Saturday, January 30, 2010

30th January 1948 - Gandhi's last day

Last Saturday was Gandhi's 62nd death anniversary. 'Freedom at Midnight' by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre describes in detail the last day in Mahatma's life, but somehow I wanted to read more about that and did some research that day for this blog post.

Hardly anything original here, just some tit-bits from here and there.

30th January 1948

Gandhi was shot at and killed by Godse on this fateful day around 5'o clock in the evening as he was rushing for his evening prayers, taking support of Abha's and Manu's shoulders. He was rushing because he was already late for the prayer meeting scheduled for 5 every evening. These prayer meetings had become a big draw for the Hindus and Muslims alike in the often hostile atmosphere of post-partition Delhi. The outside lawns of Birla House was where these meetings would happen everyday, and this day was no different.

Most credible writings from that time and later describe how Godse first folded his hands and offered a namaskar to Gandhi and then fired three shots into his chest from point blank range. Gandhi fell to the ground and his now iconic time piece fell to the ground and broke, recording the moment with it. The last two words he uttered were Hey Ram. Somehow these made him even more eternal, dying with God's name on his lips. Gandhi was a devout Hindu, though an extremely secular one. Its unfortunate that his exceptional ability to bring the two communities together in the worst of times, became the reason for his death.

Every year we used to have a minute of silence to remember Gandhi in School. It was a nuisance to me when I was young, but something I really associated with in the later years of schooling. I miss that minute of silence and the feeling of almost nothingness inside. The silence now is often broken by the noise in my own head. Its so difficult to just remain silent and calm when everything around and everything else is so noisy. Silence is almost scary and a rare commodity.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Iqbal, also fondly known as Allama Iqbal especially in Pakistan, also happens to be one of my favorite Urdu poets. I wonder if that might count as an anti-national sentiment for some of my brethren. Perhaps even for some of us who think that peace is the only way forward with our neighbors.

A quick glance at his life. He was born in Sialkot, in Punjab (Punjab, Pakistan) in a very modern Kashmiri family, about eight years after the birth of Gandhi in Porbandar (Gujarat, India). Many aspects of his life are perhaps worth discussing here, but what interests me the most are his political leanings and of course his poetry.

Iqbal was always in favor of the revival of the Islamic polity and was critical of the INC for being pro-Hindus during the freedom struggle. He was the first to propagate the idea of a separate state of Pakistan (pretty much the Pakistan as it stands today) way back in 1930 at the Allahabad session of the Muslim League. In fact, Jinnah warmed up to the idea of Pakistan much later in 1940.

Iqbal also wrote the famous poem 'Saare Jahan se Accha'; something that is sung regularly in Indian schools even today. But most of his other works is generally forgotten here. My favourite Iqbal poem is the evergreen 'Khudi ko Kar Buland Itna'. Its just exceptional. The 'Junoon' version of the poem became very popular again in the 1990s in Pakistan as well as India. Most of his work is in Persian (which, unfortunately, I don't understand) and Urdu (which I can understand fairly well, if not completely).

There is no dearth of information on Iqbal on the net, and one can find most of his poems too. Its just great to read him, even if you may not completely agree with what he writes about. There are many poems on conversations with god; though largely Islamic in nature, they are still an interesting read.

Iqbal died in the year 1938 at Lahore. In Pakistan he is still often revered as the "ideological founder of the state'.

Following is a beautiful ghazal by him.

Gulzaar-e-Hast-o-Bood Na Begaana Waar Dekh!

Gulzaar-e-Hast-o-Bood Na Begaana Waar Dekh!
Hai Dekhne Ki Cheez Ise Bar Bar Dekh!

Do not look at the garden of existence like a stranger!
It is a thing worth looking at, look at it again and again.

Aaya Hai Tu Jahaan Mein Mashaal-e-Sharaar, Dekh.
Dam De Na Jaaye Hasti, Napaayedaar Dekh.

You have come into the world like a spark, beware!
Lest your short span of life may end suddenly, beware.

Maana Ke Tere Deed Ke Qabil Nahin Hain Ham.
Tu Mera Shokh Dekh Mera Intezaar Dekh.

I accept that I am not worthy of Your (God's) Sight.
You should look at my zeal, and look at my perseverance (patience).

Na Aate, Hamein Ismein Takrar Kya Thi?
Magar Waada Karte Huwe Aar Kya Thi?

If you had not come I would have had no occasion for contention?
But what reluctance in making the promise was with me?

Tumhare Payami Ne Sab Raaz Khola;
Khata Ismein Bande Ki Sarkaar Kya Thi?

Your messenger disclosed every secret
O Lord!What fault of Man in this was?
(Allusion to Quran as a source of all knowledge)

Bhari Bazm Mein Apne Aashiq Ko Tadha;
Teri Aankh Masti Mein Hoshiyaar Kya Thi?

You recognized Your Lover in the full assembly.
How alert Your eye in the middle of the ecstasy was!

Ta'mmul To Tha Unke Aane Mein, Qasid!
Magar Ye Bata Tarz-e-Inkaar Kya Thi?

