Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Delhi - The way I see it

Disclaimer: - This article is a representation of my thoughts and the way I see things. I have used names of certain communities, surnames and places so that reader can bond with the article. This is not meant to offend any person, community or place.

King Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra was helpless, he was the king and the representative of the glorious Bharat clan, but he was a father. A helpless father. His son, the obstinate Duryodhana was not ready to give Hastinapur to the eldest Pandava Yudhisthira and hence Dhritarashtra had to make a tough decision – the division of the kingdom. The fertile, prosperous Hastinapur went to Duryodhana and the Khandavaprastha an infertile, uninhabited place went to the poor Pandavas. Krishna with his directions and Arjuna with his arrows cleared the forest and presented to the world one of the finest cities of all times which has constantly changed names but the very essence of it has remained constant, always. From Indraprastha to Lal Kot to Tughlaqabad to the modern New Delhi, the very essence of Delhi has always been there.

Delhi Taxi
Step out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport and you are welcomed by the extremes. Depending upon your time of arrival you will be welcomed by scorching heat, bone chilling cold or worse heavy downpour. The downpour however is almost always there - the downpour of attention. The name placards with all possible Punjabi surnames on them and their owners bellowing at their top. If you have a confused face, the downpour will only keep on intensifying, from slight nudge on the shoulders to a full body hug. The Dilliwaalahs are (in) famous for bestowing any token of love and warmth which can convert into some currency. If you have a haversack on your back, you will see tourist guides in large numbers; if you have a business attache in your hands, the suited hotel agent swarms will hug and caress you and if you have a traveling bag, the local hotel guys will smile seductively and regardless of your travel gears, the taxi drivers will do anything to snatch your stuff in the name of help and place them in their taxi boots. You will obviously be presented with mind boggling tariffs. If you are an obstinate negotiator, you will have something left in your wallet at the end of the trip. Negotiate is the moral of the story.

The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway
And when you are in traffic, the whole jaw dropping phenomenon will find an entirely new dimension. India is a blessed country home to 84 crore gods and demigods. With the power of octane rich petrol and of course the benevolence of all 84 crore divine deities your vehicle glides, cruises, speeds and wriggles in the traffic behemoth. On a six lane expressway where all vehicles have been designated their respective lanes, a speeding SUV meandering on all six of them in an attempt to get ahead of all is the commonest of all sites. Scary for first timers but a routine sight for the regulars. And Delhi has more vehicles on its roads than rest three metros combined and Delhi is a network of fast track expressways, so the SUVs and their meanderings are infinite. Wear your seat belts is the moral of the story.

Celebrations in the street
And if you happen to be in the great western part of the city which is like a parallel system inside the otherwise posh and suave metropolis, your jaws will be under Newton’s spell, all the time. Wee hours of the night, boot of a car opened and converted into a makeshift bar and high bass Punjabi music engulfing the airs and a group of charged youth – spiked, turbaned, goateed, pierced and beefed up grooving their hips into a discordant blend of Bhangra, salsa, hip-hop and all possible forms of dance moves is not a very atypical sight. The high pitches of the songs welcomed by loud roars of enthusiasm and the delay between adjacent tracks unwelcomed by shrill hoots. Legends of Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusro and Mirza Ghalib still live here and Dilliwaalahs love their music. And when you happen to cross such a scene, enjoy the music, silently praise the dance and get going. Don’t mess the combination of Alcohol and music is the moral of the story.

The Shiny new Possession
Dilliwaalahs are known for their fine lifestyle. Just one car in the garage is totally middle-class. People here live for luxury and not for bare needs. Survival is for lesser mortals, prosper is the Delhi way. And yes spaces are limited so the same neighbor who comes to your house every Diwali with a gift glittery and shining on the outside and having expensive nuts and chocolates and sweets in the inside wouldn’t hesitate in calling you names if you mess up with his parking space. Fair and Just. Hugs and smiles make everything all right, everyday. And if you purchase something you have all rights to show it off but being blatant and on the face spoils the party, Dilliwaalahs are sophisticated people so they utilize the power of random discussions. So you can blame the government for the bad roads and the pains you take while driving you new Honda city will be perfectly alright. You will invite appreciative glances as well. Or blame the RBI for revising their Repo rates all the times and the way your floating EMI interest for that 3 BHK you purchased in greater Noida for 85 Lacs keeps going up. Leave Buildings and cars, you can even moan about water scarcity and complaint how your expensive imported sanitary fittings have become useless. Likewise flaunt phones, scotches in your bar, salary appraisals, wedding saris and sherwanis. If you can present it in the right way no one minds. So in Delhi, Flaunt is the moral of the story.

