Mukti Bhavan – In Search of Salvation

Mukti Bhavan and Masaan – now make companion pieces of sorts – Varanasi and the River Ganga playing a major role in both movies.

Mukti Bhavan titled Hotel Salvation for international releases is a powerful, poignant and bitter-sweet tale of the patriarch of a middle-class family and his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in his quest for salvation.

In Varanasi/Benares/Kashi – remains a hotel called Mukti Bhavan where those who seek their final journey find an abode. Our lead character Daya played by Lalit Behl is a 77-year old man who has lived a life, well-spent, he sees a dream that foretells his death and he decides to leave for Varanasi to spend his last days. His son Rajiv played brilliantly by Adil Hussain seems to work in some kind of bank or investment firm and is seen chasing sales targets. Rajiv’s wife Lata played by Gitanjali Kulkarni and daughter Sunitha played by the elegant Palomi Ghosh also add to the perfect portrayal of the slightly upper middle-class family structure. They own a car as well as a Bajaj scooter.

Rajiv manages to secure a fortnight’s leave and accompanies Daya to Varanasi and they check-in to Mukti Bhavan. The caretaker Mishra ji is  played by Anil K. Rastogi who has some brilliant lines – “Death is a process.” “The souls here reside within the body. Once the body dies what purpose does the soul serve here.”

At one juncture, Daya falls sick and everyone feels he will die. An elderly lady at Mukti Bhavan played by Navinidra Behl adds grace and charm to the tale, she quips – ‘I have been waiting all my life here to die.” Daya apologises to his son for scuttling his son’s talents and dreams of being a poet. Some real good father-son scenes and I am sure a lot of us guys will relate to these scenes. Daya survives, Latha and Sunitha also make a surprise visit. The 15 day period comes to an end and the caretaker says – ‘Register in a new name and continue to wait for salvation.’

Daya finds a friend and companion in Vimala, then Vimala dies and Daya narrates a moving obituary that he has written for her. Daya advises Rajiv to return to his regular life.

Do watch this movie to figure out what happens to Daya.

At times, amidst all the drivel and leave your ‘mind at home’ cinema that all the woods bombard us with – small little gems like these arrive and make us fall in love with cinema and real characters. By the time the movie ended, I was quite emotional, been some time since I cried after watching a movie; Mukti Bhavan makes me think a lot. My obsession with death, salvation and redemption continue. There are no answers, neither are there any new questions. Celebrate death, embrace it, that which needs to happen will happen.

Full marks to director – Subhashish Bhutiani for an assured, confident and meaningful debut.

 

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A Conversation with Mr. Y. Rajan

It seemed like any other day; the usual ablutions and chores and getting ready to board the train to the city that would take me to office; like every other working day! The station was unusually crowded and I decided to wait with other people all awaiting the train. In the distance, I could see the suburban train making its way gently down the tracks and approaching the station. I was preparing myself to get into the Vendors compartment; it was spacious and offered standing space when compared to the regular compartment, which would be jam-packed in the early morning office rush hour. It was then that I heard a voice, “Mahesh, wait, your time will come!” I turned around looking to see who it was that was speaking to me in a cryptic tone. I could not spot anyone whom I knew and before I knew it the crowd on the platform rushed forward to find a place in the train. I had lost my moment and let it go as I saw people getting into the already crowded locomotive. The voice repeated – “Mahesh, good, the next train will be here in five minutes; get into the third compartment!” Now this was turning perplexing and I was wondering if someone from college had turned up and decided to play a prank on me. I then wondered how I could think that way; as everyone had left for their own safe pastures and built their own destinies forgetting the band of brothers that had remained such a powerful force in college.

I dismissed all thoughts and decided to read the newspaper till the train arrived.  The voices continued – “Mahesh.. compartment three!” The previous night I had been reading a horror tale and I guessed my mind was working over-time and I was hallucinating. The next train came as communicated and for some inexplicable reason I walked into coach three and guess what it was empty. Never in all these years of train travel had I found an empty coach in an EMU local during the office rush-hour. As I made myself comfortable at the window-seat, the train resumed its journey and before it would pull out of the platform; a man boarded the compartment. He was tall, clean-shaven and dressed in black despite the overpowering humid heat that made one sweat uncomfortably!

