Older than time, gentler than soul
The word ‘risk’ comes from French ‘risque’, which was generally meant to be dangerous in terms of territorial conquests. If you are not taking risks, you aren't really interested. That used to be the motto. Today, it could mean a lot of things related to the ever-evolving market. It’s rarely used for is in the matters of love: choosing XYZ over ABC as your partner could be risky. Humans, as wholesome entities, are granted a leeway we don’t give away to “treacherous” mountains and “volatile” bitcoins. Yet, when you let someone play with your heart, you are facing calamities that adventure and cryptocurrencies can’t possibly match. I don’t know about you but whenever I see those slow-mo videos of glaciers crashing into the ocean, I think of people whose hearts are breaking just because they took a massive risk on someone without knowing (at that time) what they were signing up for.
A few months before the Modi government was formed in 2014, a song was spreading like an aural virus in the country. You could hear it almost everywhere. Of course, I am referring to Baby Doll. It was penned by Kumaar—not that anybody cares about the lyricist—who also wrote other peppy chartbusters like Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan and Main Tera Hero. Always expect to find gems in the middle of muck in Bollywood. You can see this happen through and through; even in the worst of movies, there will be a scene that will make you lift your chin up a bit. The same is true for the “...yeh duniya pittal di..” stunner of a lyric in Baby Doll. She might live in a world made of brass but she is gold. Which, again, feels like an easter egg for the state of Hindi cinema for the most part.
My ajji (grandma) was a fascinating soul. She exuded warmth and was kind to strangers. A rare spirit of kinsmanship. There are some people in this world whose words can melt even the coldest of thoughts. Such folks are brave and optimist, not just optimistic, and will touch your face, to bring you back to your senses. They are real. No pretence. I was fortunate enough to know this first hand. She was a fabulous storyteller too and I am sure she made up a lot of parables to make sense of good and evil. For instance, while having tender coconut, she used to say, no matter how much you try to be careful, a bit of water has to spill out. Why? Because that is nature’s offering to the person who planted the coconut tree in the first place.
When she passed away around 3 am during the height of monsoon, I dreamt of her dying. They say when you dream of someone’s death, that person will live long. Trust me, that’s 24 karat bullshit. Anyway, for some reason, the clouds discussed amongst themselves and decided to observe a hartal. For an entire day, the sun shined and the funeral took place in an orderly fashion. Almost the entire village showed up. Except her youngest daughter, my mother, as she lived in Bombay and the fastest way to reach our village was via a 25-hour-long bus trip. Airplane was out of budget and Konkan Railway—this week, it got fully electrified; quite a milestone—wasn’t functional back then. After the funeral, food is offered to the crows on plaintain leaves. If they show up and eat immediately, it means that the departed soul has reached its destination. According to bystanders, none had ever seen such a massive gathering of corvids at a funeral. And I believe them wholeheartedly.
As kids, we believed everything she told us. Our society likes to think of children as dumb creatures but we sense vibes at a very young age. When you listen to the abuse stories, you’ll notice how the abused often already had a hunch about the kind of person the abuser was. Just that the child lacked the power or the agency to do anything to protect themselves. If only parents opened the channel of communication more and listened to their young ones a bit more proactively, and stopped acting like they know better, then there is a bigger possibility of building a safer childhood.
My favourite colour is blue because I grew up by the sea whereas my mother’s is green because she grew up in a village. And when she moved to Bombay eventually, she missed that greenery so much that she ensured that her favourite colour was all around her. Our first house in Cheeta Camp was painted green and our place boasted of the most number of plants in our neighbourhood. That’s what rural life does to you: it keeps you close to your elements. In an urban setting, we are unhinged because we seldom find our true bearings. The only advantage being, you can keep moving.