Bombay Meri Jaan: Part I

… and the story of the seven-year itch.

This story is about a character named S. I’m trying to tell my story, but for this one moment, writing in the city of some made and several broken dreams, Bombay, my character will be called S.

June 22, 2010: S and her parents drove down from Pune to see her off at the hostel where her life in Bombay was to begin. At 23, she had already worked for a while, but in the real sense, that work experience held less importance. Due to bad performance in college exams, there were far fewer options remaining and definitely no clue about how anything was ever going to shape up for her. So here she arrived in this city with some things to look forward to, on a rainy June evening, getting all-set for living life anew.

As days passed, curiosity grew, S used her past experiences to make certain judgements, while some she left for little effort. It’s usually the stuff that unfolds organically that is most-memorable eventually.

At one time, S believed in having larger groups whom she could mix around with, laugh with, talk continuously with. As time passed, this aspect changed and as the years have gone past, this change is somewhat one that can be called a shift in personality. There was never any self-esteem issue that S faced, but several experiences – good, bad, petty, just taught their own lessons as years passed. At the end of the first year and end of the course, there were fewer relevant jobs and suddenly S wasn’t sure whether she wanted to work in the event industry full-time. Then something happened.

S discovered that it was the conversations that she wasn’t having with too many people which helped her look within and bring out that lazy writer of some kind who had started a blog several years ago with no updation ever. But she wanted to change that about herself.

The lazy writer did come out, but to build the company’s pages that she was employed at, starting with one aspect of digital content writing, going on to the various kinds, across websites over the years. The one disconnect, it was all happening for someone else. But what about her own gain in all of this (notwithstanding the work experience). If you all have watched and enjoyed the gem of a film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and remember the exchange between Naseeruddin Shah and Farhan Akhtar, when they speak about the latter’s profession, that feeling is somewhat the same. “Advertising mein toh doosron ke liye likhte ho, Apne liye bhi kuchh likhte ho ya nahi?”

As the second year and S’s work in the industry that she wants to be in began, full-fledged, S went on to meet a different set of people and all with baggages of their own, which was a brand-new lesson that was coming her way.

S has always believed in seeing the good in the other person and hence, despite several opportunities of cynicism, S had a chance of seeing the other side and moving ahead because there was work she liked doing, no matter the hours being put in and she was falling in love with the feeling of Bombay. More so, since it was South Bombay. There were beautiful buildings all around, there was a charm of the old world here and so much to embrace, standing on Causeway knowing how that came about and how Bombay became who she was.

So here’s the thing, S was often asked which city she preferred more – Delhi or Mumbai (I still refrain from using this name and I don’t hope to ever use it, unless it’s address or profession-related). S would always say, it’s South Bombay. So when she was given the option of living in the suburbs because it was nearly impossible living this side (thanks to the rents that are taller figures than the high-rises in the citt), S found it very hard to explain the feeling she got everytime she disembarked from the train at Churchgate station from wherever she was traveling, because it all felt like home. I’m sure by now it’s all sounding too filmy to you but this is how it always has been. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never felt that it was farcical or even funny to show Nandini Raichand dramatically turn her head from the ongoing pooja because her son had just stepped down from the helicopter.

S was the one who wanted to be seen in her best even on a shitty day, because her Sapnon ka Rajkumar could just be ’round the corner. S hasn’t found the Rajkumar or Raj or anyone yet. She feels that she is her own Raj and Simran (imagine them in place of Kishore Kumar’s character in the song ‘Aake Seedhi Lagi’ and you’ll know what I mean).

Part 2 continues

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Father’s Day

It’s that time of the year once again.

Two years ago, this time of the year, we were uncertain about many things. It was actually a matter of life and death. Life had thrown us family members into a confused state where we didn’t know where we’d be heading. Every time the phone rang, would it be a call from the doctor asking us to rush to the hospital? Or someone else calling to tell us something else altogether? Maybe, some positive news.

I used to go to work feeling unsure about what I could contribute sitting there. My desk phone would ring sometimes (mobiles weren’t allowed at the workplace and this was the time when I truly understood what missing a piece of technology would be like) and mom would be updating me about what sounded good on the phone, even if it wasn’t the complete truth, unfortunately.

Then came Father’s Day of 2016.

