Arun – A Short story

Arun

It was Arun’s story that fascinated me and increased my curiosity to know more about him. I had never known Arun and maybe not even  meet him ever, yet whatever I came to know about him and his adventurous life made me rethink about my own undisclosed dreams that are waiting to be realized for long.

One fine afternoon during the ongoing lockdown period, my husband received a call from his friend Sunni all over from Qatar. Unlike other days, Sunni sounded much more disturbed and impatient. Instead of asking about his whereabouts, he implored my husband to try contacting Arun. Apparently, Arun was somewhere in Varanasi and was suffering from high fever. On an usual day, none of these details would have given us a fright. Afterall, anyone with a spiritual bent of mind yearns to spend time at the banks of the river Ganges and get away from the hue and cry of the city city. Even I dream of spending a month or two among sadhus and lose track of time, forget now, then and after. But, alas, this has remained just a wish, calling me day after day. And, it was also okay to have fever while traveling. People usually suffer from fever during a long and tough journey. However, we had received this piece of news when fever had become a symptom of the incurable and life threatening covid and travelers were caught offguard due to the lockdown undertaken to control the unimaginable pandemic.

My husband promised  Sunni to figure out a solution and way to get in touch with Arun. Upon being questioned, he told me that Arun is a close friend of Sunni and they have been inseparable since childhood. Raised in the lap of nature of Kerala, Arun started exhibiting proclivity toward spirituality and enlightenment at an early age. Meanwhile, he also fell in love with the English literature. He was a frequent traveller to Varanasi and did not mind the company of sadhus who had bequeathed wealth and left their families. Arun’s world was beyond the understanding of those around him.  While he was during his one of these spiritual trips, the entire country was locked down to control the spread of this less understood disease. Like others, even Arun had never imagined that the country will remain locked up for so long. With everything, including transportation, coming to a standstill, Arun joined a troop of sadhus. Interestingly, he was living the real moments of his life.

When Sunni tried getting in touch with Arun, he was unable to get the right information about Arun from the sadhus due to his poor understanding of the language Hindi. He panicked and hence called my husband. As  we reside in Delhi, which is closer  to Varanasi, he expected us to be in a better position to assist Arun. My husband immediately called up people putting up in Varanasi.

After a number of phone calls, his friends got in touch with the sadhus and eventually Arun. They sounded surprised and shared cheerfully that Arun is with sadhus. And, they are taking good care of Arun. They are cooking food and giving him medicines on time. Upon hearing this wonderful and humane news, my dream to relinquish everything got strengthened. In the noise of social media and newsrooms, this incident rekindled my faith in humanity and kindness. Beyond all wars and pandemics, there’s something called humanness that we steadily and unconsciously losing from ourselves. 

A Review of the Hindi Story Aaga Peecha by Premchand

The Hindi literature has always been the primary source to comprehend the magnitude of the sociopolitical problems of the Indian society, whether it is the deep rooted patriarchy, subjugation of the commons using religion and other divisive rituals, inner conflicts of an individual or any other rural and urban pertinent topics of discussion and contemplation that remain ignored by other populist mediums. Beyond the noise of social media and newsrooms, the stories, playwrights and novels written in Hindi effortlessly portray the sensitive and heart-rending conflicts. They allow readers to look into the lives of the characters that are relatable and thereafter enable them to reflect upon their own lives.

Munshi Premchand

One of such Hindi authors who has always amazed his readers by his detailed description and deep analysis of the people around him is Munshi Premchand. His intense, realistic and thought-provoking stories are quite similar to those written by Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. My father often hails him as the Shakespeare of India and I cannot agree more on this. His timeless stories are devoid of any preaching and concentrate more upon presenting the daily encounters as they would have occurred. The warmth, sensitivity and pain described in his stories assist readers in experiencing a range of cathartic emotions that have steadily diminished around us. They assist us in getting into the shoes of the character as wonderfully accomplished in the stories of Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. I had the opportunity to read Prem Chand’s short story “Aaga Peechha” .  Even though the story was penned down by the author a long time back, it still stands relevant for the society.

