Friday, June 16, 2017

Europe- Travelogue- Part I, Italy.

There is a thing about European cities. A certain sound. I observed it in almost all cities that I visited on my backpacking trip. An echo that rebounds from stunning arty architectural structures. The imprint of renaissance arts is felt almost all over Europe.

 I began my trip from Rome; after a stopover at Frankfurt- the gateway to Europe. Frankfurt is a sprawling airport; endless. Almost all major flights from Asia, passing over to US, Scandinavian and Canada, stop at Frankfurt. Changing my flight at Frankfurt, after I had a cup of hot cappuccino- I absolutely adore the smell at airport cafes, it just fills my senses of upcoming adventures; I was on board to Rome. It is said Rome is always sunny in its azure skies. The breathtakingly blue skies welcomed me too as I hit Rome early in the morning. I checked into my Air BnB accommodation, choosing a place near Roma Centrale- Rome’s major train and metro station. From here the Colosseum and Roman Forum were on walking distance. My first places to visit in Rome.

 The construction of Colosseum began in AD 72 and was inaugurated in AD 80 by Emperor Titus, with a hundred days of festivities. For about 5 centuries on the occasion of anniversaries and military victories, the emperors spent vast resources on staging magnificent spectacles for citizens. The Gladiator combats were banned in the 5th century but combats with wild animals are recorded as late as till 12th century. It is quite remarkable to envisage what must have been the scene during the days of its pomp. Now what was lying before my eyes was a mural sketch of that era. I tried breathing some of its air. Tried imagining myself as one of the spectators back then, cheering the Gladiators. I met an old local Roman, who was aimlessly walking around the Forum. We got talking.

 He was a tour guide. What he told me was fascinating. In the days of its glory in Colosseum, the spectacle used to begin early in the morning. During the lunch interval, executions and besties took place; the condemned, naked and unarmed, faced wild beasts, which would eventually tear them to pieces. During the interval there were performances by jugglers, magicians and acrobats. Finally Gladiator combats (munera) were held in the afternoon. The participants in these combats were usually prisoners of war, slaves and some free men seeking fame and fortune. The games were often financed by politicians who hoped to curry favor with public, but the intellectuals saw these spectacles as a means of swaying public from real issues and as a cause of spiritual decadence.   

I sometimes think a city chooses me, rather than I choosing it. It is no accident that propels people like me to Rome. Rome is the cradle of previous births. You can read here on the walls where Raphael and da Vinci lived. Rome was existing since 700 years, when its most famous emperor Augustus took throne in 27 BC. According to a legend Rome was founded by twins Romulus and Remus, raised by a she-wolf. Over the centuries, Rome’s wealth had drawn people across the empire, creating a population of around 1 million, one of the largest urban population in the pre-industrial world. Yet the physical appearance of the city belied the military and political might of its ruling class. Rome was an urban sprawl grown without long term planning.
Under Augustus however there began a gradual development into a city worthy of world empire. The Rome of today has huge etch of the Augustus era.
The Roman Forum, the civic centre of the greatest city is an accretion of centuries of buildings. Laying in the shadow of the Capitoline hill, the Forum is flanked by basilicas (great halls for judicial business), political buildings and temples.

I loved walking on the streets of Rome. There is a sense of serenity in this ancient city that is not hard to miss. While modernity has its imprints, but Rome largely has retained its flavour. I spent my days in Rome visiting museums, bookstores, Vatican city, eating tasty crisp pizzas on many of its open restaurants; stopping over a corner bend and getting absolutely lost in the street music played by nearby musician: flutes, saxophone, guitar. Rome is delightful in that sense. A treasure for someone like me who loves lazing around aimlessly. I found many of my tribe in this city. Rome also is famous for stately gorgeous Piazzas (city centres). One of the most famous being Piazza Navona. There were artists all around, musicians, travellers, revellers. Rome accepts everything and gives you back a part of its own soul. I carry it along with me, now, always.

Rest of my backpacking trip in Italy included Napoli and Pompeii in south and Florence in north. For Napoli and Pompeii, I took a super-fast Trenitalia train from Rome. Napoli is a shoddy city more than anything; over populous, with residential building stacked over one another, hardly any air to breathe. There are tiny labyrinth lanes, with clothes left for drying from almost all windows. However, my reason to be in south Italy was to visit Pompeii, a major city during the glory of Roman empire.

