I have a dream book in mind and I want to blog it to make it happen! The book is based on my childhood years where I found literary icons who transformed the meaning of creativity in post-independence Delhi. Seeing and learning from these collossal figures I kind of became a dwarf of my own imagination. The heady flower-power era and the whiff or a revolution found me in Niza Town. I wish to ride piggy-back to fame with this magnum opus
Daal Mein Kala…sounds like a divine culinary conspiracy,
right? Situated at the fag end of the road that houses many eateries in front
of the Press Club at Lalbagh, when my wife recommended me to go to Daal Mein
Kala to pick up some Afghani Chicken and Kadhai Mutton, I wondered why I had
not smelt out this quirky but exotic eatery
before? I guess it was because of my poor sensory perceptions or my lack of a
sense of adventure when I hit the Lalbagh Lakhnavi bistros. When I jogged my
mind to find out if my memory held the key it said no, it was not that.
I guess it was my pronounced Dastarkhwan
fixation for Shami Kababs and Butter chicken that made me forget to follow my
nose. For, if I had truly done so I would have discovered the place much
earlier. However, it is not that the restaurant had great ambience or boasted
of a well-laid seating plan, to speak of.
However, the shocking tagline only added to the somewhat arrogant
mystique of the 8 ft. by 4 ft. hole-in-the-wall joint. There were barely eight
chairs and two ramshackle tables if you decided to have a sit-down meal. As for the tagline, it grandiosely stated: “if
you don’t eat we will both starve.”
The sprightly owner Arif Kamaal Khan
I turned to the
counter salesman to find out as to who ran the show. He pointed to his right
and I could discern a wiry and sprightly ‘young man’ perched on a bar stool
sitting in front of his cash box, which looked more like a rundown musical keyboard.
The ‘foodie’ orchestra conductor Arif Kamal Khan who peered through his heavy
rimmed glass put out his hand with great warmth and with an impish smile
playing on his lip remarked: “I have named it DMK and used the catchy tagline
based on the years of marketing skills I developed in my three-decade-long
foray into the hospitality industry.” A Pusa Institute Catering and hospitality
graduate, he did his post-graduate studies in hoteliering and hospitality from
Vienna in the early eighties. He then joined the Oberoi Flight kitchen. He also
did successful stints in other Oberoi properties and The Imperial Hotel among
other upmarket Delhi hotels. He then decided to call it a day and headed to the
cosier confines of Lucknow, his hometown.
He started DMK in 2001, on his return and his let his
culinary skills do the talking for him. His menu card hanging above the sales
counter is a creative delight. Terms like Chor Bazar, Gadbad Ghotala, Ghar ki
Kheti, beckon you to try out his plethora of dishes.
Arif bhai, why do you call your cuisine authentic Mughlai,
rather than call it Avadhi fare as is the style in Lucknow?. He is quick to
retort with a wink of his eye, “believe you me, all cuisine that you find in
Lucknow is a cocktail. Authentic Avadhi is just a selling point.” When I went on to ask him if Avadhi cuisine
was losing its zing with the launch of such Mughlai joints, considering Pind
Balluchi and Moti Mahal Deluxe have both come in, in a big way in Lucknow, he
says, “the food culture in Lucknow is in a happy space. There is scope for
By now, Arif had let loose nuggets of precious information.
He shared that his son was studying in the London School of catering and was
presently interning in a hotel in Kolkata.” Once he graduates, he will add his
bit to Daal Mein Kala”. As a parting
shot he told me that one his specialties besides non-veg food is his Saag
paneer which is an authentic herbs-based delight and was much in demand. “I use spices which cost me Rs 3200 a
kilogram, so that I could give you the best at reasonable prices. So I don’t
prefer to spend on ambience and décor.”
I promised him that
if I liked the take-away parcel once I reached home, I would surely write about
it in my blog to pay him his due. The Afghani chicken was cooked in a tandoor
and not in an open bar-be-cue and the
red onion curry base of the Kadhai mutton was lip-smackingly good. The mutton
pieces were succulent and juicy and certainly not over-cooked which is the
standard in most Lakhnavi eating joints these days.
