इश्क और दर्द…💔
आज जब उस गुनगुनी सुबह में बाहर निकला तो लगा बरसों पहले खोया कुछ पा लिया हो। सामने दीवारों पर लिथड़े होली के रंग रेनेसां की किसी खूबसूरत कलाकृति की भांति मेरी अलसाई पलकों को मंत्रमुग्ध कर रहे थे। फोटो भी खींच लेता अगर मुहल्ले की आँटियां शक्की ना होतीं तो।
हल्के कदमों से मैं वेलकम मेट्रो स्टेशन की ओर चल पड़ा। फोर लेन पर गाड़ियों का अभाव देख कर परिवहन मंत्री को जैसा भी लगे, मुझे तो अपार असीमित आनंद की अनुभूति होती है । कितना अच्छा होता अगर सुबह सारी गाड़ियाँ बैन हो जाती ! लोग अपनी जल्दबाज़ियाँ कमरों में उतार कर पैदल ही निकल पड़ते, बचे-खुचे ऑक्सीजन के गुच्छे टटोलने।
अपने इसी यूटोपियन खयाल में डूबे हुए कब मैं वेलकम पंहुच गया पता ही नहीं चला। पिंक लाइन वाली ट्रेन में चढ़ा, नज़र घुमायी कि कोई सुबह-सी खुबसूरत अप्सरा के दर्शन हो जाए, पर यहाँ तो कमबख़्त लेडीज़ कोच भी सहारा के रेगिस्तान की तरह बेजान सुनसान वीरान था। सेक्स रेशियो तो हरियाणा का कम है ना – मैंने खुद से सवाल किया – फिर दिल्ली में क्यों मनहूसियत छाई है ? अगर मैं प्रोफेसर होता तो बच्चों को यही सवाल देता।
बैठा तो सामने बहुमंजिली इमारतों के जंगल के पिछे से झाँकता सूर्य मुस्कुरा कर मुझसे कहने लगा – हे मानव, मैं हार गया । आकाश भर में तनी हुई मेट्रो की तारें, कांक्रीट के अभेद्य जंगल, मानव ने अपनी ही धरती बसा ली है धरती पर।
आनंद विहार से उतर कर वैशाली वाली मेट्रो पकड़ी तो लगा इंसान कम हो गए हैं दुनिया में। आठ कोच की गाड़ी में दस लोग । आखिर के चार कोच खाली थे तो मैं चौथे कोच में बैठकर किसी लेफ्टिस्ट नेता की तरह वंचित डब्बों का प्रतिनिधित्व करने लगा।
अकेलेपन में मैं मां के बारे में सोचने लगा । बीमार है, मेरी जरूरत महसूस कर रही है । व्यस्तता के कारण कल जा ना पाया तो मां को लगा मैं भूला रहा हूं धीरे-धीरे । ये इल्ज़ाम मुझपे बहुत लोग लगा चुके हैं।
तुम भूल जाते हो – अचानक मुझे वो आवाज़ याद आ गई । दिल खुश हुआ, फिर टुकड़ों में बिखर गया ।
अगला स्टेशन कौशांबी है – मेट्रो वाली बोल पड़ी।
कौशांबी नहीं भूला मैं, ना ही कभी भूल पाउंगा। यहीं छोड़ कर गया था उसे।
थोड़ी दूर और चलोगे ? – उसने पूछा था।
एक लम्बी सी आह, और रुंधे हुए गले से मैंने वे शब्द छलका दिये थे – फिर कभी।
ये जो ‘फिर कभी’ है ना, ये कभी नहीं आता। भूलने भूूलाने में तीस मार ख़ान हूँ मैं। उसे भी पता था भूल जाउंगा। कुछ कहा नहीं उसने, बस महासागर जितना आँसू हलक़ में घोंट कर मुस्कुरा दी।
मोटे हो गए हो – फिर उसकी आवाज़ सुनाई दी। देखिए मित्रों, इश्क में इंसान सठिया जाता है। मुझे उसकी काल्पनिक आवाज़ कितनी वास्तविक लग रही थी!
