Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Morning Glory

Auroville, Tamil Nadu

When the shimmering water shines away to glory,
The day would, without a doubt, end without worry.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The moment of Realization

There always were and will always be. Perhaps, these reasons keep us grounded. Don't they?

Successful men pray to retain their titles,
A poor man tries to survive his daily battles,
A privileged kid pleads for a PSP,
A child in a slum dreams of a bicycle out of his reach,
A student prays to top the test,
A parent, for his child, wants the best.

Some fold their hands and chant mantras,
Some kneel down and offer a prayer,
Some dance, swirl and some keep silent.

The reasons to pray differ but the motto/intention remains the same: To connect to the entity that provides peace, strength and security.

Like everyone else, I have always had my own reasons to pray. However, the intensity and the reasons have changed from time to time.

At 5: Innocence
Prayer to me, at the age of 5, meant folding my hands and closing my eyes for 10 seconds. At the 11th second, the curiosity in me, residing restlessly, would coerce me to open an eye to catch a glimpse of the people around. It always made me wonder what brought them there, what went through their minds. Little did I know that life is more than watching my favorite cartoon, getting an A in a class test and eating a chocolate that made my life seem perfect to me.

At 10: Competition
Reality crept in. Expectations from life started growing. The favorite cartoon turned into a video game a friend was gifted with, the joy of being appreciated on getting an A in a class test turned into a competition. Innocent joys were replaced by things especially the ones possessed by others. Reasons pretty much remained the same but the intentions and the intensity changed.

At 15: Insecurity
Insecurity of being judged, of failure, of trying to fit in took center stage. It led to an avalanche of reasons to pray. Getting good grades was, by now, an obsession, the dress I had seen on a mannequin and had promised myself to lay my hands on, being noticed by the guy I had a crush on. The list was endless.

At 20: A moment of realization
On one fine day, the realization dawned upon me. It was a moment of enlightenment that changed my life forever. I was praying in my usual way. It has always been a direct conversation with Him. A voice whispered in my ears.

You crept in and…
Opened up the buried,
Enlightening me to my worth.

That’s when I realized...
It was You...
Who always watched me...
Sitting by myself,
Staring at naught,
Sobbing unreasonably,
Pleading for acceptance;

That’s when I realized...
It was You...
Walking with the lonesome me,
Protecting me in a cocoon unseen,
Whispering in my ears all the blessings.

(Addressed to God)

It occurred to me that God is all around and knows what is best for me. Since that day, I pray not for the things I need or want to achieve. I thank him every morning for the roof over my head, the food in my plate, the air to breathe and a healthy heart, a family that cares and someone who will love me till the end of it all.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Better Safe Than Sorry

“But wasn’t it five in the evening!”
She managed an affirmative nod amidst her miserable sobs.

I, for the first time in my life, had left the comforts I had often taken for granted. It was a new chapter in my life and the dreams, the fire to reach new heights and explore the unexplored visible in my eyes couldn’t go unnoticed. But life comes with its quirky shades and surprises and she had always stood by me during those days when life seemed no less than a battlefield. More than a roommate, Seema had been a guide and a friend to me.

30 minutes earlier: 5.30pm     

Two years back, on the same day, our journey as roommates had begun. Unlike the common perception that girls staying together can never gel well, we had turned inseparable.

After a hard day at work, I had managed to leave early. On the way back home, carrying a smile and an expression of a warrior who had won the battle of Kurukshetra in matter of a day, I was making a mental note of what was to be worn to look my best during our second-anniversary-roommates-celebration comprising of a movie followed by a lavish dinner at a fancy restaurant.

It never ceases to amaze me how life holds the power to turn mechanical.  Following the same set of actions, I entered the gate, threw a broad smile at the security personnel which again had become a habitude for the good, walked past the kids riding their bright colored bicycles and their mothers gossiping their hearts out, I entered the lift, took out the keys and finally entered the house with a smirk unlike my mood which has of-late turned erratic.

What I witnessed came as a shock to me. I froze for a moment, silently trying to decipher what had become of her.

Photo Courtesy: bestprofilepicture.blogspot.in

I inadvertently dropped my bag on the floor and ran up to her. Seated in the corner of the room, with her head down, she was in a state of complete mess. I could hear her sobs underneath her head rested on her knees.

The moment I sat next to her, she lifted her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and her usual fearless eyes had turned red. The moment she looked at me, I understood it was more than a tussle with her manager because at such times, she often displayed a nonchalant attitude. She never bothered herself with love affairs so a breakup after effect was a remote possibility. It had to be way more serious.

Holding her face in my hand and wiping her tears, I asked her, “What is wrong?”
She hugged me tight and wept to her heart’s content. I had never, in these two years, seen her so frail.

“Unusual it may sound but the street was absolutely deserted today.” She said with eyes still red from all those hours of crying. What followed filled me with anger and disgust.  