From Napoli, Pompeii is an hour’s drive. The end of this great city in AD 69 was so sudden that it probably has no equal in history. The volcanic eruption on Mount Vesuvius, surrounding this city, completely destroyed it. The surprised Pompeiians had little idea what hit them, as the volcanic crystals showered on them for 2 days with the ash covering the city later. Perhaps, a reason why most of the city could be excavated; the volcanic molten preventing decay. There are charred bread crumbs, onions, other vegetables that were excavated by the archaeologists!

From one of the shops at the main Stabiana, coins were found in the baker’s oven. The owner perhaps had left them there, after the eruption, in hope of return. It took me over five hours to see the ruins of this once magnificent city; giving me endless memories to savor. I visited what is world’s first known Amphi theatre at Pompeii. The theatre held gladiator games with a capacity of twenty thousand people. Pink Floyd played here in 1974. There is a small memorabilia built in memory of that concert. Hair on my forearms prickled when I walked through the dark gallery; walls playing Echoes.

“Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant tide
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine.”

What is most remarkable about Pompeii is how the structures, at least most of the main casa’s- belonging to wealthy Pompeiians, have retained their glory. Murals on walls inside the houses are still visible. I walked inside these houses, feeling the walls with my hands. There was one very distinct memory that stayed with me. After being dead like a tired horse, I dropped my backpack and leaned against a wall, in one of the Pompeiian houses. It was a two storied cassa- with a beautiful garden in the centre. I must have stayed silent for a long long time, breathing the Pompeiian air. Few leaves flickered under a mild breeze coming from the Amalfi coast. A cricket bird chirped. It was the sort of moment for which in the hindsight when I lookback, I feel my purpose of life is achieved. Traveling across as a solo traveller, sitting here in a remote south Italian city, in ruins, with absolutely no one that I know- in complete wilderness of my thoughts. Alone. Yet connected to the larger purpose. It is the understanding of the difference between journey and goal; the awareness of the truth that the goal of life is the living of it. I was woken up by a fellow traveller, who perhaps saw me sitting quietly in a corner. He quipped in a rather hush manner, ‘mate, its beautiful here.’

My next stop in Italy was Florence — a quaint little city in North Italy. I checked into a hostel here. Hostels are cheap and allow you to mix with travellers of different countries. In my case I couldn’t have asked for more; they had an all-weather swimming pool and sauna bath. My tired limbs cried for it. Of course, my reason to be in Florence was to see the Michelangelo museum, where his most famous art work David stood. David is Michelangelo's most famous and celebrated art work. He began work on it in 1501 AD. Scholars believe that David is here represented after his victory over Goliath, the sling on David's shoulder is used to bring Goliath down. Thus emphasizing that David did not use any brute force, but his intelligence and innocence, to gain victory. It took Michelangelo four years to make David, grinding it from a slab of marble. When completed, the art work was carried on a carriage throughout the city, with people marvelling at it, finally finding its place at a central Piazza in the heart of Florence, where it stood for many many years. He had his critics though. It is said when Michelangelo was finishing David, the town mayor came to have a look. Michelangelo had put a canvas around David, so that no one could watch him work. The canvas scaffolding gave away and the Mayor had a look at David. Putting up the show of the art connoisseur, Mayor pointed out the nose was too thick, though from his vantage point it was impossible to judge the thickness of nose! Ever the smart he was, Michelangelo climbed up the scaffold, grabbing a hammer and pretended at chiseling the nose. ‘How’s it now Mr Mayor,’ he shouted from the top. He had not touched the sculpture, of course. “Now, it’s much better,” exclaimed the mayor. “Now you’ve put life into it.” The stupidity of some critics has stayed along years.

I went back to my room. Had another round of swim and slept early. Next day morning, I had to catch my train to Zurich. I was traveling to the land of Yash Chopra!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jaffna Street- book review.

