Monday, March 5, 2018

Unfinished Business

Prashant was a bit anxious today for this coming meeting. Smoking his Classic Milds at a nervous speed on the stairs of his office from where he can look down upon the parking lot. A self-made man, he headed the digital marketing division of his company started in zest about a decade back with his friends. Today they command a good position in the market so there is simply no need for Prashant to feel this nervous energy before a meeting that he hasn't felt in a long time. Not even last week for the meeting to pitch for a leading FMCG giant. And today's meeting was actually professionally insignificant, atleast from their side. Interestingly what set the ball rolling for this one was another chance meeting during that last week's pitch.

His chain of thoughts was suddenly broken when he saw this Ola cab stop at their parking. Right on time he thought, his wait was finally over, a wait to resolve some unfinished business, that he has been doing for over 2 decades and not just today! Once again the edginess in his temper today came back; he needed to really get hold of himself. He was not a school kid or a teenager to be acting like this. He actually did not know if it was really her in the cab or her at all, just a guess from the time.  He threw away the cigarette ignored for a while, still burning well into its butt.

He went inside his office and told his junior that someone was coming to meet him, so bring her to the meeting cabin once she arrives. After a few splashes of water on the face, he felt ready both inside and outside to meet this almost stranger. But that composure changed when she entered the cabin and looked at him with those same deep eyes sans the anger and tears he last remembered. Even before the introduction was made, in his heart Prashant knew that the old classmate he incidentally met during that last week meeting, told him the truth. This was Anubhuti, another classmate of his but a little more than that, best friends, his crush, perhaps love too had he really known the meaning of the word at that age. But whatever names the relationship you want to give, she was the one he had an unfinished business since long and that is why this meeting today was so important to him. She might not remember him today but he remembered everything that happened between them till the last incident that changed everything forever - as their handholding had ended so did their friendship.

Prashant would've gone deep into his thought had Anubhuti not broken it with her introduction. She was senior manager in a leading content marketing platform, that was after this leading FMCG company for their profitable business. She thought that the deal was secure as she had met an old classmate in the communication department there. But then he told her that they had appointed a digital communication agency and they will only decide about going ahead with their platform if they find the agency purposeful and they will only deal with them afterwards. So here she was meeting the head-digital marketing to explain the platform and its benefits. But what she didn't know was that there was an ulterior motive to this meeting too. Their mutual friend in the company Karun knew about their friendship and had recognised them both while meeting them. So when he told Prashant about her, he was very eager to meet her and it was decided that this meeting would be set up like this.

As her presentation rolled on, Prashant’s thoughts kept going back to their school days. They were both good at studies since kindergarten, and yet enjoyed games and recreational activities equally. It wasn't as if they only spent time with each other, they had their own friend's circle amongst their respective genders. Afterall this was still mid 90s and a boy and girl seen constantly together was scandalous to many. But coming from open-minded families they never really had any hitch about being friends with opposite gender, be it with each other or others. With time though they had grown accustomed to each other more than anyone else, from sharing tiffin in the group to going back home together. His house was on the way to hers, just a block away. In primary school they had the same ‘Dai-ma’ taking them back home with other kids on the way. The practice had continued even after there was no ‘Dai-ma’’ or other students accompanying them now that they were in junior school.

Anubhuti broke his wandering thoughts once again, as she asked him a question on what she was just explaining, thinking he was not really paying attention, a classic case when a customer is simply not interested. But Prashant had already done his background research on the product and answered it to her satisfaction that he understood what she was explaining. Once again this took Prashant back to those days when due to his distracted nature and slow handwriting he missed class notes and he would go to her house almost every evening to copy them from her. An exasperated Anubhuti seeing him being distracted and slow would herself take up the copy and copy the notes for him, so they could just get on with some play before it became dark and he had to go home with his aunt downstairs talking to her mom. More than her though this evening ritual had become an irritation for the boys group Prashant was part of. He would miss their evening cricket and football matches and they really started teasing him for his friendship with her. After all even though liberalisation had opened the economy for a few years now, minds of people were still closed about a girl and boy being close friends. Murmuring taunts of P loves A could be heard in the school corridors whenever they met or just stood nearby coincidentally. Even his best friend Pradeep who wholeheartedly supported them had actually indicated that he at times felt left out, specially when he would share more food with her in his tiffin and not him!!!

After completing her presentation, Anubhuti asked him if he found the product interesting and how would he like to proceed further. At this Prashant realised, that even before he had gathered his thoughts on how to deal with their unfinished business, this meeting had come to an end. Now the nervous energy before the meeting was again back in Prashant. Despite being a communication professional for over a decade, suddenly opening up and talking at a personal level was not his forte. He tried stalling her stay by apologising for not offering her coffee or tea before and asked if she would like one and they can discuss some nitty-gritty though he had got everything completely. But she politely refused as she was not really big into drinking tea-coffee and also had a personal commitment approaching. But she said would be happy to discuss way forward or any doubts he had over email if he needed time to sort his mind out. Prashant realised that she was actually in some hurry but also that his lack of concentration had miffed her. He realised she hadn't really changed much after all these years, still very perceptive about others thoughts. She could specially read him like her text books and yes getting irritated easily was something of a weakness they both shared. Both these qualities perhaps were instrumentals in what eventually happened between them.

With time he had grown more attracted towards sports as with many boys of that age and he slipped in rankings, no more 1-2 between them anymore. She held on to being top of the class almost unchallenged then. But that didn't really bother him, atleast not more than the fact that now in junior school class they couldn't sit together due to difference in roll numbers and sitting arrangements between boys and girls in the class. But whenever he got to spend time with her it made him really happy, he even enjoyed playing girly games with her just like the sports he played with the boys. Memories of games they played brought a silly smile to Prashant's face even today. As little kids they played so many scenarios of husband-wife with her toy kitchen set and his bag, of course they had grown over those with time but there still was an unexplained intimacy in their games like antakshari even when they played among group of friends.