“हलो! दिन में सपने देखने की आदत गई नहीं तुम्हारी ?”
मैंने नज़रें उठाई तो अंदर तक सिहर गया। ज़बान मानो फेविक्विक से चिपका दी हो किसी ने। काले रंग की कुर्ती में वो मेरे सामने खड़ी थी। साक्षात! नजरें मिली तो दिल धक्क-सा हो गया।
अगला स्टेशन कौशांबी है – मेट्रो वाली फिर से बोल पड़ी।
“अब कुछ बोलोगे?”
“अअं। ह्म्म। हाँ। वजन सत्तर किलो है। अभी दो महीने पहले ही नपवाया था। यहीं, कश्मीरी गेट पे। फिर जाकर ज़ोमैटो और स्विगी अनइंस्टाॅल करना पड़ा। ओबीस नहीं हूं मैं बस ज़रा सा ओवरवेट हूं। ”
जाने मैं क्या बड़बड़ा रहा था। नये नये इशकजादों से मेरा सविनय निवेदन है कि ओवरकाॅन्फिडेंट ना हों, हमेशा अपने डायलॉग्स रट के जाएं क्योंकि आशिकी में एक्सटेंम्परि कुछ भी नहीं होता।
उसकी जो दो बड़ी-बड़ी गहरी काली मासूम आंखे थी, वो मेरी रूह को टटोल रही थीं, जैसे बच्चे फ्ल्फी टेडी बियर टटोलते हैं। मैं वहाँ से भागना भी चाह रहा था, लेकिन फिर जी चाहा कि उठकर उसे अपनी बाहों में समेट लूं। और कौशांबी कभी ना आए बस।
“तुम कैसी हो? “मैंने हिम्मत की।
“बस, बिंदास। तुमने मुझे फाॅलो करना बंद कर दिया है।”
“मैं सोशल मीडिया से दूर हो चुका हूं। यूपीएससी बहुत कुछ बदल देता है। तुमने भी तो मैसेज करना बंद कर दिया।”
“तुमने पढ़ना बंद कर दिया तो मैंने लिखना बंद कर दिया। ”
उसके और मेरे होंठो के बीच बीस सेंटीमीटर का फासला था। ज़िंदगी चेतन भगत की किताब होती तो लोग अब तक तालियों और सीटियों के शोर में पूरे शहर को डुबा चुके होते।
ये कौशांबी स्टेशन है – मेट्रो वाली ने कहा।
“मेरा स्टेशन आ गया। ” वो उठकर दरवाजे की ओर बढ़ने लगी। लगा जैसे जान निकल जाएगी।
मैं उठ खड़ा हुआ, यह सोचकर कि इस बार उसे जाने ना दूंगा। जिंदगी दो पल की होती है बस, और पहले पल में मैं उसे खो चुका था। उसके कदम भी पल भर के लिए रुके, पर तभी मेरे फोन की घंटी बजी।
मां का मैसेज था। पूछ रही थी कहां पहुंचा। कितनी देर में आउंगा।
मेट्रो का दरवाजा बंद होने लगा। वो पहले से बाहर थी।
the most difficult thing on earth….
It might come across as appalling to you, but allow me to confess that a few hours ago I was googling interesting subjects to talk about while having a phone conversation with your dad. Yeah, this is Kaliyug, people, right here.
Before you jump to any conclusion, no, we never had an abusive relationship to begin with. Unlike most of the Indian parents, mine were quite responsible. In fact, before I was even conceived in their minds, my father purchased this hardcover book on child-rearing from pustak mahal and finished it cover to cover twice.
In its encyclopaedic span, it discussed in extraordinary lengths the nuances of raising a child. Treat them like a flower till they are 5, it said. So my parents let me happily peepee on exquisite quilts and fluffy pillows till I was 5. After that they spanked my butt red. Just kidding. It wasn’t red. To tell you the truth, my father used to beat me very sparingly, and only on the palms, that too, with blows as light as feathers. Nevertheless, I used to howl as if he was amputating my hands. But now that I think of it, it wasn’t so much of physical pain. Crying was actually a defence mechanism. Anyways, after I got into my teenage, they stopped disciplining me with a stick. I sort of missed the stick for a while and then got used to the sorry state of my unadventurous life.
