Disclaimer: Following are tried and tested methods. Reader discretion is not advised.
The title is long, but not long enough to qualify as a winding paragraph by itself. Just like having a three or less than three holidays in a row. Long, but not that long. Average, neither here nor there. Like Indian seasons. Either blazing heat rays rain down on you or it’s just a possibility of heat in otherwise chill. But no spring.
24th to 26th December. Holiday time. Actually, it began on 23rd for most, what with it being fourth Saturday or just a day prior to Sunday, which is the true moniker for Saturday. Not the sixth day of the week, but the day before Sunday. Saturday has no existence by itself.
Today is Boxing Day. A holiday in many white countries across the world, and selectively distributed in India. It’s a day steeped in rich colonial history and has something to do with boxes.
But no matter the glamour of festivities, courtesy Home Alone 1 and 2 and ThePolar Express, and other such feel-good Christmas movies, I found myself boxed in my apartment, while the world hailed Christ and non-/Christians frolicked with their endless list of cousins, friends or travelling/wandering aimlessly all over. It is a restless sort of feeling, for come Tuesday or Monday, it’s back to a week after boring week of thankless labour and all you want to do is live it up in these few days, and be recharged enough to plan your next weekend well in advance. Unfortunately though, I had no means to have a jolly merry Christmas. Why?
Uh..how are we related?: Growing up in a nuclear family does that to you, and hence I belong to that few, who are clueless about the know-hows of their cousins and the family at large.
I want to go home! But you are already home: Most go home on such short duration leaves. But for me, the tree is in the same place as the money plant. And, getting tickets to anyplace during national holidays is as good as getting a Justin Beiber concert ticket for free.
Excuse me. Sorry. Could you kindly stop blocking the path by your being?: Crowded everything. On days like this you realize that you are not unique, for everyone thinks like you, regarding outings and get-together. Holing up in your home is better than being dug out to face the stampede of an ecstatic mankind.
So what do people like us do? Friends with their families in another city, massive rush everywhere you look, no matter what the size of the population of your country be, and travelling far and wide is just not an option. What’s to be done?
The 5Gs in the grand time of sickeningly cheery good morning messages laced with cringing Christmas wishes, and gestating merriment are:
Get a grip: 24th morning and afternoon was spent in a feverish urgency of trying to be the HR in the lacklustre company of disinterested family and friends. Seeing my efforts crash into the black hole of rejections and flimsy excuses, I did the best that I could: bath. In the warmth of the water and the philosophical introspection which such quietude brings, I sternly told my self: get a grip on yourself and your rollerblading mind. Calm your horses, babe.
Let’s see what we can do to keep ourselves happy.
Groove the kitchen: As mentioned earlier, I am no cook. Yet, just as thousands of years ago, unchartered terrains led to the discoveries of countries, continents and later colonization, the novelty of it found me baking, kneading the dough and cooking, all on the same day.
Observation: creatively help around in the household by learning some survival skills along the way.
Give yourself space: So what if you find yourself alone on a long holiday? It is not engraved in the Commandments that thou shalt expend energies in the mass hullabaloo of recreation. It’s okay to be introverted and spend time with your own beautiful company. If you are staying with your family, give them your time. Talk. Watch a movie together. Make meals together. Or long morning walks. Even if you spend time everyday, actively hanging out is not the same as passively getting on with bonding.
Get your ass moving: You have been planning to do something for days but always procrastinated on the oft-flown wings of “no time”? Well, get your ass kicking and moving. You have 48 hours, 36 hours, 24 hours, few hours, one hour at your service. Do something. Get productive. Else face the week with a regretful smile of time blown, like the *insert festival* money spent before you are conscious of its existence.
Give yourself to the festival’s spirit: Be it Christmas or any other festival, the essence of it lies in giving yourself up to it. Losing yourself in the joys of it. Be your own Santa. Make yourself happy. Gift yourself gifts: tangible and intangible. Spread that joy and be someones else’s Santa. Visit the church, if not for carols, at least for a quiet word of “thank you”. Surprise your people with the surprise of a happier and better you.
Yet another Christmas has come and gone. Boxing Day, symbolically a day of peaceful reflection over the merriment of the prior days, steadily slips into a siesta, soon to end, as the sun will descend to rise again the next day.
Every festival, no matter where you are, no matter who you are, what you are, whether a believer, atheist, agnost, or however you choose to call your relation with God or the Universe, festivities are not meant to be holed into assumed captivity, but to make our holidays whole with self-love, and fill our fast depleting days with the happiness of being alive.
