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.)

You know what it’s about.

So, that was around two years ago. It doesn’t really ache to write about that now, but there is an unusual feeling which I always have about it. The kind of feeling you have about something which was left unsaid. Something, which you would kill to go in the past and say it, if only it was possible.

That entire city reminds me of some unfinished business. Not because of any kind of vengeance, but just out of the genuine need of something to be done about that place.
The city, in all its splendour and beauty, felt immensely sick to me. The seriousness it radiated was speaking of something horrible going on underneath.

But it’s not about the thousands of students who came there as aspiring IITians.
It’s about the teachers who promised to turn them into ones.

I remember the attitude they carried which always made me wonder that how huge a misconception can one have about himself?
How can one not see people dying, right there in front of his eyes?
Some of them did, and preferred to not do anything about it.
But it wasn’t their fault.
Even I wouldn’t help someone like me then.
There is something that this world does to you, which is very, very bad and probably can’t be described in words.

So yes! I remember the pangs. I remember being sarcastically asked if I consider myself the prime minister of India or if I am getting even a bit of what is taught and why I have the adamant attitude which I have.
So yes, they watched me, studied me, saw me, commented upon me as their duty.

And apparently, what they did not see, or chose not to see were the slashes on my wrist and on my self-esteem. What they did not see was me having a panic attack, after which I could not bring myself to read even simple words of English for hours. What they did not see was how I used to faint in my room due to severe headache and how my face used to ache all the time due to sinus.
What they DID SEE was that
It always came down to just that.
But no one dared to look for its reasons.

Because after all, scolding was easy.
Telling me to study was easy.
Letting me know that it was going to be fine and making me believe it, was a tough job.
And I understand that it was not their responsibility to carry it out.
But neither was it their job to worsen it for me and the others like me.
(And I know that there were many.)

They noticed that I was getting close to a boy and confronted me for it. But they did not notice the huge amount of weight that I had lost during those days.
(One teacher did. The one who in fact did not really know me, never taught me anything, and was no well-wisher of me.
But she noticed.)

So yes, it’s about those teachers.
But not about the ones who came, taught and simply minded their own business.
I have nothing against them.
(Although even they understood sometimes.)

I am talking about the ones, who were all the way, always too sure of themselves and of what they were doing.
The ones who were always concerned about the ‘wellbeing’ of students and therefore, never failed to let me know what an embarrassment I was and how exactly I was wasting my parent’s money.

So yes, it’s about them.
The ones who always said it aloud that they care, but never really cared.

A celebration of life.

Having been the person who has always been very cautious, distrustful and protective about everything,
Having been precisely someone who never fails to notice anything about anyone,
I love it when I see myself not doing that sometimes.
I love it when I see myself opening up to people without thinking or even caring about how they are.

So, it happened this morning.
We had our dance practice for the fresher’s party we are planning to give to the juniors.
The weather was pleasant. It was drizzling
and everyone was busy picking up the right moves.
I was there for the script writing thing.
So I only sat and watched.
It went on for a while
and then I realised that
someday, all of this will become a memory.
The dancing together, the fighting over biscuits and candies, making fun of each other, everything…

I just sat there and wondered why was it hurting so much?
Why was it hurting to see it all pass away?
To see another phase of my life passing, right there, in front of my eyes.

Those are the moments when this otherwise cruel world, starts seeming beautiful to me in all its imperfections and mediocrity.
Those are the moments when the pursuit of anything seems useless and life feels just perfect for a few minutes.

But then, such moments don’t last long.
The practice got over. Everyone dispersed and soon the real scheme of things started taking its toll on me. The nerves tightened, the expectations, the fears came back and the beast mode got activated.
But deep inside, I wanted to stay human,
to stay in that ground forever, with people crazily dancing around me with their elated hearts and bouncy hair,
till it got dark, till the moon rose and the world perished in flames..

War: A useless struggle.

War is a state of aggressive conflict between two power centres.
Those two power centres need not necessarily be countries, states or governments, but can be humans too.
That’s the kind of war I am going to talk about.
Wars which aren’t fought in battlefields, but in closed rooms and open corridors.

That’s the thing about every kind of war.
It works on insecurities.
Because once you get comfortable in your skin, you’ll finally start focusing on really important things in life.
Wars put your energy in places aren’t worth putting into and keep you busy in useless preoccupations and pursuits.

George Orwell writes about war in his famous novel 1984:

“One is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.”

Isn’t that also true for the wars we fight in our own lives against a group of people or even someone in particular?
Aren’t we then governed with same primary passions like fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph?
You get desperate enough to give it back to a few people, And there exactly they got you!!
Because then,
No matter whether you are winning or losing,
There you are… A part of the  game that they have chosen for you to play.
Cheers to the endless circle of stupidity.!

And a lot of time and effort is generally lost before one starts to see the meaninglessness of it.
The day you start realising the loopholes, might be the day you already are into one.

Don’t fall for this trap.
Try to see through the shit of shitty people instead of trying to outsmart them.
Be it an ex of yours or anyone trying to pull you down.
They should not be the reference point from which you calculate your worth.
You need to simply stop caring about them and shift your attention to other things in life.

This deliberate conscious or unconscious state of war that you choose for yourself is going to eat you up.
Save yourself while you still can.
Sit and think about what you truly want from yourself.
And if the answer is victory over someone stupid then I am really sorry for you.
Rise above that.
You are already surrounded by people who haven’t risen above their personal rivalries, ego and narcissism.
You gott’a stop being one of them.

It’s tough to let it all go around and not be affected by it.
But you have to do that for yourself.
Be it standing in the corner, not talking to a few people, not liking a few of them, even offending a few of them, not answering a few questions, not looking good all the time, not trying to win the arguments which aren’t worth indulging into.
Know what kind of space you truly need to give yourself.

You don’t need to be a coward who never indulges in fighting, who never speaks up.
Spit in the face of a few people if you really need to, if the situation inevitably demands it.
But avoid splashing with shit if you really can.
You don’t need to contend in every competition that is held out there in the world.
Save your energy for the right things to invest into.
Every street fight, every ego war isn’t worth winning.
There obviously are better things to do in this world.
Things years from now, you’ll wish you would have done now.
Things which are way less draining and way more rewarding.
Be it reading a good book or improving your writing or conversation skills.

We humans don’t always get to choose our struggles.
So choose wisely when you get a chance.