True! Reluctant was he to come, O messenger!
But tell me what the manner of denial was?

Kheenche Khud ba Khud Jaanib-e-Toor, Moosa;
Kashish Teri Aye Shokh-e-Deedar Kya Thi?

Moses was effortlessly attracted to Toor!
How strong, O Zeal your attraction was!?

Kahin Zikr Rehta Hai Iqbal Tera!
Fasoon Tha Koi, Teri Guftaar Kya Thi!

Your fame continues somewhere, O Iqbal!
Some magic, not your speech it was!


Here are of the logos of the Metros that I have traveled in so far.

The easiest to figure out was Delhi followed by Milan (with a little help from Muzayun). I tried Delhi while I was still in TVS and was damn impressed with it all then, as I am even now. With Milan Metro also I got almost instantly comfortable. And I did travel alone a few times there, even to unknown destinations. We often also bought just one ticket and hence managed to travel for half the price!

Rome and Milan Metros share the same logo, but that's where the similarities end. Rome Metro is almost dirty, and full of graffiti art. The life-on-the-move that one sees there isn't sanitized like Milan, but that doesn't still necessarily qualify as 'good'.


Milan/ Rome

Even Istanbul Metro wasn't very complicated and the Metro was surprisingly clean. Of course I missed my flight out of the city admiring the place and the damn Metro! An 'Akbil' gives you access to Metro, Tram etc. for one trip (what ever the distance).


Kolkata was a bit confusing (apart from being almost like a Mumbai local) as I just went in with no map of the city in my hand or mind. It took me a while to understand that I was traveling north after I got into the train. My travel was completely purposeless there, so there was no fear of reaching the wrong destination. And of course Kolkata was also the cheapest.


Paris Metro was simply mind-boggling but the most impressive of them all. It wasn't difficult to get lost in the different underground levels, plus it was also perhaps the most expensive. The Metro stations in Paris are also full of life, music and its almost like a cultural melting pot. There is tremendous scope for entertainment for me during my next visit to Paris at all these Metro stations.



Saturday, January 23, 2010

walking again...

Another quick post on walks, especially from someone who is known to be lazy and often avoids walking. From ma to most of my friends, everyone has complained about how I little I walk. But secretly I am quite a walker, though I enjoy walking more when I am all alone.

I have been walking since today morning (my only free day) in the New Market (Kolkata/ Calcutta) lanes and by-lanes and its simply been amazing. Its this purposeless walking that I enjoy. No plans of doing anything, and no destination at all. All that I wanted to do was buy some local chai and basically just look around. Nothing else attracts me more than the old buildings, and Kolkata seems to be full of them - some dead or dying while others still youthful and full of life. I love looking at them both.

I have spent little time on the roads in the city but I could sense a feel in the city, quite unlike any other that I have known. I need to spend days here to know more about the place, many more days. I have many more posts on the city and hopefully I shall post them soon on the Kolkata series.

p.s. unlike the name 'New Market', the place is actually an old market in Kolkata.

New Market then...

New Market now...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

solitary winter walks...

Walking through a place is one of the best ways to explore it, especially so when the walks are solitary. With a companion there are expectations, and often disappointments/ disillusionment. Experiences from traveling with and without a companion has often reinforced this.

My evening/ late night walks in Paldi/ Narayannagar have opened up a new whole new labyrinth of interconnecting roads and pathways I never even knew existed. Every time I am out, I see something new. Some beautiful old bungalows, a huge Swaminarayan temple, some new and variously colorful dogs, people playing antakshari in groups outside their houses, loud music late in the night from a rich man's house, dark deserted houses with long lost histories, some new construction here and there, a very dark but enchanting park full of medicinal plants, but most often its the idyllic (and often eerie) night silence that creeps out and stays with you, sometimes even till the wee hours of the next morning.

Ahmedabad is never very cold, and that makes late night walks possible even in the winters. Often there is no one else who walks along with you, so the solitary walking figure of a weird looking man with long hair and short shorts stands out and makes the lazy inhabitants take notice. But the ones who get the most curious by my bizarre appearance are the numerous Paldi/ Narayannagar dogs. The are left confused and their inherent ability of barking momentarily stunted, often left bewildered by a lack of a coherent response in their mini minds. And of course this suits me well, I don't find the idea of running in the dark alleys with variously colored dogs chasing me particularly alluring.

Older women also look at me with curiosity, often perhaps first looking at me as a symbol of growing women emancipation (with my long hair and shorts), but they are also ultimately left confounded by the actual me. Apart from the old aunties and colorful dogs, no one else gives me a second look.

I sometimes wonder what would these walks be like if I have a companion. I might enjoy it still but perhaps not my partner, for I make a particularly boring travel mate. But I continute walking...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ghar ka ghee

Making ghee at home is an experience. Despite non-encouragement from various quarters like amma, Bhavin (surprise and subtle) and even Muzayun, I decided to embark on this journey. I was keen to be thrifty and frugal in these times of economical downturn and thought it would be a good start - 'make your own ghee, not buy it!'.

