Saturday 31 January 2015

Wish me a wish!

I was twenty one when I got married. Too young even by modern Indian standards but then, it appeared as the only cure at that time for a young girl badly bitten by love bug and smitten by a handsome prince charming, like the one popping up straight out of some fairy tale that she had grown up with. Marriage meant lifelong friendship, late night gossips, drinking wine together in a closed room, pillow fights following kisses on foreheads and snarling at each other’s lovely misgivings. So far, so good! It was not much later that I realized that early marriage also meant making of a ‘bahu’ in a joint family, following a routine that fitted my ‘sasural’, learning to cook, wash, clean, do the bed, study for career and help others study for their careers, all juggling at the same time. Following the precision of clock ticking every second, did not even get to know when did I get trapped in the “Let’s do- When to do- Will do” vicious cycle of routines. I loved where I was and what good work was I doing but I loved it not enough to be take it to my grave. My wish-list, thereafter, has been increasing day by day.

It has been thirteen years since marriage and I've learnt to find my sky where I could tick off items in wish list at my own gradual pace, in my own merrily way. So recently when I was doing my wardrobe for the forthcoming week as a regular Sunday ritual, I decided to break the mould. I shut myself in a closet for three mirthful hours and retrieved old photographs from archives looking for my favourite few. There it went. The ones in which I was dressed up as geek man supporting big moustache for a play that was staged in city's local theatre. Then there was another in which I was all dressed up for playing a new bride who had lost her husband in martyrdom. There was one from school in which I characterized the journey of a young boy through India's freedom struggle till his old age. And another when I played a ‘sutradhaar’ delivering monologue a good twenty five minutes long!! So many others in which I was either giggling, rehearsing, practicing lines, anchoring, putting makeup for stage or performing. In many of those snaps I spotted my prince, now my husband, standing beside me as partner to give a toast to whatever work, good or bad, I was doing. Tears of nostalgia welled my eyes. I wondered why on earth did I ever think of giving up theatre? Is there actually a point in giving up simple pleasures of life in pursuit of larger happiness? Don't little moments make up life? I resolved. I’d restart. I will go back to the ‘stage’ that has beckoned me, calling my name loud and clear continuously for last thirteen years. That is where I am meant to be. The next I remember is rushing for facebook, twitter and my old directory, hunting for names of friends who could help me take plunge into my second chance of reliving creativity.

As a little girl, I remember being highly opinionated. My nerdy opinions often fetched me snarls of elders who winked at me to ‘keep shut’ in public, of friends who thought I ‘pretended’ to be against populist culture and traditional norms, of men who thought of me as a feminist and even of colleagues who thought I was too straightforward in office to be climbing the ladders of success. But who cares a darn? What could I possibly do if I have a mind of my own and whatever I have to say finds little appreciation in the traditional way of thinking. They label me. Atheist, feminist, blasphemer, geek, nerd, oddball and may be a few more. My desire to express is in-suppressible but there’s this one weapon that has always, just always, rescued me from peril of labels. It is called ‘the pen.’ I learnt that firstly, it is mightier than the sword and secondly, while writing the story of your life, never let anyone else hold it on your behalf. So her I am! All set with papers and a fountain pen, often replacing it with keyboard on my laptop, speaking boisterously on multiple blogging sites or discussing forums on internet and preparing half-baked unfinished manuscripts or blueprint of a proposed book in mind. In the days to come, I want my writings to be read. I write for the same reasons I breathe. ‘Cause if I didn’t, I’d die.

