A Christmas Miracle

Christmas holds a warm place in my heart because of the tradition from the school days. I went to a Christian school (people’s words not mine) and every year students take part in the Christmas play which is basically staging the nativity scene. It was followed a long Christmas vacation. One time I essayed the role of a sheep and boy wasn’t I happy to be an animal on stage. Happiness didn’t cost much then. Those were good times.

One never has to go too far to look for a miracle. A stranger helped me meet Ruskin Bond which was my very own Christmas miracle. I could never have imagined meeting him in my wildest dreams that too here in my hometown.  It was  a few days before Christmas and just like any other cold winter day. Somehow even old crusty me can’t call what happened a coincidence.

When I found out Mr Bond would be gracing a literary festival in the city I asked my sister to ask her friend who studied in the institution which was organizing it to inquire about the system of entry of non-school students. Her friend told her to tell me to gatecrash the event because it isn’t that big a deal. Let me tell you it was a big deal. Clearly her friend doesn’t read many books. The guard at the door wasn’t budging if you weren’t in a uniform or didn’t have a pass. I asked on the festival’s online page and wrote an email asking if there’s a way for people like us to meet and greet (their phrase) Ruskin Bond but there was no response. So I just decided to land up at the venue which was quite unlike me. It was at the other end of the city but I was by my parents told to give it a try in spite of my illness, and I did just that.

Why would a stranger, who has never seen you before in her life, cared if you meet (or didn’t meet) Mr Ruskin Bond. And what are the odds that the stranger was dressed like you and lived in the same locality as you. And someone who wore the adjective bookish like a badge of honour. It was like at first sight. She was wearing a kurti in the same shade of green I was, it was the same length as mine and we had the same hair style even. Had I been plump like I’m now and not leaner like I was then, we really would have looked like two peas in a pod. (I just wanted to use the phrase.) Not believable? But then truth is stranger than fiction. The similarities end here. Unlike garrulous me she prefers silence.

She helped me realize my lifelong dream of seeing Ruskin Bond in flesh and blood with my very own eyes. Had I reached a minute before or a minute later, our paths wouldn’t have crossed. Should I call it destiny, fate, coincidence, serendipity or just my luck? I could have been a serial bomber for all she knew, wanting to go inside the venue to blow it up into smithereens but didn’t have a pass (obviously). Perhaps she could see in me the same thing which had brought her there, a love for the written word and the worlds created by Mr Bond and a fervent desire to hear the man whose words were synonymous with our childhood. Any interaction was the cherry on top of a richly iced cake. At the last minute when he was leaving I was egged on my another young friend to go and get my book signed. And that’s how I spoke two sentences to him. I wasn’t going because everywhere he was surrounnded by hordes of school students or posing for group photographs.  Mr Ruskin Bond exudes warmth and generosity. He actually had twinkling eyes that we read about in books. Larger than life yet down to earth. Yes I’m gushing. I was over the moon.

This holiday season spread good cheer, it is infectious. And when you feel too lonely, remember solitude and loneliness are two sides of the same coin.

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Stillness

In life there are few moments when you experience a kind of stillness which changes something in you, a perceptible shift occurs. Without being aware of it the conscious has changed. I hadn’t recorded my experience in any form then. It was days later I thought about that dusk inching closer to an inky night, in the wee hours of the morning in another kind of stillness, of dawn breaking and banishing darkness. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was but feeling centered and belonging to the moment as it unfolded was a big part of it.

The winding village road was bereft of street lights. The stars looked so bright without light pollution that I wondered why we were crammed in the city. The path through green meadows where a lighthouse like light moved on both sides made it all the more surreal. I remember there was a waning moon and it looked ethereal. Was it my imagination or the quality of light was different than the one in the city?

I wonder what would travelling alone on a bike, moving with the wind and experiencing it with every fibre of my being feel like. I guess that is why people travel. To live out their unlived lives.

The moment was fleeting (aren’t moments like these always fleeting yet so much is contained in that moment) and even though I was surrounded by people it was as if no one existed. In the silence my mind was completely still. In these rare moments of stillness I feel something I can’t quite explain. Is it what feeling one with the universe and acutely being in the present moment feels like? I intend to find out.

Have you experienced such moments of stillness?

Punctuality or being on time – a lost virtue

“I am always late on principle, my principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.”― Oscar Wilde

From the experiences I have had in my short life I would tend to agree with him. Earlier I used to be furious at being kept waiting but now I just keep myself busy reading, writing, checking emails, tweeting inane things, commenting on posts I’d rather not,  watching people, taking pictures, listening to songs, deleting stuff from the phone – whatever suits my mood at that point in time. I know what you are thinking, thank heavens for a smartphone, right? Without a smartphone it ain’t pretty, I get downright restless.

So that when the person I am waiting for actually arrives, looking up won’t be easy since I am immersed in ‘work’ which gives the illusion of being busy (so as not to look like a total loser for being on time). I can easily feign nonchalance, resist the urge to shout and lie that it wasn’t a bother waiting for 45 minutes or thinking that I might perhaps have been stood up (sob!).

