He writes to me saying (or so I dream), “And these are my parting words to you dear Reader: May you have the wisdom to be simple, and the humor to be happy.”
Just when I am puzzled with whether what I am doing is consonant with what I should be doing, he puts everything into perspective with this message. Wisdom to be simple and humor to be happy. But when I read him (I know it’s him, versions of his being in every character he writes about, like those pages with proceedings of a story comprising a novel), it becomes a rather unsettling situation. The four walls around turn into oak and bougainvillea trees, the road across turns into a stream, voice of mynas and eagles gradually start pouring into my ear as the vehicles disappear into their own smoke, sun’s striking rays turn dew drops into pearls and a moist smell in the air with a pinch of periodic cool breeze sets my heart to rest. But the depth in the hearts and minds of his characters compel me to conflict reality. I am in love with these characters, well aware that they are too pure to be real; him, the nameless lover, in particular. While its happening to love someone who’d never die, it is also saddening, to love someone who has been living only in stories. So I fall in love with the one who writes them, for the protagonist is his reflection (or so I’d like to believe). His name resonates into his reflection’s, his face carved like the character of his reflection, his voice…I have never heard his voice but I have listened to his words and he sounds like them (or so I hope) and so does his reflection, and his touch like his reflection’s (or so I imagine), like the meeting of two pair of eyes as an age old longing comes to a sweet end, like the ink surrendering itself in the hands of paper.
In the busiest market of a city, Mumbai, lies my body but the mind and soul find solace in Ruskin Bond’s world. A world of tongas, wet red soil, foothills of the Himalayas and Doon Valley, the momentary, strange and yet sweet encounters of love. Merely reading his heavenly stories make time go so peacefully, with its original pace, not cut by the fence of city time. And moments after you start visualizing his world, feeling it, living it, the mind games that fancy cities play on you are revealed. A competition enforced, and that without it we lose or such are the illusions the city blinds us with. But looking around I realize how lost we are already. Achievers are those small town simplicities of Yamunanagar, resident pilgrims of Rishikesh, non-competitive or rather self sufficient students from Mandi. The modesty of a few thousand characters in these towns reflect nature’s beauty, while we rush in and out of metros inquiring for a beautiful person. Referring to a rather short story of The Traveling Philosopher if I had to describe those four days in Uttarakhand by the minute I would end up writing a book, a book flawed with spirits of youth, love and devotion, something like Ruskin Bond himself but unable to match his originality. This is what these humble towns give you; the gift of wanting to be like them without taking offense. Unlike the cities drowned in their pride, yet looking to progress and become the next New York or Shanghai at the cost of virgin rivers and rising mountains.
My body is in a city which has its hands full and yet searches for purpose, the mind and soul in a satiated world of Ruskin Bond.
The memory of my first encounter with lessons about loss, love and life is still afresh. Letters To Anne Frank’s Father, a chapter from Chicken Soup for the Soul in my 9th standard English textbook, led me to Anne Frank The Diary Of A Young Girl. History’s wisdom was gifted to a 13 year old girl in the thoughts and words of a 13 year old girl. Something, I now realize, every child needs and deserves. A time when fellow students were creating memories in scrapbooks, I was lucky enough to create my own by reading words of humor, wit,love, aspirations by a mere 13 ear old who welcomed life with arms wide open. Anne had an eye for details and studied situations and characters in-depth such that her diary expressed how well she understood those around her. Anne taught us through a few valuable pages, what many around us try to teach us for life; to live, come what may, you should always want to live for there is a lot to life. Here’s one of her many inspiring quotes which reflect the above: “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
The epilogue in my copy of Anne’s Diary concludes rather beautifully, “The young girl’s (last) wish that “I want to go on living even after my death” has come true with a string of tragic irony attached to it.” For being one of my inspirations to write, for taking many young ones to a journey of wisdom and to impact the world by setting an example of how the diary of a young girl can consist of such potential, here’s to remembering on what would have been her 83rd birth anniversary, the girl who’ll never die. Happy Birthday Anne Frank.
Anne’s Diary had a lot of depth which provoked thoughtfulness in the minds and emotions in the hearts of millions around the world. Listed below are some examples of the different way Anne’s story has affected various lives over the years.
Amidst the noises, the tiredness of the city, I decided to take 15 minutes off my sleep to recall some life changing moments. Ones which gave me a sigh of relief. My trip to Uttarakhand.
I could still smell the naked, sun-kissed runway as I got off the flight. The sun was only showing off though, I realized as the cold breeze rolled itself around me like a blanket. In the company of the most agreeable human being that I happened to know, I was driven into Ruskin Bond’s tales of Dehradun all the way to the Gateway of Garhwal Himalayas, Rishikesh.
Through that ride over the hills, by those huge valleys one moment
and by a calming river the other,
I was taken back to the chapter in my English textbook in school, The Night Train in Deoli. I could see the beauty of those thoughtfully carved tales by Ruskin Bond, in the details of the hills, in the sweet smell of winter, in the rustling of trees and in the echoes of flowing rivers.
And what do I speak of God’s own land, Rishikesh?
I struggle to find the best of best words for even the word heaven wouldn’t make up for it. It took me standing at the center of Lakshman Jhula
and very closely watching it move to realize the grandeur with which Mother Ganges flew. Her beautiful sea green appearance made her look like a precious, most valuable emerald of its kind.
While the view around from Lakshman Jhula said so much already, it took me closed eyes to feel the magnificence of the atmosphere in and around the pilgrimage.
