Saturday, December 27, 2008

तेरा दीदार हो

शाम की लाली थी या पत्ते का रंग था
कुछ छीटें खून के या आँखों का वहम था
वो पत्ता जैसे कुछ बयां करता हुआ
अपनी शाख से जुदा था
फ़िज़ाओं में अब खून, दर्द और आह का आलम था

खेतों में किसान राम था या रहीम था
जिसके खून और पसीने से जहाँ आबाद था
फिर बाजरे का सवाल मिस्कीन से क्यूँ था
तेरी भूक, तेरी आग बुझाऊंगा ज़रूर
पर बता तू है राम का या रहीम का?

किसकी किस्मत किसके रहम से रोशन है
तेरी आँखों में एक
अपनी नज़रों में जुदा क्यूँ हैं
तुझ तक पहुचने के रास्ते बहुत हैं
खुद तक पहुचने के रास्ते कम क्यूँ हैं

तेरे बन्दों में अब पहचान है उसकी
जिसमे ऐब हो इतना और समझ हो थोडी
बदलेगा कब तू अपने जहाँ को
फूल-पत्ते भी हुए कुरबान फिजा को
जल गए हम ख़ाक हुई खुशियाँ
मुखातिब है तुझसे, दीदार हो दीदार हो!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The simmering cauldron

Spread a map of India in front of you; close your eyes and place your finger anywhere on the map. Note the name of the place and look up the same on Google; eight out of ten cases the place must have been in news for some or the other violent outbreak. Such has been the increase of intolerance that it seems the diversity which drives this nation is proving a bane of her existence. What is it that afflicts India? We have forgotten to live in peace. In fact I doubt whether we ever lived in peace. These days we fight among ourselves, decades back we fought against imperialists, go back further and again you find that the princely states used to fight among themselves. Is this a vicious cycle which is waiting to repeat itself? Are we preparing, unwittingly, to enslave ourselves in another form of imperialism? This isn't a figment of my imagination because I find it hard to believe that the collective wisdom of our political leaders won't be ridden with fault lines when the same lot refuses to rise above party lines on national issues.
This myopic vision of our leaders which fails to see the strife afflicted people as an impediment to the realization of India as a modern and strong nation has been on display quite prominently in recent times. Take for example the Amarnath land row. Just how opportunistic political parties can be to score brownie points against each other is a tale in itself. This is a classic example of parties becoming victims of their regional aspirations. But what explains the behavior of national parties which preferred sitting on the issue while their sister organizations went on a rampage? That they still wear the badge of 'national party' is hypocrisy of the highest order. The State should have inspired confidence in people but here there has been a complete failure. People are brazenly demanding 'freedom' and are not hesitating to display their mutinous tendencies. Certain elements in the Valley have seized onto this moment of inactivity shown by the government, both Central and local, and have further fanned the fury of misguided and disgruntled youth. While a certain 'national' party announces nation wide 'bandhs' and supports the violence perpetrated by its party members, notorious terrorists rejoice and unabashedly announce that the party in question has served the purpose of the terrorists more than any body else!
How can a nation fulfill its aspirations of becoming a global leader when her people are not ready to mingle among themselves? Mumbai has annual floods, has plenty of potholes to discourage anyone from buying vehicles, but still certain politicians prefer spending time and effort on finding who is not upholding the Marathi cause, who does not owe allegiance to the city and dares to call some other place as his home. We choke Tasleema and Hussain from expressing themselves. We burn down Churches to prevent them from converting people while conveniently forgetting that it were the missionaries who had attended to such people in their times of need.
Sometimes I think what personalities Gandhi and Nehru must have been. They were at a time when Indians were most vulnerable to get misled by external and divisive forces. That the nation survived and grew emboldened along with its aspirations seeded by her leaders is remarkable. The overarching personalities of Gandhi and Nehru inspired generations which tried to emulate the principles these leaders stood for. But a look at the present political class makes me hang my head in shame. What is the political leader of today teaching us? The political leader cheats on his ally to stay in power in Karnataka. The political leader drives the industry out and ruins the chances of WB to progress. The political leader imprisons her rival out of personal vendetta. The political leader orchestrates a massacre and walks with his head high. The political leader barters his vote for a cabinet post on an issue which he has no knowledge of. That political leader was elected by us - a shame we have inflicted upon ourselves! A nation which traditionally has been a worshipper of heroes now suddenly finds itself staring at a lot which occupies the highest pedestals in public life but have the lowest of moral values. After all those years of struggle and strenuous efforts to build a nation if our forefathers were to visit us from heaven they would again die a second death at the decadence the polity presents today.
India has become a cauldron of emotions that simmers today. Venal chefs stir the emotions and add deadly herbs to serve their purpose. The fire below the cauldron gets fed continuously to keep the brew simmering. I fear at the thought of what's cooking.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

कुछ रंग और मैं बेरंग

जिंदगी किसी काली सियाही
से लिख रही है मुझको
कोइ मिट्टी का बर्तन हो जैसे
कुछ रंगों का इंतज़ार है जिसको

एक सौदा था
कुछ रंगों की ख्वाहिश थी
उन रंगों में एक काला भी था
ये ख्याल न रहा हमको

अब जिरह भी करूँ तो किस्से
अब वफाह की उम्मीद भी किस्से
मेरा जिंदा अब थक चला
एक बेबसी रही और बह चला
जहाँ ये भीढ़ ले जाए
कहाँ ये भीढ़ ले जाए
मैं खुद बे-निशाँ हूँ अबतो

मेरे हालात अब बेरंग हो चले
नाउम्मीद अब जुदा हो चले
तमन्ना भी हमें
बे-वफाह करारे है
उतरे है कांधों से
और तलाशे है किसी और को