In short, the food was a delight and there was no Daal mein
kala, either in the quality or in the preparation. I must say kudos to Arif
bhai for dishing out such a wonderful fare, day in and day out. I guess his
tagline is the best negative advertisement I have come across after the
legendary Onida tagline: Owner’s envy, neighbour’s pride. Now, that is saying a
lot in Arif’s favour. Thank you wifey and thank you Deep Saxena, for this
When I was going through Seema Goswami’s brilliant column titled
“So sorry for your loss” in HT Brunch last Sunday, I was struck by her opening
remark. “There is something about death
that makes us exceedingly uncomfortable. We don’t want to imagine a time when
our parents will no longer be around. We don’t want to dwell on the prospect of
our own deaths.”
My mind started racing down memory lane, two days after the
devastating earthquake that struck Nepal, (April 25, 2015) and shook the very
foundations of the Himalayan kingdom. The huge loss of human lives sent shock waves
across the world. The whole of Northern India was in a state of shock. Since
Lucknow too was shaken to the core, the aftershocks that followed led to panic all around. So when a severe jolt rocked Lucknow at around 11 a.m. on
April 27, 2015, to be precise, I saw two of my colleagues hurrying out of our
university building, with their backpacks, camera et al.
I watched in bemused silence
and at that point in time, I was sitting in my Director’s cabin when we heard
the rumbling and saw the tables shake. When my boss expressed thoughts about
moving out of the building, I comforted him saying that by the time we would
walk down our first floor office, the tremors would have ended. That was that.
After an hour, when I saw my young colleagues trundle back
to the faculty room, I asked them in a concerned tone as to why they had rushed out
despite being aware of the fact that Lucknow did not fall under a high seismic
zone. One of the colleagues turned to me nonchalantly and what he said made my
hair stand on end: “Arre sir, you have already lived 80 per cent of your life.
Now, let us live out our young lives.” The sentence had a life-changing impact
on my life. I then began to wonder what exactly
life –or for that matter- death meant to me. I immediately recalled my younger days where
I used to be constantly haunted by the fear of death.
I recall when I was 16 years old, one day my father fell down in the
bathroom and injured his head. The house was thrown in disarray and when the
doctor who was rushed in, diagnosed it to be a severe case of hyper-acidity, I somewhere
felt I was responsible for it. When my
father came around later at night, he turned to the assembled family members quite
dramatically and in a severe tone declared: All the stress I am going through
these days, is because of Chander’s wild and wicked ways”. I was dumbfounded.
To put things in perspective, my joint-smoking experiments
had got my family in a flap. Ever since that day, the fear of my father’s death
started haunting my psyche. Many nights I would lie in bed wondering when the
bathroom door would swing open and I would hear my father screaming as he
crashed to imminent death. I then started penning down poems on death,
devastation and tragedy. I wrote about how the three are the handmaidens to success, as a journalist, for that is what I had become. For over two decades, I
sharpened my pen doing stories on death and tragedies and it became my calling
On the positive side, my fear of death made me hungry for knowledge, so that I
could dispel the notions of darkness that seemed to permeate my soul. I dabbled in the secret orders of the day and
became a part-time occultist. That soon lead me to flirt with Indology and
mythology and I became a die-hard fan of the ghoulish misguided genius and
necromancer Alistair Crowley. His Book of Thoth became my guiding light in my ‘dead
and decaying’ profession of journalism. I soon felt it was fashionable to
flaunt my deviant thoughts to stave off my fear of my death.
Coming back to the present, now in the 20 per cent of my remaining life, I needed to
come to terms with life on life’s terms and did not want death to come in the
way of my happiness. I decided to catch ‘death’
by the horns and fling it out of the recesses of my mind. Just at that point in time,
the university was conducting the final year students’ concluding ceremony. The
term concluding ceremony triggered a thousand thoughts in me. I wondered what
if I could watch my own concluding ceremony. I fancied my chances of watching my own death
as an out-of-the-world experience and then return the next day to haunt my own
body. When I shared these blissfully ‘wicked’ thoughts with my colleagues they
laughed me away and forbade me to think in such morbid terms.
