Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Clay’s fate: Rupture or Rapture

‘Kumbhar vaado’- is a pottery which the photographer in me was longing to visit. But ever since I have got back from there, the photos are the last thing on my mind! The photo shoot has turned out to be an excursion of the life time!

The place, seemed like any other road side, inconspicuous slum in the mega city, encircled by malls and high rise offices under construction. It is actually a colony of few make-shift huts made of plastics, clothes and what not, supported by a few bamboo poles, sheltering 5+ people and lots of pots and clay. With bare minimum facilities and evident adversities, they still manage a lot of warmth and place for goats in the family! The technology penetration is equally evident, as some of these huts flag their DTH connections!

When we reached at 6.00 am, the potters were about to welcome the Sunday, but it was no different from the weekdays! Men  and women busy with their mundane activities and kids, shaping their own dreams! The potter wheels were resting like the static wheel of fortune of these people! Clay lumps waiting for their potter to handle them, shape them, beat them, heat them and strengthen them- an exact metaphor to human in God’s hand!

On interacting further with potters, I learnt that they hailed from various regions of North Gujarat. Every year, they stay at this pottery for 6-8 months, work and get back to their natives during monsoon, looking for an alternative livelihood! In the whole process that I witnessed, I cannot once write that they actually EARN! Not to forget that they pay around Rs. 1500.00 for these huts per month against which each pot, mind you, getting them 20 meager rupees!

The pot making process is a long and tedious one. The procured clay is first conditioned and then made into equisized lumps. They then get onto the potter’s wheel, where two arduous, gentle, concerned hands shape it in various different ways. He often discards a chunk while it is on the wheel, because he knows the fate and the capacity of the same! After various gentle taps followed by cutting it off the wheel in a jiffy, the pots, are put for drying in the sunlight! Losing water is the beginning of its journey! The clay now has a destiny! All the marks on its surface are like its fate lines! Stronger and deeper they are, better the chances of survival!

The process doesn’t end there. The semi dried pots are then taken through a severe beating, manually, by these potters, ensuring least possibility of AIR caused porosity! Higher porosity causes loss of capacity to contain!

A primitive three walled structure called furnace is then filled with the pots to be baked, supported by bricks of previous breakage and lot of hay sticks which burn for around three days to reach and maintain the desired temperature. It can accommodate around 1500 pots in a go, out of which 150- 200 pots surely succumb to pressures and temperatures! When I compare them to humans, the number seems miniscule! We move, rock, shatter in those few moments of undesired pressures, only to know later, if we survive the tough times, that it was mandatory for our soil to get stronger, to help us contain more, leak out less and satiate the ones in contact, irrespective of their states of minds!

Various thoughts stormed my mind in those few minutes that I stood amidst the aspiring clay chunks, that were to climb up the wheel, get shaped, then dried, then be beaten, then baked in a furnace, some of them, to break in the process succumbing to rupture! The thoughts ranged from most mundane like that of a vehement communist, to that of a humanitarian bothered about the dignity of life to some thing as philosophical and abstract as visualizing a potter as the God and pots, as us ;)

I dare to compare here. The lump that we were during the gestation, on birth, become more like freshly shaped pots:) He suddenly cuts us off from his wheel to let us develop an ‘identity’ of our own, which often grows into a giant ego with a lot of AIR. Then, the potter called God, through a severe beating ensures complete escape of air.  For further acclimatization and metamorphosis the furnace called brain works on us! We worry unnecessarily, plan rigorously, save stringently, spend carefully, speak guardedly, and in all that, suffocate our own true selves! At one stage, either we succumb to the suffocation and burst with a crack, making our own existence limited to the pieces that can’t hold and contain the elixir called life, or, we survive, the heat, the pressure, the storms and tsunamis put forth by mind and circumstances. Finally, the potter pulls us out and knocks on our heads to verify that sound of strength- the sound of MATURITY! If we survive amongst the broken pieces, we evolve to become a human being:) The potter, the God then leaves us to grow the way we want to, because then he knows that we can contain LIFE and satiate souls by all that we have imbibed while losing the AIR and VAPOUR- the state of Rapture!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


You may love her, you may hate her, but you cannot ignore her existence and contributions to the society in all different ways. Yes, we are talking of the balancing energy of the universe called- Woman. The Chinese Vastu Shastra- Feng Shui mentions of the attainment of the highest peace, pleasure and bliss when both the energies of the universe- Yin and Yang are in accordance. Yin, the female energy, thus is an equal harmonizing factor.
Whether she confines herself to the thresholds of her house or moves out conquering the world around, it is her character that ultimately decides the character of the whole human race. A mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a lover, a friend, an employer or an employee- she can be all, and still be a WOMAN! The energy, that can blend different roles in one life, fulfilling her duties and nurturing her hobbies as well, she has her third eye placed in her heart. She looks at the world with an eye filled with tears and a heart full of compassion.