Live. Enjoy. For Christ didn’t die for our sins for the heck of it, but for a chance to be better versions of what we are now.
As with all things DIY, be it make up tutorials, arts and crafts, even a oh-so-simple Halloween costume, the truth is, do-it-yourself is never short of a crash in expectations. You gaze at the wreckage of your masterpiece, while the guide with his or her sparkly teeth peers into your emptied soul, as Dora did all those years ago.
Self help is the best help, but there’s a reason why counselors and therapists exist..
Pause to let that sink in.
On Instagram, there’s an account dedicated to food, quite obviously named Foody Fetish. I am not a cook. Nor do I claim to be one. Though whenever I do step into the kitchen, all geared on a chopping board, like the runners at the start, ready to hit the road at the go, I imagine a speedy dexterity similar to Gordon Ramsay’s.
Expectation vs reality, however.
I stepped into the kitchen with the single minded focus of a long distance runner: today I baketh a Chocolate Moose Brownie.
Ready:: Watch the 80 second long video (click on the blue) on Foody Fetish’s account for a million times just to note the ingredients needed while simultaneously marvelling at the stunning simplicity of it all.
Set:: Scavenge for ingredients. Not everything was readily available in one place. After having visited five different stores, and traveled three km, up and down, by walk, replacing some wrong item here, haggling with the lady at the counter that, “No, this full cream milk was bought an hour back and not in the age of dinosaurs. Please take it back”, I learnt along the way the fundamental difference between full cream milk and cream. Those are different, by the way. All could have been avoided had I remembered that there was a cooler and bigger supermarket, literally, at the bend of the road. Anyway.
Go:: Mix, mix and mix. It’s a Chocolate Brownie Mousse. Make the brownie, get a blister in the process, drop some on the floor, and yet feel super confident cause hey! The 5K run has just started. The breathing is fine, the pace is good, and you feel young and happy to be alive.
But that’s the blunder. In the act of being caught up by the flow, you forget to breathe right. In this case, using a steel vessel for baking. Don’t judge me.
While my mother, heaving a sigh, took quick action and set it in the cooker for steaming, I was taking two steps backward and learning the elementary: different types of creams.
Having crossed the half way mark, with my amateur lungs screaming for air, I set work on the Moose. One of the instruments used by the assured hands of the professional baker was a whipping machine, to make a soft, cloud like construct from the cream.
My predicament was like that of the douche who chooses to run without running shoes. No matter how much I mixed with my hands, the cream refused to soften. Add to that, the brownie was a lump, which as my sister brilliantly expressed, was an apt description of our life. Self deprecating humour aside, we set ourselves into disaster management, and I, like a potter, tried to make sense of the gooey lump.
The lump remained. Flattening the goo into a plate, we poured our watery cream mix, complete with melted chocolate, and set the plate cake for cooling.
By this point, I was physically drained. Like the last lap of a 5K run, it was the will to complete that saved my sorry ass from regretful failure. Yet, the joy of completion is always sweet, and in this case, it was literal.
Though our moose brownie blend would never make it to Masterchef, yet the taste was nothing short of a Michelin starrer. Okay, I exaggerate. The participation certificate at the end, no matter the ranking, stands testimony to the struggle of a self. And in this case, the melting of sweet chocolate into a tired being and a visibly impressed family was all the accolade and certificate I needed.
Three hours. Five ingredients. Lots of sweat and a few tears. Two people. One dish. That’s my day in the kitchen.
Love is depth, and romance is that which demands deep feeling. Hence the Romantics, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley. To be a romantic is to be one capable of deep emotion.
If you don’t get what the title refers to, it is the remixed version of the Ed Sheeran song Perfect, starring Sheeran with the mellifluous vocals of Beyoncé .
Remix is not how we, here at India, understand it. It’s not a funky addition of headache inducing beats to a song. It’s literally, re-mix. Additions made to the old. That’s it. English kept straightforward. For once.
As I write, I am listening to the song for the nth time, and I swear I do not exaggerate, for I have been listening to this since December 11, 10 days post the release of the song.
Now before you google the song, wait.
A little background. The original, Perfect, released on September 26, 2017. And Beyoncéloved it. Hearing thus, Sheeran asks her to collaborate with him. And December woke up to the decibels of Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran across YouTube.
I want us to do this together. As you flow into the song, read along with me, soar in the emotion with me, and feel the giddy rush, just as I did/do, each time I listen to this song.
