Go to Matilda, She Knows.

Here it is, Nigel said.
Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs FFI, Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs LTY. That spells difficulty.’
‘How perfectly ridiculous!’ snorted Miss Trunchbull. ‘Why are all these women married?’

The above scene takes place when ‘the Trunch’ decides to teach Miss Honey’s class a lesson for putting a newt in her glass of water. Matilda, the book’s protagonist makes a spectacular show of her power of telekinesis and swoops ‘the Trunch’ in mockery and fear in front of the whole class. Miss Honey, like her sweet and feeble name, urges Matilda to control her powers so that she doesn’t end up in the ‘choky’, where all the ‘despicable’, ‘lilliputian’, ‘rugrats’ go for punishment.

Matilda is a beautiful and intelligent tale of a precocious child (6 and a half to be precise) gifted with extraordinary powers, who is not valued and loved by her own family. She finds comfort among books and wishes to meet people and have friends like the characters of her books. Mind you, it’s more than you read when you were 6 and a half. By the time she reaches 6 and a half, she has read and re-read most of the English classics that you forced yourself to rummage through in your reading class (provided you had one). Matilda goes to ‘Crunchem High’ (what names!) where Miss Trunchbull is the Headmistress and the lovely Miss Honey her class teacher. In the end Miss Honey and Matilda find an affectionate family in each other, with Miss Honey deciding to adopt Matilda, and both of them getting their happily ever after. Since Mr Wormwood was involved in the business of illegal spare car parts, the Wormwoods abscond to Guam for fear of being caught by the authorities. They happily agree to hand their ‘different’, ‘weird’ daughter to Miss Honey. Miss Trunchbull haunted by Matilda’s powers disappears into oblivion and never attempts to darken the corridors of her student’s lives again.

This wonderful story was made into a motion picture by Danny Devito (Yup! the same wiseacre from Batman Returns, The Rainmaker, Tin Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and many other prominent movies) in 1996. I remember it being screened in my school. The famous child actress Mara Wilson portrayed the role of Matilda Wormwood and Devito himself played the role of her father, Mr Wormwood. The movie is a stockpot of laughter, wisdom, humor and love trimmed with a great screenplay and perfect editing. Whenever I am down in the pits, I end up watching this movie, just to find solace in the fact that all of us have a hidden power waiting to be triggered. One just has to wait for the right moment. The seed that triggers Matilda’s telekinesis is the harsh way in which she is treated by the Wormwoods. A bibliophile like her is scolded for not watching adequate television, for reading ‘too much’, for wanting to go to school and obviously for being smart. Mr Wormwood’s retort- “I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” wrenches Matilda to such a degree that she finally discovers her faculty to move objects (even people) as per her will. Armed with smarts, intelligence and telekinesis, she sets out to make right most of the wrongs in her life and in the lives of the people she loves.

The movie still crinkles my lips to smile and exude a homey feeling. How wonderful is childhood! you play in the mud, get yourself dirty and dream of the zillion almost impossible things that can happen in your make believe land. When you grow up, life is about a ‘suit’, aspirations are tailored to ‘suit the world’ and not yourself and life’s meaning is also ‘suited’ to those around you. There are many lessons to learn from the bright and affectionate Matilda. She believed in the stories she read and acted upon the lessons of goodness and bravery learnt from the classics. Matilda stood up for what is right and formulated her own sense of justice (Atta girl!). In a time when moral science has only become a subject taught in kindergarten without relevant application, such movies/books inspires kids and ‘grown-up-kids’ like me to think the unconventional and go the distance. In fact talk of being good and standing for what is honorable has become a laughing matter (No, I am not starting a sermon). Instances like these make me wonder that the reason the world has a vast repository of such charming parables is because the authors are unable to live those experiences in reality. I started this blog for my love of writing as it allows me to paint my own universe with multicolor hues. Most importantly, I hardly care whether somebody likes my universe or not.

  There are several reasons why I can relate to Matilda’s distaste for authority. I wasn’t a very obedient kid myself and would often end up in trouble at home and in school likewise. My parents have often been called to the Principal’s (she is the sweetest lady in the world) office on a number of occasions, primarily for telling them that their daughter is a chatterbox and that she could run her own talk show, without a guest that too (how I wish!). I was pathetic in mathematics in school (family gene) and barely passed the finals. Once the Principal told my dad that my relationship with numbers is rocky and needs severe mending. During a Physics viva for a final term paper, I peered through the physics lab onto the auditorium and kept staring at the stage (I had recently directed a play which was a mix of all the Grimm’s fairy tales) when the teacher, glared at me with a murderous look and chided-“My dear you don’t know the difference between a concave and convex lens because all you want to do is sing and dance all day”. With the cheeks turning into an embarrassed shade of crimson, I  hereon became watchful of curious eyes whenever I wafted into the creative universe of song, dance and theatre. The gang of trouble makers that I commandeered, were made to sit in different corners of the class as far away from each other as possible. Of course that never stopped us from flouting authority. I guess the tradition continued in law school and even in my career per se. Had I not been a lawyer and had we been living in medieval times, I am positive I would have made an excellent explorer or a legitimate vagabond (if there is such a term!), discovering new land and traversing limitless oceans. Aha! what a splendid life of discovery that would have been. I would have been a Marco Polo in my own right, peppered with a wee bit of our very own Ferdinand Magellan.

