Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Life Lived to the Hilt, A Music Played Well....

“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music. 
And death a note unsaid.” 
― Langston HughesThe Collected Poems

My life has been an ordinary tale, like that of many. Just like others, I too have had my share of joys and sorrows. Born to parents who loved me, in a household that was full of good food, love and music, there was not much I wished for. Happiness was something I lived with during much of my childhood. Yes, happiness - that fleeting thing that escapes your mind and heart as you grow up with an endless burden of desires and wishes. For a child, happiness is simple. For adults, it is everything other than that. As I sit back and reflect on the goodness that was bestowed upon me by my parents, I realize that one thing stands out - the love for music.

Some of you might have read my earlier posts where I have talked about my mom. Mothers are so special, aren't they? Whatever they do, they leave an indelible impression on our minds and hearts. They love you, scold you, inspire you, goad you. You might not feel like it some days, but she knows. And that's the reason she pushes you. Even when she is not doing that, her little actions impact your thinking.

My early childhood was a time when there was no cable TV, no internet, no computers. We had Doordarshan, and we had radio and we had those special family times when all of us would sit together and watch movies on weekends. Music came to us through special programs like 'Chitrahar' and through that small rectangular box which we called the radio. Mom had memorized most of Lata's sad melodies and Asha's peppy numbers. So, when I first heard songs, I heard them through her. She had a Master's degree in vocal music. It was something that had happened to her just by chance. She had loved music throughout her life but language and literature was another passion she held deep in her heart. As luck would have it, the government college in her home city Gurgaon, did not offer a Master's degree in English and she opted for music instead. Music, as she understood like most of us, was filmy songs. So, with a heart beating loudly and a mind listening to only romantic Bollywood numbers, she went to her first music class. Only she knew what a shock she was in for when she had to listen to alaaps and ragas. Instead of cool guitars, she saw herself holding a tanpura while besides her sat her teachers playing harmonium and tabla. It was sometime before she got into the depth of soulful music and then there was no turning back for her.

Listening to all these stories was something that always brought a smile on my face. Mom's eyes would beam with delight as she remembered her heydays. College gave her some beautiful memories in the songs she sang during Youth Festivals. She must have been a heart throb in her time, I must say. And although I was and still am a bad singer, I learnt to play Sitar, all owing to her encouragement. After school, I bade goodbye to my instrument which had given me lot of peace and satisfaction. (Ironically, I pursued not music but literature, something my mom had so wished to learn.) But that farewell to the instrument was not a farewell to music. I carried within me a streak of love for it which has remained like that even though it has been years since I last touched it.

As they say, 'the best legacy you can give your children is not for them but in them' (Deborah Roberts). The resonating musical atmosphere my mom provided was a gift that happened to land in my hands. My brush with Sitar, though for just about three years, sowed inside me a seed which would blossom much later when I became a mother. I had unknowingly nurtured that seed by listening to good music and by listening to my mom's words and songs. When I became a mom, even before my baby came in the world, I started singing songs for him. I was an avid reader and had read somewhere that music benefits the unborn one, so I would do just that. When my son came into the world, he would, unlike other kids, choose not peppy dance numbers but slow sentimental notes. This used to intrigue me. He gradually developed interest in other kinds too, and started showing affinity to what I personally felt was 'good' choice. He would not dance, but try to sing. One of his first favorites was Aaj Jaane ki Zid Na Karo... and ...Jaane Kya Chahe Mann Bawra. I would wonder whether he had inherited the genes from my mother, given the choice of his music.

As time passed, I bought a keyboard for him. I don't know much about music, but I could manage to play certain tunes by hearing them. So, I would select some songs, rhymes and tunes that my son liked and would play them out on the Casio. That amazed his little brain. What amazed me in turn was that he started picking the tunes I played for him. And he was just four at the time. That was the beginning of another love affair with music in our family. What started with my mom had navigated through the generations silently, unknowingly, and reached the heart of my son.

Image Source here

The two of us, that's me and my son, spent many such moments together which gave us melodious joy. And slowly I realized that I needed to nourish my son's talent. Given my limited abilities, I could not give him enough room to fly. I had to find a teacher for him who would be formally able to polish his skills. As he turned seven, he went for his first formal music class. He has started learning piano, the king of instruments. The day he got his first lesson, I sat in the adjacent room, listening to the serene and uplifting notes the teacher played for him. It sounded divine, sublime. My own fingers twitched to touch the chords and my heart felt a strange titillation as I pictured my son playing the instrument one day with complete perfection. That day is far away, but who can stop me from dreaming...!

