We, The Writers…

I met blogger/writer Mayank Austen Soofi for the first time in my life in my office on 24 December 2014. It was for a story he was writing about people engaged in writing stories and poems related to the Delhi Metro. While we chatted, he made notes. Somewhere during the conversation, he interrupted and said, “Ms. Chatterjee, please slow down a bit. I need to write everything that you are saying.”

I could not believe my good luck that day. It seemed to be too good to be true. I hadn’t won a Nobel or a Booker or a Pulitzer. I hadn’t won a national beauty contest. I had not topped in an IAS exam. I was not a politician. I had not won any election. I had not done anything that is normally considered extraordinary. Apart from toiling hard for survival, all I had done was write a handful of poems and stories; but that was for my own happiness and joy. And now right in front of me sat a well-known writer taking my interview for a story for his blog.

Mayank kept asking me questions about my poetry and my life as a writer in Delhi and I answered as tactfully as I could. During a brief pause, when I had to attend to an official phone call and refer to some report in my laptop, Mayank got up and clicked some photographs of me at work. I felt rather awkward. I still could not understand how my life could be of any interest to anyone.

I tried to keep myself grounded. I told myself that this was for a blog, not a big deal really, and soon this interview would be over. Not too many people in India read blogs anyway.  Soon Mayank would be gone and I would be back to my usual routine, what it was like before he came in.

But when the interview was over, Mayank said, “Ms. Chatterjee, I will come once more some other time with another photographer for more photos. We will select the ones we find most suitable. “

In spite of myself, I was impressed with the conscientiousness and zeal he seemed to display in his work.

On our way out, I took him through our showroom. This time, Mayank stopped and clicked some more pics of me near the cars. I felt as though I was modelling. I was quite flattered, but I was also very amused with myself, modelling at age 48!

Later on, while I was walking back to my cabin in the basement, a few colleagues sitting in the front office asked me, “Who was that guy clicking photographs?” I tried to understate things. “Well, he is a writer. He is writing an article on the Delhi Metro. He saw my poem “The Delhi Metro” on the internet, so he came here to discuss it with me. I wrote that poem long ago, about 8 years back.”

On 29 December 2014, Mayank called me for the second time to fix up an appointment the following day for more pics. I agreed. But now I had to deal with a new problem. A photographer was going to come and take photos inside the showroom; I thought it would look very odd if I didn’t give prior information to my management about this visit. More importantly, this also meant revealing to them the fact that I am also a writer.

Based on past experience, I always feel apprehensive about discussing my habit of writing in office. Bosses in general feel uncomfortable while dealing with subordinates who double up as writers; I guess it is because writers think; they have minds of their own and they tend to be highly individualistic. Leading them ahead is like pulling a bullock cart laden with bricks.

I was lucky this time. Everything worked out perfectly without any hassles. During the photo-shoot, Mayank suggested that I look thoughtful and serene and wear a very serious expression on my face. When he gave me a demo, he looked like a theatre artist and I burst out laughing. He said sternly, “Why are you laughing?” I quickly controlled myself and the photo-shooting ended finally when both Mayank and Manoj (the other photographer) were satisfied that they had got the best possible shots.  I felt really relieved when I returned to my seat that evening. For a shy and reserved person like me, being the centre of attraction can be very tiresome.

On 10 January 2015, I got a call from Mayank. He said that his article featuring me along with other writers is now in Mint Lounge as well, apart from his blog theDelhiwalla.com! (Mint Lounge is a business newspaper of the national daily Hindustan Times). Oh my God, I thought, my photo is in a national newspaper today! For an ordinary, middle class person like me, that’s a huge achievement and I was absolutely thrilled!

I was even more impressed when I read the article that day in the newspaper. It was beautifully written and it had given maximum coverage to me as a writer. The wealth of love and blessings I got from my friends, well-wishers, and office colleagues because of this article completely swept me off my feet!

The very next day, I showed the Mint Lounge article to my parents. My Mom kissed my photograph and hugged me. That was the proudest moment of my life. As far as I am concerned, I got my first Pulitzer Prize on 11 January 2015!

Given below are the links of the article and of course, the pics from my own Nokia camera.

http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/n6Y8We3k84iNpaGnpE0zqI/Delhis-Belly–The-Metroliterary-set.html

http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2015/01/12/delhi-metro-poet-commuters-around-town/

This is the pic that Manoj clicked of the 2 of us with my Nokia mobile phone.

