Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pens that scripted wonders go dry

Published in The Times of India Lucknow edition dated June 26, 2011

Vijay Chopra | tnn

The striking beauty of jewel-like alphabets and designs inscribed on a sheet of paper grabs the immediate attention of the eyes. As Syed Azeem Haider Jafri, wielding two modest tools – a reed pen and ink -- begins to write, alphabets transform into gems.

Jafri is the master of calligraphy or Khattati, the Islamic art of fancy handwriting. This unique and decorative style has been admired for centuries for its beauty, and skill and creativity of the artist. Rajput princess Jodha Bai is believed to have mastered it to perfection. But now, this exquisite handwriting style is on the verge of extinction. Reason: it could not withstand the onslaught of modern technologies like computers and printers.

Jafri, who has scripted wonders on papers and stones, leads a non-descript life in the bylanes of Muftiganj in Old Lucknow. He, in fact, excels as a Tughra artist, considered a notch above calligraphers. Tughra are calligraphic logos or designs depicting the names of the Almighty, the Prophet or the Imams revered by the Muslims. This talented penman knows that calligraphy’s demise is imminent, but that has not diminished his passion for the craft. He carries his treasure trove in a bag that dangles on his bicycle and unzips it to reveal a rare collection of calligraphic and Tughra designs.

The impressions of Jafri’s crafty hands are visible on various imambaras and mosques in the city. Prominent among them being the Zainul Abidin Imambara in Thakurganj, Shahnajaf Imambara and Rauza Hazrat Muslim in Raees Manzil. When goaded, Jafri shares having gifted Tughra to former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and film stars Farooque Shaikh and Raza Murad among others.

It may take a week to three months to complete a single specimen of calligraphy or Tughra. Given the toil and artist’s skills, one masterpiece could be priced between Rs 2000 and Rs 5000. Though these penmen still have many admirers, the number of buyers has plummeted.

Historian Saiyed Anwar Abbas says there are more than 180 styles in calligraphy. “Lucknow, Delhi and Hyderabad were the three prominent centres of calligraphy in India. This style of writing flourished in the Mughal courts and was used in the farmaans, coins and other documents,” says Abbas. “In Lucknow, there was a tradition of putting up wasli on the walls of drawing rooms. These were like decorative wall hangings wherein calligraphers would inscribe the couplets and sayings of famous poets and writers,” he adds.

“Calligraphy has lost out to economics and technology,” moans Agha Mohammed Hasan, one of the last surviving calligraphers in Lucknow. “Till computers came into vogue, several Urdu dailies and magazines used the services of Kitabis (calligraphers). Penmen like us were also sought after to write on the wedding cards. Since computers are time-saving and can produce calligraphy-like designs at much lower rates, the handwriting business drifted away from us,” he says. But Hasan quickly adds: “Computers are of no match for the lively and stylish words that flow from the qalam of calligraphers.”

Seeing the dwindling fortunes, Hasan brought about an innovation. “From 2001, I started doing calligraphy on stones that are used in houses. This has helped me to preserve the art and also generate some money,” says the veteran Kitabi. Hasan continues to move ‘kilik’ (calligrapher’s pen) with his frail fingers at his shop, Al-Khattat, in Old Lucknow’s Victoriaganj.

The breed of gifted men like Jafri and Hasan has fast disappeared from Avadh. Abbas says there would not be more than three or four Tughra artists left now in the city. Hasan recalls that till early 90s, Lucknow was home to several hundred calligraphers. However, the number must have come down to 10-15 now, he adds.

These penmen have engraved many epitaphs on the tombstones. Ironically, they now have a realization that soon an obituary might be penned for the art that beautified alphabets. They wonder if the letters used in this epitaph would be as beautiful as the ones that came out from their qalam.