Image Source here

As per the teacher's instructions, we had to buy a piano for him now. The search began and we went to a few homes and stores to search for a good quality piano that would be affordable and also play well. Our search took us to a home with three cats, and to a storage house with just some extra stuff. It is funny how music finds its way into unimaginable places. Our search ended in the storage house and we finally bought the piano. The night we finalized the piano was a beautiful night. Mesmerizing in a strangely tranquil way. The moon shone bright. It wasn't a full moon yet, but its brightness captivated me. It seemed to sing a music only I could hear. And I felt like a wanderer, chasing the placidity it seemed to offer. My heart hummed Moon River, making me feel like a 'drifter'. There was a lull, and in those few quiet moments, I wished for nothing. 

The piano came home. It is a huge, heavy instrument. Bringing it up the stairs was a daring task. The man from whom we bought it was a ridiculously funny man who claimed to be the 'strongest man in New Jersey'. In front of my own eyes, he managed to transfer the four hundred pound piano in his van! I could only say to my son - That's what you call a superhero! I was awed by his strength and wondered at that moment how reality offers some 'fantastico' moments - it was both a fabulous as well as an unbelievable spectacle.

Image Source here

Music is an exceptionally unique sound, to put it in the simplest terms. It is a sound that produces harmony. It is a sound that helps a devotee connect to his God. It is a sound that resonates with profundity, bridging the chasm between mind and heart. It is melodious magic. Life itself is like music. We can play it well with our tears and our smiles, as long as we are willing to. Some notes may makes us cry, some notes may help us laugh. But together they are proof to a life lived to the hilt, to a music played well. 

Image Source here

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Delighting Only in the Flight.....

Image Source here

The red light brought his mind and car to a halt. He had been thinking a lot lately. His heart had questions his mind could not answer. He wished for a navigation system that could steer his life towards happiness and fulfillment. He had everything one could wish for in terms of prosperity. Then, why did he feel empty? He looked for answers in books. Eliot's poetry made him ponder over the hollowness inside him.

We are the hollow men
  We are the stuffed men.

 He felt stuffed too - stuffed with satiety. He knew not what to anticipate. Deadlines met, landmarks achieved, milestones reached. What lay ahead? What was it all for? For whom?

He felt hot. The air-conditioner was working fine. He needed to breathe. He inhaled deeply. It did not help. He opened his window. Car honks blared. Impatient glares stared at him. Traffic piled up from all directions. 'Empty men', he murmured quoting Eliot.

"Balloons, colorful balloons - your kids will be happy....Balloons....Sir...Sir...Take a balloon sir....just one sir." The voice startled him. He had heard it in ages - the unfeigned, unrefined voice. He looked around but could see nothing. He sank back in his seat and raised the volume of his radio.

Barely a few seconds passed when he heard the voice again. The peppy music that was playing in the car seemed artificial in comparison to the voice. He shut the music at once and straightened up to look outside. That's when he saw him there - a boy, probably nine or ten year old. He turned around just in time and their eyes met. Thin feet sprang towards him with an unmarked agility.

"Balloon sir - one for your kid. Which color you want sir - blue, green, yellow, red.....?"

"I don't have kids."

"Oh...." The confident gaze fell just for a moment.

"Girl-friend sir? Girls like it sir.....Surprise her sir.....I have heart balloon sir....See...?...."

"No girl-friend."

"Oh....sorry sir...."

He started moving.

"Here, take this money...."

"No Sir....Thank you...."

He moved to the next car.

"Listen. Come back....."

"I don't need it but give me the blue one."

"Blue, Sir? Good color Sir My favorite sir..". A big smile passed as the boy untangled the ribbon of the blue balloon and passed it on to his customer. As he took the money and waved goodbye, the man asked him, " Why are you so happy?"

The boy started laughing. "Sir, you not happy? Big car sir....suited-booted....not happy? Joking sir?"

This stunned the man. "Want a ride?"

The boy jumped up at the thought. "Me Sir? Ye-----yes sir.."

"Come inside. Quick...."

The boy clumsily put the inflated balloons in the car. Then he sat next to the driver.


"What Sir.....?"

"Nothing." The man leaned forward and buckled up the little fellow.

