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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The morning after

For somebody who has few material desires in life – and is able to be stoic about most things anyway – I must admit to feeling a deep sense of sadness and pain at the moment.

It is the “morning after” syndrome, I guess.

Last night, in a cruel 116th minute of the football World Cup Final 2010, the hopes of millions of Dutch supporters came crashing to the ground.

It is less than 12 hours after the event – and I have had a very good night’s sleep – but the morning is here, and so is the pain.

To be absolutely objective, Spain played the better football on the day and deserved to win. They were technically better, they had better control of the game, they played a more attractive game, they played a far less “physical” game than the Dutch. In every respect they were the better side.

As the Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, inspite of being shattered and naturally bitter about some of the referee’s calls, so magnanimously said “The better side won”.

Yes, the better side won. But that is small consolation for the supporters of the losing side.

In football, often the better side does not win. Against the run of play, the less impressive side has one moment of brilliance that seals the game. After that, the only thing that matters is the result. Over the years, Italy has built a reputation for winning football games without being the least bit impressive.

Dutch supporters would have wished for something similar last night. Unfair to the Spanish, but if one team has to lose, you certainly do not want it to be your team. That is the basic definition of the term “supporter”.

One can analyse the match on and on. What if Robben had not missed that easy chance before half-time? Nine out of ten times, he would have scored in that situation. And, when it mattered the most, when the biggest prize on earth was at stake, his sharp brain and quick feet decided to take a holiday? How cruel was that for Dutch supporters?

When I saw that moment, I could not believe my eyes – and it became a sort of confirmation for me that this was not to be Holland’s evening. Earlier in the tournament, they had ridden some luck and even had shots on goal getting in – but this was not to be one of those evenings.

The Dutch players have only themselves to blame. I am a firm believer in the cliché that you are only as good as you are allowed to be. The Spanish were good, no doubt – but the Dutch, much like the Germans in the previous Spanish game, allowed themselves to be controlled rather than to take charge.

I know it sounds easy from this distance – and I am no football expert – but I do know the Dutch are much better than this. They just need to flow a little bit and then they are a delight to watch. They are not bad at passing the ball around – and their individual brilliance then comes into play.

But none of this was on display yesterday. Maybe it was nerves in the beginning (understandably) – but once you are into the game – you need to play to your strengths. Which is the midfield and the flanks on both sides, where you have some of the best players around – Sneijder, Robben, Kuyt. These were the players I had hopes from – I never really expected much from van Persie. He has been out of sorts all tournament and, though he was marginally better yesterday, he was clearly not a forward, in the mould of a David Villa, who would race past and cut through the opposition defence.

But yesterday the Dutch allowed themselves to get caught in the Spanish trap and, as a result, were never allowed to break away. Ok, they had that one Robben occasion (two, if you consider that second-half opportunity, also to Robben) but for the rest of the game they were playing into Spanish hands all the time. Their passes went to Spanish players, they even struggled to get possession, forget keeping it.

That was possibly one of the reasons for their getting “physical”. They were just not able to get possession of the ball otherwise. Whether it was part of their strategy or not, it made for nasty, ugly football – this is NOT what the game is about. But desperate situations call for desperate measures – and this was about as desperate as it got for the Dutch when they realised the grip the Spanish were having on them.

And that is to the credit of Spain. I really do not want to - and should not be - taking anything away from the Spanish players. They were just fantastic. It was their first World Cup final too, nerves were playing on them too. But they managed to stick to their game plan (I presume it was to do what they do well – just get the passing going, keep possession, choke the opposition, then launch a sudden offensive).

In a way, I am happy that Iniesta got that goal (well, considering there had to be a winning Spanish goal). Iniesta is a really good player, always dangerous - and often gets overshadowed by the bigger names in the side like Villa and Torres. So, although I will hate him forever :-), it is probably a case of "better Iniesta than any other Spanish player".

For whatever it is worth (and only a minor consolation it is for sure), I think most Dutch people would rather lose to Spain than to another country.

For one, Spain is a very popular vacation country for the Dutch. So there are plenty of good memories to remember Spain by.

And then, the all-important footballing reason. Barcelona.

Yes, Spanish football for the Dutch means Barcelona – and to a somewhat lesser extent, Real Madrid. As a football club (and also as a tourist city), Barcelona is HUGELY popular amongst the Dutch pubic. I think it is THE most popular club for the Dutch outside their own country. Lots of Dutch players and coaches have been part of Barcelona’s footballing history. Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Rinus Michels, Louis van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman, Patrick Kluivert and many more have enriched the club over the years, whether as player or coach. So there is a lot of goodwill there for Spain.

All that of course does not mean that that the pain of ending up losing finalist for the third time in their history is any less.

For the younger generations of today, the stories of the fabulous Dutch team of the 1970s, their exploits in the World Cups of 1974 and 1978 are just stories. In both those World Cups of the 70s, the story is often narrated as “what might have been”.

Yesterday they had a chance to see things set right.

To exorcise the devil of “nearly there but not quite there” , of “so near but yet so far”.

To shed their tag of “best country to have never won the World Cup”.

To share their moment in the sun and their place amongst the champions of the game, holding aloft the one Cup that means so much to everybody in football.

Yesterday, for millions of Dutch, it could have been the moment and memory of their lifetime.

It was not to be.

One can rationalize. Like I have done here - yes, the Spanish were better, they deserved to win. One team had to lose. And Spanish hearts would have been broken, if not Dutch hearts.

Yes, all that is fine. And true. But it still does not take the pain away.

My fingers are trembling as I type this. I have still not got over it. And I will admit to some moistness in my eyes.

I would like to say “maybe next time” but it sounds hollow. Right now, I feel I am not going to see Holland lifting the World Cup in my lifetime. I know it sounds negative and I should be having more confidence in the boys but that is how I feel right now.

Make no mistake, I am proud of what the boys have achieved here – they won every single game all the way to the finals. The only team to do so.

And if somebody had offered me a “losing finalist” place before the tournament, I would have grabbed it with both hands. I (and millions of other Dutch supporters like me) never expected them to come this far. We have seen so much disillusionment over the last twenty years that we have almost come to expect to be knocked out midway.

But now having come this far….having come this close….and to end up with yet another “what might have been”. The pain will of course go away eventually - but for now, it is fresh. And it hurts!

Speaking personally, I feel not so much just for me (this is not about me!) but for so many of my fellow Dutch men and women, my friends. For older generations who lived through 1974 and 1978.

For a large part of the world, the football World Cup may be just a sporting spectacle. But for some, it has a deeper significance.

For a small country like the Netherlands, it means a lot – it is their moment of pride that has been snatched away from them. I am not sure bigger countries (and I come from one myself) understand how much this means to a small country.

On another note, the entire tournament was a dream, it was beautifully organized, the crowds were fantastic, there was tremendous support for Holland in South Africa (if not much elsewhere around the world where I believe, most people were rooting for Spain).

In the end, football was the winner – everything about the World Cup was almost perfect.

And let’s face it, it was great to have a new World Cup Champion.

I would have just liked it to be a bit more orange.

Like I said, almost perfect.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Epiphany

This will be brief.

Usually my posts are long and rambling – this will be an exception. And may become the norm for future posts too, I think.

Hardly anybody has the patience, time or interest to read nowadays. If you want to say something, put it on video.

Maybe I start doing that someday – when I figure out how to do it. Cannot be complicated.

Anyway , for now, this will have to do.

This has already got to a few sentences and I have yet to get to my point.

That is another thing I need to work on. To get to my point - like the German football team.

No, cancel that. Make it – “like the German football team used to do”.

Anyway, now really getting to the point, here it is.

I woke up this morning with an epiphany.

Ok, that may be a big word and probably entirely inappropriate for what I am trying to say. And I will admit I just wanted to use it sometime in my life. But anyway, better an epiphany than an epidural. Ok, that’s something completely different – edit!.

I guess I HAVE completely lost it. It is only about six in the morning (and those of you who frown at the “only” bit - and I am sure there are some, especially in south India who have got up at 4.00 a.m, taken their morning bath (probably in cold water though they have warm water available), done their morning poojas to various deities, had their lunch and are on their way to their jobs – well, we are not all the same, OK ? Some of us consider 6.00 a.m. part of the previous day. And some of us, even 10.00 a.m. Hey, that's somebody else, ok? Really!

And I just realize I have not yet come to my point.

Wonder how anybody ever managed to have any form of meaningful communication with me. Wonder how I ever passed any exams, how colleagues managed to tolerate me at work.

Or maybe they didn’t. Let’s not go there, that is another can (well, more than just a can) of worms (well, more than just worms).

Staying on subject.(What was it now? I need to think).

Yes, my epiphany.

It is this :

If you are in search of something elusive, it is a challenge.

It is like that video game where every time you think you’ve got the guy, he just ducks you and laughs at you. If you never felt like a loser till then (or wanted a confirmation of your status, as in my case – ok, let’s not go there either!) , this is the game you should play.

But if you are in search of what it is you are in search of? Boy, boy, boy – THAT is something!

It is a totally different ball-game. It is not like one video game. It is like all those video games which are conspiring together, all supposed to make you feel stupid, getting their best “wise-guy? let’s show him” brains together with just one goal – to ensure your wits are anywhere but within accessible reach of you. (What is “accessible reach” anyway? If it is in your reach, it is accessible, right? Boy, I am getting really good at spewing rubbish. Need to apply for a corporate job).

Anyway, so that is where I am now. With my life.

Searching for what it is I am searching for.

Money, fame, friends, social causes, new interests? The only two things I am clear about is that it needs to be fun - and it needs to be on my terms. (Well, I guess these are related in a sense. If something is on your terms, you will tend to have more fun doing it).

I am not sure the answer will come.

It may, it may not. Those video games are merciless – almost like the Aussie cricket team used to be a decade ago. And in life, unlike in a video-game (or some at least), there is no time-out.

But whether I find it or not, the journey is an experience in itself.

Have you ever been lost? What am I saying – we have all been lost at some time or the other in our lives. Maybe a little bit – forgot the way, took the wrong exit, walked down the wrong lane.

But have you ever been really "lost, lost" in your life?

Like “torn within yourself” lost?

Like “mind cannot think straight anymore” lost?

Like “questioning everything I do (or do not do)” lost?

That’s an experience.

And, depending on how you look at it, it can be a lot of fun.

Journeys usually are – the feeling is often more exhilarating than the one you get at the destination. Actually, I am not totally sure I want to arrive. I guess I do want to – eventually – but for now, I will gladly take the ride.

