…मुझे पता नहीं

राह चलते हुए किसीका accident होते हुए देखा
वो दुखदायी नज़ारा देखकर मैंने एक लम्बी सी आह भरी
उस आह में उस इंसान और उसके परिवार के लिए हमदर्दी थी ?
या उसकी जगह मैं नहीं था इस बात की राहत थी ?
…मुझे पता नहीं

जब सामाजिक कर्तव्य हेतु भूखे नंगे बच्चोंसे
मिलने जाते हैं लोग और खिंचवाते हैं उनके साथ फ़ोटो
तब इरादा उस अनुभव को कैमरा में कैद करनेका होता हैं ?
या अपनी “social” personality दुनिया को जतानी होती हैं ?
… मुझे पता नहीं

जब बॉम्ब मेरा इलाका छोड़के कहीं और फटता हैं
और मैं बड़े गौर से TV पे “ब्रेकिंग न्यूज़” देखता हूँ
तब ऐसी भीषणता देखकर मन कांप उठता हैं ?
या अपने आप को ज़िंदा पाकर खुशनसीब लगता हैं ?
… मुझे पता नहीं

जब मेरी किसीभी तरह की मदद से, उस कोशिश से
किसीकी ज़िन्दगी में ख़ुशी और मुस्कराहट आ जाती हैं
तब उसकी वह भोली ख़ुशी देखकर दिल खुश हो जाता हैं ?
या “मैं” उस ख़ुशीका कारण बना – ये सोचकर अभिमान होता हैं ?
… मुझे पता नहीं

आज ज़िन्दगी अपने रंग में, अपने ढंग से जीने के कई मौके मिल गये
लेकिन ज़िन्दगी ऐसी भी तो मिली जो औरोंके काम आ सके
तब कही स्वयं से हटकर सकल की तरफ बढ़ना ज़रूरी हैं
अगर इतना पता नहीं, तो ज़िन्दगी का क्या मतलब? क्या मक़सद?
… मुझे पता नहीं

Nani

आज नानी (आईची आई) जाउन 1 वर्ष लोटले.

आजकालच्या धावपळीच्या आयुष्यामुळे नानी पण स्मृतीतून दूर कुठे तरी लोटली गेलीये. आपण फारच पळतो, नाही का? इतक्या वेगाने पळत राहिलो तर अगदी कालपर्यंतचं सगळंच स्वप्नवत होऊन जाईल. मग “नानी दूर गेली असली तरी नेहमी हृदयात घर करून राहील” हे शब्द पोकळ वाटायला लागतात. स्वतःचाच तिरस्कार वाटतो. सगळं काही सोडून भूतकाळात रमून यावंसं वाटतं.

आणि मग नानी समोर दिसते.

तिची ती गोरीपान कांती. डोक्यावरून घेतलेला पदर. त्या चेहेऱ्यावरचा कमालीचा Confidence. तिचे ते कधीच न झुकलेले खांदे. आणि जणू काय सगळेच भाव डोळ्यात उतरले आहेत इतके बोलके डोळे.

नानीला 5 मुली आणि एक मुलगा. सगळे मिळून आम्ही 16 नातवंड. दर सुट्टीला मामा कडे एकत्र यायचो. फार धमाल यायची. “मामाच्या गावाला जाऊया” ह्या गाण्यातला आनंद आम्ही खरंच अनुभवलाय. हा सगळा अनुभव नानी-नाना मुळे सुंदर झालाय. त्यांनी आम्हाला खूप माया लावली. पण म्हणून फालतू लाड केले नाहीत कि सगळ्याच गरजा भागवल्या नाहीत. त्यांनी कुणासाठी खेळणी किंवा महाग कपडे नसतील आणून दिले कदाचित; पण खूप प्रेम आणि वात्सल्य दिलं. भौतिक गरजा पूर्ण केल्यानेच प्रेमाची सिद्धता होते असं नाही. मी पुण्यात शिकायला आल्यानंतर मला खव्याची पोळी आवडते म्हणून कडत उन्हात बाजारात जाउन खवा आणणारे आणि त्याच्या पोळ्या बनवून खास माझ्यासाठी – त्यांच्या “पतु” साठी पुण्यात पाठवणारे नानी-नाना आठवतात मला.

In a very candid moment at our farm - Nani and Nana (in the background)

In a very candid moment at our farm – Nani and Nana (in the background)

तसं नानीनं एकंदरीत फार खडतर आयुष्य घालवलं – आधी नानासोबत आर्थिक परिस्थितीशी झुंजताना, मग नाना गेल्यावर एकटेपणातून वाट काढताना आणि नंतर Cancer च्या भयंकर आजारावर एकदा मात करून परत त्याच्याशी सामना करत करत शेवटचा श्वास घेताना.

ह्या सगळ्या वाटचालीत नानीची एकंदरीतच लढा देण्याची प्रवृत्ती होती. आपल्यासमोर आलेल्या आर्थिक आणि कौटुंबिक आव्हानांना लढा देण्यासाठी तिला जे काही करता आलं ते तिने केलं. ती झटली. खपली. पण आलेल्या परिस्थितीशी मुकाबला करताना ती कधीच असहाय वाटली नाही. “God helps those who help themselves” हि इंग्रजीतली म्हण तिच्या बाबतीत फार खरी ठरते. नाना गेल्यावर मामा व्यवसायात एकटा पडलेला असताना नानीने घरासोबत व्यवसाय सांभाळण्यातही भक्कमपणे साथ दिली. ती कधीच कर्तव्यपरायण नव्हती. एकीकडे कर्मप्रपंच सांभाळत असताना तिने धर्म आणि अध्यात्मिकता सोडली नाही. जैन धर्मातील मूलभूत तप आणि त्यागमय जीवनाचा तिने अंगीकार केला होता. कर्म आणि धर्म ह्या दोन्ही बाजू तिने ताकदीने सांभाळल्या.

