How To Sleep Well?

After another satisfying trip to Banchha Ghar my colleague and I decided it was a bit too early to call it a night. The casinos were an option, diagnosis generic but having tried out most of them, information pills I was not keen. Fleetingly, I mentioned a restaurant that had been in my eyes for long; however, I had been wary of going there alone. It had some of the most corny music playing always, and I had an inclination from the dimly lit sign-board what to expect. Catching at the slightest nod from the colleague, G, I pulled him towards the Belly Dance Bar and Restaurant, on the main Darbar Marg.

Even before we could enter the slim entrance, shady and dirty, with the walls and staircase with myriad graffiti, G remarked, “Man, this seems sleazy!”

I laughed out aloud. “Adventure, my friend” and continued my confident stride up the stairs. What hit us when we reached the first floor restaurant cannot be described by the mild term ‘sleazy’. The dark interiors beckoned with flashy strobe lights, and an ill-clad, hefty girl was dancing to some cheap and loud Hindi film number. A plethora of girls caught us at the entrance, and literally pulled us into the cavernous interiors. To say G was scandalized would be an understatement. However, I played along. The girls piled on, forcing us to drink something. In one far off corner, two guys sat with garishly dressed ladies. Behind us, a couple was snuggling cozily. As one of the girls pestered, I ordered my forbidden second drink ( I had the first at Banchcha Ghar), and poor G settled for a coke (he is a tee-totaller).

The raunchy music played on; at the stage, the same hefty girl, with a belly the size of an of over-done pitcher, danced to the shady number “Log aate hain log jaate hain, pyaas apne dilon ki bujhate hai, raat din husn ki rangraliyan hai, yeh toh badnaam logon ki galiyan hai”. They could not have found a more apt number to dance on ever! If the name of the restaurant was anything to go by, there was ‘enough of belly’ being displayed; beyond that, the dance was irregular and awkward, and meant purely ot tittilate.

My drink came – neat! I asked for a soda. The same girl who had stuck on to us and pestered us for the drink, smiled suggestively. “Iss mein kya milana” Keeping in mind the ambience and the entire scene, I smiled leerily and said, “Ab issme raat guzaardi toh kya mazza, please get me a soda”

The flashy dance of the girl on the stage continued, complete with strobe lights and spotlights. Man, was she some bulk! She could have gone for the WWE contest and passed without any overt efforts. She wore a skimpy and hot shorts with a top that started late and ended early. For one of the songs ( err, that went, Kiss me come quick, jaanu jiya or some such shit ) she was accompanied by a guy, who wore a vest and an open checked shirt.

With spirits soaring, I gave a few hoot calls, and G looked at me flabbergasted. “In the past one hour, you seem to have upgraded yourself by several notches” he remarked, sarcastically. I gave a loud drunk laughter. Jokingly, I asked G if he wanted to make his night out in Nepal colorful (well, I used the word ‘rangeen‘, and it sounds much better). Too shocked to react, he simply shook his head convulsively. I said he would never forget this visit to Nepal ever! I enjoyed his abundant discomfiture.

The girl was back. “Hamein kya pilyaenge?” she questioned.

Playing on the charade, I replied with a naughty smile. “Pilayenge? Aap saaqui ho, aap pilao humein; Waise kya lenge?”

Aap kya denge?” she asked huskily. “Bolo na kya pilayenge?”

“Aapko peeni hai toh aankhon se piyo, na” I winked.

Aankhon se pyaas nahin bujhti

Woh bhi bujhadenge, pahle humein to geela honede” I picked up the glass and pointed to towards it. “Let me finish the drink, and then we shall see” The girl understood that we were not exactly her ‘clientele’, and backed off. She never returned.

One more song, and G was upto the neck. Gulping my drink, we called for the bill. It came, we paid, and G rushed out of the place. I lingered for a moment at the entrance at the crowd of the girls. Putting my entire heavy weight in front of one, I asked, “Kya daam mein?”

Dressed in a decent saree, she clutched the menu card tighter and shot back, “Kya kya daam mein?”

Aapko pata hai mai kis cheez ki baat kar raha hun? Daam bolo!”

A giggle came out of the girls behind me. Pointing towards one of them, the lady said, “Usse poochho, woh batayigi

I turned towards another outlandishly decorated female. “Daam?”

Aap kitna doge saahib?” she asked, putting on her best seductive professional smile.

Tum batao…”

“1500”

“500 se ek rupaya zyada nahin”

She nodded. I got a cold feet, and murmured. “Aaj dost hain saath, kal aayunga” and fled down the staircase.

I came out on the Darbar Marg corner; G was nowhere in sight. I called out; he had gone off at some distance. “Hey G,” I exclaimed. “Since I have been negotiating your shopping deals here, done one more for ya”

He stared at me incredulously, and started walking with a furious pace. If only I had a camera to shoot the shocked cum scandalised cum surprised look on his face! I let out a hearty laugh.

(After this, still in mood for more adventure, we went to the hotel casino; for the INR 200, we won a profit of INR 34 at the slot machines; not bad, it was an evening well spent, I guess)

Statutory Warning : I am a decent guy; the above incident was only a reckless piece of adventure; I am not given to such vices; please do not mistake me.


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What is it about the number two that it keeps cropping up in Hindi film titles so regularly? No other number gets such preferential treatment from our Bollywood makers. Sample this:

Do Kaliyan – The first of The Parent Trap remake starred a cherubic Neetu Singh as the adorable twin sisters who re-unite their warring parents. The songs Bache man ke sachhe (Lata Mangeshkar doing an absolutely astonishing childlike lisp act!) and Tumhari nazar kyun khafa ho gayi (Lata Mangeshkar, rx Mohd. Rafi).

Do Chor – A trite and forgettable seventies film, troche starring Dharamendra and Tanuja as two petty thieves out to take revenge on some past crime committed by the villain, check which I had the mis-chance of viewing one early Sunday morning on Set Max. RD Burman s music held interesting nuggets like Mera chhota sa balamwa (Lata Mangeshkar), Yaari ho gayi yaar se (Latadi sounding suitably tipsy) and Chaahe raho door (Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar) the latter song’s antaras borrowed by master-chor Bappi Lahiri for a song in First Love Letter!

Do Raaste – The Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz morality saga which is perhaps today best known for Bindiya chamkegi, a song much abused through its numerous cover versions and remixes. The title referred to the two paths that one has to choose from- easy but essentially wrongful one and tough, but the truthful one. The film was a big time hit when it released in the early seventies.

Do Badan – Another musical blockbuster of its times, a weepy starring Manoj Kumar and Asha Parekh. Asha Bhonsle’s Jab chali thandi hawa was a hot Chitrahaar favorite, though my allegiance will always lie with Latadi s Lo aa gayi unki yaad woh nahi aaye.

Do Phool – The predecessor to David Dhawan’s Aankhen, starred Mehmood and Vinod Mehra as the two good-for-nothing sons of a rich businessmen, always up to some fresh mischief till the time they fall into their own trap of cons and get stuck in serious trouble. Like Aankhen’s Govinda, Mehmood had a double role here. Watch the movie and you will realize that David Dhawan has stolen much more than just a story idea ; even the scenes where the youngsters woo the two friends/cousins heroines are similar. Or, is there some foreign source? Of the songs Muthukodi kawadi haya (Asha Bhonsle, Manna Dey) is very famous. But the most lipsmacking piece was Latadi’s Lelo sharaab laayi jhoom jhoom ke.

Do Jhoot – A not so famous seventies movie, starring Mausmi Chatterjee and once againVinod Mehra in another double digit titled movie. I recall the film due to its hit Shankar (Jaikishan) number Chhatri na khol ud jaayegi (Usha Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar). There were few other good songs Do jhooth kahe ek sach ke liye (Lata Mangeshkar) and Beesvin sadi ki hoon (Lata and Usha Mangeshkar).

Do Anjaane – A super flop Amitabh Bachchan – Rekha film based on a Bengali short story written by Dr Nihar Ranjan Gupta. The plot had quite a few thrilling moments, keeping the viewers on the edge as to who the mysterious man is who has come to shake up Rekha’s life. Personally, I found the film pretty above average.

Do Jasoos – Admittedly, it was extremely embarrassing to see a grossly overweight Raj Kapoor go through some idiotic scenes in this comic thriller. Rajendra Kumar’s pitiable presence didn’t help either. As Karamchand Jasoos and Dharamchand Jasoos, the two came up with a sangam that viewer’s outrightly rejected!

Do Dilon Ki Dastaan – An eighties blooper starring Padmini Kolhapure and Sanjay Dutt, I vaguely recall seeing it. The song Humrahi mere humrahi hai jo tu mere sang toh darr kya(Lata Mangeshkar, Suresh Wadakar) is superb!

Do Aankhen Barah Haath – I’ll restrict to V.Shantaram’s classic on jail reforms than say anything on Govinda’s bullshit in the nineties. In the former version the cult prayer Ae maalik tere bande hum (Lata Mangeshkar) continues to haunt and hold music lover’s in its throes.

Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche – A Ramsay horror film that came at a time when they hadn’t still established themselves as the brand kings of B-grade spook flicks.

Do Bigha Zameen – A famous Bimal Roy film containing some superlative performances by Balraj Sahni.

Ek Phool Do Maali – Devendra Goel’s social starring Sadhna and Sanjay Khan is quite well known, especially for Ravi’s music. The film was typically sixties, with loads of melodrama and crying! [Thanks to Taarika for the tip]

Do Aur Do Paanch – An eighties entertainer starring the mega-star Amitabh Bachchan with trusted partner Shashi Kapoor and two beauties Hema Malini and Parveen Babi. The film had several light moments and its music is best known for the rapid-fire title song sung by elan by Kishore Kumar. [Thanks to Taarika for the tip]

And if you thought these were enough, take a look at this list Do Bhai (four films in various eras), Do Bahnein, Do Badmash, Do Chattane, Do Boond Paani, Do Dulhe, Do Aankhen, Do Aadmi, Do Auratein, Do Baatein, Do Bachhe Dus Haath, Do Yaar, Do Dost(same difference!) Do Dushman, Do Shatru (well, it had one Shatru, the Shotgun Sinha indeed!), Do Dil Diwane (is it some original for Ek Duuje Ke Liye, since it stars both Rati and Kamal Haasan?), Do Hawaldar, Do Dil, Do Musafir, Do Ustad, Do Shikari, Do Ladke Dono Kadke, Do Ladkiyan, Do Madari, Do Khiladi(and no, it didn’t star Akshay Kumar, it’s Vinod Mehra, yet again!), Do Premee (surprise surprise, the director is the famous Raj Khosla), Do Dishayein, Do Gulab, Do Quaidi(I think I ve seen this one), Do Sholay(gulp!shockingly the casting includes our Garam Dharam Paaji in this ‘sholay’ as well) and Do Fantoosh.

Related Readings – Recycled Titles


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It is strange that in your comfort zone one tends to take for granted the sounds that emanate in the night. In Delhi, this I live very near a railway track; but till the time a staying guest points out, order I never realize the bursts of train rambling along at regular intervals. Honestly, buy more about how many of you have actually listened to the noise and sounds before slipping into the cushiony tenderness of sleep?

Despite a month of staying here, my sub-conscious has still not befriended the nocturnal acoustics of Kathmandu. Since I stay in a virtual greenhouse, surrounded with a lot of trees and shrubs, the rustle of the leaves is a consistent background score, joined in by insects shrills.

Before coming here many people (including my mother) had warned of snakes, and cautioned me against taking a ground floor residence; but as luck would have it, I could not find any suitable top floor one, so I ended up with this one, on the ground floor itself. Of course, with the population rising, and open spaces devoured up by concrete, the snakes have now retreated to some obscure corner of invisibility; but I do remember asking this question to the landlady, who replied with a loud guffaw that why Indians are so obsessed with snakes. Apparently, the tenant before me had similar fears. Perhaps it is the collective effect of all those ‘nagin’ films (despite knowing scientifically that snakes are deaf, I still went and lowered the volume while the ‘cobra dance’ came up in Bride and Prejudice), but yes, snakes do bother me; as do lizards, another of the most repulsive creatures of nature!

So, in the night, I often stay awake with my ears perked up, trying to listen to some odd slither or hiss. Luckily, till date, I have not come across any- visually or aurally. But, apart from the rustle of the leaves, I do take note of each small reverberation or sound- the dragging feet of a drunkard on the lane outside the back gate; the signature tune of a late night serial flowing out of some house; the clatter of utensils in another household; the laughter of the boys (the landlady’s sons) upstairs; a few far off animated throaty discussion over drinks; a car whizzing by; the landlady’s dog (unleashed only in the evening) doing a round of the house; another dog’s bark far away; a third dog’s howl ( it seems Kathmandu dogs start off a party every night); the tap dripping ominously in the kitchen; the squeak of the gate, off the driveway.

Let’s see how soon I assimilate all this in my subconscious system, and learn to ignore it, naturally. Perhaps, only then, can I say that I have finally ‘settled in’ here!


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When the landlady’s bitch (ok, buy she-dog) started barking again today afternoon, salve I had thought she was at her vocal best again; she often goes into a hyper-module even if she sees someone climbing an electric pole on the other end of the compound wall (apart from a variety of other inexplicable reasons). Generally, public health from a back room window, I stand and shout, and she is positively scared of me from there. In a normal course, immediately she would quieten and retreat to her kennel.

Today, it was different. It did not seem a normal bark of a bored canine. There was an urgency, a snappiness, a shortness. Peering out, I noticed her body was stretched like a tense bow, and her eyes were concentrated on the main gate. At first an irritaton swept me; barely a couple of minutes ago, I had walked in from the same gate. From a side window of the same room, I looked out towards the gate; the latch was securely tightened, as I had only done so before entering.

I walked to the kitchen, to have a closer look. And then, it came to me the reason for the dog’s behavior.

