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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Maanga-Oorga {Mango-Pickle}

I started a novel called Rangu – This is an independent short story starring Rangu that will hopefully be a chapter in the novel somewhere in the many chapters in my mind and hopefully will get typed or written in a a notebook.

The summer would start in its intensity in early March itself. If we were lucky, the rain-gods would shower a bit of their bounty in the end of February, a gentle calm before the intense summer-wave that would envelop us for the next four months. Once those showers in February would cool the earth; we would set out to the ‘maan-thoppu’ – the mango orchard. The zamindar’s property stretched across the length and breadth of the seven villages to the east of the River Bhadra. The mango orchard was strategically placed right at the end of the boundaries of our little village. Meena and I would go to the orchard. Shambu thatha was the caretaker at the orchard, he would break into a smile on seeing us and say “Rangu Swami, Meena yaejamani vaango’ {Come Rangu Sir and Princess Meena}.

The rains on the gentle earth, the fragrance that linguists now call ‘petrichor’ would permeate the air. There were flowering shrubs of hibiscus, jasmine and some wild forest-flowers as well. We had the permission to pick all the fruits that had fallen down in the overnight rains. I had a sack that I would stuff with the green mangoes, some would have ripened and the sweetness of the fruits as we bit into them and talked and walked back home.

Once Meena would be left at her house, I would walk down to our humble hovel.  Amma would wash all the green mangoes in luke warm water. Then I would wipe them clean in an old white veshti that belonged to Appa; a memory of which I had no proper recollection. The mangoes would be wiped dry and then Amma would hand me the ‘aruvamanai’ a slicer set in a wooden frame. You need to slice the mangoes in a specific way and ensure that the seed did not get into the way of the sliced mangoes. It takes practice and having observed Amma slicing them for so many years, I naturally set about assisting Amma in the kitchen. Studies did not work out, the fees, the situation, the need to cross the river to reach the town; were all too many troubles for a young widow and her son. By Mama’s grace we were allowed to set up a tiffin stall outside the temple and I would help Amma there and also assist in cleaning the temple premises, ringing the bell, washing the temple vessels and other such stuff that kept the fire running in our kitchen. Every day and night Amma would tell me – “Rangu, you are destined for bigger things; keep working hard, Eashwaran will show us the way!”

The mangoes would be sliced and then be placed in a huge jar of salt and chilli powder. The jar would be sealed tight with a white cloth and for five days the sun in all its intensity would bestow goodness to the jar of sliced mangoes. On the sixth morning, Amma would get a huge cast-iron cheenchatti (heavy-bottomed cauldron). The sesame oil would take its time to heat on the wood-fired oven. Amma would then add mustard, as it would crackle, then she would add freshly ground red chillies, fenugreek seeds, turmeric and asafotedia and stir the potent mixture and then would come the moment of glory when the sliced mangoes would be added. Then my next task of gently stirring the mixture with a wooden stirrer would start. The smoke would be cumbersome but the fragrance of the spices and the green mangoes would be enough to bear all the smoke and water that would seep out of my eyes. Amma would know the exact time when the mangoes would have been cooked sufficiently and she would supervise the stirring at intervals and tell me when to stop and ask me to extinguish the fire. After a while the cauldron would be removed from the oven and kept to cool, covered with the banana leaves. The steam kissing the banana leaves and then again returning to the mangoes in the cauldron would impart a distinct flavor to the pickles. They would then be packed in glass jars. As per custom, the first three bottles would go to Zamindar Ayya’s house and Amma would give the first bottle to Meena. Then the remaining bottles would be sent to the houses from which the orders would have come for Annaporani’s pickles. Amma was fondly known as Annapoorani. It was a matter of pride and common knowledge that no one had ever left hungry from our house, in even the most desperate of times.

FAST FORWARD TWENTY YEARS

Zamindar Ayya had sent us an invitation and I was happy to know that I would be able to meet Meena after all these years. The little pony-tailed girl has grown into a beautiful princess, college-educated and a doctor. A matter of great pride for all of us! The first person from our village to have become a doctor. The wedding is in Madrasapattanam, people say the city is called Chennai; but for old-timers like me it will always remain Madrasapattanam. The blue coloured-nool-pattu saree with the mango pattern was ready to be gifted with the sacred kumkumam from the Devi-Sannidhi. What else? What else could I gift her??

I looked at Amma’s portrait in the swami-room. I kept the invitation next to the portrait and spoke –“Amma, Meena’s getting married! I could almost sense her presence and all of a sudden I could smell mangoes cooking in spices! Yes, that’s it, I would give her a bottle of pickles as well. Let me see, if she remembers me!!

