Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

75. Drama

"It is alright. Now tell me, how to reach 'Bharat'?

There was a pin drop silence. Not only my friend, but everybody around looked at me with surprise.

For non-Pune people, let me inform you that 'Bharat' stands for 'Bharat Natya Mandir' - a drama theater named after the legendary Bharat Muni - the writer of Natyashastra. Bharat is a landmark in Pune - everybody is supposed to know that.

I understood the silence. But since long ago, I have inculcated the habit of not getting embarrassed. After all, what is wrong if I do not get connected to the places easily?

True, that I have a long time association with Pune city. But people conveniently ignore me when I tell them that 'I am a non-resident Punekar'. I am so much out of Pune, that I hardly know Pune well. And there are innumerable small roads connecting Bajirao Road and Tilak road, which always confuse me. It is like traveling through unknown parts of the world. Add to it frequently changing 'one-way', 'no entry' rules and you have much more confusion and irritation. Walking is bit easier (!) in Pune than using any other transport mechanism.

Once I had some work in a cloth shop at Laxmi road. They had application forms for Vipassana - this is long ago when internet and online registration was not there. So, I called up the shop to get the directions. I requested the person 'to give me some landmarks so that I can easily find out the shop." The person was so non-plussed, he told me "our shop is the LANDMARK' and cut me off. I am sure, he must have told the incident to many people.

But why was I going to Bharat? Oh! On Republic Day, a group of youngsters from a very small village, was presenting a drama on 'Right to Information Act'. The title was interesting, the theme was interesting, so I decided to go. I realize that I am not much of a drama viewer. Somehow there are so many dramatic things happening around, there is so much drama in daily changing world and human relationships, that I do not need to go to theaters to 'watch' drama - I am constantly doing that.

Though Drama is an important aspect of Marathi culture, this was only the fourth drama I was watching. I have participated in role plays and street plays a lot, but somehow beyond that I never had inclination for drama. Once while crossing the road, I just thought of watching a drama, had enough money in the pocket, so purchased a ticket and watched that drama alone. That was the first drama I had watched. I do not remember the name of that drama.

Once in Mumbai, a friend of friend, who then was a very famous actress, insisted that we watch her famous drama. She finally sent couple of free tickets to us, and then we watched that drama. Savita Damodar Paranjape was the name - not of the actress but of the drama (well! I am not sure of it! ) One of my friends used to act in commercial dramas, she had invited me many times. To respect her feelings, I watched her too - do not remember the name. So, this was only the fourth drama I was watching.

I have nothing against Cinema and Drama etc. I think I am not cut for it. I am not eligible to enjoy those. I find them rather artificial. They are time consuming (advance booking of tickets, sitting for hours in uncomfortable chairs etc.) and costly. I never had that kind of money to spend on entertainment. So, I guess I never turned to that! If people enjoy, I have no objection to it. I only know that I cannot enter into their world. It is not for me and I am not for it.

This drama on 'Right to Information Act' too was bit boring. I appreciate the local youths (both boys and girls, some adults) - their acting and energy level was superb. Their hard work could be understood. I could imagine what stress, what fight, what convincing they must have to go through to reach this stage. For someone coming from a small village, to act in a theater at Pune is a dream coming true, and I was happy to see them enjoying the limelight. I was touched by the action of the crowd - who gave the actors standing ovation and the claps never ended. It was a joyful moment, and very moving.

But still the drama was boring. I think it is always convenient to be a spectator. If a writer/director presents stereotypical characters, people like me would criticize them for not presenting anything new. If the duo presents something new, people like me would criticize them for not being realistic. So, I won't comment much on that. I did not like something does not necessarily mean that it was not good. It is just a matter of perception, nothing wrong or right in perceptions!

Anyway, next time I will probably not spend time to watch drama enacted in a theater. I would much prefer to watch the drama going on around me everyday - in the human world and in the non-human world too. Sometimes I act in those dramas... I laugh, I get irritated, I get frustrated, I enjoy, I smile, I feel sad.. .and so does everybody around me.

May be I should spend time .. just to watch the actors enjoying the art of acting.. that was indeed most interesting!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

74. Visiting Card

Last week, someone asked me (again!) for my Visiting Card. I had none and the person found it very surprising. He just did not know how to react on that. I smiled.

