Pages

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Travels and Homes

I have been away for a really long time now, and i truly am sorry. I busy with a few examinations and this trip. But here's the post; I hope it makes up for those I skipped :) 

This summer I flew 6831 kilometers to be with Juultje Raaijmakers, who lives in Reusel, The Netherlands, for a week, as a part of my EUmIND exchange programme. And I can assure you, it couldn't have been a better trip.

I’m going to start by mentioning some of the activities that I did there, that I just can’t do here:

• Sleep under the stars.
Yes, I can sleep under the stars here too. But whether its owing to the geographical position or the clearer skies, I have never seen a prettier night sky before. It feels amazing and completely out of yourself to be lost while viewing something as simple as “a black ceiling with tiny bright spots” or something as vast as “stars that more than a hundred times larger than our home planet. Stars, the atoms of which reside in our bodies, in our surroundings, in everything we see”; pick whichever you may.

• Jump on a trampoline.
It is a little heartbreaking to admit that I never really found a trampoline within reach to jump on. And then juultje says that she has one in her backyard. *wait wait wait. She is still recovering from the adrenaline burst and the sudden rush of excitement* There’s a very peculiar beauty in jumping on a trampoline, not many people love it, but there is. Maybe it is about those few seconds that you spend suspended in air or maybe it’s about the uncertainty of the rubber sheet that is going to receive you in a while or maybe it’s the ‘hair flying in the air’ or maybe the knot that forms in your stomach or maybe it’s just the one job that the trampoline does perfectly well, becoming your time machine to those childhood days.

• Walk out of the house and find a field or forest where I can lose myself for a while.
I have a garden, followed by a playground right behind my house. I also have a road on the other side, howling with honks all day long. Not saying that I don’t appreciate it, I have learnt to live this way. So when I go to a place where I am  surrounded by fields that stretch till the end of the horizon and where the silence at night pierces through my ears, I am surprised but more than that I am euphoric.  To have a place where you can lose yourself for a while, it isn’t much of a task; here at home, I have my own hideouts. Back there, it felt more amazing than ever to have found some without even looking for them.

• Work
The concept of part time jobs isn’t very suggestible in India and it hadn’t intrigued me even a bit. But then, I worked with Juul for a day. And I have to say, that day is one the most memorable memories I’ve made on this beautiful trip. We cycled around a quarter of the town and delivered a weekly magazine. We covered normal houses, homes for the aged and the locality for the families with toddlers. What leaves a mark is the conversation we had – culture, opinions, superstitions, death, dreams, pressure, life, unconventionality – everything that a teenaged mind thinks, but speaks only after careful inspection.

• Cycle to another country
Where I live, the concepts of borders, security and defense are paramount; no ones to blame but nothing can be done. And so when you’re told that the task for the weekend is to assemble together, hire tandems (cycles for two riders) and cycle to the neighbouring country, a little (maybe too much) enthusiasm goes without saying. We cycled to Belgium; just like that. We crossed forests and parks and villages and highways and suddenly, we’re there.

Juultje says that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She wants to make a difference.
I want to become an astronaut. I want to explore; I want to find answers.
Clearly she and I have very different ideologies. But does that stop us from being friends? No. Does that stop us from inspiring each other? Not one bit.

All I can say is, you breathe their air. You to listen to their music. You walk on their streets. You sleep under their stars. You see their passions. You see their compassion. You catch a glimpse of their life. You eat with them. And its peculiar, how through all the differences, you realize they're the same as you.

My trip may not be that fascinating. People go on vacations all the time. Here’s what I have learnt about travel from my recent trips – travelling isn’t about living in the best hotels or eating from the most prestigious restaurant or commuting the most comfortable vehicles. Travel is not knowing where or how you’ll be living. It’s going for the essence of the new town or village or city. It is exploring the life of common people. It is having the deepest conversations with strangers. It’s about falling in love with a new town but still missing your home with every heartbeat. It is about watching new sights but swearing to return to the spot with the ones you love. It’s about being alone but not lonely.


So, go out. Take that weekend trek. Meet new people. Talk about your problems with a stranger. Surprise your family, surprise yourself. Reach out, explore, find yourself.

I'll add a few photographs in a few days :)


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Nation We Want

“What is the nation that you want?”

Had this question been posed a few years ago, I would have given the most ideal answer.

 I’d say:

“I want a corruption-free nation; I want to eradicate poverty; I want more opportunities; I want more development; I want education for all.”

