Archive for the ‘Love, Life, and Literature’ Category

Letter to my son’s class teacher

August 15, 2018

A photograph of my son (2012)

Dear Sir,

I wish you a very happy Independence Day.

I’m writing this to you to tell about an incident my son told me this morning while getting ready for school. It may seem a trivial matter to some, but I think it’s a grave concern and I should inform you about it.

Yesterday, during some class, the teacher asked “Who (which country) is celebrating their Independence Day today?” She was talking about simultaneous freedom of two countries: India and Pakistan. But it happened that as she was talking about Pakistan, some students pointed towards one of your students Parvez and said “Madam, aaj Parvez ka Independence Day hai.. wo Pakistan se hai..” From what I know from my son, the teacher replied, “haa re, tum Pakistan se ho?” The kid bit his tongue and kept silence.

I’m shocked to hear about such an incident happening in our class. I told my kid that this country is as much of Muslims as it’s of any other Indians. Incidentally, I was listening to the song “apni aazaadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahi..” I told him about this song: it’s written by Shakil Badayuni, music by Naushad, sung by Mohd. Rafi, filmed of Dilip Kumar – all of them Muslims.

This is not the first time he told me about such bullying of Parvez. Many a times, other kids ask him to go Pakistan.

Kids are kids, sir. They learn from what’s happening around them. It’s our responsibility to identify the problem and correct the course. I’m sure such incidents happen away from your gaze and they are almost never brought to your attention. Yesterday’s incident was a perfect occasion to talk about it and get the kids sensitised about the topic. Things can’t be washed out just by hiding them. I’m afraid – if such incidents are happening at our school where all teachers are well-trained in children psychology, I cannot imagine situation of private schools that run on poorly trained teachers.

I’m a parent to one kid. You are a parent figure to hundreds of them. I’m sure you can educate the kids in a better way than any of us. I request you to please find some occasion, talk to the kids, and sensitise them towards the issue.

I’m especially concerned about the poor kid Parvez. My son, also previously, had told me about some behavioral changes in the kid. Sometimes, he gets aggressive and replies with “हाँ, हूँ मैं पाकिस्तान से..” Please provide him special attention. The kid has done nothing to suffer this kind of bullying.

I hope you’d understand my concern and would excuse me for overstepping into your area of expertise.

Yours faithfully,

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Of skipping meals

June 24, 2018

I have stopped counting the days I’m skipping regular meals.  We missed a lunch on 17th.  I missed it on 18th. Of 19th, I am not sure.  On 20th, we surely didn’t eat.  I ate a light lunch on 21st, again missed 22nd and 23rd.  This is early morning of 24.  I am hungry and I don’t find anything in the refrigerator.

With you, without you..

May 1, 2018

[Following is a translation of a letter from a collection of letters “तुझ्यासह आणि तुझ्याविना” by Dr. A. H. Salunkhe.  A well-known figure in Maharashtra for his scholarship of Sanskrit and his work in the Bahujan Movement, Dr. Salunkhe is an acclaimed author of many scholarly books.  This collection is one rare book where he wrote about his personal life, his love for his wife, after she passed away of cancer.

To me, this book is even more special.  It was a book I had gifted to my girlfriend, who later went on to become my wife, on 14th April 2007, first anniversary of me expressing my love for her.  Also, having personally met Dr. Salunkhe, I know what a kind-hearted person he is, and bearing a loss of this magnitude must have been very painful for him.  I wish him immense strength to bear with this pain. I also wish him a long, healthy life so that we can get more of his guidance.]

My copy of तुझ्यासह आणि तुझ्याविना

Madhushree,

My craze for books was ever since I was a kid. I know, in the early days of our marriage, because I was crazy for books, you had to put in a lot of planning to buy household things. Many a times, you would create something useful from scrap, but you never came against my buying books.

You wouldn’t forget the story of our wedding ring. Indeed, as a wedding ring, I should have kept it close to my heart all my life. But I couldn’t stay attached to it emotionally. It was not even a month since our marriage that I sold it and reached International book store at Pune Deccan Gymkhana. From that money, I bought Siddhant Kaumudi on Panini’s grammar, Brahmasutra Shankar Bhashya, Nirukt by Yaskacharya, Rigved Samhita, Naishadheyacharit, Shishupalvadh, Raghuvansh, Dey and Dasgupta’s History of Classical Sanskrit Literature, and many such books from there and the stores nearby. In fact, I would have sold even your ring, but it was spared more than once because of your emotional connect to it. I understand selling the wedding ring within a month of wedding must have been real painful for you.

