Showing posts with label Humour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Humour. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dusting the past

“Did you know that cleanliness is next to godliness?” it asked him, hoping to strike a conversation. It knew that the task ahead was arduous and lonely, and the human mind often needs indulgences to accomplish such things. 

He was perhaps absorbed in his own thoughts and didn’t need small talk to get through this. He replied half-heartedly: “Not really. Who told you that?”

It tried again, this time with apparent erudition: “I just hear it a lot. If you think about it, the company you keep matters. It’s the same way with your habitation, the objects you surround yourself with, and how you treat them. A cluttered environment is a sign of a befuddled mind, while an unkempt environment is a sign of a vacuous mind. Surround yourself with beauty and aesthetics that speak to you, and you have the power to anchor yourself to the rhythm of the universe. That’s as close to the idea of God as one can get to.”

He wasn’t used to deference in the face of such commentary which he considered as opinions garbed as wisdom. He retorted with a completely off-the-track remark: “Quite wise. And where do you fit in that description? The last I called you from amidst the objects I surround myself with, you were hanging behind the washing machine in the rear balcony.”

It knew that a nerve was somewhere touched, and replied patiently: “Well, the last time you dusted the bottom shelf of your bookshelf, you read the forgotten tiny note she wrote for you on the inside cover of that red book and cried a little. Those are the moments when the universe speaks to you, and you get stronger.”

He was exasperated: “I wish I had a Roomba instead of these damn dusters that can’t keep their trap shut.”

Sunday, April 05, 2020

The tempo

“Hey, you got a minute?” she called out to him. Her voice seemed raspy from days of non-stop counting, as if they were spent measuring each second and each minute for which the earth had been breathing.

He looked around with mild curiosity: “That’s ironic, coming from you.”

“Well, sometimes I can be like that. So anyway, when was the last time you thought I added value to your life?” she settled straight on her question. She gave the appearance of someone who wasn’t used to small talk and pleasantries, and might even look upon such indulgences as being extravagant with one’s time.

He wasn’t sure of what to say, and stuttered in his diffidence: “I don’t know. I think you are pretty. Everyone thinks so as well.”

She refused to help him out with his apparent discomfort and continued with her drill: “You know that my existence isn’t defined by how pretty I look, right? I am expected to serve a larger purpose.”

“Yeah, I know. But hey, the world is different. Our lives look nothing like how they used to, just fifteen years ago. Things change!” He tried being cheerful, evidently in vain.

At this point, her eyebrows went up and it seemed for a second that she might be impatient. But if there was one thing she epitomized, it was patience: “You realize that you are talking to me about time, don’t you? Don’t tell me that the world has changed and is constantly changing. You are scared to acknowledge that you only have a finite time to live on this planet. You are frightened when thinking about how many years it has already been since you took your first breath and what is it that you accomplished during all that time. You live a dichotomous life of constant trepidation about the future, and a baffling temerity about the present. Think about my purpose in your life, instead of whiling your days away.”

He gave up: “You know what, it’s a bit warm today and the air-conditioner’s remote isn’t working. I will just take out your battery and put it in the remote. These days, I need nine hours of good sleep. Of course you know that.” With that, he took the wall-clock off the nail it was hanging on, and pulled the battery out. Her tick-tock of a heartbeat died instantly.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Five senses

“Do you have feelings?” she asked.

He was a bit perplexed with this seemingly innocuous question: “What do you mean? Everybody has feelings.”

“I mean, do you ever pause, reflect inwards, and try to recognize how you are feeling?” she explained her question and converted it into a leading one, perhaps sensing that she already had her answer.

“I still don’t get it,” he stood awkwardly, bewildered.

She began her erudite response: “You see, this is what social conditioning does to you. Your culture never prepared you to answer the simple question: how am I feeling today? In all these years, you could never develop the faculties that can parse the happy moments from the deluge of mindless ones, until someone else validates them for you. You cannot tell you are feeling like shit, until your body revolts and makes you restless. You never learnt paying attention to yourself and communicating with your soul.”

He fumbled for a befitting response, but the best he could come up with was a counter-question: “Do you feel?”

“You might not have paid attention. But I know when I am too cold, or too hot. My heart feels deep blue in peace, amber in distress, and the color of the forest in joy. I know when I am the elixir, and I know when I am the toxin. I bubble, I swirl, I rise, and I fall; I breathe life, and I am life. I am the wave of the poet’s finest imagination as well as of the sailor’s worst nightmare. I am the…”

“Thanks for giving me a headache,” he interrupted her flow by turning off the faucet of the water purifier. “I will now pour you in a tray, keep it in the deep freezer, and use you this evening to fix my drink. That's what I feel like.”

Friday, April 03, 2020

What a wonderful world

He looked out to the street swelling with pride. Spring was in the air, rains from the day before could still be felt on the skin, and the birds were singing with joy. The streets themselves were covered with foliage: tuscany and crimson and jade and every other color from the palette. The entire creation seemed to celebrate with boundless joy.

“You know what they say? That when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” he satisfactorily made the solemn observation to his neighbor.

“Never heard of that! What does it even mean?” The dinky neighbor half-heartedly responded to the seemingly useless philosophical musing of her counterpart while regurgitating on what appeared to look less like food and more like compost.

“Did you ever imagine this day? Blue skies, clean air, no noise, other than those of the universe itself. When the wind blows, it’s like you can hear the earth turning! I dreamt of this for such a long time!” He seemed to be lost in a form of exhilaration unbeknownst to the entire human species.

“Yeah, whatever. I think this is just a pretty background for the desktop wallpaper.” His neighbor curtly expressed herself, hoping to end this conversation and regurgitate at peace.

“You have no soul, just thorns,” he pronounced in a deep voice, almost sighing at this conclusion.

His neighbor stopped chewing. After a brief pause, as if waiting to choose the right words, she delivered the final blow: “And you are just a bougainvillea. At least us, the roses, will be found in the centerfold of books five years from now and be loved even in our afterlives.”

Thursday, April 02, 2020


While the whole world was silent, there was a whirring noise coming from a nondescript corner of the reticent house. All one could see of the house from outside was the scabrous plaster coming off at places, with the faint yellow paint sticking out like dried leaves holding on to the stems for a few brief moments before getting lost into the oblivion. The noise seemed to disturb the tranquility of the street dogs, already attuned to the silence of the times.

“You know that we are critical in ensuring that the world continues to function with sanity, right?” the voice called out to him.

His mind was absorbed in a maelstrom of thoughts ranging from the stock of vegetables in the refrigerator, the piling dishes, the temperature of the last shower, and the background needed for the upcoming video call. He decided to ignore the voice, after judging it to be someone’s self-righteous proclamation he didn’t want to indulge in.

But the voice persisted: “The first problem with your generation is that you do not appreciate the magical world you live in. Anyone who walked this same planet just half a century ago will be thoroughly nonplussed at your privilege. Just look at us for that matter, we clean all your dirt without as much as a whimper, and you fail to acknowledge even our existence.”

He was far from being flummoxed despite the obvious provocation.

The voice intensified its accusations: “The second problem with your generation is that you are never in the present. Look at us fastidious old timers. We focus on the task at hand and enjoy it all the same, instead of thinking about what’s happening elsewhere or about the past or the future all the time.”

He calmly listened to all this, waited for the customary three beeps, and added with a perfunctory smile: “You can’t even clean lipstick marks from the shirt. You need to be more in the present.” 

He then turned the washing machine off, and the voice went dead.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020


“You need to take a shower,” she said matter-of-factly.

“I had my shower in the morning, and you don’t need to remind me about tomorrow already. Just sit still for at least the next hour and stop complaining. I am not going to bother you for an entire hour and will go watch my movie instead.” His unwanted belligerence hinted at his annoyance over other matters, perhaps spilling over to her.

She kept her cool and continued nonchalantly: “Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind. It’s an enemy of correct understanding.”

“All behold the wise one!” he shouted with a derisive laughter, looking up at the invisible sky; “you clearly learnt a lot through second-hand means!”

She mused in her characteristic sonorous tone: “Learning is a journey: from facts to knowledge, on to understanding and eventually wisdom. You might have read books and learnt facts, but that’s not the entire journey. And at the same time, vidyā dadāti vinayam, vinayād yāti pātratām – Knowledge makes one humble, and humility begets worthiness. Try being worthy of me.”

“Sometimes I wish I had an electric chair instead.” He kicked the rocking chair which he used for reading, and walked angrily to his room. The chair rocked for a few minutes and slowly went back to her deep thought and stillness.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The murderer

“Don’t you like me?” asked the voice.

