It’s a Wonderful world after a winter of discontent as summer breaks in and we encapsulate a huge turnaround of world events in 2016-17 and should it be a lesson that it is the times that dictate how we, the people of the world elect anybody to any office of importance. But the song never changes!
There used to be this dream where all hell seemed to be happening, nothing seemed to be as I would wish it to be and I was where I just did not want to be. Yet it went on and on. Then there would come a point where I was just wanting for the dream to end and I would find myself half awake saying “oh, the morning is not so far away; it’s just a dream and it will all be over”. Thereafter truly, it was like God intervened and “snap”, presto – I was awake! The bed was still the one that was mine and world order too was mine, very much the way I would ever want it to be.
The other day I met this man and just as he was leaving he said the customary “let’s meet again” gesture where my own response was automatic and habitual “inshallah” which had no religion in it really.
But I immediately felt an odd wave surge within me saying that suddenly the world had changed and so by habits I ought to be careful. Then just today the “Navratras” got over and after week of veggies and half-fasts we went out at as a family to splurge on Naan, paneer and soya chops as we ‘feared’ having tandoori chicken tikkas may be too sudden and harsh. I could almost see my late father rise from ashes with a questioning look “what hey, we used to run for tandoori chicken this day!” and I found myself saying in defense “oh, it was a Tuesday”.
There is no question that the world has changed and so, the way we are thinking is leaving us generally clear thinking educated folks perplexed. Whether it happened from a Trumpy US, a chaotic middle east or closer home to saffron rising in another bread basket of unexpected modernity, I don’t know. All I know is I am first of a generation of Indians born after independence so must think as that! We have led our lives on the cusp of everything from West to East, border to across, house to house, person to person, day to day, period to period and found no need at all to be on ‘one’ side of it all.
My childhood was spent on the edge of the walled city now famous as “Delhi 6”. We took everything as privileged. Example, my folks never considered our locality Daryaganj on Shah Jahaan’s walled zone as ‘old’ Delhi and it was certainly not “New” Delhi because it was at the point of separation called “Delhi Gate”. My uncles wrote and spoke Urdu mixed with Hindi and vice versa and could write some of each, even as they would swear in both English and Hindi, whereas the Urdu was for tehzeeb, meaning courtesy.
My generation added slang and punch to every punchline and courteous abuse, just as every next generation would for sure – to make life colorful but never abusive. We had the Jaini, the Sikh, the muslim and the odd Parsi who lived in seclusion (Delhi still is never Mumbai!). We could hear neighbors fight and we fought them at will. The next day things would patch up. My parents never approved the way others lived and we silently accepted even virtual the enemy. No one ‘told’ us who to meet and who to befriend and so we did that too openly and brashly – romancing the enemy with tehzeeb than with bad blood. The movies too had a well defined hero, heroine and villain but always happy endings.
Honestly rivalries too are part and parcel of ‘acceptance’ of a world order I have happily lived, or outlived I will know much later; but I find it unfair to hear now some people say that past was wrong and ought to be changed. You mean sir, that to make a better today and tomorrow, we need to revisit past and change ‘history’? Was I a bloody fool to sit in a boring History class in school and now I must rationalize that I have truly lived a life in manner that was actually unacceptable. Honestly, would changing a story of a freedom fighter in school text books make our next of kin smarter and more ready to face the world order that shall be hereon?
Suddenly a world order seems to change and future looms like the streets and walls in “Inception”, the movie as a bad dream I must reverse somehow. A young friend gone saffron finds need to find the Hindu within and suggests my Ram is different from his (I love to sing bhajans, devotional music and pray when I feel like). An old Kashmiri friend is never the same for lack of the colorful musalmaniyat and tehzeeb that added to the flavor. I hate suggestions coming of a day when habitual Moghlai foodies and international travelers of my country will look dumbstruck as good old chicken and mutton platters may need license to be served. Okay, if it’s just about clean-up of abattoirs, then I am fine!
I walk past bylanes of Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi to familiar ‘pathani’ faces but it’s just that I am noticing things I have never needed to notice until now. Now I am looking for a Iraqi, Irani, Kashmiri, Indian or North East from a new world order that will never restore, just like my dream. Back in college days we just ate Tibetian, but never questioned why they colonized out there on outskirts of DU or the Bangladeshis who got the now elite Chittranjan Park for ownerships as gift from our government.
Yehudi Menuhin was a musician and suddenly I can relate myself to what he said in “the ethos of a country is reflected in the kind of music it listens to”. Similarly I think, bad dreams are a reflection of our worst fears and when what we once feared has already happened and gone past, all mornings shall be beautiful.
So I say, “aahh” – all miseries of this world are the result of the electronica and melodyne auto-tuner music. So I get away from the unending dream to my morning of digital keypads, virtual drummers and symphony, microphone and lyrics, to make a song, record an idea, post some farce that has potential to be a fact provided it gets heard amidst the din of a ‘today’ that is not Delhi 6 – midway between what ‘ought to be’ and what we honestly love. Isn’t future a product of our present and don’t they know “Back to the Future” was only a Hollywood idea?
John Lennon sits by the roadside as I drive past Delhi roads which are seemingly still unchanged where the old Beatle is singing with a guitar in hand, no more the band around him, as he sings – “I’m just watching the wheels go round and round….I just love to watch them roll…no longer riding on the merry-go-round….aaanhh!”
Doing this, I don’t need belonging to any political party, group or cult or being imposed to any one or the other idea of a world order that ‘ought to be’. All the same I agree with my parents to just accept them for their co-existence ‘like neighbors’ and I will twirl all kinds of flags like I did as a boy; simply for their diversity of colors, tones and lyrics within. Somewhere too, it is now the ‘history’ and ‘literature’ classes that I seemed to remember more than the science and it was all of these together that give me my ‘current assets’ – enough for a wonderful world.
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