नाम में क्या रखा है?

मेरे पापा मेरा नाम संतोष रखना चाहते थे। मेरी माँ आनंद। संतोष रख देते तो दुनियादारी में रहता। अब किस्मत ने ही नाम आनंद दिया है तो निभाना तो पड़ेगा ही। ये नाम भी बड़ी पावरफुल चीज़ है। अब सुनिए ये वाक़्या,

कुछ बरस पूर्व हम एक समय ट्रैन में यात्रा कर रहे थे। अग्रणी टिकट लिया नहीं, फिर जनरल के दरवाज़े पे खड़े होने की जगह मिली। ऐसे अवसरों के लिए मेरे पास बस्ते में हमेशा एक न एक किताब जरूर होती है। जैसे तैसे मुस्कुरा कर, सॉरी कहकर उस भीड़ में किसी तरह बस्ते से वो किताब निकाली, फिर पढ़ने लगे. देखते देखते १-२ घंटे बीत गए.
“आप बहुत अच्छा पढ़ते हो”
हैं ? मेरे किताब के किरदारों के जमाये महल ये किसने तोडा? मुझसे कोई पांच एक साल बड़े होंगे। मुँह में मसाला। बालों में हलकी से सफेदी। सफ़ेद शर्ट के जेब में हज़ारों बिज़नेस कार्ड्स और कुछ सौ के नोट। खैर हमारी थोड़ी बातचीत हुई। अब बातचीत किस चीज़ पर हुई ये तो याद नहीं, पर करने में मुझे मज़ा आया। उनके जस्बे से ये झलक रहा था की मज़ा तो उन्हें भी आया था।
“इतनी बातें हो गयीं, आपने नाम नहीं बताया।”
“आनंद”
“अरे पूरा नाम बताइये ना.पहले नाम से भी कुछ होता है ?” ये बात उन्होंने एक मास्टरजी द्वारा क्लास के बचे को डांटने की सी मुद्रा में कही। चलिए मान भी लीजिये उनको लगता है की पहले नाम से कुछ नहीं होता, परन्तु उन्होंने ये कैसे सोच लिया जस्ट ऐसे ही मिस कर दूंगा। पहला नाम बताया है क्योंकि यही बताने की इच्छा है। फिर उन्हें जातिवाद ने जो बिगाड़ा है उसपे ५ मिनट खरी खोटी सुना दी।
बाद में अपने गुस्से को जांचा तोह पता चला की ये नाम पूछने के ऐसे कई इवेंट्स पहले हुए हैं और ऐसे कई हैं जिन में कुछ न कुछ लोचा हुआ हो। अब तो मैने दाढ़ी अपनी बढ़ा ली है, तो कोई अँधा भी मुझे “मद्रासी है”, देखते ही कह सकता है। पर उन दिनों में काफी ‘स्टाइलिश’ हुआ करता था. MTV के एक VJ निखिल चिनप्पा की नीचे के होंठ की बीचों बीच एक बालों का छोटा सा झुरमुट, इस से में बहुत प्रभावित हुआ था. कॉलेज लाइफ में सब कुछ ट्राई करके देख लिया। तो कुल मिला के उस समय लोग ये नहीं पहचान पाते थे की में किस प्रान्त का हूँ. महाराष्ट्र में काफी लोग मुझे मराठी समझते. दिल्ली में समझ जाते की साउथ से हूँ. बैंगलोर के लोग मझे दिल्ली का समझते थे. एक तो दिल्ली के नंबर की गाड़ी और हाथ पे कड़ा. जबसे बाल बढे किये हैं और दाढ़ी बढ़ा ली, पंजाब के बहार ही नहीं कुछ कुछ जगहे तो पंजाब के अंदर भी लोग मुझे सरदार समझते हैं। तो जब में अपना नाम के ए आनंद ऐसा बताता हूँ, जो की मेरे सारे आई डी कार्ड में है, कुछ लोगों को लगता है में कंजूसी कर रहा हूँ.
“पूरा नाम बताईये न ”
“अरे सर मेरे ID कार्ड में ऐसा ही है. आप डालिये न बिंदास. ”
“अरे हमारे सिस्टम में ऐसे ही डालना पड़ता है.”
“अच्छा तोह लिखिए के यू आर यू एम्…”
क्योंकि इसके पहले कई बार झेल के ये जान गया हूँ कि ३-४ बार बताने के बाद भी स्पेल ही करना पढता है।
अब मेरे पहले नाम को ही ले लीजिये। कुरुम्बूर। कुरुम्ब माने जिद। हमारे परिवार में लोग अक्सर कहते सुना है कि चूँकि हम लोग इतने जिद्दी हैं इसी लिए कभी तो हमारा ये नाम पड़ा होगा. ऊर तो कई जगहों के नाम के पीछे लगा हुआ है. त्रिशूर, गुरुवायुर, वेल्लोर, वगेरा वगेरा. अब मैंने सोचा की जैसे पुर, वैसे ऊर. ये तोह बाद में पता चला की ऊर मतलब गांव को कहते हैं तमिल में। कॉलेज में इंटरनेट कि सहायता से ये भी पता लगा की कुरुंबूर तोह तमिल नाड का एक गांव है. अब उस गांव वाले जिद्दी होते हैं की नहीं ये तो में नहीं जानता, परन्तु इस बात का काफी भरोसा हो रखा है की पुरखे कभी उसी गांव से आये होंगे। अब देखिये नाम से पर्सनल हिस्ट्री का पता चला न? साउथ के नाम अक्सर लम्बे होने के लिए विख्यात हैं. पर ये लम्बे नाम काफी सारा डाटा लिए हुए हैं। अब लोग उस डाटा का क्या उपयोग करते हैं ये तो उनपर है.

