Thursday, November 29, 2007

Such a long journey

By Harish Mohan

(For the uninitiated, Thane is a suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai, and about 40 kms from Mahim.)

Happiness is a strange thing. The more you try to chase it, the more elusive it seems. But I guess its real beauty lies in the fact that you can only feel it when it reaches you, not the other way around.

My watch read 11:30 as I managed to just about have a glimpse of the time in the quiet lulling night, sitting on the steps at Mahim Beach. The splendor of the city shone in its stillness for a change, as an unfinished bridge blocked the full moon, shinning down upon the waters which were doing a little dance of their own. I have always looked at Mahim Beach as the common man's beach. Sure, Marine Drive graces like a queen resting in her shade of purple, and Juhu beach is the place where a man feels alone, in the swarming sea of humanity. But the stretch of Mahim Beach upto Worli is the sea of absolute stillness, lending an ear to every man who seeks his daily solace. I can't help but overlook the young married couple, while the husband murmurs in a loud tone, enough for everybody around to hear, about his successes in life and the wife looks on with a forced awe, probably out of her necessary captivity to fate. The man with a ragged look, the grey moustache and the checked shirt is silent, looking endlessly at the moon. The middle aged man has heavy wrinkles, as he prepares for his customary 20 min sojourn, while sitting on the beach, before he catches the last local and boards home to find a house to run. The rag pickers play around with the shells, with the large shiny ones being stuffed in their enormous ragbags, probably the biggest prize they will ever own, one that they would probably sleep the cold night on the roads with and impressions of crowning glory in their dreams.

With these thoughts in my mind, I boarded a taxi to take another expedition of its own sorts, as I prepared to catch the 1 hour train taking me across the city while showcasing a million little journeys in itself.

Getting down at Matunga station is a nightmare of sorts for those who always know where the next road leads. In the midst of total darkness, I shuffle, with skepticisms to guide me initially, only to be replaced by a total elation at finding myself with nowhere to go and just walking in the tunnel. The slow , idyllic walk is stopped with a mind numbing sight. A crippled mother , of about hardly 4'5 in height with disheveled hair, was combing her daughter's hair, just about matching her as she stood. The mother looked with eyes of promise at her beautiful young child and as I passed by in absolute numbness, somewhere I could hear the mother say to her "You are going to be beautiful someday, my child". I suddenly realize that I have to rush and run, whereby I just about manage to catch the last local and to my amusement, I find the compartment empty.

It is boarded, not surprisingly, by people from all walks of life, all bound by the two things that drive the city today, circumstance and necessity. At the entrance of the carpet, is a nearly naked old man, with strands of unkempt white hair laid out bare, as he sleeps like a child never wanting to wake up. Three old men, with their namaaz caps on, look towards the sky from their windows, murmuring their prayer, presumably. Despite enough places to sit, I go across to a group of people who stand to take in the unique Mumbai winds.

The Mumbai Winds. Sharp and cool at the same time, refreshing to some, a necessity to others. I watch a man, wearing the what is now common sight of a neat white sleeved shirt with two buttons open. He is old and haggard, with a bead in his hand and he is mumbling his prayers too. That is what has driven Mumbai despite suffering from 3 bomb blasts and every evil that has been inflicted to it till date, the NEED TO SURVIVE. Irrespective of faith and sensibilities, every man in this city is fighting to survive. Some in the maddening rush of their lives, and some in their own actions. And having lived 2 years in the city now, I have come to peace with such an act.

As the stations arrive one by one, I realize that this compartment is full of cripples and 'differently abled' people as this is the compartment of handicapped. I would have loved to say that I actually did not feel out of place, but the truth is, the only thing that i felt there was the feeling of dwarf ness. I felt like a midget before their spirit to live and to fight. The stations rushed by and gave me the once again familiar sight of apartment after apartment as I entered the suburbs, and the urban chaos around them.

As I finish my 45 min walk, with music in my ears as an accomplice during this journey of rediscovering life, I realize that every man has his own story to tell and his fortune to weave. And this journey that they undertake in their lives is a far greater battle than the one which I had just experienced.