They waited a few more minutes before the congestion cleared up. Questioning glances from around seemed to agitate the restless driver, but the boy beamed with joy. He even waved in response to some lousy looks.

"My name is Amit. What's yours?"

"Sameer, Sir.....No music in car Sir....?" The boy asked.

"Oh yes.." He turned on the radio.

The boy started tapping to the tunes. He seemed familiar with the song as he was humming too.

"Your car is good sir...very good. But why no girlfriend sir? "

"What do you do the whole day Sameer?"

"I sell balloons Sir."

"No school?"

"Sometimes Sir. Not every day."

"Why are you so happy?"

"You not happy Sir?"

"I don't know."

"No family sir?"



Amit didn't answer.

"Girl-friend Sir. You need a girl-friend." Sameer giggled.

Amit managed to smile. "See sir. She will make you happy sir. Why live alone Sir? "

"You have a girl-friend?"

"What Sir? Joking Sir....!" Sameer smiled.

Amit stopped to buy Sameer an ice-cream. As he was about to pay the vendor, Sameer asked, "You not eating sir?"

Amit took one for himself.

Sameer licked the ice-cream greedily, savoring every bit of it. Amit finished his quickly.

"Let me drop you back now." Amit steered through the busy road. They reached the spot they had started from.

"Bye Sir. Thank you Sir."

"Bye Sameer."

"Sir...Girl-friend sir....Then you will be happy Sir..", shouted the boy one last time.

Amit smiled as he watched the boy slowly disappear with his colorful balloons. His prance and his artless smile had impacted upon him like a balm for his smarting soul. He got down from his car, took the blue balloon and released it in the sky. He watched it fly away lazily, unmindful of the destination, delighting only in the flight.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

कुछ प्रश्नों के जवाब मेरे पास नहीं

Image Source here

कहीं छुपी है या कुछ उदास है
विचारणा मेरी
कविता नई कोई मैं लिख नहीं पाती हूँ आज
कभी खोजती हूँ पठानकोट के आंसुओं में
तो कभी पेशावर में गुम हुई बच्चों की खिलखिलाहट में
कभी मडाया की भूख में किसी सूनी रसोई के खाली बर्तन में उसे
पर मिलती नहीं मुझे  ..... 
अयलान की चुप्पी खंजर-सा वार करती है
हेब्दो के व्यंग्य बेमानी झूठे से लगते हैं
कुछ खफा है आज कविता मेरी 
शब्दों की बेबसी मन विचलित करती है 
मैं कुछ पूछती हूँ तो कहती है कि कहीं बुझ न जाऊं 
कुछ भयभीत हूँ विचारमग्न हूँ कहीं हार ना जाऊं 

कहाँ है वो स्पर्श मर्म भरा 
वो अश्रु संवेदना से ओत-प्रोत 
वो शब्द जो घृणा की कठोरता को पिघला दें 
कहाँ हैं ?

मैं मूक हूँ कुछ कह नहीं पाती 
कुछ प्रश्नों के जवाब मेरे पास नहीं 

English Translation

There are some questions I can answer not...

She is hiding somewhere or maybe she is upset
My Muse
A new poem I can write not any more today
I try to find her in the tears of Pathankot sometimes
And sometimes I search for her in the lost giggles of the children of Peshawar
Sometimes I rummage in the empty vessels of the desolate kitchens of hungry Madaya
But I find her not.....
Alan's silence stabs like a dagger
Hebdo's jokes seem fake and redundant
My poem is bitter/angry today
Feeble words make me feel discontented
When I ask her, she says, what if she is snuffed out
I am scared, lost in thoughts - what if I am wasted

Where is that soothing touch
-Those tears flowing with compassion
-Those words that could melt all hatred away
-Where are they?

I am quiet, I can say nothing
There are some questions I can answer not...

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Young Enthusiasts Who Use Surplus Food to Feed the Poor - Robin Hood Army

Blogger Amit Agarwal on his blog Safarnaamaa... सफ़रनामा... has written a terse poem on the topic I am about to discuss. Let me quote the poem here:

रोटी खाऊँ मैं
या खा रही मुझको
रोटी की आस

The lines are a pungent take on hunger. Hunger is like a sharp-edged weapon that cuts you through but does not let you die. It is death in its living waking state. Harsh, unrelenting, brutal. The poet uses pun (यमक ) on the word 'खा' to drive home the point. That is great poetry - serving the purpose of a penetrating insight in the best literary form possible..

