Eidgah by Munshi Premchand (Part 1)

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This is one of my favorite short stories ever, and rightfully one of Munshi Premchand’s greatest hits. Enjoyed translating it much more than I hoped to. I apologize if I’ve offended anyone by attempting to replicate a masterpiece, but this one’s from 1933 and I can’t think of a better writing exercise than this! 

 

After 30 days of Ramzan, Eid was finally here. What a captivating, what a beautiful effect it had. The trees were unusually greener, the fields were unusually brighter, the sky was unusually sunny. Look at the sun today! How beautiful, how pretty. As if its wishing the world Eid Mubarak.

The village is so tensed today. Everyone’s preparing for Eid. Someone doesn’t have a button for their kurta, they are running to their neighbours house for some thread and needle. Someone’s shoes got tight, they are running to the oil shop to lubricate it. Let’s just all bathe our buffalos quickly! It’ll be afternoon by the time we return from the Eidgah! A three-kilometre walking distance, followed by meeting hundreds of people, it’ll be impossible to return in the afternoon.
The boys are the happiest! Someone has kept a fast till noon, some not even that. But, they were entitled to their share of happiness about going to Eidgah. The fasts were for the grown-ups, for them it was Eid.

They were waiting for it for a long time, now it has come. And now that it has come, they were feeling restless about people not hurrying up to go to Eidgah. What do they care about the problems of domesticity? Whether or not there is milk and sugar for sevaiyaan (vermicelli porridge), what do they care, they know that they will eat the sevaiyaan. What do they care about why their father was running to Choudhary Kayam Ali’s place like a mad man! What do they know that if only Choudhary would change his glasses, he’ll be able to go on his Eid pilgrim. They had the wealth of Kuber in their pockets. Again and again, they would take out their treasure and keep it back after getting their dose of happiness. Mahmoud counts his, one, two… 10… 12, he has 12 rupees. Mohsin had one, two, three… 10… 12… he has 15 rupees. They will just buy unlimited things out of this unlimited wealth – toys, sweets, flute, ball – and god only knew what else.

And the happiest was Hamid. He was just five years old – poor and frail, whose father was killed by the plague last year and his mom – god only knows why – died by slowly turning yellower as the days went by. Nobody knew what the disease was. Even if she spoke about it, was there anyone to listen? Whatever would go through her heart, she would keep it in there and when she couldn’t take it anymore.. she left this world. Now, Hamid sleeps in her grandmother Ameena’s lap and is just as happy as everyone else. His grandfather had gone to earn some money. He’d bring back bags of it. Grandmum had gone to Allah Miyan’s place to get some really cool stuff, that’s why Hamid is happy. Hope is a great thing, and a child’s hope! Their dreams can make a mountain out of a molehill. Hamid doesn’t have any shoes, his head had an old looking cap, whose cloth had become black with dirt – but he is happy. Now, his grandfather will bring money and grandmother will bring gifts – then he will find contentment in his heart. Then he will see how Mohsin, Noore and Sammi find that much money!

Poor Ameena was sitting alone in her room and crying. Today was Eid, her house didn’t have a single morsel of food! If Aabid would be here, then would Eid come and go like this? She was harrowing in that pit of darkness and disappointment. Who had called for this bloody Eid?

(…to be continued.)

Blessing (Vardaan) by Munshi Premchand

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I bet my old friend Munshi didn’t take a lot of time to write this. And like so many other of his stories, this too is didactic. Not great with history, but my guess is that this was written to inspire the freedom fighters of that era. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it. Don’t think any Premchand fanatic will even read this, let alone accuse me of being audaciously silly to translate his stuff. Just a simple writing exercise, guys. Hope to do many more. Also, this is not an exact translation. Neither my Hindi, nor my English is good enough to do justice to one of the greatest names in Hindi literature. 

