Turning Thirty Three

Turned 33 yesterday. It was time for me to ponder over the life that went by. The lessons that came along.
Few more years down the line, these may sound absolute foolish. But, for now, this very moment, these are my manifesto. Some of these came easily to me, like the paka hua aam in my jholi. Others, after a turmoil that made childbirth look easy.

1. The SI unit of life is happiness. Believe it, even if it is not true.
2. Feel gratitude for the givers. For example, Nature.
3. Complement people generously. You never know, when that becomes their sole surviving kit while struggling against low self-esteem.
4. People tend to remember others’ bad words more than their good acts. Thus, even if ‘help’ becomes optional, let us at least not be mean with words.
5. Friendship makes marriage easy. Marriage makes friendship difficult.
6. Sex is overrated. Chocolate is not.
7. Love yourself always. Mainly when you fail miserably.
8. Wait. Until you know what you are moving for.
9. There is no career which is ‘highly paid’, it takes something and gives something. There is always a tradeoff.
10. Hate is not worth of a feeling. It is a transit period between two loves.
11. Always try for two things. 1. A hobby. 2. Time to cultivate that hobby.
12. There is no concept of ‘successful life’. The best one can have is a ‘relatively happy life’.
13. A quick question that might answer many apparently big questions of life is “does that even matter?”
14. Give back, whenever you can. Sometimes, even before getting.
15. Try to grow the things that can’t be measured. Measurable things are mostly corrupted.
16. Transgender, bisexual, lesbian, Gay, Disable are terms used by people with extended vocabulary. These words are as trivial as varied shades of black.
17. Have at least this much money that you cook what you like to eat, play an instrument you love to hear, and buy books you love to read.
18. No one will love you for what you are, unless ‘what you are’, fits their definition of love with minor adjustments. And this definition, changes.
19. Saying ‘I understand’, fix up many things. Especially, when you don’t.
20. Choose your battle wisely. Not every discontent is worth engaging.
21. The only thing both male and female have to be cautious while wearing, is attitude.
22. Travel. Read. Eat. Rinse. Repeat.
23. Whatever attitude you carry, life gives you a way to carry that on. For a snatcher, life will force ways to keep on snatching to survive. For giver, life will make ways to keep giving.
24. Religion is set of beliefs and faith defined by set of people for humans to perform similarly. Hence, not needed.
25. Having a surname means, first name is extended. Yes, that simple.
26. Hug is more honest a gesture than touching feet. For hug is the act of embracing someone whole heartedly for that very moment.
27. Over complicating and over simplifying are two different end of same disease. Quite like low BP and high BP. Ability to see the fact as a fact for the fact it is, is an art.
28. No need to be communist, secularists, feminist or any other yeast as long as you can believe and practice the equality of one and all.
29. Dreams are the restless guests. Don’t keep them await for long at the door. Else, they might go leaving whooshing sound behind.
30. Expectation is our brain child. Can never held anyone responsible for failing to meet the goal we set for them inside the chambers of our tiny brains.
31. The definition of healthy is standard, while the definition of beautiful varies. Thus, easier to be former than latter.
32. When in doubt, love.
33. Love. Because, there is no easier way to live.

Since I manage to catch your attention till the end of this list, let me know on a scale of preachy to honest, how useless it was.

Of Chickenpox and childhood

The thermometer showed temperature as 103 degrees. Eyes were burning and skin felt heated like never before. I closed my eyes, the external sounds started becoming more prominent. I could hear the stereo from slum next to our building playing some bollywood number, which I couldn’t comprehend. Some background chatter between men and women, gave tune a more grounded feel.

Five minutes passed, I was transported straight to Kanpur, circa 90s. The defense quaters and the cacophony during ramleela days. Same stereo sounds, coming from farway local communities, group chatter added in equal interval. The churning of merry-go-round, the shout of ice cream hawkers and the careless footsteps of kids. All together, came to me straight from the dusshehra ground, we had just in front of our defense quaters.

It wasn’t first. Surely not the last. These quick trip to childhoods, are what my moment of despair are made of. This need has a universal feel to it.

We often need excuses to take a quick trip to our exclusive childhood. Any of the senses, trigger the nostalgia. The smell of raw mango, the sound of rickshaw puller, the first fan of summers, the ghee-ka-tarka, bloom of flowers in balcony, a cut mark on arms, an aunty laughing awkwardly… the trigger is merely an excuse, to travel the place, we always want to belong.
Childhood is the secure place, which we left with zest in soul. Adulthood, forced us to compromise with certain predefined protocols by society. So, with every trigger of sense, we strive to go, where we were our hero. An escape from unsaid pity of being victim of adulthood.

