Do you even know?

The train you board everyday..
Do you even know where it takes you?
I bet you don’t.

Do you even know how you look?
I bet you don’t.

Do you even know
That the world has no option?
That the sea will drown?
That the sky is not so far away?
That the ground is way beneath where it is?
That she still loves you?
Do you even know?
I bet you don’t.

Do you even know that who gets to decide?
Do you even know that who the hell knows?
Do you even know
that the joke out there
is played on you?

Do you even know?

Do you even know
That she’ll never say yes?
That you’ll never matter?
Do you even know?
Coz I really hope you do.

Do you even know?

That married mongoose
you fed last summer.
It came under a truck.
A really huge one.

That friend from the fifth grade.
The one you did your Maths project with.
He died last year.
Do you even know?
Do you even know why?

Do you even know..
That thick beard of him hides something more than just his skin?
That it’s not only her hair that is messy?
Do you even know?

Do you even know
that which parts of your body
are actually aching?
which of them are broken?
And why?

Do you even know?
I bet you don’t.

Do you ever look around
and see it all passing..
Do you ever look around
and just wonder..
That there is so much of it that you’ll never know.


An innocent adventure.

So one day I came out of my hostel wearing this Jethalal waala shirt, with a black jeans and grey running shoes, looking as childish and idiotic as I could.
And exactly like what happens in an Anita Desai’s novel, the surroundings, the exterior of me started corresponding to my inner persona of a three-year old kid.

So Just when I walked past the shop of that Maggi uncle about whom I told you all in an earlier blog,
suddenly dropped right in front of me, a green-coloured Cosco ball.
I happened to catch it by the virtue of having played a significant amount of Cricket as a kid,
and on it being my utter misfortune that I had no female playmates to instill in me some feminine features by playing with dolls or kitchen-sets.

So I held that ball in one of my two gifted hands and looked in all sides to find the origin of this fall.
On having happily found that its rightful owner was present nowhere near my eyesight, just when I was planning to casually pass that ball inside my bag, a loud and clear voice (just like Achal sir’s) came from above.
For a moment, I thought it’s Jesus, or Shiva, or maybe Brahma or whoever is the incharge of such matters,
But on looking above, it turned out to be a boy of almost my age.
Thankfully I had not slipped the ball in my bag till then, and he not being any of the Gods surely could not read my mind.
So, I was safe. The world still saw me as an honest person. Hah!

(For those who ask me why I always carry a bagpack, here’s the disclosure.
It’s for moments like this.
To silently take possession of cute stuff that belongs to others.
Please don’t judge me.)

So coming to this boy.
He had this confused, frustrated look on his face.
And If we go by the rules that existed in my childhood, I guess he was declared “out” for having thrown the ball down there.

Sadly, the ball now had to be returned back to him, on the top of a four-floored building.
And he very well knew that I was not going to make it.
But after reading a bit of Ayn Rand and watching a little of Sandeep Maheshwari, I have an immensely wrong idea about the potential of a man.
So, being always eager to showcase my talent of stupidity, I insisted on giving it a try.

The boy nodded, knowing fully well the outcome of the event that was now going to take place right in front of his eyes.
I threw the ball up with all my might, vigour, strength, power, force, effort and whatever synonyms you can come up with.
The ball striked the wall of the first floor, missing its inhabitor’s door by only a few inches and bounced right back to me on the ground. I picked it up from there along with my self-respect.

The boy at the terrace, who was now holding his head in his hands, was begging with his eyes for me to just put the ball on the ground and avoid any further trouble.
But me being me, was still refusing to let go, rigidly holding the ball in my hand, as if it was my last chance to prove to the world what an ace I was!!!

I was fully determined to embarrass myself again but he could take it no longer and somehow convinced me to put down my arms.

So, I finally kept the ball on the ground and walked silently to the other side of the road, pretending nothing actually happened a few moments ago, and how I actually am a reputed citizen of this country, with a very, very sensible mind and a grace no less gracious than any of the Yash Chopra’s or Shakespeare’s heroines.

And in the background of my mind kept playing:
Main aisa kyun hoon?!!!
Main aisa kyun hoon??!!

I am the keeper of a bird’s wings.

