I have a strong dislike for permanent tattoos. The pain and bleeding that people undergo while getting themselves tattoed is, I feel, completely unnecessary. It sounds like vandalizing a perfect work of art.
I have often seen people impulsively making strong, indelible statements through tattoos and regretting them later. Sometimes tattoos have grammatical errors too. See here: https://jasbirchatterjeephotoblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/tattoo-english/
But yesterday, on 16 June 2017, I came across one tattoo (see pic above) which completely bowled me over by its beauty, simplicity, and profound meaning. It has just one word, ‘Musafir,’ written in Hindi, meaning traveller, but its significance carries the weight of thousands of words and emotions put together… It reminded me of my short story “A Fellow Traveller” which got published in a stories website.
So, I guess, tattoos are not such an evil thing, after all!
Copyright Jasbir Chatterjee
I was, I think, in my late 30s when streaks of grey appeared on my head. I welcomed them with open arms. I thought it was a good idea to age gracefully with pride, just like one of my professors whom I admired greatly during my college days.
Two years later, however, my whole life turned upside down. I was now in a different career and a different industry. I could no longer afford to remain inwardly drawn as my job profile involved dealing with people. For the sake of my career, I had to unlearn a lot of things that were ingrained in me since childhood. It was painful initially as I had to constantly worry about what others thought about me and adapt myself accordingly. Earlier, the only qualities that mattered to me were intellect, knowledge, depth of feelings and emotions, and internal beauty. But now, it was all about superficial beauty, pleasing exteriors, memorable appearances, and making great first impressions and all this obviously included looking youthful.
Every organization has some unwritten, tacit rules that they expect their employees to follow instinctively. Those employees who understand this do well in their careers and those who don’t either stagnate or keep getting fired for what they perceive as’flimsy reasons.’
I realized this the harder way after a lot of struggle. It was during the toughest part of my life when I discovered that being well-groomed from outside is the best way to demonstrate to the whole world your optimism, strength and courage and positive things happen only to people who look positive. Looking positive outside actually tends to work backwards too and before you realize it, your interior too begins to feel cosy, warm, and comfortable…
There are certain things, of course that you can’t control, your facial contours, the wrinkles, skin color, hair texture, etc, but there are lots of other things that you can do to embellish what you’ve got.
Apart from cosmetics (thank God, you don’t need to use them heavily in office) and perfumes, hair coloring is an absolute must for the grey heads.
If you look at this positively, it’s, I guess, a question of choosing between looking what you are and what you want to be.
I began initially with mehndi as it was a low-cost option without any side-effects. But the problem with mehndi is that it produces an unnatural orangish stain which doesn’t look nice. So I soon graduated to chemical dyes. I tried many brands, Garnier, Revlon, Godrej, etc. For some time, at least, they fulfilled the purpose for which I used them.
A few years later, I had to return to mehndi as my hair had got severely damaged. This time, I used Indigo powder paste also each time after using mehndi to change orange color to natural black brown. During this period, I used many other things too, such as amla and shikakai powders, egg, curd, etc. My hair loved it absolutely! I could see that from the significant improvement in both length and thickness of my hair.
But now there were new challenges. I no longer had enough time for myself because of long working hours. It was not possible to spend weekends with my hair slathered with dyes for 4-6 hours. In winters, it was much more difficult because of my chronic allergic rhinitis problems.
Two months ago, my husband gifted me a few sachets of a ‘natural’dye that I had never heard of earlier (Noni Black Hair Magic). He bought them for me from the International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. He said,”Try these. I saw a lot of people buying them today. They are claiming that this is safe and will give your hair the color you want in just 10 minutes. All you have to do is massage it into your hair like a shampoo and wash it off after 10 minutes.”
I tried it out that evening itself with a lot of misgivings as it seemed to be a Chinese product and my experience with Chinese products has not always been a very happy one.
I was pleasantly surprised as it worked out the way it was supposed to. It did the coloring without spoiling my hair.
Here are the pics…
1. Starting point
2. Dyeing with Noni Black Hair Magic (I used 2 sachets. They come with gloves).
3. I emptied the whole lot into my hair with glove-covered hands.
4. Finally, 30 minutes later, after washing and rinsing with water, white and grey turned to black…
5. Here I am, in office, the next day with several years knocked off my age…
Today, as I share my happiness with all my dear readers about being joyfully alive, I would like to conclude by saying that every challenge gives us an opportunity to achieve what we have come to this world for and you just have to accept it with dignity.
In case you need more information about this product, look at this pic of the carton…
Who says Delhi is unsafe for women? This woman, at least, doesn’t!
Omwati, at work, her head held high
Sometimes I wonder why people take the trouble of dropping everything to go mountain climbing. Isn’t life itself a big mountain?
Completely oblivious and far removed from the debates raging all over the country these days over nationalism, reservations, and hidden agendas of RSS and BJP, Omwati, a middle-aged, semi-literate woman stands everyday near the Uttam Nagar red light with a cart-load of vegetables and fruits along with hundreds of other sellers; from morning till evening, they keep calling out and shouting to attract the attention of the passersby and coax them to buy from them.
Working in an open place like Uttam Nagar has a lot of risks, but she still carries on. The profit she earns by selling fruits and vegetables helps her in supporting her family. Her courage, her quiet determination, and the dignity with which she carries herself are really admirable.
She hails from UP and came to Delhi as a young bride. Her husband was an auto-rickshaw driver during those blissful early years. But a couple of years later, he fell sick, according to her. He doesn’t work anymore and stays at home. She has been selling fruits and vegetables at Uttam Nagar for almost 25 years now. They live in Budh Vihar, Rohini, and have 3 sons; the eldest is doing an ITI course, the middle one is doing a computer course, and the youngest one is in 10th class in school. She is the only earning member of her family.