Tongas Galloping Into Sunset

Published in The Times of India Lucknow edition dated June 5, 2011

Vijay Chopra | tnn

Lucknow: Shareefjaat stands listlessly under a blazing sun, unmoved by the honking vehicles passing by. In between it raises head and stares with longing eyes at the tourists coming out of the Asafi Imambara, hoping to take them on a jaunt. But the fast-paced visitors, perhaps lacking the patience and temperament for a lazy ride, opt for a faster mode.

This is the sad tale of tongas on the Avadhi soil. Once a majestic mode of transport, tongas today stand in abject poverty. About 50-odd tongas left in Lucknow are fast galloping towards the sunset.

Till a decade ago, more than 500 tongas plied on the roads of Lucknow. But now they exist only at three spots --- zoo, Cantonment and Bada Imambara – and with no facilities of a stand. The last route where tongas plied was Kaiserbagh to Sadar. “The route was shut for tongas in 2003 and that accelerated our economic decline,” says tongawallah Shakeel Ahmed.

“We barely manage to earn Rs 200-300 per day. The expense on the horse is Rs 150. So, you can imagine the meager income we earn,” Shamsher, another tongawallah, said. “Now we are mainly confined to taking tourists on the Imambara circuit which includes Bada and Chhota Imambaras, Picture Gallery, Clock Tower and maximum till Chowk,” said Shakeel, signs of fiscal strains writ large on his face.

In its heyday, however, tonga was a prized mode of travel and tongawallahs were known for their etiquette, refined language and quick wit. While ekka was a smaller and cheaper mode, tonga was more spacious, decorated and a little costlier. A parallel example could be the difference between present day buses and autos. But the advent of cycle-rickshaw in mid 60s blew the bugle of decline.

City-based litterateur KP Saxena recalls that tongas stood out for their decoration. “Two brass-coated rods, called ‘bum’, tied the horse to the cart. The horses were decorated with velvet flowers while seats were made of shining leather. To produce the sound of a horn, tongawallahs would touch the horsewhip to the moving wheels. The horses were trained in two types of speed – ‘dulki’ (slower) and ‘sarpat’ (galloping). Dulki produced a rhythmic sound of “tap tap” while in sarpat it was “jhanak jhanak”, mainly because of the ghungroos tied to horses,” Saxena reminiscences. Though tongawallahs wielded horsewhip, it was never used on the animal. “They only moved the whip in air to stir the horses but never hurt them with it,” says the prolific writer. “Tongawallahs were a major attraction for tourists as they would converse in chaste Urdu and crack witty jokes, he says.

When thespian actor Ashok Kumar visited Lucknow in 1940s, he expressed a desire to go round the city in a tonga. Kumar along with writer Amrit Lal Nagar went past the city and was almost mobbed at various spots,” says Saxena, who has penned dialogues for Bollywood blockbusters Lagaan and Jodha Akbar.

But today, problems galore for horses and their masters. “We no longer have the facility of charai (an artificial small pond where horses drink water. Earlier, there was a charai at every short distance but now there are hardly 2-3 in Hussainabad. If we take horses to charai, then we lose out further on money and if we don’t, then the animal remains thirsty,” Shamsher, a tongawallah, said. “The only tonga stand left was in Daliganj, but a few years back that too was removed to make space for a power station,” rues Shakeel. Tongawallahs say that until they plied on Kaiserbagh-Sadar route, they managed to earn Rs 700-800 per day. “Lucknow has abandoned us; we are surviving only because of tourists. But they too don’t want to go beyond a short distance in a tonga and so fail we fail to earn more money,” said Shakeel. They claim getting no help either from the government or any organization.

Nawab Jafar Mir Abdullah, a descendant of Avadh nawabs, terms the decline of tonga culture as “inevitable”. “Tongas are a slow mode of transport that cannot keep pace with modern times. When a distance can be covered in 10 minutes, why would anyone prefer a tonga which would take 30 minutes,” he says.

