Wanderlust

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New Delhi… the magical city of dreams… New Delhi the maker or breaker of dreams…

Into New Delhi, came a young man with a bundle of dreams under his arms, literally.

He had a manuscript, a book and a laptop in a bag that he held under his arms. He hoped to make it big and become a reputed writer. On his back was a rucksack with some of his belongings. He got off the train from Dhanbad, a small town in Bihar blackened by soot from coalmines…

It was not that he was without contacts or was visiting the city for the first time… No, he had friends and family with who he could stay and the invitation to meet a television director who had said he was interested in staging his story.

Dinesh and Manish had met in Calcutta at Dinesh’s friend’s sister’s wedding. Dinesh was a dreamer who a few years earlier had dreamt of marrying the bride and then, when he found, the young girl preferred her fiancĂ©, he started writing poetry, dipping a fountain pen in his own blood, which he spilt from a cut he made on his arm. The girl rejected the blood drenched poetry… and the poet. Dinesh started writing a story… a sad story of rejection, this time on his laptop, not with blood. Then he wrote another story and then another till he started having fun with stories in his head.

Dinesh went for the wedding not only because he was the bride’s brother’s best friend but to prove to the world and himself that he had completely got over his puppy love.

In the process of getting over his first crush, he had found another love… this time, it was not a woman but the sound of words. He wrote his heart out, poetry and prose. He started carrying his life in a few files in his laptop. At the wedding, when this affluent but jobless youth met Manish, a young dynamic director from New Delhi, who wrote and produced plays on television, he showed him some of his own stories. Manish saw potential for teleplays and asked him if he could come to Delhi with his work in three months time, when he would start looking for a new story. At that point, he had a serial going on on national television that was a hit all over India.

Now, Dinesh had started to dream of becoming a playwright. He had already started to dramatise his stories when he landed in Delhi. He got off the train in the New Delhi Railway Station and started looking for an auto rickshaw that would take him to his aunt’s house in Greater Kailash.

Dinesh’s aunt, Mallika, lived in a huge ancestral home all alone. She had never married because for her, career came before all else. She was very happy to have Dinesh over. He was close family…her nephew (her elder sister’s youngest).

Dinesh liked his aunt. She had always been always kind to him.

Dinesh reached her home on Sunday afternoon and on Monday, he went to Manish’s office with his manuscript and his laptop.

Manish asked him to summarize his stories and tell them to him. He selected one of the summaries and asked for the manuscript of the story. Dinesh sent the story and the script that he had written of the play to Manish. Manish of course had the script and story modified by the professional scriptwriter.

Dinesh’s job was done and he was given a cheque. Dinesh was a bit disappointed. He had dreamt of becoming the Shakespeare of India. When the opportunity slid out of his reach, he started grasping around for a new dream, for here was a young dreamer… New Delhi was the perfect city for this young man, a city where dreams can be broken, altered or made… Without his dreams, Dinesh felt like an empty egg shell!

He moved around the house listlessly. Mallika was the editor-in- chief of a newspaper. She knew things had not worked out the way Dinesh dreamt. Dinesh was just a average student from Calcutta University. He had done a management course in a private institute. He could not find a job anywhere, Delhi or Calcutta… yet, he needed his dreams. Was he an unusual young man in as much as what mattered most to him were his dreams, not the realization of them? Perhaps, he did not have the stamina to work for them or struggle for them. Yet, he could not do what his family wanted him to do… join in their family business…

Mallika asked him if he wanted to try his hand at journalism… he was not sure… All he knew was that he wanted to get away from it all… he decided he wanted to travel. His father refused to pay for his adventures and told him to expect no support from him if he did not join the prosperous family business.

One morning, Dinesh woke up, packed his rucksack and left the house… no one knew where he had gone…

Dinesh left home, cashed his cheque and caught the first train to Haridwar. He sent a message to his aunt telling him he was safe. He got into a cheap third class compartment. This was the time of the Kumbh Mela, a festival that collects millions in the holy cities of Haridwar, Varanasi and Nasik. Each city hosts the festival by turns, every three years. Mendicants, swamis, believers and viewers gather in throngs to bathe in the Ganges and wash away their sins.

On the train, Dinesh sat next to a young man, Hari. During the journey, Hari told him his sad story… he had married the ravishing Kalyani, chosen by his parents from a pure vegetarian family. He himself was a pure vegetarian, who could not stand the stench of eggs, meat and fish. Kalyani had lived in a hostel in New Delhi for five years, through her graduation and post graduation. There she had developed a taste for non-vegetarian cuisine. Hari saw her eat non-vegetarian for the first time during his honeymoon. He was horrified when she ordered mutton. They had not been allowed to talk before they married. Now, Hari felt cheated… he was in a dilemma. He could not tolerate non- vegetarian food and his wife loved her meats and eggs. She did not cook it at home but could not give up on these foods… he had asked her to choose between chicken and goat meat and his heart, home and hearth… She had not responded. After a few months, she went to visit her parents in Haridwar and had continued staying there for more than a month. She also informed him that she wanted to pursue her PhD on her return to Delhi. Hari was very confused and sad. Would his wife choose goat and chicken meat over him? Would she look for a career outside the home?

