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Photo taken at Plitvice National Park, Croatia by Vibhor Dhote Oh! What are these days I have found myself in! The bagpacks I carry n...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Attending Book Bond : A meet and greet with Ashwin Sanghi

In a lazy afternoon, my friend and blogger, Rafaa Dalvi called me up to ask if I'd like to go to attend an event the next week.

I was too sleepy to be excited about it. I said no. He, then, explained that the event was not a regular one but an exclusive meet with author of Chanakya's Chant, Ashwin Sanghi.

A year back, I had participated in a story-writing contest and Ashwin Sanghi was the judge. My story bagged a position in the list of top 25. The memory of the book, Kaleidoscope, where my story was published, was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the name, Ashwin Sanghi.

I changed my lazy mind and said, "yes, I'd love to attend the event." 
The next ten minutes was spent telling all my colleagues that I'm going to meet Ashwin Sanghi at Vivanta by Taj, Cuffe Parade.

Proper Invitation (including mails and phone-calls) by the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest Team followed. The feedback on their way of inviting - great! They did not make calls just to ask if you're coming or not. They made calls to connect to people the way one should. It didn't seem like a forced conversation at all. After each follow-up phone-call from their side, you feel more excited about the event you're going to attend.

On the 20th of October 2014, I landed at Vivanta at 4:45pm; the event was to start at 5:00pm.

The host of the event was the director of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest and famous journalist - Anil Dharker.

The next hour was spent discussing the present and the future of  literature in India.

I was in class 8th when I had first questioned the epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. A discussion with my sister about the same led us both to the conclusion that ages back there were some great novelists who wrote these novels and now people pray to the characters. It was , to me, like praying to Harry Potter for the well-being of our family. Makes sense? No way.

I never did any research on the conclusion above yet I had been sticking to it.

It was only when Ashwin Sanghi explained that there are around 300 versions of Ramayana, a fact unknown to me till that day that I mentally confirmed my conclusion.

But what made me open the doors of my mind was his question that may be, just may be, those character were not entirely fictional at all. What if the stories were inspired by real characters and then played upon? What if there actually is history behind the myths? 

No one can know for sure what is true and what is not. But we should always be open to possibilities we might have never thought of before.

Ashwin quoted an example by talking of temples created for the veteran actor, Amitabh Bachhan. What if some ten thousand years hence, when such temples flourish across the land, people consider Amitabh too as a mythical character?

This statement reminded me of my discussion with my sister some ten years back. She was in class X and I, in VIII and, while reading her history book about Mahatma Gandhi, she questioned, "What if after a few hundred years, people consider Mahatma Gandhi as too good to be true? What if we consider history to be a myth?"

History, after all, is written down by people with whatever content they have in hand, whatever they know to be true or whatever they have heard to be true. How much of that is actually true is known by none.

We went deeper in the conversation and when it was time to end the discussion we all felt like we should talk even more. So after Ashwin descended from the dais, we crowded him with our questions and our books to sign.

I got my "Rozabal Line" signed and a friend's "Chanakya's Chant" signed. Another hour passed informally discussing about books and publishers.

What inspired me was the fact that Ashwin never gave up. After facing tons of rejections from traditional publishers he finally chose self-publishing because he believed in his work even when nobody else did. He took the bad reviews with a pinch of salt. He did everything he could to get his books be on the top-shelf of the book stores. And now, he who started like a just-another-writer has become not only a best-seller but a source of inspiration to many.

If I have to say in one word what I would take home from the event, it is Perseverance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Surprise of the Day

It's middle of October, 10:00am and I am most certainly not doing what I thought I'd be doing at this time of the year, a year back.

But when does life ever go as planned?

Surprises and shocks are what makes life more and more unpredictable.

For me, my surprise of the day is this post by a blogger from Indiana, Martina McGowan -

She, someone who doesn't know me, spent time to create a picture for my quote. Life can't be better than this, can it? I have seen people copying and pasting others' quotes without giving them proper credits. I have seen people using my quotes as their Facebook cover photos and removing my name from the quote so that other people think it is their own creation. And in a world of liars, here's Martina who, without even knowing about me, decided to give me proper credits. May the world have more such souls. :-)

Here's the picture she created -

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Set You Free

I saw the shackles
That made you bleed.
I wiped your tears;
I, too, wept.
I saw the shackles
That bound you so;
I saw them cut into your flesh.
I didn't see-
They were, but, me.
My tears and my hopes,
Expectations and more so.
When I did remove
My blindfold,
I set you free,
I let you go.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Another Starless Night

Dreary and Tired,
Eyes of the night.
Words too worn out
To yell, to fight.
Drained out of
The hope for tomorrow,
They look at each other,
At each other's sorrow.
Eyes too used to cry;
They are shut now.
A dark sky,
Another starless night,
3:00 am
And the tale called life.