That night I wondered if I was just
being grandiose in entertaining the idea of death or was it to shock myself
from the stupor of being ‘living dead’. I honestly admitted to myself that the
idea of a personal concluding ceremony was fine as a dramatic thought but in real
life was I ready to face my own separation from this world? Did I need to
hoodwink myself to think the world is an illusion and it is time to call it a
day? I full well realized that if I had to opt for death voluntarily, then the
pain and suffering could well be hard to endure, but endure it I must. As a
family man, who had miles to go and family promises to keep, was I trying to
escape responsibilities? No, not really. I then pontificated on why thoughts of
death are taboo in society and why is it such a dreaded subject. Or it could
well be that I was trying to play out a romantic abstract notion of death that
would bring me sympathy and affection by the troves.
Questions apart, I came to the conclusion that by being
merely told that I had lived out 80 per cent of my life, I had begun to stop
chaining my thoughts. I realized I needed to unchain my present thoughts from
the past and from the future. It was a moment of great emotional insight. A Zen
Buddhism moment of self-awakening! That very moment, I truly turned into a
proverbial new leaf. My work skills and productivity increased by leaps and
bounds as I realized that I didn’t have time on my side, since it is set to
conquer me, sooner than later. I had now become a man in a hurry. There was so
much to be done and so much to be lived in one single day. Philosophically, I
had long understood the concept of death being rebirth, of death being the
beginning of a better life. But today, I ‘kill’ my daily sinful thoughts at the
altar of truth and embrace my fellow-beings, like there is no tomorrow. This is
how I live my own concluding ceremony, every moment of the day. I will conclude by sharing Seema Goswami’s wonderful
thoughts on grieving: “Sometimes
it is okay to not say anything at all: If you can’t think of anything
appropriate to say, stay silent. It is for times like this that hugs were
PS: Today, as life turns the bend, I look at the long
and straight road ahead!
Dopehri is a huge visual feast,
with no actors. There couldn’t be a better compliment that one could pay Pankaj
Kapur and his return to theatre. Every character has been beautifully fleshed out without any physical
presence on stage. Pankaj Kapur’s novella by the same name came alive
at the Sangeet Natak Akademi auditorium on Sunday night. All we saw on the dim
but surrealistically lit stage was a diminutive thespian who was slowly
transporting his audience to a willing state of disbelief, nay I would say belief.
Here was this theatre artist and passionate narrator, who languidly used
minimalist theatrical props to cast a spell on us. Even as the soft strains of
music raised the narrative tension, we sat, riveted for over one hour and
twenty minutes, eating out of his hands. By then I had developed a special
affinity towards this colossus called Pankaj Kapur. It then struck me that whenever
he delivers, he delivers a hit.
His distinctly Lakhnavi Amma Bi,
all of 65, came alive brilliantly. Through outstanding visual imagery, I could
see how he used the power of words to build his protagonist. She came across as
fragile, tough yet insecure, not willing to come to terms with neither her
loneliness nor her growing irrelevance in the canvas of urban life. In the late
afternoon of her life, (Dopehri) she was the quintessential modern city women,
for whom time and children had become ghostly apparitions. With her husband having passed away years ago,
her son Javed lives in the USA with his family and he sends her a princely
retainer that probably offsets his guilt in not being with his mother at this station
in life. Still rooted to her Nawabi past, she is fiercely proud of her royal
lineage and yet yearns for the company of Jhumman, her hair-brained domestic
help to see her through her daily bouts of loneliness. Jhumman’s character
comes alive as he saunters through Amma Bi’s Lal Kothi with the irreverence of
a Shakespearean Falstaff.
By now Pankaj’s stage presence
starts looming across the length and breadth of the stage, as he walks around
and climbs up the strategically placed Munder (barricade or railing) to deliver
brilliant knockout narrative punches. It reminds me of the looming visage of
the diminutive Dusty Fog in J.T Edson’s western novels.