Food is a basic necessity. Even Buddha realized that he needed food to keep his body functioning. It was only through this body, that he could attain enlightenment. And when famished, even he could not concentrate. 

How long have you tried to remain hungry? A few hours, maybe. Or if you are a religion-driven, fast-keeping person, maybe a day or two. How has it felt? Have you heard the stomach grumble? Have you whined a bit? Have you felt tempted? Perhaps yes. But you always knew that this hunger was going to end soon.

But have you felt the stomach churn and make you writhe in pain? Have you felt the world going dark as you felt dizzy and fainted since you had not eaten for long - and how long, you know not, since you lost count of it? Have you known that the starvation that stabs you today is going to pierce you further tomorrow? Have you known how it feels to be killed every second of every minute of every day? Have you experienced the need to vomit out the emptiness that the stomach holds, if only you knew how? Perhaps no. I have not. I have been fortunate by an absurd stroke of fate to have been born lucky, raised well, fed well. My pantry is full, my kitchen smelling of delicious and nutritious food everyday. I do not know what hunger really means although I can sense the pain and anguish of the undernourished, famished people and children on the streets. I feel their torment and distress.

But there are others who feel the pain and take steps to alleviate it. And one such group of enthusiastic and passionate volunteers is the Robin Hood Army.

I don't remember how I chanced upon an article which described the work they were doing. I remember reading about the group being active in Faridabad, my city. I felt a sense of pride when I read it. I wanted to go and see them working, and perhaps join them when I went back home. Then, a few days later, I got to read another article on them which stated that they had spread not just in many Indian cities but in Pakistan too. This intrigued me further and I explored a bit more. I found out that Anand Sinha and Neel Ghose were the minds at work here. I discovered that they had modeled their work on something that was already being done in another country. It was Refood, an organization in Lisbon, Portugal that Neel Ghose had been attached to for some time that gave him the idea of starting an army of volunteers for his own country.

The logo of the Robin Hood Army - Image Source here

In a matter of a few days, their group had worked wonders. The motto of their work was to make surplus food available for the poor and the hungry. They did this by contacting restaurants. The response they got only egged them on. The owners of eateries were eager to help and in some cases would even prepare something extra to help them in their mission. As the volunteers did their bit, they learned that hunger problem was a monster that kept getting bigger and bigger. The menacing merciless beast of starvation needed to be dealt with urgently. There was no looking back now.

The uniqueness about the Robin Hood Army is stated in their own words. They do not need any 'monetary contributions'. They just need 'your time'. On Independence Day, 2015, they waged war against hunger in an exceptionally commendable way. They launched  #Mission100k which involved hundreds of students from India and Pakistan and fed more than one lakh people in both the countries. Independence does not only mean freedom from colonial domination. Independence also means freedom from the enemy within and hunger has emerged as the most powerful enemy in both the countries. What students learn from their participation in these efforts is way more valuable than what they might read in books of history, economics or sociology. 

The Robin Hood Army is currently active in more than 18 cities, with more than 1000 volunteers, as per the data on their website. They had started in 2014 with just 6 Robins, the name used by those actively involved in the work. They serve the poor, the homeless, those living in orphanages, night shelters and public hospitals. They are being helped by the youth in every city who collect food and manage the distribution of it to the needy too.

We have all read about the English Robin Hood who would rob the rich to feed the poor. He was a law-breaker, but he had good intentions. Choosing him as their icon speaks volumes about the Robin Hood Army. Their hero is someone who believes that there are riches which are lying around in surplus and if consumed will only do favor to the needy. The Robin Hood Army has waged their war against hunger without threatening or angering anyone. They have turned affluent people into allies and volunteers. They have raised awareness and spread the vibe of positive change. 

They are young, they are positive, they are an epitome of energy-driven force that hopes to make a difference every single night with every single edible grain that is edible. They are the Robins of today.

