Friday, April 04, 2014

D for Dream Life!

What sort of life you would want to live, if someone else is bearing all your expenses? A friend asked me recently. The idea was appealing, indeed. Sometimes, we think that most difficulties in life can be resolved just if we get some incessant supply of money from somewhere and we are left to do nothing but to use that undepleting resource. Sounds good, but not true. Howsoever, hard we try to believe this, but this is not true. Lack of money is not the real trouble in our lives, and hence its unending presence would not be the solution, either. Sadly, but true.

Establishing the significance of money to a broken heart, a joke goes that its rather better to cry inside a Merc than on a bicycle. Perhaps! But then, do we really care about the elegance of the place, when we cry, or is it a listening heart that we look for at that time. I am sure, a bleeding heart is hardly concerned about the worsening eye-make up, howsoever, expensive the latter is.

I do not underestimate the power of money at all. In fact, I find it incredibly significant and powerful in changing lives. But considering it a sole solution of life's most troubles will be naive, I think. And on top of that, the money that I earn and spend on the ones I love would give me far more satisfaction than vice-versa.

That was about creating a dream life on the expense of someone else's expenses. Now, about the dream life, itself!

The thought is lovely! Where do I see myself after all these years -

Owning businesses
Creating value and wealth
Running multiple orphanages and schools
Owning a huge room, full of books and a comfortable couch to sit and read them
Changing the life of people through my speaking sessions
Traveling to several places, every year
Meeting wonderful people
Vacating at any place I want
Earning enough money to buy just anything I wish for, without bothering about my budget
Living with my favorite people and being available to them anytime I want or every time they need me
Carrying a beautiful healthy body and an attitude that can encourage others to live a simple and peaceful life

Yes, that is the kind of life I dream of. Being able to provide all that my loved ones need, all that that can insure them a decent living even when I am not around. Being able to love a lot. Being able to overcome my ego and tell some people how much I miss them, and how much I need them. Being able to see the world with family and the ones I care about. Being able to finally live my dream of opening orphanages and providing means for these kids to shape their lives.

A life of hyperactivity, with string of events lined up one after the other, a life of various roles and responsibilities; a life where I come home tired to be received by a wonderful family and loving children, a family where I steal vacations from my busy schedule, a life, where I share morning tea and dinner with my people and see them growing and progressing in their respective lives, a life that has seen amazing places and met with amazing people, a life which is completely exhausted and which when ends creates a sudden emptiness in the lives of those, it has been associated to. An emptiness that can be replaced, in terms of its absoluteness. If I get to live that kind of life, I think, I will be very very satisfied. A life well lived on my own expenses!

C for Cannatta!!

Its Cannatta, meaning silence, hence no post! ;)

B for Blog!

I would not have been the same person I am, if I did not have this blog! Yes, this is the importance of blogging to me.

When I had started blogging almost nine years back, I did not know that this simple webpage could become so dear and distinct part of my personality. After all, I had just wanted to create something to speak out my mind, so I started with a blog named "This is the World from my Eyes" (:D) It might sound too childish now, but back then it appeared like a perfect expression.

Once I hopped inside the blog-wagon, it just took me over completely. It became an addiction hard to resist. Soon, the inhibition of sharing your life on a public platform looked like irrelevant. The Blog turned into a Diary - an honest compilation of my life's incidents and moments. Now, when I look at it, I feel a sense of pride for having lived all this.

After all, what changes if you accept things in your life, publically. If you share the reasons of your joy and fear with strangers. Some people suggested me that it makes one bare in front of all. But then I have nothing to hide. All my emotions are so human and common. I feel glad, I feel sad, I want a few pleasures in life and I am scared to lose what I love. Isn't this something that happens with just everyone; then what stops me from accepting it - in private or in public!

Sharing your thoughts needs a simple thing - a certain honesty towards yourself. And when I look back at my posts, I feel completely satisfied with myself as, a person.

However, there are four things I would like to suggest (read advice) to those starting on any new social platform.
1.Please maintain some sort of care in sharing information that can be used for malivious interests. Eg. Your personal images, contact or financial details, using names from your professional world, making dangerous or hatred opinions, etc.
2. It's your space so you can open your heart here, but do not discuss other people's personal life.
3. Refrain from taking names of other people, without their permission.
4. Do not ever blog when you are angry.

With a very little care, one can really create a repository of emotions and moments. Bloggers love their blogs just as poets love their poems or authors love their books.

