the French Window admiring the lovely Paris evening. The pavement market had started to wrap up as it was going to be 5 o clock soon. France has socialist leanings and it is quite evident in the way they work. Though the work timings are strictly followed in most of the developed world especially in Europe the French have taken it to another level which is great because as Indians we are scoffed at for our 24×7 strife. We are the only ones who promise on a Friday evening to have all deliverables ready first thing Monday evening. The fact that Indians work on weekends and sleep only 4 hours on weekdays is now an accepted concept across the global business world. Anyways let’s move on…

 

I pointed out to Sunil how well organized were the stall owners, everything seemed to have a place and fitted into each other to get perfectly into the small truck. They also had separate cold compartment for meat and perishables. Our veggie seller had also finished Packing up and lighted up a cigarette as she leaned against the back of her truck. Once again Sunil commented about the glow of contentment and satisfaction on her face. I laughed at him saying you can cut the philosophical crap….it’s OK if you just want to look at her. I went inside the room to keep the cups and was arranging the workspace to finish off the job at hand. Just then Sunil called me out to the window. What we saw was surprising, interesting, saddening, laughable …..all at the same time !

 

A black Renault Fluence Concept had pulled up below our window and the enterprising veggie seller was talking to the fat middle aged lady occupant of the car. It looked like she was explaining something to her. Once the brief conversation was over she took out a bundle of currency and handed it over to woman. The women counted the money and gave back a 100 Euros which was clearly the ‘pay’ for all the enterprising, self-gratifying hard work we had been debating about.

 

We looked at each other and what best explained our smiles is a German term called Shadenfreude – the pleasure one feels by seeing others failure or misfortune.

In our case it possibly meant we were not the only ones!

शाश्वत के संदर्भ में…

एक रोज़

मुझे साफ साफ याद है

शाम थी, दूर का सफर था

और मै चाय के लिये

उतर गया था एक गांव के पास

एक बूढा किसान

पास के खेत में बैठा

ना जाने शितिज के पार

क्या देख रहा  था

उसके चेहरे पर कोई

भाव नहीं था और ना थे

उसके मन मे दुख सुख

लोभ,मोह,चिंता …….

कहने को तो उसके पास

कोई काम नहीं था

पर  वो इस तरह

अनंत को ताड रहा था

जैसे ये भी कोई काम हो

मेरी चाय खत्म हो गयी

और मैं  चलने लगा

तो हमारे नज़रें मिलीं

और वो मुस्कुरा दिया

जैसे कह रहा हो कि

वो वक़्त को बिता रहा था

जैसे वो चाहता था

और वक़्त मुझ पर बीत रहा था

जैसे वक़्त की मर्ज़ी थी

कर्म मे बंधन है

क्योंकि अच्छा हो या बुरा

कर्म अहं को आग देता है

वक़्त को जीत लिया था

उस बूढे सम्राट ने

जो अब घर जा रहा था कि

कल फिर नये उत्साह, नयी उमंग से

दिन भर  कुछ भी ना करे

बस घूरता  रहे  वक्त को

अनंत काल तक….

‍‍~ आहंग

शतरंज

तब मैं जानबूझकर हार जाया करता था

अब चाह कर भी जीत नहीं पाता हूँ तुमसे

पता नहीं कौन सी चाल पर

देखते ही देखते मैं मात खा जाऊँ

ये डर तो लगता है ज़रूर

पर मैं ख़ुश हूँ कि तुम खेलना सीख गये….

आहंग

www.mynesthome.com – online retail venture of my better half :-)

home-sweet-home1

 

Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
a dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
~Robert Montgomery

What is a home? A home is a space within four walls which has many connotations like an abode, a haven, a dwelling, a safe and secure cocoon and also a sound financial investment. There is nothing in the world as sweet as a home”. ‘East or West, home is the best’ as the saying goes. Home is the symbol of human togetherness- a place where all of us learn the first steps of life. For most people the very thought of home brings fond memories, nostalgic feeling and a gamut of emotions. Some say, “Home is not a place but a feeling”. For some ,” home is where the heart is “, while for some others it’s a place where you can relax and have a cup of coffee with Pablo Neruda and his verses for company.

A post on our facebook page www.facebook.com/mynesthome declares “ A home encourages day dreaming, protects the dreamer and allows one to dream in peace…..my home, my nest my dream machine !”

Another quote on the”mynesthome” Facebook page said, “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

As famous poet Payne has opined,

 Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

While many people come back to their homes as a matter of habit and do not expect anything more than the comfort of home –cooked food and a soft pillow bed to rest their aches away, it is not unfair to say that a well- kept and stylish home is an unfulfilled dream for many of us. A large percentage of us would jump at the opportunity to add color and style to our homes at a reasonable budget without getting stuck in traffic jams or stepping in and out of shops spanning the length and breadth of the city!

A home is where your creativity can take wings and what better advisor and friend than www.mynesthome.com – the Ultimate Destination for all your home and Living needs. Whether you want to brighten up a dull nook of your house or revamp a whole room, you can do it at the click of a button.Our website offers a vista of products ranging from velvety kaleidoscopic cushions to balcony swings and other outdoor furniture to sturdy and stylish indoor furniture to kids furniture to kitchen essentials to bathroom towels and other styling accessories under one roof. Atwww.mynesthome.com you can shop for your needs while taking part in exciting quiz contests and writing witty captions on the Facebook page. People already love the site and have given feedback like” never seen such a good collection”. Says Neeraj Agarwal,”Seems like a nice collection they have…great shopping destination…” Vidushi Gupta says,” This will definitely be the best online shopping portal for our home. I’m dam sure… waiting 4 d same…”

The grand launch of the portal is being anticipated with bated breaths and eager fingers. Just as it is true that a home is not something that is made only of bricks and stones, it is also true that certain items in the house add to the warmth factor of the house and make everyone feel welcome and wanted. Household items sometimes substitute for or take on the role of family members. For e.g.: A child resting his head on a soft feather pillow listening to a bedtime story and mummy’s finger’s stroking his hair is assured of a good night’s sleep and wonderful sweet dreams .Similarly, your wife’s specialty cheese cake or gajar ka halwa will look even more tantalizing if it is served in a colorful Dessert plate .  Wouldn’t your morning cuppa energize you more if you had it on your balcony swing? At http://www.mynesthome .com what you want is what you see and what you see is what you get! So watch out for a grand launch to brighten up your New Year .

Log on to www.mynesthome.com and serenade into the world of home décor and living.

Swagatam!!

I had the time to stand and stare….

What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare……
While going on a leisure trip with W.H Davies, all of us would have their own versions of what this idyllic place may just be like.Fortunately for me I found one such place – the Honeypot Bread and Breakfast,  in the charming little village of Husbands Bosworth in England’s Leicester County.
I had work at Lutterworth for about 2 weeks and while looking for stay options I came across this Bread and Breakfast place that was just something I was looking for.  All of us do mean to spend sometime in the famed English countryside at some point in life having read about it right through our childhoods. And I thought that this was a perfect opportunity as usually my travels take me only to large cities.
The weekdays were a little hectic and there’s no point boring you with shop talk, so I would like to take you through a leisurely weekend that I spent exploring all the little things that makes this place so special.
Morning 8:00 AM
You have heard of the famous English breakfast. Haven’t you ???
The break fast was a choice of hot and cold with Cereals, Fresh cut fruit as in Kiwis, Pineapples, Melons, Strawberries and even Mango if you were lucky. You could choose from a variety of fresh juices in case you were uncultured enough to say no to the Queen’s favourite drink – tea. 
I am quite a standard , cut and dry kind of chappie when it comes to food so it was butter and toast with hashbrowns most of the time for me but one could surely experiment with egss in all shapes and form – Ommlettes, Poached Egss, Half Fried, Hard boiled, Scrambled and even something called Egg Benedict. Probably there are more ways to cook the egg but I registered just these few. You could surely check with the lady of the house and I know you will get the version you want….
By the way did I tell you that the Breakfast table is laid out overlooking the vast Welland grasslands and rolling hills as far as your eyes can see. Sounds Inspiring. Isn’t it ? 
Aha ….and how can I miss the Honey pot. I am sure the house has one of the largest collection of these.
10:00 AM
After this treat of a kings break fast I wanted to relax a bit and a wonderful collection of books in the library was just what I needed. I picked up a book of poems by RL Stevenson and was pleasantly surprised to note that it was gifted by someone to the Houselady’s father in the year 1924!
Sunshine and fresh air with a playful chirping of birds set the mood as I lay on my bed browsing through some exquisite pieces of poetry. Well,  to be honest the fresh breeze had a bit of a smell from the nearby cowshed of the farmer next door….but I guess it just added to the authenticity of my ‘Village’  experience.
By 11:30 am
My tryst with Mr. Stevenson was over.I decided that to be up and about would probably be more becoming of me  than to waste a bright and sunny morning lazying around within the four walls of my room. Although the warm and cozy bed did tempt me to quit my industrious thoughts. Actually a Quote from the book I was reading motivated me :
It is the season now to go, about the country high and low
Among the Lilacs hand in hand , and two by two in fairyland….
So here I was all ready to explore the countryside at Husband’s Bosworth.
To give a little history of the village,its a settlement that dates back to 409 AD but the oldest living building in the community had its tower built around the year 1300 AD. I was curious about the word Husbands prefixed to the name and checked with the locals to know if there was a Wife’s Bosworth as well. To my amusement I was told that the word Husband comes from the word husbandry as most people in the village raised farm animals like cows,sheep and horses. Carolyn,the lady of the house proudly told us that all her dairy,Meat and Poultry needs were met locally within the village as Husbandry is still quite popular with the village folks.
There were a lot of places for sightseeing mentioned on the village website.http://www.husbandsbosworth.info  which were nearby but I settled for just a walk around  and a visit to the Grand Union Canal. 
The canal did not have much water at this time of the Year but the folks I was staying with shared some interesting instances about their picnic with the kids on the Canal.It was a pleasure to imagine a boat parked out in the front yard where our car was and the whole Goffe family getting ready for a day out on the canal maneuvering all the twists and turns, even the locks at the gates !
On my way back from the canal I saw the waterworks and had to step back and forth to avoid the farmers trucks carrying all kind of stuff to and fro from their farms.Once in the village I thought of exploring the two mainstays of any English village – The church and the Pub. It is my strong belief that the whole world exists between the gates of the Masjid and the Maiqada( Tavern). You are closest to your own reality when you have lost yourself – Peg or Prayer is just something you choose per your state of mind.
The village church was a beautiful building and resembled most churches in England although I fell in love with the Daffodils. While learning the classic form Wordsworth in my school days I had never imagined that I will be looking at a host of them in the English countryside. It is rather amazing how we can shape the consciousness of each other in different epochs of time ; Wodsworth would have also never imagined that his poem would have such an effect on a native Indian of all the souls!
I loitered around aimlessnessly for another couple of hours checking the Inventory at the local post office that doubled up as a convenience store, watching the sheep Graze on the endless rolling hills and waving at the numerous gliders from the nearby flying school. 
I came back at about 1 PM to grab lunch which was nothing great so I will skip the details. With my tummy full dozing off for an afternoon siesta was just the thing to do. I read a few more poems from Stevenson’s book and slept like a baby….although I am sure that baby’s don’t snore as much as I do !
When I woke up it was 5 PM and it was perfect time for a cup of tea. Carolyn an expert home maker had this wonderful selection of teas which was kept in each room ; you could choose from the regular English Breakfast to a mint flavored one to ease your sinuses to a more relaxing version of Chamomile Tea. The butter scotch cookies went just so well with any of them although my personal favorite was the freshly baked cakes that were always kept in the foyer. You could take as many helping as you want ! I sincerely believe that I probably ate half of it myself during the day even though it was meant to be shared with all the guests. Wasn’t really my fault you see – I have a sweet tooth and the cake was just so Yum and full of chocolate.
Refreshed I knew that it was time to hit the Pub. I had read on the notice board that they were having a Quiz there in the evening and the Rajpedia in me was just raring to race against the local Englishmen or women 😉 They had a great selection of draught beer at the Pub but I felt like indulging in some French Wine that would go well with the melted Cheese Pasta I was planning to feast my self on. By the time the Quiz started I had had half a bottle and was in no mood to pick my brains , not that much was left in there anyways. With me were few of my friends and we laughed and talked ( read shouted) about the usual office stuff. 
I don’t smoke much ( tobacco I mean) but with all the grape juice flowing though my veins I figured it was a damn good idea to indulge in this one last sin before hitting the bed once more .So we stood out there outside the B and B taking long drags to beat the punishing cold. I don’t know if any of you have smoked a full cigarette in -20 degrees temperature , I have once and it is just an out of the world feeling , I mean it feels like any moment you would go out of this world :-).This was much better than that…
I came back to my room and thought before go into a deep slumber once again it would be nice to see my kiddos on the Skype ( Wi Fi is free and the connection is good). My son Anant insisted that I tell him a story as this is my duty when I am at home. I did not have to go very far for getting inspiration and quickly weaved a tale of love and honour having Andy and Dora  , the donkeys as the main characters(Andy and Dora were the pets of the house and I had met up with them during the day)
Thankfully the story was so boring that more than my kids I started feeling sleepy so I quickly wrapped up the climax by saying that in the end Andy the Donkey met the She donkey of his dreams and both of them did the stupid dance forever !
Now, those of you who are beginning to think that what a great life the consultants have, I must tell you that you are absolutely wrong. Its only once in a while do we get to enjoy the day as stated above, its actually much better most of the times….. 🙂
So don’t just feel jealous.Choose to move to pastures greener …….

LSD – looking at life with a 25 X zoom…

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience ……

The term LSD(Lysergic Acid Dyethylamide) or Acid as it is popularly known has come back into debate since Steve Jobs claimed in his autobiography that taking LSD was one of the most profound experiences of his life. This is not the first time that creative people or those who have changed the world around us have used Psychedelics as a means of expanding their consciousness. Google founders Sergey Berin and Larry page visited ‘The burning Man’ festival before they founded Google as a company. The decision to hire Eric Schmidt was also influenced by the fact that he had been to the ‘burning man’ while others had not. Whether any of them used psychedelics while at the burning man is not documented. We all know the penchant of artists and musicians for psychotropic substances so I will just take it for granted.

While the name LSD instils wonder and mystery may be even fear in most of us in India it has been used for over 40 years in the west as a street drug for so called ‘trips’ and even for exploring its various medical uses. It seems that the scientists are all for it but the governments across the world stand on the opposite side of the fence.The inventor of LSD Albert Hoffman argued that his invention if used improperly could make one go crazy but it used correctly it has the power to make us what we are supposed to be. The fact that he died a perfectly healthy man at the ripe old age of 102 testifies the claim the physical side effects of LSD use are negligible. A year before his death in 2008 Hoffamn had reached out to Steve for funding of his research.While nothing concrete came out of the half hour chat Steve summed up saying ‘ Lets just put it in the tap water and get everybody turned on’.

There are several documentaries on You tube that you can browse to know more about the subject. I am embedding one from the National Geographic channel in case you don’t want to waste your time.

Now that brings me to the larger question that if such a potent means of experiencing your self, dissolving the ego and raising your level of awareness/consciousness exists why put so much time and effort to get realized as per Hindu or Buddhist philosophy. The answer comes in the form of an anecdote shared by Ram Dass ( born Richard Alpert and raised to be Harvard professor of sociology who inspired Steve to visit India as a backpacker in the early 1970’s)  in which he says that one day his Guru Baba Neem Karori told him that he wanted to have LSD. While Ram Dass was surprised he knew that there is no point in trying to hide anything from his Guru who knew everything about everything. He got his bag of pills and wanted to offer just one thinking that it would be enough for the old man. Baba on the other hand selected several of them and popped them into his mouth.To his great surprise nothing seemed to happen to his Guru who just kept looking at him in a a very transparent way as if saying – It is all within you !

Now this is easier said than done to the point of being cliched. You see a guru on one of the religious channels giving gyan and you think to yourself – Oh Yeah, really. We are conditioned to believe stuff that we can see and experience ourselves not something which is surrogate and second hand.It’s like someone trying to tell you that the chocolate was just sooooo good but you want to know how good and the other person can’t really explain it to you. Now in the case of a chocolate you have the freedom to break the bar and take a piece to share the experience but what about self realization ? You don’t even know what it is supposed to be and even more whether the Guru telling you about it has experienced anything by themselves. That’s when faith becomes blind or you start drifting apart into the so called material world which is at least real and genuine to your five senses.

Trying to delve deeper into the subject I have tried to understand the phenomenon of the ‘trip’ and what it does to us I have come to an understanding that the LSD probably helps us to break down the barriers hat we have built around around our mind and spirit. Our sense of being emerges in a self image that results in an ego or what we think we are while in reality this is just a hoax created by our conditioning and orientation, even a sense of insecurity to hold on to what I love to call the gathered past.As soon as the magic molecule fits in the right place in the cortex our ego starts to melt and with it goes away our self image and sense of being. We start to have ‘ a beginners mind’ as per the Zen philosophy ready to look at the world around us in a new light, in a fresh way. Creativity becomes the obvious by product of this process. We are like the child who experienced the world for the very first time. To put it into perspective how magical it is when you fall in love for the first time, how sensuous to make love for the first time, how wonderful to be with friends and discover but then you get into the ‘loop’ mode and the experiences cease to have the novelty they did before boring your mind and making life mechanical and uninteresting. Again as you grow bad experiences such as death, disease and decay stare you in the face and cause another kind of conditioning that aims to block your reaction to these as far as possible. You continuously struggle to break free but you don’t know how and even from what ?? LSD and other such stuff helps you to become a child again roaming about in the wonderland of new experiences,breaking down the barriers of conditioning that does not allow you to see things as Aldous Huxley says ‘They Are’.

LSD does not actually alter the reality it just makes it more ‘real’ by enhancing our brains capacity to process sensory information. In a state of expanded consciousness you tend to see things as they happen not depending upon your data bank of past knowledge supporting the vision by assuming what would have happened.

Now you must be thinking about the obvious question – what about me ? Well I will let the fact that whether I have had LSD or not remain a mystery in your mind I will tell you that I do know the ‘high’ that lets the red become really red and when the flower looks more beautiful than it used to. The pupils get dilated and you get goose bumps for nothing. You are just plain amused and the happiness stems from nothing but just pure existence.

I have looked at life with a 25 X zoom ….. and there is no other way but my method and my tools are different. I am convinced that my orange bus might be slow and needs more maintainance but the destination its going to take me will be real and final.

Meanwhile I am just enjoying the ‘trip’ …….

अजनबी (strangers)

तब ये समा था कि क्या मैं बात करूं तुमसे,

अब ये आलम है कि क्या मैं तुमसे करूं बात ?

I thought then that I should talk to you.But what ?

Now I think that what should I talk to you ? If at all…

~aahang

 

Time Pass

It was a lazy sunday morning and I was a bit free from the daily routine of the week days.My son Anant who had taken his own sweet time to get up was now lounging on the bean bag playing with his Nintendo DS. In a casual tone I admonished him ” your exams are starting monday and here you are wasting time.” Without bothering to turn back he replied” I am not wasting time I am doing time pass”  I said “what do you mean?” He said ” Papa if I am not doing anything then I am wasting time but if I am playing then I am doing time pass”

I thought to myself – Anu( my wife) must have been reading Emmanuel Kant when this guy was in the womb. My fatherly instincts took over so I snatched the Video game and asked Anant to leave immediately and be seen with his books.He looked at me as a philosopher will at some ignorant fool but I put up a brave face nonetheless.

The video game was now in my hands so I started fiddling with it. It was a game called plants and Zombies wherein the target was to save the house with the help of plants who had special powers to destroy the Zombies who kept barging in from one end trying to reach the other end unless stopped by the plant. The catch was that all Zombies were not the same and so were the plants.Some were more stronger than the others and some had special characterstics so they could b destroyed only with the special features that only some of the plants had. I thought I will give it a try…..

After playing for about half an hour I realized that the game was not as simple as it seemed to be. The moment you reached to the next higher level the frequency and speed of the Zombies increased making it almost impossible for at least someone like me to check their misadventure. I could barely reach the level 2 but was quite pleased with my performance until I exited the game to see that the top performers led by Anant Kumar were all at least above the Level 5, a feat I could perhaps never achieve!!

I put the game aside and started thinking about the original quote by the Guru (Anant). Perhaps the not so obvious meaning in his morning discourse had to be decoded to understand the true depth of the statement. The difference between wasting time and passing time solicited closer scrutiny. Wasting time as per Anant was when you are doing absolutely nothing and passing time was when you were doing something which had no material value but was done solely for the purpose of self gratification  or you may even say for the sole purpose of Soul entertainment. Now here’s where the catch lay….my education in Vedanta and subsequent studies on meditative techniques defined meditation as the state of ‘nothingness’ or ‘Shunyta’ where the mind is absolutely free from any agitations – a thoughtless, speechless, non sensory condition in which you felt one with the silence and nothingness of the universe to realize that you are the part of the same whole and therefore limitless and free.

But on the contrary when you look at the interplay of the Jeev and the Atman as prescribed in the same Vedantic texts the Jeev is supposed to have been separated from the Atman and due to its ignorance cannot realize its true nature which is sat chit anand i.e all pervading,all knowing and ever blissful. The creation of the world for Gods happiness or playfulness is also explained  with the help of above phenomenon. It is said that the God created the whole Universe and everything within it for his own happiness as there is nothing else which could have forced him upon this endeavour , after all he doesn’t have annual appraisals !

So if we look at God creating the entire Universe and everything in it for the sole purpose of soul entertainment which is nothing but time pass then Anant’s time pass theory is well justified.  But if we consider man’s not doing anything an act of meditation leading to self realization then there is probably more value in wasting time than in passing time.

Now if I take the same argument to Anant I know what his answer would be – do you consider God to be superior or Man to be superior. I would say God Of course ! and he will therefore win the argument saying that since he was indulging in a ‘godly act’ of time pass and I had committed a serious error of judgement by breaking his concentration. To which my only humanly response could be that wasting time which qualifies as meditation is the right thing to do for us Jeev’s to meet with the Atman but then Anant might lose the argument but stop doing anything.

The above put me to a larger question of human existence – if we do something for the purpose of pleasing the spirit do we come closer to being God or if we strive towards non action in thought and deed do justify the purpose of our being.

Whatever might be the answer I don’t see the place for work in any of the two positions. And I think this is one thing that Anant will completely agree with me…..

 

 

तब देख बहारें होली की…..

जब फागुन रंग झमकते हों, तब देख बहारें होली की
और दफ के शोर खडकते हों,तब देख बहारें होली की

परियों के रंग दमकते हों, तब देख बहारें होली की
खम शीशे जाम छलकते हों ,तब देख बहारें होली की

महबूब नशे में छकते हों, तब देख बहारें होली की
सीनों से रंग ढलकते हों ,तब देख बहारें होली की

दिल में अहसास महकते हो, तब देख बहारे होली की
पकवान बहुत से पकते हों ,तब देख बहारें होली की…..

