Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Alvida!

Chorda (March 01, 1952 - Feb 1, 2020)
Dhanmama passed away one cold winter morning in Shillong. He had been ill for a long time, and always wanting to die in Shillong. He returned from Bombay, where he ran his own business. Existence had heard his plea and granted it.

The eldest son and first child of the scholar, Late Shrish Chandra Gupta and Srimati Suhasini Gupta, Dhanmama was a product of prayers and manath to the Gods for a child, two before him having died at childbirth.

God, as man, Dhanmama was kind, gentle, soft-spoken and compassionate. His passing away at age fifty-one, caused immense instability in the lives of his wife, Mamima, his two sons, Borda and Chorda, who suddenly had to take up the duties of looking after their mother and themselves, financially.
I was holidaying in Shillong, from boarding school, when this happened. I remember clearly, both Mamima and Borda, left asunder, with the passing of Dhanmama and with the fact that Chorda, was still in Bombay at the final year of his graduation. Alas, he had to complete it six months later, because, he had to rush to Shillong to be with his mother and elder brother.

I don’t remember Chorda very well when he came to Shillong. But Borda and I had struck up a great friendship as brother and sister, what with the additional and sudden appearance of Cupid, striking the hearts of Borda and my close friend at school, Chhaya. In the midst of the grief, love blossomed, as if putting a healing balm of their hearts. Soon Chorda arrived and the love seems to have expanded, spreading its wings towards Chorda as well. While Borda was more of a doer, Chorda burst into passionate poems, recited from well known western poets and some poems flowing out of his own heart.

The spring of joyous love was broken for me when I returned to boarding school. Mamima and Chorda and Borda returned to Bombay.

For a long time, I heard nothing of them at all, until, for the winter holidays I started to visit my Mashi, in Bombay. We would then visit them at their beautiful Mayur Pankh house, in Diamond Garden, Chembur and spend a few days there. It is, however, only in 1973, when I moved to Bombay, to continue my schooling and higher education did a re-association with Borda and Chorda start all over again. I went to Mayur Pankh house and stayed there for one or two weeks during the short holidays. We were a great family and if I had found brothers to rely on, they had found a sister in me, whom they cherished as much.

However, again from 1985 onwards, this connection was again broken, as life speeded up and I left Bombay with a partner, first back to Shillong to stay and do business there for a year. Hence, our family, consisting of Mejo, my mashi, Mesho, her husband, and other people spread across the country, were not aware of Chorda’s marriage to Shoma baudi.

Sometime in 1986-87, Mejo moved from Bombay to Poona because I lived there. One day, as I was coming up to our flat, in Poona, I found a postcard from Chorda. The card was addressed to Mejo, my mashi, the content of which was so sad, that as soon as she read it, she threw herself on the bed, weeping miserably. The boy, whose birth she had seen with her eyes, had passed away. Borda, had died of liver cirrhosis, leaving us all, his younger brother and mother. It was shocking, to say the least!

Mejo, dashed to Bombay, after a brief call with Chorda. This began the long unbroken relationship with Chorda, Mamima, and the two additions to his family – his wife, Shoma and their lovely and cute daughter, Almitra.

In the absence of his brother, Chorda, primarily, held on to me, for a confidante. This bonding grew stronger as times passed and I too got close to the family. When, Mejo, left for Kolkata, from Poona, to settle down there, I thought that the best thing to do for me now was to move to Bombay, because Chorda and baudi were there. I bought a small tiny flat in Vasai, with much help from my baudi, emotionally, and took that step to relocate to Bombay, not a city I loved most, but a city, where my brother lived. I felt, safe and secure, although he and I lived quite a distance from each other, yet, we were in the same city and that was a great solace to me.

In Chorda, I found a listener, a friend, a strategist, and a confidante. I could tell him everything. My baudi took it upon her to help me settle down in Bombay. She was a rock of Gibraltar, for me. I found my backbone once again, in a city, which was so large; I had to re-discover it once again. In the process, it helped me rediscover myself as well. I made new friends and banked on the family for emotional support.