Jaffna Street is essentially unsettling. Not because it talks about the horrors that war brings upon its causalities, but because it is neither a testimony nor a polemic. It’s very easy and convenient to take sides, when you talk about conflicts; but that’s not what literature is meant for. To tell stories as they are require a certain amount of grasp at things; on the ground. Khalid not only had his ears to the ground, being born and brought up in downtown Srinagar, what substantially was the hot seat of an armed revolution that began in late ’89, but he also his heart in place. Jaffna Street is written with tremendous panache. It’s like the famous designer from Italy Enrico Coveri taking to word-smithery. Detailing is to the point, editing crisp, without really dragging ever.

From the political evolution of the 1980s generation coming of age and seeking to lay their claim on the 1931  ethno-religious political project, their flights across the LoC into the arms training camps and their encounters with idealistic  long forgotten pioneers of the insurgency. From the story of a survivor of the Jammu pogrom in 1947 to the unknown  political face of Meerakh Shah, the celebrated mystic,  From the travails of an NC worker who suffers bereavement in state inflicted violence and in the end dies a violent death, the  bakra diehard Fayaz whose life is totally altered because of his devotion to the Mirwaiz family and its politics,  Khalid suffers no biases,everything is exhaustively dealt upon even the long dead prophesier of Safakadal whose utterances still provoke messianic undercurrents in that area.

The part about the student gangs and professional gangsters, existing in the 70s and 80s of Srinagar, seemed to me like watching Sergio Leone’s epic gangster movie Once Upon a Time in America. The brazen use of knuckledusters, shootings, substance abuse and the introduction of word Mandrax in our daily vernacular. The fierce rivalry between the Gaw Kadal- Batmalyun gang on one side and the Dalgate gang on other, throws up characters like the eccentric James Wood’s Max in the movie did. ‘M’ as he is referred in anomaly in the book, fits the bill perfectly. Fond of extravagance, gadgets and high life, M treads on a path full of danger. Growing up in a marginalized family, in a city-side ghetto, M rises up on ladder of crime, carving a niche amongst wise guys. If M is ambitious and boisterous, then there is a De Niro like Noodles Mac too- the old gang leader of the City Side boys gang, who though later on, given an opportunity, after stint in insurgency and prison refused to dabble in politics, admonishing the loathed separatist politics. Mac in his days may have been ruthless with his Kukri and chains, but he carries a conscience. There was a certain air about those guys, of that generation. Men of honour. It is something any downtowner can tell you. I’d my share of my cousins too, from this generation; driving their Yamaha’s, adorning their walls with George Michael posters, sporting aviators, wooing girls. For me they were John Rambo clones. How I wished to be like them, like any fan would.

There are moments where the book absolutely lights up. Story of Nazir Gaash, the Marxist of Safa Kadal remains my favorite part of the book. The part is dealt with tremendous maturity by the author. A nonconformist, Nazir Gaash’s self searching forays early in his life takes him to Buddhism. Unable to satiate his existential crisis, Gaash’s intellectual pursuits, piqued by a curious mind, take him to the world of Marx and Western philosophy. The author mentions how his own intellectual growth took shape on Gaash’s shopfront, appropriately named Edible Link, where he would often engage in the world of ideas. The city could still bear a nihilist son. But all this changed at the throes of the war. People like Gaash wisely kept to themselves, for the bullet had no respect for ideas. His sphere of Sartre and Kant was somehow washed down Jhelum.

It must have been around 2ish in the morning, when I was reading Gaash’s story. I closed the book on my chest and kept gazing at the chandelier on top of my head. I don’t know for how long was in this state. The abject absurdity of life and a long abyss that we look through occupied my mind, with Gaash’s convictions and intellectual odysseys at the back of it. I don’t know what beckoned my wife. She woke up from her sleep, turned the lights on at the corner of our hall, where I’ve my library and where I usually read. She jolted me. It was quite a moment, in the introspection of a man and the world he saw largely at. Lost in the oblivion. The existential desertion. And the larger futility of life.

The story of Ijaz,  son of a artisan, fondly called Ija: a well behaved, soft spoken boy, is very poignant. Though it’s short but it pierces one like a bullet. Buoyed by the calls for arms revolution, Ijaz like host of others disappeared in the summer of 1990. He had joined a group that was going to cross the LOC for arms training. Contaminated water had made Ijaz sick. Dehydrated and feverish he couldn’t continue with the rest of the guys and was abandoned in the forest. Ijaz didn’t die of enemy bullets. He was a consumption of war. A mere statistics in the end. A number. And that’s the misery and the truth of a war. Khalid has narrated it, as it is, which is not only brave but also a far cry from the beaten victim card played by us.