He paused, heaved a deep sigh, and attempted to hide the pensiveness in his look. This wasn’t a question he had been asked before, or at least he didn’t remember the last time things had come to this.

“That’s not the point,” he replied.

“Then why would you do this?” the voice persisted.

By now, his furtive glances could not be hidden anymore. He knew if he raised his head and saw himself in the mirror, it would be hard to meet his own reflection. It was he who always wanted time to come to a standstill, and it seemed like the universe had finally bent itself to his wishes. Or perhaps, he was too proud to believe so. Until now, when the question from the voice was somberly hanging in the air. It only meant that life had continued to move on despite his delusions.

“Look I might sound ridiculous. But heck, even your previous girlfriend liked me. Why would you just uproot everything now?” retorted the voice, sensing his heart’s inner battles amidst his body’s stoic silence.

This recrimination defeated him. The universe was playing games, and he felt like a dejected soldier standing on the Grand Design’s abstruse chessboard. 

In a final act of defiance, he gathered everything he held inside of him, picked up the razor, and slid it across his own face, almost lacerating it in one swift stroke. The voice of the hair, now uprooted and stashed away in the silence of razor’s blades, awaited being washed off under the washbasin tap.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light

“Do you see how I spread light in your life?” she said gleefully. “Tamaso mā jyotirgamaya or whatever, taking you from the darkness to light! I know you understand this much Sanskrit.”

He stopped short of picking up his book from the bookshelf, flashed a tiny smile at the corners of his mouth, and said playfully: “That’s not what it means, you silly. Also, such an unabashed display of humility today. What’s the occasion that you are finally being yourself?”

“Yes, mister you-know-it-all. You don’t need to acknowledge how my presence lets you get by, day after day, through your mundane existence,” she pretended to be indignant.

He knew this tense dance of intimate exchanges well, and the tricks to play along. Ribald comments often helped in getting straight to the point, and he tried his luck: “Well, you might be the one spreading the light. But we don’t need the lights all the time now, do we?”

“Is that so mister? Let us hear something else first. What’s the one word that comes to your mind if you had to describe me?” she teased him.

“Electricity,” he said looking straight into her eyes and proceeded to touch her.

She, the switch of the living room’s tubelight, was flipped and there was darkness all over.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The “matter”

“Why do you treat me like this?” she said irritatingly.

“Like what?” he replied with an irreverent shrug, as he continued setting up the timer on the microwave.

She shot back: “Like what?! Are you really asking me that? You use me as a refuge for everything that’s unwanted in your life. You kick me, corner me at every opportunity, and I just feel so empty waking up each morning! You make me feel like putrid trash.”

“I think you are overreacting,” he continued with his nonchalance.

“Oh yeah right. I am overreacting. Care to explain?” she muttered in an apoplectic rage, almost frothing at the corners of her mouth. If it were upto her, she would have burst into flames right here, engulfing his entire being into a conflagration of organic and inorganic matter, leaving behind only embers to tell the story of this eerie exchange.

He lost patience and began his own tirade: “Yes I can explain. What is it that you want from me? Do you have any idea what’s going on in the world? Of course you don’t. Sitting here on your pedestal, gawking at the ceiling the entire day, how could you? You complain at the sumptuous leftovers, when there are millions out there, without anything to feed themselves or their families with. The universe was designed for abundance, but us, the humans, mercilessly carved it up square inch by square inch, waged wars and soaked it with blood, wiped out the startling diversity of its species, disfigured it at every corner, and continue to fight amongst ourselves for a piece of bread. And your problem is that you are feeling empty?”

“Who is overreacting now?” she said in a desperate attempt to win back this argument.

“That’s it. You deserve to be thrown out of this house,” he retorted in a livid voice, took the garbage bag out of the dustbin, and kept it outside his door for collection.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


"Do you realize that this moment, of you and me, in a lustful embrace, is the denouement of a scintillating history of human species and its astonishing accomplishment?", said the silent voice.

She seemed to hear it, but continued to proffer her blasé self. For, she had resolved long ago that she wouldn't allow anything else in the world to dictate her choices and actions. The moment was perfect, and she had no qualms about her selfishness in this moment; her, and only her feelings were allowed to matter in this intricate dance of passion and indulgence.

"It took centuries for humans to get here. The species evolved 200,000 years ago, and another 190,000 years went by before they could even cultivate grains and make some bread!", the silent voice continued.

By now, her yearnings were almost salacious, and her only satiation seemed to lie in devouring it all. But the silent voice rose again – "And it torments me, to behold you and your impatient materialistic ilk. I am repulsed by your incessant desires and wants, by your profanity, and by your skin that reeks of ghastly crimes committed on this now-grotesque planet."

Her craving was bursting at the seams, and she proceeded to discard the silent voice's innocuous, abstract driveling. Why should she bother herself with the historical perspective? After all, every philosopher she knew had vociferously drilled the idea of her life being just an inconsequential speck on the infinite fabric of space and time. How did her actions matter anyway?

The silent voice knew it would lose; after all, this had been a foregone conclusion with everything humans ever touched. It wanted to say something reconciliatory like - "Pause for a second! Slow down and marvel at the complexity of what you are holding! The cooperation of humans around the world to get more than 50 components that constitute me was inconceivable even 100 years ago!"

By now, however, she had already finished half of the sandwich.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The world from above

As it rose from its pedestal with a distinct sound, the world stood up and took notice.

Its expression was almost sombre, and as it rose, its head seemed to tilt from one side to another, minutely scanning the material horizon around it, as if making a rather solemn observation. The entire act, however ephemeral, seemed to be assimilating a deeper reality within its steel-solid conscience.

From its vantage point, the wafting air on the sides seemed to carry the combined successes, failures, and essence of all those souls of the world that, until now, lived under its watch. The distinct individualities of these souls, and their now-perished skins, coalesced under pressure into a larger mass that constituted a reality which did not belong to any of them, yet created a thing of value embodying their collective truths: beautiful and delectable in equal measures.

As it settled back on its pedestal, it reflected on the humility of this experience: how transient is this world, and yet how enduring and stagnant? The sound nonchalantly faded away, and the khichdi in the pressure cooker was now ready.

Friday, January 12, 2018


He wanted to set her free. Right now, when the chill in the midnight air and the frigidness of his own heart were stinging him and his soul.

When they had first met, he was infatuated by her effervescence. He would watch her swell and subside in her own bubbly world. He would sit longingly, and notice her colours that seemed to change with the passage of time. She could flow as if possessed in some intricate dance form, and he knew he wasn’t the only one waiting on the sidelines. And the wait was always worth it. This is how he liked her in those days of yore, when the world, perhaps, wasn’t this cruel.

And today, as he watched her squirming within the tea-bag and hung emptily in water, he wished he could turn back time. This was an atrocious way to make tea, and it repulsed him. "What has the world come to?" he silently muttered, and sighed deeply.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Life, served

It felt like hell had frozen over and were falling straight on his head.

It wasn't the first time he had this feeling. On all such occasions in the past, he would try to maneuver himself out of the way, twist himself, work with the only handle he had to change the situation destiny had led him into. However, most of the times either nothing changed, or things changed so drastically that he would start feeling the hot fury of the desert instead. 

He hated this dichotomy in life, of things fitting themselves in just these two states: served cold, or laden piping hot. Through his entire life, he had struggled to get somewhere in between, to make things right, and life more bearable for him. The shower temperature, however, never became perfect.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

एॅनाटोमी आॅफ़ ए हार्ट-ब्रेक

शीर्षक अँग्रेज़ी में लिखा क्यूँकि आगे कही जाने वाली बातें प्रेम के संदर्भ में हैं। और कहीं न कहीं प्रेम के संदर्भ में की गई साधारण बातें हिंदी में छोटी लगने लगती हैं। मिसाल के तौर पर “आई एॅम इन लव विथ यू” और “मुझे तुमसे प्रेम है” में आप अंग्रेज़ी ही चुनेंगे। हलाँकि मोहब्बत से जुड़ी हर तरह की बयानबाज़ी के लिए उर्दू से बेहतर कोई ज़ुबान नहीं, पर उर्दू में ‘डेप्थ’ थोड़ा ज़्यादा हो जाता है। जब प्रेम की पराकाष्ठा जतानी हो, तो उर्दू बड़े काम की चीज़ है – शोला और शबनम सरीखे प्यार को अदब से जता देने, या मैख़ाने में साक़ी के इनकार को तहज़ीब से बता देने में उर्दू ही चलेगी। पर इस वाले लेख में हमने थोड़ी मैच्योरिटी का दिखावा करने की कोशिश की है, और इस लिए शीर्षक में थोड़ा वैज्ञानिक दृष्टिकोण देना पड़ा जो सिर्फ़ अंग्रेज़ी में ही ठीक-ठाक निखर कर आ पाता है। फिर भी अगर जी न मानता हो, तो आप शीर्षक को “हृदय-भंजन का विश्लेषण” से बदल लें और दुबारा शुरू से पढ़ लें।

