Rose in a book

                                    It is nothing more than a habit these days that I go looking for books and magazines at the Sunday bazaar. The once buzzing Sunday market has now been reduced to just a few hawkers selling film fare and other celebrity scandal magazines. Rest of it has now been taken over by hawkers who sell cell phone accessories and cheap clothes.

This might be my most embarrassing confession as a professional. I have picked up books with fancy covers in order to decorate interior spaces so as to fill up the empty ledges. I even remember at a house warming ceremony of my esteemed client,one of his guests pointed at the book and asked my client how he liked the book and not only did he admit to reading the book but also how his love for animals grew after reading it. The book was George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. (I haven’t read the book either but I do know its an allegorical novel about the Russian revolution). The only reason I selected it was because the glossy red laminated finish of the cover added color to the otherwise dull grey space. Such are the tragic times we live in.

Nevertheless we were brought up in days where we played in our courtyards and playgrounds and not on electronic tablets and smartphones, so the only thing we could do when indoors was read. And hence the habit of visiting the Sunday bazaar for books. I have never been an avid reader but once in a while I get lucky and find something of my interest. I’m pretty sure I was the least read of all the people who have ever visited those Sunday bazaars.

That winter Sunday morning as usual I found myself at the bazaar looking for books strolling up and down the street casually, with little or no intention of buying anything. I walked all the way to the last pile of books on the street, and sat on the pavement pulled out my pack and discovered I wasn’t carrying my lighter, with the stick held in my lips I  looked around to see if there was anyone around whom I could ask for a light. There was this old man squatted besides his pile of books not very far from where I found my seat. I called out to him in my usual colloquial style

” Chicha! do you have a matchbox?”

He put his hand in his sweater and pulled out a matchbox from his shirts pocket and threw it right at me. I lit my cigarette and took a few relaxed drags, got up dusted myself and walked up to him and returned his matchbox with a smile. Now, I found myself obligated to at least look through his pile. And something caught my eye, it was a purple colored cover with a black border. The very look of it suggested it was a romantic thriller, that’s anything but my genre. I put it back in the pile and asked him how much for that one. In a very dejected tone he replied,

” Sahab! Take that,I’ll give it for fifty bucks. I haven’t sold anything in the past two hours I’ve been here.” 

The melancholy on his face was a pitiful sight. I browsed through his inventory again and found nothing interesting except a coffee table book about Indian water painting and it’s evolution. I asked him how much it was he said he’d take a hundred and fifty for that. I readily agreed gave him two hundred rupee notes and was about to leave but he said he didn’t have change. I don’t know why I did that but I asked him to throw that book with the purple colored cover. Took both the books home and left them at the study table. Neither of which I planned to read. 

A week later I was home alone and finally got time to spend at the study table. I don’t spend much time on my study table at home these days and both the books lay there just like I’d left them. That book which I’d gotten just for the sake of non availability of change, kept drawing my attention as though it was calling me time and again, even as I was browsing the book on water paintings. The title of the book “If tomorrow comes” didn’t sound familiar. 

I finally picked up that book dusted it, and then it struck to me, when I read the authors name on the front. He was her favorite author and I’d seen that book on her bookshelf. It’s been ten years. I took a deep breath and opened the first page. As though a lighting bolt had struck me, I froze. Her name with mine intertwined in a very beautiful urdu calligraphic font is what I found. I knew it was her book. She used to scribble our initials on all her books to which i took serious offense.

” what if someone sees?” I used to ask her.

” why do you think I write it in urdu.” She used to reply.

I remember telling her Akbar Allahbadis couplet on this once 

hamare pyar ki chitthi tumhare baap ne kholi,       Hamara sarr na bach paata agar urdu use aati” 

(Our letters of love were apprehended by your father,                                                                        and by god he wouldn’t have let us live if he knew how to read urdu.)

She used to laugh at it and say ” don’t you dare drag my daddy into this”. 

She was young and playful, and I couldn’t bring myself to understand her joyous and overzealous version of life. She was so full of life and I was at that point of time in life surrounded by sorrows that didn’t concern me. I walked along by her side but we were two parallel tracks of a train always by each other’s side but never together.