I found a love For me Oh darling, just dive right in And follow my lead Well, I found a girl Beautiful and sweet Oh, I never knew you were the someone Waitin’ for me ‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love Not knowin’ what it was I will not give you up this time But darling, just kiss me slow Your heart is all I own And in your eyes, you’re holding mine
Baby, I’m dancing in the dark With you between my arms Barefoot on the grass Listening to our favourite song When you said you looked a mess I whispered underneath my breath But you heard it Darling, you look perfect tonight
Slow, soothing, mesmerizing. Of a love so deep, so strong.
The eyes here talk. What you have here is something so deep and powerful, that all the music, art, poetry in the world cannot contain it. Suddenly all the love songs, especially those in your regional tongues make more sense.
You imagine holding her, in your arms, looking deep into her eyes. All those feelings, unsaid, unexpressed, inadequately put forth by those three words, come gushing out. Being with her, you are not scared of anything. Fearless. For in your future, you see her. You and her, carrying and supporting the world on each other’s shoulder’s.
And you know her flaws, her weaknesses, her fears, her heartaches.
Well, I found a man Stronger than anyone I know He shares my dreams I hope that someday we’ll share a home I found a love To carry more than just my secrets To carry love, to carry children Of our own We are still kids, but we’re so in love Fightin’ against all odds I know we’ll be alright this time Darling, just hold my hand Be your girl, you’ll be my man And I see my future in your eyes
For being with him, no matter how far, divided by the distance or the mind, is nothing short of a miracle. Did you ever know that you are capable of feeling all this love? All this magical emotion lies deep within surging to come to the surface?
Love is as breathless as breathless can be. A tornado of emotions. You are happy in their joy. Sad in their sorrow. Pained by their pain. Hurt by their silence.
Love is beautiful. For once the passion dies, you are left with peace. You are familiar with love, as familiar is love with you.
All this, despite and in spite of knowing his flaws, his weaknesses, his fears, his heartaches.
Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran :
Well, baby, I’m dancing in the dark With you between my arms Barefoot on the grass While listening to our favorite song When I saw you in that dress Looking so beautiful
I don’t deserve this
Darling, you look perfect tonight
Baby, I’m dancing in the dark
With you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass
While listenin’ to our favorite song I have faith in what I see
Now I know I have met an angel In person And she looks perfect And he looks perfect No, I don’t deserve this You look perfect tonight
Love is magic. It makes a man out of a boy, a woman out of a girl, and commitment and family do not become words to shy from. Your present, and your future. No matter the inhibitions, the self doubt, the fears, the anxieties, you know that together, you can beat them all.
As you slowly dance across, no matter how bad a dancer you are in reality, in your mind, you grace the ball room. Just you and him, her and you, sweeping and cascading, in your perfect dress, perfect suit, perfect hair, perfect moment, for you are with him, and she is with you, the man of your dreams, the woman of your heart.
As you close your eyes sinking your teeth in the emotion, with his face, her face coming up in your mind, a soft smile widening across your love struck face, go and tell him, tell her, how much he, she matters. That no matter how painful it might be, being in love, no matter the scars inflicted on each other, to love is to surrender to your heart and not obey the control of the mind. Your defenses, your walls, your sense of command, come crashing down, for love is the master, as it gently opens you to yourself, to your vulnerabilities, and the real you.
He is not perfect. She is not perfect. And so are you. Yet there you are. Two imperfections lost in a perfect duet.
(Disclaimer:Following is a work of reality. Readers are requested to read at their discrimination, and accordingly judge their disposition.)
“Yeh yeh, yeh kaun hain? Kahan se hain?”(She! Where is she from?), as he wagged a wrinkled, sun burnt finger in her direction. “Chinese ah?”
“India. Yeh India se hain“(She’s from India), I said forcing a calm over a rising anger.
“Acha, Manipuri!(Oh! Manipuri)!”, as if that called for being any less an Indian.
“India. She’s Indian”, I pointedly answered, not without a glare and a sharpened tone.
This highly insightful conversation took place, not in some backward village, in some remote corner of the country, but in the rising metropolitan city of Hyderabad.
Not in some rustic, undeveloped parts of the city, but at Golconda Fort and at Qutub Shahi Tombs, the heritage, go-to-tourist places, where hundreds of tourists, including foreigners flock and run their gaze over the once flourishing kingdom.
All this questioning? Why? Because of her face, her features. Her small eyes. Her straight hair. She did not, does not, look like the rest of us. Who’s this “us”? Wheat skinned, of the fifty shades of brown(something which every fairness ad never fails to point out), large eyed, garrulous, hirsute majority of the diverse nation of India. (For the hurt sentiments of the easily offended: this is an average description. I am not pointing to you, specifically.)
