Found a gem!

So I was watching Sultan the other day and one thing that really stuck with me, other than some truly heartfelt scenes, was this song:

First thing that I thought of, immediately afterwards was – I hope this is an actual song in the album and not just background score. It is such a beautifully composed and an even more beautifully written song. Vishal Shekhar deliver these silent gems and unfortunately they are forgotten amidst the crowd pleasers. Even though I like Jag ghoomeya as well from this album, this song is by far and without any doubt the best song I’ve heard in ages. It’s bittersweet in a melancholic way and the way it has been placed in the movie can bring tears to anybody’s eyes.

Compared to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s Bulleya, which is great in it’s own right (especially the lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya) this one is no doubt better. It is more subtle and hits all the right chords in terms of emotions. And Papon’s voice is magic. I have no idea why Arijit Singh is such a hot property with singers like Papon around. Remember Moh Moh Ke Dhaage?

Wish songs like these got their due!

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Granted l Dance Film

I had been toying with the idea of this piece for a while, ever since I saw a poster of a short dance film contest. Inspiration to create something always hits me like a running train. Then I just have to do something about it. I’m so happy to have managed to finish this film in 15 days and for it to have come out the way it did. I truly believe dance films is a virtually limitless form of expression. You can reach out globally and present your work to n number of people.

Kiss dat ass!

No one is free of bias. It is one of those traits that makes us humane. To say that x person is “unbiased” is nothing but a personal opinion and someone else might not look at it that way. Parents have a favorite child. Children have a favorite parent, a favorite teacher, friend, sibling, relative. A boss has a favorite employee. An employee has a favorite colleague. Its endless. Our minds are equipped to make opinions about people very quickly in this rapidly changing world that has no time for anything. A look, a word, a small gesture, a reaction – is all it takes for us to form an opinion and develop a bias. Sometimes we don’t even realize its there.

We can never really live in a world without biases. What we can do, however, is recognize that they exist within us and try not to act out on them. Especially if we happen to be in a position of authority where the smallest of our actions can lead to the downfall of someone’s self esteem. Educational institutes are perfect examples of bias and how it impacts people. Every teacher/professor is biased. Some are better at hiding it. If you happen to be one of the “favorites” then hakuna matata for you, my friend. If you’re not, then you’re in for ride that offers greater resentment at every turn.

I recently decided to go back to college for my training in dance. When someone like me looks at a prospect like that, I simply zoom my focus in on the training part. I need training. For that, I need to find a good school and enroll. Boom. End of story. What I forget is that school means an environment where other students also exist and there will be a teacher who will invariably display preferential behavior. No institution is an exception to that. Suffice to say, I have encountered a couple of outwardly biased teachers already. They continually praise their favorite student in class, point him/her out with words like “Now look at her..this is what we’re looking for”, hardly seem to find anything wrong with them and even give them the power and liberty to go correct other people. While I have no problem with a teacher pointing out something good about a student; I do have a problem when it comes from a place of bias rather than actual appreciation. There are other students in class who sometimes display better skill, but then I doubt if some teachers even know all our names.

So, why are teachers biased? All of us have certain comfort zones, and when certain people fit into those comfort zones, we want to keep them there. For example, when you walk into a party/event/gathering that consists of people you don’t know very well, but then hit it off with person and stick to that person for an eternity. After that, no matter what that person says or does you will not openly disagree with him/her because you don’t want to lose your comfort zone. Similarly teachers, who find their comfort zones with a few students – maybe because they agree with them, or they suck up to them and kiss their ass, or simply because the teacher finds them pretty – try not to breath down their necks. They will point out others’ mistakes, missteps and errors to make a point. Like I said before, developing a bias or a comfort zone is quite natural; however acting out on them can be damaging, especially if you’re a teacher. Not to mention this constant process of putting a select few up on a pedestal makes their heads bloat bigger and faster than Aunt Marge’s entire body in Harry Potter and they throw their weight around everywhere.

One of the things that I mentioned above – kissing ass – is a rather overused term. But despite what people might say, it does actually work. It may not be sufficient enough to land you a dream job, but sufficient enough to help you glide through the mundane hiccups of daily student life – you don’t have to deal with too much hostility, you get praised all the time (as I said before), you constantly feel validated, other students look up to you and suck up to you (what a vicious cycle) and you might even sometimes get directly picked for some projects. While these may not be huge things in hindsight, but when you’re a full time student, they seem like the biggest achievements.

Personally, I despise ass kissing and ass kissers more than a lot  of other abominable things. It’s a proof of lack of faith in your own talent and skill. You would rather be a hypocrite and be admired than be hated but actually learn something. You would rather get off at power tripping than focus on yourself. You would rather get a good grade and a good comment from your beloved teacher than question him/her because you didn’t understand something, or because you didn’t agree with something. I am officially convinced of the fact that ass kissing is a religion that transcends boundaries more than anything else. It’s prevalent everyfuckingwhere. Both the ass kisser and the ass that is being kissed gain infinite validation and ego massage in the process. The ass that is being kissed feels special and powerful, and the ass kisser feels privileged and “superior” too. Exceptionally profitable bargain.