Hari felt lost and did not know what to do… his family, who lived in Roorkee, of course knew none of this.

Dinesh found Hari’s concerns a trifle amusing and petty as he believed in tolerance and his aunt had chosen career over marriage a couple of decades ago… So, Hari’s concerns seemed a bit weird… there was more to life than just family, marriage and home and that is what he had set out to discover!

When they reached Haridwar, Dinesh found his own way… he went to a dharmashala and got himself boarding. Then he went down to the Kumbh Mela on the banks of the Ganges.

The Ganges flowed down from the Himalayas in all her glory…swirling and beating against the shores, contained in it’s bed by the cemented ghats. There were chains and poles built into the shallow reaches of the river to help the devotees hold and bathe as otherwise, the swift current could sweep away the swimmer far beyond the reaches of helping hands.

Dinesh watched the river fascinated…

A group of ash smeared Naga sadhus walked past him. Dinesh took a picture with his mobile. Touts for helping him offer prayers and bathe surrounded him. Dinesh made a break and ran away from the growing circle of middlemen who offered various services. He saw beggars lined along the walls that led to the shore…

At last, Dinesh found a spot free of touts. There were Naga sadhus praying… Dinesh sat in peace and watched them. He took pictures. When one of the sadhus got up, Dinesh bowed down to him. He blessed him and went off into the river for his ritualistic bath. Dinesh went back to the same spot daily till he could get some stories of the naga sadhus. They were a rare sight and came down from the Himalayas only for the Kumbh Mela. He interviewed some of them and wrote a piece. Then he emailed his story to his aunt. His aunt was excited and printed the story. From Haridwar, when Dinesh returned to his Aunt’s home, she showed him the story in print and promised him a handsome cheque. She suggested he do a column for them, travelling to remote places in India and writing for her newspaper. His interview with the Nagas caused quite a stir and a couple of other newspapers approached him too.

Dinesh had got his break. He travelled and wrote till he became a very well known travel writer. He went to the northeast, visited tribes in Nagaland, saw the borderless existence people led between Burma and India, to Bengal where the haunting rhythms and the simplicity of the Santhals brought tears to his eyes. He travelled to the central India and met Gonds in their natural habitat, to the south and to the west of India… He also found time to do a couple of degrees in Anthropology as it aided him in his work. From the confines of his country’s borders, he moved to rarer tribes in the jungles of Africa, Amazon and, even, Eskimos in the frozen Arctic.

Though his family harangued him to settle down on his occasional visits home, he never found time to marry… He said he was married to his work!

After almost three decades, the young man who wrote poetry in blood and came to Delhi with a rucksack in search of his dreams stood on the podium before the President of the country receiving an award for his outstanding contribution in bringing home to the city dwellers stories about worlds beyond laptops, electricity and roadways, where people lived out their dreams in their own way… their dreams were different from those of a city dwellers just like his had been different from that of his parents or many other men who had not been struck by wanderlust!

 

 

 

 

Short story

The Conspiracy Club

Shyam was bored to death.

He had finished a M.Com degree and management course at the local university and was waiting for a job, which for all practical purposes had eluded him for the last one year. He wanted a good job, an easy one with a good pay and designation. He didnot care what the job was but did care that he should have an easy time and plenty of money. Such jobs were hard to come by and Shyam just waited patiently.

Crotchety with boredom and a good life in his parental home, Shyam decided to start a detective agency. He advertised his services online. His advertisement said his agency provided services of all kinds from hunting for lost pets to looking for criminals to delving into conspiracies.

His first case was that of a missing dog. Macho, the dog in question had gone missing from a pet care centre while his mistress was getting her nails done at a nearby parlour. Macho had been missing for one whole day.

Shyam went to the pet care centre, the dog pound, animal shelter, the owner’s home in vain. At the pet care centre, the employees were very cold to him. He got no information. At the pound and animal shelter, dogs in cages barked and bared their fangs at him. Shyam was scared of dogs. He was not too happy. The owner was distressed and kept calling him till the evening, when she informed him that Macho had returned home on his own and therefore his services were not needed.

Shyam took missing pets off his list.

His mother found out about the advertisement. She forced him take criminals off his list.