मैं इक ताइर के परों का रखवाला हूँ

थक गया था वो ताइर
उड़ते-उड़ते सालों से
लड़ते-लड़ते बाज़ों से
थक गया था वो ताइर

सो बस एक दिन
उसने अपने पंख उतारे
और थके हुए कदमों से चलकर
पिंजड़े के अंदर चला गया

और उस परिंदे के साथ ही
कैद कर लिया गया
हर आने वाले वक़्त को
हर ढ़लने वाली शाम को
उस परिंदे के साथ ही
कैद कर लिया गया
हर आने वाली सुबह को
हर रात के अंजाम को

फिर उससे कहानियों के सौदे किए गए
और आवाज़ खरीद ली गई उसकी

अब वो हर रोज़ गाने गाता है
और अपनी खूबसूरत आवाज़ में
कुछ भाड़े की कहानियाँ सुनाता है

और बदले में उसे
खाने को मिलते हैं
उसके पसंदीदा साँपों के टुकड़े
और सोने की कुछ गोलियाँ

पर मैंने उसके गुलाबी पंखों को
अब भी संभाल रखा है
भूखी बिल्लियों से बचाकर,
एक नीली कमीज़ में लपेटकर
रखा है मैंने उन्हें,
सदियों की शाखों से
तहज़ीब के जो पत्ते टूटे थे
उनसे ढ़क दिया है मैंने उन्हें

क्योंकि उम्मीद है मुझे
कि कोई मासूम सा बच्चा
जब अपनी नीली-नीली आँखों से
उस ताइर की आँखों में देखेगा
और उनमें जब वह खुद को नंगा पाएगा
तब समझेगा शायद वो
कि कैसा है आखिर उसका
यूँ रत्नजड़ित होना
यूँ पंखरहित होना

और फिर वो ताइर आएगा
अपने पर ले जाएगा

फिर न धूप उसे जलाएगी
न साए रोका करेंगे
न उलझेगा फिर वो
कदामत की तारों से
न सबा फिर उसका
इज़्तिराब करेगी

फिर वो अपने पर फैलाएगा
ऊँची दौड़ लगाएगा
फिर चाँद तलक वो जाएगा
बाज़ों से न घबराएगा
फिर वो बस उड़ता ही जाएगा
बस उड़ता ही जाएगा


मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

मैं वो किताब हूँ जो अभी लिखी नहीं गई
वो सच हूँ जो अभी गढ़ा नहीं गया
वो रात हूँ मैं जिसकी सुबह नहीं होगी
वो चाँद हूँ जिसमें बस दाग ही दाग हैं

पर मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

मैं वो हूँ जो तुम हो
और तुम जैसे और कई हैं
और मैं वो भी हूँ
जिस जैसा कोई और नहीं है

मैं वो पाप हूँ जो अहल्या ने किया था
वो रक्त हूँ जो भीम ने पिया था
वो शस्त्र हूँ जो कृष्ण ने उठाया ही नहीं
वो गीत हूँ जो गुल्फ़ाम ने कभी गाया ही नहीं

वो आकार हूँ मैं , जो धरती का है
वो रंग भी हूँ , जो आसमान का है
वो कहानी हूँ मैं , जो चल रही है
वो किस्सा भी हूँ , जो बीत चुका है

पर मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

मैं इक टूटता हुआ तारा हूँ
मैं चाँद आवारा हूँ
किसी साए की शक्ल हूँ
कोई ख्वाब नाकारा हूँ
कभी आँधी से लड़ती कश्ती हूँ मैं
कभी छूटा हुआ किनारा हूँ

पर मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

किसी शायर की जिंदगी हूँ मैं
किसी आशिक की मौत हूँ

किसी काफिर की बेदिली हूँ मैं
किसी नमाज़ी की नमाज़ हूँ

किसी चिता की आग हूँ मैं
या बस छनी हुई राख हूँ मैं

कोई हुनरमंद शैतान हूँ मैं
या शायद बस इंसान हूँ मैं

कोई बहता हुआ गीत हूँ
कोई सुलगता हुआ दरिया हूँ

किसी फूल की खुशबू हूँ शायद
मैं रूप हूँ, रंग हूँ, रक्स हूँ
या शायद बस अपना ही अक्स हूँ

पर मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

कोई तन्हा परिंदा हूँ मैं
या बाजों का झुंड हूँ
यज्ञ की आहूति हूँ मैं
या स्वयं हवण-कुंड हूँ