Nostalgia has always been warm. Like that mohalle ki aunti who always used to send a bowl of first pickle of the season. Or, the uncle who first scold you looking at your marksheet, then ask which quater, I live in. Or, maid-cum-malishwali-cum-doodhwali-cum-storyteller amma, who grew old in our house. Nostalgia is sorted. For it is always in retrospect. It tells, the childhood has lesser at stake with every bargain. There were chances to correct mistakes. It never had pre-requisites of being guarded.

Our childhood, is our own version of nani-ka-ghar. We need to make quicker trips.

The Lowland : Book Experience

Lowland was not the unputdownable book for me. I had to put it down, after few pages. To take a deep sigh and look into the blank. To rehearse the characters and conversations in mind. To feel a little more connected with them. To hold their virtual hands and talk like real people do.

 Ms. Lahiri sketched her 4 main characters at ease. She must have felt the same how God felt after creating the 4 primary colors to paint the universe. Each having a presence independent of other, but they bring out a different shade when blend with the other. Each shade had the freedom to stand out yet mingled. You left craving to experiment. Wonder how it would be to have more of Gauri to Udayan, less of Subash to Gauri, have broad strokes of Bela, leave bold outlines of Gauri.

 Like colors, you may like or dislike, though cannot judge. They stand far away from the rightness or wrongness. Ms. Lahiri herself summarizes her novel as “Two brothers bound by tragedy, A fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past. A country torn by revolution. A love that lasts long past death.”

 Final Lowland cover.indd

The book is about two brother, their deeds, the consequences of the choice and the life thereafter. The woman Gauri, wife to both. The girl Bela, daughter to both.

 The book has all the extreme combinations. It has politics and history, Calcutta and Rhode Island, Naxalism and consumerism, dream and death. And the magic lies in the smooth transition between all these, sometimes with in a single paragraph.

 Ms. Lahiri explains situations like they are characters and let character unfolds themself as they are situation. Here a quick peek-a-boo :

 “She was used to the noise as she studied, as she slept; it was the ongoing accompaniment to her life, her thoughts, and the constant din more soothing that silence would have been.”

 .. or this,

 “Did you forget to shut it off? (While leaving) he asked her, as she turned down the radio’s volume.

I kept it on. I hate coming back to a quite house.”

 Lahiri’s language that add poise to every movement or her bold characters who push you to pull you or her objective take on the political movement that forms the impetus for every plot; there will be something to take care for every craving soul. You just have let yourself lost to find your own reason.

The Museum of Innocence : Book Experience

There are books which you are not sure of comprehending, let alone describing. It gives emotion in abundance, makes you restless, trickles your nerves and flirts with your senses. It takes you on a journey that writer took years to imagine and characters took a life to live. It might have germinated out of an idea or a concept, but by the time it took shape of a novel, it becomes guiding companion of yours.

Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence is that book for me.

The bulky, voluminous book stayed in my handbag for a month, allowing me relish few pages during my journey from work to home. I loved holding it. I can sense its weight and in true sense of world, my hands were full.

TheMOI

It has everything to grip you tightly. Love, separation, anxiety and death. It has words that weave wisdom, sentences that keep wrinkle straight and pages that give pangs.

The book is an account of love between a wealthy businessman Kemal and a poorer distant relation Füsun during the period 1975 to 1984 in Istanbul. Kemal was in a stable relation, when Fusun entered with an intimacy into his life. The predictable relation got fade and the intimate relation became Kemal’s life.

Kemal loved, the way love is. Kemal lost, the way love is. He denied, his own love to himself. He lied, his physical encounter to his love. Finally, he surrendered, to love.

In all he taught how to love. He treasured the love, its moments and objects. The collection of objects were symbolic of his love, resulting in Museum of Innocence. He kept collecting the trivial objects that witnessed or were part of his love, to create the museum that will be collectible representation of his love saga.

The book itself is a meseum, of wit, wary and wisdom. After all, as Orhan himself said “Real museums are places where Time is transformed into Space.”. It did that with my time, every-time I picked it.

Mahalaya

Mahalaya marks the beginning. Of festive fervour. Of celebration. Of Durga coming home.

Big eyes of Durga started doing the rounds couple of months before the actual pujo, in pandals and on Sarbojonin patrikas. New dresses, Shuili flowers, holiday liberty, trips to never land, gifts and galore all started becoming part of any typical bong household. In talks, smells, spirit and in boxes.

After the end of preparation, celebration starts. Thus, Mahalaya is officially the end day of the start. Mahalaya is the epitome of spirit, while Durga pujo is the execution of that spirit. That is why probably I liked Mahalaya over Pujo itself. Then, there is more to it.

In formative years of my memory, the uptron black and white TV played the Mahalaya special program at 5AM to start the day. In adjacent room Panasonic radio was tuned into AIR. “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon” started echoing from every corner of the house.

Amidst all, what stayed in me most, was the power image of Durga. She was not showering blessings and emitting rays from the palm of her right hand. She was not punishing the evil by sending snake to bit someone at middle of the night. She was not thrown flowers right on her face or chandan teeka to smash her forehead. She was not overburdened with garlands around her neck. She was not confined in the chants. She was not restricted in the bhajans.

