Monday, May 02, 2011

If you only care to notice..

Your eyes can see
What a camera never can
Lingering gazes, slide gently
Off a mountain slope
Or her dancing legs, swishing skirt.

Flowing clouds, smell of rain
Senses combined, breathing in
We click only light and dark
And things between
We can record only so much.

Eyes catch thoughts flickering
Ears hear sighs and cheering
Noses smell heavy, musk fragrances
Of tireless women, beautiful, insecure
Lips brush cheeks, snatching kisses.

Can you stand still with
A thought, armed and ready?
And not be distracted?
Pulled away? Let go?
Revelation lies ahead.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Time To Be Indian

We are at the cusp of a historic moment. In more ways than we realize, we will be a generation, a number of 1.2 billion, that will be spoken of in future ages. What they will say and what they will think of us depends on how we act now.

It is a moment that has come about in a strange manner, building slowly over the years past. It is like a mighty river of immensely strong currents, built up of many tributaries, each of which started in its own time, from its own place - not knowing they were meant to meet, not knowing that there was a higher purpose.

One of those tributaries is cricket. It started in 1983. India lifted the World Cup for the first time, and all every kid ever wanted then on was to relive that moment again in his own time.

All sport is a metaphor. It is why we play, and it is why we are so fanatical about it. We worship our cricketers as we worship our Gods. Our cricketers are our heroes because they defy the odds, standing tall in the face of mighty opposition. They show us how to rally together when the chips are down, they show us how to lead when everything seems lost. They teach us the strength that one man can have to bury an entire opposition. They showed us together, as a team, we can be better than anyone else.

As India moved up the ladder to win the Cricket World Cup, the millions of fans turned to a single heaving mass of cheers, waving flags and blue team jerseys. Empty streets in all major cities showed the devotion to our team, screams coming out of homes and offices were children and parents cheering a boundary or bemoaning a wicket fall. The country was one, the people were one, no matter where we came from and no matter which gods we prayed to in our spare time.

Sport, I contend, is a metaphor. And we all know it. We shout our praise because we see ourselves in Dhoni's final six to win the cup. We cheer till our voices are hoarse because Sachin represents the best in us, distilled and brought out in the light for all to see. Sport is a metaphor because it shows us the power that we ALL have - the power to bring change and the power to make our will a reality.

It is, however, a wasted metaphor if we cannot learn from it. In years from now, if we fail this moment in time, it will be a waste that Sachin once stood at 99 centuries, that an Indian bowler was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, that from different parts of our country a team got together to be the best in the world.

It is time to put this metaphor, this surge of self-confidence, pride and patriotism into practice. It is time to use this newly-learned power to change our nation.

Sachin Tendulkar has been our one man against the entire world, in the realm of cricket.

Anna Hazare is also our one lone man, against the might of the Indian bureaucracy. His battle, which he has chosen, is not on a sports-field with thousands to cheer him. He does not have endorsements to cushion the blows he takes. He does not have wealth or riches to fall back on. Most importantly, he has nothing to gain for simply himself. He is fighting for all of us, from the richest people whom we never see to the poorest man we can never help. He fights without rest in the dirty world of Indian government, amidst scumbag politicians who steal our money every day, emptying our pockets in their gluttony, stealing still from the Golden Bird 60 years after the British Raj left.

We have the opportunity to be the biggest, most powerful nation of the world. We still are the citizens of the most powerful nation, dormant as it lies at present. We come from the longest, most well-recorded history that this planet has ever known. Invaders have travelled the world over thousands of years, destroying every culture they have seen. They could not change India. They could not destroy our lands, our ways and our lives. We have survived everything that was thrown at us.

Now we need to fight within. We need to cleanse ourselves of our own evils so we can be free.

A chance for immortality and heroism is up for grabs. Who will stand up and be counted?

We witnessed it a week ago, that something like that could happen. Events like that do not occur as mere coincidences. It was a lesson. It came about so it could lead to this. The winning of the Cricket World Cup, our great source of pride and happiness as Indians, was a tributary to this moment.

Who, I ask again, will be counted? In the empty struggles of everyday life, this is our shot at glory and greatness. We could change things. We could change this nation. Forever. It's possible. It's almost happening. It only needs us to do ... something.