Pankaj goes on to introduce
whimsical yet powerful characters like Dr Saxena, whose retired life revolved
around round sugar-coated pills that formed the basis of his homeopathic
medicinal cures. He also brings in a degenerate Nathu, the idiosyncratic
teacher who convinces Jhumman to try and get Amma Bi to go stay in an old age
home. The scene at the old age home is terrifyingly portrayed by Pankaj. He
brings out the lack of compassion among Indian urban families in treating their
ageing family members. His narrative etchings come across as a stark reminder
of the lack of empathy that dominates
our daily lives.
Pankaj Kapur the master narrator,
then introduces a twist in the tale by bringing in Sabiha the tenant who comes
in to change Ammi Bi’s life forever. She comes in like a whiff of fresh air.
She is young, single beautiful and
strong and one who never hesitates to speak her mind. Kapur also brings out the
rich regional cultural imagery by helping Bi identify with Sabiha since she too
comes from her home town of Jaunpur. The
Jaunpur connect lights up Ammi’s life and in Sabiha she sees her daughter. We
then witness a mysterious element in Sabiha’s life as she agrees to spend the
Dopehri with Amma Bi but under the condition that the latter will not enter her
room in the afternoons she spends at home. Amma Bi has no idea as to what she
does for a living and now comes the piece de resistance. When Sahiba praises
Jhumman for the wonderful cup of tea he has made for her, Jhumman is in
raptures. Pankaj Kapur shows how the
irascible domestic help tries to transform himself into a smart and eligible
lover, by wearing flashy western clothes. The delicate twists and the deft
touches of Jhumman’s romantic inclinations have the audience in splits.
Meanwhile, we are told that a man is willing to give his daughter’s hand to
Jhumman in marriage. Amma Bi plays the reluctant mediator and agree to pay Rs
500 as Meher so that she can safeguard the help’s presence in her lonely
life. The girl who is willing to come
into the whimsical and idiotic Jhumman’s life is called Sharbati.
One day, Sabiha goes missing from
Amma’s homes and she receives a call from a man saying that she will not return
for a couple of days. Amma is mortified and her make-believe world comes crashing down. The demons in her
mind began to gnaw at her lonely suspicious demeanour once again, and in a fit of pique she tells Jhumman to
break open the door to Sabhiba’s room. She enters, only to be shocked by what she sees. The colourful
stuffed toys that she sets her eyes about surprises her no end. She wonders why
Sabiha had never told her what she did and in one touching moment she picks up
an unfinished ‘squirrel’ and completes stitching it to ‘life’.
This is the brilliant turning
point in the narrative. Sabiha returns and is stunned by the fact that her room
was broken into, when she had left her room keys under Ammi’s pillow. The sense
of fear is palpable. And the audience is doused in emotions. Amma Bi is at a
loss of words. It is then that Sabiha notices the well-stuffed squirrel and then reveals to Amma as to why
she had gone out looking for a party to complete her order for 500 pieces of
stuffed toys to meet her contractual obligations.
Amma Bi suddenly finds a new
purpose in life. With renewed zeal and channelizing all the positive energies
she has at her command, (considering she was the Bibi of Lal Kothi) she helps
Sahiba complete her contractual obligations within time. When Sahiba hands her
over a cheque for her share of the work, Amma Bi is caught in a spiritual bind.
At this point, Pankaj subtly introduces a mythical and mystical element by
saying that the stuffed toys had gotten a life of their own, much like the animal
characters of Sher Khan in The Jungle Book. He also manages to invoke a chord
as in Oscar Wilde’s story of the selfish giant wherein the snow-clad garden
springs to life the moment the giant allows children to come into his garden.
More importantly, his comic
mastery comes to the fore when he declares how Jhumman is now married to Sharbati,
and is now off his romantic rocker. He tells us with his comically convoluted
logic as to how Sharbati is able to control the wayward Jhumman because she is
cock-eyed. He goes on to explain how she sees here, but looks there. Because of
her squint she is able to see Jhumman straight (pun intended). The audience is
heaving with laughter.