By now Anubhuti was rather frustrated, she had been standing silly before this guy with her hands extended for a parting handshake and he was lost in his own world. She withdrew her hand and said a semi polite bye; thinking to herself, clearly this was their last meeting. Even if they do get this client, of which the chances she thought were slim, she would request TL to assign some other manager to this account. She wouldn't be put through such disdain once again, big client or small. How ironical it was that when she first saw him, she actually felt she knew him, a long lost friend perhaps he reminded her of. It was now the turn for her chain of thoughts being broken when he called her standing from his desk.

Prashant realised this was his last chance, if nothing but of just a closure for what had happened between them all those years ago. Things for which he felt truly sorry, and since years he has been trying to find her just so he can get that one chance of redemption. So to prolong their time together, Prashant asked her if he could accompany her downstairs till she gets a cab or something as he was going down as well to get a new pack of cigarettes. Although she said it was not at all necessary as her ride was already there, she did not object to him walking down with her, opening doors for her with complete civility and attentiveness missing so far.

For Prashant, his birthday was never something he really wanted to celebrate in a big way, only 3-4 close friends, including Anubhuti were invited at his home with his family celebrating it all together. That year though leading up to his birthday, things were not very bright, they had grown further distant somehow. Half yearly results saw Prashant slip beyond top 10, and the taunts regarding them together among peers had grown sharper. What was worst is that he felt these things had made her cold towards him and that made him bitter. However, as his birthday drew near he invited her as always and she too accepted happily. For once he thought things would be better between them from now on.

But as things turned out that birthday and the day after, it ended up being the worst, one that changed many things in his life, including a resolve to never celebrate his birthday ever again. That day the weather like his mood had turned cloudy and gloomy and things became worst as the day rolled on. The drizzling that had started since morning kept making return appearances and that made it difficult for his friends to appear for his birthday. What was worst for him that even Anubhuti hadn't come who lived the closest. It was almost 8 o'clock, late even for ending such a party in those days and he hadn't even cut the cake despite everyone in his family asking him to. Finally he had lost all patience and just went out to call her from her house. It was big step as a kid his age going alone out at that late time, but he did not stop for anyone as tears and anger threatened to spill out.

It felt like a lightning strike when upon reaching her doorstep he found the door locked. He felt betrayed, she had gone out but not for his birthday, it was not that she got stuck in rain. Atleast she could've shown up just for a minute when she was going out with her family, he thought, but no why would she waste her time. The idea of her giving no importance to him broke barriers of his anger. Just as he would've made a fool of himself by doing something rash in the middle of the road, his best friend Pradeep's hand was on his shoulder calling his name, saying sorry that he got stuck with rain and muddy road.

Prashant was shaken out of his reverie finally by Anubhuti saying her ride was here. Shocked he realised they had already reached the building gate and a Honda City car was approaching them, driven by a smart looking guy of their age. Anubhuti smiled at the guy and turned to Prashant and said thanks for your time Prashant, you need not worry now as my husband is here to pick me. Even though we did not reach a deal today, look forward to a positive outcome of our meeting. With that she opened the passenger side door and sat in the car that had already pulled up before them.

As they drove away a stunned Prashant realised he had blown away his chance of closing the unfinished business just like in all those days till their school session was over after the fateful next day of his birthday. That day he had cornered Anubhuti at the first chance he got and had harshly asked what was so important for her that she missed his birthday. He thought it was her ego that was coming in between them, while infact it was his own bruised one that was making him so angry to notice that she was already tensed about something. He didn't even wait for her reply, and slapped her across her face – a slap that had come from sheer frustration and anger. It was first time he hit a girl and that too Anubhuti. She stood stunned; her beautiful eyes that always had expressed joy of her heart only had tears of hurt, anger and disgust in them. Seeing this change was the first strike for him, what came next were her words that cut him deep. She said, listen Prashant, I don't think we can be friends anymore. You have broken everything. There is no need to worry about attending each other's birthday anymore, as let us not call each other for them. No need to come to my house anymore, I won't bother you either. Saying this she stormed out of the empty class and school. Somewhere deep down Prashant regretted slapping her, the guilt of it still pained him and made him promise to himself never to hit a girl again But that time his ego didn't let him go after her or apologize or talk to her in days to come. His ego didn't even let him go towards her house for a long time.

As the holidays progressed, he started missing her. The feeling of guilt also crept up but not enough still to overcome his ego and allow him to go to her house and talk to her. But one day his aunt brought news that broke the barriers of his ego. Anubhuti's family had moved out of town as her father got transferred somewhere. She was surprised to know that they didn't even meet once before going away and Prashant was clueless about all this. Hearing this Prashant ran out of house like mad only stopping before her doorstep. This time there was an even bigger lock on the door, indicating a permanency to her absence.

That night after his father came home for his weekend and Prashant was lying on bed with him, he told him everything that had happened as his father was more of a friend than a strict father and he could speak anytime anything with him. His father listened to him patiently as always, he was soothing in his approach but did reprimand him for his behaviour. In the end he asked, do you love her? Prashant was still much young to realise the true meaning of that word, but through his emotional turmoil he felt that if his father said so then it must be it. He assured him that he will help him find her if she didn't contact him, and once they were of age, he will arrange their marriage. A flutter of hope that those words had kindled in him remained unfulfilled till today. His father had died much earlier than he came of age, just about a year after this incident. The hope had over time turned into a deep regret that he had lived all these years.

It wasn’t as if Prashant stopped living or he never fell for a girl once again. But he never stopped his quest to find that one chance to meet Anubhuti and express his regret for what he happened between them. But today when the chance had finally come, he blew it once again. The rekindled hope of closing an unfinished business and seeking redemption after so many years had finally died forever.

