Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Have you ever allowed yourself to be convinced by nature?

When I was much younger, like many in that age, I went through a major disappointment following a certain incident. Knowing not what else to do other than lie aimlessly on my bed for hours, I agreed to a prefixed schedule of going to my village. I never used to visit my village since I believed I had all that I needed here in the city I lived in. Nothing attracted me elsewhere. So my decision came as a matter of delight for my parents particularly my father who always encouraged me to stay connected with the place my ancestors had built and lived in for decades. I went the same day. 

The next morning my cousin forced me out of bed at five and dragged me to the fields. But he didn't have to pull me for much long. Once I reached the dense fields something amazing caught hold of my will. It was in the lap of nature that I found something remarkably life saving. Believe me. I was feeling so hopeless that I had begun to show symptoms of rejecting life itself in that early age. But once I walked the fields on my bare feet and and reached its heart, I forgot everything. I saw the mist soaked sun which filled my spirit with unparalleled tenderness and I was pampered by the breeze of 'Baitarani' and the mud under my feet permeated some medicinal magic into my system. I plucked a wild marigold and held it close to my face, vicariously absorbing all its wisdom. I randomly gathered leaves and rubbed them turning my palm green and earthen. The birds had a strangely high state of courage for they alighted so near to me that I felt like I had always been a part of that greenery, their undiluted habitat. I was touched by their instant approval of me. I felt belonged. The haunting sense of abandonment went away amidst the thousands of leaves and hundreds of butterflies and birds and tiny innocent insects which nibbled at the soft dirt for food.

Something revived in me. Something which never seemed to have even existed before. A throbbing sense of faith and contentment. Even when I closed my eyes I could see brightness all around. Maybe I could see that brightness because of what had illuminated within me by that experience. Everything felt in place. Including me. Everything made sense. The moment felt nothing short of divine.

Nature has this thing. It can caress you and while so doing it can cleverly plant a sense of resilience. It can prepare us to face the most difficult times like nothing can. Isn't it sort of a dependable scheme that the troubles of life be taken care of by nature itself. Its lasting effects can delight us with what every man is entitled to enjoy by virtue of his existence in this world. We often tend to forget that. Maybe because we have given ourselves up to our concrete confinements. We have perhaps forgotten where we really come from in our madness to reach places reaching where may not necessarily matter.

I woke up early today after months and saw that softer sun and those birds and insects and walked bare feet on my garden. I resigned myself from anything contrary. And I found myself after a long long time. I saw myself. Like no mirror can show. I breathed life itself.

A moment like this can turn things around in ways we cannot imagine. Take my word for that.


My nights are about one prayer-
Let her descend in dawns
Like the promise of mornings 
And rise in my soul like the caress of evenings
Suffuse the bitterness of my void
With the love of her kiss
Let her be the blanket of my winter and 
Magnolia of my spring
Let her be the guide of my eyes and my steps
Across the seas and the winds
To where all the wings have flown
Where beneath clouds hopes are sown


Many hands await
Still you don't drop
You cling by me
The unbloomed

The Deep Jungle and the Boy Wonder

My earliest memories of crying are not from days when I was subjected to parental rebuke as a kid. I was as such a no fuss child (that's what I've often been told). Rather I recall distinct images of me turning inconsolable when I missed my weekly dose of Mowgli and his lovable family of wolves, extending to the protective duo of Bagheera and Baloo. Power cuts or the TV going out of order were just a couple of reasons. If I missed the show the whole day felt wasted leaving within me a feeling of emptiness and loss. When I saw Jon Favreau's Jungle Book, I was once again excited like a twelve year old. Now that a couple of decades have flown by, in between the days of the Hindi dubbed animated show on Doordarshan and its Hollywood reimagination, I happily wonder as to what makes Kipling's masterpiece such an important part in the annals of storytelling and what is going to make the latest version of its cinematic adaptation a milestone among motion pictures. What's going to keep it immune to the rust of time. It's not only the fantastic CGI (in the new edition they have it a combo of CGI and Live Action - Photorealistic Rendering - using Motion Capture techniques) or the perfect animation or the awe inspiring background voices by phenomenal actors. What shall really always stand out about the Jungle Book are its inimitable story line and its relatable characters.