Like his other women-centric stories, even “Aaga Peechha” is about those women who, despite deprivation and other odds, accept their lives and strengthen their values and principles to face any humiliation and ostracization. It’s about women who not just mirror all feminine qualities, but also strong moral values. It’s also about women who are the ideal examples of  both inner and outer beauty, who through their strong character  build up a strong family, man and society. They might fascinate those around them like a colorful flower swaying with the breeze, but are as determined and steadfast as a mountain in the times of stormy nights.

Women presented in Premchand’s stories are strong and inspiring

The story revolves around a young and dynamic girl raised by a prostitute. The story describes the emotional turmoil of the girl due to the stigma attached to her  being a daughter of a prostitute. Despite being extremely talented and mature for her age, she is time after time reminded of her social status by others. And, she finally realizes that any personal merit or socioeconomic achievement will never enable her to detach herself from this social stigma. As a consequence, she develops distrust and hopelessness toward social institutions, including marriage, until she meets a fellow classmate who looks at her beyond her body and admires her for her merit and achievements. The story unfolds in a beautiful manner wherein the emotional upheavals of both the girl and the boy has been beautifully portrayed. Such relationships despite being intense and beautiful have to witness innumerable emotional social conflicts. 

By the time characters build up their confidence and determination to give a proper conclusion t such relationships, they are consistently weakened by the rigid rules and certain dogmas attached to certain communities and profession, such as prostitution. When they succeed in overcoming all dogmas and  restraints, they encounter innumerable indescribable inner conflicts. The story makes readers think and contemplate over human psychology and social strictures that fail people in realizing their dreams and forming relationships that can exist only in an ideal world. It needs courage to overcome both inner and outer conflicts to live up to our ideals and principles.

Understanding Desperate Times by Reading David Copperfield

What is it that makes a person throw all worries away and so desperate to walk miles and miles to reach their destination in tragic times. Is it the hope of retreating to a place that a person imagines to be his or her “home”? Is it because the person, left penniless and hopeless by the bad times, is completely convinced to find there people with whom they share the bond of trust and unconditional affection? That’s the place and those are the people they trust will protect them from all pecuniary difficulties and help them in weathering all seasonal changes.

We can excercise certain control over the trajectory of our life, but at the end, unfortunately, it can transform unimaginably due to some unforseen hardships and events. Some hardships are of our own making and some are unannounced and uninvited reprimandations of the nature, such as epidemics and disaster.  During such life-changing events, we get surrounded by conditions, situations and folks beyond our imagination. And, then we are thrown to informidable challenges and excruciatingly painful encumbrances capable of damaging our present and the future.

When flanked with cold and evil people during unfortunate times, our life can digress to a never chosen and imagined path. This can turn one’s world totally upside down, regrettably desolate and dystopian.  I was forced to reflect upon such a sensitive and heart-rending topic because of the coronavirus pandemic that has ruthlessly forced the blue collared and have nots to abandon cities and go back to their villages by any means within their reach. And, how the classic novel “David Copperfield” played a pivotal role in helping me fully comprehend the emotions and insecurities that drive people to walk despite all odds and fears.

Better to die with families' — no food or money, Delhi migrants ...

When David, the protagonist of the above-mentioned novel, decides to run away from his present life, bereft of learning and well being, he  encounters hunger, fear, threat, and all kinds of feelings and despair moments beyond his imagination. Despite all odds, he remains as determined as a mountain to reach aunt Betsy’s place. The young David was thrown into a world that was so unsuitable and detrimental to his  future that he knew that the only way he can salvage his life is by reaching aunt Betsy’s place.

David Copperfield (Charles Dickens collection) eBook: Dickens ...