Harish Mohan

Bright Side of the moon

Candidly speaking, birthday parties usually have not been with much jubilation for me. I must secretly confess that I have found attending or celebrating those a bit discomforting. And I must say, I have never walked the extra mile to dissect this eccentricity, until today. I realize that this is primarily because often I have got invited to birthday celebrations of persons I have been least acquainted with. I have noticed many a times, that as a matter of courtesy or may be norms of social networking, people get invited to places where one silently feels completely out of place. And in spite of the awkwardness of standing aloof in the midst of a celebration a with the plate in hand, smiling and greeting unknown but familiar faces, I have attended most of them. I do not know as to why do people have to put with something like this. For the rich I guess its networking, business, politics, wine, dine and women. Money, I guess teaches one to socialize. I guess that’s how it is between the rich and affluent. Though that’s only wild guess as my familiarity with that social circuit is limited. As for the general category of simple, humble, generous and jealous, I guess its sheer out of courteous respect for the invitation itself. As for me I put up with such social gathering purely in hope for great food and to devour the ornate visual delight. And by gods grace, relished both on rare but memorable moments. Secretly I have desired for soothing drinks to be a part of all such functions and sadly come to realization that it is still consider a taboo. Unless the functions of catholic or Sardar. But often I have gotten around with that impediment too. It is shameless is a pre requisite to squeeze joy from certain occasions.

But, then that is about me, sharing the celebration of people I know by face and not necessarily by deeds. Overall such parties just come and go with the residue of images of ladies that were not to be. But then its entirely different when it is with the closed ones. Till date those celebrations amongst a close knit circle have remained modest and occasionally marked by grandeur submerged in river of alcohol and great food. And of course these instilled like caressing touch of feather over memories.

Such was the case with a birthday party this Sunday. It was unplanned, with no balloons, no iced cakes and indeed of course no gifts. But of course a common present from all the invitees for the birthday boy. Invites?lets say just a bunch of guys who knew that they had to bump into each other some where in the noon. From the flexibility of venue and timing, to the expectations narrowed to zilch, marked this day.

For some reason, I knew I had to buy a cheap, but censored gift to kick start my home coming to the party. So bang in the noon I took a taxi ride and traveled over the sea’s to the tambourine woman and played my role. On the other side of the town two guys were lurking the street s of Bandra, looking for the single most luxurious gift that would imbibe the day the neat corners of memories. Obviously it was unintentional and unexpected but it turned out to be something that dipped the moments into flavors.

From the gentle howl of the friends calling us from the dimly lit room, I knew the party had begun. And then I eyed the valued gift for the day which supposedly has its righteous place in the cauldrons of the rich, gently resting on the humble floor. And even as it laid itself on dusty floor, it seemed very much at its graceful best with soothing welcome warmth around it. Perhaps it could also sense the feeling of belonging with the audience.

It was nothing less but the delight of Jack Daniels itself- the brand, the vogue, the statement for the moment. The most wonderful sight was the shine in the lascivious eyes of pride and greed to savor exotic smoothness on the palate. I noticed the rascals had inaugurated the beauty just a short while before our arrival, but of course, that was expected and I’ve learn to overcome jealousy. Nevertheless, soon we all watched the sweet poison drip over the ice cubes. Tumbling and tossing over ice cubes. As as I gasped the sight of rising cold misty fumes from the ice I could empathize its arousal by viscous ness of a première whisky. And as I lay there learning the definition of exquisite class, we all raised toast to Jack Daniels and Ambrishh Singh.

We celebrated the day barely two pegs as each individuals share of luxury. But I am sure we felt content, glad. And gently the chilled drink provided the much need warmth for hearts. Soon few bites of biryani were devoured from single plate with recollection days of brother hood running in back ground. And while savoring each sip of whisky, the conversations drifted from the good, the bad and the ugly in the world, to the sweet dreams behind the private eyes of the birthday boy. Over all it was a light hearted affair. And for a while as we played music, we all got lost in the moment. The soft numbers played, the eyes got closed, sometimes the plectrum played on the strings and sometimes hands rose up and fingers played over scales of piano in empty air.

And while I lay there I had thought about the cherished birthdays from the past and approaching birth days. And about many such celebrations that are lined up in the passing year and in the early season of the new year. Over the coming months many people will take new adventures, and I hoped all such celebrations are a light-hearted affair, some marked in grandeur of luxury and some with serene humility. I wish, all such days would be joyous with food, drinks and the ladies, all in sync with the music. And more of such days shall keep coming and bring in new dawn as to make them a celebration of life itself for the moment. And I sincerely wished they are lined up with Jack Daniels dripping the moments in culmination of desires blended with grace and pride and the perfect harmony of senses and music.