Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gallery: Religion

Photocredit: Clicked by Bhavya Roy.
Subject: The Ganges publicity display board in Benares.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From Chittagong to Bombay

Halima is thin, well built with a sharp tongue. At first it was difficult for me to figure out her mindset every time she spoke. I would wonder was she complaining or was that her general tone? Then I realized that it was a habit. A habit of sounding like she was at war and the only weapon she had was her voice. She had a war ravaged voice while she sang praises for the houselady, or complained about too many clothes and utensils to be washed and dried.
On few days her daughter Aphreen, all of 17 would sometimes accompany her. She would wash the few utensils while her mother mopped the floor. On such days my mother would offer them tea and biscuits. And Halima would open up to her in between her tea sips.
That she is 45. Once widowed and saddled with three kids. Two daughters and a son she is married again to a man she met when she first worked at a construction site as a laborer when she first arrived in Bombay from Bangladesh. Her eldest daughter is married and now lives in Dhaka (Dacca) the capital of the erstwhile East Bengal, now Bangladesh.
The younger daughter who stays with her was married off last year but the husband is now absconding. The youngest son works in Dhaka too. Found a job only recently.
For a house help or maid Halima wears good clothes. Good quality cotton salwaar suits. Well cut, embroidered sometimes and complimenting her 'at-45-and-mother-of three-yet-envious' figure. Hair always up in a top-knot and big flower shaped clips on them. Sometimes the clip adorned with false yet bright shining diamantes and stones.

She says its difficult being a Bangladeshi woman and surviving in this city alone. Without the requisite working permits. Bribes and 'haftas' exchange hands for their safe keep and anonymity in this megapolis. Her current husband, Maqbool is younger than her but takes care of her and is concerned about her kids. He is a Bangladeshi too.
He visits his folks and family twice a year. Everything that she needs to be aware of she knows. Then married him.  It is a mutually benificial allaince.
Sometimes her husband calls on her mobile phone and Halima yacks back with the same at-war tone in high pitched sharp 'Bangla'.
By her looks I know Halima must be getting a lot of 'undue' attention. First in the construction site she began working, now in the households she goes to do chores everyday.
She is the perfect realization of a lot of middle class middle aged men's 'maiden' fantasy.
I dare not ask her, her stories of survival and compromise. But I must confess I am curious. I know she is the treasurer of many stories.

Rabiya counts days to the half yearly festive times. A day counted off at sun down. She sells fish at the main Chittagong market. Her catch coming from the river K├┤rnophuli every morning. Every evening she rubs her hand with ash and runs her palms on the smoke of lobaan to get rid of the fish stench. The ritual is done with much fervour when the festive time nears.
She has two kids. A son a and daughter who go to the local school and help her sell the fish in the market sometimes. Her husband works far. Very far. In India. Where there is more scope and more money than what Dhaka or its Taka can offer. Afterall, since he has started working in Bombai he has promised to get her a Dhakai Jamdani saree someday soon. A first in her life.
Her two kids Mirvaiz and Irshat pass there days as many others their age in the Chittagong shanties behind the station. They await their festivities when their Aabba comes during Eid. With money and presents. When their mother cooks good chilli spiced gravies of beef and vegetables. They miss their father. But its worth the slightly better life that they now lead.
Rabiya knows her husband Maqbool is a good man and loves his family a lot. That nothing can threaten her position in his life even if he is far away. He showers her with gifts and love when he comes. Twice a year for fifteen days. Covering a long arduous journey from Bambai to Kolkata. Then a rickety bus ride from Kolkata to Dhaka. Then further to Chittagong. He says it takes more than 4 days for the one way journey alone.
So what if he is just a man. At times their religion permits a man to address his weakness as long as he can keep everyone involved happy.
And so Maqbool does keep everyone happy.
When each one knows the presence of the other in another city.
From Halima to Rabiya.
From Chittagong to Bombay.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

When Pastonjee died!

"Come down man Jehangir, early morning doing lot of kit-kit. Come soon or they will come up. Now early morning I dont want police jhamela at my door step when Navroje is on the head."

"Dont scream at me. You must have done something. Thats why police is here. Otherwise they have no work or what? That they come early morning  to peoples building and looking at the tamasa. Shamelessly having affair. Beggeting shame to my family. Good I stopped being your husband a year back. Mehnaaz is also embarrassed of you. Break off those red bangles..."

"What man Jehangir, now dont say like that. You are still my husband hanh! I was doing no affair shaffair. I've told you many times. He is my mama ka ladka. My brother. We benefited so much. Dint you see.

"What benefit?? God knows the lift had to die this week only. Always have to climb up and down 6 floors. Today, Sunday also no santi!!! Climb down 6 floors to meet the police. All because of you. And Frenny it was only you who benefited in all kinds. Saala I should've never married you in the first place. When you die I wont even offer four day prayers for you at the Doongerwadi. Mark my words. No vulture will consume you. Maybe that Pesi can come down in some form to have you."

"Jehangir, mind ur zabaan. What are you saying? Who do we have except each other? We will worry about my death and prayers later. I'm sure you will die first. Worry about urself. If you fight with me I wont conduct the prayers. Now spit the anger off me and direct it towards that chudail and her daughter outside. And be good to the police. Please. See we are on the ground floor. Shoo."

"Rani Frenny has walked down from her palatial palace. My God. What guts you have you saali-gutter-nu-rani. I dont know what was wrong with Pesi. If he fell for your daughter I could still understand and take it with a bitter emoson. That he fell for a young chokri. But you! Walk like a penguin, looks like a drum and thobda like its forgotten to take a wash for years."

"Yes Inspector, myself Frenny Mistry and this is my husband of 30 years Jehangair Mistry. What happened? Why is this bhopoo belching and making tamasa? We all stay in a society. It does not look nice na."

"Saali telling me I'm doing tamasa?? Tamasa jovu chhe?? I will do tamasa now. What society you are talking about? You run a randi-khana in the open. Soliciting innocent Parsi men, defrauding their property and wealth. Even after they are dead. You thought nobody will notice money going away every month from the bank after Pesi's death? That is why I put police behind ur fat gandu."

"Arrey he gave me the cheques. All postdated. I had given him loan. 2 lakh rupees. He issued cheques to return the money. There is no fraud Inspector. Ask her to leave and please let us be. Fokat nu kit-kit. Even ur Pesi would call you that. And he used to come for tea and Pallonjee's Rasberry cola. That means every tapri  or Irani cafe in Bombay is a randi khana or what?? And he came on his own will. Nobody asked him to come. Its a different thing you dint keep him happy. Always cluckking like a murgi. Now you go or tomorrows Jaam-e-Jamsad will have your kartoots on first page. Ive told my Mehnu to record everything from 6th floor with photographs. She has top view. Not like your daughter standing like a mute spectator to everything. Go away now."

"She wont go, neither will you. All of us will go to the police station and settle it there. I think enough gaali-galoch you've given each other in your Bawa language. The society people must've got their sunday paisaa vasool from you both ladies. Now come over to the police station. Each one of you."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Love in the times of the Blackberry

There are fights and there is rage and flying tempers too,
Love is sometimes an over grown kid it needs some growing up to do.

There are tears and there is turmoil and there are ego issues too,
Yet every night it manages to make u pine for the person, love is complicated too.

There are sleepless nights and anxious seconds and absolutely miserable days too,
add to it forgetfulness, take-it-for-grantedness and unpardonable behavior too.

There are mistakes and there are punishments but there are feelings in between too,
Love isnt a perfect Black and White there are Gray areas too.