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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Hope and a Little Sugar

Well we are into the seventh month of 2016. A phenomenal year in many ways. More final farewells, more of marriages of friends, making new friends, separation from a lot of friends and life goes on. Cheated death again, and kept wondering, one moment was all to have ended everything! Reality of life – don’t chase a dream – a person or an ideal – that is never meant to be yours! Or rather – chase a dream – a person or an ideal – if you are sure you know them properly!

samarpanam.jpg

Nothing has changed,
I look back at,
Scribbles in my diary,
From a decade back,
The pain, the doubt,
The anger and the loneliness,
Is as deep as it always was.

Illness is taking a huge toll,
My mother’s psychological trauma,
Is manifesting into too many,
Physical worries and health problems,
The doctor says she has to stop worrying.
She says she does not worry.
She just exists!

I am at a loss for words,
Going about in circles,
From one doctor to the other,
Setting a pattern in medicines,
To offer some relief,
Nothing has changed,
Other than the fact that we are now alone.

It’s been about five years now I guess,
Dad’s in his own world,
Happy with his bottle of rum,
Wearing a cloak of divinity,
And going about on yatras!

Everyone is happy,
In their own little worlds,
Am I happy?
I don’t know.
Am I sad?
I don’t know.

When someone asks me –
How are you?
I have started to say-
“I am alive!”
It cuts down other queries.

Prayers, rituals, ceremonies,
Visiting temples, searching for tranquility,
Churches, mosques and monasteries,
Nothing offers clarity,
If there was a God,
Would there be pain?
Would innocent children die?

Rambling away and away,
Like a drunken,
Old monk – I write aimlessly,
She lies in front of me asleep,
I wonder – where did I go wrong?

Breathe in and breathe out,
And returning to reality,
All these questions are pointless,
Life has to go on.
The bills have to be paid,
The EMIs have to be paid.

No travel, no merry-making,
Point A to Point B,
Life like a pendulum,
Goes back and forth.

After so many stanzas,
You dear reader,
If you are still reading,
Thank you,
May God bless you!

Probably the annual report,
May offer a glimmer of light,
Some happiness and joy,
Instead of this boring,
Dull, dry and sad verse.
Hope….that’s all that remains!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

My timeline on Facebook is flooded with sentimental posts, pictures and quotes all celebrating motherhood. How does one define one’s relationship with one’s biological mother, or the mother who adopts us, or teachers who become mothers and guide us? It is very difficult to define this bond.

When a lady bears you in her womb, goes through hell to deliver you bearing a whole lot of pain; a part of her dies to bring you into this world. That umbilical cord that binds you to your mother is a special bond! In times gone by when adventures on the high seas and travelling by ship was the only way to discover new lands, umbilical cords were coveted among sailors as a lucky charm to keep them safe. Sailors believed that the cord would keep them safe, the cord was fashioned into a charm or amulet and worn by sailors!

There are some close people whom I know who share an angry relationship with their respective mothers, it is out of distrust and misunderstandings that snowballed into a rift boosted by the egos of the parties involved! I have had the task of setting alight the funeral pyres of distant cousins and family friends as the son/daughter in question was stuck abroad and could not make it to India in time for the last rites. I have had people breaking down to me over Skype and on the phone; cursing the very moment they chose to go abroad! I had a friend who said, “Mahesh amma oda pavizha-kallu padicha mookuthi irukkum da, adha mattum yaenakki anuppi vei da! I want it to keep reminding me that I let her down!” Incidents like these are many! There was the best friend of a time gone by who completely ended up a “penn-koandhan” toeing every line his wife said and ditched his mother in an old-age home; she died broken-hearted! The idiot just came and completed the last rites; when he lit her pyre that’s when he broke down completely! “Matchaan, thappu panitaen da, paeriya thappu panitaen, Meena pinnadi sithi ipidi vitutatenae yaen Amma va! Paava manippaey illai da yaenakku!”

It becomes a worry for me if my mother fails to answer the phone! Morning once I reach office, I call and confirm she is fine, evening once I step out of office I call her again. There have been times when she would be in a drug-induced sleep and would not answer the call, I would worry a hundred different things and keep calling every ten minutes till she would reply.