These pages are the chronicles of our life-history and we cherish them like anything! Ask, any blogger!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

A for Arjun

My loving and best friend! Yes, I met him on the first day of my MBA and ever since he has been an important and irreplaceable part of my life. In fact, not just me, he has been a constant and subtle support to the lives of our entire management-college gang. We all walked through different stages of our lives and Arjun has walked it with us. We got busy with our routine, momentarily forgot him too, and then whenever time permitted, we reached back to him.. but have always found him 'available'. I fail to understand how he manages to be available to all of us, while also adding incredible value to his own life - may be, some people come in this world to ease the life of others and only they know how to handle that kind of responsibilities.

So, it was June 2, 2008, afternoon when he approached me. He had pinged me once, having read my blog somewhere, so the introduction started on that note. He was impressed with my journalism background, much for his own persistent desire to be a journalist someday. He looked like a 'nice' guy to me, but I did not pay too much heed ;)

Then, being in the same class, we interacted often and all the submerged gyan started pouring out of that little head. Hailing from Palakkad based Tamil family, his flawless Hindi knowledge and neutralized accent was impressive. His narration of different events and amazingly in-depth knowledge of Indian and international politics, religion, society, etc. instantly earned him popularity and appreciation by a group of nerds. In just few months, Arjun, Hemanth, Abhi, Manasi, and I became the bestest of buddies. But Arjun had another group of absolute opposites as well. How he managed to be friends in complete ease with completely opposite personalities is mystery.

During the two years of our MBA, Arjun and I shared uncountable number of evenings together, laughing, giggling, dreaming, debating, discussing, arguing, cussing, appreciating, missing, just sitting, and time-wasting. I had never felt so easy in anyone else's company ever and this stands true even today. Arjun is one person, apart from another best-friend, in whose presence I am totally myself.

A lot of our time in college was invested in cursing how both of us are stuck in this wrong world.. how our parents do not understand our dreams.. how unfair the world is.. the remaining time, we would take part in every single activity happening in the campus, earning us quite a reputation in front of the faculty and management. An ink-pen in his front pocket and Indian Express in his hand, kind of became his style trademarks. Soon, we two became 'very-acquainted' with the director. We were basking in our little glory, which even helped us crack a dream project of our lives - an internship in BJP, in the communication office of its prime ministerial candidate, LK Advani!!!

I still remember the last-day of the first year of our MBA. The entire first year batch of all four management verticals, which counted to over 450 students, was sitting in  the hall, when deputy-director announced that two students from our PGDM batch have been selected by BJP for summer internship - Arjun Narayanan and Namrata Srivastava. The unexpected announcement was followed by huge applause, with both of us hesitantly standing to receive it. We both looked into each others eye with a tinge of disbelief, silently asking - is this really happening. We were any way heroes in the college, but now we had become certified super-heroes. I am sure, he remembers that moment as vividly as I do.

Happily we went to BJP headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road thinking that our lives are going to change forever under the able guidance of Mr. Prakash Javadekar. But, after reaching there we realized its politics, darling. Everyone was too busy in the election humdrum and nobody had time for two dreamy ducklings. We spent the first week realizing that there is no guide or mentor here for us, neither is there any work. We realised that we would have to control our own sailing boat else our high-profile internship is doomed. Then we made a strategy. We decided to meet the communication in-charge of BJP team - Mr. Sudhindra Kulkarni. Again hesitantly, we went to the communication office at 26, Tuglaq Marg. A meeting was happening there and we were told to wait outside. Interestingly, some body else called us inside the meeting, thinking that we are a part of the team and before even we could present our hire-us-please-application, we were sitting in the core communication team of BJP!! There should have been some kind of divine intervention for this to happen.

Soon, after the meeting concluded, we met the IT Cell In-charge of BJP, Mr. Prodyut Bora. With an electrifying personality, he instantly attracted us and we were asked to work under him! Life after this became adventurous and amazing, beyond imagination. Everything was going fine, but we did not still have a place to live in Delhi, due to which, everyday we had to up-down from our college in Greater Noida and all this happened before Metro. Some days, either Arjun or me, emotionally blackmailed one or the other faculty member and got a car for ourselves on the name of a national cause, the other days, we just had to travel through over-crowded city buses. During several journeys to and fro Greater Noida-Delhi, Arjun and I would spend time talking about loads of topics, sometimes so engrossed in our chats that we will forget about the pushing crowd and heavy backpacks. Some days, we will get a vacant seat, I will sit there holding both the backpacks and on few lucky days, we would get two adjacent vacant seats. We will de-stress ourselves through the stories of his Dubai stay, Gandhi dynasty, Kerala and politics, his mother, my mother, my father, our dream lives, our confusion about how to live our dream lives, etc. Each day, irrespective of what time it is, Arjun will leave me safely to the hostel before going back to his place. His presence was a comfort for me and my parents.

