Are all lawyers assholes?!

Why? Seriously, why? Why do all of them believe they own the ground they walk upon and every person who even breathes in their presence is obligated to pay them money? I am yet to come across a lawyer who actually treats his/her clients as people and not ATM machines. When you walk into District court, Saket, the courtyard is brimming with lawyers literally jumping at you like taxi wallas at the purani dilli railway station.

“Madam, affidavit banwana hai?”

“Madam, koi case handle karwana hai?”

“Koi deed banwani hai?”

“Koi agreement karwana hai? Settlement karana hai?”

It seriously feels like you just stepped out at some local station in UP and the most uncouth and boorish taxi/rickshaw/auto wallas are ready to attack you. It’s saddening to see the way these “educated” lawyers put their integrity and self-esteem on a hanger and make a mockery of it in full public view. They’re ready to surrender themselves to you more and more with each 500 note that you pull out in their favor. Rs. 500 = Bas ek stamp milega. Rs 1000 = Court mein appearance kar denge. Rs. 2000 = Appearance + Petition. Rs. 3000 = 2 appearances + petition. Rs 1,00,000 = Private lap dance. Rs 2,00,000 = Private lap dance by their entire family.

A profession that finds it’s roots in words like integrity, justice, right vs wrong, morals and ethics, courage and fighting spirit, has become worse than the business of prostitution. All lawyers are puppets in the hands of money. All they want and care about is money. The more you pay, the better and faster justice you’ll get. It’s like the difference between business class and economy. So in case you’re an economy client who just got molested on the road, you will have to wait for years before you get your so-called “justice” (which is probably only going to be a settlement forced down your throat by the judge who only wants to decrease the load of the cases) and if you’re a business class client then justice will be handed to you pretty soon. And if you’re a first class client then not only will you get justice on a silver platter but also an autographed champagne bottle by the lawyer.

Paisa phek tamasha dekh was probably made for lawyers. They walk into your office as though they are doing you a massive favor by gracing your office with their golden presence. They sit in front of you and start giving advice even though they have no effing clue about what your case is or even glancing at the file. Pfft. Why would they do that? They’re too smart and “experienced” to do something as trivial as getting to know about the actual case. A few IPC sections here, a few citations of latest amendments there – their job is done. They just summarized your entire case without asking you a single question or reading the file. Now isn’t that genius? Next thing you know you have been sent a long invoice of their “services”. You must pay them for throwing around a couple of IPC sections, which you probably could have read yourself with half an hours worth of research.

Now isn’t that an honorable profession? I so will become a lawyer one day.

I actually remember a hilarious experience where I went to a lawyer’s chamber once to get a couple of notices drafted. He drafted the notice in front of me and my god, what a brilliant example of legal practice that notice was. What english! what attention to detail! And that man has a LLB degree and runs a firm. Ultimately, I had to draft the notices and all he did was stamp and sign them. And guess what? He still charged me. They have some nerve to be such unabashed bastards. Basically if they invest even one second in your case, you owe them money. Even if they don’t do jackshit, even if they’re the ones who screw up, even if they gave you wrong advice – you still owe them money. Why? Because they gave you time. And their time is more important than the Prime Minister’s time himself because you know, they have so many bad people to prosecute, justice to serve to the grieved and so many other noble things (=mint more money by raking in as many settlements as possible)

Lawyers are smartasses. They know the Indian judicial system is slower than MTNL broadband on it’s worst day. So the best way to make loads and loads of money is to make sure that each case stretches out as much as possible. That way they can spin money on each date. Our system is notorious for hanging every case for a minimum of 2 years. Sometimes justice is served to the grand grand children of the complainant/plaintiff. I honestly do not remember the last time justice was truly, truly served in our country. So like I was saying, lawyers take full advantage of this gaping blackhole in our system. They dish out all sorts of crap to convince you why it would be best to let the case hang. And mind you, they’re pretty damn convincing. Lawyers are multi talented people. They do business like sex workers and possess mad marketing skills like a top class salesman and pretend to be compassionate like SRK in Swades.

Which brings me to the next point = their ego. So even though our system is churning out lawyers faster than mosquitoes breeding in the summer and even though most of them are useless and don’t have brains to fill a teaspoon, their egos are bigger than the Tatas and Ambanis. They think that a black coat gives puts them at a pedestal higher than the normal civilian. If you hire a lawyer, you better listen to his advice and you better make time for him when he has time, and you dare not ask him too many questions and you dare not contradict him or tell him that he’s not working hard. How dare you tell a lawyer what to do? Who the hell are you? Just another ATM? He will probably go find another one. There are plenty he hasn’t exploited yet. If you do any of the above, he will walk out and leave all your cases hanging midway without any further advice and that’s not it, he will even raise you a bill and demand money for “services rendered”!

Oh I forgot to add one point in there: If you ask them to invest more time than what has been agreed upon in the agreement, then it’s going to be chargeable. Even if it’s just a minute above. They will make sure they mention that extra minute in their bill. Incase you refuse to pay, then “you are an exploitative client who doesn’t pay lawyers for their insane amount of hard work, blood and sweat that they put into your cases. You monster!”

Lastly, lawyers are always on sale. So even if you have a lawyer who is involved in one of your cases, and the other side happens to offer more money he/she will happily waltz into their arms and perform a screw-you duet in front of your face.

The reason I’m ranting so much is because I’ve had it with lawyers and their SOB-ish behavior. I’m done with them hanging out their tongues at the sound of money and salivating like dogs. I’m done with them having no integrity or respect either for themselves or their clients. I’m done with lawyers not wanting to put in any work in a case and just breeze through it like it means nothing. Heck, I’ve become half a lawyer thanks to my varied experiences over the years. I’ve not met one lawyer that I can actually look upto and respect. They’re all greedy, selfish, money-minded businessmen who don’t give a rats ass about the client’s problem. I’m sick of being ripped off and still being treated like horseshit.

Lawyers, I suggest you to the market and buy clothes from a store called “Balls&Respect”.

Who says prostitution is illegal in India?