होली मुबारक !! खूब मज़े कीजिये…..

The beautiful composition above is from Nazeer Akbarabadi and the last 2 lines have been added by yours truly as my contribution to the spirit of holi.

कैसे केह दूं मेरी हमदम….

तुम मेरी आदत हो, तुम मेरा हिस्सा हो

मेरी बेमज़ा जिंदगी का दिलचस्प किस्सा हो

कैसे केह दूं मेरी  हमदम

कि मुझे प्यार नहीं है तुमसे

बहुत से सच और कुछ झूठ कहे हैं मैने

तुम्हारे साथ से दूर सर्द मौसम भी सहे हैं मैंने

मगर वो बात जिसे ना लफ्ज़ कभी दिये हैं मैंने

उसे केहना आज मेरे लिये ज़रूरी है

कि बिन तुम्हारे ज़िंदगी मेरी अधूरी है

मैंनें हमेशा और हरदम ही चाहा है तुम्हें

तुमने माना या नहीं, मैंने सराहा है तुम्हें

यूं  ही साथ चलते चलते शाम ए हयात आएगी

अपने बिछडने का पैगाम साथ लाएगी

मैं जानता हूं कि तुम साथ  रहोगी तब तक

मेरे जिस्म में  आखिरी सांस रहेगी जब तक

कैसे कह दूं मेरी हमदम के मुझे

प्यार नहीं है तुमसे…..

– आहंग

 

KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY – True to his own spirit..

I had just wrapped up work and was ready to leave the office early when  my client asked me “So Raj you fly back tommorow.Right ? I don’t think you got a chance to see any of Paris. I am sure you want to at least see the Eiffel Tower before you head back home”

“Well yes I think I can surely use some sight seeing” I said ,all the while packing my stuff quickly into the laptop bag. “You can take your time Raj,Paris  is the city of night. We don’t sleep that early and you will find most places open late into the night.Where are you planning to go?” This was precisely the question I was trying to avoid as I did not want to lie to the client at the beginning of what is termed as a ‘ long lasting relationship’ in consulting parlance.

“Well I am heading for a cemetery and I am afraid it will get closed by the time I reach there.So  I just want to hurry up” I informed with a stoic expression on my face so he doesn’t think what a whacko he had hired. “A cemetery ? the whole world comes to Paris to see the Opera, the museums, the Champs Elysees,the Theatre and you want to go see a cemetery?” I just smiled at him and let it be for I knew it will be difficult for me to explain to him that it was my wish of 15 years to go and place some flowers on the grave of Jim Morrison – rock star, singer, poet, philosopher and an enigma that has touched my life in more ways than one.

The client must have thought that I had some long lost relative of mine buried here in Paris and I would say he was not too far from the truth ! The good thing was that I could leave the place fast.

A friend had advised me to take the metro as Paris traffic could be bad at peak hours but I was not too confident of the signs which were mostly in French so I preferred a cab. As I later realized this was a big mistake .I had managed to explain the cab driver in broken English that Pere Lachaise was a cemetery and therefore it closes by 6 PM so the good guy tried his best to either beat the traffic or to drive as fast when there was a clearer patch but I guess our recklessness was no match to Jim’s. We reached the gates as they were getting closed. In the true fashion of a fan I pleaded with the security explaining that I would be going back to India tomorrow morning possibly never to return and this was my last chance to say Hi to Jim in his resting place but although they were quite polite they did not let me in. The discussion ended when one of the guys who could manage little bit English said ” If I let you see Jim , I have no job” !

Desperate and disappointed I started walking down the path along side the walls of the graveyard. There was a friend with me and even if I was talking to him my thoughts started to wander and the lines ‘they are waiting to take us, into the severed garden’ started playing at the back of my head. I realized how cold and lifeless the evening was and how dead were the people on both sides of the wall separated by an event , a possibility that was so far away and yet so near you could almost reach out and touch it like Jim did. I tried to recall the rest of the lines and then when I had almost given up they came to me like a gush of the wind that blew to me from the silence of the tombstones like a rustle of leaves of a pleasant evening. It made perfect sense as I recited the poetry to myself standing there in the midst of all the crushed bodies in the metro- a jumbled mass of sights,smells and sounds :

They are waiting to take us

into the severed garden
Do you know ?how pale and wanton, thrillful

Comes death on a strange hour

Unannounced, unplanned for
Like a scaring over-friendly guest

you’ve brought to bed

Death makes angels of us all
And gives us wings
Where we had shoulders
Smooth as raven’s claws

No more money, no more fancy dress
This other kingdom seems by far the best
Until it’s other jaw reveals incest
And loose obedience to a vegetable law.

I will not go
Prefer a feast of friends
To the giant family.

On the plane I kept thinking about how Jim’s life was different.And one thing that I could surely conclude was that his life was really an enigma, an intriguing tale of someone who wanted to push the limits and test the bounds of reality but fell short of attaining  Nirvana when he was almost there. As many would not know Jim was always one of the most gifted student in his class. He devoured a large amount of literature at a very early age and used to quote philosophers such as Rimbaud in his school days. He was deeply influenced by writings of William Blake, Fredriche Neitzsche and other European philosophers.His poetic style reflected the writings of Jack Kerouac who was the originator of the beat generation of poetry in American literature. Jim’s cryptic lyrics had a close resemblance to the spontaneity in Jacks work especially as seen in his book on the road.

Another aspect of Jim’s life was that he renounced his family as soon as he moved out of his parents house.He did this in spite of the fact that he had a very normal childhood except that his father being in the navy was away from home for long periods.Not that this renouncement could be directly attributed to his worldly detachment but it might be interesting to note that severing all ties with the family is an integral part of taking sanyas in the hindu spiritual tradition.Even at one time when his mother flew in all the way to New York where he was having a concert he deliberately avoided meeting her. This could be just one of his eccentricities but it does qualify for him to be a recluse if not a saint.

All 3 members of the Doors were followers of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Ray Manzarek encouraged Jim many times to take up meditation.At his insistence, Jim once even paid a visit to Mahesh Yogi to see in his eyes ‘whether he was happy’ After meeting the Yogi Jim admitted that he had seen perfect happiness in his eyes but for himself he preferred the shorter and quicker route to ecstasy.Jim even wrote a song for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi which he performed at one of his later concerts.

If non possession and detachment to worldly objects was taught by the Buddha  I would say Jim Morrison was his biggest follower. It is amazing that while his life was filled with acts of debauchery and extreme recklessness he never had anything he could call his own. He had no tendency to hoard – either good or bad.His wardrobe was limited to a pair of Jeans and his Leather pants and may be a some shirts that he wore with them.He would go unwashed for days on end moving from one place to the other never bothering about who would shelter or feed him. He had no permanent residence or anything that could be called a home for most part of his life. Being the legend that he had become in his lifetime he never carried any money on his person.He had no bank account , no wallet no nothing may be just a credit card which also he used to forget here and there after the drinking sessions.

Pamela Courson could be considered as close as he ever got to something called a relationship or a girlfriend but even with her he never bothered to have any kind of  mutual understanding. While both felt they were in a relationship at some level they were apart most of the time and Jim made new friends everyday with whom he ended up sleeping most of the times.Whether Pamela was OK with this or not only she would know but it doesn’t seem she made a big deal out of it.It is rather interesting that only Pamela was with Jim when he died in Paris and she buried him at Pere Lachaise along with two other friends.She joined Jim by his side 3 years later.

There are many other anecdotes from Jim’s life like his going to the desert to find the lost souls of the dead Indians, his concerts in which he experimented with his ability to control collective consciousness of the crowds, his poetry which had life and its meaning as the central theme and so on. He even named the collection of his poetry ‘Wilderness’  suggesting his longing to be with himself.

Whether or not Jim Morrison was a saint I can’t say but  from the above one can clearly make out that all the ingredients were certainly there. I think somewhere along the way he got it all mixed up. He had a heart that probably was closer to being a saint but he had a mind that evoked the evil side of him when he lost control because of the confusion inside.Curiously, the combination drove his spirit towards testing the outer bounds of  reality from which he never returned.

Writing this post on Jim I am reminded of Ghalib and what he says about himself :

ये मसाइले तसववुफ ये तेरा बयान गालिब

तुझे हम वली समझते जो ना बादाख्वार होता…

These matters of spirituality and your take on them O Ghalib

We would have thought of you as a sage, had you not been a drunkard…

On my next visit I did visit Jim’s Grave. Here are the memories :

I would leave you with this beautiful song that’s been converted on you tube as a tribute to Jim :

The Nawab’s Sword

Once upon a time in the city ofLucknow, was a Nawab named Mirajuddaula. Now nothing much could have been said in his praise except that he had inherited the riches of his forefathers ( as with most Nawabs) but if you would have dared to ask me about his credentials in his esteemed presence my obvious answer would have been – the more I tell about his majesty’s grace the little it will be.

Now that I have told you about his Nawabi Lineage you would have guessed that Mairajuddaula was far detached from the bindings of work and livelihood.However, no way does this imply that there was any dearth of business for him. After a walk in the gardens conversing with the  morning breeze and a session of massage in his personal Spa Mairajuddaula ensconced himself in his Meeting room where he took upon himself to resolve all sorts of moral and ethical problems facing the society. It’s a matter of minor consequence that no one paid heed to his advice and people used to visit him as a means of entertainment and past time. Being infamous has its share of fame and this was the guiding light for our Nawab.

And yes  ,One of the reasons for his popularity were the sumptuous Kebab’s made by his master chef – Sakhawat Miyan. It was said that the chef used to prepare for 3 days before and the elaborate arrangements consisted everything from picking up the most tender meat, to some 56 kind of exotic spices and even soaking the raw material in the moonlight for 8 hours !! Once my great grandfather had the good fortune of tasting the Kebab’s at Mairajudaula’s Kothi – since then all our generations have been bestowed with slimmer fingers than they would normally have.

To hear about the tales of our famed Nawab is not a big deal and you can hear them from any lad playing marbles in the narrow by lanes of Lucknow but the one I am going to tell you now is not only most interesting one but is also quite significant. Here its goes …..

It so happened that one day while the Nawab was on a jaunt his Buggy turned towards the direction of Nakhkhas. InLucknow, Nakhkhas was believed to be the treasure trove of antiques and other rare things. In private, the grape wine was that most of the stuff being traded in Nakhkhas was actually such which had no trace of its owners. You may want to call it a ‘chor bazaar’ but I won’t dare to.It will be blasphemous to relate theft and other such follies of human nature to a place which was often graced by the august presence of our great nawab. Chivalry might be dead elsewhere but not inLucknow. Anyways, going around the place the Nawab’s eyes fell on something that was of no use not only to him but also his forefathers and yet it was quite an interesting find. It suited his pride and his self image. My dear friends it was a Sword !

You must be thinking What’s the big deal ? but inLucknowit was and if it wasn’t it could have been made a big deal.

The money changed hands and in a jiffy the sword travelled from Nakhkhas to find itself adorning a wall in the meeting room of the Nawab’s Kothi .It was proclaimed that the sword is a most valuable and rare piece of armory which the Nawab has inherited from his ancestors. Now the Sword was of iron and the servants belonged to the Nawab so who would have said that no this is not true , in fact a white lie .The faithful servants of the Nawab immediately took upon themselves the assiduous task of informing the general public in Lucknow that the Nawab’s Kothi has the honor of housing such a unique thing that if one was to perish without having a look at it one would face the possibility of losing it out on earth as well as in heaven. Very soon the bylanes ofLucknowsaw an exodus of sorts and people in great numbers start pouring at the Kothi. It is said that the sword was not something to just see but it was something to be hear about and especially so since the Nawab himself used to narrate the greatness of the sword to the believers. It was within no time that the Sword became the Honor of the City ofLucknow. This was the sword with most precious Gems and Stones, this was the  sword with which the great grandfather of the Nawab had made many an enemy face the angels of hell, this was the sword for which the Queen of England was willing to let go of her left eye, this was the sword which had saved the grace of Lucknow many times, This was the sword which was meant to be touched with the forehead and to be kissed with the eyelids. It was therefore the duty of each and every true citizen ofLucknowto treat the sword with utmost reverence. After all it was not only a sword but a legacy of the past to be safely preserved for the generations of future.

All and all if there was anything as pious as the sighting of the Holy Kaba it was  the Nawab’s Sword and thankfully one need not travel far distances for availing this ticket to heaven.

But no one can defer destiny. What everyone had dreaded may happen , happened. The Sword got Stolen !!!!

Sleepy communities crave for sensationalism and on top of that this wasLucknow. The news of the theft travelled with lighting speed and shocked each and every inhabitant of the city. One by one folks started dropping by the Nawab’s Kothi to offer solace and to do their bit to alleviate the Nawab in his hour of grief.

The first one to arrive was Lala Ganpat Rai. He entered the meeting room with such great dejection as if he had donated all his assets to the Britishers. Now there is a way that sadness is celebrated inLucknow, unlike some other places where they will start screaming and thumping their chest at the slightest pretext. With great care one is supposed to come close to the aggrieved and then offer a ‘paan’ for upliftment of the spirit. Only when one has been done with such basic courtesies, one is supposed to take the hand of the aggrieved and ask “How did this happen My friend?”

It is because of this etiquette that’s so deeply engrained in us Lucknow Wallahs that we are forced to think of  others as uncultured, illiterate and downright naives.

Now it will take many of your generations to learn these fineries so I feels it’s better that we go on with our story.So customarily, when Lala took our Nawab’s hand in his own and asked about this great misfortune, the Nawab’s eyes got all wet. If you consider, this was a necessity from our Nawab’s side too or else Lala would have felt that there was something missing in his gestures of comfort. The Nawab stashed the Paan in a corner of his mouth and with a choked voice offered the details :

“Oh Sire When I went to sleep yesterday night the Sword was right here on the wall but when I woke up I was surprised to see that it wasn’t there…”

“Good Lord  ! That’s where you made a mistake.” Said Lala. I always thought of you as a very intelligent and erudite man but to my great  disappointment you have proven me otherwise today.You should have considered that the sword was no ordinary thing that you just put up on the wall in full show and slept peacefully. This is certainly not the way to look after your ancestral belongings ? But that’s how it is  – that which we get without deserving we are never able to value for ourselves. If only I had been blessed with this great fortune I would have kissed the sword with my lips and rubbed it on my forehead. But as they say – A monkey will never be able to know the taste of Ginger”.

Now that was just too much for our Nawab. Visibly irritated he admonished Lala “ Sire you are jumping out of your stature !!” Lala immediately retracted “ Oh my dear lord you are unnecessarily getting perturbed. I wasn’t talking of you, I meant the thief. The buffoon will sell it for some lowly price at the Nakhkhas.” The Nawab thought – well good for him and good for the sword.The God damned thing will reach where it rightfully belongs.

Anyways, after seeing off Lala as soon as our Nawab had ordered for a Glass of ‘ khas’ Sherbet Munshi Tekchand announced his arrival.No sooner had he seated himself, he gulped down the Sherbet meant for our Nawab and fired  the sleazy question “ My Lord ,How come this happened ?” The Nawab thought of telling him that “it’s Allah’s kindness that saved you and my sword got stolen , else I would have had to wash my hands with your dirty blood.” But alas this was just a thought. Grace and gentlemanliness had found its way from the Nawab’s heart to his soul and into his very being in such a way that even if he wished he could not have done away with them. Sporting a smile upon his face he said “ What to tell you Mister, bad times come unannounced for and then its my grave fault to trust one and all. The great Hakim Saheb had advised me that if I keep a piece of Iron beneath my pillow then I won’t be subjected to nightmares so I had taken this much precaution that the sword which was usually hung up on the wall, I had removed from its position and kept it under my pillow and slept..” The excuse was good and our Nawab thought at if the Munshi bought his story  he would immediately write an official note and hand it over to the servants. He would tell them that here’s your “Sword Story”  and now please do let me live in peace.

Well he was Wrong. Totally Wrong…..

The Munshi got exasperated and said “ Oh My dear Lord What a blunder you committed ! I always thought of you as the custodian of the intellectual pursuits of the people the of Lucknowbut you have completely changed my perception. Sir, even the lads playing in the streets of chowk have become wise enough to know that the ranks of servants are no more trustworthy. Those days are dead and gone when the faithful would offer their life for the sake of their masters. Nowadays if you blink an eyelid these rascals will steal your eyeshadow.And we are talking about a Sword that too ancestral –  decorated with Gemstones, Famous and accomplished, the tales of which are on the lips of every child ! How could you just keep it beneath your pillow and sleep ? If you had willed to please the wretched Hakim so much you should have asked for some knife or something from the royal kitchen or you could have just summoned this humble slave of yours. For the sake of your mental well being I would have knocked off the shoe of some weak and good for nothing half dead Horse. Daroga sahib is an acquaintance of mine and I am sure if I had pleaded for the sake of your mental health he would have most certainly obliged.” Our Nawab got utterly frustrated, he was well aware that Munshi was having a good time at his expense but what was to be done – it was after all a dual between the Sword and suavity.

The nawab summoned his servants – “ Miyan Fukkan, Munshi Sahib is not some abandoned idler that he will just stay put the whole day here. If your sluggishness has given way for you to be able to cook something then please get it for us or at least get a cup of tea that I had brought all the way from Ceylon.” Then as if trying not to get overheard he whispered “ What to say of these scoundrels. They won’t listen to anyone, and then they have no manners either of their profession or of speech.” Munshi understood that his arrow has hit the bulls eye and the Nawab is trying to ridicule him on the sly. Thinking of his life and limb he judged that its better to flag off from there. And anyways he had enough gossip with him for the Lassi shop in chowk.

Our Nawab felt blissful. By the grace of good heavens people ofLucknowhad left him alone. The truth however was a little different. The congregation of folks who had gathered in the late morning at ‘Chajju’s’ lassi shop kept itself busy till late afternoon. And you know very well thatLucknowwallahs won’t disturb their siesta even if all hell broke loose. Whatever might be the case, no one came to bother the Nawab till about dusk.

While its true that bad time comes unannounced for but even this is fair to say that when it does come it has a tendency to linger on. It was when the servants had just begun to light up the lamps that Mirza Aalam Begh from Aga Mir ki Dyodhi came along. His face which sparkled as the moon suggested that he would have laughed out loud even in his dreams. Somehow our Nawab had a feeling that the shine on Mirza’s face had its source embedded in his own ridicule. Upon seeing Mirza, the Nawab put himself on high alert mode mentally  readying  himself for an offensive as soon as he was provoked. Mirza offered a ‘paan’ upon entering the room and in an heart wrenching tone questioned “What have you done My Lord? What will become ofLucknownow ?”

Our Nawab had reached the height of his patience. For a moment he felt as if he will reach out and scratch Mirza’s face. But the very instance he put himself into action the souls of his Lucknowi forefathers started to beckon him. They reminded him of the culture that had been the hallmark of his Nawabi legacy.  They advised him to treat this episode as Mirza’s foolhardy and God’s will and assured him of a place in heaven for this gesture. As there wasn’t much choice left our Nawab got a hold on himself and said “ What to say Mirza ? Nothing happened to your Lucknow when the British forces paraded Jan e Alam ( a title of Wajid Ali Shah) in the whole city as if in some circus and we are talking of just a lifeless and unfortunate Sword here” Mirza guessed the sarcasm in the Nawab’s words but he had an incomplete task at hand so he said “ So what Happened ?”

Nawab felt a bout of Giddiness as he heard these words again – He was tired of telling the true tale of a fake sword in which he was a fool and a devil at the same time. His hands wanted to kill someone but his heart stopped him in his tracks. He summoned all his courage and said “ My dear friend I knew very well that the eyes of the whole world and especially those of my unfaithful servants were on my ancestral Sword therefore I had kept it locked in seven chains with utmost care and precaution.I am not sure from where these off springs of Sultana Dacoit have come who dared to steal it even from such great safety. I must warn you Mirza that this city is no more safe for God fearing people like you and me. You must tread with caution now onwards.”

Mirza went into a deep thought and scratching his beard spoke after some time “ Nawab Sahib if I were you then I would have never kept such a precious thing at such an obvious location.I would have hidden it in such an innovative place that the thieves would have kept wondering where the hell does the sword go after the evening. Would have kept it in the grain warehouse, hidden within a sack of rice or something.  Who would have thought that I would have kept it there. Those morons cannot think beyond the obvious so they would have gone and broke the locks of my safety locker only to find a note written by me – Mister have some almonds for the development of your brains. I keep idiots like you in my pocket and sometimes gobble them up along with other nuts.” Aslam’s face had malice written all over it. He went on –

Now since you have played marbles with me and you are quite deft at handling the kites as well I assumed that someohow even you would be as smart as me. But I was wrong – Kiddish pranks can no way help one evolve to an intellect of a high order. Anyways whatever had to happen has happened.I would like to take your leave now but I must submit that I am greatly shamed.”

If Munshi had disgraced the Nawab , Mirza had gone a step further and completely vandalized the Nawab’s vanity.Our Nawab looked at the heavens and pleaded “ O Allah will I ever get a respite from this predicament?”

The next morning someone again knocked a the Nawab’s door.The servants informed that the Kotwal wanted to have an audience with the Nawab. They would bring him over if the Nawab wished to see him. What could  our Nawab say – he knew that he wasn’t destined for deliverance yet. Very soon the Kotwal was seated in front of the Nawab posed the same old query – How did the sword vanish !!

Nawab Mairajuddaula was angel like but was not exactly an angel. All human follies had found their way into his being for example Anger, desperation, hate, even madness…..his face turned fiery and he started to give a statement in an almost taunting manner. He screamed “ Mister Kotwal it so happened that I had had enough of the sword and I therefore thought it would be good if I can kill myself with it. In the heat of the moment I forced the sword into my chest and lay down on the bed. But when I woke up in the moning I found that while I remained the Sword had gone. Would you kindly tell what should be done now ?

The Kotwal was dumbstruck for a while and then he started pondering over the matter. In an probing tone he told the Nawab “ Sir I think you made a grave error of judgment by trying to kill yourself in this manner. The thief must have come in when you were lying slayed on your bed. To figure out if you were you were unconscious or asleep he would have upturned your body only to find the Sword’s gleaming handle jetting out of your good self. Now he was no nincompoop , not aware of the value and glory of the sword. He would have judged that it’s better to get away with just the sword than to try and steel all the other petty and cheap stuff around your place. He would have pulled the Sword out and ran away thus sparing you your life.I sincerely believe that If only you would have put in a little more effort not only you would have been liberated but your ancestral legacy would have been saved too.”

