Trying Creative Non-Fiction @CNF

Life is serious but living can be Kaloli. Depending on your Charlie Chaplin quotient, life can be a tragedy or comedy. Pandemic may not let us immerse in the world outside but apparently learning should begin at home. Despite her creative efforts, our minds still seem trapped inside their bonny boxes. So, we thought, let’s start small and begin ideation experiments with her Cisco home. Why not learn painting on her white library walls?

This one subject called Creative Non Fiction was the Hindi of Journalism until her high intelligence took over. Our semester has just begun but any honest soul within the class will already accept anticipating fears of creative assignments being given to our not so creative heads. While her Punjabi brings us a smile; our under the rock awareness are often the cause for her helpless amusement.

Oh Sorry! Half a minute is already over; syllabus has surfaced on the agenda. If you happen to feel a little dumb or maybe stupid or unaware; don’t worry, you are absolutely normal! We can all be a little less intelligent but you can always add Google instruction on the side margin. But, if you think you are smart and have multi-tasking abilities; we dare you to chat while she is teaching and not miss half the syllabus. 

We wanted to praise but then doubt if it can really get us grace marks. So, why not just utilize the opportunity to vent our heart and voice our inferiority complexes. But, to her credit, she isn’t really so strict that you can’t raise your concerns. She is just like a loving mom who values nutritious bitter gourd a little more than our everyday pizza and fast food cravings. It’s just that to our dismay; her deadlines actually die on the proclaimed second itself. 

Learning The Wise Fine Lines

This blog isn’t an inspiration you need to be kind nor about all the big things that demand our attention. It is about those routine behaviours where kindness can leave you feeling stupid and self interests seem justified.

It would be fair to say, I have had a rather confusing equation with kindness. Being surrounded by ever so helpful folks all my life and seeing them suffer for their goodness had left me with a little less passions to be all so good and kind.

However, blame it on their genes or their upbringing, as much as I hated my share being stolen, I equally despised stealing anybody else’s fair share through manipulations and dishonesty. One thing that continued to leave me angry if not helpless, people trying to take advantage of people who were helpful and compassionate.

But, as I grew older, I begin to realise that while their actions aren’t ours to control; what we think about is slightly more manageable than we think. Being aware and smart doesn’t necessarily need to be grounded in negativity. While it may be absurd and stupid, a tiny bit of ignorance isn’t all so bad if it keeps you sane.

As I grew older, I luckily found people who would go on to re-inspire me to be a better person than the one who would only know how to fend for one’s own self. One thing I can’t credit to anything else but fate has been my immense fortunes at coming across and getting to keep some of the most good hearted ordinary people you can meet.

Showing me wonders of patience and active listening, God continued to keep me surrounded with men and women (both inside and outside my home) who wouldn’t encourage my cribbing about the state of affairs but inspired me to take care.

When probably most other best friends were busy encouraging that first trip and first alcoholic sip; mine would illustrate differences between “good for nothing” sympathies and all the difference that one little act of empathetic compassion can make.

But, even more importantly, I guess being kind has quintessentially been my way of reciprocating goodness that I continue to receive but may or may not have the chance to directly reciprocate.

Conversely, on the other hand, you can’t always expect others to reciprocate and understand either. Yet, one thing that you do get to control and manage are your individual contributions to the whole. It’s easier to lose hope and call it a wicked world — which it can be on many days — but we are all gifted with the power and independence to at least decide what we send out to the universe.

On days, like most of us, I too am disheartened to see my few kind deeds going in vain; and even worse, reciprocated with selfish motives or despise. But, on those days, I have also learnt that following my once favourite “Tit for Tat” policy has done them less harm in comparison to how intoxicated it has left my brain.

There have been occasions, you wondered and complemented, “How can someone be so sweet!” In the moment, I am most likely to smile and be flattered until it begins to become a backache.
The point where people feel it within their rights to invade your privacy, burden your schedules with their share of obligations. It is then that those two sweet words of gratitude and even those red coloured heart emojis just feel like a box of candies giving you a diabetes.

Help without expectations when you deem necessary but yes, you ought to be careful that you aren’t a remote just encouraging lazy douchebags.

But, on the many occasions that complement is well placed and comes from a genuine place; I have only wished to communicate, kindness isn’t my inherent virtue but a choice I have learnt to make to take my shots at making the world, a little better place.

Rather, fetching for myself is a thing that comes more naturally to me. But, what the years have time and again clarified for me were the fine lines between help and unnecessary crutches. As one of my best friends indirectly taught me that being nice isn’t about them but more about who you are and what you want to be.

You can’t always help the person who helps but that feeling of gratitude can always be converted into action to keep that cycle of goodness going.

Among the many fond memories I returned with, it was probably the most beautiful lesson from my little stint at South Korea. There was no way I could have done anything in return for all those people who had generously helped me with an open heart without expecting anything in return during my exchange. It has been a lesson that I had learnt then but have continued to remember, forget and recall ever since.