Her day begins with a visit to Azadpur Mandi early in the morning. She buys her wares from there and brings them to Uttam Nagar in an auto-rickshaw. She reaches here around 12 PM and begins work right away. The cart that she uses is her own now along with the weighing machine. Maximum sales happen in the evening when most of the passersby are on their way home after work. She leaves for the day in the night, around 9:30 PM, and goes home in a DTC bus.
Perhaps you will ask what makes Omwati special, apart from being a female seller in a male-dominated market. I have been purchasing my fruits and veggies from this market for the last 16 years and I find Omwati always so refreshingly different from the other loud and aggressive sellers. She is soft-spoken and well-mannered and treats her regular customers with great respect. The rates she quotes are generally the most reasonable and when things are not of good quality, she is pretty honest about it. It’s really amazing to see that though she is semi-literate, she knows by instinct that the most important thing in marketing is that customers will return to you only if you give them recognition and make them feel important.
Uttam Nagar red light junction is adjacent to both the Uttam Nagar East Metro Station and the Uttam Nagar bus terminal in West Delhi. Because of such a huge turnover of people and vehicles through this place, it provides a lot of opportunities to petty sellers like Omwati. Even the buyers love to buy from here because of the low prices, probably the most reasonable you can find in Delhi. But for the same reasons, this place remains in a perpetually chaotic state and continues to be a big nightmare for the Traffic Police. Road accidents are quite frequent.
Several attempts were made in the past by the Police to get rid of these petty sellers. They were, after all, illegally encroaching on public property and turning into a big nuisance with each one jostling for space and fighting with each other and, sometimes, with the customers as well. Nearly all of them keep their carts and sacks of goods here and some remain behind to keep a constant guard on them. But the long arm of law could not succeed and the market continues to survive.
This has a lot to do, I think, with the vested interests too. I have often heard these sellers grumble about the huge amount of money they are compelled to pay to be able to stand here and sell.
Not to forget, there’s vote bank politics also. No government likes to be perceived by the general public as a ruthless dictator. All the open spaces are being converted into malls and government earns huge taxes from them. Often one hears of scams with public money going into private pockets. Where then can the ordinary sellers with hand-to-mouth existence go to? We are a free, democratic country, after all. We do have a right to our free, open spaces, don’t we? We needn’t pay for everything we need to live – water, the air we breathe, land to stand on – these are God-gifted and everyone has a right to them.
Uttam Nagar market is, in fact, like shifting sands with a constantly changing law and order situation.
Sometimes the Police suddenly become hyperactive and extremely brutal. They come out with lathis and start raining blows on the gas lamps on the carts. I was a shocked witness to this scene once while buying a kilo of oranges. But I was more shocked when I saw that the sellers, without uttering a word of protest, just picked up the handles of their carts and immediately began making a hasty retreat. The money I was supposed to pay to that hapless seller for oranges on that ill-fated evening was already in my hands, thank God, and I thrust it into his desperate hands just before he ran away.
And sometimes, all of a sudden, the place is empty and desolate. Then a couple of days later, the carts return, this time with a vengeance, and in much greater numbers!
I asked Omwati the other day if she faced these problems. She told me that she does and in such situations, she just plays it safe and stays away from the traffic. And then in the night, like snakes, petty criminals, pimps, drunkards, and drug addicts also come out and move around, looking for a prey. Well, these are just occupational hazards that she shrugs off as unavoidable.
Wish you a better future ahead, Omwati, and I hope God makes your life easier in the coming years…
Here are some more pics of her.
Photo courtesy: Jasbir Chatterjee
Nahid Kaiser, looking bubbly and cheerful…
I had the honor of meeting Nahid Kaiser, a young, talented writer from Bangladesh, on 1 March 2016 at my friend Shampa Das’s place in Dwarka, Delhi.
While she recited her poems from ‘Eve Unbound,’ her latest anthology launched this year in the SAARC poetry festival, we listened to her, spell-bound, completely mesmerized by her sincerity. I could easily identify with them; they were so similar to what I had written myself in the past.
But what impressed me most was her completely uninhibited style of reciting poems on subjects that most women don’t feel very comfortable talking about in public. When you consider the fact that she comes from a country of imperiled bloggers and a society where women have a long way to go in matters of social liberty, it is, I think, quite a commendable achievement. She managed to make it look very innocent and not for once did I detect any kind of vulgarity.
Beginning with her first period, she went on to talk about “Qabool, Qabool, Qabool” when she was dressed as a bride, then about her life as a wife, a mother, and ended with her thoughts on her grandma. Sometimes she laughed, sometimes she cried, and sometimes her voice quivered and trembled in keeping with the different moods in the poems.
Most poets are introverts and it takes them several years to learn to express themselves aloud as eloquently as they do in their poems. When I started out myself, it felt like getting my teeth pulled out from my gums…
As the evening progressed, the poetry and play readings graduated to a Rabindra Sangeet session. Somewhere in the middle, the group mentioned that they were going to sing “Sonar Bangla” in her honor. With her characteristic smile, Nahid stood up and said, “Eta amader jatiyo gaan,” meaning “This is our national anthem.” We took the hint and we also stood up, tall and erect.
Suddenly the room with its makeshift auditorium resounded with the melodious voice of the singers singing this beautiful song accompanied by soft music playing in the background. It was a lovely moment!
It served as a gentle reminder that freedom and free speech are not free and come with certain responsibilities which are mandatory for everyone.
Inspired by Nahid’s recitation and my subsequent interaction with her, I wrote a poem of my own the following day, ‘My Shadow and I.’ It kind of matched with a photo I clicked recently. The photo is given below.
I wish you all the best, Nahid, and of course, a long, happy, poetic life ahead!
My Shadow And I