क्या आप लोगों से उनका पूरा नाम पूछते हैं ?

the Choco Nutty

This post was written by me in 2012 when I came to Ahmedabad. For some reason I had not published it. In know, I know it is really bad housekeeping on my end for this post to be posted almost 5 years later. But fortunately I currently am in Ahmedabad, so all of it is true.
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I recently moved to Ahmedabad. The reasons for that are many and multilayered. In short I had visited for a workshop and I liked the place.

After initially crashing in with a childhood chuddy buddy, Prem, who got married right about 12 hours ago, and after having looked at a score of apartments, I finally did rent a place. I had wanted a 1BHK, with many balconies, good ventilation, natural lighting and on and on..but had to settle for a 2BHK just because it had a nice huge balcony. This place is in Puja Apartments, Ambawadi. 30 year old house build by the housing board, the design is very like Bhilai steel quarters. I moved into this place a month ago. So you could say that I have lived in Ahmedabad for 2 whole months. And during that period I have taken long walks, longer bicycle rides and observed the whole moon cycle for the first time in my life. We sleep on the roof. Almost 5 families in my apartment block. But this is not about the building. This is more macro. There are lots of very big differences between Ahmedabad and other cities I have been. I will write more about the other points later, starting with the electric one. The power went off just once in the last 2 months. And not just where I was staying. During all my walking around the city, even in the old part of the city, I noticed it just once.

Which leads us to the other observation which lead to a certainty that people are using this fact (the reliable power) to their advantage. Forget about electricity for a while, how many of you like ice creams? I was taking my evening walk, when I went past a Havmor ice cream parlor. My side glance caught 4 unsheathed nut covered chocolate cones pointed at me. Yes they were without purdah, the silver/gold foily which covers such prepacked ice creams on the top was missing. Oh boy, I sound like a B grade Jehadi smut writer. Whatever, there they were. I had to stop and get it. “Sein-thh”, said bhai, which means 60 in gujrati. It was fairly simple but very different just because of its simplicity. Look at this image and you can almost taste it. A simple blob of vanilla ice cream covered by a layer of frozen chocolate smothered in nuts.

While cornetto and their ilk are shown uncovered in posters, they are invariable covered up in foil packaging. Why so? Hygiene? Yeah most likely. Since these are speciality products created with special machines in factories, and they have to go through a logistics system hand to hand to reach the customer.