कुछ आँसू और सूख गए
कुछ आँसू और भीग गए
एक सैलाब अब ऊफ्फान पे है
दिल का बाँध अब टूटे
ये खौफ में है
जिंदगी तेरी अनबन
मुझे मेहेंगी पढ़ी
खुशी न सही
एक मुस्कान ही दिला अब तो

Friday, June 27, 2008

A 'green' experience

A few days ago a movie making competition was announced. The topic was Environment friendly X. 'X' being my company where i work. The following is the script or call it the story on which the movie was made. Its a small one - tailored to fit into 7 mins of time. It isn't such a masterpiece (wrote a better one before this, read 'My angel has died'), but what is interesting here is the execution of the movie. The characters as you would come to know are not played by humans but rather depicted by fingers. Our entire 'studio' was a small whiteboard on which a white paper was put. Hands had been 'dressed' up in surgical gloves applied with paint - black, green and white. The best part was the use of mobile phones and small LED torches for lights. It was a good experience. And, yesterday i had my first encounter with the high tech gadgetry that is involved in movie making. I had been to a editing studio to dub my voice for the character 'green'. Today the second phase of editing will start where the audio and video clips would be spliced together. Let's hope something nice comes out of this. Here's the story:
...Ages ago, mighty forces created a place called Earth. The earth was ruled by Emperor Green. Verdant, pure and healthy; his glory was in the flight of birds, the rush of rivers and the smell of soil. The sylvan empire attracted many – some small, some big, some young, some old; and it became a home for all. All was peace until one dark day, King Black invaded with his forces and lay siege to the empire. A pitched battle followed where Green fought the Black with all his might but soon his powers started waning and he got bruised and hurt. Green was losing!
Green, panting, ‘Who are you and what do you want?’
‘Your time is up Green. I shall rule the Earth. This Earth shall be mine and so shall be your subjects’, said Black.
‘I won’t let that happen. My subjects shall never bow before you.’
‘I laugh at your innocence Green. It is your subjects who have called me. Look around. Your subjects have changed everything. They have cut your trees. They pollute the air. Your water is deadly. They are my slaves already!’
Watching the battle from a distance, X knitted its brows in concern. Something needs to be done. He joined forces with Green to fight the Black. Green surprised at this intrusion asked, ‘Who are you?’
‘My name is X.’
‘Why are you helping me?’
‘Don’t be afraid I am your friend.’
Black, ‘Hello! Who do we have here!? X! I think I have heard about you. Aren’t you the one who has stepped up the efforts to become Carbon neutral!?’
‘Yes I am the one. And it is not just about going Carbon neutral, we are a front-runner in implementing environmental-friendly practices’
‘I can’t believe I have a supporter here’, a surprised Green said.
X said, ‘Don’t be surprised my friend. I have stories to prove my loyalty to you.’
‘Once upon a time there was a SE called Tom. He had a curse on him that he shall waste electricity. He would not shut down the pc, keep the lights on and the fans running. And when it came to my notice, my green army went to him and made him aware of his doings. Today, at X people take care to save power.’
‘That was good of you. People don’t realize how much it hurts me when they waste power.’
‘And that’s not all. Tom had other things to learn too. He had picked up the bad habit of wasting paper. Unnecessary print outs and thoughtless use of writing paper was fun for him. We taught him about reusing paper and that wastage of paper means killing of trees.’
A frowning Black said, ‘Do you think that will be enough?’
‘We have at least made a start. Come to our campuses and you shall find that we even recycle waste water to be used in gardening and cleaning purposes. We have adopted the practice of rain harvesting too. Our buildings are energy efficient. We paint our buildings in pastel shades, to reflect heat. There are also skylights for the optimal use of sunlight.’
Black chuckled. ‘Plenty of stories! But of what use, eh X!? As long as people like Tom are there things shan’t change.’
‘Yes,’ inquired Green, ‘what happened of Tom? Did he change? Or did he go back to his old ways?’
X smiled. ‘You would be happy to know that Tom has gone green and these days he spreads the message of environment friendly practices.’
‘Damn!’ said Black. ‘But I won’t let you win.’
‘You are mistaken Black’, said Green now regaining strength, ‘As long as people like X are with me the game shall stay balanced.’
The game is balanced. Which side are you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

भीगा भीगा मौसम

आज मौसम फिर भीग गया…
सर्द हवाएं कुछ कह रही हैं
दिल में कुछ अरमान फिर जाग उठे
आज उड़ने को जी करता है…
कहीं दूर बहुत दूर
इन बादलों पे सवार
हाथों में हाथ
कुछ परिंदों के साथ
दूर बहुत दूर उड़ने को जी करता है…
मीठा है बारिश का पानी
ठंडी है इसकी छुअन
इस पानी की थिरकन पे
कुछ गाने को दिल करता है
हवाओं के ज़ोर पे
दूर बहुत दूर उड़ने को जी करता है…
मैंने अपनी आंखें बंद करलीं
सिर्फ एक एहसास जगा रखा है
कभी खुशबू, कभी सौंधी ज़मीन
के होने का पता चलता है
इन दरख्तों की मस्ती में खेलूँ
झरने की किलकारियों से कहूं
आज सावन में भीगने को जी करता है
दूर बहुत दूर उड़ने को जी करता है…
बाहें फैलाये मैं खड़ा हूँ
हवाओं ने मुझे अपनी आगोश में लिया है
चेहरे पे टपकती बूंदे मुझे भिगो रही हैं
मेरे गम कतरा कतरा ज़मीन में बह रहे हैं
मैं ज़र्रा ज़र्रा खुश हो रहा हूँ
जैसे होश से जुदा होता है कोई
मैं अपनी बेहोशी में कुछ कह रहा हूँ
इस रस में भीग जाऊं आज
बे-फिक्र, बे-राह, बे-रोक
बस उड़ता चलूँ आज
दूर बहुत दूर…
कहीं दूर बहुत दूर…


