Sunday, March 3, 2019

The message

The 'click' of the main door's latch-lock woke her up. With a sweep of her hand on the bed, she confirmed that Aadi had stepped outside the house. In her phone, she checked the time; it was 1:30 AM. He had quit smoking a year ago... but fights, like the one they had last evening, often provided him excuse to have flings with his old addiction.

Putting the mobile phone away, she closed her eyes, but sleep seemed to have distanced itself from her. She too was disturbed. Not merely because of the recent fight they had but owing to the high frequency of such fights they had been having since the past few months. Has this relationship run its course? Is it time for her to move on? Has she already given too many second chances to Aadi? This chain of thoughts was interrupted by the sound of main door opening.

Footsteps and smell of cigarette-smoke mixed with mint filled the bedroom air. Aadi slid inside the blanket and wrapped his arm around her. This concoction of fragrance, which she once used to find sexy on Aadi combined with the warmth of his embrace, felt so right. She hadn't experienced this feeling since a long time. Perhaps she had been a little too hasty in writing off this five-years old relationship. With a smile, she snuggled into his arms and set off to sleep, only to be interrupted by the message notification of her phone.

"I came down for a stroll & lost my door key. Am looking for it in the apartment compound... might take a while," read the message from Aadi.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ढूंढा, पाया

Facebook की wall में, Mobile phone के scroll में, शहर के trendy mall में,
ढूंढा मैंने सुकून.
Beach के walk lone में, तालाब में फेंके stone में, No wifi zone में,
पाया मैंने सुकून.

Tinder की swipe right में, pub की disco night में, love at first sight में,
ढूंढा मैंने प्यार.
Kishore के गीत में, bike की back seat में, college के alumni meet में,
पाया मैंने प्यार.

एक ऊंची पगार में, latest model की car में, brand endorsed by top star में,
ढूंढी मैंने ख़ुशी.
Healthy lifestyle में, फुरसत की उस while में, अपनों की smile में,
पायी मैने ख़ुशी.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

तो आज़ाद हो तुम

Traffic signal में गाड़ी की खिड़की knock कर,
कोई plastic का तिरंगा लहराए,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम

अखबार में नारंगी 'freedom sale' ads के बीच,
दिन की ख़ास खबरें खो जाए,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम

Loudspeaker में बजता हुआ 'ए मेरे वतन के लोगों',
छुट्टी की सुबह नींद से जगाये,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम

Oblivion से निकाला हुआ 'seldom-used' कुरता,
Instagram और Facebook के selfies में छा जाए,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम

Set Max में 'बॉर्डर', Zee Cinema में 'तिरंगा',
और NDTV Goodtimes में 'Jai Hind with Rocky & Mayur' दिखाए,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम

Phone check करने पर,
WhatsApp में हर पल '50 unread messages' टपक जाए,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम

लाल किला में खड़े होकर कोई एक घंटा,
देश को, पिछली Government की नाकामयाबियां गिनवाए,
तो आज़ाद हो तुम 

[*inspired by Toh Zinda Ho Tum from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara]

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Delhi to Pune

On this day, 10 years ago, I began my stint in Pune. Oscillating between home-sickness and love-hate relationship with this city, my language, my food habits, my likes have transformed. I have transformed. This poem lists snippets of my journey...

छोले कुलचे को miss करते हुए, पाव भाजी की plate निपटाता है.
5 star hotels की लड़ियाँ लगी है, फिर भी Goodluck Cafe ही जाता है.
समोसा हो, कीमा हो, या हो omelette... सब कुछ पाव के साथ खाता है.

आलू जिसका favorite हुआ करता था कभी, आजकल वह बटाटे से इश्क़ लड़ाता है.
प्याज़ पकोड़े को चाय के साथ खाने वाला, बारिश में कांदा भज्जी नौश फरमाता  है.
कूड़े को plastic में बांधके फेंकता था जो, गीला कचरा सूखे से अलग हटाता है.

Sweaters और muffler तो लाया था संग अपने. साल में एक बार उन्हें धुप लगाता है.
"पहले यहाँ भी काफी सर्दी पढ़ती थी," बोलके अपने leather jacket को सहलाता है.
Truck में लादकर अपनी Bullet लाया था इस शहर में, weekends को Royal Enfield चलाता है.

