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Faith

“I wish I had Hamid’s faith,” I texted to my friend after watching the film titled Hamid on Netflix few days ago.

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Image credit: Yoodlee films

Hamid got this year’s National Award for the Best Urdu Film and  Talha Arshad Reshi (who acted as Hamid in the film) got the National Award for the  Best Child Actor (He shared it with two other child actors). After getting the award, the director rued the fact that due to the current situation in Kashmir, he had not been able to share this news with young Talha. I hope, Hamid akka Talha now has now received this happy news of him getting the best child actor award.

I am not a qualified film critic so I will not get into that territory of dissecting Hamid through the lens of cinematic language, vocabulary and expression. My canvas here is different.

Hamid touched me for its sheer gentleness, for the poignancy of a story set in Kashmir and the universality of human pain, loss, longing and hope too. Life is a juxtaposition of brutality and tenderness. And that’s why there can be no greater fiction than life itself. But beyond this, as I watched Hamid, I yearned to have faith like little, adorable Hamid had in Allah. His intense love and longing for his father moved me to tears. As Hamid hopes for his father’s return, he seeks the help of Allah through a mobile phone.  And like life, the story unfolds in myriad ways.

Life’s brutal and in course of time, Hamid realises his father would never return. He will never see his father again. But he wants to finish the wooden boat (his father was an artisan and a poet too. Hamid wants to follow his father’s footsteps).

He realises that Allah will not bring back his father. But he moves forward in life and holds on to gentleness in his own sublime ways. In the end, when he receives two metal containers of red paints for his boat by parcel (I will not share the details of how and why here), he says to his mother with a smile, “Allah ne bheja hai “(Allah has sent it).  And then in the end, he takes his  mother on a ride in this beautiful boat painted in deep red. A boat made by his deft yet tender hands. The magic of human hands.

Kashmir with its ethereal physical landscape, bruised emotional landscape has been captured beautifully in Hamid.

As an adult negotiating through life, I often wonder about having a child’s faith and innocence. Hamid took me to that world.

And if there’s one gift I would want from life, I would like to ask for Hamid’s faith.

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The film has a beautiful song titled Hukus Bukus — my favourite Kashmiri folk song.  My Kashmiri friends always talk about this beautiful song with a smile. In happiness and pain, the song gives them a sense of home.

(Below) You can find few lines from the song with a little English translation in the end

“Hukus bukus telli wann che kus
onum batta lodum deag,
shaal kich kich waangano,
Brahmi charas puane chhokum,
Brahmish batanye tekhis tyakha.”

(The Teacher corrects:)

“Itkayne ne Itkayne
Tse Kus Be Kus Teli Wan su Kus
Moh Batuk Logum Deg
Shwas Khich Khich Wang-mayam
Bhruman daras Poyun chokum
Tekis Takya bane Tyuk”
Tse Kus Be Kus Teli Wan su Kus

(Who are you and who am I then tell us who is he the creator that permeates through both you and I)

In the end, THERE IS NO OTHER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy space

Home is where the books are.

I have been travelling and every time I come back home from a trip, I just put all my notebooks and books (that travelled with me) on the desk.  This does not add anything to the desk other than clutter.

In no time, the desk looked like a super cyclone ravaged place. The clutter irritated me but I kept on postponing the cleaning operation. Finally I woke up at 6 in the morning today to arrange my desk. I should have planned a before and after photo op.  Well, now I am happy to see this neat desk. I hope, it stays this way for some time.

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Home is where the trees are

I am in deep mourning. I am grieving for all the beautiful, strong, not so strong trees we have lost as Cyclone Fani ravaged Odisha few days back.

I have grown up with trees. I have hugged them in moments of happiness. I have leaned against them in times of sadness. Sometimes I have taken their presence for granted. My most beautiful growing up memory is all about waking up in the morning and sitting quietly on the verandah of our then house (I have lived in different parts of Odisha) and just soaking in the ethereal beauty of swaying coconut trees, watching tiny birds jumping from one branch of the mango tree to another.

There are no gentler souls in this world than the trees. They give shelter even to those who come to brutally hack them from the roots.

Even as I grieve deeply, I hope we will soon plant more trees in Odisha and love them more deeply and pray for their longer life.

In their existence lies our future. For trees are life.

(This banyan tree belongs to the soil of Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital. I was mesmerized by its richness of life. Being with this tree felt like being with my ancestors… the sense of its history warmed the cockles of my heart. How can we become this large in our hearts? )   

PHOTOS : YOURS TRULY

 

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One way ticket…

(‘Desh’ (meaning country) is how my mother-in-law refers to Kerala whenever she talks about her years of growing up there. I always tell her, “India is your country. Why are you referring Kerala as your country?” But she refuses to listen to me. She shifted to Gujarat when she got married almost 50 years ago. This piece first appeared in an anthology titled ‘People called Ahmedabad’. I am sharing this here as we celebrate Gujarat Day on May 1. This is about leaving home, finding home and also about love and longing)  

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(The Matriarch… )

More than fifty years ago, Sowbhagyabati Menon arrived in Ahmedabad from a small village in Kerala as a young bride. She started a whole new chapter of her life in this dusty city which is so very different from the lush green village of hers dotted with beautiful houses, swaying coconut trees and paddy fields. Today, she starts her day with a cup of tea and two Gujarati newspapers. And she loves her eclectic mixed neighborhood of Khanpur, in the walled city of Ahmedabad.

