What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep, or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
William Henry Davies 1871 – 194
I woke up early in the morning to think about the future conduit of my ‘The strange Ghost’ series. I was about to get a bottle of water when I heard the Koyal cooing. It was not her normal ‘ Cooo’, but was one of those songs which bursts into a crescendo. After a long time I have heard a Koyal song. I tried locating the bird but unfortunately I couldn’t do so. I wondered where it was hiding. Meanwhile, I realized that I must have not noticed a bird for around 2-3 months.
I got ready. My morning run on the race course of bread and butter started. On the train amidst the odors and the swearing of unfeminine women, I thought about the things that I see everyday which are three dimensional. So my results were- people, train, vehicle, furniture’s, television, computer, trees. Hmmm I see the same things pretty much everyday. I got down of the train and I remembered my boss telling me, ‘talk to one person from office every day. At any given time of occasion you should be able to talk to anyone in office comfortably.’ So t I thought that why not apply the same logic every day. I decided to notice something new every day. The whole movement and erotica of colors has moved from the real world to a world which is very sad and superficial at times.
Based on my logic, I determined to find something new to see something. God Knows what (At this point of time my mind prompted me, ‘polo stop thinking, you are going mad’). I continued to lurk my eyes around anything which would make me go ‘WOW’. I stood near the door of my bus and saw a horizon of vehicles on the road. ‘Urggggh!’ Finally with a stroke of luck I heard ‘kaaaw!’ Two ravens! I have not seen a raven for so long! I looked at hem closely. They looked weird. Both the ravens looked different, interesting.
I opened my laptop and searched today – Raven wiki. There are 10 different kinds of raven. The little sparrow popped up and my friend tweeted, ‘going to Lohagad. Care to join?’ I thought, ‘Why not?’ It is always a good time to search for ravens, few wild flowers, some rocks and a lot of fresh air.
So I have a date with Mother Nature.
What is this life if full of care
On a very cold morning Sikha decides to get out of her house and go on a walk while it is still dark. She goes to the nearby lake to sit and ponder over the last few weeks that have passed. The wind blows violently and she shivers under her blanked. Forty six hours has passed and she has not slept even for a single minute. Why didn’t she sleep? She studied Mass Communication from the university and there were no jobs available at Kolkatta. She is interning in ‘The Telegraph’, but everything in that office seems warped. She wants to do advertising and she obviously cannot think of successful a career there. But she loves the city. She will not be able to bear the pain of leaving the city.
She quivers as the cold breeze touches her skin. She finally sits down. Shika gathers a few sticks and wood and lights them up. She returns the match to the nearby pan shop. As she looks down the river, she feels a strange chill down her spine. The morose girl looks back to see a ghost smiling at her. Oh my God! Yes it is a ghost and she is smiling. Shikha blinks at her for a minute or two, she feels nothing. She asks, “What do you want? Do not irritate me. If you want to kill me, please make it quick”.
“Oh come on”, she whispers. “I am not here to kill. These people, I tell you. I can’t move from my place. I would not be able to kill you even if I wanted to . Seriously, people know nothing of ghosts. Where do you get these ideas? I was smiling because I saw after a long time a young girl like you wearing a saree and crying near the lake. Women don’t cry much these days.”
“Why did you cry? No wait don’t answer that. I want to know why you were killed and why you are a ghost”
“I cried because I wanted very badly to learn reading and writing from a professor. I wanted very much to go out of this city and this place to a village far from here. They said that they educated women there. Later my friend Gopal taught me to read and write. We were best of friends. He was ten years older than me. We got married and he gave me books to read. We explored topics and landscapes in literatre together. One day Gopal had a mysterious death. Soon people understood that I could read and write. My mother-in-law claimed that her son died because I was literate. I chose to be a ghost because I knew that my husband is not there in heaven. He is the ghost in Bat Talla pond. There are many people from my village in heaven and I don’t feel like meeting them. Being a ghost was my choice. I wish I could meet my husband. ”
“What a strange story and what a strange reason to die. I think the affair is pretty much stupid. Anyways I have to go now. Anything I can do for you?”
“Ah yes! I want to read more stories. I want to travel. Alas! I cannot do any of these things here. I think I have to go back to heaven now. I have to go to a place where I don’t want to go”.