पहले भी बेझिझक जीता था वो, लेकिन अब बिंदास ज़िन्दगी बिताता है.
Sus Road को अपना address बताने से शर्माने वाला, हस्सके अपने Bhosari का पता लिखवाता है.
कहता था सबको, "भाई से पंगा मत लेना." अब भाई दूसरो के लफड़े सुलझाता है.

कबाड़ी वाले से मिलके अरसा हो गया, क्यूंकि रद्दी वाला पुराने paper उठाता है.
हर महीने Goa का plan बनाके, weekend Mahabaleshwar में बिताता है.
"जहाँ beer मिले, वही जगह है Goa," ये सोचके खुद का पीठ थपथपाता है.

जब बड़े शहर की शोर-गुल miss करे, तब Bombay की तरफ कदम बढ़ाता है.
और जब  this शोर-गुल gets to his nerves, shutter down करके दोपहर को सो जाता है.
दिल्ली का लौंडा हुआ करता था कभी, आज शान से पुणेरी कहलाता है.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The avid gymmer

Whenever I managed to show up at the gym in the 5 to 6 AM slot, on every such day, be it rainy or cold or weekend, he would be there. After almost a year of only non-verbal greetings exchanged between us, I asked him the 'how' question about his consistency.

"Two years ago, while returning home at 6 AM, I spotted her near the next block," he said. "It was a rainy morning; she and the big bag she was carrying were drenched. I couldn't resist from offering her a lift." Like an adolescent-in-love, he asked me, "Would you like to meet her?" Reluctantly, I accompanied him in the return trip.

"There she is... the reason behind my consistency," as we approached the next block, he said, pointing to a nearly 80 year old lady, wearing tattered clothes, gazing at our direction with anticipation. She hunched under the weight of her bag.

"She sells vegetables on the footpath outside my apartment and used to walk five kilometers every day, be it rainy or cold or weekend, to reach there. On any morning, if I feel too lazy to set out for the gym, the image of her dejected face kicks me out of my bed," added the avid gymmer.


Monday, January 4, 2016

The closure

“But look around! You’re just 24, and own a fancy apartment located in one of the most happening neighborhoods of Gurgaon,” Vikrant said, almost spilling a part of the beer froth he had created in the glass during his animated discussion with Rocky.

“He’s right! You shouldn’t be complaining about a mere position in the company when you have such a grand lifestyle gifted to you by your father,” added Saaqib.

Rocky didn’t say a word, but was visibly shaking with anger. Today his father did what he had been doing unfailingly since the past many years; snatched away another dream of Rocky and gifted it to his brother. The younger son of the Malhotra clan was nominated as a partner to the family business, while Rocky remained a mere salaried employee. 

“I don’t even have my own room… have to share one with my moody sister,” Vikrant sighed as he fiddled with the unlit cigarette in his hand innately.

Vikrant and Saaqib were Rocky’s childhood friends, and both of them did not have a steady job. In order to sustain their high-class lifestyles, they inseparably stuck to Rocky like starved leeches.

“Do you know how much money he will make as a partner?” Rocky murmured. “A fucking two lakh rupees every month plus a share of the profit! While I, his elder brother, will have to be content with the peanuts that are thrown at me.”

The cacophony of the evening traffic filled the terrace where the three friends had gathered for their ritualistic Friday rendezvous. But, compared to Rocky’s outburst, the concoction of honks, snarls and modified silencer pipes sounded like a soothing buzz.

“And to make matters worse, dad has put up this apartment for rent, and asked me to move in with him next month! Once that happens, you guys can bid adieu to our booze fests.”

Rocky’s friends were taken aback. They exchanged glances, not knowing what to say. Vikrant placed his glass precariously on the fence and broke the silence, “But you are an independent adult! Your father cannot control your life like this…”

“You know how much my dad cares about my wishes. Two years ago I had to blackmail him by putting his gun to my head and threatening to shoot myself. That’s how he had agreed for me to move here!”

“Why don’t you do that again?” exclaimed Saaqib.

“He won’t buy that tactic any longer. And things have become so sour between us now, he would hardly care even if I shoot myself.”