Always wise to run away from such scenes
Delhi has always been praised for its Dil – the heart. But there is more to Delhi than just Dil. There are arms, there are legs and of course there is a mouth. In fact on a typical day you get to exercise the last three organs more than the heart. The catch is that you should know when and where to exercise these. Most of the times you need to keep the mouth shut because one slip of the slimy muscle inside it can lead you to all sorts of trouble. Of course you can use your legs to run away or hands to fold and ask for mercy. But if you have other homo sapiens with you who you can trust, you can use your mouth to hurl abuses and hands to punch and legs to stay firm on the ground. In a busy traffic you can again use your mouth to throw abusive words on the pedestrians and motorists to scatter the traffic. If the traffic is not muddled but that idiot is not allowing to you to overtake, you can use your hands to show him the middle finger once you get past him. As you learn the life here you will also become an expert in the skilled use of these awesome organs. So make professional use of your hand, legs and mouth is the moral of the story.

Zero Ambiance,100% taste
Dilliwaalahs love their food too and in Delhi messier the lanes, tastier the food. The Kohli’s, Kakkas, Chawalas and Pammis are everywhere each claiming to be that one famous restaurateur from Old Delhi. One generous meal and you overshoot your calorie limit for the whole week. Paranthas in the Paranthe waali Gali, Street food in Bengali Market, Seekh Kebab and Tandoori Chicken in Chandni Chowk. Forget the butter dripping from the Rotis just indulge into the gastronomic delights of this ancient city. Delhi is more about taste than ambiance and if you are a sucker for ambiance, this place offers you hotels and restaurants that can supply mouth melting delights provided you have enough cement to cover the holes these places would drill into your pockets. Nevertheless, when in Delhi indulge in food without caring for the ambiance is the keyword.

Delhi - you just can't ignore it
Delhi is a confusing place but in that case India is a confusing country. We love to break rules, we love drawing urine maps on the desolate walls and we love staining the public wash basin with Paan and Betel nut jets. Staying in Delhi is like staying in all cities of India together. You have the rawness of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar here, the royalty of Rajasthan here, the eerie silence of Madhya Pradesh and the wildness of Punjab here; you will even find Tamil Nadu in the common law abiding man here and the coolness of Goa in the stylish females here. From English speaking suave youth from south Delhi to the Chaste Punjabi speaking west Delhi guy, from that well dressed guy in Vasant Kunj to that fashion disaster from Trans Yamuna, you have them all here. Delhi for me is the epicenter of all diversities in the world. Women here will pester the street vendor for 10 Rs but will never step into an eating joint which is cheap or is at least close to being cheap. Girls here will mesmerize you with their looks but can deafen you with their decibel rich voice.  People here contradict themselves sometimes for good and sometimes for the evil and this makes Delhi a rough but an interesting place to live in. It’s not easy to hate something or fall in love with something but Delhi will make you love it and hate it every day. From just another city to the place where you live, finally Delhi becomes a state of your mind.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rings of Saturn

“So what happened to Hanuman Jee, Shiv Jee and all those deities that we used to worship” I asked out of curiousity. 

“Arre they are still here and are worshipped but Shani Dev is the one who is worshipped the most” The Auto wallah replied.
“Strange..! Anyways drop me here. I’ll call up someone to pick me up” I replied.
“Sure Sir” He said and the Auto came to a halt in no time. I paid the bill and he turned around with a sheepish grin.
I was relatively new to this place, Gurgaon - The Heart of Information Technology in North India. And it was a Saturday. I saw people pouring in the Shani Dev temples on the way with their Audis and BMWs and Beetles parked outside the temples. I also saw beggars, mostly kids roaming around near the red lights with a bucket in hand. Buckets full of oil and inside the buckets there were statues of Shani Dev half submerged in the oil. Being born and brought up in a religious Brahmin family, I have a natural inclination towards religion and spirituality so I was more than happy to drop a coin or two in the buckets but then they were everywhere. The Air-conditioned sedans and SUVs opened their panes and every time a hand came out, a hand with an expensive wrist watch sometimes or sometimes with a gold bracelet or sometimes the hands were bare but the lushness of the hairs on them or just the muscular roundness suggested those belonged to rich men and those rested in pockets which were very deep. Those hands kept on dropping the coins into one bucket and then another on one red light and then another to one beggar and then to another.