I tell you it is not such a bad thing – to be lost.

It helps you to go back to basics – something we very easily forget when we get into the comfortable rut that life can sometimes become.

It makes you discover new things. If you did not get lost, you would not know of that other path that existed under your nose but you never took.

I am making mistakes every day. Taking one route, finding it leads me nowhere, retracting my steps. End-result: zero? No, I don’t think so. And even if it is, it is part of the journey. Belongs to it.

So that’s it for now. Still searching for what it is I am searching for. When I get to it (or them - there are, I suspect, many things out there, maybe entirely unrelated), I will share further.

Those of you who are clear in your minds, have goals in life, are pursuing your goals according to a plan, measuring your progress – great! Good luck to you, guys. Hats off to you. I sometimes (only sometimes) wish I were a bit like you.

But I know I am not. I am much closer to the other extreme (actually I AM at the other extreme but it is psychologically much more comforting to say that I am “close” to it). No goals, no plans – ergo, no measurement of progress (what progress?).

Ergo also this post and its content.

This was supposed to be brief. At least that is what I intended when I set out to write this. And yet again….

I really need to start working on that video. Granted that would only be a more modern way of spewing rubbish but hey, one has got to move with the times, right?

It took me a while but I now realize it is all about format, presentation, mode of delivery, all the bells-and-whistles (no vuvuzela, thank you!), all that “Avatar” stuff.

And content? Oh, wait – can we copy/paste it from somewhere? Surely there’s got to be a template SOMEWHERE? No? You mean, we've got to actually THINK? Boy, we’re so screwed. Hey, hang on– we can always throw in some more of that flashy audio-video stuff, can't we?

I am SO ready for “corporate”. ;-)

Nah! I think I’m better lost.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dutch Elections 2010 - how right are the results?

Ok, something different this time. Instead of my usual blabbering about an incident from the past or an imaginary husband-wife conversation, I want to talk about something very current and real.

The Netherlands, where I live. Or Holland, as it is more popularly known around the world. Some Dutch people you meet will correct you if you call the country Holland. For them, Holland is a part of the Netherlands – it represents the two provinces, North and South Holland, in the west of the country. And they are technically right. But somehow, for the whole world, the name Holland has stuck as a colloquial name to represent the country. So, for the rest of this article, I am going to take the liberty of also using this name. Much easier than saying “the Netherlands” all the time. :-)

Anyway, the reason I want to talk about Holland today is that we had a rather significant event taking place in our country a couple of days ago, on the 9th of June 2010.

It was the day of elections for the “Tweede Kamer”. The equivalent of the “House of Commons” in England or the Lok Sabha in India.

I am not sure many people around the world were even aware of this. Which is understandable. Holland is just “a dot” on a map of the world. Whenever anybody talks about Europe, they talk about Germany, France, the UK (though I am not sure they want to identify with Europe ;-) ), Italy and Spain. These are the biggies – and though recently people have realized (for all the wrong reasons) that Greece belongs to Europe (and for that matter, Iceland too) – it is invariably the big five that dominate discussions about Europe.

Fair enough. I have no problem whatsoever with this. Even when, on the 20th of February this year, the Dutch Cabinet fell over the Afghanistan debate, there was just a 2 or 3-line mention in the inner pages (actually just on the one page titled “World News”) in the Times of India, the most popular daily newspaper in India. I happened to be in India at that time – and while the news came to me as a shock, it did not surprise me that it earned no more than an inner-page mention.

However blissfully ignorant – or even uncaring - the rest of the world may be about these elections in Holland, their significance for the resident Dutch person must not be underestimated. Especially given the outcome of the elections.

I do not claim to know a whole lot about Dutch politics and I will therefore not comment about things I am not competent to talk about. But politics has always interested me as a subject – ever since I was a young boy and a state of Emergency was declared in India in 1975, followed by a national election in March 1977 where the ruling, supposedly “impregnable” Congress party was trounced. These were significant events at that time in the country and, being at an impressionable age, I got quite fascinated by the whole thing.

Here in Holland, even with my limited understanding of the political history of the country and limited knowledge of the system, I have enjoyed listening to discussions about issues, party positions on issues, coalition formations and the like. Whether it is the Christian Democrats (CDA), or the Labour Party (the PvdA), or the socialists (VVD) or any of the “smaller” parties, it has always been interesting to understand ideologies and coalition politics.

Recently when the UK was forced into a coalition government for the first time in decades, there was huge excitement in the country and media about how this would all work and whether it would work at all. I, for one, could not help smiling because “coalition government” is all that I have seen in Holland whether it was Ruud Lubbers as PM (CDA-led coalition) or Wim Kok as PM (Pvda-led coalition) or JP Balkenende (again CDA-led coalition).

And not just me, I doubt if there are (m)any Dutch persons who have seen a single-party majority in their lifetimes. That has just become a way of life here, what with the increasing number of parties and the diverse points of view amongst the public.

Coming back to these elections, the most significant aspect of the verdict of the people is , without doubt, the mandate given to the far right-wing party, the PVV, led by the fiery Geert Wilders.

This party, till now a fledgling party in national politics but improving its position in every voting round, has won 24 seats this time !

Just behind the liberal socialists VVD (31) and the “Labour Party” PvdA (30). The “ruling” CDA has come crashing down from 41 seats to 21.

This means that whatever coalition is formed, the PVV just cannot be ignored. For, whether one agrees with the party or not, in a democracy the results reflect the voice of the people. And a fair number of the Dutch voting public has given the PVV a clear thumbs-up.

Now why is this so significant?

Because of what the PVV stands for, in the eyes of the Dutch public.

The PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid – “Party for Freedom”), formed in 2005, is best-known as the party that has a hardline stance on Islam and all things associated with it. From Turkey joining the EU, to Muslim women wearing burqas or even hijaabs, to mosques in Holland, to Islamic education, to immigration from non-western countries - the PVV has always made it abundantly clear that it disapproves of each of these initiatives. In particular, it disapproves of Holland being home to Islamic practices as it feels that immigrants need to integrate with local (non-Islamic) culture.

Obviously the party has a view on other subjects too but invariably its image is associated with its views on Islam in general, and Muslims in Holland in particular.

To be absolutely fair to the PVV,(and I do want to be balanced in my assessment here), its concerns about immigration are not entirely unjustified.

Holland has easily the highest density of population amongst all European countries (not counting the likes of Monaco and the Vatican). In fact, its density of population is amongst the highest in the world. So it is but natural that immigration policy needs to consider resources to support the increasing population.
Again, to be fair to the PVV, their point about integration with the local culture is a fair one. If you live in a country it is only fair that you respect local culture too.

On both the above points, I see their point.

But I have strong reservations about how they approach these issues of immigration and integration. It seems almost like a one-point anti-Muslim agenda that they are pushing into Dutch society.

And THAT is what I have an issue with.

Let’s face it – we live in such a global world now that almost every country has a hue of multiple nationalities that make up its landscape. Maybe some countries more than others, but this is an undeniable trend of liberalization and globalization and is only likely to increase in the years to come.

It is not happening only in tiny Holland – it is happening all over the world.

In such a situation, the one quality a country needs to have is, in my opinion, inclusiveness.

This is not to deny that each country has its own unique culture, language, customs and all those things that make it special. Rather, it is to accept that people with a different culture, language and customs can be positive contributors to this country’s society and economy and therefore live side-by-side with others of this country.

The keyword in such co-existence is respect. Where there is mutual respect for each person’s culture and customs, where there is acceptance and tolerance in society, there is a sense of community. There should be no need to fear a loss of identity since there is no threat to such identity.

Obviously this works both ways. The host nation’s population will be tolerant of immigrants only if the immigrants themselves are respectful towards, and grateful for, the graciousness of the host.

I agree that this sounds theoretical but that is exactly it – and also the way it has worked in the USA for over two hundred years.

The USA, after the native Indians, has been an immigrant nation for this entire period (and continues to be so). Today they are all Americans but they are of Italian-origin, German-origin, Polish-origin, Indian-origin and so on. They live side-by-side, each one bringing his/her own culture and skills into the US. Second- and third-generation Americans are usually Americans first - yet their ethnic roots provide that cultural diversity that makes for a multi-cultural society.

I am not suggesting that Holland (or for that matter, any other country) could or should adopt this model. The histories involved are very different.

But I do think, as times change, societies need to recognize trends in migration and learn to cope with it instead of attempting to shut it out. Burying one’s head in the sand does not make it go away. And Holland has always been in the forefront of globalization – the Dutch travelled the seas well and discovered new lands for trade well before most of the rest of the world.

Coming to a more practical discussion, what then are the key issues here? Ask the common man or woman on the streets of Holland.

Unless he or she has been brainwashed by the politicians and/or the media, the answer you are likely to get is more likely to be about “real” things – things that matter to each individual.

The economy. jobs, healthcare, education, crime rates. These are challenging times for Holland and for Europe in general. And these are the things that actually matter more on a daily basis to the common man than something like “integration”.

On the subject of integration, and speaking a little bit for myself now, to be honest, I have never seen a lady in a burqa in Holland so I do not understand the fuss about burqas. But even if we talk about a lady with a hijab, it is her personal or religious choice. As long as she conducts herself in society like any other respectable lady, why should it matter? I, for one, don't see a problem.

For those religious-minded, who would like to visit a place of worship for their prayers, whether that place is a church or a mosque or a temple, same story. I could not care less as long as the person does not interfere with others' beliefs.

Let’s talk about crime now. And this is where it gets a little more real and pretty sensitive.

In Holland, one of the biggest drivers for anti-Muslim sentiment is the perception that most of the crime in the country is due to immigrants from Islamic countries, more specifically Morocco (and to a lesser extent, Turkey).

So, building on this perception, the PVV has taken it a notch higher, painting everybody with the same brush and embarking on its anti-Islamic rhetoric, using this as a reason.

I am not going to judge one community or the other but I do know one of the basic rules in dealing with people is to look at the act and not judge the person.

Let’s just say, even hypothetically, that out of 10 crimes committed, 5 are by people of Moroccan origin. (Just an example, absolutely no offence meant to the Moroccan community. Just substitute "Moroccan" for "Indian" if you like).

What does that mean ?

Well, first of all, those who committed those 10 crimes need to be brought to book. And it just so happens that 5 of them are of Moroccan origin – it would make sense to try to figure out what caused them to commit the crime. Is there a systemic weakness, whether in their upbringing or education or financial circumstances or other environmental aspects that has led them down this path. Or are they isolated cases?