Mowgli is the perfect symbol of innocence and intelligence, always finding his way in the wild, always retaining his heart amidst the wilderness of the jungle, daring the dense forest, far away from any semblance of humanity. What has stayed with me is the kind of undiluted and abiding love depicted between the characters. Watching Mowgli I was invariably assured as a child of the goodness in the world, particularly when his family of animals stood by him against their sinister fellow forest dwellers. There's this scene where Mowgli's adoptive wolf mother tells him, as he sets out on a journey of self discovery, that no matter where he goes he will always remain her son. There is such tremendous depth in that utterance (fair credit must go for that to Lupita Nyongo for her voice). That is the kind of thing that stands out for me in the film. The essence of feelings and attachment that transcends species. The deeper connect we may sometimes find with ones who enjoy no tag of relation with us. And then discover the greatest experience of love, bonding and sacrifice with them. There are big lessons of life to be learnt from Kipling's characters given that we have the heart to see beyond their animated performances.

I have learnt that Neel Sethi won the casting chance for Mowgli after a massive hunt in auditions. He is impressive. The voices of Idris Elba (for Shere Khan) may have been more sinister. If I may take you back to the tone of the majestic Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia rendered by Liam Neeson, the choice was perfect because it conveyed the greatness and nobility of the character, which is not quite the case with Shere Khan. Elba, to me, never possessed that amount of ruthlessness which defined Shere Khan. But there couldn’t have been a better choice than Ben Kingsley  to speak for Bagheera. Kaa is brought to life by the sensuous Scarlet Johansson; who else could have given voice to the seductive moodiness of the python. The action scenes are thrilling. I read somewhere that Fraveau wanted to shoot in real forest settings but he was convinced by the producers to take advantage of the present time technology in transporting the jungle to the screen without actually braving the wild. And it seems to have worked out too well for the makers.

I have a strong feeling that watching the 2016 edition of Jungle Book is going to be an unforgettable experience for everyone. Go watch it if you haven’t yet and return into the dreamy world of childhood we all once lived in.

June Song

Have never needed words
To send across my depths
But our talks were so beautiful
And the silence truthful

Leaves fell and night folded
And the tiny ocean became our hearts
And the hour hands were slower than ever
That June was so beautiful

Sunday, 22 May 2016

What's Wrong With Wants

A little love is what all of us desire. Then we tailor our desire once we start getting that love. We want more, we want something special and sometimes we want and wait for tiny fulfillments. Around this tendency, lies the root of all relationships issues. I once heard Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev claim that it is innate of humans to never settle for the basic. That it is in our nature to always aspire for something more. But how does that work out in human relationships is something that has always piqued me. This is regardless of the fact that I have been both, its perpetrator and victim.
To my understanding it is hard to lay a formula here. It is also perhaps not right to say that unconditional love is love of the highest form. Who are we to judge how someone should love another? Who are we to claim what kind of attachment is real and what is fallacious? I have always thought that with deep attachment comes plethora of expectations and it is alright to expect, to want something from someone we care for. To be honest, I've never been able to conceive of a relationship where I am not allowed to convey my wishes and desires to the other person. To be in such a bond immediately sounds hollow. Frankly, it is a bit unnatural too.

At best, the reciprocation should not come across as a quid pro quo thing, it shouldn't be a mere arrangement of convenience. As long as I am expecting, driven by my affection, I am actually laying down the foundation of abiding concern. Imagine, how would it feel if one day you woke up and were not allowed to say a word of the many small and big things you look for from your friends, beloved, your parents and children. It is by sharing our hopes and our needs with each other that we plant ourselves in spaces of each other's hearts. The next time when I won't drive fast or cut down on fast food or relinquish questionable company because someone I love, told me that he or she wants it, I would add one more brick to the strength of our bond. Contrary to feeling burdened, I'd happily take up the task of keeping wishes of the ones who rest their hopes in me.

I am no one to deny the unspeakable hurt that unfulfilled expectation brings along. In fact I'd be lying if I said I haven't seen that pain. But let not the fear of having our hopes unfulfilled close us to the wholesome beauty of a real bond - one which thrives only on the inimitable joy of having someone bring to life what we desire and vice versa.  A long time ago I understood that the whole point of two people coming together was to share lives, and what better way to do it than to tell each other how we want that life to be and to have our wishes kept - the wish that the other should walk along. That walking along is always going to come with expectations. What's the fun in life and love if we didn't want anything out of the ones we adore? What's the point of our existence if we didn't spend some of it living upto what the ones we love secretly or overtly desire from us?

They will all tell you that expectation is the cause of all distress. And that sometimes we create our own heartbreak through expectations. That maybe. But let's be honest here. Can we seriously conceive of a life without expectations? 

I felt compelled to share this because I recalled an incident this morning. An argument with a friend, where he claimed the exact opposite of what I've written. I don't know if he has had a change of heart. I don't even know if you guys will agree with me. But if you introspect and recall moments where you have undergone the experience, I am certain you'll get the point.