She comes from Darjeeling, a geographically viable, a quaint hill station in West Bengal, which by the way, is a part of the Indian Subcontinent.
She comes from a region which is one of the most robust economies in the country, who’s tea exports to nations like US, European Union, Japan, provides for 7% percent of India’s tea exports.
She belongs to those people, who’s regiment in the Indian Army, the Gorkha regiment, is one of the bravest and the most decorated(11 Vir Chakras, 2 Maha Vir Chakras, 3 Ashok Chakras and 1 Param Vir Chakra), and has fought in every major Indian campaign post Independence.
And in spite everything, people don’t stop their ogling, their stares, their cat calling. It’s not just the uneducated who practice such open racism. It’s the “educated” too.
The other day, at McDonald’s, a woman could not take her eyes off her, gaping and giggling, as she whispered lord-knows-what in her male companion’s ears. Until, my friend, her Gorkha spirit flaring up, stared her down into willful submission.
Why? Why all this hostility? This sizing up of foreignness?
I can never forget that one instance, the first time I encountered such bias, when I saw how the world sees her.
It was my mistake. Not quite. But mine nevertheless, for I was ignorant. I made her take a short cut route to one of the most lavish and extravagant malls in Hyderabad. The road, though dark, was far from the madding crowd, away from the howls and screech of traffic. Maybe that cacophony was better than the mental agony that followed. We were walking down the road, and within minutes I knew it was a bad idea, for people just would not stop looking. The road cut through some rustic part of the city. By rustic I meant, small houses and cows tied to wooden staffs, as one would park their Enfield. Still, I did not stop, cause hey! I am a woman. Used to stares right?
We walked, keeping her on my left, and mindful of every man, woman, kid who looked and looked and did not take their eyes away unless I compelled them to do so. However, that awareness did not prepare me for what transpired next. Two men on a bike raced past us and yelled in a gun shot voice, “Eh NEPALI!!”
I froze in shock. Anger, shame, hurt, spiraled through me, as my mental mechanism chose to numb the horror. A shiver went down my spine, as I tried my hardest to collect my wits and contain my emotions. My eyes searched my friend’s face, trying to gauge her reaction. But she merely shrugged, and continued the conversation as though nothing happened.
“Dude!”, I said at last, my voice coming out as a gasp. “I am so sorry!” I don’t know what I was apologizing for, for whom I was apologizing for, but I knew, I was ashamed on behalf of my entire city, for treating it’s guest like that. She smiled tightly, and said, “It’s okay, Shivani Kshirsagar. I am used to it. We are used to.” And she walked on ahead, her head high, while I remained rooted to my spot, ashen-faced.
That’s the truth, isn’t it? They got used to it.
But for how long? Hence the agitations, the call for a separate state(Gorkhaland), a divorce from a state(West Bengal) that refused to consider them their own. 104 days it lasted. Yet, who would let go of the “golden egg laying bird”(as she bitterly put it)? No one. And the agitation was stifled, in spite the bravery of the people, despite the struggle of the people.
It was on that dark street, that I understood, if not for a second, that I finally saw, how difficult it is for my friends from the North East. How it is to be perceived as a stranger, an alien, even though you are one among the flesh and blood of the collective called India. And how chilling it is to imagine, what would have been, had I not been there with her.
That racism runs deep in our veins is undeniable. I am, sometimes, racially biased towards those in South though I try not to be. Those in North want nothing to do with the “Madrasis”; those in the South want nothing to do with the “Punjabis”. Everyone is a thug when it comes to Central India, and everyone eats every animal in the Eastern side of the country.
Yes, we are a racist lot. So many instances of racism go unnoticed, undocumented, that this is like a shout in the void of multiple such cases. And don’t get me started on racism worldwide. We see enough of that anti social element on social media.
What next? The world is increasingly becoming a smaller and smaller place. And the purpose of this was not to spread hate, pain or added distress, cause there’s more than enough of that world. This is not even an awareness spreading instance, cause there’s so many of that kind out there. Sample this video by Being Indian.
But, I owe this to her, and to all those Rais, Chettris, Thappas, Subbas, Pradhans, Lamas, Tamangs( and many more) girls and boys, women and men, who I know and don’t know.
I can never claim to understand, sympathize or even empathize. But I’ll raise my voice, along with you. For I am a woman, and I know the ogles, gapes and gropes of sexist racism.