I turn to Roald Dahl for most of my answers in life. His statement espousing the importance of frivolity and nonsense rings a bell for the light hearted spirits. In a time when maturity and adulthood is becoming more of a headache than an answer to life’s problems, ‘a little nonsense now and then, ought to be cherished by the wisest men (and women)’. Roald Dahl himself was a trouble maker and lived with relatives who were greatly annoyed with him. All his famous stories such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG and Matilda have been my most cherished childhood stories. Even now, when I feel clobbered up in the stupidity of adulthood, I go to Roald Dahl to add zing to the mundane existence of donkey-hood survival. I took up law as a profession because I don’t have superpowers like Matilda to get justice. Law infact is more liberal and gives the felon a benefit of doubt to prove his/her side of the story. Matilda was merciless in meeting out punishment. If only I could twitch my nose and twinkle my eye to wrestle and arm tie the offenders, I am positive I would have turned out to be a bigger trouble maker than Matilda herself.

Before I end this midnight literary sojourn, I will quote a couple of my favorite lines  (almost a para actually) from the book-

From then on, Matilda would visit the library only once a week in order to take out new books and return the old ones. Her own small bedroom now became her reading-room and there she would sit and read most afternoons, often with a mug of hot chocolate beside her. She was not quite tall enough to reach things around in the kitchen, but she kept a small box in the outhouse which she brought in and stood on in order to get whatever she wanted. Mostly it was hot chocolate she made, warming the milk in a saucepan on the stove before mixing it. Occasionally she made Bovril or Ovaltine. It was pleasant to take a hot drink up to her room and have it beside her as she sat in her silent room reading in the empty house in the afternoons. The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She traveled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

Go grab a copy of Matilda and discover the enchanting world of conviction, uprightness and telekinesis. (“wink”)

Vertigo

I

The phone stopped ringing. Skype didnt reverberate in its uppety roundaabout ringtone.  Peace. Did she want this peace? Anna stood on the terrace garden peering through the vine shrubbery onto the busy Chatham street in Hampshire. The rail track behind her apartment was rallying the cry of a nearby approaching train. Sipping a cup of hot cocoa she sifted her fingers through her pixie hair. The first thing she did after being released from the hospital was get a haircut. The doctor told her to keep it light..everything light. Light it had to be with no Ben to keep demanding a bit of her everyday since the time they decided to spend their lives together. It had been a month since Ben left, since the phone stopped ringing, since she stopped waiting, since Anna called it all off.

A barrister by profession, Anna had been selected to pursue her Masters in International Human Rights at Columbia Law School. Three years before she received a place in Columbia, Anna met Ben in another Barrister’s office. Ben was four years her senior. Ben was everything Anna was aspiring to be; shrewd and in control of courtroom tactics. But Ben became a barrister to be powerful and be looked upon with respect by all those around him. To Anna, law was an extension of the bountiful world of language, expression, art and the deceiving use of the English Language. She breathed law as if it was an eternal romance with her soul. The legal arguments and twisting of legal acumen excited her grey cells. Little did she know that her grey cells would never be able to handle the twists of Ben’s arguments. For Ben, law was about winning, about playing the Devil’s advocate to a universal truth, about battling it out in his personal life as well. Opposites attract but toxically in Anna’s case.

Anna squinted her eyes to the blistering June heat. Hampshire, a cosy hamlet near Winchester, England was searing hot especially that particular summer. She glanced over her shoulders on hearing footsteps, only to see her mother walking in with a bowl of hot porridge and sandwich. Anna woke up from her thoughts and went inside with her mom. Life changed drastically for her. Anna and Ben had decided to set up a law practice together in the heart of Winchester. But that was a month back till she collapsed, till she suffered a fit and a nervous breakdown, till Ben started screaming at her for not making him happy.

Anna and Ben dated for two years before Anna flew across the Atlantic to finish her studies. They were in different time zones when she was surrounded by law books and classes in Columbia. Ben didnt formally ask Anna but straight away met Anna’s father. Anna’s father was only too happy to see a self made man asking his daughter’s hand in marriage. Anna fell head over heals on the level of affection Ben displayed. Little did she know, it was all about acquiring..exactly the way you acquire land starting with possession then moving onto sale deed to will. Willing his own desires over hers. Ofcourse Anna’s concerns couldnt pierce through Ben’s web of established notions and reasons of right, wrong and everything in between.