And we CAN do it. The time we spend every day or every week updating our facebook statuses, the time we spend listening to songs on YouTube, the time we spend in useless conversations online and useless apps on phones and laptops. All it needs is a little, tiny bit of THAT.

Support 'India Against Corruption'. Support Anna Hazare. Write an email, or forward an email from someone else, to the Government of India. Write to your friends and your family, as I am doing. Make sure everyone hears the beat of the drums, for a change is coming. Walk to India Gate and make your simple presence a support to this great movement. Get over the movies and the music and the bullshit reality television for just ONE day and think about how you can make a difference to our country.

It is our country. It is our land. It is our lives. It is our future. And we have to claim our stake in it.

Not as silent witnesses. Not as hung juries. Not as hesitant bystanders. We are the new breed of freedom-fighters, and it is now time. It is time to claim our stake as Indians, to claim our stake as the single most defiant population in the history of this world.

As the descendants of heroes, leaders, fighters and a cultured, refined civilization for longer years than anyone else has ever known, once again it is time to bleed blue.


Today, I will email the Prime Minister, and the President, and the Minister for Law. They will ignore my one email, perhaps. But it will be one in over a million, I think. And numbers like that cannot be ignored for long. Tomorrow, I'm going to fast for one day. I don't know if I can do it. I don't know if I'll give up and fail. But I know that WE can do this. I see it in the news, there are people sitting there at India Gate, who ARE doing this. And maybe this way I will have joined them. It won't be so bad if I fail. I will have tried. And I will feel the pride which we all deserve to feel every day.

I solemnly declare that I am a proud Indian and will always be so. I prove my pride and my patriotism through action. I am one drop in a mighty river of change. And I will be counted.

Nishant Jain.

Friday, March 25, 2011

you and i

we should be philosophers, you and i
paint the lands and tint the skies
in hues and shades of melancholic
pain and ardent laughter cries.

Daughter of the Sands

The boat lurched in a complex rhythm, sipping softly on the water dancing gently below it. He swayed with the motion, reaching down to a pile of rope, white and thick. He looked up to see the beach they were passing and saw the nets of fishermen swirling in the air about him, women on the sand carrying baskets of fish over their heads back to their homes and their shops and children running about in white cloth chasing each other in endless lives as cops and villains. It was a sea of human activity in front of this sea of water.

It was through them she was walking, briskly weaving through the chaos around her. Her dupatta, red, flew white behind her in the sweet breeze of the coastal season. She was the odd one out on the beach-front. In that white shirt and black skirt, she could have belonged in a dance performance with clicking, shining black heeled shoes. She could have been one of many pretty young things in an art gallery in Mumbai, looking at the works with her neck cocked upwards, and her legs bent just so in the perfumed, air-conditioned environment of muted whispering and silent gasps he recognized in any part of the world. Yet, he realized, she belonged here too. There was no step made in uncertainty, as she walked across the sand alternately wet and dry, attended upon by the incoming sea water. She belonged in her smooth rhythm through chaos, the swaying of her arms with shiny bracelets glistening at the wrists. This stage was hers too.

She headed up to the end of the sands, towards the shade of the trees. He moved as if to call out to her, ask her to stop, before he caught himself and realized how silly that would seem. He didn’t even have a clue who she was!

The oarsmen broke his attention away from her, asking him if he was okay. He noticed he had been half-standing in a crouched position, on the way to getting up off his seat. He replied he was okay, stood up and turned back to the shore. But she was gone.

She likes Rimbaud. Perhaps not in the way his most ardent admirers appreciate him, but she likes him for who he can become so easily when he needs to. How he could slip into another’s mind so non-invasively and think like him or her. How he could speak through the tongue of both a prostitute and her pimp, the trials and regrets of each floating beneath the grime of their lives. How he could watch through the concerned eyes of a mother as well as the curious eyes of her infant children. She couldn’t agree with his methods – his devotion to the green fairy – but she liked what it had made of him.

It was such an odd thing to learn about her, such an abstruse fact of her life, that he knew he was hooked for more. He spoke of myths, poems and the Romantics as he knew them, exhausting the end of his passing knowledge, delighted to see how it lit a fire in her eyes. She spoke animatedly, sharing impressions worthy of a university professor, with all the enthusiasm they seemed to have lost somewhere.