There is now a final shift in the
scene. By now, Amma Bi realizes what she has achieved
and we see her celebrate life in a triumphant note of self-empowerment when she declares that she is Mumtaz Siddiqui and has an identity all of her own. By now, the
audience is wiping away tears, tears of joy or tears of pain, one can’t say.
Even as Pankaj Kapur receded into the background, the characters continue to
breath and the stage continued to crackle with his punctuated dialogues.
As I stepped out of the auditorium, I was reminded
as to how one of my senior aunts would implore
me after having lost her husband. She
had said: “you are a communication professional, do something for us to live a
life of dignity. We have the money and wherewithal to live a comfortable life.
But of what use is a life of ignominy and anonymity when we cannot productively
contribute to society and have our own distinct identify”. Whether this is a
matter of old age or perception, Pankaj gave me the answer, in the way, only he
For the past one year, some of my office colleagues gently
chide me for becoming too spiritual. ‘Your adhyatmikta sucks in the office
place, they tell me. They have reasons to say so since I had ostensibly
returned after a three-month stint in Dehradun to reflect, and rejoice after
dealing with my character defects and flaws. Once I returned to the big, bad
world, it was business as usual. However, despite the odds I decide to stay
rooted to my spirit and conduct a daily self-inventory and maintain
transparency in all that I do. What gave me greater courage to tread this path
less travelled were my daily meditation lessons. I have been trained to stop
chaining my thoughts and live in the present. I am also trained to live life,
one day at a time, in true Zen Buddhist traditions.
In the beginning I found this to be a slightly difficult way to walk the talk, but my daily thoughts and
reflections hinge on playing it right. When I say playing it right, I mean
listening to my inner voice and taking informed decisions based on this. Given
my newfound spiritual wisdom, I wish to share that I am now an expert at the
art of articulating my thoughts but I now make sure to exercise restraint and
not speak out of turn. One of my colleagues and well-wishers often reminds me
that I need to be more diplomatic in my daily dealings. He tells me that if you
look directly at the sun you are likely to go blind. Strong words these, but I
am convinced that if I tender my opinion assertively and not aggressively, I will
come across strong but gentle.
I am further cautioned to live life in more
practical terms when it comes to office matters. They tell me that the real world
is a battlefield and everyone is fighting a war that must be won. This piece of
advice should hold particularly true since you are involved in the daily
drudgery of working in an office surrounded by image-managers and spin doctors,
or so I am often told.
This set me thinking. I wonder what further impels me to
write about such ‘dysfunctional’ thoughts on matters spiritual. Is my thinking
too tuned to look at life as an outsider? So, when my wife decides to fast on the opening day of the Navarra
fast that just got underway, I
unwittingly remark: “It seems like you are turning into a ‘prude panditain’ as
you are getting older. She turns around quizzically and says; ‘Come on now, it
is my trigger to detox the body and clean my system.” Her retort gets me deeper
in thought. I then wonder why I am so suspicious of organized religion and the
ritualistic ways of the world. It also makes me aware of the fact that fasts
and penance trigger my disdain for seemingly simple religious beliefs.
By now I am confused. I also
turn to quell my cynicism towards such
acts since people prefer to be gentle during fasts but turn ‘fast and furious’
on non-religious days. I ask myself whether spirituality is a religious event
or a way of life. Slogans, prayers and visits to temples are not my ‘elixir of life’
but then each person is entitled to his concept of God. Who was I to pontificate
and sit on judgment? In a flash, I realize
that my wife always bring out my higher self. Thinking of women and godly
matters, my thoughts race, unhinged on my mentor and muse, the
great singer Leonard Cohen who is always considered a ladies man. He too finds
spiritual solace and unconditional love in his metaphorical love for women.
In one of his brilliant songs he talks of them as his thin, little
gypsy thieves. I think I am smitten by his thoughts on how in order to be
complete the man and woman must become one. Did he mean that spiritualism means
the union of the man and the woman, the conjunction of the body with the mind?
I am not too sure but what gives me certitude is the notion that if you want to
say connected with your inner world, the world will scorn you, upstage you and
leave you on the dark side of the moon.
I soon find echo of such outlandish but honest thoughts when
two of my women colleagues share their similar predicament in how they are
perceived in their social milieu.
