July 27, 2010


Meghbalika, where have you been? Why do I no longer feel your fingers on my parched skin everyday? What have I done? The lies I have said were all for you. Can’t you see? I love you and therefore I lie to you. I lie for you.

The truth you won’t be able to endure Meghbalika. While you play hide and seek, the world beneath you dies a slow death. Your whims and fancies create craters on the hearts of all those who love you and yet you refuse to come back to us, refuse to come back to me.

You call me when you feel you want to break away from the rules that bind you. Yet in that house of rules I am never welcome. I stand out seeing you dragging yourself into your palace of illusions. You revolt, but only within your mind. You are weak Meghbalika.

I remember the day you were born. My father had looked at your face and whispered in my ears, “Look Shyamal. There is Meghbalika. One day she will come for you. She will come and together you will create new stories.” I knew then and there that you were the one I’ll pine for all my life. What I did not know that our meeting will be brief, if at all.

What he never told me that our family has always been a puppet in the hands of your clan. And why not? You, in your citadels amongst the Gods dictate how mortals here will live.

I know Meghbalika. Once we unite, we both will fade away eventually. My sons and daughters will rise up driving me away while you will wander, spent, tired and cheated. But that is needed Meghbalika. For how else will new life be formed on Earth? It need sacrifice and ours is an existence too insignificant. But we all play our parts in the Great Game.

I will lie to you Meghbalika. Again and again. For ours is a greater destiny. I will tell you that when we meet, I will never let you go away. I will hold you till the ends of days are near. But I cannot do so Meghbalika. Someone else scripted our story long before you were born. Someone more powerful, someone the humans seem to call God.

But Meghbalika, I love you, more than anyone has ever loved. Every day I look forward to you dancing down the rainbow to meet me. But you never do. I dressed in green only for you Meghbalika and look at me now. Layers of dust have covered my coat. The green is dying Meghbalika.

Tonight I shall wait. My veins are tired but for you tonight they shall put on their last shades of green and as the night withers away, so will I. Will you come Meghbalika? For the one time that we love without boundaries?

(Meghbalika literally translates to The Girl of the Clouds. Shyamal means green/greenery.)

July 14, 2010


At first there were just 2 colours in the minds of men – black and white and our movies resembled that. We knew who the bad guys were. We knew it by their laugh and we always knew they would lose in the end.

Somewhere down the line good guys started doing bad things. Really bad things. But that was always the result of circumstances. They were told so by their mother, brother, sister, daughter, repented in the last half an hour of the movie, killed all the bad guys and went to Central Jail. The last scene was always a happy family waiting for them outside.

Then was the era of the anti hero. Our pent up frustrations came to the forefront. We idolized the guys who took on the system. They were evil but evil because the system. I still remember the scene from Nayagan where Kamal Hassan is asked by his grandchild, “Are you a good guy or a bad guy?”

Then the lines began to merge. It became difficult to understand who was good or even what was good. Perhaps grey had spread its wings all over our lives and our movies reflected that. And then came the movie Unthinkable. Watching it all my boundaries were again redrawn. Good, Evil, Right and Wrong everything changed every moment of the movie. The movie was horrifying. An usual plot with an unusual treatment. A bomb threat in the US, an interrogator, innocent lives lost and then the question – What is your limit? I loved the movie as even in the face of despair, one person did not lose hope, made the toughest choice of all – save two innocent lives that she could over hundreds of others who she left to fate. That’s perhaps the wrong choice to many but there lies the beauty of the movie. There’s no longer any right or wrong and that pushes us to do the Unthinkable.

Post watching it I almost went into a state of depression and started watching one movie after the other. And none helped. Edge of Darkness was a great movie to be watched for the inner torment of a father who lost his only child. The action is subdued, the screenplay taut and gripping much unlike Icarus, A Team and The Losers which should be watched if you are bored and need mindless action. Of course if you had fallen in love with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz when you were a bumbling teenager, you must watch Knight and Day. The action is blinding, the comedy is pure situational slap stick but that’s what you want. So these movies did not help much and I had to watch something different.

So I watched Karate Kid and it just wasn’t up to the mark. Great acting by Jaden Smith, a lacklustre performance by Jackie Chan (perhaps demanded by the script) and no great Kung Fu either. The angst of moving to a new city and a new life was underdeveloped. Even the story of the underdog was not touching, the movie could have been so much better.