He is robbed of his savings and bags and thereafter is forced by the circumstances to sell his  coat and waist coat to survive his long journey to a place that he imagined to be his real home. He experiences hunger, fear and other other overwhelming emotions. He is troubled by trampers and tinkers on his way at night. He is forced to sleep on the roadside. He recounts his feeling of embarrassment and fear of death experienced during the lonely, scary and exhaustive journey to a place that was still only in his imagination. Despite losing everything, and braving all dust and rain, he is finally able reach the place that would change his life for good.

David Copperfield | Summary, Analysis, Adaptations, & Facts ...

The terrifying and harrowing experience penned down by the author Charles Dickens can make anyone think and reflect about untoward circumstances that can force people of all ages to take tough decisions for their good. If you try connecting the dots, then you will understand why migrants and laborers were forced during the lockdown to take drastic measures like walking or cycling back to their home, despite not having enough food and money to survive the long journey usually undertaken by train or bus.

It’s their hopelessness that drove them to undertake such a drastic stand. The migrants have highlighted the fragility of their trust in the government and city people whom they helped in building their cities. It’s their trust in people back home who will take care of their both material and emotional needs in such a tragic time. If we put ourselves in their shoes, then we will become capable enough to understand their pain and emotions. When David is harassed by the trampers and tinkers at nights and when he cries to bargain his waist coat for money than anything else like flute, etc., it’s then we can understand that desperate times force people to take desperate measures.

 

 

 

 

Strange Times…. Fantasies and Dreadful Thoughts

Time is flying away too fast, or on the contrary, it stands still like never before. I look for answers, only to hear nothing in response, absolutely nothing. Days now pass away in search for a “ray of hope”, which remains far beyond my reach. Bombarded with essential and non-essential information on the virus, I now know everything, thanks to the fourth estate that continues to make a scapegoat out of the common masses and divide citizens on man-made classifications, but only the exact time period when this pandemic should get over. I search for peace in between the chaos by disconnecting from the lonely and scared souls, least someone infects me with the fear far more deadlier than the virus. To beat all blues and dreadful thoughts, we make love at home, an unforgettable love. These fantasises help me in overcoming all fears and morbid feelings.

The 12 Most Romantic Lovers Depicted In Art

In the pitch dark room, with nowhere else to go  but just remain like choiceless prsioners within the four walls, we make love to forget and forgive. We give wings to our fantasies to recuperate from the threat lingering like the invisible shadow of death. We passionately kiss each other and embrace ourselves in each other’s arms to pen a beautiful story in such strange times. We wake up after a refreshing love making and whisper “I love you!” , least anyone else can hear, with so many people passing their time by remaining locked in their homes. My eyes twinkle again and heart starts to beat effortlessly again; it’s a nice sensation.  I turn towards him to caress his hair and bare arms. With a twinkle in my eyes, I emphasize, “Let’s make the fullest of this time.” Maybe rekindle the love that was disspiating away, or pen a new love story set in such a weird and grotesque context.

This pandemic is an unimaginable and inexpressible experience; it’s a test of human endurance and our believe in hope. I feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, by the news announcements and commentaries screeching unstoppably around me. I prefer retreating into my room to pen my emotions or sleep away  in peace. In my writing room, I feel more relaxed and human. I keep writing down my emotions and thoughts that surge with the passage of every day. Despite all relentless efforts, there’s no respite from this pandemic. We are creating history, a history build on human animosity, political rivalry, ruthless competitiveness and unbearable narcissism. The pandemic has been an enlightening experience for many, those who never looked beyond money, who were too occupied in building their mansion, who felt invincible, and the list goes on. I can see hope quite lucidly when I write and discreetly pray for this strange time to end.

