Thursday, February 22, 2007

An Arranged Marriage.... (Short Story)

It took time for Mr. Sadarangani to register the message. His son Vishal was telling him that his girl friend Veena was pregnant. Mr. Sadarangani thought he would have a heart attack. “Hey Ram, what is the world coming to?” he asked his wife Gita, “I couldn’t imagine Vishal and Veena would betray our trust so.” The kids had grown up in the same building in Bandra. They had been classmates at the same school and the same college. Vishal was working now and Veena was doing her MBA. Both sets of parents knew that they were very friendly. Deep down in their hearts they also knew that they were madly in love with each other.

But nobody was willing to admit the truth which had been staring them in the face for so many years. The level of denial was so high that when both had turned sixteen Mr and Mrs Sadarangani had even tried to make Veena tie a rakhi on Vishal’s hand on Rakshabandhan day. But they had not insisted when they saw the contempt with which both youngsters dismissed the suggestion. Veena’s parents Mr. and Mrs Menon were also told about Veena’s pregnancy. All hell broke loose in the Menon household too.

Mr. and Mrs. Menon were quiet clear that they didn’t want a Sindhi son-in-law. And the Sadaranganis were clear that they didn’t want a Malayali daughter-in-law. Even if she was as fair complexioned as Veena was. As a matter of fact the friendship between both couples was built on a foundation of intolerance. Mr. and Mrs. Menon were born and brought up in Kerala and they wanted Veena to marry a good Menon boy. This development was a shock for them. They felt that they should have acknowledged the relationship when they saw it clearly many years ago. But the parents of both were praying for it to be a passing infatuation. Since the situation had gone out of hand the parents got together over a cup of coffee. Mrs. Menon made her famous filter coffee and Mrs. Sadarangani brought the papads.

The parents were clear on one thing. The youngsters had let them down. They had not expected such a thing from them. They had brought them up with all the right cultural values and beliefs. They had never been allowed to become westernised. They were allowed to read as many books as they wanted, see movies and listen to music. But they were never allowed to go on dates or spend exorbitant amounts on clothes and cosmetics. Both parents tried to get the young couple agree to an early marriage. But they were adamant that they would marry only after Veena completed her semester in college. The parents were shocked. “What will people say, yende devamme!” wailed Mrs. Menon. “Oh shut up mama,” said Veena, irritated with her mother’s habit of wailing in Malayalam. Vishal also told his mother not to start getting hysterical in Sindhi.

After prolonged discussions it was decided that the young couple must get married the next Sunday. With only five days left to go they decided to invite a few close relatives. The other families living in the same building could become guests from both sides. The marriage went off very well. Mrs. Sadarangani coached Veena on the intricacies of becoming a Sindhi wife. The marriage rituals went off smoothly. After the marriage ceremony, which was attended by a small group of relatives and friends, there was a reception lunch hosted by the bride’s father. The same evening a reception was hosted by the groom’s father. Everything went off very well. Everyone was impressed by the thoroughness with which the ceremony was conducted.

A few days after the marriage Mrs. Sadarangani noted that Veena’s tummy wasn’t growing. Her suspicions became stronger when she realised after a week that Veena's tummy was still just the same. When she asked Veena about it she just smiled. Finally, out of sheer desperation she dragged Veena to a doctor who confirmed that Veena wasn’t pregnant. Both sets of parents had another meeting over a cup of tea in the dining room of the Menons’ house. Both the youngsters were summoned and were asked to stand in front. They stood in front of their parents in semi-attention. They were subjected to another scolding and asked to explain their behaviour.

“Simple,” said Vishal, “we had a good reason to do this.” Both the fathers pounced upon him and asked him to tell them the reason. Vishal looked at Veena. Their eyes met. They smiled at each other nervously and held hands. Veena addressed all the parents, “We had figured out that if we seek permission for marriage all of you would have said no. We calculated that if we were to give you the shocking news of pregnancy you would insist that we get married. And that is exactly what happened. Instead of a love marriage we had an arranged marriage. And all of us are happy. Are we not?”

