Nov 5, 2013

Of Malgudi Days And Kashmir


It was late February in wintry Kashmir. The mercury was dipping down to subzero and the cold was harsh enough to arrest me in my warm cozy place. Everything around was catching the snapping cold. Life was freezed like frozen waters. The dark shady sky overhead was warning of bombarding more snowflakes, making people lazier because of the winter-blues. I was also a part of this lazy routinely chore. I started my day late and ended it early only to add more laziness to my sluggishness. 

This routine of me was making me dumb, consuming my aptitude day by day. However it was only after I received my appointment letter from L&T InfoTech where I had applied earlier, my life changed drastically. Funnily enough, I wished for a little warmer place and I got the warmest, Chennai, the place where I am posted. Ah! And now here I am in Chennai a.k.a. Madras.

At first Chennai turned me ill at ease. I had never been to a south Indian place before. I knew nothing about Chennai except ‘Dosa’ and  Rajnikanth. From last six months, I was like hibernating in my place but now this was the wakeup call for me. Although it was a promising opportunity but the trouble to bother was that I had to travel from an extremely cold place to an insanely hot and humid place. “Kashmir to Kaniyakumari”, responded everyone in bewilderment.   

As I stepped first into Chennai, a chain of trees(read as coconut tress) welcomed me. Interestingly the architecture around reminded me of RK Narayan’s lifework Malgudi Days narrating stories that are weaved around intricate streets, modest houses and men in their ‘loungi’. It was feeling like the characters from Malgudi Days have turned live to entertain me. 

Well for many people, Chennai won’t seem to be a very interesting place as far as the expectations from a “metro” city are concerned. Minus some of the good beaches and few glittering malls, a commoner cannot find anything more entertaining. But that’s okay. Modestly is what I really admire about Chennai. The Chennai people, as I inferred, are very modest in their behaviour and attires accept some “inflexible” guys who strictly confine themselves to the five letters of ‘TAMIL’.

The widespread use of the local language is something that I found very peculiar about Tamilnadu. The Tamil people literally don’t give a rend cent to the “national” language.  Hindi influence hence the Bollywood is very negligible as compared to Tamil and hence the Kollywood. Not a very good example of “Abhin Bharat” (integral India), I must say. However, a food for thought for Kashmir where the local language is slowly getting a part of history. Although language is a big barrier here as the Hindi speaking crowd is apparently nil but I hope to follow it soon.

Food is another big problem after communication for the north Indian people, specially Kashmiris (excuse my assumption of kashmiris being Indians here), who find it difficult to gulp down the south Indian food. I couldn’t find any restaurant for Kashmiri Wazwan although non-vegetarian stuff is quite flourished specially Biryani that rules the roost.

Another interesting factor added to my experience as I could draft a similarity between the tamils and Kashmiris. It is the liberation fight going in the northern part of Sri Lanka by Tamils against the Lankan atrocities, wining the sympathy from the Indian Tamils and some Kashmiris. After interacting with some of my Tamil colleagues, I could hear some praise for the slain chief commander of LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The same opinion is not true for my north Indian colleagues who feel otherwise like many countries including India that listed Prabharkaran as a chief terrorist. “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter,” that’s what I inferred.  Well the same parallelism between Tamils and Kashmiris speaks for a good reason for the recent visit of JKLF boss, Yasin Malik to Chennai.  

Keeping the politics apart, many Kashmiris have find their home in Chennai. Although the environment and the other parameters in Chennai are altogether different as those in Kashmir but for many Kashmiris it is a breeding ground to run their business specially the handicrafts. Interestingly there are market places in Chennai like Mahabalipuram and Spenser’s Plaza, where there are more than hundred Kashmiri shops in one place.  

During my last six months in chennai, I have met many Kashmiri fellows who have almost been settled permanently in Chennai. Muhammad Ayub from old city is one such person who is settled in chennai with his family. Running emporium shops in various parts of Tamil Nadu, Ayub has spend almost three decades in chennai. His typical old kashmiri face and a long white beard speaks of his experience. Abdul Rehman is another Kashmiri whom I met in a mosque. Rehman says he came to chennai some two decads back, married a local tamil woman and hence got settled there. “Following on his food habits also changed from Noon-chai and Kander Czout to Idli and dosa,” he said with a smile.      

A good reason for this settlement can be that south India is much safer for Kashmiris if we talk of the politics against Kashmiris like in rest of the states in India. But sometimes it makes me wonder for how many more years Kashmiri people will be forced to leave their homes in pursuit of a “better” living. And now when I am living in my new home of scorching sun and humid air, I wish for change again. Needless to say this time to a colder place, Kashmir.

[P.S. This piece was first published in kashmirlife ]

Aug 24, 2013

Emergency Call

and my heartbeats started to pump up out of the rhythmic 72 per minute...[FICTION]

 Flushhhh!!!!!!”, down goes the flush of the toilet as I got relieved of my waste. “Hooooohh!”, I exhaled a sigh of relief and took a deep breath before the mirror in the rest room of my office. Watching myself relaxed into the mirror, I smiled at my reflection and came out merrily, whistling and humming random songs with myself, “laa la la laaa”. 

