Sunday, June 15, 2014

Inland Letters for a Future Read 2- Phantom Cities

(painting by Gerogio de Chirico)

Dear Meharunnisa,

I am sure you have forgotten me. Even if I show you my photographs, you may not remember me. Time has passed, seasons have changed, people have evolved, many are dead and many are born and in the meanwhile you too have become old. I have been thinking of writing letters to you, still I was not doing it. I can find hundred and one reasons for not writing mails to people. It is like this; some mails deserve answers and some not and some mails are to be written but never sent. However, I think it is very important to write a letter to you now, may be a series of letters in the coming days.

You may ask me why I choose you, of all people, to write a letter in these days of instant communications and instant forgetting. The answer is that I do not know your address; postal or email. But one good thing about letters written to someone but never sent or received is that at some point in life somebody would find them, read them and interpret them. I do not have such high hopes. However, I am sure that one day, while searching something online you may chance upon these mails to you and how happy you would be or sad! It would be absolutely a surreal experience; someone writing letters to you from some part of the world and they reach you when you least expect it. Don’t you remember those bottled messages thrown by the sailors from their ship decks thinking that someone would find it one day? The feeling I have while writing this mail to you is the same of those sailors. Now, suppose it never reaches you, instead it reaches the hands of someone else, that person may ask, what was the surety that the writer had while writing it regarding your chances of having an internet connection or if at all you had one, the possibility of surfing it with the possible search words that would finally have brought these letters to you? Such scepticism has to be accepted and appreciated. But life is full of chances. And some of them are really surreal chances or occurrences.

Hence, dear Meharunnisa, let me write about some surreal incidents happened to my life recently. In fact our first meeting itself was a surreal encounter, wasn’t it? You were a nurse in a private clinic. You were beautiful with big sparkling eyes and curly hairs. You had a huge smile pasted always on your lips. I was there at that clinic because my mother was admitted there for the removal of her ailing uterus. I waited endlessly thinking about the operation that was being conducted upon my mother. I distracted myself by looking outside above the boundary wall. There was a huge mango tree and a lot of squirrels and crows playing on it. Suddenly you came out with a plastic jar covered with a sheet of newspaper. I looked at your face and you were still smiling. “Take it to the Cosmopolitan Hospital lab for culturing,” you said while pushing the jar to my hands. It felt hot. I was curious to see the content in it. So I was about to unpeel the cover of that jar. “Don’t,” you said, still smiling. “Why,” I asked. “It was your home,” you said. “My home?” I opened the cover and saw several pieces of flesh jam packed in that small pet plastic bottle. “Your mother’s uterus, where you had taken shape,” you said. My mouth watered for no reason. It did not look like my ‘home’. It looked like ‘meat’ for cooking. You laughed while I walked out of the gate with the jar in my hands. Meharunnissa, do you know something? After twenty five years, I happened to be at that building again. My friend had rented out a huge house next to it and I was looking for you there in that building.

Chances; sometimes they are not chances at all. There is a secret pattern to everything around us. We fall in the right place and we say that we have a good opportunity. May be we have been preparing to fall in the right places after a series of bad moves. But that particular moment of being in the right place might sound quite surreal, haven’t you felt so Meharunnisa? But when you are not in the right place too you could feel this surreal state of being. The other day I was going to a local market called Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi. It is one of the biggest floating fashion markets in Delhi. I did not have any intention to shop as I hardly shop (when was the last time I shopped for a shirt? Must be several years back.) I went to that place to meet someone as I was supposed to give some money to that person. I got into a battery auto rickshaw from the INA Metro station. Somehow there were only four of us in that rickshaw; two Japanese women, one Indian woman, face covered with scarf and myself. The rickshaw ran without making any sound. The heat was unbearable and the Japanese girls were finding it really tough to fight the heat. Their faces were turning red. I told them to cover their faces with scarves and I pointed at the woman sitting next to me fully covered. Then she explained to those girls how to do it. They bowed their head. Next moment, I saw myself sitting alone in a running rickshaw. Those three women were not there in the vehicle at all. Was it a dream?

Dazed by the incident and also by heat I walked up to an ATM counter to take out some money. When I entered the cabin with two machines, three girls got in along with me to withdraw money from the other machine. The machines were playing pranks. I tried my best to insert my card but something was going wrong. One of the girls from the group instructed me how to do it. I did so and it worked. I turned around to say a thank you to her. But out of the three girls I could see only two girls. The third one who instructed me was missing. I rushed out to see whether she was gone or not. I could not find her anywhere. She was not making a phone call standing outside, she was not walking off or she was standing under a shade waiting for her friends to come out of the cabin. She just vanished into the thin air.

Now I was supposed to find out an address where I was supposed to meet a person and deliver the money. I saw two women standing at a cross road, talking to each other animatedly. I could not find a single soul other than these two women. I walked up to them and asked for the address. One woman spoke to me in English and showed me directions. She showed towards right and asked me to take a left. When I told her that she was confusing me, she said sorry and corrected herself. Then the other woman pitched in to give me another direction. She spoke to me in Hindi and said I should take two rights and then a left. I calculated their directions in my mind and came to a conclusion. Thanking them I walked off. But before walking further a few paces, I just turned back and found three women standing and talking to each other. I had seen only two women there. I walked away in half horror and in half delight. I did not know why I was horrified and even why I was delighted.

While coming back I got into a battery rickshaw. There were at least ten of them going parallel to my rickshaw, filled with people. And till the metro station my rickshaw was empty except me as a passenger. I even asked the driver why he did not get passengers like the other rickshaws. He turned around and smiled at me. There was only a smile on his face, nothing else.