Sunlight, carrying messages in the dust floating gently, washed through the open windows of the library. They sat at one of the three tables, meant for up to six people. But the place was deserted, save for a cleaning-girl dusting the shelves somewhere in the distance and an aged librarian resting his arthritic limbs at the reception counter near the door.

He had come here, to read his paper in peace, until lunch and maybe find a few books worth borrowing. It was fascinating the gems you could unearth in some village libraries. Today, he had found her.

She had been sifting through some of the shelves, a glass of tea in one hand, the same the librarian made for everyone who dropped by. They had gotten talking. He supposed it helped that he came from the same country as most of her favourite writers.

“I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to study the great poets in the same halls they once roamed as students!”

“When you put it at that way, I guess it is quite fascinating,” he laughed with her and smiled at the candid thought.

“Some of the books here, they’re very good. But I can tell some are quite useless. The ones in which they break down the plays and the poems to help you understand what they think the writer means. I mean, where is the spirit of enquiry Tennyson advocated?”

“Frankly, I don’t know how much more different some of my own professors have been. I was singularly terrified of literature when I was in school.”

“Oh, me too.  It wasn’t until a teacher made me stand up in class and read from a section of a play. I think it was the Merchant of Venice. Saying those words out aloud, enunciating like that, it pulled me into that world like nothing before had.”

He could only smile when she uttered strange secrets like that, in her unnoticing way. He knew it wasn’t something one said to every other person, and it felt good to know these things about her life maybe few others knew.

He was already waiting with the boatman the next day, when she arrived. She wore a red salwar today, the dupatta lightly embroidered in gold floating behind her as she walked gingerly across the mud on the shore. He helped her onto the boat. The boatman had agreed to take him for a long backwaters tour today, at what he supposed was a fairly reasonable fee. She had been eager to join as soon as he had told her about it yesterday. She hadn’t seen much of the backwaters yet since she’d arrived and this was a great opportunity.

That made him more curious. “So … how long have you been here?”

“Hmm. About two months now. My parents work away from home sometimes, so they left me with my relatives here for my vacations. You?”

“Well, I’m on a rather long working holiday of sorts, I suppose. Traveling and watching things, basically. I paint, see.”

“You do? You never said anything about that yesterday!”

Her hair flowed in even the gentle breeze over the streams they passed. The soft lapping of the oars lulled him to peace as she excitedly enquired about his work.

“I’m  sorry, I guess we never broached that subject. Anyway, I have about three more months before I head back to London.”

“That sounds lovely. What kind of paintings do you make?”

It was so innocent and so charming of her, both at the same time, he thought to himself. So they spoke of his paintings. He told her how he saw things and how he used fading memories of places and landmarks to preserve the flying thoughts on canvas. He didn’t know which school of art he strictly fit under, although his agents were hell bent on categorising him one of these days. They spoke of more poetry, and he pushed and prodded her towards the topics she loved so much. He learned how Keats constructed his odes of pain and joyous exultations and how Rimbaud made a towering, catastrophic destruction of his. Conversation flowed easily and thoughts came out of him, raw crystals and nuggets of ideas and impressions which polished and took form in his speech. He realized he was learning about himself as much as she was. A sparkling in her eyes showed her true enthusiasm, enough fuel for him to go on till the late evening. As he bade her goodnight at the shore again later, he knew he’d given himself away as surely as anyone could have. She could guess by now, surely she could.

That night, standing in front of an empty canvas, he couldn’t have done otherwise. He painted her. Using powerful lines of charcoal he created a soft, strong character so at ease with itself it belonged to any background and to any circumstance. Slender waves of paint, intermingling colours and lines, painted a soul of complex and obvious beauty. It had to be. The canvas bore the long strides of knowledge she was intent on making, the unbridled passions of her heart reflected in the subtle patterns of chaos he wove around her. He encapsulated, in a trance himself, her past, her transient present and her future. He became possessed by her and he thought as she would, that night. He dreamed as she must dream. He fell asleep watching his finished work, even as the first rays of sunlight fell upon the fast drying canvas, a riot of colour so confusing it made perfect sense. 

But only at first glance.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

For You

I could string together
love beads and fairy tales
but your soft laughter cuts
through the curtain. My voice
falls silent, eyes shut tight.