I still remember that night when I sneaked into her room late that night on the terrace,  her father had given her a room so that she could study undisturbed.  I plucked a rose from her neighbors terrace as I jumped from one terrace to the other till I got to hers. I held her from behind and wrapped my arms around her waist while she was trying to go through her notes. I kissed her neck and pulled out the rose from my rear pocket and put it on her bossom. She put her notes aside and we sat on her bed mersmerised in each others eyes, as though we found a world of our own in each other. When I took my leave for that night she made me put that rose in her book which she pulled from the bookshelf saying,

” your love is here to stay in my heart, the way this rose will stay in this book”

And today ironically it has found its way back to me and like she had said, the rose was still there withered, pressed, dark with no aroma . Just like her love for me, nomore at its previous glory and grace. Thin and fragile as though it was a part of the book itself now. I may still exist in her heart somewhere and she probably doesn’t even realize it. The rose in the book if tomorrow comes. Tomorrow did come but you did not. 

The book found its way to me after all these years but she couldn’t. There is an undeniable connect with this souvenir of hers. It talks to me like no other book to its reader before.Each page that I flip as if the book was sobbing n sniffing longing for an incomplete story to see an end. The corner of the pages which I brushed against my thumb like I was running my fingers through her hair. When I put my hand on a page it felt like caressing those soft cheeks of hers. And when tired i try to get some rest on the desk, I put my head on her book, makes me feel like I’m resting my head on her lap. Lying with it on my chest just like she would rest her head on my chest. I have managed to still keep the rose where it was lest she blame me for not keeping the trust of guardianship. I hope she comes over someday and I return what belongs to her not just this book but the memories she forgot to take away with her and also the rose in the book. 

Your Namesake 

For as long as I can remember,I have found rains to be interesting. The sound of rain on the earth, the scent of the soil getting wet. Rains can be anything but its a season which is unarguably the most interesting seasons of all.

We were enjoying our drinks in the evening of mid June that year when it started raining heavily. The shade of the gazebo sheilded us from getting drenched, but the drizzle in the shade was what we weren’t protected by. She  put the laptop in the bag and I moved our cell phones to a dry spot.  The sudden downpour left us in the gazebo like we were both stranded on an island. The rains were heavy and the visibility so bad that we couldn’t see the next gazebo which was only a few yards away in that tropical resort themed brewery.

She was trying to keep herself dry by moving away from the windward side. Lighting my cigarette I asked her if she didn’t mind, she just shook her head gesturing me that she didn’t. She was clearly not very comfortable with the rain, she looked irritated. I asked her to sit at the table next to me for i was on the leeward side of the rains.  She agreed and quickly joined me on the bench. I held her hand looked her in the eye, raised her hand and kissed it.

” don’t you think the rain is the second most romantic thing after the moon?!” I asked.

” do you really believe this crap or is it mere rhetoric that you picked up from some cheesy romantic poem” she said.

I smiled, she was clearly very irritated by the fact that the rains ruined the evening we had been planning for weeks now.

” rhetoric??!.. every well put feeling isn’t always mere rhetoric darling.. it’s not just me but pretty much everyone who think rains and monsoons are the most romantic of all the seasons” I said.

She looked at me apologetically and by now had started to lower her steely gaze.

“Oh come on now! It’s not the end of the world”

I said trying to calm her down.

I kissed her cheek and held her hand this time firmly, reassuring her of my love. She was by now distracted by our intimacy and suddenly the rains were not a botheration anymore.

We sat there watching the rain till it slowed down and only the sound of rain drops dripping through the rooftops could be heard. both our eyes were fixed on the drops hanging on the electrical wires a few yards away from us. they seemed to long for their union, each drop with another. And as soon as they came close they quickly became one and the wire could no longer hold them and they fell to the ground. She drew my attention to this phenomena and said,

“isn’t the same going to happen to us, if we were to get married? The society we live in is like this wire and we the two drops yearning for union”

“I’d take those love-jihad allegations for you” I said.

“fucking misogynist bigots ” she murmured.

“At least they’re not perverts” I said as I winked and held her hand.

“they’re both perverts and misogynist bigots, and you are only a pervert” she said.

She knew I was not very comfortable with her calling me a pervert every time she got a chance, and so she got back at abusing the rains,

” I hate the rains and the dampness they bring along, it turns my mood so melancholic” she said.

She sipped her beer and continued ” and i hate the thunder, there’s nothing romantic about rains accompanied by thunderstorms”

“If not for anything, you should like the rains for the reason that it’s your namesake” I said trying to calm her down.

” another one of my fathers mistakes” she replied.