The parents did not know what to say. They realised that the kids had made fools of them. There was a pregnant silence for a few seconds and then Mr. Menon burst out laughing. His laughter was infectious. He was followed by Mrs. Sadarangani and then Mrs. Menon. The kids also burst out laughing. Finally, a reluctant Mr. Sadarangani who was still recovering from the shock of having lost almost a crore of rupees as dowry in Vishal’s marriage, also joined in. A few months later Veena told her mother-in-law that she was pregnant. Everybody believed her this time.

Originally posted in my weblog at Sulekha:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lalleshwari (Lal Ded) and Shiva - Shaivism and Sufism in Kashmir

Shiv chuy thali thali rozan;Mo zan Hindu La Musalman.Truk ay chuk pan panun parzanav;Soy chay Sahibas sati zaniy zan.
(Shiva lives everywhere; do not divide Hindu from Muslim. Use your sense to recognize yourself; that is the true way to find God.)- The words of Lal Ded (Lalleshwari)
Source: The weblog of the journalist M J Akbar ( )

For the past few years on Shivratri I remember Lal Ded, Lalleshwari or Lallayogeshwari (1320- 1392) the woman poet from Kashmir whose verses are sung even today in Kashmir. It was just by chance that I discovered her while doing a google search on Kashmiri Shaivism and I was stunned by what I read: How she walked out of a bad marriage. How she stopped wearing clothes and walked around naked. Her body was covered by her flowing hair and her hanging belly. According to an article I read in The Hindu, written by C.S. Lakshmi (May 01 2005) Lal Ded is supposed to mean "Hanging Belly". When she was asked why she did so she is supposed to have replied, "Because I have not yet seen a man." The only occasion when she tried to cover herself was when she saw Shah Hamdan she is supposed to have hid herself.

Born in Pandrethan, near Srinagar formerly known as Puranadhisthana, she was married at a young age. But the marriage was a failure and she walked out at the age of twenty four. She became a disciple of Siddha Srikantha (Sed Bayu). It must have taken a lot of courage on her part to walk out of a marriage and to walk around unclothed. She was treated with a lot of contempt by some and with extreme respect and reverence by others. Her vachs, or sayings, numbering around two hundred in number are some of the oldest examples of Kashmiri in written form which have come down the ages. Dr.Grierson, Dr.Barnett, Sir Richard Temple and Pandit Anand Koul have translated her works into English.

According to the journalist M J Akbar, who is a Kashmiri from his father's side, she is supposed to be a bridge between Hindu mysticism and Sufism. Muslims know her as Lalla Arifa and Hindus as LalleshwariLal Ded is supposed to have suckled Sheikh Noorudin the Sufi mystic who was known as Nand Rishi to the Hindus of Kashmir. I had read of Mirabai and her devotion to Krishna (Krishna Bhakti) in my childhood but Lalleshwari was someone about whom I knew nothing till I saw these articles on her on various websites. I am sure that there must be millions like me all over India, which is indeed a pity. Anyone who is interested in Bhakti Poetry and the contribution of women to devotional poetry should check the internet for Lal Ded and her words.

Some links to Lal Ded and her life and her work:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


In words of love
Expressions of impulse
Of goodwill and caring
Pouring all around on
A day that celebrates love
There is silence too.

My heart is quiet
Vulnerable and alone
And still loving
In this frightening dark solitude
And I look for a box
In my being
Where I can lock my heart away
So it won't be hurt
But no such box appears
Even as I desperately try to create one
Or find
One little corner
As I fold my emotions into neat little piles
Cleaning soiled corners
Still loving
Still open to pain.
And still folding
And still cleaning.

In the truth that most love passes
With the moment
Of benefit
And as the emptiness is fulfilled.
And the wave flows and ebbs with life
And the still depth still beckons.

And still I seek the full heart
In me and in other.
Still alone.

A little rumination on love on Valentine's day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Enroute and atop Aguada

~Wanted to leave an old wafty trail here.

Although the uphill distance between the Resort de Aguada and the Aguada fort is said to be not more than a couple of miles, if you look around as you drive along the zigzagged road, it is bound to extend into one eventful voyage.