"I don't think the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government can ever reach a decision. The Congress party has two mouths and is playing a double game. I really wish L K Advani becomes India's next Prime Minister as he is the only one who can take a decision and hang me. At least my pain and daily suffering would ease then."
Afzal, who has been convicted in the December 13 attack on Parliament, has cried for attention. The BJP and a section of media have responded with alacrity by voicing their perplexity at the delay caused by the UPA government in executing the death penalty. The others have clamored against this ‘blood lust’ and are appalled by the insensitivity shown in this case.
I haven’t followed the Afzal episode very closely and so cannot afford any observation here; but, certainly, after going through some of the stuff thrown up by Google there seems to me that there is sufficient doubt with regards to the execution of the case and there is quite a sizeable community out there which is voicing its concern over this issue.
But even if we assume that Afzal is indeed guilty and that the death penalty in his case is justified, isn’t it going bit too far by constantly asking for his death, and pushing him in front of others who are waiting for their turn at the hangman’s? He has filed a petition before the President asking for clemency and there are many other clemency appeals along with his. Can’t we just wait a little longer before a decision is taken on this matter? Why, indeed, this ‘blood lust’?
There are so many angles to this issue that it does deserve more than a cursory look. Should Afzal’s hanging be demanded when on the other hand a pardon is being sought for Sarabjit? Sarabjit Singh has been held guilty for bombings in Lahore and Multan in 1990 that left 14 people dead. He was to be executed on April 30. However, the intervention of the Indian government led to the execution being postponed by Pakistan. Afzal is convicted for conspiracy and treason against the Indian State. The Supreme Court says that, "…the incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender." This, even after there are plenty of questions still unanswered in Afzal’s prosecution case. What happens to the collective conscience of the society when after some years of hanging Afzal it comes to light that he was actually innocent?
As said earlier, even if Afzal’s guilt is corroborated, his execution before others in the list seems totally unexplicable. A death penalty is given in the rarest of rare case. So, if there are twenty people who have been awarded the death sentence; each of the twenty crimes must have been of the highest order deserving such a sentence. Now to pick and choose one among them for a prior execution over others defeats the very premise on which a death sentence is awarded. The moment Afzal’s execution is pushed up the order on the executioner’s list; the nature of Afzal’s crime would be deemed to be far more serious thus implying that the rest of the convicts did not commit a ‘rarest of rare’ crime! It is absurd to first classify a crime as ‘rarest of rare’ and then again choose from such the ‘rarest of the rarest of rare’. The fact that the parliament, the heart of Indian democracy, was attacked is not reason enough for an early execution of Afzal. This fact does not make Afzal’s case any more special than that of the person, ahead of him on the death list, who might have brutally killed someone thus earning a death penalty for himself.
It doesn’t smell fishy here. Rather, it stinks of cheap politics. Afzal’s fate has too many threads attached to it. There is the threat of making a martyr out of him if he gets hanged. This would be too hot to handle in the already volatile Kashmir. Letting him off with a life sentence might appear as an act of vote bank politics; and at the same time not letting him off might also result the same with only the difference that the vote bank will now appear saffron instead of green.
In all this, the fight for providing Afzal a just trial has been lost. What awaits him is indeed a matter of conjecture.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The extraordinary leagues

"Cricket is officially played in whites…" Not any more. It’s not just the colors that have invaded the gentleman’s game but cute girls too in teeny-weeny clothes and stylish pom-poms have found a place in the field. IPL has changed every thing. Or at least the myths surrounding the format of the game have definitely got shattered. A whirlwind romance which started on the weekending April 18th ended on a high with the least expected team lifting the trophy!
IPL started more as a necessity than as an invention on its own. The rival ICL needs to be given some credit for its brave foray that brought the BCCI in a huddle to spawn the IPL. It is interesting to note here that the man credited to have spun the magic of IPL, Lalit Modi, had in fact mooted the idea of a city based league almost a decade ago. But as it happened, nothing came out of it. Call it vindication or luck, IPL in all its Eastman colors has catapulted Modi to never before stardom. And Modi’s efforts too have not gone unnoticed. In almost every match Modi could be spotted near the player’s dugout. Even during the presentation ceremony of the final match he acted almost like an attendant handing out the medals and mementos to the BCCI chief who did the formalities of congratulating the players and the officials.
Coming back to ICL, the one factor which made the difference for IPL vis-à-vis ICL was that it was not a rebel. IPL was very much within the system of BCCI and thus had the all important official sanction to convince other cricket boards to allow their players to join the league. The financial might of the board was another factor on which the IPL rode to success. Modi and his team did not just hijack the initial roll of ICL but outdid it in every scope and manner. Whereas the ICL was just happy in offering the novelty of T20 cricket in a city based league format, IPL joined hands with Bollywood to present the ‘manoranjan ka baap’. Two biggest entertainers of the country were synergizing together to dole out 45 days of unrelenting thrill and drama. ICL naturally had to bow out even before the action had started. Subash Chandra might have indeed wished more but ICL failed to dish any, other than the fact that the person so often seen quipping these lines is the owner of one of the most profitable IPL teams.
IPL has created such an aura about itself that to create a space beside it would take a lot from the ICL. Again, since IPL in its success has made the ICL appear such a failed cousin, Bollywood stars might shy away from lending their glamour as also the corporate which would do a lot of thinking before putting its money in the beleaguered league. Also, with the ICC making it difficult for a contracted player to join the rebel league; any possibility, even if remote, of players joining ICL has been further weakened by the lucre on offer from the IPL.
So is this the end of ICL? I don’t think so. Prior to IPL, ICL had two tournaments of T20 cricket and the second tournament was quite a success after the inclusion of Lahore Badshahs in its portfolio of teams. The inclusion of an all-Pakistani outfit in ICL brought back the flavor of an Indo-Pak rivalry to the cricket field. This is something which is missing in the IPL. ICL should look to leverage more form this ‘extra’ and take the competition to a different level. Another idea which has come up is that of the ICL champions playing against the IPL winners. This won’t happen unless ICL gains in stature and repute on a par with IPL, else the only beneficiary in such an arrangement would be ICL, and IPL won’t like to see ICL get attention by riding on the former’s fame. So what should Subash Chandra do? Take the ICL to Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and extend the idea of Lahore Badshahs by having similar Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi outfits. Getting the playing fields could be a problem but just as in India where not all cricket fields are under BCCI, fields in these countries which are not under the control of their respective boards could be used for ICL matches. If required, ICL could even try getting couple of fields from the cricket boards by buying them on lease. Corporate of these countries might also take interest in this venture after having seen the success of IPL. Local celebrities can be pulled into to add color.
ICL should pull out all stops to stand up as tall as IPL otherwise the Darwinian truth might not take long to consume it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Koi Bole Ram Ram Koi Khudaye...