Get a Kick Out of Reading “Fools Die”

I recently picked up a romance novel to satisfy the writer as well as reader in me. On the contrary, I felt sick because of its excessively decorative language and repulsed by the entire concept of love that leads to idolization and dependence rather than liberating two people in love. I guess my ideas about love have drastically changed with age and time.  It’s now more about spending my precious time with a man who respects me and my thoughts. I find super heroes boring and utterly disappointing, instead find men with conviction and knowledge more endearing. Frankly, I am so much done with fairy tales and neck deep into the realities of life. So, I naturally started looking for novels that are more rustic and closer to reality.  People say reading a book is like traveling the world and experiencing the life. And, there’s no doubt that I absolutely buy this idea. They have molded each and every aspect of my personality. However, I still feel incomplete as I am yet to feel that I have read enough and know sufficient to lead my life. The daily grinds of life no more scare me; I rather get a kick when I come across people who deliberately came out of their comfort zones to do what they yearned for long despite all hardships and hurdles.

fools-die

Sometime back I happened to purchase the novel “Fools Die’ written by Mario Puzo from a local flea market. I had no idea about the novel, except the fact that it was penned by the author of the classic novel “The Godfather”.  I gleefully bought it and unconsciously pushed it in one of the corners of my book shelf. A few days back when heat and loneliness started hitting me hard, I thought of reading this novel. And, trust me, I have loved it so far. As I quoted before, the novel is rustic and extraordinary as it portrays the reality as it exists. The protagonist, Merlyn, is not a super hero, though he loves calling himself a magician. It gives a detailed picture of the world of gambling thriving in the city of Las Vegas and the travails of a writer born orphan. The world of gambling is a world in itself, far beyond the law-abiding life that we lead. It’s a world outside the purview of law and more powerful and fascinating than imagined. There are fixed denizens of this flashy and dangerous world, including rich tycoons ready to splurge money over women and gambling, prostitutes who are commonly known as sleeping pills, losers, people with a broken heart and family trying to forget their personal tragedies, men who control the pit and manage casinos, among all. In this world, it’s not easy to cheat and far difficult to escape after cheating. The person who cheats the casino of its money is more likely to be buried in a desert than left alive, as simple as that.

As I said before, since the characters are vulnerable and imperfect, it becomes far easier to accept them while reading the novel. There are women who are trading their body for money and that’s the reality of life. The novel gives a glimpse into the life of filthy rich people and their world of infidelity, greed, power and control over the system. It’s quite eye opening to read about the personal lives of the capitalists controlling the major portion of the wealth across the world. It also throws light upon the entire business of corruption and how it is conducted. The protagonist of the novel, who aims to earn his living through his writings, though hesitant before does not mind later to indulge in small bribery in his own Robinhood style. Rather than despising himself, he feels more powerful and happy in earning by bribing others for enlisting their children in a short-term military programme to escape from the long-term active duty. Unlike before, he is able to fulfill the desires and feelings of his family, purchase a house in a safer locality, enhance the lifestyle of his family, etc.

casino

There’s so much to talk about this novel that I will have to post one more article to describe its other key themes. I am still reading the novel and am in the midst of discovering the beautiful relationship between the protagonist and his brother, Artie. Despite being different, they are far more connected with each other and understand each other very well. The novel is incomplete without talking about the relationship between Merlyn and Artie and other beautiful connections. The friendship between Merlyn and Cully, who rises to become the kingpin of the world of gambling, can also melt down the hearts of readers. In the next post, I will try to cover the remaining elements of the novel in detail.

Vagabond – A story of a woman who eliminated her fears

A scene from the film Vagabond directed by Agnes Varda

The dichotomy of public and private space seemed just a jargon until I realized how far a woman remains controlled, especially in the public space.  Unlike men, women are supposed to be more coy and mindful in the public space. It is really difficult to conduct a debate over a topic focusing on the division of behavioral pattern on the basis of gender that has been normalized by the society. Raising an eyebrow against such a societal pattern is like creating a storm. When I started growing up, I was exposed to classic cinema and literature unlike many girls of my age. They made me realize that women are not mere agent to pacify others’ wishes and longings. In fact, they like any man long to have her own time and fun. Unlike what many men wrongly believe, every woman has a restless soul and critical mind until unless her intellect has been purposefully subdued to such an extent that she remains ignorant and unaware about her own inner desires and feelings.