A change of genre was required and I watched Exam. An interesting movie, great direction but perhaps the psychoanalytical aspect of the human mind could have been better documented. One examination hall, few rules, said and unsaid, 8 contenders for a coveted job and the ultimate challenge – this movie could have been Mortal Kombat for the Brain. Only it just fell a bit short but was riveting nonetheless.

But the movie that redeemed me was Toy Story 3. This is the best Toy Story made. Ever. And that’s it. Andy finally moved to college and the question we all had asked was answered. What will happen to the Toys? This one is not a story for the kids but for us who have left our childhood behind. It is a movie to be watched by everyone for it tugs at your heart. In the lonely nights when I have spent sleepless nights I have often wondered about the books and toys I have left behind at home. They always brought a smile to my lips and I used to close my eyes for a few hours of sleep. It also teaches you new values about friendship and that’s what makes it all the more beautiful.

Currently I am watching Tum Milo to Sahi as I write. And surprisingly it’s turning out to be a good movie. As I always say, “never judge a movie by its reviews.” You never know when you will be pleasantly surprised.

July 11, 2010

Love Stories

Somewhere in India there lived a little boy who believed in Love Stories, one who did not care if it would come true in his life but who believed that around him in this world Love existed. He believed in Serendipity. And believed that love requires it.

He believed in the movies. He believed in Paris, in Roman holidays, in the supreme sacrifice for love since the time Rajendra Kumar shot himself in the climax of Sangam.

Then Love changed and Love, Sex Aur Dhoka came to be a part of his life. And he waited. For the love stories that he discussed with his best friend on their way back home from school, for the innocence to return and tell him that you know what, whatever happens, some things are for ever.

So when he saw everyone scathingly attack “I Hate Luv Storys” and “Milenge Milenge” he felt bad. I Hate Luv Storys is a classic boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. Boy doesn’t. Boy like Girl. Girl doesn’t. They then fall in love with each other. And everyone lives happily ever after. Well, almost everyone. Girl’s ex boyfriend goes away heartbroken without a fault of his own. Collateral Damage – always there – forgotten.

The good part of the movie was it never preached. It was glossy, beautiful as we want to see in the movies. Maybe full of the clichés but then we love to see the clichés again and again. Some of us do. That’s why with all its failings when Kal Ho Na Ho comes for the umpteenth time on television, we never turn the channel.

“Milenge Milenge” was equally ostracized by critics but it took us back in time, an age when Kareena Kapoor was still not her Size Zero and looked exactly like the lady my best friend since 1989 fell in love with. Perhaps if the movie was completed on time, it would have made a lot more sense. But what we have is the reality. Serendipity in Delhi and Mumbai feels nice. A copy, perhaps not the best one but when did that stop us from believing it in once again.

And yes, of course I watched Raavan. And the photography is breathtaking. There’s the standard attempt to confuse the boundaries of good and evil. But then when you get a visual treat should you bother much?

July 08, 2010


“Of all the women in Aryavat, in all of the times, you had to walk into mine when I had resigned to the fact I would never find one like you.”

During my days of obsession with Casablanca I had written this about the daughter of Drupad. But that was another time, innocence was not yet lost and heroes and villains were still in black and white. These days the mind was uneasy, the heart overcast with the shadow of lawlessness, the life was Godless.

The Mahabharata and I have had a love hate relationship since my childhood. It was too vast for me to comprehend and my loyalties kept shifting between the warring brothers and the master flutist. But whenever my mind asked questions The Mahabharata had an answer for them. But then even my liberal household had no answer for one most important question of Mahabharata – the one that Gandhari asks Krishna – “You could have stopped this bloodshed, yet you did not.”

They mumbled, saying the will of the Gods were difficult to comprehend, that the answer lay in the words of The Bhagvad Gita, “Yada Yada hi Dharmasya” but I was never satisfied.

The childlike questioning slowly gave way to an adult resignation. Sometimes you do not find answers for the will of the Gods and the minds of Mean cannot cross the deep chasms between them. Yet I forgot one thing. The answers come when you ask the right questions and when the time is right.

The answers draw them to you. But you never realize. Slowly, time covers up the memories that haunted your previous births where the same questions had manifested itself, where while dying under the Agnibaan of Arjun, you had sworn revenge, you, a small insignificant foot soldier under the banner of the mighty Duryodhan.

Suddenly Andha Yug was being performed at Prithvi and it blew away the dust of ages from the question – “Why did you not stop the bloodshed O Krishna?”