The Vindhyachal mountain, in the darkness that pervades late after midnight, was looking like Kaal Dev (God of Darkness) himself. The small trees planted on the mountain were becoming invisible. The temple of Ashtabhuja Devi (Goddess with eight hands, durga) was being sprayed by small snow balls that were fluttering with the assistance of gentle breeze.

 

Half of the night had passed. There was a scary silence all around. The black waves of the Ganges was flowing peacefully beneath the mountain. Their movement was akin to a soothing raga (symphony). A few boats and huts built across the banks, had burning chulhas (stove) and one could see their light flames. In such a time, a woman clad in a white dress was sitting in front of the Durga statue – her hands clasped in prayer. Her face was yellowish and seemed pensive. After keeping her head bowed for a long time, she said,

“Mother! Since the last twenty years, there hasn’t been a single Tuesday where I have not offered my prayers. Not a single day has passed, where I have not meditated on your feet. You are the all-knowing queen of the world. Even after worshipping you so much, my wishes haven’t been fulfilled. Where do I go if I leave you?”

“Mother! I kept several fasts. Worshipped numerous gods. Went on pilgrimages, yet my wish has remained unfulfilled. After that, I came to your feet. You’ve always fulfilled the wishes of your devotees. Should I go away disappointed from your court?”

Suwama kept on praying like this for a long long time. Suddenly, there was an attack of stunning affection on her mind. She couldn’t see anymore, and a sound started buzzing in her head.

“Suwama! I am pleased by your efforts. Ask, whatever you wish for?”

Suwama was elated. Her heart started pounding. After a long wait of 20 years, she had finally received a sitting with the Goddess.

“Will the Goddess give whatever I ask for?”

“Yes, you’ll get it.”

“I have done some intense worshipping, therefore I will ask for a tremendous thing.”

“What will you take – Kuber’s wealth?”

“No.”

“Indra’s strength.”

“No.”

“Saraswati’s wisdom?”

“No.”

“Then what will you take?”

“A well-mannered son.”

“Who makes the family proud?”

“No.”

“Who takes care of his parents?”

“No.”

“Someone who is strong and a scholar?”

“No.”

“Then what do you call a good son?”

“One who serves the nation.”

“Your wisdom is praiseworthy. Your wish has been granted.”

2015: A year in review

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I had the best times of my life in 2015. I had the worst times of my life in 2015. Hopefully, in the long novel that my life is, this year could be considered the chapter where I hit absolute rock bottom, only to find a way out and resurrect some broken things. As I write this, a lot of things are still broken, but at least I am walking down a constructive road, and not a destructive one.

Joined GQ

The highlight of this year for me was joining GQ, which is like the Mount Olympus for any upcoming journalist. Additionally, I have also felt really good about managing to be a lot more disciplined and hardworking than I was before. Touchwood.

*I have shared the couple of stories that I did here later in this article.

Started smoking, and lost all the hard work done on my body

In 2014, I did something which I thought would help me save a lot of money and damage to my health – I quit smoking. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t maintain my unbeaten streak any longer than one and a half years, and had to resort back to the extremely expensive and unhealthy habit that I had started to abhor. In my defense, I was really depressed and on the verge of insanity, and needed a vice to calm things down. Stupid excuse, I know. But then, life is hard when you’re not a child anymore.

Another thing that I am disappointed about is losing all the progress I had made on my body. The journey had started around June 2014, and I had managed to grit it out and continued intense weight training until the early months of 2015. The result – I gained almost 14 kg, and was starting to find my biceps cling to T-shirts that I once found loose. I enjoyed it a lot. The pain, the soreness, the endorphins that rush through your body after you’ve killed your workout – I loved it all. I became so good that I could bench press a lot more than my own body weight. On a smith machine. I was too chicken to risk it with free weights. I ate healthy, drank green tea, got regular massages and looked the best I had done all my life. Then came one of the knocks that completely knocked the gas out of me and shattered my self-confidence. Slowly and steadily, the number of exercise days in the week reduced. Then the number of exercises I did reduced. Then the number of sets and reps. At one point, I became content with just giving my muscles some sort of stimulation.