Shikha gets up and takes out her I phone. She sits with the ghost and tells her how to navigate. She warns her to not pick up any call ever. She does not tell her that she would have to pay for the phone and GPRS bills. She knows the ghost will figure it out. She will be back to visit her three months from now. She has to leave in another four hours. While going back she thinks why she gave up her phone so easily. Maybe there is a reason.
On 11th of Decmeber 2010, The Telegraph headline read- The mystery of I Phone: An I phone near a lake near Picnic Garden cannot be moved.
I woke up today to see the lovely dawn setting in the starlit sky. I could see the light slowly gaining momentum and penetrating through the white clouds. My sleepy eyes watched the birds but my ears could not hear them chirping because of the deafening sound of the elevator generator. The mosquito hummed his tune in my ears. I looked at the clock. “God! Four hours of no electricity”, I thought. I went to the loo to find out that there was no water available in our building. The pumps were not working because of any electricity. Great! Finally I had a chance to see if the new Dove deodorant really worked!
I remembered the days when my family used to go for summer holidays to Bardaman- the place where my dad grew up. It is a small city in West Bengal. Electricity was a luxury there. We had the old fashioned lanterns called ‘lonthon’ in Bengali. Having no electricity during the kalbaisakhi was a blissful experience.I realized that I was getting late for office. I had already taken holidays because I had stomach infection, broncho pneumonia and dengue. Germs are the most honest creatures. They will never abandon you. I got dressed quickly. I took my 8 a.m. bus. My mind went back to Bardaman. We once visited lovely villages nearby. One summer when the Kalbaisakhi had not started and we went out there to see one of the villages. I asked one of the farmers, “What’s up!” (In Bengali of course ) Whenever a Bengali asks you, “Ki Khobor”, it just means, “What’s up!” He replied, “The same old story. No water. Bad crops. Parched throat. Hungry stomach.”
“Madam, get inside”, a lady yelled. I could smell the assorted odours from my co-passengers and could feel the fresh sweat seeping from the people in the train. In order to get some fresh air, I stood near the door. The polluted air that touched my face giving me millions of zits and acne, feels heavenly in this heat. As I saw the slums I recalled the small huts of the farmers. Each of those huts had electric plugs and ports, but at the same time those ‘lonthons’ hung on the walls. I figured the electric wires were just a decoration and had no use. As our car receded into the distance the farmer said, “Have a safe journey. Don’t play games with nature. She is very moody.”
As I reached the office I was relieved to see that the AC was working. I opened my latop and my friend pinged me “Kire? Ki Khobbor”. I smiled. The Google widget flickered the top stories – “India gets 50% less rainfall this year.Huge power cuts. Farmers commit suicide.” The world seems so far away right now. In some distant place the famer must be lighting up the lonthon praying for some rainfall , or they must be just committing suicide. Same old story.
The weather was lovely this morning and I thought I would be having a great day ahead. I was already scheduled to have lunch with my office colleagues. I was on my way to the station when my friend called. “Don’t come to station. Trains not working”, she yelled (don’t know why Indians have this habit of yelling on the phone whenever it rains and talking in weird code languages as if they are in some war zone). I panicked. “How on earth am I going to reach office”, I gasped. Like every Mumbaikar who just wants to reach office, I too wanted to reach my office because it is the only thing which keeps us going. I was determined to go to my office. So I geared up and took a bus. Little did I know about the mistake that I was making.
I took the 422 bus from Mulund. I called my office and said that I would be reaching an hour late. I realized from the speed of the bus and the sound of the ancient engine that I would be really behind schedule. The bus started and moved with ease on the roads of Mulund. The moment I reached Powai, which is supposedly one of the most posh places in the Mumbai Suburbs, I saw a mount full of vehicles standing ahead of me. I saw the misty Powai Lake beside me. There were little kids sitting with their buttocks pointed out to the lake, getting rid of their morning pressure. Through murky deposits which those children were leaving I saw a small rivulet passing through the road and people passing by. The bus started moving after ten minutes. While I drank the ‘aquagaurd safe’ water from my bottle, I saw a kid opening his mouth wide, gulping cold rain water and staring up at the pale sky. “That’s not healthy”, I thought. He was drinking acid water. The kid looked tattered early morning. So I guess this must be pure water for him. Isn’t it?