ख़ैर। हुआ यूँ कि इस बार हमारा दिल फिर से टूटा। मतलब जो कुछ बचा था वो। अब तो अमूमन इतनी बार टूट चुका है कि उपमाएँ कम पड़ने लगी हैं। तक़रीबन दस साल पहले फ़र्स्ट-टाईम टूटा था तो हमने चार-पाँच उपमाएँ एक ही बार में इस्तेमाल कर डाली थीं, जैसे खिलौना, शीशा, घड़ा, गुल्लक (क्यूँकि दिल के अमीर तो सारे ज़माने में बस एक हम ही हो पाए थे साहब!) इत्यादि। आगे के लिए ज़्यादा कुछ छोड़ा नहीं। उस ज़माने में नई-नई जवानी का पायदान था, तो दिल-विल टूटने के बाद फिलाॅसोफी झाड़ने में मज़ा भी आता था, जैसे जीवन का सारा असाध्य ज्ञान बस हमारे दिल टूटने भर से प्राप्त हो गया हो और ये हम सारी दुनिया के साथ बाँटने के लिए भी तैयार हैं; गौतम बुद्ध ने फालतू ही तपस्या वगैरह की।

उस ज़माने में तो ढंग से दिल लगाया भी नहीं जाता था – अभावग्रस्त काॅलेजों से निकलो, और जो पहली लड़की आॅफ़िस में बगल की सीट पर हो, डिकलेयर कर दो कि हमारा दिल तो जनाब बस अब इसी पर आ गया है। और यही सच्चा प्यार है, क्यूँकि ये पहला है, और क्यूँकि हिंदी सिनेमा ने बरसों से ये घुट्टी पिलाई है कि पहला वाला ही सच्चा है। इस टाईप के प्यार को पाने के लिए थोड़ी छिछोरापंथी, आॅर्कुट की दीवारों पर संदेशों की बमबारी, और सेल में मिलने वाली दो-चार टी-शर्टें काफ़ी थीं। मोटरसाईकिल की पिछली सीट पर बिठाकर आईस-क्रीम खिलाने और शाम को साथ में चाय-समोसा बाँट लेने भर से ये प्यार जितनी आसानी से परवान चढ़ जाता था, उतनी ही मुश्किल से छूटता था। तब के दोस्त, जिन्होंने अपनी तब तक की ज़िन्दगी में शायद कभी प्यार या कुछ भी वैसा न किया हो, कुछ पेग और सिगरेटों की बदौलत नई नई उपमाएँ देकर मामला सुलटा भी देते थे – जैसे धोखा, लड़कियाँ-ऐसी-ही-होती-हैं, हटाओ-बे, और-पीओगे?, इत्यादि।

बाद वाले प्यारों में हम, या शायद हमें सिर्फ़ ऐसा लगता हो, कि हम थोड़ा बहुत प्रैक्टिकल होने लगे – कि भई अब ऐसे ही बगल वाली से प्यार नहीं होने वाला, क्यूँकि जीवन का सारा ज्ञान तो हमें पहले ही मिल चुका है। उस ज़माने में बशीर बद्र की क़लम से नई नई पहचान हुई थी, और हमने बस सोच लिया था कि इस तरह का क़लाम तो सिर्फ़ हमपर ही सटीक बैठ सकता है – “हम भी दरिया हैं, हमें अपना हुनर मालूम है; जिस तरफ़ भी चल पड़ेंगे, रास्ता हो जाएगा।” पर ऐसा हुआ कभी नहीं। होता बस इतना था कि दिल तो हमेशा सबसे पास वाली पर आता था, पर आवाज़ नहीं निकल पाती थी। जीवन के इस वाले स्टेज पर सारा मामला आशना दिल को ढाँप कर की गई दोस्ती से शुरू होता था, और समझदारी इसमें लगती थी कि उसी दोस्ती को बचाने की ख़ातिर मोहब्बत का ज़िक्र न करना ही बेहतर रहेगा। आप कहेंगे कि भला ये भी कोई प्यार हुआ? अरे जनाब, उम्र के साथ थोड़ी समझदारी बढ़ी है, और हम आज भी यही कहेंगे कि बस यही तो होना चाहिए! सब कुछ राहुल और अन्नु की ‘आशिक़ी’ की तरह खुल्लम-खुल्ला हो जाए तो उसमें ‘क्लास’ नहीं रह जाता। बहरहाल, जीवन के इस पड़ाव तक हम थोड़े रचनात्मक, यानी क्रिएटिव हो चुके थे, और इसी सोच को आठ-दस गुना बढ़ा-चढ़ा कर ख़ुद ही सोच लेने पर ये लगा कि दिल टूटने पर कविताएँ लिख डाली जाएँ क्यूँकि जो कहा न गया हो, वो अगाध प्रेम है। और अगाध प्रेम की इस ऊर्जा को हम एक सकारात्मक दिशा दे सकते हैं, क्यूँकि अब तो हम सचमुच ज्ञानी हैं और इस बार तो पक्के से सारी क़ायनात को समझ चुके हैं। इस सकारात्मक सोच से कुछ खास फ़र्क तब भी नहीं पड़ा – दोस्त तब भी साथ रहे, और उनमें से ज़्यादातर लोग तब तक इन सब चीज़ों को किसी न किसी प्रकार से देख-समझ भी चुके थे (भले हमें तब भी ऐसा लगता था कि हमारी तरह किसी ने प्यार को नहीं समझा)। मामला सुलटाने के तरीके थोड़े अलग हो चले, और अब ‘हटाओ-बे’ की जगह सचमुच बातें होती थीं। कमरों में जलती सिगरेटें और दलीलें एक-कोने से दूसरे कोने का सफ़र अनगिनत बार तय करतीं, और ज्ञान के साथ-साथ गाने भी चलते – बहस चाहे कितनी भी उत्तेजना-पूर्ण चल रही हो, ‘सबका कटेगा राम’ सरीखे गाने जैसे ही धुएँ में घुलते, सर्वसम्मति हमेशा बन आती।

उम्र थोड़ी और बढ़ी। बाल थोड़े और झड़े, पर गंजापन अभी दूर था और उम्मीदें हमारी बकौल क़ायम। प्यार फिर से हो बैठा। इस बार लगा कि प्यार में परिपक्वता है, क्यूँकि अब हम बिलकुल मैच्योर हो चले हैं। ज़िन्दगी दफ़्तर की घड़ी से चलती तो थी, पर शामें और रातें हमेशा छोटी और गुलज़ार लगतीं। जितना ये आईस-क्रीम वाला प्यार था, उतना ही गहरा भी – बातें होती थीं तो महसूस यूँ होता था जैसे हम बातों को नहीं, सीधे दिल, दिमाग़, और दिल-ओ-दिमाग़ की मिली-जुली सोच को सुन और समझ पा रहे हों। झगड़े अब गुड-नाईट-मैसेज-क्यूँ-नहीं-भेजा सरीखी छोटी बातों पर नहीं, बल्कि गहन मसलों पर होते थे, जैसे ये काली वाली कुर्ती अच्छी क्यों नहीं है। उम्र के साथ दोस्त कम हो चले थे, सो इस वाले प्यार में लगता था दोस्ती ज़्यादा है, और ये पिछ्ले वाले स्टेज से अच्छा है क्यूँकि कितनी ख़ूबसूरती से हम दोनों की दोस्ती को प्यार में काढ़ दिया गया है। लिपटने से ज़्यादा सुकून साथ बैठने में था, आवाज़ से ज़्यादा सुकून ख़ामोशी में, और बाहर से ज़्यादा सुकून घर पर था। पिछले कुछ अरसे से पढ़ी जा रही शायरियाँ अब थोड़ा बहुत ग़ुमान भी दे गई थीं – “तेरा हुस्न सो रहा था, मेरी छेड़ ने जगाया; वो निगाह मैंने डाली, के सँवर गई जवानी।” बशीर बद्र की क़लम से की गई दोस्ती थोड़ी और गहरी हो चली थी, और "ये चिराग़ बेनज़र है, ये सितारा बेज़ुबाँ है; अभी तुझसे मिलता जुलता, कोई दूसरा कहाँ है" सरीखी पंक्तियों को हम अपने ऊपर सटीक बिठाने लगे थे। सब मिला-जुलाकर तय हुआ कि सच्चा वाला बस यही है – शायद पहले इसलिए नहीं हुआ क्यूँकि हर चीज़ वक़्त के साथ समझ आती है; इस बार आ गई है और इसकी बदौलत ज़िन्दगी गुज़ारी जा सकती है। और ज़िन्दगी गुज़ारने का मतलब वो लड़कपन वाला ‘सात जन्मों का साथ’ नहीं, पर गंभीरता से सोचा और समझा गया सिर्फ़ ये वाला जनम है जिसमें दो लोग फ़ाईनली बिलकुल ठोस तरीके से दुनिया के तौर-तरीकों को समझ-बूझ लेने के बाद जुड़े हैं। इससे बेहतर तालमेल हो ही नहीं सकता, क्यूँकि ये वाला सिर्फ़ दिल-ओ-दिमाग़ से गठित नहीं, बल्कि दोनों के कई वर्षों से संचित ज्ञान और अनुभव का निचोड़ है। इससे आगे अब ज्ञान की भी ज़रूरत नहीं, क्यूँकि अब हम इतने समझदार हैं कि ये जान गए हैं कि ज्ञान की कोई परिसीमा नहीं होती, पर जहाँ तक हम पहुँच पाए हैं वो इस वाली ज़िन्दगी को सही से निकाल लेने के लिए बहुत है।

