Sunday, August 27, 2006


Over the last month and a half, I've been part of an intensive training programme, that is compulsory for new employees of the company I work for. When I joined the organisation, I did so with a great deal of optimism, but also prepared myself to start interacting with people at a level that would be less emotionally charged than the ties that I shared with friends from my student days. This was probably based on my observations of how older people conduct themselves with colleagues as compared to friends and family. I told myself that such a shift in interaction styles would be natural and in fact adaptive...but somehow I could not bring myself to believe those thoughts. A small voice whispered insistently that even in the workplace, one does not have to be bereft of an interpersonal closeness, colleagues can be as good as friends and one can find a way to rise above petty differences and evolve as a person when placed in a professional environment. I was not able to decide between the two viewpoints so I decided to simply go ahead and take one day at a time...

Today, I can safely say, with immense pleasure that the little voice emerged victor by a wide, wide margin! Over the last several weeks, the office became a place where I met some really remarkable people, watched intelligent minds blossom, felt my own horizon's expand, and above all, forged some friendships that I pray will last forever. I had never dreamt that I would experience this in a workplace, which I had envisioned as a sober, competitive and altogether "professional" environment! It's yet another of the Universe's blessings that I give thanks for each and every day.

Yes, there were some teething problems...the initial awkwardness of meeting people for the first time and being shut away in the training room with them for hours on end...waiting for someone to extend the first pleasantries only to find that they were probably waiting for you to do the same...watching others carefully maintain a guarded discretion in their conversations... But all that soon gave way as a steady closeness grew between different group members. Little cliques formed and shifted amongst the batch, but overall there was a sense of mutual understanding and cohesiveness. Countless spates of helpless laughter, muffled giggles, heated arguments, short-lived "cold-wars" and a sharing of each other's lives and experiences coexisted with the formal training that everyone was going through. Call it what you will, but I think of it as one of God's infinite miracles that happen in the subtlest yet most palpable ways...

This afternoon our batch said goodbye to one of its members,who had to leave in order to join another branch of the company. We had known from the start that she would be leaving us once the training was complete...what we had no inkling of, was how difficult it would be to say goodbye at the end of our time together. The human heart forms attachments so quickly!

We managed to get away for short while, so we could enjoy a nice lunch outside the office, as a kind of happy send-off for our friend/colleague. Lunch was a delightful affair, full of the usually peals and guffaws that characterise the times when all of us are together (there was good food too!). None of us seemed to be aware of the fact that we'd soon be parting ways with one of our friends, for a long time to come. It was only at the end of the meal, when she had to head for the airport and we had to make our way back to the office, that many of us felt a lump rise in our throats...before I knew it, some of us had silently let their tears fall, and the one who was leaving us was crying openly while exchanging hugs, handshakes and parting pleasantries (most of which sounded a bit garbled when delivered in choked voices). To my mind, this was yet another feather-in-the-cap for the "little voice" I mentioned earlier (which, by the way, is practically bellowing now!).

Affection is a curious thing have absolutely no idea when and for whom it will form. The idea is to go with it, celebrate it and let it show...I will never forget the overwhelmed look on our friend's face when we gave her a small token of our affection...a painted clay figurine and a card. In that wordless instant I witnessed how strong the ties were that had been forged subliminally in just a couple of months. It was simply wonderful.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Very Special Birthday

Tomorrow, at the stroke of midnight, millions of people will raise their voices in a joyful uproar. Conches will be sounded, bells will ring ceaselessly, all kinds of drums will be beaten and the reverberations of countless dancing feet will be felt by the earth. A strange wave of enchantment will spread over India in that moment, when devotees celebrate the birth of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. I will be one amongst those people...

I've grown up on a literary diet of various accounts of Hindu mythology, a topic that I devour most voraciously even today, if given half a chance. From the common Amar Chitra Katha series to encyclopedias of myths and legends (and, of course, the eternal Ramayan and Mahabharath series that used to appear on Doordarshan), I sampled everything, leaping from the ocean of one imaginal world to the thrilling heights of another, in a tireless sequence.

Needless to say, the stories of Krishna were some of the most gripping and colourful narratives that a child could be entertained with. It didn't matter whether my grandmother recited them from memory or my father read them aloud to me from a brightly illustrated storybook, their effect on me was enduring. Each tale coloured my mind with fresh hues...fired my imagination with new ideas. Till date, they constitute some of the best memories that are associated with my childhood.