A snake was slithering its way out towards the gate that I had come in from. Shiny grey, and pretty long, the snake meandered in its creepy curls. The dazzling sunlight reflected off its smooth skin. Even though I was inside my house and far off from the creature, a shiver ran my spine. It still is running there, as I type this, and recall the sight of the reptile.

Remember some months back when I had written about my shifting process to Kathmandu, I had mentioned my overt fear about snakes in the post Nocturnal Sounds. Even if I see them on screen or photograph, I get petrified.

The snake moved out of the gate, through a hole in the carved design. My house is such that there is a long corridor, grassy, sandy and sort of unkempt, which needs to be crossed before reaching the main gate (on one side of this is a high rise wall, and the other end are a line of two houses; my house is at the end, where the corridor closes). The snake would have gone there, and goodness knows where from there. In the night, this stretch is extremely dark, without any lighting. Often, I have seen toads there, especially, when it is rainy and puddled. Toads are small precocious creatures; I can bear them. But snakes are a different story altogether. I will have to avoid or be extremely careful while coming in from the front gate during late hours. But there is another fear – what if it returns and decides to snuggle inside the compound itself, or, in the garden; and what if it manages to enter the house, though the chances seem to be slim as I do take care to keep all doors and windows closed (netted, at least), but the house is old, and the windows might not be all that secure. Shudder! Shudder!!

Just yesterday, when I had returned from my dinner out, the October post and the snake-issue had crossed my mind. My mother had warned me about them before I transferred here. While changing clothes, I had laughed off the fear. More than eight months, I told myself, there has been no sign of snakes, not even an unduly disturbing rustle anywhere. Today, I am proven wrong, and very badly, and it’s not some story heard from someplace. I see one with my eyes!

I am sure there would have been many other positive thoughts running in my mind last night. Wasn’t there anything more promising that God could have fullfilled?

Related Readings –Nocturnal Sounds


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When the landlady’s bitch (ok, buy she-dog) started barking again today afternoon, salve I had thought she was at her vocal best again; she often goes into a hyper-module even if she sees someone climbing an electric pole on the other end of the compound wall (apart from a variety of other inexplicable reasons). Generally, public health from a back room window, I stand and shout, and she is positively scared of me from there. In a normal course, immediately she would quieten and retreat to her kennel.

Today, it was different. It did not seem a normal bark of a bored canine. There was an urgency, a snappiness, a shortness. Peering out, I noticed her body was stretched like a tense bow, and her eyes were concentrated on the main gate. At first an irritaton swept me; barely a couple of minutes ago, I had walked in from the same gate. From a side window of the same room, I looked out towards the gate; the latch was securely tightened, as I had only done so before entering.

I walked to the kitchen, to have a closer look. And then, it came to me the reason for the dog’s behavior.

A snake was slithering its way out towards the gate that I had come in from. Shiny grey, and pretty long, the snake meandered in its creepy curls. The dazzling sunlight reflected off its smooth skin. Even though I was inside my house and far off from the creature, a shiver ran my spine. It still is running there, as I type this, and recall the sight of the reptile.

Remember some months back when I had written about my shifting process to Kathmandu, I had mentioned my overt fear about snakes in the post Nocturnal Sounds. Even if I see them on screen or photograph, I get petrified.

The snake moved out of the gate, through a hole in the carved design. My house is such that there is a long corridor, grassy, sandy and sort of unkempt, which needs to be crossed before reaching the main gate (on one side of this is a high rise wall, and the other end are a line of two houses; my house is at the end, where the corridor closes). The snake would have gone there, and goodness knows where from there. In the night, this stretch is extremely dark, without any lighting. Often, I have seen toads there, especially, when it is rainy and puddled. Toads are small precocious creatures; I can bear them. But snakes are a different story altogether. I will have to avoid or be extremely careful while coming in from the front gate during late hours. But there is another fear – what if it returns and decides to snuggle inside the compound itself, or, in the garden; and what if it manages to enter the house, though the chances seem to be slim as I do take care to keep all doors and windows closed (netted, at least), but the house is old, and the windows might not be all that secure. Shudder! Shudder!!

Just yesterday, when I had returned from my dinner out, the October post and the snake-issue had crossed my mind. My mother had warned me about them before I transferred here. While changing clothes, I had laughed off the fear. More than eight months, I told myself, there has been no sign of snakes, not even an unduly disturbing rustle anywhere. Today, I am proven wrong, and very badly, and it’s not some story heard from someplace. I see one with my eyes!

I am sure there would have been many other positive thoughts running in my mind last night. Wasn’t there anything more promising that God could have fullfilled?

Related Readings –Nocturnal Sounds


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Ghatasthapna
(From The Himalayan Times)

People have already started making the rounds of the markets to buy clothes, medications
food-stuff and puja materials in preparation for the upcoming festival. Houses have already been cleaned, ailment
decorated and painted for Dashain. Dashain commences with Ghatasthapna…On this day, approved
a priest or the head of the house places a kalasha – a sacred jar of holy water – in the prayer room where daily religious ceremonies are performed or in a purified area of the house pleading to Goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.

The outside of the kalasha is decorated with designs made with cow dung. The dung is embedded with barley seeds. The placement of kalasha must be performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by astrologers. The kalasha, symbolic of Goddess Durga, is worshipped throughout Dashain.

In the soil specially prepared by mixing sand from a holy river ( Bagmati in Kathmandu ), barley seeds are planted on this day and shielded from light. By the tenth day, the seeds sprout. Elders put tika and give this sacred yellow jamara or barley sprouts on Vijaya Dashmi.

Ghatasthapna this year was on October 4th , 2005 and the auspicious hour was 9:51 am


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Never really largely used this space as an online diary, advice but today I just felt like penning a few things about the day; or rather, dosage felt like talking, so instead of being with a friend, or on YM, here I am blabbering some inane nonsensical mundane stuff; writing this online, hence please excuse the typos or spellings.

Before proceeding, another thought just erupted – I used to keep a diary many years back; the habit just petered out on its own with age; even recall ‘ordering’ my sister to do the needful when I joined hostel, so that I could come back and read about all that I missed. Well, let me not get into more memories, lest you run away- though, to think of this, the visitors seem to have dwindled here, if the comment box is anything to go by.

The sitemeter however has a different story to tell; and a rather pornographic one at that! Desperation is fine, but what can one say of people who scour the internet for ‘karva chauth breastfeeding’ ( hello, is that a new way of breaking fast, kya?), ‘diya mirza cleavage queen’ (splutter- what! That light thud you heard was Mallika Shehrawat fainting in disgust), ‘photos of Vijayata Pandit’ ( you need to update yourself buddy, and fast!), ‘photos of nude actresses in sarees’ (decide what you want, nude or saree), ‘sms messages on karwa chauth’ (get real my friend, and a bit creative also – living in UK is no excuse), ‘trailer of Veer Zaara‘ (huh, dude, watch the whole film na when it comes on Sony this month), ‘deep navel show’ (wanna swim there or what?) ‘Priya Rajvansh style dialogue delivery’ (is there a ‘style’ in being a piece of wood? Well, if you are planning to be an actor, forget it now itself!) ‘apartment or homes in mannat lands end’ (has SRK turned into real estate now?) ‘kimi katkar nipples’ (like another friend above, press ‘refresh’ on your life’s explorer) ‘bollywood nude nipples’ (speechless) and so on – but the best ever is reserved for some fellow searching for ‘Pooja Bhatt balls’!

Anyways, let’s leave these desperados aside. With this list now up, I can roll the red carpet for some more such pieces of intelligence coming my way in the next few days. Wonder what they feel after seeing the bulk of text on this site?

Now, if you have stayed till this point, and also wondered on the post’s title, let me explain – it has been raining heavily non-stop since yesterday. Though I doubt it would be anywhere close to Mumbai’s records ever, still it was strong enough for flights to be diverted – or rather, returned back. My boss was supposed to come today, his Indian Airlines flight was not allowed to land- Jet Airways (which comes some half-hour before IC) could land – and he was originally to come by that, but couldn’t as his Mumbai-Delhi sector flight got delayed. Sheer luck – good or bad is from whichever perspective you see it from.

Just for records, the post-heading comes from an awesome classical number by Lata Mangeshkar, composed by her talented but woefully underrated brother for a non-film album. I am not into classical music, don’t even understand it, but Lataji’s vocal gymnasts are jaw-dropping even from a layman’s point of view.

Nepal Telecom does not deliver bills – so everytime it’s a tedious trudge to Jwalakhel to get them; payments can be made at various banks as well, but then you have to know the amount first, so the various counters are pretty useless (you can get the bill amount of SMS, but I have forgotten the number).

Anyways, lest the phone get disconnected rudely during boss’s visit (it happened last time; I overshot my designated credit limit on it – yes they have that on post-paid accounts as well), and since the amount was due anyways, I hoodwinked procrastination, and went to pay. Plus, the overcast sky, the rains, the coolness, the mist wrapped mountains were incentive enough to step out.

All taxis in Kathmandu are equipped with a stereo system – it’s a different story about some of their quality, often making Udit Narayan sound like Usha Uthup with a bad throat (err, bad analogy, she always sings with a sore throat it seems!).

But this guy seemed to be more in-the-groove, and in more ways than one. The music was distinctly soothing, and when the male voice came on, I was all ears. Mohammad Rafi was crooning ‘Hum to chale pardes‘ – it is a kind of song that leaps out the speakers, punches your solar plexus and plants a rock solid lump in your throat. I looked out – we were passing the wide road in front of Singha Darbar (where the ministries are housed) and had stopped at the T-junction red light (to turn right towards Kathmandu’s twin city Lalitpur), the rain was slanting down, a fresh gust of wind rattled against the panes, an unusual silence descended heavily, the mountains looked converging – and yes, the eyes were wet, the lump was there – chhoota apna desh hum pardesi ho gaye ho…

Only a person away from his home or country can understand this song best!

Here FM regularly play old Hindi film songs; so once the last strains of Rafi’s breathtaking ‘Rama Ho‘ alaap ended, I was expecting the RJ’s voice. To my surprise, Lata Mangeshkar came on with ‘Dafli waale‘ – a slight hope just came up: could by any chance this taxi-walah be listening to Sargam‘s soundtrack? It seemed to, unless this was some sort of ‘Ek Hi Film Se’ programme on radio. It was not. The next song was Rafi’s ‘Mujhe mat roko mujhe gaane do‘ followed by Lata-Rafi’s ‘Koyal boli duniya doli’. Sargam was indeed one fine score by L-P – almost coming at the end of their golden phase, before they jumped to the ‘South’ bracket, where the difference between them and Bappi Lahiri was only that of ‘pots’ and ‘pans’ – ie, LP created noise with Indian instruments, Bappi manufactured cacophony on his electronic stuff.

Plus, for a film based on a mute girl’s life there were enough female songs (thank God for our Bollywood makers regularity to ‘dream’, even if they are out sync with the larger life ‘sequence’)

I sincerely wished for first time I be stuck in a jam, so that I could savor Laxmikant Pyarelal’s melodies.

Anyways, at NTC’s office’s ‘Billing Counter’ I came to know the bill had not been ‘generated’. Fair enough. Since I had come this far, I thought of in anycase paying ‘some advance’. At the payment counter, the lady informed me I owe them Rs 11861 – must have been my eyeballs that bulged out and dropped there in shock, for immediately she started to look down at the floor. But that couldn’t be, ‘coz I was pretty sure that my eyes were pretty much there staring – and no, she had not miraculously converted into some snake or such, though to me, the sting was no less!

I demanded a few clarifications – last month the bill amount was similar, could she be mistaking that; faster than Houdini could do any of his tricks, I pulled out the receipts. No, no, she explained patiently, your current month’s bill amount has been added.

Strange, very strange indeed! The billing counter that distributes bill says it’s not generated, but the payment counter informs it has been – I guess, they know their priorities correct – after all taking the moolah matters over just giving off a statement to a customer!

So be it- I paid and came out. There was still time for boss’s plane to arrive (which eventually didn’t – just in case you jumped from the first paragraph to this one in the hope of making some sensible comment without reading the bulk in-between), I decided to eat at Nanglo’s outlet next to NTC’s office. I like their food. But honestly, can they please change their mushroom pizza’s name to something for inviting than ‘Fungi Pizza!’

I had barely stepped out after eating, and was about to open my umbrella, when this large tempo (ok ok, tempos are always large, as large as they can be), whizzed by, skidding over the gargantuan puddle, and drowning me in a titanic wave of muddy water!

Cussing and shouting, I crossed the road, took a taxi home and waited for the non-arrival of my boss. Once it was confirmed that the plane would not come today ever (in any case, Indian pilots don’t fly Nepal’s mountainous sector during late/evening/dark hours- that is why all Indian flights are during daytime), I finished off pending work, mails and a couple of phone calls.

Generally, it’s dark by six these days; today, it was dark grey by five! I stepped out for a cup of hot tea at a nearby cafeteria. Anything that I ordered seemed to ‘have gotten over just now’; with no mood to cook, I was thinking of a heavy tea-cum-dinner.

The evening ended with some more music; it is nearly eleven now, feeling sleepy – and yes, it is still raining outside.


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After writing a piece on boredom, troche here was a week full of happenings, buy outings, and fun.

Fun, literally, as I happened to watch Masti– a whacko comedy about three married friends who decide to get naughty. Enter Lara Datta, the enchantress who lures them with her alluring beauty. However, beneath the charming face lies a blackmailing mind. So by the time the three harried men get the money (with some rib-tickling moments), the lady is found to be dead. The film is slapstick humor at its best with dollops of double entendres thrown in. I know the reviews of the film have been very harsh, but then these stupid critics should realise that they cannot judge each film with the same yardstick. Masti belongs to base humor, and at that, its a winner all the way.

Apart from this, we had our annual guests coming in to stay for a fortnight. Had a gala time with the young adults playing games like Scrabble, which had nearly vanished from my system or memory. I was surprised ( and happy ) to note that I could still think of some unusual words;but, since I was playing with these kids, I had to keep a dictionary in hand to convince them that a certain word actually exists.