It most certainly does not mean that “people of Moroccan origin are criminals” and therefore need to be shut out of society.

Such a thought process amounts to nothing but an insult to decent Moroccan-origin members in society who are painted with this brush.

It does not stop here. This argument is then taken to the next ridiculous level. So it then gets into “this is all because they do not integrate with society”.

To this, is conveniently added as a logical next step “See, the women still wear hijabs”.

All this while the crux of the issue is, or should be, crime and resolving it. Not whether somebody wears a hijab or visits a mosque.

By all means, punish the crime. And then, whether it is a Moroccan-origin or a Dutch-origin or an Indian-origin person, it should not matter. I am sure no community will mind if the trouble-makers in the community are given appropriate punishment as per the law of the country.

But do not generalize and pass community or religion-based pronouncements.

That is playing with fire and can only polarize society further. Already Dutch society is getting fragmented along extremely undesirable ethnic and religious lines thanks to heightened rhetoric over the last few years.

One of the fallouts of this rhetoric and fragmentation in society is the increase in terrorism-related activities reported in Holland. So far it is thankfully still on a very small scale (ideally this should be zero of course).

But if the rhetoric increases now – and is accompanied by acts that are seen as unfair to a community - there is every reason to expect a backlash in the form of increased terrorism efforts.

And that is absolutely the last thing a society needs.

That is the reason most people talk of peaceful co-existence. Lashing out at a community may give a party some brownie points at the election sweepstakes, especially in times of economic hardship, but, at best, it is only short-term electoral gain.

In the longer-term, it is nothing but debilitating.

There are enough examples in the world to prove this point. Divisions in society can run deep and for generations.

I hope Mr. Wilders and his PVV party realize this. I trust they are intelligent people and have therefore been entrusted with the job (if only in a coalition) of getting the country back on track.

So my request to them (and of course the VVD and the PvDA as the bigger parties) would be to just concentrate on the bread-and-butter issues.

The economy, budget deficit, jobs, healthcare, education, crime.

The coalition will finally be judged by the Dutch public on these – and not on topics like “immigration” and “integration”. I hope.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Paas aakar toh na yunh sharmaaiye (Laadla-1966)

Anybody who knows me reasonably well knows that I am really crazy about old Hindi songs. I never tire of listening to them and I spend hours on the net trying to discover old songs that are new to me. Or songs that I vaguely remember from my childhood but have lost track of. Thanks to the net nowadays, it is possible to trace these songs again and to be able to enjoy them, usually with video. I cannot thank enough those persons who have uploaded songs for the enjoyment of others.

Among songs of which I had just vague memories as a child but managed to catch up on the net are songs like "pretty pretty Priya", "aaye baithe khaaye piye khiske", "aankh milaaye na, muskuraye na" and "sau baras ki zindagi", to name just a few. Songs which I have not heard since the age of six or seven. It really does not matter whether the song was a hit or not, whether it is considered a good song or not - all that matters is that it is somewhere in your subconscious and you get a thrill from being able to catch up with it again.

And then there are songs that I discover every day. I am humbled by the treasure trove of music out there. And this is just Hindi film music that I am talking about. Imagine how much more music is out there - it is an ocean. Sometime, I would also like to know more about other music - country, rock & roll, jazz and other types.

Anyway, I discovered this Hindi film song today - totally by chance. And have fallen madly in love with it.

Madly enough to write about it here, with the video, lyrics and English translation. (As usual the translation is not literal, it is more intended to convey the meaning of the song than anything else).

The song is from Laadla, a 1966 film. I fell so madly in love with this song that I decided to - and managed to - see the movie today itself. It is an AVM (famous South Indian producers) movie. Nothing great about the film in my opinion - average storyline, lots of over-acting (not uncommon in South Indian production-based movies) and a rather unimpressive Sudhir Kumar (of "Dosti" fame) as hero. Kumud Chugani is the saving grace - she is really sweet and pretty. I quite liked the songs in the movie though I had never heard them before.

Without any more bla-bla :-), let's get straight to the song.
"Paas aakar toh na yunh sharmaaiye" sung by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle. Lyrics are by Rajinder Kishan and music is by the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOW2-4iFACk


Lyrics in Hindi

R : Mohammad Rafi, A : Asha Bhonsle

R :Paas aakar to na yunh sharmaaiye (2)
Do ghadi ka saath hai, khul jaaiye
A : Aap ke dil mein jo hai, keh jaaiye (2)
Hum sunenge, shaukh se farmaiye
R : Paas aakar to na yunh sharmaaiye (2)

R :Sochta hoon main kahoon ya na kahoon (2)
Chup raha hoon aaj tak, chup hi rahoon
Chup hi rahoon
Sochta hoon main, kahoon ya na kahoon
Chup raha hoon aaj tak, chup hi rahoon
Chup hi rahoon
A :Dekhiye ab aur na uljhaaiye (2)
Hum sunenge, shaukh se farmaiye
R : Paas aakar to na yunh sharmaaiye (2)

R : Baat ye hai, ho gaya hai mujhko “wo”
A : “wo” ? “wo kya ?”
R : “wo”, “wo”
Baat ye hai, ho gaya hai mujhko “wo”
Samajh lo na…ki “wo”, “wo”
A : “Wo” ka matlab aap hi samjhaiye (2)
Hum sunenge, shaukh se farmaiye
R: Paas aakar to na yunh sharmaaiye (2)

R : Kiske pehle “Pa” hai, aur peechhey hai “Ra”
A : “Ra” ?
R : Kiske pehle “Pa” hai, aur peechhey hai “Ra”
Beech mein kaise kahoon, aata hai “ya”
Aata hai “ya”
A : Ye ajab sargam hai, phir se gaaiye (2)
Hum sunenge, shaukh se farmaiye
R : Paas aakar to na yunh sharmaaiye (2)
Do ghadi ka saath hai, khul jaaiye
A : Aapke dil mein jo hai, keh jaaiye
R : O paas aakar to na yunh sharmaiye


Translation in English

R : Mohammad Rafi, A : Asha Bhonsle

R : Don’t be so shy of getting close to me
It is a short journey, just open up
A : Just say whatever you have in your heart
I will hear you out, please just go ahead

R : I am wondering whether I should say this or not
Whether I should keep quiet like I have been all these days
A : Come on, stop making it all so complicated
I will hear you out, please just go ahead

R : The thing is I have got “that” feeling
A : “That”, what “that” ?
R : “That” feeling, you know what I mean…
A : No, you please explain to me what “that” means…’

R : What comes after “Pa” and is followed by “Ra”
A : “Ra”?
R : And, how do you say it, in between there is a “ya”
(meaning “Pyar” (love) )
A : That is a strange combination, sing it again please
I will hear you out, please just go ahead
R : Don’t be so shy of coming close to me
It is a short journey, just open up


I hope you enjoy the song as much as I did. I do not think it is a well-known song so it is an added pleasure to make this effort to bring it to a wider audience. Also, I have requested my friend Atul to put this on his very popular song-a-day blog. That should really help to boost the popularity of this song.

So sit back and, now that you have the lyrics and the translation, you just HAVE to sing along and enjoy the song.

Boy, it is hard work to write out the lyrics and do the translation ! Atul, respect, man !

And if it is hard work to just write out the lyrics, think of the creative work that goes into coming up with the lyrics in the first place. Respect to the song-writers too !

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mujhe Nahin Poochhni Tumse Beeti Baatein (Anjaan Raahen - 1974)

A while ago I had posted a song "Mujhe Raat Din Ye Khayal Hai" from Oomer Qaid (1961). A song with beautiful lyrics about a man being torn from within by his love.
The song is sung by Mukesh and picturised on Sudhir.

Today I came across another similarly soulful Mukesh song that took me right back to when I had last heard it - almost 30 years ago !!!

This song is "Mujhe Nahin Poochhni Tumse Beeti Baatein".

This song has some of the most powerful lyrics that I know of in Hindi cinema. I know this is a pretty tall statement to make, given the thousands of beautiful songs in Hindi cinema but I do think this belongs right up there, at least as far as lyrics are concerned.

And yet hardly anybody knows this song. Which is one of the main reasons I am blogging about it. It deserves to be much better known (yearh, right ! Like it is going to be better known because of my blog..ha ha).

Anyway, this song is from an obscure movie "Anjaan Raahein" (1974). Somehow it was obscure though it did star Feroze Khan and Asha Parekh. I saw the movie in the late 70s/early 80s. That is when I heard this song for the first (and to-date only) time. I had the text of the song earlier in my Mukesh book but this was the first time I actually heard the song.

What impresses me most about the lyrics is that, for a society steeped in tradition as Indian society was in those days (and still is in some respects), these lyrics are way ahead of the times. We are talking 1974 here.

Come to think of it, though I do not remember the movie very well now, I think it was ahead of its time too. It dealt with issues resulting from lack of appropriate sex education in high schools. Quite bold, for the times.

Here is the video of this beautiful song - picturised beautifully on Feroze Khan and Asha Parekh. Music is by Kalyanji-Anandji.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4akKkofXlk

And here are the lyrics written by Indivar.

Mujhe nahin poochhni tumse beeti baatein
Kaisi bhi guzaari hon tumne apni raatein
Jaisi bhi ho tum aaj se bas meri ho
Meri hi ban ke rehna
Mujhe tum se hai itna kehna

Beetey hue kal pe tumhaare adhikaar nahin hai mera
Us dwaar pe kyon le jaaoon, jo dwaar nahin hai mera
Beeta hua kal toh beet chuka
Kal ka dukh aaj nahin sehna

Mujhe nahin poochhni tumse beeti baatein
Kaisi bhi guzaari hon tumne apni raatein

Main Ram nahin hoon phir kyon ummeed karoon Sita ki
Koi insaanon mein dhoondhe kyon paavanta Ganga ki
Duniya mein farishta koi nahin
Insaan hi ban ke rehna

Mujhe nahin poochhni tumse beeti baatein
Kaisi bhi guzaari hon tumne apni raatein


Here is my attempted English translation. As usual, the translation takes a bit away from the original but I am making an attempt to convey the meaning more than a literal translation. So please bear with me.