Being good at what you do and being a good teacher are two completely different things. You can be brilliant at what you do but still suck at teaching. Teaching requires the ability to keep a lot of personal judgement at bay, the ability to understand each and every student’s needs, the ability to divide attention, appreciation and criticism equally among all students and most importantly the ability to display faith in all students. Unfortunately not too many teachers have passion for teaching to have faith in someone else. They have passion for their fields, but not for teaching. And that is very, very unfortunate.

Favoritism, bias and partiality – I’m not new to these concepts. I have never been at the receiving end of any of these, in fact have mostly been at the other extreme where most teachers despise me. I’m just not a likable student. But I would choose hostility over bias any day, because I have faith in my skill and am not dying for a good grade. This choice gives me the freedom to not give a fuck when I don’t want to. And most of the times, I don’t.

Chapter: New

Adjusting in Singapore hasn’t been as much of a hassle as adjusting in Europe was. Indians do occupy 9.2% of the population after all.  We have an entire community called “Little India” dedicated to us. If being in a foreign land ever bugged us we could just catch a bus and go there to be […]

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.

When love conquers all

2

This only happens in Bollywood films, when the hero takes the heroine and elopes away into the sunset and they live happily ever after. When the hero fights with the entire world for his lady love and protects her like a shield from all the evil in the world. When they sacrifice everything for love and set a legendary example. We have all grown up watching those films. We even have those typical aashiqs slashing their wrists and writing names of girls on their arms with blood. Yes, it all seems very attractive. It ‘sounds’ cool, doesn’t it?

Reality is different though. There are no knight in shining armors. There are no lovers who would actually follow each other to the edge of the world. There are no men who would fight with all the enemies to be with their women, and no women who would break every other relationship just to maintain one. Love in reality is very calculated, safe and convenient. Couples fall apart at the drop of a hat. Relationships don’t sustain beyond the first sign of resistance. “I love you” is a very absolute statement. It doesn’t really leave any room for doubts or second thoughts. It’s isn’t subject to terms and conditions. It’s a commitment that should be fulfilled with life, if need be. You don’t measure pros and cons after that. You don’t think about society, family or money. You don’t think about consequences. All you know is that you would do anything to be with the person you love. Everything else is just a blur.

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just not familiar with the term ‘duniyadaari’ that we Indians so dearly love to use for all our fuckups. Maybe it’s because I see the world in the shades of white and black and nothing in-between. Maybe it’s because concepts like ‘khandaan’, ‘money’ and ‘society’ make me laugh when they’re used as excuses to not fulfill commitments. I’m just not in tune with the very many factors that come into play after the three words are uttered. Thankfully, I’m not.

I used to think that I’m the only one. But then something happened that made me believe that maybe there still are some people who would go the distance. Despite everything they had to face, despite all the hurdles, despite all the pain, suffering and torture – they made it through and saved their love at all costs. Their story is classic bollywood. Girl and boy meet. Become friends. Fall in love and decide to be with each other forever. But the girl’s parents resist and make their lives a living hell.

Starting with a temporary house arrest, the girl’s parents do everything they can (and more) in their power to separate the two – they snatch away her mobile, stalk her social media, don’t let her leave the house alone, follow her around like hawks and manipulate her day and night to leave the boy. They forbid her to meet him for 3 months to prove that their love is true. They cut her off from the rest of the world completely. They take away her ID proofs and her financial means. She only has a 100 rupee note in her bag at any given point of time, because as per her parents’ calculations that’s all she needs to pay for the auto.

The boy faces his fare share of shit – her parents tap his phone, have a police officer investigate his background, get in touch with people at his workplace, his friends and even his ex-partners. They threaten him time and again to stay away from their daughter. But when both refuse to budge, they bring the 3-month condition into play as a hogwash – to make them believe that they are ‘in the process’ of accepting their relationship. Because the couple is desperate to convince her parents, they agree (By all means, the “we need time” tactic is only used to buy time to manipulate and blackmail more)

3 months go by. 4 months go by. 5 months go by. They meet him once or twice, and by all means – only as an excuse to humiliate and insult him. They ask for his bank statements, his salary proofs, his hometown address, his educational certificates and grill him at length about his financial decisions. They consistently make him feel inferior but he takes it, only and only because of the girl. After all the interviewing, investigating, blackmail and manipulation – nothing changes. Her parents still don’t approve of him and she still isn’t allowed to meet him. One fine day, after a period of 6 months, something happens and all hell breaks loose. The girl’s father beats her up badly in front of the rest of the family and even relatives. He calls up the boy and spews a handful of hindi abuses at him. He threatens to screw up his entire life. He completely confines the girl in a room and doesn’t let her leave. Her mother and brother side with the father too.