So what about this Havmor Choco Nutty? Now this is a long shot by analytical standards, but I am in my intuitive mode right now and let me indulge. Havmor is a local ahmedabad based ice cream brand, I my guess is they produce it near enough. And the supply chain would also be very small.

DIY in India

I like to do my stuff, on my own. Stuff like cleaning the house, washing my clothes, trying to repair my own gadgets, and so on. And I like to learn about how to do one’s own stuff, which means a lot of browsing through instructables, makezine, and off course youtube. I will give you a few case studies and tell you the practicalities involved.

Some time back I saw a video to cut beer bottles to make glass bottles. The idea seemed superb. An empty beer bottle destined for the garbage bin gets another life after it is cut. While we can sell it to a kabaadi vala for 2 rupees a bottle. But as a glass it would at least be worth Rs.15. More importantly doing something with your own hands and seeing the result come out, gives a satisfaction next to none. The first method I tried was the tying a string around the bottle soaked in a flammable liquid. The idea is to locally heat the bottle where you want to cut it. The challenge here was heating it only on a very narrow area, as close to a line as possible. And which is next to impossible. So the results were all haphazard cuts. Anyway, then I found another way which required a glass cutter. You think finding a glass cutter in hyderabad would be easy job? Indeed it would be for people who have business in glass. Not amateurs who want glass cutters for cutting glass bottles. After trying 5 hardware stores, I gave up. Found a cheap glass cutter on ebay and ordered it. That method did not work very well too. It required a propane blow torch, which I tried to substitute with a candle. Again the crack was much better than the string method, but still unusable.
Later found I found yet another method using jubilee clips. Here comes the next problem in hardware sourcing. Most of these niche hardware have local names. I asked around and nobody understood what a jubilee clip was. I explained describing what it was and how it was used. 4 of them said they did not have them. The fifth one too said he did not have them, but on looking around I saw it hanging in a bunch, on his shelf. Anyway, I got the jubilee clip, and using it I could make a deeper score on the bottle. And this time the cut is almost perfect.

Foreign Affairs

“What time is it?”

“hmm..”, taking out the phone from the pocket, “7.50”, I tell him.

“At this time of the day, nobody would be out. If a young boy goes out, the soldiers will just take a stick and start beating. I miss Kashmir. But I don’t miss that fear. You know I come from a village. It is blacklisted. Nobody cares about us. No roads. No hospitals. No schools. And beatings if you are found by the soldiers after dark. It is only because of the cement factories near our village that people still live. These factories give some facility to the people, clinic, school etc.”

“how far is Pakistan from your place?”

“There is a short hike, and from top of a mountain you can actually see Pakistan. There is another point were you can see Afghanistan as well.”

“oh! Afghanistan? We share a border with Afghanistan? I don’t remember the map.”

” Yeah we do. Anyway the actual LOC you cannot see in most maps. One side taken  by Pakistan. Another by China. China takes a few kilometers everyday. You don’t believe me?”

“Why wouldn’t I? I know India is far less aggressive. But few kilometers everyday?”

“Yeah because India does not know where the actual LOC is. So China takes advantage. You know kashmiri people don’t need visa to visit China. Chinese consider Kashmir as theirs. You just need a passport. If the address in your passport is in Kashmir, you can just walk in. Infact whenever chinese tourists come, most of them take me out for Pizza :).”

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This is the second part of the series of conversations I have had with a Kashmiri friend of mine. You can read the first part here called Sales.

 

Sales

“I have always wanted to see this place from inside. Finally”, I said smiling.

“This is a much smaller shop. If you see my MG Road showroom it is 5 times bigger.”

“Oh… what is in that small room?”, I asked moving towards it.

“Sit. First what will you have, coke, tea…Indian tea haan!”

“Tea will be nice”, I said settling into the chair.

He went outside to a nearby cafe, while I waited for him in the chair, looking around. He was back in 5 minutes.

Between us was a glass showcase in which scores of jewellery gleamed. Rings, lockets, semi precious stones, crystals.

“This looks beautiful,” I said pointing to a oxidized silver locket.