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Aye Sinamika – New choreography (Updated link)

When I first heard this song, I didn’t like it much. Then I heard it again, and it seemed better. Before I knew, I was deeply in love and couldn’t let this song go. I’ve been obsessing over it for 6 months. I had planned to choreograph this at one point, but hoped it wasn’t one of my fleeting obsessions. The choreography didn’t actually start with this song; it started with a different song and ended up with this one because my instinct kept telling me to use it. Anyway, enough rambling…I think the video is decent. Critique and feedback is always welcome.

Aye Sinamika (Choreography) from Aparajita Burjwal on Vimeo.

Roller Coaster Ride

I was greeted by the familiar heat wave as I landed in Delhi. It was snowing in Amsterdam when I left. 11 hours later, I was waiting to get back home and turn the fan on full blast. Such is my life. I have become so used to travelling in the past 8 months or so – that being in one place for more than a while starts getting to me. From Isreal to Bangalore to Italy to Amsterdam to Delhi to Brussels to Berlin to Amsterdam (again) and now back to Delhi. I will be leaving soon again in a couple of months. One would say that living a life of a nomad (in a manner of speaking) can be exhausting physically and emotionally. It surely is, but it’s also the only way I feel like I can move ahead in life. Heal. Feel. Be happy.

This trip was such a roller coaster ride. I landed in Brussels one day before my audition, 10 days after my surgery and one day after my DJ stent was removed (not fun, seriously), totally unprepared for the intensive and tiring process of an audition. Needless to say, I was really really bad. They didn’t select me and obviously, I was very very dejected. I left Brussels with a broken heart and damaged self-esteem, but a stronger sense of conviction to crack the next one. I landed in Berlin and hustled as hard as I could. I attended classes and worked on myself before and after. I couldn’t afford to lose another opportunity for two reasons – 1) I loved the school (Tanzfabrik, for dance lovers) and 2) I didn’t think my ego would be able to take another blow. In the meanwhile, I fell in love with Berlin. The city has class. It has a persistent neo-noir feel to it, combined with it’s traditional architecture and active art scene. I loved walking in the city. Every road, every wall, every U-Bahn station had something different to offer visually. I could imagine myself living there.

(Special mention – Berlin Hauptbahnhof is effing awesome)

BeH

I walked into my audition feeling and looking confident. I knew I had this. I gave it my best shot, and walked out feeling a little bit content with what I had done. I got selected and patted myself on the back for having recovered from an initial loss. But I had no time to celebrate as my tiring journey was not about to end anytime soon. I started packing for Amsterdam immediately after.

By the way, I always make this mistake of not carrying anything to eat during train/bus rides in Europe, which basically means 6+ hours of no food and water unless you decide to get up and cross all the compartments to find the pantry car. But I think I’ve made stupider mistakes in Europe so I’ll let that one pass. Either way, the moment I stepped foot in Amsterdam all my exhaustion basically vanished because I.am.in.love.with.the.city! Everyone talks about having a soulmate. Well, I have a soulcity: Amsterdam. There is something about this place that just makes me happy. I don’t really know what it is. Maybe it is the sight of the river, or the perennially happy people, or the infinite bicycles, or the beautifully lit cafes and restaurants, or the amazing (!!) architecture, or the canal rides, or the way it looks like at night, or just the liveliness of the place, or the way it makes me feel. Maybe it’s all of them. I don’t really know; all I know is that I could live here for an eternity and beyond.

Ams

Unfortunately though, just like everywhere else, I didn’t really get a chance to do any touristy things. I dove head on into classes and choreography. My days were all about dancing, cleaning the house, finding food and drinking too much white wine. True story, I had way too much white wine in Amsterdam. Not my fault its cheap and great. One fine day though, I managed to lock myself out of my apartment at night and had to call an emergency locksmith to open it for me. Had to spend a fortune on it and the guilt still eats at me. I hate the lock system in Europe. Other than this small (but financially big) hiccup, Amsterdam was as awesome as ever. Tiring, but still awesome.

I did manage to do one of the things I had fallen in love with last time – take a ferry ride. I shed tears throughout (Nostalgia does that)

In the meanwhile, I also got selected at Lasalle College of Arts, Singapore – something I had wanted for a while. But couldn’t make it at Amsterdam school of arts – which depressed me so much that I spent a whole day sulking and yes, drinking wine. I really, really wanted it. I would have chosen it without a second thought. But the competition in the dance world is cutthroat and maybe I wasn’t good enough. Nevertheless, the university is amazing and I hope I get a chance to study there at some point. It’s about prestige now.

Life is Europe is always a blur for me. Days fuse into nights fuse into days. It all feels like a matter of a couple of seconds. There is not enough time to stop and think. The garbage needs to be put out, the clothes need to be washed, breakfast needs to be cooked, dishes need to be done, house needs to be cleaned, money needs to be spent judiciously, transport needs to be figured out, adequate groceries need to be bought – other than working on your main objective, of course. I get tired and I love that. In Delhi, I can afford to take so much for granted but not in a foreign land – that keeps me on my toes constantly and I love being in that state. It’s always an experience I learn alot from. I never come back empty handed.

I am still in the hustle mode from Europe and I want to continue to be in it for as long as I’m here. If I stop and pause, I’ll crumble, and I can’t afford that.

Revisiting Saathiya

The phase from 2000-2005 was arguably one of the best phases Bollywood has seen; it’s just not given enough credit. The industry churned out some pretty amazing films before the mindless south-indian remakes and Rohit Shetty took over. Films like Hera Pheri, Mission Kashmir, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Munna Bhai MBBS, Swades, Yuva, Hum Tum – and many many more amazing films were made during these years. I think the above films pretty much sum up my favorite films of all time (minus the terrific 90s of course)

I will probably re-watch them all and dedicate one blog post to each film. This one is about Saathiya – one of a very, very, very few bollywood romantic films that I have loved. Bollywood has always been about formulaic stories when it comes to the romance genre with little variations and tweaks here and there. Up until now, which I consider to be bollywood’s transitional phase, we have hardly been served any truly moving romantic film. Saathiya, however, is a major exception to that norm and stands out in the past decade and a half as a game changer in it’s genre. Perhaps not to the same degree as DDLJ, but a strong voice nonetheless. Mani Ratnam, who is undoubtedly a genius when it comes to the romance genre, is not surprisingly the architect of the screenplay (the original Alaiyapayuthe was directed by him as well) and owing to his solid writing and the presence of a strong reference point, Shaad Ali pulled off a brilliant product.

