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“I just want to this about that.”
― Steven C. Smith

My experiments with Instagram

Picture stories have been the nerve centre of this website. It is in the long hard look at images that the words and stories have emerged. Over several years. As my Instagram page begins to hog a dab more of my attention than it did earlier, my experiments with Instagram embolden me to weave more stories.

Ever since the shift in career trajectory, there have been many experiments in the recent times that I have been running. When the view of life in itself is viewed as a series of experiments there is only discovery and learning all the way around, experiments and learning on social are also default. Several of social ones are on my Instagram page.

To try and bring a story alive in what is essentially a siloed and image based medium has been a bucket of work with droplets of learning here and there. I have learnt the power of images and how much they can chew up everything else. The importance of filters, lenses, hashtags and what all they can stand in for, and gently gloss over is omnipresent. But to spot the story behind the dominant narrative, has been such fun.

This house, where many of the young are permanently stationed is often viewed as an abode of narcissism by the old. Ok, older. I am finding it to be a very interesting and different platform. I try and keep the play with filters to the minimum and add some shade, contrast and brightness with words. Especially about the places and people that I encounter. If at all it is about me, it is only through the micro accounts stories that I tell there. “Thats not how the medium works” many have told me, shaking their heads with a smug smile lurking in the corner of their lip. Perhaps, they are right. For the way I use Instagram is not what Instagram has bet its shirt on. Instagram’s soul lies in its filters and the words are clearly optional extras. In more ways than one, I am harbouring some old fashioned beliefs. Some of them go like this : Good stories draw people. Good stories are often a combination of pictures and words. etc. etc.

But who cares. Its never about a platform as much as its about the users, their imagination and what they do with it. So I believe. So my page there is become something of a mini blog. Needless to say, my difficulty in adapting to the ready-shoot-filter-publish model is evident in every post. At least in my head. Sometimes though, I receive appreciation. Like the one today from this gentleman whose work I admire hugely, which read  “Love the stories behind your posts. Amazing patience and ‘care’ “.  That chuffed my heart and set me thinking.

The missus added some sense into the dose of kaapi on an otherwise busy Sunday evening to suggest that I need to consider the fact that some of the ‘short posts’ and pictures merited a ‘fuller’ post on the website. “Not everybody is on Instagram you know”, she began. And then quickly went on to other things like “assuming too much” etc, which I thought was fresh brew from another world.

Promptly this blogpost was thought of and some quick-fire decisions were made. Some pictures and accounts from Instagram will get here as well. Some of it shared on other platforms. In any case, its all experiments. So, if you are still reading, do follow me on Instagram and let me know how the page is evolving. My page on Instagram is here : https://www.instagram.com/kavi.arasu/

For, am going to be at it. Chasing a bunch of hypotheses and relishing whatever emerges. When you don’t break into a  sweat on the numbers of likes or followers and are focused on being present with people, their pictures and their stories, there is joy.

Try.

Happy New Year

I am in search of a word. One word. That would help hold the array of thoughts and emotions on a string. It remains elusive. I am searching for one word to encapsulate the time as 2104 says goodbye and 2015 chirps in with a hello.

Its the night of the 31st Dec. There are fireworks that light up the night sky. Puppet shows. Loud music. People on the road genuinely wishing each other. Lights. Parties. Cops on the road. Bizarre brawls. TV shows. Discounts and offers. Three and a half tonnes of whatsapp messages. And such else!

A flurry of activity on how the world went by in the past year marks pronounced presence across all media. Both the erstwhile and the new media. People are acknowledged. Events are recalled. Comments are regurgitated. Photographs dug out. Videos showcased. Sometimes, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. At other times, the bridge has shifted. Or seems irrelevant.

At the other end of the spectrum there are experts and commoners making a set of predictions for the new year. For the times ahead. Sometimes with glaring audacity that causes an involuntary gape in awe and at other times such stark pessimism pervades that you would much rather want to go back to the previous year.

I take the lift to reach my home. Today my neighbours dog looks at me in the lift and it seems to ask me what this fuss is about. What ‘Happy New Year?’ he seems to say, in-between his hefty panting.
I peer into his eyes and shrug. Hoping that he catches my sentiment. That life is a seamless continuum. The ultra heavy importance accorded to one single day seems rather tame in a naive sort of a way and misplaced. Must you not seek to be happy on all days?

