Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Guide To Recognising Your Saints

It’s playing on my laptop. The movie. I’m hearing a soundtrack that’s making me nostalgic. I’m watching characters I wished belonged to my past too. I’m experiencing a story I wished was mine to tell. I’m going through emotions. Emotions. A whole summary of them for the past one year. Like a reunion episode of Friends. I stop the movie after around 30 minutes because it’s getting late. It’s the 30th of December 2008. Guess I'll finish it after the New Year.

The world tells me it’s a new year. Apparently because the number’s changed. Because the clocks reset. Because we hang new calendars. Because we get new time tables. Because we grow older. Because ‘Happy New Year’ messages flood into our inbox from well-wishers we’ll never hear from again until the next ‘new year’. Because life goes on. People say its bullshit. Some of us say its just 2009, just another number, its still the same life, and what we make of it. Some of us feel its 2008+1, not ready to say goodbye, holding on to 365 days of memories, even the ones that tore us apart. For some of us, it’s the same year. The same one all our life. It’s always the 31st of December. Everyday, is the 31st of December. Well, no matter who’s right, it doesn’t stop you from remembering the people that make your life.

The Sister

She never lets you pay for anything, even popcorn. She gives you a hardcover book about King Arthur for your 10th birthday. The colours she wears (scarf, top, and pants) make a rainbow look like funeral drapes. She never wants you to make for her whatever it is you’re having, but will always stuff a mouthful, ‘just one’ she says, (the largest ever witnessed) out of your plate. She names her things, whether they’re a phone that has survived inhuman conditions (Orissa), a rice cooker that make curries (Bubbles), or a giraffe soft toy that looks more like a cow (Giffy. 10 points for originality) . She invites you to spend Christmas with her in England, if your schedule permits it. Just you and her. She has to share a room with you until you’re 13. She only hums songs she hates. She wakes you up by hitting you with your bolster and shaking you like she’s trying to bring you back from the dead. She refuses to give up her Sweet Valley collection after all these years. 11 years ago, she taught you how to read music in one night.

The Dog.

He's a combination of Zaphrod (the alien in Liam Lynch's "Whatever" song). Zaphod (the intergalatic president in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the galaxy). Zoltan (the leader of space nerds who wear bubble wrap jumpsuits in Dude Where's My Car) . He’s 10 this year (70 in human years); even if he thinks he’s 3. And that’s not dog years. He can never run in a straight line; it’s always a curve, like his tail. Speaking of his tail, the sound it makes when it hits the side of the cars at home, could put a bass drum to shame, volume and tempo. Instead of communicating with other dogs who bark at him, he just stares. Same goes with when that one cat eats his food. He fetches every ball you throw, but don’t expect it back without a cookie in your hand. He sits and listens to your so-called philosophical take on life; just as long as you keep petting him on the head (another cookie here wouldn’t kill you). He eats everything but dog food. He takes long walks when the gate is left open, and comes back pretending nothing happened (Q: How’d you get cat poo all over youself? A: Nah, its just really bad smelling chocolate cake). He has his own water bowl but only drinks from the lotus pots. He suffers from short term memory loss (tries everyday without fail to swallow the basketball).


She replies every one of your emails. She learnt to lengthen them after a while too, just so she could match yours. She inspired you to go home after 7 years. She showed you another world, where you could be more than yourself. You’d stand next to her and stare at your reflection in the glass displays in shopping malls, to see how you looked together. She ties a turban that makes yours look like a rag. You were both singing Matisyahu’s ‘Time of Your Life’ in the car. That was your moment, when you were both the same. She hates climbing steps (Reference: Batu Caves). She doesn’t quite help you when you swallow a fistful of raw ginger by accident. On the contrary, she laughs her ass off and wipes tears from her eyes. She made you try sushi for the first time. She likes ‘Twilight’ the movie (………). Thank god she knew Bob Marley was dead (inside joke). She buys gifts and laughs at how lame they are as she presents them. She taught you that there isn’t just one person in the world for you. And that’s why you had to let her go too.