About ten years ago, I had my first Visiting Card. But the moment I realized that it was not eco-friendly, I stopped using those cards. Printing eco-friendly cards is possible, but it is a costly affair. I am aware that the card’s size and cost are directly proportional to the power of the person. But as I do not hold any power position or authority I actually do not need such card. When the lot of first hundred cards was over, I never re-printed those. I have never filled the requisition form and never put it to the administration department for more of those cards.

In the present era of cell phones and e-mails, one can instantly record the preliminary information of the person one wants to meet again. If someone insists on having a written proof, I generally tear out a paper from my pocket diary, write my name and contact number and hand it over to the person.

In most of the cases, I am aware that such an exchange of Visiting Cards is unnecessary, for you never meet those people again. For example, President of one really BIG company gave his card to me when we met recently. I cannot (yet) reject Visiting Cards when someone offers it to me, so I had to take it. But I know, probably I am never going to meet him again. If at all we meet, there would be certainly some kind of reference thread, so that we will not require Visiting Cards to identify and know each other.

Workshops, Seminars, Conferences are the worst places for me, because everyone there seems to carry Visiting Card. Not only that, everyone seems to be enthusiastic enough to distribute those cards. Some people gather as many Visiting Cards as they can. On such occasions I gather lots of cards. I keep them for few months, and if I realize that there has been no interaction with a particular person, I just tear away his/her Visiting Card. If I do not recall a person by reading his/her visiting card, I know it is time to throw away the Visiting Card. I must have thrown away thousands of those cards, but I have never regretted the act. I never had to recall any of those contacts. This is simply because I do not handle any kind of ‘business’, which is connected only through authority.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am rather a social person. My diary is vibrant with names of people whom I meet and whom I call (or write) regularly. I take efforts to maintain communication when I want or when the other person wants. There are phones, cell phones, e-mail ids, postal addresses and what not. But I do not need Visiting Cards for that purpose.

Few months ago, I visited a religious place. I like to visit temples and I am interested in human history a lot. So, when I found an exhibition, I did spend couple of hours there. I guess I was the only person reading all the posters, and display information. At the reception counter was a man in saffron clothes. Naturally he was a Samnyaasee.

He was an old man, must have crossed 80. But he seemed to be very active. He was talking to all the people who came to visit the exhibition. To me too, he asked many questions – from where I came, was it my first visit, how long did I plan to stay, did I like the exhibition, would I purchase few books etc.

I generally like people until they are strangers. I like to talk to old people, because what is history to me is their life. So, I too asked many questions to that old man. Seeing his saffron clothes, I refrained myself from asking any personal questions as such. But then he narrated his life story to me, which too was interesting.

When I was leaving, he asked me for my ‘Visiting Card’. I was astonished at his request. I had none, so as is my routine, I wrote my name and contact number on a piece of paper. As I turned, he called me again. His right hand was in his shirt pocket. He was smiling. He was proud and had childlike eagerness in his eyes. He pulled out a bundle, picked up one piece and offered it to me saying, “My child, keep my Visiting Card. Any time you want to contact me, here is the necessary information.” (For obvious reasons, I cannot display its photograph here!)

I was bowled.

Yes, this is the one Visiting Card; I am probably not going to throw away. Not that I will need to contact him. Not that I would like to have some more chitchat with him. Not that I want any spiritual or religious guidance from him.

This Visiting Card reminds me to be prepared for the unexpected. This Visiting Card reminds me how matter is winning over mind. This Visiting Card reminds me that even spirituality and religion is a sort of business.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

73. Reward

I smiled at her. She too smiled.
“Ah! The tea is very good. I like it very much”, I said.

I was traveling from Shahada to Pune, a 14 hour road journey. I was traveling by office vehicle. Generally I travel this distance by bus, but then I was just recovering from an accident, so decided to travel by car.

On the way, near Rahuri the driver needed a break. So, we stopped.

At the roadside was a small tea stall. Noting special about that stall. The tea stall was a small wooden box with two tables and few broken plastic chairs around. There were couple of jars of biscuits, cream rolls and khari. The stove was making noise. A young woman in her 30s was taking order, preparing tea, washing cups, taking and paying back money, talking to customers. She was of a small frame, looked bit worn out. She was alone. It was about 3.00 in the afternoon. There was not much crowd.

Generally, I am not an enthusiastic tea drinker. Many times I drink tea only because I need something hot to drink. Most of the tea I drink suffices only the quality of being ‘hot’. But I am smart enough to appreciate when I get a cup of good tea. And this was one of those rare occasions.

The woman’s face suddenly brightened up. She grinned from ear to ear. Her eyes were shining. Her body relaxed. She looked straight into my eyes as if to gauge my honesty. It seemed that I passed her test.