I do not want to ask you (or know) about your past
How you (may have) spent your nights
However you are, from now on you are only mine
All I ask of you is to remain mine (forever)
That is all I want to ask of you

I have no right to the past that you had
So why should I lead you to the door that takes you to the past
That past is now behind us
Do not carry today the sorrow (pain) of yesterday

I do not want to ask you (or know) about your past
How you (may have) spent your nights

I am no Ram so why should I have expectations of a Seeta
Why do people search in humans for the purity of a Ganga
There is nobody in this world who is an angel
(We are all humans) so let us just be like humans

I do not want to ask you (or know) about your past
How you (may have) spent your nights


Now, isn't everything about it just beautiful ? You wish there were more people in this world like Feroze Khan here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

M&M Anand : "I want to destroy everybody"

Meira storms into the living room, all agitated.

Raj, on the computer, looks up for a moment – and then gets back it, saying to himself “If there is something to know, she will tell me anyway. And if there is not, no point in asking, is there ?”. Simple logic that he has used – successfully for fifteen years.

“Raj, WHAT have you been teaching Rohit ?”

“Nothing…. Well, I did sit with him for math a few days ago but that was because you wanted me to. Why, he hasn’t flunked it, has he ?”

“I am not talking about math. I am talking about something else.”

Raj, realizing that this was not going to go away easily “Now what?”

“Rohit has just come back from playing with his friends.”

“And…there is a problem with that ?” These things could go on and on.

“No…I mean yes…I mean, he has come back with bruises - on his hands and legs.”

“Oh.”

“Is that all you can say ? Oh ?”

“Come on, he goes to play football every day…you get these little things every now
and then.”

“That is so typically you !!! You don’t really care, do you ? How do you know this is not serious ?”

“Because, honey, if this had been serious, we would not be talking here, would we ?”

“Thank God, it is not serious. I have taken care of it. Anyway, what have you been teaching him ?”

“I have NO clue what you are talking about !”

“You cannot just get away acting like you’ve done nothing…you have obviously been telling Rohit something.”

“Honey, this is getting really tiring. Where IS Rohit, by the way ?”

“He is in his room doing his homework. Anyway, today he looked really badly beaten up…when I asked him what happened, he said “I beat up those guys like Dad told me to - and they got together and beat me up”.

Raj looks uncomfortable. “I need to tell my son to keep my name out of all conversation with his mom” he mutters under his breath.

“So you want to explain ? What have you been teaching him ?”

“Hey, I did not tell him to go about beating people up !”

“ So what DID you tell him ?”

“Well, I may have just told him something like “don’t let anybody tell you that you are not good”. Something like that. ”

“So ?”

“And maybe he took that a bit literally. Somebody may have said something and he may have got into a scrap.”

“Looked like more than a scrap to me. Why do you even talk to him ?”

“WHAT ? YOU are the one who always says I should spend more time with him. He came
to me saying his friends were making fun of him, that he was not good at football, so I said – very encouragingly – “don’t let anybody tell you you are not good”. Just nice fatherly advice.”

Meira is not convinced – her look says it all.

Raj now feels a strong need to defend himself.

“Or what would you rather have ? That I just tell him to let it be…that he does nothing and they keep making fun of him ?”

“No, of course not..we don’t want him to turn out like you. Heaven, no !”

Raj feels hurt but lets the slight pass. This was not about him and he was used to such comments from Meira anyway.

“The thing is, Raj, you don’t really know how to handle these things. Instead of talking to him here, you could have gone to the football yourself and told those bullies to lay off him.”

“WHAT ? You want me to talk to 11-year old kids to lay off my son ?”

“What’s wrong with that ?”

“Honey, I have been there myself. You REALLY don’t want your dad or mom to sort out your problems with your friends, trust me. It is upto Rohit to work it out, if WE get involved he will only have more trouble with his friends.”

“Hmm…I don’t know. I think you are trying to escape from this also. As usual.”

“Trust me…he will be fine. You worry too much about him”.

“That’s because you worry too little. You don’t even know which friends he mixes with.”

“Must be his schoolfriends. And the ones in this apartment block. Who else ?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes I really get worried. The other day he came to me and said “Mama, I want to destroy everybody”.

Raj laughed. “Destroy everybody ? That’s funny”.

“What’s so funny ? Your son wants to destroy everybody - and you find that FUNNY ? You are REALLY something, you know. I will NEVER understand you.”

“Come on honey, relax. So he said he wants to destroy everybody. Big deal. Does he even know what he is talking about ? Must have picked it up somewhere in school.”

“And you are not the slightest bit concerned ? Don’t you think we need to find out where he learns such things ?”

“Honey, forget it. I am sure he has himself forgotten it. These things come and go – if you start worrying about everything he says, you will become a wreck.”

“I am sure it is because of all these stupid video games they have nowadays. It is all about destroying, killing, breaking. They should ban all these games”.

“Yeah, you may be right – maybe he picked it up from one of these games. But don’t worry – he will get over it. He is smart enough to know it is just a game. And anyway he will move on to something else.”

“I think you are being too flippant about this, Raj. He is our son and you may not care - but I will NOT allow him to get bad influence at this age.”

Raj is a bit tired from all this but he knows Meira too well to expect her to stop without having the last word.

“So what do you want to do ?”

“We need to find out where he gets all this from. Which games he has on his PC, what DVDs we have, which friends he borrows games from.”

“And then ?”

“We need to remove all that from his PC, get rid of the DVDs, we need to talk to his friends’ parents.”

“Don’t you think you are over-reacting ? Just a little bit ?”

“Raj, trust me, this is a dangerous age for him. Today he is destroying video-game characters, tomorrow who knows what this will lead him to. You really have to stop all this now.”

Raj, suddenly noticing the change from "we" to "you" is startled.

I have to ?”

“Who else ? You don’t think I am going to sit and go through those game DVDs ? I don’t even know how they work.”

“Nor do I. Honey, can’t we just forget all this ? I mean, he said it.. what ? Once ? If he says it again, then we will see”.

“As usual. You are using your postponing tactics. And you HAVE to fight with me. You cannot even do a simple thing like this. Why do I even bother talking to you ? You don’t even care about your own son…”

Meira’s voice is breaking - and Raj cannot take it.

“Ok, I am sorry, honey…I will get to the bottom of this. You are right. If he is talking about destroying things, we need to know what’s going on."

At that moment, Rohit walks into the room, scratching his arm.

“Mummy, again I am not able to do my homework. Why do you keep the window open in the evening ? Again there are so many mosquitoes in my room now…give me the mosquito racket…I am going to destroy everybody”.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A bus journey in New Delhi

My recent trip to Delhi has triggered off memories of my life there all those years ago. Those were the early 1980s (so almost 30 years ago) and I had gone from small-town India to one of its biggest cities, the country’s capital.

As could be expected, I had many experiences – some good, some not-so-good at that time - but they were all wonderful from a learning point of view. Later on, I would live in other parts of India, and each place added its share of learning experiences for me.

I've had the good fortune of living in various places in India - the north, west, east and south. I have therefore never really identified with one particular region. My family is originally from, and now lives mainly, in the south. I grew up and did my schooling in the east.I went for higher studies to the north and, before leaving India, was living and working in the western part of the country.

I think I can safely say that although they are all technically parts of the same country - and obviously there is a lot binding them together – they are also very different in their culture, food habits and importantly when it comes to day-to-day interaction, in the attitude and mindsets of the people.

I remember one particular incident in Delhi that highlights this to some extent.

This was during my early days of living in  Delhi. I'd been there for just two or three months and was slowly beginning to get used to the place, to get to know the bus-routes, the places to visit, places to eat and so on. Nothing strange, just what anybody in a new place does when he or she goes to live there for the first time.

One day I was travelling by bus from Connaught Place to Janakpuri in the west of the city. It was a weekday and that meant that the journey would easily take an hour, if not more. Anyway, as soon as I got into the bus at Regal Cinema, I surprisingly got a seat and was pretty comfortable.

The crowd in the bus began growing as it moved on and though the bus was not jam-packed, there were soon plenty of people standing in the aisle.

I noticed that there was a lady standing next to me. I didn't quite notice whether she was elderly, or middle-aged or young,  What I could make out that she didn't seem like a school or college student.

Now, where I'd been born and brought up in eastern India, I'd been used to offering my seat to ladies in buses. It was a very normal thing to do – men would do it quite often out of courtesy to ladies. Ok, maybe some women consider this an insult to their sense of being equal to men, but anyway it was considered gentlemanly behaviour and common courtesy where I grew up.

So I offered my seat to this lady. She initially hesitated, but then accepted. And I just stood next to her in the aisle.

At the next stop, a few people got down. I obviously did not - I still had a long way to go. When the bus started, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was one of my fellow passengers, a man standing behind me.

He : “Oye, utarna nahin hai kya?” (Don’t you have to get down ?)

I : "Nahin”.(No.)

He : “Kyon bhai, kahan jaana hai aapko?” (Why, where do you have to go ?”)

I : “Janakpuri”.

He : “Kya? Janakpuri? Abhi to bahut door hai. Kam se kam ek ghanta lagega” (What ? Janakpuri ? That is very far off. It will take at least another hour).

I : "Pata hai." (I know).

He : “To phir seat se uthne ka matlab?” (Then why did you get up from your seat ?)

I did not bother to reply. His tone was aggressive, as if wanting to pick a fight.

He : “Achha, samjha…ladies ko dekhte hi ho gaye shuru…” (Oh, I understand… as soon as you see ladies, you start off with all this).

He let out a scornful laugh and some of the guys around him joined too.

I did not say anything. I was beginning to feel embarrassed and was most certainly not interested in conversation.

He continued “Lagey raho is chakkar mein…khoob tarakki karoge betey” (Keep going at it..you will make a lot of progress).

I just ignored him, hoping he would stop by himself. Although he looked an educated person, I saw no point in engaging in a discussion with him. I did not need to explain my actions to him, I thought.

He kept on saying something or the other - “I know guys like you” and stuff like that.

Finally his bus-stop arrived, he got down and I had peace for the rest of the journey.

This incident did make me think though. In situations when something isn't right, I tend to first blame myself. I know that oesn't make sense but I always tend to first think that I must be in the wrong. So I began thinking “Did I do something wrong? All I did was to offer my seat to a lady. Was that wrong? Maybe they don't do that in Delhi.”

Later on, as I got to know Delhi better, I couldn't help feeling that it was very much a male-dominated society. Men definitely considered themselves superior to women. In fact, I'd even go to the extent of saying that many men saw women as nothing more than objects.

That explained to some extent the sexual abuse that used to be a subject of concern in society in those days. When there is such a barrier between men and women, where there is no respect, this is hardly surprising.

Ironically this was at a time when the Prime Minister of India, living in the heart of Delhi, was Indira Gandhi, a very strong woman.