The Best Friend.
You don’t know who it is. Maybe it’s every person that sat down next to you and heard you tell your story. Maybe it’s that person in those pictures at reunion dinners from school, college, the flying academy. Maybe it’s the person you keep in touch with the most. You know, the one who calls you from time to time, a person from a memory that seems like a lifetime ago. Maybe its one of your cousins. Maybe it’s that person with 4 legs and a tail who doesn’t bark. It might even be every one of those people you shared a drink with in airports, when you were both waiting. When life was waiting. Whoever you are, wherever you are, and however many of you there are, every one of you was a story. My story. All I can I hope for, is that I was yours too. I’ll love you and miss you. Always.

The Cousin Sister.

She introduces you to rock n roll, that first time when you’re at your grandparents place and Linkin Park’s “Papercut” is on MTV. She convinces you to watch Dostana. Not her finest of moments (she never questions John Abraham’s wardrobe, or lack of). She listens to everything you say intently, even if its you rambling about the same girl for the past year and half. Did I tell you she kills for chocolates (more like massacres, but you didn’t hear it from me)? She comes over sometimes and you watch films together while eating take-outs from En Hui. She sometimes watches Hindi films with you because together you make fun of them to the point of brutality. You meet up with her whenever you have off days. There’s always something to talk about with her. Every time you think of her, you get a text message or a call from yours truly. She believes country music will save the world (I’m being funny with a straight face). She takes you out to Piccolo Mundo’s for your birthday and agrees you get better food in Giorgio Armani.

The Parents.

I love them. I love them so much more than I give myself credit for.

I’ll never forget the day the SPM results came out. Mataji still had her best smile on for us. All of us. I couldn’t look her in the eye. I didn’t want to go home that day. I remember the first time I came home after leaving for Langkawi. Just one month. Mataji was smiling. She was happy. She makes a killer tofu sambal and detox juices that are either green or purple in colour. She watches Hindi movies so she can fall asleep halfway. She buys trees and pots like Harkiren buys Punjabi suits and erm…… Punjabi suits.

I’ll never forget the day Pitaji and I were yelling at each other for an hour, my eyes in tears, our worst argument yet. A half hour later, I get a call, telling me Raveen’s dad just passed away. More tears in my eyes. I remember my graduation ceremony, when I got my wings, the hug he gave me. He makes fried rice that kills, but also a divine banana lassi. Anything electronic malfunctions when he uses it. He's the kind of guy that gives Mac Gyver toolbox phobia. He eats tosai with a fork and spoon.

The Cousin Brother.

Out of the 20 movies you watch in a year, 15 are with him. He got you a battery powered cyclist for your 7th birthday. You’d take long walks into town in Ulu Yam on a daily basis, stocking up on the day’s ‘groceries’. Dr. Phil wouldn’t approve. He’s a Liverpool fan, but you’ve yet to have a football argument, probably because your Premier League history is about as good as his singing in the shower. You crossed off your first item on your Bucket List together. Rock climbing. You both want to go to a U2 concert before you die. He only ever listens to Light and Easy (don’t ask). He was the first guy to call Brokeback Mountain ‘the most tragic love story I’ve ever seen’ (you were the second, and so far, there are 2 of you). You 2, single men in their early twenties who are first cousins, love listening to Coldplay’s break up songs together. You sing ‘Knockin on Heaven’s Door’ together with enough passion to make sure you never get in (not sure if that was the original intention).

It’s playing on my laptop. Again. The movie. What was once nostalgia is now a present. What were once characters are now the people in my life. What was once a story I wished was mine is now the flyleaf of the rest of my life. I’m remembering emotions. I stop the movie at 1 hour and 39 minutes because it has finished. It’s the first of January 2009. For the first time, it actually felt like I could start over. And it all made sense. You are my saints. And you’re all real.

For Antonio too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kisses and Cake

Life’s a series of rooms. And who we get stuck in those rooms with, adds up to what our lives are.