किसी दोशीजा की देह हूँ
किसी मृतक की लाश हूँ
दूनिया से बहुत दूर हूँ मैं
मैं बस अपने पास हूँ
पैरों तले जमीन हूँ
या उँचा आकाश हूँ
मामूली सा प्यादा हूँ मैं
या खुद वजीर-ए-खास हूँ
युधिष्ठिर का झूठ हूँ मैं
मैं सत्य की तलाश हूँ

पर मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

यमुना का मैं नीर हूँ
कौरवों की भीड़ हूँ
शिव का तांडव हूँ मैं
सती का मृत शरीर हूँ

असीर हूँ, फकीर हूँ
गरीब हूँ, अमीर हूँ
प्राण हूँ मैं, पीड़ हूँ
शांत हूँ, अधीर हूँ

पिता का मैं फख्र हूँ
माँ का गुमान हूँ
हिंद का मैं तख्त हूँ
कोई टूटा हुआ मकान हूँ

गांडीव हूँ मैं अर्जुन का
शिवाजी की तलवार हूँ
भगत सिंह की बंदूक हूँ मैं
कर्णावती की कटार हूँ

पर मैं वो तो नहीं जिसे तुम जानते हो
मैं वो भी नहीं जिसे मैं जानता हूँ

Sadness loved her.

Sadness. That was his name.
He was the messenger of truth.

People had heard stories about him. They had felt his presence. Many of them had even met him, but no one had ever seen his real face.

Rumours were there that he was the one behind those suicides that had recently happened in the town.
That’s why he had to roam masked in a cloak of good humour and normalcy.

He never came out in his true form.
He was too real to be understood appropriately.
People wouldn’t understand.

And her..
He had seen her growing up as a little girl, but only with a distance.
And he had been there when she was being fed by the world on those pills of fear, insecurity and self-hatred, in order to get her addicted.
(Girls like her are good for business.)

That’s when he knew that he had to save her.

On a night when it was raining very heavily,
he came up to her and removed his mask.
And for the first time she met someone who had no air of rationality around him, no make-up of conformity on his face, and with those ruffled hair and an average looking face, he was raw and beautiful.

She understood that he was definitely something the world had long forgotten to appreciate and now was too scared of.

Because he after all, never needed the world.

She saw that he stood tall and was not weighed down by expectations, dreams and desires like Mr. Happiness. (her boyfriend)

He needed no one and that probably was the problem.
He knew exactly what he was there for.
To speak the truth.
That alone was his purpose.

In a world which was submerged in the lies told by Mr. happiness, he alone, stood straight and told the truth.
And truth made everyone uncomfortable.
Truth after all, was bad for business.

The bigger the business of Happiness grew, the more Sadness shifted to dark lanes and broken houses, the more it got ostracized and defamed as someone abnormal, someone one should stay away from.
People thought that he was insane, that he was not normal.
But in the mad world out there, he was the only sane one, the only one with a sense of reality.

But Reality is bad for business.
Happiness was what the market preferred. Because after all, he boosted productivity.

But Sadness had to be there. In that mad world. For the sake of truth. And for her.

Happiness, like all heroes, was overrated.
He would just come and save her and would make her feel better for the time being. He loved her too, but not how she needed to be loved.

Sadness was different.
Instead of saving her, he taught her to fight, to battle with whoever came her way, to defend the future she had seen with Mr. Happiness.

Happiness definitely loved her. He always loved to see her dancing and would kiss her for it.
But it was Sadness who knew how hard it had been for her to even stand on her legs, how many hours she had practised in the dark and how badly her legs hurt when after dancing for so long, she went to sleep at night.

On the nights when happiness would be out chasing new dreams, Sadness would sit near her bed and tell her stories about herself and the world.

And when he kissed her on her forehead each night,
It had no thrill in it like how Mr. Happiness kissed her. It had no firmness, strength or vigour. But the one thing it had, was warmth.

He would see her sometimes on the streets when she would be roaming around with Happiness, who always kept a hand on her waist to prove to the world that he owned her.
Sadness would just smile at her from a distance and she would smile back.

Happiness had a house on the top of a hill.
The highest one in the town.
For others to look at and be envious of.
And each time she fell while trying to climb her way up there, Sadness was there to catch her.
He then would teach her a thing or two about climbing it up and would let her go.

