Tag Archives: India

Of Edited Pictures and More

She is holding a tattered notebook, close to her heart. A few pages stick out of the spiral bound black book. The letters are fading. Each time it rains, each drop, washes away some more of the pages scribbled with blue ink. She glances down at it from time to time.

He is holding a broken guitar. A small guitar with a string taut and the others hanging loose. He runs his hand over the metal body and then sighs. Biting his lip, he leans over and plucks a chord. The sound makes him twist his face in disgust. He keeps quiet, holds the guitar down and waits for his bus.

She is holding an old camera and a few photos. As she looks down at the rainbow-coloured images that she had once clicked, it takes her back to the happy times. But a moment later, when the rain comes pouring down in a torrential downpour, she forces herself to look away from the pictures. Now they mean nothing to her but blurred Polaroids.

He is holding a broken record player and his favourite pair of dance shoes. He looks at them and feels everything and nothing simultaneously. He feels desperate, almost to go back to the very world he had created with them. But then, he looks away and tells another tale.

I stand there, faking the same smile that I had been long holding on to. But the corners of my lips are starting to hurt. The smile is giving away and I can feel the tears pricking. The bus will be here any moment, I say myself and fake the same smile.

When the wheels screech in front of us, we stand up and take a deep breath. Each one of us walks ahead and boards the bus, leaving behind the things we had brought along. I drop my smile; she forgets her notebook; he leaves his guitar; she abandons her camera; and he walks away without his dancing shoes.

Our pictures are no longer real. The camera will lie from here on. We are nothing but blurred Polaroids and films without our dreams. We are nothing but the images found in the recycle bin. The colours may be brighter, the hues may be sharper, but all we are inside are edited pictures, drowned in black and white.

The bus takes off and we leave a part of us behind.

Of Dreams Small and Big

Having grown up in a middle class family in urban India, surrounded by doctors and engineers and teachers, it is no surprise when I tell people that I want to be a doctor.

Being fairly good at studies, with a distinct passion for pursuing the Biology stream, that is the very idea I’ve grown up with and if I bother to look away from it, I’d choose to be a diplomat any day.

In an one interesting conversation on a Friday evening, a family friend asked me why didn’t I choose my parents profession-banking. To which, the answer was very simple. Both of them being government employees have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. I’ve watched them work from 9 to 6, theirs eyes glued to computer screens, meeting people, signing documents and calling their head office every now and then. Though the benefits offered in a government job are aplenty, one thing that disappoints me is that they don’t have flexible hours and they don’t have many holidays too.

For most part of our lives, my brother and I have spent weekends watching the reruns of old movies on HBO, munching on junk food and waiting for Mom and Dad to return home. Though I’ve never “hated” their job, I don’t share that much of a liking for it. For I’d prefer a job with flexible working hours in which I can laze back awhile at home and pen down a good story or two. Plus, in the competitive country that I live in, engineering and medical studies are the most preferred career options and I’d be lying if I say that doesn’t have a slight influence on my decision.

In between light jokes and munching on snacks, I asked him what he wanted to become. He was then in his twelfth grade, pursuing the Science stream.

“I want to be a banker,” he replied, rather silently.

For a second, I found myself lost. I couldn’t figure out what to say. Even before he had answered, I had mentally told myself that he’s going for engineering, preferably involving the IT sector because that is what most students wanted to do after completing their twelfth grade.

“Banker? Really?” I found myself smiling. His reply ignited something in me. His reply was new. His reply was honest. It wasn’t like he was being dragged away by the wave. He stood far away from the shore, grounded and with a firm dream.

“Engineering, what about it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to become an engineer. I know I can’t.

“Oh c’mon, you can. It’s easy.”

“No. I know I’m not that good a student. I don’t want to be a bad engineer.”

His words stayed with me for long.

His simplicity overwhelmed me. The simplicity of the dream he carried. And I suddenly felt inferior.

I saw it everyday, in every home, in every class, students succumbing to the expectations of their parents and the society. One of my friends wanted to become a fashion designer, but she didn’t have enough courage to tell her parents about it. Though she did somehow, her parents still asked her to pursue engineering and then think about fashion designing. They told her that her job won’t pay as much as engineering. In a similar case, another friend of mine who wanted to become a journalist, found herself pursuing the medical stream because her family didn’t support her choice of a career.