I know that by narrating this story I am treading on dangerous ground here. This was an experience I had in Delhi almost 30 years ago. Things may well be very different now. Also, it is not fair to give Delhi a bad name based on one isolated experience. I certainly do not want to generalize.

But I must also say that I've never had this in any of the other places I have lived. Offering my seat in a bus has been a very common practice for me – I still do it in Bangalore. I have done it in Bombay (Mumbai),in Hyderabad - no problem. I see it as just common courtesy and something that I grew up with. I see nothing wrong with it, unless it offends the lady of course.

So, what happened in Delhi? Maybe what was common for me in eastern India was not such a common practice in Delhi after all. I do not recall whether I offered my seat after that in Delhi though, in hindsight, maybe I should have. To see whether it was really just an isolated experience or whether there was more to it.

Anyway, pleasant or unpleasant, it made for an interesting experience, if nothing else.

And has remained somewhere at the back of my mind all these years.

And finally found a mention here on my blog. :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

M&M Anand : A "proper" fight

“Raaaaaj Anand”.

“At your service”.

“What a name…Raaaaaj Anand !”.

“What’s wrong with it ?”

“Nothing…just saying..Raaaaj Anand sounds like such a powerful name. “Raj” as in “rule” and “Anand” as in happiness or pleasure. So Raj Anand is like…what…”you rule over the domain of happiness ?” ?

Raj is silent. Not sure how to approach this.

“Come on…say something !”

“Am scared to. You know how it is…if I say something it will end up in a fight”.

“No…Really ? Of course not..you think I always fight with you ?”

“No..but…anyway, nothing wrong with the name. Raj Anand…yes, I rule over happiness..ha ha”.

“YOU rule over happiness ? Yeah, right ! Your parents must have been really optimistic about you to have named you like this when you were born.”

“Hey, enough fun of my name, OK ? What about yours ? Meira ? It is not like you are a Krishna-bhakt or something.”

“Hey, I do my bit of poojas, OK. I am not like you. Nastik.”

Silence.

“Raj, is this what we have become now ? Is this the level of our fights ?”

“Why ?"

“No, I mean..look at us…even our fights are not proper fights anymore”.

Silence. Raj is not taking chances by opening his mouth.

“SAY something. Do you realize in 2 months we will be celebrating 15 years of marriage ? 15 years !”

“Really ? Has it been THAT long ? 15 years ?”

“Yes..15 long years. It feels like just the other day…I was a happy, free person..before…ok, let it be...otherwise I will get depressed.”

Raj, comfortingly, putting an arm around her shoulders “Hey, it has not been all that bad, has it ? You are still the same…ok, you look a little older…obviously you are not the young person you were then…”

Meira, pulling away sharply “What are you saying ? I am old ?”

“I didn’t say that…all I said was that compared to 15 years ago..”

“Come on, say it…I am OLD…just say it.”

“Come on honey, I did not mean it that way…you are still young but..but obviously not like you used to be. I mean…”. Raj is clearly struggling here for the right choice of words. Muttering under his breath “I should NEVER have got into this..”

“And why is that ? Why is it that I am not like I used to be ? Ask yourself. Ok, let me tell you. Because in the last fifteen years, I have had to do ALL the work around here…bringing up Rohit, doing all the housework, attending to my job, even taking care of YOU because you cannot even take care of YOURSELF…how do you expect me to remain the same ?”

“Honey…honey..it is OK…cool down..you don’t have to remain the same..we all change..”

“And now I am OLD ? Of course I am old..thanks to YOU..”

“Honey…”

“DON'T talk to me..I am SO angry with you…I have wasted fifteen years of my life with you..”

Silence.

“SAY something”.

“You JUST told me not to talk to you..”

“Oh, and you always listen to me, right ?”

She glares angrily at him, they stare into each other's eyes.

And suddenly he breaks into a smile.

“What’s so funny ?”

“Just realized something.”

“What ?”

“You really need to be careful what you wish for.”

“What do you mean ?”

“You wanted a “proper” fight, right ? So ? This...“proper” enough for you ? ”

Meira is taken aback for just a moment – and then bursts out laughing.

“YOU…anyway, I guess now that we have had our fight, I feel much better. Don't get me wrong, living with you for fifteen years HAS been a nightmare but …DON’T SAY IT !”.

“I wasn’t going to say anything…”

“Yeah, right ! You were going to say “likewise””.

“I so wasn’t ! Wouldn’t DREAM of SAYING it...even if I thought it..” Ducks to avoid a pillow coming in his direction.

“So we’re good ?”

“Yeah, yeah…I guess we are. Though a hot, strong coffee would make us better than good. It would make us awesome”.

“Coming up, ma’am. Rightaway”.

M&M Anand : Just Another Manic Sunday

“Am I a nice person ?”

“Hmm ?”

“Dad, am I a nice person ?”

Raj looks up from his laptop, a frown on his forehead, his mind clearly elsewhere.

“What did you say, son ?”

“Am I a nice person ? Are people nice to me because of ME ? Because I am a nice person or are they nice to me because THEY are nice people ?”

Raj stares at him with a busy look. It already got complicated after the first question and Raj's attention had given up after the first few words.

“I don’t know, son. Ask your mom.”

Calling out loudly from the living room to his wife in the kitchen “Meira, take care of him please. I am busy.”

“And I am not ?” Meira mutters under her breath.

“What’s the matter, bete?” she says as Rohit comes into the kitchen.

“Mummy, am I a nice person ?”

“Of course you are. You are a very sweet boy. Who says you are not ?”

“Nobody. I just wanted to know. So I am a nice person because I am nice and not because of other people ?”

“Hmm..sorry, bete, you have lost me there. Anyway, what is all this all of a sudden ? You are a nice boy, ok ? Now why don’t you just go out and play with your friends ? I am sure Aditya and the others must already be out there”.

“Ok, mum, see you later”.

Meira comes into the living room to confront Raj.

“You really should spend more time with Rohit, you know”.

“Hmm ?”

“Are you even listening to me ?”

“Not now, honey. Am in the middle of something.” Raj does not even look at her, he is deep into his spreadsheet on the laptop.

“Will you please look at me ? I am talking to you.”

“Honey, I said “not now”. I am really busy. I need to send this out within the next five minutes. I am already late, it should have gone out in the morning itself”.

Meira goes on. “All I am saying is that you should spend more time with Rohit. He clearly wants to spend more time with you, it is a Sunday today and all you do is sit in front of your laptop.”

“I know honey but I am just tired today”.

“Oh, YOU are tired ? Let’s see what you’ve done today. You got up at ten. You then made breakfast for all of us. Oh sorry, that was me. You did the vacuuming and dusting of the entire apartment. Oh sorry,THAT was me too. You made lunch – oops, me again ! You did the washing of the dishes because the dishwasher - which YOU were supposed to contact the service center for repairing – is still not repaired after two weeks. Oh again that was me ! You at least sat with Rohit to go through his craft project for school, didn’t you ? Oh surprise surprise, that was me too. Hmm..let’s see, what else ? You sat with the newspaper and spent more than two hours reading every bit of it, including the matrimonials pages. Yessss, THAT was definitely you”.

“Honey, five minutes ?” Raj pleads. Years of experience with Meira have made him wise to the futility of any attempt to counter her arguments. If anything, it only lent her more ammunition and that could only mean a longer and more tortured dialogue.

“Do you even know which class Rohit is in ?” Meira is now in full flow and is not going to be stopped mid-way.

“Err..”. Raj is thinking fast – should he make an educated guess and risk being caught out or just delay and hang in there, hoping the question will pass by itself ?

“You don’t, right ? Brilliant ! Do you even know which SCHOOL he is in ?”

“Err…come on Meira, what do you take me for ?” Raj says in a low, not entirely convincing, tone. This is getting too embarrassing, even for somebody to whom embarrassment came in his mother’s womb.

“Ok, come on, tell me..which school ?” Meira senses an opportunity to go for the kill here and is not going to let go, she is in that type of mood.

“Hmm…that one round the corner”. Raj manages to mumble.

“Which one ? Round which corner ?”

“That one..the one with a bus-stop opposite”. Raj makes one valiant attempt. Which school in the world does not have a bus-stop next to it ?

“You really have no clue, do you ?” Meira is finding it hard to believe how this conversation is going.

“I know, I know..St. Anthony’s High School, the one on the main road near the station” Raj shouts in delight. The relief is tangible – he had himself taken Rohit to the school when he had got admission there a few years earlier. So there ! He was not going to allow himself to be mocked so easily today.

“WHAT ?" Meira cannot take this anymore. "Will you please remove that smug look off your face ? You really are the WORST parent ever !!! . Don’t you remember we had gone to St. Anthony’s, filled up all the forms but at the last minute decided to put him closer home here in DAV Public ? Don’t you remember ANYTHING ?"

Raj looks sheepish, his eyes lowered. Caught outside the off-stump...

Meira continues. "How would YOU know ? If only you had attended even ONE Parent-Teacher meeting in the school in all these years...instead of my having to go every single time, taking leave from my work...my job is also important to me just like yours is to you…but I still manage to balance work with Rohit and other house work. Not like you…escaping everything under the pretext of “office work”...You are always looking for an escape.”

Raj, now totally exposed in Rohitgate, decides the safest recourse is to get back to his spreadsheet.

Meira knows she is talking to a brick wall but she carries on relentlessly. She will not give up so easily.

“Sometimes I really wonder why I married you. I had so many better options..I should have listened to my friends instead of my parents... DON’T TOUCH THAT MOBILE…” she screams as she sees Raj reach out towards the mobile on the small table in the living room. “I am TALKING to you”.

Raj looks at her with the ultimate beseeching look, one which has “please please please please please” written all over it.

“Am not touching the mobile, honey…. I am just looking for the remote. Do you know where it is ? The match will be starting in five minutes, I want to know who won the toss and what the pitch looks like today”.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi (cricket parody)

I make these parodies every now and then. They are usually about cricket, they are often after a big defeat for the Indian cricket team (or any team I support) and, for me, are a perfect outlet for my emotions.

I invariably feel good after expressing my feelings through a parody. :-). Perhaps this is my way of saying "after all, it is only a game".

Over the last couple of years, I have made many. For every occasion I managed to come up with a parody, whether of a few lines or a complete poem. But somehow I never really bothered to post them on my blog. Not only are they sometimes somewhat irreverent (I spare nobody !) but one has to ask oneself : does one really post SUCH stuff on one's blog ?

