Heritage Monument or Hotel California ?

We had just landed in Secunderabad in the summer of 2006 and knew nothing about the city,almost.One evening we decided to have dinner at a famous Chinese restaurant on Park Lane but to our dismay we could not get a table even after waiting for half and hour. With two little children and a parking slot which is as difficult to manage we thought we would settle for something a little less fancy.

Bang opposite to the chinese place we saw a number of boards declaring that there was a restaurant and a bar somewhere.We could not figure out where ?

There was this old colonial structure that looked more french than british but it hardly looked like a restaurant or a bar.

Image173But since the board said that this was the place we wanted to have a dekho at it.As our party of 3 and a Quarter headed in the direction of what looked like the entrance we were accosted by a fierce looking man with a guards uniform and club in hand.He ordered ” You cannot go inside” and put his club in front as in to hold us back.

Surprised beyond belief I confronted him”But why not? We will go.You cannot stop us like this”.His expression had by now turned from mild retribution to anger and he thundered” I am saying you cannot go means you cannot go and certainly not with these people”.It was now my wife’s turn to question him while my two kiddos looked at each other Image172and the three of us with a not so amused look.” Have you put a board here that who all can go and who all cannot.India is after all a free country”.The poor guy had given up by now and he said in a very deep tone almost like a whisper”Sir madam does not understand.It is better you first go and check out your self” I had begun to grow suspicious by now as some of the characters coming out of the building did not exactly look like gentlemen.Even they had a weird expression on their faces and they were looking at us as if they had seen some strange ghosts.I asked my wife to wait in a corner besides our car while I went ahead like an adventurer.

Once I entered the hall I could not believe my eyes.The place was straight out Image175of the 18th century.I had never seen anything like this before in my life.Rows and rows of tables with two benches on each side,a dim lit bulb over them and all of the occupied by men in various stages of intoxication.Some were chatting or blabbering but most of them were drinking silently and by the look on their faces it was clear that they did not know the person sitting in front of them and neither did they care.There were 3 such halls and together there must have been some 100 tables !!!

Pulling myself up from the shock I got out and told my wife the whole story.Both of us were at our wits end that how could such a place exist almost frozen in time.I could not get over it and wanted to know the whole story so I went back the other day this time alone and all by myself.

What I found out was this :

Image171

It is amazing that even after more than 100 years the place is preserved in all its original glory.I imagined how groups of soldiers from the British cantonment would come and spend their evenings at the Monty’s hotel.Many of them would even stay there before their quarters were allotted or something like that.

I called up and  checked with some friends who have been living in Hyderabad for years together but no one knew about the place.

I promised to SHOW them Hotel California one day.And if anyone of you are in town I would be happy to take you there too but remember …No women and children please !

Unfortunately The Authorities have decided to delist the Monty’s Hotel from its Heritage building status and soon the place will loose out to a swanky mall or some other fancy and ‘modern’ building.

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When will I write Like Bob Dylan ?

That’s a silly Question.

The answer is never.

But if you  know

That the words are there

You just need to catch them

and  put them together

So they say what you feel

and fill the heart with love

or the mind with rage

The man is a genius !Sample the video above.There is a lot more on You tube.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.

For Biography and complete Lyrics check out website below :
http://www.bobdylanlyrics.net

कितना अच्छा होता है

एक-दूसरे को बिना जाने
पास-पास होना
और उस संगीत को सुनना
जो धमनियों में बजता है,                                       DSC01597
उन रंगों में नहा जाना
जो बहुत गहरे चढ़ते-उतरते हैं ।

शब्दों की खोज शुरु होते ही
हम एक-दूसरे को खोने लगते हैं
और उनके पकड़ में आते ही
एक-दूसरे के हाथों से
मछली की तरह फिसल जाते हैं ।

हर जानकारी में बहुत गहरे
ऊब का एक पतला धागा छिपा होता है,
कुछ भी ठीक से जान लेना
खुद से दुश्मनी ठान लेना है ।

कितना अच्छा होता है
एक-दूसरे के पास बैठ खुद को टटोलना,
और अपने ही भीतर
दूसरे को पा लेना ।

रचनाकार- सत्वेश्वर  दयाल सक्सेना

प्यार

इस पेड में
कल जहाँ पत्तियाँ थीं
आज वहाँ फूल हैं                                                      DSC01657
जहाँ फूल थे
वहाँ फल हैं
जहाँ फल थे
वहाँ संगीत के
तमाम निर्झर झर रहे हैं
उन निर्झरों में
जहाँ शिला खंड थे
वहाँ चाँद तारे हैं
उन चाँद तारों में
जहाँ तुम थीं
वहाँ आज मैं हूँ
और मुझमें जहाँ अँधेरा था
वहाँ अनंत आलोक फैला हुआ है
लेकिन उस आलोक में
हर क्षण
उन पत्तियों को ही मैं खोज रहा हूँ
जहाँ से मैंने- तुम्हें पाना शुरु किया था!