“This is unique. You see this ring, I can get it made from my jeweller. I just have to call him, and tell him the model  number. He will make an exact replica. But not this. This is from a collection. If I sell it. It is gone. I don’t know how to get another one.”

“Who buys these then?,” I asked.

“There are people who are specialists. They travel around buying things and adding to the collections. They come to shops like us and then sell us there entire collection. For example, one guy brought me these tibetan jewellery 3 years ago. I have sold almost 80% of it. Only these 6 pieces remain. I have tried finding them again. But impossible. ”

There was a a red coral oblong like a tablet, with silver inscription of some tibetan text.

“It says Om Mani Pad Mani Om,” he said. “This hear is lapis lazuli. It comes from Afghan.” He pointed to another oval stone with just a tibetan Om in silver.

“How much is this?” I asked pointing to one of them.

“This here is 3350. This smaller one is 1850.”

“I love this one. I might come some day to get it. Not today though. Sorry I am wasting your time.”

“No no. You are my friend,” he said, sounding 100% genuine.

“Are most indian customers like me?”

“It depends. People from Coimbatore have lots of money. Once a lady came and bought 6 pashmina shawls. She was a professor. Very old. Didn’t even bargain. If I say the real price for harem pants, 350, then they will say, “Bhaiyya, kam keejiye na. Real price batayiye.” I don’t entertain. They can go to other shops where they will first say 500, and then finally give for 350. You know sometimes real good people come. Once a german guy came. As soon as he entered, he put his finger to his lips. “Shhh…” he said. Don’t say anything. Then he started picking up things from here. There. Shawl. Meditation bowl. The bill came out 60k. He paid with card. And forgot his card when he left. Good thing he had mentioned the guest house he was staying. I took it back. He hugged me when I gave him the card back.  He came back the next year he was here. ”

“Don’t you go to your other shop, the MG Road one?, I asked.

“That is run by my uncle. You know. He has a different style. He is a very good salesman. I have a different style. I don’t try to sell. I make friends. Once a guy came and asked to see chess sets. I asked him whether he would like to play. We played. You know make friends. Offer tea. Thats how I sell.”

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This is the first part of a series of posts I will be writing based on my conversations with a Kashmiri friend who has a handicrafts showroom. I can vouch for this guy, if anyone coming to Auroville wants to do some handicraft shopping. Hot indian chai guaranteed :).

UPDATE- You can read the second part of the series here called – Foreign Affairs.

The warm rug

I was sitting there feeling the warmth of the wollen rug beneath me, and the lukewarm terracota tumbler with milk in my hand.
“Bhai, ye chatai kis cheez ki bani hai?”, I asked Jatan Bhai.

“kaun sa ye..? ye jungli gyag ke baal ka bana hai. meri miseej ne banaya hai.”, he said, smiling proudly.

“Gyag?..ye kaun sa janwar hai.”

“arey vo hota hai na gaay jaisa, bade sije vala. jiske lambe lambe baal hota hai”

“Yak..?”, I asked

“haan haan vahi. paltoo yak ke bhi baal milta hai. par ye jungli gyag ka hai.”

I was amazed. How did they find wool from a wild yak. I asked him.

“ye toh secret hai :D…”

“pleeeze bataiye na bhaaai….mein kisi ko nahi bataaunga.” puppy eyes and all ..

“Achha suno. Faalgun ke maheene mein hi hota hai. Us maheene mein hi ye gyag kafi thande hote hain. Inka saal ka poora chakkar chalta hai na. Ashwin ke maheene mein ye garm hote hain. Pichli baar toh mera ek dost hai Dhhuni. Uske shareer pe bahut baak hain. Ek baar davaai lene hum log oopar gaye they..toh ek gyag kahin se aake Dhhuni pe savaar ho gaya. HAA hAA hAa hAa.
aur fir 6 maheene baad phalgun mein bahut hi shant. Mein jab bacha thha tab toh jaake gyagni ke dood bhi pee leta thha.”

“Ye gyagni ka doodh hai?” I asked wondering at the sweet milk I was having.

“arey na na…ye toh vo sardaar apne bhains lekar aaye hain ludhiana se. Yahin milti hai na hari ghaans garmi mein.”

