Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bahut Khoobsurat Ho....

Real Beauty?

But we have yet to summon up the courage to have a real relationship with it! To have that heartfelt conversation.

In an “inflinte algebra” of beauty as aspiration we reduce it to a Golden Ratio. Computing, calculating, the mask for the perfect face is engaged with. At times with a scalpel, other times with digital pixels. From shopping (for Dr Beauty) to photo shopping, hasn't that been our journey so far !

Not for mere mortals us, no no, we place beauty with great reverence on a divine pedestal.  Ram and Sita, the golden couple. Lakshmi, the embodiment of beautyThe hand of a Muslim, my hand, will tremble before attempting any pictorial representation of the Prophet. Allah. But the subtext of my school textbooks for the Prophet was always that of a 'handsome constitution'. And in the by lanes of Kolkata come Durga Puja goddesses of another kind might step out of celluloid morphing into clay if the artisan is so coaxed. Elsewhere in popular culture, Jesus walks in beauty. Yes beauty is for the gods, we tell ourselves.

For the devotee, it will only bring anxiety.

The hand will hasten to affix a black dot lest beauty attracts the evil eye. Black beads jostle for space against a turquoise third eye. A new mother furtively slips a knife, anything metal, under the baby's mattress, never brave enough to celebrate her baby's innocent beauty. Nazar na lag jaaye, lest I take too much pride in it, she crosses herself.

We admonish ourselves for pausing for that extra minute in front of the mirror, watch young women with a hawk eye. Do not flaunt it. You have all your life. Later, later, when you are in your own home. Only then. For him.

And there is a whole industry devoted to the 'curse of beauty' as we maliciously salivate over the lives, loves and loss (well mostly the loss) of the Faces of Our Times. That fine looking boy next door; the confident, bright woman down the road. The delicious feeling of schadenfreude as we pronounce them  headed for a fall.

We treat beauty as currency, trading a fair face for social capital; and once acquired for our family, we monitor it jealously. Suspicious of every step it takes. Every breath (was that a sigh for a lost lover?). Every glance, lest it is a furtive look at a paramour.

We punish it for alleged arrogance, how dare it thwart our advances? Reject me? I will strip it with acid. But did you reach its inner core, it asks you. The beauty of spirit that spoke its mind and did not cower in terror!

So when the world is ready to listen, it will whisper to you its story. Beauty will tell you, I am you, and you me. Unafraid. Celebrate me. Do not covet. I am in your every day. You are part of the Divine. It walks along. It has always been part of you. Beauty will speak softly if you care to listen, I am simple. I am that scar, your badge of honour. The white hair, that first smile. Your songs, your tears, but never your envy, your greed. When you loved it, but not when you cloistered it. 

Dear Reader, have you read N M Rashid?
 Zindagi se darte ho 
Zindagi to tum bhi ho
Zindagi to hum bhi hain

(translated and I apologize not very well, by me as Scared of Life Are You? When Life Has Been You . And It Is Me)

So I ask you why so afraid of beauty? 
Beauty Is Real
Live It.
And Yes I Believe in Real Beauty. But Do You?

(The above blog post is part of a competition hosted by Dove, Yahoo!India, and IndiBlogger. But, as regular readers will recognize the rant and some raving is a standard feature!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

tum ne kiya kiya kiya hai hamare liye, hum na kar paye kuch bhi tumhare liye

A month of travel, three and a half cities (the half are spaces aspiring to be cities),  many, many fine people along the way, food, good food. So much material, now how to unpack all this? Themes perhaps? Standpoints, if you get my point?

So today I begin with tipping my hat err dupatta umm jo bhi to the lovely ladies. 

The sister who juggled dates and commitments and quite likely resorted to putting a DVD on telling her kids to continue watching it until she returned from her trip, it was this impossible to work out our meet. She came, she wowed The Toddler, and impressed me with how she is managing this phase of her life.The Working (Out of the House), Some Travel Involved Mom. For some time my sister and me have been playing a *Tag! you are it* with  life, work, relationship, responsibilities, family, she tires of one with my picking that particular ball of wool up, and from the skeins of my abandoned causes she will knit herself a bright new day. But. She does it so much better than me. So I continue to be impressed by this young woman. Arhaan was stunned by all the glamour, good livin' and shopping malls she brought to his day, and well  life seems less colorful and his clothes less well-coordinated  he says.

And  the lovely Maid in Malaysia. (where the maid is less bai and more Marian--you know the version where she is fun-lovin, wields a mighty fine sword and keeps an eye on the band of merry men).
OK  first impressions, all ye who are curious about our blog meet. Consider a producer who knocks on the door thinking he will sign up Rani for his magnus opus, and ta da the door opens to Tabu. MiM is tall, and way way more talented. (Jab ke my earlier impression of  the also-not bad for the role chirpy chulbuli Rani was also complimentary. But Tabu! yeah! Tabu.) 
MiM had to field many a  "but you write like a short person" from me
and finally concluded sagely with a "perhaps I am surrounded by very short people".
I repeat.
She is tall.
And very very talented.
I will now go and google whether people though e e cummings was short.

Her boys two were gracious and sweet and lovin and keeping true to the theme of "no truth in advertising",  baby param did NOT eat arhaan up, in fact he was very gentle and asked my little boy whether he needed a hand with his bags (Arhaan not only got a VERY impressive goody bag but he also got to "borrow" books from their bookshelf).