Your parents meet. They fall in love. A year or two pass by, and then comes the magic moment. When your dad asks your mum to marry him. It’s always a story worth telling. Everyone has that story. Each their own. They tell it at wedding anniversaries, birthdays, 10 year reunions. The kind of story where everyone sighs in the end, even if it was textbook material, seen in a few movies, and nothing out of the ordinary. It was beautiful. It was everything up till the happily ever after in a fairytale. A brew of all the right spells. But then the spell wears off, when there’s a new story to tell. Your story. The hospital one. That day when they were deciding what to name you. That day your mum endured the most painful and precious moment of her life. The day your dad saw you, and felt like a father. The day you were pink, bald and of no use to the Tooth Fairy. Your birthday.

17 of those later, they’re still telling that story. The story that changed their lives forever. This time, no one sighs. No one laughs. Tears in a mother’s eyes. Nothing’s changed. The living room is still the same shade of cream, with the same oak finish furniture, the same glasses everyone’s holding in their hands, the same people. Something’s changed. You’re no longer there. There’s an empty seat at the dining table where you had your meals everyday as a family. Your bed looks like no one’s been in it for a while. Your shoes are collecting dust in the closet. Your best friend walks to school alone now. You’re in the family photographs, the ones on a mountain top, by the beach, at a theme park, on a birthday, after a school play. Your mum and dad are in each other’s arms, with you squashed somewhere in between, or dad’s giving you a piggyback ride with your arms around his neck, or you’re planting a kiss on mum’s cheek. Wearing your best smiles. Smiles that could have produced the worlds greatest Patronus. Memories. Stories. The greatest story your parents ever had. Ever will.

Shakespeare lives on through his words, through his works. Loved ones live on through our memories, through our hearts. There will be times when we will see them again. During those moments many, many years from now, when we're in our room in the middle of the night, sitting with the lights out, listening to a deafening silence, the memory clasped tightly in our hands, the moments doing reruns in our heads. Many many years from now, i will be holding this article in mine.

So guess what? I want to tell you stories. Stories of 16 birthdays. Stories that take place in a world where high school is the last big adventure. Stories where the last memory you had was blowing 16 candles. But how do I tell this story? A sweet sixteen? How do I tell my side, when I was stuck in a room with you?

Here’s what I know about Harprem Rakhneet Kaur. Knew. She was from Lahad Datu. She loved to dance and enjoyed Punjabi songs. Every time she looked at you, it’s like she hadn’t seen you in years. Like Manpreet, she was a sucker for chocolates. She had a dad who called her every chance he could to make sure she was fine. Her favourite colour was green. She had cancer. She was 16.

Ranjit Singh. Form 4 student in Sri Dasmesh School. Do you know him? I thought I did. He had the widest smile and loudest laugh in school. You could hear him from a mile away. He always said hi, even when all he got in return was an extremely monotonous grunt. I knew him for 4 years while I was in school. Every story I told about my life then had a role for him somewhere. He had dengue fever. He was 16.

5 bloody lines. It’s all I know about you. I knew you for as long as 5 sentences. Yet when you left, my world had a few less smiles in it. I want to cry but I can’t. I’m ashamed. What is it like to lose someone? To stare at their contact number in my phone for hours, thinking about all those times I had to dial that number? To enter their room after being gone for years, running my fingers along the clothes, looking through the shoebox with our pictures together as kids, scanning the CDs on the rack, their songs playing in my head exactly the way we used to sing them out loud? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to know, but I think the cost is more than I can bear.

Harprem’s message was ‘find the joy in your life’. Our lives are streams flowing into the same river towards whatever heaven lies on the mist beyond the falls. Someday I will close my eyes and let the waters take me home.

I’m deeply proud that they found it worth their while to know me. So one day, when I go to some final resting place, if I happen to wake up next to a certain wall and a gate, I hope they are there to vouch for me, and show me the ropes on the other side. Even now I can’t claim to understand the measure of a life. But I can tell you this. I know that when they died, their eyes were closed, their hearts were open, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and someone somewhere in the world was having the happiest day of their life.

