Linear thiking

Came across this image on, and felt that it was worth many words indeed!

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In your arms…

Just finished seeing Phenomenon, starring John Travolta. And kept thinking about how it would feel to have someone die in your arms. Or, for that matter, do anything in your arms! Like, sleep, cuddle or cry their heart out?

I have had the quite a few of these happen to me. I have had a baby fall asleep in my arms. I have cuddled loved ones. I have hugged people when they have recounted sad tales, looking for comfort and solace. And almost held someone when they died. Let’s see where each of them led.

I now have a niece who is a few months older than a year now. But my first encounter with her was when she was two months old. And she was born two months premature! She was a bit restless, and because I was a relative outsider, she didn’t respond too well to me first. After all, mine was a whole new touch and feel!

But after a couple of days, she found her comfort in my arms. She would listen to me, become quieter when I rocked her, and relaxed visibly. This greatly helped my sister, the infant’s mother, because she could now have a meal with a few other members of the family while I ’managed’ the little one.

It was on one of these occasions, when I was rocking her and cooing to her (which I didn’t even know I was capable of!) that she dozed off. My first reaction was relief, because it meant that she would not bawl out again! All I had to look for were her sudden movements, and pat her on her belly and chest, so that she would go back to sleep again. And it was this action that opened up a whole new vista of feelings in front of me!

Almost in some primal, pre-programmed way, the little girl had learnt to recognise my touch as a safe one! She felt reassured by one, and I felt a surge of paternal, protective instincts at having put that little, shifty infant at ease! She felt that she had a little less to fear when she was in my arms, and derived safety, courage, peace and what-not from my touch! I guess mothers must feel this everyday, but it was new to me, and wholly welcome! It’s probably the most soothing feeling in the world!

The next, obviously, is cuddling loved ones. I do that! Put my arms around them, and squeeze hard. Not in any bad sense, mind you. But I try to put in as much warmth as possible.

Of course, if it’s a girlfriend, the style of the hug changes, and so do the feelings conveyed in them. Then, the hugs seem to tell each other things like I love you, I’m here for you, I support you, Trust me, and a whole lot of things that can’t exactly be translated be into words! They are best experienced, and not just spoken about. The human body can be amazing at non-verbal communications such as these!

Another kind of hug that girlfriends and wives can give you is the hanging-in-your-arms hug. They just seem to rest on your arms, look up to you as if they worship every part of you with every part of themselves! You can kiss them anywhere on the face, hold their face tightly against that place in your chest that feels like as if the entire warmth of the sun has been poured into it, or simply cuddle them, running your fingers gently through their hair.

Girls are most prone when they are in your arms in this position, but that does not mean I am asking you to take advantage of that! It’s just that they can be extremely soft like that, opening up to you in a way that makes you feel like doing something that makes time freeze, and let the moment last forever!

I have also had an ex girlfriend tell me how one of her maternal uncles had mistreated her, the way perverts mistreat girls. She then proceeded to jump towards me, putting me in her embrace. I hugged her back, but did not feel the usual exuberance with which she hugged. Instead, there were a few tears, and something that I once again fail to describe, which signified that she was transferring the entire sadness of that episode to me through that intimate touch. And somehow, I was able to convert it into equal amounts of love and care, and return it to her!

It surprised me, though. Here she was, speaking about how she had dreaded and loathed the very touch or glance of another male, and yet, seeking solace and reassurance from another male! And then I figured something out. At that point, she had crossed a barrier, allowing me into a world where I was a confidante, a lover, a patient ear, a sympathiser and a few more things first, and a guy later! Once a girl gets to that point with a guy, it’s a sure-shot sign of love, even if she does not acknowledge it! At least, that’s what I have experienced!

And last holding someone who is dying. That was what had triggered this post. I had not actually held my mother when she had died. But for some inexplicable reason, I was there on that Friday early-afternoon, when all of my friends were in school. Earlier in the day, my mother had told my father not to send me to school, and he had, for some reason, complied.