Every girl is a mother, right from the birth! Yes, have you ever observed those tiny hands playing with a doll? Making her drink, eat, sleep and then even scolding her! She weaves her own world by herself from a very young age. God has made her like that!

She is an eternal giver- the grace, sacrifice, love, compassion, warmth personified! Her only deep desire is to be loved. For all those, who believe I am talking about those diamond rings and expensive gifts, have only seen love as a commodity or a stock which travels through those Graphs in different bar fashions dipping down with a sigh and soaring high with an elation! ‘Love’ for women is a very different feeling:) And that demands a separate blog on the subject! 

The giving n loving goes on from her adolescence, youth, motherhood to the old age. Foolishly rebelling against parents for an infatuation and burning herself to protect the dignity of her inable parents are mutated versions to express the extent of sacrifice she can give for her ‘LOVE’. Fighting with the world to prove that her friend is correct, going out of her way for her siblings, lover, husband, parents, in laws- yet another way of proving her belonging. Her marriage leads her to sacrificing her personal choices for the choices of the family she ligates with. Changing for husband or changing him- both, equally difficult tasks ;)

However, it is during the motherhood, that she blooms to her best. I bet, while we see aberrations at all stages of womanhood, no one would have seen a mother snatching food from her kid’s mouth, or buying herself something before overloading their kid’s kitties! According to me, the essence of womanhood is expressed when a woman is a lover or a mother:) The love only becomes grand when she turns a GRAND mother!
Am I trying to portray her larger than life? No. By WOMAN, I mean that energy. Jealousy, competition, melancholy, dependence, suppressed aggression are their integral elements as well. Various scriptures talk about these in a woman and thus, we have a whole class of people negating out the contributions of this energy in societal and social development!
She cannot evade these feelings. However, she can learn to live and enjoy them healthily, eventually evolving to be more of a beautiful SOUL than a weaker GENDER! Societal mutations are offered to all of us in our lives. However, the response - fine tuning or burying the humane qualities is solely a personal choice! As I believe, it is ultimately an individual who picks the path he/she treads:)

Vanity is yet another integral aspect of woman. Moment she looks into the mirror, she travels the barriers of time lines experiencing a unique identity:) She has her own niche carved for herself, full of fantasies. The fantasies so real, that she can feed onto them during testing times and win over the situation.

Woman has a Man in her:)
Wo- Man! The tender, gentle, support seeking, agile, sensitive, a reservoir of tears, whenever time has tested her, by bringing her to an impenetrable thick wall, she metamorphoses into a stronger, tougher, support giver, sensible individual- qualities that are generally ascribed to Masculinity! Though the reverse is not very commonly seen!

In reality, all these comparisons are not possible. Why do we have two genders at all, if both are equal? Both are unique, essential and complement each other to bring in harmony and growth- be it material, social, societal or spiritual! It is not about talking of equality, it is about changing mindsets. Instead of legislating a stringent Domestic Violence Act, we need to focus more on educating society to respect each other’s individuality! Enforcement can lead to political, financial, mental and societal corruption. We need to get rid of Laws and get into a self discipline mode, I believe.