Has the answer changed now? No, but the need of the hour has.
In the past few years, the nation has seen the most radical developments. From the upheaval against delayed justice to the inception of the Aam Aadmi Party, every day, famous or infamous, has been worth noting down in history. No more do we demand eradication of poverty and of corruption. India has reached that phase in time when the youth takes the responsibility on its shoulders. Want justice? Make your demand felt. Need eradication of corruption? Join politics. Yearn for better standards of living? Give opportunities so that you receive some. This is the attitude of the youth and it is reflecting on every social development. Rape, murder, corruption, poverty, sanitation, illiteracy and unemployment aren’t just titles given to social issues that can be tackled some other day. For the youth, the time is now.

What the nation currently needs is a review and a belief. Having been governed and trained by the same voice, the dreams of the nation have become obsolete. Since independence, India has grown at a faster rate than any other nation. We faced the green revolution, developed rural and urban industries, raised the literacy rate, improved infrastructure, launched PSLVs (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles) and GSLVs (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles) and moreover, aided foreign nations in development too. Over 2013, India implemented Right to Education and made feeble attempts at freedom of cyber expression. We have accomplished the monorails and moon mission but we need fresh aspirations.

Haven’t all of us at times reached the point where we stop writing the ‘to-do list’ and actually do it? Be it out of exhaustion or the urgency of the need for change, the new wants aren’t mere wants; they are the change. Loftier issues will be confronted, one at a time. At this instant, the immediate demand is for voices to be heard, passions to be acknowledged and benchmarks to be set.

Back in 1947, India saw a revolution. Are we brave enough to make India envision another? I say yes. Our goal now is not to replicate the technical developments of Japan or the governance in the United States of America or the literacy rate of Canada. The goal is to establish a nation that dreams of new developments; that breathes in the assurance of humanity; that places ethics before greed. Moreover, the goal is to create a workforce of citizens that shall not stop until these goals are transformed into reality.

Here, I am questioned again:

“What is the nation that you want?”

I want a nation that stops wanting and starts doing. I feel proud and privileged to accept that the time of change has come and youth is powerful enough to take the reins of the future in their hands. The eternal quest for opulence will be satisfied. Yes, we have faced hardships and yes, more are yet to come. Back in 1947 our leaders took a pledge; they rested their dreams and faith in the future revolutionaries. Time has come to redeem it and we want to.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Demons

"We stopped checking for monsters under our bed when we realized they were inside of us"

When we are young, we blame the dark, the unknown, the frightful for all of our fears. At night, we close each door, carefully cover our toes with the blanket and keep a guard up for those monsters. We hold on to all the remaining strands of courage, when we have to be brave for someone else. And then? A day comes when we realize that it isn't those monsters that we are afraid of anymore. Then we grow up.

We call it a fair world, we speak about karma, the circle of life, and we are reassured. We think that we have hope, and we cling on to it, ignoring every negative news report and well, we no longer care about the darkness at night. Why? Because, we know that nothing would be darker than the deep seated fear that we now have. Fear of the fellow man, fear of the demon hiding in him, fear of the demon suppressed inside yourself.

If it is a fair world then why is it that a child still hides inside a cold dark room, when his father returns home drunk? Why does a woman find it safer to be left with a lion than to stroll around alone at night?

Consumed by this chaos, this irrevocable fear, the least we can do is lead an honorable life. Fight the injustice when we can, support the wronged and be better people.

We owe it to the world to make an attempt to undo these wrongs, to try to go back to the days when the monsters under the bed were the only fear any person could harbour.



Monday, November 11, 2013

It's A Wonderful Life


I have a penchant for writing stories and here's the latest one :

It’s a cold Saturday evening, I’d say cool, but cold had it not been for this warm woolen jacket that I’m wearing.The room smells of vanilla, while ‘It’s a wonderful life’ is playing on the television. I can’t seem to remember the sources of both the fragrance and the film. How is the movie even on television? Hadn’t I just watched it in a theatre, the day before?  As I make a futile attempt to join pieces of my memory, somebody knocks on the door. I walk to the door, switching the television off, but find myself staring at the doorknob instead. Knock. Then, I quietly open the door. I find a man in haggard attire, maybe in his late forties, standing outside, with some magazines and a laptop in his hands and a badge, saying ‘VISITOR’ around his neck.

He cheerfully smiles at me and the expression on his face clearly demands one in return.

“May I know who you are?” I ask courteously.

“I’ve got some stories for you.” He replies, without the slightest offence taken and casually finds his way through the door.

“But…”I trail on and as I turn, the strangest of incidents occurs, I find my son sitting on the couch. “When did you come?”

“Well, I just…” His eyes utter a certain query and perplexity, which is then quickly concealed by his smile and then the eyes too follow fashion.

And as the clock ticked on - quietly interrupting the rhythm of our conversation - we spoke. He read a beautiful WWI story to me, or was it about the civil war? And then he went on to talk about how the taste of coffee was vanquished by sugar, while my mind silently drifted off into memories of my childhood. I’d reminisce over the vividly green fields owned by my father, the squeaking noise made by the stairs of our old house, but mainly of Mary, and how she always smelt of vanilla and chamomile.