परिस्थितीशी तडजोड करताना नानीने आपल्याला तत्वांशी कधीच तडजोड केली नाही. लोकांना दाखवण्यासाठी म्हणून बक्कळ पैसा नसेल तिच्याकडे; पण शेवटपर्यंत ती ताठ मानेने, खंबीर मनाने आणि स्वाभिमानाने जगली. वयाच्या सत्तरीतही स्वतःचं सगळं काम स्वतः करायची. आम्ही आमच्या कामात आळशीपणा केला तर खडे बोल सुनावून तिने आमचे कान पिळलेले आठवतात मला. आजारामुळे शेवटी शेवटी तिला उठणं शक्य नव्हतं. माझी आई, मावशी, मावस भाऊ सचिन, भाभी दिनरात्र तिच्या सेवेत राहिले. पण तिला त्यांना पाणी मागतानाही अवघडल्या सारखं वाटे. स्वाभिमान आणि स्वावलंबनाची अमुल्य शिकवण ती आम्हाला देऊन गेली.

ह्या सगळ्या धडपडीत तिने कसलीही तक्रार केली नाही कि चेहेऱ्यावर तसूभरही करुण भाव येऊ दिले नाहीत. तिने कुठेही कमीपणा वाटून घेतला नाही. तिचं सक्षम मन हे तिचं सगळ्यात मोठं धन होतं. मनाची श्रीमंती एवढी होती कि उलट निरपेक्ष भावनेने ती सगळ्यांच्या मदतीसाठी प्रसंगोप्रसंगी हजर राहिली. मग ते कुणाच्या घरी लग्न कार्य असो, कुणाचा आजार असो कि कुणाच्या घरी मृत्युप्रसंग ओढवल्यास ते घर सांभाळून घेणं असो. गावातल्या कित्येक लोकांच्या मदतीसाठी ती हाकेच्या अंतरावर उभी होती. पण म्हणून कुणाच्याही संसारामध्ये तिने कधीच ढवळाढवळ केली नाही – आपल्या मुलींच्याही नाही. प्रसंगी हवा असणारा आधारच काय तो दिला असेल. एकदा का मुलीचे लग्न झाल्यावर तिच्या संसारिक प्रपंचामध्ये आपण लक्ष घालू नये ह्या ठाम मताची ती होती.

आजकालच्या relationships फार “Give & Take” प्रकारच्या झाल्या आहेत. नानीकडे बघितल्यावर कळायचं निरपेक्ष प्रेम आणि निस्वार्थी सेवा काय असते ते. खरा आनंद दुसऱ्यांसाठी झटण्यात आहे ह्याची प्रचीती होते. तिच्या ह्या आदर्शवादी जगण्यामुळेच कि काय – तिला बीड शहरातील जैन संघटनेने “शांतिभूषण” पुरस्काराने सन्मानित केलं.

अशी लोकं आपल्या आयुष्यात होती ह्या विचाराने धन्यता वाटते. आपण अश्या व्यक्तीचे अंश आहोत ह्या जाणिवेने मन गदगदून जातं. आपल्या वडीलधारी लोकांच्या जगण्यातला आदर्शवाद आता कुठे पाहायला मिळेल कि नाही ह्याची चिंता वाटते. मग एक जाणीव होते कि त्यांच्या निरपेक्ष प्रेमाचा आणि आदर्शवादी जगण्याचा वारसा आपण पुढे न्यायला हवा. त्यांची शिकवण आणि संस्कार आपण टिकवून ठेवायला हवेत. आपल्याला असे नानी-नाना दिले म्हणून निसर्गाला धन्यवाद देण्यासाठी आपण एवढे तर करू शकतोच.

आज माया लावणारी, प्रेम करणारी खूप माणसं आहेत जवळ. पण तरी तेवढ्याने राहवेल ते मन कसलं!

ते धावत सुटतं नानी साठी – तिच्या “पतु” ह्या हाकेसाठी, तिने खास बनवलेल्या खव्याची पोळी, गव्हाची खिचडी आणि बेसनासाठी, तिच्या कुशीसाठी, तिच्या मायेने डोक्यावर फिरणाऱ्या हातासाठी. नानी तशी नाहीशी होण्यासारखी नाहीच. पण ती आता आपल्यात नाही ह्या विचाराने जीव कावराबावरा होतो. तिची उणीव भासून मन अस्वस्थ होतं. आणि मग ढळाढळा अश्रू गळायला लागतात…

प्रतीक

Note : I must say I took a lot of inspiration for this post from My Mom’s letter for Nani when she passed away. It was published in local newspapers. Sharing a copy here.

Mom's letter for Nani - published in a local newspaper

Mom’s letter for Nani – published in a local newspaper

Short Films – “Yes! I am the Change” initiative

I am sharing with you the short films that some of us made over the last weekend (Aug 15-18).

These films were made as a part of “Yes! I am the change” initiative, where we were given 101 hours to make a short film of 5 minutes on the social issues provided by them. Our group of about 15 people (a bunch of theater enthusiasts from college) got two topics – Female Foeticide and Street Children.

Here’s the short film on Female Foeticide

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhqsFYq9B4U

Here’s the one on Street Children

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YPca8AcXIM

It was indeed a fulfilling experience. It takes a lot to create a short film of even as short as a 5-minutes. I personally am very satisfied to have contributed to the film on Street Children by writing a poem that’s used in the middle of the film.

