Monday, October 29, 2007

When all appreciating your dress happen to be over the age of sixty then you know what you are wearing is terribly out of fashion.
Take it from someone who has suffered the compliment.
Trust me
It is not flattering

Traveling through time

A few days back I decided to clean up my bookshelf and came upon a volume falling apart at merest touch. The pages were yellowed with age, some were even missing?
The volume itself was too far gone to be repaired. A number of relocations had taken their toll on it plus being cramped up in a congested bookshelf for ages had also not been merciful. After many years of confinement in dark cupboards, it finally came to rest on my bedside table
One night I picked it up and randomly started reading it from somewhere in the middle, like I often do books that I have already gone through once or twice.
Suddenly, as if by magic I was transported back in time to the point when I first got acquainted with this magnificent piece of work
The book in question was M.M.Kaye’s “Shadow of the Moon”
I could not have been more than thirteen at the time and had taken a sudden leap from Famous Fives and Nancy Drews to what we called in those days as “grown up novels”:
Not allowed to read such stuff yet (as if that would have stopped me) every “grown up novel” was procured and read in extreme secrecy.
I remember how I came across this particular one. It was through a more resource full older friend who had a library well stacked with books still considered unsuitable for me. I begged her to lend me one from her collection.
I remember her taking “Shadow of the Moon” out of the shelf.
Here you will like this one” she said
What is it about “I asked eagerly snatching the voluminous edition from her hands?
“It’s about a guy who goes off to war and the girl waits for him”.
Her casual answer put instant damper on my enthusiasm I was not fond of war, not even in two dimensional format and was in no mood to spend the next few days reading about death, destruction and other depressing things associated with war.
I wanted to exchange the book for something more interesting But my friend insisted that I read this particular one
So I took the book home.
I still remember the first time I opened it up and started reading
I had barely finished the first page when I realized that what I had in my hands was no ordinary run in the mill story.
I also learned a little later, as I progressed further with the book, that my friend’s statement about “guy going off to war and the girl waiting for him” was the worst and the most incorrect description of the story that anyone can possible give (still I am grateful to her for insisting that I read it ).
The war in question was none other than the famous War of Independence of 1857 (also known as mutiny of 1857).
The theme of the story was British Raj in India.
Most of the characters of the story were actual historical figures such as Sir Henry Lawrence, George Lawrence,and William Hodson etc) and the events are expertly woven together to form a beautiful epic saga.
The book evoked more than one feeling inside of me. Powerful emotions such as joy, distress even nostalgia. Distress at the brutality that took place back then: joy at the success and triumphs of love, devotion and loyalty. And last but not least, nostalgia. If it is possible to feel nostalgic about a time and place that you have never known, I felt it.
The cities described in the book such as Lucknow and Delhi ended up being on the other side of the border in 1947, hence I have never seen them. I have, however, visited and often lived in many cities described in other books of M.M. Kaye, which happen to be on my side of the border, to know that she has the capability of capturing the true essence of a place.
That all happened a long time ago.
I am no longer thirteen neither am I forbidden to read any thing anymore but it has been quite a while since something has left this deep an impression on me.
I realize that life is a journey, you acquire a lot, mostly experience, along the way but you also either use up or loose a lot of things as you move along. One of those things is the intensity of emotions you felt as a youth.
It took a long overdue cleaning spree and a torn paperback to bring back the awe and wonder a thirteen year old felt such a long time ago. And I am grateful for what it gave me.
I guess that just proves it; a good book never loses the magic it stirs up in the reader’s heart and soul

Sunday, October 28, 2007

There is one common thing about military hospitals, wherever they may be located. No matter how early you get there, you are never the first to arrive. There is always a long queue of people ahead of you waiting to see the doctor.
In spite of the inevitably long waiting periods that one has to endure, I have absolutely no qualms regarding the efficiency of such establishments, infect I have found them to be much better then many of the more renowned and prestigious health care institutions that can be found in the vicinity.
All I am saying is that if you happen to be an entitled patient, be prepared for long hours of waiting in the hospital’s most appropriately named “waiting rooms”. Better still; take a good book along to pass the time (an ipod or game boy if you happen to be a member of the younger, technically advanced generation).
It was during one such trip to the hospital when every one, including myself, was waiting in the corridor outside the doctor’s office for their respective turns. A man sitting a few feet away from me got up from his chair. As he stood up, a little green booklet fell down from a pile of things he held in his hands. The booklet fell backside up and though I could not see the emblem on top, I could still identify it because of its size and trademark green color. It was his passport (though what was he doing carrying his passport in a hospital, I have no idea). It also contained his National Identity Card wedged in between the pages of the passport. Luckily, before he could move away from the spot, someone pointed out his carelessness and the man gratefully retrieved the fallen items claiming them as most “zaroori” (important).
His mumbled statement got me thinking.
Zaroori is what aptly describes the two documents. It is the same story every where. Whether it happens to be a Social Security Number or NIC number, it is our primary means of identification. In this highly sequential and numerical era, it is not enough that we walk, talk and socialize. In order to show that we exist we must carry proof or our existence.
This incident triggered an imaginary and somewhat comical scenario in my mind.

A man walks into an office and declares “I am, therefore I exist”
The clerk at the desk retorts “you have no official papers, hence you don’t

What scares me is that a few years from now this may not be just an imaginary situation.