Monday, October 02, 2006

Choosing Death

A girl I used to know when I was 12 killed herself earlier this year. I heard about it from other people who had known her as a grown up, as an individual, as a student, a woman, with dreams and ideas of her own. She was chronically depressed, I heard, and kept sinking deeper into this state. Finally, she ended her life. In a strange way, I was affected by this. Just because I had sat next to her at school for some 4 weeks, I felt that I had known her. I was taken aback that someone I had once known, however little, could have been determined to stop living.

One hears miraculous stories of survivors in extremely adverse conditions. One hears of miracle babies. One hears of people starting to believe in God because they, or a loved one, escaped death. And then one hears of people who would rather opt out.

What drives them? A woman in the block next to where I live set herself on fire a few nights ago. It was quickly hushed up and all I have now heard is a rumour that she died in hospital. Then of course there was the horrific visual of a man in Karimnagar, A.P., who jumped off a building after threatening to do so over several hours, hitting the pavement in full view of the press and the police and lots of bystanders. (I'm not even going into how worryingI found media attention to the story, as if having filmed him was a scoop, an "exclusive".)

The page 3 of the main newspaper is very different from the page 3 of the supplements. These page 3 people of the main newspaper are usually rape/murder victims, people who have been robbed, or people who have killed themselves along with their own families. The reasons for such murder-suicides are many---debts, illness, anger, drunkenness, shame. I can never even begin to imagine the despair that drives such an act. I am thankful to the powers that be that I don't (and never should) have to. But all the same, it is sobering to think that the life we celebrate with birthdays, with laughter, with love, with prayers, blessings, presents, family, friends, dreams and hopes, should, in some cases, be a burden that needs relieving at any cost.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"nirmal anand ke liye"

As a kid, I remember watching Khoobsurat many many times over, each time fascinated by the fantasy song, "kayda kayda". It was a child's dream come true on screen....snowy mountains where you could scoop off the snow and it would be icecream in your mouth, candy hanging off trees, ready for plucking, and tasty drinks like colas and coffee on the tap. And being asked, "kayda kayda, akhir fayda?" A good way to question discipline, and authority, at any age!

A little older, I caught the movie again, this time enjoying the rhyming dialogues spoken by Rekha's family (the cook, asharfi lal, who makes masoor ki daal!"), and the draconian matriarch in the other household..the two forming perfect foils for each other with Rekha as the saucy rebel, ploughing on regardless of Dina Pathak's glares and stern comments, winning all hearts.

Then again, and this time, I was taken by the references to "nirmal anand"--- those 2 magical words with which she lures the suppressed family into delicious rebellion. I heard somewhere that the movie was a criticism of Indira Gandhi, and the imposition of emergency and how it took away people's freedom. Interesting idea, although I have never discussed it in detail with anyone.

Another movie, very different, that I have loved was Abhimaan. Beautiful songs and a very, very real situation turned into a movie that can bring on introspection. My heart breaks each time a traumatised Jaya Bhaduri finally bursts into tears thinking of her lost baby as she stands beside her husband on stage towards the end of the movie.

Hearing of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's passing away brought on deep nostalgia for movies I have enjoyed, again and again, over the years. Catching the opening credits of a film while channel surfing, if I missed the film name but saw Hrishikesh Mukherjee's name on it, I would remain on that channel, often informing family to come join me for classics like Chupke Chupke, Guddi, Golmaal, Bawarchi, Anand and so many more. Memorable characters, very well etched, a great plot, absolutely clean humour playing on people's fears, insecurities, irrationalities, eccentricities, and making fun of all of us, here was a man making films that invited everyone to enjoy some nirmal anand without requiring any suspension of disbelief or parental guidance.

To be able to leave behind laughter in the world is a great achievement.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kept in the Dark

The glow from the screen of this laptop is all the light in this room. Because i am staring at the screen, i can see nothing beyond when i raise my eyes to look further than's even darker, if that's possible.

my family, well actually my neighbourhood, is being treated to a candle-lit evening, courtesy the powers that be, which are powerless at present. so the sweaty kurta slowly turns into a vice-like clammy grip on my body, as i try hard not to let any one sweaty part of my body touch any other sweaty part of my body, or anyone else's for that matter. to be able to embrace a sweaty person is a sign of true love, for it can make enemies of the best of friends!

a very cute calvin strip i read showed him sitting wide awake in bed, afraid of monsters as usual, saying "i think nighttime is dark so you can imagine your fears with less distraction"! so the dark everything looks more ominous, more threatening. the sky looms closer, the furniture legs are out to get you by the toes, the mosquitoes bite like they were vampire bats, and entering the bathroom is like approaching the crypt with god knows what-all waiting for you inside!

but then, somebody out there said "let there be light" and there is. and i am squinting now as i adjust my dilated pupils to the newly lit-up house. every nook and cranny looks familiar now and i am the lord (lady?) of all i survey!! off i go to that tame bathroom to wash off the grime and have a cool drink!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

It's in the Skies

How can a simple thing like the weather....something over which we have no control...have so much control over us? It governs our attire, our plans, our eating habits, and...most importantly, our mood.

I really wonder how...last year I had the misfortune to be on a really crowded Kolkata bus in June. It was office rush hour (isn't it always!) and I was in for a long ride at the end of an interesting day. It was amusing (when I wasn't wiping the sweat off my face) to watch how cranky the chip-chip weather was making everyone. An unintentional nudge, mistakenly treading on another's foot, standing too close to a hostile neighbour, all of these invited rebuke, scathing criticism, much sarcasm and contempt for the offender. In their eagerness to pass on the good deed, the rebuked went on to rebuke, and so the unhappy chain continued its way along the bus, as the bus itself trundled along through crowded streets, skirted election rallies, and took us all to our homes.

But this morning...I love is beautiful weather. I'm in Delhi, the entire city's had a bath, the soot has disappeared, the plants on the road dividers are green again instead of a dusty musty brown, and everyone looks, well, happy. It's contagious. You get greeted with one "isn't it amazing weather?" and it just makes you smile. Our office entrance is littered with colourful umbrellas left out to dry. The dogs near my office look alive again. So I stepped in a what!

I don't believe in astrology..the stars do nothing for us. But the skies...bless them!