Screened – Short Story, Fiction

Dear Naina,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in the SouthAsianYouthMeet, to be held in December. We look forward to having you with us and contributing with your ideas for a better world.
The venue is Islamabad, Pakistan and delegates from all over South Asia will be participating in this one week event, from 25-31 December.
We have attached further details of travel and stay, as well as the daily schedule, for your convenience.
We look forward to your participation!
Regards
SAYM Team
Peace in South Asia ~ The white bird flies ~

The first thing that greeted me on a lazy Sunday morning was this delightful text on my laptop’s screen.
I read and re-read, I could not believe it, I had been selected for a prestigious Youth Conference, where young leaders from all over South Asia would meet, share their ideas, plan for a better tomorrow. And I, Naina Sharma, would be representing India. This was too beautiful for me to believe. I pinched myself, yes it was indeed true.

I felt proud on being selected, proud of my academic accomplishments, proud of my organization that worked for peace, proud of the essay in the online application, which probably got me this opportunity; But my happiness went deeper than that. After all these years of dreaming, I was finally going to visit Pakistan, a nation that has intrigued me through history, through war, through messages of love, through politics, through the amazing dramas on television, through music and most of all through my grandmother’s (Dadi’s) nostalgia.

I wondered if any of her quilts would still be there, intact with the neighbours she often spoke of. I wondered if those neighbours were still there, their grand children, how many of them would there be? Their son had visited when I was much younger, and had carried some old photographs. Did Pakistan still look like that? I wondered whose lives I would experience when I visit Pakistan, I wondered if I would feel like a tourist or at home. Somewhere the task of changing the world took back-seat; I was searching for my roots.

Islamabad, Hmmm, now how far is this place from Multan. I used the Google Map to confirm and concluded that even though it seems manageable on the map, the harassment involved in permit was beyond my patience. Perhaps I could visit Dadi’s Haveli some other time.

I have borrowed from my grand-parents and uncles the romantic perception of Pakistan, which gets hurt each time I watch the news, is threatened when I watch biased documentaries on the internet, and is realistically checked when I read the many wonderful blogs maintained by some of my batch mates who had lived in Pakistan, with whom I studied in Singapore, especially the one maintained by Samira. Samira, my beautiful Samira.

I prepared a quick To-Do list on my cell phone since I could not locate my pen; I am surrounded by screens, all through the day, the night, and also in between. Anyhow, the list was as follows:
1. Call Dadi and inform
2. Ask Vinod Uncle for places that are a must visit
3. Inform Samira/Surprise Samira – decide
Before I could carry out either of the three, my mother came into the room and yelled at me for my Westernized lifestyle, greying hair, and lack of a boyfriend who could be a potential husband.

If only I could tell her about Samira, about how we had fallen in love, about how much we missed being together, but I dare not.

She would never accept it, and I am waiting for a miracle to take place.

In the meantime we would satisfy each other with Skype. Oh, what would I not do to have you come out of that screen secretly, if only I could touch the grace on your face and not that solid surface? It reminds me of the rigidity of our structures, reminds me of how you had cried bitterly on our convocation, fearing that we shall never again meet. I am reminded of our shared grief by this screen which separates and unites us at the same time, this screen, which keeps me connected with you all day, this screen which reminds me of how truly far you are, across the border, doing your research.

You are a Muslim, you are from Pakistan and you are a woman,

Just as

I am a Brahmin, I am an Indian and I am a woman.

It does not sound like any of the matrimonial statuses my mother keenly observes with my brother’s help on his laptop.

She has now put up my profile in the privileged section of special members, for a special son-in-law. He would have probably studied in Europe and would have come back to India, to live with his family, or he would be working day and night for a bank in the West. How perfect! Why does she not find such perfection in Priyanka’s husband? Why, because he works in Sri Lanka? Because he has not adopted a pseudo accent and works closer home? Because the photographs he shares show people who are not as fair-skinned as our once colonial rulers were?
And if she never wanted me to think as such and to live with the stereotypes she has so conveniently accepted, why did she allow me to get such education? Why did she herself ask me to question, to think beyond what I see, to enquire? I wish you too would read more Amma (mother), if nothing else, use your son’s laptop for a better purpose. You would at least witness the multiplicity of opinions; you would at least acknowledge that your truth is not the absolute truth. I wish I could tell you about this conference, but I won’t.

