Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jab ishq tumhein ho jaayega (Not that Ghazal, but something else)

In the following composition, the rules of Ghazal are followed to the extent that I have the right rhyme scheme, there is repetition, as well as  word before the repeated phrase rhymes. I have my own name in the last couplet, and each couplet is complete in itself. The introductory couplet is done right as well. Yet, the following is not a Ghazal, for it is not the cry of dying deer to its beloved. It is a farce (unless you believe that tragedy is itself an avatar of farce). I will like to be surprised one day by Jagjit Singh singing some of these lines in the concert. (joote lekar mujhko maarne aaoge/ jab mujhsa jagjit ho jaayega).

बोलोगे नहीं तुतलाओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा |
हर रोज़ दाड़ी बनाओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा |

देओद्रन्त लगाना सीख लोगे, सुबह शाम नहाना सीख लोगे,
धोबी पर पैसे गवाओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा |

फ़िल्मी डाइलोग दोहराओगे, मंदिरों के चक्कर लगाओगे,
गरबा-भंगरा नाच पाओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा |

कांटएक्ट लेन्सेस खरीदोगे, बाल काले करालोगे,
 दीवारों-दर से टकराओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जायेगा |

एसटीडी और इन्टरनेट कैफे वाले, चाटवाले, रिक्शेवाले,
हर वाले से बहुत बतियाओगे,  जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा  |

त्याग दोगे बीड़ी-पान-क्रिकेट, कंघी को रखोगे निकट,
जूते पालिश करवाओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा |

दुनिया भर के फासले, भेद, भ्रम, विवेक, विवेचना और करम,
सब समझकर भूल जाओगे, जब इश्क तुम्हें हो जाएगा |

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Graduate Students Cometh (Revised; repost)

It is Fall season. The leaves have begun to color. The wind is cooler and more cheerful and days extend late into the evening. The stupor of summer is beginning to awake into realization of what has not been accomplished, and needs to be done. Well-established routines of procrastination have been tried over and over again, convincing us of the chakra, of the wheel of life. We, the tenured graduate students, the keepers of the flame, the intellectuals who have piles, high and deep, of work before the abbreviation PhD becomes ours, we defy common sense and indulge in new graduate students.

The motives are as varied as our research areas. The singles need to mingle. Suitable graduate students of opposite sex have arrived. Pick them when they are young. Catch them, fresh off the plane. Provide them roti, kapda aur makaan, i.e. food, clothes and house. Start from the basic needs. Americanize them in a way that you deem is most appropriate. Hand them keys to your house, passwords to your machine. Cook tasty food for them. Shave each day, and even iron your clothes (for newbies haven't yet realized how important unshaved face and haggard look is for an able graduate student).

Get them groceries, show them movies. Take them to Walmart, displaying it with a pride that honeymooning husband feels when he asks his wife to open her eye, and she gushes at the vista of rising Alps, bathed in setting sun. Give them stolen hours from the daily routine, which your advisor thinks is being used for writing the research article that was due last month. Throw a party or two. Appear social, popular, funny, artsy, intelligent, great cook, glib talker, shy, young, well-read, adventerous: as the case may be. Plan each day better than any experiment done in your lab. Even clean up your kitchen, and with much emotion, even your room. In your room, discover the vestiges of such enterprise of last year, and smile at yourself, thinking what mistakes you made when you were young. Belief, you know by now, and faith in your own ability must stay in spite of all the evidence that seems contrary to that claim.

Besides the singles of opposite sex, there are married and committed ones too. They must be attended to. Once they are amused by your deeds, they will recount these to the beauties they will know, room with or attend classes with. A personalized recommendation obviously can get you a favorable prejudice even from the ones full of pride. This is a period of showing off sense and sensibility. Praise their hubbies, help them in buying Indian groceries, second-hand furniture and show to them how committed you are to the cause of the new graduatestudentkind.

Besides these, there are the Pappus, who are related to the aunt of your mother's grandmothers' sister's granddaughter's sister-in-law. If they were of same sex, this could have been used as a reason to tie you together (for the relation is far fetched enough) or claim that the person is your relation or sibling (and incest is unacceptable). If one of these arrives, your whole planning is crumbled like the biscuits that Pappus carried for you in their luggage from India. You tend to become more productive at work. Suitable instructions are released to friends, who must watch their words for whatever happens in graduate school stays in graduate school. You need the Pappu to become pregnant with his own guilt, before he can see that your mistakes run amok in large numbers.

There are juniors you can command around. You suddenly know all the answers as you talk to the senior who has joined so late as he was working for some time. You drive home the message as to 'who's the boss'. Whos your daddy now? You say that and share the joke with another batchmate in another university, who grins and has his stories own to tell. These people have arrived from your undergraduate school, where rumor has it, that you spent the best years of your life. Where (it doesn't matter how nerdy you seem to be now, how high your GPA was which got you here in the first place, and I damn value educational achievements) where, you had lots of pun, parties, booze. Summer of 69, Red red Wine and Those were the best days of my life!

There are also those unfortunate ones, the Laawaris ones! Some are meek and humble, and bumble like Raj Kapoor from Shree 420. Amusing, respectful. They are nice chaps. You take them under your wing. They give you homage throughout their life. They help you cook, clean, find names of the newbies you need to be introduced and find their own Nargis in them. You remind them of "Pyar hua hai, ikraar hua hai" song, tell them to be curious but careful and of course, the song is mentioned for they had used it in a condom commercial. You find out all the commercials are changed by now, and this guy was too young to remember any of the commercials you saw in your time.

