Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Sunday to Savour

I am not very fond of Sundays. They are the precursors to Monday blues. That is more than enough reason to not like the day God deemed for rest.

But today was different. I do not know how exactly that happened. Yet it did.

Last night when I went off to sleep, I was not particularly looking forward to today – a Sunday. I generally hate going out on this day but today I had to. To exercise my fundamental right. To vote in the city civic elections.

I do not vote in the area I currently live in. I am registered in the electoral roll of my grandparents’ locality. So are my parents and siblings.

It was an exceptionally hot day and we set out around 11 a.m. to vote. Quite surprisingly, we found no long line in front of our allotted booth. We were in and out within minutes. I should have seen that as an omen. A good omen.

Rights exercised, we walked the short distance to my grandparents’ place. I had spent the first sixteen years of my life here before we had to shift due to space constraints. My uncle, aunt and cousins still live here along with my grandparents who are currently out of town. To us, this small first floor apartment with its cramped rooms is home still. “Ghar” is what we still call it.

We had lunch at “Ghar”. My aunt had prepared a veritable feast. Nothing too fancy, mind you. Just simple, traditional Indian “ghar ka khana”. And it was delicious. I overate and those who know me would see this as a rarity.

We spent some time after that cooped in my uncle and aunt’s small bedroom, watching TV. The channels alternated between the vernacular news channels that my dad is addicted to and the sports channel that was beaming the latest cricket match featuring the ‘Men in Blue’. There were jokes cracked, legs pulled, mobile phone cameras engaged till one by one we drifted off to sleep.

Twilight saw an impromptu cricket match being played and tea and lemonade being devoured before we set off for home. My parents stayed back to attend a wedding. My siblings and I returned home and spent the evening watching India romp home to victory, demolishing pizza, Maggi and garlic bread with cold coffee and ice cream.

I am rounding off my day with a Jodi Picoult novel and a single eye and ear on ‘Wake Up Sid’, which my brother wants to watch. And I have been continuously humming ‘Iktara’.

It has been such a wonderful day. Simple, with no single stand out moment. There were no special memories that happened. There were no ecstatic crests and no depressing lows. Yet it was a Sunday that I savoured and I would remember. For a long time to come. Perhaps forever. Especially because it was an unexpected gift.

And who says all surprises have to be jaw dropping. Sometimes, they just sneak up on you and leave you with a warm, soft, lovely feeling. It is called contentment. I have it. For now.

Good night.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On a Rainy Day, from a Sick Bed

When you are down with flu and fever, self pity is the reigning feeling. I am a champion at that.

My day started out like that, then as the medicines began to kick in, I realized something. The sky outside my window was not the brutal blue of scorching Indian summer. It was grey – a colour, that I sometimes do not even think of as colour. And the sky looked beautiful. A portent of thunderstorms and rain.

And the omens were right. It rained and when it rains, it creates enchanting music, drumming on the slope of asbestos sheet that covers my balcony. The three windchimes join in – the earthy tinkle of the clay ones, the joyful clatter of the wooden pipes of the second one and the cheerful clanging of the golden metal that makes up the third. Today was the same.

Then there are the birds. There are four bright yellow birds that hang from my balcony roof. They have bright red, ruby eyes and their bamboo wings have been painted green by some artisan from a far flung village. These birds do not chirp. But they dance and do so beautifully. Especially, when the wind comes to visit them. Like this rainy afternoon.

There is music too – of the human variety. A radio in the neighbourhood playing songs of rain, about rain and in the rain. Some from a childhood that has been left behind. Some from a time not quite in the distant past.
A hot cuppa tea. A steaming plate of Maggi, spiced with a hint of lime juice and green chillies. Family chatting and gossiping. What should the dinner be on this beautiful, rainy day. Opinions differ – something hot and piping for sure. But the chef wants something easy to make. A decision would be taken in due course.

Meanwhile, the rain has stopped. But it has not bid adieu yet. I sure hope so. It made an insufferable day pleasant and self pity, though not completely booted out, is slinking in a corner. So, unlike little Johnny, I want the rain to come again. And brighten my day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nothing Honorable about It

Several weeks back, an Indian court pronounced the murderers of a young couple guilty. A mother wept because at last her son was accorded justice, even though he was dead. And a whole lot of people – powerful people – in her village were livid with anger. Because they felt that the court had been unfair to the killers. After all, the death of the couple was necessary. They had brought dishonor to their families and villages by marrying within the same gotra (lineage).

But this was in rural, backward India, you say. Of course, the educated Indian does not believe in such things.

Nirupama Pathak, a journalist from Delhi, would have disagreed, if she could. But she cannot because she is dead. Committed suicide, her parents say. They charge her boyfriend from another caste of raping and then abetting her suicide. Police have not yet unravelled the whole mystery but there are apparently indications of the young woman having been murdered by her educated, middle class parents, in the name of honour.  Either of the two allegations could be true or may be both. We do not know yet.

And of course, there are the witch hunts. Not just in Salem in eighteenth century. Right here in India. Age, caste and education no bar. I remember reading about a case couple of years back in which highly educated sons in Delhi’s NCR region murdered their own mother, branding her a witch.

Every time, we come across these cases, we shake our heads, cluck our tongues and move on with the business of our lives. Such regressive ideas and notions are, of course, beyond our understanding and our familiar worlds. They do not occur to us or, even to any of the people we know. Not our friends. Not our family. We are educated, modern and progressive.
I bet, the friends and family of the murderers in all the above instances also felt the same. Or if, they even suspected otherwise, they chose to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that it would all go away. But, it didn’t.

We can blame illiteracy for such heinous crimes in rural, small town India. And on medieval mindset in places like Iran. And in most cases, we would perhaps be right. But what drives those with the benefit of education and exposure to a world beyond the narrow confines of ill-conceived morality to yield to murder? The psychiatrists can perhaps come up with a hundred reasons. None of them justify the killings but they can explain. But to my mind, these killers are as dangerous as psychopaths. These self appointed guardians of virtue.

And it’s always the woman who has to bear the burden of family honour. Oh, she might not always end up dead, at least not medically. There are instances where her moral guardians deem beating her boyfriend / husband/ fiancĂ© to death or maiming him for life or forcing him to suicide is payment enough.  Then, the woman wears the albatross of guilt all her life. Guilt that is, perhaps, in some ways, worse than death.

And what is honour, do we know? gives the meaning of ‘honour’ as:
1.       Honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions
2.       A source of credit or distinction
The two definitions, please note, are not mutually exclusive. ‘Honour’ killings can never be fair or an example of integrity. The phrase itself is an oxymoron. Perhaps, the most shameful contradiction that can exist in the twenty first century. ‘Honour’ killings are murders – plain and simple. ‘Honour’ itself, is just another means of subjugating women and also anybody else that the ‘powerful’ in the society want to put down. At the heart of it, ‘honour’ killings are about power. Like most homicides are. And there is nothing honorable about it.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Reflection in the mirror
          Of a life rushing past.
Reflection in the eyes
          Of dreams that will not last.

Reflection in words
          Of Spirits that soar
Reflection in the sky
          Of romances galore.

Reflection in the heart
          Of stories never told.
Reflection in the mind
          Of experiences bold.

Reflection in the hand
          Of ecstasy and pain.
Reflection in the wind
          Of fragrant rain!