Saturday, 17 March 2018

A Memorable March Monday Morning

It was a cool and windy March Monday morning. Before the break of dawn, everyone had gathered at the appointed place, at the given time. The men were dressed in traditional Indian attire and the women were glowing in all their finery. As I looked around, it was not just the gold jewellery that stood out, but it was also the mix of the best Kanjeevaram, Banarsi and Dhakai sarees. Not in abundance but still visible were Bandhani, printed Tussar silk and a handful of bright chiffons. With the perfect drape, matching accessories and just the right out of make up, these women were chirpy, eager and chatty. And no, for all those wondering if this was an early morning wedding, no it was not. It was the occasion of early morning darshans of Lord Balaji at his abode in Tirumala. To complete it all, what was I wearing? A normal red cotton block printed salwar kameez; and I felt small. 

No, it was not my clothes thay made me feel small ; but the love and devotion that this congregation had for the Lord. Many of them had infants with them. Some had come with infants and toddlers. Yet others had accompanied the elderly unable to walk properly. And none of this had deterred any one of them from bringing out their grand attire and dressing up to meet the Lord. I had only myself to take care of and yet all that I had on different were the red glass bangles that mother had bought the earlier day at Tirupati. I was not even wearing a bindi, something that I love and do on a daily basis. Why? Because I had forgotten to get some....

I was feeling small because my vanity hit me in my face as I saw women with clean shaven heads. Hair is the pride and the worry of most women. Ask some who spend tirelessly in styling and maintaining the mane on the head. After all it does add to beauty; but the clean shaven heads spoke about devotion and unconditional love. They were of all ages - young ones in their twenties, married women in thirties, menopausing women and the senior citizens too. And with clean shaven heads they wore their favourite sarees and jewellery because the Lord deserves the best! 

My first memory of coming for Lord Balaji's darshans is from about 22 years ago. The grandeur displayed by the pilgrims and the commercial aspect of the holy place had bothered me deeply then. I was uneasy and not able to comprehend what I was witnessing. And then, out of the blue, without my asking I got my clarifications. 

Post darshans we were all walking to collect our Prasad when a book seller stopped me and asked me to buy a book of the story of Lord Balaji. I refused at first but then got mother to get me one. As the train chugged out of Renigunta station, my book came out. Somewhere within the story the explanation of the commercialisation of Balaji temple came about; and I will probably remember it to my dying day. 

Legend has it that the Lord, who was a cowherd in this mortal world, fell in love with Devi Padmavati - the daughter of a king. To marry her, he thought he needed to be able to muster a standard of living and so off he went to Kuber, the treasurer of the Devs. While Kuber agreed to loan the required amount to the cowherd Lord, he asked how would it be repaid. It was the answer to this question that got me my clarity -," My devotees who come to pray to me in Kalayug will help me repay this debt." (I don't know whether we are helping the Lord keep his promise or are we paying our own debts when we pay for the services at Tirumala; but I do know that a visit to Tirumala is meant for realising that total surrender never goes amiss.)

The story over, I sat looking out of the train window, when the old lady sitting next to me asked if we were returning from darshans of the Lord. I said yes, of course, and even then I remember telling her how it was so much like a grand wedding. To which she said, " If we can dress up for the lesser mortals of this world, should we not do the same when we are coming to meet the one who has given us all that we have?" The teenager in me got it, but not quite. The grown up woman in me, today, not just gets it but probably repents not having done the same. 

What made these March Monday morning darshans special was that despite all my limitations, the Lord was once again merciful and gave beautiful darshans that made me want to fall at his feet just there. My mind was silent and eyes on the Lord as I was pushed into the sanctum sanctorum. My hands remained folded and my eyes focussed on His ShreeVigraha as I walked backwards and was pushed out of the temple. But all through this push and pull I had the Lord watching me get His darshans; darshans that left me humbled and feeling blessed...

On the flight back home I watched the setting sun. Seeing the sky morph its colours, I realised how the day had seen my emotions and being change. I had transcended from feeling small to being grateful to finding peace and joy in the knowledge that my Aradhya is watching over me... Under His watch I hope to be able to fulfill my commitments, render my responsibilities and realise my dreams. May God bless us all.