Both were madly in love for the years they were together and at different ends of the ocean. Difficult to imagine for ruthless barristers. Over the course of time and due to the grueling routine at Columbia, Anna’s peace of mind started to rattle. Her class timings, her assignments, her life with her housemates, her hobbies all took a backseat. Ben came first. After all she was to ‘become his wife’. She wanted to support him in becoming the best in the legal profession. He told her all sorts of things one densely says in love- “Anna, love! you’re the kind of woman behind every man’s success”; “You’re my princess, honey”; “Dont ask me to control myself, you already know the answer”. Once she reached Hampshire, the love between them became a whiff of smoke. Ben’s web of thoughts became a blackhole for Anna. She couldnt understand why. Why did she collapse?

The train blew its whistle, Anna couldnt hear anything.

Her mother’s voice like a flash scurried away these dark thoughts that messed her every morning.

“Anna darling, Anna love, do you want me to lay out the table near the shrubbery, where you can relax and eat? Are you sure you’ll be okay? I don’t have that much work in the hospital today… If you want we can make a day of it.”

II

“Anna lets go out for lunch if your classes are cancelled.”

“No I cant. I have a call with Ben.”

These were the many reasons Anna gave her housemates whenever they made a plan to go out together. She only went out after she had spoken to Ben and he had gone off to sleep. Anna was living in two different time zones. She had to put in the effort if she wanted to make the relationship work. After all, Ben was ‘supportive of her decision’ to do a Masters a year before they were to be married. Like an understanding partner, Ben ‘gave her the freedom’ to do what she wanted. Anna would sometimes wonder how her personality was slowly getting enmeshed into Ben’s and she couldn’t untangle herself from his postulations of life.

Deep inside Anna’s subconscious, she could feel the twingle in her heart, a voice saying- Get out of it now. Ben never told her to call or speak but would automatically do the same once he got off work. Anna found it difficult to breathe and eventually became scared in conveying this to Ben whose sentiments she feared she might hurt. For Anna, love meant to walk together, not to walk together in chains with the key not in your hand. But Anna did as he wanted and the following instances made her more of a ‘Stepford’ than a companion.

In the fall afternoon of a pleasant Sunday, Anna visited the Studio Museum at Harlem with a couple of her friends. This was immediately a week after she had moved to Columbia. Ben’s Sundays were quite relaxed and expressed a strong desire to talk to Anna, to find out what she was upto and ofcourse to make love to her digitally. Anna wasnt available to talk to him and while she was walking back from the museum, he called quite a number of times. He screamed at her for not picking the phone while she was surrounded with her friends, while she was admiring a Jordan Casteel oil work, while she wandered in her own innermost art world. Anna could see herself being pushed into a corner. A sprightly girl full of confidence, could see shackles being put around her all because of an emotion called ‘Love’. Her subconscious would reprimand her and often quote Charlotte Bronte’s verse-“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” But are not humans the ones chained to their minds and opinions? Birds are more free than us. She would console herself with the thought that he loved her and was sincere towards her. Tugging herself in a vertigo of denial and love, she moved ahead with Ben towards the brighter lights of being in a relationship.

When Anna moved to the US, she spent a week at her friend Fifi’s pad in Boston before moving to Columbia. Ben was extremely restless and demanded that she talk to him regularly. If she was hanging out with Fifi or running errands, Ben would get upset. He would tell her to run errands in the later half of the day when he would be asleep on the other side of the Atlantic. Anna’s intelligence and reason fell prey to the fool’s paradise that one willingly goes to when mystified in passion. Ofcourse, somewhere deep inside her, she could feel a hand trying to choke her. She didnt share this with anyone till she reached Hampshire, till Ben started screaming at her for not doing as he wanted, till there were three months left for the church wedding.

The taste of her mother’s hot porridge garnished with vegetables and thyme, took her immediately out of this jarring memory.  As she was eating the porridge, she shivered and wrapped herself in a warm blanket. These memories would instantly rattle her body as if her soul was shrieking to get out of it. Her soul couldn’t relate to the mental and physical scars on the body.

Anna looked to the sky at the birds, and the stillness of the spectacle, once again submerged her fragmented soul safely into nature’s blanket.

III

 The vertigo of love that Anna was trapped in didn’t seem the way the swoon-ers and poets described. Her escapade with the dreaded emotion was in divergence with the beauty associated with it. Love became a riddle for her where she was eventually gasping for breath. Anna initially blamed herself for calling everything off and leaving Ben in the lurch, but the freedom and simple beauty of peace and solitude was too good to pass up. Everything now seemed like flowing water, as if the ocean naturally curled into a wave on reaching the shore after a long arduous journey through storms.