And for all who made the sita gita reference, the only fans in the room that day were Arhaan and Baby Param. Major Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Todegey moment. Totally channeling Jai and Veeru on baby param's tricycle.

MiM found my joke about the Chetan Bhagat of toys very funny (you know 100 rupees waley, available everywhere, no intellectual content what so ever) so I am her fan for life.

I realized that with all the "new technologies", and the "new people" and ideas that they bring to your life, we still do move around in the same circles in a six degrees of separation kind of world. It has been happening to me for a while, but this time around I thought I was meeting a blogger (who has been blogging anonymously from Kuala Lumpur) and who grew up in a town far, far away from Pindi and half an hour into our conversation we discover that we happen to have Real Life (and not just Reel Life) people in common from our "other lives". Also in our own ways we are avatars of all the other good friends for each. So over the years there has always been a MiM in my life (albeit as different people) wherever life took me and MiM told me about her other aneela. For all these reasons and more we talked, and talked and talked some more until the cows came home. and the cabs threatened not to *gulp!*

Oh and the thoughtfulness! the love MiM put in her goody bag for Arhaan and me. Comfort food. Pretty things, Something to Read, Something to Wear.Clearly this was a woman who had gone around and done her homework  and put together a real bundle of love. And what Arhaan didnt "borrow" she pulled out from her shelf and put  in our bags.
In return I gave her
Hair Oil (I thought it was hilarious when I first bought it. You know her never ending search for The Hair Oil)
and What I thought Were Wooden Blocks but was a 300000 piece jigsaw. 
Just call me Evil Aunt Kaushalya now and get it over with, Sur.

I returned to Dhaka to a visit from a much missed nephew and his parents. My sister in law was here, so  for a week I could go around with a permanent "What Me Worry about House guests" smile on my face, I wonder whether Mimi knew her Dhaka escape was more of a "working holiday" as she cooked and cleaned and entertained Arhaan. The Toddler will miss his Kiron Kher and Boro Ma. 

And I will miss all my partners in crime.
Now please dont ask me "so what have you done for me lately".

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Jaan Bahut Sharminda Hai

It will be a while before I can get around to posting my travel diary. As is now usual for us it has been quite a month of travel, toil, meeting new friends and family old but all that has to wait.

The events of that May Day er Night should have infuriated me. Yes, there were a couple of How Dare They (The U.S. And Us.) forming, fuming on my lips. But soon the all-too-familiar sense of loss returned. I had long said goodbye to summer holidays amongst white rose creepers, grey stone houses named after English counties, the green glens, and pointing out to President Ayub's house and had reconciled to it becoming a base camp from where the Thandiani-Nathiagali adventure could be launched. But this. This finally marks an end to that period of my life.

But what saddened me most was bidding goodbye (albeit temporarily. I the Idea of Gulsher . Friends (and foes to the idea) know that gifting The Toddler with the aka Arhaan and Gulsher (merey dau dau naam) was a tribute to the Charlie of the Alpha,Bravo,Charlie and all that was good and gold about Sunehrey Din. In a very non-Tiger Mom way I was preparing him not to be an Alpha Male but to grow up to be the sweet, smiling, peaceful "man at his best" who was nek karam about his karma. Yes, yes I am confusing you dear readers with the oxymoron. The paradoxes of my journey so far (and hypocrisy some whisper. Hai, you? proponent of non-violence naming your son after an army officer. And Pakistani Army. Take back her dissertation RIGHT NOW). But it has been so. The gentlemanly Gentleman Cadet. The honorable service-man. Who did the right thing but never aspired to be the Praetorian who thinks he knows best what is right for everyone.  He didnt exactly need to be a man of uniform, for you know Gulsher was the Common Man.

It did not make a difference that Gulsher was reel life (also  that in real life the actor/army officer who played him in the teleserial was from the same village that sent out the Time Square Bomber). For I firmly believed Gulsher was out there. As an officer. As a soldier who knew it was not for him to ask why, but to fight our war with the Other, with Our Self, and with Some Who Could Be Like Us. Many Gulshers died and continue to do so, while the military busied itself in the business of mil-bus (Nods head to Ayesha Siddiqa , milbus is now part of our lingo), but for me the dream of Gulsher continued.

This week not so. I am bewildered. Ashamed. Cheated (as many of us are. Need I repeat our plight of being left hungry, illiterate, without health care just so that this beast of a war machine was fed). Suspecting that perhaps Gulsher is a pipe dream. 
And very very scared. 
I know that every generation questions itself as it raises its children. What World Have We Brought Them Into? I am sure my mother did, raising me in the shadow of our misdeeds circa 1971. Then again things might have a way of working out. Perhaps everything does turn out all right in the end. I might be one of Zia's children but in the end he didnt get my soul did he? And in spite of all that our army unleashed in 1971 and 1979  , I still had the dream of Gulsher.
But that May night, and ironically the town that gave us our Gulsher (Abbotabad-Kakul-the Army Academy geddit), took away that dream as well.
And for this I will never forgive the ISI, assi read us, tussi read you and the U.S.
And Osama bhi.
Oh you the bearded one, when you looked away from the TV screen and out of your window did you perchance witness a bereaved woman and her young family speeding towards a brave soldier who lay dying in the fire that you spewed? The constant theater of our lives has never been  as soap opera-ish for me. That the woman who makes my dream worth living might have passed the house of he who conspired to kill it.
And now I wait for what happens after the Interval. Picture abhi baaki hai right?