Its amazing how time flies past in a whizz. It seems just yesterday when I had carried them in my arms as kids, now, they have even grown taller than me ( and I am no ‘ tingu’ in height). Both of them had just finished their gruelling board exams ( 12th and 10th respectively) and were in sheer relaxation mode. Though I missed their cherubic smiles, their company was good fun, especially the sessions of these games.

Due to their visitation, we were invited to a number of dinners. I knew I would forced to meet all sorts of relatives and cousins, who otherwise remain locked up in some invisible cupboard. Ah Delhi, I love you for just one thing- at least I can always make the excuse of time, distance, traffic rush and the extreme weathers to ward of their enquiries of not attending lots of functions and dinners and get-togethers. However, this time round I could find no valid excuse to give all of them a skip, so I visited two of them, and I must sheepishly admit, both turned out to be quite good and interesting. Of these, the first one was at an aunt’s place. The topic of the evening turned out to be a very lively and debatable one — the entire conversation of the evening centred around soothsayers, God and whether the predictions of astrologers are correct or not. As expected, no valid conclusion could emerge ( as the topic itself is very personal and each has his or her own beliefs) but the discussion was very animated. On top of it, my aunt is a great cook and the food there was simply sumptuous and delectable.

The second dinner, at my sister’s place, was more lively, with booze and an excellent variety of after-dinner liquers ( which my brother-in-law is evidently very proud of) . Since the spirits flowed there was a joyous bonhomie and lots of jokes passed the round, with the decibles high and the mood very upbeat. I was happy I attended. It is really no harm to meet your relatives once in a while, and I have vowed to do so from now onwards.

Apart from all this, I also had the joy of travelling through the Delhi Metro. It’s certainly the talk of the town these days, and for the right reasons. An automated station, ample space and clean air-conditioned environment makes for a pleasurable journey. Hope the authorities are able to keep the tidiness intact. And hope our uncouth Delhiites keep their vandalism in check. Because, Metro is definitely the mode of future transport once all the sections are constructed.

That sums up an exciting and lovely week.

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Four Bollywood films on adultery have suddenly got everyone noticing and talking about these ‘bold’ themes (three of them viz Hawas, mind Tum and Murder, doctor released back to back this year, order with the fourth one Jism hitting the marquee last January). Has our society abruptly become mature, or is it a sheer coincidence that our filmmakers have discovered the DVD of Unfaithful (the film that has ‘inspired’ the three recent films), is a question worth pondering over.

Even if the case is that of the latter, it is quite assuring to note that the filmmakers have had the guts to film a subject that has remained by and large taboo on-screen. The Bollywood makers have consistently shied away from showing this side of marriage and have safely stuck to ego-clashes (Abhiman, Raja Hindustani) or mundane arguments (Chalte Chalte, Saathiya).

Whenever any one has attempted to show adultery, it has always rounded off to a very tame and unexciting ending. I recall the instance of Silsila here- a very mature and subtle film in which both Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha are stuck in their respective ill-fated marriages. The entire film is a pathos-filled journey of their urge to break the chains loose, defy convention and ultimately breathe freely and happily. Alas, the director chickened out in the last reel. The entire graph that he had so painfully built is grounded abruptly in a contrived air-crash of Rekha’s husband, and the graph peters down faster than the sales figures of a defunct company. If ever there is an award of the Most Disappointing Climaxes, Silsila will take not only the cake, but the entire bakery. In another similar film Arth, the ending is more sensitively handled, but there also the woman is not shown going and living off happily with her lover. And if the woman is shown as doing something of this sort, the film makes it a point to dub her as ‘villain’ or ‘vamp’ (Remember Jism, Bipasha was also nominated under the Best Villain Category?) Why is their obsession with our filmmakers to portray the Indian lady in ‘politically and socially’ correct tones? Why could not Rekha or Shabana Azmi leave their respective love-less marriages and be shown living with their former lovers that they had to sacrifice at the altar of a suffocating societal bindings. Why should a Shilpa Shetty in Dhadkan be considered the epitome of virtue just because she accepts Akshay Kumar and shuns Suniel Shetty, just because the former has tied a mangalsutra and walked around the fire with her? So, from this fire to her pyre, she shall not think, feel or love.

Perhaps this has been a reflection of our society by and large. Even till this day, Indians are attuned to continuing a love-less marriage citing reasons from children to society to pure inertia. A divorce is still seen an aberration for ‘normal’ middle-class couples even in the metros and more upward cities like Delhi, what to say of small towns! For them, divorce, or adultery, is just the afflictions that visit the so-called high society or glamorous filmstars. ‘Healthy, normal’ couple do not divorce; they compromise and continue with life.

In this context I am reminded of a scene in Saawan Kumar’s Mother (otherwise, eminently forgettable but it had a very interesting anecdote). Randhir Kapoor is sitting with his friends and discussing his amorous meeting with an ex-girlfriend (Rekha) (after sending his legal wife to a round of beauty parlor), whom he boasts still pines for him and was still coercing him to get married. When the friends argue that he should do the same, he looks at them shockingly and proclaims with a mock-serious moral indignation “But, friends, I am a happily married man”

This, I believe, is a very standard situation in most marriages. The husband will continue to philander, the wife will carry on with the kitty parties and for them life will be ‘good and normal’.

But should the reverse happen, all hell breaks loose. So what is sauce for the goose is certainly murder for the gander. And the ‘hawas‘ication is left only for the woman, she cannot tum-tom about her sexuality – the man can do wrong and come back with any sob story or excuse (Pati Patni Aur Woh, Pati Patni aur Tawaif, Pati Parmeshwar, or more recently, Masti, where the heroes return to their ‘ghar ki daal’ after a ‘biryani‘ outing with a few sobs in the climax, etc etc)

Thankfully, times are changing, and changing fast! Cantankerous relationships are being snipped and divorce rates are up, at least so in the bigger towns. That is not to say that they are favored or looked upon with normal eyesight. But still, the numbers show that the trend is on the rise. Is this a reflection of a less tolerant society, or a more mature understanding and aware one, take your pick! The rising instances of divorce do not show that our society is less filled with love or tolerance. It merely reflects that we now have an option that was not there earlier. Sadly, statistics still show that adultery is more rampant than divorce, which just proves the strong hold the mangalsutra has on the psyche of Indian couples.

And I come back to the point where I started off- we now have had an overdose of films that speak of the woman’s needs and desires, but unfortunately, though the yoke has been lifted, it has not been completely overthrown. So, if though Meghna Naidu or Manisha Koirala will heave and pant in their lover’s beds, but as soon as the husband walks in, their guilt takes over to such an extent that they are ready to even take the blame of a murder on their heads, but their pati parmeshwar should not be harmed.

Once again, these films have not really achieved what they had started to argue upon and have left a lot of things unsaid. I still await a well directed film where the heroine is shown leaving her luck-less stupid marriage and living with her lover, without being labeled gumrah(there is an old Mala Sinha starrer by the same name too) or bewafa and without the justification of having a husband who is uncouth or callous (Daraar, Agnisakshi).

Once that happens, then only will our Bollywood have matured and given its due to the New Age Woman.

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It’s often said that there are four things that a man seldom forgets in life- his first job, view his first shave, site his first love and his first lovemaking experience. Although I shall skip the last two in this piece (because I am still too inhibited to really open up on such private matters so candidly), I would definitely love to share my experience on the first two.

My first shave was on technically the last day of the school- it was our farewell party. To state the obvious, leaving school is, for any one of that age, full of mixed emotions- there is excitement as one is crossing an important threshold of life, there is an apprehension as deep as that of Christopher Columbus because the future is suddenly a vast unexplored territory; there is sorrow, for all the friends of yore are going to part and walk different paths; and of course, ironically and paradoxically, there is the immense joy of leaving behind set norms of class timings and uniforms and stern teachers. Amidst this pot-pouri of feelings I ventured my first shave.

Excitedly, I took down my father’s shaving cup, his brush, and even his razor. A gleaming new blade winked back at me in the dull mid-spring afternoon. I placed it carefully onto the razor (more than a decade back the fancy Sensor-Excels of today were not available) and proceeded to lather my soft down of hair with a sweet smelling cream from Old Spice. The brush glided over my smooth skin with finesse as the foamy whiteness smothered the face. How many minutes, I asked dad, a little apologetically. Just do it till the stubble is fully covered in the lather, he replied, a little too casually, for my thumping heart.

Then, came the time the glistening iron to touch my skin. At first it just glided down, and I could feel the thrill akin to a motorbike racer speeding down with razor-sharp perfection. And the time came for this steel rod to give me my first prick. I had not realized or imagined that the thing that was so smoothly racing down my cheek was actually sharp, and very soon, a thin red line shone over the white foam. I was taken aback. But continued with renewed fervor.

By the time I ended the first round, I had several nicks, and since I had applied a bit too much of pressure, the skin was rash-red. I looked aghast at myself in the mirror…how will I ever go to the party with this redness and madness advertising itself fortissimo over my visage!!!

I cleaned up my act with the towel, but the red lines persisted, and popped up on my face map much like the talk another line that crops up at any Indo-Pak talk. Washing my face turned out to be another ordeal, as the cruel water just gorged on the cuts, a terrorizing monster straight out of some Stephen King novel devouring on the red juice that was still oozing out. Big mistake, my father reprimanded…apply the after-shave or Dettol. And I did both, with results that had me prancing up and down the room hissing like a madcap snake.

The face was hot and red, as if I had got some tight slaps. Thankfully, I had decided to wear a reddish-colored shirt, my face make-up complemented it perfectly.

That was my first shave experience- painful, and pungent. And after that I did not pick up the razor till the time college started.

The first day at the job, and the entailing week, was a little less exciting, but nevertheless memorable!

A tin manufacturing company had lapped us up from our campus itself …us, meant three other classmates of mine. It was the third of April, exactly 9 years back. I was not allowed my own conveyance till then, so had to trudge to the office after changing two buses, with the last one leaving me helplessly a kilometer back. The factory was in the Sahibabad Industrial Area of Gaziabad. We were met by the manager, our boss, and taken for induction, which included a tour of the entire works, the various departments and what nots detailing each aspect about tin box manufacturing- the kind that you see Amul Cheese and Farex stored in.

However, after that one-week, we were suddenly thrown into a irrepressible vortex of duties and sales charts and targets and graphs and clients and orders. The biggest thrill of that time however was the first day I signed an official letter to a client. I was so pleased and proud of myself that I practiced my signatures ten times before signing the final draft. Further, I checked and rechecked the same, and kept looking at the file Photostat copy of the same the entire day- the signature looked even more beautiful in the copy. And the letter? Oh, it was a routine one telling a client that we had received his samples!!

At that time, I was so petrified about making mistakes, that I always ended up making more than a normal routine. I still recall the dread at which I used to go to my boss’ cabin. Once, he offered a lift ( since my residence was on his way only, I realized with my utmost horror)- that was the worst journey of my life.

At another time, I was sent to Calcutta for a tour to meet potential and existing clientele. I was so taken up by this fact, that I reached the station a day earlier- the train was traveling from Jammu to Calcutta, and I had read the date of its actual start journey, not realizing that it will reach Delhi only the next day- a date that the irresponsible Railways ticket had mentioned in some other obscure column. Since I had already informed all the clients and my boss here of my departure, I did the next best thing that I could. I got on the train that very day, traveled in third class, without seat or berth, sharing a small space with a young child, whose mother was magnanimous enough to allow me that constrained area.

On reaching Calcutta, I got my original ticket cancelled, pocketed the money and on my return claimed the entire amount back again from the company!!

But that is not to say the Calcutta tour was bad. Not as much as this part, because, I also had to travel to Siliguri and to the adjoining hill-lands of Bhutan also. That was surely fun. Siliguri is beautiful, green and just on the foot of the Himalayas. Bhutan was hilly, and since I love mountains, I adored the view and the lush vales and dales.

Although I did not stay for more than four months here, I still to fondly cherish a few other memories of this job-

– the daily lunch of watery daal with my friends at the factory canteen
– the after lunch stroll on the quiet, dusty roads of the industrial area
– the giggles and jokes that we had at the expense of our seniors; it was almost like being in college
– a delightful Gujarat tour
– the bus journeys every morning at seven- Delhi is so quiet and clean and peaceful at that time ( at least it was nine years back!)
– the ‘bunking’ of office hours on pretext of sales call
– the fun in learning and handling computers for the first time
– the thrill of sending official communication
– the happiness of finally achieving my sales target

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It is amazing and surprising how a smell, approved a sound, an incident, or a person can bring back so many memories, like an over-burgeoning river breaking all dams in its innate fury and force. Recently, KJ (a fellow-blogger) had written a wonderful piece on this, perhaps slightly in a different context, but the sub-text remains the same.

In school we had these innumerable ‘boon or bane’ essays to be written (remember, “Is television a boon or bane” etc). Today, I am almost tempted to make a similar attempt at defining whether memories are good or bad for human beings… with arguments for the both sides already sharpening their wits and swords to slaughter each other’s logic down. But I shall refrain from doing any such analysis because, memories, whether rotten or rosy, are part of man’s inherent nature; and my arguing, or wasting precious ink (or let’s say, cyber space) will not solve any matter.

What I however want to emphasize on is that some reminisces often whip up a completely different emotion as to what the actual incident was. It all depends on what frame of mind we currently are in to remember those days.

Yesterday, while going to a marriage function, I had ironed my shirt myself. Inadvertently, I left the iron on, and only came to know of this once we returned after some three hours or so. This simple incident brought back huge memories of another era, another time. Years back, my father was posted in Aden (then, the capital of the erstwhile South Yemen). With no iron-man (or dhobi) available, we had to iron our clothes ourselves, and the chore invariably got divided between my sister (then unmarried) and myself, with each of us trying to shirk off this obnoxious duty, and coming up with the most fecund excuses.