Right across the Lakshman Jhula and a few steps ahead was a pretty little humble cafe, Freedom Cafe. Cushions having their share of rest on the mattresses, coffee tables enjoying a warm blanket of delicacies, colorful traditional ceiling lamps lighting the room in gold, exchange of lighthearted banters among other visitors and then there was Mother Ganges flowing peacefully, consistently right by the cafe. What a beautiful experience of busyness and tranquility at the same time, in the same place.
What was next had me holding my breath as I trudged down the hill to Camp Wildex for a sleepover. A sleepover which we’d all love but very few of us get to experience, I guess. After a lighthearted New Year’s celebration I slept to the motherly sound of Ganges’ lullabies. That night neither did I have a nightmare, nor a dream. Pure, simple, sleep.
Waking on first of January 2016 to a huge valley with light strokes of sun rays through the tress down to a glistening Ganga, now THAT was a dream.
Sadly, it was short-lived as I climbed back up to the roads which was a scary bit but kept the cold at bay for a while.
Up next was Har ka Dwar, Haridwar.
With not much time in hand and having been to Har ki Pauri twice before, I offered my prayers to the robust statue of an omnipotent Lord Shiva on my way to Haridwar from Rishikesh. Lord Shiva is the Man!
Most of the time in Haridwar was devoted to some mouth watering street food
and the famous Hoshiyarpuri’s special Kheer. A part of Rajaji National Park falling under Haridwar, I was lucky to find myself, briefly, on a safari as I caught a glimpse of a small herd of deer.
Or maybe I was more than lucky for a picture and yet not lucky enough for a selfie. Hah!
My last stop was the aspiration of every parent for their engineer-to-be child. Indian Institute of Technology or IIT Roorkee.
Since the goal was to see some key places around Haridwar, I took the privilege to visit Roorkee which was known for its engineering colleges, especially IIT. The reason I call it a privilege is because of its vast area and fine infrastructure of which the most interesting was the Convocation Hall. What’s interesting about the Convocation Hall aka The Hangar is that it was used to harbor planes during World War 2.
So The Hangar which played a small part in the world’s fight for freedom is now celebrating its victory as a Convocation Hall.
With this last thought I ended my journey wherein I sought freedom in self-sufficient small towns and cities of limited means, something that I could not seek even after years of living in a metropolitan city. Freedom and self-sufficiency.
Art is to enlighten a curious mind. Art is to provoke thoughtfulness in minds with vain spirit. Art is truth and like truth its appearance is abstract. Only those who have an eye for it, can find it. And cinema is one of those many art forms. However, like all other art forms, cinema has an identity of its own. There is direct human interaction involved which gives us all the more reason to understand better. Also, this gives the creators of a movie all the more reason to make it understandable. We Indians can proudly say that we have that. Thanks to Indian Regional Cinema.
Indian Regional Cinema, although not as famous as Bollywood, has qualities which go higher than current Bollywood standards. They are thought provoking, meaningful and give the audience a purpose. One such movie I came across recently was Marathi movie, Deool (The Temple). Village boy Kesha hallucinates of Lord Dutta and the word spreads around the village. Once it reaches the Sarpanch (village foreman), he (Sarpanch) uses it to gain people’s support for political gain. The movie has flawlessly explained the role of politics of religion in India. And it has done so not at the cost of negative portrayal of religion, unlike many recent Bollywood movies. Another regional movie from Punjab named Pingalwara based on the life of social worker Bhagat Puran Singhji who gave a new life to destitutes which has now become the All India Pingalwara Charitable Society. Inspiring and enlightening concepts, effortless and convincing performances, natural and relatable situations, beautiful shots, and a balance of modern, regional music. If you compare for the sake of observing difference in quality, you’ll find that while the shallowness and lack of creativity in Bollywood movies today simply teach the audience to dismiss religion, Deool teaches the audience to keepsake it as a faith and not national policy maker. Despite these qualities of our regional cinema, meaningless Bollywood movies, most of which are monotonous love stories, are given preference by the audience. There was a time when Bollywood stood tall and proud; classics remind us every now and then. But today Regional Cinema has beaten Bollywood by maintaning the grace in art which Bollywood was once admired for. While we know that intensive PR and promotion has created this undeserved hype around today’s Bollywood trends, we need to look into what is keeping regional cinema from the same when it is clearly deserving. If regional language is a barrier then why don’t channels like Doordarshan dub these movies in Hindi or English? Why limit a beautiful cinematic concept like that to a particular language and culture when you in fact have a common language for the nation? Contribution to the growth of regional cinema should also be made by production houses of channels like Zee Cinema, UTV, Sony Max et cetera by broadcasting the same dubbed in Hindi for the national audience. It is also very important for the audience to see through the blandness and naivness of Bollywood today. Until and unless we are willing to resist the PR tactics which are being fed to us, we will not be able to become an intelligent audience.
It is true that to be able to create art is a quality. But it is also equally true that to be able to appreciate art is a quality as well. It is the kind of quality which educates one with knowledge. And like we say, everyone has the right to education. We are responsible for becoming an intelligent, thoughtful society. Indian Regional Cinema has the potential to make us that. Its diversity, its simplicity in accordance to our Indian society and lifestyle, its regards for our traditional values, its adaptation of modern cinema and so much more will inculcate in us an understanding of how to become a wise society, how to become better than better, how to realize something through a movie character.
And if I added a few more regional movies to that list above, we might as well get the answers to all those questions we have for life. Go ahead then, make your list.