Films that explore the dynamic of marriage fascinate me. It’s not an easy feat. I assume that’s the reason why bollywood has always chosen to drop the curtains when the hero and heroine are galloping away into the sunset. No one wants to talk about what happens after the grand finale; when the cheers die down and the celebration ends – that’s when the actual journey begins. Saathiya does exactly that. The romance is cute. The chase is fun. The chemistry is great. The passion is scorching. All of that adds up to rosy dreams about a gorgeous future filled with nothing but happiness and togetherness…but when those dreams start to become reality, the couple realize that it isn’t as rosy after all.

The beginning of every romance is exciting, it gives you a high like no other and makes you feel like you could conquer any problem. But the excitement can only get you so far. Real life isn’t exciting all the time. You can’t be romantic and passionate when there are bills to be paid and food to be cooked. Marriage is in the mundane things of life. It’s loving someone even when you don’t like them. It’s about seeing the same face for years and years and still finding some magic. It’s about fighting over issues like laundry and wall color and grocery lists. It’s about supporting each other through thick and thin because not supporting is simply not an option…and it’s not always a pleasant journey. It’s not always as appealing as popular culture would have you believe.

Saathiya is about a young couple who fall madly in love with each other and elope away after their families don’t accept their marriage. They make a vow to never turn back as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives. Afterall, what could be worse than being kicked out of your respective homes? The worst is already over, right? Apparently not. After the first few blissful months of matrimony, when the chase is over and there are other problems waiting to be addressed, cracks begin to appear in their relationship. The guy isn’t the romantic goofball the girl had fallen for. The girl isn’t just a challenge anymore. They aren’t always there for each other.

One of the important scenes in the film that highlights how much of a thin ice their marriage is on is when Suhani has had a bad day at work and hugs Aditya in the balcony of their house, not caring about all the eyes. But apparently Aditya does, and squirms as she clutches onto him. She realizes how emotionally distant they are from each other and that he cannot even understand her state of mind, leave alone being supportive. That is also the moment Aditya realizes – shit, I didn’t know I would have to be emotionally available as well. 

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Everything starts to spiral into a downward abyss after that. They can’t seem to put their marriage above their personal interests. A love that had survived the resistance of society begins to crumble under it’s own pressure. They reach the breaking point when Suhani’s father dies unexpectedly and their marriage is not able to take the strain of that setback. Suhani blames herself for his demise and Aditya feels resentful about his perennially sad wife who can’t seem to put her mind anywhere else. These are the times when a solid partnership, mutual understanding and maturity are the need of the day. One person needs to take a step back and allow the other person to take as much space as he/she wants, because he/she is the one going through a hard phase. Unfortunately, Aditya doesn’t put Suhani’s needs above his own and they reach a point where they can no longer stand each other.

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The film captures the failing marriage brilliantly. Their immaturity was one of the major reasons why their relationship was always on uneven grounds and that fact is highlighted many times. They were too young to be able to have a successful marriage. Like I said, love and passion can only get you so far. After that, it’s being selfless and truly wanting someone else’s happiness more than your own that matters.

Despite their immaturity though, they still try to hang onto small threads. Aditya’s attempt to reconcile Suhani’s sister and ex-fiance is endearing; more so because he knows it would mean something to Suhani. It is this event that both becomes a boon and a curse for them. It makes Suhani realize that Aditya isn’t a completely unsupportive husband afterall; but it also leads to her getting into a fatal accident, that puts her at the verge of losing her life.

The film is beautifully interspersed between the present and the past and slowly merges into one. The one thing we know about the present is that Aditya is looking around madly for Suhani. What we get to know from the flashbacks is that he is looking around madly for her despite all the problems in their marriage. Her absence makes him realize her worth and importance in his life; and how much he took her for granted. It is only when he is at the point of completely losing her that he tries to hold onto their relationship with his life. As he says at Suhani’s bedside – “Sach toh yeh hai ki, aaj samjha hoon main humara rishta. Ab tak to bas khud hi ko dhoond raha tha” – being with Suhani was also one of his attempts to find himself. It wasn’t selfless love until she was about to be snatched away. It always takes a life changing event to make us realize the most obvious things.

Another wonderful arc is the highlighted relationship between Yashwant Rao and his wife, Savitri (brilliant cameo appearances by SRK and Tabu). The way Yashwant supports his traumatized wife and acts as a strong anchor even in the most tense of times is heavily contrasted against Aditya’s casual approach to his own marriage, thereby also establishing the difference between the commitment of a man and the passion of a boy. He is there for his wife to fall back on when she is crumbling down in a way that Aditya never was.

In the end, a dialogue from Alaiyapayuthe sums up marriage perfectly – “A young tree might look beautiful with it’s lush green leaves and blooming flowers; but can’t sustain a storm because it’s roots aren’t thickly embedded into the ground..an old tree might look ugly and rusted, but it can sustain hurricanes because it’s roots are so firmly sewn within the earth. That’s what a strong marriage is”

Random ramblings

Here I am, sitting in one of the expensive-for-no-reason DB trains, travelling from Berlin to Amsterdam and tapping my fingers on the keypad thinking about what to write. I am normally very bad at coming up with good topics to write about. My thoughts are too scattered and open-ended to come up with a concrete idea. My mind jumps from one topic to the other in a matter of seconds, and all the content that I thought of for the previous topic(s) is immediately lost. So I think it’s better for me to write a running commentary.

Trains journeys are the best metaphor for life. Just like a train ride, life meanders through different terrains and stops in one place for some time. People come and go in your life throughout it’s course, people come and go throughout the course of a train ride too. None of them are permanent, even if you manage to develop a strong bond with them. Everyone leaves at some point or the other. You are only left with your own company.

