Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Letter to the PM

Dear Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh,


I write to you today as an Indian citizen. I write as a victim of

terrorism and corruption. I write as a citizen who can not write to

anyone else. I write to you as the voice of youth. I turn to you as

the only hope and as the last resort. I have very simple and specific

questions to which none of your fellow politicians seem to give a

straight answer.


1) Ten men walked into the streets of my city and killed hundreds

before they were stopped. I am an ordinary person who never carries a

gun, I am curious to know how should I defend my life when even law

enforcement officers of my city are outgunned by terrorists. I am an

educated person and my assessment of the failures of 26th Nov 2008 is

grim and leaves me no hope. What is perhaps more tragic is that I have

little hope of justice. Yes, I agree India is a huge nation with a

billion people and as many problems, but are you honestly telling me -

that we as Indian citizens have been deprived of our right to live, to

exist?? I am a kind person and do not remember to have harmed anyone

on purpose - I wanted to know at what point did you decide that I have

become expendable??


2) The security failures, administrative lapses and organizational

break downs that enabled 26/11 to happen are not aberrant instances.

They are the cumulative effect of criminal negligence. I want to know

what was the aggregate result of Indian Intelligence and Law

Enforcement efforts while terrorist networks across the world were

developing sophisticated pipelines of money and recruits. What were

the steps you employed to ensure LeT does not acquire money through

fake masks of charity organizations. I want to know what the Indian

government (irrespective of the party in power) was doing as Dawood

Ibrahim created an infrastructure of organized crime. Did you know

that almost every stream of day to day life is infected with this

poison? From the cable internet provider to the builder of a new

multiplex, from a Bollywood Actor to a successful Doctor, everyone

pays money in extortion to the underworld. Even the simple water

bottle sold at a local railway station for the marked up price is

contributing towards seed money for terrorism. And I as a citizen have

no practical avenue to fight back.


3) I thought of filing a case, against all of these people paying the

underworld, but I have learnt that even if all Indian courts stopped

accepting new cases and worked at their current pace, they would take

300 years to clear the backlog before they can hear my voice, and I am

certain I won't live 300 years. I am curious to know what was the

Indian Government doing as it let the judicial system slip into a

paralysis. At this point, I am citizen with no right to justice, which

I guess matters little since, I am told, I don't have a right to live

in the first place.


4) I work hard eight hours a day and all my taxes are deducted before

I see my paycheck. I have to submit a weekly status of my work to my

superiors who monitor the correctness and pace of my work. I wish to

see the status reports of all the demons running my country. Tell me

sir, where can I find them?


5) As a child, I was taught 'Satyameva Jayate' as our motto. Yet, I

have come to find truth as the rarest commodity in the Indian

administration. Tell me sir is the Anti Corruption Bureau going to

deliver, or is altering school textbooks a better option??



I admit that none of the above was possible without a failure on my

part to act. But there is a difference between making mistakes in the

course of being human and between taking responsibilities for granted

and I have never done the latter.


I am willing if not eager to do anything it takes to help you solve

these problems. I kindly ask you to communicate your challenges openly

and honestly to the Indian people. I urge you to ask the entire nation

to join hands to help.


I come to you in desperation. I come to you with outstretched hands.

Please, please tell me what should I do, and how can I help. Sir, you

have the entire youth of a nation at your beckoning and we are

stretching out a hand, will you meet us half way and lead us on, or

shall we tell others - we have failed - shall we say - "No we can't??"


I honestly believe "Saare Jahan se Achha Hindustan Humara", I believe

in my India - do you??


Sincerely,


- Sanket

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Answer Me!!

India has had a terrorism problem for quite a while. After the '98 Kargil conflict - the government has had a border safety assessment report since that time - in light of the recent attacks and the fact that terrorists entered Mumbai via the western shore on boats - makes me think nothing on that report was acted upon. The government of India needs to explain why border security was not taken seriously - given the knowledge of all loop-holes. Forming committees and ordering reports is utterly useless if they are not acted upon.

We are demanding complete transparency in government policies and steps taken. Accountability is not the public's luxury - it is their right. Every politician, every law enforcement officer, administrative official and citizen for that matter has to be accountable to one another. We have to believe we can rise as a people and hold ourselves to higher standards - instead of the better of 'who cares'.

We demand a monthly address to the nation. As a leader Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to keep the morale of law enforcement around India on a steady high. This is no easy task, public morale like a plant needs fodder - and needs regular maintenance - as well as the knowledge that the efforts of people are appreciated and are paying off.