Tongawallahs may soon have to explore greener pastures, since the revival of this travel mode appears bleak. But even if they slip into the pages of history, the musical gait of tongas would continue to resonate on the streets of Lucknow.


This article was carried in The Crest Edition of The Times Of India, dated June 18, 2011

Avadhis will graciously hear you praise mangoes from other parts of the country but they are firm on one thing — the king of mangoes is the delicately flavoured Malihabadi Dussehri


Lucknow does not have a problem with being called an ‘aam shaher’ (a common city). And why would it? The city of graces is home to what it considers the mango royalty — Dussehri, Chausa, Safeda — even Langda from the neighbouring Varanasi.

So addictive, say Avadhis, are the Dussehris, that they would rather go mango-less than eat any other variety . TV actress Aarti Singh, who works in Mumbai, craves for the Lucknow mangoes. “I miss the Malihabadi Dussehri. Ever since i shifted to Mumbai, I stopped eating mangoes as I don’t find that sweet taste here,” she says.

Vishal Anand, a businessman who travels across the country, has tasted every region’s produce. But nothing, he says, matches the delicate smell and blush of a ripened Dussehri. “I’ve eaten Alphonso, Malda, Himsagar — but they are nowhere near Dussehri in taste,” he says.

Avadh takes mango worship to a different level. For the rest of the country, mango eating maybe a hearty ritual with no time to spare for refinement. But in Avadh enjoying a mango is very much a part of the Nawabi culture.

“Mango eating is about nazakat (delicacy) and nafasat (refinement),” says citybased writer KP Saxena. “In some families, mangoes were served to guests on a tashtari (tray), decorated with roses. It was considered improper to present cut slices of the fruit to the guests.”

How to eat mangoes best is the subject of much polemics among old-time Avadhis. Jafar Mir Abdullah, a descendant of Avadh Nawabs, says that it is a delicate fruit and should be eaten with the zabaan (tongue) and not the teeth. “We used to have mango-eating contests, and to the sheer bewilderment of the audience, some would consume dozens within minutes,” recalls Jafar.

Urdu poets, when they were not bemoaning the infidelity of their lovers, often waxed eloquent about mangoes. Mirza Ghalib was an avid mango lover and would even miss mushairas to remain in the company of the fruits. It is said that once Ghalib was savouring mangoes just outside his home when a donkey came by. The animal smelt the discarded mango peels lying around on the ground and walked away without tasting them. Seeing this, a passerby remarked: “Huzur, donkeys don’t eat mangoes.” The poet immediately quipped: “Yes, only donkeys don’t eat mangoes.” Poet Nida Fazli too sings paeans to the majestic fruit: “Acchi sangat baith kar sangi badle roop, jaise milkar aam se meethi ho gayi dhoop (good company transforms a man just as sunlight sweetens as it glances off a mango).”

Malihabad, about 30 km from Lucknow, is known for producing the best Dussehris in the country. Padma Shri Kalimullah Khan, who is known for having grafted new varieties of mango — some named after celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan — is the town’s most famous resident. “Malihabadi mangoes are high on demand; even foreign countries have become addicted to them and place bulk orders every season,” says Kalimullah.

Among the mangoes grown in the north, loyalties are divided between Dussehri, Langda and Chausa. Saxena prefers Chuswa over Dussehri. “Chuswa is sweeter and one gets great satisfaction in consuming it. We would sit in the orchards of Malihabad in 1960s and end up eating a dozen chuswa mangoes. It is full of pulp and hence cannot be cut into slices. You have to press it softly from all sides and savour it directly,” says the writer who has penned dialogues for Bollywood.

Avadhis are a gracious lot but their pehle aap culture does not quite extend to ceding territory to mangoes from elsewhere.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Political debut of youth brigade

(Vijay Chopra...The Times Of India, 2009)

The glint in their eyes is unmistakable. Excitement and expectations are writ large on their faces.