And, India is our country. All Indians are our brothers and sisters. We are proud of it’s rich and varied heritage. To our country and our people, we pledge our devotion. In their well being, and prosperity alone, lies our happiness.
(P.S. The last para are excerpts from our National Pledge, tweaked a little, from “I” to “We”, cause that’s the aim, ultimately.)
December is a not even a collection of 31 days. It is a progression into lethargy, laziness and the love for hibernation.
You wake up one chilly morning, and as you lie on the bed, you question your reasons to leave the warmth of the bed, and slowly progress into an existential crisis. That’s December: the alternating swings between ice-like clarity and foggy disorientation, as you go through it with your head in the clouds, dreaming about a sleep that you don’t want, but crave.
However, being the first day of these 31 days descent into fought wakefulness, and as the decibels rise to pitch about the approaching festivities, here’s a letter by letter decoding of the ultimate month of the year. (sounds like the slogan of a Marvel flick, no? Watch Spidey find the ultimate excuse to push off the advances of Iron Man. Yeah, well.) December, thou art the curtain call, but thou be kind to meh.
D: Decisive nature of December
There’s something so definite about this month. Yes, your skin’s dry, and 10 times out of 10 you are cold, but December does not allow any room for any if’s or but’s. The sense of now-or-never is so apparent that it’s almost tangible. You are fueled by this urge to make the most of your last days of 2017, to make amends wherever needed(unless you are planning for a scam, then don’t), scrambling your way to infinite possibilities which hinge on your definite decisions.
The dream is to make the most of it, while it lasts, which is not much. 30 days. Only.
December, being the last month of the year, cannot help but make us think of what is to come.
— Fennel Hudson
E: Exit 2017
The year is coming to an end, and January seems as distant as your previous year’s resolutions and as near as the tring-tring of the alarm . The year has been, and that’s all can be said about it. Somehow, the approach of a new start takes on a different sentiment: hope, fear, optimism, unwilling readiness. No matter how ready or reluctant one is to face 2018, truth is: only a month stands like a wall between now and then. Move past it, for in the act of passing through it, it’ll be past one day.
C: Chapped again? Damn!
All this while, the ChapStick had been a fashion statement. A gloss on those summer matted lips. But enter December winter, and the lip balm is finally living up to it’s name: lip balm, the stick for the chapped chaps.
Time for all those dryness ads to ruin our imaginations with their hyperbolic adverts. A skin so dry that even Sahara desert will be put to shame.
E: Entry of Nostalgia and Romance
How do nostalgic moments transpire? When the mind goes back to the last time the particular action was done. For December was never complete without a screening of: Home Alone 1, 2, 3. Polar Express. A Christmas Carol.
Add to that, there’s something inherently romantic about December. Maybe winter has that effect for you are always left snuggling for warmth. Also, the myth of the mistletoe. Though that didn’t stop Taylor Swift from whipping up a breakup song based on this month.
M: Merry Christmas
December = Christmas.
As if the one good thing about December is Christmas, and that the first 11 months were spent in wait for it, a wait weightier than that of the Three Wise Men.
Ho ho ho…NO!
B: Buhhhrrrrr! The blasting chill
I stay in India, and in India we have three seasons: summer, watery summer, chill summer. Except for those up in the North of the country. For them it’s: Bitch, I’m on Fire; Cloud-sent wetness, Can’t Feel Myself.
December is cold. Why? Blame the tilting Earth. Those in the North Hemisphere, experience a chill last month, like beer before the start of a party. A rave party. And make that plural.
E: Eve of New Year
New Year is the child of December and January, yet mankind seems to lay ownership rights on the former. For the morn brings with it the cares and wears of the world, the dim realization that nothing fantastic happened when you counted down the seconds to 2018, as you down, one after the other, the memories of the past year.
On the other hand, New Year’s Eve instills this Zen-like sensibility to live the night as the last of its kind(literal and metaphorical), and just, if only for a breath, forget everything about everything, and savour the chill, the cheers and the claps. R: Reveal the reveler within
Each day of December seems like the wait for an impending carnival. The whole world is gearing for the year end, for Christmas, for the sales, for the snow, for the sheer happiness that a new start is right at the bend. The end, though maddeningly near, it’s the seemingly distant beginning which attracts.
Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.
— Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
It’s a celebration of a grand kind, cause for once you are united in your hopes, anticipations, aspirations and anxieties, as your fellow man.