With Mayank Austen Soofi, 30 December 2014, Outside my office…
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Links:

http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/n6Y8We3k84iNpaGnpE0zqI/Delhis-Belly–The-Metroliterary-set.html

 

My Mom, Beant Kaur…

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My Dad, Amar Singh…

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Gradually, reality sank in and we all came back to the normal routine. But it did feel good for some time, about being able to open up to the whole world about something that I have always held very close to my heart. As the days went by, I kept reading more and more of Mayank’s works, in Mint Lounge, in his blog theDelhiwallah.com, and his book “Nobody Can Love You More.” From this book, I discovered that his real name is Mayank Singh. I found each one of his stories a beauty, a thing of joy. Each one of them seemed to have a piece of someone’s soul, a heart that throbbed and beat with the rhythm of life. Even the photos had a special touch of an artist.

Every writer is, I guess, entitled to a few idiosyncrasies. In Mayank’s case, I observed that he is absolutely crazy about the French writer Marcel Proust. He identifies himself so much with his character Charles Swann that even his email id has this as his display name and his email signature has these lines: “A doomed character in Proust’s novel, Charles Swann, is of Jewish extraction. He parties with princes and enjoys access to aristocratic salons. He has a discerning taste in buildings, poems, recipes, sonatas and paintings. He is engaged in a scholarly study of Vermeer. He is fond of reading railway timetables. He loves an unsuitable woman.”

At the time of writing this story, Mayank was in Venice to gather more knowledge about Proust and connect with more fellow Proustians. Going by what he wrote recently in “Letter from Venice” in his blog, it appears that he is toying with the idea of doing a crash course in French to be able to read Proust in original.

One day an idea came to me; of using my own pics to illustrate my poems in my blog https://jasbirchatterjee.wordpress.com/ in a style similar to Mayank’s.  That’s how I caught the photography bug! As I watched my photos collection getting bigger and bigger, I found myself looking at the world around me with a completely different perspective. The world outside hadn’t changed much, but I had. It was like re-discovering the world all over again. Was I blind all this while, for the last 49 years of my life? Perhaps. I was now like Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot and i mean this in a happier sense…

This thought led me to write new poems accompanied with photos clicked from my cellphone camera: Spring in Delhi, 2015, The Third Eye, Flight of Fancy, and Flowery Cycle. Here is the link: http://www.poemhunter.com/jasbir-chatterjee/poems/?a=a&search=&l=2&y=1 It was really exciting to be able to match the pics with the poems.

I tried doing that with an older poem “The Withered Petals.” Link is http://www.poemhunter.com/jasbir-chatterjee/poems/?search=the+withered+petals&B1=SEARCH

On 19 February 2015, theDelhiwallah.com had a new story: City Life – Delhi Lovers, Lodhi Gardens. Link: http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2015/02/19/city-life-delhi-lovers-lodhi-gardens/ It was about the love birds in Lodhi Gardens. After I completed reading it, something very strange happened to me. I could feel something inside me dissolve and come to life. A stampede of words, frozen and locked earlier, followed and flowed out of me like a waterfall. I turned them into a short story with the title “Adam & Eve.” This story is now available in an e-book of Fictionmagazines.com published in USA. URLs: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WX1GAVC

FictionMagazines.com: http://www.fictionmagazines.com/…/ef…/efiction-vol-06-no-02/

My 2 other stories ‘Lost & Found’ and ‘The Rebellious Cat’ were similarly inspired from some of the posts in theDelhiwalla.com.

I am working on my next story these days, but my hands shake every time I return to it. It’s hard to relive memories that you’ve worked so hard to forget. Like ‘Adam & Eve’ this too is waiting for a spark to bring it to life.

Keep the torch burning, Delhi Walla! A lot of little flames depend on it.

Jangal Me Mor Nacha…(A Peacock Danced in the Jungle)

In 1969, a Bollywood film ‘Shatranj’ with Waheeda Rahman as the heroine was released. It went on to become a hit film. It had a dance sequence performed by Waheeda Rahman based on the song ‘Jangal me mor nacha kisne dekha.’ Literally, this line means “A peacock danced in the jungle; who has seen it?” When you see this video on Youtube, you would find yourself mesmerized by the beauty, grace, and elegance of Waheeda Rahman dancing exactly like a peacock in gay abandon…

That was 1969. In 2015, one can spot peahens and peacocks very easily in Vikaspuri, New Delhi, living out their lives in public just like other common birds, pigeons, bulbuls, and mynahs, and this includes singing and dancing in the rain as well!