Monday, January 1, 2018

नया साल मुबारक।

आज फिर वक़्त हमें उसी दोराहे पर लाया है,
जहां कुछ छूटता है, कुछ मिलने के वादे के साथ।

बारह कागजों के जो पुलिंदे हमने सजाये थे,
वो कटके बिखरने को हैं, घड़ी के हाथ।
हाँ, एक और नया पुलिंदा तैयार है, चंद कागजों और कई कसमों के साथ।

मगर इस दोराहे पर तो हर बार यूँही आके मिलते हैं,
कुछ ख्वाब, कुछ उम्मीदों,  कुछ वादों के साथ,
जो बदल गये टूटे, अधूरी, झूठे अल्फ़ाज़ों में,
उगते सूरज और ढलते चाँद के साथ।

फिर से तैयार हैं हम वक़्त का एक और सफर तय करने को,
अपने वजूद को तारीखों का मोहताज करने को,
हाथों में लेकर जाम, इस घड़ी के नाम, आप दोस्तों के साथ।।

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

रंग बदलते हैं! (Colors Change)

किसी को पसन्द हरा तो किसी को केसरिया, छुरे पे मगर सबके धार है तेज़,

नापसन्द है उन्हें बस मेरा सफ़ेद कुर्ता, लाल रंग से वो चाहते हैं इसे रंगना।

शुक्र है लहू पे रंग कोई चढ़ता नहीं, वरना बदल देते उसे भी वो मेरे नाम पर,

अस्पतालों में होता ये नया तरीका खून के मिलान का।

किसी को नापसन्द है मेरा खाना तो किसी को मेरा पहनावा,

होती है मेरी लाशों का ढ़ेर लगाकर उनकी संस्कृती की रक्षा।

किताबें वही हैं, बातें वही हैं, बस ऊपर जिल्द का रंग है बदलता,

मुझ काफ़िर का सर कलम करना ही है हर धर्म की शिक्षा।

कहते है विकास हुआ है मानव समाज का,

मगर उन्हें अब भी किसी की रोटी तो किसी की बेटी छीनने से फ़ुरसत नहीं।

दौर है आजकल पुरस्कारों का, किसी को देने का तो किसी को लौटाने का,

बस मेरे हाथ आया है ये पत्र तिरस्कार का।

कौन ग़लत, कौन सही, ये प्रश्न बहुत मुश्किल नहीं,

युगों से खिंची है सुर्ख़ लकीरें मेरे पटल पर, इसके जवाब में।

पूर्वजोँ की शक्ल में आँख, कान और मुँह बंद कर दिए मेरे,

स्वतंत्रता बस नाम की, गयी नहीं कहीं मनसिक परतंत्रता।

हर प्रश्न पे शब्द पत्थरों के मानिंद फेंके गए मुझपे कई हर ओर से,

सहिष्णुता के नाम पर है व्याप्त, ये कैसी असहिष्णुता।।

Saturday, August 29, 2015

राखी (Raakhi)

प्रभात के लिए तो राखी का त्यौहार ख़ास था। उसे हमेशा से ही राखी का बड़ा शौक था, जब भी वो अपने दोस्तों को इस दिन रखी बँधवाते देखता तो उसे भी दिल करता की उसकी भी कोई बहन होती जो उसे भी रखी बाँधती। 
पंद्रह साल पहले इसी राखी के दिन आख़िरकार उसका ये इंतेज़ार ख़त्म हुआ। तब से हर साल उसके लिए तो जैसे इस दिन की ये रीत बन गयी थी के वो अपनी बहन के लिए गिफ्ट्स के साथ-साथ राखी भी खुद ही खरीद लाता था। हर बार की तरह दुकान पे दुकानदार हो या रखी खरीदने आई बहनें, सभी उसे हैरानी से देखते, मगर प्रभात को कौन क्या सोचता इसकी सुध ही कहाँ होती आज के दिन। 

खरीदारी कर घर की ओर वापिस चलते-चलते प्रभात को पंद्रह साल पहले के वो दिन याद आ गये जब उसे लगा के जैसे भगवान ने उसकी सभी प्रार्थनाओं का फल दे दिया हो। उन दिनों उसकी माँ की तबीयत कुछ खराब चल रही थी तो पिताजी उन्हे डॉक्टर के पास ले गये। शाम जब प्रभात की माँ घर आई तो वो तुरंत उनसे लिपट गया और पूछने लगा आख़िर उन्हे क्या हुआ? उसकी माँ  ने उसे बताया की तेरे पिताजी कल रिपोर्ट लेने जायेंगे और डॉक्टर से पूछ आएँगे तब बताउंगी। अगले दिन प्रभात इसी बात से परेशान रहा के न जाने उसकी माँ को क्या हो गया था। शाम को जब पिताजी ऑफीस से आए डॉक्टर से मिलते हुए तो एक बार तो उसका दिल किया की वो सीधे उन्ही से पूछ ले. मगर प्रदीप को उसके पिताजी का गुस्सा मालूम था, बिना बात कोई भी सवाल-जवाब और ज़्यादा बात-चीत उन्हे पसंद नहीं थी। 

रात के खाने के बाद जब सोने से पहले माँ प्रभात के कमरे मे आई तो उसने तुरंत पूछा के डॉक्टर ने पिताजी से क्या कहा? माँ ने मुस्कुराते हुए उसके सिर पे हाथ फेरा और बोला, बेटा तुझे बड़ा मन था न के तेरी भी एक बहन हो, तेरे पिताजी को रिपोर्ट्स देख डॉक्टर ने कहा तेरी बहन आने वाली है। ये बात सुनते ही प्रभात की तो सारी नींद ही उड़ गयी, वो खुशी से उछलने-कूदने लगा। किसी तरह उसकी माँ ने उसे शांत कराया के इतनी रात शोर करने से उसके पिताजी की नींद खराब होगी और बिना बात उसकी पिटाई हो जाएगी। 