Also, at that time, being a part of a small Indian community, we were invited to a lot of parties, especially when I used to go there on annual vacations. More often than not, we used to re-iron our clothes before going to the party, or dinner (a habit that continues with me still). And, it was a very irritating habit of both of us to remember of not having taken off the iron’s switch much after we had left the house…and even if we had, there was always the iota of doubt remaining, and more often than not, we would turn back some couple of kilometers to have it checked. Of course, our parents used to give us long lectures…about how unsafe it can be so, only to drill some sense of responsibility in both us siblings. Today, after so many years (almost two decades), I realize nothing burns except the pocket by leaving the iron on (and that too, because, the iron gobbles up electricity units with an appetite akin to Godzilla, and in an electricity-starved city like Delhi, numbers do matter!)

Yesterday’s mistake brought back all those arguments between my sister and myself in the back seat of the car, blaming each other for not checking the switch properly, or as to who was the last one to have used the machine. It brought to my lips a small half-wistful smile. Alas, those fun-filled days can never return ever!

Aden also brought back some more memories. In 1985, there was a civil war. I do not remember now which factions were fighting and for what gain…but I do recall that one fine January morning, we saw tanks walking past our house, with full artillery on display. By that evening, we had bullets showering into our house, much like the monsoons of India dripping into the weakening ceilings. Our father was away some eight kilometers away in his house. For the next thirteen days, we did not see him, and we had to be holed up in the basement with a large battery of Yemeni families, as the situation worsened. Those days were tough, exacerbated by the fact that we did not know how and when the fight will end up, and also that our father was away in office with some petrol tanks leaked up on the way.

Those petrifying thirteen days of war were terrible, and very strenuous for all of us. Yet, after two decades, when the iron-incident, brought this memory back also, I was not scared or unhappy or angry or shaken up. I continued to smile, and tried to recall each of those 13 days in detail…and a lot of time passed in that, and I felt happy after reliving that time.

Yes, it was an experience, even though tough, but still something that I could think of, something that I could look back upon.

I guess it’s these memories (and the thoughts I think) that make me a unique man that I am.

In Mann (another forgettable flick with a couple of interesting scenes), a young Manisha Koirala remarks to an old Sharmila Tagore that the place where the latter lives is beautiful, and even wants to stay back. Sharmila Tagore admonishes Manisha for doing so. Her argument: This place is beautiful, because there are Sharmila’s (and her late husband’s) recollections attached to it. It’s a good place to sit back and enjoy those memories. But Manisha, has yet to make her memories. So, once she does so, she can create her own Eden.

Like the young girl in the film, we all have to make our memories, our own beautiful memoirs, and that will make us a complete individual.


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Apart from the much talked about theme of adultery; another subject that is surreptitiously overtaking our cinema is that of the cops. Manufactured from different strata of filmmaking we have already viewed three films on this subject- Khakee, ed Ab Tak Chhappan and Gangaajal. And, medicine a quick glance at the forthcoming roster of films reveals that there are some more in the offing that will color the silver screen khakee very soon (Dev, Aan, Police Force and Garv to name a few).

If we analyze the number of films where there have been cops (not even as a leading actor), the films have only rubbed in the fact the cops are bad, and they should be avoided. So much so, there is a general dread of the cops in the general public.

Many top cops have argued that the films have always shown the profession in bad light. Whether art imitates life or life imitates art, is something that has not been proven ever. I do not think that films can be such an influence as to have such a deep impact nationally on the collective awareness of the common man. If the man in khakhi is shown as a rogue more often than not, then I am sorry, the police have themselves to blame for it. After all, if we pick up the newspapers, we do read more about their devilry than their dare-devilry; we witness more of their vanity than valor; we are subject to more of their salaciousness than sagacity. Invariably, in any crisis situation, it is the army that is called for, leaving the effectiveness of the police force again a question mark in the minds of the hoi polloi. Hence to this effect, the art is showing life in its full replesendent reflection. (In the recently released Zameen, Abhishek Bachhcan, the cop, is merely an accessory to Ajay Devgan, the army man, who plots and masterminds the entire operation to deal with plane hijackers).

Also, very strangely, this is one field that has thrown up very few eminent personalities. We all can glibly recite the names of great writers, well-known economists, distinguished army officers and renowned lawyers. But cops…well, apart from K P S Gill and Kiran Bedi the tongue gets invariably stuck. With a police force running into several thousands, it’s astonishing that we have such small number of prominent policemen. If this is an indication of the ills that surround this ilk, then, the numbers of films are definitely justified.

However and whatever the grammar of narration, our films, despite the overwhelming presence of these men in uniform, have often viewed the profession with a parochial paradigm of standard stereotypes: if it’s the hero playing the cop, then he would be moral and upright and will definitely get bogged down by the ‘system’ (bureaucracy, politicians et al) (Ardh Satya, Khakee, Police Officer, to name just a few hit ones); If it’s the villain playing the cop, then, well, he will be the blackest of rogue to ever live (do I even have to give an example here?); if it’s the comedian, then he would be the buffoon of the first order, without any sense of duty or direction ( again, do I have to list out examples of these films?)! And if nothing else, then they are a bunch of extras that turn up in the denouement, sirens shrieking, lights blazing just when the hero has finished up his job of cleaning the villainous filth.

In general, our films have never actually delineated any profession in detail; most often, we would not even get the basic idea of what the hero does for a living- at the most, we will get a view of him sitting in front of a computer and pumping furiously into the keyboard without any semblance of coherence anywhere or witness him entering the office with a deluge of employees throwing stiff salutations. What line of business? Er, sorry, the director does not care!

In this context, surprisingly, the police force has found a lot of interest by our filmmakers. Yet, only a handful of films have actually done justice to this very noble yet thankless profession. Most of the time, the hero would be a police officer for the sake of revenge for his mother/father/sister; in others, he would be the means to show the political grunge of the country/state.

Barring an odd Ardh Satya (to an extent) or Ab Tak Chhappan (very recently), no film has actually delved into the psyche of a film maker, to analyze what he might be going through- a job where you daily have to meet the utter junk of society (sometimes the deepest grime of crime), with a pay scale that is paltry, there would be immense frustrations, and insecurities and fears. But on this, there is a deafening silence from our filmmakers- more so, in the commercial film strapping. At this juncture, the only film that I recall is Satyamev Jayate, which did try to crack open a policeman’s hardened brain. Otherwise, all that we have had are the innumerable Zanjeers or Deewars or Shahenshahs or Pathar Ke Phools or Auzaars or Vardis- where the main motive was always personal vendetta or corruption, and nothing beyond that, except for a few stray songs with the heroine.

Leave alone, the psyche and all, its perhaps asking for a bit too much from Bollywood, what has always crossed my mind, that cannot the hero be shown as a police officer, and show him do his job, just like any other, without his father being killed or his sister being raped, just because he is a policeman!

A policeman also solves crimes. Again, this facet has been totally ignored by the collective fraternity of film producers. Perhaps, because murder mysteries do not convert to repeat value (hence, resulting in low revenues), our filmmakers have constantly shied away from making honest and true-to-life mysteries where the cop solves the problem without getting bogged by the system or the hero raping his sister! A recent exception was the well-made Samay, and, earlier, to a small extent Police Public (but there too, there was talk of corrupt system, duty and all that crap) But such films is more exception, than rule. The rest just stick to the standard pattern with alarming regularity.

But unfortunately, all that the films do is depict the problems, and alleviate the symptoms, but do nothing to address this complex theme. Perhaps, our films and their structure are not equipped enough to deal with this complex issue. If that is the case, maybe Bollywood should curb the prolificacy of such films.


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So Venus kissed the sun in full heat and passion, capsule leaving the blazing star with a haseen daag, which all viewed with sheer awe and delight. The newspapers and the news channels went amok explaining the phenomenon, both scientifically and astrologically.

Venus (and her Greek counterpart Aphrodite) has always been associated with love and beauty. Her depictions in paintings have been of a nubile nymphet with a playful smile. In fact, this has been the attitude and outlook of most Westerners when it comes to love- a passion of the heart, to be enjoyed, cheered and honored. Love, in their literature and films, has been always been full of feel-good humor and froth.

Alongwith the lustful date of Venus with the Sun, there was another news that captured the newsprints: the marriage of pop icon Jennifer Lopez with Marc Anthony. It was the formers third and the latter’s second one, and that too barely two weeks after the divorce of the first one. So, do we deduce that the Westerners (read Americans, as they are the most visible ones in this part of the world) less committed to their relationships. Or do we understand, that they are more knowledgeable in enjoying their lives at the fullest. Even if we do consider that Ms. Lo is a celebrity, and hence, by that warped logic, less given to morality, can we, translated to the Indian context, expect an Aishwarya Rai or even the more bohemian Pooja Bhatt to jump from one marriage to another in quick succession? Certainly not, for that means they shall immediately loose a considerable amount of fan-base. So even though they may have strings of affairs, they choose to hide behind the oft-repeated moral petticoats of “good-friends” excuse.

This is because, we, as a society and as a culture, are very serious, and have perhaps forgotten to laugh down the ages- be it in the business of love or any other field. Come on, just look at the available photographs of all the Prime Ministers (and as extension their Ministers) down the ages- all of them come with a stiff upper lip (barring perhaps an odd exception of the poet-statesman Mr. Vajpayee). Worse, just take a look at the current lot in the government -be it Mr. Manmohan Singh or Mr. Natwar Singh or Mr. S.Patil, all of them have such grouchy demeanor, it almost seems as if they will soon pass a bill banning smiles!!!

This serious outlook of life ensures that our daily dose of news always has a whopping of love killings in some obscure district of Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. We just cannot take love as an enjoyable, pleasurable activity formed to make the heart tender and joyous. Since Bollywood is one of the finest social barometers, all our love stories are high-strung emotional melodramas- and the trend continues. The most popular channel of television is full of soppy tearjerkers and sagas of families constantly in throes of woes and rows. A daringly different Sab TV forms the silt of the TRP gallon.

It is true that as a nation we have suffered a lot- there have been innumerable wars, almost a century long bondage, and a trauma of Partition, that is definitely not easy to wipe out. But come on, times have changed, that was the past. As all shrinks advise any such emotionally bereaved person, we need to address this to the nation also: that was the past, and is over with. We now have to move on, and remove the yokes of awful memories, and enjoy life. Happiness is not a crime. A happy nation is a healthy nation. And only then it can move forward and flourish.

As a corollary, love should be also taken as an adrenaline pumping emotion that should evoke smiles not sullenness. Here lies the importance of the recent transit of Venus. We should realize this finally that in Western interpretation Venus, and her son Cupid, are playful, mischievous and frolickers. Even our own love god, Kamadeva, is quite like that, but unfortunately, Kamadeva has been reduced to represent sex only, and hence, to be wrapped up tightly beneath the bed sheets behind very tightly closed iron doors. Let us take a cue from such representations and free our minds from all shackles of hypocrisy and seriousness. Lovers of the world unite, for we have nothing to loose but old societal norms.

Love is not a rog ( illness) but a happy-go-lucky rogue ( who visits everyone once in a lifetime, and gives happiness till he stays) , and let us keep it that way.


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In Hum Tum, order in an exasperated outpour, Rhea Prakash (Rani Mukherjee) laments that why should everyone get down to matchmaking as soon as they sight a single girl; why should marriage be the end-goal for a girl? It is astonishing (and sad) that how Indian girls see marriage and having kids the be-all and end-all of life; be it Madhuri Dixit, or your ordinary colleague, it seems the grand Indian middle class dissolves this dictum in the milk they feed that your life’s sole goal is to get married. Though this trait is there for the men too (you are not considered “settled” till the time you have a spouse, despite having the best of jobs and the biggest of cars), the girls take to this norm like fish to water.

In college, she was like a breath of fresh air in our class. Had Mai Hoon Na been released at that time, I would have felt a million violins playing too. Tall, and with a perfect figure, she entered the classroom on the first day, with a tentative half-smile, her purse held with poise in her soft delicate but long hands. A mild perfume danced around her slim demeanor, as if it was attracted to her, but too scared to touch her. She had a soft face, a small pert nose, and lips that need not pout, because they were naturally shaped in a bow like arch. Her skin would make the Clearasil people proud, and her hair was long and lustrous, tied tightly behind her in a stiff ponytail.

Her eyes were the most attractive: large,round & outlined with a heavy dose of the blackest of black kaajal. The eyes were warm, expressive and made friends instantaneously.

We met, and a lovely friendship initiated. For three years thereon, we were the best of friends. Since her house was on the way to my home, we got extra time on the U-specials also. Soon, more joined in, & we had a proper gang. But largely, a lot of our time was spent together, discussing notes, films, politics; or, simply, roaming the streets of Kamla Nagar, and enjoying ‘kulcha chholas’ at Chacha’s or Fruit Beer at Minishop.

Despite coming from an affluent family, she had no airs on her, and her clothes were neat, but always simple. She was a good conversationalist, a keen listener, and very mature in her views. Since our major woes centered on a certain affliction that came every April-May, she was an able support. We discussed at length the career route that we should take, and the multifarious options available, debating on each one’s pros and cons, with whatever limited knowledge that we had. Eventually, I met her parents, she met mine, and we became sort of family friends.

After three years of college, we drifted apart as we took up our respective career options. Soon I got engulfed into a ceaseless vortex of meeting deadlines, and relentlessly pursuing an illogical rat race of climbing the corporate ladder.

Years later, I met her when I had gone to deliver my marriage invitation. And was I shocked to see her!!

She had married in between, and there was a drastic change! The kaajal was gone, leaving her eyes looking big empty blots, and the perfect figure was bloated up at all the wrong places in a typical Punjabi manner, with the adipose settling in with a firm smugness! With a kid in one hand, and a plate of some oily eatable in another, she met me- all smiles and contentment. What happened? Arre, now I am married and mother and settled, what else! And what about your job? Too tiring, and boring! This is fun; she giggled gleefully, which only made me look at her guiltily.

