Saturday, 8 July 2017

Language

Language. Something that I have always taken for granted. Maybe, because I have always had complete command over the ones spoken around me. Having lived all my life in one place, I took language as a part of me – it was there but invisible, maybe in the background, silent and quiet.

It is only when you are put up at a place where you don’t know the language at all that you realize how big a role it can play. It is then that ‘language’ becomes the ‘visible’ part of your existence, gaining all the importance it deserves, mostly mocking you for taking it for granted all these years, at times being kind throwing a few familiar words in your direction, maybe having the same origin in the languages you have been speaking. It makes you feel primitive because you go back to using gestures with people. It makes you feel alien reminding you that you still don’t belong there. It looks at you in the eye, challenging you in a duel and it knows that it is going to win. It commands you to surrender to it, to accept its superiority.  


It can be irritating initially when you are amidst people speaking a language that you can’t make any sense out of. It is nothing more than a sound to you. Like a constant buzzing around you. They would suddenly start laughing only to make you realize that somebody cracked a joke. You try to fathom what they are saying on the basis of their facial expressions. Oh, he is being shouted upon. Maybe he is trying to explain something difficult. Did he say something so foolish that the other person’s expressions changed so much? Are they commenting on you knowing very well that you don’t know a bit of what is being spoken? Questions. All sorts. With only wild guesses as answers.  

That’s when you start observing the language. Keenly. Minutely. It takes time. It takes effort. But it’s worth it. It throws surprises in front of you everyday. You can accept it, be frustrated by it, revel in its beauty or have fun handling it. Maybe, it’s like understanding a child. It can be like a stubborn one, not letting you know what it wants and yet crying incessantly around you. And sometimes, when in a good mood, it might let you peep into itself, it might let you feel familiar in its territory.   

Every language has uniqueness to it, a particular manner in which it is spoken, the way words are pressed or emphasized, the way the tongues are rolled, the way the tone is pitched. Language – if you know it well – is like something that could be lying around you like the non-existent but useful furniture item, its presence felt and unfelt at the same time. Or Language when you don’t know it – is like that one useful thing that you need miserably but can’t remember where you put it last time.


Kakinada.  A small town in coastal Andhra Pradesh. That is where I have been putting up since last one month. That is where I had my first stint with an alien language; with Telegu.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Muffled voices

The emptiness doesn’t haunt too much. The noise is not that loud. It’s muffled now. There are other voices that are louder than that noise. The voices that have my attention. Maybe I am deliberately not hearing the noise? Trying to push it below practical things. Work to be finished, lists to be made, payments to be scheduled, things to be purchased and packed.

The voices of all things mundane, of things that would occur at intervals and of things that will happen once in a lifetime – they seem to be helping me push the noise deeper so it’s more and more muffled.

But then, why does an image keep playing in front of my eyes. Image of myself as a child hiding the remains of an expensive crockery I broke under the carpet so that no one would notice them. Those pieces hurt later – to others and to me. What I forgot as a child was that hidden, broken pieces hurt the sole. Am I forgetting the same thing as an adult? Am I forgetting that hidden, broken pieces might hurt again? They might hurt the ‘soul’.




Friday, 12 May 2017

Ex - Sarkari Babu

From today onwards, I no longer am the ‘sarkari babu’. A title which I accepted first with reluctance, then with frustration, followed by the understanding of its importance, then with responsibility and finally with a lot of pride.

Even though I come from a family of government officers, I never ever wanted to be one. The idea of going to a same place, doing the same work, meeting the same people everyday never appealed to me. But somehow, I landed one for myself. Within a span of a year, I tried to get out of it. And trust me, I tried really hard.

But as they say, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. And before I realized, it was around eight years of working in a government office.

They say your first job teaches you the most. I learnt too. I learnt that it is easiest to blame the government when you are on the other side of the table. 

I learnt that it is not that easy for an outsider to understand why things happen in a certain way in a government office. I learnt that being a government officer came with a lot of responsibility towards your country. I learnt that even though you are a smallest part of the government machinery, you can contribute if you want to.


I also learnt that going to a same place everyday could bring a lot of stability. I learnt that doing the same work everyday could become your forte. I learnt that meeting same people everyday could be comforting.

I don’t remember when did I change from being somebody who never wanted to be a government officer to somebody who started defending when people blamed government for everything.

Every workplace has its own pros and cons. This one had too. But as I leave today, I leave with warm friendships, lessons and learnings that will last a lifetime and times that will be etched in memory forever.

~ From an ex - Sarkari babu (Just felt like calling that myself one last time)

Monday, 17 April 2017

'In between'

This period of being ‘in between’ things. The upcoming ironical goodbyes that will be happy and sad at the same time, the shortly due new hellos, the fear and the excitement of beginning afresh somewhere, the zeal and exhaustion that comes at the same time at the thought of proving yourself once again, the new boundaries that you will set and the ones that will be set for you, the chanting that you have been doing to yourself. Saying again and again that the decisions you’ve taken are the right ones, that you haven’t gotten a raw deal. Although its only time that will tell if the chants have proven themselves correct or you have learnt things the harder way once again.

This ‘in between’ feeling. The feeling of being unmoored, unhinged.




Thursday, 30 March 2017

Musings - When you reach office early

The familiarity of the place. As you open the cabin door. Day after day. You place your belongings and even the sound of shifting your bag seems too loud. You switch on the lights. And a thought. A flickering one. Can you switch on people’s consciences here like that ever? What if you could? What a different world would that be?

The peculiar smell of this place. You have known it too well now. The smell of old papers, of rusted iron chairs and of misty intentions of people occupying them. The smell of dissatisfaction too lurking somewhere. Sombreness seems to be a vital molecule of the air around.


Click. And the mammoth printer machine buzzes for a couple of minutes as if grunting for waking it up so early. ‘Oh you guys, will you ever let me sleep? You just used me entire day yesterday. Making me work all day long.’ She grumbles.
‘It’s a government office, sweetheart. We need to have everything in black and white. Hence, we need to make you work.’ You want to say to her. Oh but wait. Do you really want everything in black and white here? You laugh inwardly at the irony.

Grey. That’s the shade here. Of people. Of papers. Of realities. Of truths. And of lies.

You notice the tea stained white cup on the table. The proof of a long day at work yesterday. Lying quiet. You touch it, only to be startled by its coldness. Just like the people it serves. It’s been years since you've been here. And yet you fail to understand the reason of getting startled by the coldness here - of the place and people both. 

The unusual quiet that haunts your ears right now. But within moments, it will all start again. The ruffling of papers, the movement of files, clicking of keys on the keyboard, incessant cries of black telephones, fanatic meeting calls, orders masked as requests dipped in honey smooth voices, idle gossip burning your ears, your mind alarmed and awake. 

And the enormity of it all. The way it gobbles you up. For the entire day. Weeks. Months. Years too. And throws out the chewed up version of you at the end of each day.


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