प्रभात ये सब सोचते-सोचते जल्द ही अपने घर के दरवाज़े पर पहुँच गया, वैसे भी वो कौन सा बहोत दूर गया था।  सबकुछ तो उसे मोहल्ले की दुकानो पे ही मिल गया था।  राखी, चॉक्लेट,और नया मोबाइल हेडफोन, सब समान संभाल के प्रभात ने डोरबेल बजाया। उसने माँ को पहले ही बोल रखा था, दरवाज़ा वो ही खोले। यूँ तो उसकी बहन को पता ही था के सुबह-सुबह वो कहाँ निकला है, फिर भी वो गिफ्ट्स उसे पहले से दिखाना नहीं चाहता था, सर्प्राइज़ एफेक्ट का मज़ा तो अलग ही होता है। 

घर का दरवाज़ा खुलते ही प्रभात की नज़र उसकी माँ के चहरे पे पड़ी, उस पल दो पल में वक़्त कुछ देर ठिठका और फिर पंद्रह साल पहले पहुँच गया। 

वो पहली राखी थी जिस दिन प्रभात यूँ बाजार से खरीदारी कर घर वापिस आया था। उसकी माँ कुछ दिन पहले से हॉस्पिटल मे थी पिताजी के साथ। प्रभात तो बस इसी इंतेज़ार में था के कब वो लोग घर वापिस आएँगे उसकी बहन के साथ। उसने तो ये भी ठान लिया था के इसबार वो रखी मिस नही करेगा, कुछ दिन इधर-उधर ही तो होंगे तो क्या हुआ आख़िर अब उसकी भी बहन है। यही सोच वो बहन के लिए खिलौने और राखी लाने सुबह ही निकल पड़ा था। 

घर के अंदर आते ही प्रभात को उसके पिताजी नज़र आए, तो उसकी तो जैसे खुशी का बाँध टूट ही गया। राखी के दिन ही उसे बहन मिल गयी, अब तो उसका नाम भी वो माँ से कह के राखी ही रखेगा, पिताजी चाहे कुछ भी कहें। दौड़ के वो अपने माँ-पिताजी के कमरे में गया अपनी बहन से मिलने और उसके लिए लाए खिलौने दिखाने। 

मगर प्रभात को क्या पता था के पिताजी को उसकी बहन के नाम पे ऐतराज़ हो ना हो, मगर उसके होने पे ऐतराज़ ज़रूर था. पंद्रह सालों से प्रभात की राखियों और गिफ्ट्स का इंतेज़ार उसकी बहन नहीं, उसकी माँ की सूनी नज़रें ही करती है।

Roman Script: 

Prabhat ke liye to Raakhi ka tyohaar khaas tha. Use humesha se hi Rakhi ka bada shauk tha, jab bhi wo apne doston ko is din rakhi bandhwate dekhta to use bhi dil karta ki uski bhi koi bahan hoti jo use bhi rakhi bandhti.

Pandrah saal pahle isi Rakhi ke din akhirkar uska ye intezaar khatam hua. Tabse har saal uske lie to jaise is din ki ye reet ban gayi thi ke wo apni behan k liye gifts ke sath-sath rakhi bhi khud hi khareed lata tha.  Har bar ki tarah dukaan pe dukandaar ho ya rakhi khareedne ayi aur behne sabhi use hairani se dekhte, magar Prabhat ko kon kya sochta iski sudh hi kahan hoti aaj ke din.

Khareedari kar ghar ki or wapis chalete-chalte Prabhat ko pandrah saal pahle ke wo din yaad agaye jab use laga ke jaise bhagwan ne uski sari prarthanao ka fal de dia ho. Undino uski maa ki tabiat kuch kharaab chal rahi thi to pitaji unhe doctor ke pas gaye. Sham jab Prabhat ki maa ghar ayi to wo turant unse lipat gaya aur puchne laga akhir unhe kya hua? Prabhat ki maa ne use bataya ki tere pitaji kal report lene jaynge aur doctor se puch ayenge to bataungi. Agle din Prabhat isi baat se pareshaan raha ke ja jane uski maa ko kya ho gaya tha. Shaam ko jab pitaji office se aaye doctor se milte hue to ek baar to uska dil kia ki wo sidhe jake unhi se pooch le. Magar Pradeep ko uske pitaji ka gussa maloom tha, bina baat koi bhi sawal-jawab aur zyada baat-chit unhe pasand nahi thi.

Raat ke khaane ke baad jab sone se pahle maa Prabhat ke kamre me aayi to usne turant poocha ke doctor ne pitaji se kya kaha. Maa ne muskurate hue uske sir pe haath fera aur bola, beta tujhe bada man tha na ke teri bhi ek bahan ho. Tere pitaji ko reports dekh doctor ne kaha teri bahan ane wali hai. Ye baat sunte hi Prabhat ki to sari neend hi ud gayi, wo khushi se uchalne-kudne laga. Kisi tarah uski maa ne use shaant karaya ke itni raat shor karne se uske pitaji ki neend kharab hogi aur bina baat uski pitai ho jayegi.

Prabhat ye sab sochte-sochte jald hi apne ghar ke darwaze per pahuch gaya, waise bhi wo kon sa bahot door gaya tha. Sab kuch to use mohalle ki dukano pe hi mil gaya tha. Rakhi, Chocolate,aur naya mobile headphone, sab saman sambhal ke Prabhat ne doorbell bajaya. Usne maa ko pahle hi bol rakha tha, darwaza wo hi khole. Yun to uski bahan ko pata hi tha ke subah-subah wo kahan nikla hai fir bhi wo gifts use pahle se dikhana nahi chahta tha, surprise effect ka maza to alag hota hai.

Ghar ka darwaza khulte hi Prabhat ki nazar uske maa ke chahre pe padi. Us pal do pal me waqt kuch der thithka or fir pandrah saal pahle pahuch gaya.

Wo pahli rakhi thi jis din Prabhat yun bazaar se Rakhi ki khareedari kar ghar wapis aya tha. Uski maa kuch din pahle se hospital me thi pitaji ke sath. Prabhat to bas isi intezaar me tha ke kab wo log ghar wapis ayenge uski behen ke sath. Usne to ye bhi than liya tha ke isbar wo rakhi miss nahi karega, kuch din idhar-udhar hi to honge to kya hua akhir ab uski bhi bahan hai. Yahi soch wo behen ke liye khilone aur rakhi lane subah hi nikal pada tha.