Khalid has spoken a language unknown to those who read about Kashmir conflict. He is not only brazenly honest but also bitter. Bitter at the mediocrity surrounding us, which we unfortunately and shamelessly celebrate too often.

A quarter and a century ago, writer David Bellos says he was talking to a French friend 
about paucity of literary material on the Algerian War, accusing France of voluntary 
amnesia. He reached to his shelf, pulled down a tattered paperback, and said without any 
words: There was a literature of the Algerian War, and here it is. The book was Daniel 
Anselme’s La Permission. Jaffna Street is right up there.

The review appeared in two leading daily's.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Bourgeois Question And a Summer in Kashmir.

As the saying goes, it is always easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them. In Anurag Kashyap’s film Gulaal, which I regard as one of the finest movies ever to have been made in Indian cinema, the rebel leader Dukkey Bana in his fiery speeches urges the Rajputana bourgeoisie that unless they empty their treasures, shed blood for the cause, freedom is a far off reality.

I'm fresh from Kashmir, so I allow myself to take some liberties. Being skeptical is certainly one of them. More than anyone, I kept questioning myself. Truth be told, I’ve never taken part in any Azadi procession, except way back in the spring of ’90, when almost entire Srinagar was on roads, leading a march to UN office at Sonwar. It was a surreal experience. Sitting atop on the shoulders of my elder cousins, I shouted, ‘Hum kya Chahte Azadi.’ That spring of ’90 had some other touch. In me that seed of Azadi was sown I’m sure on that bright spring Kashmir day. Why did we lose it then? Where did we fail? Why couldn’t we nourish it?

Coming back to 2016, this whole month, while I was on my vacation, and state imposed all sorts of restrictions, I managed to sneak a look at social media few times. The last time I checked, visibly irritated, I logged out soon. The glaring difference between what's on the ground and what's on social media disgusted me. Two lakh people took part in Burhan’s funeral, someone else quips deviously, 4 lakh did in Sheikh Abdullah’s. Remember, there were only 11 people on Karl Marx’s funeral.

One of my friends had checked-in at a restaurant in Delhi; Kheyn Chen or something of that sorts. Poor guy was rebuked. People are dying and you're dining. Fair enough. But the affluent class are having their tummies satiated with Maaz and Koker every day. Why then this tendency to turn suddenly into an activist on social media?

The supply has not stopped one single day. Early mornings, late evenings, domestic helps in our part of the forsaken Valley would go out and buy all such luxuries. I, for one, tasted some of the freshest vegetables in K in a long, long time. On early morning, with the grass still wet in our lawn, freshly plucked vegetables were being sold from Piaggio pick-ups. Elderly, mostly retired government officers (Ex-Engineers, Commissioners, HODs) in their snow white prayer caps, would flock together on a curve or a nook inside our lanes, discussing Rajnath Singh's latest blurb. They would quietly retrieve into their homes after another few minutes of meaningless discussion.

Moving on, everyone I met had only one thing to ask/ advice. When are you going back? Why did you come here at the first place? There is nothing left here. Beta, leave Kashmir as soon as possible.
It’s almost as if we have handed over the reins of Tehreek into the hands of few who decided to stay back. Keep the flame of Azadi alive, so to speak, while I secure mine and my children’s future.

The larger point that I’m trying to make is that in the many hues of narratives that Kashmir throws up, we are conveniently silent about this one: the bourgeois have to come out of their comfortable zones and join the call of Azadi. Against the will of the people India cannot hold Kashmir forever. May be not today, not tomorrow but one day India would have to leave Kashmir. We only have to read history. Replete with struggles against mighty powers, the will of the people always wins. In the French decolonization of Algeria, where a civil war was actually fought between the pro-Algerian colonists and the pro-freedom sections of society, the battle lines were clear. At the height of cold war, who would have imagined Russia’s disintegration? However, for us to realize this reality, it’s not just the proletariats who have to fight the battle. The Bourgeois must take part, and in a sustained manner.