The anger on Rocky’s face was apparent, but what was not visible was the anxiety his statement had drilled into his friends, which they were trying to cover behind a screen of drunkenness. Vikrant refilled Rocky’s empty glass. He downed it in three quick gulps.

“I know what I can do to get closure from my misery…” Rocky said with a gleam in his eye. “This time I will put the gun to dad’s head instead!”

* * *

“If your father doesn’t have a legal-will in place, then all his possessions will be equally distributed between your brother and you,” Saaqib stated, simultaneously using his smartphone to conduct a research on wills and inheritance laws.

As the evening transformed into night, Vikrant, Saaqib and Rocky became more determined that the threat of killing his father, Rocky had snapped at the spur of the moment, was in reality an excellent idea. Rocky would, once and for all, be free of the prejudice his father had been showering on his younger son. And, Vikrant and Saaqib would not be deprived of the addictive luxuries, they had been receiving from their friend, lifelong.

It took the three friends only an hour, and six bottles of beers between them, to cultivate the idea into a sophisticated crime-plan. Which, according to them, was fool-proof and nobody would suspect Rocky to have conspired to kill his own father. Rocky’s father wasn’t to see the light of next day.

“Where does your father usually keep his gun?” Saaqib, who seemed a bit nervous now, asked. Rocky was driving the car with Vikrant sitting next to him, holding a knife he had picked up from the kitchen in one hand and a screw driver from the car’s tool-kit in the other.

“Dad keeps his gun inside the top-most drawer of the bar cabinet. It will be easy for you to locate it after you enter his room.”

“But as per our plan, let’s stick to using these instead of waking up the neighborhood with a gunshot,” reiterated Saaqib, snatching the knife from Vikrant’s hand. The rest nodded, seemingly in a trance.

“Do you see that window... the one with a dim light on?” Rocky pointed towards the first floor of the lavish bungalow. He had parked his car away from the street light, right outside the ‘Malhotra Villa’. “Probably dad is enjoying a drink tonight. That’ll make your job easier and his death less painful; now that’s what we call a win-win situation.”

“What about your brother? Where would he be?” Saaqib asked.

“It’s well past midnight now. That dumb-ass would be fast asleep, don’t worry!”

Fishing out a bunch of keys from the glove compartment and handing it to Vikrant, Rocky signaled his friends to step out of the car. “The big one is for the lock at the main gate, and the small one opens the door. The staircase on the left side of the door will lead you to dad’s room. Make it fast and keep it clean!”

As his friends disappeared inside the dark ground floor of the bungalow, Rocky sat in an attentive stance – with one eye on the rear view mirror and the other on the street ahead. The locality was one of the poshest in Delhi, inhabited by only the rich and the famous who had very well adapted the practice of minding their own businesses. There was an eerie silence in the neighborhood, one which was occasionally shattered only by the utterly old watchman blowing his rattling whistle during his ceremonial round.

* * *

Taking into account the scenario, it was obvious for Rocky to get startled by the knock on his car window. Standing outside the car was his father, sporting a brown shawl and with reading glasses perched upon his bald head.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Rocky was hit by this imminent question as soon as he rolled the window down.

“I… err… I was planning to come home, but then changed my mind.”

“What! At this hour! Have you been drinking again?” said his father as he opened the car door and stepped inside to snuggle up in the seat next to Rocky’s.

“I am not liable to answer your every question, dad!”

“What did I do wrong while raising you? I would have been grateful to God had you possessed even a fraction of the courteousness your younger brother exhibits!”

“Dad, please! Don’t start harping praises about Anuj. One can exhibit only that amount of courteousness which is directly proportional to the amount of money and love you shower on him.”

“Oh, so it is about that! Look at yourself… do you really consider yourself adept of stepping into the shoes of the partner in my organization? You have to earn a position like that with hard-work and trustworthiness, son!”

“I have always tried my best to meet your expectations, but fallen short. Dad, accept it… you are just too blinded in the love of your ‘better and more capable’ son, Anuj, to ever notice my flawlessness!”

“Am I? Oh, am I? Which son of mine was pushed to the best and the most expensive college in town, purely based on my contacts? Who of my two sons received a car of his own as soon as he asked for it? And what did you do? …dropped out of college and toiled around with those loser friends of yours!” Rocky’s father clenched his fist around the gear stick to control his hyper state. “Till her last breath your mother warned me that I was spoiling you, but I never listened to her.”