Only a week earlier had I come to know that she had cancer, and that her chances of survival were slim. Ideally, when a 12-year-old hears it, he ought to break down completely. It’s a sad thing to happen to the boy, but natural. Inexplicable, I just toughened up. I became a rock, and it was not a happy transformation!

That was the embrace of death my mother experienced. I was briefly called into the room, and asked to pour a few drops of water into her mouth. More of a ritual than her thirst. I moved to a nearby room, pacing up and down, and wishing to the Almighty to let the moment pass without any sad news. My prayers went unanswered.

What does a person want when her or she wants to die in your embrace? Reassurance? Peace? They know they are going to die. What goes on through their minds? The melancholy of leaving so many loved ones behind? A feeling that a lot of things were left unfinished, many desires unfulfilled? And what if the approach of death is known beforehand? Doesn’t that make a porcupine out of every moment? A porcupine whose quills pierce you where no ointment can heal you?

Then again, of recent, I have discovered another embrace. This one is so endearing, engaging and caring that I never wanna let go of the person who has offered me everything, and has purchased every part of my being with it. Such is the trusting submission in that embrace that it drains away every iota of my melancholy! But more of that later.

Folks, please feel free to comment on this post. Your comments, along with the above-mentioned hug, have been keeping me going through some pretty depressing times! The only regular person to comment so far is Shubhayu. Thanks, bhai.

Sense and Sensitivity

I was just about to post something on Facebook, when I checked myself. I thought it over, and then decided to introspect and write this post instead.

What I had meant to write on FB was yet another Rajinikanth joke that had come to my mind. It would have gone something like this: "It was no Tsunami. Rajinikanth had dropped a pebble in the ocean!"

It does fit in with all those Rajinikanth jokes, but my mind censored this one at a different level. Would this go down well with anyone who had lost a family-member or a friend in that Tsunami?

I was quickly reminded of another example. Soon after the 9/11 attacks in USA, Osama Bin Laden was a hated man. But somehow, jokes began to circulate about him just days after the attack! Was it an example of someone seeking solace in humour or by demeaning the man who had caused so much hurt? Was it some kind of comic relief that was being provided?

I don’t know. But what I know is my joke may not have all that funny to those who had suffered due to that Tsunami. Sure, I could have used my freedom of expression and gone ahead with and updated my status with the joke! But wouldn’t that have put me in the same ranks as the news anchor fron New Zealand who had insensitively chuckled on national television about how Sheila Dixit’s surname sounded so much like D*CK-SH*T?

Now, I agree that I am not the most sensitive person in the world. But I do try to ensure that I do not inadvertently hurt someone with my words. I would like to do so, and hope that I find the strength and the prudence to do so whenever it becomes necessary!

And, in a slightly cocky manner, hope that several others, who undermine others’ feelings while speaking or acting, mend their ways. Amen, shall we say?

The good, bad and ugly of CWG

India moved to within one gold medal of its record total tally of gold medals at the Commonwealth Games by the end of day’s proceedings on Monday. However, seeing the kind of energy with which people are following the games and how it is turning out to be a success story, at least in terms of medals, for India, I now have a serious dilemma.

Before the games had begun, people had been condemning how the preparations that led up to the CWG had been mired in controversy. And then, someone had spoken about how, if the CWG turned out to be a success, all these ’stories’ would be frgotten. And that is exactly what I am afraid of!

It’s like what happened in Khairlanji, a remote village in Maharashtra. an entire family of dalits was apparently brutally murdered by higher caste people. The incident shocked the nation, and moved the dalits to demand action, more legislature in favour of them, and what not! /as a college student, I read all about them. A few years later, when the actual case was under way, all that was mentioned in the newspapers was how a certain witness had turned hostile on one day, and how another simply parroted on "I can’t remember" in reply to the prosecutor’s quesries!

Now, I am a brahmin, but right now, or EVER, I care about people suffering when they should not. That is thanks to my upbringing, and I thank my father for it, who ingrained several qualities in me before and since my mother (how do I describe it?) was picked by God as a beautiful flower from this garden called earth more than 13 years ago. But thanks to my father, and whatever my mother had taught me, and also to my school, I learn NOT to discriminate.