She looks back at her Gujarat journey with a sense of nostalgia and fondness. “It was my first train journey and everybody in my family thought that I was really going away too far. We all had heard of Ahmedabad only through news.The first house I stayed in Ahmedabad was on rent. It was a small house but I was surrounded by wonderful neighbors who wholeheartedly welcomed this young Malayali.”

Gujarati language sounded more or less like Greek or Latin to her. But she was hell-bent on learning the language. So, she sought the help of her neighbour’s school-going daughter. With a paper and pen, they moved around in the kitchen to note down the names of vegetables in Gujarati. Later on in the day whenever she found some free time, she diligently practiced on her own, saying it gently and slowly, “bataka (potato), dungri (onions).”

In Kerala, she was used to having boiled rice and in the initial days of her arrival here, she just couldn’t stand the smell of basmati rice in her friends’ houses. In the beginning, she stayed with her Gujarati friend for a couple of days. Her loving hosts were feeling miserable that their guest just refused to touch any of the Guajrati delicacies they offered to her. Then one day, her host friend went to a small south-Indian restaurant to pack a meal of masala dosa, idli, vada for her.Probably that South-Indian platter was more precious to her than any piece of gold jewellery she was wearing.

But she has come a long way since then. Today, she loves her share of thepla, methi gota, sukhdi, khichdi, poori-aam ras and undhiyu. In fact, her children and grand-children now especially ask her to make Gujarati khatti meethi dal and every Uttarayan, she gets up at 3 am in the night to prepare lip-smacking unidhiyu. From her kitchen now comes a regular spread of both Kerala and Gujarati cuisine.  

She loves being in Ahmedabad which has given her a home, friends and beautiful memories to go back to. With a sense of love, she says, “Gujratis are nice,warm people. They are affable and made me feel at home from the beginning.”

So, what has she enjoyed the most about her life in Ahmedabad? She says, “I feel a sense of freedom in Ahmedabad. Here, I move around freely with my friends, have gone for late night movies. There is no restrictions on movement like I had in Kerala and I have enjoyed the freedom to explore life. My neighbours have taught me the art of saving money. They have taught me the art of compounding interest. So, that has definitely made my life better now.”

“I have also enjoyed celebrating festivals like Diwali, Uttarayan, Navratri and Bestu Varash (Gujarati New year).  And yes, I was a true blood Malayali before, having my share of cooking in coconut oil. After more than four decades in Gujarat, I have lost my taste for coconut oil.”

Does she miss Kerala? “Oh, I miss Kerala’s magical monsoon. Even after so many years, Gujarat’s dry, arid long summer feels really tough. In these months, I long for Kerala’s rains. I also miss the fabulous celebrations of Onam in my village. Though I try to cook an elaborate sadhya on Onam but it just doesn’t feel the same.”

But then she trails, “Many of the people with whom I grew up in Kerala are gone now. The ancestral house of mine needs constant attention. Life in Ahmedabad feels much easier now. And did I mention about the uninterrupted power supply in Ahmedabad?”

Well, home is here only.

Humility

Last November, I got my flat renovated (I don’t live there.)  It was humbling to see carpenters, paintmen dirtying their hands, sweating it out to make a house beautiful in which they will never live.
Most of them are migrants from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Before they gave me the keys back, I went to my flat to treat them to chai, nasta (tea and snacks). It was my way to to express gratitude and say ‘Thank You.’  I have always admired people who create things or change things using their hands. It could be anything from cooking, gardening, pottery to stitching.
Seeing them sitting together and enjoying their share of tea and samosa was deeply moving. They all have families who live in far flung areas. They all are living alone in this dusty dry Ahmedabad — carving a life far from the land and people they call their own.  They are here to earn money so that their children can live better. They kept on asking me, “Didi, are you happy with our work?” All of them —one by one. It was truly humbling.
It is the rich and privileged who always carry that sense of arrogance about everything they offer/ give. Rarely taking a pause and asking “Are you happy with what we are offering/doing?”
And very few of them create things with their own hand.

Home

I had just walked into the coffee shop of a five star hotel in Ahmedabad. I settled down on my chair and put this purse on the table. Then I saw the young woman who worked in the coffee shop rushing towards my table.

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“Did you go to Bhutan?” (She asked)

“No, I didn’t go. My friend got this gift for me from Bhutan.”