“Achha. haan toh vo phalgun mein…..?”

“Haan. Pehle toh hum log aisa gyag dhoondte hain jiska baal humey chahiye. Ye alag alag rang ke hote hain . kale , bhoore , laal, safed. Uske baad humse se jiska bhi gala sabse achha rehta hai..vo ye gana gate hain. aap ye youtube pe dekh sakte hain.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq-l1tuGwAE

“koi aisee sundar bandee nahi rehti vahan. bus hum teen char dost aur vo gyag.”

“aapke gane se kya hota hai? ” I asked wondering.

“Arey ye gana shayad gyag ko lori jaisa lagta hai. Humare purkon ne pata nahi ye kaise khoja. Kai peedhiyon se hum log yahi gana gate hain, gyag ko sulane ke liye.”

“Toh gyag so jaati hai?”

“Haan so jaati hai. khurrate maark ke. aur bus hum chakoo se uske baal kaat lete hain. Har 2 baal lene pe hum ke baal chhod dete hain. Usey nanga karna bhi sharafat nahi na.”

Jatan bhai is planning to soon start selling a couple of these rugs every year. Please keep an eye out for link to that rug selling on a superfurnish.com site, that I might soon share.

Nobody Knows

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any living or dead people is entirely coincidental.

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I had arrived a day before, but felt like a veteran, riding the official ride of aurovillians, the TVS moped. It wouldn’t go any faster, and I was dangerously close to missing my lunch. My guest house served all three meals, strictly at 7 am, 1 pm and 7pm. Avoiding the potholes and swerving to avoid the goats, I saw her waving, apparently at me. The wave changed into a thumb pointing to the direction I was going. She was dressed in loose cottons and manali pants, and you could mistake her for a spanish tourist. A pretty spanish girl who looks indian. I braked my moped to a halt and then noticed a baby near her, playing on the ground. He was covered all over his body in blue stripes.

“Ink?”, I asked her pointing towards the boy.

“Yeah must be..he was playing with another kid, and I had taken my eyes off them just for a minute….and when I noticed, both of them were covered like this.”

“Let me take my bag in front”, said I, letting them onto my moped.

“Are you living in the village?”, she asked.

“Village? I don’t know, I am staying at the Cheruze guest house. You know near the Mother’s market.”

“How much do they charge?”

“750 per day, but they include three meals and a wifi connection.”

“ohh..that is too expensive for me. I won’t be able to afford that.”

“Where are you put up now?”, I asked.

“I am looking for a cheap place, you know I don’t have much money.”

“Are you sharing it with someone?”, she asked.

“No, staying alone. It is expensive for me as well. I have booked only for 10 days. Will search for some other place, meanwhile.”

“Do you have any friends there?”

“Not yet, I know a few people, but not friends yet. I came only yesterday, you know”, I said.

“Oh”, she said, the tone of which I took as ‘oh you don’t know how to go about living in this place. Staying alone! Imagine!!’

I sensed that she wanted me to ask her if she wants to share a room with me. And suddenly I started imagining things, dirty nappies, standing in line for vaccine shots, waiting for the baby to sleep in the small single room I had, every night, and on and on. She wasn’t asking me to marry her, fuck she hadn’t even asked aloud if I wanted to share a room. Couldn’t she get a job, with her fluent english and sauve ways, if she needed money.

“What do you do in Auroville?”, I finally asked.

“I am a teacher. I was working as a teacher with the Tamil Nadu government. And then he got born, and I lost my job.”

“Oh wow..same pinch, I haven’t earned anything in the last few years. Living on my savings”, said I, hoping to establish that I was no rich corporate honcho, the modern landlord’s son.

Meanwhile the boy got excited and started jumping between us.

“He seems to be having fun”, I said.

“Yeah he does this everytime we are on a bike. He is calm in a car, but on a two wheeler, he feels like he is the one riding it. Soon he will go to prep school, or kg school or no school, since I have no money.”

Meanwhile my guest house neared. And it was with a mix of guilt and shame that I stopped my moped at the turn which takes me to my guest house. I felt the hot summer sun pouring down on us, mainly on them. What made it even worse was something she had said when she sensed that I was about to stop and say ‘bye bye’.