When Mona spends time with a goat farmer

Women tend to define and limit their idea of adventure to just fit in the common framework of the society. The society loves to control their mind and body by categorically mentioning the appropriate and inappropriate indulgences for women. There are judgmental eyes roving all around to label a woman as a slut, whore, sinful, goddess, etc. by merely scrutinizing her from head to toe and not paying any damn attention to her thinking mind and perturbed heart.  Many readers after reading this might say, “Well, you are not saying anything new. So, why don’t you stop blabbering and speak something new.”

There have been times when I have looked out through my window in the darkness and dreamt of walking in the empty streets of my city. I have also dreamt of sitting under a tree and watching the sky turning from crimson red to pitch black to the shades of yellow and red. I also yearned to travel alone in a train running past beautiful landscapes dotted with trees and huts, getting down any random station to sip a cup of coffee, start a conversation with a stranger, among others. However, it is difficult to be absolutely free to indulge in our dreams, especially when one is born as a woman. She needs to take steps toward her dreams by ensuring safety. If she has no money, she cannot dare to live her dreams. If she has to exercise total freedom, she must be ready to witness disruptions and hurdles that may range from molestation, assault to characterization as a whore.  In sum, a woman with desires is seen as nothing more than a willful woman. This  has been well presented by none other than the renowned French woman director, Agnes Varda.

Through her path-breaking film, Vagabond, Agnes succeeds in portraying the innate emotions and desires of a woman so far not presented by anyone in the celluloid world. I remember talking about this film during my college days. Even in those days, the fate of the protagonist immensely disturbed me. Raised on classic cinema and literature, it had always been difficult for me to accept the division of role among women and men on the basis of gender. Therefore, it was totally impossible for me to comprehend the extremely discriminatory behavioral patterns imposed on women in the society. So, somewhere down the line, the film Vagabond resonates my and innumerable other women’s feelings.

This poetic tale of a beautiful and thoughtful woman who one fine day decides to throw away her job of a secretary and wander around the French countryside will make every woman to contemplate about their life and yearnings. The protagonist of the film chose the toughest season of the time, i.e., winter to camp around, which is enough to draw attention of the locals and strangers. Though her decision and step may sound erratic and not worth taking risk, her journey and encounters and experiences widen her horizon as an individual by bringing her closer to the truly free life that she wanted to live. In between, some of the women who happened to meet her felt more connected to her than freely sympathetic toward her miserable condition. They feel as if she is living the dream that they too wanted to live one day. However, nothing comes for free, so even the protagonist had to witness assault, humiliation, poverty, etc. to live her dream. Though she meets a fatal end, her journey remains inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s difficult for me to pen down the exact emotions that surged within me while watching this film. I can define them to be closer to poetic, longing, dreamy, etc.

Beyond the mundane structures of the society, the protagonist, named Mona, truly lives her life by meeting and observing the world. She met people who loved her, detested her, humiliated her and used her, yet it’s Mona who stands taller than others. Some of the beautiful scenes of the film include when she passes her time by blissfully sleeping in the arms of a new lover, indulging in wine and sumptuous food, and lazing around the backyard of an empty mansion.

Sometimes she traded her body to earn her living and sometimes she just wandered around with her backpack. She learns new trades to survive when she meets a Tunisian farmer who truly cared for her. If I can put my heart into my writing, then I can say that I loved her uninhibited life devoid of any ambition and the feeling of loss or pain. She is truly a survivor and dreamer. It also seems that she is not living her dreams rather living her life by eliminating her fears. She has no fear of living on streets, no fear of any man, no fear of not leading a normal life, which makes her more fascinating and interesting than all of us.