Monday, January 25, 2016

Memoirs from Gujarat: Reliving Bollywood, one palace at a time

The sights and sounds of Gujarat constantly remind you of one or the other Bollywood movie. Filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ashutosh Gowarikar, and Sooraj Barjatya, smitten by its picturesque locales and larger-than-life forts and palaces, have repeatedly taken recourse to shooting for their films in Gujarat, giving birth to such visual treats as Lagaan; Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam; Kai Po Che; Ram Leela; Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster; and most recently, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

This past December, my friends and I took the opportunity to explore the filmy charm and beauty of two such palaces in the Kutch area of Gujarat. The first palace on our royal itinerary was Vijaya Vilas Palace, which many will recognise as the British house from the movie Lagaan, and also Aishwarya's Rai's family home in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (refer to this video).

Friday, January 15, 2016

The One with the two Secret Santas

"Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift."
This is how Wikipedia defines 'Secret Santa'. I have vague memories of having heard of or read about this tradition on American TV series and the Internet. But come December 2015, I saw this amazing activity unfold before my very own eyes at the Young India Fellowship. It turned out to be an immensely beautiful way of spreading love and cheer around Christmas, and I'm sure the world would benefit greatly from more people adopting it.

Here's how we executed it: an excel sheet was sent to everyone, and those who wished to take part in the activity put in their names. A random assortment algorithm was then used to assign one Secret Santa to each person, so that every person got one present and in turn gave one present. It was overwhelming to see a large majority of my batch sign up for it - it reflected the deep sense of giving and sharing that the people around me harboured. The deadline for the exchange of gifts was mutually set at 22nd December, since that was the last day for most Fellows on campus before leaving for the holidays. For over a week after this, there ensued on campus a heart-warming gift exchange drive, mostly in the form of surprises springing up on people in random places at random times. Some would wake up in the morning to find a present and a beautifully written card/note on their doorstep or table. Some would receive presents from messengers. Some would return to their rooms in the evening to find a surprise waiting for them on the bed. Some lucky ones even received a series of presents for each day in the run-up to 22nd! It was an utter delight to watch the entire spectacle unfold.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Memoirs from Gujarat: Why Gujjus are such wonderful people

The year 2015 was all about travel for me. It took me to Bombay, Nainital, McLeodganj, Dalhousie, and the United States (some of these places twice in the same year). And if that wasn't enough geographical variety, the run-up to the New Year washed me up on the westernmost shores of our beautiful country - in Prime Minister Modi's homeland. Travelling in Gujarat was in striking contrast to all my other trips of the past year. The land was arid and devoid of colour or vitality in a lot of places I visited. Everywhere you'd look, you'd find vast, naked landscapes. Your eyes would be deprived of conventional scenery, that is, unless shrubs, grasses, and rocks appealed to your senses (which was certainly the case with me). It was while on this trip that I began to develop a deeper understanding of and a profound respect for the people of Gujarat and Rajasthan. It also occurred to me that their colourful costumes, accessories and traditions could perhaps be their way of making up for the barrenness and lack of colour that characterise their desert lands. Plausible? No? Okay.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dusk on the Arabian Sea

Sometimes, just sometimes, you want to be left alone to your thoughts.
Sometimes it's not love you want, but the wondrous sight of dusk at sea. 
In those times, all else seems to stop existing around you.
All that is alive is the sand, the sun, and ripples of the ocean.

Sometimes you don't want to go with the flow, or stand against the tide.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you want to stand by and watch the raging waves.
You want to be swept away by the wind but stay rooted to a speck of the earth.
You want to stop moving and listen to the sounds of what's past and what is to come.

In these moments, you cease to be you and float above
To discover, you are the world, and the world is you.
You are the cool of the breeze and the pink of the setting sun.
You are the salt in the water, the voice of the places you have been.

Stranger tides may have tossed you ashore,
But here you are today.
The water is calling, the sun inviting,
Dive in and find out what lies deep within.

Because in this moment, you are you.
And nobody can take this away from you.
Savour the sensation, for it won't last
Neither will the world, and nor will you.