तो इस तरह सब कुछ बिलकुल तर्कसंगत रहा। फिर मामला बिलकुल उसी तरफ़ गया जिस तरफ़ कोई भी प्यार में नहीं पड़ा आदमी आराम से अंदाज़ा लगा सकता है, और जिस तरफ़ कोई भी प्यार में पड़ा आदमी कतई नहीं सोच सकता। आँधी फिर से आई, पर लगा कि तूफ़ान की शक्ल में आई है। “मेरी बेज़ुबान आँखों से, गिरे हैं चंद क़तरे; वो समझ सकें तो आँसू, न समझ सकें तो पानी” टाईप लाईनें आँसू छलका जाने लगीं। लेकिन आँसू बहाने पर वो अल्हड़ जवानी वाला गुस्सा नहीं आया, बल्कि ये लगा कि चूँकि अब हम मैच्योर हो गए हैं, इसलिए अब हममें इतनी समझ आ गई है कि थोड़ा बहुत रो लेने से पौरुष कम नहीं हो जाता। मामला सुलटाना थोड़ा कठिन था क्यूँकि इस स्टेज वाली आँधी मुश्किल वाली होती है – एक तो तक़रीबन सारे दोस्त छिटक चुके होते हैं, और दूसरा आप ख़ुद अपनी परिपक्वता बचाने के चक्कर में ज़्यादा लोगों से तर्क-वितर्क नहीं करते। सबसे ज़्यादा घमासान दिल के अंदर ही होता है और मैच्योरिटी की बनिस्पत थोड़े बहुत आँसुओं के अलावा बहुत ज़्यादा कुछ बाहर नहीं छलकता। दो और दो को चार करने की बेइंतिहाँ कोशिश होती है, क्यूँकि इतिहास को तार्किक आधार पर समुचित ठहराए बिना डब्बे में डालना मुश्किल है। यही सब सोचकर हमने अपनी स्थिति के समीकरण को जोड़-घटाव करके दोनों तरफ़ बराबर करने का निर्णय लिया। पिछले दस वर्षों का धनाढ्य अनुभव, दोस्तों की फ़ब्तियों और क़िस्सों के आँकड़े, और स्वयँ-संचित अमूल्य ज्ञान को मिलाकर हमें सब कुछ इस बार स्फटिक की तरह बिलकुल स्पष्ट हो गया और भूत-भविष्य-वर्तमान की सारी हो चुकी, और होने वाली घटनाओं का सिर्फ़ एक शब्द में साराँश निकल आया। वो साराँश निम्न प्रकार है – घण्टा।

Friday, February 07, 2014

Where the mind is without fear

In these darkest hours of my existence in the middle of this melancholic night, when the rain outside befalls the putrid leftovers of last winter's undergrowth, when an eerie ominous noise of acidic precipitation seems to have engulfed the rest of sleeping humanity, when the baffled pigeons knock themselves against cold windowpanes and street dogs occasionally bark and break the suspended dreams of this neighborhood, when the mind grapples with despair and the lungs puff out stale, polluted air with monotonous effort, my heart sees a faint, distant hope.

And it whispers, in those secretive ways of the heart which only hearts understand: let there be light. And the door of the refrigerator opens.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


राजधानी दिल्ली में हमारा आगमन जीवन के उस पड़ाव पर हुआ, जिसकी व्याख्या "अनिश्चितकाल" नामक संज्ञा देकर मोटे तौर पर की जा सकती है। और मोटे तौर पर अगर कुछ भी सिद्ध हो सकता हो, तो हमारे देश की प्राचीन परम्परानुसार उसकी वैधता, बिना हो-हल्ला मचाये, किसी भी वैज्ञानिक प्रयोग से अधिक मानी जानी चाहिये। मसलन ‒ भगवान एक है और उसके रूप अनेक, कर्म के हिसाब से जीवनोपरांत स्वर्ग और नरक मिलते हैं, सबसे बड़ा रुपइया ‒ ये सब कुछ मोटे तौर पर सिद्ध किये जा सकने वाले भाववाचक सिद्धांत हैं, और इसलिये इनका प्रयोग किसी भी बुद्धिजीवी परिचर्चा में बेहिचक करना पूर्णतः वैध है।

ख़ैर। हमारे जीवन का अनिश्चित पड़ाव इसलिये, क्यूँकि विशिष्ट रूप से इस पड़ाव पर अतीत, भविष्य, और उमर ‒ तीनों अनिश्चित होते हैं। जिस प्रकार उच्चतर शिक्षा के कुपोषण के शिकार किसी भी दर्दनाक अतीत को अँग्रेज़ी व्याकरण के क्लिष्ट शब्दों से चेपकर गरिमामय और रंगीन बनाया जा सकता है, उसी प्रकार किसी सड़ियल कोने में झख मार रहे वर्तमान पर चमकीला लेप लगा कर सुनहरे भविष्य का प्रचार आराम से किया जा सकता है। और इन दोनों अनिश्चितताओं के बीच उमर भी ५-१० साल इधर-उधर खिसककर, थोड़ी-बहुत अनिश्चितता और फ़ेसबुक पर लगे दार्शनिक चित्रों के बनिस्पत मोटे तौर पर एक छोटी सँख्या पर आकर अपरिहार्य कारणों से स्थगित हो जाती है।

इन सबके बीच, अपने अनिश्चितवें जन्मदिवस पर खा-पीकर डकार लेने के कुछ ही दिनों बाद हमने परदादाओं के ज़माने की कहावत "नौकरी हो तो सरकारी, नहीं तो बेचो तरकारी" को चरितार्थ करने का बीड़ा उठाया, और इसी उद्देश्य से निज़ामों की सुशिष्ट नगरी हैदराबाद छोड़कर राष्ट्रीय राजधानी क्षेत्र की ओर निकल पड़े। यहाँ की अक्खड़ वास्तविकता से हमारा आमना-सामना सबसे पहले गुड़गाँव में तब हुआ, जब हमने ट्रांसपोर्ट की ट्रकों पर भारतीय राजमार्गों से जूझकर लायी गयी अपनी चरचकिया गाड़ी को चलाकर घर लाने का प्रयास किया।

स्पष्ट है कि गुरू द्रोणाचार्य ने जब यहाँ गुरू-ग्राम (भूतपूर्व गुड़गाँव) की स्थापना की, तो जीवन-यापन के कुछ मूलभूत सिद्धांत भी छोड़े, जैसे अकूट प्रतिस्पर्धा, अनुशासन, शिष्टाचार, इत्यादि। इस क्षेत्र की प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक संस्कृति का थोड़ा-बहुत बोध वाहन चालन में होने वाली वर्चस्व की लड़ाई से किया जा सकता है। कभी पीछे न हटने की इस परम्परा के बीच शिष्टाचार के नाते प्रयोग किये जाने वाले माँओं और बहनों संबंधित प्रतीकात्मक शब्द अनुशासन बनाये रखने में सहायक हैं। धड़ल्ले से हॉर्न बजाकर चिल्ल-पौं से सुसज्जित किये गये इस माहौल में एक अलग ही भारत की पहचान छुपी है जिसका वर्णन दर्शनशास्त्र की किसी थ्योरी से शायद मोटे तौर पर किया जा सके।