I continue peering into his eyes as the neighbour, the good lady that she is, continues to speak into the phone to a person of importance who she is on first name basis with. I am sincerely impressed, for the lift has never shown me any mercy ever before. All my conversations on the phone stand abruptly terminated the moment I enter the lift.

As the lift makes its slow climb upwards, I continue to peer into his eyes and a thought strikes me. If there is any reasonable use to this day, it is this : It represents a transition. Ah. Transition. Maybe thats the word.

A punctuation mark, if you will. A comma for some. A period for some others. Maybe it’s a new sentence. A new paragraph. Perhaps a brand new chapter. Whatever it is, a year singing out and new year breaking is a transition that helps the world keep collective score.

footprints

An opportunity to sit down and take stock, if you will. Of wins and losses. Of joys and sorrows. Of fears and hopes. An opportunity for renewal. Of ties. Of hopes. Of oneself. While footprints thus far shout out where we have been, where we will get to is a function of the direction and distance we train our sights on. Now!

I wonder if the Retriever reads my mind. He seems far more composed as they alight at their floor. The lady still on the phone.

Later that night, at the strike of the midnight hour, the little miss sees some fireworks in the sky and said, “Papa, the lights are tickling the sky”. It is her extension of a thought that’s been on her mind for a while now.

I stare into the night sky and wonder how the next 365 days will pan out. I am not sure. I know for sure about one thing though. The new year will arrive at blistering pace with syncretised assortment of events, that will appear as fleeting as the fireworks that decorate the night sky. Intense. Fleeting. Colourful.

For me though, every new year is a push at the punctuation precipice. I can choose to stop. Start. Or keep going with a comma. Begin a brand new sentence. A few chapters. All of it in a varied dizzying array of possibilities. Ah ‘possibilities’, I think. Perhaps that is the word I am looking for.

The next day morning, as the night sky turns a brilliant blue, it dawns on me that it is rather foolish to attempt to encapsulate it in one word. Even with a wide all encompassing word like ‘possibilities’! With ‘change’ holding us as life prisoners of sorts, perhaps what’s required are a string of words. Transitions. Possibilities. Perpetual beta. Amoeboid movement.  And such else. Many more come to the mind. A string of words that will need us to stay alive to the moment and yet stay true to our dreams. That will also be deeply personal! As it has been every year. Wonder what it will be for you.

Whatever it is, here is my wish for a great time. Happy New Year! And one last thing, Stay foolish. There is merit in that.

Until the cows come home

Some days ago, I was visiting a friend. A friend in a village.

A typical one at that. The village, I mean. Small roads. Large fields. A trickle of electricity. A fainter trickle of water. Large trees. Strong community and dense roots that stand above the ground. In ever so many ways, that class two biology lessons of roots being under the soil is brought to question. The village temple and its dried up tank that can sit easily as a pretty desktop image on the latest iMac. An apology of a road. You get the picture, dont you?

But most importantly, every house has a few pairs of eyes staring at you as you pass by. You could think of yourself as a celebrity and if the optimistic imagination is sufficiently pepped up, you could even imagine your visage to bear a striking resemblance to the handsome hulk of a bollywood star who ends up selling underwear on TV. Such level of interest the village folk’s never ending gaze accord you.

If you aren’t familiar with the salubrious rhythms of village life, you would lose the fact that the same pairs of eyes that looked at you with great interest are are trained on everything that moves and doesn’t move. Every fly and its distant cousin doing aimless sorties flying from the two drops of oil spilt on the kitchen tawa to the yesterdays remnants of jalebi, and such else. Not just you.

In the absence of such understanding, you could be enveloped by a sudden sense of importance or an inveterate disquiet that could soak top to toe with sweat. Especially so, if you are from a big city and live in a high rise. Where your only evidence of life behind a neighbour’s door is the instantaneous disappearance of the newspaper from his front door after it is aimlessly tossed to land at the precise spot by the kid that delivers it.

If you love the city life that breeds a minute to minute frenzy, you would go open mouthed at this incredible ‘waste of time’, as a friend described. To be able to just sit at your doorstep and see the fly and its pregnant cousin squat on the inverted tumbler that just held a hot cup of tea, for hours on end, is something.  Cloaked in what seems to be an easy act lies a way of thinking and an ability whose order of magnitude is far larger than it seems.

