Sunday, September 27, 2009

Those were the days! (Then and Now...)

The other day, as two school-going kids from our building-cum-chawl were busy playing Mafia Wars on Facebook, my childhood chum Chinky and I were reminiscing the old times, picturing us in place of them; how we were at their age; and musing over how life was so different then than what it is now! With the advent of computers and the internet, kids and elders alike are missing out on so much!!

When we were little, as soon as the clock struck five, we’d run up to the terrace and play games like “Pakda Pakdi”, “Saakli”, “Dongar Paani”, “Sea-Sand-Water-Land”, “Chor-Police” “Fire-in-the-mountain”, and then advanced to cricket, cycling, badminton and skating as we grew up.
After sunset when it got too dark to see, we'd play our all-time favourite game- "Bhoot-Bhoot". After a round of "Een-Peen(Pin)-Septee(Safety)-Peen-Een-Peen-Out- Khelna Hai Toh Khelo Warna Get Out" (i still don't know what that means! :D), the unfortunate (or fortunate) one got to be the "Bhoot" (ghost). We'd dab talcum powder on his/her face till it got stark white and smear blood-red lipstick on the lips! Once the "Bhoot" was ready, we'd all go into hiding. There was only one place where we were allowed to hide- on the stairs that led to the terrace! Okay, I know it doesn't make much sense if the "Bhoot" already knows our hiding spot but that was the rule. You couldn't break it. Either you play by the rules- hide there and pretend to get scared when the "Bhoot" arrives, or don't play at all! Needless to say, our parents would always chase us around when they'd see the talcum powder bottle empty in a week's time! :D

We'd also play board games like "Scrabble", "Snakes & Ladders", "Ludo", "Scotland Yard", "Business". And at the onset of the monsoons, just before the first showers could hit the earth, we'd get the carrom board out that always lay behind the couch otherwise. Barbie dolls were also in vogue then. Chinky and I had a huge collection of them. We'd bathe them, dress them up, braid their hair, even got a whole kitchen set for them! Once, we even stitched clothes for them looking up different styles and patterns in tailoring books! I don't ever remember spending as much time grooming myself! :D

Summer vacation nights were spent playing "UNO" when we were allowed to sleep an hour late! :) And in the daytime, we went to some art class that we were enrolled for- drawing, glass-painting, calligraphy, candle-making and the like!

Television was also different then.
I remember regularly following shows like "Alif Laila", "Tenali Raman", "Surabhi" starring Renuka Shahane and Siddharth Kak, "Dekh Bhai Dekh", "Jaspal Bhatti", "Tehkikaat", "Mind Your Language" as well as the hindi version of it- "Zabaan Sambhaalke". Sundays were spent watching different versions of "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana"! And on weekdays, they'd air shows like "Different Strokes", "Small Wonder", "Silver Spoons", "Happy Days", "Three's Company", "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched". After a few years came shows like "Full House" and "F.R.I.E.N.D.S.". I still link Zee TV's Antakshari with Anu Kapoor and Pallavi Joshi.
Now, television has literally turned into an idiot box. After the much-awaited end of the era of family drama soaps, staged "Reality" shows took over and there's nothing worth watching anymore. Now, I switch on the TV only on Sundays to watch back-to-back re-runs of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and Seinfeld sometimes.

Music was an out-of-the-world experience. I used to play songs by the Backstreet Boys, MJ, Aqua, Blue, Westlife and Steps (5-6-7-8) over and over again! I'd call up iTV and MTV Select (VJ Nikhil Chinnappa) and request for songs. Hindi albums were also one of a kind with groups like "Aryans", "Bombay Vikings", "Colonial Cousins", "Instant Karma", "Silk Route" and "Distant Voice". Singers like Lucky Ali, K.K., Sonu Nigam and Shaan will always be remembered and there will never be another A.R. Rahman. Music has taken a whole new definition now. Songs these days last for a week or two, they are forgotten as soon as another nasal singer comes in. No one now saves up their pocket money to buy that original Beatles CD, they just rip it off the internet!