“Tai (sister), have one more cup of tea.” She said with a mixture of politeness and aggressiveness.

Now I am bad at that. I mean I cannot consume more just because something tastes good. Eating, drinking, seeing, enjoying are qualitative aspects and they are not directly proportional to the quantity of consumption.

“Thanks, but I do not really want another cup, though it is very good tea.” I tried to refuse politely.

“Oh! Don’t worry. You don’t have to pay for this extra tea. It is my gift to you” She added proudly.

Now this was something different. Here a poor woman was offering a free cup of tea to a relatively better off woman – just for no reason. I was suddenly interested in that woman. I said, “If you insist so…” She smiled happily and filled another of those big glasses of tea.

I relaxed a bit, sat on a chair, talked to the woman for half an hour. We talked about her business, her family, her kids, her life, her experiences, her agonies. She asked many questions to me. She wanted to know why I was traveling alone, whether the car belonged to me, whether I had a job and so on. It was a very egalitarian interaction.

Before leaving, I said jokingly, “If you offer a free cup of tea to every customer, you will not earn any profit. Why did you offer it to me?”

She was silent for a moment. As if she was weighing the consequences of sharing the secret with me. She took a deep breath. She looked beyond the horizon. She was bit sad. Again she smiled. Then she spoke very softly, “Tai, every day at least 200 people come to my shop to drink tea. Some of them are coming here for years. I am running this stall for the last five years. But you are the first person, openly appreciating my work, my tea. You see I invest my energy into it, and when you appreciated it touched my heart.”

I was speechless. I could understand the plight of the woman, who was doing a thankless job for years. Yes, everybody paid money for the tea, but nobody attributed non-monetary value to her work. What she sought was a little appreciation, though she needed money too for her bread, shelter and clothes.

Just to come out of that painful moment, I humorously added, “If people come to know that by appreciating tea, they would probably get one cup free…”

“No, the trick is to understand honest appreciation and appreciation as a bargain”, she said emphatically.

“Sorry sister, I do not understand. Please, explain it to me.” I requested.

Now she was smiling again. She said, “Very rarely people appreciate you for the sake of your work. Most of the rewards one gets in life are dishonest, superficial. People reward you because they want to hide their guilt; they want something in return from you – normally what you would not easily give. By rewarding you, they oblige you. So, the trick is to understand honest reward and dishonest reward. Like the traditional (mythological) Rajhamsa bird, you should be able to differentiate between those two. Accept the honest ones, reject the hypocritical ones. Never sell your soul to those who are not your well wishers.”

Wow! What a woman and what was her advice. I have not been fully able to follow her, but whenever in dilemma, I remember her. Then I realize that she did not offer me just a free cup of tea but something more valuable than that.

The conversation was her reward to me, about which I am proud and happy – for ever!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

72. Pencil Pull

Lately a strange feeling is enveloping me. I do not know how to express it in words. It is a pull. It is a temptation. It is an addiction. It is a habit. It is becoming life. It is becoming larger than life.

It is hard to remember when I started writing. It definitely started with schooling, but I have no memories of my early writing. Because I still love words so much, I guess I must have learnt writing slowly, in a relaxed manner, in a creative way.

I always wanted to write. Writing for me is an act of soul searching. Unless one reaches the inner depths, one cannot write well. I know this because many times I have written badly. Honesty, sensitivity, empathy, detachment, intensity, creativity, hard work is essential for good writing. Writing in a way is a spiritual act – only if one writes for the joy of writing and not for appreciation and rewards. If one follows writing ‘religiously’, one can hope to reach that spiritual level.

In a true sense, I am just a beginner in the art of writing. I do not know why one feels like writing. I do not know what power drives me to write. I do not know why I write. I am sure people too feel this, when they read my writing…J If I can attain 1% of what I have said above, I will not only be a good writer but a happy and good person.

Every writer faces a phase when s/he can’t write anything. That is known as ‘Writer’s Block’. I have repeatedly experienced such anxiety and fear. After this phase, the first word I write is such a relief! The joy of liberation is a gift I constantly ask for.

However, here I am, going through another extreme phase. I have not read much about it, but I am sure every writer, nay every artist goes through it. It is a phase of chaos. One has too many ideas, too many thoughts, too many feelings but the power of articulation, the power of expression seems to be completely missing. It is like a traffic jam. You have fuel, you have a grand vehicle with power steering, you have motivation to drive, but you don’t move because there are too many vehicles on the road.