It makes me sad to say but it has become the latest trend among students – pursuing engineering or medical studies. Anything less, then the society feels that you are not a good student. I’ve seen people become victims of depression because they couldn’t clear the competitive exams. Of those who clear them, not many have that much passion to pursue the stream.

Little dreams get lost among the complexity of it all.

They tell you to dream big. They tell you to dream about being a software giant or the head of an MNC. They never tell you to dream of being a good person. They never tell you to dream of being a good mother or father. They never tell you to dream your dream. Be it big, be it small, somewhere down the lane, many of our dreams get lost.

It pleased me to see him holding on to that dream when the people around him were dreaming even bigger.

The little, hungry child at the end of the road dreams of having a little cake in his birthday, while the teenager in his room, surrounded by gadgets dreams of having the newest phone launched in the market. To each one of them, it is a big dream. It is a dream that glimmers in their eyes and they wish to reach out and grasp it. To the teenager, the birthday cake may look like a small dream, but for the poor, little kid, it is like the biggest dream.

The beauty lies, not in the size of our dreams, but in the simplicity of it, in its uniqueness. The beauty is in sitting back and watching a little kid talk about how he dreams of flying someday. The beauty is in watching people dream – of how their dreams know no boundaries; of how they dream of owning a chain of hotels while some dream of only having a roof over their head. Dreams big and small.

“Hold on to that dream. Don’t ever let that go,” I told him. “Even if you see your friends talk about aiming for even better professions, don’t let that persuade you into believing that your dream is small and it doesn’t matter. Their dreams may be bigger. But yours is beautiful. Have courage to hold on to that dream.”

Since that day, each time I meet a person, I ask them about their dream. It inspires me. It amazes me to hear then talk about their dreams. And once upon a while, I hear a dream like that of his and I find myself feel happy about it.

Of Returning Home

The train jerks to a halt, the metal wheels screeching against the rails, momentarily piercing through the drone of noises in the station. Picking up my duffel bag and grabbing the door handle to steady myself, I stare out at the maddening crowd of people all around.

Hawkers and taxi drivers and stationmasters and masses of men – it surprises me as to how the ground doesn’t crumble under their weight.

Stepping out of the train into the light of a scorching autumn sun, I take a moment to look around and breathe in the air. A smell if roasted peanuts coupled with a faint aroma of lemon oil teases the breeze.

Somewhere a hawker screams at the stray dogs that are running away with s piece of his bread. To my right, a coolie picks up the luggage of an old Lady, wincing under the weight of the blue suitcases. He complains and asks her to pay more as he starts walking, dragging the other bag behind him. Somewhere far away, a little boy sells newspapers, shrieking wildly, running after every person, hoping they’d buy a copy.

Silence is evasive as a xerox machine next to a shop, whirs and clicks, throwing sheets of paper all around. The owner shouts at the boy who is serving customers at the counter and he immediately comes to the rescue. Together, they slam the metal top to shut the machine.

Heels click against the gravel pavement. A little boy who us wearing a pair of oversized bunny slippers, jumps on every drying puddle, clapping his hands in excitement.

It is an unusually noisy Sunday.

But amidst all this, I find a deep sense of oblivion.

Nobody seems bothered. Everyone walks their own wat, occasionally stopping by to take a look here and there. Children hold on to their mothers, tight, while the men load the luggage into the train. Some people are leaving while some are returning back from where they had arrived.

As the evening air quietly blows, I can’t help but spread my arms and take a deep breath. It smells of home.

As if on cue, a frail man dressed in a pair of white pants and a grey shirt, approaches me.

“Madam ji,” he says. “Are you looking for a taxi?”

A slight gasp of surprise leaves my mouth as I withdraw my hands and shove them into the pockets of my overcoat.

“Why,yes!” I reply him after some time.

“Where to?” he asks but doesn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he picks up my bag and motions me to follow him.

“I’ve parked my taxi just there,” he talks as he manoeuvres around the people who’ve fallen asleep on the platform.

As we walk past the swirling rush of people, hearing a plethora of noises zooming into a drone, I can’t help but feel a strange peace within me. The noises don’t affect me.