“You know, I am from Bhutan. I am so happy to look at this purse. It reminds me of my home, parents, my brother. Right now, I feel as if I am there and enjoying the cool air, the mountains.”

“You must go to Bhutan. Bhutan will love you and you will love Bhutan. Please let me know before you go,” she told in the same breath.

In less than five minutes, I felt she travelled from Ahmedabad to Bhutan.

We exchanged mobile numbers and she really took care of us that evening. With her charming smile and grace.

Home is a feeling. Home is not just about physical space. And you never know, when and where home will pop up and make you happy. And at the same time leave you with a sense of longing for home.

I am yet to make that promised trip to Bhutan. I will definitely go there for Tara’s sake if not anything else. For the time being, a slice of her home is always travelling with me in my handbag.

What can be more precious than home?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India, a million voices

(I love India.  Deeply and intensely. I can’t imagine myself living in any other country. I love India’s diversity, its delicious food from different regions, mouth-watering mithais  (I will always go for a plate of rabri-jalebi over a blueberry cheese cake), colourful textiles,  delicate craft, the soul-soothing Indian monsoon, the large-hearted Indian Railways, the resilience of the not so privileged to wade through life with grace and grit and endearing voices laced with humor.

We are living in tough times in India now. India of 2017 keeps me awake in the night. I feel hurt, anguished at the way things are shaping up in our country. From being a multi-coloured, huge, rich, layered collage, we are being politically coerced to look at life in a monochromatic little box. I refuse to be a part of this little box.

My India is the land of Gandhi, Kabir, Buddha, Guru Nanak, Bulleh Shah, Raman Maharshi for whom there is no ‘Other’.  My India is large as the Bay of Bengal. As ravishing as the mystical Himalayas. Life is fluid here like the river Ganga, Brahmaputra, Teesta and Godavari. So also time. One doesn’t know where does time begin, where will it end.

The world is looking at India today as India turns 70 on August 15. Through a series on this blog, I am trying to look at India through my experiences. This is the first in the series) 

India is a country of voices. Silence is almost alien to our culture. Our temples are crowded. Our weddings are a lot about voices, giggles, arguments and counter-arguments. We love talking, haggling, bargaining, arguing. For nothing, economist Amartya Sen wrote a book titled ‘Argumentative Indian’. This is a collage of Indian voices which I am trying to weave into this piece. These voices are not related to each other. They are droppings from that caravan called life in India.

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We board the train from Ahmedabad, this train goes to Bengaluru via Manmad. After putting our luggage, we exchange pleasantries with our co-travellers. Suddenly all of us start feeling restless. And we discover that the AC is not working properly. Finally the coach manager is being tracked down. A lady passenger walks up to him and asks him to adjust the AC properly. The coach manager seems to be in an aggressive mood and he says, “This is how the air-conditioned coaches are like.” She gives him a stern look  and says, “Do you think that this is the first time I am travelling in an AC coach?” Well, the argument ends there. The AC starts to work in full swing. And we are all happy.

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This conversation is from my visit to Shirdi, a temple town. Everything happens around the temple. From a dusty little village few years back, it is now in the midst of a construction boom. There are hotels and there are hotels. We are walking on the main street in the evening. The sun is in a mellowed mood. Suddenly, my attention is diverted by cries of ‘Ramphal…. Ramphal’. This is the first time, I am seeing this fruit called Ramphal, it’s a much bigger version of sitaphal (read custard apple). Apparently, it’s only available in Shirdi.

And then comes a beggar woman and she probably takes a liking for me. She follows me and asks “Bhabhi (sister-in-law), please give me some thing.” Well, it definitely sounds endearing. But I am in no mood to give in. She is also in no mood to give up. Then she says, “Didi (elder sister), please give me something.” I keep on walking, pretending that I haven’t heard her. And then she says, “Madam (she gets into a professional mood), give me something.” I am impressed by her creativity and she knows her business. Even as I move forward, she walks behind me and says, “Mataji (O Revered Mother, please give me something.)”

At that time, I just couldn’t control my laughter. We are definitely a creative nation.

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There’s a young boy in my apartment who loves playing cricket. One evening, I see him walking with great confidence (wearing a helmet, pad and gloves) to play a game in the parking space of the apartment. I tell him, “Hello Sachin Tendulkar.” He looks at me,  “Na aunty, Virat Kohli.”  He’s in sync with time.

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I am in a mood to buy some traditional dolls in a local market in Ahmedabad. I ask him the price, he says “Rs 200”. I remember my mother-in-law’s wise words — “Don’t be a fool. When you bargain, just reduce the price to half and then subtract Rs 20.” I try to be wise and say, “Rs 80.” He doesn’t agree but still follows me and urges me to buy. I tell him, “Why are you following me?” He walks faster and goes ahead of me. And then tells me, “Who’s following whom? Me or you?” I start laughing and then the bargaining starts again.