धूल मिट्टी के रोमांचक कोहरे और शरद ऋतु के तपते सूरज के बीच वाहन चालन में हमें भूमि से जुड़े होने की सुखद अनुभूति प्राप्त हुई। इसी बीच सड़क की दाहिनी ओर निश्चिंतता से खड़ी, सम्भवतः इसी सुख को मध्यरात्रि के अलाव की तरह सेंकती हुई एक गाड़ी का पिछला दरवाज़ा जम्हाई की तरह खुला, और हमारे पीछे देखने के प्रयोग में आने वाले शीशे पर प्राणघातक तमाचा जड़ गया। दरवाज़े से एक अधेड़ उम्र की महिला अवतरित हुईं, और सामने से एक श्रीमान। हमारे पास आकर गम्भीर मुद्रा में बोले ‒ "सौरी, हम-लोग यहीं रहते हैं और रोज़ ही इस टाईम पर आते हैं। जॅनरली इधर कोई गाड़ी नहीं आती, इसलिये पीछे देखा नहीं।" विदित है कि यहाँ के प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक सांस्कृतिक परिप्रेक्ष्य में इस प्रकार का मनुहारी संवाद केवल अतिथि सत्कार के लिये सुरक्षित है, और इसलिये मोटे तौर पर इस घटना को स्थानीय निवासियों की सहिष्णुता का परिचायक माना जा सकता है।

सेक्टर चालीस नामक इस मुहल्ले में हमारा डेरा श्री एवँ श्रीमति सिंह के घर जमा। श्री सिंह ‒ बड़े ही सज्जन आदमी ‒ "कबीरा खड़ा बाजार में सबकी माँगे खैर, ना काहू से दोस्ती ना काहू से बैर।" श्रीमति सिंह ‒ राष्ट्रीय दैनिकों में आने वाले "सुंदर-सुशील-शिक्षित-गृहकार्यों-में-दक्ष" सरीखे विज्ञापनों की साक्षात् अभिव्यक्त्ति। इस परिवार के निर्बाध प्रेम के बीच सहजता से भाँति-भाँति के व्यँजन तोड़ते हुए लगभग दो सप्ताहों में हमने मुहल्ले की गतिविधियों को आत्मसात करने का प्रयास किया। जैसे मुहल्ले की सुदृढ़ संचार प्रणाली ‒ जिसके द्वारा अगल-बगल लगी इमारतों के बरामदों से श्रीमतियों द्वारा सूचनाओं, गालियों, एवँ चुगलियों का, तथा कभी-कभी नवजात शिशुओं का आदान-प्रदान होता है, मुहल्ले में सुबह-सुबह आने वाला गौ-ग्रास रथ ‒ जिसको एक रुपए और एक रोटी देकर छोटे-मोटे पापों से छुटकारा प्राप्त किया जा सकता है, रात्रि के दूसरे-तीसरे पहर में सक्रिय होने वाले लावारिस कुत्ते ‒ जिनके होने भर से मुहल्ले की परिसीमा अंतर्राष्ट्रीय सीमारेखाओं की तरह सुरक्षित रहती है, तथा मुहल्ले के पास स्थित सेक्टर चालीस बाज़ार ‒ जिसके ईर्द-गिर्द गोधूली बेला में मँडराकर इस क्षेत्र की सांस्कृतिक विविधता और भौगोलिक समृद्धि का अवलोकन किया जा सकता है।

इन्हीं दो सप्ताहों के अंतराल में हमने निजी प्रयोग हेतु एक घर ढूँढने का भी बीड़ा उठाया और इंटरनॅट पर बहुतायत में उपलब्ध "फ़्लैटमेट रिक्वायर्ड" सरीखे विज्ञापनों से दिग्भ्रमित हुए बिना एक "वन प्लस वन" परिसर किराए पर लेने का निश्चय किया।

इस क्रम में हमारा प्रथम पड़ाव था जैन साहब का कार्यालय। जैन साहब ‒ हमारे कॉलेज के दिनों के घनिष्ठ मित्र और आजकल दिल्ली में उद्यमी; लगे हाथों दक्षिणी दिल्ली में ज़मीन-जायदाद के क्रय-विक्रय और पट्टेदारी में भी दिलचस्पी। जैन साहब ने हमारे मामले में स्वयँ रूचि ली, और तपाक से अपने एक कर्मचारी को हमारा केस सौंपा। कर्मचारी ने अपनी गाड़ी की चाभी को उँगलियों पर घुमाया, आत्मविश्वास का चूरन मुँह में दबाया, पूरी तन्मयता झलकाते हुए मामले की जाँच-पड़ताल की जिससे ऐसा प्रतीत हुआ कि हमारी आवश्यकताओं का एक सचित्र ख़ाका उनके मानस पटल पर गाढ़ी स्याही से छप गया हो, और अंत में आशावादी स्वर में बोले ‒ "ओ कोई गल नई जी, हो जाएगा! अभी आपको ले चलते हैं विज़िट पे - एक तो यहीं ग्रेटर कैलाश में है प्रौपर्टी, सिंगल रूम विथ स्मौल बाथरूम ऐंड किचन, बैड-ऐलसीड्डी-टीवी वगैरह भी हैं, फ़ुल्ली फ़र्निश्ड। एकदम फिट आपके लिए, अकेले ही रहना है आपको तो। इसके अलावा दो और हैं लाजपत नगर में, मेन मार्केट, आपका ऑफ़िस तो सीपी में है ना, बिलकुल बगल में।" इस आश्वासन के साथ हमारा मनोबल बढ़ाकर अपनी गाड़ी की चाभी को उँगलियों से निकालकर गाड़ी में घुमाया, और किसी अंतर्मुखी आनंद द्वारा बाहर की ओर धकेली गई विशुद्ध मुस्कान को मुखमण्डल पर धारण करते हुए बोले ‒ "चलिये!"

ग्रेटर कैलाश का मकान दरअसल तीसरे तल्ले पर बना एक कमरा था, जिसपर लोहे की गोल सीढ़ियों द्वारा हाथ-पैर समेटते हुए चढ़कर पहुँचा जा सकता था। कमरे का विस्तार इस इलाके की किसी भी छोले-कुलचे की दुकान की तरह सीमित था, परंतु कमरे के दो कोने, छोले-कुलचे की दुकान के कोनों की तरह ही सामरिक महत्व रखते थे, और अत्यंत उपयोगी थे। एक कोने पर लकड़ी की एक मेज़ थी, जो कक्षा से बाहर निकाले गए किसी छात्र की तरह उकड़ू बैठाकर छोड़ दी गई थी। इसी मेज़ की सतह पर दाहिने कोने में एक गड्ढा बनाकर स्टील का एक बेसिन जड़ दिया गया था जो विवशता से मुँह फाड़े कमरे की छत को ताक रहा था। कमरे के दूसरे कोने पर एल्यूमीनियम की पट्टियों और प्लाईवुड वाले तख़्तों से एक शौचालय निर्मित था, जिसे संभवतः हवादार रखने के लिये ऊपर की ओर खुला छोड़ा गया था। इस पूरी संरचना में किसी आधुनिक वास्तुशिल्पी का चातुर्य निहित था, और शायद उसी चातुर्य से प्रभावित होकर, उसे स्पष्ट करने की मंशा से हमारे साथ वाले श्रीमान हमारी ओर मुख़ातिब होकर बोले ‒ "है ना फ़र्स्ट क्लास, एक आदमी के लिए? और चूँकि आप जैन साहब को जानते हैं, इसलिए आपके लिए हमने मात्र अठारह हज़ार रुपए में बात भी कर ली है! कहिये।" हम सकुचाए ‒ किराया, मकान की परिस्थिति पर विचार किये बिना, हमारे निर्धारित बजट से बाहर था। गले तक उभरती पीड़ा को थूक से निगलकर हमने टूटे शब्दों में कहा ‒ "जी वो… थोड़ा छोटा है। एक बार लाजपत नगर वाला भी देख लें?"

