Out Of My Comfort Zone

This is something I had written a little more than 2 years back. As college has come to an end and I’ve left what I believe is certainly one of the best cities to be in, this article helps me jog my memory to those wonderful days. It’s a revelation to myself to, what I thought about the new city in the first few months. This is for you, Pune. (Minor changes have been made from the original one)

The sun rose again, my room inviting the warmth to fall upon its interiors. But how different was this morning from the ones that went by, greeting me with the shimmering light while I lay flat with laziness? It was the same sun, but I was not in Dubai anymore. The sun rose to greet me thousands of miles from my home, in the city of Pune too. Out of My Comfort Zone. Inspired from the title of the autobiography of former Australian Cricketer – Steve Waugh’s, there is a difference in the implication of the same in the two lives. While that man achieved heights in cricket that are now lauded in the world, I am an 18 year old Media Student who can only speak in great volumes of his decision to give up (perhaps temporarily), the great peace and leisure of living a life dependent on family, familiar surroundings, tantalizingly delectable food and greater insulation from hardships.

But after almost eight months of my life as a student of SIMC UG, I wonder if looking at that morning differently can be justified. Pune for me has turned out to be a home without unnecessary attention, a lifestyle that enables me to choose between the a modest pace of activity with ample time for introspection and a pace devoid of rapid work, self-development and success. Noises, noises that I hear throughout the day from home to college and back whirl in the head like it’s an integral part of my sanity. The distinct noise of the Auto-Rickshaw amidst the crowded streets of Pune brings vibrancy, while some are in cars, and many more on bikes. The six-seated rickshaw (‘Tum Tum’ as is locally known) cannot go unnoticed on the roads. Running mostly on main roads that link important locations, these ‘Tum Tums’ help people of all economic strata commute with convenience (not if you mind squeezing in yourself and your ego). Simply hearing the conversations of the commuters portrays the cosmopolitan aspects of Pune. One will find people speaking in Hindi, Marathi, English, Tamil, Malayalam, and so much so even Persian.

My favourite element that goes in living out a day in Pune, however, will always be the tea-stalls (As every interesting thing carries a local name, this one’s ‘Tapri’). In corners where an establishment is unimaginable, one comes to term with what keeps these Punekars charged up throughout the day – Tea, with ‘Vada Pavs’ devoured for good measures. A few taxing months and I’ve already started seeing my fuel in those ‘cuttings’.

Source - marketplacehandworkofindia.wordpress.com

What Pune runs on

In this admirable and eclectic city, why would one not interact with the populace one comes across? When I’m not slogging my way into flagging down the atrocious fares, I’ve spoken to Auto drivers asking them about their life and daily routine. It’s simple, I’ve learned. They wake up very early in the morning, launch their ride on the roads, and return home late. In the process of this seemingly simple routine, they have dropped numerous passengers to their respective destinations, most of the time arguing against bargains in the process. Speaking to students of my age, I’ve gathered from many that they sleep at the stroke of dawn, and wake up when it’s dark. I still reflect upon the first day of my college.

Then and now, has Pune already become close to home? Have I judged this city in haste, and probably there’s more to what I see? Will this phase of moderate inner bliss remain the same as years pass by? Are there major parts of the city that are yet to be discovered? Will I finally become adept at speaking Marathi, and probably boast about successful attempts of haggling down the Auto-Rickshaw fares in the driver’s own language?

These questions probably instil within me the drive to explore Pune beyond the perception of an average NRI. It’s not very sunny anymore; looks like the sun would like a nap. As I draw the curtains, the tapri outside tempts me with its tea. It’s time to refuel, perhaps within my new comfort zone.

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Homs Without Homes

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This is not an image of some post-modern recreation. Not unless the many armed factions – some state sponsored while other rebelling independently – would want to classify their work of violence as one. While post-modern critics may try to justify the use of minimalistic brush strokes or stare with a squint eye at the wild splatter of colours, the rampage on the streets of Syria cannot be justified but be shunned as one of the most disappointing things humankind has had to put up with.

This is the image of Homs, and also is not the image of Homs. It does not matter in what angles the picture may have been taken in, what elements may have taken priority and what may have caught the photographer’s attention more – it all looks the same.The level of destruction endured by this city in the war has devoid it of any semblance of the usual  past when a functioning city sat in its place. In a way, this is but it is also not the city of Homs.

Razed to the ground and caught in rapid crossfires between the army and the rebels, Homs seems to rest peacefully in its final rites. The rubble remains complacently non-suggestive of the many colours that once constituted in the households. Scattered in the dark shades of grey and occasionally giving a peek into the creamy walls, the debris is the only piece of real estate that remains on the ground. Clearly, the men fought without a blueprint.

A desolated optimist could still argue that since the multi-storied buildings have fallen to their knees, the sun now shines brighter on the vast canvass of this ruthless painting. The real darkness is visible in the lives of those who still enter this city to search for their belongings. I say that they can return with a smile if they have at the least been able to identify where their houses once stood.

The shattered glass is like an invitation to break the barriers between neighbourhoods, just that there is nobody to welcome a guest. The dangling wires are the sole warriors in charge of reminding the people of a past marked with infrastructure and power, but their swords are blunted by the more progressive powers of bullets and shrapnel.

Decimation of this kind increases the threshold of pain.

If so much can be wiped off that I’m left with nothing to see, then perhaps I can be severed from this world too. For the root of houses may have been of concrete, but my hope is strung by a loose thread. 

Cycle of War

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The onslaught of destruction in Syria does not seem to come to a halt. If anything civil, it is the fresh Presidential elections that the world is looking forward to. But people, the few who seemed to have survived but not without scars of the war – some physical while other deeply psychological – look at the bloated pictures on bullet-ridden walls the man who is expected to gain an easy victory – Bashar al-Assad.

But there’s a more poignant angle to the ruinous state of affair in Syria. And these are brought out by rare but moving pictures like the one I have used here. It depicts a man painfully clinging onto the bicycle of his child. The bicycle could be the only contraption that carries a memory of the boy who belonged to the family now desecrated by an unending war.

With his whole house completely ripped apart by the shelling of men in arms, a thing as unassuming and trivial in comparison to what has been blown to smithereens has made this father realise of his loss – his family, his boy, the shared dreams, the gentle fingers on the handles of the bicycle, memories of initial struggle at using the pedals, its first repairs, the dream that the boy who glides the bicycle would also glide the family’s fortunes, the first time ever his mother may have allowed him to ride further than the neighbours’ – which, by all estimates, may also have stories of property and families destroyed.

Syria has seen more violence than what its people can bear. Destruction has stripped the country off its history and the many people who had routine problems like taps running dry and medical facilities not being enough. Now there’s a stream of blood running down the streets which often run dry.

Even the blood has lost hope of reaching to safety.

 This war has reduced the populace of Syria to a few melancholic faces, holding on to the destroyed remains of things belonging to those who have perished.