Still, there’s something poetically sad about December. For all that ice and snow, the cold, and the air of distance, gives it a magical, witch-like air. It makes you reflective, preponderant, of yet another year slipping away. Yet, it all boils down to this hope that the letters will add up, to make a word of coherent but even deeper significance. The memories of this year has been bitter-sweet, and while we rack our brains to pay homage to them, it’s perfectly fine to rake our minds with new memories to hold on to, for the year is good as done, but your life? There’s still a while for that end.
Delve into this month, and lose yourself to it, while you still can.
Quite recently, I took a trip to Bangalore( I refuse to call it Bengaluru. Just like Mumbai is Bombay, or Pluto is still a planet)
The trip came at a time when I was in want of a much needed space, peace and a sense of movement. Thus it began, with a train journey. While air travel is still dreamy, romantic and magical, trains are no less. Considering that in most Bollywood movies, the train is a major character, the place where the climax and/or denouement transpires(DDLJ, Jab We Met, to name a few), no matter how dirty the platforms or the washrooms be, trains still hold sway for the middle class Indian mind.
But this is not about Indian transportation or commutation in Indian cities. This is about what makes one a traveler, instead of a tourist.
I hopped onto the train from Hyderabad to Bangalore, and after a messed up sleep(it’s no cradle in a train), landed in an alien part of Bangalore. Usually, I have friends or family to pick me up. A safe ride in a cab or a car, even an auto, is what I had known so far, when it comes to new places. But the station from my friend’s place(who was the sole reason why I dragged my sorry ass for 576 km) was rather..far. Hence, I had two alternatives: auto or metro. She said, “Auto.” I said, “Metro.” And I do what I please.
Now here’s the thing: until this trip, I had no clue that Bangalore even had a metro. (Turns out, that part of the metro had started 4 months back) With great pseudo confidence and a real curiosity, I, stopping every third stranger on the road, found my way around to the metro station. Three downwards escalators later, and a lot of sympathetic smiles at my apparent cluelessness, I found myself, happily seated, in the Blore metro.
This is the first sign of being a traveler: a sense of exploration. The willingness to try out new in the already new. The unflinching lack of hesitation to try out the different, which makes it daring and worth the while.
Interesting aside: metros are rad. Period. All they need is your attentiveness and concentration. If you space out, don’t be surprised if you are lost.
My friend(let’s call her V. Not V for Vendetta but V for Vishnu Priya) V, was coolly standing on the other side of the road, calm on her two wheeler. We propped my trolley between the two of us(post the hugs, yells and laughs aka PDA), and off we went to satisfy the basic human urge: food.
We found ourselves at a place which primarily thrives on the hunger instinct of Bangaloreans once they wipe off the drools and rub the night from their sleep fogged bodies.
Breakfast. That’s all it served. And no extraordinary breakfast. Only the standard South Indian dishes, which has been stereotyped by North Indians and rehashed all over the multi-diversity country of ours: dosa, idli, vada, upma, sambar, chutney, coffee, tea.
But what we first noticed, on a sunny Sunday morning was this: crowd.
There were so many people as though food was being served for free. People people everywhere, but plenty of food to eat for the guys behind the counter worked like machines: efficient, precise and unstoppable. Even if there was no variety in food, there was great diversity in the people gathered. From the too fancily dressed for a Sunday morning breakfast, to the sweaty fitness freaks; from the grandpas in dhotis, to the families eating dosa there instead of at home; to the isolated cases of “let’s eat no matter how beat”, to the freshly, newly arrived, like me. All kinds of people to eat the ubiquitous South Indian delicacies.
I reckon, the real appeal of the place was not just the food alone. It was the general air of discipline in the manner in which the staff dealt with the thronging, hungry crowds. Lines, clear instructions for the where-to and the what-to, baskets to place the dishes at strategic, easy to find locations, and the evident transparency in the cleaning and the cooking(glass panels allowed us to see how they cooked the food and cleaned the dishes).
This is the second sign of being a traveler: haunt the local haunts to know the place and it’s people. The clothes and the language, and the choice of place, tell you about the interests of the people, their preferences and their position. These places make you feel one with the city, and experience, only for a moment, what it means to be a resident.
(Dosas are God’s gift to humanity)
After catching up with 6 months of being apart, that evening, we went to a nearby park. The beauty of the park is it’s apparent air of giving a fuck off to the humdrum of the city. The sense of quiet that prevails there is so pronounced that the moment one steps out or steps in the park, it’s akin to a cultural shock. In this case the reality of pollution, population and palpable disorientation from the noise, or the utter lack of it.
