To our tunes

The best gift my father had given me as a child would’ve probably been taking me for all those long drives and probably teaching me to love everything about food, not just eat but to actually looooooove it, Dad nailed it. 

Him being busy with his work quite often, we hardly spent a hour with each other a day, but these long drives that happened once a while, me and my father, that was one of the wholesome moments I’ve had.

His playlist was gold. From R D Burman to Ilayaraja, from Boney M to Ceylon radio hits, we heard everything, and we sang together, quite often the wrong lyrics, so loudly, happily, on roads that felt neverending and the horizon that felt sneakily close.

As an adult the biggest independence would be to have your own playlist. Your own goddamn beat. Every word, every tune that you love, back to back, just how mindblowing that is!

Every genre for a part of life. From pop music as a preteen, grunge rock as a rebel teenager, classical as a transition in between, and finally settling together with jazz, music has defined growing up at every point of our lives. When I think about how it could’ve started, I could only think of cavemen dancing to the beats of their feet hitting the floors, throwing stones on wall to make their rhythm.

We live by our tunes. Rather judging someone by their friends, I’d look in a person’s playlist to analyse them. (NO not like that, not creepy) A person’s playlist indeed tells a lot about someone.

If we could live as tunes, I would want to live as a jazz tune, light in the air, a spontaneous harmony yet complication of sorts, yup that’s the one, I would want to be a ‘Giant steps’ the most feared and revered piece of audio art. Buuuuut that’s only a want, and I’m probably the laziest pop song, like Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’. 🤦‍♀️ What tune are you and what do you aspire to be?

Shit

Shit, that’s where I lived around.

Piled up human and animal excreta at the corners of my street, surrounded by cluttering house flies. The streets were narrow and hence reeked of the stench.

Half-dressed children, scruffy and rugged playing; middle aged women babbling, giggling and doe eyed sparrows hopping around, like they couldn’t smell a thing, happily.

I never remembered the mornings, but the noons, vividly.

On the way from school to home, walking with my huge sack of what was filled with books packed in with hatred, and lunch packed in with love. Leisure walking, wide eyed, looking around at the world I lived in.

Our summertime adventure was hopping around kitchen counters when the sewage water had peeped into our houses, imagining we were sailors jumping from one ship to another to avoid falling off in a sea full of piranhas who haven’t had their breakfast, feeling victorious everytime we did so, almost estimating ourselves to be as some kind of spiderman. Being thrilled, yet never showed how exciting it was. It was a black phase in my mother’s life. But for me, that’s where I lived, I wouldn’t know how it was supposed to be bad. Everything was exciting, the insects, the sparrows, the children and the sound of laughter filling the air.

I was 7 years old, when I realized why my mother wouldn’t let me play outside or why I couldn’t invite a friend over. The reason was simple, the place I lived, was the place people scrunched their nose when they walked past.

‘Is that where you lived?’ Was a question I’ve been asked million times.

I was confused. Did that mean they thought I was poor? Was I poor?

I asked my mother.

And her reply was that we were ‘quite rich’.

For the next few days, I gleamed to everyone proudly, like I’ve found the very secret of life, that I was in fact ‘quite rich’. My understanding was that, quite rich was still, rich.

At school my actual ‘rich’ friends laughed at me, for gleaming at the fact that I was ‘poor’ so proudly. Turned out, quite rich probably meant that, you are neither rich nor poor. This was an excuse for them to drag where I lived and mock that I lived there, for many nights, I wondered if my life was actually not as beautiful as I made it out to be.

A few days later, incidentally while I was forcefully woken up for an exam, I saw my first sunrise, that day on the terrace. My house, being four floored standing above everyone else’s houses, I felt a little closer to the sun. I would never forget that day.

Sparrows and parrots that danced on my terrace, the sun half shining.

That’s when I realized, we all sleep under the same sky, how did it matter what bricks we were trapped in?