If I am not busy and just stare at the watch looking at the minutes pass away waiting, I might blow a fuse and lose it in the true sense of the word. Well at least I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs like last time or mouthing obscenities in my mind. Or thinking of ways of storming out for maximum drama while shouting tardiness will not be tolerated when the person does arrive (Yay I have not been stood up). It is better than shooting daggers or sulking and losing the remaining time left. Life is precious and the minutes are ticking by.

I always like to have time to stand and stare but I would like to do it on my own time, thank you very much. I don’t like to be forced to stand in the hot sun staring at moving vehicles while breathing in polluted air. This is the not the time for it. This was our time together, half of which is now gone.

Chod aaye hum woh galiyaan

When I saw the song Chod aaye hum woh galiyaan from Maachis, I couldn’t remember if I had seen the film but the song felt familiar to me and the visuals unfamiliar to me. How is this possible? I love this song and didn’t even know it existed until yesterday. Yes, you can safely say I’m losing my mind or is it something serious like going mad? Well I can hear my school mates saying, “we knew that you will end up in Ranchi”. It’s such a shame I didn’t write diary entries during  those days. It would have made mining out information so much easier.

When I was a kid I went to see films with my maternal aunt and her friends. She took me along, mind you, I didn’t tag along or demand to go with her. But I don’t remember if she took me with her to see Maachis or if it  was a recommendation by her? Guess I will have to ask her and I really hope her memory is better than mine. With Gulzar it was bound to be a double treat. He has directed Maachis and the lyrics are also penned by him. Vishal Bhardwaj is the Music Director. Now you know what I’m talking about.  I have a movie to (re)watch until then you check out the song.

Life on the other side of twenty. It’s all downhill I tell you. Nobody told me that  20 is the new 40. Well I have always been an old soul. Is that all I hear you say? I was not the forgetful sort but lately I have been having trouble with my memory and none of my friends take it seriously. They think I’m exaggerating. The bane of having self-depreciating humour is that no one believes you even when you are screaming the truth out loud. They think you are always trying to make people laugh by putting yourself down. No amount of wailing or complaining will get me my memory back or for that matter my past life. Believe me I have tried both and it’s not something you want to ever see.

A song can bring back many memories, memories you didn’t know you still had but they are there somewhere. I have a uncle who looks like Chandrachur Singh, who I had always associated with Kya Kehna and suddenly I remembered that he(not my uncle but the actor) was also in a movie called Yeh Silsila Hai Pyaar Ka. Before you roll your eyes, when I was young I wasn’t that discerning a movie watcher. I just looked stupidly at the moving pictures and it’s safe to say I have watched some pretty ridiculous and lame movies oblivious to their greater purpose. Oh wait you weren’t bothered about the movies but were alarmed by my scattered thoughts? Well  it’s not in my hands (resigned look on my face).

Of (fr)enemies and friends

 Does anyone need friends? I never thought I would be standing here on our beautiful blue Planet (soon to be rendered uninhabitable) asking this question. If someone asked me this some years back, I would have looked at them as if they had sprouted two horns. Once upon a time I would have done anything for my friends. What changed? What if I say I don’t need any friends? Not because friendship as a relationship is dead. Maybe my standards are too high (I was  afraid that I have set them too low for the fear of disappointing myself) or I’m too idealistic (no surprise there). But really, is it just a plain give and take a la barter system?
Recently while talking to a friend, she said friendship is an emotional investment we make and why should we continue to make that investment when there is no return? That stopped me in my tracks (not literally because I was sitting on the bed). I was stunned into silence (that is no mean feat). Does everything have to have a tangible return? How did everything get equated in terms of returns? Barter system. Give and take. Take and give. I heard myself replying that it’s okay if there’s no return as long as there’s nothing negative, and that’s where I draw the line. Yeah, right. Being burnt to cinders, I mean. Another friend while answering a poll question, when asked what do you need friends for, ticked the option using them. She was honest enough to admit that it came automatically to her. I had no comeback for that. Being friends with people for the sake of using them is despicable. But then what do I know about the world.

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light- Helen Keller

What if it’s a frenemy? You will probably end up in a hospital with a memory loss in that case!

There are categories – acquaintances, friends, enemies and frenemies. I have never understood the need for the last category. I’d love to have enemies (not in a sadistic way but in a way that says we are equal in our hate and dislike) but it’s frenemies I can’t stand. Yes I know who you are, you are fooling no one. You want to act like you are my friend then start taking acting classes! You criticize and hate a person but keep a person close only so you know what they are up to, so you can sabotage or disparage them behind their backs, yet acting like you have their best interests at heart. That is pretty low, like viruses who use their hosts for replicating and in return, destroy them. Win-Win. Give me an honest rascal any day, who has the guts to say what he/she feels to my face, rather than a “friend” who wouldn’t think twice before doing an “Et tu, Brute”, and is just waiting for the perfect time to strike.

I don’t need friends. I want friends, always have, to share my uninteresting life with (happy now). I have no place for frenemies in my life and neither the time or inclination to indulge in acting. Enemies, of course, are always welcome. A worthy adversary is worth one’s weight in gold. Or so I am told.