I often think about what “being content” means. Sometimes I think it’s about chasing your dream to the best of your ability, other times I think it’s about finding that one person who makes you feel like you’re home. But then there are moments of clarity when I realize that maybe it’s about feeling happy when you are with yourself. None of us really love ourselves. We are constantly looking for something, someone to fulfill a void we can’t fill ourselves. It’s not an easy feat. Heck, definitely not for a royally messed up person like me. God knows I have issues that will take several lifetimes for me to fix before I can love myself. I am a loner because that’s my comfort zone; not because I love my own company. If I had to spend an entire evening with my own clone, I would dash for the first exit. True story, I would not date my male counterpart. The two of us would rip eachother’s hair off.

It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that there is no one who is meant to be by your side forever, especially not in a world that tries to sell us the concept of ‘eternal love’ all the time. Movies like The Notebook make you believe that you will die in your soulmate’s arms in the hospital bed. Who doesn’t want to believe that? It’s the most comforting idea in the world. I want to believe that too. I want to be able to close my eyes and not feel scared. We want another human being for that comfort and security because going through life and all it’s problems all alone is too much to imagine. We just might be capable of it; but the idea still scares the crap out of us.

Does that mean we should all declare celibacy and head to the mountains to meditate? Hell no. I cannot abandon a lot of small comforts for anything. I think maybe what I’m trying to say is that we need to stop trying to find ‘contentment’, because we are just too mortal to find nirvana (unless you’re snort coke) We will always be in a state of unrest. We will always be looking for something, despite not knowing what is truly is. Perhaps learning from the journey is more important than dwelling over the destination, because you don’t know if you will ever get there…or if it will be what you wanted if you do get there.

If you have something that makes you feel happy right now and makes you smile before drifting off to sleep, fight for it. It can be anything – a dream, a person, a job, an idea, a friend, a new recipe or a tv show. Don’t give up before giving it your heart and soul, because you never know when it’s going to slip through your hands. Trading present happiness for an expected future gain is the worst bargain in life. (Not to be confused with ‘not stepping out of your comfort zone’. There is a difference between being comfortable & lazy and truly happy)

Anyone who knows me knows I hustle hard. I never think I’ve done a good enough job. Whether it is doing the dishes or putting up a choreography – I will always be dissatisfied (not satisfied with this post either) But this constant relay makes me happy. It makes me feel like there is one thing I can truly call my own.

And I will fight for it until the day I die.

 

Back to Europe

Three months have lapsed since I was here. I had thought that when I would be back it would feel like an eternity. It should feel like an eternity. I’ve been through so much in these 3 months. My life has been turned upside down. I’ve had a surgery, been beaten up (over a parking issue!) and been through an emotional roller coaster ride. I released my first ever group choreography and shed tears when it was received brilliantly. But it feels like it was just yesterday that I was walking across the streets of Europe to find an open restaurant at 10 pm at night, trying to find the best possible route to class, cleaning the house and washroom myself, trying not to get lost (!), trying to find people who speak english (for the love of god!) and – trying not to look like an idiot.

That, honestly, is the biggest struggle. As an Indian you are brought up to believe that  the white race is superior. Every time that a white woman/man was spotted on the streets of a small town, the crowds would ogle them shamelessly as though they were aliens. I was a part of that crowd. I saw the firangs as people who belonged to a completely different world. When I was a kid and lived in a small town called Kashipur (a little away from Ramnagar), an american couple were brought home by my cousin uncle (we were a family of show-offs. Apparently he promised he would tell them everything they needed to know. He knew zilch, btw) and my god it was like Radha-Krishna had entered our home. Every single resource was devoted to making them comfortable. My entire family turned into Indian historians. I, too, was quite overwhelmed. I stood there like a darbaan waiting to salute them when they left. And that’s what I did.

Anyway, the point is that that experience is still very vivid in my mind. Out of all the extraordinary experiences I may have had as a child, this is one of the very few that is still as clear as it gets. The only reason being that we were noticed by foreigners. Wow, isn’t that a big thing.

That is the reason why the possibility of making a fool out of myself infront of these posh, highly sophisticated breed of homo sapiens causes me extreme anxiety. Having a cup of coffee in a cafe can sap me of all my energy. What if I pronounce ‘cappuccino’ wrong? What if I enter the cafe and then they tell me that it is already closed? Won’t I look like such a fool then? What if the owner/waiter doesn’t know english? What if I don’t like what I order? Would it be okay if I left it untouched? Would they think I’m insulting them by not liking their food? – are just some of the thoughts that go through my head when I undertake the simple task of ordering a cup of coffee. There is a plethora of other things of course – accidentally walking on the cyclists lane, not knowing whether or not it’s okay to cross the road even when there is no zebra crossing, not knowing where to buy the train/tram/bus ticket, not knowing how to buy the train/tram/bus ticket, not knowing whether to place an order in a restaurant at the counter or at the table, not knowing whether to settle the bill at the counter or at the table, whether to say “take away” or “to go” when getting food packed, not knowing if it would be okay to pee after 10:30 at night or the neighbor might call the police for making noise etc.

Yes, living in Europe is a struggle for Indians. Especially a lazy and lost Indian like me. Makes me realize how many things we take for granted in our country. Today, I went to a mobile store to buy a local pre-paid sim. I had to wait an hour before that guy could attend to me because he was attending to another customer. Had it been India I would have made an angry remark and got the job done in 10 minutes.

Despite my struggles though, I feel like I manage myself reasonably okay when I’m here. I wash my clothes on time and manage to put some food in my stomach. Sure, sometimes I have to eat utter garbage in the name of “vegetarian food”, but that’s when I thank the lord that I know how to cook and for Indian restaurants. I manage to figure out the public transport system and the lanes/streets (One thing I can never figure out is the lock system here. True story – I always forget which way to turn the key to open the door) Most importantly though – it keeps me on my toes all the time. I’m in zero chill mode in Europe.

I like being in the hustle mode. It gives me a sense of purpose and direction. It helps me overcome a lot of challenges. It isn’t always a party though; being alone all the time can get to anyone – but that’s why I hustle harder, so that it doesn’t overwhelm me. More than anything else – I get to focus on and explore dance to the fullest, which is what I live for.

This trip has been a rush so far. I went to Brussells for two days and now I’m in Berlin for a couple of days, followed by a yet undecided destination for a few days and finally to Amsterdam. No enjoyment anywhere though – just auditions, auditions, auditions!