My mind is like a sponge. Every moment I live, I absorb something of it. It soaks in me. It influences me. It affects me. It teaches me. It is fine with me, because that is the way I am. I believe that to be able to write well, a writer needs to be involved into many things – ‘getting into others’ shoes’ sort of.

But with so many ideas in mind, and only limited time to write, I am becoming a little restless. I am experiencing a strong internal pull to express, to share, to articulate. As if the computer keyboard or the pen has a magnetic power. In the midst of the night, I get an idea, and I write. I no more have control over words, the words are controlling me. The unexpressed in willing to be expressed – and that is a strong will. It is as if I am possessed by words.

I guess I need to slow down. I need to objectively look at the moment of the strong pull and come out of that moment of temptation. The overdose of words is killing me (just exaggerating!) But I am compelled to write; because writing is the only art I am sometimes good at.

May be I will leave the keyboard and the pen for a while. I should learn playing harmonium, which I want to do for years. I cannot sing for the fear of having conflict with neighbors! I should purchase another binocular and begin bird watching once again. Because I am not good at any of these things, I can’t rush. I will be more relaxed. I will be more curious. I will learn more.

Guess what? I am experiencing another pull, a pencil pull. I am going to grab it and I am going to draw a sketch -for a change!

Friday, January 1, 2010

71. Wholesale

Yes, it is the first day of New Year. Right from yesterday night, I am receiving innumerable SMSs. Don’t ask me about the e-mails and phone calls. Everybody out there is wishing everybody out there. Naturally people can’t be original when they have to produce in bulk. We are people in a hurry. We do not have time to live exclusively. We are wholesalers. We feel, we respond, we enjoy.. all in a ‘blanket’ way. We do not have time for subtleties. We do not have time to live.

About ten years ago, a colleague at my workplace came to my workstation in the morning. To my astonishment, he wished me and presented me a pack of chocolate. Till then I had never worked to earn money. The ‘office’ was a new thing in my life. I was touched and bit amused also. I had hardly interacted with this colleague since I joined – which was just a couple of months. So, I was not sure from where he got my birthday and how he knew that I liked chocolate. I never can celebrate with strangers; I can do it only with friends. But just to show curtsey I accepted his wishes and his gift.

However I was left wondering only for few days. I realized that the colleague gets birthday list from HR department and he presents the same pack of chocolate to everyone. For the first time I realized that someone had dared to wish me so mechanically and so much routinely. A year went without any interaction with him. There was nothing common in us and nothing strikingly different too. So, there was nothing to talk about.

Next year, I accepted the chocolate with smile and politely told him: “Please, don’t mind, but I do not like to take gifts from strangers. I do not celebrate birthday. I would be happy if you don’t give me chocolate now onwards.” To his credit, he accepted this unusual request without moving his eyelid and then never bothered me again. I cursed myself for being in the world with such people around.

Then slowly I got used to such things. Every year, there are at least three new years. First is sometime in March /April during Gudhi Padwa (or Yugadi). Second is in October/November during Deepavali and then the third – or rather the first in January.

The same people keep me ‘wishing happy new year’ all the three times. They send SMS – which keeps on rotating in circles, they send some picturesque emails – you have to browse only two or three to understand the latest fashion. They handshake when they meet. Some people wish you in all these three ways – three times in a year. For many SMS/mails, I have to search my memory about who exactly the sender is. I mean, someone whom I have met about a decade ago, and never bothered to drop in or call and is wishing me thrice a year as if s/he is from some other planet. It is irritatingly funny or funnily irritating – whichever way you like to look at – half full glass or half empty glass :)

Generally I am not a very friendly person (that is why I write a blog? I am not sure.) It is not that I do not have friends. I am fortunately affluent in this regard. I spend exclusive time with them. I share life with them. I make myself available to them just to talk. Generally I do not give anything – not in terms of money and material things. Money I never had much and material I am never interested in much. But I don’t do things in bulk. I try to suit it to the needs, choices and likings of my friends. I am not able to satisfy all of them all the time, they have complaints about me. But they are sure that whatever I do, it is exclusively for them and it is from the bottom of my heart.

I am happy about the fact that I am not a wholesaler. I do things in small bits and pieces. I live from moment to moment. In the process I lose a lot, but well I gain a lot too.

I wish next year I should not receive any mechanical SMSs and messages. If I spend 2010 with people I care for, I guess my wish will be fulfilled. What is your guess?