She bows her head in reverence as she walks past the temple. There is a hospital adjoining the temple. Her husband is getting treated there. Later in the day, she visits the temple to pay her obeisance. She is a Sikh.
Lord Ganesh is reclining in a corner. People are waiting anxiously for their beloved to get better and healthy. This is the waiting hall of the hospital adjoining the temple. Encased in glass, He observes the people around Him with His tiny wooden eyes. Among the many there is a pair of eyes which seems to be fixed on Him. The pair completes the face of a woman whose cheeks have marks of dried tears. Her head is resting against the wall and her hands are on her lap. The fingers of her hands are touching each other but it’s an incomplete attempt to come together in a prayer. Unblinking and relentless in their plea her eyes stare at Him. It’s a strange communion. And if eyes could have spoken then people would have heard her reciting the Koran. She is a Muslim.
An attendant calls out a name. A throaty voice acknowledges from back of the room. A familiar sound of feet shifting to find their place in slippers, and a crackle of a plastic bag being searched, prelude the slow drag of feet on the floor. He is old and his skin is weather beaten. He moves with a slight bend of his back and holds a plastic bag in one hand. The cotton shirt which he wears hangs from his body and is almost weary of its own existence. There is a small bottle kept in his shirt pocket. The weight of the bottle pulls the shirt further down. But what is there in that bottle? As if to shield it from prying eyes, his hand immediately rises up to clutch at the bottle. The bottle is precious to him. It is far more precious for his son. The bottle contains the holy rose water from the Ajmer Sharif. It was Urs – the Union, last week when he got the rose water. People had thronged the shrine. Devout hands had washed the shrine with rose water. And as if to complete the Union they drank the water which was so fortunate to have cleansed the floors of the shrine. In order to take the water home, people had used handkerchiefs and small towels to soak up the water from the wet floors. The wet cloth was then wrung to extract the water into a bottle. He had done the same. He is a Hindu.
Some hundred kilometers away, a town in central Gujrat is witnessing the murder of a six months pregnant woman. The woman is returning home. Riots have broken out and she is finding it hard to get a safe way through the prevailing chaos. Which route should she take? Her home is just a block away. She takes a right. The street appears to be empty and is a bit hidden so she should be safe. She enters the street and starts running towards the other end. Just one more turn and then across the main road lies her safety. She should be able to make it. She curses under her breath the people who have precipitated this violence. And then curses that moment when she had stepped out from her house to meet her tailor. But her thoughts come to a sudden halt when a man springs in front of her and blocks her way. He is holding a sword. The entire scene is so unreal that the horror of the situation takes some time to register. She takes a few steps back and is about to run when the man yanks her back by her hair and pulls her close to him. She cries for mercy but he chokes her to silence. It’s high time that you people are taught a lesson! Her resistance is no match for his brute force. He invokes the name of his Lord and proceeds to prevail over her where he denies her of her modesty and finally of her life. The man leaves behind the dying woman and walks away carrying the blood smeared sword now thirsty for more. Drops of blood falling on the ground leave behind a trail with one end leading to madness and the other end leading to fate. In her dying moments the woman touches the blood oozing out from her stomach and wets her lips with it. That was the only way that she could have kissed her unborn child. The child is perhaps fortunate to have had a premature end; fortunate because it would have died a thousand times over in its lifetime suffering wounds of rebuke and derision inflicted by hate and malice. The child would have born a Muslim. The Hindu sword saved at least this pain.

The above account is a piece of fiction, but one can’t help reading truth in those lines. At times a panacea, at times an anathema, religion perhaps is the greatest irony today.
A famous ghazal by Sudarshan Faakir comes to my mind -
aaj ke daur mein ae dost ye manzar kyoon hai.
zakhm har sar pe har ik haath mein paththar kyoon hai
jab haqeeqat hai ke har zarre mein tu rehta hai
fir zamin par kahin masjid kahin mandir kyoon hai
apna anjaam to maaloom hai sabko phir bhi
apnee nazron mein har insaan sikandar kyoon hai
zindagi jeene ke qaabil hi nahin ab "Faakir"
warna har aankh mein ashkon ka samandar kyoon hai