Meharunnisa, why all these happening to me? What are you doing these days? Have you got married and if so how many children you have? I think you even might have become a grandmother. I am sure this mail will never reach you. But I will write to you again.



Friday, June 13, 2014

Inland Letters for Future Read 1

Dear Angels,

I think I should write to you about my life, the way I lead it now. It is quite different from what you used to know. You may be even surprised to see how I manage to live here in this place. But when I look around and see so many people living in limited spaces without adequate provisions for water and light, without toilet facilities, I find this place where I stay quite a heaven. Yesterday someone was telling me about my possible voluntary retirement from the present career. He was asking why I thought so and was suggesting that it was the time to ‘enjoy’. I told him that it all depended on what kind of definition one would give to the word enjoy. For some people enjoyment means going out, visiting malls, eating out, hanging out with friends, watching movies, celebrating weekends, shopping and many more things. But for some people it is all about being alone and being with one’s own self. I want to tell you that I belong to this latter category.

That does not mean that I am quite a bore. You have seen me, quite energetic a guy, changing looks quite often, a fitness freak, a regular jogger, someone who loved to drink and watch television, and read and write a lot. You have seen me helping in the kitchen, you have seen me taking you to malls, you have seen me giving you cycle riding lessons, you have seen me waiting outside the swimming pool as you go inside to swim. Today, I do not do all these things. It is not because I do not like you or I want to live a life of absolute freedom. Some may put it as me leading an ‘irresponsible’ life. Yes, when you look at my life from outside, it seems to be completely irresponsible. I could go to my workplace whenever I want, I could eat whatever I want, I could do whatever I feel like and so on. But that is an illusion. Living alone also means a whole lot of responsibility. I live without any support staff, I mean without maids or cooks. I do things own my own and I think people could do things with own their hands.

It will take a lot of years for you to live alone. When you live alone you will understand how responsible you have to be in that situation. If you are a boy, you have to be careful and should be always watchful about your social dealings. You could get into bad company and the noose of law will come around you. When you are alone, whatever money you could afford to spend, you have to be responsible for each paisa that you spend. You have to study, you have to appear for examinations, you have to find a job, you have to lead a life the way you want. And everywhere you will be alone. When you are a girl, you have to be further watchful in a society like ours. It is a very nasty society. Bad elements could physically assault you, verbally harass you, stalk you, demoralize you and make you feel doubtful about yourself. But you have to be responsible. None is going to come with you everywhere, protecting you or giving you lessons. You are alone after a certain stage. Every human being on the face of earth is alone. It is blessing for many and suffocating for too many. People who consider it as blessing try to understand their loneliness and become more and more pure from inside. Those who consider it as suffocating would look out for distractions in television, eating outside and above all putting blame on others. Fundamentally, like me you too are all alone and you have to understand it. And being alone can be done only by a responsible person.

Yesterday, when I was talking to you, you said that the house look half empty and incomplete as I am not there. You were emotional and I understand you are not at that age where you could understand the difference between absence and presence of a person whom you love. What you understand is that that person’s absence becomes too much of a presence in your life and at times when you look at the face of that presence of absence you get worried. It is temporary and I tell you that it should not affect your mind. But I am sure that it will affect your mind and you will have different thinking about human relationships. I do not believe that your own conclusions about human relationships could be that bad. It could be positive also. You could understand, as you grow up, why people behave in certain ways, why people part ways and why people get attached to other people or their surroundings. I am waiting for that day to happen. When I say this, I too face this presence of absence. I see you in every other child I see on the road, in trains and everywhere. My heart races fast in those moments. Soon my mind gets filled in by your images and I feel completely enveloped by your presence and I like it. One need not behave in a particular way to establish relationships or the power that comes along with it.

One day, when you grow up you will understand why I am like this. I have spent my years thinking about becoming something in the field where I work. All my efforts have been towards it. But there used to be hurdles. Each time I faced it I thought it was the last one, but they kept coming. In everyone’s life there is a point where they take a very pivotal decision. At the forked roads you could choose any one direction. You choose one and as Robert Frost, the poet says, that choice makes all the difference. I have taken a decision and I have taken a path which I think right for me and good, bad or ugly whatever be the outcome, and it would make all the difference. In your lives too, there will be a point when you would be expected to make a choice. You may discard your parents for that choice, you may discard all comforts for that choice, you may leave everything behind for that choice and it would make all the difference in your lives. I had made a decision long back. And at some point I realized that was a wrong a decision. Everyone would say that the direction I take is wrong and the choice made is too late. But remember, nothing is too late. One could live a dignified life within one’s means and choices. One could live a life of his/her liking and nothing would stop them from doing so.

One day you will judge me and before that the world will have judged me several times. But I don’t give any importance to the way the world judges me. But your judgement is important because I am one of the reasons why you are here on this earth. Your judgement, whether it is favourable or unfavourable, I will take it with equanimity. But I will wait for that day when you realize that I was not all that wrong in my decision and I did something that I wanted to do always. And from my side I can promise you this much, you will never have to hide your face once my name is uttered in public. You could hear my name with a sense of pride. I know that even enemies revere those adversaries who give them a real fight; that is a sort of magnanimity, which only the real fighters cherish to have. Cowards will blame others for their misfortunes.

I will write to you about things around me the way I see them. You may not read them now. But when you read them, you would definitely say that this guy was different and there was something interesting about him. Yes, your real journey will start with that revelation and I am sure, the rivers will  finally flow into the sea, vapours to the sun and snow to the mountain peaks. Wherever you are, me or my memories will remain vast like an ocean, sharp like the sun and tall like the mountain peak. I am sure you will come.

Absent Dad