I need you to do me a favour. Yes, you. The one who’s reading this post now. I need 2 minutes of your night. Your every night. For every car crash you read in the papers, for every loved one you lose, for every hurricane you see on the news, for every casualty of war, for every celebrity dying of an overdose, for every child dying of starvation in a refugee camp, for every panda bear being hunted by poachers, for every ant you’ve accidentally stepped on, for every branch you’ve broken, for every patient in a hospital. For every Harprem Rakhneet. For every Ranjit. 2 minutes of lost keys. 2 minutes of silence, with your eyes closed. To remember the people of the people of the people of the people of the people of the people we know. Because apparently, we are connected to each and every person in the rest of the world through just 6 people.

And now, tell someone you love them. Tell everyone.

Dedicated to Harprem Rakhneet Kaur (1991 – 2008), and Ranjit Singh (1992 – 2008)

We will see you again. Till then, Carpe Diem.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Hope In Hell

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another thrill – packed evening of funfunfun here at the Hellfire Club! I am your host, Choronzon, High Duke of the Eighth Circle, captain of the horde of Lord Beelzebub. Tonight, for your entertainment and, delectation, a formal challenge. As the challenged, I set the meter and take first move. And the challenger is Dream, once the Master of the Realm of Sleep, so, lets have a big hand for – Mister Sandman!!’

Dream (Morpheus)
It has been long since I was forced to play such games with Demons. I rise slowly, approach the stage. Around me a soft susurrus of sound, and a large languorous, ironic applause. “The Hellfire Club”. It feels like a bad joke. And like everything else in Hell, it is deadly serious.

‘So, you know the rules, Dreamlord? If you win, I will return your helm. If you lose, you will serve as a plaything of Hell, for eternity. Our slave.’

“I understand.”

‘Very well, I have the first move.’

The Oldest game

Choronzon: I am a dire wolf, prey – stalking, lethal prowler.

Dream: “I’m a hunter, horse – mounted, wolf – stabbing.”

I smell spilt alcohol, stale smoke and cheap sex, perfume and mold. And I feel grass beneath my hooves, the flanks between my legs. All is real. Nothing is real. Choronzon’s move.

Choronzon: ‘I am a horsefly, horse – stinging, hunter – throwing.’

There are many ways to lose the oldest game. Failure of nerve, hesitation. Being unable to shift into a defensive shape. Lack of imagination.

Dream: “I am a spider, fly – consuming, eight legged.”

Choronzon: ‘I am a snake, spider – devouring, poison – toothed.’

Dream: “I am an ox, snake – crushing, heavy footed.”

I feel the snake writhe beneath my hoof, its spine crushed.

Choronzon: ‘I am an anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm – life destroying.’

A change in direction, but still an old gambit. I think I understand how Choronzon plays. How I can turn it against him. I think I will abandon the offensive.

Dream: “I am a world, space – floating, life nurturing.”

Choronzon: ‘I am a nova, all – exploding, planet – cremating.’

Dream: “I am the universe, all things encompassing, all life embracing.”

Choronzon: ‘I am anti – life, the beast of judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds. Of everything.’ And what will you be then, Dreamlord?

Dream: I am Hope.

Excerpt from The Sandman Volume 1 ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ by Neil Gaiman

Thursday, August 28, 2008


When I woke up I was all alone
With a broken heart and a ticket home
And I ask you now, tell me what would you do
If her hair was black and her eyes were blue
I've traveled around, I've been all over this world
Boys I ain't never seen nothin' like a galway girl

“Galway Girl” by Steve Earle

I get my answer. All it took was one year. Photographs. Videos. Emails. Moments. Memories. And those 5 minutes every night when I lived through them. The last 5 minutes before I closed my eyes. My last 5 minutes on earth. That would be it. Every single heartbeat. Was I afraid? (Laughs) Terrified. Picture yourself going for a tumour scan and waiting a month for the results. Like I said. I got my answer. Was it what I wanted to hear? Yes. No.

