Sometimes your own blog post can act as a source of inspiration for a poem.
I discovered this recently when I found myself developing a poem ‘A Good Government’ from the first paragraph of my article ‘Feeling Safe.’
This poem is now on Poemhunter.com
On 16 November 2017, I lost my mother. Next day, while participating in the death rituals at home, I learnt through the office whatsapp group that I had lost my job as well and someone else had already joined in my place! These events were not entirely unexpected, to be honest, but their close timing within a gap of just 24 hours placed me in the kind of situation that I was just not ready for.
I was like someone benumbed. Brooding and grieving were now luxuries that were out of question. I now had a far bigger worry, to find a new job. It was a matter of survival and a big challenge, as automobile industry is going through a very tough phase these days.
Unlike the Bollywood heroes who comfort themselves, when badly cornered, with the thought “Mere pas Ma hai,” meaning “My mother is with me,” I didn’t have this consolation either.
But you’ve got to keep moving somehow; that’s what my Mom always said. So I consoled myself with “Mere pas Daddy hain,” (meaning my Dad is with me). I began my job search by posting lots of job applications daily like someone gone crazy. I spoke to a lot of people and asked them to help. Some of them went out of their way to support me and cheer me on. Soon enough, I began getting invited for interviews.
I had no idea when I was going to get my next job, so I tried to save money by avoiding last-mile transport and walking as much as I could. A walk of a kilometer or two, I discovered, didn’t give me too much pain and actually helped me build up my self-confidence.
And one day, I had 2 interviews lined up, both very close to Delhi Metro stations.
The first one got me an offer. It wasn’t good enough, but it was something to fall back upon just in case nothing else worked out. It filled me with hope and worked like straw for a drowning soul.
My next interview was near the Huda City Center Metro Station, Gurgaon. I reached there about 2 hours ahead of the scheduled time. I spent the first hour picnicking on a bench outside the station under the soothing winter sun. I slowly ate my home-made lunch while watching people moving about in the station premises…I felt absolutely liberated. I was no longer anyone’s slave, I reminded myself. I was a free person, far away from the office cameras, mean, scheming subordinates, and manipulative bosses.
Well, like everything else in life, my picnic hour too ended. I got up and began my last-mile walk to the interview venue…I walked in a leisurely manner, like a tourist, on a sight-seeing tour and I clicked several pics on the way…
Those pics are given below…
A worried bull, clueless, indecisive, uncertain, like me…
The second interview happened as scheduled. It was in a plush, elegantly designed office. The best part was the rangoli with colored plastic beads…See below…
Nothing came out of it though, except for the tactful we-will-get-back-to-you-soon answer. But I didn’t feel disappointed. I felt happy and peaceful. When I came out of the lift, I noticed a bunch of pink Bougainvilleas clinging to a fence. They looked ravishing, like a young lady on her night out, leaning on the arm of her beau…
Well, sometimes, I guess, you have to remain content with just being alive, being able to watch days change into nights, nights into days, the sun, moon, and the stars.
On 12 December 2017, I finally got my next job. It’s not exactly the kind I would have accepted under normal circumstances and I am not even sure for how long I will be able to keep it.
So I have simply stopped planning ahead…It’s now, this minute, this moment that matters…Nothing else…
In 2006, my life turned completely upside down. Nothing seemed to work. It was during this tough phase that I wrote my poem ‘The Delhi Metro.’ I had no idea why I wrote what I wrote and what I was going to do about it. It was just a spontaneous expression of hope, strength, and courage to carry on and I felt light after writing it. The idea of getting it published some day never occurred to me and I wasn’t even sure whether it had any literary value at all.
When I showed the hand-written poem to my husband, he thought it was ‘nice’ and suggested some minor changes.
I subsequently uploaded the corrected poem on Poemhunter.com because every poem has a life and a destiny of its own. A day or two later, everything became as usual and I forgot all about the poem. Like me, the poem too wandered in the wilderness.
In 2012, however, six years later, Connie Robertson, an editor from OUP (Oxford University Press), UK, picked it up and chose it for inclusion in one of their upcoming textbooks! I still think I was a poetic Cinderella that a Fairy Godmother launched into the publishing world. Why else would a world-famous, prestigious publisher like OUP wish to engage with me, an obscure writer living in a poor country like India, doing a job that had nothing to do with writing, publishing, or poetry.
