Monday, April 10, 2017

Mentor Me!




“Ajay is a talented boy, but padhaai mein uska bilkul dhyaan nahi hain. He enjoys playing football and wants to be a footballer. But he needs to get through school first and finish his basic education.” And with these words began my journey as Ajay’s mentor. It’s been ten months now since then and Ajay and I have now become friends who meet every weekend discussing a gamut of interest areas ranging from Messi to the milky-way. 

A reserved teen, Ajay, when I first met him through Mentor-Me India’s (MMI) mentoring initiative, was difficult to communicate with and, wary of my efforts in trying to reach out to him. Communication, I was told, was going to be one of the big challenges I would encounter in my mentoring journey with him. Add to that the swinging temperaments of a moody 16 year old whose view point of the world swayed along a callibrated scale that ranged from consuming passion to abject indifference, with skepticism playing the balancing act across the two extremities!



I knew it was going to be an uphill task when I signed-up with MMI; and the demand on my time is not what I’m referring to. Nothing quite prepares you in your journey as a mentor, as much as the experience of going through that journey itself. You may prepare all you want but make peace you will eventually with the fact that you’ll never quite be prepared. And so much as I would strategise and plan activities to break ice and befriend my mentee Ajay, he’d seem one-up on me, everytime, in derailing all of those with an agenda that’d convince me he was out to teach me a thing or two about dealing with ambiguity and, convince me that there was no such thing as coming planned for our encounters. That learning still continues!


I am now wiser in knowing that relationships – of this kind or any other for that matter – are organic. You could wish for them to be this way or the other and plan accordingly; fact is no amount of wishing and planning will get you anywhere. You’ve got to be at it and in it to experience what it has to offer and then take guided calls to manoeuvre it in the interest of the involved stakeholders. And nothing teaches you that better than an experience like this (marriage of-course is the other!)
  
So while I now mentally go about figuring how to make my interactions with Ajay a lot more engaging through fun and learning, I have also learnt how to curate plans on the go when he chooses to take the lead in structuring how he’d like to spend the session. It makes me happy to see him do this because to my mind, this is proof of the needle having moved on the behavioural compass along the axis of time. Ajay today is seemingly more confident and communicative than he was ten months ago. While he still wants to be a footballer, he now also realises that he likes studying (he’s been a first class student even with all of that last minute studying) and that a good academic foundation besides the quality of his game, will help him bag the necessary scholarships for a career as a sportsman.

And while I’d like to believe I’ve had some role to play in this transformational journey of his through our regular mentoring interactions over the year , I believe he is mentoring me more that I could have imagined mentoring him through the process. He continues to teach me an invaluable lesson – all children and youth deserve to be treated as individuals in their own right with unique identities of their own. I’m humbly learning that you may not agree with all of their opinions or world views but listen to them you must, show them respect, you must! Doing this has helped catalyse the buy-in process and built my credibility with Ajay. Importantly it has taught me, as much as it has him, to value and work on real-time feedback, besides promoting healthy debate for acceptance and exchange of divergent ideas. Nothing facilitates tolerance and builds healthy respect between individuals as much as this exposure.

Experiences such as these have made me realise while we all have our own journeys to make, no two journeys are ever, if at all, the same. And so there can never really be one best approach to addressing a situation because best in itself is relative.

Thank you MMI for reinforcing this learning through the opportunity you’ve provided!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Soap & Lather...

After a long while, I must confess, I have found myself addicted to a television soap. The last time I felt so excited about watching a television series was way back in the good ole' Doordarshan days of the 80's and early 90's - before satellite television announced its arrival on Indian shores.

Script writing for Indian television has undergone a drastic change since then. Infact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to state that scripts these days are ludicrous in their very concept.  The strength about writing for television is in its inherent ability to get through to a cross-section of people to assimilate and absorb information differently, provoking, if not encouraging them, to respond and react in ways that maybe even they didn't know they were capable of. It is a powerful way of bringing in societal change through reflection, without any impositions. Sadly, Indian television has failed us all on this premise.

Imagine my surprise then at serependitiously catching a  gripping Turkish series play on Indian television at prime time! For a series that has its origins in a book, the Turkish serial, Fatmagul is quite a treat to watch. A refreshing storyline, the plot brings together a host of issues ranging from socio-cultural differences impacting human relationships on the one side to an ever increasing economic divide and its implications on collective consciousness, ethics on the other. And all of this pirouetted around a rape, raising disturbing questions, some of which may not even have answers!