Enough malai was collected from many days of collection process, and the time was ripe on Makar Sankranti to try this. I made the first mistake by trying to read my book while making ghee, the mixture boiled over and much of it came out. The disaster in the kitchen was thankfully limited more to the stove and the area around, but my quick cleaning attempts also didn't help matters much. Finally I resigned myself to enjoy the fire which burst out around the vessel due to the overflowing ghee!

After 50 more pages in the book and some occasional stirring, and two phone calls to amma, I was finally ready with my first ghee. I was hoping that the unadulterated ghee would smell heavenly, unfortunately it smelt of 'nothing'. But, of course, this was completely unacceptable and I finally convinced myself that there was a subtle aroma, not discernible unless you have highly advanced olfactory senses.

I am yet to use it, but I am already convinced its the best ghee ever. Waiting for some innocent visitors now so that I can experiment on them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

in the mood for love...

"He remembers those vanished years,
As though looking through a dusty window pane,
The past is something he could see, but not touch.
And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct."

These are the closing lines of this amazing movie. The last sequence is gripping and will almost certainly end up making you feel low, but its poetic and beautiful still.

Here are a few lines from an online review of the movie by Simma Park, elaboraing a little more on the last scene.

"If this film has a flaw, it is that Western audiences may not find the film to be satisfying entertainment. It will disorient those who need an ending with closure - the threads of the characters' lives trail off, leaving not the slightest inkling of their future. And those who need happy endings will be heartbroken by the last scene, which drives home that everything we do - and do not do - must eventually be consigned to the oblivion of time."

p.s. I wrote this quite some time back, and it has little relevance today. Still, its not a bad idea to share these words.

Just added this video of the last scene from the movie. I apologize to all for any copyright violations.


'140 or so' is what Johhny told us inside the only Synagogue in Gujarat, while telling us about the dwindling numbers of Jews in the state. From a few thousand when the Synagogue was built in the early 20th Century, through the mass exodus to Israel in 1947 and onwards, now only a few from the faith survive.

The synagogue, known as the Magen Abraham Synagogue, is located in the Khamasa area of Ahmedabad city, opposite the Zoroastrian Fire Temple. Built in the year 1934 with donations from the wealthy Jewish population (the Bene Israel Jews) in the then Mumbai Presidency, this was a replacement for an old worship area in the old city market area. The Synagogue has inscriptions in Hebrew and Marathi, and apparently some Hindu Marathi customs are also adopted due to cultural assimilation of the two faiths.

From three days a week, now public prayers are offered only once a week on Saturday in the evening, immediately after sunset. Another prominent change is in the seating area for the men and women. From an earlier arrangement when women used to sit on the second tier and men on the ground floor, now everyone shares the space opposite to the alter but on different sides. The top section has now fallen into disrepair.

Apart from all Jewish festivals, the synagogue also hosts marriage ceremony, circumcision for the new born and so on. For circumcision, a doctor has to be specially called from Mumbai. The Jewish population runs three schools in Ahmedabad, which are open to one and all.

Johnny welcomed us after a quick glance at our NID ID cards and has answers to some of our basic questions. My interest was to know more about the history of the place and the Jews in Ahmedabad. It could be an interesting trail to follow. More updates on this, as I discover more.

For anyone curious to know more about the Synagogue, this link is useful.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Over a cup of chai...

A girl walked past while I sipped tea, she was barefoot. Apparently she never wears any footwear...never ever. I don't know her name...

The stronger black pup continued to bite the other one with the cyst. The brown pup with the cyst is dead, or so they say. Mishi also almost died due to a cyst in 1994. Seems like a long time ago.

I look at my hands and wonder if future is ugly too. Someone had told me in 2007 that I am doomed with live with them. Something, somewhere is rotten inside.

The chai gets cold, I continue to sip it. It doesn't matter. I am still new to tea, started only in 2006.

A plan forms in my mind, a plan for a trip. Alone, like I always used to enjoy, seems like distant past.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The moon represents my heart

Saw this really interesting movie recently which had this beautiful song, reminded me of someone due to the moon connection. A couple of very beautiful screen shots too are here.

This song was used in the movie and I quite liked it; sharing it here...

You ask me how deep my love for you is,
How much I really love you…
My affection is real.
My love is real.
The moon represents my heart.

You ask me how deep my love for you is,
How much I really love you…
My affection does not waver,
My love will not change.
The moon represents my heart.

Just one soft kiss
is enough to move my heart.
A period of time when our affection was deep,
Has made me miss you until now.

You ask me how deep my love for you is,
How much I really love you.

Go think about it.
Go and have a look [at the moon],
The moon represents my heart.

This was written by Teresa Teng, an extremely popular Chinese singer, originally hailing from Taiwan. To date she currently holds the record of being the highest selling Asian artist of all time with sales of over 100 million copies.

The video is for Muzayun, the only one I know who completely loves and worships moon (apart from all the Majnus, poets and astronauts). The score here is the original Chinese song...

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