I have decided that

a) since there is SOME creativity involved (however pathetic :-)), it would be a pity if this were not saved somewhere online. I do have them on my cricket forum also but, as is normal in a forum, they are intermingled with others' parodies also. I therefore thought having just my parodies in one place may be the right way to go

b) this blog is not called "InsideOut" for nothing - and my thoughts expressed, in any form, belong totally here,

and, very importantly

(c) nobody reads my blog anyway so this should not bother anybody. :-)

So here goes.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Situation : World Cup T20 in the Caribbean. India has just lost to the West Indies today, thus effectively (barring a miracle) getting themselves kicked out of the tournament.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Based on : Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi (Awaara - 1951). An all-time classic.

Ghar Aaya Mera Team Desi
Haar Ke World Cup T20

Tu Mere Dil Ko Todta Hai
Tukdon Mein Usko Chhodta Hai
Kaise Samjhaun Jalan Kaisi
Ghar Aaya Mera Team Desi

Aur Tu Vaade Mat Karna
Mujh Se Tu Khel Ab Mat Karna
Kasam Tujhe Ghayal Man Ki
Ghar Aaya Mera Team Desi


Here is the original, if you are interested.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9HD2EyjatA

Ah, now I feel much better about the defeat ! :-)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Lessons in Moral Science

Back in my primary school days we had a subject called “Moral Science”. It was about ethics, good and bad behaviour, morals, values and the like. I do not recall it having anything religious about it.

I remember one particular year – I think I was about eight or nine then – when each chapter of the rather thin textbook was about a particular virtue. Or vice. For some reason, I found this very fascinating and loved that year’s “Moral Science” lessons.

The approach followed in the textbook was very simple. Each chapter discussed a particular virtue or vice. It would be about 3 or 4 pages, it would start with a brief discussion of the virtue or vice and then come up with an anecdote from history (I thought then that they were all real-life stories but now I have my doubts) to illustrate that virtue or vice. That was it. Short and sweet ! It was written in simple language and, if you were interested, really made you think.

I remember some of the virtues discussed – Truth, Honesty, Patience, Righteousness, Respect, Perseverance, Humility, Sharing. Among the stories extolling these virtues I remember the one about Sir Isaac Newton and his manuscripts being burnt when his dog upset a candle. (That one, true or not, made a major impression on me). And then there was one about Robert Bruce and the spider.

Then there were the vices. I don’t know why but I think I found these chapters even more interesting. Pride (as in arrogance), Selfishness, Anger, Greed, Jealousy, Cheating and some others. There were the usual lines like “Pride comes before a fall”.

All nice stuff to read. And, at that impressionable age of nine, it made quite an impression on me.

I may have forgotten many of the stories but I have never forgotten these lessons about virtues and vices. They have been fundamental to my character-building and even today at least some aspects of my character can be attributed to those lessons learnt all those many years ago.

As with many things in life, I did find application far more difficult than the theory. The theory is that one should be honest, one should not lie, one should be unselfish – but in practice, in day-to-day life, confronted with daily situations, it was often a battle between doing what I had learnt in school and doing what is quite “normal” in “the real world”, even if in contradiction with my textbook.

I finally decided that the only way was to go with my conscience. And, with the strong influence that these lessons had had on me, my conscience was very conscious and alert. It would prick me everytime I deviated from my learnings. And I will admit that I sometimes did – never particularly comfortable, but I did.

But more often than not, I did not. Like I said, I just went with my conscience most of the time.

This often put me at odds with the more “practical” people of this world. Maybe it is also one of the main reasons I am not particularly comfortable with socializing in today’s materialistic world. I have been called all sorts of things - “naïve”, “mad”, “weird’, “saala Gandhi bana phirta hai ! (who does he think he is, Gandhi ?) ”, “you think you are some saint or something ?” and lots of other, not particularly charitable, stuff.

Fair enough. Each person lives his or her life on some principles and mine were set for me by that textbook at the age of nine. Like I said, I do deviate from them now and then but it is a conscious decision, depending on the exigencies of a situation, and made with full knowledge of the baseline I am deviating from. That is the concession I make to the needs of “practicality” that the environment I live in demands of me.

Over the years I have found myself sometimes trying to relate these virtues and vices to events happening around me. And, in the world at large. To find a reference. To create my own set of real-life stories, if you will.

This has also helped me to answer one of the questions I used to ask myself a lot over the years. Assuming these virtues and vices are of varying degrees of importance, which of these virtues are more important than others ? Which of these vices are more evil or destructive than others ?”

I agree that it is not all that clear-cut. But surely there are degrees.

While the jury may still be out there on the “virtues” discussion I am increasingly convinced that I have the answer to the “vices” debate. This is not to condone any of them but one of them stands out in my mind, way ahead of the others. In fact I have been of this opinion for many years now but I have just allowed it to be out there - to be tested with more empirical evidence. As every day passes and I observe events, I can only say that my conviction gets stronger by the day.

I will not disclose my views yet. I will probably do this in a subsequent post while discussing this vice. It deserves a complete post in itself. (Hint : in my opinion, this vice is the “root cause” of unhappiness in this world).

Assuming that somebody in this world is reading my blog at all – and this post – I would be interested in knowing what that reader thinks. :-)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mujhe Raat Din Ye Khayaal Hai (Oomar Qaid - 1961)

I remember first hearing this song in 1979. I used to listen to late-evening song programmes on Vividh Bharati (All India Radio) like Bhoole Bisre Geet and Aap Ki Farmaish. There are many songs I first heard only on these programmes.

Now there are different ways in which songs work on you. There are songs that you do not care for very much when you first hear them but then, the more you hear them, the more you begin to like them. They grow on you. Then there are songs that totally floor you the very first time you hear them. And you want to hear them again and again.

Of course there are songs that you somehow never like at all, however many times you hear them.

Anyway, that evening when the announcer said "Film Oomar Qaid, Gaayak Mukesh, Geetkaar Hasrat Jaipuri, Sangeetkaar Iqbal Qureishi" I did not know what to expect. But I reached for my Mukesh book.

Yes, I had a Mukesh book in those days - somebody had presented it to me. I used to be a huge Mukesh fan in those days and this book had hundreds of Mukesh songs. In fact, I learnt a lot of Mukesh songs from this book. Songs like "Teri duniya mein dil lagta nahin", "jhoom jhoom ke naacho aaj" and "mehboob mere".

(I am still a big fan of Mukesh though many think that I have ears only for Rafi saab. :-) This is SO not true. I have huge amount of respect for ALL singers and I believe they have all given us unforgettable songs that live in our hearts and minds long after they have themselves left this world. I do not participate in discussions about "who is better - Rafi or Kishore ?" because to me they were both great in their own ways. I enjoy Kishore Kumar songs as much as I enjoy Rafi saab's songs.)

Anyway, coming back to this song, it belonged in the category of "instant love". The first time I heard this, I was just amazed. The voice, the music, and above all, the lyrics. Mukesh's ability to excel in songs like this came as no surprise to me. I had never heard of Iqbal Qureishi till then - this was my introduction to his music. But I think the lyrics are what got me the most.

I am a sucker for good lyrics. To me good lyrics does not necessarily mean esoteric stuff, though I am happy to hear such stuff too and try to understand it. No, good lyrics to me is something that has the power to go straight to your heart. And this song has such lyrics and, when presented in Mukesh's voice, is guaranteed to go straight to your heart.

I kept singing this song in my head after that one occasion in 1979. Luckily I did find it in my Mukesh book so the full lyrics were available to me. But I did not have the music as such (on cassette or otherwise). So I used to just sing it and hope to hear it again on radio sometime.

When the internet came along - and more specifically when youtube came along - one of the first songs I searched for was this one. I was thrilled to see that somebody had already put it out there. Thus I got my first chance to see the picturisation of this song.

There are songs which have been ruined by the picturisation. Maybe "ruined" is a harsh word but let's say I have felt disappointed after seeing the picturisation of some songs that I had only heard before and loved as music. Sometimes I wish I had not seen the picturisation of those songs.

Thankfully this song is not one of those. Picturised on Sudhir and Nazima, this song , already one of my favourites, shot up even further in my favourites list when I saw the picturisation. Sudhir portrays the emotions of this song perfectly and Nazima, as the sympathising but silent observer, looks really beautiful, if a little helpless.

I can listen to this song any number of times. It goes straight to my heart.

Here it is. I have tried to provide a translation for the lyrics. It may not be entirely accurate but it does provide a reasonable picture of the sense of the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDK6GP-oe1E

(For more info on the song, see http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/mujhe-rat-din-ye-khayaal-hai/)

Here is the translation :

Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai
Wo nazar se mujhko gira na de
Meri zindagi kaa diyaa kahin
Ye ghamon ki aandhi bujhaa na de
Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai…


I worry day and night
That I should not fall from her eyes
The light that is my life
Should not be extinguished by these storms of misery
I worry day and night...

Mere dil ke daag na jal uthen
Kahin mere seene ki aag se
Ye ghuti ghuti meri aah bhi
Kahin hosh mere ganvaa na de
Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai…


That the scars in my heart do not get singed
By the fire that burns within me
That these sighs that I struggle with
Do not drive me totally crazy
I worry day and night...

Main diyaa hoon aisaa jahaan mein
Ki jalaa to hoon nahin roshni
Jo jigar mein hai wo khalish kahin
Meri hasraton ko mitaa na de
Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai…


I am such a lamp in this world
That, when lit, provides no light
(I worry) that this torture in my heart
Does not destroy my dreams/ambitions
I worry day and night...


Truly a song that goes to your heart. Absolutely top-drawer.

***

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Travel to North India - New Delhi Railway Station

Way back in September 1989, my to-be boss told me “Work life is all about managing expectations”. He was referring to a simple fact of life – if you deliver what you promise, whatever it is, everybody is happy. But if you bust your ass and deliver the sky - but they, for some reason, expected the sky AND the moon - you have failed. In other words, make sure you set the expectations right – so that you can work on delivering to that right level. Simple.

I have never forgotten that lesson. Actually it works not just in work life, it works for everything. Wall Street hammers a company if it has fallen short of market expectations, even if it has announced record profits. Roger Federer’s losing a Grand Slam semi-final is seen as a failure – we expect nothing less than a Grand Slam final from him. At the same time if an Indian player reaches the second round of Wimbledon (men’s singles), he has over-achieved. Sachin Tendulkar’s getting a 50 in Test cricket is counted as a failure, we somehow always expect him to go on to a hundred. In business, salespeople often push a sale into the next month the moment they have achieved a certain month’s target.