I went downstairs into my uncle’s room. Uncle Vinod was busy reading the newspaper. He saw me and kept it aside, he knew I was nervous and excited, both. I told him about the conference and my selection. He was overjoyed! He hugged me and asked me to tell him more, tell him about the participants, where all would I get to travel, how long it was. Even though I had made him read my essay on “Peace in South Asia” prior to my submission, I had kept the venue as suspense. Knowing that he would do anything to visit Pakistan, I was certain he would encourage me to go there no matter what.

I kept mum and then suddenly burst out, “I am going to Pakistan Uncle!! Can you believe this?”
My uncle’s smile faded. He patted me on my back and kept quiet. I had not expected such a reaction from him, not from him, at least. I searched for something in his eyes, he did not wish to disappoint me, but seemed to have no other option.

“Beta, don’t do this, do not go to Pakistan.”
“But…why? You yourself have told me so many stories, about your home, the kites, the food, the clothes, everything. I also want to experience that culture, which is also ours! You only said that to me!”
“Yes I did, but Beta this is not the right time, you have so many goals to achieve, and you cannot take such risk, of visiting Pakistan in your youth.”
“What are you saying? Oh God!! Are you scared of terrorism! Oh uncle, I can very well die here!”
“Shut up you fool! I am talking about your passport. You know you have to apply for US Visa next year; don’t you want to study further? Do you think you would get that Visa with Pakistan mentioned on your passport? NEVER!”
“This is ridiculous, I never expected you to say something as narrow minded as this. Why can’t I visit Pakistan for a peaceful cause? In fact that is such a good impression indeed. And if a country is so biased that they won’t allow me to enter because of this, I shall fight for my right!”
“Then keep fighting till your old age Beta, I wish you luck, I shall feel sorry for your incomplete education though.”

I stamped my feet, threw my phone and ran into my room. I could not come to terms with such discouragement on his part, with such firmness in his certainty of opinion. I could not accept the injustice of such a situation, I could not accept the fact that I was already faltering, and I could not bear with this never-ending separation from Samira.
I do not know when sleep took me in its embalming lap.

I woke up with the sound of a message on my cell phone. Someone had placed it back in my room. It had a few scratches on the screen. The message was from Samira,
“So you thought you would keep it a surprise  Junko called and asked me to see the list of selected participants. Congrats Love! Can’t wait to see you!! I can’t believe this is happening! We would be united, in peace, in love, in happiness! Hugs!”

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I scrolled up and down through the length of the message. I did not wish to believe the probable myth my uncle had introduced me to, but I feared missing an opportunity to study further, to broaden my horizon. I miss you Samira, and as much as I want to be with you, I am scared I am considering the conditions, I am already thinking of making choices, I am already experiencing a loss which has not yet occurred. We might be inseparable through these screens Samira, reality has but too many constraints.

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Internet and my History – a part fictional account of the reality of internet space in everyday life

Remember those chatroom days?

I very clearly do, it wasn’t very long ago, we were in school and would plan when to go to a neighbourhood cyber cafe. Yes, those were special occasions, and you went with special company. My friends would often self invite themselves to my place for a party, and after tiring ourselves, we would actually walk up to the plaza and spend half an hour or so in a chatroom, often sending silly messages to each other or mocking incredulous online avatars. We would refuse to chat with anyone from our own hometown, we did not want to chat to get to know people around us, we just wanted to chat to chat!

It was the idea of actually connecting to a live human being from somewhere apparently far off, somewhere else, that fascinated most of us, you type something, and you get a reply, and the person is not even here!

At times my mother also went along, just to keep a check on what I was up to. Fitted in a small cabin in a stinking underground space, she would be grumbling constantly on the wastage of time over virtual space; on some occasions she would be narrating a mail I would type using her id, to send to her distant relatives staying abroad. She could finally keep in touch and could apparently write an email from India too!

Very soon I got tired of answering fake “asl (age, sex, location)” to random people, it was indeed redundant, I narrowed down my conversations with people I genuinely knew, who existed in my life physically as well, or almost, and thus became a daily user of Yahoo Messenger. It Was thrilling. I would set up time with my elder brother, go to a cafe just to experience chat with him.

