Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Varied Valentines

"Do you like this watch?"
"What about this jeans?"
"Pretty earrings for a pretty face!"
"This top is tailor made for you "
"Do spare a glance here as well"
"You know, its like the Cinderella story, these shoes will fit only you. You must take them!"
"It's Valentine's day! You deserve this."
"A tattoo will look gorgeous on you, believe me!"
"Okay whatever you say madam! Just say what you want and I will get it for you!"
"Biscuits?" "Tea?" "Kathi Rolls?"
"You must take this jacket...I want you to have it...seriously!"
You must be thinking that I have such a doting boyfriend or a devoted hubby,so ready, so eager to please me. Let me clear your misconception. This is not my boyfriend trying to cheer me up or working hard to make my day special. These statements come from the varied salesmen adorning Palika Bazaar, all trying to sell this or that paraphernalia of theirs. I'm sure there are many such palikas,lajpats and sarojinis in Delhi as well as other states where you will find salesmen hounding you to purchase a cellphone cover, a cute purse, some t-shirts and the like. And believe it or not, after a time you feel as if you really need them, be they pretty shoes or nice earrings or even drab socks. My friends and I spent our Valentine's in such a place.
There are five kinds of people on the basis of their reaction to Valentine's day. One, who ardently follow the concept and make elaborate preparations to mark the day. Two, those who are ambivalent and are not sure about the degree of importance they want to accord to the occasion. Couples can fall in both the above categories. Third, those who tag themselves as 'forever alone' and flaunt their single status on social networks by trolling or putting up snarky statuses. Fourth, those who use the day as an excuse to celebrate and rejoice. Fifth, those who don't discriminate between one day and the next ; for whom the next day unfolds without them realizing the previous one has gone.
I guess we decided to put ourselves in the fourth category. My friends and I planned to utilize this Saturday and this Valentine by meeting up after many many months. As usual, we were in a fix about the venue. But then someone suggested the official universal female pastime and we jumped at the idea. We went to CP, loaded ourselves with oodles of cheese, pizza and even more cheese at Sbarro and proceeded to Delhi's first underground market, Palika. That was our moment of vainglory. A horde of guys begging us to buy or to simply check out their 'stuff' , calling us endearingly , offering us mind blowing discounts, behaving more submissively than a slave, professing their devotion to us (even though make-believe; by the way, even make-believe devotion is sweet to girls) openly and calling us over and over even as we rebuffed and slighted them, moving ahead like proud princesses. Such a vanity booster as that, was a high that I realized must be the reason I was a shopaholic, as are all the other women. The kind of attention one gets, the feeling of importance one enjoys, the satisfaction of rejecting and disdaining something you don't like and the pleasure of being chased relentlessly making one feel highly needed and wanted, almost like some guy madly in love with you. So what better way to spend one's Valentine than by getting pampered, cosseted, pursued and feeling special? Multiple men smiling at you and wanting you and you spurning them , what better high, what better celebration and what better ego booster? Add to that our group's private jokes, stealing glances at mushy couples and giggling at their mushiness, pitying couples who started out with the hope and the setting for a perfect evening but ended up in an inconsequential argument, empathizing with folks who either can't be with their better halves or those who don't have any such halves; all the while loving each others' company which was replete in itself sans any expectation, any duty. I must say I had a beautiful Valentine's, chock-full of narcissistic moments and queenly treatment.
Valentines this year we had many,
but we chose not to have any
Special we felt, putting on airs
Without any conditions, without any cares

Sunday, 8 February 2015

My Years In Jamia

I was a young adult, fresh out of the sheltered arms of my school. College life is every teen’s dream, hence, with high aspirations, great expectations and slight apprehension, I set foot on the grounds of JMI, to an altogether different milieu. My hopes battled with my perceptions as I struggled to adjust to the simple unadorned environment- the unaccustomed reality of my college life. Constant cribbing and aversion to the surroundings gradually gave way to blooming fondness as I discovered simplicity in place of severity, candour in place of crudeness, love in place of oblivion. And three years passed thus.

Those long late night conversations, trolling on facebook, the string of comments on a single status- my heart lurches when I see it all drawing to a close. One semester left. I think of the day about three years ago when we used to discuss amongst yourselves about how we will pass these four long years in a college which does not host a good fest, does not have enough exposure and is ridden with rules and regulations. It was a place where I would be bound for four years by shackles of attendance, classes, assignments, unreasonable teachers, empty canteens and envying my peers who were in fancy colleges like DU where fests were a rage, celebs were a regular affair and life was one big party.
Then a picture appears in the kaleidoscope of my mind- celebrating a friend’s birthday in McD, roaming the streets in CC, eating chhole bhature from the central canteen, standing on the benches in the classroom posing as models, playing temple run in the back seat while the lecture went on, chewing gum and blowing bubbles amidst giggles, spending hours chatting in the parking lot…  
There had been so many firsts during my college years-the first time I organized an event, the first extempore that I won, the first face painting contest we won…I remember my buddy’s painted face and how we posed and shouted and screamed in joy…Those dance practices in the first-year classes...the first nukkad naatak we won- oh the jubilation on our faces! What with the sleepless nights spent working away for the magazine, staying till late in college for the meetings and the work, the bohemia and fervour that took hold of us during the fests, the feeling of unity in everyone from teachers to students to the lab assistant Imran bhai, it made me feel like a part of one big family.   