Meet the youngest brigade of voters in the city, all braced to make their debut in the electoral process. Imbued with an immense sense of responsibility, they are agog to press the button on voting machine to put India on the path of development and progress. Confident, articulate, and above all, conscious, these First Time Voters or FTV (as they call themselves), want to belie the notion that MTV generation saunters off when asked to discharge duties as responsible citizens.

20-year-old BPharma student Parkhi begins on a ‘regretful’ note. “When I became eligible for voting two years back, I was a bundle of joy. But as my voter card was not made I couldn’t vote in the assembly elections” she says. But, this time my card is ready and I’ll cast my vote, adds this debutante. Parkhi calls herself a motivated voter. “Campaigns urging people to cast votes really motivated me a lot. So much so that I too made such appeals through social networking sites and goaded my friends into using their franchise” she informs.

Akansha Adaval, another FTV, says a sense of responsibility has taken roots in her heart. “The onus is on me to choose a government which can take us ahead.” Regarding her choice of government, this BBA student says, “One which can deliver and not merely completes its term on false assurances. It should have the strength to stand against corruption and not become a part of it instead.” Akansha even has a message for her peers: “Youth should cast their vote, only then can they expect a change. We must act like awakened citizens.”

Similar views are echoed by Parth Prakhar, a BCom student of Lucknow University. With hope of a progressive India, Parth lends a word of wisdom. “I think voters should be judicious while casting their vote. Select a candidate who has a vision for the country and thinks beyond localized issues. He or she should be a true representative of India,” opines Parth.

However, there are some who are still confused with the political jamboree. They want to vote, but find no deserving candidate in the fray. 19-year-old Sachin has little expectations from the present lot. “We have seen various governments in UP yet the state of affairs has remained the same. They win the mandate on all sorts of assurances but in the end only serve their cause. What can one expect from such politicians,” he questions. “There should be an end to wastage of public money,” he says. Sachin even goes on to add that politics is not meant for the educated for they would find themselves alienated in the flock of corrupts.

Twin sisters, Nitasha and Sunanda, are yet to receive their voter identity cards. “We had applied well in time but haven’t got them yet. Hope we are not deprived of voting. See, this a system we live. All talks and no action,” they speak in one voice. Nitasha, a student of political science, wants to see younger leaders for she believes they have a vision which is now lacking in the elder generation of politicians.

Sunanda, however, is completely disappointed with the current species of Khadi-clad. Calling them “uninspiring”, Sunanda says they have messed up the entire country. “We are making fast strides in corruption but lagging behind on the path to progress. Worse, there seems little hope of any improvement.” However, disappointment aside both the sisters clarify that they definitely want to vote.

So what issues stir the FTV? “Terrorism, development and employment,” avers Parth. They all are univocal that time has come when political parties should rise above narrow planks and get down to some serious business. Problems galore in our country, so it’s time we see some concrete steps being taken, they say.

And, what about the “glorified” speeches which have become a hallmark of these elections. Parkhi denounces them vehemently. “Instead, of slamming each other, leaders should address real issues. This is not we expect from those who aspire to govern us,” she says. Akansha says, “The mud-slinging exercise will not take us any further. Besides, we know how leaders behave. Today, they are leveling all sorts of ALLEGATIONS and tomorrow we will hear them pledging bonhomie to each other.” “Lucknow is known for its mannerisms, hence we hope that our city should at least be represented by someone who can retain this demeanour,” opines Parth.

When Lucknow votes on April 30, one thing is sure that these voices, too, would count. It would not be easy for khadi clad to ignore them. Besides, they will have to toil hard to meet their expectations. For, this young brigade believes in action and not mere assurances.

Poll campaigns spare ears and streets

(By Vijay Chopra...Published in The Times Of India)

If 2009 Lok Sabha elections would go down in history for mud-slinging speeches and shoe-throwing episodes, they would also be remembered for quiet and clean campaigns. Quiet because poll related cacophony is missing, and clean since the roads have not been “decorated” with the election paraphernalia and walls spared from the political graffiti.