He walked straight up to me and smiled and said – “Hi Mahesh, glad that you made it!” It was the same voice that I had heard a few minutes ago! I was positively scared now and pinched myself to make sure that I was not dreaming. My next thought was this was some prank show shoot that was being arranged by some local television channel and I was the victim for the day! I smiled back and said – “Hi! Do I know you?” He replied – “Well you do! You have been asking yourself a question lately – I am here trying to answer it!” I tried to check if there was a small camera or microphone on his black silk shirt but could not find anything. The train stopped suddenly; I stared out the signal was glowing red; an express train crossing perhaps!

I turned back at the man trying to place a name to a face and recollect if this was someone from the past, another lifetime, perhaps! No, nothing registered in my mind and I continued to speak to the man – “What question? Sir, I don’t know who you are and how did you know my name and how could I hear your voice in my head; were you at the station?”

“Ah, Mahesh, you have too many questions; can you shut your eyes for a moment?” Now this was creeping me out! Was this some robber? All I had was my well-used phone on me, some money about two hundred odd, the trusted silver chain around my neck and a book in my bag and of-course my lunch. Now why would a robber target me for all this! Lo and behold, for some inexplicable reason my eyes closed! The voices returned; and try as much; I could not open my eyes they seemed to be stitched tightly shut!

“Mahesh, I am Rajan – I am Time, your continuous questions, pathetic writing on your blog in the guise of desperate verse, all pondering on the inevitability of death and the misery of life are just pure torture. Do you think anyone wants to read your drivel about an existential crisis? Do you think you are the only one with problems? Yes, I know it has been a hard life, a struggle, lot of failures, wrong decisions, unfair misunderstandings; I know; but for the love of God snap out of it! Your death is not going to be so soon and mark my words it won’t be an easy one. Stop writing drivel, stop all this self-pity disguised as blog posts and pathetic all-knowing philosophical hogwash on Facebook and Twitter. Stop making a bloody fool of yourself. You will die, when I will want to get you! So open your eyes now and goodbye!”

The train resumed its journey with a sudden jerk. I opened my eyes and there was no one in front of me. Mr. Rajan had vanished without a trace. I felt my trouser pocket, my phone was in place, I felt my shirt pocket, my season-ticket and money was there and a new addition, a black feather was in the pocket. Well I am no ornithologist but the feather seemed strangely alien; smooth as silk the central spine was blood-red in colour. The EMU eased into the next station and I saw a bunch of familiar faces enter the compartment. I was relieved, this wasn’t a dream or an elaborate prank. I felt a strange sensation as my mind replayed the voice of Mr. Rajan telling me – “You will die, when I will want to get you!”

The train increased its speed and as I stared out of the window I wondered, what would this whole episode mean???

Status Update

I sought pardon,

For my sins,

In lives gone by,

And this existence.

I found refuge,

In temples, mosques,

Monasteries and churches.

In mountains and caves,

In rainforests in the heart of darkness.

Rituals and ceremonies,

To appease the higher power,

Whichever name you choose to ascribe.

The tests and struggles that everyone faces!

Either makes them stronger or breaks them down.

Every single time when I hit trough bottom.

I fought, for I believed, I had a chance.

An obligation to survive, because I was accountable to my mother.

To make her world and life as happy as possible.

Today, as I observe her in a drug-induced stupor.

We fight ailments known and unknown.

I am powerless to help her,

All I can do is to take her to hospitals.

Follow medication and diets as prescribed.

Still there is no clear solution.

No proper answers, the battle,

For a good night’s sleep,

Was lost long ago!

I keep my eyes shut tight.

But the ears remain steady,

Waiting for the slightest moan or cry.

I don’t know what I have turned into.

A robot who mechanically,

Continues to go about his chores.

My employers have been patient.

Helping in anyway possible.

Friends, a handful, call or message.

Fragments of a family scattered around the world.

A few good souls still keep in touch.

What lies next? I don’t know,

The charade of positivity,

Of hope and good things,

All remain mere masks.

I hope I find answers.

I hope things change, for the better.

I have just one reason left,

To continue this struggle.

As that reason too, disintegrates,

Bit-by-bit, cell-by-cell.

