Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Of Letters, Sms and Tweets

When my parent were young, everyone wrote letters to each other. I have many handwritten letters from people and even though some of them may be torn or faded, the memories they evoke are rich and resonant. The most treasured letters are naturally from  brothers when they were growing up, and family and distant friends. Phones were not so common then.They were the days of postcards, inland letteres and stamps of all colours. Not all the emails, tweets, smses that come my way these days can quite evoke the magic of those handwritten letters.

No one quite anticipated the letter’s sudden demise. So, not many preserved the letters we received. Luckily my parents did, though I wish they had kept some more of them. Today, when almost all communication is only verbal or virtual, one misses the intimacy of handwritten words. Once in a while I chance upon them while searching and am amazed at the patience, the gentleness, the unspoken bonding of a time when people sat down and wrote their hearts out to their friends, family and lovers, in their own hand. Some like Amitabh Bachchan still do, in his characteristic calligraphic write. But less, I guess,now that he is busy conversing with the whole world at large through his blog.

Letters, unlike blogs, were not meant for people. They were always one on one. I have personal letters from Indira Gandhi telling how disappointed she was when my grandfather gave up poetry. I have letters with drawings, countless doodles from Husain, each one a charming missive. Some of my grandfather's friends used to send him handwritten poems  every now and then ( I  remember something nice myslef last year :) ).

There are no letters, no words I have to decipher meanings from. In fact, all communication today is more obvious (and more guarded) and even though I respond to tons of sms, emails, tweets I get from friends, acquaintances, colleagues, I can sense I am missing something out there. All I get on my birthday are scribbles, flowers, chocolates, books, CDs, aftershaves. Among my cherished gifts are still pens. I still preserve the Sheaffer my aunt  gifted me. I collect any hand written books I can lay my hands on, be it the Irodov's or  some beautiful, lost literature.

The technology of communication has vastly improved. Smses will soon cost only a paisa. Email is free. So are tweets, FaceBook postings. But I miss the personal touch of the handwritten letter, the poem, the manuscript, the drawings, the music notations that my parents have. They bring about a sense of belonging and remembrance. No flowers, no chocolates, no CDs can quite compensate that.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

When relationships end...

When a relationship ends, one person tends to shed it faster, while the other wades through the pain and grief of parting When Priyanka Chopra and Harman Baweja split, she moved out faster and more smoothly from the relationship than Harman did. In a recent interview he talks about his suffering during the shooting of What’s Your Rashi? “"I knew what was happening” he says, hinting that Priyanka was carrying on with Shahid right under his nose.

Priyanka, on the other hand, well into another relationship, was seemingly insensitive to Harman’s suffering. When Kareena and Shahid split, Kareena seemed to move on more smoothly into a new relationship, while Shahid seemed to linger on in the now defunct relationship for a while longer.

Almost always when a relationship ends, one person tends to shed it faster, while the other wades through the pain and grief of parting. How you respond depends on your personality type and state of dependence on your partner. It can also be impacted by the manner in which the parting happened. Did he/she unexpectedly walk out of the relationship while the other was unprepared? Or, was it a slow and helpless falling out of love on both sides? Did one cheat the other in any way? Was there respect in the ending?

What helps the process is if the break is for the right reason. If two partners decide to break off to move on to more positive and fulfilling stuff, the parting is likely to be amicable. However, if one walks out seeking to hurt or ‘punish’ the other, the parting and subsequent interaction is bound to be acrimonious and painful for both. In order to have a peaceful after, it’s important to weed out the negativity along with the relationship.

In deference to the relationship and earlier shared love, it is incumbent on the break-up pair to ensure the impact on the other is minimal. Some people find it helps to have a “Transition Relationship”. Almost always in a break up, one person has found someone else to love, while the other is smarting under disbelief and grief.

The hurt person may attract such a temporary relationship. It is commonly looked upon as a miscalculated " rebound relationship". However, I prefer to look upon a transition affair as a helpful hand life extends to get us through a difficult period. And since such help is needed for just a while, these relationships, by their very nature, are short lasting.