As the bus moved ahead, I reached Andheri. I woke up from my sleep. I saw hazy buildings in front of my eyes. It was raining heavily and the cars were coughing smoke non-stop which eventually turned into smog. In the middle of the road I saw huge boards with a message written: We are making pollution free and environment friendly metro rails. What is it with this ‘message’ system with all the companies? Why is everyone trying to say something? The crowd was increasing inside the bus. Just make the rails! I heard tons of the choicest slangs by people being thrown at each other. It started raining more heavily and thankfully because of the smog I couldn’t see the graveyard which was being dug for the new rails.
Two hours passed away and I was losing my patience. The bus halted again. I saw a big construction site for some new mall. The mall was almost complete. It was adorned with huge semi-transparent glasses. I could see a shadow moving in a weird manner through a broken glass. When I looked closely, I figured that the two shadows behind the glass must be mating. I giggled. The bus jerked and the engines started roaring. The inevitable happened, the bus broke down.
I ran on the jam packed roads and caught a rickshaw. The rickshaw was going though the pool of water- slow but steady. A dog was swiftly paddling beside the auto rickshaw. As I reached my office I saw the clouds getting darker. I asked the office boy to give me some tea. As the clouds roared I opened my facebook account. I entered my status, ‘It’s raining heavily outside. I love nature’s call’. I looked outside. The clouds roared back.
I swim through the crowds every day,
I swim through animals,
I wonder why they live here,
I wonder how they survive.
I search for a bit of the colour green,
I search for a little brown.
But all I see is dark shades of grey rising high,
Crushing the land around.
I marvel at the sight of men,
Who don’t seem to care.
I understand they have a dream,
Which they have to realize.
Is there a meaning left,
If happiness fails you.
I don’t find the point to be a part of something,
When I am not a part of it.
I went around looking for some 3BHK apartments to buy for my brother. He is the most eligible bachelor for many Bengalis in Thane. Thane was one of the most pleasant places to live in. Not so long ago we walked down the roads without the fear of getting mugged or raped. There were lakes, trees and lot of empty area which spaced me out. Today there are people, people and more people. What I fail to understand is why people want to be a part of something they don’t even care about. Looking at my city, I can’t see one structure that I can be proud of.
The irony of this entire situation is that I meet people everyday who ‘love nature’. I talk to men and women who say ‘we toh bhai loooove nature’ while spitting on the nearby tree the finest mixture of mittha pan and chunna. Thaneites take part in Earth Hour and with pride. They say- ‘We will stop Global warming’. Talk to these women about not using AC and then they say, “Array bahi garmi mein hum kya karenge”. Then there is another class of ‘sophisticated’ people who feel people living in small cities are Dehatis. These are the general Pseudo-Intellectual crowd who only care about the 100 meters around the area in which they live.
My only hope is my tribal maid servant. She is educated, does not believe in any particular religion, and votes every election and is a great cook. She is an epitome of a successful woman. She prays every month to a plant and makes sure her family plants trees every month. She is neat, tidy and gives handy tips to keep oneself and the city clean. I think we can all do raising our voice a little bit and having a bit of team work. My confusion is where do I start?
People tell me that either fate governs you or you govern fate. Recently I have been doing some thinking about the word’ fate’. There exists no fate or luck. We are all governed by one thing only which we all fail to see. There is a saying which has been repeated to me so many times but has made sense to me after all these years- Time and tide waits for no man. We are all at the end of day slaves of time. Can we actually see time? We have the sense of it. We can only feel it passing by.
I was born in the age where I could feel time rushing through my hands. I remember that my first computer came in the year 1998. It was a big thing for us. All our neighbors came to see it. It was a small celebration for us. We didn’t know much about the cyber age dawning upon our generation. Today when I started my first job, I realized that I would not have a job with me if all the computers seize to exist. The next thing which I remember that caught up very fast were mobile phones. I see people become paranoid when they lose their mobile. The generation after me has nothing to be bewildered upon. My younger friend Nisha who is just seven years old hates circus. She would prefer being home and playing with her 3G mobile. I am not contemplating about the rules of technology. I am just mulling that at which point it will all stop. Do we as an individual have a choice to say ‘no’ to a technology. Being a part of this end was inevitable.
