Did you ever wake up just because you were coffee deprived? Well, that’s a tale which I live throughout my day. What’s your coffee like?
Did you ever wake up just because you were coffee deprived? Well, that’s a tale which I live throughout my day. What’s your coffee like?
TRAVELING SOLO VS WITH FAMILY
Traveling always brings out the unexplored tales whether you travel all by yourself or with the entire family. Here is a summary of that experience!🌸
The artist life is poles apart. *shrugs*
Taufiq Qureshi. Have you heard about him? Well, I was fortunate enough to meet him in person very recently. No, I don’t talk of the Indian classical musician Taufiq Qureshi. Instead, I am talking about Taufiq Qureshi Mohammad- a ten year old guide. This little boy in pink shirt and green sweater has a lisp and I almost mistook his name for “toffee” but that is worth the sweetness in his story. Taufiq means the ability or opportunity to achieve success and this comes handy with education, knowledge and passion. Knowledge and education are yet to embrace him, but passion is what he beholds.
As I stand with my family in front of the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri he approaches us and asks us if we need a guide. We stood there half astonished, half doubtedly. Astonished about a child his age being confident about showing us around while my nine year old cousin is still being taught the basic manners and he still got nothing! Well, being a resident at Delhi and facing and hearing about crimes such as pick pocketing each day- the doubt part is obvious. Anyhow, the child urges us to take him along and says he would charge whatever we feel like giving him- rupees 10, 50- whatever! Does he really need the money or is it something else? I ask him if he goes to school. He does. He studied in 5th standard during the day and comes at the Buland Darwaza around 3pm everyday after school. He spend weekends there itself. “But why?” I ask him. To which he replies ‘Bas ese he madam ji, mujhe acha lagta hai yaha, muje acha guide banna hai ek din ( no reason mam, I like it here, I want to be a good guide one day)’. His dreams are different from the ones the kids in metro cities babble about. Astronaut, pilot, engineer, doctor, artist, scientist, model, designer or guide- I don’t know which are realistic or unrealistic, which are better which are worse. All I know is that these are innocent and tender dreams influenced by a difference of situations off course.
As we move forward he brings the horse shoes adorned on the massive gate to our notice which were otherwise being ignored by the designer’s mind. ‘These are for good luck, madam ji’ he educates me. The monument itself is magnificent and has a story of its own, but somehow it is Taufiq whose story tickles not just my brain but also my heart. As we move forward we come across a wall pointing at which Taufiq remarks that Anarkali was punished there. It is a plain grey wall in front of the graves that belong to Akbar’s descendants. Taufiq elucidates that Akbar’s family members rest in peace beneath those graves. Listening to this my 9 year old cousin asks, ‘Are they all dead? All of them?’. He goes through this bewilderment at the thought of loss of an entire family. He is too young to know about adversities that life has knocking on its door but he isn’t naive enough to be unaware of emotions and belonging. Anyhow, the guide replies with a sense of wisdom and a bit of indifference in his tone, ‘ Nahi. Abhi kuch zinda hai (No. A few are still alive)’.
Taufiq further leads us to the mosque. He ushers all of us inside but remains outside himself. Doesn’t this little fellow has prayers to offer? Doesn’t he wish for fancy toys? Inside the mosque a man continuously asks people to leave offerings (materialistic) for baba. Religious places- they all are the same! We return our white caps as we step out of the mosque and find my 19 year old brother cherishing the Sufi music being played right in front of the mosque. He chose to stay outside and listen to serenity over the shenanigans of worshipping and all the unwanted squalor religions invite. Meanwhile, Taufiq was joined by his little friend Faisal who was 9 years old. I asked the same question to Faisal that did he go to school and with great pride and confidence he replied, ‘Everyday, madam ji’. The two boys are friends but competitors too. Competition does start early in life! Taufiq tells us that there are 84 doors and 200 minars. As my 19 year old brother asks him what comes next Taufiq fails to count and I am obliged to ponder if the lessons at his school are being taught well? Does Taufiq prefer learning in the open neglecting what books and institutions have to offer him?