Monday, 26 February 2018

My Lamhe with Chandni - She who makes me sing and sigh at once

The woman in me smiles with a racing heart, as the moment approaches when Rohit surprises an unsuspecting Chandni at her doorstep; hale and hearty. The romantic in me has tears in her eyes and quivering lips, every time, when Kunwarji professes his love to Pooja; after he has broken her heart. The professional in me is thrilled and wants a high five with Chandni, as she tells Lalit that she will not attend a dinner because it is not her job. The friend in me sighs for my buddies across seven seas, as Pooja listens to Premji elaborate on his kinship with Kunwarji. The daughter in me withdraws and curls her toes, just that little bit, when Rohit’s sister taunts Chandni’s family.
I could go on and on about Chandni and Lamhe; the chiffon sarees and white salwar kameez that Chandni wore, the rooted in traditions and yet contemporary Pooja, the ever effervescent on the outside and yet the replete with emotions, well both Chandni and Pooja. But while I can sing odes to the characters and of their traits, the truth remains that they were so touching and real because the great Sridevi portrayed them. Her immersion of herself in the characters made every action, every reaction and every feeling of the fictitious person actually her own. In fact the reason these movies have struck a chord with me is because while viewing them I don’t think I can differentiate between the me, Chandni or Pooja.
Every time Sridevi took centre stage, there was an ease with which the character got moulded in the different nuances of the storyline; allowing the viewer to identify herself with the protagonist. And, well yes, that is the reason that she could carry movies on her shoulders in an era when Bollywood needed male actors to be the anchors.  Chalbaaz is another one that had steam only because of her. Sadma, one of her early movies, may have had the exemplary Kamal Hasan in the lead but she stole the show. For someone like me, not a movie buff, to remember these movies speaks volumes about the actor that the late star was. She truly made her audience her own.
When I saw the trailers of English Vinglish I was disappointed to see Sridevi’s new facial features. Well it was her body, her life and so her choice. That I preferred Chandni and Pooja to Shashi, in appearance, was my preference. Yet when I went to see the film, I once again found myself identifying with Shashi - her unconditional love for the family despite the daily humiliation, her keen desire that her husband accept her with her limitations, and ultimately her determination to prove that she could learn a language even if it was only to get the respect of her husband and children. Only Sridevi could bring life to an imaginary individual such that they seemed as if they were the person next door! And to think that those portrayals will have to suffice, and there will be no more movies to look forward to, saddens even me, not a film aficionado.
As I was writing this post a friend called and somehow the conversation went to Sridevi. She reminded me that Jaya Bachchan in Silsila has depicted the vulnerability of a woman exceedingly well. Madhuri Dixit in Pukar, in a chiffon saree on the snow topped peaks, has oozed love and passion making the saree equally sexy. Preity Zinta in Veer Zara has brought to life love and strength of a soul mate, without melodrama. And there are performances worthy of note by the great performers like Rekha, Kajol, Rani Mukherji etc. But well none, none of them in my view, had the ease and panache that a Sridevi performance had. Only Sharmila Tagore could probably match up to her, in my view. But then while she was spell binding in Anupama, hilarious in Chupke Chupke and profoundly endearing in Amar Prem; Sridevi portrayed the helpless agony in Jaanbaaz, the exuberance of the Chalbaaz, and the longing commitment of Benazir in Khuda Gawah, all with the same poise and √©lan that was a Sridevi trademark.  
For someone who is not a movie enthusiast, it is unfair to pass judgements. It is but only my humble opinion as I can sing, sigh and romance with every Sridevi performance. Ab aur kyaa kahen, woh thee hi aise screenwaali jise parde ke saath saath dilon pe raaj karnaa bhi aataa thaa…

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Crime and An Aggravated Political Assault

I was preparing to go to bed and decided to skim through my twitter feed. On most days it helps me catch up with updates and sometimes even go to bed amused with my readings. However, today what I read had my insides knotted and mind knitted. In the last thirty minutes I have not been able to do anything, let alone try and sleep.

