Posted in Article, Experience, People

Summoned.

It is not every day that you are summoned to court as a witness for a six-year-old case but there is always a first time, and this was mine. I opened the door to a policeman amidst my work-from-home task, baffled to see him, shocked to realize why he was there, irritated to know that the summon was for the very next day, and reluctant to go because I had work to do. All these feelings were transient until he said I’d be handed over a warrant if I did not show up; that turned me into a quick decision-maker I never knew I was capable of being. I informed my friends- the complainant and witness 2 (me being the witness 1 living in Delhi) who live in Himachal and both were as unbothered as I could empathize with. My dear complainant even suggested that she will say she can’t make it because she lives in another state and I should say that I am currently out of the country. We laughed at her naivety but it was my blank passport that truly mocked me. It was then decided that I will go and test the waters, and figure out if it was time for the friends’ reunion just at an unusual place.

     Six years ago while we were in Delhi during our college days, the three of us were on our way to visit some art fair or museum or crafts market, the complainant’s mobile phone was snatched by someone on a motorbike. We filed an FIR, the device was found, identified, and returned. That’s most of what I can recall from my hazy memory. Cut to 2022, I find my mother guiding me to not speak too much, be wise with my words, stick to the court decorum and I wonder how difficult a mere conversation with a judge could even be. I look around the courtroom trying really hard to relate it to the ones shown in movies and on television. From the Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix to FIR on Sab TV, I run it all in my head. With simpler furniture and less dramatic witness box, a scratchy glass wall to protect the judge, the public prosecutor and the stenographer from covid, the advocates with their cases waiting in the room instead of a supportive public as the audience, the judge simply shutting the over-smart advocate instead of the audience cheering the heroic one up, the court was different from the ones shown in movies but not any less interesting. In an attempt to compare the characters I realized that the young advocates are handsome, and the old ones are purely grumpy.
      This was a State vs Accused case. I got my attendance marked at the court and waited for my turn. The petitioner and the defense counsel had agreed to compound the case, but this could be done only in presence of the complainant. To compound is the equivalent of ‘fitoos’ in Hindi slang(IYKYK). However, my statement as a witness was needed. I went through my previous statement from six long years ago, memorized all I could, and was constantly reminded by my mom don’t overact up there and talk as less as possible. The accused and the defense counsel tried to be friendly with me for their benefit but I was taught well by the petitioner. However, I found my mother sympathizing with the accused and listening to his side of the story. I mean.. What! Every single person stood up when the judge left the room for a 5 minutes break. Everyone stood up when she came back. I mean.. Why! From having zero knowledge about the Indian judicial system to a little something from a real hands-on experience is what I achieved this day.  

   I was called to the witness stand. While waiting to be attended to I started jotting down pointers for my new blog post on my phone that is when the public prosecutor yelled that I should put my phone away or it shall be seized. Wow! Nobody had handed me a ‘courtroom for dummies’ handbook. The public prosecutor asked me relevant questions and the stenographer typed my statements with incorrect spellings probably thanking the grammar check. As I contemplated the depth of questions she was putting up, she asked if I was upset about the yelling. I giggled and said no. She suddenly shushed me for giggling and said this could upset the judge. No wonder everyone else (my deemed audience) was sitting with cold expressions. The defending counsel was allowed to cross-question me once the public prosecutor made me understand that I am supposed to listen carefully, understand, and only then reply. He smashed me with questions and concluded that my friends and I never met during the stated date of the incident, in fact, according to him none of us were in Delhi. I stood there shocked and the defense counsel reminded me of men on the planet I had dated and got gaslighted by. Congratulations! Here’s a job for you unemployed fucks. Thankfully, the public prosecutor and petitioner were there to break things down to me. My job as the witness is done. The case shall be compounded only when the complainant shows up on receiving the summon or worse- warrant.

To be continued..?