Taufiq draws our attention towards a chandelier which looked familiar. He then adds that this is the larger version of the one at the Taj Mahal. At one of the gates with honeycomb my father questions Taufiq about the bees frivolously. He fails to answer. My father remarks how will you become a good guide Taufiq if you won’t be able to answer what people ask you! This rings a bell in his head. He digs deeper, applies logic and unknowingly knows it all.
As we reach the central face Taufiq points at the religious harmony appreciated by Akbar and my father elaborates about Hinduism, Islam and Din-i Ilahi. A professional guide dealing with a group of foreigners stood beside us. Glancing at him Taufiq got on his feet in an envious manner and he took cues from his senior. He taught us to take a selfie that could include all the family members along with the dome at the central face. Now Taufiq sounded a bit different- professional to be specific. The tour to Buland Darwaza ended and Taufiq took us down the flight of steps after we collected our shoes from the shoe counter run by his colleagues. Our next destination was the Jodha Bai’s Palace which was adjacent to the Victory Gate. Impressed by the little guide we asked him to accompany us to the next destination but he refused due to the fear of police. The policemen often harass these children at such monuments. Anyhow, he dropped us till the entrance of the palace. My father tipped him and my brother handed him a pen from the set of embellished pens he had just bought from another child outside. I hope that someday education helps Taufiq and he could focus on his childhood lessons and not just the survival necessasities. Several thousands of children redeem with their mirth everyday in unusual ways in order to let the ends meet. The sight is always heart touching and beautiful, but do they provoke any thoughts in your mind?
Thank them for they have saved a million lives
Guilty of fornication escaped
But three children and an oblivious woman were saved
A curling frown opened up to a smile
The tears heavy with sadness destined to roll down with remorse-
Suddenly were they blessed with joy.
Indeed, a deed so illicit in every moral enunciated by sane and “the insane”
Hope was imparted- all under a false pretense
But the damage reverted was a victory
Probing far far away the vicious misery.
The reasons given had no sense
No logic- not at all any relevance
Still just close your eyes
Pretend your mind is vague and blind
And think no more
Feed what’s presented to gorge upon.
Just follow where they lead you
Truth no more an issue
Try and empathize with the man- himself a victim
Not charred by plight of time; Not the juncture he stood upon
Yet an endeavor strong enough to hide and lie.
Artwork: Diamonds and Lies (Spill from his tongue)
Oil on canvas
Painting: The sitting woman by Rabindranath Tagore
Watercolor and ink on paper
National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi
Whilst I write these words down- I am tired
But not half much as her.
As this thought stops by- I quiver
But nothing near her de-morphing shivers.
Her skin is now pale
Colours of youth long gone
Her experiences now shrunk to creases manifold
Each wrinkle has a story-
A few narrated; Many left untold.
I look at her tiny stature-
Barely walking; And wobbling more
That is when I realise my grandma is now old.
After years of delayed meetings
I might be here just in time
Scared and terrified charred by generation gap
A victim of brutal awkwardness
I stood there to realise that my grandma is now old.
Her glasses are heavier than emotions she carries
Her eyes- now they glitter no more
Her hunch rests as a heroic mark of responsibilities she took care of,
As I glance at her toothless mouth
Her mummed lips curl to become a smile
That is when all my uproaring torments die a silent death
And I know she shall nurture always
Yes, my grandma is now old
But her aura is enough to uphold all our souls.
The sun rises early
When my dad forges it upon
I wish to dream a bit more; but-
I like winters at my home.
His fear scattered across the rooms
On roof top sits his little garden
He nurtures the creepers and reckons the roses
He says things that:- I know he’s right
But no, I won’t listen.
I stand pompous and proud
I’ll fall and choose to rise on my own
That is when he looks at the creepers
And glances at the thorns
They say I resemble him-
Two egos too big and strong
But no- My father forgives me each noon.