Re-sharing it below :

Camera कैसे कैद करेगा वो सब?
जो खुली आँखें देखने से कतराती हैं

ट्रैफिक सिग्नल पे देखे मैंने जब
भूखे, गुमराह, मासूम बच्चे
तब लगा, गुमराह वो हैं, या गुमराह मैं हूँ?
जो नहीं चल पाया मैं उन् रास्तों पर, पहुँचने को उन तक!

जब मैंने झाँका अपने आप को उन् मासूम आँखों में
तब लगा मैंने कितना कुछ अनदेखा कर दिया

आखिर कैसे करूँ मैं उनकी कहानी बयाँ?
जो अब तक उनके होने का एहसास ही नहीं हो पाया

Do watch the films and share your love!

Life imitates art and art imitates life

I am playing a small role in a play that is going to be performed by 301 Productions (a Pune-based theater group that I am a part of) for the students of a school for visually challenged.

We had a rehearsal yesterday. I was making sure that I was pushing myself to do a better job as this is my first acting performance and I want to do a good job. The acting skill is not inherent to me. We discussed our progress at the end of the rehearsal. The director mentioned that the output by all the actors was still not what he’d like it to be. He wanted us to rehearse at home, put in our best and really enjoy what we were doing to put up a magnificent play.

I find this situation to be very similar to the one in the corporate world. Employee thinks he’s putting enough into the work and employer wants his employees to put in more.

Life, indeed, imitates art and art imitates life. (Thanks to Suruchi Wagh for introducing this quote to me)

The 2 examples, albeit, are slightly different.

Nobody minded what the director of the play said because his expectations are totally fair. He knows we can do better and thus wants us to. We know we can do better and we want to. It’s because we want to do an incredible show to put smiles on faces of those who cannot experience the play visually but audibly. What’s highlighted is that the team is driven by a common cause.

In corporate world, people are often driven by different causes. If only all the stakeholders – employer and employees – worked together for a common cause of producing great work and taking care of everyone’s interests to a possible extent, that the employees would definitely put more than what they think they ought to and the employer would naturally appreciate these efforts!

What good is saved time if nobody uses it

We have technology at our disposal to help us save time. Then too, we crib about not having enough time at all.

The movie “Before Sunrise” (Brilliant movie and my all time favorite romantic film, btw!) has a very apt comment on this.

Jesse (as he’s taking a stroll with Celine on the roads of Vienna at night):

You know what drives me crazy!

It’s always people talking about how great technology is, how it saves all this time! But what good is saved time if nobody uses it? if it just turns into more busy work?

I never hear somebody say, “Well, you know! With the time I have saved by using my word processor, I’m gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out”

Sweet :)

(On a related note, please read this by Seth Godin)

Making mistakes

I am going through a slightly rough patch because of some conscious mistakes that I made in last few months. There was a time when I loathed myself for the mistakes I made knowingly. However, I didn’t rush myself to get over that feeling. I let those thoughts get settled in, had my dose of motivational stuff, spoke my heart out to people and eventually told myself – “Hey! It’s not so bad after all”.

And now when I look at the whole situation objectively, I realize I am certainly in a favorable situation if not in a desirable situation. “Not desirable” because things that I had planned or wished for didn’t happen; yet “favorable”, because I’m a believer in the Destiny. I think things were destined to happen the way they happened. It’s all for the greater good. Jo hota hain ache ke liye hota hain.

For some, this destiny talk may sound bullshit. Fair enough. Let’s just claim that by putting the onus on destiny (or fate or whatever), I am running away from taking responsibility of the situation, of my mistakes. Keeping the destiny equation aside, I admit I am in a traumatic situation because of some conscious mistakes that I made. Yet, this, in no way, is an unfavorable situation as it gives me a chance to push myself further and to steer clear of the mess because I still have all the capability and freedom to. Because I’ve been fortunate enough to have made mistakes which didn’t affect a single basic necessity of my life – food, clothing, shelter, education, health, free speech. So, life will pretty much move on in my case. This undesirable situation gives me a chance to rise to it and make a dent. Who knows, I may end up making another set of mistakes. But life won’t still be badly affected. Touchwood! There are people in the world for whom such mistakes can cost them either of the basic necessities. I imagine myself in their situation. It would be horrible.

And so I realize that this freedom of making mistakes essentially comes up with a great responsibility. Responsibility of making these mistakes count for someone’s good; of correcting myself; of finding the purpose of my life, meaning in my actions. I must start to think beyond my own, my own growth and my own learnings. I must give more than I take.

I don’t remember bringing a smile to someone’s face in past so many months. It has only been about me and my desires and my pursuits and my quests. I thought – let me grow personally and professionally in my life before I start contributing to others. But that’s so foolish, right. Focusing on one’s growth is a constant lifelong endeavor. The real purpose lies in growing together. In thinking beyond own. In giving and not just receiving. I find so many people who’re fulfilling this purpose through simpler acts of theirs. Someone’s taking care of stray animals. Someone’s planting and growing trees. Someone’s fighting for right governance. Someone’s working at the bottom of the pyramid. I must stop living a life of licking for my own good. My freedom of taking calculated risks puts a great responsibility on me to take those risks for a purpose, for a meaning and for endeavors worth the risk.

So what’s that meaning for me?

  1. Making my parents happy?
  2. Continue being the peacemaker and supporting shoulder for the family?
  3. Striving towards strengthening an organization committed for making a small difference to this world? Working for startups?
  4. Volunteering for a cause?
  5. Producing a work of art which can entertain and inspire others? (Is this piece of writing one such work?)
  6. Spreading cheer, spreading love?

