Since childhood, I’ve connected with the children’s story ‘The Ugly Duckling’ more than any other story I’ve read or heard. Mostly because it was about a swan which was called ugly only because he was living in an entirely different community for which the criteria of judging others were not as per the swan’s physical features. Now, I don’t claim to be a beautiful swan caught in the wrong neighborhood, but I can relate to what the swan might have felt.
For a considerable period of time, I used to walk to and fro from school as it was nearby. The worst part was having to pass through a small stretch of slum, which was a necessary shortcut for us. Every single day, the residents of the slum looked at me as if I was something that they’ve never seen before (I’m exotic, bitches). Those who were aware enough about the existence of the country named China and the false propaganda of ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ started shouting the slogan at me and my sister, every single day. Talk about consistency, huh!?
The childish anger was overcome by sanity as we learnt to ignore them with time. But that was not where it ended. Any place you go, I would become the center of attention. While some had the decency to only look, others couldn’t contain their curiosity and would ask whether I was from China or Japan (because only two countries have people with small eyes. *cough* *cough* North East India *cough* cough*). The shopkeepers tried to hardsell me local stuff for exorbitant prices. I was the favorite of the beggars as they thought my wallet would be full of foreign currency. Some sweet people tried to make me feel comfortable by starting the conversation in their own limited capacity of the English language. Oh, the stories will never end!
Anyway, I never let this behavior bother me as I learnt to maintain a cool composure whenever I came across such people. Even at times, I would oblige and acted like a foreigner to provide them a moment of joy of meeting an outsider (A man’s gotta spread as much happiness as possible).
But what I really want to say is that despite coming from a different human race (#NotAryan #ProudlyMongolian), my upbringing and education in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat has made sure that I do not lack in any criteria to be a good Indian citizen. Be it good hold over Hindi or the understanding of the local Gujarati language, I’ve imbibed the Indianness of the languages with open heart. From the love for Cricket to taking avid interest in Indian and world politics that affects the country, I can comfortably claim to have earned to be called a Proud Indian Citizen through all these years.
I cheer loudly when India wins in all sports (Cricket still remains my favourite though), I get in heated arguments with people who disrespect India, my blood boils when the enemies kill our innocent fellow citizens and soldiers, I sing the National Anthem proudly every time I go to watch a movie in a multiplex, I shout ‘Jai’ at the top of my voice when someone initiates the ‘Bharat Mata Ki…Jai’ chants, I get sad when I hear about unfortunate incidents which could have been avoided, I get angry when people say ‘Is desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta’, I show equal disgust when a 15 year old boy is killed on the rumor of carrying beef (it’s food for other people, idiots) and when the leader I support chooses to remain mum about it, I feel proud whenever India or Indians do incredible stuff (#GoIndia #IndiaIndia)…. phew!!!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Nor am I expecting things to change. You crack a racist joke on me, I’ll one up it with a better one (and I’ll win, because I’m hilarious and witty af). You want me to play a foreigner for your amusement, I’ll happily oblige. You keep asking me about the difference in our cultures, I’ll tell you I don’t know shit (seriously, I’m born and brought up in India, I hardly know anything about Nepal or its culture.) As far as I know, there’s not much difference. For those who don’t know, Nepal was the only Hindu nation in the world till 2008. It still is the country with the highest Hindu majority, population-wise.
So let’s just accept the fact that I’m an Indian, by birth and by heart. And I don’t mind being called or considered an outsider for my whole life. Doesn’t matter. Don’t give a flying fuck. While you consider me a Permanent Outsider, I’ll always be proud of being a Nepali who has embraced India and is equally proud of the teeny, heavenly country which gives me a biological and cultural identity.
As for everyone else who chooses to remain ignorant, I’ll always be your friendly, neighborhood Permanent Outsider.
*mic drop* Gulshan Out!!!
It was yet another Saturday morning. And like most of those that I had lived through happily, I was expecting a lazy yet fulfilling weekend. As I sat down for my breakfast, I heard a distant loud chatter, which was quite unusual given the limited number of homes in my colony and the private lives everyone loved to lead there.
I finally gave into my curiosity and stepped up from the sofa to see what could have possibly turned my quiet neighborhood into a chirpy one. At a distance, I saw a strange face with an even stranger background. With a bulky and muscular physique that clearly established that he was a gym freak, the stranger was wearing shorts and sleeveless white vest. But that wasn’t what bewildered me! What actually left me clueless was a pile of identical axes that were dumped on the ground while he was holding one in his hand.
