Friday, August 24, 2012


अब कुछ इस तरह से है कि लैपटाॅप के सामने,
 दिमाग़ के कुछ पुर्ज़े खुल से जाते हैं...
जो इन दिनों लेटे हुए सोते रहते थे...
वो अरमान भी ज़रा ज़रा जाग जाते हैं।

सोचकर लिखने जब काग़ज़ कलम उठाकर चलते थे
कहानी नीरस हो जाती थी,... बेमानी,
नहीं, बस यूँ समझो
अनजानी बन जाती थी,
मन खोने की कोशिश करते करते थकने लगता जब,
तब इकदम से यादों की लहर भरपूर भिगाती थी ।

गूँजी जबदिल में आह! तो बाहर भी सुनाई पड़ा,
यूँ कि कोई बेबस मन खो जाने का बहाना ढूढं रहा है...
या फिर कुछ यादों ने बरबस ही लम्बी साँसें ले डाली
इतनी लम्बी साँसें कि बस हलक मे फँस कर रह गई
दिल से निकल कर आह! आँखों में उतर आई।

याद उन पलों की ताज़ी हो चली थी...
जब जिंदा होकर भी  मर मर कर जीते रहे थे...
और मरने की ख्वाहिश में जीना ही भूल गए?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Haircut and a Memory

I badly needed a haircut on my recent visit home to India - it was just for a week so initially I had thought maybe I could come back to Bangkok and take one. But that was intercepted by my daughter's firm belief that a haircut must be had.... "Today!". So that was it and we decided to fit it in our Saturday ramblings and started out visiting bookstores where I expected my book would have arrived. That it had arrived nowhere was what we found out later; perhaps our search was too preliminary. It would still take a few more weeks for it to be stocked in the bookshops.

For those of you who dont know, I have just published my first fiction novel, "Painted Years". Contemporary fiction is what the jargon calls it, and by the way, this is Mumbai I am talking about- this time I paid some extra money to the airlines and bought a multicity ticket- entered India through Mumbai and exited through Delhi with some smaller stops thrown in. FYI, just this evening I received an email from some travel agency who claims to book a return ticket to Kolkata for just 6000 baht and something! Money wasted and opportunity lost! Wish I had known- anyway remember this for next time.

So as I was narrating, we were Saturday rambling, my daughter and I, and I needed a haircut. In Mumbai. So we called up my fav parlour on Waterfield Road in Bandra and took an appointment. Then we called up a salon in Colaba and took another appointment. Another well known exclusive hair stylist agreed to meet us at 5 pm. But finally, we landed at a parlour in South Mumbai, part of a fashion and cosmetics chain! And sat there waiting for our turn while we cancelled the earlier appointments. Actually, the idea was to catch a movi after that- 'Cocktail' or 'Bol Bachchan'. I get to see special shows of Hindi movies in Bangkok; but these two were just released so watching them on home ground was a delicious idea. So the haircut had to be quick and then lunch was to be had- how could I not eat the amazing malwani coastal food and the paalak khichdi on a Saturday afternoon? Between the haircut and the cocktail?

As I sat with shampooed hair, waiting for the hair dresser to appear, I found this petite girl with frank eyes smiling at me from behind. I wasnt sure she was the hair dresser (I hadnt seen her ever)  so I just smiled back- maybe she was a customer who had noticed my un-touch-upped hair and was thinking i was such a careless country bumpkin and what was I doing here in this parlour in stylish South Mumbai... this certainly wasnt the place for me! Or perhaps she had stumbled upon the secret of why my picture on the back of my novel looked good (everyone said that... i am not saying it, ok?)...maybe coloured hair was the secret of my youth! It certainly was not botox, in my case. Neither was it a nose job or liposuction.

So she smiled and then she fished out a black apron from the chaos on the trolley.... now I was convinced that she would cut my hair. Almost instantly she began talking. Believe me, she had me so comfortable in less than five minutes, I could have allowed her to cut my hair all day! And was she eloquent- she spoke fast but her voice was soft and her conversation was interesting.

And when she got to know about where I came from, she smiled some more and told me she had great respect for the people here in Thailand. Very recently she had visited one of the islands here and while climbing up the picturesque mountains to a breathtaking viewing point, she had gotten lost in the jungle. She was there for just a day, and in a couple of hours she had a speedboat to catch which would take her to mainland and then she had a flight that same evening. She was worried; and her other group buddies were nowhere to be seen. Prolly they were also looking for her....

The mountain looked lonely- very sparsely populated. The resorts were only at sea level and she was a few hundred feet above sea level. She appealed to the one or two local residents she could find. She did not know their language; and they did not know hers. But her panic spoke amply and instantly she had help- very very graciously, the gentleman with the bike escorted her to the jetty; the last speed boat to the mainland which had left a few minutes ago (she had missed it) actually came back to the island to pick her up and she could finally catch her flight. And land safely home.

She asked me if everyone here is like that- helpful and kind and willing to go that extra mile (literally!) I said YES... I deem it my greatest good luck that I have had an opportunity to experience living here. Not just touring, but living- there is a difference. The richness of culture and the deeply ingrained values can be felt only if you live in a place.

I promised her I would write her experience. Noori, this one is for you. Enjoy!