Before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify that Vikaspuri is not a forest area. It is, in fact, just any other residential colony of Delhi with independent houses and apartments. But yes, it has been very lucky, ecologically speaking, and now it has a couple of tall trees and a few green parks developed by the government. These trees now provide homes to the various birds we manage to see everyday hopping around on our terraces, balconies, and verandahs.

The sight of these gorgeous birds walking on the roofs on their tiptoes, balancing themselves and stopping themselves from tripping, just like ballerinas, fills me with a strange kind of thrill. It gives me butterflies in my stomach. But this feeling soon gives way to one of sadness, dejection, and humiliation.

A peacock is, after all, our national bird and deserves a certain amount of dignity. It really shouldn’t be seen traipsing around on terraces of city dwellers, drinking water from their overhead tanks, and eating bajra and corn seeds doled out by kind-hearted people.

The forests are all gone and these birds have nowhere to go. They struggle like refugees for survival, just like everybody else….

See the pics below and you will understand what I mean…

Poised like a ballerina…

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Feeling thirsty…

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Now it’s the ladies’ turn…

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Beating a retreat…

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See how she flies…

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Here is a video of a peahen in motion…Just click on the link below.

Dancing peacock with a peahen as audience (a bit disinterested…)

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Here is a video of a dancing peacock. It was made today, 16 May 2015.

A Poet’s Day Out as a Corporate Professional

Here in India, automobile industry is like a constantly changing kaleidoscope. It is evolving very fast and with improving living standards, customers’ expectations are also changing very rapidly.  These days, irrespective of the segment type, it is hard to imagine an authorized car dealer’s front office in Delhi without an AC. In showrooms too, customers now have a better say because of strong competition. In all Honda cars showrooms, the concept of process time chart for all sales processes is constantly drummed into all sales staff, e.g., every complaint must be closed within 48 hours after generation, a new car must be delivered within 90 minutes of customer’s arrival, so on and so forth.

A few years ago, when there were just a handful of players, dealer staff and dealer principals generally had a laid-back attitude and had a habit of sweeping minor issues under the carpet till they became major problems; the scenario has changed completely now. The manufacturers themselves are under great pressure from competing brands. The customers too are more aware in general about their rights and often resort to social networking sites for redressal of their grievances. As they say in automobile parlance, “Delight factors of yesterday have become hygiene factors of today.”

So when your job profile out here in the automobile industry involves dealing with people, you need to be on your toes all the time and you need to keep innovating. You just can’t afford to rest on your laurels.

Last week, when I was nominated by my company for a training program for the front-line staff, I felt excited. It wasn’t really because of the training program itself. Training programs are, in fact, generally very boring  and it takes an exceptionally good trainer to keep everyone interested. In any case, I am now a senior manager and I have already attended and conducted lots of training programs of this kind in the past myself. I was thrilled because after a long time, I was getting a chance to let in some fresh air into my life, a chance to see new places and meet new people, a welcome change from the daily routine.

On the D-day, 5 May 2015, I started from home much earlier than my usual routine, around 7:30 AM as I had to go far. I did not want to reach late and create a bad impression.. I walked to the Uttam Nagar East Metro Station and took the Blue line metro train to Mandi House. The office rush had still not begun yet and I got a seat easily. Good start, I thought. As soon as I sat down, I took out Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things.’ I had read this book way back in 1999 and now when I began reading it again, it felt like I was reading it for the first time.

After reaching Mandi House, I changed over to the Violet Line metro which goes to Badarpur. I finally reached Tughlakabad station. at around 9:15 AM, well in time. I took a rickshaw from there. As we trundled across the dusty road and reached the final crossing, I was struck by the majestic beauty of the different flowers and trees that I came across. They seemed to glow and sparkle under the strong, glaring sunlight of the summer sun. I made a mental note of remembering to take their pics on my way back.  These are given below. You may not find them clear enough. If yes, I can only say in my defense that I caught the photography bug about 2 months ago and I am still learning.

Way to the training Venue

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Flowers & Trees of ICC…

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We had to wait for more than 1 hour since a few of the participants were coming from places as far as Jammu. While we waited, I decided to pass my time doodling on my note pad. I was pleasantly surprised to see what I came up with. I always thought I was very bad at drawing. Here is the pic.