A city dweller in the same time, would have done a dozen other things. Pay the bill, check the newspaper, run three and a half other errands, plan when the last part of the errand needs to be completed, tried a new shirt, debated on the Iraq war etc. If he had a smart phone on him, well, his accomplishments would stand just short of preparing for a moon landing. Or so you would think, looking at the furrowed brow and incredible focus on the face.

No. No judgements on either way of life and living. Both are ways of life and living. Different ways of living. Let me tell you a secret if you promise not to tell this to anyone : True joy comes in knowing, living with and loving both ways of living.

Wait a minute. At a far more vicarious level, there is even greater joy hearing one group talk about the other. The city dweller has a remarkable ways of dismissing his village cousin. “Villager” he calls him, and doesn’t see the need to say anything else. That one word, in his mind has an all encompassing pejorative flair.

The village view of the high rise based urban living, is tinged with sarcasm and a disdain filled disregard. Starting with waking up to a shriek of the alarm clock and not to natures subtle hints of morning. “A creeper on an electric wire”, said a friend who has made the village his home.

On this particular day, we revel in conversation and company. Me and the village friend. The still air and silent village fields soaked up our laughter and arguments, in exchange for some peace and calm. As the Sun goes his way into the west, I make my customary promises to return soon and drive back.

It is a single track apology of a road, dotted with electricity poles and the odd villager staring at you like you have just escaped from the local prison.

Cows

It is then, that a herd of cattle cross the road. The road, realisation dawns has been doing a Moses like parting of the fields. The cattle and their herdsmen join the long list of people who don’t give a damn to roads and to people on them.

Languidly they start crossing. Armed with the mobile phone’s camera prowess, I step out and click a picture of the first lot that crosses. A random sparse trickle at first. Then a herded bunch. The random and violent clangs of multiple bells, the kicking of raw hooves on land and then tar is does something to the air. Dust and dung of this magnitude, at dusk, is new to me. This is a large herd. Thin and scrawny. Furiously kicking and inching forward.

Its a full ten minutes. Maybe more. I turn around to see a long line of smaller cars, bikes, buses and a lorry standing behind me. The cattle standing in between us and our journey to the city.  A similar line up on the other side. People who are returning to the village after  day of work in the city. Waiting for the cows to cross the road. Sort of like an unmanned level cross for a train. The vehicles line up in order, behind me. Nobody messes with the cows. They must be muttering and cursing, I think.

The cattle don’t seem to care. They are headed home after their daily grazing. They amble. Some nudge the ones ahead. Others gallop for no reason. Yet others cantor without a care. A smile escapes my eye. This is just like the herd that I see everyday. On the roads of Mumbai. A different kind of herd going home from work. The herd that I am part of.

After what seems like an eternity, the last of the cattle cross. A few young herdsmen who have been holding up the rear, amble across. With long sticks, catcalls and strange whistles that herd the cattle through. As they cross the road, I realise the engines of vehicles behind me have purred to life and the honks are ready to blare. There is a limit to the wait and that time was up.

The last of the herdsmen, turns looks at me and smiles. The smile that could befit a victorious commander at war. His cows have held traffic on either side without a care in the world.

Within seconds of many engines jumping to life, mayhem descends to dance in spectacular splendour on the village road, as every single vehicle and its driver wants to get ahead first. The fresh marks of random hooves would soon disappear as motorists with animal instincts would ply their wares. Another herd will take over.

Us, our herds and our mentalities. An evergreen grassland of a topic that can hold fodder for never ending thought and argument. Until the cows come home! Maybe, much longer.

A chap and his cycle

It was an ordinary day. With incredible heat, a ton of sweat and a generous supply of dust that every passing car would kick up. It was a road side joint, that gave the tired passerby or the bored office goer some reprieve. It had an assortment of knick knacks, cigarettes and a host of items that would seek to be a valid excuse to take a break. Or sometimes, just to provide space for a conversation.

Out of nowhere, the refills for the day arrived. A chap and his cycle. Rather a chap on his cycle. Every conceivable part of the bicycle held some article that fuelled a supply chain of sorts.

Professor

Two plastic bags on either side of the front handlebar. Two on either side of the rear. One huge crate that occupied the ‘carrier’. When he removed that, a seat with strong spring coils became visible. The cycle in itself appeared as ancient as the man. Rusted and a tad beaten down. But arrived without making a fuss and departed without making any.