The beauty of the park is solely derived from the massive lake inside. The setting sun, the cool winter breeze, the big beaked hybrid between swans and storks, water snakes, the lapping ease of waves, of floating birds and the relaxed movements of all species(man included) gave it all the alive calm and peace. To merely gape at the waves, and letting the wandering mind fall in sync with the gentle movement of water, feeling the wind rustle you hair, skin, as a hush steps in, and only the transition from day to night becomes pronounced and acute. Our backs to the milling walkers, abundant couples, and solitude seekers, we sought and found calm in the lapping waters of the land locked lake.
This is a third sign of being a traveler: the ability to lose yourself to a place, of being lost in being. It is only in the appreciation of the natural beauty that you come to life, and live the moment. The journey from external to internal transpires only when one chooses to loosen the stiff minds and calm the agitated souls. And this is made possible by silence or solitude or good companionship and conversations or all of the above.
Night descended real quick(winter has come) and we went around the place, in the lookout for local eateries and joints. We went to a stall which made 99 kinds of dosas(chocolate dosa, paneer dosa, noodles dosa, and 96 more) and settled for mushroom dosa. What’s that? Atop the sizzling dosa batter, a cube of butter, red paste, mushrooms, lots of vegetables, all rolled up and cleaved in two halves. All for 40 bucks(Indian currency)
Cool night and hot-hot food. Soulmates for life.
(This is my second dosa outing out of the four dosa meals in a span of 1.5 days. Yay dosa!)
Post our dosa dinner, we went back to her place. After a movie(Wake Up Sid!) and more conversations, we sneaked out, late in the night, to the terrace of her 6 storeyed apartment.
11.30 PM. Warm cups of green tea. Cold winds. Breathtaking view of the city.
That was the sight that greeted us when we came to the terrace. Hundreds and hundred of dotted lights, of houses, neighbouring towers and terraces, of the distant sounds of a city locked between waking and sleeping, of clouds racing above our heads, hard blowing winds.
We just stood, staring at the starry expanse below and around us, while the stars above were shrouded by the smoke and the clouds. A comfortable silence descended between us, as we wordlessly shivered in our not-so warm clothing. Listening to “City of Stars” from La La Land, as a city stared back at us unblinking, a mind slowly stilled by the being and nothingness of the moment, as we landed on our backs, staring at the passing clouds.
The night has a way of enchanting the minds of mankind. All the depth and fears and earnestness of the human heart, locked away beneath layers of triviality, comes out, unadulterated and sincere. And maybe that’s why songs, sad and sung in native tongues, pierce the heart than they otherwise would not have in the glares of daylight. In Papon’s “Ranjish eh Sahi”, the months of walls erected came crashing down, as we opened ourselves to our selves.
This is the fourth sign of being a traveler: live, not at a hotel but at a home. For that’s when the place embraces you and you embrace the city. It takes on a whole new life, when seen from the eyes of someone who lives and loves the place. Looking upon homes, and the lives entrenched within, from the sanctuary of a home, you feel less lost and lonely, than you otherwise would have.
Dawn blessed the dreamy, and we were back at the lake view park. Fog, birds, and this time only a dedicated few of joggers and walkers, greeted us. I remember reading in the Secret History by Donna Tartt, that the “morning light can make the most vulgar things, tolerable.”
This is the fifth sign of being a traveler: explore the city at all times of the day. Sunrise, sunset, dusk, dawn, dark nights, glaring day lights, all the shades of time, uncover the different shades of (city) life. How a filter for a picture enhances the beauty of it, similarly, a city explored and experienced at the picturesque and not-so picturesque hours of the day(and night), reveal much more about the place, and the presence of life.
In the evening, we went to check out the local flea market, which was, again far from the place we lived. Bangalore is a nightmare for daily commutation, but this allowed us to use the local transport, for a) cabs are expensive b) public transport is a faster option. Also, we had to travel to the airport(55 km from the V’s place) to pick up another friend.
Bangalore traffic is the stuff of legends. Such is the crushing traffic that if one attains Nirvana in transit, it would not be a matter of surprise to anyone. Not only cause of the time taken but also the slow pace of movement. The really really slow pace. But seeing opportunity in everything(love for wanderlust, another traveler sign, the sixth one), it gave us the chance to see the city closely. The shops, the buildings, the people and their vehicles. It’s not as though such things don’t exist elsewhere, but what we get to see is how different it is from your own place and how similar they are from your own place.
This is the seventh sign of being a traveler: use local commutation. Walk wherever possible and how much ever possible. Need I explain this?