“Always Something” by Switchfoot

She said there’s someone else now. Now. Which means there was a “Once”. There was. She said that too. But she wasn’t going to hold on to it because of where we were and are in our lives. Maybe it’s because I’m an ogre and she’s a princess. Maybe it’s because the clock has struck 12 and her carriage has turned back into a pumpkin. Maybe we’re stuck in different timelines. Maybe we belong to different worlds.

“Secret Garden” by Bruce Springsteen

How’d I know it was her? I close my eyes and see her. I open them, and want to see her. I wake up every morning with a smile now. I smile when I think of her. I smile when I get her emails. I smile at the way she rolls her t-shirt sleeves up, the way you would roll your pants if it was too long. A fate her every top suffered. I smile at the way she ties her hair in a bun with that scarf of hers. I smile at the way she speaks Punjabi. I smile at the way she mutes the swear word in her sentence and just mouths it, on the rare occasion it’s needed. I smile at the way she always talks about food, and throws in random “did you knows” while devouring it, especially when it’s fruit. Apparently apples are good for your digestion. I smile again.

Find anything new and exciting? (Laughs again) That’s what I thought. What can I say? Love is stereotyped.

“I Miss You” by Blink 182

True romance is letting her go. I always said that. But I knew it wasn’t complete. There was something missing from those words. I could never quite place it. You watch movies like a painted veil, a walk to remember, before sunrise, p.s. I love you, and you wonder how I come up with quotes like these. And then, there’s me. My story. The one without a movie. Without a book. Without a poem. Just a tune. A melody. A string of notes put together that play in my head. Just 3 actually. On a piano or a vaja. This part of my life. This chapter’s soundtrack.

“Fix You” by Coldplay

Why her? The million dollar question. When I was falling, she pulled me up, barely even knowing me. I found the courage to be a Jatha Coordinator and lead Rehraas sessions in Samelan 2007. I take cold showers every morning now. I did my first set of the 5 morning Baani’s in one sitting, on the roof of Sri Harmandar Sahib after darbar sahib sewa at 3 in the morning. I organized ‘Across the Universe’. I go for yoga classes every Tuesday now. People come up to me and say, I matter. She stood next to me on the Sarovar steps at 2am, filling buckets with water for devotees to wash the Parkarma with. I stopped running, and became me. The guy with a white shahi turban and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. The rocker saint.
Because her hair was black and her eyes were blue. Because she fixed me.

“Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol

What? My story? Nah. It’s not worth telling. Has a great soundtrack and an excellent script, but too many plot holes, inconsistent character development, boring and repetitive sets and locations, an unexciting lead actor, a leading actress he might never see again, no on-screen kiss or even a date, a total screen time of an hour, and they don’t even get together in the end. Actually, no one really knows what happens. Here’s what anybody knows. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. That’s it. Doesn’t sound like your everyday bestseller, does it? No. What I’m doing is, describing a moment, like I always do. Like I’ve always done. Because, maybe the greatest story ever told was a symphony. And that’s all it ever was.

“Who Knew” by Pink

I told her I’ll ask her out in 2 years. When life has become a painted house. When it’s become the welcome mat on my doorstep. She said a lot can happen in 2 years. Who knows where we’ll be? For one of the few times in my life, I can’t answer her. And then it hits me. Why the quote felt incomplete. Because it was. What I felt was different. True romance is letting her go, FOR NOW. Perfect.

Maybe I’m pushing her unto a pedestal. Maybe I’m trying to see her with wings. Maybe I’m forcing her to wear a halo. Who knows? If only you could see what I see, and then tell me to let go.

“I’ll Love You Till the End” by The Pogues

2 years. Life is waiting? Not this time. This time, I am. 2 years is a lifetime. Maybe, this is all it will ever be. A memory. A cipher. Maybe this is all I’ll ever have. A gift. Then, I will say words. The only trace of her. The only proof of life. Words like these. “Once upon a time, we were.”