He was aware, painfully aware, of what role he had to play in her life.

There obviously was a problem when he would start to love her a little too much, when he would get possessive, when he wouldn’t want to let her go away.
But then he knew that she was made for things bigger and brighter than him and he was only a friend.
He would remind himself that and would let her go.

He sometimes would go away for a very long time.
But he would always come back to her.
To remind her that she was human,
that she deserved to stay one.

She finally grew up to be a girl who knew how to deal with this world, how to battle her demons and how to throw away every single pill that was forced into her throat.

Days passed and she got married to Mr. Happiness.
Sadness was fine with that. He respected her choices.
But he still came sometimes, just to pay a visit, just to see if she was doing fine, just to say that he loved her.

Holding on.

Each morning as I walk by the famous firayalal shop a little too early in the morning,
I can see so many newspaper vendors, sitting crosslegged on the road, putting different newspapers into different sections, depending on who prefers to be brainwashed by whom.

I face numerous rickshaw pullers and autodrivers, asking me:
“Madam, kahan jaana hai??”

And on my way back,
I see teastalls opening and the fruitsellers negotiating with the customers.

In the evening, there is a man to be found near our college who keeps a trimmed beard and makes supertasty moong daal pakodas.
Accompanying him is a chubby son of him, not more than ten years old, who would pack them for you and hand it over to you with the green chilli chutney.

Near firayalal if you stand in an ATM queue, then on your right side, you can find another man with a trimmed beard who is always making tea in an aluminium container, which he serves in an aluminum kettle to a large number of people in a row, and with a fluency more electrifying than even the CNN speakers.
Trust me it’s a real treat to watch.
I sometimes stare at the whole magic show of him like a dumbhead, untill the person standing behind me in the line asks me to get inside the ATM.

There are many such stallowners over there, serving chole-bhature, or dosas, or chicken parathas, who are living angels to the ones like us.
If you sit and talk to them for a while, you’ll see how everyone over there claims to have started it first, and how rest others followed his golden footsteps.

Then there is the Maggi uncle,
who owns a regular shop beside our hostel and provides us with all the stuff we need and don’t need.
Each morning when you walk by his shop, you can see him splashing water on the road from his balcony, or simply brooming around.
He is what you call an amiable creature, someone who’ll recognise you even if you come to his shop ten years later with your kids maybe.
I bet he’ll still offer you the newly launched mint tablets to try.
(Not for free though)

And if you are awake at around 2-3 AM, you’ll find a labourer piling up stones and sand on a truck with only a spade.
He does that all alone, almost every night, even in the extremely cold weather.

There are just so many of them.
There are those who alter your jeans for you, fix your shoes for you, and even bring your food for you.
People who are just fine and friendly and aren’t too phony like most of the so-called learned and sophisticated ones.

I sometimes wonder how they must be having dreams like the rest of us.
Dreams of having a secure future for their kids, of having a home to go back to, of being able to make their loved ones happy.
But how much wider than us, is the gulf between them and their dreams?
They in fact are fighting a war that’s not even fair.

I mean,
The artists, the stars, the world leaders, the so-called intellectuals,
They all seem nice to me.
But in an unbalanced and highly unequal world like this, where most people aren’t largely responsible for what and where they are,
There is nothing more soothing and inspirational than to see a man who knows how to hold on to his dignity,
when everything around him is hell bent on snatching it away from him.

When you are a gareeb foodie.

Starting from the most obvious one,
-You rant the entire city and find the places which serve good food at a low price i.e; in your aukaat.

-You are always the first one to stand up each time you see someone with a packet of chips.

-You make a lot of friends in the hope that they’ll feed you in the canteen.

-You tell people how they’ll burn in hell for not sharing their tiffin with you.

-You advice your rich friend, who has a big house with tiles on its floor, to steal a few of them.

-You share notes for food.

-You wish everyone a happy birthday, even strangers, in the hope of that one slice of cake.

-You buy chicken paratha by contributing with three more people.

-You try giving people a supergareeb bhikhari look in order to convince them that you haven’t been fed since a month.

-You promote religious harmony
in the hope of that delicious homemade mutton biryani.

-You adjust your monthly budget to save up for that canteen sandwich.

-You keep telling people to adopt you.

And most importantly,
-You find a man who knows how to cook.
(That too, better than you.)