Many a times, I think I shouldn’t have done that. I should have cared for your feelings. But, Shree, what else could I do? I was trying to complete my M.A. in Sanskrit. As an external student, it wasn’t possible to access college libraries. There were no other libraries available. I had no option but to buy those books, and I saw no other way to buy them. It’s not that it wasn’t painful for me to sell the ring. Now that you aren’t here, with that ring in my finger, I could have imagined your presence, could have felt your touch. The pain of selling that ring, something that I couldn’t feel so much while you were alive, feels so much now behind you. But what can I do now but to ask for forgiveness?

But I tell you – I always feel grateful for that ring. Whatever Sanskrit I could learn in my future life, its base was formed on the books that I bought from selling it. If I couldn’t get those books at that time, perhaps I couldn’t even be an MA in Sanskrit; let alone all the achievements in the future. Whatever I am today, it is out of many such times when I crumpled and crushed your feelings. How can I forget this gift of yours? How much restrain you would have used? In that tender age, how could you bear with this craze of mine? Or it was that you were in love with this craze itself? That it was this craziness that kept you in love with me?

Even in the later days, you would tell many times to my friends, “my husband is not married to me, but to these books.” Apparently, it seemed like a complaint against me, but more often it was about immense pride and happiness. If there was any regret, it was very little. You never read any of my books in continuity, but you would say with pride, “I haven’t read any of his books, but I can talk about the contents of any of them.” It was true. You never needed to leave your chores and read them. It was only a printed form of whatever was discussed in the household, and it was natural that you never felt the need to read them.

But one of your complaints really hit me in the heart. It made me feel like a criminal in my own eyes. It is about this incident happened in the last 8-10 months of your life. I was looking for some reference; I was trying to explain something with it. You were sitting nearby. You needed something; you asked for it. I didn’t hear you. It’s not that your voice was low. I was so engaged in finding that reference, I didn’t hear what you said; like your voice didn’t fall on my ears. Your words lost into thin air. I don’t know what you might have felt that time, but it got you, and you said irritated, “my husband can’t think of anything but books!” This went straight to my heart like an arrow. I came out my trance, left books, pen, paper everything and came to you, and gave whatever you wanted. You became calm soon. In the illness of about 18 months, it was only two-three times that you lost your cool; it was one of those incidents. Perhaps that day you could no longer bear the pain; perhaps you could have strongly felt that I should come to you, talk to you, calm you, share your pain. Perhaps you felt hurt seeing me not even listening to you and it brought up that outburst. Of course, you were in all your rights and your anger was reasonable. But, Shree, what could I do? Mine was a hunger of a person starving from a hundred generations. From there, came this devouring, this harshness of ignoring you.

You do know about my fully immersing in my reading and writing. At home or at some public place, in trains or in bus, wherever I think of something of note, I write it down then and there; it’s what I always do. Even while I rode scooter, if there was something to note, I would stop the scooter, note it and then go ahead. I have been doing this for long. I’m always worried lest I forget and lose that point later. At times, if I forgot to note something and then it got lost, I could do nothing, but to regret that I didn’t note it. If the noted chit gets misplaced and lost, it pains a lot, like I have been robbed of something valuable. Once I was thinking of something while in bus, Hyderabad to Nanded, 7-8 hours continuously. What is the exact nature of ‘self’; a lot of thoughts were pouring like heavy rains that day. I was noting the whole thing in a diary. Later some day, I was at an STD booth in Dhule and lost the diary there. I could never remember those same points again and I lost them forever.

I can’t tell where some thought would occur to me. For this reason, I always take care to keep paper, pen with me. You know that. Even while sleeping, I keep paper, pen under my pillow. If I had to write something, I would pull out my hand under your head without breaking your sleep and note down the points. I have done this for years. Many such points that I wrote after taking my hand under your head are scattered across many of my books. These points occur even today. Even now, I keep paper, pen under my pillow. But now I don’t have to take out my hand under your head. I don’t have to worry about breaking your sleep. Everything else is the same, only you are not here. You are not; neither to dote on my craziness, nor to complain about it. If you had stayed, not only to make playful complaints against me, but even to make serious complaints, or to make harsh criticism, or to protest against me, or even to condemn me, my heart would have been filled with flowers of joy. I would have drenched myself in the showers of happiness. But you didn’t.

[Original letter titled as शंभर पिढ्या उपाशी असलेल्या माणसाची भूक in the collection].

Don’t go my beloved..

May 1, 2018

It’s already past midnight, but I have lost my sleep.  My heart is skipping beats.  I’ve lost my sleep.  I am singing kinds of sad, melancholic bollywood songs to myself.  Don’t go my beloved.. For tonight, do not go..

How does one hold on to moments?

April 29, 2018

How does one hold on to moments? You wish so much to turn them into tiny cubes and hide them in your pocket so that you – checking no one can see you – can take them out and feel them again and again.

