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No, Vasundhara is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thoughts~#3: Conversations Happen

Often when I see people around me connect with each other over a conversation, I wonder, how much there is to a conversation. I have had some interesting ones with complete strangers, people from several walks of life; on a variety of topics.
At times, I thank the Almighty for this. Such conversations teach one a lot. After most such, I have stopped to pen my thoughts down.  At times I forget to do so, but the “image” etches itself in my mind, and heart…so somehow, I have always been able to retain moments from every such.
And I think, it is not easy to talk, and then to be able to speak, and to eventually connect with someone. Conversations don’t come easy…and oftentimes, you have to make them happen.
An interesting article in the newspaper today made me think on this.
How far people go to connect with others around them? See this: 100 conversations over a 100 cups of tea
Some of us are configured in such a way that a conversation is something we may not relish. Acceptable. Consider these though. Everyone. 
Letters are a thing of the past now. The written word on the brink of extinction. I shudder to think on this line. While letters were more about connecting, electronic mails are all about curtness. How well can you snub the other; perhaps how well did you show the other person his/her place. Irksome, to my mind. Opinions differ, perspectives change. I’d be glad to hear back from those of you who have had great experience or fond memories from these. Often one experiences how the written word alienates you; the spoken word can too, but the degree varies.
Language is not a barrier. You know it. I found it while undergoing my Initial Learning Program at my organization. The woman in-charge of washing dishes all trainees ate out of was a native of Kerala, in India. She would stand each day, behind a counter-the service window, just her hands visible to everyone who passed by to hand the finished plate over for washing. Not quite liking the work she did, I would bend down, and look her in the eye, smile and say thank you, every time I went to the service window to keep my used plate. She would smile back and shake her head, side-to-side. This went on for 25 days. We used sign language to connect. No words, beyond thank you…any other, in our own languages; and a lot of smiles. She treated me to a piece of cake from her meagre salary even as I vehemently refused. To cut the long story short, all of that was a conversation. Language and education, notwithstanding.
Chat’s not helping us either. No formal closures on chat (Google, Yahoo!, other such); unlike a conversation. Don’t you see that happen as the new normal now? Perhaps you do it too. I consciously try not to fall prey to it.
Have you ever stopped to think, that a ‘chat’ is a conversation. Imagine. You are speaking with someone, and suddenly, the person just gets up from the chair, and walks away.
The electronic word and world have taken a toll of sorts on possible conversation and on that which happens.
These above have had some bearing to different levels, on our capacities and abilities to converse with other beings, and people. A conversation is imperative to man’s survival. With the art (and beyond) of conversation soon vanishing, we may live to see a day when we want to connect, but can’t find the means. Where a conversation becomes an art/thing extinct. Where people don’t “see” its importance, and therefore cease to connect for a conversation over something big or small.
Reminds me of a few lines from RN Tagore’s poem, A Broken Song~ where there is no love, where the listeners are dumb, there never can be a song.