I am picking 1 to 6 because that’s all what I can think of.

What’s your purpose in life? What will you find meaning in? There’s a good chance that this “meaning” talk may sound meaningless. The real crux of it, after all, is in doing, not just thinking. In doing things, the dots will automatically get connected and one will eventually realize that one’s actions did serve a noble cause. No matter how much I talk, “Doing is highlighted”!

So what do I do? And the answer is still 1 to 6. What’s your answer?

When a fantasy came true

कुछ दिन पहले वाली बात हैं. I got home after a normal day at work. I got a call at 8.30pm from my boss, who’s the founder of the company I work at.

“Yesss!”, my heart started pounding before taking the call.

“Is this it?” I asked myself.

“Let’s not jump the guns” my mind told and I picked up the phone.

“Hey Pratik, कल चलना हैं ना मुंबई?”, asked my boss Suruchi from the other side.

I had a light smile on my face – a smile of contentment, a smile of seeing a foolish dream about to come true, a smile of excitement.

“I have no reason to say No. आप हुकुम फरमाओ”, I responded.

Suruchi – “Alright. Let’s leave for Mumbai tomorrow morning. I also don’t know the exact plan. But the person whom I am co-ordinating with has asked me to come over. So I am hoping something’s in store. तू बस सज धज के आना. Excited?”.

“You bet :-)”, I replied.

Suruchi – “We’re supposed to reach by 11. So let’s leave from Pune at 7.30”.

“Sure”, I said and hung up the phone.

Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes! I had started jumping with joy. The joy of watching Madhuri Dixit live in front of you can’t be paralleled after all. Oh wait, did I tell you that I saw Madhuri Dixit live – an event which I’d been foolishly fantasizing about? :P Well! Yes! This post is about how I witnessed the Screen Goddess, the absolutely stunning, the gorgeous, the vivacious, the elegant, the beautiful, the maddening Madhuri Dixit for 8 hours. This is an event that I’ll proudly narrate to my children and grandchildren as a bedtime fantasy :P

Well – a little background – my boss Suruchi and I are madly in love with Madhuri Dixit. We’re true blue fans of her. Now that Madhuri Dixit has shifted back to India, we wanted to grab an opportunity to catch a glimpse of her. One fine day, Suruchi and I were just thinking on how we could get a chance to see Madhuri Dixit in real. She’d visited Pune twice but we’d missed the chance. It randomly struck to me that we could probably attend a Jhalak Dikhla Ja Shoot. Madhuri had been judging a popular dance reality show called Jhalak Dikhla Ja on Colors channel. We din’t know how we could get a chance to attend the show. We had no clue regarding the time and location of the shoot, regarding the passes to visit the studio and attend the shoot. So, we decided to find someone working for the show or with the TV channel. My other awesome boss – Mohit’s awesome network effect came into play and we got a chance to be at the shoot. #YUSS. And much to our fortune, we got a chance to attend not just any other shoot but the Jhalak Dikhla Ja Grand Finale shoot, which btw was graced by another veteran and super-awesome Sridevi. Watching the 2 Goddesses of beauty live in front of you – gracing the set, speaking, laughing, dancing – Boy! What a treat!

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I still can’t believe that I’ve seen Madhuri this closely. I can’t believe that I was on the same set for 8 hours as she was. I could not just get enough of the woman I absolutely adore. She has this absolutely magnetic aura. And it was evident from the moment she entered the set. Other stars/celebs din’t acknowledge the audience at all on their entry, neither did the audience acknowledge the stars. But as soon as Madhuri entered, she greeted the audience by folding her hands, raising them and later waving at everyone. She was looking electrifyingly beautiful in an absolutely gorgeous pink Saree. The entire audience couldn’t get the eyes off her, I guess. I was so awestruck that I thought the entire audience was looking at her or perhaps I represented the entire audience and kept looking at her as if I had hundred eyes :P

Inspite of being such a big star, Madhuri was extremely humble and playful on the set. No attitude, no starry tantrums whatsoever. She was extremely lively and cheerful. I must say she’s inspired me to be more cheerful and spread more cheer. I was sitting in the audience area which was to the left of where Madhuri was sitting. My head turned right, I was constantly looking at her :P प्यार के 2 रूप होते हैं – किसीका हो जाना या फिर किसीको अपना बना लेना (Lines copyrighted).  मेरा दिल मन ही मन यही कह रहा था की माधुरी, मैं आपका हो गया हूँ, बस एक बार आप मुझे अपना समझ के एक बार मेरी तरफ देख लो. It so happened that I thought she looked at us. I was hoping she’ll look at me, say Hi to me and spell the magic. But that din’t happen. Then later, when her entry to the show (and not her entry to the studio) was being shot, I thought she might just wave at the audience again. This entry was going to be telecasted. I was all set to do a huge wave to get noticed. As a part of the shoot, a huge sliding door was supposed to get opened and Madhuri was supposed to come out from there and enter the stage. She came out. The audience cheered for her. I was constantly waving my hand at her. As she was walking toward the stage, I think she noticed me and waved at my part of the audience with her zillion dollar infectious smile. चंद लम्हों के लिए आँखों से आँखें मिली और मेरा तो दिन बन गया. दिन क्या – दिन, रात, महिना, साल, ज़िन्दगी बन गयी  :-) You can still find me blushing whenever I think of that moment when she looked at me. Madhuri Dixit, as an actress, as a star, as a dancer, as a reality TV show judge is absolutely awesome and I am glad I could catch glimpses of her in all of the roles above for an entire day. Following are the pictures of the actual momentImage Image