As a child, the aspect of these stories that captivated me, was their supernatural nature...the promise of magic and of the protagonist being able to do the unthinkable and thereby achieve a deified state. Today, these stories still hold me in their sway, but instead of their magical flavour, what binds me to them is the infinite learning that is woven into their symbolism. From the accounts of Krishna's life, for instance, I learn about leadership, self-awareness, statecraft, devotion and the value of unconditional love (amongst several other things). Be it in the legends of the feats he accomplished as a child those associated with his epic role in the Mahabharata, Krishna's life is brimming with lessons for any who would learn of it.

Krishna is one of the few deities whose life is described (in devoted details) right from birth to demise. It is perhaps because of this 'documentation' in prose, poetry, music, art, dance etc. that the cowherd of yore still maintains his hold over the hearts of millions, centuries after he shed his corporeal form. When you learn about his life, you can chase the vibrant toddler who made the courtyards of his home resound with the little bells he wore on his feet and waist, listen to the young cowherd play the flute in order to mesmerise all living things, travel with him on his demon-slaying excursions, listen to him enlighten Arjun on Kurukshetra and follow him as he balances the forces of good and evil on earth... There is something just about anyone can identify with, regardless of age, gender or any other tiresome demographics!

Some critics question the deified status of Krishna, preferring to believe instead that he was a charismatic politician and strategist. While I don't criticise their notions, I do believe that if any mortal can command the attraction and following that Krishna commands till this day, then that individual deserves to be deified. No politician, military general or religious leader has held the hearts of people for generation upon generation following his/her demise, in the way that Krishna has...this feat in itself is supernatural and admirable.

Just before I end this stream of thought, I would like to share (and translate) my Guru, Pt. Ashok Kumar's wonderful composition in Raag Malkauns which says:

Gaavo hari naam,
Sundara Shyaam bhajata sakala,
Sura, nara, muni jana
Kamala nayana, Shesha shayana
Nita pujata jogi jana
Prema Rasiyaa ko prema dhaam.
(Meaning: The name of Hari (Krishna), the beautiful one, who is dark of skin, is sung by the devas, men and sages.
He, who is an incarnation of Vishnu -the one who reclines on the cosmic serpent, Sheshnaag- is worshipped by the yogis. He is the epitome of pure, unconditional love, that the poet aspires to attain.)

God Bless!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On The Edge of Rain

There are times when the universe conspires, however briefly, to put you in a spot where you feel dwarfed and empowered all at once. I found myself in such a spot just a few days ago. At the time, I was on my way back from work, walking towards my apartment block, enjoying the breeze that ruffled my hair and swept away a day's worth of weariness. In my right hand I clutched my umbrella (a logical extension of the pedestrian's body if one happens to live in Mumbai during the monsoon!), although I didn't expect to use it anytime soon; it hadn't rained all day and although the skies were overcast, I doubted the probability of a downpour before I reached home. I think this was the point when God gave me an impish grin and said "Oh yeah?"...

I was barely 50 feet from the entry to my building when I heard the initial patter of raindrops accelerate to a near-deafening roar within five seconds. Since I don't like getting drenched when I'm in office-wear, it was decidedly unpleasant to find that the button that opens my umbrella was stuck! It was at this mildly panic stricken moment that I realised I was dry as a bone even though I could still hear the rain. That's when I looked up and witnessed the cosmic joke I was busy being the butt of...

Sure enough, the rain was coming down ('cats and dogs' was a phrase that leapt to mind), but it was nowhere near was like I was standing outside a tent of some kind. My building was being pelted by it, but I was standing just outside the range of the water...

I've never experienced anything of the kind. A curtain of rain was between me and the apartment block and while I gaped at the phenomenon, I all but forgot my efforts to work the errant umbrella I was still struggling with (all of the above was happening pretty fast, by the way!). Somewhere in the midst of my wonder, I realised what I was happening. I was standing just a little out of the range of the rainclouds that were moving over my building and the breeze that I'd been enjoying just a little while ago, was blowing them steadily in my direction.

It's quite something to stand on the very edge of the rain. It's like you're watching an impossibly large ship advance towards the shores you are standing're awed by its colossal form, but somewhere inside, a part of you identifies with its magnificence and dignity, almost as if you are equals. That's how I felt as I watched the rain from outside its perimeter... I felt marvel at the sight that spread before me but felt strangely uplifted in the knowledge that I was the only one who was witnessing this phenomenon. I still get goosebumps when I think about it!

The flickering sheets of water were now a lot closer...a couple of seconds more and I would have to kiss dry clothes farewell! Almost on cue, the annoying button of the umbrella relented and the contraption sprang into action, opening out even as I hoisted it over my head in considerable haste! It was just a second before the edge of the rain washed over me. I actually felt the vibrations of it as it crossed over my umbrella and I couldn't help but imagine that from God's aerial perspective it would have looked like chocolate sauce being poured over a large nut (if that makes no sense to you, it's alright! I've really struggled to describe this experience)... :)