We need a status report - every month on what has happened on the investigation. We demand a disciplined and systematic investigation. Oh! And my dear respected Prime Minister - Mr. Manmohan Singh - lets
make one thing clear - we are not waiting for 13 years to get our convictions on this case. Oh - no Sir - this is a question on your competitiveness - you have to come clean.

To the citizens, I ask - that you do not forget this incident as soon as the trains start running. In this regard I ask that you join me in a simple first step. I call it - the 'One letter a week' program. In which we put our concerns on paper. If after writing the first one - you get too tired - just keep xerox copies of your first letter. However, every week - you have to pledge to send one letter to the centre. Mumbai is a city of 19million plus - I assume - we should get
at least 19000 letters each week. The idea is to keep the inflow steady. To send a message to every involved official - we are not going to let this go. We will put in place a mutual monitoring system - pick a friend - who keeps you motivated to ensure you have sent your weekly letter - and vice versa. We have a long way to go people - but
why not take this simple step and get for ourselves a start.

Jaago India - Jaaago!!

- Sanket

Latest Update : We have an address where we can send the letters to :

Prime Minister's Office
South Block, Raisina Hill, 
New Delhi, 
India-110 011. 
Telephone: 91-11-23012312.
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Home is burning!!!

Hi,


I was born in a Mumbai hospital in 1982. I have lived my entire life in Mumbai. It is my home. About 25 hours ago my city was a victim to coordinated terrorist attacks at ten popular locations. A tragedy that has left over 100 dead and 300 plus injured - some of them critically. They came with AK-47s and grenades with an aim to die and to take with them as many as possible. Except - they are going to very different places. Immediately after I heard of the attacks, I called my friends back home to check if they were fine. They were going about their usual day and upon hearing of the attacks, they rushed into the conflict regions and hospitals to offer help and to donate blood. Rushed into... The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They are my friends, innocent Mumbaikars, law enforcement officers and my kin.



Have I told you how beautiful Mumbai is? It is an island city on the west coast of India. It is the biggest, most glamorous and the richest city in India. But you can read all that there is about Mumbai and still never quite grasp its essence. To know Mumbai truly, you need to have lived there for a long time - lived through its pain and joys, through its struggles and its triumphs. For those who are born in Mumbai, it is not just their city. Mumbai is the skeletal framework of your personality. It is an inherent part of who you are and what you become to be. It is reflected in the way you frame your words, it is reflected in the way - you tackle challenges, it is reflected in the way you smile and it is reflected on how soon you stand back - if you were to fall. Mumbai is the land of dreams - it is where thousands of people come every week to seek their fortunes. It is the commercial - cultural and entertainment capital of India. It is a city that never sleeps. It is a city of lights.


There is a pride we take in Mumbai that comes from deep love - that comes from looking forward to the future - that comes from the glow of a million dreams and that stems from Mumbai's sky-high ambitions. There is a spirit in its wind - a music to its sound - there is a rhythm in its crowd and a thrill in its pace. In Mumbai - you never stop - bombs - floods - strikes - riots - when its done - you step out - you check your watch - you check the next train - and you move on - you NEVER stop. What would begin for you as a mindless ritual - soon becomes the most wise course of action - and one of the most profound truths of life - that no matter what the set backs, moving forward is the only sensible thing to do. That work indeed is the best antidote to sorrow.


I was too young when the city was attacked in December '93 - too young to understand what was going on. My parents kept me safe in the house. In a sense it is these ordinary families that keep Mumbai running. Sticking to a most simple code - my parents insisted, I always complete my homework - that I always play fair - and make friends no matter what the persons religion. I am a Hindu - I was educated in a Catholic school and have had plenty of close friends -Muslims and Christians alike. I grew up celebrating Diwali, Christmas and Eid with equal enthusiasm. And so I do not understand why would someone want to hurt such an admirable people on the basis of religion.


Over the years, Mumbai nurtured me - made my career possible and exposed me to information and experiences, without which - I can not imagine life as it is. On days when things did not go my way and life seemed miserable, I would retreat to Marine Drive - and sit by the sea - listening to the certainty of its waves until daylight faded away and I could see city lights gleaming over the water. And so the city has known me - more intimately than any person - Mumbai - has been my best friend and confidant. And it has never failed to lift my spirits. Slowly but surely as I would stand at the train door of the last north bound local - the rhythmic sound of train wheels and track changes - would work its healing powers and restore me - for another day to fight.