Ghar ke andar ate hi use pitaji nazar aye, to uski to jaise khushi ka bandh toot hi gaya. Rakhi ke din hi use bahan mil gayi, ab to uska naam bhi wo maa se kahke Rakhi hi rakhega, pitaji chahe kuch bhi kahe. Daud ke wo apne maa-pitaji ke kamre me gaya apni behen se milne aur uske liye laye khilone dikhane.

Magar use kya pata tha uske pitaji ko uske behen ke naam pe aitraaz ho na ho, magar uske hone pe aitraaz zaroor tha. Pandrah saalon se Prabhat ki raakhio aur gifts ka intezaar uski bahan nahi, uski maa ki sooni nazrein hi karti hai.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Writer’s Block

'Writer’s Block’ is the most dreaded disease for us writers. Be it a bestselling author of inspirational literature or someone selling cheap pulp fiction for a quick buck or even someone thinking himself to be a writer while his words have never seen a different set of eyes. We all fear it like a chronic disease and yet sadly all of us have to suffer from it one time or the other during our life time. Some recover from it rather quickly while some unfortunate ones suffer long and hard without a panacea in sight.

By now maybe you have understood that I am also a writer suffering from the same disease. So without going into either self-praise or self-loathing mode, let me introduce myself to you. Let’s just say I have been able to live by a decent life so far with the help of my pen (or laptop as it is the case). Along with the moolah I have also received a fair share of good words from the critics.

But as I said, big or small many of my community members past, present or most likely future too I was also not immune to the ill-fated disease. It’s been a rather irksome phase that has gone longer than I hoped for. My publisher too has raised a few alarms that I need to rectify my rather long absence from the bookshelves in the market. Even some of those not so favourable critics out there wonder when they will get the next opportunity to postmortem my next ‘literary work’ and write its obituary with much profound literary skill than the author himself.

Interestingly atleast in the initial phase my girlfriend has been the happiest or maybe only happy person for my condition. As per her own admission, it has been long since I paid her this much attention or spend more time with her than my laptop since our initial wooing and courtship period. Infact seeing her happy for a while even I started enjoying the free time and our rejuvenated romance. I even forgot my dreaded illness and perhaps thought she can again be my muse and our togetherness will ignite some creativity in me.

But like any phase in life, this short and sweet time too passed on. I withdrew to a place of solitude find the writer lost within me. But even some quality time with myself didn’t really change things much. A few more drafts in my tab or on my laptop; a few more revisits to my previous half-baked, unfinished drafts that at the time might have seemed to have potential to be literary masterpiece or chart smashing bestseller but now seemed aimless, directionless just as I myself felt now.

During this struggle to find some inspiration, spark or seed for breaking the block, I heard from somewhere about this writer living nearby. Now, don’t ask me from where or whom I heard about him as the details are rather fuzzy to me like many things these days. But this writer too seems to be suffering the same like me. I got to know that he was a really good writer, quite a few bestsellers to his name, many awards in both popular and critics’ choice categories for one so young they said. Yet now he has become a tragic hero like the protagonists in most of his works... eople whispered that he was out of his wits.

So here I am sitting before him in his study in search of my next story. No not through any plagiarism, but perhaps some inspirational spark. The seed of the idea germinated in me since I heard about him and the kinship I felt with him for he was suffering such devastating repercussions of the same disease I was suffering from, at present. He seemed to be one of those who have lost everything to it, from his flair for writing to his livelihood to his friends and dear ones. I had decided that my next story would be about the disease itself and destruction it causes through our shared experiences. I thought perhaps this interaction between us will spark something within both of us and get us both out of this mess.

Ok, before I again start rambling about this disease that has become my fulltime obsession these days let me tell you my observation about my new acquaintance before me. He was of same height and built as me but from his face he looked much older to me though I knew he was same age as myself. His eyes, the dark circle below them and his forlorn expression seem to suggest a man much more battle-scarred than me.  Funnily at that time I remembered this lady critic had suggested, once, that half of my loyal readership is due to my boy next door charms.

Anyway, this guy sitting in his chair before me, in between us on his table was his laptop that he idly touched on the keyboard or mouse-pad between taking drags from his cigarette (the same brand as mine). Perhaps these were common habits most of us modern writers I thought. These little activities were infact the only proof that he was at all awake or present here before me. Then suddenly out of the blue he starts speaking, words just keep pouring out of his heart through his mouth. As our discussions progress I discover we share more common thought processes and life experiences apart from the physical appearance and age. We both seem to share the same masked self-pride and insecurities and yes, same fear and loathing towards the ‘writer’s block’.  As we grow familiar with each other we both seem to find a new lease of creative life. A new shine in his eyes suggested he too was finally getting some new inspiration to share with his readers just as my story idea started taking a form in my mind. I was also growing impatient for putting these ideas into words. This newfound excitement we both seem to have got both of us in an overdrive. The experiences we shared have been so fruitful that words, characters and situations kept swirling in my head so much that I only became aware of my surroundings once I was in my own study sitting before my own laptop. Amazing how when you are so pre-occupied in the world inside your mind that the real world outside lose its existence.

Now I must set to work; switch on my laptop and start writing again before the damn disease again rears its ugly head. But alas! My laptop refuses to boot up, no flicker of light on its screen or even those little LEDs that indicate a laptop coming to life. I check the power, cord and everything all seem to be in place. Damn modern technology, it always deserts you when you need them the most. As all my efforts seem to go in vain I grow more frustrated. A sense of dread starts creeping up my spine. I can’t really describe what it is but am highly suspicious that it’s that rascal ‘writer’s block’ that has something to do with it. In my frustration I push my laptop, which falls on the floor from the force of my push. I fear perhaps something broke in it but outwardly it looked fine and I am running out of patience to check on it. I try to find something else. A pen and paper perhaps, going the good old traditional way. Later it can be typed out on the laptop once I get someone to repair it. But damn my luck today, I seem to have no spare paper.  All pads, diaries and notebooks are either completely devoid of any paper or full of pages with gibberish written in handwriting I fail to read. I look around my printer, near that is the paper shredder and I see so many pages either torn or shredded and thrown in the dustbin below and around it.

