आज फिर से

आज. क्यूँ ऐसा लगा
तुमसे दोस्ती कर लें….
…. जान पहचान हुए
अर्सा हो गया

यह चेहरा
कुछ अपना सा लगा…
… आँखों में आंखें डाले
अर्सा हो गया

हाथ थामा है अब
तो गर्माहट का अह्सास हुआ…
… ठंड में नर्म धूप का लुफ्त लिए
अर्सा हो गया

आज जब बैठे
तो सदियों के किस्से याद आये…
… फुर्सत कि दोपहर चुरा कर सोना
अर्सा हो गया

तुमसे आज फिर मुलाकात हुई
अछा सा लगा…
… नए दोस्त बनाए
अर्सा हो गया

आज क्यूँ ऐसा लगा
तुमसे दोस्ती कर लें…
… रिश्ता हमारा हुए
अर्सा हो गया

The supreme sacrifice

The ticker scrolled out the news. It moved in an endless loop accommodating the criptic mention of the Army Jawan Killed among the many more other news, in its limited loop cycle. The news anchor smartly read out the essential details in keeping with the constraint of time of the bulletin. The names, the incident, the politics summarised the news with stark principle of brevity.

His shining shoes were worn ankle length. The laces were neatly pulled over the loops and the knot tied at the top. His attention was preoccupied, to notice the political slug fight on the news channel. He was careful to be immaculately turned out. He wore the camouflage jacket and adjusted his medals proudly as they gleamed on his chest. He wore the cap, adjusted the badge and was ready to go. He was going to lift the heaviest load today. He was to carry his martyred buddy. The pictures on the TV screen barely identified the person. The visuals were blurred to avoid discomfort to the viewers.

There was no slouch as he joined the parade. He alligned himself with other five, designated to be the pall bearers of the mortal remains. He like the rest, was there by choice. He had lost a part of him, as did rest the boys of the unit.

As the wooden coffin was lifted and placed on the shoulder, the edges pressed excruciating on the skin. The hurt was far more graver in his heart. He was the closest to the brave martyr, therefore possiblly he felt the load of his friend’s mortal remains, heavier.

He alligned his steps with the rest of the pall bearers in the soldierly conduct. The face stern and expressionless. The trickle of the tear which managed to escape his stony eyes, merged inconspicuously with beads of sweat. The buggle sounded the last post and the gathering raised their hand to salute the brave heart. As the mortal remains moved on, on its last journey, the gathering erupted with the resounding cry of JAI HIND.

The sacrifice of the brave soldier was not in vain. His passion and love for the country had multiplied in the ignited passion, in the hearts of his brothers in arms. The coffin had turned lighter. It seemed as if, the slain martyr lived on, in the heart and spirit of every gathered soldier.

The gathering dispersed. They went on to do their job. Not what they are paid for, but what they are meant for…To shed their last drop of blood for the country.

What I missed this morning

It’s another day.

The grind of the day commences as seconds turn into minutes. The timings are forced by habit. Each moment optimised to maximise comfort and safe living. Safety was built through certainty, by sticking to the practiced routine.

This day was no different. The countdown began as I pulled the car out of the garage. The gears of the life were put in motion. There wasn’t any change possible from the set routine. It was familiar and safe. The start and travel time were synchronised with the time to reach destination with programmed precision.

The traffic light turned red at an unfortunate coincidence of space and time. An aberration from the planned scenario was not a welcome occurance. The countdown of 100 seconds to the next green window, emphasised the deformation of the perfect plan. The stress of not maintaining the imaginary milestones was rising.

The gulmohar trees had turned flaming red. The morning sun reflecting the colour for every observant eye. The spectacle was missed in the revving of the engine as the countdown moved to the single digit. As the numbers flashed, keeping in time with the final three counts, the waiting mass pulsated with anticipation.

With practised ease and tenacity, I broke through the mass of slow-starters to surge on the free road ahead. The clock had to be chased for normalcy to be restored. With eyes on the moving hands of the clock, the accelerator pedal was stamped to the floor.

The speed turned the pedestrians on the side of the road into a blur. However, today as the car slowed down to negotiate an unforgivingly steep speed breaker, the blur crystallised to reveal a walking human figure. The familiarity trap snapped close as the coordinated glance made the eyes meet. Brief though it was, the impression was complete. The hurry in the steps of the nameless human figure belied the anxiety related to the consequential financial loss due to the biometric attendance.

I knew he was one of the employees at my office. He was one of the many nameless faces in the organisation, we fail to notice. The nameless face whose per-functionary greetings are met with preoccupied mumble. The form became smaller in the rear view mirror, but remained in the conscience.

Reason could not resolve the dilemma of stopping or ignoring. The rational mind felt that ‘stopping now’ was not a reasonable option. The difficulty of a U-turn was cited as an argument to defend the recommended ‘ignore’ option. The conflict within grew in a crescendo. The reason may not have been rational, but turned out to be more compulsive. The flashing indicators of the car, indicated my intent of turning around. The decision contrary to the rational, was made.