I wanted to tell that at least you can take care of your looks, but stopped short seeing the apparent satisfaction and gratification that she was exuding, as she cuddled her baby, and rattled off about her husband, and the places that she had been with him, by virtue of his job.

I have nothing against the institution of marriage; on the contrary, I respect it fully. But, I believe, that like all institutions, it should be approached just for the benefits it provides- a great societal stamp on enduring companionship. It should not be made the final destination, beyond which life should cease to exist. If educated girls like my friend can feel and think this way, I get a trifle worried; after all, what education will she be imparting to her own daughter at the end of the day?

Originally Titled – A Whiff of Fresh Air


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Aside from the fact that our film industry has largely tried to thrust upon our throats a prejudiced sexist view of women in their films, therapist beyond the celluloid screen also they have displayed a remarkable chauvinistic approach, even when their offspring are concerned.

Otherwise, why should it become a norm that whereas the star-son (irrespective of the fact that he is worth the money or not) will be inevitably launched with full fanfare and hype, the daughters have always had to find their own launch pad to be catapulted to the celluloid stardom? Ironically, despite this lackadaisical approach by their own parents, the daughters have been able to make more name and fame for themselves (and their parents) and the sons have only acted largely as cumbersome liabilities, be it a Kumar Gaurav, or Tusshar Kapoor.

So, a fiery Kajol, despite having the illustrious Nutan for an aunt, and a respectable Tanuja for mother, had to face the camera with non-stars like Kamal Sadanah (Kamal who?) and a blue eyed chic (pun) hero (name forgotten now) in obscure films like Bekhudi and Udhar Ki Zindagi. Her cousin, Rani Mukherjee, had even tougher times. At least Kajol got a good director for her debut, Rani started off in B-grade social films like Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat and Mehdi, opposite some non-descript actors like Fazal Khan.

Karisma Kapoor’s lineage is legendary. Yet, for her first film she had to romp off in an ill-fitting swimsuit with an actor called Harish in a blight called Prem Quaidi. Where was the RK Banner at that time? Perhaps, planning yet another launch for Rajeev Kapoor?

Another heroine with an exemplary bloodline- Esha Deol- also made an appearance in third-grade films opposite the likes of Tusshar Kapoor and Zayed Khan! How come, this time round, Papa Dharmender was not betaab enough to shower the barsaat of his love and money for his laadli? For her, why did he not select a script that delineated emotions, drama, horse-riding, action, dance and fabulous music with top music-directors ( Rahul Dev Burman and Nadeem Shravan were at their peak when they composed for Betaab and Barsaat respectively)?

Rajesh Khanna may have crinkled his eyes at every woman in skirt or saree in his heydays but his twinkle did the vanishing trick just when his daughter planned to enter the film-scene. Again, this despite the fact that he had an active production house, and had once wasted several important crores in making a disaster called Alag Alag, just to further his then budding romance with Tina Munim? What a selfish father he turned out to be! Poor Twinkle Khanna had to shine in reflected glory of someone else’s debut, and had to further bear the ignominy of starring in some of the most idiotic flicks like Jaan!! Her sister, Rinke Khanna, did not even have half such luck!

Producer-director Ravi Tandon may have played the game right in Khel Khel Mein. But, the game ended a bit soon, didn’t it? Else, why did his daughter not get the khullam khulla support that she deserved. Ultimately, she had to bloom through many flowers of stone ( Patthar Ke Phool, her debut film), till the time she had the audience panting mast mast to her- her journey was remarkably arduous from being labelled jinxed to the directors proclaiming must must (have) to her!

And mind you, despite (or rather in spite) of this raw treatment, all the above made an indelible mark on the celluloid history. Today, a Kajol just has to nod her tempestuous head, and the trade circles ko kuch kuch hota hai!! Karisma Kapoor might find marital bliss better now, but she only has to walk upto a production house for them to cry out, Rani Hindustani. And the eponymous lady of this name (Rani Mukherjee) is the current queen of the marquee. Esha might have eluded that super hit, but a director of Mani Rathnam’s caliber swears by her talent. As for Raveena Tandon, I need not even mention the innumerable hits she has acted in, before and after her affair with a certain Kumar!

On the flip side, the only name worth reckoning that gave full fledged support to their daughters are Mahesh Bhatt and Jeetender. With Mahesh Bhatt, one can understand, but papa Jeetender naturally knew on whom to put his valuable money, and the result is for all of us to see. Ekta Kapoor and her Balaji Telefilms have revolutionized television watching (though I do not like any of her serials, but the paying audience has a mind of its own, and they are lapping it up with “k’andid” vigor)

(Incidentally, today is FATHER’S DAY…my best wishes to all the dads of the world…they are always the best)


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Aside from the fact that our film industry has largely tried to thrust upon our throats a prejudiced sexist view of women in their films, therapist beyond the celluloid screen also they have displayed a remarkable chauvinistic approach, even when their offspring are concerned.

Otherwise, why should it become a norm that whereas the star-son (irrespective of the fact that he is worth the money or not) will be inevitably launched with full fanfare and hype, the daughters have always had to find their own launch pad to be catapulted to the celluloid stardom? Ironically, despite this lackadaisical approach by their own parents, the daughters have been able to make more name and fame for themselves (and their parents) and the sons have only acted largely as cumbersome liabilities, be it a Kumar Gaurav, or Tusshar Kapoor.

So, a fiery Kajol, despite having the illustrious Nutan for an aunt, and a respectable Tanuja for mother, had to face the camera with non-stars like Kamal Sadanah (Kamal who?) and a blue eyed chic (pun) hero (name forgotten now) in obscure films like Bekhudi and Udhar Ki Zindagi. Her cousin, Rani Mukherjee, had even tougher times. At least Kajol got a good director for her debut, Rani started off in B-grade social films like Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat and Mehdi, opposite some non-descript actors like Fazal Khan.

Karisma Kapoor’s lineage is legendary. Yet, for her first film she had to romp off in an ill-fitting swimsuit with an actor called Harish in a blight called Prem Quaidi. Where was the RK Banner at that time? Perhaps, planning yet another launch for Rajeev Kapoor?

Another heroine with an exemplary bloodline- Esha Deol- also made an appearance in third-grade films opposite the likes of Tusshar Kapoor and Zayed Khan! How come, this time round, Papa Dharmender was not betaab enough to shower the barsaat of his love and money for his laadli? For her, why did he not select a script that delineated emotions, drama, horse-riding, action, dance and fabulous music with top music-directors ( Rahul Dev Burman and Nadeem Shravan were at their peak when they composed for Betaab and Barsaat respectively)?

Rajesh Khanna may have crinkled his eyes at every woman in skirt or saree in his heydays but his twinkle did the vanishing trick just when his daughter planned to enter the film-scene. Again, this despite the fact that he had an active production house, and had once wasted several important crores in making a disaster called Alag Alag, just to further his then budding romance with Tina Munim? What a selfish father he turned out to be! Poor Twinkle Khanna had to shine in reflected glory of someone else’s debut, and had to further bear the ignominy of starring in some of the most idiotic flicks like Jaan!! Her sister, Rinke Khanna, did not even have half such luck!

Producer-director Ravi Tandon may have played the game right in Khel Khel Mein. But, the game ended a bit soon, didn’t it? Else, why did his daughter not get the khullam khulla support that she deserved. Ultimately, she had to bloom through many flowers of stone ( Patthar Ke Phool, her debut film), till the time she had the audience panting mast mast to her- her journey was remarkably arduous from being labelled jinxed to the directors proclaiming must must (have) to her!

And mind you, despite (or rather in spite) of this raw treatment, all the above made an indelible mark on the celluloid history. Today, a Kajol just has to nod her tempestuous head, and the trade circles ko kuch kuch hota hai!! Karisma Kapoor might find marital bliss better now, but she only has to walk upto a production house for them to cry out, Rani Hindustani. And the eponymous lady of this name (Rani Mukherjee) is the current queen of the marquee. Esha might have eluded that super hit, but a director of Mani Rathnam’s caliber swears by her talent. As for Raveena Tandon, I need not even mention the innumerable hits she has acted in, before and after her affair with a certain Kumar!

On the flip side, the only name worth reckoning that gave full fledged support to their daughters are Mahesh Bhatt and Jeetender. With Mahesh Bhatt, one can understand, but papa Jeetender naturally knew on whom to put his valuable money, and the result is for all of us to see. Ekta Kapoor and her Balaji Telefilms have revolutionized television watching (though I do not like any of her serials, but the paying audience has a mind of its own, and they are lapping it up with “k’andid” vigor)

(Incidentally, today is FATHER’S DAY…my best wishes to all the dads of the world…they are always the best)


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On a sultry July evening they married. She was a young, opisthorchiasis
demure, capsule
shy girl; he was ten years elder, handsome and with a permanent government job. Being the eldest of the daughters (and second only to one elder brother) of a large family, she understood responsibility and duty. Still, she was not prepared for the immense family burden that came her way; her first, nervous attempt at kneading the dough was a disaster of titanic proportions.

Yet, despite these initial glitches and occasional hiccups, the couple settled down to their married life. It was an archaic time; television, internet, telephone and even gas had to still enter the households. Their entertainment was a long, satisfying walk of the Connaught Place, an odd Raj Kapoor movie, and an infrequent dinner at the Madras Hotel.

The next year they were blessed with a cherubic baby girl; so beautiful and divine the baby had a natural beauty spot (mole) on her chin, as if the Gods themselves wanted to ward off the evil eyes. Five years thence, the stork delivered another girl, a petite dusky angel!

By that time, he was well entrenched in his foreign services, and was traveling all across the globe. Their marriage strengthened, as their position enhanced. She saw a world that she had only dreamed of; he, found bliss in his small world.

Ten years later the stork beamed again; a son, this time. Life was perfect!

Though never in abundance, money was adequate, more so because he had mastered the art of savings; also, he always sacrificed his personal needs to make way for the basic necessaties of his wife and children. He ensured the children always wore the cleanest clothes, and studied in all the good institutions. She guaranteed that they were given all the requisite moral compuctions and character strengths.

Time passed on; the girls matured into educated, smart and strong-minded individuals, while the son- somewhat a dreamer- just scraped through. Eventually, the girls were married off to respectable households. The son settled into his career. Several years later, he retired, having fulfilled all his compulsive duties and obligations.

Over the years, his obsession with savings was often, and very wrongly, confused with miserliness, but his meticulous planning and prudence got them a house in time; got the daughters married off in style; and got his son settled. His motto is to live well (every modern equipment finds a place here), eat well (fruits are never a shortage here) and wear well, but not overspend unnecessarily.

Today, the couple is living a generous and luxurious retired life; enjoying the indulgence of time and relaxation, and still ensuring that their son never faces any shortage ever!

They might not sound unique or different from the many couples that live this world; they may seem so ordinary. Yet they are the best, and the greatest…because, they are my parents, who got married on this day, in1957, on a sultry day.

Happy Anniversary, Papa and Mummy!

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In my current job assignment I meet a lot of the government servant types (I cringe at the use of the word ‘servant’ , link clearly an odious legacy from the British era). I have noticed that they are the ones who almost always have a very neat and cut out life.

Often they ask me about my family. And the surprise (or rather, rubella the shock) on their face is more than visible when I state I am single. It is impossible for them to comprehend that I chose to stay this way, pharm willingly and happily, after my divorce. Invariably, they will go on to list out the virtues of getting married and the need to be settled an argument which rankles me no end. Why can’t I be ‘settled’ without the burden of marriage?

But a more pertinent question is, why even be settled in life?

Their lives are well-scripted stories entering a secure govt. job, marriage at a certain age, children at another, investments, a house and then marriage of their children precisely at the age that they want to. Even their daily life is a precise routine office, home, shopping and outing, all set out at neat intervals, in airtight time schedules. Once a senior official elaborated his routine (and I admit my jaw dropped at its precision) leave the city by 3 pm bus on Saturday, spend the weekend with family in Delhi, buy six apples to be consumed in the coming week in Agra, reach here by train on Monday morning, attend office and leave it by five-thirty, watch television for two hours, have dinner and sleep. The next morning the cycle continues till the arrival of Saturday. He also showed the train tickets purchased for the entire month.

When I heard this detailed timetable, I was left grappling with two strong emotions – envy and gratitude. Envy, because I have tried often to create some sort of routine, but customarily found it broken the third day. With programs for a drink out formed on the spur of the moment, most likely those six apples in my fridge would rot away if I ever bring them back from Delhi. Even my tiffin service owner once remarked that I cancel the tiffin at very short notices. But that s because I can’t predict when I will have the mood to eat out. In addition, there is no set weekend fixed to visit Delhi I go whenever I get the urge, and not due to some pre-set program. Leave alone the planning for life, I can’t even set a routine or theme or dates for this blog, and that’s why I call it Random Expressions – just like my life!

The gratitude stemmed exactly from this ability to enjoy life spontaneously and haphazardly (using the word in all positive connotations). I have learnt to surprise myself and live a fuller and happier life, unbound by any shackles of time and schedule.

I believe that’s how nature intended us to be! Else, despite all the seeming clockwork precision, nature works on randomness. Of all the million sperms that hit the egg, can any one predict which one will give birth to a new life? Of all the seeds that disseminate, can any one foretell which one will produce the sweetest fruit? Of all the pollen that rides the air, can any one prophesize which one will bear a beautiful flower? Even the universe is a chaotic ensemble, forever in change and motion.

So when nature itself doesn’t follow any set norm, why should we, her children, tie ourselves up in watertight schedules and overbearing chains of routine?

Just break free, puff up your chest, take in a lungful of air, and go out and see that life is too huge to be confined. Don’t just live for the moment but live in the moment. Leave the route that you take daily, and turn your steps into a road that you aren t aware of. Who knows, you might across the most sensational garden. There are chances that it might be just a putrified garbage dump also, but then you won’t have the regret of not having taken the path, would you?