 

Scenes that stay: Love Aaj Kal (Climax)

There are times you watch a film and one particular scene sticks with you for a very long time. It may be because it stumped you visually, had a catchy dialogue or moved you emotionally. With me, it’s mostly when a scene has emotional impact that it stays with me for years to come.

I am a movie buff. I love bollywood and I love watching films at any given point of time. I grew up on the cheesy 90’s flicks and unabashedly admit to watching films like Badshah, Yes boss, Biwi No.1 and even Ghar ho to aisa every single time they air on TV. I try not to miss a good release (and that excludes horrors like Happy New Year, Dilwale, Rowdy Rathore, Bodyguard etc) and catch every flick on the 70 mm screen. Even though I am not someone who cries during a film, I do feel moved or affected just as deeply and keep that emotion with me for a while.

Love Aaj Kal is a fairly good film. I liked it despite it’s flaws. I agreed with what it was trying to say – true love will find a way to come back to you; and once you have found your soulmate (for the lack of a better word) it is difficult to lead life with someone else or even alone; no matter how hard you try. Something will always be amiss. What takes the entire film a notch higher for me is the climax – Meera’s breakdown when Jai finally returns to her.

Pain, fear, relief, happiness – all rolled into one fine moment. I don’t know what it is about this 3 second scene that hits me hard every single time I watch it. It is deeply humanizing and shatters the glorified bollywood reunion of the hero-heroine where people clap as the heroine runs into the hero’s arms. You feel Meera’s pain as she tries to contain her emotions at his re-appearance. It is so brilliantly directed by Imtiaz Ali. It is these nuances that make him the master of the ‘romance’ genre. His films are more about discovering different facets of love than going through the motions of a formulaic film. Even though Socha Na Tha is his best film (After Tamasha, in my opinion) – this particular scene is somewhat of a masterstroke. The fact that she doesn’t breakdown in his arms like the typical heroine would is brilliant writing in it’s own right.

I didn’t look at Deepika the same way after this film. People usually credit the upswing in her career to Cocktail but this film showcased her talent long before. This scene and the one where Jai rants on her wedding day, while Meera stands there resolutely, are testament to her talent.

Special mention to Dooriyan – a song that never goes out of fashion for me. That song is magic.

Scenes from a married life #1 – Dry Cleaning

Well this is mostly a drabble on the daily struggles of married life (As if I know anything about a successful married life) I find the dynamic of this relationship very interesting. After all, it’s the little things that fill life with joy. Also, I have been watching some amazing short films and I feel very inspired. Hope you enjoy this. I plan on writing many more situation-based sketches.

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Ragini rung the door bell and being the impatient person that she was, immediately started tapping her feet. With the weight of her laptop bag bogging her down emotionally just as much as physically, she waited for Akash to open the door and greet her with a welcoming smile. All she wanted to do was crash into bed and sleep.

After only a few seconds, the door opened and Akash stood before her wearing soiled clothes and a goofy smile on his face.

“Hey baby, why’re you so late?”, he asked jovially as he gave her a hug and a peck on her lips. Despite her exhaustion, Ragini gave him a smile and said, “Overload of work, as usual. There were too many deadlines that needed to be met and it seems as though none of my team members want to work in my absence. And that Trivedi – I don’t know what problem he has with female bosses. It takes all of my strength to get him to work and…” she cut off midway because Akash didn’t seem to be listening, “Why do you look so happy?”

He grinned and said, “You’ll see soon enough. Why don’t you go and change while I put dinner on the table?”

She nodded, dumped her laptop bag on the nearby sofa and said, “Let me just have a glass of water”

He nodded, kissed on her cheek and walked into the kitchen. She took out a bottle of water from the fridge and just as she was about to drink, she peeked into the kitchen to see what Akash was upto. What she saw completely horrified her. The kitchen was in a complete mess. The masala jars were all in a disarray and there were dirty utensils lying all over the place. There were half chopped vegetables on the slab and all the kitchen towels were soiled. As she kept the bottle back in the fridge, she noticed less than half of the quantity of milk in the big steel container that she usually kept on a daily basis. There was no dahi either.

With piling annoyance and resentment, she marched into the kitchen and said loudly, “What the hell are you upto?!”

He dropped the spoon he was holding in surprise and turned towards her, “Ragini why are you in here? I thought you were going to go freshen up! Please go, chalo leave”, he said as he started to usher her out.

Tch, I’m not going anywhere. What have you done to the kitchen? And why haven’t you bought milk and dahi? I had told you before leaving, hadn’t I?”

Arey I’ve made your favorite mattar paneer today! and you know the kitchen gets messy when I cook. I’ll clean it up na baby, why’re you getting so hyper?”

Ragini held up a hand and scowled, “I know how you clean the kitchen okay…don’t try to fool me. All you will do is dump the dishes in the sink and wipe the slab. I’ll have to reset the mismatched jar caps, throw the left-over vegetables, clean the stove and the microwave and keep those kitchen towels for laundry. And you will probably have used the same spoon for salt and haldi!”

Akash immediately lowered her gaze and peeked at her with guilty eyes. She let out an exasperated sigh and flung her arms, “I knew it”

“I cooked your favorite dish and that doesn’t mean anything to you, does it?”, he said in a hurt voice.

“It does, but does that mean you ignore all your responsibilities for it? When will you grow up Akash? Am I the only one responsible for keeping this house together? Will you only do as much as you’re instructed to do? Can’t you do things on your own, accept some responsibility on your own? Bolo?”

She was glaring at him with furious eyes and her face was lit up with one expression – ‘I-have-had-enough’. It was intimidating yet familiar at the same time. She had this habit of giving long furious pauses in between her outbursts during which she expected him to tell her what she wanted to hear, but on the contrary they always made Akash want to laugh. He always struggled with keeping his grin in check during one of those but it was really difficult to say the least. Unfortunately his self restraint cracked and he let one grin slip.

Nothing could have infuriated Ragini more. She hated it when he did that. She felt like she was raging at a wall and would only end up hurting herself if she tried anymore. Unable to find the right words to express her indignation, she flung her arms in the air once again and said, “That’s it. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. You think this is funny don’t you? Leave me alone and don’t you dare try to talk to me!