The rest happened without actual occurrence of the exaggerated scenerios of the worrying mind. I pulled over and asked the nameless being to hop in. The disbelief and happiness of the unexpected help, created an unrecognisable expression, as he gratefully moved in.

The initial awkward silence was broken by me to ask some regular conversational start lines. Where are you staying? Who all in family?….And as the conversation moved on, he revealed his life. The responsibility of the aging parents, smaller dependant siblings and the pressure of unfulfilled expectation seemed like the usual story. However, the reality struck me with realisation that, it may be the usual story, but it was his story, real… in flesh and bones. He was living it, not reading about it. The boundaries of hierarchy, status and social identities were temporarily subsumed, as we shared each other’s life.

We arrived at our destination just in time. The hierarchy and the status rushed in to state the reality, bringing in the anxieties and rush. He rushed to press his thumb on the programmed intelligence on the red pad of the biometric gadget. He was in time. The money was saved. More importantly, one of the many small aspirations, survived its possible compromising death.

Today in the ‘ticks’ of the time and the ‘rush’ of the clock, I was aware of a unique story that ran parallel to my selfish story. Today the parallel lines that were kept apart by the social separators, travelled together for a brief but profound, time and distance.

I forgot to ask him his name as he merged into the multitudes of the mass, losing his identity in the social class. But then, what’s in the name!!! I had touched a life and for some brief moment we were one life.

It was another day. I noticed the flaming red flowers of the Gulmohor tree. They were the rays of the Sun.

Who Cares… Who’s Real?

We heard Laila o Laila
play on the FM.
As the drums
did the rolls
Me and my daughter
play our ‘guess who’ game.

“Do you know…
Who is the drummer?”,
I ask.
“I don’t know”,
she says
“It’s ‘Amjad Khan’
I answer, to score a point.

But she says
that’s only in the movie
Who was the Real drummer?
I said…
Who cares!!!
… Who’s Real??

Cracking the JEE

The admit cards, the passport size picture and the government approved ID were checked before we got into the car. These, at least would get us into the ring. The ingredient to crack the bout was presumed to be stacked in the nearest location on the RAM in the CPU of the brain for quick retrieval at the time of need.

The Google map showed a drive of 26 minutes, after its artificial intelligence consulted many more Google map users who were on the same route. Many more travelers, travelling with the same aspirations and similar apprehensions.

The FM radio employed songs of Kishore Kumar to sooth the frayed nerves. No one talked, as the soulful voice traveled across the time bridge connecting the 70s to the last of the teens of the 22nd century. As the RJ broke the spell, I realised we were not even hearing the song. We were engrossed in our own thoughts. The mind had moved ahead, pacing the unformed future.

Quite, was not the state of existence which was habitable for Anjali. She initiated the conversation, prempting my urge to revise the chemical equations and the mathematical formulae. We, instead talked of the many tips trending on the Internet, on how to crack the exam. I wondered, if there was a correlation between the people who made those blogs or the people who visited those sites with their pass results. But I guess it wasn’t something that would get a favourable result. Also, I wanted to impart the wisdom, of how it was more important to be well prepared than to rely on these ‘tricks of the trade’. But I guess our Arjun wasn’t keen on the Gita discourse while traveling towards the battle for future life.

The trip was spent laughing on anecdotes of people preparing for the battle and the pragmatism of the tips. The light heartedness was something each of us clung to. However, the upbeat mood eventually submitted to the inescapable law of “All good things must come to an end”. The gloom was thick as we cramped into the viscous traffic jam. Moving slowly through the sludge like a suspended impurity in a dense solute. As we inched closer to the collosium we could see the anxious gladiators sharpening their weapons through well thumbed notes of an year long accumulated knowledge. The anxiety spilling over to their guardians. The gloom also turned the green lights into red.

The futility of travel by the wheels was evident but people were unwilling to let go. We decided otherwise. We broke out of the conveyer belt and parked our car in a small bylane. We walked past the snail paced line of vehicles, each capable of greater potential but stuck in the rut with the bonnets cramped into the bumper ahead.

We reached the entry of the battle zone. The lines converged at the first check point. Thats where the support staff of parents, tutors and some accompanying fairy god mothers had to let go of their wards. That’s where the gladiators had to move on, into the battle space armed only with the knowledge in their minds and the mandatory material things that would ensure their entry. Now they milled together and forged ahead as one mass.

Parents were moving on to higher grounds to have one last look at their wards before they entered the arena. We were not to be left behind as we jostled competitively to find the best viewing site.

Ah!! We were in time to see our daughter emerge from the first check point victoriously. We were about to shout out to her, when we saw her making animated conversation with other co-participants of the race. Making friends with a complete strangers, related only by similar aspirations and apprehensions. There she was, sharing the infectious laughter she is blessed with. There she was, helping the other just-formed-friend, with the forms and the documents. Then, before we could shout out to her, they entered the arena together. We did not shout out her name. We just watched with a knowing smile on our lips.

The result of this exam was still somewhere in the future.

But we were happy she had already cracked the exam.