Seeking Light

Her life has been snubbed and its darkness all around… for months. Growing up in Lucknow she was the light of all our lives. A few years younger to me, she always got the best in our family. She could sleep till late, decide her activities and was favorite of Amma and Papa. Papa always went to her to share and consult, and she grew up to solve his and other people’s problems. She and I fought, I envied her but as time went by, I became happy for her. She took my place in a traditional Indian family, bearing burdens and responsibilities. She got all the love, the favoritism for being a girl and we all thought she would marry, go away to another home, so we loved her even more. Circumstances brought her back to Lucknow along with her family and she took care of Papa, Amma and everyone around. She took care of Papa in every which way, while he went sick. I was indebted to her when she waited for me, kept Papa longer so I could travel back to see him for the last time.

And then came time when she needed help. She suffered, became sick while she remained the focus of everything we did with her, for her. As time went by, she became sicker sometimes desperate while she fought with her sickness with a brave and strong demeanor. As timelines dawned on me, I realized the importance to be with her, decided to travel against all odds of physical distances and pandemic threat. Don’t know if she was waiting for me and felt relieved seeing me there, but she counted on me and looked at me one last time on that Friday afternoon. There was uneasiness in her eyes as she was gasping for breath, gasping for more days she wanted to live, for her kid and her mother. The darkness did not show her the path forward and she stopped, went to sleep while we all woke up on that Saturday morning, March 27th, 2021.

Deepavali, the festival of lights is around us. The joyous time when good wins over evil, when hope wins over despair, darkness. Our void is still too big to fill, the grief is still not near acceptance. Amma cannot forget her beloved child but Amma is more resilient, more mature than I will ever be. Guided by faith she has answers to everything while I hopelessly struggle to seek answers.

Deepawali will be solemn, reflecting, and introspective and as Hindus light up diyas in their houses around the world, I will seek for peace, for that one diya to show me the light ahead.

Gudiya

संगीत

बचपन से हमें मालूम था संगीत का हमारे मन पर असर ।पापा सुबह-सुबह रेडियो लगा देते थे और पांच मिनट के संस्कृत समाचार के ‘इति वार्ताः’ के बाद भजनों का सिलसिला शुरू होता था। ग्रामाफोन पर बड़े गुलाम अली, और Come September के LP सुन-सुन कर बड़े हुए।

अम्मा बताती हैं उनकी शादी में बाबा के दोस्त ,उस्ताद बिस्मिल्लाह खां साहब ने शहनाई बजाई थी, और साल भर की उम्र में हमने तुलसी थिएटर में पंडित रविशंकर का सितार बिना हल्ला-गुल्ला किये पूरी रात सुना था ।और फिर १२-१३ साल की उम्र में जगजीत सिंह हमारी पहली मुहब्बत बन गये ।कुछ साल पहले हमने एक दोस्त से कहा था, “जब हम जाने लगें तो जगजीत सिंह की ग़ज़लें बजा देना, तो शायद हम कुछ देर और रुक जायें”।

२०१९ नवम्बर में लखनऊ से लौटने के बाद हमने “कारवाँ ” खरीदा और पापा के समान सुबह-सुबह कारवाँ पर संगीत बजने लगा ।अमीन सायानी जी का ‘गीतमाला की छाँव से’ कार्यक्रम १९५२ के गीतमाला से आखिर तक सुना । कई बार सुना ।वो पापा से थोड़ा बड़े हैं, तो उन तक पहुँचने का मन किया । email ढूंढ कर मन की बात लिख दी और सोचा शायद जवाब दें । हम लिखकर भूल गये और एक साल बीत गया ।मन बुझ सा गया यह पढ़कर की उनकी तबियत ख़राब चल रही है ।फिर अभी कुछ दिन पहले अमीन सायानी जी का email आया ।पढ़कर बचपन से अब तक बहुत सी यादें उमड़-घुमड़ कर हमारे सामने आईं । बहुत रोये भी ।