Not being a hardcore feminist, for me, International Women’s Day is not to mark the precedence of one gender over the other, but to rejoice the power of balance that both these energies bring to the world. Women equally contribute, but there is no equality with man necessary. I am waiting for the dawn when the world celebrates IWD as a symbol of respect towards the gender which is unique and complete, yet reaches the superlatives when in accordance with its male counterpart!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bikaner Diary

Bikaner, a small town in Rajasthan has conserved its ethnicity against the influx of foreign tourists. Much different from the rest of the Tourist Hot spots, the city has a quiet life, and people way too laid back. However, the city has its own flavour. The food, forts and ‘fotos’ can really keep you visiting the place again and again! If one really wants to explore the true elements of Rajasthan, Bikaner is the place:)

'Rangeelo Rajasthaaan' and 'Padhaaro Mhaare Des' -the taglines used for the State, well depict the colours of life in arid lands. Bikaner, thus projects the grandeur and colours of Rajasthan. However, it is not as much a popular tourist hotspot. Either it has solely got overshadowed by Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur, or the city, has chosen to keep it to its own conserved ethnicity by choice! Vice versa, it doesn’t fall onto the main railway lines!

The city as such misses the elements of modern times! Though, the tourist guides can speak fluent accentuated English and French, on the whole, the city is well conserved and portrays a typical Rajasthani town! Tourists haven’t been able to change the mindsets of the city! The gazes that tourist women in bloomers and hot pants with skimpy tops receive, from the other gender, reveal it all;)

There are sporadic malls and multiplexes. The whole city market is built in the external walls of the fort- known at Kot gate- which literally means, the walls and the gate of the fort! The shoplets are so inconspicuous that any shopaholic would be put off at once:( But, Bikaner market can pleasantly surprise you when you enter a shoplet of 10 X 10, and start climbing up the narrow stairs. You are then elevated to a floor which suddenly turns into a huge show room opening up into yet another floor- only for women, where they pay in an awestruck fashion, seeing those bright coloured Bandhejs and Laheriyas;) When you get down and out of the market, you are always lighter…. On your pocket!

And one cannot miss the Kachoris, Samosas, Bikaneri Bhujias, Ras gullas, Ker Sangri, Gattey ki Bhaaji with an extra dash of spices and oil;) The road side chaat and Camel milk Kulfi can help you define ‘Heaven’:) Though the green leafy vegetables are considered to be delicacies in the arid land, the culinary style is so unique that you hardly miss them on the platter!

If you have ever explored City Palace, Udaipur and Amer Fort, Jaipur and believe that they are some of the finest architectural marvels, you are still to experience the Junagarh Fort of Bikaner. It is a sprawling architectural marvel, which has temples, fountains, Gardens, parks- all in its precincts! Each Mahal, built by a generation of the emperors. As you walk through the alleys, very conservative, intrigued carved walls slowly transform into modern ones, indicating the change in architectural trends as each generation built the signature mahal! Junagarh fort is the structure which is highly comparable to the Moghul architecture in its grandeur. Walled
with red stones, the palaces have China glass used in the window panes before 350 years! It is not only today that our rulers lead luxurious lives, it was even then! The only difference is, barring one or two aberrations, most of the emperors then lived to uphold the public good. And so, the ruler loving public ensured comforts of all types for them to help them lead a pleasant, stress free life- so that Justice prevailed in the Courts! Look how the ideology of luxury and comforts has changed with the changing times! ‘Responsibility’ is the key to have a balanced society! ‘Responsible’ Governments for ‘Responsible’ people:)

There are other structures now converted into great hotels where entries are restricted! You get to see from a distance, a flock of fair skins entering the palace, which rather makes you feel like being in a Zoo. The gazes of the ‘Security guards' that you get in return would confuse you to decide, which side of the cage ;) We believe relying on two gunmen, we risk it with SEBI, but we cannot believe in the Divine Protection! The whole concept of security, at times seems so futile and debatable!

On travelling across the city, you realize that it’s a heap of sand through which the roads have been carved and palaces erected! Experiencing sandy winds is a real great fun. And when it decides to throw winter at you, it doesn’t let you breathe easy at all! On the outskirts, the seemingly ruthless nature shows the succulents dried up in no time- as if the chills suddenly froze the upright plants to death- not even allowing wilting! I guess the seemingly ruthless nature actually comforts their death- wilting to death is more painful than the death itself, is what I believe!

I was there for a day to feel the city, but standing amidst the 300 yrs old stones, travelling through rickshaw amidst the hustle-bustle and then visiting camels in the city of sand, I have returned with some food for thought- is it the conservation or evolution that nails the death? Should we evolve to conserve or conserve to evolve?
My intellect lingers over the city, finding answers for the same, while I have returned looong back with my camera:)