The wedding was conducted at a massive mandapam, there were over 4,000 guests and it was a busy affair with all the big city-people talking on their mobile phones and clicking selfies. When I reached the mandapam, the rituals were already underway and at the appointed auspicious moment the thaali was tied. Meena looked resplendent the bride all attired in the ceremonial yellow silk saree and gold jewellery. The groom was a doctor as well and the couple looked lovely together. The big city folks and the family-members handed over their gifts to the newly wedded couple. Zamindar Ayya spotted me in the crowd and beckoned me to come up on stage. I felt a bit embarrassed; the country-bumpkin with his yellow cloth bag and khadi shirt and kaavi veshti. Ayya asked Meena – “Do you remember him?” Meena stared at me befuddled. I took out the mango-pickle bottle and a rush of memories flooded through Meena’s eyes and her eyes turned moist as she said – “Rangu!!!  Maanga Oorga”

The Butterfly and the Poet

Where did this journey start?
Well the scribbles on the wall,
When I was just a toddler,
Growing into the kid,
Who ate the chalk,
With which he was supposed to write!
That’s the one – I believe!

One writes as it is a part of life.
The emotions bottled up within,
Need to find an outlet,
Gratification by others plays a small part.
The writer writes,
For he is like the butterfly in love,
That knows it has a short life span,
But is still madly in love!

The poet writes,
Knowing he is a failure,
A dejected, rejected, forlorn,
Individual, seeking comfort,
In memories of a love,
That never was,
Friends who have long ago,
Forgotten him and gone on,
To achieve success and glory.

The poet sits,
Looking at the notebook,
The fountain pen,
No longer oozes ink,
Just blood…
Life goes on..

We write, because we need to write!

NaPoWriMo – 1 – What happened?

This is an attempt to put in a month’s worth of posts – lines – masquerading as verse – blank or free or hogwash and humbug, I leave it up to you.
I don’t have too many friends.

My inner circle is very tightly knit.

A guy and a girl, as good as my younger brother and sister.

Are/Were (only they can tell) in this group.

I would gladly kill for either of them.

They were the best of pals.

Inspiring each other, complementing each other.

We need to realize that a grown man and woman, can still remain friends.

It hurts me to no end,

To see them breaking up their beautiful bond.

No one tells me anything!

Like an old uncle, I am kept away,

From the chaos that has spread like wildfire.

It has reached a point, where they will,

Tear each other apart!

Still – I wish time would heal.

And they would remain good friends.

True Friends in the Time of Facebook Drama Queens and Kings

One wonders if real friends,

Real friendships exist any more?

Everyone seems to be seeking,

A drug called self-gratification.

The number of likes, shares and comments;

Begin to define bonding now?

You ask a question,

Out of genuine care,

I reply, you acknowledge it please.

Stop generating sympathy for yourself,

You are an adult, not a nursery kid.

If you have self-created problems,

You can very well, self-solve them.

If it is a problem caused by someone else,

Face them, need help, call, will be by your side.

Don’t create a drama worth a Shakespearean tragedy,

And then chicken out and refusing to confront your fears,

And make me look like a filtered idiot of the first order.

Friendship works two ways. 

Friendship is not sitting and watching reruns of Friends and sharing old jokes.

Life is an open door, stay if you want.

If you wish to go, leave.

Stop creating a scene and portraying yourself as a martyr.

Every single person is going through a battle of one’s own.

One doesn’t want more drama!!!

Who is a friend?

Look into the mirror,

Smile at that reflection.

Only you can be your friend.

A Ronin in the Twilight

 

ronin

Image Courtesy — Myth-Weavers

Tried to run a bit,

Gasped for breath,

Attempted to do push-ups,

Fell flat on the floor,

Thankfully nose did not get crushed,

Aimed to handle some weights,

Every muscle is stinging in pain.

The mirrors that are placed,

In the gym as walls,

Stare back at me – taunting,

Mocking me with scorn.

I wonder – what am I doing?

Was this the same individual?

How did so many disconnected incidents,

Turn to conspire and join hands,

To break me into this hopeless nut-case.

The gloves that used to adorn the hands,

Lie sealed in a cover,

There are a truckload of memories,

They all come rushing back.

The pain, the anguish, the scars,

That adorn the body, like laurels,

Burn at times, kindling a violent life,

That I keep running away from,

How long, how far, till what point?

Nothing makes sense,

I sought to find comfort in the written word,

That too evades the faculties,

If the body feels tired,

The mind weakens with scarier intensity,

I dread the day, when I will board,

The wrong train and land in some remote village.

There was a time,

When I would finish a novel in a day,

Now reading one book,

Requires immense patience,

Distractions are too many,

Worries and fears cloud the mind,

Nothing gives joy, nothing offers light.

There has to be a way,

To break free of all this chaos.

What was the point?

Of penning all this down?

I am as clueless as you are!!!!

Till we meet again,

If we do meet again,

Sending all of you prayers and good wishes!

One Moment of Madness

Why is it that the heart still bleeds?
Despite knowing very clearly,
That this was never meant to be;
Why like a fool,
Did I even dare,
To walk up to you?

Despite knowing with all my powers,
That I am a loser and a failure,
And you would mock me for sure,
Why did I even choose to ask?
Once a fool, always a fool.
This is the irony of life.

All I did was make,
An enemy for life,
How fickle is the mind?
All it does is take one,
One idiotic moment,
To ruin everything!

Bitterness is all that remains,
It increases in quantum,
With every passing moment,
And nothing placates the anguish,
The pain within that burns the heart.
No end to this foolish charade…., no end at all!!!