- Sanhita Baruah

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Write a Poem Instead

 My child of grief!
Hurt you must have been,
Inevitable, crying may seem,
But dear, whenever you're sad,
Just look at yourself,
And ask if it's necessary,
Weep, if you must, 
If you really really must,
But do not forget
To ask yourself,
"Why not write a poem, instead?"

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Cursed

Sitting on a rock near the lake, Tisha was ruminating on what went wrong in her dream. Alas! She couldn’t recall how her dream ended; but she wished she could. Playing with her dark brown hair with her fingers, she wondered what if for once her dream didn’t come true. When she realized that she was hoping for something people pray the contrary of, she laughed at her cursed life.

It is time. She looked at the sky above and a tiny drop of water fell on her right cheek. It began to rain and she turned around to find her little sister coming towards her in a hurry carrying a red umbrella with her tiny hands. The umbrella, how could I forget it?

It was common for Tisha to have weird dreams; dreams of people she didn’t know, dreams of people she knew, dreams of herself, et cetera.  It was when she was 10 years old that she realized her dreams come true; or rather whatever would happen the next day she would see it beforehand in her dreams. At first she used to dream about falling in puddles and getting her school uniform stained. And the next morning, no matter how much she avoided the big puddle in the middle of the road, she would fall in it some way or the other. After a couple of years things went sinister and grave for her when her neighbour, Uncle D’costa kicked the bucket. When she had told her mother that she saw his death in her dream the previous night, her mother consoled her with the words, “Uncle D’costa was confined to bed with his paralysis from last two years, you worry about him and you feared he would pass away. It’s just a co-incidence that you had a nightmare on the day he died. But it’s natural, trust me.”

Little Tisha understood what her mother told her and the fact that she should actually forget her dreams and be quiet about them. Her mother passed away after a few months in a road accident. For a second, Tisha was thankful to God that she didn’t dream of her mother’s death or else it would have been the worst feeling for her. But later on, it dawned on her that if only she had dreamt of the accident she could have saved her mother. And the regret of being glad of not dreaming about the accident killed her from within.  She lost her childhood by beating herself up for not being able to save her mother. Now that her mother was no more, Tisha had to play the role of her mother and look after her baby sister Tupshi. And amidst all the responsibilities and work on her shoulders, she didn’t realize when she stopped having those weird dreams, or any dream at all.

It was when she turned 20 that she started having those dreams again. The dreams would comprise of her day-to-day life events and she would not give much heed to her dreams. Although before sleeping when she would recall her dream and the day’s events she would realize they were all similar, but she would push the thoughts aside and go to sleep without praying for her dreams to stop or to continue.
Her relationship with her future-showing dreams was working fine. But the dream she had that morning scared her out of her wits. She decided in the morning itself to act upon her nightmare and to confute it.

She jotted a mental note when she woke up to carry her red umbrella with her so that little Tupshi doesn’t have to run all the way to the pond to hand it to her. But she failed to remember that and now she could see her sister dancing in the rain with the umbrella, a scene so similar to what she had seen. Scared she pulled Tupshi and insisted her to leave for school.

But Tupshi wouldn’t. “It’s raining, so no school today, Papa said.”

Her drunkard father would always find some reason or the other to resist her from going to school. Tisha sighed and replied, “Ok. But don’t get drenched in this rain. You will fall sick.”

Tupshi didn’t seem to listen, dancing wildly with bare feet on the wet green grass. That’s when Tisha decided to leave her alone so that she would run after her elder sister seeing her leave. But she didn’t. She was dancing with the umbrella on one hand and extending the other to catch the drops falling from heaven; exactly the way Tisha had seen in her dream last night. No way, I can’t let this happen. Tisha carried Tupshi and ran home hurriedly while the latter cried being deprived of the wee moment of happiness she sought.

While her father, half-drunk, lay on a sofa in the parlor, Tisha cooked some soup for her sister fearing what she had seen in her dream. She decided not to go to work for the day as it will just help to match the bits and pieces of her dream with the reality. I am gonna stay at home and look after Tupshi. She was placing the bowl of warm soup on the dining table for Tupshi as a ring on her cell phone alarmed her. It was a call from her boss. “Just an hour’s work”, he mentioned, “It’s urgent”. She didn’t have any choice but to leave for her office. Half satisfied that Tupshi was safe at home, half worried that she had to leave her alone even if just for a couple of hours. Little did she know that when she left for work Tupshi sneaked out from the back door too to get dowsed in the rain again.