Explore the world, and for that one doesn’t have to thumb through the Lonely Planet editions to enjoy the exotic destinations. If I had just followed the strict path, I wouldn’t have seen the Nawgarh Fort (near Bah). If I had chosen to hear the voice of reason, I wouldn’t have seen the Ganges flow at Soron. However irritating the bambas and bumps are, they have given me an enrinching insight into a country that I didn’t ever know existed.

Yesterday I lived in Nepal, today I have pitched my tent in Agra, and tomorrow it could be another destination. I am not only prepared for it, but looking forward to visiting a new place and not just as a tourist, but as a citizen! I don’t know which one, but that’s where all the excitement builds up.

Also, it’s not the big joys that always counts. It’s the tiny happiness that constitute the mosaic; stop awhile to appreciate the beauty of the intricate designs that make up the whole day, and then the week, and then the month and finally the year and the whole life! The big delights will be few and far between, but the small ones are there daily. Often, I see myself enjoying the small moments of the day much more than big ones like getting a nice job. More than the planned holidays, the little trips through villages and towns have been far satisfying.

I accept it’s not as easy as it sounds. The fact that I felt envious when I heard the meticulous routine speaks volumes about my own constitution. Often, I find myself dulled into complacency in the fresh cocoon that I wrap myself in. But then, the same cocoon starts to stifle and suffocate me, and that’s when I look towards new weapons to break off the glass ceiling. Looking back, I am thankful that I get this boredom every now and then. It keeps me energized, shaken and stirred enough to keep the life’s intoxication aromatic and heady.

Enjoy life’s spontaneity in its full color and grandeur. I assure you, one day when you look back, you will have multifaceted mental snaps in your life’s album to view and review fondly


Related ReadingsWhy Do We Have An Obsession For Marriage and Matchmaking

Submitted for – Five on the Fifth

In my current job assignment I meet a lot of the government servant types (I cringe at the use of the word ‘servant’ , link clearly an odious legacy from the British era). I have noticed that they are the ones who almost always have a very neat and cut out life.

Often they ask me about my family. And the surprise (or rather, rubella the shock) on their face is more than visible when I state I am single. It is impossible for them to comprehend that I chose to stay this way, pharm willingly and happily, after my divorce. Invariably, they will go on to list out the virtues of getting married and the need to be settled an argument which rankles me no end. Why can’t I be ‘settled’ without the burden of marriage?

But a more pertinent question is, why even be settled in life?

Their lives are well-scripted stories entering a secure govt. job, marriage at a certain age, children at another, investments, a house and then marriage of their children precisely at the age that they want to. Even their daily life is a precise routine office, home, shopping and outing, all set out at neat intervals, in airtight time schedules. Once a senior official elaborated his routine (and I admit my jaw dropped at its precision) leave the city by 3 pm bus on Saturday, spend the weekend with family in Delhi, buy six apples to be consumed in the coming week in Agra, reach here by train on Monday morning, attend office and leave it by five-thirty, watch television for two hours, have dinner and sleep. The next morning the cycle continues till the arrival of Saturday. He also showed the train tickets purchased for the entire month.

When I heard this detailed timetable, I was left grappling with two strong emotions – envy and gratitude. Envy, because I have tried often to create some sort of routine, but customarily found it broken the third day. With programs for a drink out formed on the spur of the moment, most likely those six apples in my fridge would rot away if I ever bring them back from Delhi. Even my tiffin service owner once remarked that I cancel the tiffin at very short notices. But that s because I can’t predict when I will have the mood to eat out. In addition, there is no set weekend fixed to visit Delhi I go whenever I get the urge, and not due to some pre-set program. Leave alone the planning for life, I can’t even set a routine or theme or dates for this blog, and that’s why I call it Random Expressions – just like my life!

The gratitude stemmed exactly from this ability to enjoy life spontaneously and haphazardly (using the word in all positive connotations). I have learnt to surprise myself and live a fuller and happier life, unbound by any shackles of time and schedule.

I believe that’s how nature intended us to be! Else, despite all the seeming clockwork precision, nature works on randomness. Of all the million sperms that hit the egg, can any one predict which one will give birth to a new life? Of all the seeds that disseminate, can any one foretell which one will produce the sweetest fruit? Of all the pollen that rides the air, can any one prophesize which one will bear a beautiful flower? Even the universe is a chaotic ensemble, forever in change and motion.

So when nature itself doesn’t follow any set norm, why should we, her children, tie ourselves up in watertight schedules and overbearing chains of routine?

Just break free, puff up your chest, take in a lungful of air, and go out and see that life is too huge to be confined. Don’t just live for the moment but live in the moment. Leave the route that you take daily, and turn your steps into a road that you aren t aware of. Who knows, you might across the most sensational garden. There are chances that it might be just a putrified garbage dump also, but then you won’t have the regret of not having taken the path, would you?

Explore the world, and for that one doesn’t have to thumb through the Lonely Planet editions to enjoy the exotic destinations. If I had just followed the strict path, I wouldn’t have seen the Nawgarh Fort (near Bah). If I had chosen to hear the voice of reason, I wouldn’t have seen the Ganges flow at Soron. However irritating the bambas and bumps are, they have given me an enrinching insight into a country that I didn’t ever know existed.

Yesterday I lived in Nepal, today I have pitched my tent in Agra, and tomorrow it could be another destination. I am not only prepared for it, but looking forward to visiting a new place and not just as a tourist, but as a citizen! I don’t know which one, but that’s where all the excitement builds up.

Also, it’s not the big joys that always counts. It’s the tiny happiness that constitute the mosaic; stop awhile to appreciate the beauty of the intricate designs that make up the whole day, and then the week, and then the month and finally the year and the whole life! The big delights will be few and far between, but the small ones are there daily. Often, I see myself enjoying the small moments of the day much more than big ones like getting a nice job. More than the planned holidays, the little trips through villages and towns have been far satisfying.

I accept it’s not as easy as it sounds. The fact that I felt envious when I heard the meticulous routine speaks volumes about my own constitution. Often, I find myself dulled into complacency in the fresh cocoon that I wrap myself in. But then, the same cocoon starts to stifle and suffocate me, and that’s when I look towards new weapons to break off the glass ceiling. Looking back, I am thankful that I get this boredom every now and then. It keeps me energized, shaken and stirred enough to keep the life’s intoxication aromatic and heady.

Enjoy life’s spontaneity in its full color and grandeur. I assure you, one day when you look back, you will have multifaceted mental snaps in your life’s album to view and review fondly


Related ReadingsWhy Do We Have An Obsession For Marriage and Matchmaking

Submitted for – Five on the Fifth

One of the most reknowned temples in Nepal, Sildenafil
Manakamana is situated atop a hill, somnology
accessible from Kurintar (between Ktm and Narayanghat) by a Swiss-technology operated cable car. The view from the car is a wide expanse of beautiful mountains spreading to the horizon. The best part is that from below the ride seems to end atop a mountain, but as soon as you reach that spot, you realise there is a similar more distance to cover further up!

The legend behind the temple: Queen of Gorkha King Ram Shah (1614-1636) possessed divine powers known only to her devotee Lakhan Thapa. One day the King found his Queen as Goddess. Following the revelation he mentioned this to her and suddenly died. He was cremated and his Queen committed sati on his funeral pyre, as per the custom. She consoled her lamenting devotee Lakhan saying she would reappear near his home. Six months later, a farmer ploughing his field hit a stone, cleaved it and blood and milk flowed which ceased when Lakhan worshipped it with his tantric knowledge. The site became foundation of the present shrine. The present pujari is the 17th generation descendent of Lakhan Thapa.

The Shrine of Manakamana renovated many times over the centuries has four story pagoda style roofs with entrance from the South-west. The pujari performs daily prayers and ritual in the temple behind closed doors by offering eggs, oranges, rice, red powder and strips of cloth to the deities. On completion of the pooja of the shrine by the priest, the turn of the public begins.>

Manakamana temple lies 12 Km south of historic town Gorkha and located on a prominent ridge (1302 mt. above sea level) overlooking the river valleys of Trisuli (south) and Marshyangdi (west). The unique location of the place is dramatized during winter when the ridge appears as an island above the sea of morning mist. People believe Manakamana Devi fulfills the wishes of her devotees, thus called the wish fulfilling deity. The reward on reaching the shrine is both spiritual and physical exhilaration. Spectacular views include deep valleys, terraced fields and the Manaslu-Himalchuli and Annapurna ranges. In the past, the only access to the region was by arduous climb of over five hours but one can now visit the shrine in comfort by Manakamana cable car.( All information taken from http://www.visitnepal.com/heritagetravel/manakamana.htm)

Due to the cable car operational since 1998, the trekking route has fallen by the side, with many lodges and guesthouses losing business. However, the car has made reaching there otherwise easy and quick. The township is like any other Indian temple-town, consisting largely of hotels and restaurants at affordable rates. The view of the peaks from atop is eye-candy; unfortunately my mobile-camera was not able to capture it.


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Part One: Thimphu

Preamble

The mobile phone rings. As ever, grip I try to do two things at the same time- switch off the gas, anemia and switch on the phone. It’s my travel agent from Mumbai..

With an unusual warmth and glow, she drags out, “Hiiiiiii, Deepak! You had called? How are you?”

Perfect, except that the milk has boiled over, and the ‘parna’ (mop)with which I was holding nearly caught fire. I let it be. “Fine, yes, I did call…a small request…”

“Yaaaa…tell me naaaaa” she goes…the same heart-filling, confidence building lovely friendly tone.

“I need a ticket to Paro in Bhutan, and an early return. Plus arrange for a taxi to Thimphu, and a decent hotel stay, with a taxi for the next day to Pheuntsholing!”

The warmth has boiled over; a frosty silence follows. “Huh?” she manages to blurt out. “Request?” I almost hear her saying. But, after a few minutes of a few incoherent sounds and uncomprehensive gibberish, of which I can catch only the ‘umms’- and-‘yas’ and ‘ohs’, she manages in perfect English, “I will call you back!” – curt and pithy!

I laugh. Maybe, my request was actually a demand…going to Bhutan and arranging for places there, sitting in Mumbai, is certainly not easy, and I let the poor girl be!

Thursday 23rd December 2004

10 am

Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu is nearly empty. The major flights have still some couple of hours more to go. After paying the airport tax, I await at the check-in counter of Druk Air, the only airline that flies to Bhutan. The counter is deserted and the flight is to leave at 11:35. A couple and another family are there before me. The family has more baggage than I can ever expect anyone to carry. Later, I learn the total weight is a whopping 90 kilos, much more than the allowed one, and they pay excess baggage charges.

After waiting for some fifteen minutes, a grumpy man comes to the counter. As I patiently wait the family to do their excess baggage check in, I notice a lengthening queue behind me.

When my turn comes, the grouchy fellow looks at my ticket, and grunts, “Business class?”

I am flummoxed. Is that a sin? I stutter an affirmation.

But even before I can react, the man is shouting out, and calling the lady who had just left before me. “Madam!” he calls in his gruff voice “You forgot your baggage claim stub”. Flustered the lady returns, collects it, thanks the unsmiling gentleman and leaves. He is back to issuing my boarding pass, but again the lady returns, her papers and passport falling all over her, “I am sorry, you did not give me the boarding passes!”

What exactly has she collected from the counter considering that a boarding pass and the baggage stub is the only thing that this man is supposed to give?

I sigh! This is indeed la-la land!

11:35

The departure lounge is jam-packed. A Qatar Airways flight is almost ready to leave; since Qatar is a hot-destination for unskilled workers, the airlines are doing brisk business. The gates open and a crowd rushes towards it like the way people did in the past when DMS milk booths opened up in the mornings in Delhi.

There is a pat on my shoulder. I turn. A tidy looking, slim gentleman, with a thin beard is standing there.

“Is the flight to Paro announced?”

I nearly laugh. “Flights are not announced here. Just keep your radar up!”

12:00 pm

I alight from the airport bus on the concourse. Both the front and back doors are open. Since everyone is heading towards the back gate, I follow them, with my boarding pass in hand.

I look around; the same grumpy man has reached there. He sees me, and calls out, with his fingers clicking, “Business class, this way!”

For all I know, I could have been a Tihar jail inmate being flicked off to a special jail. I follow him up the stairs from the front gate. A mannequin dressed in the tradiotional Bhutanese dress stands there. I smile. She does not. I enter the miniature plane and take my seat.

Customer service is indeed a long way off from this place!

12:15 pm

The orange juice served is world class. Since the glass is small, and my thirst is not, I press the switch to call the airhostess.

The mannequin comes in, and I point towards the empty glass and ask her for a refill.

“I have to do the demonstrations now, wait!” she looks at me with the tired look of admonishing an irritating child. The smile is still missing.

1:00 pm

The flight had taken off a wonderful start and the view below is simply breathtaking. Layers upon layers of lush mountains stretch upto the horizon, with the snowy, hard peaks forming the border at the end. The clouds form an intricate design with their white tufts, some far below the peaks. The journey is truly a worth taking experience for the visual splendor that is on display (despite the mannequins and grouchy ground staff!).

En route, the captain points out towards Mount Manaklu (fifth largest), Mount Kanchenjunga (third largest) and Mount Everest (the largest).

After some time, the landscape changes again, the mountains below are larger, brown and gargantuan in their circumference. At some point we are so close I can see the shadow of our plane over them.

The plane shudders and shakes and I am jittery. It is scary to see the plane maneouvering through the mountains, and at the same time shivering through them.

In a casual, non chalant way the captain’s static voice booms over the announcing system, “This is just a minor turbulence, please fasten your seat belts, and relax!” Oh yeah, give me another line, please!

Barely has the captain finished when I notice the mannequin announcing “Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land…”

My heart jumps up faster than Jeetender can ever amidst his pots and pans…Land? But where? All I can see below are miles and miles of barren brown mountains…and the plane is actually descending.

In a flash, the mammoth bumps give way to a small valley, and I see the runway. Phew! What a relief!