Our Nawab was numbed by this piece of investigation.He felt as if everything around him had frozen in time. All he could hear was a faint voice of a courtesean from some far away place.It was probably Ghlaib’s poetry :

ये कहां की दोस्ती है के बने हैं दोस्त नासेह्, कोई चारागार होता कोई गमगुसार होता

हुए  मर के हम जो रुसवा हुए क्यों ना गर्के दरिया, ना कहीं जनाज़ा उठता ना कहीं मज़ार होता……

What friendship is this that offers just advice, would rather have someone wipe my tears or share my sadness

It would have been better if I had drowned to death, at least there wouldn’t have been a trace in the form of my coffin or grave

~ आहंग

**Someone had narrated me this incident as a joke in short. I felt that justice needs to be done to the attitude of Lucknowites and so thought of presenting the longish version. I would be glad if you liked reading it and if you didn’t I don’t really care !!

Lucknow Boy – Book review

Its been a while since I put up a book review on my blog. I was compelled by a feeling of utter disappointment to do this one. Lucknow Boy is a memoir of much celebrated Editor of Outlook Mr. Vinod Mehta to whom my alma mater Lucknow university bestowed the life time achievement award last year.

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Mr Mehta but nevertheless I have intently heard the debates on TV in which he is participating as I have felt that he is one of the few sane voices in a medium infested with the ‘ sound bite’ disease. Journalists today are the a bunch of ill informed megalomaniacs and psuedo intellectuals peddling their stale wares to an equally dumb franchisee. I thought Vinod was different till I read his memoir. I still hope that I am wrong and he was just ill advised by some of his media savvy friends in turning his observations of himself into a rant on Indian public life aka tamasha we all love to hate. What really put me off was that someone of Mr Mehta’s wit,stature and intelligence could not figure it out. The only excuse I can muster is that he himself did not bother to read the 500 odd pages from start to finish else he would have shared the disgust I was subjected to.

The book begins in Lucknow (obviously)  where the Young Vinod goes to La Martiniere  School. I must say that this was perhaps the most interesting part may be because till this time Mr Mehta was writing with a pen on his heart lost in the deep love,wonder  and nostalgia of childhood and youth. I could as would any other youngster of Lucknow identify with him perfectly. Lucknow is not only a city, it’s a character that grows on you until it becomes a part of how you Live,eat,pray and love. Lucknow Wallahs tend to create  a dream world of their own which has subtle humor, sarcasm, a laid back lifestyle, good food , great wine and lots of women ( mostly imagined). The world of a young Vinod along with the pranks and trials could be of anyone growing in a city that  defies all definition but remains charming in an odd way.

The story moves on as Mr. Mehta goes to England and is still readable and engrossing as you empathize with a small town boy finding a place in the big bad world full of intellectual Pseudisms   and societal pretensions. But this is where it was ‘ innocence lost’ and nothing gained for the young Mehta. The more He thought he found the world the more he started losing  himself.

Life is Mumbai and the stint with Debonair ( all of us grew up with it) was the last leg of the journey that warranted companionship.After this Mehta is on his own churning  a sagging tale of the various interactions he had with a milieu of corporate,business and political characters – some he won and some he lost but for the reader the plot started to dwindle to sorry little details of who drank what scotch and who screwed whom with all the soggy details thrown in.

By the time I was half away I  started skipping paragraphs.Since I did not find anything interesting especially in the context of a Memoir I will jump the details and highlight some of the stuff that Mr Mehta must take a note of. Being the Iconic editor that he is I am sure it will give him some pointers as to what went wrong :

1. Found it absolutely funny even out of place to see pages written about various celebrated personalities of India Sonia Gandhi dot dot : 4 pages, atal behari dot dot 4 Pages, Rahuil Gandhi !!!! who writes about Rahul Gandhi in his Memoir ??

The craziest thing was to try and belittle Amitabh Bachchan for his visits to temples for the good of his sons married life. Why did you do it ?? It was your memoir and I can promise you that Amitabh would never bother about a non entity like you in his Memoir. And by the way I bought the book to read about your journey not his.

I don’t know whether your wives – ex and current will bother to read what you have come up with but if they do they would be singularly disappointed to find a chapter about your Dog and not more than a line about either of them. Guess Dogs are more important than Soul mates.

Last but none the less the least and lowly was the bit about giving gyan on what to do to become a successful journalist and what not to do. Sir it is your life story not a Navneet ki Kunji for High school Exams. Passing out in third Division in arts stream from one of the most lowly ranked universities in the world If you could figure it out I can assure you that the future generations can as well do it – without your kind advice.

Agree  ?? My sincere suggestion is that you pull back all copies in circulation and rewrite the whole thing.This time all by yourself and strictly without the commercial advice of your publisher friends. You made your money, now make your mark….

Fortunately for me I picked up The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghssh on my return flight and was washed off from all my sins of the onward journey.

John the madman….

मैं यहां हूं यहां नहीं हूं मैं, जिस जगह हूं वहां नहीं हूं मैं

कौन आवाज़ दे रहा है मुझे , कोई कह दे यहां नहीं हूं मैं

I am here and I am not here, at all places but nowhere

to that which calls me always, someone just say I am not there…

The Varca beach was quite a deserted place when I reached.The two shacks fondly called Mama’s Kitchen and Joe’s Place had a few takers so they hummed some soft tunes from the time when I was young.It was a  night full of moon and its stars and the sea was surfing on the beach casually,its waves silver and dark.

I lit up a smoke and checked the scene to find a place which was alone, yet not too far away from the world. I could find a good one.There were two chairs looking up to the vast Arabian sea with a table that had a T light in its mosaic holder. With the breeze the flickering light played an interesting game of survival dodging the lethal blows to stay alive. All was set and It was time for a drink….

A couple of hours down ,The Moon, its stars and the sea had a life. I sang to the them with a voice that failed in words but was high on passion :

Before you slipped into unconsciousness
I’d like to have another kiss
Another flashing chance at bliss
Another kiss, another kiss

The days are bright and filled with pain
Enclose me in your gentle rain
The time you ran was too insane
We’ll meet again, we’ll meet again

A voice broke the session and called : Jim Morrison.Right ?

I came back from my reverie to respond ” Yup, Crystal ship”

Hey me Jose, Jose Faria and you ?

I didn’t answer trying to stay with the daze.

Jose understood my silence and tried again : Alone ?

“We all are ” A smirk flashed on my face.

“Can I sit here if it doesn’t bother you ?”He asked and I gestured him to take the seat next to me ” You can try bothering me my friend but I didn’t come all the way to Goa on a beautiful night like this to get worried .”

Jose laughed and I gave him company.We were strangers no more.

So what brings you here ? I enquired.

Oh me ! Nothing big, just wanting to dig a bit on my roots.

I glanced at Jose signalling him to go on…

“Well I am Portugese and my father’s father was living here in Goa. I just came to see the house where my father was born. It’s called Casa Bandiera, and its there near Palolim beach.”

Did you find it ?

Yes I did but I guess they have turned into some kind of a museum.

No one lives there ?

Some locals but it’s under the government in some way.

But it’s your house.Isn’t it ?

It was our house, now it’s no more.But I had a good time here looking for it and I saw it like all the other visitors so no regrets. OK let’s just kill this. You were singing when I came.

Really? I thought I was reciting poetry.

You had hurt in your voice.Miss someone ?

No, just me.I miss myself a lot, all the time. And I like to sing to the stars when I am high. They seem to like it and they kind of come close to hear me out. No one else does that…

I think we are ready for a party Man !! Jose had enthusiasm of a kid as he pulled out a pouch and started to roll the cigarettes.

I don’t know if I should have trust a stranger  offering grass but I guess I was beyond suspicion and other such things – a man on the beach with nothing to loose.

Let it roll baby roll ……I shouted at the deep silence of the night hoisting my hands to the sky seeking to touch the stars.  Everything was so weird. The world before my eyes was stuck and moved in ripples going up or going down when I wished. There were too many colors around and gold was just one of them. With each breath I inhaled life and exhaled death. They had never seemed to co exist so side by side. I was not sure about Jose but I knew he was around as his shadow ran up and down the beach, splashing the waves.When he knew the words, he joined in the chorus otherwise he just kept quite and listened  to me like an ardent fan.It’s unbelievable how you can feel so good in the company of strangers when you are trying to run away from those you know so well.

I was on a different plane, completely aware of myself and of everything around me. I was like a self satisfied madman with his own version of reality  –

I had less questions but more answers,  less control but more freedom,I had  less of the world but more of me. I felt complete – like a wave which has just come to know of its vast expanse in the form of the ocean.

It was almost dawn and the sun looked pretty in it’s new day when I woke up still lying on the beach. Jose must have checked if I am still alive and left.The warmth comforted me and brought me to life as I tread the path back home.

By the time I got ready it was noon. The cab was there and Raju(the cab driver) was waiting for me. I had no plans to do anything. I asked Raju ” So where do we go today ?” He suggested a number of places and I picked a 400 year old Portuguese house called Casa Bandiera ! We were on our way in the next 10 min.

It was a perfect day with blue skies and a few clouds to fire the imagination of the child in me – I counted a magician, a cake and lots of balloons and candies. Our car waded through the lush green coconut groves and paddy fields as we moved inland away from the sea. On the way I saw a lot of old houses with curious names.Most had casa or villa added to the family names of the occupants.What I found a bit strange was that most of the houses had the ‘old look’ as if it was carefully preserved.Most tourists find Goa’s old world charm mesmerizing but it was unlikely that the residents would go all the way to be lost in time however Sussegad they might be. I checked with Raju ” Why do most houses look old almost antiquated in Goa even though they are not exactly dilapidated”

The tourist guide in Raju took over ” Well there are two reasons for this – one obvious and the other not so obvious one”

“Ok don’t tell me any ghost stories now” I set boundaries to his imagination.

“No No..it’s nothing like that. The first one is natural and the second is official.You see due to the salt in the moisture filled breeze from the ocean its difficult to maintain the paint year after year especially for the old structures.And the other reason is that many of the houses do not exactly belong to their owners.In 1961 when Goa was liberated the Portugese flee the country leaving everything behind.Many of them had lived in Goa for generations and had built magnificent houses and villas.There was no proper government for a while and the locals just occupied the houses left behind by the Portugese. The government has let them live and own these places but with a condition that the original look and structure must be kept intact.The government pays a certain renovation allowance every year for such houses.”

”  Wow that’s some education for me.These houses are almost frozen in time !!” I was sure I would keep coming back just like Jose , looking to find something that got lost in history.

We passed the Zuari and for the first time I saw a ship being built , waiting  for the bottle to be broken so it can unleash its voyages to far away lands.It was majestic when I looked at it from the window of my car but it looked puny when I saw it in the backdrop of the never ending ocean.Perspective changes the way we look at a lot of stuff around us. Isn’t it ?

By about lunch time our car stopped in front of an old building. In the first instance it did not look like something awe inspiring but when I thought that it has been standing at the same spot for over 300 years and has housed some 8 generations ,I was filled with a sense of respect. The facade of the house was divided into two portions the east and the west with a central entrance that was common. As I took the flight of steps and stood in front of the door which of what must have been the east wing I was taken by a sense of calm – the kind you have when you sit next to old people. They have seen the uselessness of it all and have no urgency to either please you or themselves. The house was certainly a peaceful place.

Before I could knock on the door , it opened almost magically. I was greeted by a man in his late 50’s with balding hairline and thick black specs the kind they stopped wearing since the 70’s. I knew that I was going to witness history today. There was something disturbing about the man who had introduced himself as John. First of all in a weird almost frightening move he had latched the entrance door as soon as I entered and now he was staring at me as if waiting for a sign to start. I was not sure if he was a guide as I had been told that the family still lives in one part of the house but which I didn’t know.Finally I broke the impasse and said ” well John I suppose you live here ? ”  A faint smile played on his face and he nodded ” I was waiting for you to ask this question. The answer is yes and no. While I show the house to visitors I do not live here and neither am I a member of the family. But I am not a tourist guide either. You can think that I am a mix of all three” He had figured out the question in my mind ”  one who lives in the house as that’s what I do for most part of the day, two not a member of the family who own the place and three the tourist guide as I am the one who shows people around”

” OK You confused me.Let’s get going ” I mumbled.

” Do you smoke ” John asked offering me a cigarette. ” No I don’t” I said. Actually I was not too sure.The slur in his voice had become pronounced from the time I had met him and his expressions clearly showed that he was completely drunk. However, it was quite strange that he did not smell a bit of alcohol.

We went along from one room to the other and John carefully kept explaining to me various aspects and historical trivia about the house. The chandeliers were Belgian, while the marble came all the way from Italy. The ballroom could hold 500 guests at one time and the red candle stand that looked to be made of plastic resin was actually a priceless piece made of real ruby stone !!

After a while John was completely in his elements. He asked me to sit on a antique looking arm chair and guess what was so special about it. I sat on it and tried to put all kind of logic and reason that would have made it something special – may be it was gifted by the king of Nepal, May be this was not made of wood but some stone, may be even that the chair had some magical powers !!

John was in splits at my suggestion. He asked me to disembark my thrown which I had held on tightly to feel the mystery it seemed to be hiding within itself. ” you are completely wrong, my friend” said John as he lifted the seat of the sofa. ” This is no ordinary chair like I said.It is a commode !!”

” Oh shit” was my spontaneous response and I could tell from John’s face that he was not at all impressed with my choice of words.

“Its OK. don’t worry it has not been used since it came into being.I just use it to play tricks with unsuspecting travelers like you.”

I was growing fond of this man who looked stoned, talked like drunk , did not smell of alcohol,  knew his stuff well and was gifted with some whacky sense of humor. The tour was coming to an end and I was so glad I had made this trip.  History has always enamored me and there was so much of it in this place. I had checked with John as much detail as possible about the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the paintings, the chapel,the people who lived in the house at different times and also about those who didn’t. Having such a vivid mental picture gave me such joy that only one who dwells in the past to visit the future would know.

I looked at my watch as a sign to leave and John understood. He stretched out his hand for a handshake and said ” Are you sure you don’t want to smoke ?” I looked into his eyes and said ” you know I do.right ?” He flipped open his pack of navy cut and lighted my cigarette. ” John you knew I smoked or you just guessed ? ”

” Well the moment you hesitated when I offered you a smoke the first time I knew it.You see people say that I am mad but I think I am just different.20 years ago when they thought I had hallucinations they sent me to the asylum.The Doc there was a good guy but he thought I needed to behave myself so he gave me shocks 3 times. I lost a part of my speech but they said that I started making more sense .Tell me Sir – how did I do today ? Did I make sense to you or you thought I am just a waste.Please don’t say something if you don’t  mean it.I beg of you.”

I was shaken not only by his story but also by the manner in which John had asked me for feedback on his act. I was speechless…..words were failing me completely. The events of yesterday night and today morning just flashed in front of me like a movie. While I had made all attempts last night to alter the reality this man was fighting so hard to remain real. I had struggled to let myself loose and here was a man so eager to find himself. The world that I had wanted to let go so pompously was slipping through his fingers like dust while he desperately wanted to hold on to it.My heart became heavy and there was no way I could have passed a judgement. I took his wrinkled hands in mine and   said to him  –

“John I sincerely feel you were great company. I don’t know about others and what they say but if you are different , may be mad ,then so am I.The fact is that all of us are searching for some unknown truths which may perhaps never reveal themselves.It was a pleasure to have met you and I mean it from my the depth of my heart”

John waved at me as my car took a turn around the corner and I waved back at him. It was not  “good bye”  wave but a wave that says – We shall meet again !!!

Six Men, Elephant and FDI in retail….

Watching the circus on TV  for the last two days since FDI in Retail has been announced I could not but help comoparing the situation to the famous parable of the elephant and six blind men. While each has its own opinion based on what part of the elephant they are holding ( like the opinions of our learned media,business men and politicians) , no one exactly knows what the animal ( in this case quite literally ! ) looks like. For someone like me who has worked closlely with the farmers as well as in retail for a long time the picture is quite clear. We are talking two different business models here : one is based on scale and the other is based on service and convenience. If you just look around : has a single mom and pop store closed down even when you have a number of so called organized big box retailers are all around them. Within a Km radius of my place in Bangalore I have a Big bazar super centre, a More Super centre and a number of Nilgiris, MK Retail,Reliance and others but I still order from the store next to my place or go and buy it from there for day to day needs : No ques therefore quick transaction or homedelivery that gets the store to your doorstep being my simple drivers.

For farmers there is absolutely no link between FDI and what they will get for the price of their produce. They sell to the mandis governed by APMC act today or just sell their produce to anyone that gives them a better price. On what basis are people debating that farmers will be adversly effected beats me completely.Typically in all economies with dominance of organized retail farmers realize 2/3 of the retail price of their produce vs. just 1/3 or lower in economies where such a mechanism does not exist.It’s quite simple if You know that at what price the retailer is going to sell what he buys from me and if all farmers know what price their produce sells in organized retail are they fools that they willl give it up to a Wal Mart just like that ?? It is this non transpareny that kills them today.When we are buying Onions at Rs50 a Kg the farmer is still getting just 5 Rs for it , so where does the Rs. 45 go ??No one knows or those who know are crying wolf wolf !! I don’t even want to go into the efficiencies in supply chain etc which will of course add a lot o value to consumers, producers and retailers alike. I have seen Wal Mart very closely and I know that it is one of the most hoenst, forthright and efficient companies in the world. What a lot of people say about Wal Mart is mostly out of ignorance or their own selfish interest. It’s a giant that competition is afraid of and fear always brings in insecurity.

Anyways you enjoy the poem and try to figure out which of the blind men is Politicians, Media, Businessmen, shopkeepers, farmers and general public :

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,

The disputants, I ween,

Rail on in utter ignorance

Of what each other mean,

And prate about an Elephant

Not one of them has seen!

For the complete version click here : http://www.wordfocus.com/word-act-blindmen.html

Let’s first see the elephant and then we can talk about it.

फासले…..

तब मैं तुम्हे जानना चाहता था

और तुम मुझे समझ नहीं पाती थीं

अब तुम मुझे जानना नहीं चाहती

और मै तुम्हें समझ नही सकता

दर्मियां अपने , दूरियां तो कम हैं शायद

हां फासले बहुत हैं…..

–  आहंग

 

 

T Shirts……..

T Shirts…..

 The first time I heard the word(s) T shirt was back in the 70’s when I was in standard 1. One of my classmates had migrated from the US and he wore this strange colorful vest on top of his knickers scandalizing all of us. When we asked him what was he wearing he said that it was a T shirt ,Me and my friends wondered why they called it a T shirt and not A shirt or B shirt. Finally our US pal clarified that it was a shirt that he wore in the morning when his Dad was having his tea so it was called a Tea Shirt. His simple explanation satisfied our curiosity at that time.

Many years later I figured out that a T shirt essentially meant crew neck T shirts which without the collars looked like a T so they got their name accordingly.

My fascination with the T shirts continued and though it might be difficult to digest for you now, very few people wore T shirts in India till the late 80’s. I remember that when my father travelled to Europe and theUSin the late 70’s and early 80’s we were the only kids to have T shirts. Everyone else was pretty much dressed in the good old shirts with characteristic 2 pockets and funny Dog collars. Our colorful T shirts with their bright colors and catchy prints were the envy of every eye that was set upon them. So much so that one day one of my friends Mom dropped in to ask if she could buy a couple of my T shirts as her son was not having his food ! Unfortunately my mom did not capitalize on the opportunity and gave one new T shirt to her from my closet causing great discomfort to me in the process. I didn’t care that she had given her something from my wardrobe but I was concerned struggling not to tell everyone that the T shirt Sunny was flaunting was actually mine. And my fears were not unfounded – in a fit of rage after loosing out a hand cricket match to Sunny I did blurt out “ Hey Sunny boy don’t think of yourself as Gavaskar , you don’t even have your own clothes to wear.”  After that I was explained in great detail by my parents that what I did was wrong but didn’t I say that I knew it would happen to start with. Anyway time went by but still when we refer to Sunny we call him “oh that T shirt Sunny yup yup” and I want to ask my folks what do they have say about linking someone’s persona to the clothes that you once gave away in charity. Huh !

Then as India caught with the rest of the world our school realized how this new kind of uniform could be used to differentiate between students belonging to different “Houses”  and we were given Red,Blue,Green and Yellow T shirts for Johns, Peters, Gabriel and Monfort house respectively. Soon the T shirts became part of  our second identity as sportsmen and many a T shirt were sacrificed in the wars that ensued for the supremacy in the game of football. Those who thought that a T shirt was just a piece of clothing were wrong , the yellow color symbolized all that was great and honorable and the red was damned to be a color of weakness and cowardice. The universal brotherhood of MBIC written on all our T shirts was dwarfed when it came to our loyalty towards Monfort and John house. We lived and died for the honor of our football team till I passed out of the school and kept the T Shirt safe from all evil for a very long time to come.

By the time I started going to college for my degree T shirts were quite in vogue and they became part of the mainstream haute couture. A T shirt that stands out in my memory was my “Doors” T shirt. It had the face of our God of those days – Jim Morrison painted on it in  bright psychedelic colors against with a deep black ground of the T shirt body.And yes it read – there are things known and there are things unknown, in between are the doors. I put it on firmly believed to be every bit of the rockstar I wanted to be. With my tight hip hugging Blue Jean and my long boots the Doors shirt somewhat increased the swagger in my stride. With dark ,gold rimmed Ray Ban Aviators I thought of myself as the rider on the storm gazing curiously at the lesser mortals who would take their sweet time to understand the deep philosophy of life I had already mastered. I loved the T shirt also because many of my ” fans” had said that it suited my attitude to the T.

And how can I forget that special T shirt!! We had gone on a field trip to Mumbai and fashion street was a must stop. The locals told us that most film stars shopped at Fashion Street and everyone started combing the footpath with stalls on both sides for cool stuff and cooler bargains. I was also sifting through a bunch of T shirts on a 4 way hanger when someone tapped on my shoulder. It was her ……I think this would look good on you. I found the yellow and green stripes just awful but I immediately mocked the T shirt on me for her to have look. She just smiled and I knew that I will have to live with this garment for the rest of my life. Mumbai shopwallahs are smart or may be they watch too many movies.  The bugger sniffed that love was in the air and doubled the price. She haggled and complained like all girls do and told him that he was a thug.We left the place. She would never know that I spent a fortune coming back to the place in the evening all the way from Andheri on a cab to buy the T shirt. I hated the way the shopkeeper looked at me…I even think he sneered and joked about it after I left but couldn’t care less. What the idiot didn’t realize that any price was less for the treasure I had in my hand that day.

