Sunday, August 29, 2010


"Swades" happens to be one of the few ShahRukh Khan movies that I liked. I was always sceptical about the character of the protagonist "Mohan Bhargava". This man leaves his entire life and career in US to come back to his native village. Do people like "Mohan Bhargava" really exist in real life?

Then I met few of them.

I was in Chennai for fieldwork. I was supposed to take an interview of a professor in IIT Chennai. By the time I could reach the entrance of the IIT campus, I was feeling dead tired (thanks to the heat and traffic of Chennai). After the cursory enquiry at the entrance, I was allowed in. The moment my auto entered the campus, I felt that was in a different world. So pristine, so green. Such tranquility but yet not very far from the "madding crowd". It took me some time to locate the quarter of the person I was supposed to meet. I pressed the calling bell.

A young man opened the gate : "Yes"

"Mr. ........?"(I dont remember his name)

"I was supposed to come for an interview if you remember..." I tried introducing myself once he confirmd that he was Mr...........

"Yes, yes, please come in"...the warmth in his welcome almost touched me.

We sat on a bamboo mattress. We started talking.

He told me that he is himself an IITian. And that he started teaching very recently. After completion of his studies like many of his other friends he joined a big corporate. He moved to one of the posh areas in one of the biggest metros. He made frequent foreign trips both for work and leisure. Life then gave (and promised much more!) all sorts of luxuries. He was buying real estates all over the country in order to get some redemption from tax. Life was really "cool" and he was enjoying it. But this "merry"-go-round did not last for long. After about 3 yrs he came back to IIT as a professor.Now he does not even belong to the bracket of tax payers. Then why did he do that? What made him leave all such comforts that he was enjoying to a 200 square feet IIT quarter? Inspite of his young age, why could money and luxuries not keep him bound for long?

He tried to explain, "I can't tell you the feeling. I was increasingly feeling the need to reconnect to myself. I know it sounds cliche but that is exactly how you feel. You dont feel an ounce of passion about anything around you. As if there is lack of harmony in the things which you are doing? As if something is terribly wrong somewhere and you do not know what it is? Then I knew its about the place where I was spending 9-10 hours every day. There was absolutely no sense of belonging. Each and everyday started with a feeling of fatigue. It was mechanical. "Proving" and "acheiving" was only about outsmarting others. I knew I had to come out of that whirlpool."

I could see the disgust in his face.

And the I could also see the relief. "During that phase the only place that kept coming back to me was my IIT campus. I just wanted to be here to breathe properly once again. I wanted to see those faces of eager learners. I wanted to share my thoughts without the sense of outsmarting anybody. And then I quit my job." He smiled like a child. And I saw a "happy monk".

On my way back to hotel, I remembered meeting another IITian. He is an uncle of a friend of mine. My friend always used to speak about her uncle. I often felt that this uncle is a perfect maverick. He was a professor in IIT Kharagpur ( now retired). Some years back he had "adopted" a village. This village "Balrampur" which was located "near" to the IIT campus (not really near urban standards takes 40 mins from the IIT campus on a two-wheeler) was really not able to gain much attention from any Government body. Hence, residents of the village had been surviving without electricity, water from tube-well, primary schools, government hospitals, etcera, etcetera. This man after spending some years in one of those "developed dream" countries came back to teach in IIT Kharagpur. Very soon he bought a piece of land in this village and started building a "home" there. And then he got electricity to this village after lot of fewd with the Government bodies. He started a school in the house which he had built. All this happened much before "Swades" was even conjured. This world which he had created, to which he belonged is able to give him much more than anything that any first world country could offer.

What did these men have or do in order to make such massive change in perspective possible? Is this about the closed, discipline, peaceful life of IIT campus that makes a "monk" possible out of a common man (co-incidentally both mentioned here are fro IIT)? Or their early experience of "too much" comfort that makes a philanthroper out of them? Or is it that these people are born with a kind self realisation, a clarity of vision? There might be a truth in each of these possibilities and probably each of these things are true to some extent.

These people are also probably born with a strong conscience that does not make them forget their roots. Most of us keep losing parts of us as we move on with life. But for them its different. They remain in control, they integrate parts of their life once they see them going apart. They are the ones who can hear the sounds of harmony in the nature around, they see this world with a special sense of empathy. They see the magic in the colours of nature and they hear the rhythm of the harmony in the world around just like the monks do sitting in the silence of the monastries.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming back

There are many things in life about which its difficult to blog...incidents, emotions, problems, people, etc. And mistakes...

Mistakes of not holding hands...

Relationships mostly came to me with a lot of pain. But still I would still say life was good to me. Almost always.

Its just so wonderful to know and live with people who has the courage to love me inspite of all my faults, all my withdrawals, all my negations...

When in pain, one's existence is often seem lost...not recognising emotions, not knowing just craves for some synchrony in the things that keep happening around you.

And suddenly you see a pattern in the smiling faces around you, in the words that keep dropping unaware...

This pattern seems familiar...this pattern I knew some years ago...

It comes to me in drops and then comes rushing...canteen, classrooms, stairs, movie halls, smiles, laughs, hands held tight...And then the mistake of letting go...those hands...which I could see stretched...I kept walking away as if I heard nothing...

I have walked miles away...But I can still hear you all...

Is this an illusion...I am afraid to turn back..

All I need to do is to turn around...I know I will have to find out...

Now now now..Turn

What is this? Its me. I see myself...I see myself smiling and happy...who is she? Is this an illusion? Is this me? Is this an image or my imagination?

I try touching her with shivering fingers...I cannot. What is this? Am I dreaming?

"Who are you?", I shout at it. "Who, who...please tell me"

And then there is another me...smiling...talking...happy..

"Who are you all? Tell me. Tell me. Why do you all look like me?"

And then there face starts changing...I know these faces, I know them all..memories from past come rushig, canteen, movie halls...

"I do not understand. What is this happening?"

They all smile at me. There are tears in my eyes..."Please tell me"

And then it dawns in me...i know what all this means.

I left a part of me here. In between my friends...with each of them. I lived fragmented all this time not knowing where it knowing that "friendship is the best kind of love"

I stretch my hope, in fear, in happiness