The Constant Migrant


The city has embraced migrants for centuries, and become home to a huge variety of people. Not many can claim to belong to Delhi, yet, anyone who comes here, belongs to it. People who live here are known for their generosity. They welcome visitors with wide-open arms. This is perhaps the reason why the city has come to be known as ‘dill walon ka sheher‘*. It has embraced different cultures and has a long history – which is evident from the staggering number of monuments.

Over the recent past, its image has been that of an unsafe city. I believe this is because non-residents have taken the lovely people here for granted. But even so, it is a city that I call home. Despite its shortcomings, I love it. If I were told to move out of Delhi and live elsewhere, I would be devastated. And therein lies the problem.

For all my attachment to this city, deep down inside, a small part of me feels like I am a misfit. I need the typical South Indian cuisine, the tunes of Carnatic classical music, the sights and sounds of the intricately decorated temples. Perhaps its partly genetic, partly because its a novelty here, and partly because I do not know much about it. But mainly, because it forms a part of my own identity.

Even though I have grown up in Delhi, my childhood was dominated by stories about life in the villages. Anecdotes about hundreds of family members, whom I have never met, and probably will never know either. It used to be a small world. Everyone knew everyone else. There were so many traditions and customs that I struggled to explain to my north Indian peers. I hardly understood the local culture, and they refused to accept ours. Our native traditions and customs were more numerous and filled with elaborate explanations. I found those much more interesting than any of the local folklore. To be honest, I felt superior, and pitied my companions who did not understand.

But time and circumstances changed many things. The city of Delhi was evolving, and was beginning to accept people from all parts of the country. I began feeling alienated around family members. I felt like I didn’t belong there any more. I made Delhi my home.

The villages have nothing that belongs to us any more. The ancestral houses were either usurped or sold – I never set foot anywhere near them. We all have moved on to our own lives. But there are some traditions that we have held on to. The kolam** at the doorstep, the offering of food to deities, the keen interest in Classical music and art, the spirituality and sanctity maintained on festive occasions.

Indian philosophy demands that we move ahead – not get caught up in sentiments. And I believe I am one of the millions of migrants who belong to Delhi. But one day I hope to visit the ancestral village – to understand where my roots were – and perhaps quell the thirst for knowing myself.

* * *

*dill walon ka sheher – loosely translates to ‘the city that belongs to large-hearted people’
** kolam –  form of painting that is drawn using rice / white stone powder (full wiki article)

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Flaming Flowers!


A few posts back I had written about spring and flowers. I had sketched out a hibiscus bud a few months back, and this month I drew the ‘loudspeaker lily’.

I folded a ‘half-imperial’ sized sheet and drew these on each half. They’re approximately 24 cm in width and 33 cm in height.

Loudspeaker Lily
Loudspeaker Lily
Budding Hibiscus
Budding Hibiscus

The Journey


Last weekend, I had been invited to attend a cultural programme. It was the Annual Day Celebrations of a social organisation, which provided foster care for street children.

The course of the programme seemed to follow the pattern of the lives of the children taking part in it.

The show began with a group of children singing the anthem of the organisation, an old Hindi classic film song – ‘Aa chal ke tujhe…‘* They seemed nervous as they missed a few beats and struggled with the correct notes. As another group sang, their voices revealed their state of mind – hesitant and unsure.

Young children then came out in their colourful attire, and enlightened the audience about real life examples of women’s entrepreneurship, and staged a play about rural life.

As the evening grew, the atmosphere became more lively. The children in the audience cheered loudly during the award ceremony, as their caretakers, and some older children, were being felicitated.

The convocation ceremony showed how contrasting our lives were. For us, attending school was as integral a part of our lives, as eating and sleeping. But for the children of the home, simply clearing the examinations was a huge milestone. They weren’t as lucky as we were – abandoned by their own parents, left to fend for themselves at a tender age, victims of various types of abuse.

As the older children began their dance performances, their eyes glowing with pride, their movements synchronised, and expressions filled with confidence, it was clear, that they had put their past behind them and were now ready to embrace their new lives.