The feeling of panic in my spine seem to have reached my head by now and grown into a full fledged migraine attack by now. Fear and dread has gripped me like a terribly high fever from which I am shivering by now. I need to call someone to help me with something to write on immediately. Wasn't my girlfriend here just yesterday, or was it last week or last month? Where is my trusted helper who has been with me since childhood? I try to get out of my study to find them or someone or anyone  outside! But outside is from where the door seems to be locked. I keep banging it but no one answers or comes to open it. I wonder who could've closed it from outside and why? I just came in from finishing my meeting with my new fellow writer friend. I don't seem to remember closing it from the inside, let alone seeing or hearing someone closing behind me.

Damn it! That feeling of dread and extreme panic is upon me. I feel am losing grip on the ideas and words that were just a while back fully occupied my mind. I realise that the disease is back, the writer's block is upon me once again like an endless dark tunnel. I fall down on the sofa before my desk exhausted from battling this fear. The sofa is just like the one I was sitting on my new friend's study not so long ago.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

राहें... Raahein...

कोठे पे आज बड़ी रौनक है, माहौल ऐसा के जैसे कोई त्यौहार हो। पर जिसके लिए ये रौनक है वो तो ऐसे दुबक के बैठी है जैसे कोई बकरा हलाल या बलि होने से पहले होता हो। आज उसकी पहली रात जो है। बोली लगेगी उसके जिस्म के पहले इस्तेमाल पे। 

उस कोठे की रौनक देख आज तीन जोड़ी पैर अलग अलग दिशाओ से बढ़ रहे हैं, उस भीड़ का हिस्सा बनने जो पहले ही वहां मौजूद है… 

राम की मेहनत आज बड़ा रंग लायी है, अपने संघ दल में आज बड़ी इज्ज़त कमाई है उसने। महंत जी ने कहा के धर्म और संस्कृति का सच्चा रक्षक बन गया है वो आज। विदेशी अश्लील प्रभाव में फंसे नव युवक-युवतिओं को आज उसने सही राह दिखाई। उनमे से एक तो कुछ ज़्यादा ही हीरो बन रहा था, अंग्रेजी में वो और उसकी माशूका न जाने क्या-क्या बोले जा रहे थे, "moral policing" जैसे बड़े बड़े शब्द। राम को गुस्सा तब आया जब उन्होंने हिन्दू धर्म के खिलाफ कुछ बोल दिया। यूँ तो राम को ये नहीं पता के उसके अपने माँ-बाप कौन है,  महंत जी ने उसे बचपन से पाला है। हिन्दू धर्म उसके लिए धर्म  नहीं, जीने का तरीका है।  महंत जी उसे दल में शामील करते समय बोला था के हिन्दू धर्म सबसे महान है, इसकी रक्षा देशी और विदेशी दोनों ताकतों से करना एक सच्चे हिन्दू का कर्त्तव्य है। 

गुस्से में राम ने उस लड़के-लड़की को डंडे और रॉड से खूब पीटा, उसके साथिओ ने भी उसका पूरा साथ दिया।  राम ने तो शायद उन्हें मार ही दिया होगा पर पुलिस आने से उन्हें वहां से जाना पड़ा।  महंत जी की प्रशंशा और साथिओ की वाह-वाही ने आज उसका सीना फुला दिया। आज रात तो फिर पार्टी बनती है। उन्ही साथिओं से उसने सुना के कोठे पे आज कोई नया माल आया है...

अहमद को आज कुछ  अलग बोटी की तलाश है, रोज़-रोज़ जानवरों को हलाल करते-करते आज उसमे एक अलग जानवर की भूख़ सवार हो गयी थी। इन्सानी जिस्म की भूख कुछ अलग ही होती है, बिल्कुल वैसे ही जैसे एक जानवर को हलाल करने और एक इंसान की गर्दन काटने में होता है।  अहमद को ये फरक तो उस रोज़ ही पता चल गया था जिस रोज़ पिछले दंगो में उसने पहली बार एक इंसान को हलाल किया था।  मौलवी साहब ने कहा था के काफ़िर की जान लेना अल्लाह की इबादत है, और सच्चे मुसलमान का फ़र्ज़। उनकी बात तो अहमद के लिए अल्लाह का फरमान था।

अहमद की हवस की भूख आज वैसे ही उसपे सवार थी जैसे उस दिन उसके सर खून सवार था। ये एक ऐसी भूख थी जो उसकी बीवी नहीं मिटा पा रही थी अब। उसे लगा था दूसरी शादी करते वक़्त की उसकी हवस नई बीवी मिटा देगी। आखिर १७ साल की कमसिन कली थी वो। उसे देखा था पहली बार जिसदिन उसी दिन से उसे पाने की ज़िद सवार हो गयी थी. पता करने पे पता लगा के वो तो रिश्तेदारी में ही है। उसके अब्बु भी कोई कमाऊ लड़का खोज रहे है उसके लिए, पर दहेज़ लायक उनके पास कुछ नहीं था अपनी पांच और बेटियों की शादी कराने के बाद। फिर क्या था बस तीन अल्फ़ाज़ बोलने जितना ही वक़्त लगा उसे पहली बीवी छोड़ नयी बीवी घर लाने में।  आखिर दूसरी शादी करना कोई गुनाह तो नहीं, उसके अब्बा ने तो तीन-तीन शादियां करी थी एक वारिस की आस में। पर जब फिर भी खुदा की नेमत ना हुई और हकीम साहब ने बताया के उनसे बच्चा न होगा तो एक रात चुपके से अहमद को गोद ले लिया।  अपनी तरह पांच वक़्त का नमाज़ी, एक सच्चा मुसलमान बनाया।