With that, she turned on her heel and made to march towards their room. Realizing that this would end up in silent treatment and passive aggressive behavior for days, Akash rushed towards her and held her arm, “Acha wait wait wait…I’m sorry, okay? I’m really sorry”

She jerked her arm out of his grasp and said, “What are you sorry for? For smiling or not taking up responsibility?”

“For both. I know I’m irresponsible and callous. I’m working on it, seriously”

“You just don’t get it Akash. I feel like I need to take care of everything in this house. You take me for granted. If I don’t pay attention to the bills, they don’t get paid. If I don’t give instructions to the maid, the house won’t get cleaned. If I don’t keep track of the groceries, there will be no food on the table. If I don’t make sure that everything broken gets fixed on time, you will probably not even notice a leaking tap…or, or a seepage in the plumbing. Do you ever notice anything?”

He pondered for a second and said, “I got the TV repaired last week”

“That was only because you turned it on to watch the match and it wasn’t working! You only notice things that affect you directly!”

“Alright, I accept that. But I will make a conscious effort to make changes, Ragini. Just give me some time. I’ll even maintain a to-do list from now on wards”

Once again, she slipped into one of her dramatic pauses but she seemed calmer this time. She unfolded her arms and her gaze softened a bit. A few seconds later, she said, “Do you mean it?”

“Yes, baby, absolutely”, he said earnestly.

“Okay. I’m telling you though, I’m going to stop taking care of everything if you keep this up. And you are going to clean the kitchen after dinner today. Completely”

“I promise”, he replied with a smile.

Reluctantly, she smiled and Akash let out a sigh of relief, “Can I get a hug?”, he asked.

With the smile still on her face, she walked into his open arms and felt him enclose her warmly. Snuggling her head in his shoulder, she asked, “Did you pick up the clothes from the dry cleaning? They were due today”

Akash’s smile melted away like ice-cream on a hot pan.

 

A Leap of Faith

I sometimes wonder if I walked into this world with a special type of kismat – one that guaranteed non-stop action and chaos. I feel like I’m constantly on a roller coaster ride, and even though I enjoyed it in the beginning, now it’s simply wearing me off and making my nauseous. In Geet’s words in Jab We Met, “Bahut excitement ho gaya ab is raat mein. Boring bana do ji is raat ko ab”

A boring life would be such a relief. I wish I didn’t want to be a professional dancer. That way, I could do what my parents wanted me to without the burden of that choice. How simple and straightforward life would be, if all I had to do was follow a pre-laid, well structured and 100% positive-results-guaranteed wala plan towards success and happiness. Then I could build my life around getting good grades/a high flying degree and then getting a well-paid job that would give me just enough liberty to take a month off every year to go an exotic location like The Maldives or Bahamas and take endless selfies for my jealous colleagues to see. In a nutshell, how I wish I wasn’t someone who endorsed and practiced the idea of ‘choice’, because it comes with a truck load of responsibility and accountability that can suck the happiness right out of you like a dementor.

This post isn’t about how pathetic my life is. It’s about what I’ve learnt, time and again, from my experiences. A lot of people advocate the idea of free will (just like me). But there are very less people who are willing to face the consequences of their choices. These are the ones who shout “Mah lyfe, Mah rulezz” until reality kicks in and they scurry away like rats. Life is unfortunately a bitch and even though in an ideal world, the ability to make one’s own choices would be celebrated, we live in a far-from ideal world and even farther-from ideal country. A country where a 15 year old student does not have the liberty to pick the stream that he/she wants without the consent of at least 51% of his/her (existing) family. A country where a woman does not have the liberty to wear what she wants without the entire city ogling her. A country where a couple cannot decide to marry without the 100% consent of their (even the dead ones) families. A country where a person does not feel supported or encouraged enough to follow his/her passion. A country where a director cannot make a film with the following – sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, history, religion, politics, poverty and cows – without having either the censor board or some political wing/religious fanatics/people who have nothing to do with their lives and are sexually frustrated, jumping down his/her throat.

A country where someone cannot express his/her opinion without the fear of being physically attacked.

Even then, people who strongly believe in their choices and beliefs, stand by them no matter the cost. Whether it is a gay couple fighting for section 377 to be scraped off or a straight couple fighting with their families to let them get married – These are people who make their choices and stick to them for life.

Then there are people who make their choices and later chicken out because of the fear of (a) family, (b) extended family, (c) society and/or (d) failure. Interestingly I’ve seen how the combination of ‘fear of family’ and ‘fear of failure’ works wonders when it comes to someone changing their stand. Our society has manufactured some very standardized templates of “success” and anyone who strays too far from them risks the chance of ending up a loser AKA not earning enough money and a ‘respectable’ job. Let’s just make it simple.

Success = Money {jhooti izzat + commendable social standing (AKA foreign return) + expensive clothes + tons of hypocrisy + PROPERTY (oh, heaven)}

Just multiple everything with money. I took it common.

As a dancer, I’ve come across many people who give up on their passion and talent simply because the idea of taking it up professionally scares the heebie jeebies out of them. It’s a risky career in terms of every parameter. There is absolutely no guarantee of success and even if it does come, it does not fetch too much money. It is a life full of uncertainty, disappointment and lack of money. People don’t take our profession seriously and think we’re wasting our lives. That kind of pressure is too much of a burden to carry apart from the challenges that the profession has to offer. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting along with being physically demanding. Most people want to keep doing it “on the side” along with their mainstream profession. Some people choose to go ahead with it, but crack under the strain midway.

And then there are people who sail through despite all odds. They may have been kicked out of their houses, looked down upon by immediate society, faced failure multiple times, been discouraged by peers and colleagues – whatever the situation may have been, they make it out alive. And there is only one driving force behind them – conviction and commitment.

This is the kind of force that enables us to make decisions and stick to them in all areas of life – career, relationships, friendships and even the commitments we make to ourselves. Whether it is to lose 5 kgs in 20 days or to begin a start up with a small idea. If we believe in what we want and where our heart lies, then we would find that mustering up courage is not such a difficult thing to do. We just know that we’re doing is right. The end.