I wanted to grab an opportunity to click a picture with her. I would have spent my entire lifetime looking at that photo everyday. I would have found my solace in that picture in my low times. At 6.30pm, Madhuri Dixit got out of the studio for some time. We wanted to get out of the studio immediately to catch a close glimpse of her, but we weren’t allowed to. We came out sometime later and went close to her van. I asked her makeup man whether he could help me get a photograph. He asked me to check with her helper boy. I went to him. He told that she was busy getting ready for the dance performance which was going to be shot 3 hours later. He asked us to wait for 3 hours and he could probably get us a picture. It was 7pm. We wanted to immediately leave for Pune to avoid late night travel because we had office the next day. Waiting until 10pm seemed impossible given that we were extremely tired, were without food for the whole day (we din’t carry any food inside the studio) and I particularly did not want to take any chance with my health as I had a release to take care of the next day. अगर रुक भी जाता, तो बाद में पुणे लौटने के, खाने पीने के, overnight मुंबई रुकने के काफी वांदे हुए होते. I still considered an option to not leave for Pune, wait until 10pm to get that one magical picture and figure out things later. But I chose a safer option and left for Pune with a hope that one day, I’ll definitely get a chance to meet the magic woman. With this magical day, I would love to share a personal learning which I absolutely believe in – that – Have courage to do the things you want to do. The courage in my boss and me gave us a chance to see the most adorable woman in our lives so closely. And I wish I had taken more courage to hang around, get that picture of the lifetime and also witness her dance live. All the if’s and but’s because of which I din’t stay back could have been take care of. Now that I think of it, choosing between courage and regret shouldn’t have been that hard. Choosing courage was a no-brainer, but I don’t know what I was thinking. I now vow to meet Madhuri Dixit again. All my life, I’ll spend some time everyday longing for that one more chance to meet Madhuri Dixit. Din’t someone say that hope keeps a man alive :-)

Life is bound to be uncertain

Was driving late to home another day. I was going home in my car after visiting my sister’s house. Must be 11.30pm. Past few days were not good for me. I was in general frustrated about things not going the right way.

At work, I had disappointed the team by some carelessness in my work. A wrong code had got pushed on production environment. And I had not verified that correctly.

I stay in Pune with 2 of my younger siblings (a younger sister and a younger first cousin brother). My entire family resides in Beed (a place at a 5-6 hour driving distance from Pune). Being the eldest at Pune house, I am expected to take care of certain things. Lately, I was asked by my father to take care of some important work. But I did not give it as much importance and procrastination happened. I had to face the music from my father eventually.

My siblings are teenagers. I don’t think they have matured enough. They keep fighting between each other for petty issues. I had been feeling tired of being a counselor to them.

My first cousin is still not responsible and matured enough as to take care of his own. And he’s only suffered because of that. His ignorance to his body, food habits, hygiene has started taking a toll on his health. I have been trying to take care of him like his parents would. But my efforts to get him out of his mess seemed futile.

At a personal level, my exercise routine, which I had built after a lot of perseverance and consistency, had started crashing. My out of shape physique has been a botheration any which way. At 23, if you’re not in the right shape and don’t have the right kind of fitness, then it is a BIG deal. A good exercise routine is a way to ensure a good level of fitness which lasts lifelong. It is basic health and hygiene, which should not be ignored at any expense. But ignorance had started creeping in.

I have not been able to visit my hometown for a good amount of time now. I have been so wanting to see my grandparents and other family members (It’s a joint family). My grandparents have not been able to visit Pune lately because of their health issues. It should be my job to take some time out to meet them. But household responsibilities in Pune have been holding me back. I had started feeling ashamed of myself for these stupid excuses to not visit my hometown and my dearest grandparents.

And then there were other things. I had failed at a proper spoken communication on several occasions. Some relationships had taken a hit. There was some insecurity about some other relationships and about the future life.  At 23, life had started appearing clueless.

All these thoughts were rolling in my mind as I neared a flyover close to my house. Being an empty road, I was driving at more than my normal speed. The flyover is a little curved. There’s a sharp right turn right after ascending the flyover and right before descending it. I usually have to slow down on this curve. But I was on top of my speed and was in the rightmost lane. I had forgotten about the curve. And when the curve arrived, I suddenly applied the brakes and slowed myself down. Not that there was anyone in front, since it’s a one way flyover. But had I not applied brakes, there was a good chance of losing control and dashing the car against the right hand side railing of the bridge. Worst, because of my speed, I could have broken the railing and my car would have fallen off the bridge turning into a fatal incident for sure. I was horrorstruck. I quickly gained my control back.

And then I rolled back all my thoughts. The thought of a possible accident and the horror of the death shook me in and out. All the issues seemed small in front of the biggest offering called Life. I realized that troubles and difficulties are bound to happen in Life. Life’s not a fairy tale. Problems will be around at every stage of life. If there are issues that are bothering me and if they’re under my control, I should fix them. If there are things beyond my control, then no point bothering.

Life’s about living in the moment. It’s my job to make each moment count. Life’s also about the uncertainty of the future. There’s no set path. Paths are made by walking. I should keep walking, while doing an honest job of making my life and others’ lives better.

I must admit, this post has inspired me to write this blog post.

Little pleasures of life

I reached home at 10pm, after a long day at work on one of these days. The whole house was quiet. This was pretty unusual. Lights in the living room were switched off. My younger cousin, Sanket was sleeping on the couch. My sister younger sister Rasika must also be sleeping, I thought. (I come from a small town in Maharashtra called Beed. 3 of us – Rasika, Sanket and I – are staying together in Pune for our academics and career).