रॉयल अल्बर्ट हॉल, लंदन कोलिसियम, क्रेसगी ऑडिटोरियम, बर्कली ऑडिटोरियम में बहुत बार संगीत सुना , लेकिन जो सुकून ‘पिया तोसे नैना लागे रे’, ‘आयगे, आयेगा आनेवाला ‘ सुनकर मिलता है वो बयां करना मुश्किल है ।एक साल पहले की बात है, किसी बात से मन खिन्न था ।पूरा दिन निकल गया, किसी ने कारवां चला दिया, और उसपर ‘न तो कारवां की तलाश है, न तो हमसफ़र की तलाश है, मेरे शौकेखाना ख़राब को, तेरी रहगुज़र की तलाश है’ बजने लगा ।मन प्रसन्न, और हम झूम उठे, जैसे १ कप चाय और १ एस्पिरिन के बाद सर दर्द काफूर हो जाता है ।हमने सोचा हमें भी तो संगीत, तेरी रहगुज़र की तलाश है ।

US Columbus Day

First Posted online on October 8th 2018

Dates matter in life but events are more indelible on human psyche. For me Deepawali, Holi have connotations same as actual dates like Birthdays, because events bring back memories from the past.

I had one of the best commutes to work this morning, door to door in an hour and 10 minutes. The schools are closed for Columbus Day holiday, kids are home, many parents took the day-off from work, some working from home, the roads have less traffic and trains running smoothly.

Yesterday was Hindu Calendar day of my father’s passing 11 years ago and tomorrow 9th October is the Calendar day when he left us.

Today, Columbus Day Monday is the day that resonates the most with me and when I experienced it. It was a quiet Columbus Day Monday morning when I came to work in the city, knowing my sister had taken my father to the hospital and he was feeling very weak. I did not know all the details but could imagine he was not doing well then, just a few weeks after I went to see him in August and then brought him home from the hospital. She had called that he was weak, his heart’s refraction fraction was very low, beating very slowly while his body and organs gasping for oxygen and energy.

As that Columbus day went by and silence at work grew louder inside my head, the phones from sister start coming in at regular intervals. I emailed managers working from home about my plans of time-off from next day and took another quiet train early in the evening.

The 8 to 10 hours on that Columbus Day 11 years ago were the most harrowing and as the sun set on that Columbus day in US, that early Tuesday morning in India changed my life forever.

Touch and Feel

First Posted online on July 10th 2018

More than 2 weeks of Thai Soccer team separation from their parents, when the parents could only watch on TV their teenage sons trapped in a cave. What did the parents want in those 2 weeks? The parents wanted to hug their sons, feel the warmth and give them protection of comfort.

10 years have passed and the touch, the feel, the comfort is what we crave for, from him and loved ones. The emptiness of separation is painful. In a nutshell, that is the social touch of our civilization. The longing to be with loved ones, the touch and feel. Social media gives a virtual closeness of knowing about others, but makes many devoid of the feelings. We know the other person is there but do not talk, laugh or feel with others. In my opinion, that is empty feelings, the sense of which is stonewalling the young of today with their near and dear.

In August Company

First Posted online on August 10th 2017

Days and months roll by in our lives like flowing water. Like a flowing river, you can never get them back. Some calendar days, month have significance for us, albeit I noticed we have stopped looking at the calendar and go back occasionally to see how time runs by us. Or maybe it is just me.

Several Augusts have gone by, since the first one many moons ago and this one is here as I write. Rationally thinking all days, months are the same occurring every year, though human minds give significance to some. The first, 10th, 50th and so on may make some sit up, think and maybe make a mental note.

The learned tell us to think of the present and build for the future. True! However, future is yet to come and depends on how we live today. On the other hand, the past is wealth of learning, lessons and memories. The past has feelings, emotions and to some that makes a world of difference for being human. This August has significance in many ways.

For starters, 10 years ago I was younger. Almost 10 years younger. 😊

The August of 2007 started well when I spoke to everyone at home in the first week, got my usual messages of me being an uncaring distant son, followed by blessings, some emotional. Since there was no WhatsApp, Skype, Google Duo in those days, ‘emotions on phone’ and happiness, pain were felt more than ‘seen’ on smart phone calls today. I do not think the call was any different for most people.

When I think of him now I can say he was different. He was blunt, mostly remaining quiet, yet down to earth in lifestyle and sensitive. I can definitely say he could never have become a politician. If he did, he would drag the party down to bankruptcy and joblessness for all. People still came to him when looking for assistance. Thanks to the internet, we seldom ask for assistance from others now and interactions just to learn something from others have become fewer. Today, we need others for ‘Likes’ and ‘Compliments’. He would have been hugely unpopular today, since he could not express these readily.