The street that leads us to our home from the closest bus stop is more often than not bustling with commuters. The two wheelers with pillions either sitting close to the driver in order to be audible while talking or strangely holding the rest on the extreme end of the pillion seat, cars honking for no particular reason and pedestrians  either lost in the virtual world of their cell phones or saving themselves from the wrath of the drivers.

“I was walking at a normal pace when a bunch of motorcyclists surrounded me, started making lewd comments and groped me”. I could still see the fear in her eyes, her hands clutching the corner of her trousers. She had been controlling her tears all this while.

“She needs some time” I thought. But she is of a kind who doesn't like creating a storm inside. I let her vent out. I, to an extent, knew how it felt but my tears would make it worse. I held them back.

“I managed to escape from their hold and started running. They followed me. Hit me on the back.” The length of her sentences reflected how scared she was and how desperately she wanted to let it all out.

“Did you cry for help?” I had read an article on how girls can protect themselves when in such a situation. Honestly, at most of the times, they don’t work. 

“I cried for help. I could see some people pass by but no one cared to stop.” Her teeth clenched and the fear in her eyes suddenly turned into fury. 

”The thought of taking a short cut struck my mind. But it was more secluded. Had I taken that route, things would have got worse. Instead, I entered the next gate I came across and climbed up the stairs, stayed there for a while.” She was literally gasping for breath. 

“I climbed down the stairs and ran, not looking back. I knew they were around. I could hear the roaring sound of the bike engines and I ran. I managed to reach our gate and warned the security personnel to look out for those rascals.” 

She hugged me tightly.”I was scared to death” she said.

“You are a brave girl Seema. Did you note down the number? We’ll drag them to the police station and ensure they pay for it.” I said, still hugging her. 

“It didn't occur to me. I was in shock and in pain.” she said. I handed over a glass of water. I knew no words would comfort her. She needed some time to heal.

We decided to celebrate the evening. We ordered Chinese food from her favorite restaurant and saw a movie.

couldn't help but ponder over, all through the evening, what has become of us-humans. In order to gratify our egos, we commit the most heinous crimes. What would they have achieved by chasing a girl who they knew was vulnerable? What would have happened to her if she was away from the house, in a place she wasn't acquainted with? 

It is a sickness, a disease that can be eradicated and done away with, from the grassroots level, only if men are taught to respect women from childhood. The patriarchy has acted as a fungus to the society since centuries. Parents should  not let their son grow up to be a male chauvinist.

A twofold increase in the rape cases have been observed between 1990 and 2008. In addition to these, several go unreported and we claim to be growing as a society, as human beings. What an irony! What bothers me more is the lack of willingness of the people to come forward to help. How can they sleep with themselves at night with the guilt of turning a deaf year to the victim pleading for help? By doing that, they are to be equally blamed for the crime as the abuser.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Soul Stirring Sufi at Atta Galatta

After a lazy Saturday afternoon spent reading a travel magazine with a cup of coffee, it was time for some indulgence. The calendar on my phone flashed the ‘Sufi evening’ I had registered for in Atta Galatta, a bookstore with a unique concept. It hosts number of art and culture events catering to all age groups and this was a treat for the music lovers. When I reached, the store was packed with people seated on the chairs arranged in rows, anticipating an evening that would bring them closer to God.

Smita Bellur during her soulful performance at Atta Galatta

With the first aalap, Smita Bellur, the Hindustani Classical vocalist and the Sufi singer, enthralled the audience.  The room reverberated with the music that knows no language and surpasses all the boundaries.  Her voice, as beautiful as she is, carried the audience on the spiritual journey with the pure and soulful melodies. 

With several compositions including Man Kunto Maula by Amir Khusrow and the popular Chhap Tilak Sab and Dama Dam Mast Kalandar on public demand, she left everyone in awe.  The audience, spanning all the ages, clapped to the beats and rhythm in unison to acknowledge the sense of the divinity resonating in their soul.

Smita belongs to the Jaipur-Kirana gharana and is trained in Hindustani khayal gayaki. She has travelled extensively for concert tours which are regularly broadcast on TV channels. MS in quality management by qualification, she has joined many causes with her music contribution. Smita, with her team offers programmes like theme based music, shastriya sangeet, sufi tunes, bhaktimala and many more.

The performance concluded with a thunderous and a prolonged applause by the audience still in a state of rapture. Every single person present in the store went up to her in order to congratulate and thank her for the incredible experience she had gifted them with. 

My belief that sufi music can be a great healer was reaffirmed that evening. I went with an expectation to make my evening eventful and returned with the heart and the soul filled with love and gratitude.

Listen to Man Kunto Maula and follow her on her facebook page.

Bangaloreans should make it a point to visit Atta Galatta to gorge on their collection of books, filter coffee and cup cakes and register for various events and workshops organised for all age groups. Follow them at Atta Galatta, Koramangala.