She was once again in love with the hardbound cover of the books, she could read without having to leave it in between, so that she could make someone else happy. She found love in her own company and in the company of those that made her smile. Those were the birds, the blue sky, the green meadows, the lavender plant her mother got her for her reading table, the parrots that would often visit the vine shrubbery, the cliff overlooking the vast North Sea, the piping of the bees in the summer afternoon, the characters of her books and lastly law; whose exciting world gave her the strength to once again enter a Courtroom after a gap of six months.

Tiptoeing into Barre Class

“Push that tushy out, pull that tummy in, tighten your glutes and lift your chest high, look straight in the mirror and with grace lift one leg up, pulse with the toe of the other leg, balance on the TOE not the FEET…lift your right hand and smile ladies, this isn’t a drill”

Court practice made me so spontaneous with residual energy that I signed up for Barre class in a local gym last month in ShortHills. I took the two month deal because I have a 16 hour non-stop flying date with ruddy old Air India towards the end of this month.  Getting back to the point, what is Barre? well to simplify things, if you have seen a ballerina practice her craft or any movies based on dance, you will notice that most dancers practice their form and warm-up holding onto a bar or a handrail attached to either a wall or a mirror (there are portable ones too). The interest in being tippy-toe developed after watching Audrey Hepburn’s (one of my favorites along with Waheeda Rehman and Madhubala) Secret People (1952) in which she portrayed the role of a ballerina. It was Hepburn’s first movie that gave her a significant role. The story of two sisters escaping the atrocities of World War II through ballet and dance intrigued me to try the art myself.

Dancing is in my veins, arteries and the other bunch of nerves. Play any music from jazz to pop to classic, bollywood or even  hum if you want, and you’ll see me tapping my feet, moving my head or wiggling some other part of the body. Music creates such a ripple that the motor cortex part of the brain instructs my hands and feet to automatically start flowing (shoving when I was an infant) with the rhythm. The beats make my muscles involuntary. Mamma is a beautiful dancer trained in the Indian classical dance form of Kathak. She started her training at the young age of 5.  Till today she continues to practice her craft, especially in the evenings, after coming back from work. I also started dancing with her and eventually commenced training in Kathak from the age of 5. 10 years of Kathak training and I still cannot get enough. When we were living in England, mamma was my teacher and taught me to define my steps with grace and agility, and not to merely rush through the sequence. Each step in Kathak is an expression of devotion and love for God and portrays the stories of the various Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The assertion has to be with equal nimbleness and poise. Developing an enthusiasm for ballet was natural because of the Kathak training. Both are classical forms of fluid expression on the stage. Barre is specifically used for ballet practice and exercise. To learn ballet, you need to have the flexibility and leanness in your form and body. No better place than to start with a Barre class. I don’t know if Court practice will ever give me the time to dive full throttle into learning ballet, but getting started with Barre gave me immense joy and revived the poise and form, mercilessly tucked away under the stack of Court practice, law and case briefs.

The first few weeks of Barre class were really grueling and involved me uttering cuss words under my breath, especially while balancing on the toe. I tripped, fell and ridiculed myself in front of the whole class. It was only in the third week that my legs stopped shaking while balancing the pose. The best thing about Barre class is our teacher and my fellow trainees. Our teacher is most encouraging and at the same time a really (Ooh Boy!!) tough taskmaster. One has to verily shatter the junk of the mind and body to be able to get out of the rigidity and unfurl the body’s evenness. It takes time, but discipline, focus and microsteps towards an aim gives one the perseverance to tippy toe into a bewitching symmetry.

Those hooked onto classical movies will know that Audrey Hepburn became an actress because she couldn’t fulfill her dream of becoming a Prima Ballerina. Audrey had a lot of expression and movement in her body.  In the 1930s-40s ballet was considered to be more of form, less of gesture and had very strict rules if you wanted to become a ballerina. Before I drift off into my Hepburn universe, let’s get back to Barre class. Our teacher is very kind, warm and friendly with extreme strength, stamina and poise. My fellow trainees are all women in their 40s-50s and infact I am the youngest of the lot. One cannot be fooled by age, body size and appearance. The grace with which they tip toe and hold their posture is incredible to achieve at that age. These women continuously inspire me to push my body out of its couch potato zone. Barre class gave me a fresh perspective to strength training and exercise. The best part about the class is that we have several forms of exercises all stretched out to be finished in an hour. We alternate between using weights, ball, stretch bands and of course the handrail.  The playlist is fun and kick starts the dancer in me to swoop my hands up in the air and gently tip toe my way into equanimity. The class is jam-packed and one has to come early to get a good spot before the mirror. Rain, snow, torrential winds and the horizontal rays of the occidental sun have not stopped me from missing a single class in the wee hours of the morning, despite the bruises on my feet, aches in the not-so-normal (its not what you’re thinking) parts of the body and social engagements. My parents back home were not surprised at the unconventional choice of seeking relaxation post the exam euphoria. They know I am a fruitcake when it comes to music and dance.