“Father, it is time for me to leave.” said peter, with a fervent expression, cautiously verbalizing each word, waiting for me to gauge some deeply veiled meaning of that statement.

“That’s fine son.” This seems to pacify him “But...” And the expression returns, as if it had anticipated its immediate recall. “But, why are you wearing that ridiculous ID around your own house? Did Mary invent some new ritual?”

He remains silent for a while, the clock suddenly seeming louder than ever.

“No, mother hasn’t...no. It has been here since my meeting with that client from Australia.” And then he turns around and swiftly walks away.

As Peter was walking away, I saw Frank walk my way.

He was dressed in a neat brown shirt and gray trousers, and he too had an ID, with his name on it. When he came close, I realized that he had been to the library, he almost smelt of books.

“Hey Frank! Did you see my son, Robert leave?”
“You mean Peter?”
“That’s what I said.”

Why was today spiraling down to such complexity and confusion? First that man, then Peter and now Frank. I should sit inside and wait for Mary to come; she would make it all clear.

It has been over an hour since Peter left and Mary hasn’t arrived yet.

I’m still watching ‘It’s a wonderful life’ and start thinking of Mary and how breath-takingly beautiful she looked on the previous night. We had watched the movie at Regal and then walked down two blocks, to savor her favorite ice-cream, roasted almonds. That was the day I knew everything would be alright, if I had her by my side.

Click. There’s a sudden sound of the door opening. I look up; the credits of the movie are on. I must have fallen asleep.

“How was your day, dear?” she asks peacefully, with an air of deep seated concern in her voice.

“It was fine, but I met a stranger, a familiar looking stranger.”

“Oh! It must have been Peter; you never seem to remember him. I’ve told you so many times, check the right hand drawer in your cabinet, everything will be clear.”
I smiled at the sudden memory of the previous night, the taste of roasted almonds ice-cream, almost reached my mouth.

I went to the cabinet. Opened the drawer. There were images, labeled images of family, friends, and doctors. There were souvenirs from trips around the world. A few documents related to Alzheimer’s disease were scattered around. 

“Honey, you should sleep now, it’s late.”

I dug deep into the drawer full of skeletons of my past, only to find two tiny pieces of cardboard. ‘Admit one’ each said, and the other side had ‘It’s a wonderful life’ 1946, printed on it. How could tickets of yesterday’s film, seem so old?

“Mary, what’s the date today?”
“It’s the fifth of July, dear.”
“No, I mean the year; what year is it?”
“2012”

I kept the tickets back where they were, shut the drawer and silently sat next to Mary, the only figment of my memories that had lived on, over those long forgotten days and meaningless nights. And to my surprise, she said, “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?” Though I couldn't exactly recollect our memory related to that quote, I just said, “Yes” And she did smile. 

*The quote in the last paragraph is taken from the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life'.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights.

They say this is the day Lord Ram returned to his abode and entire Ayodhya was lit with diyas, to symbolize the brightness and hope rekindled in everyone's heart. Well, that is what they say. As a routine, almost every person purchases diyas, paints them, and then sets them around the house. Every family has their own set of poojas and God is not left out of this auspicious celebration. We buy lanterns, hang them outside our windows and make sure they glow bright. We shop for sweets and gifts, distribute them amongst our family and friends.

None of the aforementioned descriptions of Diwali have anything to do with the day itself. We say that we do it in remembrance of the people of Ayodhya and their king, but mainly for ourselves. We all need that little break, from routine, from life. So we use festivals as our personal excuse.

A lot of asking around made me realize this : there two kinds of people; people who celebrate festivals because its a tradition, not because it makes them happy and people who wouldn't mind celebrating everyday, just because it makes them happy. This may appear too dichotomous, but give it a thought. Where do you fit? Would you rather light a diya and stare at it than perform a Diwali pooja? Or would you fret all day, to make sure the pooja's perfect and spend your whole day whining?

Going back to the origins, Diwali was celebrated to honour the return of Lord Ram. It was a display of happiness, devotion and affection. That did not indicate that there wouldn't be any hardships or that the kingdom would live with justice for ever. It meant that come what may, their king shall be there to face it with valour and honour.



So, Diwali isn't the day to follow dogmatic routine. It is the day to be yourself, to remove the darkness from your heart and moreover, to welcome, with all your heart, the strength and courage that would be by your side, in every downfall, in every rise. 

Here are some photographs of my Diwali celebrations:

I had fun with the camera, while my brother had his share with the sparklers.


Here's me, with one of favourite symbols, the lemniscate. Photo credits: Dad

Some diyas. A very common Diwali sight.


Some lanterns in one of the uncountable stores.


And here's mine!