Reading habits were also far more developed then than the case it is now. I spent my early teens competing with classmates on who would finish the "Nancy Drew" or the "Trixie Belden" series first. We'd name our groups as "The Famous Five" or "The Adventurous Four" after books by Enid Blyton. Our librarian would always cringe when she saw us coming, knowing we'd disturb her neatly arranged shelves again!

And when we were assigned a project in school, I'd scan through my folder of newspaper cuttings or through my collection of books and encyclopedias. We'd also go searching for books on the topic assigned to us, read up and collect information. Now, Google, a few clicks and Ctrl-F does everything for you. There's no effort put in at all!

In my late teens, I'd spend my evenings with Mona, Chinky, Alisha sipping on hot cutting chai in our balcony and talking for hours!

However much the Internet has benefitted man and shrunk the world into a small town, it has destroyed the simple joys of life. I agree it's nice to see kids getting tech-savvy at a younger age, but they've forgotten to run around and play. They no longer come home with their hands and legs dirty with muck, they've stopped getting endless scoldings from the neighbourhood society's uncle for breaking his window pane whilst playing cricket. "Katti-batti" does not exist anymore with fights only happening on playstations now. Gone are the days!

I wouldn't be surprised to see toddlers of the next generation going to pre-school nursery carrying PDAs.

I'm glad atleast I didn't miss out on any of it! I sigh as I recall every moment.. those were the days!

P.S: I don't know how much sense all of this made to you considering the examples I used everywhere. Indians who grew up in the 90s would be able to relate to this the best! :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Me, Myself and I

I was dicy about writing something so personal, but there are certain things that have been eating up my already messed-up head for quite sometime now and I thought I should vent them out here.

Last night, I hated myself for the person I've become in terms of emotions and feelings. I almost lost a friend of mine all because of me- my state of mind and my inexplicable feelings.

Till last year, I used to be the kind of person who would give 100% to every relationship; my friends meant the world to me! I once even declared I'd die without them, I feared losing them. And now, I seem to have taken a step back from everything. I do feel like making friends, getting to know them well, spending quality time with them, but when they get too close, I just sort-of drift away. I can't explain this, nor can I understand this myself. And the more I wish for this to change, the more it happens.

There are a lot of other things about me that I can't find answers to. I feel shy to express certain feelings that everyone else does openly. I've always wanted to tell my mother how much I love and need her, but I can't get myself to telling her that in a way that I really mean it. There's an odd kind of shyness involved there. When my brother was leaving to go back to the States last month, I wanted to hug him at the airport just like my cousins did, but I couldn't do it as openly as them. When my Ajja expired, I couldn't cry for the first hour. When I did feel like crying, I held back my tears, then felt choked by the lump that had formed in my throat. I couldn't just weep openly though my mother cried bitterly in front of me. At times, I also feel choked by the attention my relatives give me though I know how much they love and care about me.

Expressing oneself is comparatively always easier with friends than with relatives. But I think that's because they are relatives and we are SUPPOSED to be nice to them (out of no choice). Reminds me of a line Rehab quoted: "I think I am nice to the people I don't have to be nice to, because those are the ones I want to be nice to". Not generalising, but it just might be the one of the reasons why we feel more comfortable with friends than SOME relatives.

I just seem to have turned emotionally blunt now. I fall in love with something, and the next minute I push it away. I have been trying to accept myself, and I do feel much better than the past few months. But the thought of me pushing someone away after getting them so close is itself scary. I would never want to be responsible for someone else's heart-break. I can't live with the guilt. It's too much to take. And hence, how much ever I want someone close in my life, I hesitate and fear my own self. That kind of loneliness bites me but I feel helpless.

I wish we could all just feel what we want to feel.
When people apologise, we should be able to forgive them and erase their sins completely, and not feel like we've forgiven them only on a superficial level.
When people fall in love with us, we should be able to love them back the same way. Why do one-sided relationships have to exist?
The feeling should just come by the thought of it.