I have let go of many opportunities for her. There have been numerous wedding proposals that have come through! Without batting an eye-lid the girl’s parents would ask – “Amma va vittu thanni kuduthanam varanam thambi!” I would say – “Nadakaratha sollungo, ponnu ku vaera maapalai a paarungo saar!” Friendships that could have blossomed into something more concrete and and an actual love story; got cut short! Opportunities to go abroad have been sacrificed!

When an entire clan stood against us, asking us to give one more chance at redemption (after umpteen earlier chances), I firmly put my foot down and was in a way black-listed by a whole group of “well-meaning relatives”. We battle, every day, within and without, illnesses, medicines, food, cooking, choice of fruits to be offered to the Lord for prayers!

We battle every day with each other and others.. life goes on!

One wonders if it was all worth it??

All I want to tell you readers out there is – “Some battles are worth it and some battles are not worth it!” Don’t end up doing something that you will regret all your life. One day you will have to set your closest ones free! So cherish this moment with them!

Tomorrow may not come….

 

F for Father, Where art thou?

As many of my readers know, I share a deep, unexplained feeling of hatred for my father. I have written enough on how he ruined our lives (my mother’s, my sister’s and mine). I am not going to write again about all those troubled years. This post is a reflection on what drove him to what he turned into.

A young boy in a distant village in Kerala, the first child in a family of five siblings, finishes his Class X and lands in a slightly larger village and joins a restaurant as a server. He sends money the money that he earns to his parents and then he sees an advert in the newspaper and goes to a naval recruitment fair. He clears all exams and starts his journey. Even today, when at times, I am messed up in my head and yearn for that bit of paternal affection, I take out an album, it has my father in his naval uniform with his medals. How smart and dashing he looked, I am sure many a maiden’s heart would have fluttered. He had the looks of a dashing Errol Flynn. By a weird twist of fate, his scheming parents marry him away to a young girl who studied just till Class VIII. A marriage which the  old man (my paternal granddad) thought would help his other children. Life all those eons ago would have been strange, a young couple, a cramped house, scheming in-laws, jealousy, anger, madness! It was a match made in hell.

With many years of service in the Navy and a fair bit that’s classified, somewhere my father lost it and took to the bottle. It was a life-long struggle that eventually ruined him to not even a shadow of his strengths. My father would work in many leading firms across India and even in the Middle East. A fair bit of his life in Mumbai and in Sharjah is shrouded in mystery. He would never tell us anything. Gifts, once in a while, some money wired through, a greeting card with a message would land up. When we made one final attempt at reconciliation, we knew it was doomed, but we still tried. It did not work!

I have gone on and on about him failing in his duties, as one grows up, I wonder, have I failed him too? Deep reflections within are not going to give me answers. I have forgiven him a bit for all that he has done to us. It is my destiny to remain like this and his to remain the way he is! At some point this circle will end and then I can set him free once and for all. Till then, there is no peace for any of us! That inkling of dread, that bit of fear, that phone call confirming my worst fears may come in any time. Then I would have to claim him and cremate him. The same holds true for my mother as well. With the dreaded curse, which I have of visions into the future that I can’t control, I know both their times are nearing and I have to mentally prepare myself for setting them free.

Perhaps, at least in another dimension of time; let them stay happy!

Appa

I never knew,
The warmth or the love,
That a father would shower,
On his child.

Growing up as a loner,
I would always,
Hate people who would ask me,
Where is your father?

I could never answer the question,
Because I frankly,
Did not know the answer.
I just had a hazy memory.

Of a very fair-skinned man,
With a thick moustache.
Those were all the memories.
That I had.

Growing up in a relative’s house,
One could never confide,
One’s innermost secrets.
Amma is amma and some things,

Well boys cannot say to their mums.
Nor to their sisters,
The joy of coming first in class,
Winning an essay competition.

Participating in the quiz-competition,
Coming first, getting a prize,
From the principal,
These are all cherished moments.

I wished you were there,
Next to me; cheering my small victories.
Instead when I finally meet you,
What do I find????

A demon – nothing more and nothing less,
Just a rank nuisance-causing individual,
Who never cared about his family.
You knew only one God – ‘the bottle’.

There have been times,
When I wanted to thrash you,
And kick the living daylights,
Out of your drunken stupor.

I kept calm,
Admitted you in rehab,
But of what avail?
You ran away!

It has been over four years now,
You don’t realize,
The irrepairable damage,
That you have inflicted on me.

I write this with immense sadness.
When my friends have,
Their dads as their heroes,
What do I have?

Nothing….!!!