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Divine Connect

I hate missing dates of important things. And something as important as a beauty pageant is worth keeping track of. So, I am thankful to TOI of reminding me that the Miss India pageant is round the corner. As much interest as the approaching pageant shall generate, the pageantry of last year also drew a lot of interest, and in particular the Ms Universe pageant that kept me enthralled for the reasons which you, my dear readers, shall get to know in the following text. Allow me to relive those moments which till now were privy to me but shall be made known for the greater good of mankind.
29th May’07:“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Never used to believe in this, until today when I got up at the twilight hour of 7 this morning.
When the whole world was snoring I braved the lingering sleep in my eyes, drove it away, and left the warmth of my bed. It was a call of duty. I entered the darkness of the living room and almost every object there questioned my presence at that unearthly hour. The hostility was palpable. By then the remote was already there in my hands. I pressed the button and the TV blinked to life. Tulsi was still crying. A few channels up and I found my senses alert. This is what I was looking for. Every image on the screen was screaming for attention. I pulled a chair close to the TV, adjusted my glasses, and sat down to focus my senses on the unfolding saga - swimwear round of Ms Universe 2007. Puja was walking towards me. Stunningly beautiful she had all of me arrested in a state of awe. God must have taken at least a hundred years before he approved of this creation. I took in all of her in my eyes and closed them shut lest she escaped. There she was standing before me in all her splendor. This is love! Finally it had happened. I could feel my heart fluttering away. She smiled at me and I blushed. In moments she walked into my arms and confessed her love for me.
I opened my eyes. She was still standing there. The camera panned to the next contestant. My heart skipped a beat. Ms Mexico was oozing her charm and beauty from every pixel of the screen. Chiseled to perfection, with looks to die for, her hair making Mexican waves stole their way to my heart. For a moment we both stared at each other. I could feel the divine connect between us. Now this has to be love! Hardly had we settled happily ever after when Ms Philippines stepped into the screen. Puja and the Mexican lass got eclipsed. The confusion in my heart cleared; and I understood that the divine connect was actually meant for Ms Philippines. She cavorted and danced her way to my soul. My existence had suddenly found its meaning. No sooner had this realization donned on me than I found myself reconsidering my precious divine connect to Ms Philippines. Ms Australia with her dainty presence filled life into the lifeless idiot box and corrected the anomaly of the divine connect.
Rest of the story is too mushy to be relived publicly. All I can share is that I found true love on almost ten occasions and the divine connect last remembered was with Ms Brazil.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A disturbing contrast.

This was written quite some time ago. I was rummaging through the pc when this peeped through a pile of documents and begged for a place in the sacrosanct blog. So there you are, happy reading and of course comments are invited.

India is proud of its diversity and of its unique contrast in almost every aspect of life. This statement reflects the pride in an Indian emigrant’s eyes and is hardly a truth for a resident who lives in the present state of affairs. Where would you find pride when there is hostility between groups; groups which keep on redefining themselves sometimes on the basis of religion, sometimes caste, sometimes language, and sometimes region. It’s such a pity that while a RamSetu bridged two lands, the same is now a device to dig a gulf between people.
However, in this entire chaos one shouldn’t miss the remarkable trait of resilience which an Indian bears on his character. At a time when nothing seems to unite us, a fictional battle on an astro-turf brought forth a new anthem of unification – Chak De! And then a heady and a surreal win in the T20 brought together an entire nation in elevating a bunch of mortals to the pedestal of mythical heroes. As if this were not enough the sensex came round from its phobia of heights and soared to a new high of 17k bringing in its wake a national delirium. It’s really been raining goodies this monsoon!
But allay thy ecstasy. The typical Indian contrast which gets toasted around the world has been extended to the field of sports too.
Amidst this roar of celebration there is a voice of resent. Our hockey players have felt slighted at the ‘step-motherly’ treatment meted out to them. There are enough details in the following to tell you why.

Here are some of the awards announced for the Indian Cricket team for their T20 victory.
Ø Rs 2 crores as a tournament prize.
Ø Rs 8 crores from BCCI for winning the final.
Ø Rs 4 crores from BCCI for reaching the final.
Ø Rs 1 crore for Yuvraj singh from BCCI.
Ø Cash awards upto Rs 21 lakhs from all the governments of states from where the players belong.
Ø Rs 3 lakhs to Uthappa from the Kerala government just for the reason that his mother is from Kerala.
Ø Flats worth Rs 25 lakhs from Sahara.
Ø A new award, 'Jharkhand Ratna' introduced for the first time and presented to Dhoni for making the state proud on the 7th foundation day celebration of the state on November 15 at Ranchi.
Ø Special News Bulletin, Editions and Highlights in almost all the TV news channels through out the night.
Ø Special News Editions, Cover stories and Posters in almost all the News Papers for the next two days.
Ø Heroes' welcome in Mumbai.
Ø Welcome by the Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Deputy CM R R Patil and their Cabinet colleagues.
Ø 30 km long victory procession that lasted over five hours.

We won the Asia cup Hockey a couple of weeks ago.
Specific Features of this victory.
Ø We did not lose a single match.
Ø We defeated the strongest team - South Korea, twice in the tournament - League and Final.
Ø We defeated South Korea in the final by 7-2 which is one of the biggest margins in finals.
Ø We scored in all 56 goals and gave away just 5 goals in the 7 matches that we played.
Ø We scored 20 goals in a single match against Sri Lanka and did not even give away a single goal. This equaled the highest margin of victory in Asia cup record.
Ø We remained the lone team to maintain our slate clean (Rare all-win record at pool stage) among 11 teams and topped the tough six-team Pool B.

Rewards for this victory.
Ø Individual greeting messages by Our Honorable President.
Ø For the news channels and papers, it's just a news.
Ø IHF had announced an incentive for the team where they would receive Rs 1000 for every goal scored, and lose Rs 2000 for every goal conceded.
Ø The state governments did not even sent a congratulatory note.
Ø No Airplanes for them to Travel to their Cities. Only by Local trains, and then by Autorickshaws and Taxis did they reach their Places in Bangalore.