Yahoo Messenger opened new doors for me, for I suddenly found it very easy to express through the written word. I could say things I never even would imagine doing on face. This was great, a medium to express long-held resentment, a medium to share joy, and even a medium for courtship. Of course it could not replace that which is tangible, but this too certainly was real, very much real. It affected me emotionally, it altered my time-table, it became a part of my daily lifestyle. I would keep a slot for “internet” just like one for “food”, for “sketching”.

It was crazy. It was almost like having a parallel life running online. Every day, I thought of what status I would put up on messenger, something that years later I would do with facebook, it mattered to me. I loved the fact that these conversations were being stored, you could go back, reread, laugh, feel happy or fantasize about the next bit of conversation. It was perverse too, and at times romantic. I treated that history as sacred, for some people who mattered much, who I could not meet every day otherwise, who were living far away, who did not meet physically often. In fact there were some friends, with whom this was the only mode of communication left.

I would often wait for him online, when he would return home for holidays, i would know he was about to ping me online, he would, he would be there. It gave me butterflies in the stomach, that feeling which is yet to be replaced, I do not know what term to give to it, but I still cherish that anticipation, every bit of it.

By this time I had moved on from cafe, to a second-hand pc, and finally a laptop, and every year, on his return, we would chat. Those words would keep getting stored, and stored, like precious archives of my life. We rarely met, I did not even know what he felt, still do not know, neither did I tell him why i would chat with him for so long, but I just did. When he would be about to leave, I would want to hang on to that small window of chat and hope, for as long as I could, till the time it showed him offline; At times I would still wait for a while, to ensure, he doesn’t come back without me being aware of it, and if he does, then I am there to talk more.

When we would meet in a physical space which was rare, it was great, but there’s still something very naive and innocent about those conversations, how happy, positive and carefree were those.  i was much less conscious, and was completely enamored by his wit, I would try to imagine what his house was like, what his room looks like, what kind of sounds are there around him, how would he be looking while typing these sentences. I remember, once I was laughing so much while glued onto the screen that my grandmother got really worried, I even fell off the bed while typing. It is funny how I can recall very small details of many conversations online and I keep savouring those on days as these, when I miss him much. These days, when we rarely ever talk, these days when we are both engrossed in our lives, when we have both grown up to be adults that have lost that naivety, that excitement, and have probably moved on, from that which is not understood, but only could be fondly remembered, or perhaps humbly forgotten.

Yesterday I had this sudden urge to feel that anticipation once again, in those few seconds when the messenger is “signing in”. I no more use Yahoo and have lost the habit of rereading conversations, those are limited to an online storage, intangible old letters for me. I could not remember my yahoo password, after some effort and downloading the new messenger, I was being overwhelmed with nostalgia. I suddenly recalled a friend, in Dubai, with whom I have lost complete touch in the last few years, I was eager to find those conversations, a part of my life that I had left behind somewhere. I had that strong feeling in the stomach again, I was nervous and excited.

When it did open, I realized that there is no history saved anymore. It would start afresh. I cannot look at my life through chat in retrospect…

I felt numb.

Slowly I found myself engulfed in grief. I felt a sense of deep loss, that archive had almost seemed symbolic of things that form my past, experiences I might never have again, their only proof of existence, that history from my life, that history of my growing up years, my emotions, it is gone, wiped away.

I felt terrible and slept.

This morning I reflected on my reaction, and couldn’t help but be amused at how the internet is as much a part of my life as my own memory, as photographs, as text, as our old house is, and how a loss of data online has made me feel just as tragic a sense of loss as did shifting from our old house, as did the loss of my dog, as did the loss of childhood toys. My actions on the internet, my life here, is just as much real as anywhere else, its storage serves a significant purpose in my life. In a way, this erased text, for me acts as a catalyst to move on from yesterday. I wonder, if a virtual act of erasing, actually erases what was in real?I wonder if it is so for others, I wonder if he ever even read anything again, I wish he reads this blog someday, but even if he doesn’t, I might just continue to cherish that which was inside the old Yahoo Messenger, real messages of our exchange.

Reflections on Kai Po Che

This is not a review; these are just my humble (and personal) reflections on the several meta-narratives of “Kai Po Che”.  Watching this movie was a nostalgic experience for me, as I could relate its many instances with my lived experience of Ahmedabad.