In the phone conversations I have had over the past few hours, as me and my friends have tried to comfort each other - there has been a uniform sentiment of being fed up with violent conflicts. Alas! If only the world were a perfect place. But its not. And so long as Mumbai remains India's crown jewel - it will with equal certainty stay a prime target. A friend asked - what CAN we do? To which I said, keep doing what you are doing. Except do it a little better - work a bit harder. There is an infinite capacity in the will of a people. And Mumbai has proven its will many times. It is this 'Never Let Go' spirit that gets imbibed in each individual - and so when a person leaves Mumbai, he carries with him an inner strength - that is capable of seeing him through the most difficult of times.


You see a girl or a young woman - free in her spirit and confident in her smile. A girl who knows the lyrics of 'Vande Mataram' as surely as 'Hips don't lie' - she is signature Mumbai. And so, to the women of Mumbai I say


"I admire your gumption. I adore and enormously respect your values. I think you are the loveliest that India has to offer and I am one hundred percent fida on your beauty. I will probably marry one of you - I would be honored to. When this ordeal has subsided - as you step out your house - dress a little prettier - and smile a little more eager. Despite the grief - I need to see your face calm - despite the scars, I need to see your smile. There is nothing that hits the morale of a people more - than to see its women in worry. And so, I need you to stand stronger - aim higher and voice your opinions louder.


You see a man confident and smart. A person who excels under pressure - and achieves his goals in a certain but casual assurance. Chances are he is from Mumbai. To the spunkiest of the youth, to the alpha males of my country, my brothers, I say ..


"I owe you everything. From educating me with that first Blue Film to making me hardy through street fights. I will never forget the lessons you have taught nor be cavalier in keeping your pride. I can feel the pain in your pulse and my blood boils along side yours at the atrocities of yesterday. Yet, when you get to work, I need you to focus better than ever before. As you walk outside on a new morning, I need you to walk a little straighter, speak a little calmer yet remain eternally on fire - to get things done - that need to get done. I am confident in your intent and I am inspired by your actions.


To the mindless, irrational terrorists, I say ..


"You may have trained in the most extreme hatred of Jihad - and I know you are prepared to die. Yet - I assure you - to night my hatred for your ideology will stand any weapon you can throw at me. I promise you - you will never succeed - I want to inform you - I am more fearless than I was before. I want to tell you - I will never ever back down. And lastly I am not ready to die - unless I have killed the very ideas you stand for. That I will accept any consequences of my actions against you - that I will fight this fight with intelligence and a commitment that you can never dream of. That you will find the most ordinary person in my country - your worst enemy.


To the brave NSG and cops who are battling the odds - there is nothing I can say - that will be enough.


'I am forever indebted to your sacrifice. You have my most sincere reverence and that I applaud your courage. That I will think of you whenever I think of the nobel - and I promise you - your names will never be forgotten.


To the brave hearts that were forever lost ... 'Rest in peace my friends.


The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight......


Sincerely,


- Sanket


'Bombay is a bird of gold.' A man living in a slum, without water,
without toilets, was telling me why he came here, why people continue
to come here. In the Bayview Bar of the Oberoi Hotel you can order a
bottle of Dom PĂ©rignon for one and a half times the average annual
income, this in a city where forty per cent of the houses lack safe
drinking water. Another man put it differently: 'Nobody starves to
death in Mumbai.' He was being very literal. People are still starving
to death in other parts of India. In Bombay, there are several hundred
slimming clinics. According to a dietician who operates one of them,
fashionable models are on the verge of anorexia. This is how
Bombayites know they've parted company with the rest of India. 'In any
class of society in Bombay,' explains the dietician, 'there are more
people wanting to lose weight than put on weight.'

Bombay is the biggest, fastest, richest city in India. It is Bombay
that Krishna could have been describing in the Tenth Canto of the
Bhagavad Gita, when the god manifests himself in all his fullness:


I am all-destroying death
And the origin of things that are yet to be . . .
I am the gambling of rogues;
the splendour of the splendid.


It is a MAXIMUM CITY.

Excerpt from Maximum City - by Suketu Mehta.









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Friday, October 31, 2008

Rhythms of Mohabbatein!

Have you ever been hypnotized? Been so caught by a phenomenon that you lost the sense of time or place and forgot your troubles and worries? I was! Quite recently in fact. It was the day before Diwali and my local TSC Ballroom was electrified with the anticipation of the event. Students decorating, staff organizing, volunteers in their dance practices, people preparing presentations - it was what had come to be, the best part of college life in the U.S. - a chance to represent India. As for me, I was busy pacing to and fro - talking - trying to get a sense of what would hold the crowd, I was to be the Master of Ceremonies, and as always it turned out to be a little more stressful than I had hoped it would be. But in the midst of this chaos, I was happily distracted by a dance practice on stage. The music playing, had a long history with me - and so I was riveted instantly! It turned out two of my close friends, Poonam and Arti were practicing a fusion dance for the 'Rhythms of Mohabbatein' - it is a brilliant piece of music - but for the moment - my attention was on the dance moves.