” fine! Even if it wasn’t for the romantic rhetoric i picked up from a ‘cheesy poem’, I love them, for they’re your namesake” I said sipping on my regular,  black coffee.

I think she blushed at this point but in a fashion so subtle that I can’t really be sure of it.

” no wonder! With all this poetic ornateness you were popular amongst the girls in college” she said trying to block the charm she felt with my words.

” yeah right! They all fucked off with their parents choices. And if I were that good with words then you wouldn’t be immune to them” I replied.

” you are good, but not that good” she added.

I knew words would have little effect on her now so I pulled her close n kissed her to which she responded without any resistance. And that day I realized what those poets meant by intoxicatingly beautiful lips.

” fine! I take back my words… you are good” she said gathering herself.

We sat there talking for a very long time, she didn’t bore me even when she talked of cricket and her new found love for the teams captain. And when I talked about poetry she didn’t seem bored either. There was very little that I would say was romantic between us both, but we shared a very comfortable mental level. We could both talk for hours about anything and everything. And at times the language of our conversation was silence.

Then came that moment every event has to face “the end”.  I drove her back home and on the way she asked if we would ever meet again, considering the frequencies of our spending time together, we would be seeing each other in probably the next couple of months. But, that was the last I saw of her. Getting off the car she looked at me in a very longing fashion as though she really wanted to see me again. But fate had other plans for us.

I was never to see her again, but her namesake is who I still get to meet. the rains still fascinate me, the thunderstorms of her calling me names “pervert” and rhetoric”, the mild drizzle on the face as if she was talking to me. And sometimes just watching the rain from my office window as though she was texting me, I wouldn’t get to touch her or talk to her but felt her presence. She was all of it in one tiny little package.  Her fathers “mistake” was the most articulately put ocean in a drop.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divinity of Dilemma

We all have dilemmas of sorts in our day to day lives, some being more serious than the others. But the question that looms is irrespective of what decision we make in the aftermath of the dilemma is weather these  thought processes of us are a battle of good and evil we hold inside us or is it just a confused state of mind not knowing what to do.

There are points of times in our lives where  we are left with little or no choice, metamorphically putting it, its like standing on a suspended bridge with its cables giving way with every step you take. Neither can you now move forward for the snapping of more cables and neither can you stand midway for long. These situations often tend to push a lot of us into spirituality, which is giving up on our capability to solve the problem or overcome the situation ourselves and the consequences that follow can be easily given credit to ” The will of God”. To those whose “faith” lies with the Alpha and Omega, these are windows of   enlightenment and this the end of their very problem.

And for those of us not fortunate enough to be able to generously credit the super being for the rights and wrongs the path is a bit more further away. like the metaphor of a snapping suspended bridge, we are more likely to reacess our previous dilemma which led to our decisions that brought us on the bridge in the first place. The alternate route to the other end and why we did not choose those start to now hit us. And those were our previous dilemmas, they might have had a good or bad consequences but nonetheless we were the masters of our own fate and destiny.

Now having said this, these events in our life make us realize our limitations, our strengths, our weaknesses and lessons to be learnt. and that is the divinity of dilemma. the thought process which is termed as ” dilemma” is in itself of a nature divine. Whether or not you are helped by something super natural in such scenario  you are bound to enhance your senses and use the knowledge from your unconscious to solve the problem.

It is always better to have had taken a decision/ made a call on our own notions and understanding rather than wait for someone to take the call on our behalf. Even if the decision made was wrong, it was our own. But in the event of someone else taking the call for us, even if we succeed it would be a mere fluke and our success would in real terms not be our own.

 

 

We will keep growing back like the grass

On the morning of the seventeenth of August, I wake up later than usual as it was a Sunday.  my eyes hardly open I look for my pair of glasses using my tactile senses and no visual help. I find myself in the same state of hangover of reminiscence that I have had in for the past three to four months (three months and 14 days to be precise).

I literally have to push myself out of bed lest I would want to sleep more, all day and dream of our union, very much like a famous poet had penned down.

” Nahi visaal mayyassar toh aarzu hi sahi”

“if not the union then let the longing be”

 

I put on my bathroom slippers and had to drag myself to the sink where throwing water on my face would let me come back to this harsh world without dreams and longing of love but full of only lust of want. the craving for my morning nicotine recharge brings me to my studio which is three floors down on the ground level. As I rest my butt on the chair to pick up the almost empty but for the two sticks of cigarettes in the pack, I hear a voice call out loud,

“Baba”

its my old friend and companion Raja. As I open the door for him he throws his greeting question right at me.