I started removing my shoes and socks. And out of nowhere, a toy Car operated by Remote Control came flashing in front me. It actually came from under the glass table in the living room. It was this white BMW toy model with lights mounted on it. It took 2 rounds around me, as I was removing my shoes. What’s happening I thought? I was wondering about who’s operating the Car. Sanket was sleeping and I did not see anyone else.I went crazy. I thought the Car works on its own and was put on a timer or something. This went on for 2 minutes. Maybe it’s Niraj, my 11 year old cousin; ‘coz I also remembered that Niraj was going to be in Pune with us to spend his summer holidays. I switched on the lights. Then I saw a little pair of sandals hidden nicely in the Shoe rack. I knew it was him. I shouted his name him aloud :). I saw some movement in the dining hall after that. Niraj was hiding somewhere. I quickly rushed to the dining hall, caught him and hugged him :-)

My creative, playful and fun loving brother thought of welcoming me in such a unique manner. Who would think of doing that? Niraj knew that I knew that he would be coming to Pune. So his coming to Pune wasn’t a surprise – surprise. Then too, he thought of this playful gesture :)If I were to welcome someone, I would just say a casual Hi or touch the feet as a tradition if it was someone elder.

As we grow older, we become so boring. The innocence and the randomness get lost somewhere. We suddenly become so conscious of who we are, what we are, what we should be. We should just allow ourselves to break free, loosen up, be random, laugh out loud, let the heart stay forever young as the brain gets matured and never let the kid in ourselves die.

There’s no moral to the story. It’s about how life keeps throwing wonderful surprises at you. It made me feel so so great after a long tiring routine day. Life is all about such little pleasures in it.This also reminds of me of the beautiful quote by Kurt Vonnegut  “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is’” -

It is very beautifully illustrated by Zen Pencils here :
Niraj and I, after this happened

What happens when your best friend goes missing after meeting you on your Birthday night?

The title says it. Yes, the incident narrated below is true. My best friend went missing after he left my place on my Birthday night. I have not altered a single fact of the incident and haven’t diluted a single emotion :)

Disclaimer : This post is long. But I hope it’ll be a good read. Pl spare 15 min for this.

Characters in this incident.

Vinay – my closest friend from my college

Mugdha – another closest friend from college

Harshad, Sushant – juniors from college and close friends

I am narrating the entire incident in present tense

So, here it goes.

My midnight b’day celebrations with some closest friends get over. We’re coming back from a snacks place in Chandani Chowk called “Jijai” to my place so that people can leave for their respective places. It must be 2 am. Vinay’s feeling sleepy. He has to drop Mugdha and go all the way to Katraj. I insist Vinay to not drive so far at 2am in the night. I ask him to stay back at my place for the night. I am of course worried, because Vinay has been telling me stories of late night mishaps that happen around his area of stay. His family won’t favor him driving back and it’s a weekend – he could easily stay back and go in the morning. He says he would be okay and wants to go. I don’t force him as much. Zyaada tokaa hua acha nahi hota. Wrong thoughts cross my mind. I shake myself off.

Everyone leaves. I settle down at my place. I clean some mess around and hit the bed. It’s been half an hour that everyone’s left. I message Sushant, Vinay and Harshad to check if each of them has reached home properly. Sushant replies that he’s reached. I don’t hear from Vinay and Harshad. Vinay must have kept his phone on silent and slept, I think! Harshad must also be sleeping. It’s 2.35 am. I can only sleep for another 3 hours since my younger cousin, Sanket is going to reach at 5-5.30ish to Pune from Beed, my hometown. I need to go and pick him up. I am also going to have to take care of some office work at 6am. So, I am barely going to get any sleep. I go off to bed.

Sometime later, my phone rings. It’s 2.55 am. Someone thinks of calling and wishing me at 2.55! Wow! And no – this is not Karthik calling Karthik. The number looks familiar. Shaayad Vinay ke ghar ka hoga. He must have reached, I think. A soft female voice on the other side of the phone – “Hello Pratik!”. I am not sure who the other person is! I reply – “Yes”. Other voice speaks – “Mi Vinay chi aai boltiye (This is Vinay’s Mom). Happy Birthday”. I say – “Thanks”. I am thinking – Vinay’s reached. But why would he make his Mom call me to wish me at this time? Maybe he just reached and his Mom wanted to wish me. What a sweet gesture, I must say. But then, the very next moment his Mom asks – “arre Vinay nighaala ka?” (Did Vinay leave from your place?). And I nod in disbelief. I am half sleepy. I look at the time. 3 am. I definitely remember the time he’d left. It’s been an hour. Kuchh toh gadbad hain. But I hide my anxiety from Vinay’s Mom. I lie to her. I tell her that it’s just half an hour that he’s gone and he must be reaching. I don’t want her to panic and get worried. I ask her if she tried his phone. She says, he’s not picking up. Now this suddenly puts my worry-meter on rise! I tell his Mom that I’ll also try his phone once. His Mom asks me to not let Vinay know that she’d called. Otherwise, he scolds her saying why does she have to worry so much and call his friends. I promise her that I won’t let Vinay know that she’d called.