How does a gaze, as normal as a gaze, makes you trust in love? How do your lips that seem to detest all music at other times serenade into cute little jingles? How does it happen that the time stop with the caresses, but the clock never does?

The moments fly like a butterfly and I ruminate into times hoping to catch a glimpse on my canvas so that they stay. They never do.

Hold my hand

December 26, 2017

I enter into the jungle that I had only heard of.  On the roads I had never walked on.  I ground each step not without a thought.  Don’t scorn me off.

My desires are tender.  My longings are circumspect.

My dreams have roamed all over your virgin lands, though my earthen remains have always stayed behind.

Ain’t I welcome, dear?  Something in you tells me yes, yet something holds me off.

While I enter into the dark alleys of you, my love, hold my hand, hold my hand.

He knows nothing

December 1, 2017

The best trick about writing is to start and keep writing itself. You stop writing when you stop writing. There is no secret about it.

There are many such useless thoughts that he keep pondering on while wasting hours and hours of doing whatever unspecified things. It’s not that he is not doing anything and he is not enjoying whatever something he is doing. He is trying at least.

Emptiness. He had thought he would not use this world. But perhaps that should be the word to describe his state. He runs, he plays flute, he scrolls down miles on twitter and facebook. Not that everything is boring; but the culmination of it all certainly is. Life itself is boring. Sum of it all what is interesting is somehow turning out to be boring.

This is not an ideal state of living, he knows. That most of this is self-imposed, he understands. What is one to do when they can’t feel the happiness that they ought to? These are the questions he keeps wondering about. Life slips, he knows, life slips.

What is it that stops him from being someone? He would care nothing, but it is getting clearer day by day that the someone he finds himself being unable to become is he himself. He doesn’t know what to make of it.

He knows nothing.

The second heartbreak

August 19, 2017

​I remember. It was our very early days. It was about very first time when you’d said you’d like to spend your whole life with me (you knew I was married with a son). I was still thinking of my son, and you went on like “what use of it all if you can’t be mine..”

It was the first time it was a heartbreak for me, not because I was sorry I wasn’t free, but because ‘you’ – whom I loved the most in the world of God – too thought of me as something to be possessed.

I remember I stood there singing “hum hain mata e koocha o baazar ki tarah..” and second heartbreak was you didn’t understand why I was singing that.

Of a girl whom I’d seen just once

June 24, 2017

​If I were to write a poem

And this is 3 in the morning

“A man’s desire” I would put the title

And would write of you, oh girl,

Whom I’d seen just once..

Finding peace in the desert of loneliness

June 16, 2017

​So I was on one of those rants of mine. My wife was on another end of the phone call. I was reciting Ghalib’s poetry, some couplets as I remembered them from memory.

Suddenly out of the blue, I changed the topic and told her, as if I was talking to myself, “Do you know I’m no more sad anymore..? Though I look sad all the time, I’m not. I’ve no regrets.” I started singing, “अजि मी ब्रह्म पाहिले, अजि मी ब्रह्म पाहिले..”

I was again talking to myself. “I’m mostly calm, content. I’m not sorry..” “You know that poem by Faiz?”

“dasht e tanhaai mein, aye jaan-e-jahaan..” 

Faiz is calm here. He stands in the desert of loneliness, still he’s so calm.. and see the beautiful words he uses.. “With so much love, oh sweetheart, your thought has touched my heart.. even though it’s the morning of separation, it feels like the day of separation has just ended, and here’s coming the night of togetherness..”

Even this coming together is not like how honeymooners will jump on each other.. it’s calm, serene.. more like when one dies in the lap of their beloved..

“Why don’t you find such calmness in Ghalib’s poetry?” I asked my wife (though I was actually asking myself). I tried to remember at least one shair by Ghalib where he talks of such serenity. I could recollect none.

I jumped on another poem, one by Sahir. “चंद कलियाँ निशात की चुनकर, मुद्दतों महवे यास रहता हूँ..” Sahir too is not a happy poet. He’s full of his own bitterness. Still he finds these “few moments of happiness”, I couldn’t find those in Ghalib’s poetry. (While I was talking to her about this little poem by Sahir, I was kind of afraid she’ll remember.. I generally refrain from talking about our days of courtship with her. These were the lines written on the first page of the diary wherein I would write so passionately about my longing for her.. I could never tell her of my feelings for her, so one fine day, on the 14th of April, 2006, as we returned from Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur, into my room at a hostel nearby, I handed her my diary and kept looking at her tiny face as she read her own story within it.)

So, cutting it short, I couldn’t remember even one serenely calm shair of Ghalib. Perhaps, he could never get even those few moments.. Do you remember any of his calm shair?