My Girl Gang

Me and My 3 BFFs

“Noone gets to live a life pain free
It’s a little sunshine and just a little rain

Everyone cried discounting what they had
We just laughed knowing all the same

Life hit us on the head
We shall smile the same

This is my girl gang
Laughing louder in pain

Don’t dare to feel sorry for us
We don’t pity ourselves either

We know we can fall apart
But also fight to be back again

We don’t have time to waste
Born to aspire and achieve

You can win our kindness anytime
But it takes loyalty to earn our love

Stay and these girls might die for you
Walk away and we don’t care anymore.”

पानी-पूरी के कोरोना सफर की तलाश

कुछ एक आते-जाते लोगों के चेहरे पर लगे मास्क को अगर नज़रंदाज़ कर दिया जाए, तो इस पानी-पूरी की रेहड़ी पर शायद अब सब पहले-सा हो गया है। मेरा बेझिझक गोलगप्पे की पूरी प्लेट खाने के बाद भी खाली पापड़ी का मांगना या उस एक टिक्की की दरख्वास्त; जो गोलगप्पे वाले दीदी के साथ और अपने शहर के अपनेपन का अहसास कराती है।

मैं यूं तो अक्सर गोलगप्पों के लिए यहां आती हूं पर उस दिन एक ख़ास काम से आई थी। इस उम्मीद में कि गोलगप्पों के माध्यम से कोरोनाकाल में रेहड़ी-पटरी वालों के संघर्ष और उम्मीद की एक कहानी तलाश सकूं।

दिन के हाल-चाल के बाद और सारी बात बताने के बाद मैंने अपने सवालों का सिलसिला शुरू किया।

प्र० आपका कोरोना काल में अनुभव कैसा रहा?
उ० …” अच्छा तो नहीं था।”

प्र० आप लॉकडाउन में क्या करते थे?
उ० “सोचते रहते थे।”

उन्होंने जवाब तो दिया पर मुझे मिला नहीं। उनका कम शब्दों में दिया, शांत और लगभाग अनकहा जवाब मेरी समझ से कुछ परे था। लेकिन, फिर धीरे-धीरे उनका जवाब और उसके साथ आती चुपी मानो खुद ही खुद में उनकी बात बयां करने लगी।

मैं कुछ नए जवाब की उम्मीद में उन से पूछती, “आपको लॉकडाउन के वक्त कैसा लगा; लॉकडाउन में आपकी दिनचर्या क्या थी; इत्यादि?” मध्यम वर्ग और अधिक आय के अधिकतम लोगों के लिए लॉकडॉउन का शुरुआती दौर, कम से कम कुछ शुरुआती दिन, आराम भरे थे। पर शायद रोज़ पैसा कमा कर खाने वालों के लिए ये चिंता से कम कुछ भी नहीं था। कोरोनाकाल में प्रवासी मजदूरों की कहानियां तो बहुत सुनी और पढ़ी थीं, पर इस बात की अनुभूति उस शाम को हुई।

मेरे बार-बार पूछने पर, ग्राहकों के बर्गर बनाते हुए दीदी बेहद सादगी से कहती, “बस बैठे-बैठे सोचते रहते थे।… हां रामायण पूरा परिवार साथ देखता था। खबरें के सहारे कुछ वक्त निकल जाता था । सोचते रहते थे कि कब ये लॉकडाउन खुले पर फिर खबरों में लगातार बढ़ते कोरोना मामलों के बारे में सुन कर डर भी लगता था। घर भी नहीं जा सकते थे, जो जा रहे थे (~प्रवासी मज़दूरों के सामने आ रहे विडियो), उन्हें भी पुलिस वापिस भेज रही थी।”

बात आगे बढ़ाते हुए जब मैंने उनके बच्चों के बारे में पूछा, तो दीदी ने हंसते हुए जवाब दिया कि बाहर खेलने वाले बच्चों को पूरा दिन घर पर बैठना कैसे अच्छा लगता। इत्तेफ़ाक से बड़े बेटे की परीक्षाएं लॉकडाउन से कुछ दिन पहले ही खत्म हुई थी परंतु बेटी तो अभी पहली में हुई थी। यूं तो फोन पर आई वीडियो और रेहड़ी के पास वाली दुकान की मालकिन के माध्यम से वो कुछ कुछ पढ़ती रहती है परंतु पिछले 10 माह की ट्यूशन फीस कैसे भरेंगे, यह चिंता अब भी उन्हें सताती रहती है।

पर शायद जिंदगी अपने आप में एक विरोधाभास भी है। जहां एक ओर थी पैर पसार रही बेरोजगारी और लगातार लोगों में बढ़ रहा तनाव; दूसरी ही ओर इस निराशा के माहौल में कोरोना ने दुनिया को ऐसी कहानियां भी दी जो लोगों की हिम्मत और अब भी कहीं जिंदा इंसानियत की दास्तां बयां कर गई।

