The Common Man Speaks

6Oct/180

Andhadhun Review

The very first scene of Andhadhun is about a rabbit trying to save his life from a hunter. The film then moves onto the main story while you wonder about the relevance of the first shot. It is brought in later during a crucial moment. This scene and several others are enough to guess that this is a Sriram Raghavan movie.

Andhadhun takes place in Pune where Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) lives a simple life as a blind piano player. He ‘accidentally’ meets a bubbly young girl Sophie (Radhika Apte). They become close and she gets him employed at a bar as a musician-cum-singer. The place is owned by retired actor Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan), who was a star during his heydays.

Sinha requests Akash to do a private concert at his residence for him and his wife Simi (Tabu). Akash’s single visit at Sinha’s residence changes his life forever.

Mainstream Hindi cinema is guilty of using loud background sounds to provide thrill. This largely happens when the script lacks thrill. But like most of his films, Raghavan just lets the subtle unfolding of the story provide natural thrill. The background score, which is smart over here, is only a by-product.

Andhadhun posterThe first half of Andhadhun is full of mysterious moments. The twists and turns stun as well as provide laughter. Although the humour is dark, it never gets into the depressing zone. It is not often that the proceedings bring out different emotions at the same time. For example, the situation of Akash is helpless but it provides thrill as well as humour at the same time.

Andhadhun is also one rare film which could be understood even by those who don’t know Hindi. Very few Hindi films let the visuals narrate the story in such an effective manner.

After such an exciting first half, one would, naturally, expect the same experience later. However, the thriller quotient reduces a bit post-interval and a couple of events appear questionable. Thankfully, the climax makes up for it. The very last shot is a masterstroke.

I personally feel all of Raghavan’s films fall in the James Hadley Chase zone, excluding Agent Vinod (2012), in terms of the story, narrative and characters. Andhadhun also lies right there.

The technical aspects are top notch. K U Mohanan’s edgy camerawork adds to the thrill. A lot of the background music is piano sounds as it goes with the subject. The scene where a serious crime is taking place while soft piano sounds are played in the background brings back memories of how the romantic song ‘Kuchh Toh Hai Tujhse Raabta’ is played out during a shootout scene in Agent Vinod.

The songs are decent you don’t really care about the music in such films. The promotional title song is impressive and catchy but it isn’t used in the film and rightly so. It wouldn’t have suited the end credits.

The actors have lived up to what was expected of them. Ayushmann Khurrana is thoroughly believable as a mysterious artist. This wasn’t an easy performance by any means but he is up to the task. Radhika Apte is effective as a fiery young girl.

Tabu has a much bigger role, which required her expertise. Her act will be talked about for long. Anil Dhawan, who makes a comeback, leaves behind a terrific impact despite the short length of his role. He provides unintentional laughter too, which was intentional. Manav Vij lives his evil character and speaks through expressions.

Other supporting actors like Zakir Hussain and Chhaya Kadam also chip in with mature performances.

Overall: Andhadhun is an exciting thriller that has a stamp of Sriram Raghavan’s genius all over. The film hasn't opened to a good number at the box office. But its collections should rise in the days to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Sriram Raghavan

Producers: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and Matchbox Pictures

Writers: Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar and Hemant Rao

Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Tabu, Anil Dhawan, Manav Vij

Music: Amit Trivedi, Raftaar and Girish Nakod

Genre: Thriller

Runtime: 138 minutes

2Oct/180

Home Sweet Home: To choose between Mumbai and Bombay

Hrishikesh Joshi’s Marathi movie Home Sweet Home portrays a conflict between an aged couple Shyamal (Reema Lagoo) and Vidyadhar Mahajan (Mohan Joshi). They stay in Dadar, the central hub of Mumbai, where real estate prices have surged higher than the city’s iconic Rajabai Tower.

Shyamal is eager to sell off their house for a colossal amount of over Rs 3 crore and migrate to a place further. The price of the new flat is much lesser than Rs 3 crore, which meant that they would also get to lay their hands on a big sum. Vidyadhar, however, is against the idea. He is emotionally attached to not only the house but also the locality.

The two characters appeared like many others I have witnessed all my life while staying in the same area. There are a lot of Shyamals religiously visiting the famous Swami Samartha math. At the same time, you can spot innumerable Vidyadhars doing early morning Yoga unconvincingly. Their everyday sarcastic conflicts are replicas of what was shown between the couple.