While in the latter part of my teenage, my father stopped poking his nose in my affairs, i.e., he stopped asking me about my studies and everything. I was flunking maths and accountancy anyways, and he had to be the Man of the house, despite a broken leg, sciatica and what not. So we gradually drifted apart. There were a few more developments.
One, the realisation that my father wasn’t the superhero I had thought him to be when I was 6. When you are a kid, your dad’s the world’s strongest man. Whatever happens, he shall protect you. Kids really believe that. When I held my father’s fingers, I knew I would be safe even if skies broke open and rained fiery meteors. My father was tall as the next building. Then, I started growing, reached his shoulders. That was when I knew. He could not protect me anymore. I wouldn’t fit in his embrace…too heavy to be lifted. He couldn’t help me with Maths anymore. As my demands grew costlier, he couldn’t fulfill those anymore. That was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to realise he wasn’t the creator of the universe.
Two, you become something else in your teenage. There’s a lot going on and your dad doesn’t fit anywhere in those scheme of things. There are girls and friends and your dick. There’s pressure of studying science. You don’t have a hair of an idea what’s happening inside and outside of you. And he didn’t say much. Just answered things I asked. We watched cricket, but not like buddies. He would leave the tv in the middle, even while Dhoni was batting, as he had more important things to do. Moreover, I could never run errands. I am not the guy who does these little shoppings. So the burden on his shoulders only grew. When my mother fell ill, he had to take up cooking as well. I secretly learnt preparing basic food but could never make anything out of it.
Then, I had to leave home. And that’s when the boat began to crack. We, men, are quite incapable of expressing emotions. That gives us the illusion of strength. But to be honest, it sucks sometimes. My phone conversations were mostly limited to my mother. My father only asked if I was eating well, and in return, I would ask if he was alright. That was it. From sharing DNA to sharing two questions, that was the depth of our relationship now.
But things have changed today. He’s old, almost 50. He has started losing his hair. His moustache is all white, his eyes more sunken than ever. Now is the time you let your child love you, says the book. But I don’t know how to love him. Yes. Nobody taught me that. Nobody told me you will have to love your father one day. All these bollywood flicks show is cheesy romance. In half those movies, the father is an abusive drunkard. In the other half, he is just background. Nobody portrays father-son love with the same seriousness they portray other things.
So I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t even know how to react at their death. I was googling this other day. They said cry a lot. But what does that accomplish? I think once the shock is over, you probably let them rest in peace. No idea.
The articles suggest I should talk about baseball. He does not know what baseball is. He has limited passions. Never liked anything too much. Maybe because he doesn’t want to be missed. People clutch onto their belongings after the loved one is gone. Maybe that’s why my father wears the same clothes till those are shredded. The other day, Gabbar sir was asking everyone how they wanted to be remembered after they die.
I don’t want to be remembered after I die, I thought. I didn’t know why I said that, but now that I think about it, maybe it was because I am my father’s son.
Maybe loving someone’s not so easy. Maybe love is just a trick we pull up to endure life.
Maybe my father knows how hollow love is. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to be loved.
Or maybe I am too incapacitated to love people.
Sitting in the waiting hall of AIIMS. Hospitals are so depressing. Three hands from me, a mother is trying to break a smile on her infant’s face, making funny expressions even when desperation roars wild on her face.
People whisper, misery screams…
Old people have no idea what to do with their registration slips. The place is clean, but you can gild hospitals with gold and embroider their walls with emeralds, they’d still reek of suffering.
The mother and the child are quiet now. There’s not much joy here. OPD is quiet as a morgue. People lie on stretchers and stare blankly onto their dingy covers, some munching peanuts as it comes cheap. Outside, there were around fifty people who’d come from thousands of miles, didn’t get any accommodation, so slept on footpath and subway. Subway is full of shit, vomit and rot, but people don’t seem to mind it – they just spread their sheets and lie with their families. Little kids watch you, and you cannot meet their eyes because you cannot explain to them why they have to spend nights after nights in freezing cold amid all this crap. You don’t have an answer because their misery, somehow, empowers you.