देशभर से आई सकारात्मक कहानियों की तरह, दीदी के अनुभव में भी इंसानियत की झलक, इन्हें उम्मीद और हौंसला देती रही। सरकार की तरफ से दो बार मिले लगभग 3-4 किलो राशन के इलावा, रेहड़ी के पास कपड़ों की दुकान करने वाले परिवार ने भी उनकी राशन देकर पूरी मदद की।

अनलॉक प्रक्रिया के दौरान पूरे 72 दिनों बाद खुली रेहड़ी पर कोरोनावायरस के डर के चलते कम ही लोग आते। किन्हीं दिनों में तो केवल ₹50 – ₹60 की बिक्री हुई। सुनसान सड़क ज़िंदगी की मायूसी का प्रतीक थी। लेकिन इस बीच कुछ ऐसे भी लोग थे, जो केवल इसलिए रेहड़ी पर आते ताकि इनका रोज़गार चलता रहे।

धीरे धीरे मसले कुछ हल होने लगे पर  “चार महीने का किराया” अब भी बाकी था। परिवार के लिए सबसे बड़ी राहत तब आई जब मकानमालिक ने लॉकडाउन का पूरा किराया माफ कर दिया। उस दिन को याद करते हुए आज भी दंपति के चेहरे पर आभार का भाव साफ छलकता है।

“हां! उस दिन लगा था अब भी लोगों में कुछ इंसानियत जिंदा है।”

आपदा को कोई बुलाना तो नहीं चाहता पर न जाने कब मुझे पर, आप पर या इस कोरोना के ढीठ मेहमान की तरह पूरी दुनिया पर आ बरपे। परंतु जब तक हम में एक दूसरे की मदद करने का हौंसला है तो जिंदगी में हर मुश्किल से लड़ने का हौंसला भी मुमकिन है।

A Girl who had my WhatsApp Back

I love meeting new people but am also a staunch believer, “Not everybody is your friend”. However, with two long years of college at hand and uncertainties of a global pandemic at play; you ought to make some new friends. But even as we begin to befriend online friendships, trust remained out of question for me.

“How do you trust people online?”

TBH, I don’t. She just naturally became a rare exception. And, since writing is the only one way I know of unapologetically expressing my affections and gratitude; here is a small dedication for the friend who finally made me feel at ease in the true sense.

To put things in slight perspective, I had joined the course, after an year of almost isolated environment (limited to my selected few friends and a couple of colleagues and PG co-habitants). Finding myself in a new group that too on my smartphone, unsurprisingly, would trigger the over-thinker.

Having been that annoying front bencher all my life, I had vowed to behave better this time. But, with all these dynamics in play, I didn’t really realise I had unconsciously begin over-compensating with a best version, that was too nice and naive to reflect my real self that also held many flaws and rough patches.

With all of my selected group of best friends in their new jobs, I felt lost as I found myself in a brand new dilemma, struck between my journalistic passion and UPSC aspirations.

So, yes it came as a breeze of fresh air when she generously offered to have my back and begin to understand bits of my case even before I had told. It might sound cheesy but she simply earned a special place in my heart when she went on to defend my case in the group in my absence and politely explained, how being too nice isn’t always too great and I needed to draw certain boundaries as well. I was genuinely overwhelmed with her genuine sense of care that day. In the large group of apparent friends and batchmates, I felt I had found one true friend I intended to keep as she showed that she was one person I could trust to point out my errors and flaws when the day might require.

Surekha – The girl who had my WhatsApp back

In the first week itself, from being one of the first individuals to initiate class conversations to also being the first person to complement my writings, her name was conveniently among the first few I remembered.

Then, one day as we jokingly talked about the perks of having many friends; this fellow specky did struck a chord as she ended up unintentionally hinting that she was among the ones to instead go for those few genuine ones.

She is one girl, I believe I have finally come to trust in the last one month. It might still be too premature to claim a lasting friendship. But, to her credit, she has definitely been a friend to constantly have my back in all these virtual days.

So, yes I don’t shy away from the fact that even when we get to our offline lives sometime and I, insha’Allah, manage to find my way to the studious chambers of our library; she is one of the people I hope to keep on my list of entrusted friends for a long time.

Befriending Online Friendships in the Times of Corona

Many had warmed up to the idea of Facebook friends several years back. Yet, there are also a few of us, who continue to find the entire idea of online friends, a little dicey. Our skins can instantly look flawless with the Insta and Snapchat filters and so can our personalities, behind the shield of chats and online conversations.

But, as Benet Wilson would have probably advised in the pandemic, “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.” With the backdrop of COVID-19, finally it was time for our tribe to get comfortable with the idea of befriending some online friendships.