So what has all this got to do with Delhi ? It does – it is just that, as usual, I do not come to the point straightaway. I quite like the long-winded route. It will be clear soon enough how the subject of managing expectations is relevant here.

Let me come back to my story, the one I started in my previous post.

Where was I ? Oh yes, I am making my way to New Delhi Railway Station (New Delhi RS) on that Monday to meet my sister and brother-in-law by around noon. We are to catch a train to Punjab that afternoon.

If you remember, I had had the most fantastic two days in Delhi. I had stayed at my friend’s place (bordering Delhi and UP) and had been chauffeured around in my friend’s car by his driver through various parts of Delhi, mainly South and Central Delhi, upto Connaught Place. I had been very impressed by the wide roads, the traffic signals and the signposting. There had been some visible construction activity, put down to Delhi preparing for the Commonwealth Games later this year, but even this had not been disruptive to traffic. All in all, everything I saw impressed me.

As we near New Delhi RS, I begin to get a feeling of déjà vu. Not déjà vu as in seen yesterday but déjà vu as in seen 28 years ago. The last time I had been to New Delhi RS was in July 1982. I remember that very well because it had not been a particularly enjoyable experience then. I was to catch the Rajdhani Express to Howrah (Calcutta) and my auto-rickshaw had got stuck in the traffic near the station so badly that I had got to the station only at 5.15 p.m for a train that was to leave at 5.10. I had barely managed to jump into the running train, luggage and all. (It is another thing that I thought the departure time was 5.30 (never bothered to check the ticket actually) and was therefore still pretty cool about it all, till I reached the station and a coolie told me “Rajdhani ? Woh to nikal rahi hai (it is just leaving)”. I remember doing an Edwin Moses 400m hurdles impersonation, dodging the crowd, climbing up and down the stairs to get to the right platform to jump into the moving train. Just threw my luggage in, threw myself in and found both of us, in acceptable condition though one of us was a few breaths short, inside the moving train. I was not even 20 then. Such acrobatics are only distant, wistful memories now.

Anyway, back to March 2010 - and memories of that experience outside the station come flashing back. If anything, the chaos outside the station seems to have grown manifold. There is utter confusion and a huge amount of swearing as every vehicle of every type seems to be looking for just that much space to be able to squeeze its way between two other vehicles and get ahead in the race to enter the station parking area. Roads near railway stations tend to be crowded anyway but this is way worse than anything that I have ever seen in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai put together. (I will not talk about Calcutta because my experience in that city, the return trip of that July 1982 trip to that city, beat even my Delhi experience. I had to abandon my taxi and walk the whole length of Howrah Bridge with my luggage to get to the station because the traffic just did not move an inch. I am not exaggerating – my cab driver gave up and suggested I walk !)

I am told that some of the East-bound (UP, Bihar) trains that currently arrive and depart from New Delhi RS will be diverted to a station near Noida and will not touch New Delhi RS in future. I don’t know if this is true but it would greatly relieve the congestion at this station. Already we have Nizamuddin and Old Delhi RS taking some of the Delhi traffic anyway. And, from what I can remember, these stations are much better stations than New Delhi RS.

Anyway, so I finally get to the station and, after some “where are you ?” mobile phone communication, manage to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law. There is another person from their office with them who is to be part of our trip to Punjab.

Our train is the 2203 Garib Rath, scheduled to leave at 14:05 hrs. We have something to eat at the station itself and then go on to the platform. The information board announces a delay of 10 minutes.We just shrug this off. It is already 1.30 p.m, so it is no big deal.

There is a huge crowd at the platform, with classic Punjabi salwar-kameez, colourful patkas and Sikh turbans visible everywhere. We initially think the crowd is waiting for our train but then realize they are waiting for an earlier train, going to Amritsar, which has not yet arrived. As soon as that train arrives, we manage to get seats to sit at the platform. Not bad, I think.

When I go to check the information board after a while, it says 30 minutes late.
Hmm. The first signs of doubt begin to creep into my mind. In the last several years, the only train journeys I have done in India have been between Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and once from Mumbai. All terminus points, not intermediate stations. The chance of a train starting late from a terminus point is much less than its getting delayed down the line.

I ask my sister, who has booked our tickets “Where does this Garib Rath start from ?”

As if on cue, the PA system announces “Saharsa se Muzaffarpur aur Moradabad hotey hue Dilli aane waali do do shoonya teen Garib Rath ek ghante late chal rahi hai”. (The 2203 Garib Rath, coming from Saharsa via Muzaffarpur and Moradabad to Delhi, is running one hour late).

I am like “WHAT ?”

(For those of you who are interested in facts and train schedules, here is the train being discussed.)
http://www.90di.com/schedule/train/Indian%20Railways_2203.html

My sister says “I don’t know. I booked it online. I asked for “Delhi to Jalandhar”and this was the first train that came up which suited our timings, given our flight arrival time”.

“Do you realize where this train is coming from ?”

“No. Where ?”

“Bihar. And not just that, it is just travelling the whole distance of UP, east to west, to come here. You think there is the SLIGHTEST chance that it will EVER arrive here on time ?”

I do not have the slightest harsh tone in my voice but I think my sister feels a bit offended. By then it is beginning to get a bit warm also, it is that time of the afternoon.

“How was I to know ? I thought it starts in Delhi. I would never have booked a train that has to come from somewhere else to go to Jalandhar. Especially from Bihar. As it is, Garib Rath was introduced during Laloo’s time and maybe Mamta is trying to put Laloo down by intentionally messing with the trains that he introduced.The Garib Rath down South seems to be running OK, how was I to know about this one ? Anyway, I have booked AC seats ”.

She seems hassled and I have absolutely no intention of upsetting her. Would not dream of it.

“Ok, it does not matter. I don’t think it is Mamta, I think it is the passengers. Anyway, I am having fun here, so I’m fine”.

3.05 p.m comes and goes. The train is supposed to be one hour late but after that announcement there is no other announcement. The information board is also not updated.

Some other train headed for some place in Bihar (I do not remember the name now, let’s call it ) now comes on Platform 1. People board it and it leaves.
After two minutes, there is an announcement “Platform no. 1 se nikli express chain-pulling ke kaaran ruki hui hai. Kripaya karmachari jaanch karen (Train no which has left from Platform no. 1 has been stopped due to chain-pulling. The appropriate personnel may please investigate the matter).

My sister and I look at each other. In all these years, we have never heard such an announcement being made.

A few minutes later another train headed for UP arrives and leaves from Platform no.1. And believe it or not, exactly the same thing happens. The same message ! Chain-pulling ! My sister and I are in splits by now. The announcement is all so casual, as if it is routine business.

I remind my sister that we better not laugh too much because it sounds quite ominous. Trains leaving from Platform no.1 (from which our own Garib Rath is to leave) seem not to be able to go two minutes without chain pulling. She says she would rather first see the train coming – and worry about its leaving later.

Anyway, it is 3.30 p.m by now. There is no sign of our train nor any announcement about it. I have read the day’s newspaper from front page to last page, I have had two cups of chai and I have started singing Rafi songs, rather loudly. This last bit, possibly causing my sister to want to distance herself from me and divert me into some other activity, makes her tell me “Why don’t you go check with the station master what is going on with our train ?”

So I look for the station master’s room – he is not to be found but the Assistant Station Master is.

He is busy chatting with somebody and, judging by the nature of the conversation, I am totally convinced that it is anything but official work that is being conducted.

“Sir, ye Garib Rath kab aayegi ?” (Sir, when will the Garib Rath arrive ?)

Hain ?”

“Sir, ye Garib Rath kab aayegi ?”

“Kaun si gaadi ?” (Which train ?)

“Ji, Garib Rath. Jalandhar jaane waali. Do paanch ka time hai par abhi saadhe teen baj rahe hain.”
(Ji, Garib Rath. The one going to Jalandhar. The scheduled time is 2.05 but it already 3.30 now).

He gives me a look that combines indifference and contempt in perfectly equal measures.

“Aayegi, ji, aayegi”. (It will come).

“Aayegi, wo to mujhe maaloom hai, par kab aayegi…chaar baje tak aa jaayegi ?” (I know it will come but when will it come…will it arrive by 4.00 ?)

He does not bother to reply. I have already elicited his quota of customer service communication for the day.

I return to my sister, informing her that I was no more enlightened about our train’s likely arrival time after my visit to the Station Master’s office than I had been before such visit. Not strangely but somewhat disturbingly, she does not seem to be surprised. At least she has got me to stop singing.

An announcement on the PA system shakes us. “<…> train <….> jaane waali, aaj sham chaar baje jaane ke bajaaye kal subah saadhe chaar bajey niklegi. “. My sister and I look at each other again. Not quite believing what we have heard. The English version of the announcement follows. “<..> train going to <…> , scheduled to depart at 4.00 p.m will now depart at 4.30 a.m tomorrow”. As if to soften the blow, the English version has an added “The inconvenience is deeply regretted”. That’s all right, then.

We now begin to get genuinely concerned. There is absolutely no announcement about our train, there is nothing on the information board either. And the Station Master’s office has been as useful as an umbrella helping against the rains in July on Marine Drive in Mumbai.

In all this, we have lost the seats we had parked ourselves on earlier and have now no proper place to sit. Due to some water leakage, the platform is getting a little uncomfortably wet. I decide I might as well have some fun. I take out my camera and click a few pictures.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

There is finally an announcement - that we need to go from Platform no. 1 to Platform no. 10. No mention of timing though. We start moving but some others, waiting for our train, are not convinced. For them there is a repeat announcement “2203 Garib Rath ke liye agar koi yatri ab bhi platform no. 1 pe hon, to veh turant platform no. 10 ko jaayen”.(If there are still passengers for 2203 Garib Rath waiting on Platform no.1, they are requested to go to Platform no. 10 immediately).

By now it is past 5.00 p.m. We see the Rajdhani Express, starting from Delhi and going towards Jalandhar and Amritsar, scheduled to leave at 4.00 p.m , leave from Platform no. 1 at 4.30 p.m. I look at my sister, she says “I didn’t know – our train was the most suitable one according to the timing”.

Finally at 5.15 p.m, a miracle happens. A train appears on Platform no. 10. And it happens to be the 2203 Garib Rath. We are thrilled as if India has just won some World Cup. Everybody jumps in – there is a major scramble but soon everybody settles down and the train chugs away. We are on our way to Punjab ! There is no sign of a "Jab We Met"-style Kareena Kapoor look-alike but I am too excited to complain about it.