The next big thing in my T shirt world happened when I joined Wal Mart. Having struggled for 4 years in my career I had stuck to my belief that I was born to be a merchant and travel the world- an idea that many of my friends who had switched to pastures greener in the domestic business had not exactly cherished. A company with the scale and scope as Wal Mart broadened my horizon like nothing could. We talked million dollars and met up with the shrewdest brains in the business. Being a big Box retailer, Wal Mart sold everything under the sun and we could pick and choose any business or product that fascinated our imagination. Not before long I knew how diamonds are traded and televisions manufactured, why India had an inward looking economy with a hindu rate of growth and why China was poised to be the shop floor of the world, Why Quality was more in the mind than on paper and why child labor was stigma for the rich but optimal utilization of resources for the poor. My Wal Mart T shirt was specially cherished also because I had flown half way across the world to attend the Manager’s meeting only to be on  a flight back the next day or so as I had to attend to something really important. Each time I look at the Wal Mar T shirt I can recall the thunder of 5000 voices chanting the Wal Mart cheer in Unison. While it seems funny now it was even funnier when I realized that I was shouting the loudest in my group and how a tear rolled down my cheek in excitement !!

Another T shirt that I love a lot is my “ Auroville” T shirt. Each time I wear this one I get transported to a world full of peace and contentment. A calm descends upon me and I am very much the spiritual seeker that I was roaming about the streets of Pondicherry. It’s a simple T Shirt with a deep blue background  but the special thing about it is that the word Auroville is hand painted along side a very misty pink lotus flower symbolizing enlightenment. I remember I had picked it up ‘oven fresh’ while the paint had still not dried from a European resident of Auroville who looked like Bob Marley if he would have been born in England of white parents. I had asked Joe how much should I pay him and he had answered back saying” how much do you think it’s worth my friend?” I had given my Rs. 300 to be on the safer side but he returned me a 100 Rs back. For a brief moment I had thought that what if all commerce was conducted with the trust and honesty as we had just did. I realized I was being wishful ……customers are not me, sellers are not Joe and the world was not Auroville.

The last T shirt I want you to know about is my GOA T shirt. It’s a bright Sky blue background the kind that my 10 year old would wear on a sunny day and has something very interesting written on it. It says “ Man made Booze, God made Grass. Whom do you trust?”  While at the face of it the statement epitomizes the flower child attitude of Goa, I found the statement to have a very special and profound meaning for me. Man made booze means all the material stuff that we have created around us as human beings to keep ourselves continuously engaged in the so called pursuit of happiness while God  made grass symbolizes everything natural woods, the mountains, the streams, the rivers, the sea. All of us find asking this question to ourselves some time – whom do you trust ??  Which is the path that’s going to take us to the destination we know nothing about…. if  it is a destination or a just something frivolous we are so habituated to. Every time I wear this T shirt and get into the Goa spiritI can’t help but ask myself –

Whom do you trust ???

अब तो पथ यही है

जिंदगी ने कर लिया स्वीकार,

अब तो पथ यही है

अब उभरते ज्वार का आवेग मद्धिम हो चला है,

एक हलका सा धुंधलका था कहीं, कम हो चला है,

यह शिला पिघले न पिघले, रास्ता नम हो चला है,

क्यों करूँ आकाश की मनुहार ,

अब तो पथ यही है |

क्या भरोसा, कांच का घट है, किसी दिन फूट जाए,

एक मामूली कहानी है, अधूरी छूट जाए,

एक समझौता हुआ था रौशनी से, टूट जाए,

आज हर नक्षत्र है अनुदार,

अब तो पथ यही है|

यह लड़ाई, जो की अपने आप से मैंने लड़ी है,

यह घुटन, यह यातना, केवल किताबों में पढ़ी है,

यह पहाड़ी पाँव क्या चढ़ते, इरादों ने चढ़ी है,

कल दरीचे ही बनेंगे द्वार,

अब तो पथ यही है |

Life has accepted it
This will be my path now
The ferocity of rising tide has faded away,
The fog which was there somewhere is no more,
This stone may melt or may not, but at least its softened,
Why should I beg from the skies,
This must be my path now
This vase made of glass is but fragile,
leaving the ordinary story untold
the bond I had with light looks bleak
and the stars seem so small
But , this will be my path now
The fight, which I have fought with myself,
It’s suffocation, it’s pain, is heard in books only,
I have made the climb not with my feet
but with my conviction,
And these windows are poised to be my doors soon,
I know this is my path now
~ By Dushyant Kumar, interpretative translation by aahang

4/172 Vivek Khand….

This is about 25 years back when Life was simple without the internet and the gadgets.My world was like an episode out of  the “Wonder Years” in which life constantly presented itself  in all the myriad shades of growing from a child to a young adult.

On a chilly January evening after coming back from work, my father announced that we would be moving out of our official quarters to a new house in the suburbs.Well the very idea of leaving our home of 16 years seemed quite alien but we were excited about the fact we will be moving to a larger place with a park in the vicinity.

Once the house number 4/172 Vivek khand was allotted to us , my father started the work  for making some extra rooms and a staircase to the terrace.Sometimes I would accompany him on his Lambretta Scooter all the way to the site to oversee the work.He said he wanted me to know the ways of the world and to learn how to deal with all the contractors, electricians and plumbers.I was not sure about the idea and if the skill set ever came handy but nevertheless those trips were quite interesting , almost filling me with a sense of accomplishment each time we rode back after a hard days work. May be he wanted me to just tag along for some company.Whatever may be the case ,it kind of bonded me to my father like no other time as Fathers were tough those days unlike now.

One thing that I distinctly remember about those early trips to 4/172 is the heavenly taste of puris and salted pumpkin pudding that my mom used to pack with us for lunch.I have never felt more hungry and nothing has satiated my pallate better.I think it was the sheer pleasure of building our home to be along with the physical labor involved which created such a magical feast.

Another vivid memory is that of me and my friend cycling all the way from Nirala Nagar to Gomti Nagar taking the longest route that went through the cantonment.Cantonment was our favorite detour with its greenery ( pun intended),wide open roads  and a burger at Rover’s cafe thrown in.Cycling was our best past time and we wondered as clouds anywhere and everywhere that we could pedal to.Roaming around 10 -12 kms everyday was piece of cake.Our parents were not aware of our escapades but that’s the way I learnt most of my human qualities – being by yourself, endurance, patience , a sense of wonder and most of all companionship without dialogue.That’s the thing about living – you get your real education from things you are refrained from doing.

In a span of 6 months the house got ready and after the customary puja we moved in around the summer time.The house was nothing opulent and it would qualify as a rather humble place to live.Those days there were no fancy names to the apartments and they were classified based on the social strata they housed.We had a mini MIG which meant that the house just felt short of us being in the middle income group.It was a contradiction in terms as my father used to fall in the top slot of Gazzetted officers in the central govt. Somehow we never questioned this at that time as most of my friends had similar abodes.

Gomti Nagar was a deserted place back in 1987 and we were the 5th family to have moved in into what was pegged as Asia’s biggest colony.Later when I traveled to other parts of Asia I figured out why ? It had got nothing to do with the superior vision of the creators of Gomti nagar but it was just that the other countries had a culture of multi storied apartments structured differently to let Gomti Nagar bask in the glory. Now for the last so many years summers had been one of the most active periods of the year for us with food,friends,thums up et al.But the new house had only food and thms up , no friends.Thankfully my old friends came to my rescue and they started dropping in from the city quite frequently.Soon our house in Gomti Nagar became a destination by itself for friends looking for a drive out of the city and a quite place with lonely spots to smoke.

I have no particular memories of anything bad about 4/172 except that when my grandfather passed away.Soon after we moved in he had started feeling unwell and was keeping low grade fever for some time.I didn’t know at that time but he had been diagnosed with cancer.I was always very close to my grandfather and the memory of his body kept on the floor in front of our drawing room is still quite fresh.The place had black and white marbles placed next to each other as in a chess board and I had this weird feeling of loosing out. The smell of roses and Incense mixed with chants of the Geeta is something that got so deeply etched in my senses that to date I relate everything sacred to it.That’s perhaps the only time I have seen my father crying like an inconsolable child.I guess we grow up one last time when we loose our parents and that’s it.Now that I think of why I never took this incident as something that disturbed me is perhaps that my grandpa had lived a full life and had passed away at a ripe old age with friends and family by his side.He had his ups and down but then c’est la vie.

Life always finds newer way of manifesting itself and within a few years , the plants  in front of our house became trees.There was a Gulmohar and a bottlebrush which I particularly loved .And yes there was another Blue Bells creeper which grew so thick and lush that it covered the entire facade of our house including the balcony of the first floor and my rooms window. I would not be completely wrong if I compared my house of then to some fairy tale dwelling in the woods with blue and orange flowers hanging upside down or may be downside up.Each time my mom wanted to chop off the trees or the creeper for want of sunshine all three of us kids would stand in the way.Finally she got so flustered that she said fine if that’s how you guys want it then so be it.

4/172 had a small 10 X 10 room on the way to the terrace and I had rightfully occupied it for the convenience and solitude that my youthful experiments warranted. I had a big poster of OSHO at the back of the door which was soon given company by another one of Jim Morrison.I imagine what they would be telling each other when I wasn’t there – Jibberish ???. To this date both continue to shape my being but in those days I used to just idolize them like a stony eyed believer.Through this room opened the vast vistas of the terrace which was our own after everyone went to sleep and the doors downstairs were locked.At the pretext of “combined” studies me and my friends would stay put so we could smoke our heart out and have swigs from the ‘tadka’ beer bottle laced with whiskey so it gave a faster and stronger kick.When you are almost loosing consciousness,gazing at the infinite darkness with the stars twinkling  through represents such a twilight zone I tell you !! Most of the times we would get incoherent trying to impress each other with some half cooked philosophy of life.If rebel is the word then I was every bit of it I believe.I feel I am still quite a renegade except having been tied down to the certainties of a gathered past.

Huh ! We had the best of times and we had the worst of times in 4/172.There are so many memories of celebrating holi with our friends on the terrace – Roadhouse blues, Colors, Beer and pure madness.I am sure our neighbors too can recall those days with fondness now as the horror of seeing ghost like half naked young men running wildly has gone past.We were two of us brothers and with just a couple of years between we shared a lot of common friends.In fact when I ‘dropped’ for appearing in engineering exams we started sharing the same class for certain subjects in the University.His friends became my friends and my friends became his pals so that the dividing line became thinner until it disappeared completely.For 4/172 this was something very special as given our ‘friendly’ disposition it became the unofficial hostel of the Science department of Lucknow University. Things grew so informal that during exam time when we got completely engrossed to figure out ‘what was which’ that people would’nt even mind cooking and cleaning the kitchen when my mom was doing Puja or had gone out.Sounds of ‘ abe Chandu chai bana be’  or ‘ Pilav mast bana hai dost, thoda achar dena’ still reverberate in my head when I think of it.The phone oh how can I forget the phone ! The Black Plastic thing  used to ring just incessantly.Most calls would have the caller answer at the other end but not always.We figured out that everyone in Botany Department was not so open about their identity when it came to strangers ! My father got completely harassed with this situation  and started wondering ‘who’s line is it anyway’ quite literally !! His warning of plugging out his sources and disconnecting the phone went unheard so he finally charted out a treaty that aimed at not only bringing peace to the household but also to limit the bill to a minimum.

From the command station at 4/172, where at any given time a multitude of vehicles of all shapes and sizes were parked were governed most of the social activities for the youth of Lucknow.From rock concerts to fashion shows to youth festivals and even election campaigns were planned and executed with precision and finesse. Debates were practiced, songs were rehearsed, ammunition was smuggled in and romance was given a patient hearing …all under one roof. My room on the terrace became the nerve center of activity and after sometime our parents stopped bothering themselves with who came in and who went out.

As we passed out of  the university things became a little serious as we started to think about stuff such as jobs and a career.But they didn’t become as dull till I had to go out New Delhi in search of  work .I realized very soon that life was tougher than what we had thought and to survive in a metro one would need a little more than a golden heart and some smart chips.The innocence of childhood and the rebellion of youth  died  as they were sacrificed at the harsh and cold altar of reality.I am sure a similar transformation happened for all my friends too.As they say in hindi movies ” Munna aisa bhaga ki bhagta hi raha,bhagta hi raha….”

I feel 4/172 stopped being itself as we moved out of Lucknow even though we continued to visit as frequently as we could. Our marriages were performed, kids were born and festivals were celebrated on the fast track of limited days of leave so I could never feel the same peace of being at home and 4/172 distanced itself from being a participant to being a mere spectator of events.The nag of leaving ‘home’ that was 4/172 always lingered.I would compare it to a relationship that you know is dying either due to lack of proximity or the absence of togetherness or both.

Over the years the frequency of my visits has gone lower and the duration of my trips has become shorter, but each time I am at the doors of 4/172 I wonder how life would have been if my relation ship with it had not changed.

I guess both me and my ‘permanent address’ will have to live long enough to know the truth.Until then I guess these lines from Wajid Ali Shah would hold true :

दर ओ दीवार पे हसरत से नज़र करते हैं, खुश रहो एहले वतन हम तो सफर करते हैं…

Googled forever !

It was 1995. We were passing out of our MBA class and getting a job offer was top on everyone’s mind.The problem was how to know what company’s to approach and also how to approach them all at once.Some bright kid came up with the idea of email.What’s that ? all of us thought.Don’t be surprised sending a message through a computer and not through your friendly neighborhood post office was still something weird.I won’t say we were alien to the concept but it was a concept at the end of the day.

Emails were sent out and each day we waited closely by the side of the only computer with a dial in connection which was set up in the Dean’s office.Some companies did respond back and for the first time I got convinced that folks do exist in cyber space and our ’email’  just doesn’t get lost into oblivion.

Once this miracle happened it threw a challenge as to how do you find more email addresses of more companies so they don’t get deprived of our managerial talent.So we set ourselves a task of going and meeting ‘potential’ managers and then taking their email ID’s to start the dialogue.It sounds primitive alright but believe me in those days of vsnl.net.in it was the most happening stuff you could do.We did back up all electronic communication with physical ones just to be sure.After all sending out emails was more a measure of our smartness than a means of getting a response.

Finally I found a job but my tryst with tech ended quite unceremoniously as the company I joined was a government organization. They had some 486 desktops but they were mostly there to keep the 4th grade employees gainfully employed.Each morning or sometimes each week the plastic covers were removed in a ritual only to be put back in place after the customary cleaning had been performed.Seeing this ceremony everyday I got curious I asked my manager who put these ‘ things’ here if no one knew what to do with them and he came up with an equally interesting explanation.According to him these things were procured under a UNDP grant so that the idle funds could be utilized.If this was not done there was a lurking danger that the funding would get reduced by that quantum.One day I got really catty and so I unveiled the shroud on one of the monsters to see what was inside. I quickly realized that the only trick it could show was a ‘welcome to UPEC Ltd.’  screen which zoomed in and out gyrating while it did so.

I might be failing in memory here but it was sometime around 1998 that hot male Sabeer Bhatia sold his innovation to Microsoft. Till hotmail the only way you could communicate via email was through your organizations email or through an email provided by your Internet service provider. What was exceptional about hotmail was that it was web based and so it freed you of the clutches of the organization and ISP. By 1999 everyone who could switch on a computer had an email account. A web based email account meant an ability to communicate without the barriers of time and space.For the very first time it also gave us an option of faking/hiding our cyber identities and having multiple ones if we so desired.

The web based  and cheap hotmail opened a world of opportunity for those in the export business and even I got the idea of exporting some stuff out on my own to a friend in the US. Email was not the driver but it was a motivator, an enabler -If I could communicate almost for free across 16000 kms there was something to be done about it right. My luck didn’t shine and my fledgling ideas died their natural death but I still know of a few friends who would owe a large part of their success to hotmail if not all of it.Of course Sabeer became a millionaire leaving all of us awed, inspired even feeling cheated as to why the hell I didn’t get this simple idea.Its been happening ever since first with google and now with facebook.The only respite on the facebook idea is that I have taken refuge in a moral high ground of not looking at pictures of females while sloshed out of your mind.If my character is the price I have to pay for not being able to invent facebook the so be it.

I can clearly recall that till about 2000 Internet explorer was the only popular web browser and it was almost magical to see the globe at the top right corner of your computer screen go round and round once you pressed the ‘enter’ key.Some smart ass told me that the faster it rotates the quicker the website will load itself and I always used to get confused and ask myself ‘ faster than what?’. I knew that faster meant faster than itself but each time I though I had figured it all out the website would load faster even if the globe was moving slow or vice versa so that my calculations would fall through. Then one day a geek friend of mine  enlightened me that speed is not the only thing and it depends a lot on the how ‘ heavy’ the content of the website you are loading is. Now what’s ‘ heavy’ about something that shows on your computer screen I wondered.And thus began my endless race to keep up with all the mysteries of the ‘ INTERNET’ which I still seem to be running to full strength of my intellectual stamina.

Sometime around 2000 someone gave a 100000 $ cheque to 2 young guys out of stanford.No one knew at that time that how ‘search’ would get much bigger than mail.Curiosity has led the way to human civilization and this was no different. An angel investor wanted to know where his bet on the google boys would take him and suddenly the whole world wanted to know where all they can go on google. The ability to search websites for most relevant information gave the power to WWW as we knew it. Everyone had figured out by 2002 that things will never be the same again except the google team in the valley who were still trying to figure out a way to make money without being evil.

Unaware of the strife on the west coast here was me happily typing away in the box at the top end on an empty page finding out everything from flights to hotels to jobs to cures for allergies…….Wow with this new genie I was omniscient and so was everyone else across the globe.I am convinced that google was the turning point of our relationship with the internet and what it could do for us.The websites and the information were there but without a trusting way of knowing if I am looking at the best possible  information , one piece of it was as good as the other.

My next big association with the internet happened when I was at a low point in my life and career.Things were not looking up either ways and I needed to reinvent probably re produce myself before I lost my sanity.Someone told me about blogging and wordpress.My posts offered me a medium to express myself to the unknown, to think and write about stuff I never thought I would think or write about.In fact I never knew I had so much or even anything to say.Initially I would post something and look at stats every day sometimes twice or thrice a day.I used to wait for comments from strangers.Somebody had to clip the wires around them and reach out to me from cyber space.They did until one day when I realized my catharsis was complete and stats were just a set of numbers.Still my blog is and perhaps will remain one of my closest friend ever.

In between the world changed many times over and we started doing almost everything on the net.So much so that we were ‘skyping’ each other from one bedroom to the other !!!

Finally facebook happened and friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even adversaries got a new lease of life. Dead relationships got exhumed although some skeletons remained in the closets.

My status today is not the house or car or the designation  it is a line or two in the rectangular box next to my smiling  picture on the fb page.That’s how the world knows me and that’s what I keep updating.My physical existence in a 6 foot frame today is perhaps much less precious or popular than my digital footprint reaching out to places and people who were otherwise completely out of bounds.

When I look back the last 15 years and ask myself if I have gained more or lost much because of my relationship with the wi fi the answer is never black and white but a shade of grey just like the screen of my laptop…..

नवाबी तलवार…

एक मर्तबा लखनऊ शहर में एक उजडे नवाब हुआ करते थे. नाम था मिराजुद्दौला. उनकी तारीफ यूं तो क्या  थी सिवा इसके कि बाप दादों की रियासत का मज़ा लूटते थे पर हां  यही बात अगर आप हमसे उनके सामने पूछ्ते तो हमारा जवाब ज़हिर तौर पर ये होता  कि साहब जितनी की जाये कम है !

अब नवाब कह दिया तो ये तो साफ ही हो गया कि कोई काम काज तो मियां मिराजुद्दौला क्या ही करते होंगे पर हां इसका ये मतलब कतई नही निकलता उनकी मसरूफियत में कोई कमी थी. नसीमो सुबह से गुफ्तगू करने और गुसल फरमाने के बाद नवाब साहब  बाकयदा दीवानखाने में तख्तनशीं हो जाया करते और शाम होने तलक कौम के तमाम इखलाकी और तम्यद्दुन्नी मसलों में दखल दिया करते. चूंकि उनकी नसीहतें ज़रा ओछी और कमतर हुआ करती थी सो  वो  आलिम फाज़िल कम किस्सा  गो  के तौर पर  ज़्यादा मशहूर हो गये थे.खैर बद्नाम हुए तो  क्या नाम ना हुआ…..

अरे हां उनकी मकबूलियत कि एक वजह ये भी थी उनके बावर्ची जैसे लज़ीज़ कबाब और पराठे सारे लखनऊ शहर में और कोई नहीं बनाता  था.एक बार तो हमारे पर दादा जान की किस्मत का तारा भी चमका था ,क्या बतायें आज तलक हमारे खानदान में सबकी उंगलियां पतली हुआ करती हैं.

हुज़ूर यूं तो नवाब मिराजुद्दौला की करामातों के तमाम  किस्से आप चौक की गलियों में गोलियां खेलते लौंडों से सुन सकते है पर जो किस्सा हम आज आपको  सुनायेंगे वो सबसे अलग और अहम है.लीजिये संभालियेगा…

तो जनाब हुआ यूं  कि  एक रोज़  नवाब साहब ज़रा हवा  खाने  को निकले तो उनकी  सवारी  का रुख    नख्खास  की  तरफ  हो गया. लखनऊ शहर में नख्खास जो था वो पुरानी और नायाब चीज़ों के लिये  मशहूर हुआ करता था. दबी ज़बान में तो लोग ये भी  केहते थे कि वहां बहुत सा मालो असबाब वो होता है जिसके मालिक का कोई अता पता न हो. आप चाहें तो इसे चोर बज़ार कह सकते हैं पर हम नहीं कहेंगे. अब जिस जगह पर नवाब साहब की आमोदरफ्त  हो उसे हम कैसे कह दें कि वो चोर बज़ार है.आखिर शराफत भी कोई चीज़  है.बहरहाल घूमते घामते नवाब साहब की नज़र एक ऐसी चीज़ पर पडी जिसका इस्तेमाल उनके बाप दादों ने भी नहीं किया था पर हां वो चीज़ ऐसी थी कि उनके रुतबे और मिजाज़ केमुताबिक थी. जी हां वो थी एक तलवार. आप सोचते होंगे कि कौन सी बडी बात है ,पर थी बडी बात और नहीं थी तो बनाई जा सकती थी.