The headline read, “West Bengal horror: Tribal woman gang-raped, iron rods inserted in private parts; Opposition slams Mamata Banerjee.” Of-course what has me tangled is the completely beastly act committed against the young woman. But what has me additionally riled up is how the opposition has politicised the misery of one innocent victim. Yes, there is always an opportunity for the underdog to score a brownie point against the one in power. But at the cost of someone’s misery, misfortune and mortification! That I think is a mirror of how shallow we have become as human beings.  

As a woman I wince even at the mere thought of iron rods and to try and think what the poor soul must have gone through is sending agitated shockwaves from my head to the toes. Then to consider that politicians want to use the description of this ghastly act that she has to live with to slander the ruling party; to use her story in daily news to gain mileage and win support, is making my skin shrink and blood vessels crawl. As a woman I am feeling vulnerable and as a citizen reprehensible! The woman in me is seeking safety and the citizen in me is searching for respect and dignity!

Each time such an incident happens in the country there is a national outcry to hang the perpetrators. It is assumed that the death of the demon will bring calm and quiet to the victim and create a threat for anyone wanting to commit such a heinous crime in future. No punishment handed to the culprit can probably bring peace to the sufferer. However, allowing her to not relive the horror every second will help her move on and find normalcy sooner. So why do the politicians make the wounds of the victim deeper? Only to wind up emotions that could potentially win a few extra votes! If the attackers are brutally selfish, these supposed leaders are venomously venal! In a country that boasts of women having been Prime Ministers and Presidents, this hypocrisy is a loud cry of decaying values.

If our leaders light a fire, Indian media only fuels it further. Think about it, which media house will ask these politicians to stop in their tracks? Which publication will call upon citizens to gather evidence to help bring justice and not show case political debates on this topic? Which broadcaster will refrain from sensationalising this atrocity further by adding that this happened in a state ruled by a woman chief minister? None! Because they all want their TRPs and their advertisement revenue! And the easiest thing that sells is the one that incites emotions, as we are an emotional society. That one thing which is our biggest strength is misused by our leaders and media to our own detriment and we don’t even realise it.

Yes I am sensitive and touchy and excited at the moment. Yes I am annoyed, provoked and feeling helpless. But that is because I am a woman and I do not understand why someone in pain cannot be left alone to heal...

http://www.firstpost.com/india/west-begal-horror-tribal-woman-gang-raped-iron-rods-inserted-in-private-parts-opposition-slams-mamata-banerjee-4360105.html

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Shades of human

It had been a long day. A lot had transpired. I was filing my thoughts and planning for tomorrow. Other passengers had probably had their share of efforts and gratifications. And so there was very little activity at the boarding gate. An occasional cough, a soft murmer or a silent large yawn were the only distractions. 

All of sudden he came running down the escalator and frantically started searching; for what or whom no one knew but his panic was visible. As sudden was his appearance was his total pause, right in my face. He bent forward and from the back rest of my seat retrieved a scarf; a ladies hand woven scarf that I had kept there when sitting on the only empty seat I saw. With a smile and immense relief he walked away with his (or her) possession. Others went back to what they were doing but I kept staring at him.

What had caused his panic? Who did the scarf belong to? Why was his smile wider than the extent of his relief? The answers and the ensuing permutations and combinations can create myriad, very interesting tales. I could venture into some conjecturing but it may spoil, or stray your own storyline that has started taking shape, and so I am refraining. 

But if I can restraint myself from some momentary harmless conjecturing, then what causes me to bucket people in types and their behaviour in solid hues when a longer interaction can reveal otherwise... Just like numerous possibilities exist as cause of and context to the reaction of the man I encountered, there are as many circumstances and experiences that shape each one of us. Add to that individual desires, ambitions and hopes; and we have only shades of the spectrum and no single colour standing out. 

I hope that some day I will be able to solve the mystery of what drives the hearts and minds but until then let this be a resolve that I will enjoy the shades of the spectrum, even when I am keen to find one solid colour to paint the situation with. 

Signing off and hoping for a now delayed but not further postponed take off. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

True to myself

Those who know me probably also know that jewellery and makeup are two areas where I have limited interest. Not that I don't wear either, but more that my use of both is limited. Of makeup far more than that of jewellery. Hence it was no surprise that I was resisting my sit down with the makeup artist pre the corporate film shoot. But well I also realised that the shoot was not about me and I had a responsibility to ensure that it was a success. So, I gave in, with caveats though. 