As the election campaign gained heat, we two got loads of tasks to work on. Working on press releases, websites, social media pages, creating slogans, attending meetings with senior BJP Leaders and listening to them with awe became a kind of routine. Then the team decided to go for campaigning for Mr. Advani. We went campaigning in Delhi and several cities in Uttarakhand. wearing T-shirts designed with party symbol, we would leave the office early and come only late in evenings everyday. Every day used to be so exhausting, yet so fulfilling. Both of us loved every second of it. Then it was decided to leave for Uttaranchal, starting from Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Roorkee, etc. All in all, I guess, it was a four day tour. Meeting different saints and political leaders, introducing ourselves several times in a day, going into totally backward areas of the cities and explaining BJP manifesto - this was all so much fun.

Then came the evening of Haridwar. After campaigning during the day, it was decided that the team will attend Ganga Aarti in evening. Coming from BJP, we were all provided the prominent places to sit on the wooden benches kept very close to the ghat. The scene was overwhelming. A lot of people were seeing this for the first time. The sheer beauty of that religious ceremony kept us dumb-stuck. We even did not care to click pictures, I am sure, just like me, Arjun too was continuously thanking lord for giving a chance to be there with that team.

After the internship got over in the month of May, we two went to our respective homes for a short while and rejoined colleges only to face a large group of curious and enthusiastic classmates, eager to listen our stories. Arjun, with his superb story-telling skills became an overnight star ;)

The remaining and the last year of MBA was fun, except of a necessary evil called placement. Recession is not a very good time to complete your college, we were worried about our placements; and again we found solace in each others company. Arjun and I both knew, this job is not that which will decide our course in life but then we knew we have to crack it. Thankfully, before it could become really a trouble in our lives, we all got jobs!!! Arjun resumed his routine of visiting and trying everything possible in Delhi. He was the reason, we went to see several places in Delhi.

And then one fine day, our college ended and with extremely heavy hearts we took on our respective 'real' lives. Often the promises of staying in touch made at this juncture, die their natural deaths when the promise-makers get caught in the vicious routine cycles. Same happened with most of us, except Arjun. He would religiously call us, SMS all of us the birth and anniversary dates of other people. Three years after college were really tiring and demanding, while I remembered him almost everyday, somehow taking time to call him and talk at length felt like so impossible! Arjun will call me, some days I would pick up his call and finish up the conversation quickly, on most days, not pick it up at all, thinking that I will call him later, which hardly ever happened.

Meanwhile, this calm simple man kept moving on with his life and its simple pleasures. Pleasures like meeting new people, making them feel important, enjoying just everyone's company, reading wonderful books with admirable diligence, visiting new places, writing wonderful literature, and trying to keep his friendships alive with his moronic ex-classmates. In between he changed jobs and joined an MNC, only to know that even this job is not for him. This time even I shouted on him for making abrupt career choices. But then for few people, their passion makes the way for them. One night, I dreamed that Arjun has changed a job! I called him up later to share it with him and he informed me that he has actually changed his job to The Times of India as a journalist. This was a bloody good surprise, we knew what it meant for him and we were deeply happy for him to finally get what he so wanted; though at less than half of the salary he was receiving in his corporate job!

I have not seen him so satisfied with his life, as I do after his joining TOI. He gets to interview celebrities, write about arts, culture, cinema, and society; of course, amidst loads of other crap which no one wants to do. But then, journalism is what where his soul has always been!

I am no foreseer, but I am very sure of one thing - a person, so patient, polite, passionate, and pleasing like him is destined to for something huge. I can sense that in his writings and I know that someday I would see him talking about his experiences in some television talk-show with a stature of celebrity. We often joke about that. But everyone who has known Arjun close enough and has seen his work long enough, knows this. The hours of night-conversations, the recital of old stories from religious epics, playing flute, singing ragas; and when nothing, just listening to my kahani, there will never be a shortage of topics for us to munch on. We love debating. In fact, debating brings the best out of each other.

Arjun is hugely more to all four of us, than a friend. He is a brother, an agony aunt, a patient listener, a punching bag, a philosopher and guide, a movie and music buff and a soul mate to all of us. Someday, he will get married and a pretty lady will come into his life and rule over his heart. While, the whole world will be glad on this proposition, somehow, we four get deeply hurt by it, because he has become so much for us that sharing him with just anyone seems like too much of pain.