There are various reasons why Hockey and other sports has been discriminated vis-à-vis cricket. Prominent among them is the fact that these are not glamorous and do not attract much viewer ship. Some say that the lack of major wins under their belt is a cause for Indian Hockey’s poor standing in front of cricket. As mentioned earlier, there are a numerous reasons which lead to the same sorry conclusion about hockey in our country, but the question is what needs to be done? Easiest would be to take away the tag of ‘National Sport’ from hockey. That would help in easily disregarding any cribs from the hockey fraternity. But then can we forget that this was the game which brought India 8 gold medals in Olympics, six of them in consecutive editions of the Games. So what can be done?
I think what Indian Hockey needs is a double dose of corporate sponsorship. Political influence would be hard to remove and a parallel League – the kind, of which we are seeing in cricket, might rob away the chance from a player to play for his country. Big corporate sponsorships would increase the required media visibility and popularize the game. One might argue that nobody watches a bunch of losers. But that’s a lie. Every one watches the Indian cricket team play even if it gets badly bruised and beaten. Sponsorships would also mean an access to better training facilities. We shouldn’t be expecting an overnight change in the performance of the team, but certainly that’s the way to go about it. A corporate sponsorship will not just help in getting world class facilities, rewards, and endorsements to the hockey players but would also bring in a lot of responsibility and accountability on the players. Just as the cricket players are mauled for their poor performances, the hockey players who till now were finding criticism in the form of a small editorial paragraph in the newspaper, would now be brought under the spotlight and their poor show would no longer escape the public eye.

Friday, February 15, 2008


ख़ुद से झूझता हूँ मैं
कभी रास्ता कभी मंज़िल
ढूँढता हूँ मैं
ये सफर अधूरा न रह जाए कहीं
इस का फल्सफाह
ढूँढता हूँ मैं

फ़िर उनके बीच खड़ा हूँ आज
जहाँ मेरा कोई नहीं
जैसे परिंदा कोई
आस्मान में हो
पर आस्मान अब उसका नहीं

कैसे रास्ते हैं ये
जिन्पे चलना है मुझे
बस कांटे और पत्थर
और धुंध के हैं परदे
इन परदों के पीछे
किसी धोखे की तरह
छुपा है चेहरा
जिसके होठों पे है तबस्सुम
पर ज़हर है ज़ुबाँ पे

अब तो आईना भी है पराया
कल तक था जिसमे मैं
वहाँ अब गैरों का सामान आया
मेरी तरह दिखता है वो
मेरी तरह बोलता है वो
पर जाने क्या खेल है ये
कि जब रोता हूँ मैं
तब हस्ता है वो…

Monday, January 28, 2008

Due to Kumble...

Has Kumble got his due? That’s the question which plagued the Indian cricket fraternity for quite some time. Interestingly, the question came up at a time when he was made the captain. Though the announcement of his captaincy was suspect of having a lot to do with the prevailing conditions, that the choice was ever made had nothing to do with redeeming Kumble his worth. There wasn’t any candidate who could have been given the job. Any question of bringing Dravid back, was a no-no, given the fact that he had ruffled few feathers – in the wrong quarters, after announcing his sudden decision of not continuing as the captain. With Ganguly’s inclusion in the team itself being a millon dollar question, there wasn’t any chance of him regaining the captaincy. Tendulkar is better off as a player, which even he has realized, and particularly after hitting such a good form he wouldn’t have entertained the thought of captaincy. The only possible claimant to the title could have been Dhoni. But a twenty-twenty victory isn’t enough to prove your worth. Test cricket is a different game all together - not just in its format, but the grit and gumption required here is way more than what is required in a 20-20 match. And then again, Dhoni has to prove himself in the Test format. He needs to be groomed before he can be looked upon as a worthy successor. So was there anybody else left for the job? It had to be Kumble!
All said and done, the question whether Kumble ever got his due, still manages to re-surface. Quite often, it is said that he is a far under-celebrated player vis-à-vis the likes of Tendulkars or Dravids. Even upstarts in the team have claimed more fame than Kumble. Six sixes of Yuvraj can earn him a place in the test squad, but a surreal ten wicket haul is not enough for assuring Kumble his place in the team! But really, is there a question at all to ask whether Kumble ever got his due? His captaincy might help him earn a better farewell, but the accolades which his loyalists want for him might remain as real as a dream.
Cricket has always been a batsman’s game. Is there any bowler who has been toasted more than a batsman? One might argue by putting forward names like – Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Muralitharan, McGrath, etc.; but therein lies the rub. Warne comes from a place not known to produce quality spinners. That he mastered the craft of spin has made him a legend but his legend doesn’t stand any taller than that of the Don or even Steve Waugh. McGrath owes much of his success to his team, particularly to Warne who bowled with him in tandem. But even the ability to keep that nagging line and length in place hasn’t fetched McGrath more praise than others. It’s the oddity of being a quality spinner from a place which usually produces fast bowlers that pushed Warne a notch higher than the rest. Similarly, in the case of much talked about Monty Panesar it’s the peculiarity of the fact that, in the English conditions where normally the seamers are more effective it’s a spinner who has managed to trouble the batsmen by a few degrees more; otherwise, England, certainly, has seen far better bowlers than Monty whose Test average is indeed very average. In the sub-continent, Murali came to hog the attention not before he had started breaking records, and was right at the top when he went on to carve some space for himself beside Jayasuriya, Ranatunga, DeSilva, etc. Same is the case with Wasim Akram, who despite the spin friendly conditions in the sub-continent managed to come good as a fast bowler. He emerged as a hero not only for his immense talent, but also for the fact that the sub-continent which has been home to some of the most sly spin bowlers had never seen such a fine pace bowler. This feat though exemplar, is not toasted any more than the six on the last ball by Miandad or the heroics of Inzamam.
Even if this argument is conceded that there are bowlers who have their legend on a par with batsmen, what cannot be ignored is that the legend gains prominence only when an ultimate milestone is crossed, whether at the national or international level. Until then the bowler remains under the shadows of the batsmen who rule the game. A lot has to do with the way the game is perceived. Cricket in its present form is biased towards batsmen by offering them plenty of opportunities to mark successes. A batsman is received well whenever he hits a half-century or a century. Similar opportunities are not present for the bowler. A three wicket haul or a fiver often changes the course of a match but the crowd rarely acknowledges it as a special effort. A bowler hardly gets his due when he could be bowling his heart out but without any wicket to his name. It is this phenomenon of ‘immediate recognition’ reserved only for the batsmen that creates the difference. So acute is this phenomenon that even a four or a six fetches a rapturous applause from the crowd but never so on a probing maiden over from a bowler. Somehow a three wicket haul is not as same as a half-century or a fiver same as a century. The spectator as unmindful as a cow on an Indian street doesn’t accord importance to a good spell from a bowler. But why talk only about the bowlers when behind the stumps the wicket keeper could be a real gem or the fielder at point might be absolutely brilliant. The cliché of the unsung hero cannot be better placed anywhere else.
The tragedy of the game is that the scoreboard doesn’t have enough space to register the efforts of a player; it only manages to squeeze in the match summary.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Angel has Died