Them

Their

Mads rambling,

Feudals gambling,

Liberals ambling,

Strident echoes to squeak,
Hopes almost always bleak

Up, the materials smoke

While our leaders lie down just stoke.

Silenced

I sit, spit dimwit, ponder
Why, just why, I wonder

Downpour of promised Joys,
On being plain voiceless toys

Make us heard,
tiny meek heads,
Buried amongst your herd.

Yearning for the petrichor,
Yet standing by the epicure

Our hypocrites,
To your aristocrats

A refusal of need,
Of our want to be freed

A war for the want
to not be daunt.

To live our ways , furled,
On what is seemingly ‘your’ world.

Mother’s day

You come out of a womb with your cords still connected to the one who carried you, the moment they cut it off the moment you start living outside her, she feeds you from her, you live off her for the next few years, where she dedicatedly nurtures you like that’s the only thing she’s been born for, like you are the meaning for her existence, like you are her life.

Once you reach adulthood, you probably think you’re well off by yourself. Yet she’s always there to support you putting your fragile imbecile needs before her essentials. You prioritize yourself and others you meet meanwhile. Does she expect? We praise her for not, what if she does? Correction, what is wrong if she does, after all that she’s done.

Now, now, calling her the epitome of sacrifice you almost unshamingly pressurize her to be the way she’s been her whole life, you call her unsung hero but treat her like your unpaid slave. And you know what’s worse, you know all that she’s been through, you still call her your unsung hero. Aren’t you ready to sing your hero out already? Let your hero sing her song. Let your hero live for her and once not for you or your family. Let your hero have her opinions, tastes choices, and most importantly the freedom of taking her desicions without the pressure having to prioritize your needs but hers.

Why should mothers be selfless, so that you can be selfish? Let her put her needs before yours. She’s done enough raising you, let her raise her horizons now. This could be the greatest mothers day wish you give her.

The Lost boys

” ‘Run! Run! Lost boy!’ they said to me, away from all the reality. Neverland is the home for lost boys like me. And lost boys like me are free.”

_ J.M.Barrie

Somewhere during the monsoons of the 87′ ,

The warmth of the sun, mixed with the moving train’s breeze hit my face. It was morning already. The sunshine’s gracious presence shook me up away from my usual grumpy morning self. I wish I could’ve been in the mental state to enjoy the serene beauty around me. The monsoons made the gorgeous little hills glisten, a silent breeze and the sunshine together isn’t something you’re blessed to see everyday, but I wasn’t on a peace trip or a self exploration tour to enjoy this. The reason why I’m here, it is something serious, something scarier, something preventing the smile that would’ve crept up on my face.

“You’re awake so soon!”
Murli asked me with a amused expression on his face, slowly stirring that plastic chai cup in his hands. I nodded assuringly at him, to which he smiled back.

“Would you like to have some chai? Nothing can beat the taste of our Indian trains’s chai!”
He beamed at me.
I smiled slowly at him, which he took as an yes and smiled back at me more happily. He handed me a plastic cup half-filled with chai, which I gladly accepted and later handed him some chillars for it.

“What Sir?
You don’t need to repay me for small things like this.
You’ve helped me with bigger things which I could never repay!
I almost thought we had father and son kind of relationship going on!”
He gave me a playfully-hurt look to me.

“Ugh.
Now, don’t play these mind games with me! Just get the money already!”
I said in a deadly firm tone, narrowing my eyes at him.
It was true that I saw him as my own son, but I wasn’t the kind of man who knew to show people how much I actually cared for them. ‘Maybe thats why your own son left you.’ My conscience told me, I ignored it, just like I always did.

“For a second there, I thought you were a  nice person.” Murli mumbled to himself wryly.

As playful and childish this nineteen year old appears to be, he was more than a ‘child’.