The co-passengers are pretty decent. One of them tells us “Ye to aaj sirf teen ghante late hai, kabhi kabhi to ye bees ghante late hoti hai. Iska record hai ki ye gaadi, jab se shuru hui, ek din bhi time pe nahin pahunchi hai”. (This is only 3 hours late today. Sometimes this is 20 hours late. This train holds a record – from the time it was started, not once has it reached on time). Hmm. It could have been worse.’

Though the train is air-conditioned, I am not too happy with confining myself to the seat. I prefer to go to the door and get some fresh air from the breeze. Put on my MP3 player and listen to some old songs. “Chhodo kal ki baatein, kal ki baat puraani”, “Gun guna rahe hain bhanwra…”and others. The stations pass by. Sonepat, Panipat. I see the beautiful sunset. Ambala. Ludhiana. And then finally, at about 11.00 p.m, Jalandhar.

What a day ! In hindsight – and actually even then – I quite enjoyed it. But New Delhi RS was such a shocker compared to what I had seen the previous two days in Delhi. The station surroundings, the station itself, the staff.

Which brings me to my very first point. About expectations.

All my expectations, built up during those two days over the weekend, that New Delhi had moved with the times were brought crashing to earth with my experience on that Monday. I must confess I was very disappointed at New Delhi RS. Perhaps I was comparing it with other stations that I know. Bangalore and Chennai in particular. Both these stations have improved tremendously in the last few years. A lot of money has gone into upgrading these stations. I saw nothing of the sort at New Delhi RS. It surprised me a lot – considering that New Delhi is the capital of the country and there must be a lot of passengers, even foreign tourists, travelling from and to New Delhi RS.

This is not to say that Delhi has not progressed. Of course it has – but I could not help feeling that there are two Delhis even today – the one that has moved with the times, and the one that has not.

And it is I who have to set my expectations right. Some things just take much longer to change. If they change at all.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Travel to North India - the years come rolling back !

It has been a very long time since I have posted anything on my blog. So long, in fact, that I had almost forgotten I had one.:-)

This is the result of a couple of things.

Firstly, my innate laziness, always a threat to progress of any sort and an eternal cause of despair for all those who expect me to do SOMETHING in and with my life, has reached frightening proportions in the last few months.

Secondly, there have recently been certain changes in my personal circumstances that have made it somewhat difficult for me to muster the required enthusiasm to write about anything at all. Not that there has not been material to write about. There has been material aplenty and I have rarely been short of words, but a very confused mind (even by my already highly confused standards) is hardly in an appropriate condition to process and express thoughts and feelings.

I have therefore let my blog be. Almost abandoned, if you will. It is not like anybody missed it. ;-)

Anyway here I am again after a long break. Talking of a long break reminds me of that classic scene from Aandhi(1975) where Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar meet. That “ammavas bahut lambi thi…” scene, part of the song “tere bina zindagi se”. This song used to be one of my favourites in my schooldays.

OK, I am digressing again. Would be very atypical of me if I did not. :-) Anyway, the main reason for coming back to blogging is that I recently made a trip to North India and thought it would be nice to just write a bit (ok, more than a bit !) about the trip and my experiences.

It was a trip of only about 2 weeks. Just a fraction less, in fact. To Delhi, Punjab, Jammu/Katra/Vaishno Devi and then Rajasthan. As trips go, it was not as hectic as it would appear at first glance. I had plenty of time to relax. And to report and rant on Facebook from time to time. :-)

No, it was certainly not a bad trip, it was quite enjoyable. Yes, there were moments when I thought “Do I have SUCKER written on my forehead ?” (a question that I dared not ask aloud for fear of getting it confirmed by a not-too-diplomatic somebody) but this comes with the territory, I guess, when you are travelling in North India. Ok, let me be careful here. When you are travelling in India.

Overall it was a mixed bag of experiences. My Facebook updates also probably reflected this. One day I had a high, the next day I was letting off steam. But, as any golfer who has played at a Masters will tell you (or any captain in Test cricket), it is the final score that is the most important, not the intermittent end-of-day statuses. And the final score, to me, was pretty satisfying.

I must confess that, in writing this piece, I have been wondering about the level of detail to go to. I am aware that much like pictures, in fact, almost certainly more so than pictures, elaborate accounts of a person’s travel experiences are major put-offs, almost in the league of a non-subtitled Chinese art film of the 1960s. (There are many other current-day put-off equivalents I can think of but I will pass for now. Feel free to let your imagination free on this one).

Unless you are Michael Palin of course, in which case you can make a routine breakfast in Bombay (oops, sorry, Sainiks !) sound like the most life-enriching experience. Or of course if you are yourself planning a visit to those places – in which case you would be well-advised to check your facts at another source. I don’t claim to be a fact-factory. ( Btw, I love creating new words in English, words which make sense to me and sound fun too but which my English teachers (God bless them, they were wonderful !) would almost certainly frown upon). Well, they are (almost) certainly not reading this, so I am going to let myself go. As I often say, it is my blog, so I set the rules).

Let’s see how brief I can keep this. Delhi was nostalgic, Punjab was warm (in a people sense), Jammu-Katra-Vaishno Devi was both scenic and spiritual, Rajasthan was warm in a very non-people sense. There, that’s it.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too brief. And it is very un-me too. (There comes the frown again !)

I guess I will go my usual route. Write as I think. And see how it turns out. If anybody wants to switch off mid-way, feel free. It will not be the first borathon (frown, frown !) travelogue anyway. And, since people never seem to learn, I seriously doubt it will be the last.

So here goes. (“Phew ! Finally !” they say, the breath getting increasingly less
muted).


Hmm. Come to think of it, my trip to North India almost did not happen. It so happened that my sister and brother-in-law, based in Bangalore were travelling, via Delhi, to Punjab on business. Seeing as I wanted to get away from Bangalore anyway for a few days, they suggested I could join them on the trip. They had only a couple of days work in Punjab and would be back in a week.

I thought it was a great idea, I had never ever been to Punjab and I just love Punjabi food. In fact I love all things Punjabi. Well, almost. So I said “sure”. But then the dormant traveler in me got active, coming out, saying we could probably add a Rajasthan leg also to our trip, considering none of us had ever been to Rajasthan.

Sounded great but time was the obvious issue – my sister and brother-in-law lead extremely busy lives (unlike yours truly, of course, who has all the time in the world. On a sidenote, what does “all the time in the world” mean anyway ? How much time is it ? Forget it, back on-topic). Anyway, we agreed that we would include Rajasthan - and that, since it was my baby, I would work out an appropriate itinerary for Rajasthan, one that brought us back to Bangalore on their desired return date.

In between, their Punjab contact suggested a trip to Vaishno Devi. Just a day-trip would be enough, we would go from Punjab to Jammu and then on to Katra (base for Vaishno Devi). Sounded terrific !

With their limited time, my sister and b-i-l would only be able to leave on a Monday morning flight to Delhi. I had friends in Delhi that I wanted to see – so I decided to leave a couple of days earlier. I would spend the weekend with my friends and catch up with my sister on the Monday. That was the plan.

The two days I spent at Delhi were just fantastic. I had spent a few years in Delhi in the early 80s – but had moved out in 1984. After that, except for a couple of “transit” movements between the domestic and international airports, I had never visited Delhi in the last 26 years. As the driver took me through the streets of Delhi, as I saw the road signs, the buildings and the buses (some of which I had travelled in, all those years ago) , I was swept by a wave of nostalgia. Obviously a lot has changed in Delhi since my time (it better have !) but there was still enough in the heat and dust of the city to make it like a homecoming for me. The Delhi Hindi for one. Oh, I had missed it so much !

I stayed with a friend, let´s call him R, one of my dearest friends from my schooldays in Orissa. He is now doing well as an independent lawyer and an advocate in the Supreme Court of India. I got to see him at work and I must say that not only is he hugely passionate about his profession but he also works really hard. He is a special guy with varied interests and , for all his success in his profession in Delhi, has never forgotten his roots in Orissa. I am very happy for him and wish him the very best for the future.

R has this lovely top-floor apartment just outside Delhi and this is where I stayed. Thanks to his great taste and keen sense of design – something that is reflected very well in his apartment - his place gives you a special feeling. But I think, more importantly, it was his warmth that made the most difference to my stay.

The day I reached I caught up with one of my friends, let´s call him B, from my kindergarten days. He is a friend not even known to R, they were from different schools. B had been trying to get in touch with me for years. Only very recently (Dec 2009), we managed to get in contact with each other over e-mail. He is based in Delhi and is a Chartered Accountant with his own practice. Now that we had established contact over e-mail, I had decided that if I were to visit Delhi, I would definitely make it a point to meet him. And that is exactly what I did. R was kind enough to take me to Connaught Place (where we had decided to meet). I introduced them to each other, we had some lovely snacks in a restaurant there but the most important thing was meeting after all these years. Sure, we go our own way in our lives and some things change, but the basics of the relationship, built during schooldays, remain the same. And I don’t think that will ever change.

R also arranged a get-together with a couple of our classmates from school. There are a lot of my schoolmates in Delhi and we could have had a big bash if we had wanted. After all, I would be meeting these guys after 30+ years ! But I chose to just meet up with a couple of them so as to have more quality time in catching up. Otherwise it would have just become one big “hey-how-are-you ?” 2-minute session with each person, without any depth at all. You cannot do justice to thirty years in two minutes and I did not want it to be a superficial meeting. Sometime in the future (and I do plan to visit Delhi more often now), I will catch up with the others also. Everything in its time.

As it turned out, even meeting these two friends over dinner was such a fabulous experience, I wanted time to stand still. It is very difficult to describe the emotions I went through at that dinner. When it was time to leave, I felt we had only just started talking. It was totally a case of “ye dil maange more”. That evening, when we were returning to R’s apartment, I kicked myself for not taking even a single photograph at the dinner. I had taken my camera with me but in the excitement of all the meeting and talking, I had completely forgotten to take a picture. Tut, tut…

The next day it was time to get ready to leave Delhi and go on to Punjab. My train was from New Delhi Railway Station in the afternoon. I had agreed with my sister and brother-in-law, who were flying into Delhi that morning, to meet at the station at about noon.

I was all set to say goodbye to Delhi – not without a pang of pain. In just two days, Delhi had really grown on me.

Little did I realize that Delhi was not willing to let me go so easily or so soon. My experiences at New Delhi Railway Station will remain, in a weird sense, some of the more memorable experiences of the trip. But that is for another chapter.

In a sense, the real `North India´ trip was only just beginning.