The plot is gripping and the performances are immensely engaging to the point that it makes me feel like a bystander watching the story play out in real-time, experiencing the motions of it all along the journey from one episode to another. I particularly like the way roles have been chalked out to give sufficient latitude of expression for individual performances without overpowering the treatment of or compromising the storyline; This to the extent that even the ominous background score and scenic locales are used like rivets to anchor the plot from the sidelines without obstructing the story as it unfolds or take away from the performances.

The acting is rich and subtly highlights nuances in expression that only go on to make the performances even more believable and convincing as the story comes alive in the viewers mind.

Happy days are here again - on television, with international serials like these and their ilk being aired for Indian audiences who crave for meaningful visual content that appeals (as against appalls, given the saas-bahu drama we otherwise get to see unfold on our screens) to their cerebral sensibilities. Truely, as far as quality of Indian television goes, there are (imported) soaps and then there's (desi) lather!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Incandescence

Thank you 2016 for all the experiences and learnings you brought along -  from balancing work-life priorities to pushing myself to try out newer experiences, for teaching me to realise that while the destination will eventually be reached, the magic is in the journey and staying the course, you've shown it all.

I can only hope that the year to come helps me leverage these experiences and learnings on my onward journey.

I wish you all a year of memorable journeys too - both into and outside of yourselves.
More love, peace and good health to you all.

Atma Namaste!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Blue Silk Scarf


Winter had set in earlier than expected that year and, along with it had set in a certain sense of dark anxiety. Anandita got up wearily, adjusting herself. She was more heartbroken than she was tired. She stared blankly at the ceiling as if expecting it to console and comfort her by drawing itself like a warm quilt upon her. Nightfall was only a couple of hours away.

 It was 6 pm on the 18th of December – exactly a year since Anuraag and she had been married. Hearing the wall clock tick by the second only made Anandita more conscious of passing time, albeit nervously. Tara had just fallen asleep beside her – more out of exhaustion than of a need for slumber. She felt secure in the arms of her mother. Her mother – her hero, the one woman she looked upto in the whole world. Tara knew her mother was a strong woman and derived her strength from that one sole fact. A successful corporate lawyer, she had single handedly brought up Tara with utmost dedication and care. Anuraag would never have happened to Tara had it not been for Anandita. Mother and daughter had cried enough that long cold evening.

 Anuraag and Anandita had met at the law firm, where Anandita was a practicing corporate lawyer, on a banking litigation case that involved Anuraag’s bank. Right from the first time they were introduced he couldn’t help noticing how attractively beautiful she was – doe eyed and earthy in the pale of that creamy-brown dhakai silk saree she wore that day, with a round bindi to match. He knew from that very moment that he had fallen for her. A quintessential ‘ladies-man’, Anuraag was well-groomed and average looking. His oratory skills coupled with a mesmerizing voice were his trump cards. That he was rich and a powerful name to reckon with in the corporate corridors made him only more attractive. And, how they swooned around him – women of all ages – eating out of his hands as they heard him make engaging conversation in that timbre of a voice of his! He knew too the effect he had on women and, unabashedly used it to his advantage. That he was divorced and single made it only easier on collective conscience.

 Anuraag made quick moves. From insisting Anandita take up his case, to ensuring that she did – it helped that as a key client he could throw his weight around - he made multiple attempts to court and woo her. But no matter how much he tried, Anandita was indifferent to his charms. He was just another client for her and this was just another important case. With that in mind she fought his case well and won it, making headlines for the manner in which she built the win, bringing out evidences – circumstantial and factual – to absolve the bank of charges leveled against it. Anuraag was even more impressed; Anandita, even more distant.