I like winters at my home-
More cozy and less alone.
All those people mentioning “TRAVELLER” and “DREAMER” with brimming pride in your tinder and Instagram bio- you need to bring it to hault! If you think that traveling is about climbing the rocks, trekking the Himalayas, diving in the ocean and being lost amidst the desert, then let me introduce you to another lesser acknowledged dimension of traveling – the journey from home to work. If you believe dreaming is being high “allegedly, on life” then your’s are in a desperate need of being shattered. The journey to the workplace may sound monotonous but it is a real kind of adventure minus all the fun. My dad just won’t agree to drop me to work (he even shouldn’t) and I fucking didn’t bother to learn to drive (I should have), so here I am stuck on a daily voyage of 2 hours all by myself but never quite left by myself (introducing the public transportation!). The schedule says- 10 minutes of walking from home to bus stop, 1 hour 15 minutes in bus, 40 minutes in autorickshaw and 15 minutes in another autorickshaw. It doesn’t even sound simple no matter how hard I wait to reveal the adversities, but it also leaves me awestruck at times.
Okay! Talking about the atrocities first- the crowd. It is impossible to board at first and once I manage to hop on I am welcomed by really irritated gaze. The reason behind this kind of acceptance is that the men might need to give away their seat, the women find a fellow competitor to get hold of a place to sit (challenges start early, don’t they?) and the crowd inside gets one more face to bare. Anyhow, ignoring the glare I push through the crowd and manage to find a place to stand. There is no space to breathe. Strangely the fresh air of early morning or the petite dusk is replaced by the stinky armpits. Buy deodorants people! I would not be making my point clear if I don’t mention the continuous gaze at boobs (by both genders) and the occasional boob grabbing (men, majorly) followed by “Oops, sorry madam. Bheed bhot hai!”. In that crowd more men have secretly grabbed my thighs than I ever plan to be with. Astonishingly, I can’t ever find out who these jerks are. I have not adapted to this yet. No woman ever can. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and figedty to an extent that now I jump a little even when someone taps my shoulder and asks me to get a little aside.
Well, it is said that when in darkness look for the stars. I think I’ve found mine! I have made a few friends. These are the people who themselves travel to work around the same time as I do. If I manage to be in time, I get to see them and these are the only faces that smile at me. Their smiles make my day. My first friend is a fifty-ish uncle who lives somewhere around my house but I had no clue. He helps me find a seat everytime he can. He has told me a lot of stories about his daughter and shares life lessons occasionally, especially the things his daughter wouldn’t listen to. Another friend of mine is a woman in her fifties (I guess). She is loud and cranky and mocks everybody on the bus occasionally, except me. I think she loves me. She is lonely. Her only son lives in US and cannot return due to certain circumstances and her husband left her long time ago. She is strong and independent. She whines about people in the bus and the conductor but never had she bickered about her life. She narrates her sad tales to her only audience but with a strange sense of pride. She never hesitates in yelling. Surprisingly, her sarcasm amuses the entire bus, except the frequently targeted conductor and driver. One conductor in particular never says anything at her face but bursts out the moment she steps off. That is when I know she is impactful. She doesn’t need her son to support her. Her persona is her rescue from oldage.
During the initial days of traveling a guy pushed through the crowd for me when he saw how much I was on the verge of panicking. This makes me believe in kindness and look for hope. I asked for the directions so as to reach the destination when I get down and a lot of people were willing to answer my query way better than google maps. That makes me trust people. The next day, a girl who’s face was covered by a dupatta to keep away from the tan asked me if I reached the place the previous day. I couldn’t recognize her at first but then she mentioned that I was reading a novel sitting next to her and had asked for directions. This teaches me to care and also to observe.
I started writing this piece with a grumpy face and in a fuck-this-challenge mode but right now I am ending this with a smile. The journey makes me realize that I am growing up and so are the people around me. I never thought this is from where I’ll be picking up my life lessons!