Chailu,my friend

It was a cold December morning.In Lucknow the temperature dips to about 4 degrees centigrade and with the fog playing havoc with the visibility I felt a cup of hot tea was my only chance of survival.The Physics practicals started Lucknow Univat 7:30 AM and there were 15 minutes for me to get my fix.I liked the lab a lot not because of the experiments we did there but the equipment we had in the lab.Most pieces declared their origin to be ‘Great Britain’ and were probably imported 75 years ago when the Lucknow University was started. As I dropped the pendulum and watched it come back to  its original position at the center of the hinge,I could not help but wander if  my grandfather had found out the value of acceleration due to gravity working on the same pendulum.

Taking my gloves and Muffler off I entered the ” science canteen”.The classification was less scientific and more statistical taking its name from frequency distribution of art,commerce and science undergraduates who made it their rendezvous.The canteen was no match to what we see in movies these days.The gap between the Physics and chemistry department which had a courtyard and a covered gallery served as the canteen.The courtyard had an earthen furnace in a corner on which a staple serving of tea and samosas was prepared by the manage/contractor who was assisted by two boys – one for collecting the cups and plates and the other for washing them.A large chunk of Pundit population required that all cutting,pealing and cooking be carried out by Lallan Misra the Brahmin canteen manager himself.In this high seat of learning caste played an important role- from elections to hostel allotments to love lives  and shoot outs.A brahmin science graduate was the best you could be to put things into perspective.

“Aur Lallan , kya chal raha hai ? ” (howdy Lallan?I inquired making myself comfortable on the stool next to his place near the furnace which looked tempting at the moment.He maintained a grim expression on his face which looked even more ghastly in the orange yellow reflection of the light from the furnace.He passed me a glass of hot tea withot saying a word.Before I sipped it I just inhaled deeply not for the flavor but for the steam to open my blocked nostrils.

As the fog cleared a bit I could see a shadow in a corner.It was Chailu squatting on the floor and washing the cups and plates from yesterday.I had never registered that someone would be cleaning all the cups and plates.It was obvious now that someone did.I noticed that he was not more than 10 years old or may be his emaciated frame put my guess on the lower side.He chailuwas wearing a torn black sweater and a brown colored knicker.Both pieces of clothing were insufficient to help him dodge the chill.My gaze was fixed on him and I was watching his every move almost in slow motion.He had a tub full of ‘dirty’ cups and plates and two buckets -One was filled with soap water and the other with clear water.Both of them cold.Very cold.In my trance like state I could see that his hands were hesitant and each time he was forcing himself to touch the water.A few moments would have passed when Lallan shouted “Maa….,tumhare haath tod doonga”(Bastartd I will break your bones) and hurled a piece of wood from the furnace which hit Chailu on his left thigh.He jumped away,could not control himself and stumbled.Quickly he gathered himself and as if to avoid another hit from Lallan started washing the cups with false enthusiasm.

I recalled how I snuggled up in the warmth of the Quilt when I was his age and how my mother waited at me making sure all my demands for hot parathas,Jam and bournvita milk were fulfilled before I headed out to the school armed with a tiffin loaded with my favorite goodies.

A tear had swelled in his eyes and in mine too.

The cup of tea in my hand was warm with heat or with hatred I didn’t know.The tears in my eyes were of guilt or of anger I had no clue.The restrain in my hands was of pragmatism or cowardice I had no idea.I gave a dirty look to Lallan and rushed out of the place.While walking away I caught Chailu’s eyes for a moment.I was not sure if I was more embarrassed or him.

Years passed.I completed my graduation and did my business management frequently visiting the “commerce canteen” for the next two years.Went out to New Delhi in search of a job and never came back.I wriggled up the corporate hierarchy,raised a family,bought a house and a car as life kept me rolling on its roller coaster ride.