It’s been weeks since I visited my gym. The last exercise I did was doing 15 push ups to get rid of some lethargy. At one point, I could do 200 within 15 minutes.

That said, I am proud of making these healthy changes, and having done it once – I know I can do it again! Hopefully, in 2016 – I find an opportunity (and motivation) to go through the grind again.

Reading and writing

After joining GQ, the writer and the reader in me gained a lot more confidence than before – and once again, I find myself with the same hunger to express that I had when I decided to renounce commerce and tried to make a career in writing. I did manage to do it in 2014 itself, but somewhere along the road – I got really jaded, and wasn’t enjoying myself at all. Things have changed now, and with the presence of all these great and established people around me, I am positive about keeping the hunger alive in the future as well.

Inshallah, 2016 will be a year where I get to better myself as an artist, and who knows – maybe the post that I make exactly one year from now will be a lot better than this one.

Cooking

I have also started enjoying the process of cooking a lot, and can now claim to cook any rice preparation or curry – as long as I have the ingredients and a link to the recipe. I am not bad at it either, and as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. My brother and my mother – they always want more than normal, and on more than one occasion, we’ve run out of food despite me increasing the quantity. My favorite chef? Harpal Singh Sokhi. I like his jovial nature while narrating a dish, and even though his recipes are complicated (he says that he has simplified it) to cook, they turn out really really tasty!

List of things I wrote in 2015

Anyway, since this blog is all about me and my writing, I will end with a list of 10 articles that I am really proud of doing. Unlike a lot of other list makers, I am listing them in the order of preference.

  1. ISL Final: Three things to watch out for (GQ India)
  2. ISL 2015: Players we could watch all day (GQ India)
  3. Ronnie Coleman’s interview (THS)
  4. How Amit Makhija lost weight and transformed himself/Subhojeet Roy’s story (THS)
  5. Virat Kohli’s diary entry (CC)
  6. 8 songs on food (this blog)
  7. Marijuana – what’s it like in a stoner’s world (THS)

Wish you a happy and a prosperous new year! What is my single biggest wish in 2016? More money!

 

Why WWE will never be the same like it was when we were in school

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The two guys that defined the golden Attitude Era of WWE. If you don't know who they are, click the close tab of your browser now.

The two guys that defined the golden Attitude Era of WWE. If you don’t know who they are, click the close tab of your browser now!

There is a lot that is different about WWE now, compared to what it was when I was a kid. For starters, WWE used to be telecast two weeks late. It pricked me a lot, and more often than not, I would use the internet to figure out the results beforehand and announce what I found out to my fellow classmates. Oh, what days they were, when spitting out water Triple H style in a school bathroom made us feel strong and invincible.

Things are different now. Most WWE superstars have a Twitter account. The shows are telecast live and in HD. The biggest change however has been that WWE has decided to become more family friendly. The days of the attitude era where Stone Cold Steve Austin would guzzle up two cans of beer in a gulp, and show his middle finger to the crowd is over.

The millions (and millions) of The Rock’s fans (including this writer) were left heartbroken when he stopped becoming a regular on either RAW or Smack Down and moved to Hollywood. For me personally, his exit was a suckerpunch that sent my levels of enthusiasm for the show sliding down like a kite that has lost its thread. To add more salt to my wounds, the family friendly format meant that there was no more of Kane electrocuting Shane McMahon’s testicles or Vince McMahon forcing Trish Stratus to strip down to her bra and panties and bark like a dog. All of which made for captivating entertainment to the boy I was.

The extreme nature of this show also invited the ire of many people (mainly parents and teachers). Children were hooked to the popular show which was high on both violence and sex. Their parents tried to make them stop, which only gave the kids a chance to practice the argumentative skills they had learnt by watching their favorite stars.