Unfortunately, nowadays people “know” a lot but stand for nothing. They have a lot of information but no knowledge. They have degrees but not real education. They want many things and forget about what they need. They make money but not wealth. They invest in property but not in themselves. I remember reading about the difference between a “crowd” and a “group”. A group has a face; it stands for something. A crowd has no face. Just people scurrying around trying to nab the closest possible gratification.

I guess that’s what all of us want now – immediate gratification. If something doesn’t fetch success immediately, it’s useless. If someone doesn’t make you happy anymore, they’re not worth it. If a relationship is causing trouble in your life, drop it. If a job is putting you under too much strain, change it. If your wardrobe isn’t getting you any attention, get a new one. If your profile picture on facebook isn’t getting enough likes, click a new one.

We have nothing worth fighting for in our lives. We have nothing we would put our necks out on the line for. There is no commitment, passion, loyalty and most importantly, love for anyone or anything. None of us know what we want, or why we want it. We just know it will make us instantly happy and therefore it is something we are willing to take a step forward for. Taking a leap of faith for something though? No, that’s just not practical anymore.

 

Crash & Burn

“I swear to god; I will kill myself!” she cried whilst holding a sharp knife to her wrist.

“Mom, please! Don’t behave like this! Sambhalo apne aap ko!” screamed Vikas frantically. He couldn’t believe how quickly things had spiralled out of his control. At the outset, he had been so sure that he would be able to handle this well. He had been so sure that he would be able to get through to his mother. Little did he know that he hardly knew his own mother and how inaccessible she had become, surrounded thickly by her own grief and sorrow.

“Don’t you dare tell me what to do! You have betrayed me all along! I trusted you so much, I thought you would listen to me!”

Hair unkempt, dupatta having slipped down onto the floor, tears streaming endlessly down her face, the frail and tiny woman shivered as she screamed each word. It did not seem as though her son had confessed that there was a girl he was in love with and wanted to marry, it seemed as though he had proposed to disown her. To her, perhaps, there was simply no difference between the two.

“Mom, please calm down! You’re really scaring me! At least try to understand what I’m saying. I’m your son!” Vikas screamed the last three words in a desperate attempt to make his mother understand.

She let the knife linger at her wrist a for a few more seconds before her knees gave in and she fell down on the floor, the knife slipping away from her hand with a loud clunk. She immediately started sobbing like a baby and held her head between her palms. Vikas slowly walked towards her and sat down next to her. He grasped her hand and said, “I’m sorry mom, I know I have hurt you. I know a lot of things have come as a shock to you. I lied and that is hurting you the most. But you must understand why I did it. I did it because I knew this is how you would take it. I cannot see you like this”

“T-t-hen wh-why dd-id you-u d-do it a-at all?” she asked in between sobs.

Vikas sighed, “I’m in love, mom. I don’t think that’s a crime. I do have the right to choose my life partner, don’t I?”

Although tears continued to stream down her face, she took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself down and said, “You’re doing your masters right now. Don’t you realize how much pain your parents have taken to be able to provide you with such excellent education? How much money we have invested in it, so that you can make a good life? How can you even think of marriage right now? All these things are a distraction!”

“Whose talking about marriage mom? All her family is suggesting is an engagement so that the commitment is final from both sides. We can get married whenever we want. I will focus on my career and so will she. This will validate the relationship, that’s all. Besides, I’m not a baby. I’m 25 years old. You do realize that we both have already committed to each other, don’t you?”

At this point, her temper rose and she said in a raised voice, “So is that my fault? Did you ask me before committing? Why should I bear the punishment and pain of something that I didn’t decide?!”

“That is not the point!” said Vikas in a slightly irritated voice, “I just told you that I have the right to choose my life partner. We fell in love. We didn’t decide to, it just happened. That does not mean that it will ruin my career or I will not be able to make a good life. We lived together when we were in US, mom. I think that speaks a lot for itself”

“You should be ashamed of yourself. How could you do that? How could you take such a step without thinking twice?” she asked as she suddenly got up, “Is that what I have taught you? Didn’t you think about the family’s respect? About us?”

“I know that it sounds wrong to you, but what I’m trying to say is that we were able to take that step because we are so sure about our future. There is no doubt in our minds that we will marry each other one day. It was not a casual deal; it was a mark of our commitment. Please try to understand that”

Once again, she shook her head and said in any icy tone, “No, I don’t want to know. This engagement is not possible. We didn’t send you abroad to do all this. How can you get engaged to someone without even getting a job? Without standing on your own legs? I cannot allow you to make a commitment like that without having a financial backbone!”

“What does my financial backbone have to do with this? I’m not being asked to financially support her or spend money on her in anyway. Honestly, she wouldn’t ask for that even when we’re married! The commitment is already there and has been there for the past one year! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! Her family got to know that we lived together in US, they know that both of us have to go back again, so if we went as an engaged couple it will simply make them feel reassured. Come to think of it, it should be reassuring to you as well! Would you want me to lie to you again?”

Vikas was feeling drained. Their conversation was simply going in circles. She was looking at what had happened in the past and what he proposed should happen in future as two disconnected events that were both crimes in her head. She simply wasn’t trying to understand that the natural progression of any relationship is to take a step forward, especially when the two involved are on the same page. He had hoped that she would at least understand, if not respect, his decision. But he had not even been able to get past the ‘acceptance’ stage.

Living together under one roof is an accepted norm overseas. In India, however, it’s a blasphemous idea, enough to make the immediate society shudder. So naturally when their parents found out, all hell broke loose. Her parents, however, came to the conclusion that if they had to be living together then might as well make the commitment official. “Let us feel safe and not unsure all the time”, was their argument.

Vikas had been apprehensive when that happened. He knew his mom would not take it well, but he also knew that he wanted to spend his life with that woman because she made him happy. She made him feel content. He had given her his word and he would keep it. It was the thought of her that gave him strength in difficult situations.

“My decision is final Vikas. If you want to be with that girl, you leave my house. I will never see your face again. You can do whatever you wish to with your life. I am already dead inside, so what’s the difference? How does it matter to you, whether I live or die?”