” What is your life telling you today?”

“Just breathe for now” I replied in a boring monotonous tone.

He takes the chair and now I’m forced to sit on the chaise lounge trying hard to keep my back upright. we both light our sticks and talk about the usual, while hes talking about future business pans and opportunities, I slip yet again in her thoughts. Only to be brought back by the muezzins loud azaan boomingly amplified by a dozen speakers. my friend leaves for his prayers and I sit staring at the stack of books on my table.

The muezzin screaming at the top of his voice “God is the greatest” makes me wonder if he really is great or just a crazy mad man. with everyone trying to figure out what he does and justifying Him by all sorts of logics and philosophies they name religions. But honestly speaking I strongly believe that this “crazy super being” whom people refer to as the almighty has put the larger picture in harmony while actually screwing up the minute details of the tiny beings he created. And I believe Hes being no less merciful to me at this point of time in my life. I am not afraid of being called a heretic or infidel, as I know that the “crazy big guy” up there is more kind on the larger picture and wouldn’t take notice of the abuse I hurl at Him.

I pick up a book of poetry from the stack of books lying on the table and open it to the page where I find my recent favorite. The poet here talks about how he will keep growing back like the grass on the field again and again. I wonder if we all wake up one day in a different form in a different world with our beloveds and sweethearts by our side , only to be separated again as this cycle goes on. Or is this just a biological cycle that comes to an end, and has no meaning to it at all but just inhaling and exhaling of the atmosphere around us. I would want to believe in an after life but cant bring myself there just as the 19 th century poet had put it

” hum ko maloom hai Jannat ki haqiqat lekin,                                                                                      dil k khush rakhne ko Ghalib yeh khayal achha hai”

” we do not know that there is no paradise,                                                                                         but it is a good thought to keep you happy”

 

 

Architecture making a difference ??

Architecture Making a Difference

                      From times immemorial architecture has been perceived as an art contributing to structures which have become symbols of culture,religion and politics of the area these were dedicated to .Architectural achievements form an important link to the historic civilizations in public conscious. From the rock cut temples of Ajanta to Mayan pyramids every architectural wonder just named brings to your conscious the cultural , political or religious attributes which led to the construction of these milestones in the history of mankind .These milestones have made differences which even the blind cannot ignore but just gaze and nod in agreement .

                     Architecture differs from the pure utility of engineering construction, it is an art . And like any other discipline of art it has evolved ,transformed over the years and centuries.The analysis of architectural types provides an insight into past cultures and eras. Behind each of the greater styles lies not just a casual trend , but a period of serious and urgent experimentation directed toward answering the needs of a specific way of life not just in itself but to everyone and everything around it . Architecture in the earliest doctrines by Vetruvius has been adressed as an art which gives birth to structures of beauty which should delight and raise the spirits , and so was it in the good old days. When the colloseums of Rome spoke about the might of Great Roman Empire ,the rock cut temples spoke of the pious and God fearing Indians , the pyramids talking about the strong beleif in after life of their Pharoahs , the Taj Mahal singing ballads for its beloved all these and many more have brought about change surely althogh not necessarily instantaneous . Structures have contributed to these changes and so have planning principles such as vaastu which initially started off as guidelines from religious scrolls to building rules and regulations during the reign of Ashoka. Architecture is not just about the mammothic structures which have stood sturdy in the storms of time , but also in the sound of footfalls in a market place, the smell of rain on pavement , the warmth of a brick wall in the sun. It’s in the sequence of spaces we pass through—tall and narrow, broad and open, bright, dark, loud, quiet . And all these little things do make a difference in our lives in little ways .

                      Now, taking our eyes off the big picture and zooming in to a topic (a study group) which would help me tell the reader how architecture makes a difference . The painting of a typical Indian bazaar of the British era and the princely states hanging on my bed room wall gave me a thought to think about . How drastic are the changes that architecture has brought about in our lives within just a span of say 50 years ! The Indian bazaars which were innocently scattered , angelically random have been replaced by meticulously designed malls and super stores which provide you with everything from a needle to a fix in your flat tyre . The Indian bazaars could in no way be related to the modern day Wallmart or Big Bazar although they serve the same function , but thanks to architects and their dedication to this and lot more changes like these which have made impossible things quite possible. Looking at how the architecture and planning of malls has affected the economics , the lifestyles of those involved in the business- the changes can be rightly called ELEPHANTINE. Similarly there is no sphere of life which isnt touched by architecture, resulting in a change . Architecture post industrial revolution sees a whole lot of change as far as construction techniques and the ideology of the architects is concerned , which pretty much changes the whole scenario of the architectural world. The form follows function can be seen in strong contrast to the previously beleived theory of Vetruvius.