I remember bunking my Software Engineering class to watch ‘Bhaag Milkha’- sloshing about in the heavy rain with drenched socks and shoes. And the umpteen poses we made to get a photo clicked. And our endless chats while leaning on the corridor railing. And our frantic search for a lady teacher to accompany us to Goa. And those walks to the bus stop with friends, chatting and laughing.
It takes a minute to say hello and forever to say goodbye…    
Today I am poised over a crossroads, where I have no idea what the future will hold, what people I will meet and what will become of my career.

Some of us will rush aboard the ship of the future. Others may be more hesitant. Some of us will have plenty of baggage to bring; others will travel lightly. One thing that we will all bring is our memories...I used to feel so wrongfooted when I first stepped in Jamia, I go out now, surefooted…taking with me –wisdom, experience, memories and the tag of a JMIite…

The Vicious Circle

The black Sedan inched its way slowly through the traffic. A young man in a black dapper two-piece suit sat in the rear seat, fiddling about with some buttons on his 8-inch touchpad. Another man, slightly older, was at the wheel, sweating away, despite the lowest possible temperature of the aircon. He wore a brownish white shirt and similar hued pants, which looked as if they were worn everyday without washing. The driver applied the brakes suddenly as the car in front of him jerked to an abrupt halt. A second man, barely a man but a boy, younger than both the men in the car but as shabbily dressed as the driver, sat in the passenger seat beside the driver's, both timid and pleased, trying to gauge the situation but mostly keeping to himself.
"Shit!", exclaimed the smartly dressed man in black at the back. "Shit! I will be late again! This place will never improve!"
The traffic moved painfully slow, increasing the man's impatience and making him swear. The driver tried to make a left cut into the service lane. But that happened to be a bad idea. The lane was narrow and many other drivers had had similar thoughts, hence cramming their vehicles into the congested lane. There looked to be no way out. Except for moving in first gear. The driver moved on, the owner providing him a fillip via his invectives. All of a sudden, a dog ran in front of the car, tottering and puttering about, unable to decide which side to move and then finally dashed to the left, thus making the driver swerve violently to the right and jerk to a stop. There was a sickening crunch and the owner looked up, livid. He finally extricated his eyes from the tab, abandoned it for the time being and got out of the car, slamming the door. The car's right front headlight had smashed into the pavement on the right. In a bid to save the dog, the driver had driven it straight into the pavement, stopping just in time before a huge dent could be inflicted on the door.
The man's face grew red and he snatched the driver's shirt collar, shaking him violently. He slapped him twice. Thrice. Hard. So that the red of his fingers marked their shape on his cheek while the other boy looked on, agitated. The onlookers now had a scene to behold and their frustration on the traffic sort of abated a little. The other guy in the car had got out by now and watched the owner manhandle his driver, punch him in the face and once in the ribs, all the while raining expletives on him. The younger boy's heart went out to the driver, feeling embarrassed at such an erosion of dignity and the loss of self-respect. The driver’s face was expressionless, his head bowed while he bore the treatment inflicted by his employer on him. The other guy wondered if the amount would be deducted from his meagre salary. Perhaps it would. After the owner of the car had his fill of the other's dignity, they set off and finally reached a large bungalow where he resided. The car had to be taken for repair. Before that, the servants proceeded to a nearby tea stall to shake off the episode. The younger man brought two cups of tea, offering one to the injured driver.

"Where are the biscuits?", he demanded and the young servant went to get some biscuits. "Here", he handed them to the driver, who began to sip his tea, one hot sip at a time. "Aaaak-thoooo!!", the driver spat the tea out on the young servant, his shirt and a part of his chin bearing the brunt. "What kind of tea was this?", he ordered and scolded his younger counterpart for a crappy tea. The boy looked at him, astonished at the change in his behavior, indignant at the treatment he had received after his sympathy and feelings for him. When the older servant crumpled and threw the cup away, the boy’s feelings for him had evaporated. In its place, was born a lingering dislike, a feeling that the man had been given an apt deal by the employer. He went away, his faith shaken.