Until you get published as a full-fledged writer, your thoughts — irrespective of how striking or calming they are — don’t mean much in the large(r) scheme of things. Being pregnant with a book is like pouring a spoon of sugar into a tea cup and not stirring it. It’s only when you go through the rhythms and rhymes of the literary (read: publishing) circuit and get to call yourself an author that your words actually hold water. Of course, this applies to the ambit of literature. If you can excel in any other field (business, sports, etc.), then your thoughts automatically qualify for attention. But if you are a strictly wordly person, then posting relatable tweets or fun comments on Instagram or provocative paragraphs on Medium or LinkedIn beg you to go and write a book. Because once you’ve earned an authorship, then all your words belong to you. Otherwise, you don’t truly own your content. That’s the downside as well as the upside of this unwritten deal: even if your book sucked chimpanzee’s balls, you still remain a writer till the end of your life. Later, you’d turn into somebody who shouldn’t have attempted writing.
We never leave our city even after we’ve transfixed ourselves in a totally different geography. For the record, my heart still beats for Mumbai. That icky wreck of a city is where I feel home at. Those unfamiliar with the mechanism of a metropolis might say that it stinks. Such reviews often pour from people belonging to smaller cities/towns whose minds can’t comprehend how messy it can get when over 20 million people decide to stay (not necessarily, flourish) together. Anyway, in all fairness, all the major cities in India are a metaphor for a fart that refuses to leave the room. In spite of such revealing characteristics, Bombay has precisely what it takes to make things happen: people with their big hearts in the right place. This is also the reason why I was perfectly OK with the local train sight of people defecating in the open. When compared to the view of smashed skulls and broken limbs —train-related tragedies, nonetheless — people relieving themselves under the sky hardly made me raise my eyebrows or pinch my nose.
During the aughties (first decade), I was certain I’ll never marry; almost all my heroes were celibates. During the tennies (second decade), I was sure I’ll never be a father; give me one good reason why our species (read: traffic) requires addition. Going by the status quo, nothing is going to change over the next decade either. However, if I ever have a daughter — adoption sounds like an advisable choice given the population explosion — I am going to raise her differently, if my wife may. And by that, I mean to say that she won’t be scared of ghosts. In our culture, the notion of ghosts is fed into little ones for their own safety; darkness is equal to danger. But no, not for my little girl. From a very young age, she’ll be told that ghosts are poor creatures who are sad because not everybody can see them. This lesson will inculcate in my imaginary future daughter an unusual empathy for a group of invisible folks. And hopefully, it will help her grow up to be a kind and a fearless person.
Once upon a time, there was a disparate boy who had anger issues. Others got into arguments and escaped unhurt. He got into fights and barely escaped with bruises. He somehow cruised through school, with plenty of memorable bloodletting in the playground. The rage trapped in him controlled his moves as he tried in vain to conquer it. Not that he didn’t know where the problem lied, he had to obey his elders. Some brought holy vermilion from faraway temples, other made him drink potions containing unknown herbs, and such — each operation failing spectacularly as our boy was growing into a man more destined to be a gangster than an officer. In college, his lid blew like never before: a verbal fencing during a lecture ended with him beating up the professor. Suspension followed and so did police investigation as the assault victim decided to press charges against our belligerent character. Utterly tired of his antics, his grandmother got him a brass bangle that was supposed to neuter his anger. Hate to give away the spoiler but it broke into two during an altercation with a shopkeeper who attended customers that reached the shop after our angry young man.
This blog, as you must have noticed over the years, has been critical about abstract words like growth, development and future. If anything, the powers-to-be have been fooling us by dangling the carrot of better days by clutching us away from nature. On social media, there’s a meme which showcases how we are straying further away from God’s light. Goes without explaining, it’s supposed to be a joke format. But there’s an ember of truth in it somewhere. For excuses that defy logic more than anything else, we continue to believe that our planet can’t do without us. So much so when we say ‘Save Earth’, we can almost hear the whispers of ‘Save Ourselves’ chime. By now, we must acknowledge that saving isn’t working. Maybe it’s time to try leaving. Our self-centeredness isn’t unique in the animal kingdom; all living beings look out for their own interests — a principle that governs foreign policies. Yet, every creature, except us, understands the incredible part nature plays in this awesome theater of life and death. Which takes you back to the first sentence of this paragraph for its sheer falsedom. We pour asphalt on soil believing it to be a sign of modernity when in reality, we are disconnecting that tarred stretch of land from its environment. If the growth of our species depends on the development of unchecked paved roads, then our future deserves to be dark like tar, no?