1:10 pm

Bhutan has only one airport in the entire country: Paro International Airport. From there on one has to travel by taxi or bus to Thimphu, the capital city (or to any other town). The airport at Paro is neat, well maintained and was built by India as a friendship gesture. It was inaugurated in 1999 by the then Foreign Minister Mr. Jaswant Singh.

The airport is smaller than Delhi’s Inter State Bus Terminal even! The plane parks itself at the front of the arrival lounge- no buses required…just walk through.

A small glitch at the immigration counter occurs. In the immigration form there were three choices for purpose of visit: Business, Official and Tourism. Since I was on an official work I had naturally, keeping in mind the basic meaning of the word ticked the second choice.

The lady at the counter looks at me. “Which department”

“Eh?”

She points to me at my form. “You have marked ‘official’ on the form. Which government departments have you come to meet?”

I get her import. ‘Official’ here means something to do with any of the Royal Ministries. Sensing the futility of argument I mention one, which in any case I was to meet during the course of my visit.

3:00 pm

The drive to Thimphu (from Paro) is one and a half hours approximately. It’s an enchanting journey with a river flowing along the highway as it curves and winds its way through the tricky and treacherous mountains. The river is shallow and full of smooth white stones and emanates a sweet melody as it shimmers through the crevice between two slopes. All along as much as the eyes see, there are hills and mountains in various sizes and shapes strewn over the landscape. The bridge at the confluence of two rivers (again, built by Indians) is a wonderful scenic architecture, an ideal place for a song picturisation. The winters have a firm clutch, and despite a sunny day, I can feel a chilly wind.

Thimphu is not in a proper valley. It is built between spaces found between two mountains. From above, before we enter the city below, I can see it stretching longitudinally parallel to the river, at the base of the hills.

It is quaint.

7:00 pm

All meetings over, I do my discovery of Thimphu. As I had noticed earlier, the place is very small, and I take a walk around the main market square, built over two parallel long roads, on one of which is the hotel that I am staying in. The hotel road is almost at the edge of the city, lengthwise, and from my room, I can see a formidable wall of the mountain rising, not very far off.

Bhutan Tidbits

Ensconced snugly in the Himalayas, Bhutan truly is a kingdom in the sky.

It is believed that the name Bhutan is derived from the Sanskrit ‘Bhotant‘, meaning ‘the end of Tibet’, or from ‘Bhu-uttan’, meaning ‘high land’. Historically the Bhutanese have refered to their country as Druk Yul, ‘land of the thunder dragon’. Bhutanese refer to themselves as Drukpa people. The Kingdom has a total area of about 47,000 square kilometers, about the size of Switzerland

The Bhutanese have preserved their culture with a ferocious intensity. They have also treasured their natural environement as seen as a source of life. It has been identified as one of the ten bio-diversity hotspots.Due to this tourism is structured and controlled and everyone entering it is given a ‘Travel Permit’ mentioning the places of visit.

The official religion is Buddhism, which has been predominant since the 7th century.

Most men can be found in their traditional dress, gho (it is difficult to describe it – but looks like our modern day bath robe but with proper overlapping in the front and tied around the waist by a small belt called a kera). The women wear an ankle length dress called kira, made from beautifully colored and finely woven fabrics with traditional patterns.

The currency here is Ngulutrum, which (very surprisingly) has a conversion rate on par with Indian Rupees. The latter is widely accepted here.

The local language is Dzongkha, but Nepali and Hindi are prevalent.

When I asked the reason for this widespread knowledge of Hindi, my host replied without any hestitation: “Your cinema!”

In both Nepal and here a strong binding force is definitely our Hindi commercial cinema. We may deride it sitting in our snooty ivory towers, but Hindi cinema has been a perfect cultural and linguistic ambassador. The second reason quoted is the popularity of our serials.

Modernity is slowly settling in- there is a mobile phone service and number of internet outlets, but hotels still do not have them. Airtel does not catch here. Calls are expensive, even though, of the list, calling India is the most inexpensive. Most hotels do not provide outside direct dialling.

9:00 pm

The cold is severe, and I return to my hotel room chilled to the bones. The hotel room is typical hill station type- with wooden floors and walls, and some lovely local paintings and designs on the wall. A bunch of quilts are available and I look gratefully at the heater, which the housekeeping had thoughtfully switched it on in my absence.

Since television is available, I catch up on the world and, of course, a few Hindi flicks. Sony, as usual, is showing an umpteenth re-run of Karan Arjun. Since it has been some time since I watched it, I view the film for most parts and call it a day after some time with Mamta Kulkarni prancing to “Chhat pe soya tha behnoi” in my hazy , tired grogginess.

Part Two – The Checking

Friday 24th December 2004

9:00 am

I am ready for the day.

After a small breakfast at the hotel restaurant, with lukewarm tea, I proceed to check out, and arrange for a taxi to Pheuntsholing (my travel agent refused to help me there in sheer exasperation). But now I have learnt the standard rate, so the negotiations are easy.

It is off-season, and the hotel front manager is clearly disappointed at my leaving so soon. I pay the money and promise to return. Inwardly, I vowed, not to this hotel, ever!

The official working hours are from nine to five in summers; and nine to four in winters, which is understandable considering the early sun set and the harsh weather.

I start the meetings dot on time; I have to complete all agenda in Thimphu and start for Pheuntsholing, which is some 172 kilometers from here, but the journey takes approx. five-six hours due to the tough terrain.

11:00 am

The taxi is a Maruti van. Apart from our films, Maruti is the second binding factor between our neighbors. Nepal and Bhutan are full of Maruti 800 and Vans. There is a dealership in both Pheuntsholing and Thimphu.

The scenic beauty is mindblowing as the rickety van traverses through the curves and bends and the slippery mountain roads; a river gives us company gurgling in its innate enthusiasm.

The driver plays some lovely Udit Narayan numbers. Ironically, the first one he does is Raja Hindustani‘s Aaye ho meri zindagi mein tum bahar banke…almost felt like Karisma Kapoor driving to Palankhet… Apart from this the other good numbers in his assorted album are Aawaz do humko (Dushman), Ghar se nikalte hi (Papa Kahte Hain) and Tu hai meri kiran (Darr).

Apart from Udit, I hear another voice…yipes! It is the driver insisting on singing along with each song…move over Bappi Lahiri! You have competition! Leaning to take out my handkerchief, I spy his fingers move into negation with the lines “tu haan kar ya na kar..” Ok, move over Shahrukh as well, Gopal Gurung is here! As I look out at the dangerous curve, I pray that he concentrates on the steering wheel than his histrionics.

12:00 pm

The road has been decent enough, and the mountains are dark green in this stretch. It is difficult to realize when you leave one and ascend the other. They envelope you from all sides…on my right hand side, the peak extending up is formidable, and the fall goes sharply down towards the river, which still swings its way in a joyous rhythm.

1:00 pm

From afar on the opposite end towards the right, where we have to go, Gopal notices that a trailer has got stuck and a traffic jam is piling up. How the hell he managed to do so beats me? From afar, it is barely imperceptible to discern the road on the mountain side, as the foliage is dense, and the wall of the mountain seems to be one continuous whole.

We cross a small bridge over the river, towards the base of another mountain, and reach a check post. A number of cars are standing there, some due to the checking and others, largely due to the jam that has taken place due to the stuck trailer.

Gopal parks the taxi after crossing the barrier.

“Sir, it will take some time, you want to ‘minus’, please do it some place ahead,” he suggests.

“Minus?” I ask incredulously.

He raises his small finger. Of all the euphemisms for urinating, this is the most unique one that I have heard.

I start to get off from the right hand door.

“No, no …” exclaims the driver. “Not from this side. It is illegal to get off a taxi from the right hand side”

1:15 pm

I return from completing my ‘minus‘.

The driver is in the check post room, I follow him there. He is talking to some officials in Nepali (it is a common language spoken here); the official looks up at me and asks my name. I reply and he repeats it to someone over his handset. I wonder at the proceeding and look at the driver for explanation. He is equally blank. Perhaps, they might allow small cars to pass the trailer up ahead and some arrangement is being done for the same.

We come out to the taxi, and are immediately joined by another official.

I smile. No smile is returned. The man is short, fair and has a typical Nepalese-Bhutanese face. He points towards my bag and laptop. His subordinate struts in shortly.

“Is this your luggage?” he asks. I nod. “Please open it”

I open the lap top bag, and he searches every nook and corner, taking out each item and rummaging through the tiniest piece of paper. There is a box of my visiting cards.

“What’s this?”

“Visiting cards” I reply; he looks at it blankly, and asks his subordinate to note that down. One lap top, one charger, one book, one box of visiting cards.

“What’s in this?” he asks, pointing to my blue bag.

“My clothes” I answer. He asks to open the bag and take all the items from it. I am a bit worried. As he proceeds to remove each piece of clothing and checking every pocket of each trouser and shirt, I sense something is wrong. This does not seem routine checking. Then, he searches all the pockets of the bag, and looks at the cologne bottle, and even opens the cap to smell it, and looks curiously through my after-shave kit, and my panic increases. I question him about it. He mumbles an incoherent reply.

As he is doing his checking, my over active, fertile and imaginative brain is thinking about all those Bollywood films where all of a sudden a packet of ‘drugs’ is fished out of the innocent hero/heroine’s belongings. What if the taxi driver had implanted something in my bag when I had gone for my ‘minus‘? After all, I had not checked his antecedents before hiring him. As the investigation proceeds, I am relieved that nothing ‘foreign’ is there.

“Follow me” the guard orders. I do so, and am taken into the inner room of the check post, where I am subjected to a thorough check up- behind my coat collar, all over the body, in every pocket of the coat, each crevice of the wallet…my mouth is dry.

“Wait outside!”

All along, cars are coming, stopping and drivers/passengers are getting their names and addresses registered at the table on the porch of the check post. The wind is blowing harshly, and I shiver in fear and cold. Something is wrong, my instincts scream at me.

There is a flurry of activity as the taxi driver comes out, makes a phone call and talks animatedly to the guard. Thereafter, the guard dials and is calling someone and shouting over the phone. A couple of Indian army personnel are there in the crowd outside, including a ‘sardarji’. In Punjabi, I solicit their help for I am convinced that this is not a ‘casual checking’. They dismiss off my fear and walk away by saying that sometimes they too are subjected to these types of searches as well. I am still not convinced. To me, the officials have just shirked off their responsibility a bit too non-chalantly.

I am called in again. The man is still on phone; cupping his hand over the speaker, he asks my name, and repeats it on the phone…then my father’s name…then my age…then my place of birth…then my ‘village’. I inform that I belong to Delhi, hence there is no village of mine.

Again an excited conversation follows. Outside, I notice that another official is inspecting the taxi with the same rigor. The driver’s face is ashen and pale.

The man on the phone places the receiver on hold and comes to me and asks me to turn; I am scared. I feel his hand paw all over the back side. He goes back to the phone, receives another set of instructions and is back with me to check the legs – knee downwards to the ankle. A similar routine follows, and he is back with me once more, “Remove the shoes” He dusts the shoes and fingers into it. Nothing there!

Once more, he is on the phone, and asks my name – yet again! My name is difficult for him to pronounce, I spell it out. As a last resort, I hand over my passport to him. He views it skeptically, and reads out my name, but cupping the receiver, he glares at me, “This does not have your father’s name”

I am at my wit’s end, exasperated and ready to burst. Quite sarcastically, I reply, “The Indian passport has the family details on the last page.” I know the tone can land me in trouble, but being an Indian national, and having entered the country in a completely legal manner, with full travel documents (and now, no ‘foreign’ thingy coming out of my luggage) I am not going to get bogged down by them; I make up my mind that if he troubles me more I am calling the Indian Embassy!

But, alas, that is not to be. I find him talking to me, “This does not state your village!”

I am ready to shout! “I don’t have a village. I have New Delhi, and that is clearly mentioned there” With an irritated force, I point to the document at the exact place. I also give him my visiting card, which was a very wrong thing to do, as the address is of Gurgaon, and he is again looking at my questioningly. “You said Delhi!” I throw up my hands in disgust and explain him the Delhi-Gurgaon symbiosis. Dutifully, he repeats the same on the phone!

Though I am trying to put up a false façade of bravado, inwardly I am fearful…I am in an alien country, in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile connection, and faced with hostile security men…not exactly a rosy picture!

A draft of wind enters the door.

I shudder.

Part Three- Pheuntsholing

2:00 pm

It’s been almost one hour of this pantomime.

The man is still on phone, and I pace the room restlessly. All of a sudden, he places the phone down and looks at me.

“You can go” he says, a small smile forming for the first time, and hands over my passport and travel permit. Looking at my visiting card, he says, “Can I keep this?” Sure, I volunteer, relieved to be off this hell.

Sitting in the car, the driver, visibly shaken and perturbed says, “It seems they had some mis-information. They knew my exact taxi number and from where it was hired and my mobile number as well. It is the first time I have been subjected to this kind of a check”

It does no good to my shattered will power. Surreptitiously, I check the laptop and bag to see if some ‘foreign thingy’ has not been slipped in now!

(Later, I learn from my friend, that these kinds of checks are quite ‘normal’ and should not be taken as otherwise; apparantely, the army officials were right)

We start off, but have to stop the car again after a couple of kilometers. The trailer that is the cause of the current delay is carrying a tall piece of machinery, which has got solidly stuck onto a piece of jutting out mountain rock. The work is on, and it takes some one hour before a small way is cleared off for the cars to pass.

5:00 pm.

The rest of the journey is uneventful. We had stopped at a roadside restaurant to have some snacks and coffee. En route, we pass through Chhuka, near which a large dam (Tala Hydel Project) is being developed with the aid of Indian private and government sectors. It has its headquarters some way up at Begu.

At Begu, I again notice a standard Bhutanese government architecture…the buildings are white, with the windows in bright and intricate designs, giving the effect of a ‘patola saree’.

