Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Come September

Come September, and suddenly life starts going double the pace than it does all the nine months preceding this month of joy… I learned by heart this beautiful poem ‘September’ in school, for the sheer joy I derived reading a lively description of the month I was born in… Anyway, Come September and things start to brighten up. You should ask ‘Why?!’

O, you have? Then let me answer, why.

The Ganpati festival, or, more formaly, ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ often falls in September, and with this festival, begins the three month long season of festivals in India. There is no respite. There is sheer joy and enthusiasm in air beginning September, which just doesn’t cease till everyone, has raised their toasts to a year gone by, on the New Year’s Eve on December 31.

Navratri, (or Durga puja here in Kolkata) almost immediately follows the Ganpati sometime in late September or October. This festival is nine nights full of colour and dance. You have to be in Gujarat, and out in some garba ground, and more precisely, dancing the garba to get the feel of the sheer exuberance this festival offers.

Post Navratri, you just get a wee bit time to settle down. Hush a bit (or beat! :), rest those over-danced legs and get back to routine. And just when you think the festival fervour has died down, in another week or so starts the Diwali fever. With Diwali approaching in late October or early November, you just can’t afford to laze around. You have to get the house cleaned up, buy new clothes, get some diya, plan elaborate dinners and start cooking those ‘gujju snacks’ like mathiya, and chewdo, and magas and what not.

Goes Diwali and comes Christmas and the New Year’s Eve. A general feel good, do good feeling prevails this time of the year. Winter has almost set in and people display their bright new cardigans, children blow smoke from their mouth early in the morning and some infants get so scared of Santa that they start sobbing uncontrollably…

Just into the New year, and on January 14th, the festival of skies, Uttrayan comes with a bang. You spend the previous night tying ‘kinyas’ to the kite. On 14th, you gather a gang of friends on the terrace and feast your eyes on the colourful sky, and the colourful terraces of your neighbours.

Have you ever received some silly romantic message written on a kite and sent especially for you, if the wind was good? Or rather, has your message reached someone else for the wind was bad? O it’s hilarious… So many festivals, all enjoyed as animatedly as possible... If you are in India, you should consider yourself lucky.
Gauri Gharpure
October 30, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scribbles in Urdu- a daring venture... I know my spelling and grammar is really bad, am still learning...
(PS- this post is for people who can read urdu, I wont dare translating the stuff.. Also, spelling corrections are welcome. tell me where i have used the wrong kaaf, swaad or such alike...)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Good Ol' Times, again for a while...

Everytime I get back to Ahmedabad, I make it a point to meet up with old friends. Sanjana, Reni, Rupal: We three always manage to catch up, no matter what, if all of us are in town, but it's the others who are difficult to get hold of. Like Komal. She has a class test next day / next week, no matter what time of the year you call her.

And the boys, those classmates from NR... We had lost touch after changing school, then college. And suddenly we got in touch one fine day in Jan 2005, decided to meet up on Uttrayan. (I asked if I could bring a 'friend' along and they started giving me those smiles...) Anyway, I took Mitrajit along that 15th of January to Kunal's place and I had to tolerate Sanjana's incessant stares, glares and comments, which she thought she was quite discreet about, but she wasn't (Mitrajit was to recount months later, verbatim, what all jokes Sanjana and all my friends had pulled on that day)

And after that 15th of Jan meeting, we have been catching up even with the NR guys at a surprisingly regular pace. The other day, Rupal and Sanjana were back in memory lane and teasing me about the n number of crushes. Thankfully, I survived all their disapprovals till I zeroed in on Mitrajit. It was such a relief when Sanjana gave me a sly grin and said the other day, "Out of all those geeks, this guy's the best". I always get confused at the type of compliments she gives.. I mean, 'This guy's the best' simply would have done!!!

And today, she was like, "Wow, I am really, seriously complementing you tonight, you look great in this saree! Last night, was bit of a formality, you know..." :) !!! Any other mortal would have run away as fast as he could from our gang of sillies. But I have grown up with them (nursery till 12th is some time) and so I thank my stars it is these very sillies I am so fond of... This time again, we met tonight and a day before at Friends colony garba...