सौदा हुआ और आनन फानन में तलवार नवाब की कोठी में आ गयी और दीवानखाने की दीवार पर सजा दी गई. कहा गया कि ये बडी नायाब और बेशकीमती तलवार है जो नवाब साहब को  अपने पुर्खों से मिली है. अब तलवार लोहे की और नौकर नवाब के कौन केहता कि नहीं ऐसा नहीं है या ये सरासर झूट है.नवाब साहब के वफादार नौकर चाकर एकदम इस खबर को मशहूर करने में लग गये कि कोठी में एक ऐसी नायाब चीज़ है कि जिसके देखे बगैर अगर अल्ला मियां को प्यारे हो गये तो समझो गये दोनों जहान से. लिहाज़ा लखनऊ की गलियों में एक वलवला सा उठ्ठा और तमाम लोग कोठी की ओर रोज़  कूच  करने  लगे. तलवार जितना देखने की नहीं उतना सुनने की चीज़ थी और वो इसलिये कि नवाब साहब खुद उसके जलवों की  दास्तान आने वालों को पेश किया करते थे. देखते ही देखते तलवार लखनऊ की  शान  बन गयी. ये वो तलवार थी जिसमे बेश्कीमती हीरे और जवहेरात लगे हुए थे, ये वो तलवार थी जिससे नवाब साहब के मरहूम दादा जान ने कम से कम सैकडों दुशमनों को  मौत से जलवागर करवा दिया था,ये वो तलवार थी जिसे मलिका ए इंग्लिस्तान किसी कीमत पर हथियाना चाहेती थीं, ये वो  तलवार थी जिसने ना जाने कितनी बार लखनऊ की इज़्ज़त और अस्मत को लुटने से  बचाया था, ये वो तलवार थी जिसे आखों से लगा कर होठों से चूमना  हर शहरी और सच्चे वतन परस्त का फर्ज़ था. ये तलवार पुर्खों की  विरासत और आने  वाली नस्लों की  अमानत थी.

बस यूं समझ लीजे कि दीदार ए काबा के बाद अगर कुछ था तो वो था दीदार ए तलवार ए मिराजुद्दौल.और इसके लिये कहीं दूर जाने की जहमत भी नहीं उठाना थी.

पर अनहोनी को भला  कौन टाल सकताहै ? वही हुआ जो ना होना चाहिये था – नवाब  की  तलवार चोरी हो गयी.

सुस्त शहरों मे सनसनी जल्दी फैलती है और ये तो लखनऊ था. चोरी की खबर ऐसी बिजली की तरह चमकी कि तमाम शहर के बाशिंदों मे करंट दौड गया. एक एक करके लोग मिजाज़पुर्सी के लिये नवाब की कोठी में  आने लगे.

सबसे पहले तशरीफ लाये लाला गनपत राय. मुंह लटकाये कुछ इस तरह से दीवानखाने में दाखिल हुए कि जैसे अभी अभी समूची रियासत अंग्रेज़ों के नाम कर आये हों.खैर लखनऊ में गम मनाने का भी एक सलीका हुआ करता है. ये नहीं कि लगे छाती पीट पीट के चिल्लाने. आहिस्ता से करीब आकर अपने पानदान से निकाल कर तम्बाक,ज़र्दे,केसर और ज़ाफरान वाली गिलौरी पेश की जाती है और जब आप बाकायदा यूं शरीक़ हो जायें तो हाथों में हाथ लेकर पूछा जाता है कि ‘ मियां ये कैसे हुआ ?’

यही नफासत है जो हम लखनऊ  वालों को दूसरो तो बेसलीका, जाहिल और गवांर समझने पर मजबूर कर देती है.

बहरहाल ये बातें सीखने में तो आपकी की कई नस्लें गुज़र जायेंगी सो हम किस्से को आगे बढाते हैं. तो लाला ने जब रसमन नवाब का हाथ अपने हाथों मे लिया और इस हिमाकत का हाल पूछा तो नवाब की आंखे डबड्बा आईं. ये भी ज़रूरी था वर्ना लाला को लगता कि हमारे हाल पूछने में वो गर्मी वो शिद्दत नही थी जो होना चाहिये थी.रुंधे गले से पान को कोने में दबाते हुए नवाब ने अर्ज़ किया:

अमां कल रात जब सोने गये तो यहीं इसी दीवार पर टंगी थी पर जब सुबह उठे  तो क्या देखते है कि तलवार गायब है.

यहीं  तो चूक गये आप ” लाला ने फरमाया.” हम  तो आपको निहायत ज़हीन और काबिल समझते थे पर आपने तो हमें अपनी राय बदलने पर मजबूर कर दिया.अब देखिये ये कोई मामूली चीज़ तो थी नहीं कि दीवार पर खुला टांग दिया और सो  गये.पुर्खों की अमानत को भला यूं संभाला जाता है. पर वही बात है कि जो नियामत इंसान को नाहक़ मिल जाती है वो उसकी कद्र नहीं समझ पाता.काश ये विरासत हमें बक्शी गयी होती तो आखों से चूम  कर माथे से लगाते .बंदर क्या जाने अदरख का स्वाद…….

अब नवाब खामोश न रह सके और ज़रा तुनक कर बोले ‘ लाला आप अपने जामे से बाहर आ रहे हैं.’ लाला ने बात संभाली ‘अरे आप तो यूं ही खफा हो गये ,हम तो चोर के लिये कह रहे थे. जाके बेच देगा किसी ऐरे गैरे को औने पौने कहीं नक्खास वक्खास में’. नवाब सोचने लगे बला जहां से  आयी थी वहीं पहुंच जायेगी,कौन बडी बात है.

खैर  लाला को जैसे तैसे रवाना  कर के अभी  नवाब  ने  एक  गिलास खस  का  शर्बत तलब ही किया था  कि  मुंशी  टेकचन्द  की आमद  हुई. आते  ही सबसे पेहले  तो हजरत ने  शर्बत पर  अपना हक़ जमा दिया और फिर  दाग दिया वही अशलील सवाल – मियां ये हुआ कैसे ? नवाब के  जी में  तो आया कि कह दें कि  खुदा का शुक्र  है कि तलवार चोरी हो गयी नहीं तो आप का कत्ल तो आज हमारे  हाथों  तय थे. पर क्या करते लखनवी  तेह्ज़ीब का बोझ नवाब के दिल ओ दिमाग से होते हुए अब उनके  वजूद पर्  कुछ इस तरह  भारी हो  चुका था कि चाहते तो भी उसे  उतार कर फेंक नहीं  सकते थे. मुस्करा कर बोले ‘ साहब क्या बताएं बुरा वक़्त बता कर तो आता नहीं  और हमारी फितरत भी कुछ यूं  है कि  सब पर  यकीन  कर लेते हैं. इतना एह्तियात तो हमनें  बरता था कि शाम को सोने से पेहले तलवार जो यूं तो दीवार पर सजी रेहती थी हमनें अपने  सिरहाने रक्खी और सो गये. हकीम साहब ने फर्माया था कि लोहा तकिये के नीचे रखने से बुरे  ख्वाब भी  नहीं  आते’. ये कह कर नवाब  ने सोंचा कि  अगर मुंशी मेरी कहानी  के कायल हो गये तो बस कल नौकरों  एक एक रुक्का लिख कर जारी कर देंगे और कह देंगे कि भई  ये रहा किस्सा  ए तलवार अब हमारी जान छोडो.

पर  वो गलत थे एकदम गलत …

मुंशी  बोले – अमां  ये क्या हरकत कर दी आपने हुज़ूर ! हम तो  आपको तमाम लखनऊ शहर की  दिमागी तरक्की  का  मुहाफिज़  समझते थे और आपने तो बस हमारा सारा भरम ही तोड  दिया. मियां इतने  सयाने तो आज  कल चौक के लौंडे हो गये हैं , जानते हैं  कि तिमारदारों  कि  कौम अब भरोसे के  कतई काबिल नहीं  रही. वो ज़माने  हवा हो गये जब वफादार मालिक की एक  नज़र पर जान पेश कर दिया करते थे. अब तो ज़रा चूक हुई नहीं कि ये लोग आखों  से सुरमा उतार लें. और् फिर  ये तो तलवार थी वो भी खानदानी –  हीरे जवाहेरात उसमें जडे हुए , मशहूर औ मारूफ , बच्चा बच्चा जिसके किस्से बयान  करते नहीं  थकता और आप हैं  कि बस यूं  ही सो गये तकिये के नीचे रख कर ! अरे हकीम साहब का दिल रखने का इतना ही शौक़ था तो बावर्ची खाने से कोई चाकू –  वाकू मंगवा लिया होता या फिर गुलाम को जहमत को जहमत दी होती.आपकी जेहनी खैरियत के लिये हम तोपखाने से किसी मरियल घोडे  की  नाल ले आये होते. दरोगा साहब हमारे जानने वालों मे शरीक़ होते हैं और हम अगर  आपकी  दिमागी हालत का वास्ता देते तो हमें  यकीन है कि वो हमें  मायूस न  करते’. नवाब बहुत झुंझलाये , समझ गये कि  मुंशी भिगो भिगो के जूती साफ  कर रहे हैं पर क्या करते तलवार और तेह्ज़ीब का मामला था.

डांट  कर नौकर तो ललब किया – ‘अमां फुक्कन मिया मुंशी साहब कोई खाली बगैर काम काज के नहीं  हैं  कि सारा दिन आपका इंतेज़ार करते रहें. अगर काहिली छोड  कर कुछ पका लिया हो तो लेते आइये वर्ना कम से कम एक कप चाय ही पेश कर दीजिये जो हम सीलोन से लाये थे’. फिर वो धीरे से बोले – ‘क्या करें सब कम्बखत मुंह लगे हैं सुनते ही नही. ना बात का ढंग है ना काम का सलीका.’ मुंशी समझ गये कि तीर निशाने पर लगा है लगा है और ये बातें नौकरों की जानिब से उन्हें सुनाई जा रही हैं. शराफत और खैरियत दोनों के  मद्दे नज़र उन्होंने ये ही मुनासिब समझा कि वहां से फूट लिया जाये. वैसे भी चौक में लस्सी के  ठेके के लिये बहुत मसाला जमा हो गया था.

नवाब खुश थे.ऊपर  वाले के करम से दोपहर के खाने के वक़्त लोगों ने उन्हें तन्हा छोड  दिया. पर असलियत तो ये थी कि छ्ज्जू की लस्सी की दुकान पर नवाब का मखौल उडाने वालों  की जो महफिल जमी वो दोपहर के खाने तक चलती रही. और आप जानते  हैं कि खाने के बाद तो लखनऊ वाले अगर क़यामत बर्पा हो जाये तो भी ना उठ्ठें. हाल फिलहाल झुटपुटे तलक नवाब को  परेशान करने कोई ना आया.

बुरा वक़ बता कर नहीं आता ये तो ठीक है पर ये बात भी दुरुस्त है कि  बुरा वक़्त आसानी से टलता भी नहीं.अभी  कारिंदे श्म्माओं  को  रौशन कर ही रहे थे कि आगा मीर की ड्योढी से  मिर्ज़ा असलम बेग तशरीफ ले  आये. उनके चांद से चमकते रुख्सार से ये साफ बयां हो रहा था कि दिन भर किसी मटरगश्ती से चूर होकर कुछ ऐसा सोये होंगे कि ख्वाब में में भी ज़ोर ज़ोर से हंस रहे होंगे.ना जाने क्यों पर  नवाब को यकीन था जो नूर  मिर्ज़ा के नूरानी चेहरे से टपक रहा था उसमें उनकें खिल्ली का कतरे खून बनकर तैर रहे थे. मिर्ज़ा को देखते ही वो एकदम चौक्कन्ने हो गये और कुछ ऐसे बैठ गये जैसे कि मिर्ज़ा के वार करते ही उनपर टूट  पडेंगे. मिर्ज़ा ने दीवानखाने में घुसते ही पान पेश किया और बहुत ही अफसोस भरी अलबत्ता रोनी सूरत बना कर कहा -‘हुज़ूर  ये क्या कर दिया. अब लखनअऊ का क्या होगा ‘?

नवाब  अब सब्र की इंतेहां  तक पहुंच चुके थे. उन्हें एक पल ऐसा लगा कि वो मिर्ज़ा का मुंह नोच लेंगे. पर इसे अंजाम देने के लिये ज्यों ही वो हरकत में आये आसमानों से उनकें लखनवी पुर्खों की रूह उन्हें सदाएं देने लगी. कहने लगी कि मिराज़ जो शराफत के पुतलों  का खिताब हमारी नस्लों को अता किया जाता रहा है उसकी तौहीन मत करो. इसे मिर्ज़ा की नादानी और अल्ला की मर्ज़ी समझ कर जज़्ब कर जाओ. जन्नत में तुम्हारी जगह हम पक्की किये रहेंगे. मरता क्या ना करता नवाब ने खुद को खुदा के लिये संभाला और बोले -‘अमां लखनऊ तो तब भी बलंद और क़ायम रहा जब फिरंगी जाने ए आलम ( नवाब वाजिद अली शाह का एक खिताब) को श्हर की सडकों पर लिये घूमते रहे जैसे कि बंदर का खेल हो , ये तो बेचारी एक बेजान , बे जबान तलवार थी.’ नवाब के मिज़ाज़ की तल्खी को मिर्ज़ा भांप गये मगर अब जिस काम को आये थे उसे तो अंजाम देना ही था. सो बोले – ‘हुआ क्या था ???’

नवाब  को ऐसा लगा जैसे वो गश खाके गिर जायेंगे – झूटी तलवार के लुटने की सच्ची दास्तान जिसमे वो आधे अहमक़ थे और आधे शैतान अब उनसे और झेली नही जा रही थी. हाथ कत्ल करने पर अमादा थे पर दिल उन्हें उनकी शराफत का वास्ता देकर रोक देता था. अपनी सारी हिम्मत तलब करके बोले – ‘अरे साहब अब क्या कहें हम तो ये बात अच्छी तरह जानते थे कि तमाम ज़माने की , खास कर कि हमारे नमक हराम नौकरो की नज़र हमारी पुश्तैनी तलवार पर है सो हमने बडे एह्तियात से मयान मे डाल कर तहखाने में  तिंजोरी में सात तालों में बन्द करके रक्खा था. ना जाने कहां से सुल्ताना डाकू के अंडे बच्चे शहर में आ गये है कि वहां से भी उडा ले गये.हम तो केहते हैं मिर्ज़ा अब ये शहर हमारे आपके जैसे शरीफों  के लिये महफूज़ नहीं  रहा. ज़रूरी है कि आप भी ज़रा संभल के रहें.’

मिर्ज़ा  गहरी सोच में डूब गये और कुछ देर बाद दाढी पर हाथ फेरते हुए बोले -‘ नवाब साहब अगर हम आपकी जगह होते तो कभी इतनी ज़ाहिर सी जगह पर इस कदर नायाब चीज़ ना धरते. हम तो साह्ब ऐसी जगह छुपाते कि सात पुश्तें भी सुराग  ना लगा पातीं कि तलवार शाम होते होते ही जाती कहां है.रख देते चावलों के गोदाम में किसे बोरी में छुपा कर. किसका दिमाग इतना चलता कि हमारी होशियारी के  आगे अपनी चला पाता. वो तो ठहरे अकल के पैदल.मुल्ला की दौड मस्जिद तक, तिजोरी का ताला तोडते और अन्दर मिलता हमारे हाथों क लिखा पर्चा – मियां अभी बादाम खाओ, तुम्हारे जैसे लौंडे तो जेब में मोमफली के साथ रखते हैं और गाहे बगाहे चबा जाया करते हैं.’ असलम बेग के चेहरे में शैतान की सूरात साफ दिखायी दे  रही थी.वो आगे बोले –

‘अब  क्योंकि आप हमारे साथ कंचे खेले हैं और पतंग बाज़ी के पैंतरे भी जानते हैं हम समझे कि आप भी हमारी तरह ही तेज़ दिमाग से सोचेंगे.पर हम गलत थे लडकपन की मुराही जवानी की मुकम्मल दिमाग मे तब्दील हो ये ज़रूरी नहीं है. खैर जो हुआ सो हुआ, हम अब रुक्सत चाहेंगे … बडा अफसोस हुआ.’

मुंशी ने तो फिर भी जूते भिगो भिगो कर मारे थे मिर्ज़ा ने तो मारे दस गिने दो. “या अल्लाह ये कैसा फसाद पैदा कर दिया.इससे कभी निजात मिलेगी भी या नहीं.”

अगले  दिन सुबह सुबह दरवाज़े पर फिर दस्तक हुई. नौकरों ने आकर बताया कि कोतवाल साहब हाज़िर होना चाहते हैं कहिए तो लिवा लायें. नवाब क्या केहते – जान गये कि अभी उन्हें जल्दी मौत नहीं  आयेगी.कुछ ही देर मे कोतवाल साहब नवाब  मिराजुद्दौला के हुज़ूर में तशरीफ फर्मा थे. सवाल वही – तलवार कैसे चोरी हो गयी !!!!!!

नवाब मिराजुदौला फरिश्तों जैसे तो थे मगर फरिश्ते नहीं थे. उनमे वो सब कमियां मौजूद थीं जो अक्सर इंसानों में पायी जाती है मसलन गुस्सा , खीज, बदसलूकी,वहशत, दीवानापन ……. नवाब का चेहरा तमतमा गया और वो  जैसे बिराते हुए अपना बयान देने लगे. चिल्ला कर बोले – ‘कोतवाल साहब हुआ यूं  कि हम तलवार से बहुत तंग आ चुके थे सो हमने सोचा कि लाओ आज अपना काम इसी से ताम किये लेते हैं. आव  देखा ना ताव तलवार को अपने सीने में घोंप लिया और बिस्तरे पर लेट गये. सुबह देखा तो हम तो थे पर तलवार ना थी. अब बताइये कि क्या करें ?’

दरोगा जी ज़रा देर तो सकते में आ गये फिर सोचने लगे. थोडी देर बाद तफतीश के लहज़े उन्होंनें कुछ यूं दर्याफ्त किया – ‘आप गलती कर गये , हुआ यूं होगा कि जब आप तलवार को सींसे में घुसेड कर औंधे पडे होंगे तभी चोर आया होगा. उसने आपको बेहोश देखा होगा और सोचा होगा कि देखें सो रहे है या जग रहे हैं.ज़ैसे ही आपको पलटा होगा उसे तलवार की मुठ दिखायी दे गये होगी. उसने सोचा होगा दुनिया भर की चीज़ें लादने से अच्छा ये बेश्कीमत नगीना ही क्यों ना हथिया लिया जाये.तलवार को मुठ पकड कर खींचा होगा और ये जा वो जा.आपने अपने जांबाज़ पुर्खों का नाम लेकर ज़रा ज़ोर और लगाया होता तो आज आप भी शहीद हो चुके होते और आपके मरहूम दादाजान की निशानी भी रह जाती.’

नवाब अब कुछ और सोचने समझने के काबिल ना रह सके थे.आस पास का माहौल सुन्न सा हो गया और दूर किसी कोठे से रियाज़ की आवाज़ आने लगी. गालिब का कलाम था शायद  :

ये कहां की दोस्ती है के बने हैं दोस्त नासेह्, कोई चारागार होता कोई गमगुसार होता

हुए  मर के हम जो रुसवा हुए क्यों ना गर्के दरिया, ना कहीं जनाज़ा उठता ना कहीं मज़ार होता……

~ आहंग

** ये किस्सा बहुत अर्सा पेहले किसी दोस्त नें एक लतीफ के तौर पर शार्ट में सुनाया था. हमें लगा कि लखनऊ के मिजाज़ के साथ ज्यादती हुई है सो यहां अपने ब्लाग पर तफसील से बयान करने की हिमाकत की है.उम्मीद है कि आपको पढ कर मज़ा आयेगा और जो ना आये तो मेरी बला से….!

अपना ही इंतेज़ार किया है मैनें कई शाम …

खुदाया ये बेखुदी कि खुद के साथ बैठ कर

अपना ही इंतेज़ार किया है मैनें कई शाम …

तमाम चेहरों में कौन सा चेहरा है मेरे दोस्त

है खुद से ये सवाल किया मैनें कई शाम…

इस आग के दरिया की मैं भी तो लहर  हूं

सोचा है साहिल पर खडे  रहके मैनें कई  शाम…

ये कैसी कशमकश है ये कैसा जुनूं है

समझा तो नहीं पर सोचा है यही मैनें कई शाम..

एक चांद को तारों से करते बात देखकर

ढूंढा है अपना भी आसमान कई शाम …..

– आहंग

Unexplained……

You seem know all the answers, I am not sure of the  question

You want to know the truth, I am OK with the lies

You want to get to the destination, I revel in the journey

You want to see the light , I explore the darkness as well

You want to be in control , I have lost my sense of bearing

You want to do what’s right, I don’t know what went wrong

You want to be loved by friends, I like my enemies too

You want to be the favorite of Gods, I am devil’s confidant

You want me to be there always, I may or may not be

You want to believe in yourself, I can’t trust my own mind

To you I am arbitrary, to me I’m just unexplained

~aahang

जो मैंने जाना है ……

इस मोड से जाते हैं        

कुछ  सुस्त कदम रस्ते

कुछ तेज़  कदम राहें

इन  तेज़ सी राहों  पर

हम दौड्ते रेह्ते हैं

और जान नहीं पाते

क्या हमने खोया है

कभी  सुस्त  से रस्तों पर

मेरे साथ चलो तुम भी

और देखो वो सब कुछ

जो मैंने  जाना  है  ……

‍‍~  आहंग

200 years of Hazratganj

On my recent trip to Lucknow I was on my way to chowk for some Chikan work shopping.I decided to take the route via governer house to hazratganj and then onwards to clarks awadh hotel, residency and medical college.

Hazratganj is usually crowded in the evenings but I have never seen anything close to the legendary traffic jams of bangalore.I was surprised to see the traffic stuck at the same place for some 15-20 minutes.The reason for this snarl… Hazratganj is getting a face lift for its 200th birthday.A welcome change for all of us who grew up in Lucknow and for whom ganjing was as special as going to Time Square in NY.

Papa’s car has no music system so waiting there for the traffic to make way ,I got carried back in time when this stretch of 1 km represented all that was hot and happening. Hazratganj was not only a market place , it was something to talk about and even flaunt to the poor cousins who visited from not so hep parts of the country.

Personally I have lots of memories and a few of them are quite vivid as if they happened just yesterday. It’s difficult to rank what I liked best but yes what comes to mind quite readily is my monthly, fortnightly and sometimes weekly visits to Mayfair. The cinema hall was a craze among movie lovers in Lucknow as it showed the latest English Movies in the Morning show.You could bump into almost anyone or hope to bump into almost anyone as you put your hand into the ticket window to collect tickets of “Pretty Women’. Another favorite haunt for college goers especially from the science department in Lucknow University was the Marksman restaurant. In those days it had the distinction of serving some  of the best Burgers,Pizzas and Omelette’s.Any given day you could see youngsters pooling in for a ‘dutch’ party to celebrate the last day of exam or some equally important occasion.And yes how can I forget Rovers cafe ?? For 10 bucks you could buy yourself a hot burger with a potato pancake and a slice of onion and cucumber stuffed carefully between the bread. If you were not broke already you could ask for a fanta or a thums up to go along watching the chicks as time stood still.Janpath was another place that allowed a casual stroll and plenty of window shopping.There was a magazine shop at the corner that sold the latest issues of Debo and all my friends would make sure to have a dekko before their Ganjing trip was over. My entire collection of ‘rock’ music was put together at shop called the Rhythm centre which was on the left side as you entered the Janpath premises.They used to record @ rs 2 per song for Hindi and Rs 5 for English.I guess the bias was still there from the times of Britishers and the snob shopkeepers had found a novel way to differentiate the sahebs from the Pariah.I cared for neither.One place that I used to frequent in the evenings was the Chat stall on the upper deck of Janpath. The genesis of being and the power of free will were debated for hours till it did not make sense anymore –  I am not sure if it was the depth of the discussion or the high of Old monk but that’s what it was.