Out of curiosity and the general liberty that people take with perfect strangers I checked out the cycle. Regarding it as an object of interest like an art curator would. Walking around it and tapping on the e rims with two bent fingers. Like a coconut vendor checking out his coconuts to let you know his had two litres of water in them!

The tapping hurt my nails. This was no pushover aluminium. This was hard steel. Solid metal. If one of these fancy modern day cars rammed into this cycle, well, God save the car. That kind of hard steel. The cycle in itself was heavy and it was clear that riding it must be an ask.

IMG-20110502-00017

It was when the man was all set to leave that I spotted the branding. ‘Professor’ by an outfit called “Chowdhri & Co”. This more dated than me. I remembered Hercules. Atlas and Rallis as the conservative bicycle variety and the BSA SLR with Kapil Dev promoting it, as the upstart challenger. But Professor? No idea.

Some things stay. Don’t they. As much as they are a function of what they are made of, it is also because of how dearly they are held. How important they are.

I wonder how this bicycle survived the elements. Which is when, a thought struck that it may not about the survival of the bicycle. Perhaps it is about the flourishing of the family and the bicycle just being a means to it. Whichever way, the bicycle stories that were left untold, seemed to knock on me to look beyond the obvious.

Maybe a memory that the worn out chap that drives it, wants to preserve. I didn’t ask. He was tired and more importantly in a hurry.
For some strange reason the old rusted bicycle left an impression on me, even as the chap pedalled away into the next road with the Sun beating down on him. I wonder why.

That night, as I was reflecting on the day, I wondered if our daily work was as resolute and as worthy, as the bicycle that I saw. The ‘Professor’(s) that made me, seemed to give me a nudge. To dive into the next day with gusto.

Here’s to a glorious week people.

A pass to the past

You do odd things to get even. I don’t know about you. But, that is me. Especially when turbulence hits the soul. This time it’s not been very different.  
 
Most parts of the last few weeks have been whisked away by the desire to latch on to every memory. Perhaps a quest to seek new meaning, draw lines in the mind to what seemed to be faint dots faded by time and the vagaries that ‘gainful employment’ has brought over years. 
 
So, I went looking for places that my feet aimlessly shuffled around while locks of hair bounded the forehead of my wonder years! Hopeful of catching the smell, feel and sights of a time that seemed distant yet close. A time that often looks like its within arm’s reach of clear recollection and then slips away almost like a mirage that chooses to go into hiding upon seeing me.  
 
My journeys took me to the small village where we spent many summers challenging the Sun to beat us down with his rays, while we soaked much of the open air, green fields, braying donkeys, cows, goats and of course the languorous rhythms of easy village life. 
 
It then took me to the club that I hung out with classmates.  The courts where I played tennis in. The roads that I took my walks on. The small shops that sold silly candies. The bungalows that held allure. The College that was privy to adolescent dreams, hopes and expansive aspiration.  
 
It wasn’t a well orchestrated journey of sorts. Three quarters lead by happenstance and the meager rest by careful plotting. Most of the times carelessly retracing steps, upon a whim, on a road that brought alive last remnants of a clinging memory. Of a glance exchanged. A smile passed around. A word uttered. Sentences not spoken and conversations that spanned the world. 
 
In sheer gluttony of consuming far more than what the present had to offer and in the ever expanding search to relive a memory, occasionally I reached out To DO the things that I did when it was “in those days”.
 
No memory of growing up in those times in the intense climes of Madurai, can be complete without memories of what continues to be called ‘Paal ice’ ( Milk Ice). 
 
Proffered usually by a man with a hoarse rhythmic voice that arrested your attention no matter what you were doing. It caused you to run to your dad, mom, grandma, uncles or whoever that would be around and usually willing to spend a grand sum of one full rupee on you. 
 
I saw the “Ice man” again. A couple of weeks ago. 
 
 
Imagine the delight of seeing a memory come alive and stroll ahead of you.  The narrow lanes of a Sun beaten village served as a poignant backdrop as a man sold ‘Paal Ice’! Before I could say yes, my brother bought it, for a grand sum of Rs.5/-. In a short time, the collective memories stretched to ask “Do you have Semiya Ice?” 
 