I was curious; does this bucket full of oil haunt the possessors of these rich hands? All I knew about Shani dev was that he was the god of planet Saturn, represented the seventh day of a week “Saturday”, and was son of Lord Surya (Sun God) as per the Hindu Mythology. So what’s this Shani obsession with Gurgaon people? No online article could answer my query. I tried asking people, pundits, beggars but they were clueless; all they knew was that people here were obsessed with Shani. Begging in the name of Shani was already a thriving business and the entrepreneurs didn’t care to find the root cause for it.
The answer lied in the behavior of Shani. Shani is the imparter of justice; unlike other gods Shani doesn’t give you health, wealth, success and love. The best Shani can do is to leave you at your current state. If Shani is at his merriest best, he wouldn’t harm you. In smaller towns and villages and places we pray for love, luck, money and sanity and in places like Gurgaon why do we have to pray for staying safe and unharmed?
This answer lied in the richness of Gurgaon. As our wallets get deeper, our hearts become shallower and thoughts narrower. In the quest of money (can be read as power, position, and status) we end up being “Beings”; the “Human” part is a small fee that we have to pay to achieve that being. We conspire at people’s back and don’t hesitate in sticking a dagger right inside the chest of our opponents whenever need be. We call this competition, we call this professional rivalry. Everyone want their silver credit cards to transform into transform into Platinums and Titaniums. Everyone want their passports to get thicker, everyone want their Bikes to convert into Cars, their Shimla vacations to Las Vegas vacations. And we work, sweat, run, type, speak, bitch, fight, conspire, plan and plot to achieve all this. And there is nothing wrong in thinking big or taking a path to achieve the same. But then why does guilt occupy a major part of our thought processes? Why does every beggar in the street with a bucket full of oil and a statue of a deity inside it resemble the messengers of the imparter of justice himself? Why do we embody guilty conscience? Well, this question is still unanswered.

Maybe dropping the coin in the bucket relaxes us momentarily till the time the next bucket marks it arrival and guilt starts knocking our heart chambers again and the process keeps repeating itself. Now when I see oil in the bucket, it looks like the mirror that shows nothing but our face. Shani is not a deity but a mirror that shows us our ugly face and the coin is the effort needed to get that mirror away from us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Temple of Liberation

We get pissed, we get excited; we get contented and we get poignant but we Indians know how to give words and voices to our moods. We express the fair, but conceal the dark in any of the four chambers of our hearts or any gray cell in our cerebrums. But we divulge them when time comes and we travel sleeper class and we use their toilets and their walls.

I remember one of the walls shouting at the-then-hot-political-agenda in Maharashtra. Biharis shouting at Marathis and calling them goons and the latter calling the formers outsiders and job-snatchers; a classic tussle scribbled in grimy handwriting. There was a rough caricature of a renowned firebrand politician with a frog like face, hidden behind rimless spectacles and well-gelled hairs combed neatly. There were poetries and shayaris and randomness. Any politician pouring his liquid gold down the drain could have sensed the unrest but they travel first class and use their toilets but not their walls. Their wall is called the Parliament.

We are a sex starved nation. Though Vatsyayan wrote the 1250 verses of Kamasutra in the 2nd century CE for Indians to learn and memorize, But we have continued to enlighten the west and we have continued being the land of snake charmers and Sadhus and Software Engineers and Call centre executives. So Sex is perhaps the least discussed but the most thought over topic in India. We keep concealing it till we find the wall of liberation. So they draw, they write and they croon about their wildest sexual fantasies. The outer guise of a gentleman or rather a pretentious godly creature is flushed down by rusty manual pipe of the lavatory and the gentle, inventive Satan clouds the white walls.

Relationships and breakups are all immortalized in this temple. Love stricken hearts praising their lady loves, one sided lovers writing their undeliverable love letters to the damsels, broken hearts shouting at their once-a-goddess-now-a-whores; Some even making their mobile numbers public, their way of taking revenge banking on the fact that once a urinating deity will read it and impart justice. Fair? Unfair? Their and theirs to decide?

Unpleasant letters to parents, frustration about receding hairline and bulging paunches, complaints about existence and every dark emotion which is not conceivable under the sun finds its mention inside the temple of liberation and its sacred walls which is better selling than the best bestsellers bringing a smile, a frown or any emotion every time a reader reads it.

India is a land of Public speakers and private thinkers. We shout, we fight, we forget. We smile on their faces, we crib at their backs and we love to hold grudges. We are a shining metal pot, but our water tastes of rust, the inners are not that well polished. And when we come to ourselves with no human scent around, we feel liberated. And we shout and cry our worries out. That’s our way of lightening ourselves. A marker and a washroom wall is what we need, the most disgusting civic practice but we love it.