It was after many many years I found an activity that really took me to another world. Belonging to a family of professionals and where education is considered the single most important objective in life, I didn’t have the guts to take up dance as a vocation. Thats why whenever I get the time, place, and harmonics, I take off my shoes and delve into the ecstasy associated with the various forms of ‘Nritta, Natya and Nritya‘.  My mind, body and soul are in sync and there is an unmatched happiness that emanates from within. I will truly miss Barre class once I am back home in the orient. I was in fact thinking to incorporate some forms and postures into my kathak practice just to keep alive the burning desire to learn ballet. What is dance? Just one of the many forms to express yourself, discover yourself, surprise your body into the amazing things it can achieve. It certainly is an uplifting experience.

Alright ladies, you don’t have to stay in that posture the whole day, it’s just a couple of seconds..I know you hate me but keep at it..and you pulse, and pulse and pulse..everybody come on down onto your mats and relax into a child’s pose, get back into a seated position and bring your hands at heart centre in prayer, bend forward…breathe..and its a wrap..Great job ladies. See you tomorrow!” 

My Lord Krishna

In the winter of 2012 when I was rowing my way through law school, I got an internship in Bengaluru as a legal writer for a famous online legal portal. The internship was a total waste of time as most internships are when you’re a law student in India unless you have a legal background or a powerful acquaintance to boast of so that they let you get involved with core work. Except for the internship, my stay with a lovely family and a chance meeting with Lord Shri Krishna’s words on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, made this experience an unforgettable one.

One particularly sunny weekend, I visited a bookshop in Indira Nagar, the neighborhood where I was staying. The bookshop was one of Bengaluru’s oldest and they had miniature versions of Hindu texts and stacks of religious mythological books. The Times of India had recently come out with a miniature version of the BhagvadGita in Sanskrit with English translations. Little did I know that this beautiful book would change my life forever. I never was a very religious person nor had I deep faith in the magic of God’s creation. I was a rebel in law school and looked at everything with too much sarcasm and pessimism. The Godfather and gangster quotes made more sense than the vibrancy of life. In that bookshop I picked up my own copy of the Gita and casually started flipping the pages out of habit on seeing a new book. The miniature version did not contain a description of each of the couplets and was a mere translation of the 18 Chapters.

Through 2011 to the beginning of 2016, life brought weird challenges, both personally and professionally. Like an individual in the age group of 20-26 years, I went through a series of crests and troughs more personally than professionally. A host of bad decisions impacted my outlook towards life and people in general. Along the rough terrain, I somehow made it a point to read the BhagvadGita everyday as a part of my morning routine. Bathing in the text of the Gita removed the fogginess of stereotypes, typecasts and an autopilot mode of existence. It is rightly said that when you are poor, religion offers you a sense of comfort and gives hope through bleak times. Well I was indeed poor, I was experiencing the emptiness that one feels for not being able to  fully exploit their potential. My Krishna was helping me get out of the straight jacket that materialistic forces and the society had strapped me into. Gradually, the red miniature BhagvadGita piqued my interest and I began to start my day with one couplet of the Gita and one couplet before going to bed. I would often wonder how Lord Krishna gave Arjuna so much strength when he was confronted with the towering army of the Kurus. It gave me peace of mind that Shri Krishna was nearby. His words resonated –“Let your thoughts flow past you calmly, keep me near at every moment, trust me with your life, because I am you, more than you yourself are.” I guess these were the early stages of  bhakti towards my dear Lord. I was swimming in the shallow waters of the mystery of the Universe and was yet to connect with the Supreme Being within myself. Years passed and life’s experiences turned more sour. Nevertheless, despite the disillusion, I still clutched to my BhagvadGita and navigated my way through life with a little bit of faith and flickering self belief.

Jump to the fall or autumn (for readers comfortable with either American English/British English) of 2016, I came back to Penn Law to complete mandatory courses required to take the New York Bar. By then the negatives of life hardly affected me, it was like just another case you lost in Court. I left a cushy job and a fine life in the Indian metropolis for a bigger plan in life all because an inner voice told me that this can’t be it. It wasn’t the motivation to seek material pleasure but to do something worthy of my life, to use my skill and legal profession as a means to put a smile on one’s face if not a hundred or thousand (I can hear the cynic’s guffaw, I was there once myself). Not that I didn’t enjoy my life in the concrete jungle; a great workplace, lovely money, new friends and more than a comfortable place to stay. But my subconscious was pushing me for something that I was yet to figure out. Little did I know that going back to Penn would give me my answers.