लाजपत नगर का पहला मकान लगभग पचपन वर्षीय एक पंजाबी सज्जन का था, जो प्रत्येक वर्ष लगभग आधा समय "अब्रौड" बिताते थे। मकान के नीचे चाईनीज़ बल्बों से जगमगाती दुकानें किराये पर लगा दी गयीं थीं, जो अगल बगल की दुकानों से केवल व्यावसायिक ही नहीं, अपितु सामने की सड़क पर सामान एवँ गाड़ियाँ रखने की भी प्रतिस्पर्धा करतीं थीं। ऊपर सरदारजी स्वयँ रहते थे, तथा छत पर दो कमरे, अलग-अलग किरायेदारों के लिये निर्मित थे। कमरा दिखने में प्रागैतिहासिक सा था, परंतु चकाचौंध वाले बाज़ार के बीचोबीच होने से आधुनिक युग में बेची जाने वाली "रेट्रो" चीज़ों की तरह एक प्रकार से महत्वपूर्ण था। कमरे के मध्य में लगभग दस इंच ऊँची, आठ-बटा-छः की लोहे की सफ़ेद पलँग रखी थी जो मुग़ल-ए-आज़म के नये रँगीन प्रिण्ट के कुछ दृश्यों की याद दिलाती थी। पलँग ने कमरे के एक बड़े हिस्से पर अतिक्रमण कर रखा था, और बचे हिस्सों में एक छोटा सा रसोईघर, और एक गुसलखाना अटाया गया था। कमरा दिखाने के बाद सरदारजी ने हमें अपने घर पर बिठाया, और मित्रवत शैली में बोले ‒ "और, क्या करते हो?" हमने भी मुस्कुराते हुए उत्तर दिया ‒ "जी दिल्ली में नया आया हूँ, अभी तक नौकरी शुरू नहीं की। इससे पहले हैदराबाद में था।" इसपर तपाक से स्वयँ को सम्भवतः कोई जुझारु हास्य अभिनेता समझते हुए बोले ‒ "तो हैदराबाद छोड़कर यहाँ आ गये? और गर्लफ़्रेण्ड?" हम सकुचाये, और इस वार्तालाप में रूचि न होने की सी मुद्रा बनाकर बोले ‒ "जी कभी थी ही नहीं।" सरदारजी नहीं माने, एवँ "हमारे ज़माने में…" से शुरू करते हुये अतीत की झलक दिखाकर संवाद की भूमिका बाँधी। तत्पश्चात असली मुद्दे पर आए और उसी शैली में बोले ‒ "कोई दिक्कत नहीं होगी यहाँ, मैं तो वैसे भी छः महीने यहाँ रहता नहीं। गाड़ी वगैरह लगानी हो तो नीचे पूरी सड़क आपकी ही है, आठ बजे दुकानें बंद होते ही ये जितनी भीड़ दिख रही है, सब खाली हो जायेगी, जहाँ मर्ज़ी लगाओ। ऊपर कमरे के बाहर भी काफ़ी जगह है, हवा खाओ जब मन आए! क्या?" हमने गम्भीर मुद्रा बनाकर निर्णय टालने के प्रयास से कहा ‒ "जी सोचकर बताता हूँ एक-दो दिन में!" इसपर उन्होंने कहा ‒ "क्या सोचना है?" हम निरुत्तर सी मुद्रा में उन्हें देखते हुए बोले ‒ "जी?" बिना हतोत्साहित हुए उन्होंने दोहराया ‒ "हाँ मतलब क्या सोचने वाले हो?" हमें उलझन हुई - सवाल गहरा था - क्या सोचने वाले हो। हम अब भी निरुत्तर थे और मरियल कछुए की तरह सिर्फ़ ताक रहे थे। हमारी वेदना समझते हुए, सम्भवतः अपने कई वर्षों के अनुभव को निचोड़ते हुए वे फिर हास्य-मिश्रित शब्दों में बोले ‒ "बेटा, ज़्यादा सोचना नहीं चाहिये, कर देना चाहिये। जैसे हम सरदार - सोचते नहीं बस कर देते हैं। हमारे मनमोहन सिंह को देख लो, पहले कर देता है, सोचता बाद में है।" वार्तालाप पुनः किसी और दिशा में जा रहा था, और हमने परिस्थिति भाँपते हुए अपने साथ आये श्रीमान की ओर आशापूर्वक नेत्रों से देखा। श्रीमान चलने को अग्रसर तो हुए, परंतु तब तक चर्चा शहर में ज़मीन-जायदाद की वर्तमान अर्थव्यवस्था पर आ चुकी थी, और हम झेंपते हुए बैठे रहे। बाहर आकर श्रीमान ने हमसे कहा ‒ "थोड़े मज़ाकिया हैं अँकल, ख़ैर ‒ दूसरा घर भी देख लें? यहीं पास में है, और अँकल का ही है।"

दूसरा मकान भी कुछ विशेष उत्साहवर्धक नहीं था, तथा इस इलाके की बाकी इमारतों की तरह संकरी सड़कों के बीच बीमारू सी मुँह बाये खड़ी एक इमारत के अँदर साँसें गिन रहा था। हम निराश होकर बाहर आये, तथा श्रीमान से बोले ‒ "ऐसा करते हैं, एक बार मयूर विहार वाले इलाके में भी घूम लेते हैं।" श्रीमान ने मयूर विहार का नाम सुनकर घृणा और तिरस्कार की लगभग बराबर मात्रा में मिश्रित दृष्टि से हमें देखा, थोड़ा खँखारे, फिर एक क्षण कुछ सोचा, शायद हमारे नये होने का आँकड़ा अपने समीकरण में बिठाया, और परिणामस्वरूप उभरकर आयी सहानुभूति के वशीभूत होकर बोले ‒ "मयूर विहार वगैरह बेकार है, नौएडा वौएडा में पड़ता है, ऑलमोस्ट दिल्ली से बाहर है। क्या करोगे वहाँ जाकर? देखो, रहना है, तो साउथ डैल्ही में ही रहो - द ऐड्रेस। दिल्ली में यही एक हैप्पेनिंग जगह है, और कहीं का सोचो भी मत! पर मन है, तो देख आओ - अपनी तसल्ली कर लो, फिर हम तो यहाँ हैं ही।"

मयूर विहार का इलाका दिल्ली के पूर्वी क्षेत्र में, यमुना के उस पार पड़ता है। दिल्ली के अनगिनत कारखानों द्वारा उगले गए लाखों टन कचड़े को धकेल कर ताजमहल एवँ उसके उपरांत पहुँचाने में यमुना के इस हिस्से का अमूल्य योगदान है। "सर्वजन हिताय, सर्वजन सुखाय" को चरितार्थ करती इस प्राकृतिक प्रक्रिया द्वारा निरर्थक नदी को नाले में परिवर्तित करने से राष्ट्रीय राजधानी क्षेत्र की स्वच्छता एवँ निर्मलता बनी रहती है।

मयूर विहार में पहला मकान हमने श्रीमति सिंह की अनुशंसा का सहारा लेकर जुगाड़ा। श्रीमति सिंह ने हमारी सिफ़ारिश अपने फूफा श्री सिंह से की, जिन्होंने हमारा केस "प्रौपर्टी डीलर" श्री चौहान को सौंपा, जिन्होंने हमें श्री सच्चर के पास भेजा, जो हमें डीoडीoएo द्वारा निर्मित एक मकान का स्वामित्व रखने वाले एक गुजराती परिवार के पास लेकर गए। मकान के दूसरे तल्ले पर यह परिवार स्वयँ रहता था, तथा तीसरे तल्ले पर दो कमरों का एक खण्ड किराए हेतु था। ऊपर चढ़ने के लिये निर्मित सीढ़ियाँ दूसरे तल्ले के दरवाज़े के ठीक सामने से जाती थीं, तथा घर की औरतों एवँ बच्चों को हर आगंतुक के ऊपर-नीचे जाने का सिलसिलेवार ब्यौरा मुफ़्त में मनोरंजन स्वरूप प्रदान करती थीं। श्री सच्चर ने इस परिवार के प्रतिनिधि को हमारा परिचय अत्यंत भाव-विह्वल कर देने वाले तरीके से दिया ‒ "बहुत पढ़ा-लिखा लड़का है। चौहान साहब ने भेजा है, और आप समझ लो कि इसकी पूरी गारण्टी मेरी। आजकल इस तरह आराम से सीधे बैचलर्स मिलते ही कहाँ हैं। एजुकेटेड, अच्छी-खासी जॉब, कोई इधर-उधर का झमेला नहीं।" फिर अचानक से कुछ स्मरण किया, और हमारी ओर मुड़कर बोले ‒ "बेटा इनकी एक ही शर्त है, नॉन वेज खाने वाले नहीं होने चहिए।" प्रतिनिधि ने भी इस बिंदु पर विशेष प्रभाव डालने की दृष्टि से दो शब्द जोड़े ‒ "हाँ जी, आप नॉन वेज वगैरह तो नहीं खाते हैं?" हमने ना में सर हिलाया, और इसके बाद अगल-बगल ताक-झाँक करके इस मुहल्ले की गतिविधियों का जायज़ा लिया। अंत में और एक-दो मकान देखने का विचार करते हुए सच्चर साहब से कहा ‒ "अँकल एक-दो दिन में डिसाइड करके आपको कॉल करता हूँ।"