It is then that the couple decide that enough is enough. They decide to elope and marry. They go to extreme lengths to make that happen. They would have to shift to a different city, so the boy quits his job and starts making arrangements for travel and marriage. The girl prepares herself to leave her family behind and build a new life. Once every single detail is taken care of – the tickets are bought, the lawyer is hired, the mandir and pandit are ready – they take the plunge.

The girl runs away from her house and takes her flight to freedom. They take the plunge knowing that the consequences can be dangerous. Her parents can have him beaten up, they can file a case of kidnapping, they can have his house vandalized, they can insult his parents and family, they can ruin his professional future – these are scary possibilities. But they still go ahead and risk them all. They know that togetherness will be worth all this and more. On the day of 2nd June, they marry in an Arya Samaaj mandir. The happiness on their faces is hard to forget. All their faces said at that point of time was – “Finally”. It took me all my courage to not weep in that moment.

It takes an incredible amount of faith and trust to stick to your partner through thick and thin. An episode like this could have torn them apart; it would have torn anyone apart. Leaving your life behind for a new life is never easy, especially more when there are so many risks involved and when you have less than a month to plan it all. All your future plans and dreams go for a toss. You spend years building a life in a place and then suddenly have to throw it in the fire and you do it happily, when you could easily have broken your commitment and stuck with your comfortable life. It would have been easier for both to simply bid adieu to each other and continue living their respective lives. The girl in question was a good friend of mine and I know how many plans she had in regard to her career in this city. But she didn’t think twice about that.

Why? Because plans can be remade and jobs can be changed, money can be earned again and houses can be rebuilt – but strong relationships cannot be rebuilt or found again. You have one moment to either hold on or let go, and that moment decides it all.

They are now happily married and figuring out their lives. No jobs, limited money and less time. Financial burdens, emotional pain and the trauma of leaving parents behind – everything must seem so small now. Togetherness conquers all. Love conquers all.

Some people are lucky to have found such partners. Others have to be happy with simply witnessing and writing about such miracles.

In another time, In another world

In another time, in another world. 

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I need time”

“Time for what?”

“To sort things out”

“But what if I need you now?”

Her eyes jerked open with sweat tingling on her forehead and upper lip. Her dreams usually held answers for everything, except this. A question, a pause and then the end. The question lingered in the air even after the moment had passed. She could see her own pained face slowly fading away from her memory.

In another time, in another world.. 

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I need to go”

“This can wait you know”

“I’m sorry, it can’t..”

“But why not?”

Like always, her eyes opened with a snap to the darkness of her room. She allowed it to engulf her completely, as the anguish from the dream slowly left her mind. It felt too real to her. She just didn’t know where to find all these answers. The questions haunted her dreams every day. The lack of answers was agonizing.

In another time, in another world..

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I can’t go against my family”

“But I can”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do it..”

“But why did you promise?”

A sudden rush of the wind, her book fell off her lap and her eyes opened. She had dozed off in her chair, reading a book she had read a thousand times before. She put her head in her hands and let the same feeling drain out of her system. She got up and walked over to the window that beat against it’s frame due to the wind. Shutting it firmly, she stared at the tree swaying violently outside. It mirrored her inner turmoil – thrashing and whipping uncontrollably in whichever direction the wind blew.

 In another time, in another world..

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I can’t talk right now”

“I really need to”

“I have to go, I’ll call back later..”

“But can’t you see I need you?”

Her eyes opened as the plane landed. Landings always scared her, for some unknown reason. All around her people seemed unaffected. The dream left an aching aftertaste, as always. She wondered when these dreams would stop bothering her. She was beginning to get exhausted and worn down. They were starting to leave a permanent dull ache, like an old bruise.

In another time, in another world..

“I love you”. This time, she said it first.

“I love you too”

She paused for a bit, “No, that can’t be true”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because if it were true, I wouldn’t have so many unanswered questions”

“But I do love you”

She looked at him sadly, “No, you only love yourself”

For the first time, her eyes slowly opened at the crack of dawn and the feeling of agony didn’t haunt her. The need for answers didn’t pain her heart anymore. She didn’t feel aimless anger and rage flowing through her veins. She didn’t feel like a prisoner stuck in her own thoughts. Suddenly a weight lifted off her chest, as though she had surprised herself by finding the end of the tunnel. She realized something. It was never true. He didn’t love her.

Because if it were true, there wouldn’t be any questions, buts, ifs and pauses. Because if it were true, the answers would be simple. Because if it were true, her dreams would end at “I love you too” – because that was enough.