There are certain Amitabh Bachchan's in the new group. The angry young men. They think they know what they need to know for they were educated in Hollywood and have tickets to Las Vegas shipped by confident Papas in India. They look at your apartment and either smirk thinking how shoddy your living conditions are, or just mention it to their high class girlfriends they left in India. These anti-establishment ones need to be educated. They need to be broken, bruised, beaten! Ramgopal's Satya must be watched all over again. Some break into so many emotional bits, that their mothers arrive in haste. Some break into your life and you laugh about how wrong your initial impressions were. Some move in with Americans and after loosing their first blood, return to the  desi fold in a year or so. Like a good shepherd you allow them to come back, and for their pride, they will be made scrapegoats in due time, or reared for their wool. You are an elephant in this jungle of studenthood, and an elephant never forgets. You really are trying to be Mast, but the Advisor reins you with deadlines.

There are homesick ones. As if they have travelled to US by sea, they look pale, wan, nauseated, tearjerkers. They have no interest in your food, for their Mamma used to feed them with her own hands. What depravity, they think, when you announce this is the biggest feast of year, serving them homemade Rice, Daal, Curry and Mix Vegetables, cooked by four different households pulled together on excuse of Ganesh Chaturthi. The house that cooked Rice also got beer, which the homesick one cannot touch. Like Mahatma Gandhi, before leaving home, he promised to keep away from White Wine and White Women. So you explain to him that everyone there has had made similar promises, and this means the playing ground is still quite big. You chuckle as you explain, No white women, na...No worry... the tanned ones are alright, and of course there are Brown ones, Black ones and the Yellow ones.

You are positively high when you explain Beer is not Wine, and Vodka is essential for survival in this cold cold country. The homesick one recalls from his Bollywood education that excessive drink is harbinger of a woman who beds you that very night and without fail, produces a child nine months later. The idea of woman urges him on, the thought of a child holds him back. He is too naive to know that the specimens of opposite sex have already chosen the arms of old students, Amitabh Bachchans and promises made in India. He doesn't know even the tanned ones have taste, Yellow ones are lost due their foreign tongue and Black Beauty is never happy when she is tied down.

There are philanthropic interests. There are communist interests. There are social reasons, for the animal in you needs to know more people. You do it, becuase when you came no one did it for you, or someone actually helped you. You do it because it relieves your stress when you notice these new recruits who have been pushed to the front with half as much training and half as much expertise as you had. You do it to get new ideas, stories, readers for your blog. You envy their enthusiasm, their optimism, and scold your cynical self, the hardened soul, you wish to come alive again. This is a particular problem when you tell a new person of opposite sex that this is not possible, that will never work out or time will show them that you are right: they think you don't have faith in them, shout at you. Then there is a dangerous possibility that they will start hanging with their age group kids. The worst fears always come true, but thankfully you are the only one with a running car and your time in graduate school in years shames their stay in US in weeks.

I see new graduate students everywhere. Maybe I have a sixth sense. The happy faces amused by all they see, their springy steps (Aajkal Paon Zameen Par Nahin Padtay mere: These days my feet never touch the ground), curious and friendly. The frowning faces, who see danger everywhere (Ye haadson ka shahar kai, yahan mod mod pe hota hai koi na koi haadsa: this is a city of disasters, at every mod, waits a disaster). The new pairs who have just dicovered freedom from India's prying eyes, and are perhaps more happy in doing what they never perceived possible, "dating, flirting, eating out, watching movie at guys house, and then spending the night there, on a couch", more happy in actions that perhaps with their partners, discovering the beauty in Classic Romantic Movies (Chotay chotay shaharon mein ..... nahin nahin nahin... Bade bade deshon mein choti choti baatein hoti rehti hai: Small things keep happenning in big countries) and even find the romance of walking at late hours outside (Yeh kahan aa gaye hum, yuhin saath-saath chalte: O where have we arrived, thus walking together) and loose their way in the streets.

The New Graduate Student Cometh! You realize you actually know things that you can talk about to them and see a certain admiration, that your advisor will not display, even in your wildest dreams. You realize that similarly, in real life, when you go and get an actual job, you will be able to say things and people will listen to you for various reasons. You will figure that you have yourself gotten to that age, where five-year old sons of your friends call you uncle or auntie. How long ago was it that you laughed at the idea "Auntie mat bolo naa" (Oh please, don't call me aunty). You get an opportunity to flaunt your skills, your experience and breadth and depth of your knowledge. In between the bouts of famed procrastination, you seem to have accomplished many worthwhile deeds. Like a paper in a journal, that got your name into BBC, New York Times and Times of India: Sunday edition. There is a kind of nostalgic, somewhat elegiac romance in the air. You feel life is not all that bad, and yet decide that you will be out of here before the new students come in next year.

The Fall leaves are a music below your feet, the monsoon season of new students is over, the fields of your friendships are full of a promising crop. In the end you win some, you loose some. You move on. The only thing that hold you back now is the new student who will be here for long, and you will need to stay more than a year for companionship. You tell yourself, learning from seniors who have trodden this path before, that life's decision must not be based on any other individual, and your steps move faster and faster towards your lab. You suddenly realize months have passed without any progress in research, and you start afresh with new enthusiasm. Like always, you start with a break, you check email, blog entries and end up forwarding this piece to everyone you know.

We are all so similar. Except that one new graduate student, who I am aching to be introduced. (I let out a big sigh, and decide I'll much rather concentrate. Pick up old notes, and start typing a new research paper. How I wish writing papers was as easy as writing and reading long blogs!)
(Aug 2006)