 
 
 
Another grand sum of Rs.5/- left the wallet, even as the ice creams disappeared from the flimsy sticks that’s held them. Not a word spoken about hygiene or if it was made from ‘mineral water’ or some such urbane stuff. For it wasn’t quenching taste buds. It was satiating a part of me that was parched beyond parched. As the ice cream went down the throat, a million memories were resurrected, rejoicing a thirsty mind and a thrifty soul.  
 
 
The “ice man” moved on. After being bemused by us, for a bit. Tapping the box to announce his arrival in the neighbourhood and supplementing it with his arresting coarse voice.
 
I clicked a few more snaps vigorously.  In the future, if I needed a pass to the past, this was it. 

Movement & momentum

There are more thousands and thousands of photographs in my hard drive.  Some that are very special. For the ‘special’ element of moment captured or more simply for the emotion triggered by a memory that lies pregnant in that image.  

Here is one such.

 

A young boy who suddenly started running, with a posture that befits an accomplished runner.  I balanced myself at the open door of a moving train to see if I could get a picture. Truth be told, I was trying to get a clean shot of railway tracks, for some reason. Through the camera lens, I saw the boy start to sprint and changed my focus! 


After about 100 meters of sure footed sprinting, he stopped and started walking. Still smiling. The train I was in, kept pulling away at greater speeds and the last I saw of the boy, he was still walking.  I hope he still is, with the smile intact.

The intensity in the stride, the surefooted in an uneven terrain and kept me captivated for long after the journey was done. . 

That is my wish of all of us this week. To run with joy. For movement begets its own momentum. With momentum you never know where you could end up at. 

Every time I look at the photograph, I get a dose of raw energy that suddenly courses my veins. Of course the boy doesn’t know. Which brings me to the other point: Do you know who you inspire to action / reflection? 

Do you realise that you may never know that what to you are ‘simple routines of daily living’ could be deeply inspirational to many. When the lens changes, the action takes a different meaning.  

“You dont have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going” said Gary Halbert. Perfection is an elusive target that will stay elusive forever. Getting going, will get us all closer to perfection

I wonder what you think of the picture. What stories come to your mind? You never know how inspiring your stories can be. Share. Somewhere! 

Have a great week people. 

Whimsical streams

How long back did you do things on a whim?  If you point to buying a chewing gum or a magazine that was carefully placed by marketers, near the cash counter to induce a ‘whim’, well thats not counted.  You know what I mean, don’t you? Just on a whim, ‘doing’. No, don’t count ‘impulse buying’!
A friend in the village had invited me over.  I had to drive through a set of small villages. I was late but getting there as fast as I could. 

Apartment complexes gave way to single houses.  First dense back to back constructions. Then, a house amidst a set of clutch of mud walled huts. Then, huts and houses amidst green fields. Not very long after, plain green fields. They came at me unannounced, redefining ‘pristine’ and causing me to slow. 

In sometime, they went as unannounced as they came. A few barren patches, stood alone, amidst a some construction activity. 

I watched the landscape change as the roads got narrower and finally trickled down to a pathway that would barely accommodate one cycle rickshaw.  At some places potholes and patches made the road, and a semblance of a road that was there sometime back, would make an appearance now and then.  The perfect setting to elicit a set of indignant tweets and blogs if this was the state of roads in a big city! 

The road itself cared less. 

The narrow road curved and suddenly only to reveal a stream striving hard to flow. Not a soul on the road on either side. A struggling stream that was struggling to flow, yet managed to stir up a quiet breeze. A few coconut trees on the other side lent themselves and swayed just a bit. 

The promise to the friend beckoned. But nature painted such a picture of allure that a meditative trance enveloped every pore. In the next five minutes, the last remnant of mobile signal was used to call up the friend. The voice kept breaking which I took for an ominous indication of the immersive pretty picture I was in, didn’t quite like intrusions. 




I sat down beside the stream and realised that there is something to sit down beside a stream. And that it was  a long time since I had last sat beside a stream and lost count of time. Memories of sitting by more sparkling streams that were in a rush, rushed in. Every stream is its own, I realised. The state of the mind caused the real flow. 

Cows, mopeds and villagers passed me by. First dishing out a dismissive look of comical curiosity and then, ones of a mild anxiety.

In the calm of the limited flow, the stillness of the air and the jutting trees in the horizon, the beauty of the moment brought lightness that is beyond description. The load seemed to evaporate, slowly getting untethered from my soul, leaving in its wake a wistfully empty light space. 