Much to the relief of public and to the discomfort of the political bandwagon, the Election Commission (EC) guidelines have brought the much needed sobriety to election campaigns, which are otherwise known for shrieky loudspeakers, and pamphlets and posters which leave the streets inundated. Though in the name of road-shows, long cavalcade of candidates still cause some inconvenience, campaigning has more or less been bearable.

Students, particularly, are a happier lot. “There was a time when it was difficult to concentrate on studies because loudspeakers would yell horribly composed parodies eulogising candidates. But ever since the EC imposed strict guidelines all these things have become a passé,” said Gaurav, a BA student. “The best part is that dread of campaigning has gone away. We can sleep in peace and don’t have the fear that our walls would be covered by posters and slogans,” said Shweta Bisht, a lecturer in city.

But not everyone is happy with the change. In fact, shops selling election publicity material have taken a severe beating. Amit Aggarwal, who is among the prime suppliers of poll publicity material in the city, said that sales have plummeted by 75 per cent. “Earlier, we would do brisk sales of Rs 25,000-30,000 in a day. Now, we struggle to sell material worth Rs 300 in a day,” he said.

On the reasons of this pitfall, Aggarwal said that strictness of the EC and administrative pressure together are responsible for the decline. “EC has banned flex posters which used to be in great demand. Besides, the administration is particularly harsh on display of polling material of opposition parties. Thus candidates are unwilling to buy products for the fear of any adverse action,” he said, and added that cash distribution too has become a “popular” mode of campaigning.

Arun Gupta, whose shop is housed in the BJP headquarter in the state capital, said that falling sales have led to unemployment. “Till last Lok Sabha elections, we had so much demand that 15-20 boys used to work in my shop. This time I’ve three workers and even they sit idle,” Gupta said. “If things do not change then very soon we would be looking for alternatives,” he added.

However, apart from the EC norms and vigilance exercised by the official machinery, the advent of technology too has played its part in the changing styles of campaigning. Media savvy leaders have also shown a penchant for Internet and SMS culture. State BJP spokesperson Hriday Narain Dixit, while admitting that EC guidelines on posters and banners have somewhat rendered campaigning difficult, said his party has taken a lead in reaching out to maximum voters through SMSes and door-to-door campaigns. He, however, accused the BSP government of trying to sabotage the poll campaigns of rival parties by intimidating their workers and removing publicity material with the help of police.

Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary, while leveling similar charges against the Mayawati government, said that restrictions on banners and posters have made it difficult to campaign in the rural areas. “SMSes and TV advertising can help in reaching out to urban voters but in rural areas we need publicity material or else people would not come to know about the candidates. We apprehend this can impact the results in the elections,” he said.

However, irrespective of the views of political parties the common man on the street is pleased with low-profile and peaceful campaigning. “Earlier, once elections were over the parties would pay no heed to the mess created by the publicity material. While it was left to the civic bodies to clear the roads, cleaning home walls was people’s responsibility. At least, this time we have spared from the ordeal,” said Manish Rajput, a resident of Hussainganj.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Veggies with vengeance

(Published in The Times of India, Lucknow...May 25, 2010)

Move over mutton. For, veggies have arrived with vengeance. Hand-pulled carts are their ‘bat’tle mobile and arsenal full of katahals, gulars, soyabean, raw banana…the hegemony of shaami, galaawati and boti had never been so ambitiously challenged. Welcome to the latest fad on the Awadhi platter – the vegetable kebabs and biryani.

It’s a sheer delight to watch the dexterous hands move in unison and swiftly fry, fold and wrap the cuisine in paper napkins before handing it to a queue of people whose watering mouths can hardly wait. And as the empty stomachs bite into it, contentment on their faces is palpable. All this at a price which is light on the pocket.