Quoting the rebellious Dukkey again in Gulaal, 'Ager tum log aise he bachchon ko videsh bhejte rahe, tou mai krantikari kya Kashmir se laon?' He obviously would not know, we have already left K.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Babam ve Oglum

In the long summers of my childhood, like Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, I was convinced that life was beginning over again with the summer. Each year. Over and again. The summers were long, in our neck of the woods, so long that they stretched out our lives. Every little possibility marched into the long shadows that our vacations threw. Games flared up suddenly; cousin sleepovers, hopscotch, the fingertips tried touching the skies, endless mirth grew louder with the crickets of August. I threw myself open to new adventures, while long days, never changing, grew heavy with endless possibilities.

I had heard tales of other voyages, out beyond the ends of the town, high up into the clouds. As a boy I had gone up so high, like a balloon that grows smaller and vanishes suddenly into the blues, beyond any sight. There were towns up there, so they said; white cloud towns, with tapering tops. Up there, beyond the blue, there were rivers and streams, birds with rainbow colored tails; cities of snow. Stories I believed in. Cities I believe existed. A world that was mine.

What happened then, eh?

Let’s say life hasn’t been so smooth lately. A major health scare, that luckily wasn’t one, got me thinking at many levels. Like many of those who bear the brunt of this capitalist lifestyle: earning, spending, earning more and spending more, forever running a race that literally seems to have no destination. I’m many times lost in the maze of it. The abject futility of the exercise had fatigued me to all ends. A sense of despair loomed at large.

While a part of me always encourages to question, yet I began wondering if these are essentially armatures for my aphorisms and philosophical aides. Free standing baubles? I carried on nevertheless, carrying the weight on my back. Unable to make any sense of it. I would wake up each morning, sluggish and heavy headed. A weariness - like sadness, I would plunge into sleep every night. I could feel darkness ripening within me; unwittingly I kept losing myself.

A good positive mind set has the powers to turn tables, let alone fortunes- that old slick lady who knocks on our doors often. While I wasn’t exactly worried about my own self, I’ve never bothered to take proper care of myself, but here I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was no longer what I was. I was a husband now. A father to a son, who believed and lived in that world, where some years back I glided.

In truth life is impossible. People deceive. Friends leave. Love fails. Job bores. Good news is all this can be changed; if we accept it.

One evening wiping the morose sweat globs from my brow, I suddenly glanced at my son. He was busy as usual in his impishness; talking endlessly to himself, creating non-existing characters in his mind, talking to them, making up stories. Trying to explain to me how his day went by. I just pulled myself from where I was trapped, and I looked at all this; this whole scene as an outsider. For few seconds, I kept looking at my son continuously. And everything cleared out. The haze cleared up. The curtains drifted apart. Walls disappeared. The sky was blue. Again. A sunny strip of road had long shadows sprawled over it, a small white cloud hang up in the middle, just when my son stood up at the window and shouted in his twisted words, ‘Baba aeroplane’, flying like a carpet. The empty sky was so blue, so richly and thick blue, that it seemed a thing I ought to feel. Like my son.  

Children are best teachers, as the saying goes. On that one evening, my two year old taught me a lesson: Your mind is the sum of the whole world.  

P.S: The title is inspired from a Turkish movie- My Father, My Son.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Free Man ~ Aman Sethi

If you hover in the air around Bara Tooti Chowk, Sadar Bazar, Pahargunj, Azad Market on a Alladin Carpet, straight out of an Arabian Night spaceship and point your finger on one of the thousands, millions of Delhiite denizens, scurrying for space beneath; some pedaling on their rickshaws- transporting over-weight passengers from New Delhi railway station, ploddering, exhausting last bit of their muscle energy, at times standing tall on their rickshaw pedals, to thrust it forward with force; occasionally spitting pink gutka with equal burden on the road below. 

Or you turn left and put your finger on this beedi smoking, reed thin laborer standing at a junction below Daryaganj flyover, amidst a gaggle of laborers, perhaps looking for work. Slightly drowsy, may be from last nights excessive drinking. 

Or you may look far ahead below where a govt. hospital stands. Weak, dispirited patients; angry, confused, cursy' attendants, all waiting in mincing patience. A lull of gloom is suspended in the air around; some of it lingering on these faces, from a long long time. 