Now, all Shyam was left with was conspiracies. No one called him to help them solve a mystery. He still didnot have his perfect job or any job. He started delving into conspiracy theories on his own. But that was taking him nowhere and was too taxing on his brain. He needed people his age to interact with. He needed friends. So, he decided to form an anti-corruption and conspiracy club. All members needed to pay an annual membership of only Rs 100 to start with. Shyam got together a bunch of young people who met every evening under the tall banyan tree in the park to discuss politics, corruption scandals and conspiracy theories. They were all young men with not much to do and enough money to spare. Some of them were Shyam’s classmates, who like him, waited for the easiest way to make money and have an easy life. Shyam had collected nearly one thousand twelve hundred rupees, which meant there were twelve members in the club.

Thirteen young people in a park under a banyan tree discussing politics started drawing attention. That is when Shyam thought it would be better to have the gathering indoors. The twelve members of his club agreed. They discussed renting a small room and expanding their club. They raised the entrance fee to one thousand. Surprisingly, they found takers. They now rented a small room in a big house and held their meetings there. Not that the meeting generated action but it helped people voice their opinions and relax. It was an outlet to talk, especially for people who were not getting anywhere.

Over a period of five years, the membership and the annual membership fee increased. Shyam found, a higher membership fee was directly proportional to the increase in number of applicants. Of course, they had to provide facilities like a cafeteria, music, television. So, Shyam rented a small house. The kitchen was handed over to a local tea stall owner. He was quite happy to oblige and run the cafeteria in the dining-drawing area.The music was provided by a rejected karaoke system from Shyam’s home. They installed a big second hand TV in another room, which they called the movie room. The ACC (Anti-Corruption and Conspiracy) club gained in popularity. Shyam stopped looking for a job as he became the founder of a fairly popular people’s club and he started making a lot of money from the annual membership fee.The club’s popularity with rich, unemployed youth invited the attention of the local politicians and journalists, especially as it claimed to be a club dedicated to the unearthing of corruption and conspiracies. They started patronising the club. The local politicians tried to raise funds and clout for their cause and parties and the journalists tried to scent out scandals. The club started becoming the breeding grounds for the young monied and money-makers. The club moved to it’s own building. Now, the club had it’s own restaurant and gym. Then, it acquired a pool table and swimming pool. A crooner, a bar and another posh restaurant further enhanced it’s attractions.

Shyam’s ACC club became popular and the talk of the town. Ten years down the line, it was a prestigious and professional men’s club. Anyone who was someone professionally belonged to the ACC. Young jobless wastrels no longer found their way to the club. The club became a hotbed for conspiring for entry into the club and for gaining influence or finance in or from the government or industry.

The twelve founding members had all become powerful, influential and wealthy. Six had joined politics. One of them was running for the parliament as his godfather, the local member of parliament, was retiring. Four had become leading journalists whose copy had to be re-written, but they were unparalleled in scenting out scandals. People feared them. If a scandal could not be found by others, they were sure to scent it out with their unparalleled skills. Newspapers vied to employ them. The eleventh one had become a godman, a great Yogi. He founded his own ashram and taught yoga to the rich and famous. There were some drug and sex scandals in which his name was implicated but everything was quieted down as the four journalists vouched for his godliness. His holiness was above scandals. If anything, the rumours drew a bigger crowd to his ashram. The last one had become a businessman known for his ‘connections’. No one knew exactly what he did but he was very rich and powerful. It was said that he was the man who created the chief minister of the state.

Shyam, of course, became very wealthy. He had opened chapters of the club in other parts of the country too. The Business Weekly had named him the ‘Man of the Year’ five years running. He had found his niche job among the wealthy and powerful. Here was a man who had achieved his dream.

Or had he? Did he have a dream? What was it? Was it a dream…?

Freedom

This is my concept of freedom.

Freedom

What is
This freedom I seek,
This freedom I aspire,
This freedom I meditate?
Freedom from creed.
Freedom from race.
Freedom from eternal bondage.
Freedom to live.
Freedom to mingle.
Freedom to be a drop in the ocean.
Freedom from country.
Freedom from nation.
Freedom from the need for salvation.
Freedom from boundaries.
Freedom from forms.
Freedom to soar infinitely and more….
This is
The freedom I seek,
The freedom I aspire,
The freedom I meditate….

Omnipotence of being

You talk borders, you talk races.
I only see open spaces.
I only feel stretches of infinity.
Time, space, materials,
Does it all matter?
I see the colors of the rainbow,
The colors of the trees.
I see the yellow amaltaz
Flutter in the breeze
And butterflies dancing.
Is it a butterfly or a flower in between the leaves?
Does it all matter?
All I sense is the omnipotence of being.
Then,
How is a flower different from a bee?
How are you different from me?