Thursday, November 1, 2012

A day

A day.

Just that. 24 hours.

What makes a day memorable?

How is one set of 24 hours distinguishable from the other?

As I spend my days recouping from a surgery I am pained by the sameness of my days. They blend into one another, marked only by the slight shift in my physical well being. Groggy bye to daughter, waking up at 8, washroom, coffee, newspaper, bye to hubby, newspaper again, a long stretch of reading books and magazines, medicines and meals and meals and medicines till it is finally time for sleep again. End of day 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.....

This bored routine got me thinking about what is it that makes one day different from the other?

Our experiences through the day, the people we meet, our thoughts, feelings and insights through the said experiences can differentiate our days. But why are some days memorable while others are not? Is being present with your heart and soul to every moment of your life the key to relegating them to memory? If a spiritual being is always present to all his experiences every day, is it humanly possible to remember all those moments of every day, 24x7?

So, what are my most memorable days?

Age- nearly 46. Days on earth- roughly 16,790.

Which one of those days has been stored on the hard drive of my memory in its entirety?

Snatches of memorable moments are plenty. Some are revisited through sepia-tinted photographs. Others are stroked and caressed when they pop up aided by a trigger. Like the sight of white and pink periwinkle flowers brought on the smells and sounds of childhood visits to the Bardhan household, meeting ageing 'Mataji', her caretaker Savitri and eating the beautifully molded 'sandesh' offered by them each time.

School and college life, growing-up pangs, birthdays, friendships, the several firsts- first rank in class, first stage performance, first sari draped, first day at college, first crush, first night, first night of motherhood........ Oh God! All of them add up to a chest full of memories. Sweet, dear, irresistibly attractive and magnetic.

But a complete day confined to memory? Now that requires some thinking.

In fact there are two memorable days that skim to the top from the huge cauldron of stored data.

First, the day spent seeing the sights of Central London on foot.

Second, traversing Manhattan.

What really stands out about both these days is that I was visiting the places that I had read and seen in travelogues. There had been a longing to walk the streets, see the sights and feel the pulse of both these cities. Actually being there and setting eyes on those famous landmarks made the experience magical. And visiting them with my husband and children completed the picture for me.

Even after more than a decade I can feel the excitement of walking all the way from London aquarium, across the Thames Bridge, past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey all the way to Harrods. I remember standing for a moment in front of the Abbey to recall scenes from Prince Charles' and Lady Diana's wedding, reading famous addresses on the plaques outside houses on the way and peeping into the lit living rooms to catch a glimpse of the charmed 'English' life as witnessed in various British TV serials. Seeing Harrods from the outside (for we could make it there only after closing hours) and then taking a ride in the famous London cab were the final pegs that attached this day to memory forever. Two recalcitrant, grumpy and tired children included.

The day in Manhattan was similar in nature. Travelling in the century-old New York subway, being at Statue of Liberty, witnessing the World Trade Centre pit, looking wide-eyed at the news stations at Times Square, sitting under the trees of the famous Central Park seen in so many movies, spotting well-known hotels, walking past stores only read about in Vogue and Elle. I recall almost feeling a kind of pressure to take in all the sights and confine them to memory in order to be revisited time and again. Well it worked, didn't it! I even remember how that day began, the breakfast of bagels and jam, the hunt for a vegetarian lunch, the apples bought for a dollar each, the mementoes bought with the awesomely exhilarating feeling of being in the Big Apple. The tremendous capper to the day was a fleeting glimpse of Bill Clinton as he was leaving the store Barnes and Noble where he was reading from his recently released autobiography and where we were only 'being there'.

There is no deeply spiritual reason for these two days having turned out to be so memorable. I think the lead up to both these days has a big part to play. The anticipation of being there in person heightened the senses with which the two places were experienced and hence made the visits unique for me. Or it may be because I have the soul of a traveller. A soul seeking to connect with and attatch to memory all the interesting sights in this beautiful world.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Doesn't a common man feel violated all the time?
The laws talk about violations as offences that need to be dealt with in court- traffic violations, sexual violations, copyright violations etc etc.
Are these the only forms of violation?
I contend that an average person on the street is seriously violated 24x7.
A self-respecting, law-abiding, humane individual cannot walk the road without feeling violated in every way.
His sense of peace and calm is violated by the cacophony of blaring horns.
He feels a constriction of physical space, thanks to the crowds around him all the time. Jostling with people of all kinds is unnerving and an assault on so many senses.
Are not footpaths his own patch of public space where he should be able to walk unheckled? But firstly, there are very few such spaces and out of the existing footpaths, parts are broken or are reduced to mud piles or encroached upon by street vendors. So where does he walk?
If he decides to cross the road only on the zebra crossing, again he has no such luck.Vehicular traffic has the right of way here. He can cross only when the vehicles permit him to. But wasn't the zebra crossing his space for crossing? Then why is he being violated in the usage of his own public space?
When inside 'his' space, his home, the violations do not cease. The constant sounds of traffic and horns are his companions day and night. The auditory violation is intense. The policewallahs danda makes his existence on the street a constant struggle for survival.
He has no control over these violations on his being, inside and outside his home.
Where should he go for peace and quiet?
Does he not ask, "Where is my own space?"
The space where I can walk freely. The space where I do not have to look over my shoulder every second for a fast-approaching car or for an on-the-prowl-pickpocketeer. The space where I can breathe fresh air, talk without screaming or repeating. The space where I walk without fear of being castigated for coming in the way of a vehicle. The space that allows me to be a self-respecting, law-abiding humane individual.
Does this space really exist for an average Indian on the street?
Does the constant violation not erode his self-worth and his self-esteem?
Can the pent-up emotions of frustration not push him over the brink to retaliate, take law in his own hands, rebel against those violating him?
For no one remains a victim forever.
The violated will some day violate- all rules and laws to make themselves heard and seen.
Watch out. It may happen to you and to me. Any day.
Give the person on the street his space!!!