Think about it.

Valentine Memories

In 1997 I met a guy while I was travelling by Konark Express, everyone's preferred train to Mumbai from Bhubaneswar. His name was Nitin. He was about ten years older and very friendly. We kind of got along instantaneously as he shared stories of his college life, and all the crazy things he and his friends did for fun, fascinating me unfathomably by his imagery. Once he was done talking about the frolic between him and his friends, it didn't take him long to pull out from his wallet the picture of the girl he loved. It was the first time someone openly talked to me about the emotion. I mean, so far I had only heard stories about it in school and in the neighbourhood. All in whispers and secret gossips. But that day, Nitin busted for me the myth that love has to be kept a secret or its details shared only with caution as if it were a terrible thing.
He cherished before me how he had first conveyed his feelings to Helda. To be frank, it felt good to hear him. And that was perhaps the evening, all those years ago, inside the iron walls of a speeding train, between plains unclaimed by humans, and skies never seen through city lights that I got the first taste ever of the longings of my own heart. As he was narrating his love story I experienced a tenderness grow in my soul. The world around me refolded into a shape whose dimensions were delicate and mesmerizing. Even the breeze that stole its path inside the bogie touched me differently. In short, it was in that bogie, under the flickering battery powered lamps that it dawned on me that I was a romantic. I pined to have a girl to love. And I felt impatient to find her. We'll come to that later (or maybe some other time).

I must have been imagining too many things about the newfound ideas Nitin planted in my head which is why I guess I didn't ask him about plans of his and Helda's future. And when I did, at the time of saying goodbye at the CST station, he gave me a smile and said 'We broke up a long time ago'. My imaginations drowned in his revelation. I could say nothing. What could have I? From the way he'd described their affair, their affection; it was hard to guess that they are not together anymore. I could get a sense of how terribly he must be missing Helda for which he was able to bring to life their story in such detail. We exchanged numbers and I saw him melt in the crowd. I wasn't able to keep the story of Nitin and Helda out of my head all this time even though neither of us brought it up whenever we talked. 

I'll not hang you guys in suspense. Nor will I weigh down your happiness seeking hearts with the agonizing details of how Nitin held on to his devotion. The two lovers underwent unspeakable hardship. But I guess that in the end, nothing really is more powerful than two souls seeking each other genuinely. Four years after we met, Nitin called me to invite me to his and Helda's wedding. I was insanely happy to hear about it. They got married on Fourteenth February in the year 2001. I was there. And I can bet, no happiness of this world can surpass the kind of which I saw on Nitin's face that night. Forever finally began for their tale.

Time stole away the tiny affinities that keep bonds alive. In between Nitin's new responsibilities and my studies, we slipped away from talking almost every week to once a month to eventually not anymore. I don't feel bad about it. I won't ever. Nitin doesn't know what profound inspiration he gave me with his ability to love someone forever. Nitin didn't know that his commitment and endurance would pave the way for mine when after several years I'd meet my soulmate. The only difference is that unlike his, my endurance is going to be lifelong. It is the memory of Nitin and Helda's love that I silently celebrate on Valentine's Day every year. The Day is always going to bring recollections of the two lovers I know, who fought their way to forever. 

I recall their story for all of you, just in case you'd be thinking of giving up on love. Just in case you'd be thinking that you're not cut out for it or vice versa. Or if you're plain tired of fighting the odds. I would beckon you to consult your personal experiences and recall the very feeling which makes someone the love of your life. Sometimes with passing time the attachment may get buried under layers of diversions and doubts may seep into the strength of bonds and maybe all of that can separate us. But we tremble hearing that person's voice, sometimes years after the separation, suspending us in a delirious balance between the past and the present.

I do not propose to seize the mantle of defining love or limiting its myriad manifestations. All I seek to say is that love, despite being the harbinger of untold complexities and even many pains, is still relevant and amazing. Nothing can leave us as grateful to life as the touch of true love. 

Nitin, my brother, if you're reading this. I dedicate this post to you and Helda. I never told you this, but you're one lucky man to have Helda with you. I wish we could meet so that I could fill my life with the love that flourishes between the two of you today. 

To everyone else, never be afraid to love. Despite all its anguish, real love is the only thing you are going to carry till your last breath. Embrace its tormenting bliss.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Kapoor & Sons

Even though it has been a long time that I read them, I have never quite got over Jim Butcher’s words which claim “there’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more… secure.” 