Sitting near the bonfire in this cold breezy evening with a cup of ‘masala’ chai in my hand, when I take a look around, I gather warmth. Warmth in the eyes of my husband who checks out on me from some distant corner of the room, warmth in the laughter of my children who are gleefully working together on paper origami and warmth of love, cosiness and snugness of home. Yet, my mind wanders. I want to drift away from this comfort and travel alone to the lands unseen. Test myself in the hard waters and find that I can fare well even when I am on my own. To travel to the strangest places in our country without disclosing plans to anyone, to take journey as it comes, to see places and jot them down in my diary, to sleep for wee hours and stay awake for successive days, to sit by the waters and dance by the tress, to stop to breathe that one waft of pure air wherever I please.  As luck would have it, whenever I speak of freezing a month’s itinerary for some lone travel, my dear ones gush in out of love to offer me company and refuse to let me venture alone. Their love is overpowering! So much so that I always surrender to their concern for me while they daftly wait for my nod to say, “Okay guys, you can join me” and the trip has to be postponed to ‘some-future-date-to-be.” But the frame has to be broken for this date to intercept my life. It has to be now. So I guess when I’m done with writing this article, I’ll be seen fishing for a plan to some distant land, making it happen all by myself.  

So what if sometimes in life we miss the first bus? Second chances come because maybe the time wasn't right for the first one. It may not have a happy ending but it will certainly have the right ending, like the fairy tale that I would have spun for myself. 

This post is a part of the #SecondChance activity at Blogadda in association with MaxLife Insurance

Friday 30 January 2015

Stars in my kitty

* India's Top 100 HR Influencers you must follow on Twitter

* In the list of "101 Inspiring Women in India", published in Jan 2016 

* Began as Writer/Columnist For Huffington Post 

 Winner of the prestigious Write India Campaign by The Times Group under Ashwin Sanghi. Felicitated at Times Lit Fest, New Delhi, 2015

* Team Member, Lucknow Literature Carnival, IGP, Lucknow, 2015 and Moderator for several sessions.

* Team Member, Lucknow Literary Festival-2016, Paryatan Bhawan, 2015 and Moderator for several sessions.

* Team Member, Lucknow Literature Festival (erstwhile Carnival), IGP, 2016, Writer and Moderator 

* My first story, The Lost Tranquility, incidentally won the International Writing Cash Contest 2005

*The write-up Running The Harrowing Race Of Nursery School Admissions gets picked up by Blogadda for "Spicy Saturday"

The story Wish me a wish! is declared winner by Blogadda in #SecondChance Contest conducted in association with Max Life Insurance Co.

* The story The Lost Tranquility also gets picked up by Blogadda for its "Spicy Saturday"

Saturday 10 January 2015

Chittorgarh: Where silence speaks a thousand words

When I set on my journey to explore the mystique of Rajasthan, I had a long list of places in mind. Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Pushkar and the very many mighty forts around these places. To be honest, if at all Chittorgarh was to be in the itinerary, it wasn't to be given more than half a day, for it looked not even half as significant as other talked-of places did.

My husband and I reached the trekking point to Chittorgrah Fort in an early December morning. This is what it looked like from a distance - 

Mighty!! Super powerful!
As if having borne the cruelty of intruders and calamities of nature not once or twice but a hundred times. In fact, we were sort of right. As the history has to tell, Chittor Fort fought thirty major battles out of which it lost only three. With every major battle millions of lives, opulence, fame and prosperity were lost and with losing the last battle, Chittor never rose to glory again. The silence of ruins however speaks a thousand stories of chivalry, sacrifice and blood flowing like river down the fort hill. This wasn't just a holiday spot. From the many forts and palaces that we had been to, this one was ALIVE. Waiting to be told and retold and appreciated. 

As we trekked the various points in the huge and mighty fort, we realized that half a day would not be good enough to see even half-the-fort. To be succinct, here are the few landmarks that had the most powerful storytelling:-

(1) Panna's Sacrifice

On one summer night in 16th century within these stone wall Panna, nanny to little prince Uday Singh II, had already fed her beloved son, Chandan and her royal charge, and put them both to bed when she heard loud noises and chaos from a kilometer away distance. Immediately, a servant ran in to tell her that Banbir, the illegitimate claimant to the throne, had assassinated Uday's father in a nearby chamber of the fort and was rushing to behead the little prince. "Young Udai must be saved", that was all Panna was determined about.  She immediately instructed the servant to put the sleeping prince into a large basket and smuggle him out of the fort where she would later join them and then the mother of strength and steel lifted her sleeping son, Chandan, from his bed and placed him on the prince's bed, faking him to pass off as the royal prince. As expected, Banbir burst into the room and slew her son right before her eyes. Watching her son cut to pieces, this woman rose motherhood to a level no commoner can. 

