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Tonight he woos melancholia
In all its finery.
There are lines of worry,
There is a silent fury
That rages on inside
And gnaws at his head.

The whiskey is half-done,
The cigarette stubs are golden brown.
Anger and angst are knocking close,
His body and soul scream: helpless.

Tonight she courts memories
And looks for some ease.
In their familiarity
She seeks refuge and solace.
Memories, a crutch, is what she has
To remind her of the one she was.

Some old mails that she now knows by heart
Some love poems that dance in her head
Some names he called as he twirled her tresses
Some trinkets, lots of silver and a few dresses.

It’s a full-moon night outside.
Two pairs of starry eyes,
Stare at the skies.
And in between lies
Two cities and the vast seas.

It’s a night of love and longing,
Somewhere it’s also a night of belonging
Of half-truths, white lies and yearning
Of tempting Fate and worshipping the Circle of Life.

Somewhere, out there…
Two lovers wonder
If they shall ever again
Meet and not come undone.

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There are words to be read,
There are tales to be told.

There are dreams to be spun,
There are promises to be undone.

There are demons to be slayed,
There are glories to be shared.

There are lies to be shared,
There are truths to be feared.

There are roles to be played
There are lives to be lived.

But Time has a mind of its own,
Comes riding on a lease to town –
Brings choices and conflicts and confusion galore
As it makes you struggle in less (time) for more.

One lifetime is not enough, they say.
To love and lose.

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The fault in our stars is that we fall in love with often the ‘not-right’ kind of person. The fault in our stars is that we often can’t change the foregone conclusion of a futile love. The fault in our stars is that we often end up mirroring the traits in ‘the other’ and we lose our ‘self’ to it.

The fault in our stars often remains in our inability to say ‘NO’ to clingy, exhausting and twisted love. The fault in our stars often makes us feel dazed about the present and despondent about the future.

The fault in our stars also makes us ‘givers’ and not just ‘receivers’. And that fault in our stars has made us all martyrs, in some form of love or the other.

And that is the fault in our stars.

Love. And its twisted logic.

And nuffin to do with the fact that we are underlings, seeking love.

🙂

The moon was peeping from the folds,
The sky was a crimson as the layers behold.
The sun had yet to call it a day,
The clouds knew they had no say.
Not today,
Anyway.

In the midst of this, there was a hiss
Of conscience striking compassion
And yielding little, but no return.

Love had already wooed Her.
So had Fidelity.
Stability stood like an unrequited lover,
Knew it would be – if at all – a chance encounter.

Worldly pleasures stared right at her,
Waiting for that blink-a-moment from that veneer,
Where Practicality met Pragmatism
In another world this would’ve been their own prism.

Would she?
Would she not?

Give silly, simple Love a chance,
And let him hold Her for a dance.

Let him feel the knots in her hair,
The magic in her 2-minute-long stare.
The music in her eyes
And his fingers entwining in her wavy curls.

Love today would be returned
And he would not behave like a lover spurned.

He had hope, he had faith.

There was little to despair.

Some days were good
Some days great,
But the day he dreamt
Were actually the best.

 

 

The child is father of the Man.

After watching two-and-half-hours of the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Paa’, William Wordsworth’s lines from ‘The Rainbow’ never felt more true.

Or correct.

Or contextual.

Or more Bachchan. (Not necessarily in that order though!)

Cause these, after all, were simple lines that had inspired many literary, cinematic and musical offerings over the years. And in one moment, the lines symbolised the perfect takeaway from director R Balakrishnan’s ‘Paa’, a tale that dealt with premature ageing disorder, progeria.

And a story that only Bachchan could have done and, beautifully did, justice to.

‘Paa’, in many ways, is an ode to modern India and the relationships that it nurtures. It deals with new-age love. It reiterates that parental love is probably the most unconditional, non-transactional relationship available in today’s complex emotional marketplace. It shows that love often is sacrificed at the altar of politics and domineering parents. And yet again, in simplistic terms, it shows that children often are best crises managers and interlocutors.

For the Big B, as he’s popularly called, donning the garb of a 12-year-old boy and engaging in a child-like act was no mean feat. A man who loves to experiment, Bachchan got into the act from the word action. His movement, body language, contortion of the face — all showed that this was tailor-made for him. And that the thespian had done his homework. And more.