One day I had come to Lucknow for a meeting and it got postponed at the last moment.The guy I was supposed to meet had an office in Niralanagar quite close to the University so I thought let me go and check things out and relive some of my old memories.I entered the University and after roaming around aimlessly for a while  looking at strange faces I decided to go to some place familiar.It was December but as it was around 9: 00 AM the chill was a bit lesser.I sat on a chair “inside” just to feel the old times when we used to spend hours trying to put a matchbox in an empty glass by flipping it with the thumb.I wanted to see if there was a trace of my hands on the tables which doubled up as drums in our Jim Morrison Jam sessions.I was curious to see if R & A that I had scratched at the back of the window panel had been replaced by another set of initials.

I sat there and ordered for a cup of tea and  a samosa.The price had risen marginally by 50 paise on each item so the cumulative increase was a rupee.Not bad at all I said to myself.To while away my time I started looking at the furniture around me.I lifted my gazed to check out the fans,the paint on the walls and the ceiling and the man on the counter with an earthen furnace.Nothing had changed except the canteen Manager but even he looked familiar in a strange way.

A young student  entered the canteen.He was about the same age as me when I was an undergraduate.He had muffler and gloves on which he was taking off as he entered.In a casually confident manner he took the stool besides the canteen manager who had  a  grim expression that looked even more fearsome with the reflection of the flame from the furnace.He gave a cup to the young man who had just come in and kept staring in front.It looked like he was watching over someone.My eyes traveled in the direction of his gaze and I could not believe my eyes.It was Deja vu or what?There was a 10 year old boy sitting in the corner and washing cups.He had a tub full of cups and plates which he was dipping in a bucket of soap water and then in a bucket of clear water.Both of them cold.Very cold.Suddenly the canteen manager got animated and shouted

” Beh…d ,saala kal aayaa nahin ki bukhaar hai aur aaj der se aaya hai to haath nahin chal rahe hain harami ke”.(Bastard took an off saying he had fever and has come late today only to pass time) He pulled out a piece of wood from the furnace and as he was going to hurl it towards the boy the young man sitting next to him held his hand.”Paagal ho gaye ho Chailu”(Chailu,Have you gone mad ?) he screamed as his other hand transformed itself into a slap which landed across Chailu’s cheeks.It seemed to me like a moment in eternity.Time froze until Chailu came to his senses.He kept staring the guy holding his hand as if he had seen a ghost.He was petrified not knowing what to say or do.The boy washing the dishes was looking back with a mixed expression of disbelief , joy and self respect on his face.

Someone had lifted a big burden from my chest so I could breath easily again.Someone had broken the tradition of the ball of mud going around the ball of fire in a circle.Someone had gathered the courage to stop the pendulum from coming to its original position.Someone had defied gravity.

I felt as if I was free . I could fly and with me I could take away the boy washing the dishes in the corner.

I walked out of the place reworking the definition of gravity in my mind.By the time I was out of the gates I had summed up “Gravity is a force that binds all objects to the earth and is responsible for inertia – the tendency of objects to stay as they are unless a force is applied on them.”

It may not be a very good definition I thought, but it was correct as far as I was concerned.

माँ

We often take our parents for granted and forget that even they are individuals with hopes,dreams and aspirations.As children we feel that it is our right to demand and as parents it is their right to provide.And in their struggle to become good parents they almost sacrifice their individuality.Even children tend to miss out that apart from being Mommy and Daddy these guys exist at another level too and never bother to know their folks as people.Personally I came to know so many things about my fathers life when I edited his Memoir ‘God is Kind’ and it was as if after so many years I got to know the real person.I never thought of him as an individual but only as ‘Papa’ ….

Below poem by Nida Faazli beautifully captures this aspect.

बेसन की सोंधी रोटी पर खट्टी चटनी जैसी माँ ,

याद आती है चौका-बासन, चिमटा फुँकनी जैसी माँ ।                   parent

बाँस की खुर्री खाट के ऊपर हर आहट पर कान धरे ,

आधी सोई आधी जागी थकी दुपहरी जैसी माँ ।

चिड़ियों के चहकार में गूँजे राधा-मोहन अली-अली ,

मुर्गे की आवाज़ से खुलती, घर की कुंड़ी जैसी माँ ।

बीवी, बेटी, बहन, पड़ोसन थोड़ी-थोड़ी सी सब में ,

दिन भर इक रस्सी के ऊपर चलती नटनी जैसी मां ।

बाँट के अपना चेहरा, माथा, आँखें जाने कहाँ गई ,

फटे पुराने इक अलबम में चंचल लड़की जैसी माँ ।

~ निदा फाज़ली