And his words have always evoked questions like what makes our families special. Or for that matter what is it that, at times, takes away that specialty from them? Is it the bond of blood, which prompts something to rise deep within us or fall, which in turn decides whether we remain loyal or break away from homes? Is it the sense of belonging that is nurtured right from our birth which beckons us to be with the families we have and when the curtains fall to look for a familiar hand of affection from among its members? These are a few existential questions that the movie ‘Kapoor and Sons’ seeks to answer. And it may not be suddenly visible to the casual member of the audience. You have to partake in the accomplishments, celebrations, lies and mistakes that the characters live in the reel to get a sense of its deeper message. At the same time it must be said that the movie doesn’t make any outrageous attempt to fix what is broken through cliched characters and events. Rather, in a very relatable manner, it asks us to see beyond each other’s imperfections and our failings and hold on to those ties we have build with each other over years and love and struggle, and forgive our blunders and embrace each other for all times, before it is too late. Because in the film, it actually gets too late for the characters.

Fawad Khan and Sidharth Malhotra are brothers living diagonally different lives in London and New Jersey. While Fawad is established as a successful author, Sidharth is still struggling with his career. Somehow he already knows that his calling lies in written words but lacks the courage to pursue his aspirations, all the while under a mistaken belief that he isn’t good enough, not atleast as his elder brother, blame it on an unforgivable act of deception committed by his most ardent well wisher.

Back home, their family has three more members: Daddu (Rishi Kapoor), father Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) and mother Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah). A call about 90-year-old Daddu brings both brothers home. The family has its moments of fun, joy, suspicion and insecurities. The members congratulate, join hands and even smile. At the same time, they also throw stuff at one another right under the view of a hundred invitees during a family party. They plan, hope, and struggle to live upto those hopes and fight aggressively with nothing held back. Now that’s one dysfunctional family. But the beauty of their bond lies in how they stick around despite the most distasteful of situations prevailing under their roof.
The lead actors, particularly Fawad Khan, won my heart by his memorable acting.This movie has indeed brought to the fore his potential as an artist. There is such restraint and humility in his performance that one cannot help but surrender to the bitter sweet memories he weaves by it. I am a big fan of Rajat Kapoor’s work right from Dil Chahta Hai. There is so much honesty in the fiction that he depicts that he always invariably brings me to believe him. Ratna Pathak is a legend and we all know that. The failure of their characters’ marriage consequent to the loss of happiness and love, consequent to mistakes committed is too well portrayed by the two. You can’t really decide if the movie stands on the shoulders of the younger leads or of these two. Someone has rightly pointed out after watching the film that Rajat Kappor and Ratna Pathak need a separate movie to themselves. Rishi Kapoor is great as the unabashed grandpa. But the movie is really not about any specific member, rather it’s about the image of wholesomeness they together represent and how that image fades in the absence of even one of them.

In the end, it’s all over for some hopes and the tragedies stay with us. But then, isn’t that how life works?

The soundtrack is hummable. And I’m sure this would come as no surprise that I still can’t stop listening to Saathi Re. There’s a line in the song which says ‘केहना था और क्या क्या तुझे, नींद क्यों गयी फिर तुझे’. And the only feeling it brought was that we should never let go of our loved ones regardless of their weakness, follies, imperfections and wrongs. Nothing can salvage a broken bond if the right dose of love does not replace the hurt we sometimes leave behind for the ones we love.

The movie manages to break heart and mend it just like life. It is by far the best made movie in 2016. My best wishes to the director Shakun Batra. Congratulations to him for making a predictable story line so memorable on screen.

This post wouldn’t be complete if I don’t thank my friend Lopamudra Mohapatra for literally shoving me into the theaters to watch this. Perhaps I underestimated your knowledge of my inclination during the argument about whether I would or won’t like this kind of movie. Perhaps, even after all these years and distractions you still remember everything.
I owe this one to you.

To everyone else who hasn’t seen the movie, watch it. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry and at times you’ll end up doing both. In short, you’d get a lasting taste of life.

Remember the Petals

Everything has gone
With time and its great power;  
I know you had promised many -
Many vows you had breathed
Know that it's not you I blame
Time's like that
It's will an old game
Slowly you'll see
All of this would be a memory
It'll happen even if we don't show
Also know,
Sometimes the memory of love
Is better than walking its dying steps

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Waking to Love

The early sun nudges me
But where am I going to fall?
Your paper fingers clutch mine
Like a baby dreaming away

Waking before you and watching you
Feeling your breath
Remembering the bygone moon
And the love in its shine we shared

Now that you've blinked your eyes
And moved your lips mumbling my name
My world's autumn
My heart's bliss

If only I could be 
By your side
In your love
For all mornings to dawn