The society divided people onto two classes, ‘The rich’ and ‘The poor’. He belonged to neither of them.
Maybe somewhere, in the thin line between these two classes was where he belonged. The rich were the people who had enough sources to not worry about tomorrow’s survival. The poor were simply the opposite of the rich.

By money, Murli was richer than me and anyone I knew, but he did have to worry about his survival the next day. And that’s simply what made these boys different.

They all had the same story, my boy no different.  Sons of well off fathers and forefathers, yet they chose to live on streets. Independence, they called it. I never quite got the motive behind it.

“Ravi is a nice boy sir”
Murli smiled, breaking off the silence which lurched from nowhere.

“I raised him.
I know well enough about him.” My ego replied.

“You didn’t sir.. That’s why he came here..” Murli mumbled faintly.

I pretended to not have heard that. I did. I did knew I’m the reason my boy ran away from his own home. I knew the reality. My boy, who had enough guts to handle the scariest,  sin and hunger filled streets of Mumbai, didn’t have enough courage to handle his own father. Was I that scary? Is that how much I’ve terrified my own son? Sure, his examination results were important to me, but how can they get more important than him to me? Why did he fail to realize this? Why did he choose this poverty flourished,  hunger glorified lifestyle?

“You’re not a bad man sir.”
Murli spoke out of nowhere, like he had heard my thoughts.

I gave him a blank stare.

“You’re not a bad man sir.”
He repeated.
“You just act that way.”

I blinked. He was right. I failed to come up with anything back to him.

“You’re soft and sensitive sir.
Under this hard and stubborn exterior. Ravi just failed to bring your soft side out.”

“Why did you leave your home?”
I shot back. Something I promised myself during the start of this journey was to never get involved in this boy’s life, but I couldn’t help it anymore.

He laughed dryly.

“Did your parents abuse you?”
I asked. What could’ve possibly happened to a boy,  with one such a mature mind, that he decides to leave his home?

“No.”
A one word faint reply came from him.

Not wanting to pester him more,  I let my curiosity down and turned towards the windowsill, gently pushing away the rain drops at the edges of those iron bars with my dry fingers.

“I was born in Bangalore. ”
Murli suddenly spoke.

I turned towards him suddenly, making him pause for a second. I then motioned him to speak again.

“No siblings. Single child. ”
He started.

“My father was a very rich man.
So was grandfather, so was his father. The money’s been there for generations.

My mom wasn’t a rich woman unlike them, but she was smart and educated. Appa fell in love with her, for she was intellectual and charming.
They got married and I was born.

When I was 13 Amma started getting sick.
At the start of her illness, Appa took very good care of her.
But as her health started declining, his morals started declining.
His alcohol addictions and extramarital affairs put me on rage.

So after mom died, I decided there was nothing else to cherish there.
Home was not that Bunglaow we lived, it was Amma, appa and something I called a family.  When I lost both of them to life, I decided there was no use inhaling bricks and stones, instead of…instead of.. Love.
I didn’t just have a family anymore,  I was denied of love.

So I just chose to walk off..”

It took me long enough to come with a response. This boy was hardly 15 or 16, yet that child’s eyes bore so much pain.

For a minute there, I saw my own son in him.

I did something that surprised myself. I hugged him tight. The boy suddenly burst out crying, hugging me back tighter. That moment, I felt enlightened. I knew where exactly I went wrong in raising my son.
I realized all he needed was not a guard, it was a dad.

We didn’t speak anything after that. Murli took me to Ravi’s place. A small rusted and old, leaking shutter where two average weighted humans could fit in. For people like me, it was hard to even peep inside.

I knocked the rusted iron door.’ Ravi’ came out. He was shocked, he dropped whatever his hands held upon, his eyes teared up.

“…App…Ap…”
He took in long breaths. Words failed to come out from his mouth. He opened his mouth gasping, while his eyes blurred up with water, yet, he was smiling.

“Have you gone dumb already?” I scolded playfully, my cheeks felt sticky, that’s when I realized I’ve unaware of my own tears.