Some of the elements that stood out and made me connect with the narrative are as follows:

Cafe Coffee Day

It was interesting to note that Govind took his friend Omi, who was just released from Jail, to Cafe Coffee Day, where sipping on cold coffee Omi delved into the past (flashback technique), the cricket commentary acting as a catalyst in the reminiscence, acknowledging its (cricket’s) constant presence in Omi’s and any average Indian’s life, directly or indirectly.

This made me reflect on how the Cafe Coffee Day outlets which were once a modern phenomena, have come to be internalized in the daily or usual practices of urban India, it is not unusual to go there for a coffee (by say someone from Middle Class economic background). No wonder one also gets Vegetarian or Chicken Tikka Sandwiches and Samosas along with the Latte’.

Since it is a non-conspicuous part of your newly grown consumption, it is perhaps normal to take your (just released from prison) friend for a halt there. Your stop would have been at a Chai stall maybe ten years ago, but with economic liberalization, your business has grown, your image and perception of consumption has changed. Perhaps this isn’t the sort of luxury, you assume, that could overwhelm your friend anymore?

 Also, the cafe was shown as brimming with people, which indeed has been my experience whenever I stepped into CCD at Ahmedabad. There would be customers varying from tourists to youngsters bunking tutorials or celebrating birthdays, professionals, couples and also groups of elderly men discussing resident welfare and development. However, these cafes face tough competition from the amazing coffee one gets at local cafes such as Danny’s! Also the experience which Omi probably had at CCD was much colder than he would have otherwise had at a more localized joint.

Secondly, it wasn’t a surprise that customers were watching cricket at CCD. The proliferation of LCDs displaying crude jokes and juvenile puzzles along with alienated music, has somehow never worked in creating a standardised ambience at most of the outlets I have been to. What does prevail is the choice of one visiting your outlet. Interestingly, the CCD outlet near Paldi, would often be playing religious (Hindu) channels in the morning, and a medley of Indian and Western music (re-mix) from the 80’s and 90’s, in evenings.

Ishaan 10

The Flashback which I mentioned above, took the audience back in time (to March 2000) where Omi was watching cricket with Ishaan at his home (Old Ahmedabad) . Ishaan’s Tshirt spoke volumes of the fascination and passion for cricket which a multitude of youngsters in India harness, and live with throughout their lives.

At the back of his T-shirt was his name with the number 10, signifying a cricketer, an aspiring cricketer, or an admirer of cricket. In either case, it is the kind of T-shirt one must have come across at least once in a lifetime (beyond the official players)  if they have lived in urban India  (enthusiasts in the bus, bikers supporting  India during tournament, audience in stadium, budding players in neighbourhood park cum field, studs in school sports period and so on).

I stayed as a Paying Guest in a tiny flat in Ahmedabad, and my landlady’s son would often sport a similar t-shirt, his name and number at the back. His fitness and practice were on the other extreme as compared to Ishaan though, but all that ceases to matter when sporting your love for the esteemed sport.

Religion

Religion emerged as an integral element throughout the narrative. The three protagonists were Hindus, where Ishaan and Omi belonged to deeply religious as also conservative households. The Pole in which Ishaan stays has a Jain white Mandir in close proximity of his house. Temples are often found maintained by particular families, or even within houses in Old Ahmedabad. These areas in Ahmedabad also serve as religious enclaves other than fostering close bonds within community.

What was interesting however were the different levels of religious thought the three portrayed in their characters. Omi epitomised the dangerous intertwining of religion and politics, which dominated his choices as well as rationale towards extremes. He personified the youth capable of being influenced in the desire for growth, development and power.

Ishaan reflected a more humane and of-age approach to religion which could be seen by others as utopia or foolishness also. Unlike Omi, he had no qualms in teaching a boy from the Muslim Community and helping them in times of need, even when he put his own life in danger for doing so. He seems to be a mix of youthful daredevilry and contemporary idealism; he dares to question as much as he loves to answer back in his impulsiveness.

As compared to both Omi and Ishaan, Govind seemed more neutral, pretty occupied with his own existence, survival, growth and consequential fears than particularly expressing thoughts on religion or God.