The best thing about meeting up with friends is that none of us have changed. Or even if we have, we put those masks at home for the hour or two that we meet up. It's heaven, to be without any inhibitions, to say what you feel, and generally, to enjoy the rare exercise of thinking aloud. It's largely because of my friends that I look forward to being in Ahmedabad as often as I can manage. (Office has killing leave policies, I tell you...) But next, I will be there in February for a much awaited wedding and hope to sneak out some time to be with these guys and girls whose crazyness matches up with mine to the 'T'...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gareeb Nawaz

Today’s newspaper carried a little more bad news than it normally does. On the front page glared in bold fonts ‘Hit on Secular Symbol’. Yesterday, that is October 11, 2007; a bomb blasted in the ‘Gareeb Nawaz’ dargah premises in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

If you have been to Gareeb Nawaz, perhaps you will also share this feeling of sorrow and indignation with me. There’s some mysterious spiritual aura in the surroundings of this dargah. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti was a 12th century Sufi saint. Believers still put faith in this man, fondly called as Gareeb Nawaz, the benefactor of the poor. To imagine a plot charged at harming the quiet and the sanctity of this place is saddening.

How is The Ajmer Dargah like? I have beautiful memories of the times I went there…

A narrow street leads you to the entrance. On both sides of this street are road-side peddlers, selling handkerchiefs, salwar suits, photo frames with dargah pictures, surma, shops of puja stuff- which sell flowers, beautifully embroidered chaddar and incense to be offered in the dargah. You will also be thronged by countless number of beggars urging you to give alms in the name of Gareeb Nawaz, and also a number of ‘Khadims’ who will make themselves available to assist you in your prayers at the dargah for a sum.

After you pass through all this bustle of life and business, after you have asked some khadim to accompany you inside and managed to survive the coaxing of flower and incense dealers, you pass through two large cooking bowls on each side of the entrance. The ‘Chhoti Daig’ is about four feet in diameter, the other; ‘Bari Daig’ is a slightly bigger. The Bari Daig and the Chhoti Daig remind one of the grandeur of old times, when the poor or hungry, visitors from far away places or old- anyone was fed food cooked in the huge bari and chhoti daigs.

In the courtyard are huge borsalli trees, beneath which believers sing sufiana songs in praise of Gareeb Nawaz. Just outside the Dargah building, inside the premises, you come across an 'uruz', a common area with water taps. It’s here that you are supposed to clean your hands with water before visiting the dargah.

The newspaper article rightly reports Gareeb Nawaz dargah to be ‘one of the most secular shrines in the country’. Let us all get together and condemn such acts of cowardice.

-Gauri Gharpure

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Garbage Dump

About five minutes's distance from my flat, on the right side of this really crowded road set amongst ghettos, is this garbage dump by a pukur, a pond as they call in bangla. It is beautiful.

I have never seen such beauty in a garbage dump ever before, but believe me, everytime I pass by this heap of waste, I see such a unique snapshot of life.

It's such an intriguing cacophony of life. Two or three tame ducks waddle about it sometimes, but one white broiler, with his bright red head plume and a spotted little shabby grey hen as his companion are the permanant residents of this dump. Also there are a few gay crows hopping about and a particularly strange grey cloured dog. He always sleeps on some side or the other of the dump.

Sometimes there are pieces of brightly coloured tatters of cloth lying about. And sometimes, a steady ring of smoke fumes out of a recently burned heap on the corner of the dump. On the whole, it's a grey and brown color combination I see in the piles of papers, rotting leaves. It's beautiful, if you will believe me...

Gauri Gharpure,
October 8, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Book Review

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

I wonder why Orhan Pamuk makes his central character to be a man who gives a vibe of being a little weak, a little naïve and definitely someone who needs to be cared for by a very strong woman. (The concept of central character though in itself is a very individual take for each different reader)

Black in ‘My Name is Red’ is like Ka from ‘Snow’ in many respects. Both journey back to a place they had once grown up in, carrying with them a vague undertone of lust and hope. Both hope to find solace in the company of a woman they have pined for a long time. Both are melancholy in their take of life and evergreen optimists in their take of love.

My Name is Red takes the viewer to the 16th Century and gives him deep insight in the works of great masters of Herat and Persia and the art workshops of Akbar Khan, The King of Hindustan. It is rich with fables and legends of the era long since extinct, of the lores of Husrev and Shirin, of Rustem and his lust and also, great masters like Bihzad who were immortalized without even leaving a signature to their works.

Shekure is the strong-willed woman who will do anything to safeguard her sons. Her mind is that of a shrewd woman who can wriggle out of any situation by using her womanhood as and when required. All of Black’s actions are carried out keeping Shekure in mind, what will please her and what will not, what will bring her closer to him and how. Black is love-stricken.

Reading this book is like getting the privilege to journey through time. It has vivid descriptions of colours, of the process of painting in the workshops of Istanbul as well as the conflict between art and religion. When the frankestein way of portraiture is knocking on the doors of an old tradition of art. ‘My Name is Red’ is all about those who give in to the temptation of making a life-like portrait while those who fear to break away from hundreds of years of history of miniature paintings.

-Gauri Gharpure