Life and death

2

 

I lost my Mom today, fourteen years back. One of my favorite memories is of her taking early morning walks in Lodhi Garden, and forcing me to come along on the weekends. I would grudgingly agree on a Sunday morning, force myself out of the bed and trudge along. As she bounced along the tracks in the garden, I tried hard to keep up with her pace, puffing and panting, wondering how a middle aged lady could beat a college kid like me at walking. But when she cooled off in between, we had the most interesting talks on a myriad of topics – life at the hospital and life at college, markets and movies, sarees and jeans, surgeries and exams, patients and teachers, and everything in between.

Today after many years, I revisited our old haunt – to relive the old days, maybe to honor Mom’s memory in some way. As I rediscovered the place, I realized there was so much beauty in it… nature at its best, a wonderment. The splendid scenery, the smell of jasmines and the chirping of birds swirling around. Life in the thick foliage, the bamboos and the bougainvilleas and the birds and squirrels. Death in the enshrined tombs and the dead leaves. Life and death swirling together in a song. An old dead tree trunk overgrown with blooming creepers and flowers. A barren tree with the sun rising in its background. The living and the dead playing games and life prospering, in spite of all odds. Everything around a display of life’s full circle. A symbol of the joy in struggle. The reason in sorrow. The calm in storm. The light in dark. And the hope in tomorrow. Saying that no matter how much the pain today, someday, things will fall into place. And life will be okay.

1

Thirteen commuters mystify

Women-coach-in-delhi-metro

 

I have been a Delhi Metro regular for three months now and the ladies compartment never ceases to amaze me. There are some very distinct types of women in this battle zone which any discerning eye is unlikely to miss. I have, bravely if I may add, attempted to categorize a few as under. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidentally intentional.

 

Relentless Raiders : These women will attack the vacant compartment seats with full force and at breakneck speed the second the doors open, pushing and flattening the disembarking junta aside. It is not even important whether they really need a seat or not. The Padma Ati Vibhushan is at stake. And if they miss out, they will just instruct the sitting ducks to move apart with a wave of hand, and without uttering a monosyllable, wedge their butts at any acute or obtuse angle just for the thrill of managing to get a seat.

 

Cacophonies : The ladies in this category are brimming with superhuman zeal to let the Metro masses know who is having an affair with who, what happened in yesterday’s episode of ‘Tu Sooraj Main Saanjh Piyaji’, and why suddenly Mrs Vermaji from the neighbourhood  has started wearing knee length skirts. And lest anyone miss a word they are saying whilst talking casually with their besties, they make sure they are audible even to those with sub-subnormal auditory range at the opposite end of the coach.

 

Sidelong glancers : These are the weaker cousins of Relentless Raiders. Having not managed a seat and being too cowardly to attempt a butt hold, they will keep staring at you accusingly for sitting on the trip while they are forced to travel standing, till the guilt makes you hang your head down in shame. Nothing escapes the corner of their eyes – no even the slightest hint of a movement. Adjust your bag this way or that or shuffle in your seat ever so slightly, and they come pouncing in your direction assuming you are signaling the relinquishment of your throne.

 

Mouth chatterers : Mouth chatterers are the womaniyas who the instant they walk inside the Metro compartment, open their pitaaras and potlis and take out a shop’s worth of gajjak / mathries / namkeens / moohfallies, paying no heed to the detail that eating food is not allowed therein. And chatter, chatter chatter their mouths go… while they open hotstar on their smartphones and tune into the perplexing ordeal of ‘Jeet Gayi Toh Piya Morey’. The crumbs of the said food items are philanthropically left behind for the chirping birds to feast upon.

 

Zen Masters : Cool dudenis who are unaffected by the raiders and the cacophonies and by the chaos and the conundrum. They can be seen standing remotely in a sweet corner looking bemusedly at the world across with disdain, listening to music on their headphones, oblivious to the strife of lesser mortals.

 

Chandni Chowkers : The commuters who board the Metro from Chandni Chowk station in the evening after having spent the entire day rummaging through every miniscule item being sold at cheap rates at every nondescript shop of the labyrinthine bazaar. They enter the compartment with boxes and sacks tucked under each arm and over the head, and then spread them all over the coach for everyone to see – spellbound and awestruck, while they dazzle with aplomb in the sweet bargain glory.

 

Yoginis : These damsels can balance and twist themselves into any shape and form in any free crevice of the compartment. They don’t need a bar or a pole to hold onto… they can support themselves on one foot if need be, and read Chetan Bhagat’s latest bestseller with one hand and take selfies with the other, if the situation calls for it.

 

Note Copiers : These are the busybees headed towards Vishwavidyalaya on a Monday morning with their heads anchored in each other’s notes / project reports, furiously copying them down. Because amidst the parties and the social and family obligations on the weekend, time defies all written laws of Physics and inexplicably runs out.

 

Floor Ranies: Patriotic women who are fans of everything Indian (including sitting cross legged on the floor) as well as The Swach Bharat Abhiyaan. So when duty calls and they chance upon the dusty floors in the Metro, they rush in to do their bidding and clean them up with their bottoms, immune to the irritating microphone banter “ Kripya metro ke farsh par na baithein…”

 

Curious peekers : Curiousity killed the cat. But not these oh-so-casual voyeurs who are sitting or standing next to you and nonchalantly peeking into your phone, wondering aloud who you are holding hands with on facebook and why, how tacky your selfie /dp looks, what were you thinking wearing that hideous dress…etc etc. And when you catch them staring, they smugly look away in a flash of a second, assuming reassuringly that they were not caught in the act.

