Dear Grief,

Hello. You have become a more predictable friend now. I met you when I was suddenly introduced to loss. The sharp, sick taste of loss. Metallic, angry, harsh, incomprehensible and gut wrenchingly sad. There was no formal introduction. You just entered and settled down like a blanket. You enveloped me for a long time, so much so, that I didn’t realise you had become my second skin.

And one day, I recognised you clearly in my daily routine and my comfort food and my weight gain and I felt strangely relieved. At least now I knew. From that point on, you would drop in from time to time, but when I least expected you. In the middle of a hearty laugh or a brilliant book or a formal dinner, you’d deliver a sucker punch in my solar plexus and I’d double up in pain. Gasping. Screaming silently. Reeling from the hit. And then you’d disappear again and I’d go back to life that would stop by regularly asking me to hop on and get a move on.

So, I alternated for a while between grief and life. I learnt that as you grow older the losses pile up and the wheel turns again. And again.

Now you come and go, as and when you please. I learn to ride your crests and troughs. I learn to embrace life and treasure the love I have.

Still warily,
Your host.

Dear old man on the street,

I look at you from within the comfortable confines of my car and watch how you make your way from auto to car to car to auto to bus to auto to scooter to mobike to car … asking for alms. You carry a 6month old baby in your arms and use her to appeal to people’s conscience. You are probably part of a racket that contributes apparent millions to an industry made of the the old, the weak, the physically handicapped, the lepers, the young and the babies. An industry that thrives within the underbelly of the city.
However brilliantly this industry functions, I can’t help thinking that this is no life for anyone. Why should such a vast multitude of people be deprived of education and of the right to live with dignity?
What would you do if you didn’t have to beg anymore? What would it feel like to not wake up one morning and walk through traffic fumes and the noise pollution and not put out out your arm in appeal for money? What would you much rather do? You’d probably dismiss it as a naive question from an entitled person.
I do wonder often times. Sometimes from guilt. Sometimes from anger and sometimes from plain curiosity. Most times from apathy … as I watch and turn away when you come to my window.
I do wish this world could be a better place for all.
From an observer

Dear Herd,

You know, i would be fine with ‘herd mentality’ if it meant you held a collective belief in pursuing excellence, detail, professionalism, collective good, humanity, etc. Unfortunately, over a period of time i tend to associate you with mediocrity, pontificating, blame games and excuses. A glaring difference is the other’s attention to detail and your lack of it.

We have roads. Why worry if potholes come up ever so often?
We have amazing architecture, so what if our heritage buildings are untended and crumbling?
We have water, so what if its not drinkable in some parts?
We have designer outfits and locally made clothing, so what if its average quality or the colour runs after the first wash or the stitching comes apart?
We have a government, so what if some of them are corrupt or criminals at large or self serving individuals?
We have crime, so do all other countries.
We have entertainment, so what if we don’t have a culture of nurturing all kinds of talent. We are still one the biggest film making countries.
We have mangroves and forests, so what if we are consistently and methodically killing them bit by bit?
We have a vast population of women, so what if a large percentage of them are not encouraged to be educated or financially independent?
We have a large population of children, so what if we cannot provide them with education that makes them thinking, curious adults?
We have a rich tapestry of history, so what if we are hell bent on wiping out its existence?
We have rules and regulations, so what if many of them are outdated and irrelevant today?
We have a population of 1.2 billion people. That is our excuse at all times for the lack of systems, protocol and excellence. The day we harness this resource and bring in a culture of pride and ownership we will see change for the better. 50% of our population is under the age of 25. Our hope. Our future. Till then … kaam toh chal hi raha hai.

With much contempt.
Quality

Dear Opinion

I’m feeling very confused with so much of you floating in the airwaves around me.

My evening tv time is assailed by multiple Points of View at volumes that threaten my sanity. I cower behind the sofa as the volume of the tv set is increased to make sense of a very loud person who is always talking over other loud people. I don’t even understand why all of them talk so much. This is family time but its ruined by this person who insists on yelling the house down. Its also very contagious because very soon everyone in the living room is also yelling at each other and walking off in a huff or pouring a drink to marshall their arguments. I get ignored in all of this and its a bit unfair. I have an opinion too.

My opinion is that while its good to chew on a bone its much more fun to bite into a juicy steak.
High Blood pressure is caused by yelling and listening to people yell.
I don’t like diwali crackers
I love my family even though i’m forced to tolerate a lot of their shortcomings
I believe my family is being trained by me and not the other way around, as they would like to believe
Opinion is subjective
Belief is subjective
Fact is not fiction
Stick to the facts
Reality is perception of fact as you see it
It is not an interpretation of fact as you would like it.

I would like to offer this advice FOC. I know no one will take it because once you’re addicted to junk, you are sunk.

I will now trot off to fetch my leash and urge my master to get off his couch and get some exercise. The oxygen will help his poor, deadened brain cells to stutter back to some form of life … even if its temporary.

from the wise one
Called BEAST for some reason

Dear Planet Earth,

I live in a tall building with many many floors. 35 floors. I stay on the 25th floor. Its very high. I look out from my window and i see the metro and many buildings. The sky is grey and ugly. The trees are downstairs but they are 5 or 6 only. I have a dog. He is a beagle. My friend has a turtle and goldfish but they keep dying. I cannot see stars every night but i know they are there. My mother says my dadu is a star. I play in the park with friends but there are mosquitoes so i have to go home soon. Sometimes i watch tv with my aunty but its very stupid. One time i saw a fat woman and her choti was growing long and then she was putting that choti around another aunty’s neck and they were fighting. I don’t think the director had money to make proper special effects … thats what my father told me.