It seems Aman Sethi was up on one of such Alladin Carpets, where he chose to pick amongst the million Delhiite, stone broke under privileged non-native dweller. In this story he has a name: Ashraf. 

Aman Sethi’s, ‘A Free Man’ is a drama-less memoir written in exquisite style. Never once did I feel out of sync with the story. He held me there, with him and Ashraf. I finished the book in 2 days, in the middle of the week. 

There is something Delhi can give you- a sense of azadi, freedom from past, says Ashraf in his own blasé style to Aman in one of the many interviews, that Aman conducts over a period of few years, following Ashraf, chronicling his story with method and empathy. There are two types of people here: those who pull the trigger and those who survive the shootout. In a very non-philosophical tone, Ashraf states a very basic fact of living and settling down in the city. For those who come to Delhi from neighboring UP, Bihar and Jharkhand in search of unbound wealth. 

The story is written in times when Delhi was surging towards this monstrous metropolitan that it has turned into now. With growth, comes desolation. A glass ware built on the ruins of poor. With Common Wealth games scheduled in 2010, the Delhi Municipal Corporation went on a spree of demolishing unregistered settlements. The violent displacement of slum dwellers around Sanjay Amar Colony was hardly given coverage by the national press who described the process as necessary for urban renewal. The working class once more crucified at the altar of crony capitalism. How it affected an entire population is where Aman Sethi’s story comes alive. 

While the basis of the story may be grim, but, Sethi doesn’t fail to see the humor that visibly exists in these dungeons. 

Hope, perhaps, is what binds these countless marginalized to a city oppressive to their right to live with dignity; quite brilliantly exemplified in Rehaan’s story- one of Ashraf’s accomplice, who on one afternoon under the shade of a Gulmohar tree, while sipping chai, reveals emphatically his dream business, that could turn him wealthy overnight.  The business starts with buying a goat, from where he would switch to rearing pigs and extracting sugar, from a sugarcane distillery. When everything seemed to be worked out, Rehaaan regrets that it isn’t possible because his father is a devout Muslim, and would not allow him a mere mention of pigs in his presence. The plan crashes down under its own weight. The wacky irony in the whole narration is brilliant. 

Aman Sethi's debut book is not about triumph or making it big, rising through the ranks- a rags to riches story.  No its not. It is just a story that he picked from many countless alleys, crossings, heaving markets, deathlike willy-nilly plastered hospitals with rickety benches and stenchy' bed sheets, where each grain of thick summer air holds death and despair in it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Of February, Stones, Despair, Camus and Sports.

It is quite extraordinary what sports means to us. And there is a reason why I’m bringing it up in my mind, while sipping another cup of tea, on this late hour.

Well, February, the second month of year 2016, has been one such back-breaking, literally, month. Difficult. Extremely onerous at times. To cut the long story short, my health has been not well; I was operated for a Kidney stone, third time in my life span of 33 years. Quite high, you may say so. I don’t know, why and how I develop these God awful stones. The pain was excruciating for two days, when the Urologist finally did some tests, held his hands up in the air and declared, “we have to operate in emergency, there is a chance that the Kidney may fail. Grade 2 Hydronephrosis. Bastard had blocked the Ureter- a 5 mm diameter pipe that takes out excreta from Kidney into the Bladder. The right Kidney was bloated. 

Well, so, lo and behold, the stone was out, few hours later. But this isn’t the end of the story. It cannot be. 

As it goes, I had recently changed my job. New visa, emirates id blah blah. But the God cursed insurance card was not yet processed! I called my HR, my manager, we tried to fix up; to have the card at the earliest. They said it will take 2-3 days for the card to be issued. But, we could not wait. As I said I was suffering from Grade 2 Hydronephrosis. At Grade 3, Kidney gives up. Doctor had to operate. We could not wait for the card. So I ended up paying around 13,000 AED. Which roughly comes around 2.5 Lakh INR. We thought of trying reimbursement later, which I did now. I’ve submitted all my papers: invoice, discharge summary, cash receipt et al. Waiting for the approval. However, truth be told, I've very less hope of reimbursement. They have many reasons to reject.  

Meanwhile, I joined work back after a break of almost 2 weeks. Anyone would tell you, a new job, in a new position isn’t easy. I was only finding out myself in the
scheme of the new things, when this episode happened. But, then eventually we somehow make out. Humans have this great quality. Adjusting. 