Its scrumptious taste would make you forget the aromatic bylanes of Nazirabad and Chowk, eternally famous for the mouth-watering shaami and galaawat kebabs. For long, confined to the menus of a select few hotels and restaurants in the city, the vegetable kebabs and biryani have now ventured out on hand-pulled carts. Circumnavigate the lanes of Lucknow and you can see numerous such carts, thronged by food lovers and doing brisk sales by the roadside. The “roadside cuisines”, as one may befittingly call them, have tickled the taste buds of denizens in the land of nawabs.

It is in fact surprising that a city quintessentially known for its cordon bleu non-vegetarian delicacies has lapped onto the green meal with such enthusiasm. Harmeet Singh quickly sensed the public flavour and made a switch over from selling paav bhaaji to veg kebabs and biryani. He explains the phenomenon: “The rising mutton prices have made kebab rolls and biryani costly. Whereas a non-veg roll does not cost less than Rs 15-20 now, you can buy a veg roll for somewhere between Rs 8-12. Who would mind this bargain.” He goes on to add that people were also looking for some change in culinary taste and this ‘product’ came up as an ideal replacement. While busy folding veg rolls, almost incessantly, Harmeet hit the point: “Now, more and more people are turning vegetarian and this cuisine just suits them.” Non-veg aficionados can differ with Harmeet but cannot dispute the popularity of his culinary product. He daily sells 400-500 kebabs along with 80-90 plates of biryani, no mean achievement for a roadside vendor whose “equipment” includes a hand-pulled cart, steel utensils, a gas stove and battery lit CFLs.

So, what’s the hit formula? Mohd Rizwan, another vendor who is reaping profits in the trade, spells it out, and perhaps aptly. “Modestly priced, reasonably hygienic (as there is no fear of inferior quality mutton as in the case of non-veg rolls), easily available, quick to eat and sumptuous; what else does one need,” he says, adding, “In Rs 20-25 one can have two kebabs and two paranthas. Vegetable biryani is priced around Rs 10-15 (for half plate). The meal is thus, quite reasonable and filling, and that too in times of inflation.”

Though most vendors say that profit margins are not very high, they are happy to see foodies making a beeline at their carts. The peak sales hours are between 7pm and 10pm, though you can savour them anytime between 5pm and 11pm. However, for the men behind the carts, the day begins at around 10am. “The preparation takes around 3-5 hours, followed by the ‘decking up’ of the cart for daily business,” informs Rizwan. Ask him for the ingredients and he reveals a wide range: “Raw banana, khatahal, gulars, chana dal, masur dal, soyabean and some other items for garnishing.” The end result is succulent kebabs whose each bite is relished by umpteen foodies.

While Harmeet says that veg rolls and biryani started gaining popularity in the city about two-three years back, they have become a roadside rage only in the last 6-7 months. “Earlier, the trend was restricted to the markets of Alambagh and Charbagh. But now, these carts are omnipresent, and interestingly, most of them are doing reasonably well,” he said even as he extended a plate of biryani to a waiting customer.

The cuisine has come on the wedding menu as well. It’s almost common now to find a stall of vegetable kebabs in any wedding in the city and guests relishing it with full satisfaction.

So, next time if you happen to smell the aroma of the “roadside cuisine”, do not just stop and ogle at the carts. Go ahead and take a bite, for missing out on it would deprive you of the culinary delight.

Vijay Chopra

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The sin of being single

I’ve been on leave since yesterday – down with a stomach ailment and viral infection. Rendered immobile physically, mind too is lost in cluttered thoughts. The exercise might well extend into tomorrow since Friday is my weekly off. Three days of leaves, a rare bonanza, will be exhausted by an unwanted guest (read ailment). Worse, 72 hours of staying at home and no constructive activity. Not a small sin.

But, there’s a bigger sin, almost cardinal, especially if you reside in the “modern” Indian society. A society, which along with the “Right to Information” (about your life), also exercises the “Right to Interfere” (again, in your life). The two RTIs. And, now I’m being held guilty on the charge of disallowing this “mandatory” access.