She was rather born to kill the evil. She was a powerful female. She had ten arms, all equipped. She was mahamaya. She was the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create her. She was the ‘Durgatinashini’ who was able to slay the ‘Asura’ king with her trident. She won. She was therefore earned rejoice. She was celebrated.

She was the epitome of woman empowerment. She was power celebrated by wide acceptance of heaven and earth.

Then I grew up. Mornings started becoming late. Mahalaya became infrequent. Radio got broke. TV got changed. Doordarshan was no longer remembered.

And I met new Durgas.

mahalaya

The one that lived in nearby tribal community. She had scars all over. Bruised and disguised.

Then there was Durga aunti. She always sounded insecure. She once mortgaged her mangalsutra and sold used liquor bottles to kabadiwala to pay back the mortgage money.

Then there was a maths teacher Durgesh Nandini. She was always mocked by her male like name, but her mathematics blown us all. One day she left everything because she got married and her husband never liked her working.

Met many Amba, Ambika, Baruni, Bhargavi, Ishani and synonymous. And like Mahalaya, the strong image of real Durga, kept on fading with today’s Durga.

Coversing – The LunchBox

He : It was good. Quite good.
She : Hmm
He : Really good

She : Didn’t get one thing. Was Nawazuddin’s Character really needed ? How different the story would have been had he not been introduced? The story would have been really short with that miss of subplot. But, what else?

He : Shaikh was the disturbance that was needed to show how Mr. Fernandez lives in his own world throughout. That disturbance of Shaikh and Deshpande aunti abrupt Saajan’s and Ila’s life. There is an awkwardness in their character. They halt the story and so thus the lead character’s life. Saajan and Ila come out of the cocoon to address that disturbance and go back to their own world, woven around their loneliness. Disturbance is always needed, very much.

She : Hmm.
He : Hmmmm..
{He started humming a tune for which she couldn’t comprehend the lyrics. It was a momentary disturbance as she was recollecting memories of her last trip to Bhutan}

LunchBox

She : By the way, I loved the scene when Lillete Dubey says “Ab bhookh lag rahi hai..” Quite so happens after a pralay.
He : What pralay?
She : When we are going through a crisis period. We focus only on the situation at hand. We could never able to sense our own feelings. We get numb. When it all happened and the storm passed by, we realize our basic feelings. Hunger, thirst, sleep.

He : Hmmmm…

She : Wasn’t Lillete Dubey little glamorous for that role ?
He  : Nimrat was outstanding.
She : Who will say Irfaan is not christian? Or not an old man?
He : Had seen Irfaan playing such roles. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Star best settler projected him similarly.
She : Don’t remember.
He : Hmm
She : Ila’s mother state prompted her to go to Saajan and Saajan seeing oldman’s wrinkled hand realized .. he is not that old to accept life’s offerings. Ila tried suicide before. And all these scenes are scripted so subtly.
He : They treated the audience with much intelligence.
She : hmm
He : <Yaws>
She : <Thinks of the last scene from A separation.>

The Help – Book Experience

When a woman writes book on women, the streak of honesty prevails. Compassion followed and bitter-sweet truths are revealed. The Help is that book. It handles the sensitive issue of racism with a fine balance, supported conveniently by the fictional accounts. It talks of discrimination, audacity and indifference of white community towards the African-American maids. The story never get lost in the intellectual take of racism, rather it focuses on the grass root challenges supported strongly by nuanced portrait of individual characters.

What makes it even more interesting is the parallel narratives by three woman of heterogeneous background, profession and personality. Their unique perception of the overlapping sub plots gives reader the craving.

Kathryn Stockett authored The Help in 2009. The story revolves around African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. The story starts with everyday account of lives in Jackson. Stockett writes about the struggles the women face as they chafe against the written and unwritten rules that limit their lives. Honest account of emotions and nuanced characterizations helped avoiding the cliché.

Writer chose three characters Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson, and Skeeter Phelan to tell these stories. These three woman are stranger yet acquainted at different levels. They belonged to different communities. Had diverse life style. Varied temperaments and unique challenges. Aibileen was a maid, lost her only son, sensible, pray every day, courageous and could write. Minny wore her temperament on her sleeves, friend with Aibileen, worked as maid, had lousy husband and bunch full kids. Skeeter had white skin, belonged to the upper class, friends with the ladies who hired Minny and Aibileen as help. A subtle twist backed with sensitivity of Skeeter and courage of Aibileen, brought all of them together. They started their hide outs to document their stories. Stories of racism, their everyday struggle, their guts to challenge the unwritten rules and obey the obvious.

As the novel comes to closure. They all became liberated in their own way. Their struggles finds the day light. They moved towards sunshine. They lost few battles, won few. Together, they all devised independent ways to be happy. Isn’t that life is all about?