Being a staunch supporter of every form of celebration, even cutting cakes or pastries for a family member who was away on their birthday or any other special day, I made sure that the most-Western celebration would take place in our home. As we were growing up, so did these concepts of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Daughter’s Day and Valentine’s Day become popular. Of course, like any other Indian household, it was most difficult to fathom certain concepts I would think as our own. A few arguments later, we would usually call it truce. However, I must share that it was also the way our lessons came along that gave me the strength when I most needed it – to stand up and say that I too had to be a part of a funeral that was soon to follow and all other rituals that women seemingly have been kept away from. The ‘society’ still disagrees.

This fight has lasted longer than I anticipated. Drained me out too. But I had to give it time. Time does heal.

Yes, it is that Sunday again. What a nice day he chose to go away. Happy Father’s Day (not), Papa.

Making Of A Traveller: Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Start Travelling – Part II

A lot of time passes in one wanting to find themselves in the reality of life – from the bills to be paid, to caring for oneself and probably, family members in one way or another and then possibly preparing oneself for the political battlefield that in turn helps us pay our bills.

Quite a vicious circle, that one.

I’ve experienced spiritual awakening, albeit a small amount, during my time in Dalai Lama’s home this year. Yes, a part of me wanted to do this always, but there was that part that was waiting to intimate this other not-so-influential part along with the remainder senses that the time was ripe. Imagine where I would be had I not taken this leap of faith? I can’t even begin to think about it, not ’cause I can’t, but because if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.

The best part of this soul travel was when I became a local amidst those who had always lived there, some for years, and some families, through generations. Like I struck up a conversation with this woodcutter on my way up, on foot, from Gamru village in Dharamshala, to Mcleodganj, and asked him which side of the road shall I walk on so I’m safe and don’t come in the way of the vehicles making their way up and down? He said, and I quote, “Madam kahin bhi chal sakte hai, hum toh aisa hi karte hai.” [Madam, you can walk on any side, that’s what all of us do.]

Maybe this is a road less travelled, but one that’s beautiful and the uncertainty is exciting. Here’s to many more to embark upon and embrace every bit of it.

In the words of the Cheshire Cat who meets Alice on the fork on the road and is asked by her quizzically where it would take her as she too is unclear about where she is headed, “then it doesn’t matter.”

Making Of A Traveller: Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Start Travelling – Part I

At the turn of the year, I knew I wanted to move on. Move on not from people or places but from myself, and the tardiness that had set in in my everyday functioning. My day would start with thinking about how long do I have to get out of bed, dress up, look presentable and go to work before I could start calling myself (and obviously become one) a millionaire.

Well, that clearly has not happened and may take forever + few more years to fall in place. But there was always a sickening worry about how I would make it happen? Did I have it in me to work towards a break that my mind had asked for, and did I have it in me to just lock my computer, stand up and walk away from it, #likeaboss?

Social media had begun proving itself to be less of a friend and more of a foe aka occupational hazard when it kept throwing these posts by travel portals and travel bloggers trying to evoke this sense of jealousy I could contain no longer ’cause all that I was doing was sitting there, dreaming with my hands and my work laptop chained together.

Then one fine morning that opportune day and moment arrived for I suddenly had clarity on what I wanted… Or so I think or thought.

Nonetheless, all this inspiration I had been amassing from the works of Rumi, Kahlil Gibran and Ghalib, I decided the time to let go was here. I had started seeking what sought me, and thus, the days to the start of this ending was set in motion and everything seemed to be working out smoothly thereafter. No long hours or silly things seemed to be bothering me then. This could have been the big picture of that moment that helped me get through those times. Mentally I was already in this better place – exploring, hiking, trekking, road tripping first in the culturally rich Rajasthan, followed by revisiting the gulleys of Delhi (so to speak) that I had left behind a few years ago, and then head to my favorite of all time – the mountains!

‘Twas how Dr. Seuss had said, “kid, you’ll move mountains”. And here I was, preparing to come to terms with reality outside the comfort of a cushy office and air conditioned surroundings to go au naturale. First to experience the taste of sand that flew in the dunes, followed by feeling miniature infront of the majestic mountains, in this case, the Dhauladhar range which is home to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj, primarily. This was also when a lot of firsts were going to happen to me, from effectively the first-ever solo trip to several others. I’ve called the solo trip a soul trip ever since, ’cause rarely do things speak to your soul, and this was one of them, a permanent memory that will give way to several more I’m gung-ho about creating.

Even today as I write this piece, I can feel the cool breeze of the mountains and imagine Moon Peak smiling down at me every time I shut my eyes.