It was on a windy evening in the October of 2016, when I was strolling through Centre City in Philadelphia, that I stumbled across a young girl selling used books on the corner of Walnut and Chestnut Street (I love Philly and you’ll soon know why). My good friend P was there with me, and we just had a sumptuous European lunch at a nearby bistro. P is from Fiji and is firm believer of God herself. At that book stall, I came across BhagvadGita As it Is by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami PrabhupadaThat was it! my bhakti would take a deep dive and bring me completely out of life’s autopilot mode. The fortunate people who believe in Lord Krishna know that Prabhupada ji is the founder of ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness), and started to what is commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna Hare Rama Movement. I am too small a person to describe the magnificent work Prabhupada ji has done for the welfare of mankind by spreading the word of God or Krsna (as spelt in Prabhupada ji’s writings). In  his magnificent life of 81 years, he wrote more than 35 books on nurturing love for God and spreading the message that devotion and bhakti is the only way to reach ‘Godhead’. Just listen to George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and you’ll know what I mean.

This write up will never justify the kind of evolution I went through as an individual. In Vaishnavism, it is often believed that the Supreme Being Himself choses and controls the time and moment we lesser beings come closer to Him. God certainly works in mysterious ways.  As I began reading Prabhupada Ji’s Gita every morning, my habits and lifestyle gradually altered. Early mornings have always been my most favorite part of the day, but while reading Prabhupada Ji’s Gita, I made a conscious effort to wake up before sunrise. This wasn’t to torture myself but to pay respect to my Krishna before I could start my day’s duties. I developed an interest in yoga and have now made a habit of practicing everyday. I even started singing and humming songs in praise of my Krishna. (I wrote an article about my singing chords and I had no clue loving God could make you sound mellifluous) Can you believe it? Me, who would relish in the intellectualism of literature and who thought religion and faith coincided with orthodoxism; Me! I fell head over heels in love with Shri Krishna. God’s only message is to love and have respect for all living beings, how I thought God meant being orthodox  was a habit developed by jumping onto assumptions without reading the complete facts.  It is not difficult to fall in love with the Blue Boy who plays the flute and is the Master of this Universe. My Krishna unlike humans accepted me without conditions, without once paying heed to the thought if I was good enough for His standard, or had any shortcomings.

I started seeing  Krishna in every living being and in the wonders of life from an animal to plants and trees to the people to everything that was on Earth. I stopped eating meat because whenever I consumed it, it would make me sick (this does not mean I despise those who eat meat; tolerance is the biggest tenet of faith and spirituality). I turned vegetarian and learnt to cook several recipes that Lord Krishna would like as described in the holy text of Srimad Bhagvatam and in the recipe books by the members of the Hare Krishna Hare Rama Movement. In Vaishnavism and even in the BhagvadGita, Prabhupada ji explains how we humans take everything for granted. We are entwined with the concept of yours and mine. We treat the food we purchase or receive for granted as if it is our right. Prabhupada Ji spells out that everything belongs to Krishna and we are mere puppets in His masterplan, so before we relish anything, a thank you note won’t make us small. Our possessions are only with us till we are alive, it eventually goes back into Earth like our bodies, so how is anything mine or yours or his or hers? I started wondering about the sun, moon, stars, weather, seasons, nature, animals; all fulfilling the role set out for them without questioning the result of their action. The sun still wishes to rise in the morning for our planet despite we humans quarreling and fighting among ourselves and creating environmental destruction in the race towards power. All animals and living beings have been given vital organs to find for themselves but only humans have been given or rather have been blessed with the power to think and make this world a better place. So what is it that stops us from finding our true selves and ignoring the beautiful way of life as set out by the Almighty Himself? Ego perhaps?

I believe the grueling experiences of life were a blessing to break the ego and sculpt a more compassionate self who is no longer afraid of fulfilling her duty without caring for consequence and is no longer hesitant in discovering the fullness of life. This is the first piece on my blog after a gap of almost five years. This time, I am more determined to pursue my love for writing and bring out more stories from my world, the legal profession and of course Lord Krishna. What better way than to start with my Krishna’s name and a brief description of how I discovered Him. How blind of me to not see that all this while He was in my heart waiting to be loved…

O’Riordian Chords

If you, if you could return
Dont let it burn, dont let it fade
Im sure Im not being rude
But its just your attitude
Its tearing me apart
Its ruining everything
And I swore, I swore I would be true
And honey so did you
So why were you holding her hand
Is that the way we stand
Were you lying all the time
Was it just a game to you.”

I wish I had a velvety and breathy voice as Dolores O’ Riordan. Linger is one of my favourite songs because Dolores brings out the passion so effortlessly that it makes you linger onto the song. The clear Irish accent while pronouncing words like ‘by’, ‘confused’ seems as if her mellifluous voice is tip-toeing on the words and just before she completes the words, her voice curls and continues with the next word in her song. Oh I wish, I could strum away confidently with a clear voice to tune of Linger!

I am not a crackerjack in music but humming along side the splash of water gets me my Linger moment, that to without an audition. There are some lucky souls who are born with a voice as clear as a distant bell. Mine seems like an obese cat screeching between the wires of a guitar. 4 years of law school has definitely taught me not to twist facts, so I will not couch my voice in exotic terminologies as ‘different’, ‘urbane’ or ‘husky’. I am a pathetic singer and definitely abashed about it.