Posted in People, Poem

A Meal So Scrumptious

Image source: The Japan Times

Not one not two- there stood a queue never-ending
Each one splendid with joy
Holding a spot for the friend beloved-
For a gathering dressed down- a little too rugged
Ushering the loved ones gleaming with joy
What was the occasion! I could only wonder as a passerby.

Curiosity led me to the front of the line
Whilst I heard the intense remarks of a day being gracious
Oh to my surprise! It was a celebration
Oh to my dismay! An ill served meal was the occasion .
Hungry stomachs and tired hearts were being fed
But what happens to the day that comes next?

Coins scarcely managed for a day of survival
Shall now be kept aside for a daughter’s dowry dragged till the law-approved age
Or even better saved for a son’s education
Empowering him to work at a humble position in an office barely fancy-
An upgrade worth aspiring from the startling slums!
With dreams being fuelled- indeed, the meal was scrumptious.

Posted in People, Poem

A Family Reunion

Image source: Unknown

Alas! I can’t paint a soiree
With Victorian costumes and gestures that speak of grandiose
The year being twenty-twenty-one,
It’s just four people; and three screens.
Living in time zones with different days and nights
Measuring distance in kilometers- and also miles
Each day they try to stay together
Haha- to no surprise failing miserably.
But tonight it is special
The siblings laugh at their usual banters-
For they have learnt to put away the dullness quite adroitly,
The mother asks them to come back home just like each day-
Not for too long; may be just a visit till new memories are created for her to hold on
But tonight it’s the father who imparts new and the unknown
He sheds a tear of joy
And reveals that he stands tall with pride, acknowledging the two kids who try to now be adults
May be, it is the empty glass of whiskey beside the vacant dinner table
The two children: unaware, awkward and shy-
Gleam for a moment with joy- untill they return to their usual banters and frivolous complaints
The year being twenty-twenty-one
It’s just four people; and three screens-
And a million emotions that timidly scream.

Posted in People, Poem

The Labour Chowk Pageant

Image Source: Unknown

He is handsome,
Just a little worn out and tired
Each morning; early- even before the sun rises
He stands amidst the streets with a wish to finally be admired.
He dresses up worthy-
Adorned in his rusty tools and rugged clothes
Soaked in the ambition to go to a new a home this morning-
Hoping to work himself up for the next few days
With someone needy of his skills
With someone willing to put a price on his advice
Or merely a meal or two for his loved ones in return of his patience to accept himself as a fool.

But sadly, it’s an auction-
Rather a sale with offers and discounts!
Where he competes to showcase his best-
The catch- at bare minimum to make the ends meet
Tomorrow he might cause ruckus,
Day after- a havoc,
But it is today that he must act like a gentleman, or a sheep with a worth
Else, he might have to go back to his own abode-
To empty stomachs and eyes with disappointment.

Posted in Article, Experience, People

The Process Of Ghosting A Model

– It’s not heartbreaking, just disappointing.

Oh he is 6 feet 3. Appropriately built, athletic, dimple on his chin, curly hair, smirky smile and prettiest eyelashes- a fashion illustration walking in real life! I come across him at the gym almost everyday- Monday to Friday 4 to 6pm, Saturday around 2pm and I haven’t been there on any Sunday. Every time we cross by a rom-com followed by an awkwardly wide blushing smile starts taking form but thankfully, just in my head. I could bet he was a model and my stalking skills affirmed it. I found him on Instagram. He might not be aware of my existence on social media but he wasn’t unaware of the real life version of me. We exchanged glances several times and the lucky days were when we would do alternate sets on the same equipment. We had the most meaningful and deep conversations where I would ask if we could go alternatively and he would sweetly (read bluntly) reply ‘No, let me get done first’. Yikes! He’s rude and that’s hot. Anyway, that was my cue to stop dreaming of him.