Quite casually I stepped out of the rest room and started moving towards my desk that a loud bam of emergency announcements thudded my ears with thumping sounds of “Fire Fire!!!…Pomp Pomp!!!”. The same iterated for few more times turning me nervous. “Wallah! What is going on?” I questioned to my astounded self. Few more minutes passed and some earsplitting noise from sirens resonated to add to my annoyance and more to my surprise.

It sounded as an emergency call and I turned too scary looking around chaotically to see how the people react. Period! Couldn’t see anyone around, now my fear started getting aggravated and my heartbeats started to pump up out of the rhythmic 72 per minute. The worry on my face was visible from the rush of sweat running down my face in response to the hormones that instinct fear.

Running for my life, I rushed to the lift that was shutdown in emergency. This added more to my uneasiness. In no time, I ran towards the stairs and moved down hurriedly panting like anything. I was out of breath, running for my life that seemed running away from me fearing some mysterious danger. I was feeling as if I am the Will Smith from I am legend looking for a trace of life in an alienated and outlandish world.

While descending the stairs, I was struggling at every step to see the open air and a safer zone.  Finally after stumbling and tumbling, I landed on the ground floor throbbing and panting for air. All drenched in sweat, I took a pause and leaned forward, with my hands touching my knees and my head hanging down to ground, to catch hold of my losing breath. Ho!! I lifted myself up and as I looked around, I was dumbfounded. 

My,Oh,my, I could not believe what the reality presented to me and my eyes protested back in surprise. I rubbed my eyes in an attempt to see the reality more.  Again, I was spellbound. My mouth was wide open, short of words, with the wide-eyed me, watching people relaxed, chatting, gabbing and laughing. “Oh My God!!” I uttered to my break my surprise. It was an enumerate crowd of people, all relaxed and all busy with their respective circles, rejoicing their complimentary time thanks to a mock drill that was going on. “A damn mock drill”, I ridiculously murmured to myself before I rested my broken self on the parapet.

Finally, I took a deep breath to comfort my puffed breathing. I smiled and I laughed… Ha-ha! Soon my cardiograph jotted down to normal 72 per minute and I smiled at the people around. I looked up into the air and smiled again for the reason unknown.         

Well, as of now when everything seems safe and sound, I feel next time even if the real calamity bells the emergency whistles, I would rather be catching Z’s on my desk and dreaming for a good life than chasing for a mock.

P.S. Mock drills are important exercises awakening people about the various security measures to be followed for safety. But the more important thing is that the mock drills should really serve its purpose at the time of a real calamity. Because everyone knows the story of the boy who cried wolf :D     

Aug 11, 2013

Post 1900 hours

Post 1900 hours and No one around
Nothing but the keyboard pinging my ears
Deserted cubicals and  haunted space
All welcoming me to join the solace

I am tired, stuck and jammed
Playing with numbers and syntax jargon
A coffee sip I want but no one to join?
Ho! I am stuck and I am lost.

But yeah! This is Peace! As I stretch my bones on my office chair.
Watching the Sticky notes that look familiar
Reminding and greeting me with a smile
PAUSE! I smile back and I code again.

Requesting to be excused for any slipups...I have written these verses only to burn out some frustration and to rejuvinate my tiresome brain after working for a long day at office :)

Jul 25, 2013

A Lift Call

“5Th Floor… Tring”, aired the lift system to my desperate ears as I was rushing to the ground floor for appetizing my hunger in the lunch break. As the doors started to open, the adrenaline rushed more into my body to force me to jump-in. To my surprise, the lift was packed with unfamiliar faces which looked fuming for interrupting their lift journey by a traitor from another floor. Looking at their expression, my feet rolled back and again the wait continued. 

I uttered to myself in disappointment, “How long to wait again? …. No! ”. I was hungry like a wolf and every second waiting there seemed as if waiting for years. Well I am a man of patience but except for this lunchtime where every molecule in my drained body craves for food. For a change, I tried that stupid counting technique where you count numbers in some order and then reverse back the order only to control your temper. HO! It was a waste for a guy who was now turning into an egg headed monster.

Few more eager minutes passed as such and after that another sound of lift pinged my ears. Thankfully, I could find a comparatively less crowded lift welcoming me. Eureka! I got in. But once I stepped in, some more guys followed me and the few handful people got multiplied into a full-size crowd.  The view was presenting the memoir of mass exodus of Jews by the Nazis where people in colossal numbers were expelled and pushed into the train coaches like rats.

Now I was spaced in the front corner of the lift, near the lift controls, with a fat stinking guy almost glued to me and two more young ladies adjacent to me. Besides, the lift carried a grey haired man in front of me and few more people busy in their business.

It was all boring and dull…colorless.  No background music or no good faces to make it pleasant. All the way down, the grey haired man kept staring at my little worn-out shoes and the two ladies kept assaulting my ears with their pinkish chitchats. More annoyingly, the fat guy sticking to me was busy picking his big nose and playing with the dirty boogers round and round…YuK!!

And now while the lift started moving down and stopping at every level, I was tired and even more frustrated, the same way as the people inside the previous lift which I missed. Ah! Now I could actually realize the level of annoyance you feel while you are in a rush, your lift is booked and still people call the lift to move just one level up/down interrupting your left journey…Hehee.

Next time find me catching the stares and stretching my lazy bones.