I guess quite a few can now make out where I come from and they will not be surprised.

We rushed to be with him 10 years ago. He did his best to show there was nothing to worry, as he did all his life. He looked a bit questioning, thinking, but remained quiet for longer periods.

Kids running around, talking too much annoy adults frequently. I too do that sometimes, on seeing that small bundle of energy aimlessly hopping around, drawing attention, running wildly. Seeing those actions also brings smile and to see, they are lively, so full of life. Childhood is when life is ready to bloom, explore and energies seem boundless. Some adults referred childish overstepping norms of maturity. However, those children and some adults share that life, zest rarely seen in many grown up adults. I’m not there yet, but who knows my final days may be quiet introspection about signing-off, something similar to how “Anand” tries to show in his last moments.

While he was at the hospital, I saw him brooding in those August days, though boldly putting a face as if nothing happened and even when he walked out of that hospital on his own strength, he was thinking deeply on his way back home. The journey is same for everyone, the experiences similar and some choose to live life differently. He lived life on his own terms. He taught me, silence hurts more than any argument, as observed by all who miss their loved ones.

I often visit the past remembering good days and bad of journeys made in life, but that change in life 10 years ago is significantly important for me. 10 years have passed and time makes it easy on the conscience. The pain does ease a bit, indicating flowing river in our lives changing shapes, memories, thus exposing our mortality. Yet, I choose to remember through memory reinforcements, not giving up easy on the past that was part of me.

All the more important since 10 years ago, the three weeks in August 2007 were last together moments with Papa and writing this is simply an excuse to remember him and make myself sit, recollect my days, months with him and the richness in those days.

Memories

First Posted online on May 6th 2016

He enjoyed his sweets. He loved it but never gorged the way I did as kid. How childhood habits become routine when we grow older. He had to have a glass of water with the last of anything sweet, to wash it down the throat. The satisfaction, the pleasure said it all. Disturbing the routine a strict no that could upset him. Another routine he had, was having milk-malai with sugar as middle of night snack. You could find him getting the milk-malai from fridge in the middle of night, sitting on dining chair, eyes closed and eating with sugar. Our dog sitting beside him, waiting for some to share, then both quietly retiring to bed after. Amma would disapprove of the habit, complaining that ghee from milk-malai could not be made as quickly as she may have wanted. Years later when doctors did not allow his malai, his sweets, the ghee could be made more often. While Papa dropped his childhood enjoyment of sweets, there was more malai in fridge, though we could look at Amma and say that Amma missed making that reminder to him. All that ghee could be made, for no one in particular. Milk purchase became less. Habits, people fade away. Memories remain. Today, about a month before the visit home, the memories are coming back again. Well… they never left me. 🙂

RIP Vivek

First Posted online on September 25th 2015

“विवेक, RIP… ईश्वर आपकी आत्मा को शांति दे विवेक”, “RIP Vivek”

किसी के जाने के बाद यह जो अमूमन लोग RIP पोस्ट करते हैं, वो सामाजिक प्रथा ही होगी | दूसरों के लिए ही होगा | क्योंकि जो चला गया वो तो पढ़ने से रहा | कितनी बार हमने देखा किसी के जाने के बाद लोगों को भावुक प्रेम उदगार ज़ाहिर करते | पढ़कर मन गद-गद हुआ ढेर सारे लोगों का प्रेम देखकर | यह भी सोचा, जैसा अभी ढेरों RIPs और गुणगान कर रहे हैं अगर वैसा सबने इकठ्ठे उसके रहते उससे कहा होता तो शायद वह और जी जाता | सबका प्रेम उदगार देखकर दिल खुश होगा, मन में सुकून होगा तो ज़ाहिर सी बात है आत्मा भी होगी |

बचपन में इंटरनेट, सोशल मीडिया नहीं था | परिवार व्रिस्तृत होते थे और सामाजिक दायरा भी भौगोलिक था | चिट्ठी से और फिर बाद में फ़ोन पर अच्छे, बुरे समाचार मिलते थे | तार आना वाकई भयावह होता था और कई बार ग़मी का समाचार लाता था | एक समय था जब किसी व्यक्ति, परिवार के लिए वेदना, संवेदना का एक अंतराल होता था जो कुछ दिनों या समय तक चलता था | कभी हम खुद, कभी परिस्थियाँ दुखों को लम्बा रखती थीं |