Once. We were.

I think deep down, she’ll always be the Galway Girl. My Galway Girl. The one whose hair was black and eyes were blue. The dream that came true. Never. True. Never.

So, here’s what you are going to do.
Smile. Cry. And then, there’s tomorrow.

“Thirteen” by Big Star

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

From The Creators of "Across D' Universe"

Do you love hip hop music? Reggae? Think your parents never understand you? Feel like you're alone in the world, even when you have so many friends? Feel like sometimes you're not cool enough to be accepted? Feel like there's something bigger in life that's connecting everything together? Feel like you want to belong, just this once?

Take up kickboxing. Watch a sad movie with a box of tissues. Sit in silence and put words down on an everyday piece of paper. Go to a rock concert. Jump on a rooftop and scream your lungs out. Come for the Sikh Spirit Camp.

Date : 4th - 6th July 2008
Venue : Sri Dasmesh School, Pantai( Next to Kerinci Putra Station )

Why? Because I need you here.
*I need to know I can count on your faith when I lose mine.
*I need your hand on my shoulder.
*I want to see the face of the person who will one day save my life.
*I want to know there's more to my life than just getting through college, getting a job, having friends, starting a family. Always living for someone else.
*I want to know there's more to my everyday moments than just thinking of tomorrow.
*I want to live in today.

You say:
*I'm only in college.
*I have the rest of my life to worry about all this.
*I want to enjoy these few years, before life becomes another rolling stone.
*Why worry about things you can't control? Life is short. Live it.

The Million Dollar Question: How long is the rest of your life?

We know how it feels when people try to teach us something as if we were in kindergarten. Especially when we think we are old enough to have our own experiences. We want to explore things for our self instead of being spoon fed and told what is right and what is wrong. It only makes sense to do something that resonates with us and to do something that means something to us. We want stuff that we can practice in our day to day life.

I want to learn from you. I want you to teach me. Show me your life.

And I will wait for that one day when we will take on the world together. And win.

Loads of interesting activities awaits you at our camp... We will rock the whole weekend with untold paths and new discoveries to lead us to a whole new era of life Closing Date : 15th June 2008 Dont miss this golden opportunity to be the chosen one to attend our camp. We will be looking forward to receive your forms. Feel free to contact our camp organizers Jesmesh Singh - 017 2010 540 or Hargobind Singh - 012 3753 473 Email : / Website :

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rang De Basanti

The Man on the Shatabdi

I saw him on the train to Amritsar. I remember him because it was a 3 seater, with him and a fat guy already seated in the middle and aisle seat. Took a bit of time for me to get in, if you know what I mean. The fat guy sleeping didn’t help either. This guy, the guy in the middle, he was wearing this worn out brown cargo pants that looked like it had survived 3 fires and a flood. And these Nike shoes, basketball ones. I knew from his turban that he was foreigner, despite his attempts at sounding like a local. It was round and black, with a triangle cut on his forehead exposing the inner white turban. You don’t get turbans like that here. We didn’t really talk during the journey. I assumed he was getting off at Amritsar, and I was getting off at Ludhiana, and plus, I hadn’t seen Casino Royale yet, so had brought my Ipod along for the journey. And he kept writing at random times into this red book he kept in his backpack. I tried peeking, but could only catch words like ‘Home’, ‘5 days’, and ‘Search’. The only times we ever spoke were when I would fall asleep, and he’d wake me up, telling me that the meal cart was here, and I’d tell him that I didn’t want any breakfast. But he didn’t know the number of times they would end up serving, so he just kept waking me up. Got a bit annoying. And he carried a Gutka in his backpack! Definitely a foreigner. It looked like he was doing the 5 morning Baanis whenever he felt the time was right. Whenever he felt like it. He gave me the impression of someone who’s looking for something in the golden city. That which would give him peace.