The event was nothing short of being grand – and I’m glad I was there to witness it.

* * *

*Aa chal ke tujhe, mai leke chalun, ik aise gagan ke tale, jahaan gum bhi na ho, aansu bhi na ho, bas pyaar hi pyaar pale…

Come, I’ll take you to a place so beautiful, where there is no sorrow, no tears, only love…

Campaign Season


The elections for the municipal corporation were held today. Where there are elections, there is bound to be campaigning. So I too have jumped into the campaign mode. Albeit, of a different kind.

This year, as part of an internal competition, students were asked to make short films under various categories. I too was encouraged to participate.

I had no clue as to  what I should do. But since the staff members wanted me to participate, I searched the internet world for some inspiration. After several days of wandering, out of sheer desperation, I decided to settle for a biography. It wasn’t the most original of ideas, and it wasn’t very interesting, but it was something. After discussing it with our teacher, I picked up the registration form and headed home.

The evening had set in, and I was sitting next to the window of the local bus. As the wind blew across my face, something happened. All of a sudden words streamed into my head. In a matter of a few minutes, I had a concept, a story, and even a vague picture in my mind.

I submitted my form on the very last day of the registration and over the next 4 weeks I set about executing it. And so, I am proud to present to you, Mr Paper.

This is an advertisement for a fictitious company named Papyres. The spelling mistake is intentional. I had intended it to be Papyrus, but after I had almost completed the animation, I searched, and found out that it was a real company. So I had to change it.

That brings me to the disclaimer – this video is a purely creative venture and not made for any commercial purposes.

So what does all this have to do with campaigning? Well, this video was short-listed for the viewers’ choice award. Yippee 😀 So now I have to get people to ‘like’ this video on Facebook. Being one of the rare breed of people not having such an account, I decided to post it here. So if anyone accidentally stumbles on to this blog, I hope you have a look at the video. Liking is not compulsory, but I do hope you enjoy it. I, for sure, enjoyed making it. 🙂

* * *

For those interested in ‘liking’ it on Facebook, it is posted on this page:

https://www.facebook.com/Competition.WideAngle2012/posts/411233848887855?ref=notif&notif_t=share_reply

Update: The competition ended in the video being nominated for the award. It was showcased during the cultural programme and award ceremony :). The response on the facebook page was overwhelming and I have a lot of people to thank for that! Thanks everyone! 🙂

PS. The above link no longer exists.

The Taste Of Life


The summer has already set in and the heat is becoming unbearable. If its this hot in April, I fear to even think about May and June.

The past couple of days, have been a little different though.

Today, the wind is blowing hard. The sky is overcast, but there are some rays of light, which have managed to sneak past the clouds to get a glimpse of the world.

In the balcony, the plants are having a ball. For the past few weeks, they’ve gone crazy. Everyday they’ve been dressing up in their best outfits. The Nandiyavattai*, the common purple Flowers*, Hibiscuses, Loudspeaker* Lilies, and even Jasmine flowers, have come out in large numbers after a long, long time.

Today, also happens to be the Tamil New Year. Although there isn’t much we do to celebrate the new year, our mother draws a special kolam** at the entrance of the house, and prepares a special dish.

This dish has all flavours – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spice, and pungent. The dish represents life, and its ingredients, its different flavours. In life, some moments are sweet, others, bitter. We experience a wide variety of emotions. On the first day of the year, this dish is prepared to remind us, that the future will be filled with varying emotions. We must, not only prepare ourselves to face life, but also learn to enjoy its different flavours.

Puthandu vazthukal (happy new year), and a happy Baisakhi to all.

* * *

Nandiyavattai – The Tamil name of a plant, whose name I did not know – till now. Called ‘Moonbeam’ or ‘Wax Flower’ in English, ‘Chandni’ in Hindi and ‘Tabernaemontana coronaria’ in Science.