 Life after Onirban’s death had been tough. It had taken her a long time to come to terms with his loss. A part of her – somewhere deep inside – still hadn’t. She loved him and missed his presence every single day. They were high school sweethearts who were meant to be, always! And life for them had only just begun. How then could he have gone so suddenly? She wasn’t prepared for the manner in which he was taken away. They weren’t! They were married for only two years with tinted dreams of staying married for fifty. Tara was just about approaching her first birthday when Onirban passed away in a hijacked plane crash on his way home from an international assignment in Iran. A bureaucrat with the Indian government, he was a member of the delegation visiting Iran to discuss bilateral economic ties in light of the economic sanctions imposed on the country following a ban on exports. The delegation had planned to stay on and return a few days later after a few sight-seeing trips; however Onirban had planned his return earlier to make it in time for Tara’s first birthday. Destiny though had other plans. And along with that plane, Anandita’s world came a crashing as well. She suddenly found herself at the crossroads of life, completely underprepared and lost. Only now, life had to go on as there was Tara too. Her energies over the next couple of years were completely focused on bringing up Tara and ensuring that Tara never missed the comforting presence of her father. Onirban had provided well for them but the money was soon running out. Running a home and bringing up a child single handedly wasn’t easy on the finances. She had to get back to practicing professionally as a corporate lawyer sooner than later. So five years later with a heavy heart she went back to the corporate job she had given up after her marriage to Onirban. Tara soon grew accustomed to the comforts of her crèche.

 Years flew by. Tara was now fourteen and in high school. Anandita, now forty, had grown very well in her career and become a name to reckon with. She was seen as a determined and ambitious woman who seldom lost a case. Fact was she had no choice. She had to work twice as harder to be taken seriously as a woman...a beautiful one at that! Taking tough decisions and executing them with singular focus was second nature to her now. Life had moulded her that way. And even though she did coyly bask in the attention she got from men for her looks, she had long since realized they were just not worth it for paradoxically the same quite reason. Anuraag took to Tara almost instantaneously. He loved her energy and bubbly spiritedness. He had run into Tara at a restaurant one evening when she was out to dinner with Anandita. He joined them at their table for a while, uninvited. But what struck Anandita about him this time was his way with Tara. Anuraag effortlessly struck an engaging conversation with Tara and seemed to have won her confidences easily. Tara too was mighty taken in by the fatherly attention she got and seemed to lap it up - every minute of it fervently. Anandita watched them both on the sidelines. She had longed for a moment like this – Onirban, she and Tara. Sigh, if only...

 Anuraag became a regular at their home thereafter. Tara looked forward to his visits. She had grown attached to him in a way even she couldn’t fathom. He was protective, kind and loving. He seemed to understand her well, sometimes even better than Anandita, who now had herself grown emotionally attached to Anuraag, though she never admitted it. She felt secure for her daughter with Anuraag around. He had slowly managed to successfully fill in the void that Onirban had left behind. It made her feel guilty too, at times, and she reprimanded herself for such thoughts. Life continued like this for two years until one fateful day in October, when on Ashtami, Anuraag popped the question to Anandita at pujo. She was already in love with him by then and Tara liked him too. She conceded! Tara was the happiest.

 Anuraag and Anandita were married that December. The family was complete again. Anuraag took on the role of a father very well. He spent a lot of his time with Tara and took pains to ensure he was always around for her, making Anandita only more reassured about her choice to settle down with Anuraag. This was the right decision. And just when she thought life was back o track Tara slowly became a matter of concern. She had entered into that period Anandita dreaded the most – the troublesome teens. Increasingly rebellious, moody and reticent, she grew distant and would now not even listen to Anuraag who she doted on once upon a time not very long ago. Infact she seemed to detest him now that he had married her mother. They were both perplexed by this sudden change in her behaviour. While they had heard managing a teen was tough; it was now their time to experience it first hand! Anuraag, however, was prepared for it and patiently assured Anandita that this was a phase that would soon pass. Anandita, thankful for Anuraag in her life at this stage, couldn’t wait for that time to come. She was already stressed at work on one of those high-profile cases that demanded stretch hours at work, even on weekends. An unreasonably defiant teen at home was the last thing she could handle in the little time she got to spend at home these days. Anuraag was understanding and made every effort to ensure she got her share of rest as he took over complete responsibility for Tara. He even suggested taking Tara on a vacation abroad, a plan that Tara vehemently shot down as soon as it was conceived and verbalised. Tara’s moods slowly caught up with her performance in school. A bright student throughout, her grades had begun to dip as much as her interest in basketball and tennis – sports which she excelled at. Anandita obviously didn’t take lightly to this drop in her academic and extracurricular performance at school. She hadn’t struggled to see Tara come to this. At a certain subliminal level she perhaps also felt guilty believing she had some part to play in the way things had panned out in Tara's life. At times like these, she was tempted to confront Tara openly about it over a heart-to-heart conversation but Anuraag would dissuade her saying it’d only make things worse. She reluctantly agreed.