He had stepped into the skin of the character of Auro. He had internalised the character of the different-looking young school-going boy who lives with his single mother and grandmother. And whose outlet for most emotional angst is his PlayStation. The form of the 67-year-old Bachchan was incidental, his inside contains the soul of a young boy trying to hold his ground in an extremely cruel and competitive world.

The entry of a young political leader, who happens to be his biological father, promising to be the agent of change in everyday life throws Auro’s sheltered and cocooned existence into a spate of action. And thus begins his process of self-discovery. There is joy, and horror. And none other than the four-time National Award winner could have done justice to this.

Bachchan carries the simple to the sublime level. In a career spanning over four decades, he has always done that. And the beauty of it lies in his effortlessness. From the wronged son to the angry young man to the jilted lover to the grand doyen of not-so-happy Indian families, Bachchan has played to the gallery, and beyond. And showed that he’s an actor for all seasons, and many reasons.

If ‘Agneepath’ made Vijay Dinanath Chauhan a part of modern Indian lexicon, ‘Paa’ has proved that Auro is Bachchan’s crown. For a non-trademark Bachchan film, minus the baritone, the gravitas and the sheer presence, ‘Paa’ has blurred all divisions.

Today when Bachchan is picked for the National Award – his third as best actor – he has raised the bar. A bar that no one other than him can touch.

And something to which even his son will say, “Thanks, Paa. But you’re the greatest.”

Forgiveness is in the air. Or so it seems.

First it was the multi-millionaire Ambani brothers who kind of declared an end to their cold war without doing the kissing act. Literally, thankfully! The warring brothers, estranged for eight years after their father’s death, have had a bitter public partnership, marked by animosities and legal disputes. Even as the country’s apex court ruled that the public-private partnership between the brothers was not greater than the country’s good (as the brothers-in-arms fought over the distribution of gas in the KG basin), family watchers and Dalal St watchers alike, were looking with renewed hope toward an amicable rapprochement. So, while the Vimal Family bonded in the wilderness of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, stakeholders finally heaved a sigh of relief. And thanked the matriarch for her role as the peacekeeper.

Last week, the peacemaking, rather forget all-animosity-and-let’s-be-friends angle shifted to 11, Ashoka Road in the national Capital as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s headquarters became a scene of high drama and political action. Jaswant Singh was returning to the party fold after a pregnant pause of nine months. Expelled in September last year for his controversial book on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Darjeeling MP washed away his tears and angst of the proverbial nine months of separation, sharing dais with party chief Nitin Gadkari and Sushma Swaraj.

Public memory, surely, is short, and in India a politician’s memory is even shorter. Call it selective amnesia if you please! The dictum that ‘there are no permanent friends and enemies in politics’ is not applicable to Amar Singh alone – it’s a different story that wearing his heart on his political sleeve has earned him the patent for that in recent times! And he has somehow lived up to his reputation, flitting between allies and partners.

Seeing Jaswant Singh in attendance with the party’s “young leadership” comprising Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari was like a perfect “all is forgiven” scene. The moment of political blunder was gone, distance and time having healed all open wounds even as the scars remained etched. The heavy, marigold garlands and the presence of L K Advani by his side, a picture-perfect frame – a frame that didn’t exactly exude any promise of long-lastin ties. But, what the heck, it’s politics, after all! And politics is no stranger to the fact that it does make for strange bedfellows! And time only acts as a healer, and our political mavericks and seasoned tribe alike, would vouch for.

If the week that was had the BJP climaxing over the return of its prodigal officer, the weekend had its ally and not-always-partner-in-crime the Shiv Sena missing the belligerent nephew of the Tiger. An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ on Sunday advises the bickering Thackeray cousins Uddhav and Raj to take a cue from the Ambani rapprochement and bury the hatchet. Mature, eh? Hardly, considering that Raj Thackeray’s breakaway outfit of MNS has not really enhanced the cause of the Marathi manoos. Instead, it has split the Sena vote bank and how, giving a leg up to the Congress and the NCP as the Assembly polls of October 2009 showed. Convenience and compulsion often combined together are politically combustible! If the colonial cousins were to bury the past, move on and come together, what happens to Mrs Smita Thackeray? And her political ambitions, if they still persist? Does she, too, go back to Tiger’s den or continue striking a sense of camaraderie with Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi? Maybe, she could just continue making movies like ‘Haseena Maan Jayegi’, in ways more than one!

