May 28, 2012

A Tribute

Roodade gham e ulfat unse hum kyaa kehte kyun kar kehte ,
ek hurf na nikla honton se aur aankh me aansoon aa bhi gaye

Year 2008

"Your grandpa is no more" said the voice at the other end.
"Shit, what happened ?"
"He had another stroke last night. This time they couldnt get him to the hospital on time."

 His voice was trembling. But the bold, fearless head of the family was being consciously composed. He wouldnt give in.It would be considered a sign of weakness.

"Only A man who remains calm in the face of grief is a real man" - He used to tell me when I was growing up. I think it was a saying by Jesus. Or one of those Biblical prophets. They were just too many of them and their smart ass sayings.

 I however had not much of an interest in being a real man after getting beaten up by bullies in school. Or falling off a bicyle and hurting my knee. Instead I preferred to turn on the waterworks, gripe, grumble, whine and make as many sad sounds as possible.

 But then I grew up.

 He probably had many others to inform so he got straight to the point.
 "You must attend the funeral, try to be here by tomorrow."
 "I'll try. I'll have to ask my boss. Works quite hectic these days, we lost headcount"

 He knew where this was heading.He knew my pulse by the second.
 "You should definitely come. He doted on you. You were his favourite. The family would like to see you too"

 That was true though. For some reason grandpa doted on me. He loved my silence. "Such a nice boy, always quiet aa" he'd say.
 "Ok fine. I'll get on a flight this evening. I'll be there"
 "Thats good. Take care and travel safe. Call me before you board the plane"
"Ok, will do."

 We hung up.

 Cold shower.

 Grandpa was not really part of my recent social network. I rarely spoke to him and when I did it was almost always a hurried inquiry about his deteriorating health. His folks were anyway closer to him and I didnt think I would have been able to make a signficant difference to his life. Independence is a virtue that comes at a price of affection.

 The plane ride was long and tenuous.I didnt want to catch up on sleep. I didnt think it would have been appropriate. I decided to watch some movies to kill time. The airline had a good selection. There was enough humour and violence to keep my attention.

 I arrived at my grannys the next morning. People from the entire neighbourhood were assembled there. He had lived there forever and everyone knew him. He was a part of them and they were a part of him. He would have put those we-are-all-connected preaching fcks to shame.

 One by one, they remembered him for all the good things he did. A dead man is always good, honest, reputable, virtuous and worthy.

 I was standing next to the wailing crowd. Emotionally crippled. Not a speck, not a sob.

 Perhaps it was time to resort to an 'instant solution'. Source some heaviness from pop culture references - and celebrity anguish.After all, we are a generation of faking it till we feel it.

 When it comes to grief and despair in cinema, there is one man whose legacy stands tall and strong. A certain Vasanth Kumar Shivshanker Padukone fondly known as Guru Dutt by his critics and admirers. A man who gave us Pyaasa, Sahib Bibi and Kaagaz ke Phool. Each of them a masterpiece flush with brooding tortured characters, heart wrenching poetry, gripping camera-work and subliminal music all mixed into a delectable kheer and thrown at us hot and scalding leaving a deep scar on our minds. A man who had everything but nothing - so helpless by the end of it that even his shadows were disgusted with him.

 There is a scene in his final film Kaagaz ke Phool where Dutt plays a famous film-maker who drinks to insignificance and is forced to play an extra in his apprentices come back film. In the next, he breathes his last on the directors chair at the studio where he had once ruled.

 My eyes began to get moist.


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