As you begin to climb, first you find a narrow channel of rivulet beside to your left; a type of makeshift quay enveloped in the lush of the greens cradling a few colourful ferries. Romeo, Meena, Dono Paula, Samrat, Miramar – these are some of the names anchored home for the time being. And even as you wish to savour the scene a bit more, the rivulet graduates into a fading estuary and vanishes deep into a mist of grey and eventually into a marine memory.

Drive further up and the air turns lighter and the alongside trees sparser, gently ushering you out in the open, naked to the burning sun overhead.

Along with your tired mumbles about the heat you slowly ascend the steeping road to be accosted by the growing blue horizon all around. You are due to struggle here with a feel of vaulting somewhere in the hollow provinces of this mid air handshake between the spotless chromed sky above and the scorched earth beneath.

Higher up, as the road levels; an odd moocow grazing lazily, a couple of electric poles, a remnant of a signpost and your moving shadow are all that you can expect to keep your company until you reach the fort atop the hill.

The fort, as you discover is but a segment of oddly shaped serpentine sepia wall groping out from within, mute in its mighty abandon. The main passage stoops down south only to rise again to the right arching initially into a tarmac and then into the ruins of erstwhile ramparts.

It is here you might find of interest to engage with a grey bearded elder squatting in the shade of a lonely bramble; who would, subject to his mood obviously, recount how the aging bricks of the fort are mute witness to the stories of birth, grandeur and bereavement. And true to his words you notice how like a grand old lady she ceaselessly swallows a retreating past overlooking an arabesque future of the liquid, solid and sky.

As the view claims a pinch of belief to register, you spare an odd thought to the fortune of all those sentries of the past who would have stood guard here everyday laying a vigilant gaze over the watery horizons, for even the last one of them would have died a poet for sure.

Perched atop on the far end of this summit, the distant face of the sea, dressed in shades of emerald, turquoise, indigo, taupe, grey, and at places smudged by the shadows of slow moving clouds and at places bristling in silver, stroked by the long hands of the sun is exceptionally serene in its silence and expanse. The floating freckles of petite islands in between are best described as sporadic, and so are the multi-ethnic vessels that often float about in so painful a torpid that you are forced to give up on following their activities after a while of close anticipation.

Your left horizon is taken by the strip of the city, mainly put together by the varied colours of concrete kiosks, draped by the berets and baggies of greens and quite often but not always- interrupted, protected and invaded by both the silent and foamy white arms of the ocean. A few metal spires intended for wireless communications stand atall here and there in the distant haze. You could surely imagine how in the night, the wind would haul ripples along the black waters distorting the pockets of orange reflects in the mist of city lights.

Unbiased, the sky hovers lazily over both the city and the ocean alike as if just in an eager wait to slide behind the veil that the murk of the night draws.

Once you have absorbed an eyeful of the all these , it is here, in the surrounds of this sentinel, you wish to come during those winter evenings when the breeze is just about pleasant to study some Neruda and perhaps Brodsky too[?], reminiscing over life among other such things.

For that, is unbearably beautiful, even to imagine.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eunice De Souza ki pasand.....

Picked up the January 2007 issue of Reader's Digest and happened to see an article titled 10 Great Indian Novels to Read This Year. The article has been written by Eunice De Souza the poet, novelist, editor and former professor. I remember interacting with Eunice over a few weeks at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in 1991. We were attending the Film Appreciation Course and it was fun to interact with her. More so as she is a Punekar who has shifted to Mumbai.

Here are the ten Indian novels Eunice recommends book lovers read this year:

(1) Londonstani by Gautam Malkani (2006)

(2) No God in Sight by Altaf Tyrewala (2005)

(3) Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar (1997)

(4) Afternoon Raag by Amit Chaudhuri (1993)

(5) Hangman's Journal by Shashi Warrier (2000)

(6) The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth (1986)

(7) All About H. Hatterr by G. V. Desani (1948)

(8) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997)

(9) The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh (2004)

(10) Everest Hotel by I Allan Seally.

So, how many of these have you read? I can hear some book lovers say "What, no Upamanyu Chatterjee/ Rohinton Mistry/ O.V. Vijayan?" But then you can't make everyone happy, can you?