Thoughts #2: Life’s A Journey

The sea of human beings stared and wobbled, as the train chugged into the station. The clock in the station master’s room struck.  1900 hours. The cool evening breeze blew, forcing everyone to wrap their arms and clothes around themselves.
And then, the sea began to pour forth, bursting at the seams. All hell broke loose, with every passing moment. People scrambling to get aboard the train…young mothers scurrying with young ones in tow; families clinging together for fear of losing sight of their loved ones…still jostling ahead, for a foothold’s worth of space-on the platform and the train.
Once on board, a different world on wheels awaited every passenger. No space to stand; leave alone walk to reach your seat. The train was filled cheek by jowl with people wrestling to make way…and get some place to lodge themselves. Scary, for the sheer numbers that were in; unreserved, and they were in; reserved, and they tried to get in; some trying their luck to get in; some cursing theirs for having to let “it” go. The Railway Police Force did not show up…nor did the station authorities. What could they have done? The power of multitudes, is a fear (for the one who fails in his duty) to reckon with!
It was a cold evening in early February this year.
After a lot of shuffling, wrestling, and word mongering did everyone get on to the train. Now, how does one get to the designated seat? How does one move. Well, push came to shove. Lo and behold, everyone managed to fit in.
As the train chugged out of the station, chaos and anxiety was writ large on every passenger’s face. More than half the people onboard travelled without a ticket, unreserved, and with sheer grit, bordering solely on Faith.  They had to get off at Allahabad…to take a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges; on the most auspicious day of the year~ Mauni Amavasya. Time it takes to reach there by train from Varanasi? About two and a half hours. Time that train took? Five and a half.  All trains ran thus…all passengers inconvenienced: those who missed theirs, ones who got on with Hope of reaching for the holy dip on time, and those who got on to any which way.
While I can’t represent the voice of people aboard that train, I can speak for myself…and spell my thoughts on this out. Here are a few:
My first thought was of utter disdain and anger. How can we let people, who have no business being there, in?!? What a poor facility management. What ruckus. Damn you!
As the train covered a kilometer or two, quarrels and verbal duels rent the air. I tried to steer clear… anger mounting. Huddled into one corner of discomfort, I sat through those five and a half hours; tried telling people to not squat on the floor… or to mind their elbows and luggage loosely tied together in bundles.
After a few kilometers more, I thought, what made these people board a train that they knew would be full of people, who would dislike their presence? Be full of disdain towards them? Furthermore, what made them sit patiently, in one corner, just smiling back to everyone and anyone who was rude to them? My heart went out to them.  Not once did they talk back; never did they argue. Yes, they knew they had no business being there, but there they were, riding high on the waves of their Faith; and on Hope, that they will make it.
My conversations with a few revealed they had been journeying for close to two-three days now. They had been afoot for more than 48 hours! Slowly, some passengers stopped spewing venom at them. Perchance they realised what drove this lot.
At 0130 hours when the train arrived at Allahabad, all of them got off the train…as if keen to move to their ‘aim’.  The rest of my journey was beset with discomfort…but that did not matter to me. I thought, and some more, of these people I just rubbed shoulders with.
Their Faith and Hope were two factors that aided them. They were the reasons why the people did not shout back, or give in to their fellow passengers’ coaxing. Not, the fact, that they had no business being there. They were just there for a different purpose. Nothing else mattered.
The next day word spread fast that there was a stampede at the railway station. True to their lot, the newspapers threw up pictures that elicited sympathy, fear and pain from the readers. My thoughts went to my co-passengers from the previous day.
A few questions, remain with me: when authorities know it for a fact that this is to happen, why not plan for it in advance? Perhaps the answer lies in the sheer multitudes of our country; perhaps, in the inability and lack of foresight of those in power.
P.S: Am glad this post sees the light of the day. It stayed half-written, for a few days…and how I writhed in disgust towards self. Everything has a time; A Time when it happens…a book half read, a draft half written…a word untold…comes through, eventually.

Thoughts ~ #1 : The Monkey Video

 It’s Sunday, February 24, 2013, and I have a few things on my mind.
How do I get back to that one page I wrote on my journey of sorts, by train early this month; how do I upload this video on Facebook (taking donkeys years now!) and ‘I-can-sense-an-itch-to-write/been –long’ kind of thoughts. Rummaging through my mind…preventing me from taking an afternoon nap. (yes!)
Head’s throbbing for I intentionally forsook my medicine for the day…these above, need some sorting first.  Everything else, can wait.
Sorting my thoughts, not in the above order, though.
 #1: The video
Early today morning, I heard the familiar ‘damru-dugdugi’: a small two-headed drum, one sees Shiva, the Destroyer hold in His Hands (my favourite of the lot!).
Yes, ‘twas the man with two monkeys…atop his cycle. Vying for attention of children…in all the houses lining the road, he keeps walking.
Then the inevitable happens.
They begin to run out of houses. Screaming. Yelling in excitement.  Their parents exchanging glances that say ‘fetch-those-pennies-out and stand-here-with him/her-while-the-show-lasts!’.
Children. They are such bundles of energy.
Three from my neighbourhood called the ‘show’ open. They stood in extreme anticipation, while the ‘madari’-monkey tamer, put his paraphernalia on show.
The two monkeys, waited for him, patiently. The children’s excitement mounted…and the money dance began.
I have watched this as a kid…many a times. Sitting atop my Father’s shoulders…best and safe, as my little heart always felt sure the monkey would not reach me there. And all that while, he would answer my endless questions.
Today, I see it from my balcony, with a camera in my hand.
And I see a different script. A testimony to the changing times.
The parents go back to their houses once the show starts. The maids, helpers, take their places. The script that the monkeys dance to, has undergone a sea change- they have begun to show traces of domestic (though light-hearted and with pun) violence.  It is fun, as it used to be…the regular dance, ‘tamasha’, and songs. Claps follow. Children chatter. The show ends.
I ape the media in a way…or the average passer-by to any such drama. I have a camera, and I shoot. From a distance, I choose to watch what happens…as it happens…and I storify it now.
Perhaps, we as human beings are taught to ‘watch’ in silence. Perchance, that parent who has asked a helper to switch his/her place, needs to be there, to explain. To assail fears that the children experience…to answer questions, that barrage their minds.
The children are watching…and they are learning. Picking it all up. Their psyches are working big time, engraving these implicit messages.

And then there are monkeys...
P.S.: The video has taken all its while to upload. I will share the URL once it is up. Until then, tell me what you think