 It was almost a year into their marriage, with their anniversary only a few days away. Anuraag had planned a dinner at the Taj requesting for a special terrace suite to celebrate the evening. He was travelling that week and was scheduled to return on the day of their anniversary. Anandita, as was her routine lately, was working late that evening and was to join him directly at the hotel for dinner. Tara had planned to stay back at home. It was no use convincing her otherwise. The day of the anniversary arrived. Tara was at her gloomy best and refused to acknowledge the day for her mother. Anandita thought it best to ignore her as she adjusted her blue pashmina silk scarf, over the suede wrap dress in emerald hues, gifted to her by Tara a year ago at her wedding. This was the first time she was wearing it after it was gifted. For some reason though wearing it felt heavy. Tenderly kissing Tara goodbye, Anandita gave Tara a hug and told her and would always be there for her no matter what. And as she said it the scarf came away loosely undone and gently slipped off her shoulders. Grabbing it off the floor, Anandita rushed to work, suddenly missing Onirban very much.

 Her day at work that day seemed longer than usual. But her mind today was restless. Tara played heavy on her mind and suddenly all she wanted was to rush back home and be with Tara, hug her in her arms and just be. Anandita decided to call it a day at work, early that day, and drop in home to spend some time with Tara before heading out to dinner with Anuraag. She reached home. There was an eerie silence about the place. As she moved towards Tara’s bedroom on the upper floor she heard faint sobs emerging from the kitchen downstairs, or did she? There it was again! She turned about and headed in the direction of the kitchen. The sobs by now had only grown louder. At the kitchen door, from the other side, she could heard Tara’s voice wincing in pain begging not to be hurt. Anandita grew pale. She became stone cold as she pushed the door ajar in a hurry. What she saw had her in disbelief! Anuraag forcing himself mercilessly on a scared and sobbing Tara…her Tara…her baby! This couldn’t be happening. But it was.

 Suddenly it all made sense. Tara’s mood swings, her change in behaviour, Anuraag’s increased involvement in her upbringing, her sudden detest for him. How could she have not seen through it? Overcome with swelling emotion that in seconds metamorphosed into seething rage she darted into the kitchen grabbing the first thing that came to her hands – the kitchen knife that teasingly lay on the platform. Distracted by the sudden movement behind him, Anuraag swerved in defence only to grab Anandita by the scarf around her neck and contain her next steps by choking her as hard as he could.  Anandita ripped at the scarf tearing it apart to undo Anuraag's grip on her neck. And before he knew it, stabbed at him again…and again…and again as he groaned in pain and tried to evade her manic dig. After putting up quite a defence, he finally conceeded, giving up in fight and in spirit. Tara sitting motionless beside him, inconsolably sobbing.

 It was 6 pm on the 18th of December – exactly a year since Anuraag and she had been married. Hearing the wall clock tick by the second only made Anandita more conscious of passing time, albeit nervously. Tara had just fallen asleep beside her – more out of exhaustion than of a need for slumber. She felt secure in the arms of her mother. Her mother – her hero, the one woman she looked upto in the whole world. Tara knew her mother was a strong woman and derived her strength from that one sole fact. Anuraag would never have happened to Tara had it not been for Anandita. Mother and daughter had cried enough that long cold evening.

 After what seemed like an endless while Anandita got up wearily, adjusting herself, waking up Tara in the process. She moved slowly but purposefully towards her handbag, with Tara held closely beside her, in the living room. Fetching her cell phone from the handbag she calmly dialed 100. Her head was spinning. The smell of blood had now permeated the house. It was nauseating. They both needed fresh air and Anandita craved a double expresso too. Coffee calmed her down. And she had to act calmly now. Tara and she made their way to the coffee shop in the lane beside their home. Starbucks used to be Tara’s favourite hangout joint, ever since it had opened shop over a year ago. She loved meeting her friends there as they discussed girly things and boys much to the amusement of those who cared to hear their babble at the coffee shop. Today however, it was different. Something in her had changed, for good. She felt all grown up. Anandita loved spending her time at the coffee shop too. It offered her solace and calm when Tara would throw up her moody tantrums in the past year. Sipping her coffee and staring out of the window blankly, Anandita felt calm again. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, wrapped in her blue silk scarf…

The police were soon to arrive.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Of Karma and a Taxi Ride...