                   Although the topic sees no end I would like to end this essay of mine on the note that no matter who gets accredited , the Tzars of the corporate industry , the construction techniques , the change in ideology of a generation or anyone else but ultimately they would have to take the ladder of architecture to reach their goal to bring about the change .

                                                                                                                                                                                           – Syed . A. Hussain

Careful !what you wish for!

In the lawn of the coffee bar that summer night my client and I met to discuss the informal part of our contract that couldn’t be discussed with our teams till the rest was finalized.
 I liked this place for my meetings outside office for the landscape and trees offered closure even in the open. The landscape was designed so as to create green pockets that provided privacy even when the place was full. I needed both, the greenery and the privacy. Just as we were served our regulars and were beginning to start.
A ball bounced close to my table and before it could hit my coffee mug i blocked it. And before I could look where it came from, a child around age 3 came running. Although my dislike for children knew little bounds, i had to extend the courtesy of holding the ball out to the young boy. The boy stood a few feet away from me, he looked hesitant to approach a stranger to take his very own precious back. Trying to make him feel comfortable I smiled hoping he would would come and take the ball. He just didn’t budge, stood there frozen. Now I just wanted to throw it right at him when I heard a voice behind the kid say 

” Aman go get your ball from the gentleman ”
I raised my eyes to see who it was, n a young lady walked right behind the kid. I put the ball on the ground and rolled it towards them, turned back to my client and said 

” so where were we …”

He looked at me, then before he could say anything, he raised his head a little and gestured me to look behind me.
I saw the young lady now standing a couple of feet away from me, I butted my cigarette and now raised my head to look at her face. She took a moment before her inquisitive tone called out my name 

” Hussain ”

“Is that you?”

 

“Yes…”

I said, in a confused fashion.

Still trying to figure out who she was.
I had stood up by now and excused myself from my client who was by now already looking at the paper work.
She took a deep breath n said 

” I’m zara .. Irum’s cousin ”
I remember talking to her on the phone sometimes, i had seen her pictures but don’t remember meeting Zara in person, but it has been a long time now. I didn’t like her much for the role she played in my breakup with Irum. It was her mom who had gotten Irum’s match and she didn’t say a word against the match nor one in my favor.
A bit perplexed, I gathered myself. Shaken and vulnerable on the inside i still put a smile on my facade and said,
” oh hie ! I’m sorry it’s been a long time, how have you been ”
Even after all these years Irum’s name still leaves me powerless and petrified. An era bygone just instantaneously replaces itself with the current. 
” I’m good, in Hyderabad with the family for summer” She said.

” long time… how are you doing “She asked. 

” can’t complain… ” I said. 

She smiled.

” your reply hasn’t changed in all these years.. can’t complain?!!”

” well, … ”

I wanted to get rid of her as soon as I could but I didn’t want to sound like I still held a grudge, or if she mattered at all. 

So I paused and looked at the kid.
“is he yours ?” I asked.

She now looked frozen just like the kid standing at her feet. 
” he… he is…the only thing that survives of her now ” she said with moist eyes.
I might have understood what she meant but my head would just not process nor try to register that statement of hers. I was startled beyond words,

” what?.. I’m sorry!…. I ….I don’t understand ..”
She put her hand on the kids shoulder and said 

“It’s been 2 years .. a car accident in Delaware… she didn’t survive..”
I didn’t hear what she said after that. A long buzz in my head is all I felt, a real long one. She shook my shoulder and asked 

” are you ok?”
I shook my head a little, 

“Yeah!.. I’m sorry for your loss.. I.. ”

She looked visibly shaken too by now.

” it wasn’t easy for us.. the whole family.. and especially her father…”she said.

I looked at the kid, put my hand over his head. I now smiled at the kid and this time he smiled back at me. 
That smile of the kid would haunt me for the rest of my life is what I understood that very moment, it does now and I guess it always will.
I remember having wished a death for her a million times a day for abandoning me. And I hated her father and wished everything bad for the old man every single day for years. 
Don’t they say .. ” careful ! What you wish for!!”