Love you bro!! May God Bless you :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Banke Bihari saga



Faith is such a powerful feeling! The force of collective faith is so strong and mighty that it will simply sweep you off your feet, leaving you totally dumb-stuck with the enormity and magnificence of collective belief in a deity that at one point looks like a respiring idol, and at other point, an epitome of ethereal beauty that takes away your senses of individuality, lifting you to the surreal world of silence and peace together with thousands of other people who are getting transformed by the same force, just at the same time, while completely being oblivious to one another and to the process itself. 

This is what wonderful temples do to you. They make you forget yourself!

One such temple is of Shri Banke Bihari in Vrindavan. Despite spending more than half of my life in Kanpur, a place only few hours away from Vrindavan, I never went there. But for past few months, something or other has been happening, which draws my attention to Vrindavan. Sometimes, I meet someone who has just visited the temple, so he or she will sing praises of it, arousing my interest. Some other times, I had dreams of going to Vrindavan. Recently, a neighbour planned a trip to Vrindavan with some more space for other people to join. But somehow, it just did not happen! Till, yesterday, when one of my father's friends finally convinced him that we totally must go for Banke Bihari darshan, we eventually packed our bags. I personally feel the trip was decided by God himself. He was pulling me, and it’s a nice feeling to think like that :)

I am generally not a temple person - the crowd, commercialism, touts, dirtiness, priests, etc. put me off. Most of my time in usual Hindu temples is spent in waiting in long queues, wrestling my way to deity, and saving myself from touts, guides, and priests. The actual darshan part is hardly few seconds. Rest of the time is spent in getting prasad, remembering names of all my people who could not be here right now, neglecting the push and pull by fellow devotees, and ignoring the call of guards etc to move from the line and make way for others. Devotion does not get enough time and peace to emerge, when I am in a temple. 

But this trip was different, for the company we had. Being an ardent devotee of Banke Bihari and frequent visitor of Vrindavan, my father's friend made things simpler for us. He knew which places we must go and the short-cuts for them. So, after entering Vrindavan, we straight away went to Banke Bihari temple. Vrindavan - a 7000-year old town houses narrow and identical lanes, with all of them leading to the temple, and getting walked on by lakhs of bare feet throughout the city. You will readily find people going barefeet, on Vrindavan roads. Even we decided to leave our footwear in car only, which was parked at good 1 km distance from the temple premises. Interestingly, walking without footwear, on roads, through pebbles, vehicles, animal dung, oozing sewers, overflowing drains, etc. did not feel weird at all. I have been to Haridwar, several times and find it an adorable temple town, but even there I would not entertain the thought of walking barefoot on roads; but in Vrindavan the dirtiness of roads failed to dampen my spirit. 

As we walked to the temple through those lanes, we inserted ourselves into the thick crowds that were getting thicker as we went closer to the premises. The delicious smell of deep fried kachuris, samosa, bhajia mix with the fragrance of roses, marigold and other flowers and adorn these lanes. The shops look all very similar, with usually the same products to offer. The same lassi in earthen pots and the same extremely famous 'pedas'. The shops that do not sell eatables and flowers, invariably sell idols of Radha-Krishan and there extremely beautiful and colourful attires and embellishments. Like a child, you get engrossed with the charm of these objects. You feel like buying all of them - and you would  not even mind competing with a two-year old for that. One might get amused by the fact that how so many people and so many shops comfortably thrive on such narrow lanes, where in actual hardly few people can roam around with ease. Yet, somehow, things work out. The space which is ideal to room 30-40 people at a time, is for ages accommodating hundreds of people, and no one complains - not even when you step on someone's foot or wipe off your sweat with someone else's dupatta or even hold someone else's hand and start pulling thinking that its of your family member. 

In between all these, a few cows and dogs also manage to get in. More often than not, you feel someone rubbing themselves against you, and when you angrily look back, you find a cow standing beside you; scared by those long pointed horns and curious eyes staring at you, you revolve your head laterally to find a place to escape. But there is no space. The cow knew that and now you know it too. Like a cigarette placed in its pack, you are fixated in a particular position and your motion depends on the entire locomotion of the crowd you are part of. As everyone moves ahead, you move ahead and so does the cow. Gradually, you get settled with the cow, only till the cow is lured by the delicacies kept on a mithai-shop counter and start moving towards them, with complete disregard to the clogged human herd. Then, in that four-feet wide lane, a small local riot happens. The mithai-shop owner will take a small danda and coax the cow "chal.. chal". Sometimes, a kachori will also be dropped and the cow will hurriedly move out. Soon, the crowd in which till now, you could not even turn your head, gets hyperactive and quickly expands itself to invisible grounds and make more than enough room for the hurrying cow to escape. The innocent white cow, with limbs half immersed in its own (or may be others) dried dung, horns pointed concavely and coloured with 'geru', runs through it, waving its tail casually, while unknowingly brushing a few faces on its way; and leaves; the moment the cow leaves, the crowd swings back to its original location and shrinks itself again on that narrow lane, still looking and moving in the previous direction.