An old man carries his daughter in a wheelchair. She could have looked beautiful, but her lips are rotting. She does not make eye contact, perhaps too embarrassed to do so. Old women, their hair silvery and their skin crumpled, walk slowly and look for seat. Some rich English speaking people walk around too, carrying the same pain under their costly makeup.
a recipe for disaster 💥🔥⚠
The first half of my house is done. Now they are casting the terrace roof.
My father’s got a new condition. Every morning, around dawn, right when I have finally shoved away my dying phone and am trying to fall into a dreamy wormhole, he comes to my room wearing his Star Accu Paduka Acupressure Spring Action Massage Sandal, his breathes slightly louder than a chainsaw, and moves around making sure if I am sleeping well and if I’m covered in this nipple-hardening cold. That would still have been bearable, and even cute, had I not been sleeping naked under the blanket. So yeah, that’s how I started my day today.
Then came the big task. Since I have eight months experience in chopping salads and vegetables and since the roof-casting team comprised of 15 underfed, ever-hungry folks who could eat bricks if you peppered them with salt and chilli powder, my mother bequeathed upon me the virtuous task of chopping around 60 medium sized onions, 40 radishes, 30 chillies, half a tonne coriander and as added bonus, kneading a barrel of wheat flour. I like to chop things, let me be honest, but I like it pretending to be a French mâitre cuisiner and not some cookie cutter from Tihar.
So I sat down on our recently purchased carpet with a bathtub and began washing the onions after peeling them off while my mother video chatted with my three year old cousin who is basically a non stop gibberish uttering three foot long human being.
My father informed me that the temperature had dropped to 4 already, and I said oh, not being able to figure out the exact usefulness of this information.
The labourers came with huge machines, large enough to put Tesla to shame, and began their noisy work. My parents’ distant samdhiji dropped in with some free bottle gourds – he is a farmer with no good kids to save for – and I could not feel the happiness I usually reserve for free stuffs. This samdhiji keeps coming with free vegetables all the time, which would have been a kind gesture had he brought something other than gourds. Initially my mother showed too much gratitude to this man, but now she just distributes most of his gifts among the neighbours, thus cutting their grocery costs significantly. One of them even purchased a Škoda recently, which my mother swore was bought from the money saved on vegetables.
“Don’t you grow other things as well? “My mother had to ask, politely, one day.
“Ah! I used to grow cauliflowers but these neighbourhood kids are such goons, they steal everything. ”
“Get a few dogs. “I risked a suggestion. He made a face as if I had uttered something entirely stupid, and spoke to all of us,
“Akhilesh had 4 dogs in his house. He was a vegetarian but he fed them cooked meat every day. He had hired special cook just for feeding the dogs. Being an LIC agent himself, that’s way too expensive. The dogs must have meant too much to him. Then he got married. “He said, pausing to build suspense.
“Then? “We asked with eyes popped with curiosity.
“Then he died of heart attack. Now the dogs shall be abandoned. “He said, controlling his tears.
But what happened to the wife, I wanted to ask, but he was too emotionally wounded to utter another word, so I did not. I mean a weeping samdhiji is certainly worse than a samdhiji with a bottle gourd.
Anyways, after doing all that work, my father asked me if I was good for something, and I, fearing another gargantuan task, said no I was not, and he said ‘good” and awarded me the most humiliating duties ever.
I had to sit on a chair near the switch of motor pump and switch it on and off whenever a voice from above asked me to do so.
It has been two hours of me sitting here like this, and I have pressed the switch more than a dozen times. I’ve had only 6 breads fried in desi ghee till now and I’m starving. Even though healthyfyme ensures that’s good enough calorie intake for a couple of days, I don’t want to believe it. I am going to uninstall this hitler app very soon.
We are not supposed to eat till the gods have eaten.
Tradition fucks hard.