It would have been interesting though if the three weren’t Hindus. What would have the narrative been if Ishaan instead of the physically fit and agile, benevolent Hindu protagonist (helping Muslims in need and their leader in crisis) was a smart and strong Muslim youth?

There is a tension between the two opposing parties (Hindu dominated vs. Muslim dominated) which is referred to throughout the movie. I find it realistic, because irrespective of the discourses on inclusive growth and temperament, Ahmedabad often displays clear demarcations geographically as well as symbolically between the two communities which are indeed hard to miss. When Bittoo (Omi’s maternal uncle) goes to the Hindus for his political propaganda he greets them with “Jai Shri Krishna” which is symbolic of Hindutva beliefs and imageries. This form of greeting is a general trend in Ahmedabad across classes. In the movie however, one can clearly see posters of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, or other symbols, in the background often conflicting with the subtle presence of the Indian Flag and its suggestive secular nationalism.

Later in the movie religion exhibits a larger than life presence with its influence looming over political, communal as well as individual behaviours and reactions. The mobilising of sevaks and rioters is the dreadful reminder of loss of individual rationale in a mob, personified in Omi.

Dhanda

This pre-occupation with starting their own Dhanda/business amidst dreams of growth, would definitely find resonance in Amdavad.Where Gujarati’s and their sharp business skills are a general discourse, I have had the opportunity of interacting with people in professions varying from ironing of clothes to shop owners and landlords. And the most interesting insight which emerged from those conversations was the fact that most of them would handle more than one profession at a time, in fact multiple professions.

For instance: there was a small Dhaba where most of us (students and bachelors) would go for an economical and simple meal. The Dhaba owner would also rent rooms on the second floor of his house to students. Furthermore, he distributed newspapers in mornings and was also trained in quarantining your house from pests. In fact he epitomised the term “Jugaad” , for every need that occurred in his vicinity, he would attempt at a solution in his capability. This juggling of more than one thing is reflected in the shop owned by Omi, Govind and Ishaan in the temple area, where they handled tutorials, sports academy and also shop for sports goods.

Also, the idea of independence and self-esteem associated with your own work or Dhanda, is a very common expression in Ahmedabad.

Modernity, Sophistication, Growth

Once their “Sabarmati Sports Club” is established, the three friends begin to dream of a better life, a better shop (Though Omi had his reservations to that). Their desire to own a more sophisticated shop in Navrangpura Mall (Full AC) was an ambition as much theirs as that fuelled by the prevailing images of escalation. I place this in the context of Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project, and the rhetoric of development, world-class city and beautification that envelopes Ahmedabad. The idea to buy a shop in an upcoming mall is Govind’s, who though apparently wary, dreams of moving up in class hierarchies as well as pacifying his friends.

It was interesting to note, how towards the movie’s end, Omi is looking at the pitch from a space with transparent glass walls. The association of glass with achievement is reflected in most contemporary urban architecture.

Daaru and Diu

Daaru and Diu are indeed synonyms in Gujarat, where alcohol is officially banned. No wonder the three friends chose to go to Diu for some respite from the slowly enclosing captivity caused by their increasing reliance on Omi’s uncle. The conflict between reliance and freedom as well as their interdependence is well established when Govind reminds a drunk Ishaan that his philosophical rendering of temporary freedom was possible only through the money earned under reliance, thoughtfulness and dedicated hard work.

It was interesting to note the chemistry between the three. Where Ishaan chose to talk idealistically and behave impulsively, Omi would catalyse Ishaan’s emotions (mostly) than opine on his own. Both of them displayed lesser fear in spending their money than did Govind. He was more cautious (out of the three firends) and at times even petrified of the ambiguity that lay ahead.  However despite being mocked at or teased, he would hold his own, than give in to external influences (barring the love of friends and Vidya) as would Omi. Together, the three reflected the co-existence of fear and inertia with dreams and risks.

Vidya and Vidya

Ishaan’s sister Vidya, had many essential characteristics of a young woman in Ahmedabad. Her  sense of power, strength and straightforward criticism or wisdom reminded me of my land lady’s daughter. Her confidence in her sexuality as contrasted with her fear of pregnancy, could be related to, by most young women in Indian middle class.