My heinous crime: I’m still Unmarried despite reaching the “marriageable” age, which too is deciphered and designated by our august society. It’s issued almost like a diktat and any sign of disobedience or delay on the count is punished with a verbal onslaught, often publicly. I’m beginning to experience the same. What started as a murmur few months ago has started gaining momentum and time does not seem far when it reaches a crescendo. Family, friends, colleagues and whosoever remotely knows me unabashedly fire the question. Again, I’ve no right to answer. For they come prepared with the answers too – “better, hurry up or you won’t get find a good partner,” “you’re already SO late”, “a companion is a must at this age,” and the unstoppable flow of suggestions and solutions continue, till you hang up the ears.

So, the picture is clear. I’m on the hit-list and have only two choices: first, submit to the jury’s verdict and enter wedlock, or second, get prepared for a more vicious attack from different quarters, both for myself and my immediate family, if I fail to ignore the “popular will”. Without a shadow of doubt, I’ve chosen the second one. Horrendous, my so called well-wishers say. Thus the so called “Good Boy” (a sobriquet I neither deserve nor like nor ever asked for, but that too was thrust upon me) of the family is fast becoming a Baddie – arrogant, disrespectful and too outspoken. May be, even eccentric. Though I disagree with such views, yet respect others’ Right to Opinion. But, I would not accept the abovementioned two RTIs.

I cannot allow my life to be hijacked by the whims and fancies of the world, as it happened some times in the past. Certain events of life have taught me that it’s important to live life, especially personal, on one’s terms. Otherwise, the world will use you, dump you, and forget you. Besides, I do not consider it necessary to offer explanation to everyone. Only a select few can ask or give advice to me on the issue, for they are the ones who stood by me in bad weather. Even if they disagree with my explanation, they will continue to remain dear….always.

Most of the people whom I now meet have the question ready on their lips: both to my amusement and annoyance. I ask: why an individual can’t be allowed to live his/her life. If marriage would have been the only symbol of happiness, then we would not see so many unhappy couples around. Further, what may be applicable to one person may not necessarily fit the other. Simple logic. But, how many understand it.

Let me make one thing clear. I do not look down upon the institution of marriage. In fact, it’s a beautiful concept and I feel happy for my all friends who are married and blessed with lovely kids. But then, that does not mean I need to emulate them. Do I? I may have my reasons, my pursuits, which may be far more important than getting myself enrolled in the wedlock register. How can wedding be made the foremost parameter of judging an individual. Besides, it’s not possible to lead a planned life always. Be it past or present, my plans too have gone awry, much against my wishes. Individuals have their own destiny and mission. I too have set my eyes on some targets for next few years.

Hence, dear world, allow me the space and peace to pursue my goals.

There is no denying that in personal life I’m quite a stubborn and don’t get influenced/affected easily by public opinion. And won’t even shy away from defending my single status. Also, I don’t know if it would be a permanent feature or whether the freeze would ever be lifted. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: the decision would be mine. I’m not the one to succumb to pressures, criticisms or emotional blackmailing.

However, the forward journey may not be easy. The way I’ve started earning people’s ire, it could soon result in strained relations with some friends and relatives. But then, Arjun too had to attack his blood relations in the battle of Mahabharata, for he had the conviction that he was fighting for a just cause. I’m too small a mortal to draw any parallel with the mythological hero. However, I too am driven by my own decisions and convictions and would be ready to face any attack. Arguing with my own people often leaves me in bitter taste; still I’ve to hold my ground. The only grudge is that not many are on my side in this war. Still, the lone warrior will carry on.

To wind up, here’s a couplet my friend (another bachelor, another sinner) sent me. I find it befitting. However, all married people should not feel offended:

Shaadiyan unki huin jinko akl-o-saroor na tha,
Apni to umar kati zikr-e-nikah hota raha….!!