Tisha prayed incessantly on her way to her office so that her dream proves to be a lie. How she hoped that she never dreamt anything, how she hoped she had forgotten what she dreamt of. On reaching the office complex she noticed there was only one security guard at the entrance. “Singh caught a cold today, madam”, answered the other. She could bet she saw this in her dream too and a tear trickled down her cheek. She wished she could make a call at her house to check on her family but they had only one phone at their house, the cell phone she carried with her to work. Crap! I should have left it at home.

She completed her work as soon as she could, maybe not perfectly. As scenes from her dream flashed in front her eyes haunting her she ran down the staircases of her office. SNAP! She accidently missed a step and fell on the next snapping the ligaments of her left ankle. Didn’t I see it in my dream too? She tried to pick herself up as two colleagues came to help her. Her aching ankle tried its best to not let her walk comfortably. “We should take you to a nearby hospital, you must get your ankle treated.” said one of the colleagues. Hospital? No. I had seen myself in the hospital too. I can’t let all this happen. I must go home.”No. I am fine. Just call me a cab, please.”

Tisha, satisfied for being able to falsify the details of her dream, mentioned her address to the cabdriver. Her ankle was painful but she gave no heed to it. The idea of being admitted in a hospital, she shoved away. It will only make matters worse. Tupshi will be home alone for a long period. And every single detail of my dream will be proved true. I can’t let this happen. As fate would have it, the slippery road owing to the rainy day, made a nearby two-wheeler slip and collide with the cab she was in. Pieces of glass struck her forehead as the bike’s handgrip hit the cab’s window. She passed out.

A woman draped in white was stroking her arm when Tisha gained consciousness. And then a sharp needle pierced the skin of her arm where the woman was stroking so gently. Tisha opened her eyes to find herself in a hospital getting injections from a nurse. She felt the bandage on her forehead with her hands. “You’re fine now and fit to go home. It’s just a minor wound in the forehead.”  A doctor standing nearby informed.

No matter how much she avoided spending even a second in a hospital she ended up being there for an hour or two. She sighed and took a cab home.

Tupshi was lying on the bed under a blanket trying to get some sleep, shivering with fever due to soaking in the rain for more than an hour. Her elder sister got scared out of her wits as she saw Tupshi down with fever and cold. Their father not bothering to treat his daughter or even to know about her well-being went out to gamble with his neighbours. Tisha cried her eyes out as she called a doctor and caressed her little sister. Pneumonia, she had dreamt of last night. She hoped it wasn’t, she prayed it to be just common cold. Tupshi’s little arms were stone-cold, and her forehead warm. Death, Tisha had seen in her dream. She wept and wailed and did everything she could to keep her sister warm. She lit a fire in the room in a enamelware with some woods and coal they had left. She blamed herself of bringing bad luck to her family. She blamed her cursed dreams. She blamed her eyes and thoughts. She blamed her carelessness. She blamed everything she owned. And she prayed, she prayed ceaselessly. She chanted the names of all the Gods of all the religions she knew of.  She knew she wouldn’t be able to live with the burden if she couldn’t save her sister that day.
Within a few minutes the doctor arrived and began to examine Tupshi as her sister cried and begged him to save her.

“High fever but she will be alright. Not much to worry about. Just feed her with enough nutritious food.” Those words of the doctor sounded like blessings to Tisha. A miracle, she thought. The doctor handed her the medicines he had brought with him, while she thanked him as if he gave her life.
Did I disprove my dream? Did I wipe the curse away? Yes, I did. Everything will be fine now. No dream of mine will ever come true. If it seems to be, I will confute it with all my might. And I will pray. I will keep my family safe. Nothing bad will happen to my family.

Little did she know that her father on his way to the gambling house had slipped and fallen on the muddy road. Unable to stand up, being inebriated, he lied on the ground getting drenched in the heavy downpour for almost an hour, unattended and unseen. Little did she remember that it wasn’t her sister but her father she saw dying with pneumonia in her dream.  Little did she know that she had to live with a heavier burden of not recalling her dream properly that had come as a caution to help her save the day. Little did she know that she herself was responsible for turning the boon of saving people to a curse of endless regrets.