There is a way to do things, and then, there is a way things are meant to be done. If you saw Poonam and Arti dance, you would know it’s the latter. Their movements were perfectly synchronized, and their choice of dance steps was in impeccable resonance with the music. The 'Rhythms of Mohabbatein' is a most unique melody, in that it combines classical Indian and Western music to form competitive polarized expressions. If observed closely, one will notice that the Indian classical dance moves and the musical instruments used - portray a myriad of traditional Indian values. Even at the peak of passion, the dance moves and the music display a reserve and dignity - that is unique to Indian heritage. The Western dance steps on the other hand, are of a more free form, self enjoyment and celebration being the key expression in them, they portray a freedom of expression and a freedom of choice, that one has come to associate the west with. What intrigued me most was the fact that even though their dance moves were the same, their expressions gave a most transparent glimpse into the personalities they were in real life.

When Arti dances, the expressions display an unparalleled concentration, her movements full of grace. You see the beauty of controlled discipline and immense hard work in her dance. This is a person who takes diligent care and effort in the perfect execution of her steps. Her smile radiating sincere innocence and a refreshing sweetness that cannot leave you untouched. Arti loves to dance! You do not see her kind of commitment unless the person has a deep love of art. It is very easy to see that she would put the same kind of care and fidelity in all facets of life.

Poonam's dance on the other hand flows in stages. At first, her steps are correct but her expressions betray a distant focus, this until she breathes in the music - and then the change is evident. Her movements pick up a zing and her expressions are accented with mischief. Then you know - this is full on - signature Poonam. She goes into a world of her own, the crowd irrelevant, the worries cast aside and her muscles respond off their own accord. She is free - Bold and Beautiful! And then she dances with a carefree assurance that stems from genuine confidence. This is a person - who knows she is gorgeous. Her aura challenging you as if to ask - 'Can you handle it??'

In unison they are sight you cannot afford to miss. Every aspect of their dance speaks volumes. There is joy and there is elegance, there is poise and there is arrogance, there is a mischief and then, there is also innocence. It is a personification of youth and a celebration of being alive. Watching them energizes you - makes you eager to face life. As I stood there mesmerized by the act, my friend Sameer commented - "Dance is in their blood!! You can feel it."

Indeed it is! It is dance the way dancing is meant to be. There is a power to its beauty you cannot imitate and an honesty in its voice you can never fake. And when all the pieces fall in place, they create a mysterious force- That - is what hypnotizes you. And so this piece is dedicated to Poonam and Arti, may the gods of youth continue to shed upon them their magnificent glory. And may we be gifted with their endearing benevolence - in many dances yet to see!

- Sanket

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Questions unasked ..


Will you hear the story of a man
The man who once set on a search
He searched for water in an unforgiving land
Through relentless heat, In an endless desert
Till he saw mirages in vain, Mirages on the searing sand

Will you hear the tale of a beast
Tied by a chain to a rock at birth
He tried to escape but fell at each try
Till he forgot the sound of wind and mirth and  joy 
A beast he grew to be, Yet convinced once more to try 

Will you listen to the whispers of a child
Left in a stormy sea to find his own 
Without a guide and without an oar
Listen to the whispers of that child
A child he remained, no more

Will you understand when I ask you
Can you see the child my friend 
Beyond the harsh black of the mans eyes
Can you hear the beast in his spirit 
Hear the heaves and cries he tries to hide

Will you quench the thirst of that man
The man who gave up hope
But could not give up his pride
An unknown destination he seeks
A quest through pain, on a faltering stride 

Will you believe me my love
That I searched for you day and night
Alas! I am now a lost man, Lost on the desert sand
Will you lend a hand or let it be
Will I be forever lost, Or will you find me?

 - Sanket

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pinocchio's Nose


It had been some time, since Pinocchio had become a real boy.  And while initially he rejoiced in finding new life, soon enough life's troubles got to him. And so it came to be - that one night as Pinocchio sat desolate and alone staring at the sky, he caved in and summoned the Blue Fairy one more time...

 "Star shine star bright, the first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish, I might - have the wish I wish tonight!" And sure enough, a blue star glowed all the more blue and through a sliver of light appeared the Blue Fairy!

 "Tell me boy" - she said "Why do you look so sad??"

"I don't like being a real boy" he said. 
'There 's too much lie and deceit in people. And I find myself hurting again and again. I wish I went back to being just a wooden puppet - and never felt anything - never knew pain..'