Between Jaswant Singh’s homecoming and the Sena wanting Mumbai’s colonial cousins to kiss and make up, there’s emerged another potential peacemaking session. Uma Bharti, the maverick, firebrand leader who was expelled and left the fold to float her own unit, is also waiting, in the wings, to come back. The Madhya Pradesh leader who has never refrained from calling a spade a spade is now looking for a new lease of political life, back in her home turf where she feels the most comfortable. Whether she will encounter the old familiarity and warmth is anybody’s guess!

This summer, forgiveness has been the leitmotif of political and non-political life. Compassion, like charity, does begin at home. Or so it seems. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Ok, so Dilli’s got a new address. It’s called Zara, the famed Spanish brand that has folks the world over drooling. And the mere mortal that I am, I drooled too.
Through the week. And decided that one trip had to be done by the weekend, come what may.

So Saturday it was Destination Zara. A chance social visit to an old aunt-acquaintance in Vasant Kunj meant I could multi-task! A trip to DLF Emporio in the evening, however, proved that the store was still in the birthing process. Ok. Momentary sadness. Not to feel wasted, I walked into the Mango store with no intention of buying anything. Resolute. That time of the month, when the head and heart are in a major conflict of conspicuous consumption patterns.

Woman proposes, Conscience supposes, and finally God disposes…An hour later, after numerous trials and careening in front of the mirror, walked out with a pair of jeans. My first pair of Mango jeans – the thought ran through my head (try translating that into Hindi/Bangla – funny it sounds!). Guilt was assuaged, thanks to the ‘sale’ tag.

Sunday had a definite motive. Sex and The City – 2 had to be done. So was Zara. Mission Zara-esque I felt. A call-in-time from a friend put things in motion further! SATC-2 would happen, followed by Zara! For a moment, I thought I was suffering OCD. The film happened – sexless, pretty much of it. Carrie Bradshaw is good on HBO mini series, Mr Big’s rakish quotient has dissipated o’er the years. Samantha and Miranda — two extremes — are still likeable, the former for her in-your-face honest, crude jokes and the latter for being the most sorted of the lot! The rest is phew! It seemed more like a dramatised ‘Discovering the UAE’ series, the clothes were a disappointment. At least SATC-1 had better clothes. My takeaway from SATC-2: Sarah Jessica Parker’s smoky eye-shadow! The rest’s a smoke. Literally!

Zara didn’t lift my disappointment. The new address for Dilli’s yuppity folks, Sunday was a gathering of the city’s swish set. Surreal — if you consider the transition from not-so-practical costumes of SATC to a setting where the real meets the unreal. I was quite disappointed – paying a bomb for flimsy cotton tops or shirts which looked pretty lifeless, limp. Some of the designs were nice, but the finished product screamed of mediocrity. Certainly not what the price tags at Zara were screaming. Their bags were nice, the shoes even better. Not what Dilli is used to seeing. Nice, rich brown leather bags. And some smart-looking leather sandals.

The clientele at the Select Citywalk outlet that I saw was a getting-to-know Zara lot. Most seemed to have landed there, buoyed by peer pressure. And word-of-mouth publicity. Reports of the store having sold its items within hours of opening up obviously came with its own set of pressures. Picture-perfect couples, coochi-cooing and orgasming over pretty ordinary clothes — a life less ordinary, you would say! I breezed through the store, came out without buying anything. It was a sight enough to see beautiful people aspiring to be more beautiful and willing to pay the price for it.

For mere mortals like me, the view from the sidelines was more fun. And free! 🙂

December 1984 was supposed to be happy family time. A wedding in the family meant relatives from all over would be congregating in Calcutta. Joy, mirth and unlimited fun – life couldn’t have been better. School became a distant memory as winter vacations were advanced for me!