To access their Facebook page, please click here

To access their website, click here

Written for Indiblogger #SpreadTheVibe in association with

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


जीवन स्मृतियों के एक चलचित्र के समान है. कभी खुली तो कभी बंद आँखों से इस चलचित्र पर अनगिनत छवियाँ अपनी छाप छोड़ जाती हैं। विभिन्न पात्र आते हैं, और  हर पृष्ठ पर कुछ स्मृतियाँ बनती जाती हैं। कोई मासूम सी मुस्कुराहट, कोई दर्द भरा संगीत , किसी साज़ की कोई मधुर ध्वनि , किसी का छल , किसी का  प्रेम , कोई स्नेह भरा स्पर्श , और कभी कभी कोई अजनबी - अनूठी असंख्य स्मृतियाँ जिन्हे हम ज़िन्दगी कहते हैं।  हर स्मृति को देखने का एक दृष्टिकोण होता है और वही दृष्टिकोण हमारे विचारों को परिभाषा देता है।

Image Source here

नववर्ष के हर्षोउल्लास के मध्य ऐसे ही एक स्मृति मेरी आँखों के सामने आ गयी - गुज़रा वर्ष अनगिनत यादों से भरा था,  फिर भी न जाने क्यों वह चित्र एक बार फिर स्मरण हुआ और मुझे लिखने के लिए प्रेरित कर गया।

कुछ महीने पहले जब मैं छुट्टियों में  इंडिया गयी थी, वहीं का चित्र है यह - इसमें न कोई झरना बह रहा है , न कोई हरी वादियां हैं, न कोई मन मोहने वाले घने पेड़ हैं।  है तो बस एक गुब्बारे-वाला , और उसकी छोटी सी बेटी ।  दोनों बाजार में  दिन ढलने के बाद एक आखिरी गुब्बारा बिकने के इंतज़ार में खड़े हैं।

गुब्बारे भी एक निराला आविष्कार हैं।  कोई भी पर्व हो, जश्न हो, इनकी उपस्थिति पूरे माहौल को अलंकृत कर देती है।  कौन जानता था कि जो वस्तु सेना में संकेत या चेतावनी के लिए बनी थी, उसका स्वरूप और उद्देश्य खुशियों के पल में किया जाने लगेगा।

रंग-बिरंगे गुब्बारे, भिन्न रूपों में ,अनगिनत आकारों में बंधे, छोटे बच्चों को हँसाते हैं।  कोई गुब्बारा हाथ से छूट कर दूर निकल जाता है तो कोई हाथों से फट कर अपना अस्तित्व खोते हुए भी, ठहाकों का फव्वारा छोड़ जाता है।

कल जब वह गुब्बारे वाला याद आया, तो मन सोचने पर विवश हो गया की जो गुब्बारे ऊंचे ऊंचे घरों के किसी कोने में बस यूं ही अपना दम तोड़ देते हैं, वही गुब्बारे किसी के जीने का एकमात्र साधन भी होते हैं।  उस शाम वह गुब्बारे वाला क्या अपना आखिरी गुब्बारा बेच रहा था, या अपने या अपनी बेटी के लिए कोई सपना खरीद रहा था ? क्या उसकी बेटी का मन नहीं मचला होगा गुब्बारे से खेलने के लिए ? उसके बचपन की चंचलता और हठ कहाँ थी ? न जाने उस डंडी से उतरने के बाद वह गुब्बारा कहीं उड़ जाने वाला था, या किसी शैतान बच्चे की बदमाशी का शिकार बनने वाला था।  न जाने उस एक गुब्बारे में कितने पलों का सब्र, कितनी आशा छिपी थी।  मैं रुक तो नहीं पायी यह देखने के लिए, पर कल्पना के पंख लगा के बस सोचती रही कि गुब्बारे वाले पापा ने अपनी बेटी के लिए जो सपने  बुने होंगे, काश वो सपने सच हो जाएं।

गुब्बारे - जब हवा में उड़ते हुए खुले आसमान में आज़ादी का अनुभव करते हैं , तो क्या वह किसी के सपनों के सच होने का प्रतीक होते हैं ? जब वही गुब्बारे किसी के  हाथ से फट जाते हैं , तो क्या वह भी किसी के सपने टूटने का संकेत देते हैं?

क्या वह आखिरी गुब्बारा डंडी से उतर कर खुले गगन में  पंछी की तरह स्वछंद  हो , गुब्बारे वाले पापा को कुछ पलों के लिए ही सही , कुछ आर्थिक स्वतंत्रता दे गया होगा ? कौन जाने ?

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कैसे कह दूँ कि जीवन में बस एक कहानी है बाकी....

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Story the Broken Pencil Wrote

रेत के घर

“I’m sharing my #TalesOf2015 with BlogAdda.”