Some of you might say that the reduced violence is good as you don’t want children seeing that kind of content. I disagree. With the rise of YouTube and faster internet speeds, children can access violent and sexually explicit content very easily. It is no shocker that WWE has started to market vintage content like DVDs of the attitude era more aggressively now than ever before.

To make matters even worse for the already deflated wrestling fan in me, documentaries like ‘Wrestling secrets revealed’ showed us how the blood and the beating is nothing but a sham! The WWE that I followed with pride, now became an uncool and childish thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying WWE will go out of business, or the hundreds of employees it hires have reason to panic. The show will go on! However, it just won’t be as cool as it once was!

That said, there are some good things about the PG era too. No one can be wrong all the time, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Wrestlers like John Cena have added a lot of charm and entertainment, and proved to be a worthy role model for little children. His catchphrases like ‘you can’t see me’ received huge acceptance, and I am sure it was imitated several times in school classrooms across the world.

But, there are several things wrong too. People like CM Punk and Seth Rollins (where is that aura and charisma?) seem pale in comparison to The Rock, Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Forget the swearing and the brutal violence, these people aren’t as good with the mic as the old superstars.

It could be because I don’t have a young and impressionable mind anymore. Probably, the kids of today idolize Danny O’ Brien like I loved Chris Jericho. Probably not. The kids of today have access to much more entertainment than we had. They can now play some intense games on mobile phones, and need not spend money to buy WWE trump cards. They can now watch HD porn at the click of a button, and need not wait desperately for a bra and panty match or a bikini contest.

No one can ever be certain about the future, but it may never be like the old days again. People are always looking for new ways to excite themselves, and seeing two wrestlers hit each other in the ring (not for real) may not have the novelty factor going for it anymore. The action movies are getting bigger and better, with more realistic car explosions and actors jumping out of buildings and fighting on trains. WWE however is restricted to the same old suplexes, chokeslams and clotheslines.

Yes, the drama is still there, but ever since people I found out that it is scripted, it is hard to root for someone.

It is not like the heads at WWE aren’t trying to innovate. Stuff like Total Divas (which is a reality show featuring WWE Divas) and engaging games on Xbox is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough to arrest the damage that WWE has suffered in recent years.

What does it need? Better writing, more engaging story lines and a free leash for upcoming WWE superstars to sell themselves with the microphone.

Personal trivia (this is worth at least 1000 bucks in the gossip market): My Facebook login ID is still samloveswwe@yahoo.com.

8 delicious Hindi Songs that will make you hungry!

Anyone who has known me over the last one year or so, will vouch for the fact that if I have one weakness in life – it’s food! Sometimes, when I am so sad that I question my raison de etre (just used a fancy word to come across as pretentious), I find solace in thinking about food and the immense pleasure it can provide. In order to celebrate this obsession, here are 10 delicious Hindi songs with lyrics that will touch a chord with the foodie in you!

1. Chicken kukudokoo

There is a scene in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, where little Shahida is mesmerized by the aroma of biryani emanating from her neighbor’s house. To fulfill her hunger for chicken, vegetarian Chaturvedi (Salman Khan) takes her to Choudhary Dhaba in Chandni Chowk where she gets to eat a whole lot of non-vegetarian food! I checked on Zomato. There is no Choudhary Dhaba in Chandni Chowk. There is a Kake da dhaba however.

2. Batata wada

End of the month? Running short of money? Spent all your money on alcohol and cigarettes? Regretting the lavish life you lived during the first 15 days of the month? Smile! :) Here is a song that will make you crave vada pavs as if they were the best thing ever invented!

3. Aye mere pyaare mutton!

This is a parody of the very patriotic Aye Mere Pyaare Watan from Kaabuliwala by the extremely talented group of The Viral Fever! It is sung with the same pensive passion of the original, and is bound to make every foodie worth his salt cry tears of laughter!