The Common purple Flowers – Another plant whose name I found out today. Called ‘Madagascar Periwinkle’ in English,  ‘Sadabahar’ in Hindi and ‘Cantharanthus roseus’ in Science.

Loudspeaker Lilies – They look like a pair of loudspeakers, hence we call them that. The internet world does not seem to recognise that name. So its just plain old lilies.

**Kolam – Patterns drawn with stone powder at the entrance of the house.

For the love of the game


April 4, 2012 (sometime at night)

The flu season is here. The newspaper is full of reports about this bug called IPL* that seems to have infected thousands, if not millions of people. A few years ago, I too, had been a victim of this bug. It had crippled me during evenings. I couldn’t move out of the couch and would get into a fit every now and then, which would set my pulse racing.

I am happy to report, that I have since, become immune. Although the front page, back page, and practically every page in between, was covered with ‘news’ about the opening ceremony, I found it easy to ignore them.

In the middle of all these reports, one article, stood out like a sore thumb. It was about an archer who had won several titles for the country in the recent past**. She revealed that during her stay at the academy, she was paid a ‘stipend’ of Rupees 500. Her family is living in poverty. To make ends meet, she sold a silver bow for a song. The saving grace for this lady was that it caught the attention of someone who reported it.

Cricket is a popular sport in the country. Why? I don’t know. Those who make it big even for a short while can live a luxurious life. And so every kid wants to become a cricketer. And every business house wants to sponsor them.

* * *

There is a sports complex nearby. On week days, children attend football coaching sessions there. At the end of the session, they run away from the ground like prisoners escaping from jail. Some of the older kids lean on trees at the edge of the park wearing large headphones, sipping sports drinks. Sometimes, I wonder if they really play because they want to, or because it looks cool.

As the week draws to an end, I am reminded about what’s in store for the next two days.

On week ends, the park has a different story to tell. It becomes a training ground for professional rugby players of the local club. They come early in the morning and spend several hours running and playing.

A certain energy engulfs the ground when they run and pass the ball. The energy is contagious. People, out on their morning walks, seem to walk faster, and the joggers put in extra miles.

The players train for national events, most of them, hoping to make it to the national team. The sport probably does not give them a handsome pay cheque. And it doesn’t get any dedicated columns in newspapers and magazines. But the players still play – because they love the game.

* * *

*IPL – Indian premier league – a deadly mixture of money, politics, business, glamour and cricket.

**Poverty forces former archer to sell bow

The Scrapbook


This post belongs to the original post titled ‘Letting Go

I pulled out the scrapbook from the bottom of the cupboard with the intention of scanning a few pages. The paper has yellowed, the edges of the paper are torn, and damp hands have removed some of the colour. But as I flipped through it with my mother, we fell in love with it all over again! So I decided to scan the whole book!

A part of me wanted to retouch it, but the better part of me (read lazy) thought it best to upload it untouched – yellow and torn. The scans don’t reveal how beautifully well preserved the actual photographs are, though the newspaper clippings reveal their age. Hope you enjoy!

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The images are the property of their respective owners. I apologise for being unable to mention the sources (I was just a 12 year old kid who didn’t really care about intellectual property). It is very very very old! Some that do come to my mind are – The Hindu (Newspaper supplements), Brochures from The Sanskriti Museum and India Habitat centre.

Letting go


When I was in school, there was a dance teacher who had once asked us to submit an assignment. She had asked us to find out about the various dance forms of India and prepare a scrapbook with pictures and information that we had collected.

I was just going to enter middle school, and this was a time when we did not have such great access to the internet. Broadband was many years away. We did not even have a dial up connection.

What we did have was a very good newspaper which focussed more on culture and art, rather than on gossip and glamour. My aunt pitched in and provided us with glossy brochures of cultural programmes.

My mother and I set about cutting sheets of cartridge paper and folded them to form the book. We punched holes at the joints and tied a shiny brown ribbon into a bow to hold the book. We pasted the photographs from the newspapers and brochures and outlined the pictures with colour.