My stereo is punched right in the middle. My stereo becomes a melody in the ripples of water, obviously due to some physics mumbo-jumbo. Songs which need a high-pitch turn out perfectly in the shower.

Joan Baez’s huskiness can easily be acquired if you sing standing right underneath the shower. Celine Dion’s melody can be attained if you leave the tap running in the background. (oye! Don’t leave the water running for too long, Micheal Jackson’s Earth Song is an inception of a dangerous and near reality) Dido’s breathy tune is very easy if you hum close to the water. Shreya Goshal’s smooth rendition is a possibility if you keep splashing water on yourself. Reena Bhardwaj’s sweet intonation is a bit tricky but the right amount of water will sift all the scratchiness in the voice to give each one of you, your own Eureka moment!! I’ve honestly not tried Bryan Adams, Frank Sinatra or Ronan Keating for that matter but if your vocals are deep and croaky enough, the above can be easily achieved. Touche to that!

So with a wee bit of voice-shopping here and there with water, Grammy no longer remains an outrageous dream. And if you’re still lingering on how to get O’Riordan’s vocal cords, just eat something sweet and quickly gulp down water…just linger onto the words and there you have it-

And Im in so deep
you know Im such a fool for you
you got me wrapped around your finger
Do you have to let it linger
Do you have to. do you have to
Do you have to let it linger”

 

Oodles Of Wisecracking Marinated With Malyali Dishes

The chapter on Bengaluru would be incomplete if I did not write about the lovely Malyali people I was staying here with. Uncle is TopCop and Aunty is TopChef. I never knew staying with ‘oldies’ would make me feel salt-pepper-ish. They were more young and in sync than most people of my generation.

Every evening after coming back from work TopCop and I would crinkle our eyebrows and read fascinating articles on India, Law, Political Affairs, ‘tidbits’ and even look up interesting puzzles. TopCop has been the recipient of a number of awards and has contributed a lot towards law enforcement in society. He stands tall in a crowd of corrupt, insensitive, brainless officials who are cursed everyday by the citizenry and media alike. A man who lives by the adage: Simple Living High Thinking and of course with his trademark humour. In the four weeks that I stayed with them, the first two weeks TopCop and I read various interesting articles written by him, his colleagues, his grandson and friends. The last two weeks were spent in watching Indian Journalism at play. I would have to devote a separate paragraph to this.

If my favourite columnist, Jug Suraiya can call himself a worm in the vast ocean of Indian Journalism, then I am a mere bacteria.  This paragraph might just ruin my chances of writing  if a journalist continues to read further. As a disclaimer, nothing is malafide; it is all in jest and in the spirit of Freedom of Speech and Expression (took a leaf out of the Jaipur Lit Fest 2012 brouhaha)

At 9 pm, the Angry Young Man of Indian Journalism would roll up his sleeves and gather the stage for a Round Table Conference which usually ends in everybody shouting at everybody without letting each one complete their argument. TopCop would nod his head and wittingly add that the angry young man has given his judgment!! The panel would keep on addressing, arguing, shouting at the Angry Young Man but behold!! The Angry Young man will keep on pressing his point giving extra footage to bromidic topics already debated and thrown in the waste basket. TopCop believes that ‘these people’ in the name of liberalism and pseudo-elitism would rant up a row on any and everything that comes in the eye of the Indian Media. He says that issues should be looked at intelligently. TopCop in fact has even been called to sit on the innumerable panel debates held by separate news channels. He refuses to attend and I think his reasons are pretty much justified. One of the panellists even called the angry young man as a ‘liberal fundamentalist’. Democracy represents tolerance for all ideologies whether liberalism or fundamentalism till it threatens to dismantle the very foundation of statehood. Similar panels like these are aired on Headlines Today, NDTV 24×7, CNN IBN. In fact the number of times Oprah Winfrey was lauded on Indian Media even for her digs at India left TopCop and me wonder in amazement that, will Indians be forever star-struck with a ‘foreigner’ and in this case a powerful personality that too. TopCop was disgusted how the Salman Rushdie affair turned out to be an ugly sling match among Rushdie (the master of the controversy), the Rajasthan Police (blame-game), Maharashtra Police (Blame-game again), Indian Government (playing Gandhi’s 3 monkeys for every issue), Deobandi(struggling too hard at the cost of peace to preserve their culture).

Top Cop pointed out gross errors on the usage of words by the news channels. He made me see the institution I still would love to be a part of, in a completely different lens. He says that even if journalism today has become all about TRPs, beating around banal points of argument will still catalyse any educated person to switch channels. If sensationalism is aimed at the less-educated then the media is insulting the same persons it professes to make aware, inform and educate. If sensationalising issues and thumping tables on a panel will catch the eye of the common educated Indian man then it is a sad presumption indeed. TopCop in fact pointed out glaring mistakes in the headlines of a much revered English Daily, which in fact are commonplace. Calmness of mind and swiftness in approach is lacking in the functioning of the Indian Media. In a fast paced world, the rush to catch, report news items has made those in the profession a hassled lot. I honestly did not know whether to be elated about this revelation or feel embarrassed.

