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forewordMarch

Photographic words. The everyday with the not-so-routinely stuff that makes life – LIFE

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Everyday Life

I fly

And I fly away, with no one to hold me back or anyone to ask me to stay back.

 I will fly where there is clear endless sky and no memories, happy or sad. 

I fly where there is no right or wrong, no purity or impurity. 

I fly where there’s no choice to be made. Where the heart sits in the driver’s seat, not taking directions from mindless mind. 

I fly free, from me. 

People change

People change. Yes, I know it’s unwelcome but how do you put anything that’s as volatile as a human being is, in an unchdnging immovable cast?

People change and sometimes you may like it but most of the times you just won’t. And what do you do? Would you match their step? Well, then you would change, and not naturally but forcibly; and if everyone were to do that, won’t that initiate a domino effect? So that can’t be an answer to handle it. Then what is?

There is no answer.

People change but that’s okay. You accept it and continue living because you don’t depend on anyone but yourself. You live EXACTLY how you used to because nobody defines who you are and how you should be. Keep that head high and walk on.

Those who wish to walk alongside you, would, no matter what! Those who don’t want to, wouldn’t wait for a drastic event or a change to leave you. They would leave and that’s okay too.

Smile and accept the world my friend. Smile !

One Cold Night by Manu Shrivastava

This is a special post from a dear dear friend Manu Shrivastava, an engineer, a brilliant musician, artist, dog lover, vegan activist, and a pure soul. 
This post is what this page is all about – the uniqueness of the everyday life , which he captured oh-so-beautifully. 

 

It is close to midnight and streets are mostly deserted apart from the solitary young couple which is underdressed for the sudden cold wave in the outskirts of Amsterdam. The temperature dropped from 11 degree to 2 degree within a couple of days. They say it is the hottest November since 1902 (that is when they started recording meteorological data). Well, for a guy who has spent most of his time in severely hot places in India and in Phoenix, USA this feels REALLY cold, especially when the 54 kmph wind slaps you on your face and passes ‘through’ you as if you were non-existent.

 

I, no longer listen to music while walking. I enjoy the silence or the ambient sounds of leaves rustling or train honking. I watch the play of light on the water puddle, the shadows jumping up and down, turning shorter and longer as cars go by, the moon occasionally showing up from behind the clouds and bare autumn tree branches and suddenly making up the gloomy scene to a romantic set. The girl is constantly trying to fit inside the guy’s overcoat and it is heartwarming to see them laugh. The couple and I exchange a silent smile as our courses changed. After a ten minutes walk from the station, I am inside my apartment. It is like stepping into a different country altogether what with the excellent heating of the place. As I remove my jacket and thermals I am suddenly drifted off to distant past. It had no rhyme or reason yet the end of the thought chain compelled me to pen it down.

 
 

2002 seems a long time ago, a past life. It was a chilly December, a different country and city. There was nothing unusual about that night in Delhi; bone chilling winds and 1 degree temperature. I was a college kid living in the hostel of Delhi College of Engineering. Since it was Friday most “hostellers” from in and around Delhi went home for the weekend; and the mess was closed for dinner. I had no option but to be satisfied with a lone cucumber my wallet could buy. Maybe it made me a hero in my eyes but I was wearing just a sweater. Maybe the reason was I had nothing more to wear. I had self inflicted self-respect not to request for any extra money from my parents. For the kick of it I switched to shorts instead a pair of denims and flittered from one hostel to the other shivering in the foggy night. I guess I was searching if someone was awake and had anything that they had stored. I don’t remember if I got something more to eat.

 

Around midnight I went back to my room. I had a decent one which only needed a few paper patches regularly to cover the broken glasses on the windows. Delhi Times provided good ‘thought’ material on those spots if you know what I mean. Apart from that they were practically useless in that severe cold. One could hear wind whistle through the gaps and make the room a freezing hell. The cooking stove would provide respite to a close diameter of a foot, for 5 minutes before it would burn away. Routine was to wait for it to cool-down and then rejoin the coil. Again respite for 5 minutes – burn out – cool it – rejoin – repeat, till the tiredness of the body and mind overpowered the need for heating. “Hum jo chalen to tum bhi chalo saath*”, Silkroute played on my PC while I drifted off to sleep, bundled up in my Rajasthani quilt mom got me when I moved to Delhi. Mornings would mean hot milk and some sun time. The day would look up again.This was a usual day of every winter of every year of my college.

 
 

I was not a special kid. I was probably there at the right place and right time to get a good home, good education, a good job. I am lucky that my parents could instil good values in me (a lot of them lost or modified into new ones by now, sorry mom and dad). Today as I stand on the 12th floor of my apartment in the outskirts of Amsterdam sitting in my shorts and a tee at 21 degrees inside while it is 1 degree outside and look outside the window I cannot help but remember the 20 year old frail me, 13 years back, trying to get warm in his room. I cannot say when was I happier, then or now. Yet I cannot deny the blessings and what I have received all these years. Thank you.

 
 

*As I commence my journey why don’t you walk with me.