SCS Welcomes It’s 2020 Pioneers

Our, Class of 2020 became the pioneers of online beginnings in the School of Communication Studies at Panjab University; as we got lucky to get our way into the department without the drill of entrance, GDs and interviews. Some came back from jobs to upgrade their résumé while others included the group of freshly wounded graduates, having recently tasted the bittersweet feeling of online farewells. What we all shared in common was the desire to get offline and probably meet each other in person.

Source: Internet

Being an year into the pandemic, we could hardly ride on the high hopes. With the awkwardness of online orientation and broken dreams of magnificent welcome, we slowly began to settle in. It almost felt like, we quietly fast forwarded our journeys from being mere classmates to a large bunch of friends; with the quite hopes to travel backwards with our offline arrival sometime.

Our classroom chatter largely stood limited to selective chats at the unofficial group before everybody slips back to their work, chores and blankets. Our shared memories largely dominated by the jokes cracked on WebEx and WhatsApp and teachers trying their best to make us feel at ease as we all continue to try to get a better sense of each other through our distant conversations.

But, as is the norm, the initial free breeze of our online first semester too has been hauled up with the students’ arch rivals called assignments and study mode is expected to take a front seat probably within a month. While many of us are betting our hopes on the second semester, uncertainty continues to remain our only probability.

But, in the process, we promise to keep up our promises of warmth and friendship, with or without our offline classrooms, as Promise Day 2021 passes us by….💞💞💞

PS – A Special Thank you to Dr. Bhavneet Ma’am for inspiring this series of heartfelt notes and celebrations of friendships.

Figuring Out The Dilemma

In the new found confusion
She stood to lose her

A daily choice to fit in
Or
Let those pages sink in

A chance to make it big
Or
Dwell in with the new gang

A dream just discovered
Demanding a focus marathon

With a racing time trap
Lot to gain, more to lose

Not wanting to be rude
Not wishing to be naive

Losing & finding her track,
Everyday confronting the same

A path showing a sure mid way
Risks worth lifetime of goals

A weird fear to be outcast,
Still learning to be nice yet curt

A fresh resolve every night
Same thoughts next time

Dreams demanded her time
Born to aspire, she remind.

“खतों का सब्र और स्मार्टफोन के यार”

एक वक्त वो था जब हफ्तों बाद मिलने वाले खतों के सहारे भी भरोसा बिना डगमगाए जीता रहता था और रिश्ते उन्हीं पन्नों पर जी जाया करते थे। बिछड़ चुके दोस्त हों या सरहद पर डटा मां का लाल; खत आना ही गनीमत थी और सब्र एक जरूरत।

इस टेक्सटिंग की FOMO वाली दुनिया में कोई थोड़ा सब्र हमें भी सीखा दे। अब तो बात Chat पर शुरू होकर फोन पर ही बंद हो जाती है। Status पर, “I don’t care what you think” तो दूसरी ओर वो क्या सोचेगे; मेसेज करूं या ना, ये ही सोचने में अक्सर बात का वक्त निकल जाता है।

WhatsApp की सेवाएं 24*7 उपलब्ध रहती हैं पर कुछ को इस पूरे वक्त में केवल मेसेज और reply की ही शिकायत रहती है।  Digital detox की आदत वाले भी इस कोरोना काल में परेशान है। Group chat की daily dose अब उनके लिए भी अनिवार्य है। फ़ोन ऑफ करना निषेध है, पर इस मैसेज – रिप्लाई के खेल में डटे रहना कुछ मुश्किल।

हमारे लिए ये मजेदार tech भी आज मुसीबत है, उनके लिए हफ्तों पुराने खत भी एक गनीमत थे। उनकी जेब बड़ी और मैं छोटी थी। आज बात करना आसान है पर क्या करें ये उंगलियां सही गलत की इस दुविधा में खुद ही परेशान हैं।

ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

दर्द अंधेरों की चौखट पर
क्यों ठोकर खा भी न वार कर
ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

रंजिशों के घेरे में,
क्यों उलझनों के फेरे में
ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

खुशी में भी रूआंसा-सा
क्यों नामुमकिन की बंदिश-सा
ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

बेईमानी-सी चाहत में
क्यों अनजाने ख्वाबों में
ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

बेपनाह बेशक, पर इकतरफा
क्यों फ़िर यादों ने झीकझोर दिया
ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

सही-गलत की दहलीज़ पर
क्यों चाहत भी बस दर्द भर
ए दिल! तू न प्यार कर।

Paving Her Way

With a bruised ego
She paves her way
No more drop of tears
No waiting for texts

Finally she has got
One drop way ahead
Yet as time waits
Before she forgets

Finally giving in
To what all say
Stop saying it all
Ego is back in play

Triggered memories
With some old wounds
She says it no more
Rather just writes it off.