My curiosity had peaked and hence, I put on my slippers and walked toward the commotion. As the distance grew shorter, I could hear what the stranger was saying. Surprisingly, he was offering the axes to everyone for free. More than that, he was insisting that everyone should have at least one axe. My neighbours tried to ask him more questions behind this generous act, but he only said that it would help them sooner or later. One by one, they gave in.
A message chimed in my phone. I had totally forgotten about meeting my friend today. He had texted asking when I’d come to his home. I replied hurriedly and went back to home, finished my breakfast and left for his home.
An hour and a half later, I walked back to my home. On the way, a little far outside the main gate of my colony, I was surprised to see the same guy offering more axes to the neighbouring society. What was even weirder that he had somehow persuaded them to form a circle with those axes on the ground by stumping them one by one next to each other.
The pile grew shorter as they went on to make that unfathomable circle of axes. As the circle neared completion, there were only 3 axes left on the ground. The neighborhood residents completed the axe circle with the third last one.
As the guy saw me, he remembered I was too busy to take the axe when I last saw him. He approached me with the second last axe in his hand with a smile and offered it to me. I took a step back, I don’t know why a sudden rush of fear ran through me. But he continued to approach with the same, amiable smile. I relented. After I couldn’t argue anymore, I took the axe, said my thank yous and started walking for my home.
After walking about 10 steps, the stranger picked up the last axe and turned towards me. But what I saw was a totally different scene altogether now. He was no longer the friendly, cheerful face that I saw in the morning. His eyes were bloodshot and face had turned red, as if consumed with rage.
With a raised axe, he charged at me, yelling, ‘Now no one can say I didn’t give them a chance.’
Life hasn’t been a bed of roses,
Happiness hasn’t always knocked on our doors,
Fate hasn’t always showed mercy on us,
Yet we still manage to laugh out loud,
Yes, I’m proud of us!
We’ve witnessed our dreams shatter,
We’ve seen our plans fail miserably, and how,
We’ve had our trust broken,
Yet we still manage to not complain,
Yes, I’m proud of us!
We’ve faced shattering rejections,
We’ve suffered unrequited love,
We’ve lost the ones we cared for the most,
Yet we manage to love nonetheless,
Yes, I’m proud of us!
We’ve battled immense loss,
We’ve survived horrible tragedies,
We’ve carried immeasurable grief,
Yet we managed to make it through,
Yes, I’m proud of us!
We’ve lived in different time zones,
We’ve fought like there’s not tomorrow,
We’ve had innumerable fallouts,
Yet we still managed to care,
Yes, I’m proud of us!
We’ve braved the storms,
We’ve surfed the tides,
We’ve weathered the rains,
But we still managed to shine bright.
That’s why, I’m proud of us!
We sit in a plush café, my friends and I.
Just like good old times.
How long has it been since we last met? Maybe 2 months or more.
Anyways, there we are, talking about all kinds of random stuff.
From work to friends, interesting enough!
Oh hey, one of them got a new job! Congrats bro!
And the other one just came back from a nice little vacation.
Sir, your order? The waiter interrupts.
Just give us two minutes, we send him away.
We quickly decide what to order, and get done with it.
Hey, let me call another of our friends; proposes one of them.
And then we take turns at the phone with him.
The food is here, about time.
But first, let us call the fifth friend of our unnamed group.
He’s getting married in a couple of months you know.
Ring, ring. No response. We try again, the result is the same.
Ah, chuck it! Let’s dig in. We’re all hungry.
Let’s plan for a trip together, the usual planning begins.
Lots of possible destination names are thrown in.
The three of us, oh actually four! How could we forget one of us in married, duh!
Okay, so the planning continues, possibly for November.
While all of us know it’s going to be cancelled.
We’re all busy with our own precious lives, you see!
From work to family, and everything in between.
The lunch is over now, we’re all so full.
Our bills are paid, split in equal parts.
We leave the place towards our cars.
Okay then, when will you be back? I ask.
Don’t know buddy, I’ve too much work on my hands.
Okay, whenever you get time, we’ll meet up again. I say.
Sure, he says, and we bid goodbyes.
There’s nothing thrilling in this story,
I guess you have already noticed.
But that’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time, seriously!