Oh, I am all for good grooming, pleasant presentation and smart appearances. Personally, what is tedious about make up is three fold - time consuming application,  ponderous procurement and elongated post use care rituals. All that takes up mind space and useful time. A gloss and a mascara, in my view suffice for most occasions and are my staples. I admire those who use makeup well, though as I lack the skill.

Anyway, back to the main discussion. I was quiet through the process and spoke only when I felt too much was being applied. Post, while the experts clearly said it was natural and colleagues were generous with compliments, when I saw the mirror I was frowning. This minimalistic makeup also looked caked up to my naked eyes. This was not me! The carefree me was worried about smudges. The easy me was listing the don'ts. The me was getting used to the layered me. 

What struck me was how the situation was similar to human interactions. A small veering away from the true self can be so energy consuming that it becomes exhausting. Focussing largely on what the other person may want or expect creates responses which may shadow the original and then keeping up becomes wearying. And just like no foundation and no concealer can completely cover the blemishes, no amount of put on behavior can hide the original attitude forever. 

So why is it that we are afraid of being who we are? Why do validations become so important that we let the true self hide behind masks? When is it that we will happily acknowledge that it is alright to be different and yet hold on to our dreams? Every colour has its own place in the spectrum, every flower is beautiful in its own way and every single star adds to the brightness of a dark night. If all these have their places secure why are human beings so insecure?

Friday, 25 August 2017

Music

What is it about music that makes me want to breathe the notes, play the melody and dance to the composition? Why is it that music makes me want to dive like a dolphin, soar like an eagle and run like a doe? How can music easily make me blush like a teenager, smile like a bride and sleep like a baby? 

What is it that breathes life when music plays, I cannot comprehend. Why does life become sacred and special with music, I remain clueless. How can music infuse happiness and joy into life, my being marvels at the mystery. 

But without music life is meaningless, without music every achievement is incomplete and without music every joy a shade paler. While much has changed, these  aspects have remained constant; making it the one big truth of my life. And at least of this about music I am certain and convinced. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Roots


My closest friend from school days came home after many years and her immediate reaction was - " it feels so good to be back here in this house". Yes we spent a lot of time here - we shared secrets and joys, bounced from setbacks and failures, and we grew from young girls into young ladies. She is my constant - one who is there even when she is not. 

A few days later, as I was reading into the night, a friend sent a message - "Why are you up so late?" How did he know? I was puzzled! "Well, we were just driving past your building and saw that your lights were on. Please sleep." And peacefully sleep I did. I know for sure that just as he had looked out for me the day I had a severe migraine attack in college, he (actually now he and his wife) is still looking out for me. From a young lady to a woman, he has seen my journey. And its not my material or professional accomplishments that he is proud of, but he says he values the person that he sees in me. 

As I waited for mother and father in the foyer of the club, she called out and simultaneously caught hold of my hand. "This is you Tanushree! I have been thinking of you!"  I was stunned. She looked as young as she did as the Grade X class teacher. "Ma'am it's you. I have been wanting to meet you as well." A few minutes and a short conversation later she elicited a promise from me of a meeting in the first week of September. A promise I promise to keep. She not only taught me the science behind chemical reactions, but also what dignity means when surrounded by adverse actions. She may have been following my facebook activities but in all these years her silent blessings have been with me, of that today I am aware. From then to now she wants to see how the seed has groomed. I am anxious to pass the litmus test. 

Three people having three different histories with me walked through the garden of my life, all in one week, one after the other. While one is always present like the wind, another one is seasonal like the rain and yet another one is the occasional rainbow. Their associations maybe different but all three have contributed to me being who I am. And all three tell me that this is what home means. I may travel the world, but it is back here that I will find my true self. I may journey through enchanting forests, but it is here that I will find my reality. I may wish upon many a star, but it is here that I will find the strength to realise my dreams. Because this is where I started my journey. This is where my roots are. And this is where I will return to when the sun decides to set.