The first gracious young woman I talk to, has
the gait of an empowered Indian woman, the smile of a soulful diva and her
laughter rings through the air. .” She is holding forth on how she is looked at
suspiciously, when she talks of God and matters of the spirit. The fact that
she is only recently married only compounds matters. But I am not going to
change the garment of my soul for anything in life, she smiles.
beautiful woman I broach the subject of spirituality and how impacts her life
on a daily basis, she throws back her head and her hair cascades down her
in a gentle wave. With a smile playing on her lips, she softly
whispers, “I keep it simple, whatever people may say. My prayers gave me
immense strength and my religion tells me to live for others”. The fact that
she is considered too upright and ‘saintly’ only reaffirms to me that society
is too scared to see its own face in the
I guess like Leonard Cohen, strong women awaken my spirit. I
also realize such spiritually-inclined women are not too loved in an office
environment since projections matter more than perceptions, and image matters more
than reality. My questions abate and calmness permeates my soul. After all, my
goal in life is to bridge the gap between me and my shadow, like the yin and
the yang. By now, I am convinced about how the office and the home --like a man
and a woman -- are only two sides of the same coin. The so-called ‘dysfunctional’
spirit needs to be constantly nurtured with the twin fountains of transparency
and honesty – be it the marketplace, office space or real-time relationships.
Who says spirituality sucks?
I always lost my way in order to find myself in life. It may
sound preposterous to the well-heeled and successful, however, for me, it always
sounded like manna from heaven. The catchphrase ‘if you know your way around,
you are bound to make it in life, has had a mortifyiing(ly) opposite effect in
my thoroughly dramatic life. I never ever found anything that I set out to look
for; I always found everything by losing my way in it. So when I was finding my
feet at the age of four, my grandmother found that I was losing my ‘right hand’
in society because of my pronounced left-hander pre-disposition. Having been
born into a traditional South Indian Brahmin family, I was made to realize that
my writing and eating with the ‘left’ was a slur on our society. That is
because the left hand was not God’s hand; it was the potty hand that smelt of
the scum of this earth. Sooner than later, my hand was tied with a bandage of
turmeric and red chilli powder, and I knew I was ‘lost’ as soon as I was born.
Within a fortnight, I learnt to ‘force-feed and write’ with my right hand. I
later came to know that I was a right-brain driven individual and psychologists
pointed out that one should not mess with nature, when it came to matters of
Well, I now realized I had lost the plot since the signals
in my mind were crossed. Being a short circuited thinker, I thought up
solutions to problems that others were not wired to deduce. That my friends, is
not a formula to succeed as I was to later realize in life.
As I turned a teenager, I decided to become a cricketer but
the right-hand batsman and left bowler in me could never come to terms with
each other. I found myself a great left-arm spin bowler but my poor batting
skills got me out of the reckoning of the school cricket team. I then realized
if team sport was not cut out for me, then I was determined not to lose the
plot as a sportsman. I then turned to Badminton as my sport of choice and carved
a niche for myself as a state school badminton player. My deft net play, my
supple wrists and my drop shots became my visiting cards, my feather in the
school girls’ caps. I then found that my lungs were not strong enough and my
coach told me I needed daily jogging and yoga exercises for building my stamina
and muscles. It was during one such yoga session in Humayun’s tomb in Delhi in
the late sixties that I ran into a bunch of school boys dragging deep from a
‘lumdigo’ for that is what a cigarette was called in Lutyen’s Delhi. One of the ‘smoking’ boys suggested it was a
great way to strengthen your lungs, and I simply fell for it. Maybe I wanted to
fall for it. Ever since, I became a chain smoker and unwittingly blew my
‘badminton’ career up in smoke.
It was then that I came across the works of
classical western poets and was particularly enamoured by what the French poet
Mallarme said in one of his poems. He had pompously declared that there must be
some smoke between me and my world. I was now happy to lose my way in the
throes of hippiedom that had begun to rare its head in downtown Nizamuddin
where I stayed. The Flower Power children had started to stream into the first
Tourist Camps that sprung up adjacent to Humayun’s tomb in Nizamuddin. My
weed-smoking ways helped me lose my soul to Sufidom and the Hazrat Nizamuddin
Aulia’s dargah became my tipping point in life.