Doodle pic…

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At the beginning itself, our Trainer Dhirendra, DS for short, clarified quite candidly that this training was related to basics and we would most probably find it boring. But he would try his best to make it lively and we also need to participate actively as it would help us in ensuring that our dealership service levels improve in future.

Here are some more pics from the training room…

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Trainer Dhirendra, D.S. for short, at the end of training

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The program ended on time as per schedule.

On my way back, one more thing I found striking was the constantly rotating Mercedes Benz Logo on the T&T Motors showroom. The orange and red of the Gul Mohur flowers seemed to add a special touch of glamour to the showroom. Why hadn’t I noticed all this when I had come to this showroom last year for an interview? I asked myself this question as I gazed admiringly at the rotating star in front of me.  The setting sun seemed to cast a beautiful halo around the showroom. Is it a sign of things to come? I really don’t know. Their competitors Audi & BMW are already forging ahead.  See these pics below.

Merc. Logo on T&T Motors Showroom, Mathura Road..

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Finally, when I was on my way home, I felt good. “Customer Connect” seemed to be worth it. Its most memorable message, I think, was at the end of one of the videos showed to us during the session: Words are like dams. They have huge power. If you use them properly, you would be amazed to see the results.

That’s what we poets do. Play with words…

Well, as the cliche’ goes, all is well that ends well.

Bulbuls at Vikaspuri, New Delhi

My interest in photography these days has taken me to a new field of interest: bird watching. I haven’t of course gone out of my way to increase my knowledge in this field. I mean, I haven’t read any books on this subject or visited any bird sanctuaries or gone on special trips away from home. I have simply clicked pictures of birds in situations that I found unusual while going about my own routine activities. I now have a huge collection of pics of pigeons, peahens and peacocks, and bulbuls in different poses.

Here are some interesting observations about Bulbuls.

1. They can be bold and fearless: The other day, a Bulbul landed right on my balcony railing. I felt really honored when I found that she did not fly away even after my inching closer and closer to take better pictures of her.

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2. Bulbuls can rotate their heads to almost 360 degrees just like an owl! I did not know that before.

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3. Unlike pigeons, Bulbuls choose their nesting sites very judiciously and put in a lot of thought and planning. Their nests are camouflaged and cannot be detected easily. They look very sturdy and after the eggs are laid, the Bulbuls are fiercely protective as would-be parents. On the morning of 2 May 2015, with her  finger pointing at the big Bamboo tree growing in a huge flower pot in her balcony, my sister said to me, “There is something special for you here. If you peer inside, you will see a small bird sitting in a nest.” Indeed, when I climbed on a chair and took a closer look, I could see a black beak protruding from a nest. The nest was situated right in the center of the tree, close to its top, surrounded by leaves and branches. I was really excited. I tried to take some pics of the scene, but all I could get on the images was a clump of leaves and twigs, and a dark, black space behind them. So I tried to part the branches a little bit and took some more photos. But it was all in vain; the pics did not show what I saw: the black beak and the bird. I found this strange because with the same camera, at 5 AM, a few days ago, when it was pitch dark, I had managed to get a very good photo of a pair of pigeons. Anyway, I ended up shaking the tree a bit and startling the bird. Suddenly the bird dashed out of the nest! It seemed to be in a combative mode. It sat on the railing close by and chirped shrilly. A second later, another bulbul, her mate, appeared and both of them began chirping loudly with their beaks open. It seemed as though they were hurling abuses at me in Bulbulese…Well, I had to give up my attempt that day of clicking a pic of a Bulbul’s nest.

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4. A Bulbul loves its reflection in a mirror. See how she is pecking again and again on her reflection on this glass window. (This is an enhanced pic made by combining several pics and addition of some animation in Google+)…

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5. Here is the latest update as on 11 May 2015. The Bulbul’s eggs inside that Bamboo tree have hatched and now there are 3 little babies! Using a different camera this time, we managed to get a photograph. It is given below. I feel really touched and blessed. What a wonderful sequel to Mother’s Day of 10 May 2015! May God bless these babies and their parents with long and happy lives ahead…

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6. Yesterday, 15 May 2015, I tried to check how the babies were doing in their nest.  But their Mom/Dad happened to be close by and from the corner of my eye, I saw a black bird swoop very close to me on the clothes line hanging next to me. I could hear the bird flapping its wings anxiously and chirping very aggressively.  I got scared and gave up.  My husband said, “Let them live in peace. They will let you know when it’s time for the kids to go to school.” Today, I saw the bird with something in her beak sitting near the nest.

 

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