I had a very bad handwriting at that time. So with colourful felt pens my mother wrote little descriptions of each art form. The pages were numbered, and we even made an index. Every few pages, my mother made little abstract designs to fill in the blank spaces.

Now that I think about it, my mother made the whole thing! And I think she had a great time too.

When it was done, I submitted it to our dance teacher. She was impressed.

After assigning grades to all the students’ assignments, she returned them. She said never in her life had she ever given a student an A1. But she said she loved my assignment, and she wanted to show it to other students. She said she wouldn’t give it back to me.

I was quite upset. I felt it was my assignment. I should keep it with myself. Every week I would ask her for the scrapbook. And she would refuse to give it. She showed it to students of all the classses she took.

A few friends from another class one day came and told me that they had seen my assignment, and that they loved it too. It made me feel proud. But it made me feel even more possessive about it.

Seeing how much I wanted it back, at the end of the year, our dance teacher finally relented to my request and returned it to me.

On the cover page, with a shiny brown glitter pen, she had written A1. I felt very happy.

But the happiness didn’t last long. After a few months, I began feeling guilty. That scrapbook was lying idle in the house. No one would see it. My mother told me I should have let it remain in the school. She even suggested that I return it to her. She said after a few years, it will end up going to the kabaadiwala *. I didn’t want that. I told her I would keep it with me. But in my heart, I wished I had let it remain with my teacher. I couldn’t bring myself to return it to her. My pride didn’t allow me to.

And so, even to this day, it is lying in my cupboard, with some other memorabilia from school. A reminder of a very important lesson. It is important to let go. Ultimately, time will wither away all attachments.

***

* kabaadiwala : Scrap dealer. Old newspapers, magazines, and sometimes other used household items are sold to scrap dealers who in turn send it to be recycled

Update: I scanned and uploaded the pages of the scrapbook

Relevance of Relations


Tomorrow some guests are visiting us. Well, they’re actually relatives who live in a land, far far away. I don’t remember having ever seen them, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again. But they’re in town, and have been kind enough to acknowledge our presence, and have decided to pay us a visit.

That’s all wonderful and exciting. But then it has also created a huge problem. The house has to be cleaned up. Every thing must be put in its rightful place.

Some are already stationed at their rightful place. And that is because no one ever considered it necessary to relocate them in the first place. But a huge blanket of dust envelopes them, and now that summers are here, it is time they were relieved of this burden.

There are several items which are out of place. They are easy enough to put back.

The tough part is in deciding what to do with the majority of items – the homeless ones. They have no place, yet they have been roaming around the house like vagabonds.

In the middle of this clean up operation, a small piece of paper stared at me. It had a list of names and numbers. Memories of an old age instantly popped up in my head. Many years ago, the words on the paper would have been a very important piece of information. People, with whom I had spent many months. We all cried and promised to keep in touch. We felt sad to leave the school where we had spent so many years, we were like a family.

But today, they are nothing more than words. Even though I could recall something about them, there was neither the slightest inclination of ever wanting to meet them, nor regret at not having kept in touch.

I tore the piece of paper. It had found its place – in the dustbin.

A New Day


It’s been a rather noisy night. Huge flashes of lightning lit up the city in the middle of the night.

I step out to assess the damage. The verandah is littered with trash that the storm has decided to leave behind as a souvenir. I dodge the minefield to reach the railing and look outside.

Clear blue skies, and a cool breeze wish me a good morning. A pigeon flies towards the ground. Another one follows it. And soon many others enter the stage from all directions. Someone has just spread out a platter of seeds for them to feast upon.

I look at the trees, to see if there are any casualties. They are injured. They have been stripped off most of their leaves and there is a colourful carpet on the ground. But they stand proud and straight. They do not mind the shedding of leaves, after all, newer ones will grow. They have survived the night, and its time to savour their victory. The breeze is playing a gentle tune, and they are swaying to it.

Soon the city madness will resume, and last night’s events will be forgotten. But till then, I will stand here, in the middle of the mess, soak in the fresh air and watch nature celebrate spring.