Praise for My Books

"Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising in Punjab's literary horizon. She has an excellent command of English and a sly sense of humour."
- Khushwant Singh on The Long Walk Home

"An enjoyable tale of a sassy girl's headlong race up the corporate ladder."
- India Today on Earning the Laundry Stripes

Friday, 8 December 2017

Ladyz, gentlemen, mitron, lend me your ears... (With apologies to the Bard)

Ladyz, gentlemen, mitron, lend me your ears (arrey, kaan nahin kaatiye, bus suniye — I know we’ve got mighty handy with cutting of late)
I come to bury the Idea of India (which Indira put on ventilation many years back, and now Shri PMji is putting to permanent sleep), not to praise it.
The grandiose idea (secular amidst multiple ancient religions) birthed by the likes of Gandhi-Nehru, 
was a stillbirth when Gandhi was assassinated within the first year of independent India (achhe din version 1.1)  
But Nehru slapped it into some semblance of life, and let it be. Siri PMji 
has told you the Idea of India was bogus:
A Hindu land, Hindu from the golden age of the Vedas, what you mean sickular?
And grievously has India answered it.
Here, under leave of Shri PMji and the rest —
For he is Hindu, Bharat varsha is Hindu;
As is his party of all Hindu men and some (Hindu) women —
Come I to speak in ‘Idea of India’s’ funeral.
I learnt of the Idea of India in my Civics class when I by-hearted the Preamble to our Constitution;
But Shri PMji and his Godse-loving party insists it is an invalid idea;
And Shri PMji has a vision for achhedin and an army of bhakts (so stay in line, I must.)
The idea of India brought many glories to our nation:
An ancient civilization! the world’s largest democracy!
Home to all world religions! Home of non violence!
Did this seem invalid?
Yet Shri PMji says India is for Indians (and Babur-ki-aulad types shush!),
Cent percent Hindu, if Brahmin, better, 
If male, even more so.
I speak not to disprove what Shri PMji and his Bhajapa speak (and promise and trump about Make in India and the din of achhedin)
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love the Idea of India once, not without cause:
(You rioted at regular intervals — 1984, 1992, 2002 — but regained sanity, as if realizing that the good of India lay in a collective good)
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for the Idea of India?
Which Tagore described as ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,’
Which the Preamble (yes, that dusty old tarp that refuses to die, for me at least, a minority twice over: woman and Sikh) promised?
O judgement! thou art fled to an army of trolls,
And men who will protest the plight of fictional women,
And behead, burn and film a poor laborer because he’s Babur-ki-aulad, 
(Never mind that there are 500 years between the two, and hey, in the meantime we had the English too!) Bear with me;
My heart is there in the coffin with the Idea of India,
With Tegh Bahadur who gave his life for the Kashmiri Brahmins,
With the widows and children of ’84 who are still awaiting justice at the hands of their Hindu brethren,
With the women of India who must endure because they are not fictional or mythological but all too real,
With the Muslim woman who raised me, the Catholic nuns who taught me, my Hindu and Sikh family,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
And here, Mr Shakespeare, I must take your leave and recall one of my favorite poets, 
Bahadur Shah Zafar, beleaguered in Burma, who recalling his motherland India, waxed:
Bahut lambi hain raahein pyaar ki, aur zindagi kum hai …
So long are the paths of love and hope, they oft outrun our lives. 
So hope I must, even as I mourn…

© Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Unique Charm of Dimples & Fangs

I don’t recall when exactly I became aware of Shashi Kapoor, but like all lingering encounters, I remember the frisson I felt upon witnessing him as the rakish Javed Khan. So smitten was I that in my later feverish imagining, I cast myself as Ruth (played by Nafisa Ali) who is the object of Javed’s desire. 

Now that I google the film, I realize it released in 1978, which means I fell for Shashi Kapoor at the tender age of ten. What can I say! I’m sure there are others who were younger when they became fans of the Kapoor with the sexiest smile and risqué head turn. 

I watched Shashi Kapoor in many films and somehow, he managed to leave an impression, always: a swinging jiving lover who will sprint his beloved away from under the nose of sasurji (Le jayenge, le jayenge…); the soulful reflective man (Ghungroo ki tarah …); the man whose ardor will melt ice even (Tera much se hai pehle ka nata koi…). There is of course the perennial hit dialogue: Mere paas ma hai. 

But what stuck out for me was the man in Kabhi Kabhi who will say in support of his wife, who he realizes loved another man before marriage, that a woman leaves behind everything when she marries and yet the husband will cast doubts upon her. It was dialogues such as these, which gave voice to an opinion rarely heard in Hindi films, which made me love him more. And he clinched it for me on the memory board when he essayed the aging poet Nur in ‘In Custody’ (based on Anita Desai’s brilliant namesake novel.) This was in 1993, Shashi Kapoor was corpulent, I had grown up, and watching the film was such a bittersweet feeling for here was an actor portraying so beautifully a legend who has wasted away that the line between acting and reality blurred. 

At the end of ‘In Custody,’ Kapoor’s voice recites this couplet:

Jo ruke to koh-e-garan thay hum, jo chale to jaan se guzar gaye
raah-e-yaar hum nein kadam kadam, tujhe yaadgaar bana diya

Once I was steady as a mountain, but now as I walk I leave all behind
at every step on the road on which I walked, I built you a shrine

From the rake Javed Khan to the effete Nur, Shashi Kapoor traversed a long distance. The joy of watching him never diminished — dimples and fangs gave him a unique un-replicable charm, and a place in all our hearts. And in some cases, a shrine.