The tunnel of darkness,

Seems to beckon me.

If tomorrow comes.

We shall meet again.

Trapped

I walked down,
The narrow streets,
Of the Evening Bazaar.
A shop caught my eyes.
In a 5 by 5 enclosure,
An enterprising young man,
Had set up a shop,
With cages all around,
There were birds,
With feathers of varying hues.
Blue, Green, Yellow,
The plumage was a feast for the eyes!

But were the birds happy?
They were scared!
Tired, hungry and angry,
Looking for someone,
To buy them and set them free,
Or probably offer grain and water,
With love, care and affection.
They conversed in low chirps.

As I stood for a while and pondered,
I wondered, am I any different?
Trapped in doing something,
For a living – without a big choice!
The SMS alert from the bank,
Every month reminding me of the EMIs,
The happiness of the salary-credit,
Being overlapped by the splitting,
Of expenses all around!

The rising medical bills,
The growing costs of grocery,
Lesser and lesser interaction,
With friends in the real world,
Being replaced by bonhomie,
On Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
I wonder!! How elegantly I am trapped!!!

A vicious cycle is this –
That has no signs of redemption.
When was the last time,
I smiled honestly, without fear or pain?
When was the last time,
I attended a social event,
Without worrying about the ticking clock,
And the long commute home??
When was the last time,
I stopped worrying about an aged parent?

The mountain of worries and fears,
Piles one upon the other.
Neither is there peace within,
Nor confidence outside!
Like a wolf caught in the glare,
Of powerful headlights from an SUV,
I stand dazed on an icy path,
In the treacherous forest path!

As the clock keeps ticking,
I continue to question my choices,
Of having let go of opportunities,
Of having accepted challenges,
Of realizing that nothing,
Nothing at all matters,
And one is only as good,
As the last published post!

This urge to break free,
To bid goodbye,
To this false sense of security,
Is rising, the head throbs,
There is this intense frustration,
That builds into a castrated rage,
That seeks an outlet of release!

I am trapped, well and truly trapped!
And that’s the only truth!!
That’s the only truth!!
Perhaps, tomorrow, may offer hope!
Hope is the only emotion,
That offers comfort of any sort!
Hope is a good thing,
Despite being brutally trapped,
Hope is a good thing!

Everyone Leaves

Eventually, we bid goodbye,

To friends, family, loved ones,

Treasured possessions, jobs, colleagues,

Books, pets, memories,

We bid goodbye!

The parting at times, is pleasant!

Most often it is extremely bitter!

Eventually it all boils down,

To one pertinent question.

Did you make a positive difference,

In anybody’s life, with your words and deeds?

Did you just take,

Without sharing and giving?

Everyone leaves,

One day or the other,

Everyone leaves us!

Someday we will also leave,

Everyone else, leaving memories,

Of times well-spent and of angry spats.

Eventually we all bid goodbye to each other!

 

Of Questions and Answers!

Where are the answers?
My questions,
Do they even reach you?
My prayers – do they,
Have any conceivable value?
Is not the price,
That I continue to pay,
Every passing moment,
Sufficient proof,
Of my loyalty to you?

The clock continues,
To do its duty.
It ticks, every second,
Joining hands to make a minute.
The minutes turn into hours,
The hours into day and night.
But I remain clueless,
Without any answers!

Gently the light,
Of the setting sun,
Seems to caress,
The gaps between,
The curtains, twilight is upon us.
We seem to have nothing,
Constructive to do,
Destruction, death, illness and rot,
Of the body and the soul,
That’s all that remains.

Of people, busy in their,
Own little cocoons,
Glued to the notifications,
That pop in and out,
Glowing in coloured hues,
On their smartphones.
In this mad-rush of humanity,
Somewhere, someone, has the answers,
To all my questions!!!

Filling the Blanks

You sit staring at the monitor,

You have so much to write,

Then you wonder – what difference,

Is this going to make,

Other than turning into –

Yet another silly rant!

So you just type,

Inconsequential stuff-

Like this and pray that the mind,

Finds its fulcrum soon.

How am I going to fill,

The blanks that are there,

In my heart?

In my mind?

No answers, just blanks!

Joined together to form a loop,

From which I see no light!

How do I fill these blanks??