The most critical thing to remember in the midst of the grief is that time heals all. There comes a time when tears dry up, the heartache stops and what remains is a regret for what could have been. Unless of course you have reason not to let go that last link with the relationship. As with actor Rekha, who often creates embarrassing moments by keeping alive the memory of her decades-old affair with Amitabh Bachchan. Big B though, seems to have moved on!

One moves on and stops grieving, no matter how sharp and unnerving the parting. Knowing this as a reality in the middle of your tragedy helps. But what helps more than anything else is if both partners accord each other due respect and make an effort to help make the parting easier.

You cannot predict or dictate how a relationship ends. But you can certainly choose to let go of it with dignity. It is important to first accept that the relationship has actually ended. The support of friends and family is something that should be actively sought to help tide over the worst of the crisis.

Under the stress of a breaking relationship, tempers can be mercurial; try and avoid getting into fights, and make allowance for the other partner’s irrational words and actions; it will help you remain sane.

Try staying away from reminders of happy times, at least for a while. Those memories will bring a smile later, currently they will only make you miserable. Do not try to “remain friends” — at least not at this stage - it’s unnatural when you are smarting and can perhaps come later.

If handled carefully on both sides, parting though still painful, can at least cease to be a lifelong trauma. And perhaps when you look back in the autumn of life, it can just be a sweet sorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is Mumbai like that only?

Although I am a true-blue Mumbaikar, I am confused. While the media and outsiders never fail to hail the ‘spirit’ of Mumbai, others (mostly non- Mumbaikars) blame all our ills on our apathy.

Now how can we be spirited as well as apathetic? Both are mutually contradictory. While spirit denotes energy and zest for life, apathy reflects disinterest, dispiritedness or detachment.

For us Mumbaikars, it’s not as much a question of apathy to issues, lack of concern for others, or unwillingness to take up cudgels as much as it’s a question of survival, of getting on with the business of making money. Each and every action of ours has been shaped by our daily struggle, our thoughts and non-actions determined by our grind in the great metropolis.

Just consider a few aspects if you will:

When you get in and out of a crowded local train risking limb and life, the last thing you want to do is to take up arms against the Railway ministry and shout `Mamata Banerjee Hai Hai’. The commute may be cattle class, but we have no time to stand and shriek. The boss is there to scream if we are late at work. It’s not apathy, its called work ethic.

When the rains flood our streets and ruin our homes and lives, we curse the rain gods and we rail against the authorities for not doing enough to upgrade the infrastructure and keep us safe. But a day or two later, we shrug our shoulders and get back to rebuilding our homes and lives. We know the ways of the BMC, the state babus and netas. One in a hundred may not be corrupt; one in a thousand may actually be doing good work. But who has the time or energy to seek out these people when time itself is such a premium in this city? It’s not apathy, it’s time management.

When there are so many sick, destitute people on the streets, how many do we help with a rupee or two? How do we differentiate between a genuine beggar from a racketeer? It’s not apathy, call it street smartness.

When burglars, bank scamsters and fraud builders take us for a ride, we file cases, chase police officers and media for help to retrieve at least a part of our savings or investments. That is not the famed spirit of Mumbai; it is our pragmatism, our self-preservation. For without money, you can’t do anything in this financial capital of India.

When terrorists strike, many of us cower and cringe, a few brave ones fight back, but the entire city is united in its defencelessness and shared sorrow. A year later, the media may make a big issue of 26/11, but the common man’s attitude may seem blasé, even stoic: Kya karein hum? Aisa hi hota hai? That, for the average Mumbaikar, is neither apathy nor spirit; it just means getting on with life.

And so it goes. I guess it is easier to assign pat attributes to a city and its citizens, to reconfirm smart stereotypes when one is not living in that city, or even if one is a denizen, is alienated from the mainstream.

Cynicism is not a loaded word to describe our negative attitude. It is a cloak to cover our bedraggled souls. Only if you believe that it’s each man for himself, and that where there is life there’s hope, then you can see that apathy and spirit are two sides of the same coin. A coin that is tossed by the Mumbaikar every day. Heads we win, tails you lose.

Don’t damn the Mumbaikar, but don’t praise him either. He’s like that only.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tabula Rasa!

Hey guys, while I write actively, I've been a little shy of publishing stuff more often than not. This blog has a few of my old and some new stuff that I've written... Will be uploading more soon :)