True Association never dies

Dinner time and we didn’t know where to go. We wanted a simple dinner, nothing too fancy, but good nonetheless. Driving through the city, I called up a friend for pointers on decent places to go to, considering our pocket and taste. He listed some good options and the name just jumped up at me from an old memory, as if it were crouching behind a corner, waiting for me to arrive. Boo!

I asked my friend if he knew where “Idlicious” is.

It was 2006 and I was new in the city and had just started working. Being the first time I ever stepped out of my cocoon, my parents’ home, it was difficult. Food is usually the first thing to affect one when away and in India its more pronounced, for the sheer diversity of palate.
This little joint became my shelter and a place me and my friends went often for our meals. Not only was it close to where I was putting up but also was simple, homely, unpretentious and wholesome. No wonder I frequented it much like my mom’s kitchen. At the near end of my stay in Pune I came to know that they would be moving base from Aundh to Baner due to  space constraints and reasons of regular business expansion, but did not know where exactly.

I had come back after a big span of 6 years and hadn’t got a clue. The city had spread it’s tentacles and faintly resembled the younger version of itself that I knew; just like how you see someone after a long time and try to find the traces of their older self, I was groping my way through the lanes and roads.

My friend had not heard of it. No surprises there for it was a teeny-tiny joint that had a big following but restricted to only those who lived in the  vicinity. He looked up on Google maps and shared it’s coordinates.

I followed my memory map and the one supplied by my friend and guided my husband to the place. There were funny jitters, I was going to meet an old friend they seem to say. I gave a disclaimer to my husband, “I am not sure if it’s the one. Can’t say if it ‘ll be the same old.”

She sat at the counter, the first thing my vision showed and I knew it will be EXACTLY the same. Although a jauntier version of itself, it still carried her mark.

I shyly told her that I used to frequent her outlet in Aundh and she lighted up.

“I know, I remember you. But it’s been so long, isn’t it?”

I told her that it’s been 6 years since I last visited and I missed this place. We came specially looking for it and were really glad to have found it.

It might have changed its location but what didn’t change were the pocket friendly menu, the flavor of warm homely fresh food, strong aromatic coffee served the traditional way, quick efficient service, simple effortless dining experience and “aunty” in her crisp cotton saris and specs sitting at the counter overlooking everything in her stately manner, effortlessly running the show!
It was such a warm experience to revisit this place, this old friend, aptly named – Idlicious!!!

As we were leaving, we went to the counter to settle the bill and she apologized for the service, which was fine despite it being busy, and said “Today you don’t pay. You came after such a long time. It’s on me.”

I fumbled for words and my husband was pleasantly surprised.

Memories are funny but they don’t lie, and such are associations, they never die.

This is dedicated to all my friends and both, old and new associations!

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© Shivani | forewordMarch

You need help!

You need help,
As do I.
In the creaking world buzzing silently all around,
We need to find our voice, that is silenced by the silence abound.

We need to hear, the soundless words,
Calling for help and seeking shelter.
The words beckon without alacrity.
“Are you there? Would you come?” they ask, with alarming serenity.

I need help,
I need to see and hear, what my eyes can’t and ears refuse.
I need to see beyond the grotesque prettiness of the world,
At the plain humanity dying a shallow death.
I need to hear the cries of the lost souls,
Who were sacrificed as if they were already “no more”.

We need to fight back,
To bring the peace back.
To make sense in this senseless world,
Which has shamed me over and over.

© Shivani | forewordMarch

Diwali’s trail

Diwali went, taking with it lights, camera, action.

When Diwali, or any big celebratory occasion goes, it leaves behind a trail; a trail of dirty dishes, wanting to be cleaned. The barrage of people coming over to meet you is good fun, if you are those socializing kinds, but every guest adds to the number of glasses, cups, bowls waiting in-line in (and around) the wash basin. In India, dishwasher is still not very common. It definitely doesn’t feature in my household but I have a better solution. A human solution at that, which is quite common and has been so, since times immemorial. My loyal maid Neelam (means blue sapphire) comes to clean the utensils, amongst other things, and she can beat any dishwasher in the world!

She came on time today, unexpectedly. I had mentally given her a leeway in light of it being the grand festival of India a  day before; she would naturally have had her own house to look after. But, she came smiling, on time, looking radiant in her bright orange-pink attire, kohl lined eyes with big jhumkas adorning her ears and that familiar wide smile.

I wished her a happy New year (the day following Diwali is a new year for Hindus) and enquired about her Diwali celebrations.

After a bit of chit-chat, I went with her to the kitchen and guiltily looked at the dishes, that now covered the entire length of the counter, and apologetically said that there were too many dishes and lot of work for her. She laughed at it and said “Koi Nahi madam. To Kya Hua? Kaam Se Nahi darna chahiye. Sab ho jayega” (no problem madam. So what? One shouldn’t be afraid of work. Everything will sort out.)

I was left amazed. This woman amazes me with the golden globules of knowledge she sprinkles time to time!