Silences too have a sound, if you listen carefully you can hear a story in every corner. For someone who has not just been bitten but could be a travel bug herself, every time the wind blows through the trees, or howls in your ear, you could sense a message she carries from these beauties of mother nature waiting to be heard.

……………………………………………….

Part II continues in next post

Tumhare Liye, Pyaari

Itne saal beet gaye, hum mile, door hue, phir ek doosre ko shayad bhool bhi gaye. Phir hum dobara mile. Iss baar tum meri zindagi ek naye roop, naye rang, naye libas mein aayi.

Pyaari, kya tum jaanti ho ki meri (recently turned 31) ki zindagi mein tumne kitne avatar badle hai? Bahut se acche, kuchh yaadgaar lamhein, kuchh sikhlai bhi diye hai? Woh kehte hai har jan ka ek waqt hota hai tumhari zindagi mein, shayad woh sahi hi honge, nahi toh tumhare avatar kaise milte mujhe iss chhoti si badi duniya mein?

Jahan gender ka itna bias hai, jahan woh kehte hai ek aurat doosri aurat ki sabse badi dushman hai, wahan mujhe tum mili. Tumse kaafi kuchh seekha hai maine, kuchh acchi yaadein sameti, kuchh buri aadatein door bhagayi…

Pyaari, jab main tumhare baare mein sochti hoon toh khushi se dil baag-baag ho jaata hai. Humne kayi kisse, kayi sukh, kayi dukh baatein hai. Kabhi hum duniya ki parwah kiye bina zor se hass diye, aur jab aansoon sambhale naa gaye toh bathroom jaane ka bahana bhi nahi dhoonda… Kya mujhe tumhari aadat ho gayi hai? Shayad.

Tumhari uss *throw your head back in laughter* waali hassi se,

Tumhari uss innocence se jisse tum mujhe woh darja deti ho jaise main khoob jaanti hoon,

Tumhari uss khilkhilati hassi se,

Tumhare uss badi behen jaise mujhe sambhalne se,

Tumhari unn intelligent baaton se,

Tumhare bass ek uss message se jisse hum dono samajh jaate hai ek doosre ke dil ka haal…

Haan Pyaari, you may have come and gone, but everytime you and I have parted ways knowingly or unknowingly, the universe has conspired once again to fill that void.

With love to all these ‘pyaaris’ of mine ♥️

Thirty Plus…

It always made me wonder why no one was ever clear about how old they were or were getting year on year, everytime we spoke about birthdays and age. For me, that day of non-acceptance has finally arrived. Until two days ago I was sure to embrace my 31st and the subsequent years to come as happily as I did my 30th. ‘Cause 30s are the new 20s, aren’t they?

Sadly, it all seems like bookish fluff from where I am seeing this situation, trying to be as objective as I can be, focussing on the good and not the negative et al. Why is this getting so difficult then? This cannot be described as anything other than a fish out of water or a mountain climber breathing laboriously because he has to reach the summit anyhow.

What started as an odd year a few days ago has carried on into the hour that changed my 30th into the 31st and here I am, still throwing these volley of questions at myself, hoping for an answer or a solution that has seemed so far away.

Another year of depression and anxiety isn’t something I had hoped for and I sure wish I can move on. Just that. Detach. Move on. Zen mode on.

Happy birthday to me. Still grateful for a new year and a chance to start anew and keep that fire in the belly lit. Let’s just say, that promise i made to myself this time, last year is a tad delayed, but I’m getting there. The process has begun. *Fireworks*

Shabd

Cheenkhna chahti thi lekin aawaz sunne waala koi nahi tha,

Bahut kuchh kehna chahti thi par samajhne waala bhi koi nahi

Phir socha jo kuchh kehna hai woh usse kaho jo kabhi naa de daga, aise mein sirf ek sujhaav mann mein aaya…

Siyahi, kaagaz, laptop ya phone uthake itna likhne ki iccha hui ki mann mein jitni uljhan thi woh khulkar bahar aa jaaye aur saari taqleefein kam dard dene lagein.

Toh ab status kya hai, kisine poochha…

Main apne uss zone se iss tarah muskurayi ki unhein aisa vyateet hone laga jaise mujhmein kabhi bhi koi tamasic bhavnaye thi hi nahi

In the words of the great Piyush Mishra:
सुकून मिलता है लफ्ज़ कागज पर उतार कर,
चीख भी लेता हूँ आवाज भी नहीं होती…

Shabd. Words. Power. Freedom.