So, like a cigarette in the pack, I too kept moving to the doors of Banke Bihari. I did not know the way, nor was there any necessity to know. Everyone had to go, where everyone else was going. There was no concept of queue, so, your family members are standing at different places with different strangers. You share glances with them and confirm that they are fine and know who is standing where. As you inch closer to the temple entrance, you hear loud and consecutive "Jaiiiiii". Soon, you inch further and even see people raising their hands with every "Jaiii", then you inch further and find that you have come close enough to also raise hands and contribute your "Jaii". Then, you are pushed few steps more and reach the verge of main hall, where at the other end sits Banke Bihari. This particular place is the point, where things suddenly become very transformational. From here, there are a few steps below which lead you to the verandah or the main compound where you stand and get Bihari Ji's darshan. While you stand here, you can have a very clear view of Banke Bihari, because its higher than the over-populous verandah. And that's the place, where I felt what I wrote in the beginning of this post. 

The creation of temple is in the form of a fort, with centralized open ceiling verandah and circular double-storey arch with inwards balconies. The entrance happens from the side opposite to Banke Bihari's kaksh (room). When you stand on the edge of the entrance-corridor, you can see the entire verandah, upper balconies and opposite arch, which means a view of over a thousand people, dressed in different colours, joyously moving together in an ethereal harmony emerging from their collective love for Krishna. Every few seconds, they will scream "Vrindavan Swami, Banke Bihari Maharaj ki Jaiii" with hands upraised and palms stretched. The sea of heads gets drowned in the ocean of hands; and soon reemerges only to immerse again. This chain continues with the heads and pairs of hands changing very frequently. No one wants to leave the premise early and everyone else is only so eager to enter; and this has been happening day in and day out for decades. 

When you stand on those stairs, you witness sheer madness and passion of people's love for God. Just by standing there, you become a part of that madness. You shout with all, you dance with all, you forget yourself just as everybody else at that moment has! And then suddenly, you try to search for the One, for whom, you and all are going mad. At the far end, you see, a small idol, with a black beautiful face, standing calmly in its room, rejoicing the passion of its devotees - the harmless, selfless and love bound crazy animals; something that it has been seeing and rejoicing for ages. This sight of seeing the devotees with their God, the hungry with the ambrosia, the children with their father, the drowned with the savior, the love with the beloved, and the lost with the found is so overwhelming that you fail to consume it anymore. Tears flow out of your eyes, revealing your inability to take-in so much of beauty in one instance. Like a painting or a photograph that image instills on your mind. You ask yourself, what have I done to be a part of this moment? For a second, everything in your life suddenly seems to have fallen at right place. This is where you really belong to, comes a voice out of you asking you to stay! Just there! Not so much on physical or social level, as much as on emotional, spiritual, and cosmic level. The Lord of all asks you to have faith. He says, "so many of them are here because I have heard of them, why won't I then hear of you"? You feel the comfort of having finally reached somewhere. And in those few seconds, you have consumed and conversed so much that you do not mind being pushed and replaced by another set of love-stuck devotees. You are pushed into the verandah and closer to kaksh and then subsequently towards the exit. 

The exits are not really the exits. You leave, knowing that you are coming again. You feel the seed of faith is finally cracking after having seen the light; and this is what places like Banke Bihari temple do. They reinforce your faith in God, despite the crowd, touts, dirtiness, priests and commercialism. You exit as a different person. You look back at the verandah, the compound, the corridor, the devotees and everything else looks very normal - you know you have risen to the level where your soul has become a part of this chaotic beauty. It's a relief, similar to when a given task is satisfactorily consummated. Faith is a powerful emotion, completely wild, highly infectious and far from logic. Just as doubts do not leave as readily, how hard you shoo them off.. Faith does not leave readily either. How hard you try to be negative and dark, but one voice always hopes that the tide will be turned that the difficulties will be resolved and that the good times will come again. When you come closer to God, you are assured that that little voice is not fake, you just need to give it a louder mike and a bigger audience. 
(Images have been taken from Internet)

Holi at Banke Bihari Temple