Monday, October 13, 2008

Slides and Joy Rides...

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of sitting in the darkened drawing-room of my grandparents’ house (henceforth referred to as ‘that’ house) with my whole family and watching a slide-show of old photographs. My ‘whole family’ consisted of my parents, my uncle, my aunt, my little cousin and of course, my grandparents. These photographs were usually clicked on out-station trips that the family had made; someone had come up with the priceless idea of converting the pictures to slides. And thus had started the ritual of sitting down for these ‘trips-down-memory-lane’. Every once in a while, post-dinner, the compact little projector would be brought out, placed on a table and my uncle would play narrator. One-by-one, he would guide us through the slides, offering brief descriptions of each of them.

The years passed by and the constitution of my family changed. After a prolonged illness, my grandmother left us at the age of seventy-five. I can’t place a finger on how things changed after her death, but they did. Somehow, somewhere. Three years ago I lost my grandfather too. Like any other family, we moved on. But our busy routines snatched away the pleasure of those frequent visits. And, needless to say, of the slide-shows that had formed an integral part of my life.

Recently, some relatives happened to visit us and we had a family-get-together in that house. Post dinner, someone came up with the idea of a slide-show. And all of us readily agreed. In a few minutes, we were all ready. After a gap of six or seven years, here we were, sitting in the same darkened room, our eyes glued to the wall. As images of the yesteryears flashed on the wall and disappeared after the respective narration, I experienced that same childhood thrill, that same excitement; for a brief period, it was as if my grandparents had come back, that they were sitting in the same room and reliving their pasts as well.

In that span of forty minutes, the family vacations of long-long-ago became tangible realities - my grandparents, both young and spirited; my father and my uncle, men in the prime of their youth; their trustworthy blue ambassador, a dependable companion who took them wherever they wished to go. And decades later, in the present day, we all sat face-to-face with the yesteryears.

Why those lifeless bits of film are so important to me, some may ask. And I have my answer ready. There is so much about the past that I have witnessed only through these slide-shows, for instance, my father’s pet rabbit, Bunny, who died when my father was in doing his MBA, our palatial house in Nainital, which is today practically in ruins, birthdays that were celebrated with extended family and friends, and so much more. To me, these slide shows are like time-machines, or, more precisely, like the ‘Pensieve’ in the Harry Potter Series.

Tomorrow, the constitution of my family is bound to change further – some people will leave forever, and some will come in. And someday, when we are having another get-together, with both old and new family members, I will ask, make a special request, for the projector to be brought out again. So that we can, as a family, relish another beautiful rendezvous with the yesteryears.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Times Like These Make Me Believe That Mr. God Exists...

Don’t get me wrong; I believe in God just as much as chronic alcoholics believe in alcohol or chain smokers believe in cigarettes. (Stupid analogies, but they communicate the intensity of my faith). But then in one’s life, there are times when one questions the existence of that Power. Regardless of the strength of one’s conviction in Him.

I had been questioning Mr. God for quite some time. Maybe it was escapism; I refused to take the blame for all the things that had gone wrong and therefore comfortably shifted the charge to Him. These ‘things’ included Papa’s moving away to Hyderabad for an assignment, my post-graduation plans still being on hold, MICA abandoning me and a lot of other stuff.

And soon, miraculously, God did take heed. He saw me sulking and pouting and He heard me questioning Him. And He took action. No, He did not stop Papa’s shifting to Hyderabad, He did not get me a (magical) call for a post-graduation, and He DEFINITELY did not get me shortlisted for MICA. Instead, He made me win a prize on A Garnier Gift Hamper worth about six hundred bucks. The hamper arrived three days ago, during one of my ‘über-low’ phases. And it was pretty loaded…there was their new ‘Mattifying Fairness Cream’, their new ‘Pimple Zapper’, an ‘Exfoliating Facewash’, a ‘Deep Clean Gel Face Wash’, a ‘ Pore Purifying Astringent’ and a ‘Daily Treatment Crème’.

And you know what? For a few hours, I did forget all those potential downers. For a few hours, I was all smiles, proudly displaying my new acquisitions to everyone who was around and calling people up and telling them. For a few hours, I was a child again, basking in the glory of having won a contest. And I thanked Mr. God for having taken some time out from His busy schedule just to gift me those broad grins.

Looking back, I can think of a lot of instances when the grins have come in at a least expected but most needed time. This one time, for instance, when I was really low, I decided that the only thing that I could do to feel better was to go to the temple. There, in those peaceful surroundings, I prayed and prayed for the peace to somehow enter my mind too. I wished desperately for one good reason to smile. (Yes, I know I sound terribly defeated, but that is precisely how I felt back then.)

After I finished praying, I got up, and with my eyes transfixed on Sai Baba, I started walking out of the temple. Backwards, mind you, for someone had once told me to never turn my back on God. And suddenly I felt my leg getting caught in something. In someone else’s leg, actually. And before I realized it, I had fallen REALLY REALLY CLUMSILY on top of this really thin man (poor soul!). Needless to say, the entire lot of devotees there started staring at me. And the next few moments were filled with sincere apologies from both of us (strangely the man asked me if I was hurt) and dollops of embarrassment. I hurriedly walked out. My face must have been red with embarrassment.

The funny thing is, once I started walking back home, I began seeing the funny side of the whole situation. And before I knew it, I was grinning. And I couldn’t stop grinning. Passersby on the road must’ve thought I was crazy or something. But the very thought of the atrocious way in which I had fallen only minutes ago was way too hilarious for me to control myself. And then I realized: I had asked God for a smile, and He had given me a grin immediately, probably as a stop-gap arrangement. The purpose of visiting Sai Baba, therefore, had been temporarily served.


Sometimes, when you are going through a similar phase when you want to scream and shout out to Him that you don’t deserve what you are getting, and you aren’t getting what you actually deserve, wait for some time. For a LOT of time, if necessary. But trust me on this one: He will gift you your broad grins too, all in good time. Your grin might not be for the reason you desire, but it will be good enough for that moment. As for the real reason, that will come your way too, in some way or the other. I know it is still too early for me to comment on this so confidently, but something prompts me to. Because some days when I am low, and questioning the existence of God, I either happen to spot puppies, or see a rainbow, or get an unexpected phone call from some one close, or find some other reason to smile. And then I know. I know that He exists, and will watch over us ALL the time.

Much Love,