Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I went to Chennai about 3 weeks back, by the Shatabdi Express. Berths in the sleeper class, the AC 3-tiers and 2-tiers in all the other Bangalore-Chennai trains were unavailable because of heavy bookings on that extended weekend. AC Chair Cars of the Shatabdi was the only option left.

And that journey brought back memories of my school days, the Rajdhani Express and Calcutta. I usually flew from my home town to Calcutta, stayed there for a day or two, and then went to Delhi by the Rajdhani. And when our school vacations coincided, I travelled with my brother too. Same route but he had to go further, to his school in Sanawar, Himachal Pradesh. Lucky bum, he won a scholarship and studied in one of the best schools in India.

My first memory of Calcutta was the blast of hot air when the plane doors opened. The big crazy traffic jams, and seeing the Bengali script on the street signs, shops, hoardings & billboards, and everywhere else. It's a language every literate Manipuri can read and write, and most of the times, better than our own mother tongue. It helped a lot in locating an address too, anywhere in Calcutta. I remember one time in a restaurant; my brother was reading a letter from mom and this waiter looked at us, then the letter and then shouted to everyone, "Hey, these guys are one of us!!!" He was so happy and all of us were laughing together though I don't remember if we told him our stories or not.

And how can I ever forget Fancy bazaar and New market? I wanted to buy everything whenever I went there. The electronic items at Fancy bazaar and the rock-themed imported T-shirts at New market - they were always at the top of my list.

Talking of Calcutta, there was this Bengali woman in one of my previous companies in Delhi. One day, we were all having lunch and the conversation strayed to Indian cities. Suddenly this woman almost exclaimed, "Calcutta's the best and most beautiful Indian city!!" That's when I looked up, and asked her which other Indian cities/towns she has visited or lived in. Her answer was something I expected. It was her first time outside home, outside her Calcutta. There was no point in saying anything else because I knew she wouldn't understand a thing.

Or this guy I met just once in my life who told me that Delhi's such a dirty place. Found out after a few questions that he had seen Delhi for the first time in his life, from a train. He had seen the Old Delhi railway station, and had concluded that Delhi's a dirty city. Forget about hometowns, alma maters and everything people consider to be the best just because they have lived or studied there, I don't usually like it even when people say that their fathers/mothers are the best. I have never ever thought on those lines - to me this particular relation's more about blood bonds, attachment, familiarity, and a huge sense of responsibility.

To me the best relationship in this whole wide world is the relation you share with yourself, especially in your quiet lonely moments. The second best relationship is the one you share with your best friends and if you can have and extend this same relationship with your lover too, you got yourself a treasure.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Some of the things I see these days give me hope; hope for a better, more tolerant world. Almost every problem in this world originates from the very simple fact that people don't agree with each other. At one level, it's the differences in ideas and opinions. At another level, something deeper, it's the differences between countries, states, religions, and races.

But I guess the equation's changing everywhere, the lines are getting thinner. My friends are from all over the country - different states, different religions, and different looks. And so many of them have married outside their communities/states. Their friends, and their friends' friends have done the same thing too. So many, that it has become a very normal thing amongst my entire friends circle and theirs.

Nothing significant or great you would say, but look deeper and you will see. These couples aren't strict about religion, they don't care about superstitions and rituals, they hate the racial narrow minded attitudes harbored by their old parents/relatives towards other communities/races/religions, they speak mostly English, and their kids don't look like they belong to any particular race/state/community.

Maybe, hopefully, in another 20-30 years, at least in the big/metropolitan cities of India, the lines are going to get very, very blurred. The boundaries between languages will crumble first, and this will be followed by the 'different look' boundaries. The differences between religions will go away too, someday.

And we’ll be left with differences in ideas and opinions only, which is in fact something very healthy if we could respect and tolerate each other a little more. “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” the story of a single battle seen from two different sides. Both the movies were great but I found “Letters from Iwo Jima” much better.

Sipping brandy with Savatage in the background....I just realized I have now got 3 nieces and 3 nephews. My elder sister just had her first child - a daughter, and the whole family asked me to name her. I waited for one whole month thinking that somebody else would come up with a name, but no such luck. So I named my niece Delphina, and my sister loves it.

Moms and their kids; they’ll never stop praising their children. The other day I was on the phone and sis was going on about how nice her daughter is and how quiet she is. “Sis, wait for sometime. She’s going to be just like you – moody and very, very stubborn. And she’s going to be this over smart and disobedient girl, just like you once were.” Sis broke out laughing and it was so good to hear her laugh. It was so good to know that we have all so mellowed, and we have all gone through a hell of a lot and learned so much. All my bros and sis, we were and we still are, a bunch of eccentrics to a lot of people around us. We are quite different from one another, but we are all hot-tempered and we all speak whatever’s on our mind – the legacy of our father. And from mom? We fall sick once in a decade or so. If I leave out the accidents and similar stuff, the last time I was bedridden with fever was in 1993.

Going to Chennai tomorrow, and from there I will be going with a friend to Pondicherry in his car. If he doesn’t have a stereo in his car, you are all going to see me in the headlines – for murder.