The fair lady smiled at his appeal and waved her wand, she turned him into a wooden boy and bent down and ruffled his hair, then waved her wand again to turn him back alive.
And blew a soft breeze to straighten his hair, restore them back to once they were - once again. 

"Tell me boy, would you rather be a puppet - or once more be a real boy!" 

Pinocchio remained silent for a while. And pondered hard in his little mind, 

'Sure enough, I'd felt no pain. It would be nice not to feel pain. 
'Ah! - another voice countered. 'But the fair lady's touch you fancy! If you were not real, you would miss a thing as beautiful as that. Miss the touch, you so fancy! 

Alas, resigned, Pinocchio answered 'No, my lady, I wish to remain a real boy. But I want you to grant me one gift back....

'And what is that my boy? - the blue fairy asked. 




'I want my nose to grow when I lie or do anything bad. But not just mine, I wish everyone had a nose like mine that would grow and shrink with the deeds of the man. 

The Blue fairy smiled again.. 
'Strange it is, that you see a gift in what I once punished you with - This I will grant you - Pinocchio my boy.  From now on your nose will grow and shrink with every lie!

And so Pinocchio slept relieved. He thought, at least the world you be simpler. Oh! Yes - it definitely would be. For once a person's face, would tell you all there is to be.  He would no longer be lied to, And never would have to face deceit. At last, a person would be only as beautiful as he deserves to be!

Wake up he did next day, and went on about his little day. Confident and perky in his step.  A friend he met, Danny was his name, they had promised each other to buy new shoes - and exactly the same shoes - and wear it to school on the same day! 

But when he saw his friend's shoes, they were old. 

'Ah! You have broken your promise. You did not get your shoes. - he said. 

And Danny replied - 'No, I did go to the shop. I did not like the new shoes. No I did not! 

And sure enough as Pinocchio had wanted, Danny's nose grew larger even as he saw. 

'Oh! Danny. Let it be, I shall go on with my day without a friend - without thee! 

And so Pinocchio went on. And every person he met, he expected him to lie. And he rejoiced in joy as he saw their noses a tad too big, Oh yes, a tad too large... 

A good friend the Blue Fairy has been. He thought! 'I have to thank her. 

And so he called her again. And asked from the blue star, a favor once again. 

Once again through a sliver of blue light, the Blue Fairy came alive..

'Finally, you look happy my boy! - Tell me how was your day?? 

'Oh, I called to thank you - my fair lady. Everyones nose has grown long!! - he said.

'Really! - The fairy said. 
'To annoy you then, I should tell you, they are really not. I set them straight, not a tad too long, not a tad too large! 

Downcast and with a broken heart, Pinocchio asked 
'Must you lie too. Why set them straight. Why not keep them large??

'For all is not as it seems my boy. - she said.
'Did you know Danny's mother is sick. And with no money, the shoes, he could not buy. Walked he did all the way to the shop. And then kept the money to tend to his mother. Buy shoes - he did not. Though tears in his eyes, there were to be. I loved him more, for what he did. Yes, he lied to you. But out of shame and not deceit. Had you bothered to ask, a good friend you might have been..

Awful and ashamed Pinnochio felt. 'Oh! such a bad friend he was! 

'You seem to have noticed everyone's nose. You did not check yours? Did you not? - The fair lady asked. 

'No, my lady I did not. - he said. And saw with shock, his own nose, had grown so long, Oh so large.

'My lady, I did not do any wrong. I did not know Danny's mother was sick. How could I have known he did not deceive??? Tell me - why only my nose has grown large!!

'An unfair punishment it would have been. For no one but you knew their lies decide their faces to be...

'And while you did not know about Danny. You should have asked. 
Instead you rejoiced in everyone's misery and delighted in their fall.
Vengeance,  is never a virtue. It shall never be. It never was!  

And so Pinocchio went silent. He did not know what to do..

'Is there no one perfect. No one good - including me?? - he asked.

'No, my dear - The lady answered.

'You must take heart! Like you have realized if everyone tries to be.. 
'Though no man is perfect. Mankind might just be! 

'I do not think that will be so.  - said Pinocchio - still unconvinced. More than a little hurt and trying not to show - his tears to be. 

At last, the lady softened and felt tender for he was, but a boy! 

'Like the fingers of your hand - she said
'No one is powerful. But together as a hand, they are. 
Each one has its own purpose.
Together you can build the world as it should be! 

Then with a wave of her wand, she made Pinocchio's nose shrink back. 

Alas! A bit relieved he felt. He wasn't a bad boy, Not a bad boy after all...... 

'And sure I can make you of wood again. And sure you would never feel pain. But life as you have learned is strange and you will miss out on joy as well. 