4. Duplicate – Wah ji wah!

Duplicate was never considered as one of Shah Rukh Khan’s best efforts. Despite that I absolutely loved the movie! This song shows the Badshah of Bollywood donning a chef’s hat, and cooking a wide range of dishes.

5. Daawat-e-ishq

Lucknow is famous for being the land of nawabs and biryani. This song is picturized Tariq Haider (Aditya Roy Kapoor) – the owner of an incredibly popular Haidari restaurant that serves Lucknowi cuisine. The lyrics are about a man’s desire to find the love of his life (when will I find mine?), and serve her great food all the time. By the time the song ends, Tariq Haider manages to floor Gulrez Qadir aka Sania Habibullah (Parineeti Chopra) by serving her some nice sweet dish.

6. Joote do paise lo

If you are anything like me, the best thing about being a guest at a marriage is the access to delicious free food! In this video, a very attractive Nisha (Madhuri Dixit) is trying to serve Prem (Salman Khan) a wide range of delicacies.

Nisha: Kuch thanda peelo!

Prem: Mood nahi hai!

Nisha: Dahi bare lo!

Prem: Mood nahi hai!

Nisha: Kulfi khaa lo!

Prem: Bahut khaa chuke!

Nisha: Paan khaa lo!

Prem: Bahut khaa chuke! (x3)

After this, the tables turn and Prem tries to convince Nisha to eat.

Prem: Aji ras malai!

Nisha: Aapke liye..

Prem: Itne mithaai.. Nisha: Aapke liye

Prem: Pehle joote

Nisha: Khaayenge kya?

Prem (flirtatiously): Aapki marzi..

Nisha (becomes shy): Naa ji touba.

Who needs alcohol when you can get drunk on life like these people?

7. Ande ka funda

Not everyone likes egg. Why have egg when you can have chicken right? That said, few songs eulogize a food the way this song does. And while chicken and fish will always be my preferred meal during lunch and dinner, eggs will always have a place on my breakfast platter. That it is extremely healthy and loaded with protein only makes it better! I don’t seem to be the only foodie who loves the song. There are two restaurants – one in New Delhi and one in Bangalore called ‘Ande ka funda’.

8. The Biryani song (spoof of ‘here without you’)

A parody of Three Doors Down’s Here Without You, this song will make you order a biryani straightaway. Why should I say anything? Take a look at these lyrics and decide for yourself. ‘sondhi sondhi khushboo aur naram naram boti lambe lambe chawal aur hundi woh akhni ki’ A tip: It’s better if you just skip the video, and listen to the song.

5 press conferences by Tennis players that will make you chuckle with delight!

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While I admire and respect all athletes (too bad I am not one myself), I have a softer spot for tennis players. A quote by Andre Agassi in his autobiography Open perfectly sums up why I like them! Here are some press conferences for you to enjoy!

Tennis is the sport in which you talk to yourself. No athletes talk to themselves like tennis players. Pitchers, golfers, goalkeepers, they mutter to themselves, of course, but tennis players talk to themselves – and answer. In the heat of a match, tennis players look like lunatics in a public square, ranting and swearing and conducting Lincoln-Douglas debates with their alter egos. Why? Because tennis is so damned lonely.

1. Andy Roddick!

2. Sergiy Stakhovsky!

Watch out for what Sergiy says at the end of this video!

3. Novak Djokovic interrupted by Maria Sharapova

Bonus: Djokovic interrups Grigor Dimitrov (Sharapova’s Boyfriend)

4. Nadal cramping

This shouldn’t be funny, but it is!

Bonus: Here’s Wawrinka doing the same thing!

5. Journalist makes a massive blunder!

Day Zero

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Day Zero is the day when the spring in your step is back. Day Zero is the day when you are no longer caught in a downward spiral. Your body is healing, and your mind is reaping the benefits.

The past is irrelevant. It’s like having a fresh notebook.

Suddenly, you are gaining a lot of energy from your past victories, and finding it hard to concentrate on the defeats.