There are street dogs all around us. They understand our streets during daytime and patrol our roads at midnight. Although they don’t get any formal recognition, they are the real survivors and protectors — ask a woman whether she’d be more comfortable walking a street filled with men or dogs — of our social fabric. Feeding off on the kindness of the few isn’t enough, so they pillage our garbage cans and despise the rag-pickers — they see them as unfair competitors — with a wrath imported from the pages of Old Testament. There is a lot wrong with Indic civilization but the fact that street dogs are spayed and not killed by the state — the way it’s done in a lot of Western countries — makes me feel quite better about ourselves. In that spirit, I hope I grow wealthy enough to build an animal farm wherein the injured and abandoned birds and animals can live together harmoniously. The recent Australian bushfire — with a fox feeding koalas and cow feeding lambs — has already demonstrated that these so-called animals practise humanity more effectively than us.
Have you ever wondered why dogs chase your bike or car? It’s not that they are jealous of your privilege or scornful of your gas-guzzling lifestyle. So why do they do what they do? To answer this question, let me paint a picture for you. A female dog (bitch sounds so bitchy) gives birth to a litter of 5 puppies. These pandavas are fluffy and adorable and grow amazingly fast enough. A month or two later, to her credit, the mother does a fabulous job of raising them and making sure there is no casualty. It carries on for the next few days before a fateful night changes this family forever. Two of the puppies find themselves chasing each other on the street and a car runs over both of them. The mother is distraught at first but gets over the accident soon enough. Her three kids don’t follow suit. They have nothing but hatred for the big flashy animal that killed their siblings in a flash of a second. The memory of the spinning wheel stayed plugged in in their memory. As they grow up, internalizing the code of the road, they chase the wheels for a short while, hoping to extract their revenge in some way. When has fighting bad memories with good violence ever worked? As warned earlier, this is a picture, not an answer.
What you eat is your choice. What you become isn’t. There is a lot of fuss about food; who eats what and who else feels what about who eats what. The whole situation is ludicrous at best and intriguing at worst. We eat for sustenance (mostly) and pleasure (almostly) since for the first time in human history, more people are dying of eating than hunger. However, this doesn’t mean any of us can dictate what others consume. That culinary contract is between the person who eats and the food being eaten; everybody else is just uninvited spectators with opinions. I realized this exceptional truth while hosting a vegetarian for dinner. Turns out vegetarians can be picky too; not all of them are paneer fans. In fact, they maintain their right to choose one vegetable over another. Carrot? Yes. Cauliflower? No. Okra? Maybe. And the non-vegetarian world tends to believe that the vegetarian brigade is running low on options. Surprise, surprise, they have a LOT more options than us non-vegetarians. It’s a pity that we don’t have a society where a carrot-loving vegetarian looks down upon a cauliflower-hating vegetarian.
Music can save us from ourselves when everything else fails. I say this with utmost conviction as I am yet to meet somebody who doesn’t sway to the powers of their favourite beat. Snapping fingers, tapping toes, lips moving in sync, heads bobbing and what-you-have when your favourite song is playing. Lovely, lovely sight, isn’t it? Anyway, I am often overwhelmed by lyrics more than the music. Not because I feel more for the lyrics, mainly because lyricists were and continue to remain unsung, but because I am well-versed in emotions and a bit tone deaf.
On that note, here’s a piece of poetry that drags me to tears, owing to Lataji’s hauntingly striking voice, whether I am at home or in office.
“Bojh hota jo gamo ka
To utha bhi lete
Zindagi bojh bani ho
To uthaye kaise?”
“Had it been the weight of my sorrows,
I would have still carried it.
How am I supposed to carry the burden
That is my life today?”
- Naqsh Lyallpuri
I hope you cry too.