Vidya’s scooty, was an essential part of her character. Scooty is not just a vehicle, scooty is empowerment, it is a form of asserting one’s right to mobility outside the walls of the house, on streets that anyways in Ahmedabad are not male dominated. I wonder if it was deliberate that in her moment of weekness (during her anxiety over erratic menstrual cycle), she was in an auto with Govind, being enclosed yet watched, and well aware of the gaze of the other (auto rickshaw driver).

Vidya could be dominating and also encouraging. She chose to date her brother’s friend (her tutor), while the latter was inhibitive for he feared his friend’s wrath and also societal norms. Their relationship bore evidencenot only to the hypocrisy and notions of morality surrounding sexuality, love and marriage, but also makes one reflect on the unspoken rules of bonding in men (bro-code?).

It seemed slightly stereotypical to have Vidya dislike Mathematics, what if she loved the subject and detested Biology? Why are her aspirations limited to marriage with Govind or fulfilment of her brother’s dream? She is supposed to be Mother Nature perhaps, because as much as she could reprimand others in their cowardice, she could soothe Omi during his repentance while sitting in the stadium.

The other Vidya: The prevalence of coaching and tuition centres was reflected, which is quite evident in most cities and towns in India. In Ahmedabad there was a vehement focus on English language during my stay.

Vehicle and Status

When they were holidaying in Diu, there is a sequence in the movie, where they are playfully riding in a new car which is one of the many being carried on an extended truck. At that point, Govind is sitting at the back seat and the other two are fantasising about the future, where Omi would help Ishaan start his sports Academy.

A car, especially the one where you still havn’t removed the covers from seats, is such a crucial benchmark, which proclaims that you have arrived. You are an esteemed member of the Middle class moving higher up. You own, possess, your own vehicle with four wheels. Many families wait for years together, and the day the car arrives, it is indeed a matter of celebration and joy, incomplete sans religious blessings. My landlady’s son bought a car from his salary and savings, I was treated to sweets prepared for the occasion, while the entire family went out to the temple and then for snacks. For years they had been managing to fit on a single scooter, and later sat divided on a scooter and bike.

In the movie, Govind drives his own car when he goes to receive Omi. Govind is dressed in a business suit, a far cry from the humble attire he adorns earlier. These seemed to be markers of a much desired status.

Friendship

The three protagonists portray different flavours and nuances of friendship not just with each other but also with other actors in the narrative:

The trio

They Shared their passion for cricket, which also leads them to starting Sabarmati Sports Club.

They displayed Complementary skills and temperaments, While Omi could get access to the shop and money, Ishaan was the trainer, and Govind handled the tutorials as well as the practical saving of money being earned. Where Ishaan could be carefree and Omi would follow suit, Govind would be more realistic and at times even paranoid. It was Govind who was attempting at convincing Ishaan’s father for lending them money to start business. They trusted each other for working together. They believed in the strength of their bond. While Ishaan made claims of giving life for friends, Omi spoke of starting a sports academy for Ishaan. Though Govind would not generally overspend or go out of his line, he did take calculated risks for his friends (trip to DIU). However, when Ishaan was at Ali’s place during riots, Govind risked his safety and went up to the Muslim community so that he could be with his friend.

They fought when differences of opinion arose. Once Ishaan seeked their forgiveness, Govind seemed to handle it with maturity as compared to Omi, who took a while to let go of his grudge. Omi’s character would often fluctuate. He could be persuaded by his uncle and the persuasiveness was not limited to the money they owed. From accessing power to revenge for his parents’ death, Omi could be swayed, unlike Govind and Ishaan, who stuck to their rationale. Even though, Govind’s character is shown as slightly nervous or under confident, he emerges as more stable of the three.

Repentance, Having shot at his own friend, and having spent years in prison, Omi is overwhelmed at the forgiveness he receives from Govind and Vidya, at the realization of his loss, and also the continuance of his friend’s existence (Govind and Vidya’s son + Ali’s career in cricket).

Vidya, backup friend

Govind’s friendship with Vidya gave him a space to vent out what he couldn’t directly say to his friends. She encouraged and motivated him to fulfil his dreams, to be himself. Also, she reminds him to not be judgemental about his friends, she is indeed a positive influence in his life. It was not surprising though to witness Govind’s inhibitions in dating his friend’s sister (as mentioned earlier).