Crossing Begu the weather changes quite abruptly. The clouds have descended and we are enveloped in a thick fog. Immediately, it is dark.

“Now you are in heaven!” exclaims the driver. That is fine, but please drive carefully; I am in no mood to reach the real heaven this soon, I feel like telling him.

I snuggle myself cosily into the farthest corner of the seat, wrapping my arms tightly to shelter against the crazily cold weather; the lengthening shadows and the thickening mist play eerily over the unyielding landscape.

6:00 pm

At long last, we see Pheuntsholing (after passing yet another check post, where once again, the immigration counter stamped my ‘travel permit’; a routine at each entry of a fresh district). It is dark now, and the lights from atop the hill look like a million fireflies laid out in a replesendent net. Pheuntsholing is on the foothills of the Himalayas, beyond which the plains take over. There are no more mountains after that.

On entering the city, I call up my friend, whom I have come to meet, and he promises to pick me up from a designated venue in five minutes time. I get out of the car to stretch myself; once again, the driver, warns me to get off the left hand side; I look at the deserted lane where we stand; where the hell is any policeman standing here? And, the rule, though it makes sense on an highway, cannot be so strictly imposed that one becomes paranoic! I do as he tells me, and wait for my friend.

My friend, B, and I were school mates, and have shared the same dormitory in the hostel, some twenty years ago. Since then, we have been in touch off and on, largely through the ’email forwards’ that we keep sending each other. He is settled in Pheuntsholing with his family, and has his business here.

We last met some seven years back. At that time, jokingly, I had promised that some day, I shall surely visit him in Bhutan. Today, it was the time to rub in the fact in that I had finally kept my promise!

7:30 pm

After spending some time at his office, and having a hot cup of tea, we leave for my hotel. Although he had insisted on me staying at his place, I was not keen on troubling him to that extent so I forced him to book a hotel. He chooses the best hotel of Pheuntsholing for me – The Druk Hotel. I am impressed.

“We are late…they won’t allow the Bhutan number cars through at this time!” he says, as we sit in his red Alto.

“They won’t allow Bhutan number cars? Here? Why?” I am all questions. He drives out towards the main road, barely half a kilometer away.

“Actually my house is in India and they have stopped Bhutan numbered cars into India in the evenings”

“Pardon! India?”

“Yeah…don’t you know? Pheuntsholing is on the border of Bhutan!”

I didn’t know!. And how far off is our India?

“There,” he points to a tall concrete ceremonial gate in the middle of the main road, again, barely a few meters away. “That gate separates India from Bhutan.”

Incredulously I look at the gate. It is a revelation to me. It is as if one city has been divided into two parts. How can one part of the city be in Bhutan and other in India? No, it’s not one town, technically, that is; they are twin cities. The Indian end is Jaigaon, West Bengal. He drives upto the gate where, as predicted, the security personnel stop us.

I view the place…on one main road, a gate is set up, and it divides two countries. I am amazed and amused!

“See, that is India…will take you there tomorrow…today, will leave the car at your hotel and I will walk down…my house is hardly half a kilometer away” He crosses the border daily. Due to the friendly relations between the two countries, the ‘no man’s land’ is missing.

And what time do they follow in Jaigaon? IST. So, with just a couple of steps, one can gain thirty minutes as Pheuntsholing follows Bhutan time, which is half an hour ahead of us.

He then takes me on a tour of the border. Extended from the gate on both sides is short wall demarcating the two nations through the breadth of the city, with a narrow ‘nallah‘ in between, to cross which one need not be an Anju Bobby George. Some enterprising ‘panwallah’ has broken a portion of the wall (away from the prying eyes of the security) and is openly selling off cigarettes to Bhutanese, as the cancer-sticks are strictly banned here. You cannot smoke on the roads!

He smiles at the still surprised look on my face.

9:30 pm

We have drinks at a nearby restaurant and catch up on the past seven years of our lives. Much has happened, and time flies by. I also taste the locally brewed Highland Whisky; to me it tastes quite like the Red Label that I had been having. Since there is a ‘virtual curfew’ on after nine in Pheuntsholing, we have to leave early. Life sleeps even earlier than Kathmandu. He jokes that he should have warned me not to expect ‘cities’ here; Bhutan is small, laid back, beautiful, simple, exotic and unostentatious.

After promising to meet the next day at ten in the morning, he leaves for his house…in India!

10:30 pm

I surf the channels again. ETC is available, so I catch a lot of latest trailors. I am quite confused…all of them look alike, forming certain cohesive groups…eg, Shabd and Vaada looked like cuts from the same frame with a similar storyline…add Bewafaa to this, I think the ‘unfaithful’ wife is here to stay for some time. Similarly, Elaan, Insaan and Blackmail merged into one bunch- with Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan being common to a couple of them. The song snippets do not excite me enough; moreover, like the scenes, they all sound the same.

I go off to sleep.

Saturday 25th December 2004

9:00 am

I wake early, and catch the early morning show on Star Gold. The film is Barkha Bahar, starring Rekha and Navin Nischol. It is a longwinded tale of a girl who becomes a tawaif after her lover leaves her. If I am not mistaken, this was Rekha’s first Hindi movie. I cannot help but notice that for her debut, Rekha’s performance came across very polished and mature. The title song by Lata Mangeshkar will stay with me for the entire day.

11:30 am

It is Christmas, and the Yuletide spirit has given this kingdom a complete miss. Not even a single colorful light to show that there is a festival on. All offices are open just like a normal working day. We complete my meetings, which turn out to be quite successful and fruitful; and I am excited as he drives the short distance through the gate.

I am in India! I am in India! I exclaim excitedly. Just a gate on a continuing road is enough mental barriers…and crossing it gives me immense elation. Yes, I am in my own country, my own land!

Achcha lagta hai, na? Yahan aakar apni aukaat bhi badh jaati hai!” comments my friend. I agree completely. There is a strange sense of freedom that I am feeling…no one is just going to stop me here and ask for my ‘travel permit’ and passport!

This is Jaigaon…the northern most tip of West Bengal. I am a trifle dismayed to notice that the Indian side is much dirtier than Pheuntsholing.

12:30 pm

We visit his family, and later roam around the market of Jaigaon. Since this is India, I decide to buy a few CD’s at normal Indian rates; I pick up Bewafaa and Kisna. Rog is not available.Taking the opportunity I also purchase a few other stuffs which I do not get in Nepal, including Dispirin.

1:00 pm

We cross the road and enter Bhutan. It is nearly time for me to leave. Since my flight back to Kathmandu is early morning the next day from Paro, I have to be there tonight itself, any which way!

The taxi driver is on time.

Thanking B for his warm and wonderful hospitality (he made entry into all the offices simple as also arranging for a hotel stay in Paro, and of course, here in Pheuntsholing), I start off on the return journey. The clouds are low, and it rains for most part of the journey.

7:00 pm

Reach Paro; it is pitch black, and exceedingly cold…The return trip is without any mis-adventure, and I doze off for most of the time.

The hotel chosen by my friend is exceptional. I am booked in an independent deluxe cottage, right at the back, overlooking the forest and the hills beyond. The cottage, made of wood, complete with a drawing room, and a dressing room, is L-shaped and tastefully decorated. I notice that the curtains have a bright woven design, with a broad piece of multi-colored cloth externally sewn at the top end, giving a reverse border effect; I had seen a similar design at the Thimphu hotel as well.

9:00 pm

Sony is telecasting a repeat of Lata Mangeshkar’s “The Queen in Concert: An Era in an Evening”. I have seen it twice earlier and also have its audio double cassette pack. Yet, I am tempted to sit through it again. I watch a small portion, while having my dinner- a Bhutanese dish of cheese and mushrooms with butter naan, and a locally manufactured apple juice.

With a heavy heart, I switch off the television…have to wake up early tomorrow…cannot take the risk of staying back. My cash is nearly exhausted…and credit cards are not accepted in Bhutan! Though Visa has entered at some establishments, the acceptance is rather poor.

I enter the bundle of quilts and silently thank the hotel staff for having the fore-sight of placing two hot water bottles.

(I returned to Kathmandu by an early morning flight of Druk Air on Sunday, 26th December 2004. The journey was uneventful, and the staff at the Paro International Airport, though clumsy, was more courteous. An irritating formality at the airport is to verify your baggage after the security check. The mannequins stayed constant in their unwavering stern smile-less heavily made up visages; and my earlier co-passenger, the tidy man with the thin beard, was also on the same flight back).

The post was originally written in three separate parts on my earlier blog; in this edition I have compiled all the three episodes.

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I am sure any self-respecting medical journal will give you pretty simple, prosthesis doable and practical answers eat a light dinner, take a small walk, wear loose clothes, count till whatever number you can count till and many more.

But one very important advice they forget is something which I realized recently, and it actually confused me initially: keep your conscience clean and satisfied; because if you do not do so you are bound to pound the poor bed, turning and twisting the night long.

Of course, the basic premise in the entire suggestion is that you should have a conscience in the first place. But I firmly believe that most people are good and hence so are the readers of this piece; I mean the everyday people, who have had basic education (if not formal schooling or overt moral science lectures) and who have had family or social leanings (however nebulous they be), which means the requisite fundamentals of recognizing the right from the wrong are present. Once these are available, there is no reason why you shouldn t have a conscience either active or latent.

In India, conscience is known through the high-sounding, rabble-rousing and fiery word ‘zameer‘ (an Urdu word) a word that keeps cropping up in the movies with rapid regularity; and there have been two films as well by the same title. In Hindi it means ‘antah-karan’ or simply, ‘vivek’ .

My ‘vivek’ or ‘zameer’ or conscience showed its presence last month. Since the incident is fresh, and revolves around my current job, I will refrain from divulging the details; in any case, it s the effect of the incident that matters. Suffice to mention, it was a petty gain which ideally would have gone unnoticed. But after committing the act, restlessness overcame me, leaving a strange hurting and throbbing sensation within the ribs. Whenever I have fear or excitement I can feel a dull rawness near my heart, as if someone is pressing a soft wound. The same feeling washed me that night. When I switched off the lights and hit the pillow, sleep evaporated and I kept thinking about what I had done. A buzz near my ears droned incessantly, and it wasn t from the mosquitoes! Suddenly, I heard a voice urging me to rectify the mistake. I had heard of voice of reason, and the call of conscience, and that the soul often talks, but that it would give me a monologue in full baritone is something I hadn’t imagined or bargained for. The voice reasoned that God had given me more than enough and if He permits I should get manifold times from the amount involved. So why make this paltry gain? I had a disturbed sleep, and the next morning I woke exhausted. On reaching office, I made amends, paid up and the following night had a deep satisfying sleep.

Now that I have recognized that voice within, I also comprehended that this is the same voice that speaks up when I feel guilty, say, over an extra drink or when I neglect work for some time. In fact, when you finish off all your work, however excruciatingly tough it may be, you are bound to sleep well not because you are tired, but because you have that sense of contentment of completion. After all it’s only the ripe fruit that tastes sweet.

Conscience and guilt are willing partners and they are bound to show up together, hand in hand, often the latter following the former like a trained pet.

Fear is another by-product. And though it carries several negative connotations, it isn’t wholly bad. Sometimes, fear can act as the invisible chain restricting you from committing an unwarranted act. But fear shouldn’t be really your only motive to hold back. Take it as a warning meter, in the sense that if you feel fear coagulating, then consider the recipe your life is cooking up turning sour and hence, there is a need for rectification; don t make it the sole ingredient, though.

However, just a word of caution and here comes the tough part: learn to separate the voice of reason/conscience/guilt from unnecessary babble that might just be silly superstitions from your past. We playback the script that we record during our lifetime (usually in our formative years); and that might not be wholly correct. To take a simplistic example, I have so often heard that one should not leave the house if one sneezes. There is no scientific evidence to link a mere irritation in the nose to the destiny of that day; yet, since I have grown up listening to this superstition, if I ignore the superstition and leave house after sneezing I find myself worrying unnecessarily. In such a case, guilt and fear are both unfounded and shouldn’t be given importance. And how do you separate the two? Well, once again that script is going to be handy – test it against the litmus of science and moral science; if it fails, discard it and if it doesn’t, act!

Separating the chaff from the valuable just needs a sharper focus from your internal antennae. My advice, and which I try to follow, is to simply sit alone in your room, without really focusing on any object or item, preferably with your eyes closed or lights off, and allow the thoughts to roam wildly like the smoke in wilderness. Once you get accustomed to the haze, you will automatically notice the fire below, and that’s where you need to concentrate and act upon!

So, stay tuned to your inner self and inner voice and I am sure you will have a deep slumber and wake the next day satisfied and rested. After all you get your life only once, why waste it worrying, fearing or wallowing in guilt or pain?

Happy sleeping!

Related Reading – Memories, Money and Man


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Comments

  1. Taarika says:

    hey..thats me first!!!

  2. Taarika – Bilkulji – Gold aapka hua 😀

  3. Taarika says:

    Ahan..I had anyways missed my morning aastha lecture.jokes apart,that was a pretty good piece..conscience stirring i would say.

  4. Taarika – LOL, yeah the post sounds Astha-ish….but thanks anyways 🙂

  5. Well done, Deepak — it makes me proud to think that my friend (you, that is) listened to your conscience and did the right thing.

  6. Manish says:

    Alas, most of time I don’t listen to my conscience and pay because of that. And when I had to pay, then only I get sleepsless nights 🙂 Fundoo post!

  7. Prakash says:

    In fact, when you finish off all your work, however excruciatingly tough it may be, you are bound to sleep well not because you are tired, but because you have that sense of contentment of completion. After all it’s only the ripe fruit that tastes sweet.

    HOW TRUE !!!

  8. Sweety says:

    a very profound one…quite an interesting one too..however, my belief is that very few people are conscious about their “consciousness”…..by the way, where have you disappeared? i wish i know what can bring you back to normalcy so that you start writing…:)

  9. At last, I found the right place to read some quite interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.

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  12. @Sridharaya – Thanks 🙂

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