Friday, January 30, 2009

BACK ON TRACK: BACK ON THE ROAD

After spanning continents and touring big city after big city in aero-planes, I never realized how much I missed the small-town feel until I travelled to a few, including my own hometown recently. Some of the yawning distances have to be covered by air, but fortunately I am spared the monotony of air travel with some movement on roads and tracks. There's something about travelling in a train that shifts me into an overdrive & a slumber at the same time. In an aero-plane, the suffocating silence & formality are so restraining that I long for emancipation. In a train, there is a perpetual buzz around you - the constant whirring of the fan, the slightly shifting, slightly adjusting movement of people around the compartments, the incessant chatter of people from all walks of life – discussing wives, politics, TV shows, terrorism - literally anything & everything under the sun. Some of it is relevant, most of it "time-pass". Foods from different households packed in the definitive style of that family do the rounds. The freedom to strike a conversation with the most myriad group of strangers around is liberating. One may walk about with royal indifference and get a glimpse of the REAL people of India.
The stations are hubs of activity, with its characteristic sounds & smells - the chai wallah with his shrill, monotonous drone, the chaat wallah loudly promoting his ware, the vendors selling a variety of sweetmeats, fruits, books and the like. Book stalls are stocked with the best and the inane. The toilet is filthy and I nevertheless still get charged for using it. In the meanwhile, I rest assured I'll bump into every kind of person, and observation suddenly becomes my endearing past-time. Many stations pass by, and finally I alight at my destination. Porters charge towards me, and I charge away from them. They haggle, quarrel amongst each other and I walk away with my meager baggage and an indifferent attitude. The car is waiting, and I get in for another less-frequented mode of long distance transport – by road

In the small towns I visit, I notice that in spite of the evidently newly constructed dividers & buildings, nothing takes the inherent charm away. The lanes are small & congested with a handful of boys & girls – the boys boisterously loud & cheeky, the girls shy & reticent. The children pedal away furiously on their bicycles, attempting a poor but exhilarating mimicry of the fast life of the cities. Their bodies are agile, even if slightly arched by the burden of the schoolbag on their backs. The trees are playfully teased by the wind, and I could've never imagined that mere rustling of leaves could become a heavenly form of music. The koels are cooing and the melodious sound reverberates in my memory long after the sound's gone. Over-the-top posters of various local & "imported" brands dot the landscape & the greenery acts as a sharp contrast to the dusty & dry town limits. It is heartening to see how many things that city dwellers take for granted are such joy-imparting bonuses in towns. The idyllic setting, the slowness of life draws me towards it. The city of Mumbai where I live is so crowded it looks like a mass parade, a disjointed march-past between people who are surging ahead, purposefully or aimlessly. The constant chatter of Mumbai changes to a lazy silence here. And I realize my observation begins to peak. I hear the squirrels twittering in the tree, hiding in the most impossible of thickets and branches, with their tails jerking with every twitter, as if the sound were emanating not from their tiny mouths but from their tails. Were these continuous shrill twitters mating calls? Perhaps, because in another instant, another one joins our furry friend and both disappear high up in the tree. I see colorful kites entangled in the trees – neglected souvenirs of the just concluded Kite festival. The thrill of seeing the distant hills in just the moon light with nothing in between to obstruct the view reminds of the rush I felt with my first kiss.

I spend time with my family and look at all the people gathered to see me, proclaiming to be my friends. My friends left these towns long ago, in search of greener pastures. And in celebrity starved regions, privacy comes with great difficulty. The roads in parts are a nightmare & it takes more than a warm bath & a massage to recover from it. I am a guest with the Deputy Chief Minister and he's a good host. However, the overt lavishness of the evening is in sharp contrast to the crumbling town outside – a town that is beautiful but is also falling apart at the seams, its spirit broken but not defeated, trundling towards the faintest of flickers of hope. The wastefulness of personnel, food and monies inside those walls but not beyond appalls me. What good it could do if put in for the right purpose & in the right direction… Very soon, it is time to leave by road to catch my next flight. The journey from the town to the city is long and throws up more interesting sights. The massive chimneys at the outskirts of the city spew thick, white smoke, not unlike angry, billowing dragons. I notice conical thatched huts which are epitomes of beauty in all their simplicity. The exteriors of such huts are replicated in many resorts where one must pay a fortune to use them. Here, the simple village folk make it for themselves and live in what eludes most of us. For the first time, I see flocks of birds perched asleep in dried up trees. To be honest, the sight set against a darkened sky frightens me. There are patches of dark clouds and the moon is obscured. I fall into the clutches of a deep sleep and the unforgiving cold...