As the stream continued to struggle and the distant trees did a mild jig in honour, a few things came alive for me. One of them, was this : Do things on a whim. They have a charm that charm can’t fully explain!  

Death Of A Dad!

“You look occupied”. He had said. And then added, “You must take time off from work. Spend time with all of us.  Read. Drop your computer and office. Write your book..” and almost as an afterthought added, “don’t keep peering into your phone so much”.

I laughed. For all his illness, he had the knack to pack a punch into every feeble statement that escaped the stiffness of his lips. I looked up from my phone that I was peering into and smiled. 

I was in a playful mood too. “For how many days should I follow that routine”, I asked. “Seven”. He said. “One week”.  The “At least” that he said after the ‘one week’ didn’t quite translate into sound. But by then I was used to getting by with the occasional capability to read his lips when the movement of his lips didn’t translate to sound.  

I smiled. Put the phone aside.  His message had reached my head. That was on Christmas day, 2013.  

Monday last.  I am making a few notes and planning the week ahead. The mobile rings piercing the stillness and breaking the silence of the early hours. The clock silently speaks as the eye darts to catch it says: 4.31 AM. It is my brother on the line.  A sundry thought assortment race up and down as the simple ringtone sounds shrill and tears into the morning. Perhaps, an accidental touch of the redial button or the nephew’s playing some game. I think.    

I pick the up the call to what seem like muffled sobs.  And then the sobs erupt in victory, beating the vain attempts to muffle them.  He says in-between the quiet sobs, “Appa is gone”.  My dad was no more.
Tears. Almost like a cloud burst triggered flash-flood, flow down my cheek. A sudden cold envelops my body. In less than ten seconds I shoot a set of rapid fire questions. “what are you saying?” “How is amma?” “How do you know” and such else.  

He composes himself and explains. In a short time, we quickly regain composure to discuss, as two pragmatic adult men would, the practicalities of getting to Madurai as soon as possible. Before hanging up, he says, “You take care. And you don’t get worked up.”

Since that moment, life has been a fast whorl.  Dad was central to our lives. If there was one person who I could look up with awe, regard and love, he was gone. If there was a purpose to the spirit of the daily fight, it was deflated. If there was an over encompassing hand that would soak all our troubles up and then set us free with energy, that hand was missing. If there was a compass to our lives, it needed resetting.

Born into a rural family with a dozen brothers and sisters, the rich beats of rural traditions were close to his heart even as a quintessentially modern outlook stayed as his most preferred lens. For the longest time I can remember. 

The last week has been an emotional roller coaster ride. The only seat belts we have had on us have been memories of earlier times, unconditional love from family, relatives, friends, well wishers and lots of people who I wished I knew better. At least their names, for a start! My phone and mail box reek of condolence messages and calls (several that went unanswered). All loaded with love and peppered with care. If there was a lifetime of debt that I was to carry, well, this is it!   

It may just be me. When the plot or a protagonist reaches a point of inflection, in a book that is well written, I pause the reading and put the book down for a bit.   Chewing and digesting what the lines say and what the spaces in-between them mean, invariably resisting the ever so compelling urge to turn to the next page and get on with “what happens next”.  So, I pause. Most times, reflect. Sometimes read passages all over again. See meaning that had escaped me. At other times, I even write, just to express what is running on my mind.
That is a habit my dad held dear. And amongst the stuff that I inherited from him, that habit stands tall. Amongst the most practiced!  

In that spirit, there will be a few blogposts this time. Not eulogies. But more descriptions of what happened since that call at 4.31 AM on a fateful Monday morning.  Maybe an incident here. A story there.  Memories all over.  And maybe from it all, there will be an inference or two. About our times, our cultures, of recalcitrant sons and a very different father.   

Truth be told, it is just my way of dealing with his death. Of loss. Even as peaceful sleep remains elusive these will be attempts to make sense of all whats on my mind. The struggle to piece our lives together and limp back to its regular rhythms is only matched by the acute awareness that our lives will remain inexplicably changed.      

And so, we consign his body to flames that very Monday.  Our heads tonsured, barefoot, our dhotis dripping wet, garlands around our neck, we walk back to the car.  The result of death taking him and we letting a rich paraphernalia of rural customs and traditions flow, and take charge of us.  A relative from our village walks close by in company.  