My Angel has died; I walk alone…
There is nary a soul; my heart is stone...

kis ko aati hai masihaayee kise aawaaz doon
bol ae' khoonkhaar tanhaayee kise aawaaz doon

It’s past midnight and I am going to the office. I look up at the sky. Stars look unfamiliar to me. My eyes are used to electric lights. I discern only the road lights – bright and shiny. These are my stars.

oof khamoshi ki ye aahen dil ko barmaati huyee
oof ye sannaate ki shehnaayee kise awaaz doon

I enter the office building. The guard smiles at me. He never forgets to greet me.

It’s been two months now that we have started sharing the same hours. He stands at guard from midnight till morning – ever so diligent, ever so alert; while I sit in my cubicle from midnight till morning peering into the emptiness of an unknown world they call windows.

chup rahoon to har nafas dasta hai naagan ki tarah
aah bharne mein hai ruswaayee kise awaaz doon

I stand in front of the lift. I press the button and as if roused from sleep the lift yawns open to let me in.

The lift makes me feel fly. Earth looks good from top.
I have known earth only from top - from inside the lift.

My earth has lush grass but I don’t walk on it. My earth has trees swinging in arms, and leaves playing in the wind. But I never feel the breeze through my hair.

I don’t even remember when I last smelled a rose.

tabiyat in dinon begaana-e-gham hoti jaati hai
mere hisse ki goya har khushi kam hoti jaati hai

I sit alone in my cubicle; alone in the office.
My pc is staring at me. I stare back at it. It’s a game we’ve been playing for long.
I’ve never won it. My eyes grow tired. They pain, but the pc still stares at me.

The Outlook pops. I need to make a call to onsite.

The call connects. The phone at other end is ringing. The incessant drone of the phone is getting louder. It echoes inside my brain. Is he there?

“You have reached the voice-mail…”

It’s so irritating! I came all the way from my home and that too at this hour of midnight, only to reach the voice-mail!

Did I say home? Or should I be saying 'room'?

Should I say I came all the way from my room?

It isn’t my home. It’s just a room.
I left my home years ago.
I left my mom, my dad, my sister, my brother.

And I do them a favor by paying them a visit every Diwali.

My fingers start punching the numbers on the phone. My mind is numb but still my fingers move. They don’t need any guidance. They find there way on their own.

I again dial the number.
“You have reached the voice-mail…”
He is not there.

“Hey, I heard you had a great time last night! How was the party?”

This was two days ago.
We had a project party. Drinks flowed, jokes cracked, and mood was high. People laughed, and they had fun. I looked around and saw smiling faces, and bright eyes; but nothing seemed real.
The laughter rang hollow. The eyes belied the truth which was all too visible.

The undercurrent of desperation as pints of liquor- the latest elixir of life got drained in an effort to escape from a world which straitjackets us into a mechanical rhythm minus feelings minus heart minus warmth was writ large on every face.

In those three hours we were trying to escape this world and float away into emptiness.

qayamat kya! ye ai husn-e-do-aalam hoti jaati hai
ke mehfil to wahi hai dilkashi kam hoti jaati hai

I will wait a while before calling him again.

What did she say this morning? How could she say so?
Doesn’t she know how busy I am? I forgot her birthday. So what?
People do forget things.

We had met last winter.
She had been standing behind me waiting for me to open the door. She didn’t have her ID and I was talking over the phone.
I again saw her at the cafeteria. She saw me and there was the faintest of a smile on her face. My heart missed a beat. I knew I was smitten.

Those were good days.

Then one day the bond snapped.
I had been staying up nights at the office for quite some time then. The schedule started taking its toll.
The spite within me welled up.

And it slowly spilled over.

What seemed as a smooth china clay now had a crack which no matter what could not be erased.

wahi hai shaahid-o-saaqi magar dil bujhta jaata hai
wahi hai shamma lekin roshni kam hoti jaati hai

I look at the mail. Should I call again?
My fingers have dialed the number. I am waiting for him to answer the call.
“You have reached the voice-mail…”

Why did I come? Why do I ever come?

I shut down the pc. The monitor blinks off.
I get up and move towards the door.

The door of the lift opens. But I won’t take the lift. I head towards the stairs. It’s been a long time since I took the stairs. Why I never did so, I don’t know. It’s taking time to get down, and I feel tired. I sit down on the stairs.

Why do people take the lift and not the stairs? Is it because it is fast? Do you really save time if you take the lift!? Is there a race on?
It’s a rat race. And you need to win it. This is the maxim which rules the world. But where am I in this? Even if I win this race, I’ll still be a rat.

The marble on which I sit is cold.
And cold is this world. A lifeless, colorless, and a cold desert; where, it seems like one is running after a mirage that leads to another, and another in a never ending search for bliss.

I look at my hands.

Mere haathon ki chaho to talaashi le lo
Mere haathon mein lakiron ke siva aur kuch bhi nahi.

There’s my life-line. Broken and cut into pieces; just as torn as my life is today.

Itne hisson mein bat chukka hun main
Mere hisse mein kuch bacha hi nahi

I labor through those pieces, stepping from one piece to the other, knowing not when I left behind my innocence, knowing not when I stepped into chicanery.