And thanks to one very ’fair’ but considerate vice principal in school, I learnt that the guilty should be punished, but not in a way that further pushes them into the path of guilt. It’s a totally different story altogether that I was punished by him for something I didn’t do but owned up to save the hides of some people who I considered to be my ’friends’.

It was his fairness that I tried to imbibe and inculcate within myself. And it is that sense of fairness that tells me now that even if the CWG is a success, let the guilty not be spared. But I have a nagging premonition here that that is exactly what is going to happen. There just might be some inquiry, but the electronic media, the most powerful of all forms of visual media, will report about it only at the ’key junctures’, like when a report by an ’investigation committee’ is submitted, or when someone is called for interrogation. That is where this will be relegated, I think. Just like the Khairlanji trials.

Then again, people have been wrong, and I am no God, am I?

If you have any comments, please feel free to post them here. Those in the previous few comments have gone a loooooooooooooong way to lift my spirits. Thanks to all those who visited too!

The happy-sad conundrum

Ever had one of those moments when you think you are extremely happy to be in the company of your loved ones, and yet, there is an inherent sadness in the moment, but you can’t understand why? I think I am experiencing one of those moments now.

It’s Mahalaya, the day that marks the end of Pitri Paksha, and heralds the beginning of Navaratri, or for us Bengalis, Durga Puja. And it is an invariable Bengali custom on this morning to listen to a certain recording that was supposedly made way back in the 1930s. It is part Bengali, part Sanskrit, part songs, part recitation and part storytelling.

It tells the story of how the Goddess Durga kills Mahishasur, the demon who took the guise of a buffalo. No bull there! I am now listening to this programme on my computer, but hundreds of thousands of others in my native state of West Bengal are listening to it on radio. It may be just a litany of sorts for some, but to me and these numerous other Bengalis, the connotation is different.

To us, the Goddess Durga, aka Parvati aka Uma aka a hundred other names (literally!) is not actually a goddess, but a girl who lived in Kailash. Her father was Himavan, the personification of the Himalaya mountains. From an early age, Parvati performed tough penance in an effort to become the wife of Lord Shiva, who generally lives a rough life, consuming what-not, accompanied by ghosts, wearing only a tiger-skin to ’protect his modesty’, covered in ashes. After all, he is the greatest of all ascetics, who has renounced all worldly pleasures!

We know that Uma aka Parvati succeeded in getting Lord Shiva to marry him, and therein lies the tragedy of a family that must see its daughter spend the rest of her life with a man who apparently does not take enough care of himself, and therefore gives rise to the question: will he be able to keep the little girl happy?

To outsiders, this might seem like madness. I think I just heard someone out there exasperatedly say out loud, "They are GODS, aren’t they!?" You are missing the whole point! All across the country, we have humanised our Gods. That’s why, when we celebrate Gokulashtami, we treat Lord Krishna as a little child! And this is just one example.

The point here is that Goddess Durga becomes a ghar ki beti the moment she comes down to earth, and she is imagined to be spending a few days at her father’s home during the days of Durga Puja. And then there are the Agomoni songs, which are supposed to have been evolved keeping the season of Sharat (Autumn) in mind. Their common subject is a mother or a father trying to get their daughter, little Uma, to stay a few more days in her parental home before she heads back to her husband’s abode.

Only recently did I listen to quite a few of these songs. The style of singing is typical, but the contents almost moved me to tears. Why? Because I identified with them! And I am sure that every person who has had to stay away from their beloved ones would have identified with them! Heck, even the lyricists of Harry Belafonte’s Jamaica Farewell or Guns n Roses’ November Rain must have identified with them!

The pathos in these songs are reflected on the day of Dashami, which the rest of India celebrates as Dussehra. While they celebrate the victory of Lord Ram over Raavan, we, the Bengalis, bid a tearful adieu to the little married girl who must now go back to her in-laws’, and we are once again faced with the prospect of staying away from our most beloved person!