'You are wise my lady. You know it all. But I get fooled by people's words and promises. And believe them to be virtuous as they claim to be. I have been hurt many times. Only because I chose to believe! - Pinocchio exclaimed. 

'In that you are right my boy. You should choose your friends carefully. But do not judge people bad - just so quickly. Do not assume the worst without finding the truth. The truth is often different - do not judge them - so hastily  - the fair lady replied. 

'What about the pretty girls! - Pinocchio asked. Determined he was - to learn all answers tonight. Know all that there was. 
'They seduce me with their smile. And then cast me aside. 
I feel used and stupid. 
Why gift them with beauty? Or why not make them beautiful inside? 

The fairy laughed - at the boy's dilemma. But was kind enough to reply..

'If all gifts were given to one. 
Wouldn't that be unwise??
And I could warn you of getting hurt. 
But then, you wouldn't dare or venture outside! 

'Though deceptive it might be,
You have to admit
There is art to seducing..  
And a pleasure in been seduced by.
Without tasting the aura of beauty
Its a pleasure, too good to miss 
A pleasure you should not deny.

'Find the good in people.
And live a day to its fullest.
For a day once gone, is a day gone by
Indeed there is some good in every person
Waiting to be found, Hidden until discovered by..

'You must choose your people
To love and to stand by,
A part of the earth to call your own
Your own little patch of sky

'This and many lessons there are to life.
And I could tell you all tonight
But the essence of living is to find your own way
Dream a new dream, every single night! 

And with that the Blue Fairy glowed even more beautiful. Too charming and lovely to behold she was. She kissed Pinocchio on his head. And turned to a star once again.

A Blue star in the sky she was. Shining bright. A fair blue light!  - Sanket

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Seagull!

I've wandered far and wandered wide,
I've shunned and cared, And loved and hated,
And treasured a love, Only to cast it aside

Alas! my search is sour
And my footsteps lead me back...
Though dark is the night and late is the hour
Sometimes you've to be lost
And be lost to find your way back..

Like a seagull seeking a horizon
Across seas vast, And large beyond par!
In this ever changing world, In an ever changing sky
I search my beacon, I seek a North star.

On halting steps and impatient breaths, I come
Come to rest a night, One moment, One pause
I cease the thought, Of worries there might
To tend my wounds, My scars my cause...

Through rain and storm I sleep
Till a sun rises, with clearer skies
And winds calling promises to keep..
Of smiles and joys, And buoyant bird cries


And so I rise again, And fill myself with hope
I say I am healed, I say I am fine
I forget the pain of a past to mourn, A past to cope
I say I am healed and I say I am fine
Though some wounds there remain
I know they will heed, Heal in their own time...

Yes, I'm healed. Yes, I am fine.
I've lived another day, Another day to fight
Like a seagull with stretched wings
To face winds with will, And storms with might

- Sanket

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Deepawali!

I have a habit of finding secluded places – mostly hill tops – places where you get a good view of your surroundings beneath. As far as I can remember, I have always found this haven – wherever I have lived. Me and my friends used to call it – ‘The Spot’ - a place where we used to come to – to get away from the troubles of the world for a while. It is this place that I chose to write this article at …. For today’s article demands complete solidarity. It is upon a subject I hold very close to my heart – ‘Deepawali’.


I was asked to introduce the festival of ‘Deepawali’ once, when I was hosting our annual event. But under the pressure of time and existing circumstances, I could not express myself as fully as I would have liked..

[Image Credit : http://holidays.vgreets.com/Diwali/Diyas/diyas1.jpg]

It used to begin with the end of our middle semester at school. The beauty about being in a catholic school was that we used to get two long holidays in addition to the summer vacation: Diwali and Christmas!! Around October, the school would conduct its semester examination, which used to be followed by three weeks of vacation – encompassing the Diwali festival.. It was the most fun I remember having, as a child and was no less anticipated than the mangoes of summer…

Hardly being able to concentrate on the last exam, we used to run out the minute the last bell rang .. all kids would fall out with an ear shattering cheer. The last day of exams – had a tradition associated with it .. we used to come home and collect all of our used notebooks and strip the cardboard off them.. we would use these to make play mansions and kingdoms of ‘He-man’ and ‘Skeletor’.

On my way back home, I used to stop at the local ‘Garni’ – the guy used to ground flour for a living, but he also had a most exciting side business – that of selling kites and ‘manja’ – it used to be the best in town.