Friends who used to meet daily at college,
And raise he roof with our jokes.
Now meet after two months or so, without the presence of other two.
But I’ll still look ahead to the next time we meet,
Share a meal, crack a joke or two.
For this is what matters now, meeting them anyhow.
Even if it means just a lunch over usual conversation.
That was last Sunday, a good one in a long time indeed.
No matter how uneventful they are, sometimes that’s all that I need!
Happy 28th Birthday! Although it is a greeting, I couldn’t be happy. I turned 28. I grew a year older. I still had a lot to accomplish. I had no friends around to celebrate my 28th birthday with me. I was depressed. But was I depressed because of being alone on the one day in the entire year when you are supposed to feel special or was I actually scared of life passing by?
I’m not a kid anymore, and yet I anxiously waited for my birthday. I even counted days like a little child excited for all the presents he will get on that special day. I mentally made a list of people whom I considered to be the ones whose wishes will brighten up the day. I guess I wanted to feel more special than the others on my birthday.
But then, none of my friends showed up. Various reasons were thrown around for their absence. Most of them genuine and believable. Yet it hurt. Feeling lonely on your birthday does hurt, no matter how old you are.
I kept contemplating the reason why I was alone on my special day. Where had I gone wrong? Where had my friends gone wrong? Didn’t they care about me? Was I not that special to them as I think I am?
I stayed sad for a long time that day. I had my parents who were excited about me being around with them for a change. They cooked my favourite food to make me happy. They let me know that I wasn’t alone.
When the day was about to end and I had finished two TV shows by binge watching, I wasn’t feeling lonely anymore. I was happy with my own company. I enjoyed spending the day all by myself. I understood that my friends hadn’t forgotten me, but they were actually caught up with their responsibilities, familial and otherwise.
I realized we had grown up. We had more pressing matters than celebrate birthdays together. What mattered was they still took out time to wish me, some way or the other. They cared enough to remember a random date when countless things keep running in our minds which demand urgent attention. They promised to make it up for their absence by being there in the days to come. And I know for sure they will.
Turning 28 and being alone wasn’t bad anymore. I grew a year wiser. I spent another year being with the people who loved me. I dedicated the most special day to myself. I took a step further into maturity and adulthood. I learned to be thankful. I learned to appreciate what I had. I grew up a little more!
The Indian Film Industry, also known as Bollywood churns out the maximum number of movies compared with any other in a year. While I don’t expect much from the majority of the current batch of producers and directors, there are a few who keep my faith alive in this industry. But today, I’m not writing this for people like me; the educated and sensible audience who are highly critical of what they watch.
I’m writing this as a person who likes watching movies with his family, who likes to go to multiplexes with his parents to watch movies. My mother, although not a big movie fan, occasionally loves going to the multiplex. She keeps asking about upcoming movies which she can watch. She’s not blessed with high quality education like most of us, yet she’s not a closed minded person who gets shy of a little intimacy on the big screen.
I also look forward to taking her to watch movies and have a couple of fun filled hours with her. Now here is where the problem arises! Bollywood sucks at making family entertainers, especially since the last decade or so. There have been only a handful of movies which the young generation can sit and enjoy with their parents. Either the movies are a bit complicated to comprehend or made only for a specific class of audience which doesn’t have anything to do with the nuances of good cinema.
No, we can’t watch an ex-porn star gyrate to intentionally written explicit songs in the name of women empowerment. We also can’t stand no brainer movies which are solely made to earn hundreds of crores. And we certainly can’t watch a movie that has crappy special effects and twisted historical facts just for the sake of it.
So my question is: How difficult is it to write a decent story and translate it into a family entertainer? Why can’t the so called big shots of Bollywood understand the fact that there’s a big section of audience which simply wants a decently made movie to pass 2-3 hours of their free time? Is it too difficult to fathom that if we really want to watch people getting sleazy and intimate; there are much better options available for us?
So if you’re listening Bollywood, get you act together. We don’t expect you to make Inception and The Dark Knight, but you can surely make movies that we can enjoy with our family and have a fun outing every now and then. We have some pretty good actors, please use them to make meaningful movies. I’ve seen it happen and will optimistically expect it to happen more often. Till then, I’ll stay away from your worthless movies for good and also keep my parents safe from your nonsensical bullshit that you call art. Yours frustratingly, an occasional movie-goer.