The two weeks so as to speak were not a waste by any stretch of imagination. I finished 3 books, and 1 unfinished one- the one that was untouched from last 3 years. It stood there quietly on my bookshelf with a bookmark in place- an ancient Egyptian calendar that I had picked up years ago from Global Village Carnival. I was glad to find the bookmark. I’d probably forgotten about it. I watched a few of my favorite movies too. Again. The first night after operation I could not wrap my eyes for a second. So I ended up watching Color of Paradise- using up truck loads of tissue paper. I cried like a child. I always do for Mohammed and his faith. His faith of finding the touch of God. A few other favorites in the course of next 2 weeks were re-watched; Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Dog Day Afternoon, Wind Will Carry Us et al. 

In the days that led up to this miserable February, me and my couple of like minded friends, decided to pick a book and circulate it amongst us. Each one giving his review at the end of it. Of what he picked in the book? This way it would keep our interest aglow and we would read with much more attentiveness.

So, the first book we chose was Albert Camus’s, ‘The Stranger’. Nature, God, divinity, coincidence- call it whatever, has its own way. I read The Stranger in my recovery period, completely lost in the reverie of Meursalt. Of how he sees the world around him. A conventional world. A normal world. Its absurdity at the core of his existence was naked to him. But he was a stranger. An oddity.  He is a perverse, delinquent guy. A question to the society, that is not used to providing answers. So, the world condemns him. Camus’s if we dwell deep, through the book, says each one of us in the world is condemned to his own. However, we bluff. We justify our act. Hence we live. But only delay what is inevitable. Death. The absurdity of our existence, bared, in the end.i 

So, you can imagine my on pins and needles state in all these weeks. So what really transpired today, that got me thinking so long, when I have work tomorrow, yet I’m typing up this late on my Mac Book, frantically looking for a socket every 10 mins, when the battery clock beeps. 1 percent left! 

Pakistan is playing India. Mother of all battles; by all means, sir. Upset with the events of the day, waiting in the queue for Doctor, doing post operative check ups, I slept in the afternoon once I got back home. More from the need of being shut from the world; than tiredness. When I woke up, Pakistan had skittled out for 85. Down and dusted. The day couldn’t go any worse. One of my fears was, what laid next in store? Least interested in the game, I kept on sipping tea from my Marx imprinted mug. India came out to chase. By the end of Aamir’s second over he had 3 back in the dump. With a disjoined, dispirited guy, thousands of Kilometers away, in his apartment, inconsequential life, throwing up his arms, clinching his fist at every wicket. Yes, yes. Annihilate them. And right there it stuck me. What excited me so much, when barely moments ago I was questing the futility of my existence. 

That is the beauty of sports. That is what sports can do. That is its power. And in the end the futility is run over by hope, in a matter of few deliveries from Aamir.
Long strides. I got my answer. I got my touch. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Of Memories, Abba, Murakami, Sufiana Mousiqi and Radio Kashmir.


I've been reading lot of Murakami lately, especially with these holidays we had this week. Lost many times in a maze of memories, Murakami does that to you, took me to that window sill of our house in Kashmir; where grandfather's Philips radio played Sufiyana Mousikee by G M Saaznawaz. On dull, morose winter days, through this window a fading light, straight out of a Guru Dutt effect, would fall into our living room. Abba would be lost in the reverie, many times eyes enclosed. The effect of Ustaad Saaznawaz's santoor and voice had strange tranquility about it. The lines, the notes swirled in our living room.

There is so little, so much to remember of anyone. A conversation, an anecdote, a window sill, a radio. Memories are like diaries that we carry always with us. Taking a note, every now and then. Going back to the journal, as I did today, I opened that page I wrote many moons ago, on those winter days of early 90s. The warmth of my Grandfather and the oblivion of a ugly world outside kept me in stood steed. When did it all change, while Jhelum still winded past. I would not know. Memories are such. The good ones and the bad ones.

People leave strange memories behind when they go says Murakami. I would give anything to be back in that moment. Of affection, of large joint family, of a long long mirthful winter break and Abba's Radio Kashmir.

I sometimes fail to add up the gains of living away from home. A pittance gained, a life lost.