Of course, we finally arrived at the airport. Saw local, national and international lives greet other lives. Witnessed the similarity in otherwise dissimilarity: excitement of greeting, arrival, confusion over the novelty of sights, fatigue and jet lag, quick orientation from the disorientation.
Well, this was my last outing at Bangalore, before I left for another state for my convocation. That itself was another adventure, for we had to catch an auto to get to the metro to catch the interstate (Volvo) bus, which we almost missed owing to the omnipresent, ominous traffic.
The truth is, the distinction between a traveler and a tourist is not how well you stand out, but how well you fit in. To be a local, a resident, a native, just for a day, to live and love the life of the place, and be guided by the overwhelming sense of breathing in the unfamiliarity surrounding us, that’s what it takes to be a traveler and not a tourist. For travel lies in losing oneself to the strange, to take the road less traversed and discover the self as we explore the place of many selves.
Travel is possible by anyone, anywhere, anytime and anyhow.
All it takes is a spark of wonder, a will to wander, and the guts to be wilder.
If you notice, most of our greatest thoughts come when we are either in transit or doing the most basic of activities(shitting, shaving, brushing, bathing, etc).
Truth is, until today(14/November/17), I had never understood the point of Children’s Day. It was the day to bunk school or attend only for the sake of friends whom you’ll lose touch with, eventually, or you were drawn by that bit of rumor about so-and-so sir, known for his antics in the class, was going to dance(if not for the bland curiosity of teachers being anything but that) or you were in the final year of your school life and all of a sudden you felt the urge to live it up before time ran out.
Yeah, well. That was Children’s Day. Dances; speeches; sometimes no uniform, sometimes yes uniform; chocolates, and if your luck is good that year, half day school.
More often that not, you just wanted the day to be done with cause you had the load of assignments, exams, projects and every other mountain of your student life to shoulder. Children’s Day, in short, was an ironic, sardonic and a once upon a time iconic day, for when children, you enjoyed it while your ignorance held ground. As you grew up, it became a thing of the past, whereas college, career and a dark, blank future were the immediate clouds of the present. You ceased to be a child, as you curled your lips in disdain at the memories of 14th November.
When truck loads of work is thrust on you when you are still a student or locked in the cabin of some office someplace, when everyone around is taunting, teasing and testing you to grow up, what, then, is the point of Children’s Day? Why commemorate that day in the honor of a deceased man, who’s family politics(no pun intended) pretty much screwed up our country? Or rather, why attach the significance of being a child, when the idea itself is never allowed to breathe?
Yet, yet, there’s something more to it. It takes some growing up to to realize that there is a child within, to make peace with the child within and to nurture the child within.
When you get the chance to once again get back to school, and directly interact with children and the teachers, not as a student, but as a (tolerated) adult, it is something novel. Cause here you are, a fresh graduate, just out of college, a young teen adult, clueless and confused yourself. But there you are, thrust in the role of a teacher, and this time, you can’t showcase that youthful attitude, the mocking condescension towards children or even sheer indifference towards everything and everyone. (RIP to my youth.)
And it is this which made me view Children’s Day in a whole new light.
As I moved my crappy phone around, trying to capture in all vividness the palpable happiness in the air, of children excited to be in color instead of the monochrome of school uniform, while the usually stone faced teachers(myself included) melted to let the sunshine of a smile escape through those stern and stoic expressions, I found myself brimming with joy. There on the floor of the school auditorium, amidst the scores of laughing, yelling, clapping, hooting, swaying, smiling, grinning, humming, excited children, I knew that I wasn’t that cynical about the day, yet. Didn’t want to be cynical still.
You see, Tim Minchin was right, absolutely right, when in his convocation address at a University, he shared nine highly perceptive lessons, of which one was: be a teacher.
Be a teacher. Please, please, please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have it to do it forever, but if you are in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. Even if you are not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn and spray it.
Watching the children be full of simple vigor and easy laughs, of teachers rejoicing in the happiness of their students, that truly, it was a matter of gaining perspective. To appreciate the child, you need to age, and to value the child, you need to be a teacher.
And maybe that’s the deal behind Children’s Day: to not just remember the child, within and without, and emulate all that they stand for, but also, to remind yourself to find opportunities to bethe best teacher you can be for the children everywhere, including yourself.
Cause where would the children be without their teachers, and where would the teachers be without their students?
Just like the Mahatma and the Pandit.
And like all the students you came and wished me, “Happy Children’s Day, Teacher!” while I laughingly replied, “Wish you the same.”