आज सोशल मीडिया से अच्छी-बुरी खबरें तुरंत मिलती हैं और ग़मी तात्कालिक सूचनाएं बन कर रह गयीं हैं | आपने कुछ समय की देर की तो Facebook पर चर्चा और पृष्ठ बदल गया |

RIPs का ज़माना है जिसकी प्रथा भी निराली है | सोशल मीडिया पर एक ही बैठक में शुक्ला जी के जाने का अफ़सोस, सिंह साहब के प्रमोशन की बधाई, नैय्यर की बीजिंग यात्रा के चित्रों पर ‘nice pic’ का लेबल और पेट से आंत जुड़े गरीब भूखे बच्चे की कहानी का share | चाय के केवल एक प्याले के साथ यह सब सामाजिक ज़िम्मेदारी उतारने का सुख और कहाँ मिलेगा |

यह जो अमूमन लोग RIP पोस्ट करते हैं किसी के जाने के बाद, वह जीवित बचे बंधू-बाँधवों के बीच सामाजिक प्रथा ही होगी | विवेक तो गये ,अब पढ़ने से रहे| और उसकी आत्मा कितने आराम से है, वह यह लौट कर क्या ख़ाक बतायेगा? और क्यों बताएगा भला अगर उस दुनिया में वह यहाँ से अधिक खुश है? खुद ही जा कर देख लो !!!

हमसे किसी ने आज तक RIP न कहा | एक मित्र से जिक्र किया तो बोले, “जा के देखो | इतना तो कर ही सकते हैं सब | पक्का वादा RIP तो मिलेंगे|

कुछ वर्ष पहले Carl Sagan की किताब Contact पढ़ी जिसमें, बचपन में गुज़रे पिता से एक space scientist बेटी संपर्क करना चाहती है, और उसे लगता है उसके पिता कहीं हैं अंतरिक्ष में या मन में | वह सोचती है शायद वहाँ जाया जा सकता है | आज तक तो सशरीर कोई नहीं गया, या आया | और हमारे पास कोई सुझाव भी नहीं | बेहतर है राजनीति, महँगाई, ९९ के फेर पर और जब तक शरीर, मन में दर्द होता है, इलाज़ की चर्चा की जाये | भई आत्मा का पता नहीं, हमारे पास है या नहीं, पर हम सोचते हैं, कि व्यक्ति का सब के बीच से ग़ायब हो जाना अतभुत है |

आश्चर्य क्यों नहीं होता हमें, उस चरित्र के ग़ायब होने पर?

शायद इसलिए क्योंकि वह चरित्र शरीर से जुड़ा था जो रहा ही नहीं | स्वीकारते हैं हम सब, पर प्रश्न नहीं करते |

धरातल पर देखें तो कुछ भी नहीं बदला | क्या फर्क पड़ता है, उस तारिख के FB पन्नों में दबे एक सौ इक्यावन RIPs से | या फिर साल में बरसी पर दस मिनट के फ़ोन से | टीस की कोई भाषा, कोई emoticon, कोई अभिव्यक्ति सटीक नहीं है …क्योंकि आत्मा की पीड़ा केवल इंसान के चेहरे पर ही दिखती है | उस एक के अलावा और किसी को फर्क नहीं पड़ता | वह माँ हो सकती है, बेटी, बेटा भी…जिसे केवल उसका साथ प्यारा था जो चला गया |

——

मौत तू एक कविता है,

मुझसे एक कविता का वादा है मिलेगी मुझको

डूबती नब्ज़ों में जब दर्द को नींद आने लगे

ज़र्द सा चेहरा लिये जब चांद उफक तक पहुचे

दिन अभी पानी में हो, रात किनारे के करीब

ना अंधेरा ना उजाला हो, ना अभी रात ना दिन

जिस्म जब ख़त्म हो और रूह को जब साँस आऐ

मुझसे एक कविता का वादा है मिलेगी मुझको

गुलज़ार — “आनंद”