One on of these smoking expeditions, I fell off a park bench
and was taken to a doctor for first aid. Here I found another anecdote to lose
my way in life. When the doctor asked me to get a blood test done, it soon
emerged the next day that I tested B-ive. The doctor exclaimed that my blood
group was rare and that I needed to live a positive life, in every which way.
By now, I was in senior Cambridge in school and was trying
hard to find a way out of this maze of physical and intellectual negativity, so
to speak. It was when I was class 11 in Delhi Public School I came to learn
that I was a very insightful and gripping essay writer. This was the greatest
positive feedback I got from my class mentor who was also a brilliant English
teacher and her name was Dr Sanyal. She was deeply suspicious of my weed-smoking
ways and would often taunt me in class about my deviant streak.
One day I
distinctly remember that she had given us an essay topic asking us to write an
open letter to the older generation telling them about the widening generation
gap. By then, I was tripping high on the ethereal sounds of Bob Dylan belting
out the iconic song of our generation, “The Times they-are-a-changing.” The
whole school held Dr Sanyal in great reverence since she was an authority on
Shakespeare and her husband was a nature painter of international repute. More
importantly, they lived in Nizamuddin, the emerging cultural repository of the
When on the following week our essay copies were distributed
in class, I found that I had scored 8 out of 10. (The highest in class). However, the 8 was struck off and replaced
with 6. Dr Sanyal’s remark on my copy stunned me further. She wrote, ‘two marks
deducted for negative thoughts’. Now, what seemed like my moment of glory had suddenly
had me stumped. I ‘lost my way’ in the public humiliation and so I strongly
felt. I then decided to come clean and put my point across to me mentor,
however, biased she was towards me. What followed was a high-strung argument
following which she fainted. As the girls in my class turned to me disdainfully
with a collective ‘Oh, no’, I knew I was lost forever. The outsider tag hit me hard
and the next day in class, Dr Sanyal caustically commented that she would not
hesitate to ruin my life if I continued my wayfaring ways. I didn’t think she
would follow-up on her threat and I left it at that. When I finally passed out
of school and turned up to pick up my transfer certificate and Character
Certificate I was in for the shock of my life. Dr Sanyal had issued me a
certificate stating the following: “Chander Mahadev is a brilliant young man
with negative tendencies in life.” This corrosive remark brought my life to a halt.
I had hit a brick wall when it came to my university admission. No Delhi
University college was willing to give me admission and in the process I lost
one year in my pursuit of higher education. The next year in 1972 I gave a good conduct
undertaking and managed to get provisional admission in Hansraj College, in the
English Honours course.
By now my dream to turn a writer had begun to take shape.
The heady flower power era was beginning to consume the creative youngsters of
DU, and I too was sucked into what became the hippie movement. I didn’t realize it was time to lose my way
yet again. My Professor who taught us Shakespeare told us about the bard’s
negative capabilities. I was enamoured by the thought that a stable hand could
write such classical plays while he was back home after a few stiff shots of
By the time, I graduated I was convinced writing was the way
forward. It was 1975, and the black clouds of emergency hung across the Indian
firmament. I lost my way in the restoration for democracy and volunteered to
work for an underground English resistance newspaper named Subterranean Sun.
This was my first foray into journalism of courage and I found my calling. Once
the Emergency was lifted, I had done time in Tihar jail and became a rebel
without a pause. Soon, I got a break in a leading English Daily and it was then
I found my real self. After having spent nearly four decade as an Editor I realized
I had made a positive impact in chronicling life in India. My negativity bore
my fruits and even as, doom, death and devastation shook hands with me in the newsroom
on a daily basis, it became my daily handmaidens to success.