Today, my father showed me a documentary. Is it true that we are being unkind to you? We are cutting your trees, fighting for your oil, killing all the forests and animals? We are making factories and their poison is going into your lakes and seas? It is also making the air bad? Is that why i cannot see the stars at night? We are doing many bad things and you are giving us ‘time out’ but we are not listening. When i don’t listen to mummy and papa then i get a black mark and i don’t get my sunday treat. You know what it is … i get to go to the big park in Delhi and play with my dog oscar. I fight all the bad men. They hide in the trees so I carry all my guns with me and then i shoot them. I have to protect my mummy and papa. Oscar goes mad in the park. He likes to run around and meet all the other dogs. If i don’t go to the park on sundays i get sad and oscar also is sad. I try to be good so i can go to the park.

If humans are not listening to you then if you punish them they will also listen. My mummy says there are consequences for every action. Its a big word i know very well. If i do and say good things then there are good consequences. If i do and say bad things then there are bad consequences and i have to take responsibility for my actions. So the same thing should happen to adults also. They are big and know so much. Don’t they know if they are doing bad things to you then there will be bad consequences?

I am writing to you because i don’t think you know all this. You should not let people bully you. Or be bad to you. You can give them a black mark and don’t give them their treats. They will also learn that only good actions have good consequences. Please write to me if you are sad or want me to help you. I am very good at fighting bad people. I have to go now. I have to eat so i can become strong and big like my father.

your friend
A small boy with super powers

Dear Diwali Collectorate,

I love this festival. Its pretty. Cheers you up to see all those ugly buildings dressed up in colourful lights and lanterns. That is, till the crackers start up and your members start making their rounds for their annual ‘blessings’.

The knocking on doors begins a week prior to and continues into the week following the actual diwali date. I open the door to be assailed by a WIDE SMILE of the following …. the chowkidar (on behalf of the building security team), the cleaner (on behalf of 2 others), the newspaper delivery boy, the post man (on behalf of 4 others), the kiraana wala, the plumber, the presswala, the dog walker, the window cleaner, the painter, the nanny, the vegetable vendor and anyone I may have, in a moment of weakness, called home for some work. The smile is self explanatory. It means that the light of joy is lighting up the universe and now needs to light up my wallet to expend some green energy, pronto. I feel judged by the amount I hand out as ‘diwali shagun’ irrespective of the fact that i may be privy to their reincarnation for a brief moment at my doorstep … once a year.

There have been some innovations along the years. One that comes to mind is that of a man at the door with the society bill in a thaali. Let’s ignore the fact that its a bill. There is no mithai or deeya in the thaali. There is however a 500 rupee note and a 1000 rupee note, strategically placed in the thali for me to get the message. There is also a list of all society members, their flat numbers and the amount they have donated to the cause. The pressure to compete with the joneses creeps in. There are four things i can do.
1. Put in an amount larger than anyone else in the list to win the love and affection of the security guards and be famed for my generosity
2. In a perverse stroke of genius, give the least amount on the list and wait for people to call me ‘kanjoos’ ‘makhichoos’.
3. Put in the amount paid by the largest common denominator and feel cocooned in this mass mentality … popularly referred to as herd mentality.
4. Refuse to play along and instead help myself to the money in the thaali. I understand that this action may not endear me to you.
Overall, i prefer this direct and brazen approach by your members. There is no second guessing involved. It keeps the collectorate’s dignity intact. It keeps my humour alive. There are no blank stares or a lengthy, silent struggle to comprehend the underlying motive behind the ringing of the doorbell and the wide smile which refuses to waver. The adoring expectation in the eyes of your members fills me with guilt for feeling momentarily mean hearted when instead I should be filled with the desire to serve.

Every year as the festival approaches, I stock up on cash. As inflation increases I find the money in the wallet runs out quicker and I run to the ATM more frequently to keep up with this spirit of giving.

quaking in trepidation as the doorbell rings,
Happy Diwali
A beleaguered building occupant

Dear Builderji,

A big pranaam to you. I’m Krishna Apartments and I’m 6 years old. I am 6 floors in height. 18 apartments in all. No swimming pool. No squash courts. No annexe for parties and celebrations. No gym. Just a small, simple and peaceful building society with all apartments occupied and a view of the large open ground. My occupants are good, law-abiding citizens who bought my flats with their hard-earned money. They enjoyed 5 years of peaceful co-existence. But that’s all in the past.

Now, i have a new neighbour. Tall, grand, fancy with two storeys of car parking, two squash courts, an entertainment centre, a well equipped gym, a beautiful foyer with security cams and finger recognition software for members. They even have a cafeteria. Do i sound envious? Maybe a little but more than envious I’m feeling stifled, claustrophobic and unhappy. My inhabitants have all been taken by surprise by your 18 floor monstrosity because today 6 of the 18 families have no sunlight in their homes. Their windows look out at the building wall of your new Hamilton Parade, whatever that means!

I am now surviving under a big, black cloud. Everyone who made a home in me is today looking to abandon me. The family living in flat 102 made a distress sale and left in a hurry because their flat had become too dingy and damp and their daughter’s asthma resurfaced.

I’m writing to you to ask … what did you think when you spotted this plot of land and the government gave you permission to go ahead with your mammoth project? Did you even notice this small 6 storey building that you were about to eclipse with your grand design? Did you stop to consider the families that live here? What this would mean to them or to their daily existence? Who do these people turn to when their homes have just becomes dark, airless boxes? There is no insurance claim available because this cannot be termed a natural disaster or a force majeure. Who do they appeal to? Where do they go? What is their future? Why does no one give a crap?

Who will help?

sincerely,
Krishna Apartments,
crumbling in spirit and yet hoping for a miracle