The traffic started moving and I was transponded  back from my reverie. As I sped past the DM’s residence I reminded myself to take the turn and stop by to have Paan at SBI…..somethings will never change.

And it is for these things which will remain ‘unchanged’ I will keep coming back again and again and again !

 

Does God play dice ??

Its a long weekend so I picked up the Original text of ” special and general theory of relativity” which had been pushed back in the Que of “to read” on my table because each time I picked it up I found the contents too abstruse for my tired and drained out mind to comprehend.

I grappled with the text trying to read it from beginning to the end and vice versa.Then I picked up the chapters randomly but the only thing that I could understand was that the concept of time and space and space time has to be clear to understand the general and special theory of relativity to a certain degree.

Also I admit that I was intrigued more by time than by space so I began to read more about how human consciousness has dealt with this invisible fourth dimension that’s just an a priori concept etched deep within our minds or even in our DNA as Robert Persig says in his classic ‘ Zen and the Art of motor cycle maintainence.

In terms of defining time I sifted through numerous statements and the one that best explains the idea comes from science Fiction writer Ray Cummings  :

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

This is a very pertinent definition and explains a lot of stuff about time from spiritual, religious,philosophical as well as scientific standpoint.Newtonian concept of linear time assumes that  events happen in a sequence so that the ones that are observed first are ‘past’ and the ones that will be observed later are ‘ future’  taking the observers current position as present.Time travel is therefore a possibility.

Opposed to this view are Leibniz and Immanuel Kant who propose time to be part of our intellectual perception framework  just like space, numbers etc within which we organize and sequence our thoughts so it cannot be measured or traveled for that matter.

In the Critique of Pure Reason , Kant describes time as an intuition that allows us (together with the other intuition,space) to comprehend sense experience.

We think of time as an absolute,flowing and measurable entity because of the inherent notion that ‘our’ time is limited and we exist only between our beginning and end.Just as we don’t say ‘ your space is running out’ we would not say ‘ your time is running out’ if we stop thinking of it as something exaustible with a unidirectional and irreversible flow.

While Christianity believes in Linear time with the beginning at the start of creation by God the other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism etc state that time is cyclical with the wheel of time turns for each individual between birth and extinction.According to the Vedas the universe goes through repeated cycles of creation, sustainance ,destruction and rebirth called the yugas Treta , Dvapar, kaliyug and satyug.Each complete cycle lasts for 4320000 years.

The Concept of Time in Physics :

We have already read Newton’s definition so let’s jump to Einstein.

Einstein, postulated the constancy and finiteness of the speed of light for all observers in his special theory of relativity. He proved that distances appear shorter and time interval appears longer  for events associated with objects in motion relative to an inertial observer.

Einstein showed that if time and space is measured using electromagnetic phenomena (like light bouncing between mirrors) then due to the constancy of the speed of light, time and space become mathematically entangled in the Minkowski space where time is added as the fourth dimension.

This in turn results in Lorentz transformation , which explains how, according to the theory of special relativity, two observers’ varying measurements of space and time can be converted into each other’s frames of reference. It reflects the surprising fact that observers moving at different velocities may measure different distances, time inetrvals, and even different ordering of events.

In the late nineteenth century, physicists encountered problems with the classical understanding of time, in connection with the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. Einstein resolved these problems by invoking a method of synchronizing clocks using the constant, finite speed of light as the maximum signal velocity. This led directly to the result that observers in motion relative to one another will measure different elapsed times for the same event.

According to Einstein, the concept of time depends on the spatial reference frame of the observer, and the human perception as well as the measurement by instruments such as clocks are different for observers in relative motion. The past is the set of events that can send light signals to the observer, the future is the set of events to which the observer can send light signals.

Einstein notes  : “Two  events taking place at the points A and B of a system K are simultaneous if they appear at the same instant when observed from the middle point, M, of the interval AB. Time is then defined as the ensemble of the indications of similar clocks, at rest relatively to K, which register the same simultaneously.”

In Chapter 9 he adds that simultaneity is also relative, i.e., two events that appear simultaneous to an observer in a particular inertial reference frame need not be judged as simultaneous by a second observer in a different inertial frame of reference.

Schrodinger’s Cat paradox :

Quantum physics presents a complex view of the universe. Erwin Schrödinger criticized the theory by posing one of the most famous thought experiments in modern physics.

The quantum model of reality explains particles in terms of probability using wave equations. Instead of a particle being a bouncy ball, it is a described in terms of a superposition of waves that represent its probable states. Erwin Schrödinger complained in his 1935 paper that “the classical concept of state becomes lost,” citing the famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle. To highlight this problem, he posed his now legendary “cat paradox.”

Schrödinger’s Cat

Schrödinger purposed to put a fictional, but no doubt loveable, cat into a box shielded from any outside interference. Inside the box, he also places a radioactive substance, “so small,” says Schrödinger, “that perhaps in the course of an hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none.” Finally, he inserts a mechanism consisting of a Geiger counter connected to a bottle of poison. If the counter detects the radioactive decay of the atom, the mechanism breaks the flask of poison and poor kitty dies. If the counter does not detect the decay, then the cat lives.

What is the point of this experiment? As Schrödinger explains, the quantum function describing the state of the system would “express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.”

Most Physicists resolve the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox by making distinction between microscopic phenomena which are described as a strange mixture of atomic states as regards to their position in time ( Hiesenberg’s  Uncertainty Principle), and macroscopic objects, in this case a cat.The standard resolution of the paradox assumes that the crucial difference between microscopic events ( collision of atomic particles) and macroscopic events spreading of smoke in a room is that microscopic events are reversible in time , while  macroscopic events are not.While a film of two atoms colliding looks normal whether it runs forward or backward in time , a film of smoke coming out of an incense stick will makes sense only if the smoke is spreading out not collapsing back into the incense.Thus , macroscopic events fix “the arrow of time” in a direction that increases disorder.Physicists say that the entropy of macroscopic events ( the measure of disorder) fixes the direction of time and also makes the distinction between reversible microscopic events and irreversible macroscopic events.

It is important to understand that Consciousness is not the essential feature of making an observation.The transfer of information which implies an increase in entropy and irreversibly of time is the basis of observation.The irreversible transfer of information can be in the form of memory cells in our brain or photographic film.

But how do we remember the sequence of events in our consciousness is a mystery as unlike the Photo film the brain cells are again like atomic particles and follow random motion where time can be reversed or it certainly does not have the arrow of time associated with the macroscopic systems ???

There are other paradox which exist with respect to our interface with time apart from the effect of psychotropic substances such as the kappa effect wherein the journey that covers more distance will appear to take longer than the journey covering less distance, even though they take an equal amount of time. Practically speaking, a faster journey over more distance will still appear more time-consuming than a slower journey over less distance.

It is a known phenomenon that long periods of time appear to pass faster as people grow older. Stephen Hawking, suggests that the judgement of time is a function of age, according to a ratio – Unit of Time : Time Lived.

For example, one day to an eleven-year-old person would be approximately 1/4,000 of their life, while one day to a 55-year-old would be approximately 1/20,000 of their life. According to such an interpretation, a day would appear much longer to a young child than to an adult, even though the measure of time is the same.

Time Travel,Temporal Paradox and Parallel Universe’s :

Time travel is the concept of moving backwards and/or forwards to different points in time,just as we do in space, and different from the normal “flow” of time to an observer on earth. It hypothesizes that all points in time – in past and in future “persist” in some way. Time travel at different rates into the future, known as time dilation, as predicted by the theory of relativity, and has been experimentally verified for small amounts of time. Travelling forward for larger amounts of time is, so far, physically difficult, requiring large amounts of energy. Travelling backwards in time has never been verified, presents many theoretic problems, and may be an impossibility.

A central problem with time travel to the past is the violation of causality , should an effect precede its cause, it would give rise to the possibility of temporal paradox.Also known as time paradox , it presents a paradoxical situation in which a time traveler causes, through actions in the past, the exclusion of the possibility of the time travel that allowed those actions to be taken.

The typical example is that of the grandfather paradox, wherein a time traveler goes back in time and kills his grandfather before his mother or father is conceived. It is a paradox because if this occurs, he will never be born, and therefore never be able to travel back in time to kill his grandfather, thus allowing himself to be born.

One hypothesis is that there are an infinite number of universes, one for each possibility. Here, should the time traveller kill his grandfather, one universe would have a live grandfather, and another universe would have a dead one. Failing that, the universe would annihilate itself, for such a paradox would defy its laws.

I think it’s time for me to go get a drink and alter my perception of time – slow or fast , past or future I shall let you know once I come back to consciousness.

अपना ही इंतेज़ार किया है मैनें कई शाम

वाह री बेखुदी कि तेरे पास बैठ कर ,

तेरा ही इंतेज़ार किया है मैनें कभी कभी ….

I heard this couplet a few days back and I am not able to get it out of my mind for some reason.While it suggests missing someone else at one level, to me it is more of an expression of losing touch with your own self in the midst of all the commotion that our lives have become.

My version will come something like this :

खुदाया ये बेखुदी कि खुद के साथ बैठ कर

अपना ही इंतेज़ार किया है मैनें कई शाम …

तमाम चेहरों में कौन सा चेहरा है मेरे यार

खुद से ये सवाल किया है मैनें कई शाम …

Between work,home and everything else in between there’s hardly any space or time left to connect within. All you do must be done and all relationships are your own asking but really how or what justifies existence itself.Time and again I ask myself : is this something I want to do ? Is this something I like to do ? Is this my calling ? and cautiously avoid the answer.

इतने हिस्सों मे बट गया हूं मैं , मेरे हिस्से में कुछ  बचा ही नहीं

To continue in this state is madness and I know it. But I somehow participate in it for lack of sanity….trudging the endless road to nowhere.

Waiting ,perhaps looking forward, for the station where I can offload myself .

Off I will go to a land where it all makes sense finally or may be not !

~ आहंग्

पथिक का प्रेम गीत…

मेरे आने पर देखो कैसे तुम्हारी आखें चमक गयीं

लगता है जाने पर मेरे सबसे ज़्यादा तुम रोओगे

मुझको बाहर तक पहुंचाने सब ही आए तुम ना आए

लगता है तन्हाई मे मेरी मेरे  साथ  तुम्ही  होओगे

मेरा गीत सुना  सब जागे  तुमको  कैसे नींद आ गयी

लगता है अब इंतज़ार में सारी रात नहीं सोओगे

सबने मुझसे  पूछे किस्से और तुम थे चुपचाप खडे

लगता है मन की मेहफिल का अंतिम गीत तुम्ही होओगे

रामअवतार त्यागी जी रचना  ‘ सबसे ज़्यादा तुम रोओगे ‘ के भावों को मैंने अपने स्तर से प्रस्तुत करनी की कोशिश की है. आशा है आप तक पहुंचेगी …… आहंग

NREGA – Good politics Bad business

While the government is basking in the success of the NREGA (National rural emaployment Guarentee Scheme) and the opposition is crying fowl from the rooftops,the real  impact of this scheme on the economy is something no one seems to be bothered about.

Many years ago IBM computers was in the dumps and it had to do something drastic to turn around its dwindling fortunes.They had a huge workforce which they could neither fire right away nor could keep for always in its current form.Driven to the wall the team at IBM told its employees that we would like to retain everybody so long as they can prove themselves to be employable.This simply meant that there are no free lunches and whoever contributes can be a part of the party.This simple idea turned out to be one of the most important case studies in HR history as it brought back IBM computers from the brink of bankruptcy to the centre stage of IT revolution as we know it.

Professionals like us  have no issues with sharing our destiny with our less fortunate brethren but the only worry is that can we sustain it for long.If the dog starts biting the hand that feeds or in softer words if we cut the branch on which we are perched its going to be sad tale of foolhardy for all of us.On one hand the money is being ill spent and on the other the sources from which it came are being attacked at the same time.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/in-opposition-camp-too-delays-mismanagement/259701/0

Lets look at some very compelling situations which I am putting here not for starting a debate but to sound a red alert for ‘fools’ who keep living in their own  paradise :

1.Today you go to any of the Industrial cities such as Ludhiana , Moradabad, Tirupur ,Kanpur,Cochin etc and there’s one thing you will find common on all factory gates – a sign declaring labour required for packing,polishing stiching,cutting,weaving and so on.So what’s new ? well there is no labour !

And where have they all gone ?? Nowhere.They have just not turned up.Who would bother to lead a harsh life of hard work when you can enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor for free at home.A share has to be given away in bribes but that’s OK.I did not do anything do deserve it anyways.

2.NREGA may be a great scheme but its implementation is seriously flawed.Has the government come up with a white paper on how the country has benefited by keeping the nations working hands tied up to their place of origin.Displacement to urban centers could have been a problem but is this the right solution.What are the metrics applied and how the performance of the workers,supervisors and babus is being measured.NREGA is supposed to build check dams,community roads,wells etc but how have the parameters for achievement been set against the work being done by a private contracter.

3.In order to be ’employable’ by world markets our industry needs to be competitive.But we have floating exchange rates compared to China’s fixed ones,we have all kinds of industrial policies that hinder free flow of men and material,we have excise duty which encourages export of raw material and discourages export of finished goods,We have labor laws that were fit for the 1950’s but no one has bothered to change them,we have the lowest productivity of workers and highest cost of transport and duties.

4.India is touted to be on the growth path as more than 70% of its population is under 35 years of age and we have the largest pool of working population.But with schemes like NREGA we must question if the working hands are getting utilized optimally.Whats the differential when you have a skilled tailor work on a machine producing merchandise for exports vs. the same guy working in his village and digging a canal.

5.Those who earn much more that what NREGA offers and have skills which are far beyond will continue to rise on the economic path but what is the government doing to upgrade the skills of those who work for NREGA ??What about those who have under utilized skill sets.I am sure their numbers far exceed those of the few software engineers we keep talking about.

6.If the factories cannot produce goods for shortage of labour or become uncompetitive in world market place who will take the responsibility and how will the deficit in export earnings be made good.What are our options and what are we doing about mechanizing processes that are labor intensive.Is the government giving incentives to SSI’s and Exporters so they do not suffer due to lack of cheap labor which has been their competitive advantage for so long.

I am not predicting a doomsday scenario here but if you go to one of the centers of export excellence above you will be as aghast as I was when I saw half the units either closed already or on the verge of it.

When last season our supplier in Ludhiana told us that he can’t supply the goods due to shortage of labour we went to an importer and bought Chinese sweaters.I wonder what will hold the buyers in other countries to act any differently if we in India continue on this path of self destruction.

The Link below to NREGA website does not measure any of the stuff I have mentioned but interestingly shows the lowest levels of Funds utilization and sanctioned in states like Goa,Himanchal  and Uttarakhand which have done far better on the industrialization and improving quality of life for their people.

http://nrega.nic.in/netnrega/dologin/MPR_fin_rep_cmp.aspx?state_code=24&fin=2011-2012&Digest=9sBuBxgG+sPk1eZzpM7%2foA

Smile…You are in Lucknow !

Domes of Asafi Masjid at Bara ImamBara as seen from Teele waali masjid. Asafi ,as it was built by Asif ud Daula.

Teele Waali masjid stands next to Laal Pul(Red Bridge)on the banks of Gomti river.

The girl looking at you is Mushrat who is getting trained in the art of chikan kari under the expert eyes of her mother who is sitting besides her.

Chikan work is painstaking and tedious.Typically the girls will work for 6 hours every day for 26 days and they get paid just Rs 1000($25) for this.

A saree with intricate work on chiffon can take as many as 6 months to complete ! Several artisans work on the same piece day in and day out till it gets completed.I am sure that by the time its ready to be given back they form a kind of bond with the piece of clothing on which they have worked ceaselessly together.

The monotony of the job at hand is broken by friendly banter and chit chat among the women folk who will discuss their family woes and financials with their co workers.
Chewing Paan ( betel leaf and nuts) adds flavor and color to an otherwise dull scene.

The motifs are printed with Indigo blue so they can be washed off after the embroidery is done.They say that Chikan pieces face most testing conditions and travel from one place to another , much more than they would ever, once they are sold off.

Happiness is a state of mind for this poor Zardozi worker who takes pride in his work even though his remuneration is a pittance.

The back side of Roomi Darwaaza.The Rumi Darwaza, which stands sixty feet tall, was modeled after the Sublime Porte (Bab-iHümayun) in Istanbul.Made by Asif ud daula it has now become an icon for Lucknow.

Rumi gate as seen from Asafi mosque.The Rumi gate is named after Rumi the great Sufi saint of Turkey.The landscape around the gate was once very beautiful. In fact this was once the entrance to the walled city area of Lucknow. The gateway has been mentioned in various sources but the most famous one is considered to be the report published by one George Russell who worked as a reporter of The New York times in mid 19th century. Russell, who accompanied the victorious British Army in 1857 had called the stretch of road from Rumi Darwaza to Chattar Manzil the most beautiful and spectacular cityscape that he had ever seen, better than Rome, Paris, London or Constantinople.

That’s the Symbol of Oudh Kingdom which has now been adapted by the UP government as its official State Emblem.

Legend has it that during Akbar’s time Sheikh Abdur Rahim went to Delhi to seek his fortune.He returned to Lucknow as the Governor of Awadh and on his way back encountered the lucky sign of Mahi Muratib, while crossing the Ganges.Known as the Order of the Fish (“fish dignity” in Persian and Arabic), an honorary badge or dignity, shaped like a fish it is said to signify youth, bravery, perseverance and strength. Since then it was to be found on all great buildings and official documents as the royal insignia of the Nawabs of Awadh.

Second of the two gates which lead to Bara Imam bara.Notice the 4 balconies which are quite similar to those found at hawa mahal in Jaipur.

The front facade of Bara Imam bara built by Nawab Asif ud Daula who is buried here too.The design of the Imambara was obtained through a competitive process. The winner was an architect Kifayatullah, who also lies buried in the main hall of the Imambara. It is rather interesting that the sponsor and the architect lie buried besides each other.

The building was instituted to provide work to the famine stricken subjects of the Nawab.It is said that in day time ordinary people would construct the building and in the night kings and Noblemen would demolish the structure.

During this time the saying became famous :

जिसको ना दे मौला उसको दे आसिफ उद दौला

( whom the Gods don’t provide for is looked after by Asif ud Daula)

When courtiers brought this to the notice of Asif-ud-Daula, he was not very exactly pleased. His take was :

” आप मुझे मेरे मौला से ऊपर का दर्ज़ा नहीं दे सकते.ये गलत है.करनेवाला तो खुदा है, इंसान तो बस एक ज़रिया है.गर केहना ही है तो कहिये : जिसको दे मौला , उसी को दे असिफुद दौला (Asifud Daula  provides for those whom the God looks after)”


The Hussainabad Clock Tower, the tallest Clock Tower in India, is one of the finest examples of British Architecture in India. The 221-foot tall structure was erected by Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider to mark the arrival of Sir George Couper, 1st Lieutenant Governor of United Province of Avadh in the year 1887 at a cost of Rs. 1.75 lakhs. The contract for constructing the clock tower was given to James William Benson, the royal clock maker in England who made clocks for the queen of England.

The Clock Tower in Lucknow reaches upto a staggering height of 221 feet and is the tallest Clock Tower in India. The Clock tower also has the biggest fitted clock . Roskell Payne designed this lofty structure of 67 meter high and it reflects Victorian-Gothic style structural designs. Gunmetal is used for building the clock parts. It’s gigantic pendulum has a length of 14 feet and the dial of the clock is designed in the shape of a 12-petalled flower and bells around it. Sadly the clock has been dysfunctional for decades now.

Notice the Swan Bird at the very top which was probably a weathervane and gave the direction of the wind. Recently the head fell off and it is said to have weighed 13 Kgs !!

On a clear day one can see the city of  Cawnpore (Kanpur)from atop of this tower !!

The Chotta Imam baara was a place of worship for the begums who resided in the near by Chattar Manzil palace.As you enter from the elaborate gate there is the Shahi Hammam where the begums  performed Wuzoo ( cleansing before namaz).The Water came through pipes from Gomti River to the Husainabad Tank from where it was fed  to different areas of the royal residence.

If you are wondering about the Chain in the hands of this statuette ,its for conducting electricity in case of a weather storm so the buildings are safe.

The gate of Chotta Imam Bara.Notice the Anglo Gothic and Turkish design elements in its architecture.The arches are Turkish as found in the Taj Mahal and the Spires are Gothic as you would see in churches.

The Husainabad pond.It is said that when cornered by the british forces Sultana Daaku(bandit) jumped from the 67 meter high clock tower into this pond and escaped.My guide told me that these were stories concocted by the servants of the Noblemen to put the kids to sleep.Another version holds that he jumped straight away to his horseback from the top of the tower and escaped.I believe in both of them !

Wajid Ali Shah..the grandest of the Nawabs of Oudh.Known for his interest in fine arts he was himself a great poet and composer.Here are the lyrics of his famous thumri composed in raag Bhairavi:
बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए
बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए
चार कहार मिल, मोरी डोलिया सजावें (उठायें)
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए | बाबुल मोरा …
आँगना तो पर्बत भयो और देहरी भयी बिदेश
जाए बाबुल घर आपनो मैं चली पीया के देश | बाबुल मोरा …
It was predicted that he would become a jogi and his poetry deeply reflects this state of mind.Another one of my favorite from Shatranj ke Khiladi :

तरप तरप सगरी रैन गुजरी , कौन देस गयो सांवरिया

भर आयीं अंखियां मदवारी , तरस तरस गयी चुनरिया ,

तुम्हरे घोडन मोरे द्वार से जो निकसे ,सुध भूल गयी मैं बांवरिया

तरप तरप सगरी रैन गुजरी , कौन देस गयो सांवरिया….

Another gem that he recited to his friends and followers at the time of leaving Lucknow for Metia Burj in Calcutta :

दरो दीवार पे हसरत से नज़र करते हैं , खुश रहो अहले वतन हम तो सफर करते हैं

With a yearning gaze I look at the doors  and the wall

I have to leave now but may God bless you all….