Delhi. Look. Flyovers as far as the eye can see. New terminal being added to the airport and renovations everywhere, 24 hour operations. 3 lane roads with new layers of tar, not a pothole in sight. A journey smooth, no matter where you go. 50 km speed limit in town, because of the number of cars. 1400 new cars on the road everyday. Trucks only allowed into town from 11 – 4. Afternoon and night. The Delhi Metro Rail. Their Putra LRT service. With a station designed like KL Central, for trains going straight to the airport. 20 minute journey from the center of town. Toyotas and BMWs replacing the Ambassador on the road. Billboards of the latest thing in India, the ownership of cricket teams by Bollywood. Akshay Kumar and the Delhi Devils, top of the league. Shah Rukh Khan and the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Delhi. Look Closer. Adults and children alike, bathing on the side of the street from small pails. Throwing water at each other. Putting the same clothes back on their backs. Crossing ‘no-pothole’ roads with their bare feet. Dogs, the stray kind, sleeping on dividers. The ones that don’t bother anyone. The ones who have been surviving for years. Nothing is lifeless in the streets. Not even road kill. Cows walking around in the middle of roundabouts. Munching on government grass. Cows in the middle of streets, holding up traffic. Cows, India’s real superpower. Look even closer. Everyone is smiling. No matter what is tucked under their arms, safety helmets, school books, baggage, daily supplies, newspapers. No matter what they’re dragging behind them, rickshaws with passengers on them, 2 wheeled goods transporters, bags of rice on their backs. There couldn’t be a more pleasant atmosphere first thing in the morning.

Uncle Surrendar Nath Ji

Oh my god. Look at him. A nice turban, flowing beard, and a strong aura of faith. Has it only been 7 years? I don’t recall him ever being 14. My last memory of him was as a child. That 5 year old boy, trying to buy up every shastar he could get his hands on in the bazaar. And then wearing them on his person, as though they were apart of him. Maybe they were. There’s not much time today to talk. What a shame. He’s definitely tired from the long flight, and he has another journey ahead of him tomorrow. We’ll talk more when he gets back. This should be interesting. I see traces of him. That boy who was never afraid to speak his mind, who strutted like his last hour on stage. The boy with blessed parents. Where did he go?

Rock n roll has no place in India. It doesn’t fit in the soundtrack, or do you get the urge to play it at all. That’s just the way it is. Driving around with Sounil, the local stations playing radio friendly hits, the high tempos, the costume changes, the bright colours, the male and female solos in turn, that’s India. That’s her sound. No matter where I was, even on board the train, with that huge CD pack I carry with me everywhere, I’d flip past Nirvana, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, System of A Down, and settle on the Rang De Basanti soundtrack. The only thing in there that’s close to home. You’d listen to the title track by Daler Mahendi, and stare out into the countryside, and then you’d get it. That moment where everything just fit into place. The sights and sounds. That smile on your lips, like you’re watching a movie. Life with a soundtrack. You’d close your eyes and see it. You’d open them and hear it. Occasionally I’d listen to Snow Patrol. They have a song for everything. ‘You’re all I have’ was ringing in my ears on the way to the holy city. Pictures have words. Words have moments, and moments have soundtracks. I’d look out into the fields of sunflowers, they go on for miles, the golden landscape, and I’d think of ‘Desh Mere’ from The Legend of Bhagat Singh. The flowing rivers with tiny boats on them, the farmers sitting on Punjabi Menjey(beds) in the shade of wise trees, taking an afternoon breather and discussing current events. Every time I’d take out and look at that photo again, the one in the red bible’s jacket cover, ‘Roobaroo’ from Rang De Basanti would play in my headphones. And you’ll never notice that ear to ear smile, thinking of tomorrow. Never.

I get off at Amritsar. I must be out of my mind. What the hell am I doing? How did I end up here? Real great idea, waking up one morning and deciding to go to India. I can’t believe I talked myself into this. I have never been here before on my own, last known trip was 7 years back, where mummy handled everything, all I did was tag along. I don’t know if I’ll find that free shuttle bus to Darbar Sahib, if I’ll find accommodation, where I can eat, how do I find my way around, what do I do here for the next 4 days. You try answering these questions in my shoes. I should have just put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger upon the visa collection from Leo Travels. This has got to be the craziest thing I’ve ever done. I hate Epiphanies. Next time I’ll just wave at them as they pass by.