With just a week to go for the December 9 wedding, the household was in a state of organised chaos as is wont to be in most Indian weddings with everybody running around the house to set the motion. I still recall my grandmother being a bundle of nerves – excitement, tension, joy, sadness, angst – predictable emotions when the youngest daughter in the family is tying the knot. And remember these were times when the now omni-present mobile phone hadn’t yet appeared – Sam Pitroda was yet to convince Rajiv Gandhi to unleash the telecom idea – most event coordination required human intervention. And it was also the times when news didn’t travel at the speed of sound, like it does now and the big, black, dial-a-phone was a rare commodity.

Most outstation guests were expected around the 5th or the 6th, and those who couldn’t attend had already expressed their regret via snail mail much in advance. However, my grandmother was expecting her sister-in-law from Bhopal with whom she was very close to make it for the wedding. And I, personally, was looking forward to having her around – purely for vested interest – as it ensured that no one could admonish me for even the most serious offence. And the numerous goodies that she would always get for me from coloured hair clips and rubber-bands to handmade dolls and story books…what more could a kid, all of six, ask for?

One phone call in the afternoon of December 4 changed that. And more, as we realised, although much later. The grand-aunt was never able to make it for the wedding as she had consumed the deadly methyl isocyanate gas leak from the Union Carbide plant. A vivacious and affable person, she was one of the numerous statistics among those 15,000 who were victims of the world’s greatest gas tragedy.

A pall of gloom descended upon the household. Sadness and silence now became twin partners in this wedding. I remember the elders of the house endlessly discussing the episode. Too young to participate, I only listened. And silently prayed that, by a stroke of fate, somehow she would appear (along with my goodies). But that was not to be.

Soon after, the wedding got over, without any other horrific development. And we got back to our regular lives. Warren Anderson, Union Carbide and Arjun Singh – he was the CM – became a part of the family lexicon, dominating drawing-room, dining-table conversations. Family gatherings remained sombre and quiet for a long time to come.

Over the years, my grand-aunt deteriorated. Her husband and two children ran from pillar to post seeking justice — fighting bureaucracy, lack of infrastructure and the appalling condition of healthcare (which unfortunately still persists) in the country in their pursuit. She shrunk and became a frail little thing. Immobility struck her. She had to be lifted around for the remaining part of her life. Her earlier radiant skin turned black, symbolic of the tragedy. Appetite became a foreigner for her.

And this is how she lived or died. For almost a decade-and-a-half after the tragedy struck her. I had seen her one last time in 1996 at my grandfather’s funeral. Tears swelled my eyes. Childhood visions flashed across my mind – her effervescent, radiant personality now replaced by a shrunk frame, shrivelled skin, and her being was carrying the burden of an American corporation’s lack of liability. At that moment, an idealistic, college-going girl like me also realised what dying a slow death meant.

She passed away in her sleep in 1998. For the pain that she underwent in life, a “peaceful” death was the least that Dame Fate could have given her.

P.S.: A court in Bhopal today has convicted all the eight accused. It has taken more than 25 years for the wheels of justice to set in motion. Are accountability and corporate liability only text-book fundas?

He is now a shadow of his former self. Tough to imagine that the booming voice that brought spinning in the machines across Mumbai to a standstill, can now hardly his own echo. Silence, not socialism, now surrounds India’s foremost socialist leader George Fernandes. An illustrious-but-embittered political career — the ghosts of Tehelka and Coffingate — is what this former Defence Minister has now pushed to the back of his mind. Memory is a pause.

As the firebrand leader turned 80 on Thursday, one couldn’t help go back in time recalling the famous image of Fernandes flanked by the Army officials at Siachen.

George of The Jungle

A different life!

Circa 2010.

The same trade unionist, who at one point was the most shrill anti-imperialist voices, is now caught in a warp as the two women of his life — his political confidante Jaya Jaitly and his estranged wife Leila Kabir — court external legal intervention to own bits of his (living) memory.

Even as the two women who have been his closest partners — in politics and otherwise — fight between themselves, it’s nothingness for the leader himself.

Life!

As a child growing up in the Calcutta of 90’s, I so so (as they say it in 2010!) liked Mamata Banerjee. And I had my reasons.