Noted Columnist Amaresh Mishra writes –

Wajid Ali Shah was an unusual man of an unusual time – when everything was possible he did the impossible.He preserved for posterity what it meant to be a true Asian in th best and worst of periods.Beneath the rapidly spreading tentacles of Western might and culture he upturned the very meaning of tradition to create a concept of Asiatic freedom.This was freedom that followed the mind and the heart according to the need of the situation.It did not take anything for granted believing in transitory nature of all phenomena.And yet it captured every moment in its entirety.

Wajid Ali Shah, in this form and content , was the greatest enemy of the British.He was the exact opposite of their puritanical,positivist, pugnacious and metaphysical value system.When they called him indolent , he involved the people in his sensual pleasures.When they termed in capricious,he shamed the British with his Humanism.Charged with over indulgence he institutionalized his love for Music,dance and Women.( The Parikhana was a hostel for girls training in Music and Dance)

The below conversation between Resident Outram and Captain Weston gives us a flavor of the paradox Wajid Ali Shah was.Not only his friends but his enemies too liked him.

Wajid Ali Shah gave Kathak its present form,invented several new ragas,wrote and composed Khayals and Thumris which his subjects embraced as their own and sang them in the streets of Lucknow.

He also invented Rahas a  blend of Urdu and Raas Lila of Brij which became the basis of the Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb.During his time the Hindus and Muslims blended together as One and it would have been difficult to convince either of them of a different way of life.

When his Mother the Queen of Awadh left for  London to plead with the Queen of England to give his Masnad back, the streets and lanes of Awadh cheered and prayed for their Jan e  Alam ( one who is loved by the whole world) :

हज़रत जाते हैं लन्दन , हम पर क्रुपा करो रघुनन्दन

( Our king is going to London,Help us O lord Rama)

The socio cultural fabric had Hindus and Muslims as its warp and weft interwoven in a manner that the hues of differentiation simply diffused to create something wondrous and Joyful.Holi and Diwali were Occasions of celebration and so was Id.Muslims composed Bhajans and Geets while Hindus wrote Ghazals and Nazms , quality and Bhaav being the only creteria.Same was the case of trade and commerce – Brahmins made sweets as they were good at it and making Itr was a Muslim domain as they did it better.Pandit and Maulvi engaged in debates on Ethics and religion not in a duel for one upmanship but to understand the true nature of creation and the beings in it.

Chattar Manzil palace by the banks of Gomti river which used to the abode of the Queens of the nawabs of Oudh.It now houses the prestigious Central Drug research institute which was inaugurated by PM Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1951 to pioneer drug research in India.

The famous Begum Hazrat Mahal resided at Chattar Manzil Palace and led the revolt against the British from here by appointing her 10 year old son as the Monarch.Her tomb is still there at Begum Hazrat Mahal Park which is home to many an event especially the Lucknow Mahotsav which has now moved Venue to a place outside the city.

I am sorry for not being able to capture many other monuments of this great city and also for the random nature of narration.You may enjoy being an aimless wanderer as much as I have while taking pictures and talking to folks on the city streets.

** All Pictures from my SONY cyber Shot

मेरे बेटे के नाम ..

सात समन्दर पार से                                                

दुनिया के बाज़ार से

जब मैं कल अपने घर आया

देरे रात थी सब सोये थे

तुमको भी सोता पाया

यूं तो हमेशा यूं होता है

मैं तुमको दुबका लेता हूं

पर उस पल ना जाने क्यों

लेट तुम्हारे पास लग यूं

कि मैं तुम में सिमट गया हूं

छोटे से सीने से लग कर

मेरी आंखें भीग गयीं

एक एक पल में ही जैसे

कितनी सदियां बीत गयीं

उठती गिरती सांसों का

एक अजब एहसास थे तुम

मैं ही तुम से दूर गया था

मेरे कितने पास थे तुम

वक़्त का चरखा डोलेगा

और निर्बल हो जाऊंगा मैं

पास तुम्हारे मेरे बेटे

खुद को पाने आऊंगा मैं

~ By Aahang

अनवरत

मद्धम गति से बेहती नदी

चीर देती है पहाड का सीना        

उंचाई से गिरता झरना

पत्थर मे बना देता है

सरोवर मीठे पानी का

समन्दर की छोटी लेहरें

चट्टानों से टकरा टकरा कर

उन्हें रेत में बदल देती है

नन्ही कोपलें जो कल हवा से कांपती थीं

आज विशाल व्रक्ष है जंगल के

निर्जन धरती जो सिर्फ सूर्य के पीछे भागने पर बाध्य थी

आज मोक्क्ष प्राप्त कर ईश्वर बनने वालों को पालती है

हम बंधें हैं मन और शरीर के बंधन में

आशा निराशा रात दिन जीवन मरण

पर प्रक्रुति इस चक्र के परे है

गलत है जो  केहता है कि प्रक्रुती निष्ठुर है

वो तो  धैर्यवान ,निष्पक्ष , निर्लिप्त , अडिग है

स्व्धर्म रत है, अनवरत है

~ By aahang

एक और शाम

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust ~ Rumi

एक और शाम

खालीपन , मैं और जाम

कल से फिर ज़िन्दगी वही

घर, दफ्तर …. काम

पैसा , रुपया, रिश्तेदारी

जीना भी एक ज़िम्मेदारी

कैसी मोहब्बत कौन सा प्यार

खुद को है लम्हा दुशवार

रोज़ रात को तुम आते हो

सपना बन कर छा जाते हो

तुमको छू लूं ओ मेरे तारे

तुम लगते हो सच , और प्यारे

~ By Aahang

ब्रिजेश जी

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe ~ Albert Einstien

ब्रिजेश जी से मेरी पेहली मुलाक़ात उस वक़्त हुई जब मैं नया नया देहली में आया था.  एक प्रतिष्ठित प्रबंधन संस्थान का उत्पाद ना होने का लांछन अपने ललाट पर लिये मैं दफ्तर से दफ्तर धक्के खा रहा था. उन्हीं दिनों एक सज्जन ने मेरी स्थिती पर तरस खा कर मुझे एक बहुराष्ट्रिय कंपनी में मैनेजर के पद पर नौकरी पर रख लिया. मैं वक़्त का मारा था और सही मायने में मैनेजर बननें के काबिल नहीं था और उन साहब की कंपनी को सिवा उनके कोई बहुराष्ट्रिय क्या राष्ट्रिय भी नहीं मानता था. खैर ये तय था कि एक दूसरे के घाव को हम में से कोई नहीं कुरेदेगा और हम परस्पर सौहार्द बनाये रखेंगे.

सो जान में जोश और मन में ललक लिये मैं पेहले दिन दफ्तर में दाखिल हुआ जो कि एक फैकट्री को आफिस की शकल देनें की एक नाकाम कोशिश से ज़्यादा कुछ नहीं था.ज़ो एक वस्तु उस जगह पर अंतरराष्ट्रिय सी थी वो वे सज्जन खुद थे और वो भी इसलिये क्योंकि उनका 25 साल पुराना पासपोर्ट उनकी जवानी का मखौल उडाते हुए ऐसा केहता था. और यहीं मेरी मुलाकात श्री श्री 1008 ब्रिजेश जी से हुई.

छूटते ही ब्रिजेश जी ने नये रंगरूट यानि कि मुझे, गियर में ले लिया. नीली लिखने वाली कलम के अभाव में ज्यों हि मैंने हरी स्याही की कलम से हस्ताक्षर करनें चाहे ब्रिजेश जी उठ खडे हुए और गरजे :

ये क्या कर रहे हो

साइन कर रहा हूं . क्यों ?

नये नये आये हो और पेहले ही दिन नौकरी से हांथ धो बैठोगे

मैं कुछ  समझ न पाया और सवालिया निगाहों से उन्हें निहारनें लगा.

यहां सिर्फ नोएल ( कंपनी के मालिक जिनका वर्णन मैं कर चुका हूं) हरे कलम से साइन करता है.

और अगर कोई और करे तो ? मैंने ललकारा.

तो क्या नौकरी गयी.

मेरा मन घबराया पर वैसे ही जैसे बेटे का बाप की जेब से पैसे निकालते समय घबराता है.

कुछ समय यों ही काम करते बीत गया और फिर जैसे बोरियत को मिटानें के लिये ब्रिजेश जी मेरी ओर मुखातिब हुए और बोले :

सुनो

क्या ? मैने ज़रा खिन्न होकर कहा

ज़रा एक गिलास पानी ले आओ

क़्या !!!! गरजनें की बारी अब मेरी थी

अभी नये आये हो ना. मल्टीनैशनल कल्चर नहीं जानते. क्या एक ऐसोसियेट दूसरे ऐसोसियेट की हैल्प नहीं कर सकता ? बहुत छोटी सोच है तुम्हारी.

मल्टीनैशनल कल्चर गया तेल लेनें.अगली बार मुझसे पानीं लाने को कहा तो बोतल सर पे फोड दूंगा

क्या यार आज कल भलाई का ज़माना ही नहीं रहा. मैंने तो सोचा कि तुम्हारा ओरियटेशन कर दूं और तुम तो मार पीट पर उतर आये.खैर जाने दो मुझे क्या ? याद करोगे जब दिल्ली की प्रौफेशनल लाइफ में फिट नहीं हो पाओगे और ट्रेन में वापस जाने के लिये नई दिल्ली स्टेशन पर खडे होगे.

देखा जायेगा पर मुझसे अगर बकवास की तो ….

इस दिन के बाद ब्रिजेश जी मेरा मिजाज़ खूब समझ गये और देखते ही देखते उनका स्वभाव मेरी तरफ नर्म हो गया. इस बदलाव की एक छोटी सी वजह ये भी थी कि वो मुझे ही रिपोर्ट करनें लगे थे.

हम सभी की ज़िंदगी में एक व्यक्ती अती विशिष्ठ होता है – हम. परंतु ब्रिजेश जी में ये भावना कुछ ज़्यादा ही प्रतिष्ठित थी. ना जानें क्यों पर उन्हें हमेशा ये चिंता सताये रेहती कि लोग मेरे बारे में क्या सोचते होंगे. वो अक्सर इस गम में डूबे रेहते कि आज अगर मैं बाल तिरछे काढ लेता तो फलानी पर मेरा इंम्प्रेशन ज़बर्दस्त पड जाता. हम पूछते कि फलानी कौन ? और वो केहते की वही जो आज टैम्पो में सामने बैठी थी. सिवा एक आह के मेरे दुखी मन से और कुछ संभव न हो पाता था.

इसी कडी में एक दिन कुछ बायर ( माल खरीदनें वाले) अमरीका से हमारी कंपनी के दौरे पर आये. उनमें सबसे गणमान्य व्यक्ती को वो केबिन दिया गया जो हमारी बैठने की जगह के ठीक पीछे था. केबिन वातंकूलित था और चारों ओर से उसमें शीशे लगे थे. मैं दिन भर ब्रिजेश जी की गतिविधियों को ताडता रहा.ज़ानता था कि अनहोनी होने को है. दिन भर एक ऐसे आदमी के सामने बैठना जिस पर इम्प्रेशन जमाने की कोशिश हमारी कंपनी का मालिक तक कर रहा हो ब्रिजेश जी के लिये बहुत था. वो परेशान थे ये तो विदित था पर इतने परेशान इसकी मुझे कल्पना भी नहीं थी.

करीब पांच बजे के आस पास वो मेरे पासआये और बोले – मुझे लगता है कि साला अंग्रेज़ मुझसे चिढ गया है.

भला वो क्यों ? आपने कौन सी उसकी भैंस खोल ली है ?

पता नहीं यार हर आदमी को मैं ही क्यों खटकता हूं जबकि एस दफ्तर में सबसे मेहनती और होनहार अगर कोई है तो वो मैं हूं

इसमें क्या शक़ है पर आपको ऐसा क्यों लग रहा है कि वो आपसे चिढ गय है.

कमीना दिन भर मुझे घूरता रहा और अभी अभी मैंने उसे नोएल से धीरे धीरे कुछ केहते हुए देखा है.

मेरे अंदर का शैतान जाग चुका था.

मैं बोला – बडे दुख की बात है कि अपना साथ यहीं तक था. कंपनी का घोर दुर्भाग्य नहीं तो और क्या है कि आपके जैसा टैलेंटेड और वफादार आफिसर एक अंग्रेज़ भेडिये की बिल्लौरी आखों पर बलिदान कर दिया जाये. आखिर भगवान ने आपसे पूंछ कर तो आपकी शकल बनायी नहीं कि साहब को उसे देख कर ही गुस्सा आ गया.

वो तो सब ठीक है पर किया क्या जाये ? नौकरी तो बचानी होगी.

मैंने सुझाव दिया – आफेंस इस द बेस्ट फार्म औफ डिफेंस. आप भिड जाइये ससुरे से.जो होगा देखा जायेगा … सर फरोशी की तमन्ना अब हमारे दिल में है, देखना है ज़ोर कितना बाज़ू ए कातिल में है.

मेरा ऐसा ही केहते ही ब्रिजेश जी की आंखों में खून तैर गया और वो अंग्रेज़ के बाहर निकलने का इंतेज़ार करने  लगे. शाम हुई और वो समय आ गया जब अंग्रेज़ अपने केबिन से बाहर निकला.मैनें ब्रिजेश जी की ओर देखा … वो सीट पर बैठे बैठे उलट पलट रहे थे.

अंग्रेज़ हमारी ओर बढा तो मैं सच्मुच थोडा घबरा गया कि पता नहीं ब्रिजेश जी ने इशारों इशारों में ही देश के मेहमान के साथ कोई अभद्र व्यवहार तो नहीं कर डाला. पर ऐसा कुछ नहीं था. अंग्रेज़ सज्जन आगे बढा और ब्रिजेश जी के कंधे पर बडे प्यार से हाथ रख कर बोला –

यंग मैन कैन यू प्लीज़ शो मी द लू ( टायलेट) ?

ब्रिजेश जी के अंदर मानो करंट सा दौड गया और वो एक्दम उछल कर उस्के साथ हो लिये. आधे रास्ते पहुंचने पर अग्रेज़ बोला – हे आई कैन सी थे साइन इफ यू आर नाट प्लानिंग टु कम अलांग.

ब्रिजेश जी हर्ष और विस्मय का मिला जुला भाव लिये मेरी ओर आये और बोले – बच गये दोस्त.मैं गुंगुनाने लगा ” दिल के अरमां आंसुओं में बह गए…… ”

अनेकों चमत्कारों से भरे हुए हमारे मित्र ब्रिजेश जी के बारे में एक बात जो और खास थी वो थी उनकी बिना बात चापलूसी करने की अदा. एक तो उनके द्वारा की गयी तारीफ अत्यंत ही प्रकट तौर पर होती थी पर उससे भी भयानक थी उसकी टाइमिंग. किसी ने कहा है :

जिसे दिया था गुलाब का फूल कल मैंने , उसी के हाथ का पत्थर मेरी तलाश में है.

और यही गुल ए गुलाब ब्रिजेश जी खींच कर सामने वाले के मुंह पर मार देते थे.

मिसाल देखिये :

दफ्तर में एक थे मिस्टर क्रिष्नामूर्ती . यथा नाम तथा गुण काले इतने कि हंसते तो ब्लैक ऐंड व्हाइट पिकचर याद हो आती. मोटी सी तोंद इस लूक को काम्प्लिमैंट करती थी और उस पर से उनका ड्रेस सेंस – एक्दम कातिलाना. अगर मौत से बचने की आखरी सूरत उनकी शान में चंद लफ्ज़ केहना होता तो शायद मैं खुशी से खुद्कशी कर लेता.

एक रोज़ जब सुबह सुबह जब क्रिष्नामूर्ती शायद अपनी बीवी से लड कर आफिस में घुसे ब्रिजेश जी उनके निकट गये और बोले – सर आज आप बहुत हैंडसम लग रहे हैं !!

डर के मारे मैंने आंखें बंद कर  ली थी पर जो कुछ मेरे कान में पडा वो अद्भुत था. मिस्टर क्रिष्नामूर्ती खडे हो गये और अपना इंस्पैक्शन कराते हुए बोले :

तो बाकी दिन क्या मय ( मैं इन मलयालम) तुझे शाकाल लगता हूं ??

ब्रिजेश जी किंकर्तव्यविमूढ से एक टक देख रहे थे. शायद उन्हे एहसास हो चुका था कि ईश्वर के द्वारा किये गये काम मे टांग नहीं अडानी चाहिये.

एक और पात्र जो ब्रिजेश जी के अनचाहे गुलाबों से अक्सर घायल होता था वो थे हमारे  जी एम साहब श्री सुरेन्द्र चावला. बात बे बात ब्रिजेश जी अपनी लगावट की अदायें उन पर बिखेरा करते और मैं हमेशा सोचता कि धन्य हैं चावला जी जो सिर्फ मुस्करा कर रह जाते हैं …..या हो सकता है कि मन ही मन उन्हें अपनी झूटी तारीफ सुनने में मज़ा आता हो.पर ऐसा होना अविश्वनिय था.

लेकिन वो केहते हैं ना कि बार बार अपनी तकदीर को आज़माना नहीं चाहिये , पता नहीं कब जवाब दे जाये.  ऐसा ही एक दिन ब्रिजेश जी के साथ हुआ. चावला साहब के जीवन में एक कांटा था – नोएल. सब जानते थे कि जब भी चावला जी उसके कमरे में जाते हैं उनमें हीनता का भाव ऐसा भर दिया जाता है जैसे कि गुब्बारे में हवा. कमरे से बाहर आने के आधे घंटे तक उनसे कोई भी बात करना इस फूले हुए गुब्बारे में सुई चुभोने से कम नहीं था. उस पर कुछ ही दिनों पेहले चावला जी के पिता का देहांत हुआ था और वो बैठे बैठे ही अपने बचपन की यादें ताज़ा कर इमोशनल हो जाया करते थे. कुल मिला पर स्तिथी नाज़ुक पर कंट्रोल में थी.

इन्ही दिनो एक रोज़ जब चावला जी नोएल द्वारा प्रताडित हो कर अपनी सीट पर आकर बैठे ही थे कि ब्रिजेश जी ने उनकी इमोश्नल नीडस को एक्सप्लोएट करने की ठान ली. अपने मुखारबिन्द पर अत्यंत लुभावने भावों को प्रोजैक्ट करते हुए बोले :

सर आपसे कुछ केहना था ..

क्या ??

सर आपके पिताजी मर गये तो आप छुट्टी पर गये थे ना ….( वो ये भी तो कह सकते थे कि पिताजी नहीं रहे पर शायद ब्रिजेश जी शाक थिरैपी का इस्तेमाल करना चाहते थे सो बोले कि पिताजी मर गये)

हां तो ? चावला जी सर उठाये बिना कुछ लिख रहे थे

तो सर हमारा मन आपके बिना बिल्कुल नहीं लग रहा था

अबे उल्लू के पट्ठे !!!! मैं तुम्हारा दिल बेहलाने के लिये दफ्तर आता हूं क्या ??मैं कोई नौटंकी हूं कि मुझे देखे बिना तुम्हारा मन नहीं लग रहा था ? मैं यहां काम करने आता हूं तुम्हारा दिल बेहलाने के लिये नहीं … आपके बिना मन नही लग रहा था ईडियट  !!

मेरा मतलब वो नहीं था सर .. मेरा मतलब था सर की जैसे . ब्रिजेश जी बैक फुट पर आ गये थे.

मैं तुम्हारा मतलब खूब समझता हूं मिस्टर .भाग जाओ नहीं तो …

बेचारे ब्रिजेश जी – चले थे चौबे छब्बे बनने बन के रह गये दूबे.अपना सा मुंह लिये सीट पर आ गये और सैम्पल पैक करने का नाटक करने लगे.

ब्रिजेश जी की एक और खास बात थी.

आप सोचते होंगे कि इतने कमाल एक ही शख्स में कैसे घुस सकते हैं पर घुस गये थे तो मैं क्या करूं ? मैं तो ठहरा सूत्रधार कथावाचक –  ऐसा कैसे हुआ ? वैसा कैसे हुआ ये सब पूछना मेरे अधिकार की परिधी से बाहर है. खैर वो बात जो कि खास थी वो था उनका संगीत प्रेम. उसे वो सबसे छुपाते थे पर ऐसे कि सबको पता चल जाये –

फूल गिरता है उठाते नहीं हो, प्यार करते हो बताते नहीं हो.

य़े शेर ब्रिजेश जी ने नोयेडा की ब्लू लाइन बस के पीछे पढा था और बहुत प्रभावैत हुए थे. मुझे बाद मे पता चला कि उन्होंने इसे संगीतबद्ध करने की चेष्टा भी की थी.

सो एक रोज़ मेरे निकट आये और बोले आओ चलो बा्हर चलें. कार तो लाए हो ना ?

मैने सर हिलाया और अनमना सा उनके साथ चल पडा.

कार में बैठते ही उनके हांथ में एक कैसेट उग आया और उन्होंने उसे मेरे डैक में घुसेड दिया. देखते ही देखते ” घंघरू की तरह बजता ही रहा हूं ” के स्वर पूरे वातवरण को झनझनाने लगे.मैं समझा कि मेरे मित्र का मन आज क्लांत है और वो मुझसे अपनी भावनाएं शैयर करना चाहाता है.पर गलत ……. एक दम गलत. मैं भावनाओं मे बह कर ये भूल गया कि कलेश फैलाने का एकाअधिकार सिर्फ और सिर्फ ब्रिजेश जी को है और कोई अन्य उनकी इस कर्म भूमि में प्रवेश कर ही नहीं सकता .

थोडी देर ये पिटा हुआ गीत सुन कर मैं ऊब गया और मेरे चेहरे पर उभरे भावों को भांप कर ब्रिजेश जी बोले – कैसा लगा ?

मैं बोला – ठीक है. शाम को सुनते तो अच्छा लगता.अभी मूड अलग है

अरे वो नहीं गाना .गाना …

गाने के बारे में ही कह रहा हूं यार

अरे मेरा मतलब गायकी , सिंगर , आवाज़ !!

सिंगर ? अरे किशोर दा हैं तो अच्छा ही गायेंगे ना

वही तो . ये किशोर दा नहीं हैं

मतलब ? तो और कौन है ? ये 100 % किशोर ही हैं

नहीं ये किशोर दा नहीं कोई और है.

कौन ?

इस पर ब्रिजेश जी ज़रा लजा गये और झुकी हुई नज़रों से अपनी तरफ इशारा करने लगे

मैं खेल के मूड में आ गया. अरे नहीं मैं मान ही नहीं सकता. लगी सौ सौ की … क्या बात कर रहो ?

यही तो बात है मेरे दोस्त. आज इंडस्ट्री में कद्र्दान ही कहां हैं ? किशोर दा लकी थे कि सही समय पर इडस्ट्री में आ गये नहीं तो वो भी मेरी तरह कोई थकी हुई नौकरी बजा रहे होते. साला हां जी कि नौकरी ना जी का घर .