I remember that he’d gone to drop Mugdha. I find some hope there. I think they must be chitchatting and he might not have left by now or might have left a little later. I call Mugdha. I ask her whether Vinay’s around or he’s left already. She says – “he left long back”. He dropped her and left immediately. I ask Mugdha – “how much time back?” And although I know it’s well above 45 min, I want her to tell me “half an hour” and I want to believe that. But Mugdha replies – “45 min or more”. Her voice sounds concerned now. “What happened?” she asks! I know Mugdha would get frantic if I tell her that Vinay’s not reached home yet. And I do not want that. But, this is not a stage to hide anything I think. I tell her the story. She shouts in disbelief. I know I also have to calm down, although my ass is on fire. We both decide to keep trying Vinay’s phone. I call first. He does not pick up. I call Mugdha again and ask her to call. She says ok. I wait for her call. Her phone rings. I pick it up with hope. I want her to say that she got through his phone. Alas!

Meanwhile, Vinay’s Mom calls again. I genuinely hope that she’s called me to tell that he’s reached! Alas again! She’s called to check if we could talk to Vinay. I tell her that I tried and Mugdha tried and that he left from Mugdha’s place long back. I realize that Vinay’s Mom’s definitely worried by now and she might just panic at any moment. I try to sound normal to re-assure her that he must be on his way. I can’t help but imagine what she must be going through. I try to pretend in front of her that nothing wrong would have happened and he should reach home sooner than later. I sound helpless in front of her. But at the back of my mind, I am already preparing a plan to take the car out and search Vinay. But I don’t want to let his Mom know that. She would not like our plan. She wouldn’t like to bother us. “Ok, I’ll wait for him” – Vinay’s Mom in a dryer tone. I do not react. Any sort of reaction would raise the pressure meter.

I call Mugdha. Both of us inherently know that we have to go out there and search for him. Mugdha asks me, “Pratik, usse dhoondhne chale kya?” I tell her that I am leaving from my house. You come out in 5 min. I quickly get out of the house. I also think of calling another common and close friend, Rishi. But he must be deep asleep. Explaining him the whole situation would be tough and time consuming. There’s no time. I chuck the thought.

I have all sorts of possibilities rushing through my mind. Is Vinay nabbed by some gang? Is he robbed? Is he caught by police for some checks? Has he met with an accident ‘coz he was sleepy? Or funnily, has he parked his car on the side and slept? Has his car run out of fuel? Has he gone to see a friend? But that’s absurd. Who would he go to see someone at this time?

I call Harshad. Maybe Vinay’s with him ‘coz both of them stay in the same area. But Harshad does not pick up. Aaj Amavas bhi hain. Amavas ke din baahar nahi jaate hain, meri maa kehti hain! (It’s a new moon day. I remember my Mom telling me that stepping out of the house on this day brings evil). Worse things are crawling in my mind. But my hopes are alive. “Think of the best, get ready for the worst”, I tell myself. I am preparing myself to face the worst possibilities and am thinking on how to deal with them. I picture a situation where he’s in the hospital and his family is coming rushing. I loathe myself. Kitni boori gat ka hoon main. Kitne boore boore khayal :(

While I am in the car, Mugdha calls twice. Hopes are rising with each call. But no luck! Mugdha called Vinay several times. Is Vinay’s phone robbed or something? He would have no means to communicate at this point of time. Even the STD booths are extinct now.

Is it safe for me to step outside at 3.10 am – I think? To hell with the Safety, I say. I will call Police for help if I am in trouble. But, what about Mugdha? Is it safe enough to take a girl along? People would stop us. They would imagine us to be the couple. Weird things may happen. But I just don’t think so much. I stop myself from thinking. It’s time to act. We’re not doing anything wrong. I’ll gather all the courage to fight odd situations. I will cry, I will shout, I will fight, I will do whatever it takes to make things happen. I feel proud of my spirit :) I think situations like these really bring the inner self out of everyone. They make you see yourself – situations acting as a mirror. I saw myself. I am seeing myself.

I analyse myself

  • I am handling this pressure situation without any panic, although there are several thoughts crawling my mind like nobody’s business.
  • My heartbeats are normal, but I am constantly doing an if-else programming in my mind. What would I do IF the situation is like this and so on!
  • I am driving really fast. But I am totally in control of my driving. I feel really good. I feel I am really in good control of the whole situation, par jaan to meri bhi nikalti jaa rahi hain. Vinay kaisa hoga?
  • The sheer desire and hope that Vinay is alright, is alive. But I feel sad that all this is happening because of my bday and on my bday. Would I be able to forgive myself if things go wrong? I mean, Vinay came all the way only because it’s my birthday. His family does not like his going out anywhere at night. But he came only because of me. He wouldn’t have gone if it was someone else’s birthday. And I don’t want any mishap to happen to him. And things will change here on. His family would become strict on him. And so on and so forth.
  • I have lost a close friend in the past. He passed away on his most beloved and only sister’s birthday. I have a faint idea of how his sister must be feeling on her birthday. I could never dare to wish her on her birthday. So, there’s this selfish thought creeping in my mind that I don’t want any wrong thing to happen on my birthday. I don’t want to lose another friend. I don’t want my birthday to be remembered for wrong reasons. I feel like doing ARGHHH on this thought. I just met my selfish self.
  • But deep deep deep down inside – I care for my friend. And I want him to be fine. I want to be instrumental in finding him. I want to hug him tight when I meet him.

Ok, back on track! I reach Mugdha’s place.

I see a call from Vinay’s Mom. Did he make it? But no, the climax is not going to arrive any sooner it seems. His mom is of course worried over the phone. I tell her that Mugdha and I are looking for him. But I can’t face Vinay’s mom anymore. I cannot imagine what she must be going through. I have no courage to speak to her. I have no answers. I give the phone to Mugdha to handle the situation. Mugdha promises Aunty that we would try to find him on the route he could possibly have taken. I hope Vinay’s mom is alright. She must have got the red alarm by now :( I ask Mugdha to ask Vinay’s Mom the number of his car. She does not remember. It’s a maroon car, she says.