And this brings me back to the first paragraph of my post. In a matter of just days, I will be going back to Kolkata, where the rest of my family lives. That presents me with the joyful proposition of reuniting with everybody, including my just-over-one-year-old niece, who is the apple of everybody’s eye. She can’t form words now, but she talks to me in her own language over the phone. She knows that others say that I am her Mama or Mamu (maternal uncle), but prefers to call me something like "Mam mam mam mam mam mam." Precious!

So why the sadness? It’s there because I will have eight days to spend there, and I intend to make the most of them. But they are already starting to feel too little! Besides, listening to Mahalaya is a joyous feeling, and I want to share this feeling with her and everybody else, but can’t. And I am already ruing the day I have to come back to this sadness at the end of those eight days!

But till then, I’ll try to be as happy as possible. I’ll try, honest!

I believe in Jihaad…

… if love is the weapon! That’s how the first song of Motherjane’s latest album, Jihad, ends. And that is the leitmotif throughout the song. How some people, or more specifically the band called Motherjane, believe that love can be used as a ’weapon’ to change people. I, however, beg to differ on some points.

For one, only one form of love cannot be the answer. The situation might require you to be totally devoted, partially attentive, or to show some hard love, which will bring an erring person back to the ways of the ’good’ world. Then again, things do not always work that way.

But today’s post is not about that. I had begun writing with the intent of dissecting the song Jihad, which happens to have the same name as its album. In the process, I had also intended to drag in the likes of Indian Ocean and Faridkot, and compare their genres.

For now, let’s just analyse Jihad, the song. The basic info is that it is intended to be the OST (original sound track, for the uninitiated) of a film called Anwar. (Yes, I know we had another recent film called Anwar whose song Maula Mere has not yet faded from the minds of people, but this Anwar is different. Hopefully.) This song is sung by a ban called Motherjane, who I first heard about when downloading free music off Indian Ocean’s website. The latter were giving away the songs of their album 16/330 Khajoor Road for free. They still are, at the time of writing this blog.

I went to Motherjane’s official website, and downloaded their previous two albums, which I got for free. All I had to do was provide my e-mail address, which meant that I had not heard the last of them. Most of the songs turned out to be totally ROCK. Alas! Where was the ’Carnatic’ influence that had been promised? Or, at least mentioned in the band’s portfolio?

Now don’t be disappointed yet! If you are a total rock fan, and like classic rock, Motherjane may be a godsend for you! For lesser mortals like me, who like a smattering of Indian touches in songs sung by Indians, the song is a bot of a letdown. Especially after Indian oceans thinks that the band is big enough to be promoted.

For the rock lovers, there is a lot of good news. Jihad, the song, follows the pattern of all rock songs. The quintessential instruments are all present. The guitar riffs, the voice modulations are all there. Even the guitar solo does justice to the song!

And therein lies my ’protest’, if you can call it so. The song begins with a typical Indian touch to it. But this touch is just not retained! As a result, the song does not work the magic that Indian Ocean’s Khajuraho, Kandisa, After The War or Jhini, or the other songs, work. At least for me. The rock spirit is there. The Indian spirit is there.

My reading here is that Motherjane, as a band, is good at rock. And I mean, really good! They seem to have a good band going here, their lyrics are deep, and they have a lot of potential. However, when it comes to the Indian audience, Indian Ocean still rules the roost! Don’t believe me? Just listen to Bandeh from Black Friday. The way the tempo progresses, the way the song adheres to the grammar of a rock song and the way it incorporates Indian elements is definitely worth emulating!

And yet, I am not crossing out Motherjane yet!

As for those of you who think rock music is nothing but a noise, think again! Wasn’t the first song actually a piece of noise that someone other than the singer found melodious or just worth repeating? Wasn’t that how songs began and evolved? Isn’t that why songs exist today?

PS: If you have any comments, please make them here. I would like to have them all in one place rather than searching for all of them all over the internet, including social networking sites. That’s just a request, by the way.

Happy reading, and have a nice life, folks!

Keeps me ticking…

There often comes a time in our lives when we seriously doubt whether we have made the right decision about something. And then comes that one incident, or a barrage of them, that makes everything worthwhile! I too once doubted it! Doubted whether I was doing well in journalism. And then came along those incidents. I’m gonna list just two-three of them today, but I think they are enough!