On a lighter and lesser activist note, TopCop showed me old pictures of himself in his atire. He loves his daughter a LOT, who is currently settled, overseas. His son followed his footsteps and is too serving the country. After showing me pictures of ‘those days’, he would end on wicked note by saying: “Aha! See! How thick was my hair then!! No wonder Aunty married me”. TopChef would grin and shoo the whole anecdote away with a wave of her hand, but with a shade of crimson on her cheeks.

When I think of penning down words for TopChef, all I can think of is the hypnotic aroma of curry leaves, haldi, spices, crackling away on the pan in her den. I believe her kitchen is where TopChef feels at ease with the world. Her kitchen is like this bottled up genie waiting for the wave her magic fingers on and off the stove. Her fish curry, chicken, daal, apam, apple crumble pie will always remain etched on my taste buds.

This home away from home gave impetus to what I wanted to do in life. I achieved a sense of direction and fulfilment staying with TopCop and TopChef. As I boarded the train back to my hometown every memory came racing by as if I had pressed the rewind button…If only I knew about it earlier I would have made more the most of it!! In short 3367-B was a potpourri of love, affection garnished with unending humour and wit.

I love you TopCop and TopChef!!

Anna, Osama, Law & Other Musings

I was sitting in my jurisprudence class, contemplating on the fuzzy trappings of what law is and how law ought to be, when a fellow student raised a pertinent point- ‘Anna Hazare says the government ‘should’ pass the Jan Lokpal Bill and bring about a referendum. Who is Anna Hazare to decide what the government should do or not do? Is he the true voice of the people or a majoritarian messiah like the slaughtered Osama?  If we analyse these two men, one cannot but help wonder at the uncanny resemblance between the two. Of course it goes without saying that while the crisp Gandhian espoused a conventionally moral cause, America’s Terminator called for a cause moral in a fundamental way. Anna galvanised the hapless victims of corruption and Osama sparked the disillusioned youth of modernisation to ‘bomb up’.

The revolution or rather a punctuation that Anna brought in the gung-ho lives of people like me and the law, made both of us, sit and ponder upon the fundamental questions on which the machinery of the State runs. The sacrosanct Constitution as a document in itself was challenged by raising the elementary Common Law question-Which is supreme, the Parliament or the People? Like Justice Coke, the Nazarenes of the Indian Legal System gave a thumbs up to the ‘People’. Spirited countrymen (and women) adopted the Gandhian method of fasting as a legitimate mode of seeking a demand from the government. It spurred on the debate of whether the Right to Protest exists in an area of choice or not. Morality and majority compel me to search a precedent to support this stance. The validity of the Prohibitary Orders passed against Anna under Section 144 of the Criminal Code of Procedure was questioned. The illegitimate relationship between the State and the government hampered the freedom of the citizen. In short the labyrinth starts off with if people are supreme, they can topple the policies of the present government by non-violent methods, if they feel, the elected representatives are not doing a decent job. But then, are we sure Civil Society members represent the interests of a 1.21 billion nation and even if they aren’t, should we accept it for the sake of a reference point to begin with.  Will it be too presumptuous to align 2011 along with 1857 and 1947?

The global full-stop Osama brought 10 years ago, led to a global exclamation by the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and with all due respects Pakistan. Of course the lawyer in me was untamed then, but coming to law school made me furiously search on the point where America went wrong and why Osama left his Saudi fortune for the sands of violence and destruction. Laden recognised the loophole in an environment not conducive to individual growth, and exploited it to wage a war against everything not inscribed in the tenets of Islam. Like Anna, he said that he represented the anguished voice of more than a billion people affected by the travesty of western domination and imperialism. Educated and sane men, women and children came forward as soldiers for the salvation of an entire generation of Muslims. He said his methods were legitimate, his aim was practical and his motivation lay in the ‘injustice’ met out to the Palestinians. 9/11 led to a disastrous tussle between Article 2(4) [restraining the use of force against the territorial integrity/sovereignty of any State] and Article 51 [pre-emptive attack in self-defence] of the UN Charter. The twisted interpretation which gave validity to pre-emptive attack on Iraq quizzed the sanctity of the basic credo of international law.

The constant dynamism of Law highlights its ever evolving nature. Cicero’s statement ‘the people’s good is the highest law’ came to play in the case of Anna Hazare, Osama as well as America. To a legal novice like me, law is chemistry’s liquid, will take the shape of the container. You boil it, the evaporation of morality will result it in a Third Reiche like regime and if you freeze it, it condenses to give a banana state like Pakistan.