Connie’s first message to me was through Poemhunter as she didn’t have my email id. She requested me for “non-exclusive rights to OUP to publish my 60-line poem ‘The Delhi Metro.”
My first impulse was to count the number of lines. Yes, it was 60 alright, but I still had my apprehensions.
In my reply, I asked her to explain what she meant by “non-exclusive rights” because the idea of giving any kind of rights whatsoever, as far as I was concerned, felt like giving up a baby forever; a very painful thing, not something I could imagine myself doing.
Connie’s response was, “By non-exclusive rights, we mean that
a. You retain the copyright and you have full freedom to get the poem published elsewhere.
b. By allowing us to publish the poem, you will get the opportunity to show off your baby to the whole world.”
I was really touched after reading this. About 6 months later, OUP sent £200 into my bank account through RTGS and an author’s copy of the book at my residence through courier. I still have the courier packet as a momento…
I recently came across a very cute newly-married married couple in a Delhi Metro train. While they smiled, laughed, kissed and hugged each other in gay abandon right in front of my amused eyes, they reminded me of the newly-married couple in my poem ‘Delhi Metro,’ completly immersed in each other’s company. I could feel the dreamy, magical aura they created around themselves and I gave in to the strong temptation to freeze those ecstatic moments forever by clicking their photograph. They are now the hero and the heroine of this poem on Poemhunter. Here is the link:
Only Time will tell how this poem will lead its life in future.
Copyright: Jasbir Chatterjee
On 5 September 2017, two groups of exhausted, overworked, and digruntled managers sat in two different rooms of a 5-star luxury hotel in Delhi. They were participating, or rather, trying to participate, in a new product launch training session of a well-known car brand in India.
It should have been a very refreshing session as it was held in the best possible setting that any corporate employee can imagine. Even the washrooms looked like well-maintained lounges with round tables and plush sofas.
With well-fed stomachs and fulfilled palettes, they sat through the one-day session crammed with several days’ content and ‘Group Activities.’ Their trainer tried his heroic best to keep them awake and ensure that they grasped as much of it as they could. At 6:30 PM, the session ended, to their utter relief.
With crestfallen faces, these young people walked out of the hotel, bracing themselves for another hectic day at their dealerships . The women, especially those who had come from other cities like Agra, Mathura, Jabalpur, etc had something additional to worry about. How to reach home in time and safely too within the constraints of a limited budget.
That evening, on my way home in a crowded mini-bus, with only a fraction of the new-product-launch-training in my head, I scrolled down the photos in my cellphone camera. The three most recent ones clicked that day made me smile. I was thrilled and I felt special. That’s when I realized that you don’t need too many things to be happy. Little ones are enough. Here are those pics.
I have never been a BJP supporter and my chances of becoming one in the near future are very remote. Like every other political party, BJP also has its share of extremely aggressive fundamentalists and their tendency to saffronize every burning issue fills me with insecurity as a writer and a citizen of a secular, freethinking country.
But UP’s current Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, to my pleasant surprise, has turned out to be a big exception. A lot of positive changes are already quite visible if you go by the qualitative difference these days in a patch of land near my office. Garbage is being removed very fast, public spaces illegally encroached upon are being freed, and so many developmental projects, both big and small, that were stagnant earlier are being revived and pushed to completion; and all this is happening very efficiently, quietly, silently, peacefully, without any clashes, loss of lives or property.
This is what India needs at this time. Sabka sath, sabka vikas (Hindi phrase meaning “Everyone’s support, everyone’s progress”) seems to be turning into a reality…We need many, many more dedicated politicians like Yogiji in future. If development goes on at this pace for next 5 years at least, UP will probably become India’s best state…
Just take a look at these pics of the area I am talking about, clicked both before and after the elections about 2 months ago. It will help you understand what I mean.
Before elections…Till around Jan.16…
After elections…Can you see the huge difference? This pic was clicked in Apr.17.
Some more construction pics post elections…
Can you spot 2 tiny men working inside this huge framework?