With a slight spring in my steps, I walk out of the station into the slightly thick air of the parking lot. Every second fills my heart with profound happiness.

I watch him put my bags at the back of the car. Before he gets inside the taxi, he motions me to take the backseat.

Pulling open the door, I glance back at the station again. It seems as if it is moving away from me with each passing second.

Soon, I tell myself, I’ll be home. The little daisies in the garden will greet me and a bowl of corn soup will be waiting at the table.

Mom will be sitting in the living room, sipping in her usual cup of tea and flipping through the pages of some random magazine. Outside, on the street, my brother will be playing with his friends, crying in joy with the other children. And Dad will be glued to the TV screen, watching the latest political debate. They will be waiting for me. They will be calling to each other and sneaking glances at the clock, waiting for me to ring the bell. And when I will, they will rush to the door and hug me like there will be no tomorrow.

“Madam ji,” the driver’s gruff voice breaks me from my train of thought. “Where to?”

Slipping into the backseat and peeling down the windows, I feel the same air brush against my face again.

“Home,” I say and he smiles.

Of The Boy I Wait For

Perhaps the best part about living in India, according to me, is the people you meet here. Tall and short, fair and tanned, rich and poor – all of then blend in such a beautiful harmony that it is like watching a sunset, slowly, and without your knowing, the orange and the purple and the white and the blue have drowned into the abyss of darkness, almost magically.

Like I’ve always said, I find every person to be truly fascinating. There is a hope in their eyes. They cry happy smiles as well as sad. And even without speaking or doing any significant thing, in a strange way, they manage to reach deep and touch your heart. You remember these people. You carry their stories with you. And once in a while, when you are lost, you remember them and smile.

I do that, every now and then as I remember the toothed smile of the frail, little boy who happened to stop by my house on Deepavali.

In his eyes, shone a winter wonderland of hope, as he watched the hundred firecrackers light up around him and bursting into a million stars. He looked at them like they painted the stars in the sky.

I watched him as he cautiously made his way towards us, stepping over the stiffened grass. His eyes kept darting back and forth, fear profound in them. He had no proper clothes for winter – no mittens, no socks – he walked with bare feet. His shirt had a torn sleeve and his trousers barely fell up to his ankles. Yet, the cold didn’t bother him.

For minutes, he stood behind Dad’s car, watching us. Until, Dad spotted him and called him to join us.

I will never forget the sheer joy that spread across his face, the instant he heard Dad call him. For a moment, he looked around to see if he was actually being called. His smile was brighter than those million lights that shone in the cityscape.

He almost cried in joy when Dad offered him a phuljhari (a cracker). I had seen his lips quiver.

He watched in awe – lights, big and small, blue and red, white and dead – as if the world he was seeing was surreal.

The firework that went up at that moment – showering the night sky with showers of light – didn’t snap me out of my trance. I was too busy watching him clap his hands and jump up in joy.

It was strange – of how a thing as small as a cracker, could brighten up this boy’s life. Just because we lived a life so plentiful, did we forget to find happiness in those little things?

When the noises started dying down and every cracker was burnt, I saw his shoulders fall. A bittersweet expression clouded his face as he looked around and watched people retreat back into their houses. I wondered if it made him sad that the night was finally coming to an end.

Almost instinctively, I walked to him and knelt down before his tiny figure.

“You want more crackers?” I asked.

Slowly, he nodded his head, almost afraid.

I pushed the few packets of crackers I had been holding from the very start, into his little hands. At first, he was too surprised. Then, he smiled.

And his smile was so sincere and so beautiful that my heart swelled with joy. I remembered that there had been a few stray packets lying in my brother’s room.

“Wait here!” I told him. “I’ll bring you more.”

Perhaps I should have waited to hear his reply.

When I returned, hugging an entire box, he was gone.

Setting down the box, with scrunched eyebrows, I looked frantically, searching for him. I looked down the street but it was as empty as it had ever been. There were no noises around – no free spirited cries of the happy boy, no sound of thumping feet – no him.

To this day, I question myself – why did he leave? To this day, every year, on Deepavali, I wait for that little boy to stop by again.

At times, I think about him and find little tears prick at the corners of my eyes. At those times, I can only hope he remembers me, as well.