——

गुलज़ार साहब ने तो लिख दिया, और क्या खूब लिखा, मृत्यु के साथ कविता के वादे का | लेकिन RIP की बौछारों का ज़िक्र न किया, जो मित्र, करीबी पल भर में देंगे | और ढेरों देंगे |पर हमें तो अभी चाहिए शांति से रहना जहाँ हम हैं । जब तक हम हैं 🙂 इसलिए “RIP विवेक”

कुछ यादें भूलती नहीं

First Posted online on May 19th 2015

कुछ यादें भूलती नहीं । बरक़रार रहती हैं, और तड़के सुबह आँखों में आकर जगा देती हैं । आज सुबह भी यही हुआ । आखों के सामने वही चित्र घूमा । गर्मी की एक अलसाई शाम, ढलता हुआ सूरज, बरामदे में जमती हुई धूल और वातावरण में बिखरे कण । बरामदे की मुंडेर पर कोहनी के बल खड़े हर आते जाते व्यक्ति को देखना । समय बीतने पर बेचैनी, पर कान शायद पीछे गराज के ताले पर थे । ताला खुलने की जानी पहचानी आवाज़, नसों को शांत कर देती है । मिंटो में वे दोनों कन्धों पर झोला लटकाये सामने की सीढ़ी से चढ़ते हुए ऊपर आकर घंटी बजाते है । पापा घर आते हैं ।

Glamor Literary meet

First Posted online on November 1st 2014

When you hear about glamor, the images hitting your visual cortex ought to be of catwalks, ramps, svelte models, handsome chiseled men among glaring lights with sizzling music and less of a Literary meet, unless of course Literary Meet participants or their grammar bring glamor to the event. In many ways “Grammar” and “Glamor” are more closer in a dictionary than people following them in real worlds.

I was watching the Spelling Bee on TV held at Washington DC all the while egging my glamor struck kid to pronounce the words children were spelling in the competition. The indian diaspora in USA has rekindled their childhood races in full steam, not letting a single year go by when scores of Indian origin kids come loaded with word armory competing in Spelling Bee at national stage.

I’m sure that Spelling Bee hosting DC Convention Centre now carries samosas, idli-dosas and vada-paos along with ginger tea on Spelling Bee day. It’s become ad nauseam now watching the Indian associated feat repeat each year, so much so that in 2014 top 2 Indian origin american kids didn’t let the other win and were awarded joint winners when Spelling Bee organizers just ran out of words to ask.

I was thrown back many years ago to a soundproof AIR studio at Lucknow answering the origin of word “Glamor” in a quiz show. That answer won my team the semi-final spot on that AIR program putting us into the finals of that quiz show in Lucknow. Along came more memories of spending time at the BCL (Mayfair) and a lot of time reading while standing on one leg in Manav Prakash’s hut.

Glamor :-

A few hundred years ago, knowledge was worn as ornament by a chosen few whose command of language through grammar mesmerised the hoi polloi and the common man waited in awe to listen the educated speak. Awestruck common men looked up to and obeyed the knowledgeable, who paraded their grammar with pride. The state of the commoner was described as magic called glamor.

Internet and Social media is contributing in many ways and a visible effect we notice are the many poets and authors pouring and sharing their creations on the internet. This could not have happened easily without internet. I am glamor struck by the human capacity to innovate, though vastness of access to such new literature can become daunting for many while every internet user becomes a consumer and a judge.

“How has internet and social media contributed towards literature and how has literature changed since internet? Is literature becoming richer and growing?”

शायद मैं जानता हूँ तुम्हें

First posted online on October 14th 2014

शायद मैं जानता हूँ तुम्हें

तुम… एक बेफिक्री सी पहचान,

एक उन्मुक्त सोच,

एक ठहराव, एक गहरा जुड़ाव,

आपसी सोच का खिंचाव

सोचता हूँ…

सोचता हूँ के जानता हूँ तुम्हें,

शायद नहीं…. पर खुश हूँ,

उस ठहराव, जुडाव और खिंचाव से

जिसने तमन्ना दी है ज़िन्दगी की, मिलन की, आस की

उस आस की, जो ला सके करीब,

वे आँसू, वह दर्द, वह करीबी जज़्बा,

जानता हूँ तुम्हें शायद, या नहीं,

लेकिन इंतज़ार है, मिलन का वह पल,

वह पल, जो मेरा आखरी ही क्यों न हो