We begin the hunt. I try to check every nook and corner of the street while driving. Did he take the highway or go through the city? He would have taken the city route, Mugdha says. So, Mugdha’s place at nalstop -> Mhatre Bridge -> Navi Peth -> Dandekar Bridge -> Swargate -> Satara Road -> Balajinagar -> Katraj -> Vinay’s place is the anticipated route.

I keep cursing myself and Vinay. I’d asked him to stay back. But he did not. And look, he has to pay such a big price now. I should have insisted more maybe. Logically, it was the right step for him to stay back. His family would not have minded it and in fact, would have preferred it. Pan sahebanna aikaaycha navhta (The dude just did not want to listen). I should really be persuasive about what I feel is right – from now on. Mala vaatat hota na ki Vinay ne thambaayla paahije mag mi strongly convince karaayla paahije hota. Pan aata kaay upyog? (I wanted him to stay, right! So, I should have really persuaded him hard. But what’s the use now?)

Anyway, we see some groups of people on the street. Random people. Kahin pe “Jaagran” chal raha hain. Thoda basti-badi wala ilaaqa hain. Idhar kuch dhokha to nahi? I ask Mugdha to constantly keep praying. I am praying too. We see a Police Station on the way. Should we go and complain? Ummm, let’s not do that without Vinay’s family’s consent. We’ll resort to police if our options get over. From Mugdha’s home to Mhatre Bridge to Navi Peth to Dandekar Pool to Sarasbaug. No signs. I see a Maroon Car hit on the trunk of a huge tree. Vinay’s Santro is also maroon in color. But it’s not santro. It’s WagonR. I feel a deep relief. Hushhh. If it was Vinay’s Santro, would I have been happy that we got him or be shaken that he met with an accident? I don’t have answer. There’s only this hope alive that we will get Vinay and he will be all fine.

At Sarasbaug, I and Mugdha are speculating as to which road to take. PVG wala road or Satara road. My gut feeling says – PVG wala road. But Satara road is a safer route. He would have taken that. We take that route. We come closer to Bibwewadi. No Signs so far. I ask Mugdha to call Harshad Sathe. He stays closer. We would need his support. He would add both physical and mental strength to us. Plus, 2 guys and a girl won’t be as odd a situation. If our families get to know about this adventure at this moment, I cannot begin to imagine the questions we would have to answer. It would be really tough to explain these things. What am I doing at 3.15 am in a Car with a very good friend who’s a girl? It would be the toughest question to answer. But we’re not doing anything wrong, I say. The force will be with us.

Harshad picks up the phone. His mom is in town. It would be hard for him to get out of the house too. Mugdha’s speaking to him. It’s okay if he can’t come. Don’t want his mother to start worrying. We reach Padmavati. I am really afraid now. No signs so far. Plus, Balajinagar and Dhankavdi is a vulnerable, danger zone. I see two people on a two wheeler. They look rowdy. I suspect them. Would they do something to us? I am constantly praying and driving. We reach Balajinagar – almost close to Vinay’s house. What do we do? What do we do? Mugdha again gets a call – from Vinay’s Mom. I almost hold my breath. This time I have no hopes. I am afraid Vinay’s family wants to step into this matter now. I am feeling numb and BOOM! Mugdha shouts “Vinay’s home!!!!”

I feel major relief. MAJOR MAJOR RELIEF.

So, what had happened? And this would be the stupidest thing to happen ever! Vinay was already home and was sleeping in his own room. He sleeps on the terrace usually. But today he was sleeping in the bedroom, after quietly sneaking in the house. His mom had not noticed that. She checked for him on the terrace and called me on seeing no signs of him. CLASSIC COMEDY OF ERRORS. This almost reminds of one quote that I absolutely believe – “Life is all that happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

I turn the car back. On the way home, I and Mugdha couldn’t stop laughing/discussing over this. I must appreciate Mugdha for her courage to step out of her home at 3am in the night and for her willingness to do all it takes to make sure a friend is alright. I really admire her for her great strength of character and unconditional love for her friends. Vinay’s mom was feeling sorry that we had to uselessly get out of the house and go all the way to Balajinagar. But we did what we felt was right. Aamhi naahi karnaar tar kon karnaar? (Hum nahii karenge to kaun karega?) I asked Vinay to assure his Mom that we didn’t mind this. Dost ke liye kabhi bhi kuchh bhi karenge. (Sounds super cheesy, but true). I mean, Vinay ke jagah koi aur hota to yahi karte. But in this case, there were zillions of emotions attached.

I recalled Dil Chahta Hai‘s starting scene where Akshaye Khanna calls up Amir and Saif at odd hours at night. Both of them just drop everything and rush to his place. However, it was just a painting that Akshaye wanted to show them.

So – this was how my Birthday night was spent. Of course, our whole act together was too filmy. It was a great, thrilling ride and a happy climax. This was like the most memorable night – where it was a life and death issue. Could it be any more adventurous? Man, I love adventure and thrill. But – not this kind of thrill please. Insha-allah, everything was alright. What if it was not? Things do not go in the right direction always. We need to be careful!!!

I slapped myself before any more wrong thoughts would start coming in and I slept.

——

Would love to cross-post another one of my blog entries that I wrote 2 years back. It is about what Birthday means to different kinds of people. It received a lot of love too. http://pratik-munot.blogspot.in/2010/04/happy-birthday.html .

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