My child-like, pre-liberalised faculties followed simple reasoning before arriving at the conclusion: She was, after all, a source of unlimited joy for kids like me as her hectic political work would ensure that we would be blessed with at least 2, if not more, unaccounted holidays in the school monthly almanac. Many intimidating physics/chemistry class tests would get caught in a time warp, thanks to her sudden mood swings which included calling at-the-drop-of-a-hat bandhs, disrupting road and rail traffic, making sure her cronies tried to bring life to a standstill. Unfinished homework would get a breather of a day (at least!) before they saw completion. Beat that! In pre-Internet days, a Friday bandh call was all that was required to make a quick dash to Digha or Mukundapur. And I am sure that even state government employees, with their allegiance to the powers-that-be, secretly blessed her for her ‘good’ deed.

More than a decade has gone by.

A lot of water has passed under the (political) bridge. Didi split from the Undivided Congress Family and went solo even as she invoked the spirit of Indira, Rajiv and Sonia. Weaning away from the tutelage of the Congress in 1997, Didi set up her own shop with a motive of ‘providing an alternative’ to the wrongdoings of the Left and the general incapacity of the Congress in Bengal. But there has never been any ambiguity about the ends that Ms Banerjee wants or has in mind: Of sitting pretty on the throne of all that jazz they call Bengal. And it is no secret that she has had her priorities in place for a fairly long time, one must say. Too long, is what others (read: political pundits) feel.

Public memory is short. And Ms Banerjee knows that very well. She also knows that Gen-Y living in the Buddha’s Calcutta won’t be able to recall the infamous Hazra attack or the numerous other episodes that she’s gone through along with her party colleagues — some from the Congress and others from her present outfit, Trinamool Congress. They would require prodding, their grey cells would need to be familiarised with Bengal’s recent political history before they can see what she has tried to achieve for their state. And has failed to do.

Nothing much has changed for the temperamental Didi – the way she functions/performs or rather doesn’t. An actor playing to the gallery, Ms Banerjee’s mood swings have always kind of preceded her. She flirted with the Vajpayee-led NDA government in 1999, became the Railway Minster, and then walked out when the infamous Tehelka expose of corruption started tailing the government. Even if she was angsty over being out of power, hence public recall, she camouflaged it. When the NDA didn’t return to power in 2004, she didn’t bother to kiss and make up with the grand old man of Indian politics. Instead, she went full throttle and the results were for all to see- from a single Lok Sabha win in 2004, Ms Banerjee had gone up to 19 in the 2009 polls. And the prodigal-but-rebellious daughter decided to join the Congress fold, albeit on her own terms. And what better portfolio than the Railways to welcome the belligerent child back home!

What both 10, Janpath (Sonia Gandhi) and 7, RCR (Manmohan Singh) failed to envisage was Ms Banerjee’s divorce from the politics of greater good. If tyranny of distance exists anywhere, it is right here – in Ms Banerjee’s constituency, with the Union minister and her entourage spending all their available time in West Bengal in the run-up to the Assembly polls next year. Attending cabinet meetings ain’t quite her cup of tea – for she is missing in action in the Capital and can be spotted miles away in Calcutta and its suburbs, mobilising public support for the 2011 elections – an election where Ms Banerjee will score well simply because the people of Bengal will be strapped for choice.

Indian Railways is the lifeline of the Indian janta – it may not be aspirational but it sure is utilitarian, and highly so. It is a ministry that requires undivided attention and ministerial intervention from time-to-time. It also needs a pan-India vision (a trait which has been historically missing in most Railway ministers, each guarding their own territory) and can definitely not function without that.

This in Jhargram, yet again, has brought to fore that there is problem of plenty that is plaguing Didi. She has too much on her plate at the moment as the civic polls are slated to happen on Sunday. For Ms Banerjee, all roads in Bengal now have only one destination.

And she’s leaving no stone unturned as the state, (literally) takes over the nation.

Good for her, I say. But then do make way for someone who could cart the wheels of the Railways without such indifference short-term vision and perhaps, with a little more passion.

Is that a lot to ask for?

(P.S.: For me, the city is still Calcutta. Hence, the title and mention in the post :-)Apologies if I have offended neo-converts…)