Tuesday, February 19, 2013


धाएं सी आवाज़ के साथ एक गोली तमंचे से निकली और दिमाग का धुआं करते हुए रफूचक्कर हो गयी। इस घातक वार के बाद भी जनाब ज़िंदा तोह थे ही। बेदम सी आवाज़ में उन्होंने पूछा, “आख़िर इस मर्ज़ का नाम क्या है?” बम के गोले सी गरजती हुई एक और आवाज़ ने फ़रमाया, “महाशय, यह ज़िन्दगी है। इसकी न कोई दवा है, न कोई इलाज। अब तोह आप बस दुआ की ही ख्वाहिश कीजिये।” आज कल हुज़ूर दरगाह के रास्ते में एक कोने में पड़े रहते हैं। वह लोगों से दुआ की भीख मांगते हैं, और लोग उन्हें फ़कीर समझ दो-चार पैसे देते हुए आगे बढ़ जाते हैं। कल शाम बाज़ार में मुझे मोहतरमा दिखीं थीं। ईद का मौका था और वोह कुछ सहेलिओं के साथ सेवईं नौश फ़रमा रहीं थीं। हमने भी उनके पीछे-पीछे अपने होंठ मीठे कर लिए। भाईसाहब, आपको क्या बताऊँ! क्या लाजवाब सेवईं थी। अली अहमद की दुकान का पूरी दुनिया में कोई मुकाबला नहीं है। आह, पर मैं कुछ कह रहा था। हाँ, तोह मोहतरमा और उनकी सखियों को अपना आदाब अर्ज़ कर मैं दरगाह की तरफ़ बढ़ चला। रस्ते में मियाँ भी मिल गए। हालत देखने लायक थी। पर ईद के दिन उनका भी कुछ हक़ बनता था। मैंने कहा, “मियाँ वैसे तोह मैं उपरवाले में कुछ ख़ास यकीन नहीं करता, पर आपको देख कर तीन-चार बार मैंने भी सिफ़ारिश कर दी है। उन्मीद है की शाम रहते गडरिया वापिस ज़रूर आएगा।” यह सुनकर जनाब हाथ जोड़ कर मेरे पैरों में गिर पड़े और पागलों के माफ़िक ज़ोर-ज़ोर से रोने लगे। मैंने अपनी जान छुड़ाई और दरगाह की ओर हो लिया। उस शाम उनके के नाम की एक मन्नत मैंने भी खिड़की पर बाँध दी। शायद कोई तीर निशाने पे लग जाए।

Friday, February 01, 2013

Silent Helpers

Most of the time I prefer to lead a silent life, away from the public glare. Which is not to say that I consider myself to be some kind of celebrity who needs to keep away from media scrutiny. It is just that any kind of attention makes me uncomfortable and awkward. I have never been able to convince myself that I could deserve it and, failing to do so, I feel naked in my own clothes. So much so that I often avoid the company of close friends just because they happen to be the center of everyone's attention and curiosity. This tension is undefined and yet to so real that I prefer the garb of fiction in order to disguise my private emotions, lest someone see through the facade and I am unable to hit the eject button in time. This brief detour seeks to convince the reader that what I am about to say does not come easily to me. For it dwells somewhere in the vicinity of that vague line which distinguishes attention-seeking from story-telling.

Books have always proven to be faithful companions to me ever since the time I gained a conscious control over my interests. I credit my father for developing this habit early on by indulging my rather expensive taste for hard-bound Reader's Digest volumes (much to the consternation of my mother) and the rather affordable affinity for Tinkle Digest comics. And even if old editions of National Geographic from the libraries of Geological Survey of India were initially poured over solely for their breathtaking photographs, I know now that conditioning, positive or negative, does not happen overnight and almost always leaves you clueless when it finally reveals its true form. Thus, suitably introduced to the private intellectual life, that I had often heard and still fantasize about, beginning to take shape inside of me, I made my peace with this imaginary, albeit a little lonesome, world. With age and years, several gracious mentors have guided me in the direction of new pathways and, although apprehensive at first, I have always felt obligated to them in my lonely hours for encouraging me to explore uncharted territories. That being said, I have never considered myself to be a very well-read person — I often binge on books and then enter a long lean period where hardly any reading gets done. My conscious/rational mind has proffered several reasons for indulging this delusion/reality. “Perhaps I am surrounded by readers who are much more voracious than I am. Maybe I am genetically hardwired to be self-deprecating”. I don't know. Conceivably, all one needs to do is hark back to what I said earlier about being afraid of attention in order to make sense of this anomaly. The truth is, that is not what I wish to write about today.

As another brick silently and vehemently slides into THE WALL, I look back at the last two years and realise how completely I have come to depend on these silent helpers every time I desperately crave for a moment of peace in the turmoil that threatens to engulf my life even as I write these words. Whenever I have ‘felt’ severely depressed, due to reasons real or imagined, I have picked up a book as a last resort for the sole reason of wishing to lose myself in the mythical land of cancerous cells and malignant tumours. In the recent past, words, both written and read, have helped me escape the pungent realities of my life, even if it is for a few days or hours. In the absence of a warm hug, a loving kiss, or a reassuring pat on the back, they have been the only solace on the darkest of days. Trying to hack away at the myriad layers of the cosmic onion or grasping the implications of seemingly innocent synaptic connections across neurons, I have felt a sense of calm descend over me. Through these vicarious quests and in the comfortable seclusion of my solitude, I have explored unknown worlds and felt myself grow just a tad wiser. With the insignificance of my existence illuminated as a blip on the cosmic timescale and my comprehension of ‘the self’ subjected to a ‘paradigm shift’, I have felt myself drowning in that holy water, content and calm.

Ironically, even though my closest and dearest acquaintances have pledged their blind support in helping me fight this protracted war, it is these random strangers who have made any kind of headway in accomplishing that task and helped me find some semblance of peace and respectability. If I were completely honest, I owe it to them for sharing my deflated hopes and mutilated desires. And though my aversion to divulging details of my personal life on a public forum rankles greatly, I also know that to deny my helpers my gratitude and respect for helping the lifeboat stay afloat would be akin to a form of dishonesty I am even more uncomfortable with. Of course, there is hardly anything here that you haven't heard before through the medium of similar metaphors and similes. But I had never claimed I had anything original to share. All I needed to do was say my piece. Were my ship to sink tomorrow, I would know my conscience to be clear.