Day Zero is not Day One. Action has still not been taken. Expertise has still not been regained. Defeats are yet to be avenged, and the journey is yet to start.

That said, the canvas is fresh and the painter is brimming with enthusiasm.

Living in darkness (Part 3 of 7)

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Read the second part of the story here.

Rishi returned home and did not look at his mother in the eye. Not because he was pissed or anything, but because he didn’t want to expose his extremely red eyes. His high was coming down gradually, and he looked set for 5-6 hours (no office tomorrow meant that he would stay awake for a long time) of complete freedom. Alas, things didn’t turn out too well.

Maa and babuji are coming next month,’ his mother announced.

The news sent a wave of panic in Rishi because it meant that he will not be able to smoke up and masturbate. Their house was not a palace with many rooms, and two more people coming in certainly played havoc with his existence. Not for once did Rishi see their arrival as an opportunity to shower his love and earn some good karma points. His conscience did feel a few guilt pangs at this attitude, but that didn’t change his heart.

He just saw the negative side of things. He thought how he would have to purchase medicine, fetch glasses of water and refrain from shouting at his mom.

Rishi cursed god for making his life so difficult. As it is, he was not having the greatest of times at work. A joint at the end of the day, was something he looked forward to. With the arrival of his grandparent, even that would go.

He took a deep breath in sadness, and crashed on the bed to sleep. He hadn’t had his dinner, but he was too high and sad to care.

To be continued…

Living in darkness (Part 2 of 7)

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Read the first part of the series here. 

He started planning what all he would do over the weekend. There was not a lot lined up on television, and he knew that it would be a lot of smoking and smoking up, lot of watching porn and masturbating, some eating and if time allowed, some reading.

He thought about reading – that lost habit that gave him so much pleasure. How he would finish books in a matter of days. If he had this job, then it was somewhat due to his habit of reading.

But, with time people learn news things – the hollow created by not reading was filled by his new hobby – marijuana smoking. Another thing that he had learnt in recent past was the sense of intense competition that existed in most people. If only this sense of competition (and the fire it created) had come to him earlier, he would have been somewhere else by now.

It wasn’t too late still. He could still create a storm. He could work hard on something like a website that would become the next ‘ScoopWhoop’. He could become an entrepreneur and leave all those who overtook him behind. Ah! The thought of victory over those people was more intoxicating than the marijuana and wine he was having.

To be continued…

Living in darkness (Part 1 of 7)

Rishi returned to his home much more energetic than usual. It was Friday evening, that beautiful time that most working professionals in MNCs lived for. He had just started his working life (4 months), and had already come to absolutely love this period.

He threw his bag on the sofa, his pants on the chair. He sat down lazily on the chair and demanded a glass of Bournvita from his mother, who scolded him (for the 49,786th time in this life) for creating  a mess in the house just seconds after entering. For the 49,786th time, he ignored her taunts thinking that he had better things to worry about than that.

The next thing on his agenda was collecting the small wad of weed that he had stored at the bottom of a cigarette box. It only took him about 5 seconds to take it from a drawer that would rarely be used until a couple of months back.

After watching songs of new releases on TV for 20 minutes, he collected his wallet and made his way outside the house. His first purchase was a small bottle of cheap wine. His next purchase was a box of cigarettes and a lighter. Usually, he bought just a matchbox, but since the day was a Friday, he felt prosperous.

With this entire arsenal for intoxication in place, he made his way to his building’s terrace (taking soft steps and rushing past the door of his flat), which was a dark place – devoid of human intervention. The only light was some rays coming from the streetlights. With the help of the light from his mobile, he rolled a joint. Without delay, he lit it up and 3-4 drags later, he could feel his eyes shrinking, time slowing down and the adjoining buildings, the trees and the sky becoming more defined. His face tightened up, and he said to himself, ‘oh, what a feeling!’

To be continued…

Like what you read? Check out other short stories written by me.

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