At crucial turning points in my life I lost myself only to
find my intuitive purpose in life. Whether my projections match your perception
is something I leave up to you
It has been one long time since I posted something worthwhile on my blog. However, I wish to share a thought which sounded scandalous to my male colleagues. and I would love to get your take on this. It is an open secret at my workplace that I love to say that I perform brilliantly when I am in the company of women. Further, only recently when my boss asked me why I was not holding forth on my favourite topic, he wondered if there was a perceptional change in my behaviour. I shot back that while I have stopped talking about it I would much rather let my actions do the talking. He then asked me the secret as to why I am able to attract people from the opposite sex. Without as much as a thought, I blurted out: To me every woman I meet, (barring my family and relatives, of course) is a potential lover. The room was drowned in silence. For half a minute, no one spoke. After what seemed like an eternity, my boss remarked with an air of incredulity that you say things that other men would not dare articulate. That was the end of this animated conversation.
All I wish to add is that when I shared this episode with my wife, she laughed it off without a thought. However, I hastened to point out that the concept of love is certainly limited by one's own upbringing and understanding. I went on to add that love is what you make of it.
Does it need to manifest itself physically? Do we need to perceive love in stereotypical ways? Do we need to say that a man and woman need to engage in physical intimacy in order to express love?.
The other day I also heard of a senior academician who wanted his woman colleague' photographs to be framed in a calendar and gift it to her. The immediate retort I heard a colleague say was that the academician-colleague had a wife, then why express love in such ways and at this age?For the record, the colleague in question was over 70 years old. I shot back, "Love is a refined emotion. What is wrong in expressing it? Just then Leonard Cohen's song (who has long been known as a ladies' man) rang true in my ears:
I heard of the saint who had loved you.
So I studied all night in his school.
He taught that the duty of lovers, is to tarnish the golden rule.
And just when I was sure, that his teachings were pure,
He drowned himself in a pool
His body is gone
But back here on the lawn
His spirit continues to drool
I also wonder whether it was my way of justifying my love for women colleagues?
By Chander Mahadev
When Dr Manjusha went about writing her intense verses on the God of
her understanding, Lord Shiva to be precise, little did she realize that
she had redefined divinity in this age of information and technology.
Deeply in love with Lord Shiva, she sees herself as his divine consort
Gauri. In her debut book of prose & verses Magic of Divine Love, she
invokes Lord Shiva whom she sees as the Super soul. She says that
according to what she has assimilated while undertaking the divine
journey of writing these, she realized that Shiva is indeed Shav without
Shakti. But since Shiva and Shakti are one, they compliment each other.
That is the reason why they are non-existent without each other. She
says that her intense love for Lord Shiva sprang out of long meditation
sessions and it was her inner urge and the Lord’s divine will that made
her put pen to paper. In her spiritual fiction of poems & short
stories, she longs to be one with the Lord, whom she embraces in the
form of Gauri, Lord Shiva’s mythical consort.
Much like in the bhakti ras tradition of Meerabai, Dr Manjusha has
ardently penned her divine passionate verses in the praise of her Lord.
Her lilting verses invoke a great sense of devotion and she comes across
as an earnest devotee seeking consummation with her Lord. Her poetry is
endowed with fluid grace and her lines rhyme like a gurgling brook
seeking its final destination at the Lord’s feet. Sample these lines:
…Not even for a moment now
Apart from You can I exist!
You are my Lord, my Saviour,
Don’t ever go out of my sight,
Otherwise this beloved of Yours
Will die a thousand deaths in just one life!
You rule all my actions, my every behavior,
Etched forever in this heart of mine
Are these two Lotus Feet of Yours,
That I ever lovingly want to kiss & hold;
And wash them daily with the pure waters
Of love, devotion & surrender,
That pour out from the depths of my heart,
Making way through my love soaked eyes!
A doctor by profession, Manjusha’s poems come across like a whiff of
fresh air that caresses the soul in these stress-filled times. She
reveals that her work has been inspired by Jaidev’s Geet Govinda &
Kalidas’s Kumar Sambhav and she feels that it is her inner striving to
be one with the Lord that keeps her going. Even if you don’t believe in
institutionalised religion, take a dip into the Magic of Divine Love,
and you are bound to emerge refreshed if not pure.