But I think that's where the mind and the heart differ. And the battle between the two is the fiercest of them all.

Peace will come when the equilibrium is achieved...

P.S: I'm glad I did (wrote) this! I feel a lot better now!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

R.I.P. Ajja

"Ajja", that's what I used to call my grandfather who passed away on Tuesday, the 8th of September. I had never experienced the loss of someone in my life before. My maternal grandmother expired long before I was born. My paternal grandparents passed away when I was 7 and I never lived with them. Besides, I was too young to understand what death is. When you're a kid, all you really care about is when you'll get to play next; a lost doll is forgotten when a new one comes in and the only pain you feel is when you scrape your knee whilst you're playing. So this came on differently.

Ajja was a jovial man. He was admired for the strength and will power that he had. A gold medalist in law, he practised law till he was 84. He was a philanthropist- always giving away his books and a part of what he earned in charity. Spiritual and an avid reader, he'd read books on yoga, medicine and ancient stories with life-time subscriptions to books like "Yogasudha", "Wisdom" and "the teachings of Swami Vivekananda". He would ask for the newspaper the first thing in the morning, and would watch only News channels on TV. He wouldn't miss a single newscast for anything and I'd fight for the remote with him if any of my TV shows clashed with the newscast. He would remind me to say my prayers before supper every night.

In September 2004, in his 85th year, he slipped and fell in the bathroom fracturing his leg. That's when he stopped practising law and could move around only with a walker. We hired a caretaker for him; he became part of our family, and we called him "Mama". Mama took very good care of him. Besides the routine work that he was paid to do, he would talk to him, see to it that he always kept busy, engaged in activity. He would give him company all day when we'd be at work and on days that he would be on leave to visit his native place, Ajja would feel restless and uneasy. He valued friendship a lot and two of his best friends, Jane aunty and Pradhan uncle would frequently keep visiting him and would not miss his birthday for anything. As years went by, Ajja got weaker and since the past 28 days, he could not stand on his feet. That's when the doctor asked us to accept whatever came our way. He could still recognise all of us and joked around with us.

On the 7th of September, Monday, he looked very tired for some reason. He did not utter a word all day, he did not even speak to Mama. One of my aunts that he's very fond of came to visit but he had no strength to talk to her and to tease her like he did always. He'd always hide her chappals when she'd come and on that day, though he was tired and unwell, he still managed to hold her shoes down with his feet if not hide them. Classic Ajja- jovial and naughty! However, as night set in, he sinked even more and when everyone retired for the day at 12, I felt uneasy. My parents were fast asleep on the loft. I was up till 1 a.m. surfing the net as usual and before turning the lights off, I went over to him and looked at him. His eyes met mine too, and I just knew this would be the last time I'd be seeing him. I gave him a peck on his cheek and when he closed his eyes to sleep, I switched off the lights. I couldn't sleep, I was so sure he'd pass away any minute that I already prayed for his soul to rest in peace. At 2.30 a.m. as I was still awake, he coughed and I went over to him again and tried putting him to sleep. I was scared. For some strange reason, I feared being all alone with him that night. I messaged a few friends who I thought would be awake at that hour but no one replied. Fear gripped me completely and at 3a.m. when I heard him coughing louder I just lay on my mattress scared and confused. I thought to myself, if in the next 5 minutes I continue to feel this way, I'd give up trying to sleep, switch on the lights and take some action. I opened my eyes at 7a.m. when mom woke me up saying "Ajja is no more".

I couldn't digest the fact that he's gone, none of us could. We were expecting him to wake up any minute even after the doctor issued the death certificate. It's only when people started coming in weeping that we realised what had happened. Mama cried bitterly. Of all the people who had come for the funeral rites, he cried the most.

Ajja was to turn 90 next month. He died a peaceful death- in his sleep. It was the 8th of September- Mother Mary's feast for the Christians and Angarika for the Hindus. A good day. He could even meet my brother last month when he had come down from the States for the holidays. He was satisfied and people say he's very lucky in that respect.