He pounced on me, hugging me tight. The last time I hugged him was the day he was born where I hugged him tight against my chest, while his tiny fingers held my thumb. Under normal circumstances, I, the great so and so, would’ve not let my boy touch me .’Crying was for the weak.’ I’d have scolded him.
But here I was, crying for the first time in my own life.

His soft and delicate arms were coal black and rough. For hours, I listened to my son share his terrible work experiences in that dreadful chemical factory where he handled the hot iron plates bare handed.
At home my wife would be grunting all day about how her baby’s hands will hurt writing long homework. She would lose her mind if she were to see him today.

I kept his palm inside mine looked at him and smiled. He was very dark, dirty and shabby.
We washed him for hours. Clothed him neatly. I realized, he had gotten so skinny by now.

“Do you even eat?”

“Yes.” One faint murmur came.

“How many meals?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

He looked at Murli before answering “One time a day.”

“What do you do with the money you earn?”
This time I turned towards Murli and asked.

“We eat a meal on it sir. Half goes on our living.
We lend the rest, to people worser than us. “

“Is it even possible for people to live on worser conditions than this?”
I openly wondered.

“Unfortunately,  yes sir. Take a walk down these streets if you doubt my words. ”
Murli assured me.

I knew he wasn’t lying.

“Do you want to come back home?”
I asked my son.

“Take him sir. ”
Murli replied instead of Ravi.
And that made it.

I took my son, Ranga, named after my father,  the proud old Navy officer, Ranganathan, who lived by the name Ravi here, to our own home. It took months for him to settle back, to his normal life. But our father son relationship was never the same anymore. It was better, so was my now adult son. He’d got enough experience in life to provide his father the security, he haf longed all these years, to give to his family.

Years later,

On a trip to Bangalore, I happened to meet Murli’s father coincidentally. Who then realized his mistakes and was living a pathetic life, praying for his son to come back. Never have I ever broke a promise, Never have I ever unkept my words, but by then I decided to break a promise i made to myself and Murli by taking him back to his father.

He wasn’t initially happy with my decision. But when he saw his reformed, guilt struck father in crippling depression, crying for his son, he melted.
His father got his son back, Murli got his family back. And I, I got an immense pleasure on getting to see this happen.

Murli is a multimillionaire today. He’s got an empire under him. 20 years later I remember reading an article about him, and it stating how he easily had got it all in life, to which he had simply replied

Well, you haven’t lived my life.”

Maybe the lost boys are still there. Somewhere running around the slums of Bombay, almost killing themselves slowly each day for the purpose of bare survival. I don’t know if they do exist anymore. Neither do I want to know.

Utopia

I asked, for a new world
Where tears give solutions to my insomniac nights,
And feelings tend to remain happy,
Where deserts turned into seashores,
And dryness transcended into saline waves.
Where sand turned to stardust,
Shining through the middle of the dark nights,
Bright and lustrous, to dig my petty feet deep inside.
A tiny pleasure it gave.
And where only mortals ceased
And humanity lived, those doves flew spreading the peace
Where speech failed and we all wrote,
Cowardice of social interaction and those fear of fellow humans died;
Where happiness and pain
Both yielded smiles, not wet, sticky cheeks.
Where everyone was beautiful,
In the brains and the hearts,
And Magics and myths came to life,
Myths like equality and peace too,
And where birds flew,
Spreading colourful glitters all around.
Where humans failed to decipher
Those face of others, and smell those scents.
Where ‘ugly’ was just a word, with failed senses
And confidence oozed into our nerves.
Where we all saw a bright future,
Stabbing insecurity countless times
At its back, betraying the very cause of betrayal.
In the deserted path of life I kept walking,
It all felt somewhere near my reach,
Like the horizon seems, but untrue to your deceptive gaze,
Mirage it was.
I chose to be fooled,
And lived in hope.