Twelve years later, Uady Singh returned to throne as the King of Mewar. 
The remains of the chamber move one to pride and tears.

(2) Rani Padmini's Jal Mahal

Rani Padmini is known to be one of the most beautiful women in the world whose grace and intelligence either brought suitors and claimants to insanity or to dust. She is the uncrowned heroine of Chittor, also one of the bravest woman in Indian history. This is the palace where Khilji caught a glimpse of Rani Padmini in a mirror while she sat on the steps of the Jal Palace. The nerd king instantly lost his mind completely to her beauty. This later led to first major attack on the fort by him which drove Rani to perform the first Jauhar in India, supposedly with 15000 women and children. 

Jauhar! In which, on getting the news of their spouses getting killed in the battlefield, women in the fort along with their little ones were supposed to jump in a forty five feet trench of fire. It is said that one jauhar fire stayed lit for three continuous days after which the fort left nothing behind but a barren land of in-collectible ashes. 

Gosh! This was the creepiest place in the fort, like some live burial ground. Sati, Jauhar, martyrdom, soldier's graves, cold blooded murders, talk of it and you find it here. The silent reverberations of children howling, women mourning and mothers weeping gives  goosebumps. 
In the picture above:
Spot 1: The platform where women  performed 'Sati'  by immolating themselves along with husband's dead body
Spot 2: The spot where women and children performed Jauhar in a forty five feet deep trench 
Spot 3: Burial ground of soldiers.

(3) Meera Temple
In 1516, Prince Bhoj of Mewar married the princess Meera of Merta. This is the same Meera Bai who is spoken about as the biggest devotee of Lord Krishna. The 'Kanwar Pada Palace' in palace is the place where Meera arrived as a new bride and lived at Chittorgarh Fort. Her love for Krishna was not appreciated by the royal Rajputs who mocked her to be loving someone who she wasn't married to and tortured her day in and day out. However, this did not dissuade Meera from worshiping Krishna. She got a temple built within the fort premise where she spent most of her time singing glories of him. 

Around 1532, Meera Bai left Chittorgarh forever and moved to Vrindavan. The legend goes after that day, Chittor never ever saw good fortune.

(4) The Royal Pond
This is the pond in the fort where royal blood took their daily bath. While men could walk down to the pond in an open stairway, an underground tunnel was built for the royal ladies so that their privacy remained protected. The fort that once boasted of 84 water bodies has only 22 of them now. These water bodies are fed by natural catchment and rainfall and have a combined storage of 4 billion litres that could suffice water needs of an army of 50,000. The supply could last for four years. Because the fort would not run out of food or water for years, rarely did Chittor lose long fought battles. 

(5) Victory Tower and Kallika temple: These are another two notable spots in the fort premise. The Victory Tower (37.19 m high and 9 storied) was constructed by Mewar king Rana Kumbha between 1442 AD and 1449 AD to commemorate his victory over the combined armies of Mewar and Gujarat led by Mahmud Khilji and boasts of remarkable architecture. The Kallika mata temple is an ordinary ancient temple with a rare tradition in which whenever a wish is granted by Goddess Kali, a rooster is left free for life in the temple campus unlike the old age tradition of 'bali' or sacrifice at altar. One can see numerous roosters playing gleefully around with dogs, monkeys and birds. 

The best way to end the one-two days long trek of the Chittor Fort was with the sound and light show organised by RTDC within the fort premise. As the dusk falls and darkness seeps in, stone walls come to life with casting of beautiful lights. One can easily imagine the sumptuosity of life and bravery of Rajputanas with which they defended their prestige, year after year, enemies after enemies. This feeling is so profoundly moving that even after returning from the fort, it haunts in the memories for a long long time. 

Which part of the review caught your attention the most? Which site in the fort beckons you most for a visit? Do let know.
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