After achieving an M.Sc. in Mathematics in 1989 from Delhi University with a first class followed by 10 years’ work experience of marketing and training, I finally stumbled into an automobile dealership in Delhi in 2004. Since then, I have been slogging and now I am a Customer Relations Manager in a car workshop. This is generally the highest position a woman manages to reach in an automobile dealership.
My knowledge of Pure Maths is now completely erased from my mind and those 5 years of college that I single-mindedly devoted to studies, often sacrificing a lot of fun I could have had otherwise, have all gone waste. But I refuse to let myself have any regrets and I prefer to pat myself on the back for being what I am now; independent, financially and otherwise, bold, and confident. This was, after all, my aim of studying hard.
Today, as I look back, I feel extremely grateful to the automobile industry for providing me the kind of growth and job stability that I didn’t find elsewhere in other industries. It helped me in keeping my kitchen fire burning, financing my daughter’s education, and paying our bills while my husband followed his passion and tried to gain a foothold in theater as an actor. The most important thing is that it has helped me evolve as a human being too.
Indian automobile industry is, fortunately, still growing at a steady pace and the dealerships too continue to upgrade themselves as per the improving living standards and changing expectations of their customers.
The dealers, however, still have a long way to go in ensuring a safe and healthy environment for each one of us including women. Based on my last 13 years’ experience in various auto dealerships, here is an account of what I observed and continue to face as an employee.
Automobile dealerships are powered by the sweat and blood of its hard-working employees. In most auto dealerships, you will find people being compelled to work beyond normal working hours, which are already extended to 9-12 hours’shifts. They have a 6-day week and sometimes, the weekly offs are cancelled too. Holidays such as those of Christmas, Good Friday, Id, etc, which are taken for granted in PSUs, are never given. In the name of multi-tasking, one person sometimes does work of 2 or 3 people. Often, PF/ESI deductions are done without getting these funds accounted for. The employees don’t get the benefits of these deductions and the money is simply siphoned off to a hidden account.
The dealer principals, on the other hand, invest their wealth in real estate and other money-spinning ventures. Their children generally study abroad. So next time when you find a teenager arrogantly scoffing at what you just said in a foreign accent in a board meeting, don’t be shocked! Just keep smiling, as you would at a toddler with cerelac slathered all over itself till you move on to another dealer or till the toddler and its parent both grow up.
Dealer principals keep preaching about focusing on customer satisfaction, but most of them don’t realize that sad eyes silently reveal to customers what artificial smiles on brightly painted lips try to conceal.
Most dealerships in Delhi NCR are in fact extremely profit-oriented and don’t shy away from sounding like bloodthirsty capitalists, as far as employee welfare is concerned. They look at employees as costs, rather than assets. That’s why I would never, ever advise my daughter to consider a career in an automobile dealership, unless, of course, the government steps in and takes strict action against unscrupulous labour practices followed by erring dealerships. The government must also establish some awards for dealerships with high levels of employee satisfaction. Greedy as they always are, for the sake of earning these awards at least, the dealerships might try to make things better for their employees.
From a dealer’s point of view, I agree that surviving in a country like India with rampant corruption and an uncooperative, slow-moving bureaucracy is very difficult. You need to put in huge investment to put up a dealership in the first place and to maintain it, you must achieve a certain amount of profitability. But there has to be a limit somewhere. As fellow human beings, you’ve got to be just and take only what you deserve.
Perhaps you would ask if things are so bad, why isn’t anyone complaining and trying to do something about it? Well, lots of people have rebelled in the past and still do that, but the automotive organisations are rich, powerful, and influential and the labour courts and the judiciary are weak and toothless. They fail woefully in providing a solution to the ordinary, disgruntled, economically impoverished employee whose only priority in life is to be able to live with dignity without having to beg. So it’s more practical to just move on and find another job. This is the theme of my short story ‘A Tale of The Underdog’ that I wrote recently.
Now, let me come to the happy part. God has His own cute ways of dropping happy surprises in your lap, like this video by BookServicing Car Repairs on 8 Mar.17, International Women’s Day. They had me as one of their 2 speakers right at the beginning.
To be chosen among so many out there feels just too great! I still haven’t come out of the happy bubble this has put me in…Thanks once again, Bookservicing!
Here is the link to the video…