If I have no choice over choice itself then it is definitely determined something which is superior to fate itself. Time decides what has to be done with each of us. Everyone has a part of bigger fraction of time. So why cry over fate and luck. We are not even sure if fate exists. However, we are sure that time is present.
With some much time in my hands I still tend to be confused over things. I sure know that the end has been decided by me. It is the same thing that Lord Krishna had said to Ram- the finish has already been decided for everyone. It is only the process by which we achieve that which has been predefined by time.
We alter everything around us as per the changing world around us. The only thing that we cannot change around us is change itself. My friend and I are standing in the periphery of changing times. Both of us can see the unspoken change of culture and society. Maybe everything around is the same, only our perspective has changed. However one thing that we could not ignore was the dry month of July. Iknew that my standpoint had not changed.
I distinctly remember the year 2004, when we set out to do a project given to us by our college. We went to buy the required materials for our project from our local market. When we came out of the shop, it was pouring. We had to go back to my house by my friend’s bike and the materials we bought were not supposed to get wet. I tucked the packet below my shirt and headed towards the bike. My house was fifteen minutes away from the market My friend rode her bike like a Harley, speeding her way through the misty road. She cut through the potholes perfectly and we reached home within few minutes.
We got down of the bike and saw two kids envying our joy through the balcony. Even the costly G.I Joe in his hand could not match the delight of getting wet in the rain. Now when we walk on the same road, we can feel the earth still quenching for more water. The place where we lived was filled with trees, with every hues and tints of green. Today when we take our bike out, we see big boards of the topmost builders of the city and big yellow bulldozers squashing its way ahead. When we both look at these upcoming towers, I see that along us there are few more people standing and looking at them. We all are wondering what will happen to us. We all know that our protests will be futile in front of these bulldozers. Underneath the power cuts and shortage of water, there is a silent fear inside us.
This is the year 2007 and I hear a long speech about global warming from the eminent people of our country. My friend and her mother looked outside the balcony at the unfinished buildings and then looked up at the deepsky. It is still cloudy with no rain in this July afternoon.
The world is sheltered with superstitions, which is loathed yet followed for one simple reason – it gives hope to millions of people. I happened to encounter my superstition. Fate is not in our hand but exists in our mind and is not written in the stars but it is inscribed in us.
I was just out of my school and I headed college with the most wrong notions of the world. Soon reality laughed back at me, and I stooped down to the norms of routine. My small dream of going to Paris soon disappeared. Paris wasn’t enough for me. I wanted power and prestige. I keep forgetting that billions of people in this country and billions of people in other countries dream the same thing. Oh Boy! I am no different from them. I still dream of money and power. Amidst all the competitions ‘God’ is a major part of my life. I abuse him, laugh at him and question him. I choose to see his existence according to my will and comfort. Here is a debate, which we have failed to get any answer- the existence of God. I guess heaven and hell is the product of this debate.
Getting back to my story, I first met my angel in the Mumbai local train. Yes! The famous Mumbai local trains. Stories about Mumbai locals are much vast than the Arabian Nights. I sat quietly on my seat tormenting God about my HSC results. I was tensed to get it and I would do anything to get good scores. I saw her coming towards me clapping hands with her own aura. “What a stroke of luck!”, I thought. I thought of giving her some money and in return I would get some blessings. Before she came to me, the train stopped and she got down, and I as usual tormented God again. The irony here is that I actually respected that eunuch for my superstitious motive. My scores were much more than what I expected. The second time I met her was before an interview when I was anxious for getting into a reputed educational institution. She came to me and asked, “Aye chokdi paisa deti hai???” Instead I just smiled at her back. Her angel eyes soothed me.
Few days ago I finished giving an interview for internship. I soon saw my angel coming with her same aura. She came and put her palms below my eyes. I wanted to look at her and ask her name. I wanted to tell her that she was an angel. I couldn’t do any of these things. This time I was successful in giving her money.
Superstition is said to be like a disease. All these incidents might be just coincidence. But I don’t believe that this is a superstition. This restless soul created her as an angel and gave me a something which we all have started loosing. She gave me hope.