2 hours later, I am where I should be. Checked into the Guru Arjan Dev Ji Nivas(residence), room 16, having langgar for lunch later, standing on the Parkarma, with only the Sarovar(holy water tank) between us. There she is. My knees buckle. My hands tremble as I put them together in salutation. And there’s only one score playing through my mind. Gladiator Soundtrack track 15. Elysium. Download it, and call me a liar.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Holy Cow!!

Indian Visa = RM175
Return Ticket = RM397
ERL Pass = RM24
Fuel consumption to get everything done = God Knows
Expenses = RM800
Time Lost for Simulator Prep = 6 days
Time to make the decision to go = Seconds
The look on my parents face = Amusing

Seeing Her Again? That's worth my universe.

5 days. India. Delhi. Connought Place. Amritsar. Sri Harmandar Sahib. Guru Arjun Dev Ji Nivas. Chheharta. Miri Piri Academy. 5 days. India. You wake up on board an Airbus A330-300 at 40 000 feet, staring at the emergency pamphlet stamped with the MAS logo. The faces of passengers calm, as they execute emergency procedures. Calm as Hindu cows. Khoya Khoya Chand is playing on the screen. Your headphones are not yet plugged in. You wonder what direction the conversation is taking. You wonder if she still recognizes you. You wonder how you got here in the first place. You wonder.

Thurs night you go to bed, knowing you can afford the ticket price, making up your mind that you want to go. Your last chance, in a long time. You’re not thinking things through. You just know that you want to go. You decide to tell Mataji and Pitaji tomorrow. 7 days later. Thurs morning, you wake up on the 7:20 Shatabdi leaving Delhi for Amritsar. You wonder what she’s going to look like. You wonder if you’ll still look at her the same way. 7 years. You wonder.

7 years. You wait. Why? What had been going through your head? A penny for your thoughts. You wake up every morning and walk past her magnificence, eternal on a wall of memories. Those photographs you took, wrapped in a shawl, like baby Jesus, your feet cold from touching the marble. You talk about the old days, your childhood. Those countless times you paraded around the house with your banaa, demonstrating the use of every shastar like a certified curator of V&A Museum, telling hyperbolic stories of the battles during our Guru’s time. You describe her beauty as something that goes beyond life itself. That awe one holds upon witnessing a miracle. That miracle.

But where the hell have you been?! The growing pains reflecting a Nirvana song echo through your rather short history, that has no trace of ‘believe’, ‘passion’, ‘proof’, in its index. Proof that there was God in your life. You believed in Him, but where was the proof? Your proof? To him? A morning and evening prayer read at top speed and gurdwara programs in between?! That’s what you have to offer? 7 years. Now you have 4 days. You have no idea what you’re looking for. You have no idea what to expect. You are going alone. You are scared shitless. You are going there to find the missing piece, and the one person in your life that helped you realize it was missing, that reminded you, life was waiting.

You put your thoughts down in the Red Bible. That book you’ve carried everywhere for the last 2 years. You look at her picture again, the one slipped in the book’s cover. You wonder how much further you’re going to have to take this. A 5 hour flight, and you don’t sleep. Not a wink. Your mind is racing. Your mind is blank. Your thoughts are like Playdo being stretched in every direction. But they don’t break. They just go on. Your thoughts are empty. Not a trace of history or life in them. You listen to Dreamtheater to calm your nerves. Good album. Good recommendation from the guy at the shop. That movie playing isn’t too bad either. Think I’ll recommend it to Harkiren.

“Cabin Crew, please be seated for landing”. Local time is 21:15. Its 39 degrees Celsius outside. I hope Sounil recognizes me. 2000 feet to touchdown. Here we go.