अहमद की दूसरी शादी को साल भर से उपर हो गए अब तो, उसकी बीवी ने दो महीने पहले ही अहमद के बच्चे को जन्म दिया। गुज़रे वक़्त और बच्चे के बाद अब उसकी बीवी की कशिश भी जाती लग रही थी अहमद को।  अब उसमे वो गर्मी नहीं रही जिसकी अहमद को भूख हो। उपर से बच्चे की तीमारदारी में उसे वक़्त ही कहां शौहर के लिए?! आज दूकान पे जब कुछ ग्राहकों की बातों से पता चला के लाइन पार कोठे पे एक नयी बकरी हलाल होने को है, तो सुनके अहमद की रगों में फिर से वही गर्म खून उबल गया और दूकान बंद कर उसके कदम घर की जगह कोठे की राह बढ़ चले...

जॉन को अभी उसके जानने वाले शायद पहचान भी ना पाये। वो जो चर्च का छोटा पादरी था आज एक अलग भेस में था। आज उसकी मंज़िल चर्च नहीं कही और थी। आज रात उसके कदमों की सुबह ही तय हो गयी थी, जब कॉन्फेशन बॉक्स में वो बैठा उस औरत की बात सुनने।

आज चर्च के बड़े पादरी जिन्होंने जॉन को बचपन से पाला था वो बीमार थे तो उनकी जगह जॉन चर्च के कार्यक्रमों का संचालन कर रहा था।  जब वो औरत जो यूँ तो क्रिस्चियन नहीं लग रही थी वहां आयी और कॉन्फेशन बॉक्स की तरफ बढ़ी तो जॉन ने बड़े पादरी की जगह वहां भी ली। उसकी बातों से पता चला के वो औरत पास के कोठों में से एक से आई वेश्या थी।  उसे आज वक़्त ने बड़े अजीब मुकाम पे ला खड़ा किया था।  आज उसकी बेटी की पहली रात थी। उस औरत की बिल्कुल मर्ज़ी नहीं थी की उसकी बेटी भी ये गन्दा काम करे, उसके जिस्म को भी लोग नोच खाए जैसे सालों से उसकी माँ के साथ हुआ। पर एक वेश्या की बात कब कहाँ सुनी गयी! ना उस दिन जिस दिन उसे उस कोठे पे बेचा गया था, ना उस दिन जब जब उसके तिड़वा बच्चों को उससे छीन के न जाने कहाँ दे दिया गया। आखिर एक कोठे पे मर्दजात बच्चों का क्या काम? काश आज उसके तीनों बेटे उसके साथ होते तो शायद अपनी बहन को यूं सरे बाजार नीलाम ना होने देते। इन्हीं गमो में डूबी वो बेबस औरत अपने और अपने बच्चों की किस्मत पर रो रही थी।

उस रोती हुई औरत की कहानी में मगर जॉन को एक अलग सा मज़ा मिला। कुंवारी लड़किओं का शौक था उसे, और पादरी होते हुए ऐसे मौके उसे रोज़ कहाँ मिलते हैं।  पिछली बार एक जवान नन के चक्कर मे वो पकड़े जाते-जाते बच गया था। वो नन मां बन गयी थी। बात फादर को पता चले या बाहर जाये, इसके पहले ही जॉन ने उस नन को एक रात दूर गाँव ले जाकर मार दिया। जॉन को तो बस कुंवारी का नयापन और मासूमियत पसंद थी, उसी को लूटने में उसे मज़ा आता था। अपने इस शौक को पूरा करने के मौके कम ही आते थे।  वो तो बस कभी-कभी चर्च में साफ़-सफ़ाई के लिए आने वाले गांव के लड़को तक से काम चला लेता था। आज फिर मगर महीनो बाद एक कुंवारी लड़की का मज़ा लेने का मौका मिला है। आज वो किसी कीमत पे ये मौका नहीं छोड़ेगा।  बोली चाहे कितनी भी लगे उसकी बोली सबसे ऊपर होगी। ...

बाजार अब अपने शबाब पे है, ख़ास खरीदारों का स्वागत करते हुए।  देखना ये है अब कौन लगायेगा सबसे बड़ी बोली?!

Roman Script:

Kothe pe aaj badi ronak hai. Mahaul aisa k jaise koi tyohar ho. Par jiske liye ye ronak hai wo to aise dubk ke baithi hai jaise koi bakra halal ya bali hone se pahle hota ho! Aj uski pahli raat jo hai! Boli lagegi uske jism k pahle istemaal pe.

Us kothe ki ronak dekh aj 3 jodi pair alag alag dishao se badh rahe hai, us bheed ka hissa banne jo pahle hi waha maujood hai...

Raam ki mehnat aj bada rang layi hai, apne sangh dal me aaj badi ijjat kamai hai usne. Mahant ji ne kaha k dharm aur sankriti ka sachcha rakshak ban gaya hai wo aj. Videshi ashleel prabhav me fase kai nav yuvak-yuvatio ko aj usne sahi raah dikhai. Unme se ek to kuch zyada hi hero ban raha tha, angereji me wo aur uski mashooka na jane kya-kya bole ja rahe the, "moral policing" jaise bade bade shabd. Raam ko gussa tab aya jab unhone Hindu dharam k khilaf kuch bol dia. Yun to raam ko ye nahi pata k uske apne maa-baap kon hai par bachpan se hi Mahant ji ne use bachpan se pala hai. Hindu dharm uske lie dharm nahi jine ka tarika hai. Mahant ji use dal me shamil karte waqt bola tha ke Hindu dharm sabse mahaan hai, iski raksha deshi aur videsi dono takato se karna ek sachche Hindu ka kartavya hai.