The first rays of the sun pry my eyes open for what lies ahead. The brightness of the greenery is a sight to behold for a person weary of living in a concrete jungle. I instantly crave to break free of the confines of my vehicle and gallivant into the lush green fields. My dreams have always been made of such open spaces, spaces symbolizing freedom and greatness. Spaces in the manner God made them – unbridled, untouched. Suddenly, I want to be the man herding the cows scattered all over like a child's toys. I want to be the boy bathing with complete abandon in the village pond. I want to be the woman leaning forward to work the rice in the fields. I want to be the men sitting on their haunches, sipping on their tea and indulging in morning banter. I want to be the boy frolicking in a puddle of rain water with his nervous grandfather. I want to be the girls riding their bicycles to school in their crisp, blue uniforms. I want to be the lad sitting around doing nothing. I want to be the family of gulls perched on the wall, side by side like wise old men looking towards the horizon. I want to be the train chugging along with its trademark coo, taking me forward in space and back in time. A barely 5 foot high mesh separates me from my desires. What hold me back are barriers of time and barriers set in my mind. The grass is literally greener on the other side, but it's not easy to cross over. I watch sudden drops of rain slide down the car windows as I stare outside in childlike wonder. The music playing is mellifluous, with Pankaj Udhas' "Aur ahista" slowly melting inside me and making me wish that things would really go more "ahista". Fuzon's "Mora saiyyan" blurs memories of a face long lost in the recesses of the mind. Richard Marx croons "Can't help fallin' in love with you" and "Aao na" gifts me memories of a year back and tears of the now, which surprise me…

13 comments:

  1. Hi Meiyang,

    Welcome back...we all missed you....where you left us....its not about you only being A celebrity.....but to know you.......seeing you in totality.......as a person in different frames......like.....say...to look at you from so far.....observe you....along with your clear-cut voice and those short and sweet jeers you make which brightens the whole scene at the indian idol...and to know you here as being so simple A human...is some kind of a rare combination....and in yet an another frame.....you seem to observe........the simple mundane unknown survival......which.....grabs your eyes....about so many basic plain things...and then your heart tries to find the true meanings of the existence we call 'life' to live in......Your thoughts remind of the poem I wrote sometime back.....with similar feelings...

    Well for me thats is LIFE.......its the most mysterious terminology......so simple.....and yet so complicated....... both at the same time...

    You are doing a fantastic job........

    Wish you Best for ahead.......for this is still not the real picture....we really want to see you sing too......as i feel this is what really lies ahead.

    Bye and take care......nd

    Keep smiling.

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  2. hey thanks for updating your blog. nothing better than reading your unexpected blog update on a sunday morning :D cheers

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  3. Very well said chang that the grass is always green on the other side. But believe me, when you expereince the other side than and than you will realise that what you have is much better than that.
    Seems like you are going through emotional up and down ( it comes when all your desires are fulfilled ), just be by yourself and start enjoying the life by who you are, not by who you become.
    BTW we missed you in the last two idol episodes.

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  4. it makes me happy to say that we share our likings...i too like travelling in the trins more than the air-planes....the ristriction of movements in the planes makes me really uncomfortable, restless and it makes me feel very uneasy!!
    i love ther freedom of movement i get in a train...i enjoy it !!!


    i love going to small towns n villages...my mother is from sangli...and everytime we go there to visit there i often find myself lost in the farms that i see there!!
    its a great feeling...and i love getting lost in the farms and beautiful sunsets that other wise i don't get to see!!
    :) :) :) :) :)
    love
    ramma

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  5. Dear Chang,
    Gong Xi Fa Chai!
    You have back home unexpectedly and have left us something to think over and learn. Still I am thinking that what type of person THIS SO CALLED CHAAAAAAAAAAN! From where, how and from whom you learnt to think such a wonderful way? I wish I could read your mind. You are a GREAT. I always wish your friendship. Please, be good for the mass and do service for the mass. We are in this world for the happiness of many.
    May the Buddha bless you!
    May you always be well and happy!
    Chandawimala Ji

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  6. wow!that was one helluva post .you have perhaps captured tiniest nuances and given it a great form.i strongly echo your thoughts as well.

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  7. now about ur new post
    ur post was superb as ever.aisa laga jese men bhi aap k saath saath safar ker rahi hon.it was very much exciting.
    chang what hav u done of urself??????????
    i mean u r such a nice mimic n we didnt know that.roz aapki ek nai khoobi dekhne men aati he.
    hope u achieve much more. u deserve best of all. because best deserves the best

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  8. Aww, you sound lonely and introspective. I really sympathize with your words on looking out the train window... still, you seem like you have a pretty positive outlook. Wherever you're traveling to, good luck, man.

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  9. Would you believe me if i say i'm writing to you now, from Singapore?
    You fame reached us some time ago. Yet, today, as my husband sang the song from Om Shanti Om, i was reminded of you.
    Searched for your blog and read this entry of your's.
    Made me wonder, how big is this world?I've seen parts of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea...yet there's so much more!I've been taught, through tough periods in life, to appreciate the every minute thing we have. And the grass is always green everywhere. If you look at it in positive light, no matter which side you stand on.
    Meiyang, I wish you the best and hope to hear you sing again.You've touched many of our hearts with your voice. cheers!

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  10. Chang,

    U are a gr8 observer of the surroundings. Luvvvved to see u on Indian Idol Final. Man God Bless u become much more popular.

    U have it in you.

    Ken

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  11. Why did I read this, when I am in no way close to India!Pure torture!

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  12. chang u r amazing.going through ur words just raises so many emotions within me..so much pure. deep, thoughtful. and giving us insights on what goes on in the minds of the celebrities :) showing us that deep down they share the same emotions,feelings , aspirations.and the pics u take..god how can one be so creative!!! chang i wish u put down ur thoughts in a book someday..to preserve gems like u. i will surely be one of the many to treasure it forever.

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  13. You live! Go Chang, Go buddy!
    You want to be so many of those down to earth things......that's why you LIVE life the way you do...with feeling and passion. Keep the inner voice alive..and keep writing.

    lotza luv

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