The play asked the right questions and yet gave the standard answers – the end of the Third Age of Man (with which had begun the final cycle of earth towards the Ultimate Destruction and the Promised Reawakening) had to begin with the 18 long days of battle. Dharma, Maryada, Veerta, all would be sacrificed and in the end would remain the cursed Ashwathama, carrying the sores of his ill doings, a constant reminder to those who remembered the decadence which had set in the Third Age of Man.

I loved the play, G did not. But then, the lady from Anga Desh told me to read a new book, “Palace of Illusions.” – Mahabharata through Drapadi’s eyes. I was not sure. In all my pompousness I thought how could someone tell me more about her. Wasn’t she the topic of hot debates between my sister and grandmother? Wasn’t she the one for whom bards had composed the powerful play “Nathbati Anathbat” (which I wasn’t allowed to see as I was too young)?

Somewhere someone smiled as if to mock me, to remind me that all my life I had never failed to find answers if only I had read, read and read some more.

Krishnaa – the beloved friend of the Cowherd, the greatest cook in the whole of history, the strongest woman from Indian Philosophy, the cause of the Great War and yet unlike Helen of Troy just not a cause but an active participant. In this land obsessed with fair skins, she was the first to show that the colour of Skin mattered little. Krishna the God, Krishnaa the cause.

Yet Indians never built a temple for her, neither revered her. The heroes of Mahabharata barring the Flutist would never be prayed to as they embodied all the failings of the Human Mind. In fact, in the sense of true Indian Justice, even He would not be revered for his role as a charioteer but as the simple cowherd who had spread the word of love.

But they were Men and Women as they should be. Plotting, conniving and yet resplendent in their glory of their deeds. We won’t pray to Karna ever and yet when we remember generosity we respect the deserted child who tore away the only shield from his cursed existence. We would hate Duryodhana and yet we know in our heart, he died like a true Warrior. We would honour Yudhistir for his truthfulness and yet shudder at what it led him to – a lone human amongst Gods.

The book was beautiful, perhaps a tad agitating for my Grandmother who still loved Karna and would not believe in what she called “the fictional account of his love for Panchaali”. Yes, it did not add to my knowledge of the scriptures but somehow it brought back to memory the more important stories.

And as I read the last few pages, pieces of the Jigsaw fell into place. “In this great battle, it is I who have died, again and again.” He needed the Great War to put an end to the wars. He needed on throne a just king who would rule the start of the Last Age of Man. He needed to give his flock one last chance of redemption.

The age of Parikshit is long gone. The world of men as we know it is on the verge of extinction and yet no body understands the answer of Yudhistir to the Yaksha, “Every day so many die and yet the rest go on as if they were immortal.”

But the promise remains, “If you ever need me, I will be there.”

And that was what Panchaali needed to know.

July 06, 2010

The Parting

The drops fall slowly in their silence;

Broken only by their meet on my roof.

I stand by my window seeing their dance,

With them; but aloof.

She walks in the night, ever so slowly;

Her steps are serene and calm;

Her lips tremble, maybe my name;

I wished I could hold her arm.

The drops of rain, cleanses my soul;

The rains wash away my fears.

I stare at the emptiness within,

My eyes know no more tears.

All good things must come to an end;

Perhaps none liked our bliss.

Under the setting sun of gloom;

We had kissed the last kiss.

I wish the night stood for once still,

As my tired eyes watch her sleep.

For tomorrow with the rising sun;

Only memories are mine to keep.

July 04, 2010

Heroes and Superheroes

The roots from Bengal make it difficult to not follow football like a religion but I try. I believe somewhere deep down it’s because of the guilt I feel for living in a country of a billion which can not produce even one great player of the beautiful game. Long since I have waited for a Messiah when during discussions on football I would not have to talk about players whose lives had nothing in common with me. Maybe because I understood early that at the end of the day, football needed a team unlike cricket and individual brilliance could not save the day everyday.

And thus I have always given the collective more importance than the individual. This World Cup has been amongst the best I have seen where heroes have fallen and the masses have risen. There was a reason I have always loved Germany. I could sense and maybe I am wrong, they always looked the most patriotic on the field. Ronney, Messi, Ronaldo – all the greats owe their allegiance to the clubs but the Germans, most of them playing in the Bundesliga, play for the National Pride and that’s why they never give up. They are an Europe that is starkly different. They are not beautiful but they are clinical.

But then the Samba has stopped showing their Magic on the field as well. They try to emulate what the European Leagues teach them to do. And in being untrue to their selves which made them great they fall prey to the lesser known teams. My bet – The heart says Germany, The voice of Fate says Uruguay.