He hisses in my ear. “As part of our customs, you can’t go out of home or do your normal activities ‘like computer’ and so on..”  I turn to look at him in surprise and he understands my question before I ask it. “For seven days” he says. 

And then adds “at least”.  I hear the ‘at least’ loud and clear. 

My dad always had his ways. Only this time, it needn’t have been this way.  
  

PS : The last time I wrote of him is here. And I think it was better written!  

Twinkle Wrinkle

The two cups of hot tea that he makes for us, two weary travelers, on a cold Udaipur morning fills the air. As the chill of the morning seeks renewal with a fresh gust of cold air, every sip of his tea seems to set the system right. 
He speaks, well, succinctly. He doesn’t need to speak a lot more. For his tea does the talking. It is both hot and crisp and with a sting of something like ginger. Keeping us awake. 

As the tea sinks in and the eyes see more of the man, the wrinkles became apparent. First, some. And then, some more. As he adjusts the apology of the woolens that’s on him, even more become visible. 

Ten rupees gets passed on to him. 

He searches for change of which there is none. He searches some more, rummaging through what seems to be a sheaf of yesterdays newspapers. Perhaps he has some cash there.  After another hurried ruffle, looks up and with an apology laced accent, says, “I don’t have change”.

“How much does it cost?  How much do you have to give”, I ask. 

The combination of abundant chill of the winter morning and the travel induced weariness that seamlessly envelop every bone, checking for the price of his tea before drinking it, was missed. Besides, this is a roadside stall. How much could it be!?! 

“Nothing”.  “I have nothing”. He says falteringly. “Actually, I had, but can’t find it”.  

Sheepishness announcing its presence through a substantial drop in the decibel level of his voice at the end of each sentence. 

“Doesn’t matter”. I say.  And move on.  Not bothering to stop and check with him. After all, It was ten rupees. Not a million.  The old man with the wrinkles indeed made a very genuine attempt and seemed sincerely out of change.  

As I get into the cab, the old man shouts out. “Wait”. He says running  as fast as his wobbly feet can bring him. “Now, what did I miss”, I wonder and hurriedly get out of the car. 

He grabs my hand and passes on a pack of biscuits to me. “For the five rupees”. He says. “Your balance”.

“It doesn’t matter”. I repeat. 
“To you”. He completes the sentence. And then adds, “It does matter. To me.” With a firmness that befits a commander at war. 

I smile and accept his biscuits. The wrinkles on his face stretch in sweet surrender to a smile that sprouts from nowhere. Perhaps to announce a quaint victory. Maybe in satisfaction of preserving what is dear to him: his pride. 

I swallow hard. The lesson stays. I say “thank you”. We look at each other for a few seconds.  He smiles. Suddenly, the twinkle in his eye outshines every wrinkle on the face. I smile too.   

20-20

These days I open Facebook with a mild trepidation thinking of all the stuff that show up on my social media timelines. Ranging from the inane to the insane. From the incredulous to the ridiculous. Very rarely is there something that is truly incredible. Stuff that people post that make me go back in there. Like this video below. 

A fascinating piece that the Films Division has released in 1967. A montage of people that were born on 15th Aug 1947. Something like a 20-20. They turned twenty when free India turned twenty. The visual collage weaves their hopes for the future and gives a snapshot of what it was to have lived in 1967! 

I have watched the video a few times over now and hope you would snatch 18 minutes of your time to do so, once!
Lodged firmly in it are the reckless confidence of youth. The seemingly unsurmountable challenges of then and how they continue to haunt us now. And in the twinkle in the eye you can almost see the promise that ‘the tomorrow’ held for them.  In the assertive confidence, pale quiver in the lips or in the obscure dream of making it in the future, I see the present day sitting and smiling too. 

Only now it is all in a HDMI supported colour with more jazz. How much has life changed for the ordinary man on the street? Tom Brokaw, in a commencement speech put it eloquently : “It will do us little good to wire the world if we short circuit our souls”
What will the tomorrow hold? How different will that be?  I wonder if we have let a promise slip by. More importantly I wonder what it will take to keep the promises we made to ourselves when we were younger! What will it take for the twenty somethings of today turnaround and say, we have moved on? 
Do give the video a dekho. The wheel of time spins with remarkable alacrity. As much as things change, the scale of stuff that remains the same is just incredible. A truly remarkable piece, I must say.