My career as a journalist unofficially started towards the end of November 2006, when I was recruited to write a few articles by Lokmat Times, the Nagpur edition. By January 20 next year, I was asked to be a reporter, and within the matter of a week, I was a sub editor and a reporter! It was a full-time job, and paid Rs8,000 approximately per month.

After a few months, I started working for the Nagpur edition of the Times of India, where the pay was immensely better, and I had the stamp of ’Times of India’ on me, despite me being a freelancer. I was a reporter here, working as much as a full-timer, and being treated like one in office. It was here that there happened a few incidents that made me fall in love with journalism, but the love affair had already started with Lokmat Times. And then, from June 3, I started working for DNA, and it has happened here again! These are incidents that made me wanna be a journalist all the more!

The first was when I was in Lokmat Times. At one point of time back then, I used to live with five other people, sometimes even six others, in a three-roomed flat! The person who had stayed in that flat the longest was also the one who inspired me to get my tattoos, and he was, and still is, a great fan of football. Besides, from what little I have known of him, he is an extremely idealistic person, although he may have other chinks in his armour. And I admired him for his integrity.

Therefore, whenever I used to make the sports pages, I used to show one copy to my editor, and after he had edited it and passed it as OK, I used to take out another just so that I could show it to this room-mate of mine. It felt nice, knowing beforehand what the rest of the world, or at least the handful who read my newspaper, would know the next morning. And this friend was, in some ways, an idol of mine too. Now who would pass up the chance to surprise or please one’s idol?

A similar, fulfilling incident took place when I was in Times of India (TOI) too! Actually, several of them. But I remember the last one because it was one of the most dramatic, and it restored my faith in what I believed good journalism was: keep your eyes and ears open, and good stories will fall in your lap!

It was a hot summer afternoon, and summer temperatures in Nagpur crossed 48 degrees C this year. It was on a slightly cooler afternoon that I decided to drink some fresh nimboo paani. Just as the vendor handed me a glass, another gentleman asked for a glass. And after his first sip, commented that he wished some similar refreshing drink was made available near the gates of a certain premise of the Nagpur University. It caught my attention. The place mentioned was the one where all the answer sheets of the university examinations were checked!

I simply asked the gentleman why he needed something refreshing there, because the university is supposed to have a good canteen. The individual quickly debunked my notion by informing that all he got for lunch was piping hot tea and stale, sometimes rancid, samosa! A few more queries revealed that he was indeed one of the examiners, and was definitely not happy with the way the university was dealing with him and his colleagues!

Apparently, this gentleman had to spend out of his own pocket to reach the evaluation centre and go back at the end of the day! Their lunch’s condition is already mentioned. Besides, they didn’t even have proper ventilation or lighting in the rooms where they were made to do all the evaluation work! It was at this point that I introduced myself to the gentleman for who I was, and he withdrew a bit.

I had to assure him that his name would not be dragged into the article. Only then did he divulge more details, and I had enough information for my article! I should also mention the nice and friendly education correspondent who let me write this story, instead of hijacking it. The manner in which I got this story renewed my love affair.

The third of the incidents happened only recently. Now that I am in Jaipur, I have to talk to people from Jaipur when I do local opinion stories. A few days ago, when I had gone to a local girls’ college to attend and cover a function, I had taken down the phone numbers of two girls, which I had thought might come in handy sometime. They did.

I called up the first girl, who happened to be out of station. I called up the second girl, gave her the first girl’s reference, and asked her to help. She obliged, giving me her quote and a photograph from her Facebook profile. The next day, when she came online on FB, she was all agog about the article! Her mother had called up all her friends and relatives to let them know that her daughter’s name and photograph had appeared in the newspaper! And the elderly lady had also bought five newspapers for herslef!

It feels nice to have given this amount of joy to someone, with only a little effort of mine! These are the incidents that tell me how I may not have made the wrong choice after all! And the love affair continues!

PS: If you have anything to say regarding this article, I would be highly obliged if you leave them in the comments sections. That way, I won’t have to look at all the places where I have posted links, and would get all of them in a single place!

Thanks again, for reading and commenting!