आप सोचते होंगे  कि इसका क्या मतलब ?? मैंने भी सोचा था. पर ब्रिजेश जी ऐसी बातें कह जाया  करते थे कि आदमी जीवन भर सोचे और उनका मर्म जाने बिना ही पंच तत्वों में विलीन हो जाये.

कहने की ज़रूरत नहीं कि उसके बाद मैं कई दिन उनके हुनर को तराशता रहा और यहां तक कि  कुमार सानू की खास पेशकश पर ब्रिजेश जी बम्बई भी हो आये. ये बात और  है कि मैंने उन्हें ये कभी नहीं  बताया कि उस दिन जो बीस आदमी जो उनकी गायकी का शिकार बन चुके थे वो मुझे उनके जाल में ना फंसने के लिय आगाह कर आये थे .

मेरे फैरवेल में ब्रिजेश जी ने दर्द मे सराबोर हो कर – चलते चलते मेरे ये गीत याद रखना गाया और वक़्त के मेले में हम दोनों कहां खो गये पता ही नहीं चला.

आज बरसों बाद मेरे एक निर्यातक मित्र का फोन आया. वो बहुत ही विचलित अवस्था में थे.

केहने लगे – यार पियर वन ( अमरीका का रिटेल स्टोर ) से एक इंसपेक्टर आया है. बडा ही बद्तमीज़ है.

मैं बोला – सो क्यों

अमां मुझसे से कह रहा है कि ज़रा एक गिलास पानी ले आओ.भला ये क्या बात हुई. वहां किसी को जानते हो ? ये बद्तमीज़ी तो मुझसे बर्दाश्त ना होगी.बिजेनेस रहे या जाये.

मेरे चेहरे पर मुस्कराहट आ गयी और मैंने कहा – उनसे पूछो कि सर पानी गिलास में लाऊं या सीधा बोतल से पियेंगे ?

यार मेरी जान मुश्किल में है और तुम्हें मज़ाक सूझ रहा है. इसका क्या मतलब ?

अरे तुम पूछो तो . फिर आगे बताना.

थोडी ही देर बाद मेरे निर्यातक मित्र का फोन फिर आया. चेहकते हुए केहने लगे – यार कमाल हो गया. वो तो केहने लगे  कि मैं तो यों ही मज़ाक कर रहा था. अभी अभी तो कोल्ड ड्रिंक पी है.और हां मज़े की बात तो ये है कि अचानक तुम्हारे बारे में पूछने लगे . तुम जानते हो क्या ?

हां शायद थोडा थोडा – मैं हंस रहा था .

**ये कहानी पूर्ण्त: मेरे खाली दिमाग की पैदवार है. इसका किसी भी व्यक्ती या वस्तु विशेष से कोई सरोकार नहीं है. बस पढें और मज़ा ले … जैसा मैंने लिखते समय किया है.

~ By aahang


If today be sweet..

Ah, fill the cup; – what boots it to repeat                               khayamportraitsm3

How time is slipping underneath our feet:

Unborn tomorrow and dead yesterday

Why fret about them if today be sweet !

March end brings some relief as one can take the unused leaves accumulated during the year.To my delight after the 15 leaves that could be spilled over as encashments I had still got 3 more left.I promptly applied yesterday and the powers that be obliged.

With the managerial instinct that has now become a second nature I ‘planned’ to do nothing and indulge myself.

The first thing I decided was that this tired old body of mine needs some pampering.So I landed at Secunderabad club allowing Solomon Joseph the master  masseur to work his magic.A feeling of calm enveloped me as the Worldspace radio played

दिल ढूंढता है फिर वही फुर्सत के रात दिन

बैठे रहें तस्सवुर ए जाना किए हुए …..

image060

I am not sure when the tassavur e Jaana ended , the REM sleep started and I dosed off.The only thing that bothered me was showing my bums to a stranger but then I let it be …..

अछ्छा है दिल के पास रहे पासबान ए अक्ल

लेकिन कभी कभी इसे तन्हा भी छोड दे

Before your imagination yields to fantasy I want to tell you that my massage session lasted as it should have.In true Impireal style the orderly brought a towel along with a soap and shampoo so I can get rid of the oil factory that was me.

A luxurious hot shower bath of 30 minutes infested in me the spirit of a Gora Saheb (quite literally now) and I walked out of the parlor after tipping the staff handsomely.

A good thing about Secunderabad club is that it has a very good library but more than that you can get a cup of English Tea in the Lounge next to it.After borrowing a copy of  Dante’s the Divine Comedy I ordered for a cup of finest blend they have.Come on now….stop being Jealous.image059

Dante is a bit pretentious.Isn’t it ? I did look at other titles but whether vanity gave in to reason or reason gave in to vanity I am not sure.I had always picked up this one at the bookstore and kept it back thinking what if I do not understand a word of it – I will be short of cash for the wisdom I could not acquire.So this was my chance.

I guess 40 minutes were enough for me in the fabled land of Gods and angels so I decided to make my move into the real world.But as they say in Hindi “मुल्ला की दौड मस्जिद तक” so I found myself parking the car in front of Odyssey – the Books and Music store.They had a flat 50 % off sale so I ended image067up buying twice the stuff at half the price.Nice Tag line – will try to remember it when I open my own retail store.Twice the stuff at half the price,twice the stuff at half the price…..shut up !Apart from others I picked up one very interesting book about why genius and hash,heroine and alcohal are inseperable.The book maps the life histories of a number of Poets,thinkers,scholars,Musicians to drive home the point.

I think it will serve as an apt explanation for my psychedelic leanings.The genius in me has the right to be nourished albeit with foods (aka drink) considered unfit by lesser mortals.Have parked it for the late night reading.

Body is done,mind is taken care of and now we must have something for the senses.Again your ugly serpent is raising its head.I am a married father of two with limited means and imagination so nothing sensual for me.I decided to watch a movie all by myself – LCD screen,Full sound,Pop corn,Leather sofa,air conditioner……and me.I chose The Bucket List – a story of two old guys who meet up in a cancer ward.Edward ( Jack nicholson) owns the hospital and Carter(Morgan Freeman) is a car mechanic but they come close thanks to Ed’s policy of bucket-listhaving two patients in every room.He is not running a spa..he says.As they get to know each other they decide to explore the world and do what they have always yearned but never had the chance.On their bucket list are things such as kissing the most beautiful girl in the world and Diving from the sky.I would say a good watch smiles,tears,compassion but what was uncanny for me was that in one scene Ed asks his board members in a meeting” Have you read Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy?’ No big deal but considering the fact that I wrote half the post before watching the movie, it was weird.

The problem is that it keeps happening with me all the time.Just a few days back I was reading India in slow motion.There was a chapter on Sufism which I really liked.When I came out of my room I was  puzzled to see my wife was watching a program on National Geographic that was about Sufis and showing the same places I was just reading about. Strange.

ना जाने नक्शत्रों से कौन

निमंत्रण देता मुझको मौन

Curiously, the most searched and viewed post on my blog is the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra.I never thought it would get any views but I posted it as I wanted to remember the meaning and listen to it  whenever,where ever I wanted.Now every time I check the blog stats it appears in the most searched and clicked classification.

shivji1

I am hearing his call.Is he hearing mine too ?

At the splendor…….I stared

Jalwa baqadr-e-zarf-e-nazar dekhte rahe         humayun-tomb
Kya dekhte hum unko magar dekhte rahe

At the splendor, with an appreciative eye, I gazed
What else could I see- but at her, I gazed.

Apna hi aks pesh-e-nazar dekhte rahe
Aaina ru-ba-ru tha jidhar dekhte rahe

At my own reflection, standing before myself, I gazed
It was me in the mirror everywhere, wherever I gazed

Unki hareem-e-naaz kahaan aur hum kahaan
Naqsh-o-nigaar-e-parda-e-dar dekhte rahe

Before the  sanctuary of  her grace, I stood nowhere
At the imprints ,at the veil, at the door, I gazed

Aisi bhi kuch firaaq ki raatein guzar gayin
Jaise unhi ko pesh-e-nazar dekhte rahe

Some nights of separation have gone by as if
It were her, in front of my eyes,  I gazed.

Har lehza shaan-e-husn badalti rahi Jigar
Har aan hum jahaan-e-digar dekhte rahe

With every glance, the grandeur of beauty changed, O Jigar
At every glory of this transforming world, I gazed.

Be the glass or become the chalice..

Ji chahe to sheesha ban ja, ji chahe paimana ban ja
Sheesha paimana kya banna, mai ban ja maikhana ban ja

Be the glass or become the chalice

Why only the glass or chalice ? become the wine,the tavern

Mai ban kar, maikhana bankar masti ka afsana ban ja
Masti ka afsana bankar hasti se begaana ban ja

By becoming the wine,the tavern become the symbol of joy

A symbol of joy now, be indifferent to your existence

Hasti se begaana hona masti ka afsaana banna
Iss hone se is banne se achha hai dewaana ban ja

Being indifferent to existence,a symbol of joy

Be this be that,Isn’t it better that you just loose your senses

Dewaana ban jane se dewaana hona achha hai
Deewana hone se achha khak-e-dar-e-janana ban ja

It’s even better to be mad than to loose your senses

To be mad or to become the dust of the the beloved’s doorstep

Khak-e-dar-e-janana kya hai ahle dil ki aankh ka surma
Shama ke dil ki thandak ban ja noor-e-dil-e-parwana ban ja

Seekh ‘Zaheen’ ke dil se jalna kahe ko har shamma par jalna
Apni aag mein khud jal jaye tu aisa parwana ban ja

~ Hazrat Zaheen Shah Taaji

बेख़ुदी बढ़ती चली है राज़ की बातें करो

शाम-ए-ग़म कुछ उस निगाह-ए-नाज़ की बातें करो                             evening-2php

बेख़ुदी बढ़ती चली है राज़ की बातें करो

About those graceful looks,O sad evening Let’s talk

I am loosing my senses ,about my secrets Let’s talk

ये सुकूत-ए-नाज़ ये दिल की रगों का टूटना

ख़ामुशी में कुछ शिकस्त-ए-साज़ की बातें करो

This graceful stillness,that ruptures my heart’s veins

In this silence,about the loss of music let’s talk

निकहत-ए-ज़ुल्फ़-ए-परीशां, दास्तान-ए-शाम-ए-ग़म

सुबह होने तक इसी अंदाज़ की बातें करो

The fragrance of hair let loose,the story of an evenings sorrow

Till it’s morning just like this, let’s talk

कूछ क़फ़स की तीलियों से छन रहा है नूर सा

कुछ फ़िज़ा, कुछ हसरत-ए-परवाज़ की बातें करो

From the bars of my confinement,something  light like filters through

Of the skies,about my ambition to fly Let’s talk


Management Jargon Demysitified

If you cannot explain it to your 6 year old daughter,you have probably not understood it yourself ~ Albert Einstein

Ram charan,who has been named as “The most influential consultant alive” by Fortune magazine believes that the basics of doing business are not complicated at all and are just common sense. He says :

Business acumen is not an arcane or complicated skill.Every successful business person has business acumen,including unschooled vendors who sell their wares in third world open air markets.

If you think about those business fundamentals in their simplest terms,the way a street vendor selling fuit and vegetables might think about them,I believe that the concepts are easy enough for anyone interested in business to understand.

He adds :

Revenue is the amount of money that comes into a company from the sale of its products or services.For a street vendor it is the money he collects for selling his fruits and vegetables.

Profit is the money left after deducting the cost of those goods.

Profit margin, is the money you get to keep as a percentage of total revenues.                          mumbai-street-vendor2

Sales – $150

Cost  – $135

Profit – $15

Margin – 10 % ( $150-$135 = $15 , $15/$150 = 10 %)

Any business is started with an intention to make money which can be expressed as the Profit Margin Target.

The street vendor makes many decisions during the day to achieve his profit margin goal,beginning early in the morning when he decides how much fruit to buy and what to pay for it.This is his sourcing strategy.

Should he buy one variety or several ?This is the “Product Mix”.

He sets up his cart and decides how to price the fruit as it will affect his margin.This is his Pricing Strategy.

I will chip in:

The way he arranges them on the cart is his Visual Merchandising Planogram.

Back to Shri Ram Charan

During the day he takes some tough trade off decisions about what price cuts he should make to unload his inventory so he ends the day with enough cash to buy merchandise tomorrow.These are Mark downs.

He learns to make these decisions through trial and error therefore the clearer his view of his customers,the better his decisions will be.We call it Consumer behaviour.

Just as street vendors need cash,so do companies.A dwindling flow of cash from operations can get them into trouble even if the financial statements show a handsome profit.

The next fundamental that concerns your business is Velocity,what some people call asset turns.

Assets often include buildings,equipment,computers,receivables and inventory.

Velocity is how much annual revenue the company generates for each $ it has invested in assets.

Annual sales  – $ 1 billion ,Assets – $ 100 milion,  Therefore Velocity – 10

For a retailer If :

Revenue $700 million, Average Inventory – $100 million, Velocity is – 7

Velocity 7 is quite good in retailing.

Margin and velocity can be combined into one measure that most investors use to assess a business,its called Return on Investment(ROI).

ROI – Margin X Velocity.

Retailing ( we are talking about a street vendor selling F & V) is a low margin,high velocity business.a retailer may have a 3 % margin but a velocity of 7 will yield a respectable return of 21 %.If you put the same money in bank the max that you can get is 9 %.

That’s why you are doing the business.

Lets look at growth.A growth that sacrifices margin for revenue is not desirable.A real growth is the one in which the revenue as well as the margins grow.

Finally we will talk about the most important entity – the customers.A growing market share shows that customers are choosing your product over your competitors in increasing numbers every day.

So if you are growing your share of the market, in a market, that is by itself growing then it is a great position to be in.If cellphone market is growing by 30 % and your share has doubled from 10 % to 20 % from last year it is exciting and you are doing something right for your customers.

But if your market share is growing in a market that is on a free fall For example CD’s then it simply means that your competition has moved to greener pastures and you are left to tow away the burden.

Bear in mind that business acumen is not a matter of being able to calculate numbers to the 9th decimal place but about being customer centric, focussed and intelligent.

End quote.

Further I want you to consider this :

Trial and error are called insights from Consumer behaviour in a board meeting and mapping the pschycographic mindscape of purchase decisions executed in a competitive environment by measuring the dynamics of inter relationship between product and price by consultants from Bogus Consulting Group.

All three basically mean that you have messed up with your customers last year and are going to grapple with it in the coming year too.meeting-mock

PBA -Paralysis by analysis is a favorite game played by bored corporate citizens.If you have 2 two rupee coins and you keep counting them till the clock strikes 6 PM and  they will still add up to 4 rupees only.You can  make them 5 rupees by doing something about it – I will suggest that you go to the nearest signal and beg for it if there is no other strategic or tactical move that you can plan within the limited time constraints.

Will leave you with a powerful thought by Ralph Waldon Emerson :

Common sense is genius in a work man’s clothing.

Think

I had booked the tickets for the movie Newton for 5 PM show yesterday. Then I remembered that I had to attend a session on the cinematic craft of maverick bangla director Ritwik Ghatak by a good friend so I gave away the tickets. At the end of the session my friend put up a slide on what Ritwik Babu used to tell his students – Think, think. You must practice to think. While it looks like an ordinary statement it’s quite revolutionary in an era where the next event at the same venue was Open Mic Stand Up comedy. Some of the faces of comedians of the Bangalore circuit were common and I could recognize them from another show where they were trying just too hard to get those likes on their You Tube videos. One idiot had even gone to the extent of describing the sex between his parents to justify why such a pathetic piece of crap came into this world. He couldn’t make me laugh and I vowed to avoid any more encounters with these internet jokers.

Tapan Dada’s session was a success as out of 43 interested just 8 turned up including myself. We discussed how interested has become a like for events even though I remembered the times when I had clicked the interested button to remind myself and then kept feeling guilty when I could not attend. A reason for low turnout could be the subject itself. Now you can always tom tom your intellectual superiority by telling the world about your interest in Muktibodh and Ghatak but to sit silently for 2 hours without your mobile phone is just so non utilitarian.

Anyways, the last words were still lingering in my head when I went to sleep and I must have thought a lot in my dreams as I woke up at an untimely hour. And may be it was a pre cursor as I had booked the next show of Newton for 10 AM today.

To sum up my thoughts on this Oscar nomination from India I will quote a dialogue from the movie.

क्या आप भी इन्हीं की तरह निराशावादी हैं ?

नहीं सर…हम तो आदिवासी हैं ।

मुझे लगता है यही एक डायलाग पूरी पिक्चर का दिल है उसका सार है। जहां एक ओर आशा से भरे विज्ञापन हैं नए फैशन के, मोबाइल फ़ोन के, कारों के और तमाम उन सुविधा साधनों के जिन्हें हम बिना सोचे समझे अपने जीवन का मकसद मान लेते हैं वहीं दूसरी ओर एक तरह का acceptance है nature के साथ मिल जुल कर रहने का। In the movie silence of the lambs Anthony Hopkins quotes Marcus Aurelius and says – We covet what we see. It’s a profound statement coming from the greatest stoic the world has ever known. If you don’t see that ad of a Television with a beautiful model to add to the charms of the machine it’s quite possible that you would never desire to have it. In fact half of our troubles are because of the advertising and marketing which give a false hope and enthusiasm of Life being beautiful once you buy more stuff. To live and to really be happy one does not need more stuff but a deeper understanding of the source of joy and happiness. The sages of ancient India who wrote the Upanishads were perhaps not only more content and happy they were actually more evolved as human beings. But then didn’t I go and watch the movie about a political system taking over laws of nature in a movie theatre located in the temple of modernity – the mall. The one place where corporate zombies take their wives and their families for a “walk” as if they were some kind of dogs that need to be relieved of their weekly pressure.

I had chosen to walk instead of driving down and on my way back I was thinking about the dichotomy of my own existence. Wasn’t I a product of the same ‘sales force’ culture that I so abhor when I feel one with the existence – जल, जंगल,ज़मीन।

As the harsh rays of the scorching sun sapped my energy I thought of the air conditioned comfort of my car and recalled another dialogue from Newton – कुछ बदलने से ही कुछ बदलेगा पर बदलाव भी एक दिन में नहीं आता।

समय लगता हैं जंगल को जंगल बनने मे…

The man who sold the world

Fear and greed are two principle states of mind with which one can control the world. Ruthlessly.

Those who are not greedy are almost always afraid of loosing what they have and those who are willing to take chances can almost always be lured into a promising future.

99 % of the population is either afraid or greedy and nothing can change that. One who understands and practices this law achieves material success and presides over the affair of men in business, in politics, in relationships, in everyday life.

Pavan tanay bal pavan samana..

🕉 राम राम, सीता राम, राम राम राम 🕉

कहइ रीछपति सुनु हनुमाना। का चुप साधि रहेहु बलवाना॥
पवन तनय बल पवन समाना। बुधि बिबेक बिग्यान निधाना॥

ऋक्षराज जाम्बवन्त ने श्री हनुमानजी से कहा- हे हनुमान्‌! हे बलवान्‌! सुनो, तुमने यह क्या चुप साध रखी है? तुम पवन के पुत्र हो और बल में पवन के समान हो। तुम बुद्धि-विवेक और विज्ञान की खान हो॥

कौन सो काज कठिन जग माहीं। जो नहिं होइ तात तुम्ह पाहीं॥
राम काज लगि तव अवतारा। सुनतहिं भयउ पर्बताकारा॥

जगत्‌ में कौन सा ऐसा कठिन काम है जो हे तात! तुमसे न हो सके। श्री रामजी के कार्य के लिए ही तो तुम्हारा अवतार हुआ है। यह सुनते ही हनुमान्‌जी पर्वत के आकार के (अत्यंत विशालकाय) हो गए ॥

🕉 राम राम, सीता राम, राम राम राम 🕉

Mad mad world..

I usually avoid political posts on my blog but couldn’t resist myself from die to the sheer absurdity of it all.

http://www.thelallantop.com/tehkhana/another-perspective-why-rohingya-muslims-are-hated-in-myanmar/

The writer(a muslim himself) is basically making the case that while the poor Rohingyas seeking asylum may not be responsible individually, it is the mentality of hate and violence which has led to an insecurity among the Buddhists in Burma. They fear that if 4 % can create so much trouble what if they are in majority. We all know what happened in Kashmir and the systematic ethnic cleansing of Hindus in the Indian sub continent. Whether we say it or not Hindus in India the same fear else Modi-Yogi wouldn’t have won with such astounding majority. The question to ask is that while all other religions can co exist peacefully why only followers of Islam are fighting everywhere, even amongst themselves? Nothing will change till the sensible Muslims take control, do some soul searching and then some serious image management. Muslims have given so much to the world and most of them are exceptional people then why is it that the word ‘Muslim’ itself has become a curse and is looked down upon or with fear, anger, hatred and suspicion? But going by the abuses in the comments section by Muslims it’s not going to happen anytime soon. They have already decided which side they are on. Funny part is that some of the silly Hindu Nationalists have not even bothered to read the article and are also abusing the author 😊 It’s really become a mad mad world…

चौराहे

मुझे कदम-कदम पर
चौराहे मिलते हैं
बाँहे फैलाए !!
एक पैर रखता हूँ
कि सौ राहें फूटतीं,
…मैं उन सब पर से गुजरना चाहता हूँ
बहुत अच्छे लगते हैं
उनके तजुर्बे और अपने सपने…
सब सच्चे लगते हैं;
अजीब सी अकुलाहट दिल में उभरती है
मैं कुछ गहरे मे उतरना चाहता हूँ,
जाने क्या मिल जाए !!

मुझे भ्रम होता है कि प्रत्येक पत्थर में
चमकता हीरा है,
हर-एक छाती में आत्मा अधीरा है,
प्रत्येक सुस्मित में विमल सदानीरा है
मुझे भ्रम होता है कि प्रत्येक वाणी में
महाकाव्य-पीड़ा है,
पल-भर मैं सबमें से गुजरना चाहता हूँ,
प्रत्येक उर में से तिर आना चाहता हूँ,
इस तरह खुद ही को दिए-दिए फिरता हूँ,
अजीब है जिंदगी !!
बेवकूफ बनने की खतिर ही
सब तरफ अपने को लिए-लिए फिरता हूँ;
और यह देख-देख बड़ा मजा आता है
कि मैं ठगा जाता हूँ
हृदय में मेरे ही,
प्रसन्न-चित्त एक मूर्ख बैठा है
हँस-हँसकर अश्रुपूर्ण, मत्त हुआ जाता है
कि जगत्… स्वायत्त हुआ जाता है।

~ गजानन माधव ‘मुक्तिबोध’