The tutor and his Tedhi

The camaraderie between Ali and his trainer Ishaan was based on mutual admiration and respect, which grew over a period of time. Initially Ali was unaware of Ishaan’s achievements (trophies) in cricket, while Ishaan lacked empathy towards Ali’s other interests. With Ishaan’s relentless pursuits, Ali’s confidence in Ishaan’s honest desire to see him (Ali) grow emerged.

Ishaan’s empathy for Ali extended towardsAli’s  community as well. The desire to help them made Ishaan overlook  (at times)  the short term inconvenience it may have caused to his friends .

Miscellaneous

Gol Gappas: The global and the local, that is the actuality of any place in urban India, let alone Ahmedabad. It was interesting to note that Omi was eating Gol Gappas while waiting for Ishaan to join in, for the movie Basic Instinct. During my initial days at my PG, I was stunned when offered a huge plate of Gol Gappas for dinner, it took me quite some time to get accustomed to such facts of life. Later on I came to realize that there were a variety of flavours available in Gol Gappas as well, however that is another story altogether.

On weekends it would seem as if the whole of Ahmedabad would eat out. There could be huge queues outside a shop which would sell vada paav and daveli and similarly so outside an Italian or South Indian Restaurant.

Further Stereotypes: I wonder if this reading is not too far fetched but I felt that the actors representing Hindu Community appeared as physically stronger (with moustache and buland awaaz) as compared to their Muslim counterparts. So much so that Ali faced malnutrition and his father had a squeaky voice. It was surprising to find  his father begging Ishaan to save them from Hindu rioters.It was disconcerting to watch the Hindu youngsters pull down Ali’s pyjamas, and him being pushed down by his trainer.

Stereotypes in Sports: Goti vs. Cricket: As is with most other sports in India, cricket steals the show, so much so that the other localized sports or genres are almost subaltern. This is quite evident in how Ishaan admonishes Ali for giving more relevance to his Goti tournament as compared to Cricket practice.

Stereotypes in Education System: Education vs. Sports: Similarly, the voice of sports is often subdued in front of the rationale given in favour of studies. Ishaan and Govind had a tough time convincing administration at Kendriya Vidyalaya school to support sports education. I could definitely relate to this, for I have myself spent time in trying to convince the principal at KV in Ahmedabad, for allowing me to conduct a workshop with their students.

The movie therefore seemed to be a simple and realistic narration of the many complexities that exist in actuality. The intricate web created by religion, socio-economic as well as cultural structures, politics and individual motivations or desires was hence displayed in the context of Ahmedabad.

Faith in hand

A bus journey for three hours in Northern India: A panorama of the most incredulous yet unsurprising juxtapositions through the moving window. Disney Bakery and Gautam Travels take great pride in being flanked by blue coloured houses (shrieking of a certain TATA Indicom), while Airtel and Vodafone adorn all-purpose tea stalls next to (yet another) Agrawal Sweets. Red haired men indulge in spontaneous spitting tournaments, young couples exchange sheepish looks after glancing at ink smeared posters of YOUNG Monica, little boys run after buses with packets of water ” 2 Rs. ka ek” and women decked in their sparkling saris and sequin laden shawls, yell at their children ,while their men devour on ground nuts.
As much as I enjoy the varieties and surprises of this linear yet non linear sight, I cannot help but agree that this cannot be mistaken for a romantic reminiscence of a bygone era or nostalgia for small towns. This is the reality of a present, where a dishevelled bus will drop me at a cold metro station , post which I shall leave a numb tunnel and move out, only to be transported into a world of Louis Vuitton, Dal Moth and KFC.
I felt a surge of hopelessness, of grief and anger. Why? Will it never change?
Will I remain a part of helpless audience?
Questions am sure we all ask and in all likelihood move beyond and above.
I was coping with my oscillating reactions when I saw him, absorbing the sun and gloating in its warmth. He had his fists tightly clenched, kissed them twice, opened, and blew. In that indifferent cold, where people stood shivering, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, that boy had made a wish. He had nothing but Hope. Faith in himself and someone much greater than him and you and I, he believed in change.
Thankyou dear boy, I hope that we can also have your spirit and execute than just narrate the often told.