But then, I moved again. Like a wheel, in constant movement, my next destination was Delhi.

I flirted with the idea of returning to Bombay, many times, but every time, I came close to that decision, I also ran away from it. It was my need to stay in a new city to write a new story for myself. It is still fulfilling itself.  

It is truly said that, unless you burn your bridges behind you, you can never move on.
There is nothing to look back upon now – the final connection having died at 4.23pm, on 1st, February 2020. And although I knew the end was neigh, I never thought, it would be so fast.

Alvida, my dearest older brother, Chorda, like leaves drop from trees because they are weary, you too have gone, but will surely return, when, the journey you have embarked upon, from earth to an unknown destination, comes to the bivouac of afterlife, you will return like Khalil Gibran's continuation of life – Almitra.

Until a new beginning……

Do click on this LINK to read Khalil Gibran



Friday, November 08, 2019

Book Review - In Search of Heer by Manjul Bajaj



Photo Credit HERE
In a modern re-telling of an ancient story, first told by Damodar Gulati in the 16th century, author Manjul Bajaj, joins the many versions of the same story told over the years, by many authors and poets. However, this time, the distinctive pen which is the author’s mark, is written in the 21st century with an engaging, often, addictive method of narration. Having done this, Manjul Bajaj joins an illustrious group of writers and poets, filmmakers who have written on the same theme, Heer and Ranjha. 

In Search of Heer is a simple tale, starting with the love story of Heer, the beautiful daughter of Mihir Chuchak, a rich landlord of Jhang Syal , and Ranjha, the spoilt and handsome son of an affluent landlord in village Takht Hazara, who are destined to meet and fall in love and marry with the support of Heer’s father, in somewhat of a concealed manner, unlike a big, fat Punjabi wedding, with relatives, from far and near thrown in. The secret is found out by Heer’s paternal uncle, Kaidu Langra, and all hell breaks out as he connives with Heer’s mother, and weds her off to Saida, of the Khera clan, equally, wealthy. But the reader must find out what happens to Heer in this marriage. 

In the meantime, Ranjha has realized that he has lost Heer, and must now find the balm to his broken heart by embracing the spiritual path. A flutist, whose music has a soul, Ranjha is well nigh liberation but is again pulled back by the appearance of a crow, which reveals to him, that Heer is waiting for him and so he must waste no time but proceed immediately to where Heer is. Ranjha leaves with his flute totally naked of any other desire but to find his Heer.

In a strange twist of events, Heer finds a friend in her marital home, who is her sister in law, with no less a hidden love story in her heart and the reader is allowed a peep into what might happen next. Breathe easy. You are about to commence into another rough ride with many twists and turns.  

This said, In Search of Heer, is much more than just a story re-told. There are many lessons to learn from the many voices that narrate the story – crows, pigeons, goat and each is has a unique voice, I most loved to engage with. A humungous amount of research has gone into telling the reader more about each of these animals and birds so that the reader is enriched in many other ways, understanding the nature of these creatures. Research has also gone into the life of an ascetic and someone in search of a spiritual life, which gives solace.  

However, for me, the most endearing parts were the role of Heer as a feminist icon. She exudes courage, valour, willfulness, and is stubborn and outspoken, uncompromising. Yet, vulnerable and receptive to love and longing. Her questions are relevant to our times, and many of us can hear our own voice in her words.

No less enchanting was the spiritual side of the book, without being religious. It calls the reader to conclude that there are no short cuts from sex to super-consciousness, except by actually living it. And the way out is through. The symbolic crow is the id in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis as it were. Love lived in totality may well be the eternal transcendence we seek as humans.

The book is a living testimony of a skillful hand at work and an astute intellect that can gather the story from many quarters and reproduce a new version which appeals to the modern, 21st century reader and their understanding and engagement with love in its many facets.