तत्पश्चात कुछ और निराशाओं तथा पूर्वी दिल्ली के अलग अलग इलाकों के दलालों को निर्भयता से झेलने के बाद हमने अंततः बिना लिफ़्ट की एक इमारत में चौथे तल्ले का एक परिसर लेना सुनिश्चित किया, तथा अपने गृह-अनुसंधान यज्ञ का समापन किया। सड़क के उस पार एक छोटे से बाज़ार में मिलने वाले पनीर टिक्के, इमारत के बगल लगे एक विस्तृत उद्यान में प्रातःकाल टीवी पर मशहूर बाबाओं द्वारा सिखाई गई क्रियाएँ करते वृद्धजन, बिना पालतू कुत्तों को साथ चिपकाये घूमने वाले लोग, तथा "बनाना शेक" में बिन माँगे मस्ती में एक चम्मच आईसक्रीम डालने वाले दुकानदारों के बीच यह आवास हमारी "दिल्लीवासी" बनने की अनिश्चित प्रक्रिया को मोटे तौर पर प्रोत्साहित करता है।

Friday, July 11, 2008

Biography of the helmet

It was a regular busy evening in the month of August of the year 2006. The city of Bangalore, with its ever snarling traffic and forever romantic weather was witnessing the daily tantrums of riders on its busy J.C. Road. Air seemed to be still, and so did the tiny dust particles laden all over it, and so did the vehicles strewn all across the width of the street.

The moist, stale smell of thermocols and cartons hit the nostrils of the young man still exuberating with the heart-thumps caused by riding a new motorbike as soon as he entered the helmet shop with the almost-faded signboard at the junction. In a perfectly styled manoeuvre, he had just finished twisting the keys of his new shining black bike bought recently through an EMI scheme under faint hopes that his parents would help him out paying the monthly nuisance. The bike, being new, and as happens with all new relationships in the life of a guy, had suddenly seemed to him as his better three-fourth, as if this is 'the one' he had been waiting for all those years, the one for whom there are no comparisons, and nothing better can ever happen in his life again - finally in love! Anything inferior for her would have been a contempt to him. The guy was KV, and the bike was the KA-51J-4725 Bajaj Pulsar.

He enquired for the best available helmets in the shop. Various helmets in various colours and shapes and tattoos on their backs screened past his inquisitive eyes, but none seemed fit for the beauty standing outside in that magnificent, side-stand pose. He was looking for something just perfect! After all, for every future trip with her, this particular helmet would ensure he didn't get too uncomfortable or fumble while communicating.

And then, suddenly, as if the destiny itself had bestowed unto him, he spotted it! A shining black "Volga, Born to Guard, The Life Partner of your Choice on the roads", with white flames painted on its sides - the helmet was smiling at him, and he knew at first sight that he couldn't get anything better as a companion on all his future rides with 'her'. The deal was struck! And hence started his long-term commitment to both the helmet and the beauty waiting outside.

The helmet, in the initial days, tried to compete with him. There were times when he forgot to take the helmet along on voyages with her, and the helmet, through some black magic in-sync with its colour, ensured that he was caught on one traffic signal or the other by a paunchy policeman on the charge of riding the magnificent beauty in a one-eighth naked state (read, without the helmet).

The situation improved fast as both discovered each other as complementary - none could exist without the other when it came to riding the beauty, and both developed some sort of a tacit agreement to the fact. The first 'woman' to share the space with him on the bike was a colleague from office. She was kind-of good looking, and the helmet ensured that the sacred act of looking at her in the rear-view mirrors was perfectly shielded by its black visors. It was a trade-off, the woman's 'colour' was dimmed by the tinge of the glass, however, the 'form' was up for however minute observations without even being noticed. The helmet, in return, was given a chance to sit in the woman's lap with some pretext of why he didn't want to wear it.

The helmet never complained. Once when he was slightly drunk on a Saturday morning (rather a long Friday evening), and he decided to undertake an 'extra-long' night ride with her all the way from Bangalore to Mysore at 2:30 am, the helmet was terrified at first, but never resisted. Its visors had to undergo the terror of being the graveyard of numerous white-green flies all along the way, sticking their juices and lifeless bodies on it. At the end, he didn't even bother to clean it and the black visor lost its sheen and true colour amongst spots of all possible colours of the spectrum. At another instance, the helmet was tucked at the back of the bike, its body handcuffed with a helmet lock, and was left to bang its head continuously on the rear number plate. The silly reason was, he wanted to feel his adrenaline by riding her amidst heavy rains, but wanted to retain the helmet for safety purposes at traffic signals. For him, it was the joy of feeling the heavy droplets falling on his body with largely unbuttoned shirt and the excitement of wet winds gushing in his hairs, while for the helmet, it was the torture of being inundated with water with scant care to the soft foam inside. At other instances, the helmet even had to undergo the difficulties of adjusting to the bad breaths of his numerous friends borrowing it, many a times, the effect accentuated by a slight excess of alcohol in their throats. The helmet, however, never complained.

The helmet always remained loyal. When he moved out of Bangalore, the helmet ensured that in spite of all weight considerations, it was included in the final checklist of the Calicut consignment. It maintained its undying respect for 'him and her', even though, as time had progressed, he had kept on getting better, and the beauty had kept on getting worse with marks of age. His love for her, as happens with all old relationships in the life of a guy, had already started getting past the peak of the 'normal curve' of attraction. The helmet, still, remained a loyal companion for all their wild voyages exploring Kerala.

One fateful day, and he didn't even care to remember the date or the person involved, the helmet was suddenly gone out of his life! He didn't remember whether he was drunk and asleep, or simply asleep, or busy-with-nothing in his hostel room, when someone borrowed it, and because he never really cared for the loyal helmet, he didn't care to ask it back as well. And when things are gone, as happens with all lost relationships in the life of a guy, he started feeling the pinch. He had to borrow a helmet from someone every time he wished a ride on her, and he craved for his lost companion more than ever. He made a tacit resolve that he would clean the visor and its body with a soft damp cloth if ever he got it back. And he has been waiting in grief ever since.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Batch: Welcome and more

PGP12 is here. And here in 'large' numbers. Welcome to K fachhon.

Yeah, it is a dry welcome, for obvious reasons, because I can't find any enthusiasm to say, "yeah, aao fachhon, waah, we are proud to have amongst us a bunch of achievers and mature individuals who have the drive to..." blah blah... Crap. You belied all our 'hopes'! You suck! You know what, your seniors (better start calling them 'sirs' and 'mams' from today) were counting days by measuring solar displacement across the horizon through a sophisticated telescope, in the meantime, adjusting their angles of repose with those little-little filtered 'news' bits coming in from Sangams or that Yahoogroup (where you spammed like shit). You think I'm talking in Mayan language? Naah, I'm that frank blunt sadistic prick who is asking you directly - "Where the hell did all the chicks go??" :x You bunch of frustu despo voracious (wo)man-eaters, what happened to those eenaa-meenaa-deekaas about whom we used to hear stories from one Sangam or the other? Earth ate them or the sky? You suck. Big time. Dare come to me and say "don't worry (sir), PGP11 girls are babes" (I know your name dude, don't smile by reading this, I would remember you till I'm at campus).

And yes, who gave you the permission to start off with your DCPs (better go and find out what that means rather than protruding your jaw like an idiot towards your monitor, you moron) in that guest lecture? Do you even know what guest lectures are supposed to mean? Its meant to be a practice torture-session for all you first year idiots so that you are ready for the atrocities which would be inflicted unto each one of you in that air-conditioned auditorium when we (tumhaare baap) would be giving our presentations and lectures (and you won't get even a susu break, and the air-conditioner would make you freeze to death, together with that perpetual chill down your spine to accelerate your nervous breakdown). And you, in addition to those DCPs, were taking notes? Ever heard about cutting trees and ecosystem and paper conservation or any such shit? Came through CAT or COW? You suck.

And who are those guys who keep on troubling with their cellphone connections, and bank loans, and laptops, and shirts, and pants and trousers and... What the fuzz? Have we opened up an absolutely free settle-your-family consultancy at campus? If you signed your CAT forms in ink (and not a left thumb impression), and you can read this article rather than being narrated by your equally stupid roommate, better go and find out where to get your stuff. We are busy. We don't have time for stupid jerks like you who don't know where to buy a bucket to wash your nappies. And listen, the next time I find you in the loo when its my time to relieve, you would be made to stand and run, halfway through your nasty act. Better get up early in the morning and get your leeches off. Get a copy of my class schedule from the CC and don't dare to venture into the bathroom area 30 minutes prior to all my classes.