“If you really care about my well-being, then why do you want to snatch away the apartment from me? Why do you want to keep me deprived of money?” Rocky asked in a bid to divert his father’s attention away from the gate, lest his friends would step out.

“Because I am aware how your loser friends are fleecing you. You are nothing more than a hen who is laying golden eggs for them!”

Rocky heaved a sigh and shook his head in frustration. He didn’t like anyone, especially his father, preaching him or pointing a finger at his friends. More than that, he was done arguing for the day. He sneaked a glance at his watch, followed by one at the window of his father’s room. Fifteen minutes had passed since his friends had entered the house! What were they up to? Would it be a good idea to send his father back home into the preying arms of Vikrant and Saaqib? But what if he raised an alarm on noticing the unlocked gate and open door?

After a moment of consideration, Rocky typed ‘ABORT PLAN. FLEE FROM BACKDOOR’ in his mobile phone.

“Years ago your mother had found some strips of an unknown medicine in your college bag. On consulting the doctor we came to know that you were addicted to abusive substances, but your aloofness prevented us from confronting you.”

Rocky looked at his father in awe!

“The stress owing to this broke down your mother and killed her eventually. I may have been wrong in my way of dealing with the situation, but I restricted the flow of money to you in order to stop your addiction.”

Rocky again read the message he had typed, addressed it to Vikrant before clicking the ‘send’ button. No sooner had he done that, a gunshot reverberated in the vicinity. It prominently came from his father’s room. In a reflex Rocky turned towards his father but, to his bewilderment, found the seat next to him vacant. His father was nowhere to be seen!

Rocky was so dazed that he did not see his friends rushing out of the house, running towards him with waving hands and barging into the car. He had to be shaken awake from his unnerved state and yelled at before he could start the car and flee from the scene with Vikrant and Saaqib.

A lot of questions were pounding inside Rocky’s head: Where did his dad come from in the middle of the night? Subsequently, how did he disappear into thin air suddenly? Whom did his friends shoot?

* * *

Vikrant turned towards Rocky and started narrating the episode in excitement, “We had attacked your father with both our weapons, and were pretty sure that he was dead. But the old man was more stubborn than we had anticipated.”

“Are you hundred percent sure that it was my dad who was present in the room?”

“What makes you ask this silly question, Rocky? Of course it was him,” replied Vikrant. “After attacking him, we scavenged for money and valuables from your father’s closet.”

"That was a spontaneous master-stroke which I introduced into the plan,” Saaqib added with a smirk on his face. “With this stroke, not only did we lay our hands on some riches, but also succeeded to paint a false coat of burglary motive on the killing.”

“Was there ample lighting in the room to ensure that none of you made any mistake in identifying my dad?”

“Rocky, what’s wrong with you! We clearly saw your father’s face… before and after killing him,” exclaimed Saaqib.

“Finally when we wrapped up the loot and were about to step out, I saw your father’s fingers move. Since he had seen our faces, I drew out the gun from his cabinet and shot a bullet to his heart. Under no circumstance could we take chances, you know,” Vikrant concluded the story.

Rocky drove on unabatedly. He had ultimately attained closure by getting rid of the heaviest shackle of his life. Perhaps his father too achieved closure by speaking his heart out to his elder son tonight. If everyone achieved what they had wished for, why did Rocky have to blink profusely to withdraw the drop of tear that had formed in his eyes?

* * *

Monday, November 30, 2015

From the heart...

कुछ शामें बचाके रखीं थी, यारों के साथ पीने के लिए...
काफी पैसे कमाके रखें थे, बाद में आराम से जीने के लिए... 

जाने कब मेरी ज़िन्दगी से निकल गयीं, वो बचाई हुई हर एक शाम।
यार दोस्त भी ग़ुम हुए, पीछे रह गए सिर्फ पैसे और जाम।


कॉलेज-टाइम की वो रातें याद है यारों...
जब होता था कमरा खचाकच भरा और बोतलें खाली।

आज भी हर रात को महफ़िल जमती है मेरे घर में... 
बोतलें तो भरी हुई है, पर आज कमरा  है खाली।