Tears started streaming down her face again as she continued to mumble to herself. Vikas realized that there was no point in trying to talk to her right now, he would have to try again later when she was saner and more mature. He took a deep breath and said, “We’ll talk about this later mom. Why don’t you have dinner and sleep?”

“I don’t want to eat anything. I won’t eat until you give up on this crazy idea!”

And with that, she got up and went inside her room, banging the door behind her.

Vikas sat there staring after his mom, trying to blink away some of the tears that were threatening to roll down his face. He was caught in a situation where he had no idea what to do. He wished his mother would stop reacting in such a childish way and using threats to manipulate him. He felt stuck and helpless. If he were honest to himself, deep down in his heart he knew what the permanent solution was. But he also knew that it would take a lot of courage to put it on the table. At that moment, his phone rang. He wiped a lone tear off his cheek and picked it up, “Hi Dad”

“Hi beta, is everything okay?”

Vikas let out a sigh, “No Dad. Nothing is okay. When are you back?”

“In about 10 minutes”

“Okay dad. I need to talk to you about something”

Vikas kept the phone down and tried to arrange his scattered thoughts. If he could convince his father, then he would be one step closer. It would be tough, but doing the right thing was never easy.

15 minutes later, when his father had arrived and had had his customary cup of coffee, Vikas sat across from him at the dining table and said, “Papa, we need to discuss Mom’s state of mind”

His father let out a defeated sigh and said, “Beta you know how she is. I have tried to channel her thoughts in the positive direction time and again, but she simply doesn’t want to. She is mentally very weak”

“Papa you can’t find a solution unless you identify the problem. The way she is right now is not something that has happened overnight. It’s the accumulated effect of all the years she has spent feeling wronged and cheated by everyone around her. She has started looking at herself like a victim in every situation Papa. Can’t you see what is happening here? It’s gotten to a point where she has started to threaten suicide!”

Vikas was trembling as he spoke. They had become so used to his mother whining and complaining all the time that they had accepted it as a part of who she was. “That’s just how she is”, was their usual refrain. They either tried to avoid triggering her or architected their behaviour to suit her wishes. They never really tried to tackle the root of the problem. This situation, however, was one too many for him to handle. It was neither avoidable nor designable. They would have to look at it for what it was and take a small step towards finding a permanent solution instead of band-aid ones.

“I know why you are suddenly saying all this. It’s because you don’t want to lose that girl”

Vikas shook his head lightly and said, “That’s a part of the reason, Papa. But mom’s behaviour has been raising red flags for a while and you know it. Do you think she has a problem with the engagement? No! she thinks that she will lose me in some way if that happens. She’s insecure and that’s why she’s lashing out. This is her fear talking, not her. She is trying to keep me clutched to her chest in whatever way possible. She will behave like a child, threaten suicide, will stop eating – anything to avoid facing that fear. And I can assure you that her passive-aggressive side will come out tomorrow in the form of depression and silent treatment”

His father processed what he said for a while and said, “So what are you suggesting?”

Vikas continued, “Look this situation seems to be the problem now, but it’s not. Today it’s the woman I love and tomorrow it will be my career choice, later my decision to buy a house or how to raise my kid. No matter what it is, she will react in the same manner. Except that it’s getting increasingly worse. She has no faith in either of us. She thinks if I don’t walk the path the way she wants me to, I won’t be successful in life. If you don’t comply with her wishes, her old age is doomed. She needs professional help. She needs someone who can make her face the fact that the real problem is inside her and so is the solution. She needs to stop expecting other people to fill the voids in her life”

“Are you suggesting that we put her in a mental hospital?” asked his father curtly.

“No, papa. And I’m not suggesting that she’s ‘mental’ either. All I’m saying is that her behaviour is alarming and scary, and we should get her some professional help. We can start with counselling sessions in either group or personal. Trust me, finding identification is a huge step in the healing process. Later, if it works, we can try suggesting something she can get involved in and commit her time and space to”

“You know she will never agree”

“I know, which is why we need to give her a dose of her own medicine and show her the mirror. We will suggest this idea to her and get it done the way she would get it done if it was her idea. Refuse to eat. Refuse to talk. Refuse to go to work. Keep complaining about everything. Tell her how dead you feel inside, how people in your life have used you. Be passive-aggressive. I will do the same. At some point, maybe a day, a week or a month later, she will realize what we are trying to put across. She will realize why we are suggesting this. She will accept it herself, Papa” said Vikas earnestly.

His father drummed his fingers lightly on the table and said, “Are you sure this will work?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that we need to do something drastic to get her to see what she is doing to herself and this family”

His father let out a sigh and said, “Okay then. Let’s do this. I am with you”

Vikas smiled and said, “Thanks Papa. We need to do this as a team”

His father smiled and nodded, “Yes we do. And what about this situation? Will you go ahead with the engagement?”

“Yes I will. If we want to find a permanent solution, we need to stop enabling her by giving in to her blackmail. There are healthy boundaries in every relationship, and its high time I defined them. If we do this together, I’m sure we can get through to her”

“Okay, beta. I trust you” his father said with a smile before patting his shoulder twice. Vikas smiled back and let out a sigh of relief. That’s one level down, he thought to himself. He picked up his phone and messaged her:

Baby, we will get engaged. I am happy this happened, because I could finally find the courage to do something I should have done long ago. I love you : )

 

 

 

She got up with a jerk and wildly looked around. She was in her bed, in her room, in her house. She quickly checked her phone for any messages. It reflected nothing but the time: 9:30. She opened her whatsapp contact list and scrolled down to V. She was still blocked by Vikas. It had been 7 days since they split because his mother threatened suicide and he couldn’t take a stand against her. She spent each day dreaming the same dream and waking up expecting the message she so badly wanted to read. But reality offered her nothing but the same disappointment every day.

She sank her head back into her pillow and let a tear roll down the side of her face. They were happy and content. If only he had done the right thing instead of the easy one. If only he had tried to fight the problem instead of giving into manipulation. If only he didn’t let her go so easily. If only.

All she had now, were her dreams that crashed and burned every single morning, taking a piece of her with them in the flames.