“I don’t know where we are headed”, she muttered anxiously.

“Does anybody”, I thought, as I raced my moped, without looking back.

Dastangoi – Kabirnama

One of my friends, watsapped me. A friend of hers was doing a recitation of Kabir in Mumbai. I was headed towards Mumbai from Ahmedabad, after completing a 10 day workshop in mud house building. That post is still waiting to be written and posted. I am twisting my arms right now, just for delaying that. But this post should not wait.

From SMSing how to get into the concert, and asking my friend whether “I was ankit ka dost evam do saathi”, or “Hum ankit ke dost hain”, would work at the gate. We were slightly late. The show had started. And there sitting on the stage was Beerbal telling a story about two girls named Satya and Kahani. For a moment I felt like King Akbar collectively with the rest of the audience, listening to Beerbal solve a cause. So fine a salesmanship it was, that it was very easy to forget, that you were being sold. Sold the philosophy of prem. But how would you sell ‘prem’ without seduction. And it was an act of seduction. The audience moaned collectively with vaah vaah. The symmetry between the philosophy of kabir, with the bhava on his face, was yang and yin.

Picture courtesy Ankit

I had read Kabeer earlier, here and there…once or thrice. I found them profoundly common sensical learnings. I was seeing him today in a new light. One of softly yellow lightings, and smartly dressed, tasteful crowd. There was no hint of NCPA snobbery at the Yashwant Chawan Auditorium.  The stewards were old, gentle, government employees, who pulled open doors and showed you the way.

Unfortunately couldn’t meet Ankit because his was phone was on silent. Will keep an eye out for him.

Hukus Bukus

I had goose bumps From this youtube description, the lines means this:
Tse Kus Be Kus Teli Wan su Kus
Who are you and who am I then tell us who is he the creator that permeates through both you and I

Moh Batuk Logum Deg
Each day I feed my senses/body with the food of worldly attachment and material love (Moh = attachment)

Shwas Khich Khich Wang-mayam
For when the breath that I take in reaches the point of complete purification (Shwas = Breath)

Bhruman daras Poyun chokum
It feels like my mind is bathing in the water of divine love (Bhruman = nerve center in the human brain, poyun = water)

Tekis Takya bane Tyuk
Then I know I am like that sandal wood which is pasted for divine fragrance symbolic of universal divinity. I realize that I am, indeed, divine (Tyuk = Tika applied on the forehead)

Goa – the Off season

A furnished 2bhk for Rs.300 per day.

A glitter stones and squiggles bindi on the right corner of the mirror.

A half used pack of condoms beneath the bed.

Red hued spots on the wall reminiscent of explosively opened wine bottles.

Of long barefoot walks on the beach. In and out of the loopy arcs of the waves.

Smooth flat pebbles and blue-velvety remains of a sea creature waiting to be made into a pair of ear rings.

Of smooth round flat seeds floated in from god knows where, painted on, sitting in the hot humid afternoon, shirtless and in a lungi.

5 liter water bottles and sand which gets into every nook and cranny. Waiting to be discovered a few months later when you are back home.

Old 1940s hollywood fare with headphones on in the evenings.

Mid aged aunties becoming kids again, soaking in the surf.

Gang of drunk marathi boys trying to make a human pyramid in the safety of the crashing waves.

Guys who will ask a white girl for a picture with her. Or use their long zoom lens to take voyeur shots, all day long.

Kids from Mumbai having there bacchanalian break.

The early morning beach cleaners picking up the empty bottles and the half eaten corn on the cobs. The green tea made in the room with a Rs 50 immersion heater named Deepak. And then the hot porridge at the shack for breakfast.

The tattooed and pierced waiters from Himachal, who can speak in 10 languages and who can put on their charm at a moment notice on well heeled white women. And men.

The thin old white man in a g string doing tai chi in the evening in front of the setting sun. The indian families who pretend he is not there.

The barking dogs on the way back from dinner. Who always end up wagging their tails, when they sense an absence of fear.

Goa is good. Always.