Every semester end, I would exchange all my savings for the finest kites and manja he could offer. Flying kites was a most popular game after school hours.. As Diwali used to come closer, the kite-flying would continue into late evenings and eventually nights. Using the day light as best as possible, we would pitch our best kites, as far off as we could – these were ‘Kandil-Patangs’ - or ‘Lantern-Kites’ – and they were off-limits to others for competition – in that you could not attack a ‘Kandil-Patang’ – anyone who used to break this most sacred code would pay for it – with his teeth – the more the loss – the more was the number of missing tooth.

At sunset, we used to light our set of paper-lanterns, sometimes as many as a dozen. This was a tricky business, since an incorrectly lit lantern could catch fire mid air – burning itself and severing the string with it – leading to a total loss. Hence the candles within had to be of perfect height and be placed in the exact center. The lantern would then be tied to the lead string and sent aloft … this needed a steady pair of hands an excellent wind-judgment..

When done correctly though, it was all worth it. Under the blanket of night and in the cover of darkness, all that was visible from the ground was a series of lanterns – magically floating in the sky … Just one of many sights to behold during those splendid nights…

Everything in Diwali used to be brighter, more colorful and in every way better than it was before. The television channels used to be punctuated with ads of ‘Nerolac Paints’ – exuding with vibrant colors, lively music and catchy tunes, they used to be the ‘peacock’s cry’ signaling the arrival of our most beloved – festival of lights – ‘Deepwali’!

On the first dawn of ‘Diwali’ – I would rise early with my dad and my little sister – this was a hard task for us kids – for we used to stay up late into the night talking about what this year’s diwali would bring. After dinner, I would tell my sister tales of my adventures, which fort was the best in town, which kid was rumored to have the fanciest fire-crackers and who had the most kite wins of the season – often times exaggerated – usually a little dishonest and awarding me more than my share of credit. My sister would promptly listen to all of my stories with rapt attention. Intruding questions and scrutiny were strongly discouraged – and so long as she stuck to the rules, our proceedings would be peaceful.

The first dawn was always the morning of a ritual bath. Which used to be always a most boring and suffocating time for us – for we would be dying to get out our fire-crackers and be the first to break the silence of the morn… the only saving aspect of the morning bath was the use of specially – reserved scented soaps – saved exclusively for the days of Diwali. As I would take that first bath, my heart would always be torn in two, one half wanting to get out and start the fireworks – the other wanting to stay in the cozy warmth of that beautiful soap-scent…

Dressed in newly bought colorful clothes – I used to prepare myself rigorously – like a soldier going out to war. One pocket filled with sparkles – the other with a matchstick box and a cheap candle, an armed toy fire-gun in my belt and a cardboard box of that days fireworks. Being the elder sibling, it was my duty to ensure that my kid sister not get any physical harm – and that she enjoy Diwali safely.

Placing the firework strategically, I used to warn her and then go out to light the firework, she always had her little fingers stuffed in her ears – long before I lit the fuse - and the minute she saw the firework lit, she would cry out – “Dada – dhaav!” – "Run!! – its lit" – it always used to strike me – funny – and I would want to tell her – “I was to one to light it – I know its lit!!” – but I would never snap at her – I could see the worry in her eyes – and I would come back to her – and stand with open ears – bracing for the sound – but never letting my face show - that at times, even I was afraid. And she would watch me with wondrous admiration – often times forgetting to see the actual firework explode.

At night – after I put her to bed, I would often come to the roof of our building. On a diwali night, it used to offer a most spectacular view of the city..

And you could see every house – from every building – until the very ends of the horizon – lit with lanterns and diyas – each street glittering like a spike of burning flame – streaks across the sky from rockets fired late into the night and hear distant echoes of people and their merriment – still unfinished.. and the city would look as lovely as a bride on her wedding night…

Its been a long four years, since my eyes have held Mumbai in that glory – since I have silvered my hands in gunpowder – a long time since I have cut my fingers flying kites – or have lost myself in that divine music – which only a Diwali night can offer..

My friends often ask me – what do you miss about Mumbai ?? I can never fully tell – except to say this – ‘When I stand upon a hill here – in the United States – I see massive highways – and street lights – but hear only the rhythmic swish of fast tires – rubber on concrete and an occasional police siren, in Mumbai you would hear a cacophony of sounds, of people fighting, of vehicles honking, of your neighbor’s TV blaring some soap opera title and a distant horn of night railways – you would hear the city talk. What do I miss about Mumbai ?? I miss her voice, I miss how she looked on a Diwali night!!
– Sanket

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Regret


A promise I was asked
And a promise I did make
It changed things a lot
And many decisions I was to take

Would I make the same promise?
Or will I refrain?
Will I do it the same and just the same
Do it all, All over again?