        No, crushes don’t mean to stop ever. ‘Stop’ here translates to obsess with him and dream exaggeratedly of him even when wide awake.  After crushing on him for around a life long of five months we finally matched on some dating app. I wished for it but wasn’t expecting that. We started texting. He would not reply in more than three to four words. That meant he either had string of girls drooling over him or just didn’t find me good enough. Anyway he asked for my number. He hadn’t shown up at the gym since a few weeks but now if he did- man! it would be awkward. He asked if I would like to meet him. I would love to! But what would we even talk about in three or four words. I might be able to hold my impulse over texts but in reality, I TALK. We decided to meet on a Sunday and when it arrived I felt almost stood up because he had gone several kilometres away and didn’t text in the morning. So I carried on with my usual Sunday schedule- sleeping. A text popped around 3pm and it said let’s meet in the park near the lake anytime I was free. His kilometres were now back to the usual. Cool! But park is a weird place for a date. When I was almost going to prioritise my Sunday sleep another text dropped and it said ‘You play badminton, right?’. I jumped out of the bed, got dressed for a badminton date (not too sporty, not too lady-like) and met him in an hour.

        Damn! He was beautiful. He had made no attempt to dress up yet looked magnificent. We started looking for a place to keep my handbag away and play the game. We even had bit of a conversation which made me realise he wasn’t uninterested he just wasn’t a very good talker. He struggled to frame his sentences right. We played for over an hour continuously and he was pretty good at it while I was bearable. We exchanged our general where abouts over the game itself. He even taught me more about the game. It was truly fun. I had never been on such a date before. Then it was time for me to leave. He walked me out and suddenly he realised that he had lost his house keys. We got back in park and tried finding it for a while before giving up.

        I reached home and received a text from him that he had a wonderful time and would like to meet again sometime. I concurred. The next day I received a text from him that read ‘I am getting harmonal disbalance’. I was a little confused so asked him ‘What?’. To this he replied, ‘Don’t you go through the harmonal disbalance?’. Now I was clear about what his ‘hormones’ desired. Somehow his desire was understood but it was his way of expressing that was such a disappointment. So much of obsession, such an amazing game and this is how it ends! I shouldn’t have dreamt of kissing him while I zoned out in a class. I was definitely scared of my karma but you gotta do what you gotta do. Therefore, I started ghosting him off course after taking the wise advice from my friends who were aware of the intensity I wanted to scream with.

           After a few days while emptying my bag I found the single key to his appartment. I was obliged to inform him that as a responsible human.

P.S: I still have that key lying somewhere around my apartment.

Posted in Experience, People, Poem

A Man Sleeping On The Road

Wasn’t a morning, neither a night
It was just a noon- a time nobody cares to write with pride
That is when I met him
Rather a glance while he was at rest.
A beggar, a thief or just another vagrant-
Simply I do not know.
I saw a man that just ‘another afternoon’-
A man sleeping on the road,
The penchant for pain was obvious
Hence, I stood there in awe and wonder
No alcohol, just a dirty pillow beneath his dreams
An ugly torn quilt atoning the crimes of that winter wind.
I looked and looked; It was more than a while
Tucked in during the day time
A tiny wound let his head hurt
Did anyone sing him a lullaby?
Did anyone, anyone kiss him good night?
When ire of his destiny started knocking at the door of my empathy-
That is when I decide to get past

I saw the man
Now a chilly night
He still was tucked in, sleeping sound
I stepped towards him
That is when derision mocked life
He still was at rest, but now in peace .

-Ruchi Bhardwaj

Posted in Article, Experience, People, Photography

“Toffee Tureshi” Taufiq Qureshi Mohammad

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?

Posted in Experience, People, Poem

White Lies

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
Artist: Unknown

Posted in Experience, People, Poem

My Grandma Is Now Old

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.

Posted in Experience, People, Photography, Poem

PILGRIMS OF OUR OWN SCARS

Inscribed on the skin- narrates the stories of our heroism
And of failures and debt,
Your body- it tells a tale
I wish so could mine
Alas! It speaks silence-
Peeping through the plight of a blank verse.
The scars- they are intriguing
I wish so might be your charm
The ones we inherit
And the ones we create
The ones we dare to embark
We recreate and recreate untill the changed us could reconnect
Indeed, we are the pilgrims of our own scars.