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

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Spain in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara & Goya on a Mumbai pavement

Hi there!

I have had a break from blogging as I indulged in some summer sacking back home in India, in balmy Bengaluru and muggy Mumbai :) But am back in humid Hong Kong, and the blog demands to be fed. So here goes ...

A sheet of rain is billowing outside my window. It obscures the green mountain and the white residential towers and its insistent pouring takes me back to Mumbai where monsoon is in full swing. I should know: I spent four hours in a car as we slithered from Lower Parel to Andheri, finally managing to arrive at a dinner well past the time for departure.

The hapless driver, on my persistent questioning, attributed it to a Friday evening, the 'munsoon', the bomb blasts... Ah yes, the bomb blasts. On 13 July three bombs had exploded in the city during the evening rush hour. They killed at least 21 people, injured several more and sent gems flying through the air in Zaveri Bazaar as diamond couriers scurried through the crowded street at end of day.

Mumbai has seen terror attacks before: in 2008, with more than ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across the city by terrorists who invaded from the sea; in 2006, with seven explosions in crowded commuter trains and stations.

"Yet again" was a common refrain that ran through Facebook statuses, Twitter messages, shrill media reporting, as Mumbaikars rolled their wrists in haplessness. As follows every such incident blame was bandied by all parties and passed around as if in a game of passing-the-parcel. We were told anew by the media that it was a case of Intelligence failure, Lack of stringent policing, India was a soft state, We are an easy target - and yet, did we learn anything new here?

You could blame the police but before you do that, put yourself in the shoes of an average policeman. Low salary, long work hours, your career at the mercy of politicos - what motivation would you have to hunt terror?

Amidst all the hot air the city went back to picking up the pieces - literally as even the diamonds scattered in Zaveri Bazaar were hunted for - and Mumbaikars resumed their daily grind. Enroute to a  friend's place I passed Dadar, one street away from the blast site, and I saw a woman on the pavement - one of the several street dwellers - beading jasmine buds into fragrant hair danglers. Her mouth moved softly as if she was humming to herself, behind her a large poster of the highly-anticipated Bollywood flick Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara - set to release the following day - rose, and amidst the cacophony of shrieking horns and squealing tyres, she bent over her work, her fingers flying with alacrity.

I am sucker for the Lake Poets - blame a Convent school education - and in my mind floated Wordsworth from The Solitary Reaper. "I saw her singing at her work, and over the sickle bending, I listened, motionless and still... "

My car moved and the woman was lost to me. I encountered further billboards of ZNMD - its slickly styled actors beckoned and I made a mental note to watch the film. But the woman has stayed with me. Something about the quiet repose of that figure in the chaos of a turbulent city which is equal parts grit and glamour, sleaze and style, penury and plenty reminds me of a famous painting by Francisco de Goya.

The Colossus, or Panic is a painting in which a giant with clenched fists hovers over a landscape where panic-stricken people and animals are fleeing. At the bottom of the picture, in the midst of the chaos, a small donkey stands still. As people are hurrying away, he is very resolutely staying put. Is he frozen in terror? Or is it the stubborn nature of the beast? Or is it because he knows there is no escaping the giant?

I don't know what brought the image to my mind. Perhaps it was the fact that ZNMD is shot in Spain, the country of Goya? Perhaps it was the fortitude of that small animal facing the giant that had found resonance, in my mind, in the repose of the flower woman? Who can tell? The mind makes its connections and sends us spinning down so many alleys ...

But I do know why The Solitary Reaper played in my mind as I watched the woman with the jasmine buds. Wordsworth ended the poem thus:

"And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more."

With me, the music is mute but the image is vivid.

No comments:

Post a Comment