I lost my wallet last evening; left it in a cab plying from Dadar to Bandra, on my way to an official dinner. Unfortunately I realised only a lot later on my way back home as my fingers fumbled searching for it, rummaging through my backpack, to tender change for the return bus ride. It was then that it struck me I'd left it on the rear seat of the cab in my hurry to disembark, worrying I was late for the event, after paying the cabbie. Sadly, it was now, too late! Piecing together all the loose change I had one me - and I somehow always end up having plenty of that - I paid my bus fare and, began e-transferring money from the accounts in which I had my lost cards attached, to the one for which I don't carry my card at all - a back-up, I picked up from a friend a long time ago. God, it works!

 The next task that lay ahead of me was the most arduous - that of calling up customer service, winding my route through a series of instructions across befuddling menu options (hate them!) and hot-listing my cards. And strangely much as I tried - and I tried for half an hour relentlessly - I couldn't just get through! So much for timely customer service eh! The only comfort I had was of having successfully e-transferred my money. But then I still had my Driver's licence and claim bills that amounted to quite some, in there. Funnily around the same time I also began to experience a feeling that my wallet was going to find its way back to me somehow. I dismissed that as a foolish thought though.

 Cut to this morning when I receive a call from Gayasuddin who told me how he came back last night to Bandra after realising I had left my wallet in his cab, waited for about half an hour and then left unhappily with a burden in his heart. Guddu (as he's popularly called) went back home to Ghatkopar and deconstructed the contents of my wallet to match my Driver's licence with details on my visiting card, which carries my hand phone number and, called this morning to say he'd drop by to return it in the afternoon. And he did just that, refusing to take a penny, despite my politely egging, and then forcing him to. Instead he suggested we have a chai together, for which I happily obliged. And there over that cup of cutting-chai with the afternoon sun blazing right over us, I learnt about a man who lost so much without so much as letting any of those experiences embitter him. I learnt (from what he told me) about the sanctity of keeping karmic law and, about holding on to values no matter what 'cause they are the only sturdy oars you have in life to help you sail tormenting, sometimes tempting waters.

It's strange isn't it...how life throws up opportunities to learn and unlearn all the time? I grabbed this one to make a friend. And that qualified me to have also received an invite to his wedding in Pratapgarh, UP later in the year. A heartfelt relief, a big smile and some gup-shup later we decided to stay connected and reach out occasionally, over a cuppa' or, two maybe, along the route we ply. And so, here's giving it up for you Guddu, my new friend in this city that's home to us both.

 On my way home from the tea stall I pass by a signage that reads 'We're past the ides of March, it's time to party! I'm smiling

Friday, May 08, 2015

Being Human.

I have nothing personal against Salman Khan as a person but this I must say...what he did was wrong.

● WRONG to have indulged in drunken driving
● WRONG to have blatantly ignored warnings he got for speeding
● WRONG to have cowardly fled the scene after running the hapless sleeping pedestrian over
● WRONG to have gone into hiding for a week thereafter
● WRONG to have put up an alibi to cover up for him
● WRONG to have incessantly lied about the incident and misled the lawyers
● WRONG to have pretended to be innocent all this while
● WRONG to have not so much as even visited the family of the victim he murdered; that he never once compensated them is another matter altogether!

So, Salman my friend, is this what 'Being Human' finally adds up to?

To my mind, Salman, you missed an opportunity to truely showcase what 'being human' is all about.

You could have come clean about the truth and been man enough to accept the consequences of your actions. Not only would that have sent out the right message to the millions of fans you have out there but also, would have made you a true hero for all you're worth! Just imagine the influence you'd have had on impressionable minds out there who idolise you, had you done that.

And that, to my mind, is what 'BEING HUMAN' is all really about - that imperfect as we are in our lives and in our actions, we accept responsibility for it and make ammends in ways that show we're truely repentant because we still have a caring heart.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Here Comes the Rain.



Streaking across my window pane,
comet like trickles of the summer rain...
Hedonism invites you with thunder claps
come play with me now, it's a free-spirited game!

Blurred visions flood a smokescreen-ish terrain,
Furtive glances coyly court each other in shame.
Cottony clouds manoeuvre their freshly ploughed lanes
Happiness is a mirage, in the dark desert of fame.

Now searching, now longing...
lost, weatherbeaten, but always untamed...
A soulful outpouring this, of suppressed emotion...
the monsoon is here...in celebration of pain!

                                                                           --- Mark.