Why are we so scared of mound of pain, mound of problems that come our way? Little by little it will sort out. One step at a time and you will wade through. Keep patience. Have faith in yourself and you will get it all done. Don’t be scared. Like she said- Sab ho jayega 🙂

Diwali went and left behind a trail; a trail of lessons.

Happy New Year!!

© Shivani | forewordMarch

What’s your Diwali?

This year, Diwali is silent. I know it’s a festival and not a person, but it takes an omnipresent form before and long after the actual day in India; it becomes a being.

Diwali has been silent this year, like I said. My last year’s whatsapp status read “Diwali in the air”. This year it’s more generic. There’s less noise and sound, and far less fireworks’ sights in the air; but, I am not complaining. I would have been happier though, if it were for the reasons I want it to be, which is, reduce pollution and celebrate it by lighting up someone’s life!

The reason here is another and political in nature and this blog isn’t about that.

When we celebrate a festival, what exactly do we celebrate? For kids, it’s usually new clothes, toys, gifts and sweets. For adults, it’s mostly about socializing and partying late with permission. How many of us celebrate the ethos of these festivals? Every festival, belonging to no matter which religion and region, teaches us something. There’s usually a backstory and usually a victory or achievement of something or something that’s good, true and honest. We celebrate those virtues. Aren’t we supposed to practice those virtues as well?

I know, Diwali is about worshiping goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, and from what I know, nobody misses that. Everyone earnestly prays to her, and that’s not restricted to this one day. We ask her to come and visit our home. We ask her to keep us in good state.

Do you not think that everyone has that power to do that for another person?

How earnestly do we try and be that person who helps bringing in joy in another’s life? It can be a simple action of donating warm clothes to downtrodden for the colder months that follow or buying, without heckling and bargaining, directly from artisans. Give a day off to your employees, and go and celebrate this festival with them. Leave your phones aside and sit together and spend some quality time!!

Please, this Diwali, light up someone’s life. Do something good and worthwhile! Be someone’s goddess Lakshmi  and Lord Ganesh.

Happy Diwali!!

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© Shivani | forewordMarch

People are all good!

You know what? People are essentially good. If you reject this then you have probably been unlucky and that’s really sad. No matter how thick are the layers of frustrations, annoyance, irritated appearances, there’s always a certain kind of niceness, unique to an individual.

A friend once said to me, “Everyone is good. They are just different so you think they aren’t good”. Although I didn’t reject his premise, I took it with a pinch of salt. It has rested in my brain ever since and delivered every time it came to be tested.

I started something new, not long back, and something new usually translates to something different. I met tens of people, all very different from the setup I came from. The reaction I got from them all was as varied as it was colorful. What did not change, was the fact that the essential humanity was there. They all helped if and where they could. A call for support never went unanswered. I realized that all the reservations and apprehensions I had, were my own creations. They had no connect with the reality in any way.

I have now settled in and it’s not as new anymore but the helpful people are still helpful. It has definitely not faded and clearly doesn’t come with an expiration date.

What I am trying to say is this- People are all good. You just need to ask and they will deliver. Don’t be shy.

I was pleasantly surprised. I am sure you will not be disappointed too!

© Shivani | forewordMarch

You are a celebrity! Did you know?

I always thought that life of a celebrity must be difficult; no privacy, always camera-ready, always appear pleasant, cannot go out in public as and when heart desires, anyone and anybody can write anything about them and then they have to go in PR mode.

An acquaintance and I were discussing celebrities, sharing who had spotted whom and when. He shared his experience of a known and popular festival in Maharashtra (India). There was a lane kept for VIPs and two other for general public. He and his friends were standing in the regular people’s lane almost in the front of the stage where the idol of Ganesh ji was set. A young movie star made a rapid appearance from his rapid VIP lane, and the (women) shopkeepers went berserk. They leaped on to the stage, from either sides, to take a look, possibly get an autograph or a picture. My acquaintance told them that it was a day for Ganesh bhagwan and not the movie star, to which they replied, “bhagwan to har saal aate hain, film star Nahi aate” (God makes an appearance every year, film stars don’t).

I was frankly shocked and a little amused at hearing that remark. God had become a common feature. The festival and his presence was no different from the usual, for those people.

The conversation drifted back to celebrities and I made the general observation written above, about difficulties of being a celebrity. How they can’t even visit a place of worship without getting mobbed.
To that my acquaintance said, “Isn’t that true for us too? We also try and maintain composure within our little world; we too keep a face. You and I both stay away from our families. We, regular people, too stay away from our families, sometimes for longer, because of work. We too travel a lot. Anyone can now write and share anything about us on social platform. Facebook has given us a page where people follow us and check about us and write about us. Our life is also like theirs, maybe not at that scale, but it is.”

Not only was it true, but also sublime. Aren’t we all mini celebrities?
Such a beautiful potent thought. Such a powerful mantra if read the right way. When you feel people are talking about you or behind your back, just think that “YOU are a celebrity.”
Chin up, flash that smile. Bring up that confidence. The world is your oyster. You are awesome!

You are a celebrity!

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