Gusse me raam ne us ladke-ladki ko dande aur rod se khub pita, uske sathio ne bhi uska pura sath diya. Raam ne to shayad unhe maar hi dia hoga par police k aane se unhe janna pada. Mahant ji ki prashansa aur sathio ki Waah-wahi ne aj uska seena fula dia. Aj to raat fir party banti hai. Unhi sathio se usne suna ke kothe pe aj koi naya maal aya hai...

Ahmad ko aj kuch alag boti ki talaash hai, roz-roz janwaro ko halaal karte-karte aj usme ek alag janwar ki bhookh sawar ho gayi thi. Insani jism ki bhook kuch alag hi hoti hai, bilkool waise hi jaise ek janwar ko halal karne aur ek insaan ki gardan katne me hota hai. Ahmad ko ye fark to us roz hi pata chal gaya tha jis roz pichle dango me usne pahli baar ek insaan ko halaal kia tha. Maulvi sahab ne kaha tha ke kafir ki jaan lena allah ki ibadat hai, aur sachche musalman ka farz. Unki baat to Ahmad k lie allah ka farmaan tha.

Ahmad ki hawas ki bhook aj waise hi uspe sawar thi jaise us din uske sir khoon sawar tha. Ye aisi bhook thi jo uski biwi nahi mita pa rahi thi ab. Use laga tha dusri shaadi karte waqt ki uski hawas nayi biwi mita degi. Akhir 17 saal ki kamsin kali thi wo. Use dekha tha pahli baar jisdin usi din se  use pane ki zid sawar ho gayi thi. Pata karne pe pata laga ke wo to rishtedari me hi hai. Uske abbu bhi koi kamau ladka khoj rahe the uske liye, par dahej layak unke pas kuch nahi tha apni paanch aur betio ki shaadi karane kebaad. Fir kya tha bas teen alfaaz bolne jitna hi waqt laga use pahli biwi chod nayi biwi ghar lane me. Akhir dusri shaadi karna koi gunaah to nahi, uske abba ne to teen-teen shaadiya kari thi ek waris ki aas me. Par jab fir bhi khuda ki nemat na hui aur hakeem sahab ne bataya k unse baccha na hoga to unhone ek raat chupke se Ahmad ko god le lia. Apni tarah 5 waqt ka namaazi, ek sachcha musalman banaya.

Ahmad ki dusri shaadi ko saal bhar se upar ho gaye ab to, uski biwi ne do mahine pahle hi Ahmad k bacche ko janm dia. Waqt aur bacche k baad ab uski kashish bhi jaati lag rahi thi Ahmad ko. ab usme wo garmi nahi rahi jiski use bhook ho. Upar se bacche ki timardari me use waqt hi kahan shohar k lie?!. Aj dukaan pe jab kuch grahako ki baaton se pata chala ke line par kothe pe ek nayi bakri halal hone ko hai, to sunke Ahmad ki rago me firse wahi garm khoon ubal gaya aur dukaan band kar uske kadam ghar ki jagah kothe ki raah badh chale...

John ko aj uske janne wale shayad pahchan bhi na paye. Wo jo church ka chota padri tha aj ek alag bhes me tha. Aj uski manzil church nahi kahi aur thi. Aj raat uske kamdo ki disha subah hi tay ho gayi thi, jab confession box me wo baitha us aurat ki baat sunne.

Aj church ke bade padri jinhone use bachpan se pala tha wo bimar the to unki jagah John church ke karyakramo ka sanchalan kar raha tha. Jab wo aurat jo yun to Christian nahin lag rahi thi waha ayi aur confession box ki taraf badhi to John ne bade padri ki jagah wahan bhi li. Uski baton se pata chala ke wo aurat pas k kotho me se ek se ayi veshya thi. Use aj waqt ne bade ajeeb mukam me la khada kia tha. Aj uski beti ki pahli raat thi. Us aurat ki bilkool marzi nahi thi ki uski beti bhi ye ganda kaam kare, uske jism ko bhi log noch khaye jaise salo se uski maa k sath hua. Par ek veshya ki baat kab kahan suni gayi. Na us din jis din use us kothe pe becha gaya tha, na us din jis din uske tirwa baccho ko usse cheen k na jane ka de dia gaya tha. Akhir kothe pe mardzaat baccho ka kya kaam? Kash aj uske teeno bete uske sath hote to shayad apni behan ko yun sare bazaar neelaam na hone dete. Inhi gumon me doobi wo bebas aurat  apne aur apne baccho ki kismat per ro rahi thi.

Us roti aurat ki kahani ne magar John ko ek alag sa maza mila. Kunwari ladkio ka shauk jo tha use, aur padri hote hue aise mauke use roz kaha milte hai. Pichli baar ek jawan nun ke chakkar me wo pakde jate jate bach gaya tha. Wo nun ma ban gayi thi. Baat father ko pata chale ya bahar jaye, iske pahle hi John ne us nun ko ek raat dur ganv le ja ke maar dia. John ko to bas kunwari ka nayapan aur masumiyat pasand thi, usi ko lutne me use maza ata tha. Apne is shauk ko pura karne ke mauke kum ate the. Wo to bas kabhi-kabhi church me saf-safai ke liye ane wale ganv ke ladko tak se kaam chala leta tha. Aj fir magar maheeno baad fir ek kunwari ladki ka maza lene ka mauka mila hai. Aj wo kisi keemat pe ye mauka nahi chodega. Boli chahe kitni bhi lage uski boli sabse upar hogi...

Bazaar ab apne shabab pe hai, khaas kharidaro ka swagat karte hue. Dekhna ye hai ab kon lagayega sabse badi boli!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Where is he?

Where is he...
in whose name people put their faith and life,
in whose name both saints and demons come alive,
in whose name men are divided from men,
in whose name blood flows faster than water,
in whose name children are baptised or butchered,

No matter the name, no matter the face,
Under his almighty gaze,
Innocent suffer, flourishes hate,
The search goes on...
Long live his grace!