The struggles I do accept
And the pain I do agree
Its the price I paid
For my soul to breathe free

If love is the cost of freedom
Then so it shall be
No one shall rob it, Nor shall one protect
My freedom was my own
And mine alone to defend

Would I make the same choice?
Or will I refrain?
Will I do it the same and just the same
Do it all, All over again?

There were mistakes, there had to be
Success was sweet
But it was failure that taught
That the ones to forge a character
Are the falls not caught


I trusted and was betrayed
It led me to conflict - led me to strife
I loved and was burnt
It unknowingly shaped - the contours of my life

Would I make the same choice?
Or will I refrain?
Will I do it the same and just the same
Do it all, All over again?


I think I will, for it was worth it
For one smile of her eyes Or one kiss of her lips
I would happily take eternal agony
For a touch of her hair on my fingertips

I think I will, for it was worth it
For a fair lady once asked of a little boy
Promise me will you, That you will
"Listen to what your heart says
And have the courage to follow it"
And I had promised
"Yes, my lady - I will"

- Sanket

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Gordian Knot!

I think from the time Man came to his senses, he has despised the idea of death. Once, we became the only species to bond for lifetime, the thought of losing a person, of losing yourself and not being able to be with your loved ones - became despicable. Since that time, Man has always tried to immortalize himself, the very perception of 'Human Greatness' - has been to survive and be remembered long beyond his living years...  

And so this piece is written in the quest of ... "What really makes people Great??" 

Consider Leonardo da Vinci, a great philosopher of his time, who was as much an artist as he was an Engineer. Be it complex weapons, that helped shape the history of the world, or his lasting paintings, or his technical drawings and observations on human anatomy - that even today inspire new designs .... In a time when the topmost brains of the world can not foresee beyond 10 years of human evolution, Leonardo invented concepts that were almost FIVE centuries ahead of his time..

The modern father of science, Sir Isaac Newton, who instead of eating the apple that fell on his head, was great enough to define gravity, who created 'Calculus' and laid the mathematical foundation of scientific development for the next century.... Or the great Albert Einstein, who saw things that few people can understand even today, and certainly no one did in his lifetime ...

In a recent article, I read, the author of "Five Point Someone" - Chetan Bhagat was described as a great writer .. frankly it made me laugh ... I think greatness in literature is Shakespeare ... whose work has survived irrespective of modern thought ... of words that strike the core of mankind and nature and which remain true no mater what the era. .... 

Or Mr. Samuel Clemens - more popularly known as our beloved "Mark Twain" .... whose words are as innocent and humorous today, as they were when written... 

Perhaps the one figure most associated with "Greatness" - is one that has the very adjective as part of his name .... "Alexander the Great!" Upon his birth, the oracles foretold - that he would once rule all the world - travel far - and wide - and achieve what no man ever had! 


[Image credit :- http://www.maa.org/devlin/GordianKnot.jpg ] 

The rest is history ..... they say  - He came - he saw - he conquered ... As I studied history, an incident that remained with me the most ... was when he reached Telmissus - and encountered - 'The Gordian Knot' - a prophecy stated - that the one to untie the knot - will rule all of Asia .. 

Since its conception, the Gordian knot had found no living being, capable of untying it. When after struggling hard - Alexander couldn't find a solution, he took out his sword and cut the knot in half! By standers exclaimed - "Hey - thats against the rules!" - to which Alexander - so regally replied  - "I am Alexander the Great - I make my own rules!!" - he did go on to rule Asia - thus fulfilling the prophecy ....  

A keen observer will note that - the deeds of these men - did survive long beyond their life times ... I think what makes great people great - is that - they don't fear dreaming big - like Alexander - they are not afraid of breaking rules - of doing what it takes to achieve their goals - and when called into action - they walk boldly forward and claim their Destiny!!  ... That is greatness! 

Although, nature might have intended - death - to be its cleaning agent - one that assured - new genes would survive - ensuring a stronger future.... and while man's battle against this very design might be ill advised - I am happy - that it at least produced such great men - whose deeds defined life - for ages to come .... 

It makes me wonder ....  in a thousand years from now .. if the human race survives - who will they know - to be 'Great' from our generation - or has the time for great deeds past us. Are we going to be a generation that did nothing more than watch "Youtube" - and gossiped online - or do we still have that germ of desire - that can drive us to great deeds - do we still have a lust for "Immortality" ???

What it must be - to be taught - by the great Aristotle himself - to have such a great destiny - to fulfill ??

What must it be - to live in the time of  Alexander - or in the time of Hector - the defender of Troy! - of Achilles - the son of Zeus himself!!! 

 - Sanket 

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