I regret a few things though. I regret suggesting my mother to hospitalize him till his wounds get dried up. I regret talking of an Old Age home cum hospital once when my parents faced great difficulty handling him and my mother's health was deteorating. I am glad we didn't go ahead with any of that. Most of all, I regret not staying up that night. I regret not being able to go back in time.

We sometimes still feel Ajja's with us, it's hard to believe he's gone forever. Sometimes I think God has a way of helping us deal with the loss of a loved one... The feeling doesn't sink in too soon, and when it does, time has already done the healing.

Rest in Peace Ajja, you'll always be remembered for your special ways.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Now I know - II

The online world seemed exciting. Although it had been a year since I had started blogging, I wasn't really active anywhere. But that June evening, as it poured outside, I had nothing better to do than go online. After checking my Orkut, my Gmail, my Hotmail and my Yahoo (which had over 400 unread mails!!), I happened to sign in to my blog and was surprised to see so many comments on it. It meant that people actually visited it more often than I did myself! I began reading those and I stumbled upon a blog of one of those commenters- Raghav, that caught my attention for the longest time. I enjoyed each and everyone of those posts and couldn't keep myself from leaving a comment there. After a little more blog-hopping, I went off to sleep.

The next morning, the first thing that I did was to visit that particular blog again to check if Raghav had left a comment in reply. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see one. It went on that way for a couple of days, and soon he was in my Orkut list and we happened to have a mutual friend too! On knowing that he went to the same college that I do now, my excitement doubled
. He added me on GTalk the very next day and we started chatting endlessly. It was fun never meeting him in real life and yet talking to him like I've known him for years! Through him, I met many other bloggers online and started being very active on my blog. We always had a lot to talk to, and soon, advanced to talking on the phone too! He lived in the US, and that meant heavy call rates but that never seemed to bother him and we talked for hours.

I'd wait for Raghav's calls and for him to come online. And on days that he didn't, I'd feel restless and uneasy. This was a different feeling. I knew I didn't like him that way. It wasn't the kind of happiness that I felt when I was in love or the one I felt when I won a trophy in school. I just felt the need to talk to him everyday. I was addicted to him. We'd talk about college, about our friends, about our lives, even teach each other our respective mother-tongues! My life completely changed in two months time and my addiction kept growing by the hour! But I didn't seem to care. All I knew is I loved talking to him and he felt the same too. We enjoyed and that's all that mattered.

Then one day, I happened to go to a friend's place on the outskirts of Bombay to spend the weekend. I was meeting her after ages and we were catching up on each others lives over tea; I told her all about my experience and how things had changed since that evening in June. I expected a call from Raghav the same night, I wanted her to talk to him too! The clock struck 10 and I looked at my cellphone. Nothing. "This is the time he always calls, what could have happened!", I thought. I waited some more thinking he might be busy somewhere, but after an hour, when my phone didn't ring at all, I was sure he had forgotten and gave him a call myself. Nobody answered. I left a voice message, but felt very scared somehow. I stayed up all night talking to my friend and at the back of my mind, expecting the phone to ring anytime considering it was day-time in the US. But nothing happened. No calls, no messages.

When I came back home, I checked my mail and my GTalk to see if he had left any offliner. Nothing there too! I went all panicky, and pinged another blogger who knew Raghav too, to ask her if she knows of his whereabouts. She too had no clue! I felt helpless and stranded. I didn't know what to do. A week later, she mailed me saying that he was safe. Apparently, he had mailed another blogger to tell her that he was just very busy and nothing was wrong.

I heaved a sigh of relief but could never understand why he left that way. Today, he has left the blogosphere and has stopped interacting with all of those bloggers he had befriended once. None of us know why.

I didn't know what addiction could do to me and how wrong I was to give myself completely to someone who seems like a complete stranger now.
Now I know.