And because you are large in numbers (guess the admissions office got confused with the misnomer CAT, they thought its an exam for animals, and they filled you like rats to be eaten by cats in our pristine, 230 acres, luxury, resort-like campus and you started to dig ratholes everywhere), better note this for your mess and NC. Rule one, each one of you, eat your paunches full within 45 minutes of mess opening time during all meals, and get out of the mess area before making everyone (tumhaare baap) smell your belches and farts. And rule two, NC is not for you. Night Canteen, as long as its functioning in the night, is for us. If you want to use NC, better use it during daytimes with a hard-stop limit of 7 pm. I don't want Salman or Ranjeet to delay my parathas because a bunch of morons are asking him "Canteen mein kya-kya milta hai?" Yahaan rat-food nahin milta. Fuzz off. You suck.

And listen. Hello. Who gave you the permission to even dare think that the tasks given to you might be just for fun? Its not funny. Next time when your faculty gives you a task, ask him on his face, "Sir, this assignment wasn't sent through an IP address which... blah blah blah". You bloody IT engineers. Grow up. Oh, my bad. You can't. So, better stay obedient even after your parents (two thirds of you morons anyway needed mummy-papa so that they can help you get an admission) go back home happily in the illusion that their wards would soon be polished into global-decision makers who would move and shake the world. In the meantime, you chickens would still suck for your entire stay at campus.

Ok whatever. Last point, I AM NOT RUNNING A CHARITY AND GIVING MY LAPTOP FOR YOUR ASSIGNMENTS. Don't even venture on my floor. Fuzz off. You suck.

Once again, welcome to IIMK :|

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Convexity Theory of Salaries

I don’t think I would be surprised if someone comes up to me and throws a statistic which says that 74% of the productive time of a current generation salaried employee working in one of the Tier 1 cities is spent in mulling over his / her current salary package, and over future avenues of getting an incremental benefit in the same.

I put some more thought into the phenomenon, and came up with my “Convexity Theory of Salaries”. Apparently simple, the theory propounds my idea of a mutually convex satisfaction and effort curves with incremental salaries. The following figure explains the theory in some detail:

Any Tier 1 city employee can be classified into one of the three zones at various stages of his / her life. Different zones have been segregated based on salary ranges, and a creature falling in one zone has characteristics totally distinct from creatures in other zones. In addition, a creature in a lower zone would almost always strive / crib to jump to a higher one.

ZONE 1 – The Laggard Worker

Zone One incumbents spend a large chunk of their time in office. Their work includes mundane jobs, generally of a repetitive nature. They might attend late night calls (support work), verify and document processes (Ctrl + C/V work), spend time on Orkut, YouTube, Monster and Naukri, ensure that the coffee vending machines and smoking zones in the office reach their optimum utilization, and tweak something or the other in their CVs for a few minutes as a daily routine. They are good at narrating stories in their families about how their work at an MNC keeps them busy for more than 12 hours a day but because of a centrally air-conditioned office building and a personalized cubicle, at least the job is satisfactory. However, they are of the most unsatisfactory lot and are proud contributors to the largest bulk of CV movements across job consultancies in various cities. They spend at least one weekend per month participating in recruitment processes for jobs which might elevate them to Zone Two.

ZONE 2 – The Aspirant

Zone Two incumbents are of the ambitious lot. Their office timings become a comfortable 9 to 6 and their work generally involves low-value-add-to-the-company endeavors. They might write codes for small fragments of larger applications, search the net working as analysts sniffing for data, appear for certifications, or jugaado for onsite opportunities. A few towards the right (light green) portion of this zone might actually work on something which might positively contribute to company’s bottom-line and are the cause of envy for their peers on the last day of each month. With their sufficient income levels, Zone Two’ers can afford 2-BHK flats on a twin-sharing basis rather than those Paying Guest (PG) arrangements of Zone One mortals. They even pay the EMIs of their two-wheelers from their own salaries and are the largest contributors to the Friday night crowd at city pubs and restaurants. Some of them start fitness routines and Yoga for the purpose of telling about the same to office colleagues. Their CVs are normally stagnated and a majority of them start attending classes for management entrance examinations on weekends. Even though they are at the vertex of the satisfaction convex, their aspirations keep them cribbing for a slot in Zone Three without anticipating the disaster.

ZONE 3 – The Fallbacks

Zone Three incumbents are classic portrayals of grandma’s greed-is-a-dangerous-evil. They are the fallen back Zone Two’ers normally with a one or two year management education interspersed in between. They spend the maximum time in office working upon presentations which would eventually attract partners’ and clients’ brickbats, excel maintenance for resource allocation, team meetings etc. Their discussion topics amongst office colleagues witness a paradigm shift from Zone Two’ers talks about girls, boss-cribbings, PVR movies and new cellphones in the market to Zone Three thoughts on entrepreneurship and related gassings, plans for apartment purchases, investments etc. Their Orkut albums are replete with their international stints and other sweet memories of Zone Two days and usually a with-my-team snap from their first few days at Zone Three tragedy. Their working hours, stretching to the better portion of twenty four, put them towards the tail end of the satisfaction convex into a situation which their last-day of the month creditings in the bank cannot compensate. It’s already too late for them to get back to the previous two zones and quite a few of them, feeling retired towards their middle age itself, start watching fatso babas on dhaarmik TV channels giving gyaan about life.

Zone Two, according to the Convexity Theory is the Utopia of human existence. It does not take much effort for an average employee to enter this zone and enjoy weekend trips and Friday dinners. A slightly focused strategy can even place most of them towards the right end of this zone which offers comfortable salaries coupled with a relaxed lifestyle. However, the mere attraction to cross the boundary proves lethal.

“Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side.” Think before you play ping-pong within these zones.

Friday, November 16, 2007

CAT Tips: What to do the day before and on the D-Day

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

- Elbert Hubbard; The Note Book, 1927

The penultimate

Relax! Your part of the job is already done! If you happen to be an engineer too (which I presume with a 90% level of confidence), recall the days when you used to laugh looking at people messing their heads with “Irodov” and “Krishna’s IIT Physics” on the day of the JEE! If you weigh intelligence and perseverance in terms of importance towards cracking CAT, trust me, this cat is way too sexy to be tamed just by slogging hard for it – I would rank intelligence higher when it comes to getting her! If you count in attitude and thinking-on-the-toes as components of intelligence, you are made for an IIM. Tomorrow is your day to prove that you are great not because you are amongst the crowd of those two hundred thousand guys writing the exam each one of which has the brains to solve those easy Quants and DI problems, but you are great because you are more intelligent in terms of choosing the right ones out of the twenty five questions and calm enough to crack them within fifty minutes. Adding to it, you should be intelligent enough to understand that you don’t need to slog tonight to prove yourself tomorrow!

If you want a personal experience, I had enjoyed a mug of beer in Bangalore’s “Just Another Pub” at Koramangala the day before CAT, chilling out with a bunch of college friends (and I got a “blacki”!!) The point out here is not about alcohol (remain strictly within 50ml!); just relax in the best way which suits you. Stay calm, have a dinner with you girlfriend (if you aren’t as lucky as me who doesn’t have any such filthy burdens), and remain confident that you are made for the big day. It’s meant to be a laid back Saturday, let the essence remain – you’re doomed to be back again to the rhetoric of office or classes from Monday!

The ultimate

Ever actually seen how “mornings” are like on Sundays? The exam is at ten, make sure you wake up in time keeping in mind your transit time to the examination centre. You haven’t taken a bath for past 4 days, do it today (yes, do it even though it’s a “sun” day; it’s the second best thing in the world to refresh with a cold water shower on a November morning!) Feel like revising formulae or something? Personal opinion – it’s of no use. It’s only the easy formulae – which you already have used a lakh times – combined with your sheer presence of mind that is required to sail through CAT problems. Get to the examination centre by 09:45, check out all girls allotted the same centre if you are writing CAT in a real town and, finally, take your seat at 10:00.

The 10:00 to 10:30 period when you’ve to wait in the examination hall for the question paper is the worst torture you might have ever faced in life. Here’s how to make best use of the time. Get your brain working before the exam starts. After you are done with the form filling stuff, this is the time to revise your formulae. Your brain is already at peace with the relaxation you offered it yesterday, let it start afresh. Mentally start recalling simple geometry and mensuration’s areas, volumes, equations and stuff. If you remember some problem you had ingeniously solved (ever), think about the solution again, you’ll bolster your confidence. Start building your focus fifteen minutes before you’ve got the papers. Once you get them, it’s the regular easy trick. Pick up the most comfortable areas (personal favorite – geometry in Quants); steer through rough uncomfortable terrains the last. Constantly look for easy problems, spot them right and you are through the cut-off. Get ready to enjoy the Sunday evening once again!

All the best!