 

Teletaskers : Ever the multitaskers, these stris are seen and heard passing loud and clear instructions on their phones on the Metro. “ Hello !! .. Haanji ! .. Sun rahe ho ? .. Main bol rahi hun .. Kyaa ?!!! ” which continues into “ Kaam waali se kehna 7 roti banayegi aaj. Aur sabji mein namak kaam daalegi. Aur haan, dahi jamane ko keh dena usko … Aur, Aur – are poori baat to suno – use kehna bartan saaf karke jayegi…” The khichhdi continues simmering.

 

Touch-me-nots and squealers : These women are the ones who want at least a meter long human-free perimeter around them. Even your bags should not enter these red zones. Their eyes will start rolling in their sockets if you dare to hold the bar close to their designated space. And if you’d somehow shove them accidentally or step on them by mistake in a crowded compartment, all hell would break lose as they’d turn into squealers crying a shrill “Ouch!!” even if your erring hand or foot had barely managed to touch them.

 

Refuse-to-budgers : Ladies who’d position themselves right at the door entrance whispering sweet nothings into the speakers of their mobiles ( “ Main aaj kaisi lag rahi thi ?”… “ Tumne to mujhe compliment bhi nahi diya.” …and some such nauseating nonsense), refusing to move inside the compartment. No dirty looks, no polite taps on the shoulders, and no nudges from the angry passengers getting in and out can unfaze them. They stand resolute and strong, very ‘pehredaar’ like.

 

The author of this piece, meanwhile, is trying ever so earnestly to transform herself from a dumbstruck and occasionally irritable commuter into a zen master. Her headphones, incidentally, broke on the Metro today, while she was attempting to get off at her destination station in one piece.

 

Metro Womaniya

metro

 

Beware the female, on the Delhi metro scourging,

In the ladies compartment, surging,

In pursuit of a glimpse of an empty space,

Attacking at a frantic pace,

In an already packed coach,

She’d aim for that wedge to encroach,

Between two women, sitting together side to side,

And head straight towards the mark, glue eyed,

Like a missile launching towards its target,

On a blazing mission, not for the faint hearted.

 

She’d trap you with an ishaara, a wave of hand,

Urging you to move away, in the direction fanned,

No please or thank you, just a gaze, chilly and still,

Hinting, that move you have to, and move you will.

And if you pretend, to suddenly acquire a squint, and look the other way,

Or act dumb, and not understand what she would say,

Pat comes the nudge, and the shove, and the retort,

“ Arey, adjust kar lo na !” she bellows like a fiery sport.

 

If you’d be so lucky, and be a little fat,

Well my dear, you have an upper hand in the combat,

For the predator would tend to look the other way,

And direct her effort towards the slimmer, frailer prey,

Jabbing and bulldozing the hapless commuter,

Ambushing her victim, the victorious sharpshooter.

 

What I can’t seem to discern,

Is that for all the trouble, and the heartburn,

All that is achieved, is to park half an arse,

Uncomfortably lodged in that space sparse,

Which is not pleasant, given the length and breadth of it all,

Vexing the co-passengers, and which is more, boosting self’s cholesterol.

And oddly enough, to manage to get a ‘seat,’

In this modus operandi, is often considered a ‘triumphant feat,’

No wonder then, that I am awed by this ‘lady like’ resilience,

And the metro trips give me a ‘Chak De’ experience.

Wondering frantically in my head,

Glancing at that superwoman with dread,

“Iska pair left ki taraf muda hai, yeh left mudegi,”

“Par iska face to right ki taraf hai, yeh right chalegi,”

“Lekin iske haath meri aur bade hain, ai khudaa,”

“Yeh to seedha shot legi, hai rabbaa mainu bachaa !”

 

So fear the womaniya in the metro,

She may seem feeble, with mellowness aglow,

But give her, in the train, an inch of free territory,

And you’ll see her unmasked, preparatory and predatory,

As she scorns at you with disdain,

Looking contemptuously, at the game slain,

Her thoughts screaming, “ Look sharp. Make haste.”

“ Let not, a nanometer of bench space go waste !”

Delhi Desolate

2

These are the roads I travelled a lifetime ago,

Some took me to school, some to my favourite market,

Others to movies and cafes with my friends,

And some to walks with Mom, on an evening scarlet.

A life of unspeakable joy and reckless abandon,

We’d stumble and we’d fall,

But the world was at our feet,

And we’d grow up, and etch our dreams on the city walls.

 

Our journeys, however, take a turn sometimes,

Sending us away from our homes,

For a few years, or is it a few ages,

As life, around aspirations and hopes, roams.

But the hiraeth remains,

And tugs at the heartstrings,

Beckoning me to this city,

As a melancholy yearning sings.

A longing for the people and the places I lost,

The times that flew by, seeking the paths they went,

My city whispers to me to come home,

To relive the past that was once my present.

 

But there is no one here now, who’d call me,

To ask me, where I was and what I had gotten,

The city has moved on, leaving me clasped in the past,

A past long gone, and memories long forgotten.

No longer the fun and games,

No longer the sunny days, slept and dreamt,

Friends grown up, along with their responsibilities,

A shadow of the carefree times we had spent.

 

My eyes well up, reminiscing over the lost days,

The house we had, the home we built,

Love and laughter and soaring hopes,

In this city, where my family once lived.

A heartache that cries, and then goes numb,

Thinking of the life I had, and of the strings broken,

All I feel now, is dazed and empty and frozen,

Remembering the promises made and broken.

 

The city has forgotten me,

I am a stranger, lost in its polychrome,

I have a house that gives me abode,

But the time has taken away my home.

My heart is buried deep within its past,

And the present is lonely, and futureless,

For the past tore away a part of me,

As I watched in silence, tearful and tearless.

Abandonment and despair fill my senses,

Because I sob for my home, destroyed,

And there is no place in the world,

That will come close, and fill that void.