I feel like crying.
But barren are these eyes which in an attempt so helpless to well up tears manage only a heartless dry smoke to escape my eyes.

I walk out of the building and head towards my bike.

I have reached my room. There is no electricity.
I grope in the dark feeling for some support. My hands fumble for my cell phone. I switch on the phone and the light falls on my desk. There is a candle kept on it. A mask I had bought a few days ago lies beside it.
The peculiar angle of the light makes the mask look weird - a toothless grin on a formless stretch of skin.

I lie down and stare at the candle which burns by my bed.
The wax drips from the sides of the candle as it burns. The flame is struggling to stay alive as it fights the surrounding darkness. It flickers; ducks and almost dies, but there is still a timid flame alive. I can feel the Darkness sneer at the flame. It is wearing my mask. It chuckles with the toothless grin on its face as it lurks behind with its evil cloak ready to snuff out the life of the flame.

The lone flame in the room is fighting a losing battle. It is shy of growing back to its full strength. A tear of wax wells up by the flame. Slowly, almost reluctantly it licks its way down the sides of the candle, and settles at the foot of the stem as if to pay its last homage before it becomes cold and hard.

The candle weeps at its fate.
And how cruel the fate is; that it makes the candle witness its own end.

wahi hai zindagi lekin Jigar ye haal hai apnaa
ke jaise zindagi se zindagi kam hoti jaati hai

I close my eyes.
I see a big room. There is only me and its dark all around. Suddenly a bulb lights up above me. The floor starts to move. I start walking. The floor has picked up speed. It’s a giant treadmill. I start running. More lights get switched on. There are people who are also running along with me. They try to outpace each other. As if on cue, the treadmill too picks up speed. The harder they try, the faster the treadmill runs.

My legs are aching. Can I slow down? There is a man running in front of me. I can see he is tired. He is panting hard, trying to keep up his pace. Will he keep running or slow down?
He slows down; but the moment he does so, he is thrown off the treadmill and falls deep down below. He searches for a firm footing and stands up to look up at us.
People running along with me are laughing at him.
“There goes a loser”, said someone.
“Good riddance”, someone else chipped in.
The man below strains his neck to look upwards towards a group of people running a couple of feet away from me. He waves at them, and tries to get their attention. They are his friends. Or, once, were his friends. And this was not very long ago until he fell down from the treadmill.
The man below seeks their help. His friends ignore him. He pleads and implores; but his friends have joined others in pillorying him. He cries at this betrayal and walks away into darkness, failed, derided and lost.

The treadmill has picked up speed.
I force myself to run faster lest I fall like that man. How long can I continue like this? It seems that the mill will keep on gaining speed.
My breath is coming in gasps. My legs feel like a pair of heavy weights. I lug at them to keep in motion. This can’t continue for long. My legs would give away; I would fall off the mill, and meet the same fate.
I look down from the mill. There is a group already waiting there looking up at me. They know I will be the next one to fall off. They are already whetting their tongues, ready to pounce on me with sharp edged words of ridicule and scorn. Their eagerness terrifies me.

O, how I wish to get down this treadmill! How I wish to run at my own pace!

But I fear if I can do so.

I will be branded a failure, a disgrace - an incompetent who was not man enough to face the tide.
My own people would stop recognizing me. The little respect which I command in their eyes would dissolve into contempt. They will put on act of sympathy, but their sympathies would be laced with poison tipped barbs to hurt where it hurts most.

Whom would I turn to? My heart would bleed, but who would lend me a patient ear?

Yaar se gam kehke to khush ho, Lekin tum ye kya jaano
Tum apna rona rote the, Vo dil mein hasta hoga

I have to keep running.
I have to keep running even if I am in pain.

Helpless and without a choice, this chase will continue.

Regardless of whether you reduce yourself to a lifeless machine, regardless of whether you sink and drown yourself in pain and death, this chase for the Unknown, which tempts and tricks you to believe that, there is indeed a reward at the end and is worth enough to run for, will continue.

I continue running. One by one the bulbs switch off. People start disappearing beside me. The bulb above me switches off.

I open my eyes, and a tear rolls down my cheek.

Zindagi si koi saza hi nahi
Aur kya jurm hai pata hi nahi

* 1 – Josh Malihabadi; 2 – Jigar Moradabadi; 3 – Sudarshan Fakir (?); 4 – Nida Fazli ; 5 – Javed Akhtar

Thursday, January 17, 2008

कुछ ख़ास है...

कभी लगता है…
क्या ख़ास है इसमे
की एक नया साल आया है

कभी लगता है…
क्यों खुश हैं हम
की एक और इंतज़ार ख़त्म हुआ है

कभी लगता है…
झूठी उम्मीद है ये
की कुछ बदलेगा अब -
ये साल कुछ बदलने आया है

उस दर्द, उस चोट को
पीछे छोड़ आया है
जहाँ वक्त ने छीनी
थी मुस्कान, तोड़े थे
जहाँ सिर्फ़ गम
का सर्मायाह है

फ़िर लगता है…
कुछ ख़ास है इसमे
की एक नया साल आया है

रूकती साँसे
फ़िर जगाने आया है
सूनी आँखें
फ़िर बोल उठें
रोते हुए बच्चे
फ़िर हस पढे
लुटे हुए बाज़ार को
उसकी रौनक
लौटाने आया है

हाँ अब लगता है
कुछ ख़ास है इसमे
की फ़िर एक नया साल आया है

मेरी आरज़ू है ये
मेरी दुआ कबूल कर
सबके आँगन में रौशनी हो
खुशियाँ सबके दर पे गूंजे
हर नयी सुबह
किसी हाथ की कटोरी
में नए रंग लाये
बस अब तेरी मेहर हो
और ये साल कुछ ख़ास हो जाए…