Home Sweet Home Marathi movieThe character of the estate agent, which is played by Joshi himself, reminded me of my grandmother’s conversations with her fellow estate agent friends. I have grown up witnessing the practice of a ‘party’ inspecting a prospective flat and the nervous undertones of the situation.

Home Sweet Home, obviously, seems like a personal story between two individuals. But it goes much deeper. The film actually portrays the current state of Mumbai where people residing in prime areas like Dadar are compelled to move to suburbs for ‘better’ standards of living.

Shyamal and Vidyadhar symbolize the two sides of the city right now. While some areas have rapidly built skyscrapers where every service available at your fingertips, there are still others that have retained the old Bombay charm.

The thought process of the two individuals represents two types of Mumbaikars currently. One wanting to be practical and move on with development, while the other clinging onto traditions and roots. In other words, it’s a conflict between Mumbai and Bombay. The proverb, ‘Mumbai is a name, Bombay is an emotion,’ which is viral on social media, is felt here throughout.

Before Home Sweet Home, Mahesh Bhatt’s Saaransh (1984) provided such local appeal on celluloid. In fact, the characters of Home Sweet Home remind you of characters of the Anupam Kher and Rohini Hattangadi starrer.

Also read: Manto released in the week when freedom of expression succumbed to a new low

Saaransh was about an aged couple staying alone and both having conflicting views. They had a female paying guest whose modern ways bothered them. The story also took place in the same locality. [Not implying that both films are similar in any way]

Coming back to the dilemma, I have seen a lot of families either choosing the mind or heart when faced with such a situation. My family was faced with the same dilemma for years. The choice was finally made this year. We did some adjustments in the house and went with the heart.

By: Keyur Seta

22Sep/180

Manto released in the week when freedom of expression succumbed to a new low

Nandita Das’ Manto, which is a biopic on the literary genius Saadat Hasan Manto, is based in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But after watching the Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rasika Dugal starrer, it doesn’t come across as a period film.

No, this is not a criticism towards the production design or any creative side about the film. The situation of the protagonist wherein he is made to look like a criminal for merely showing the mirror to the society reminds us of the current times. This is unfortunate as it reflects how little has changed in these 70 years after Independence.

This is not the only aspect about the film that portrays today’s era in the imaginary parallel screen inside your mind. There is a moment when the editor of a newspaper advises Manto on writing something halka-phulka (light-hearted) this time around because truth hurts.

In one scene, Manto tries making an audience understand how past invaders are blamed every time we question the authorities about the current pressing issues. This appears right out of the silly comments made by quite a few ‘leaders’ who blame the Mughals, British or Pandit Nehru for the current mess they have created.

Manto elaborates his point by passionately telling the people, “Sab peechhe dekh rahe hain, lekin aaj ke kaatil lahu aur lohe se tareekh likhte ja rahe hain.”

But the audience doesn’t take him seriously. They symbolize those who have become puppets in the hands of loud-mouthed ‘news’ anchors who can create enemies of the nation at their will in order to hide the dark acts of some people.

Manto poster

Apart from the content, the time of the release of Manto turned out to be the most ironical one could imagine. The film arrived just in the week when suppression of freedom of expression succumbed to a new low.

Earlier this week, Salman Khan changed the name of his upcoming production from Loveratri to Loveyatri after a lawyer and fringe organizations objected to it for allegedly hurting ‘religious’ sentiments.

Soon after, the producers of Manmarziyaan made three cuts in the film because some Sikh organizations objected to it. As per the director of the film Anurag Kashyap, he was not even informed about it.

Abhishek Bachchan, who plays one of the leads in Manmarziyaan, justified the cuts yesterday at an event and went onto say that he has no problems with it (read more about it HERE).

What has come as a rude surprise is that the producers of both films readily agreed to the demands without trying to defend their rights as artists, leave alone showing any fight. More importantly, there were hardly any serious protests; nowhere near to what happened with Udta Punjab (2016) and Padmaavat (2018).

If the big names of the industry are ready to succumb even in front of minor protests, spare a thought for a low budget independent filmmaker who can be victimized even for an actor’s hairstyle. To say that they have set a dangerous precedent is a mild way of putting it.

They have ensured that Manto shall,  unfortunately, remain relevant even 70 years from now.

By: Keyur Seta

10Sep/180

Short Story: The Orange Garlands of Bharatpur

Marigold Garlands

The television set in the rich household of Bharatpur was showing an important development that took place in the town that evening. The news was shocking but it didn’t shake the family members. The effect of the cool breeze of their new expensive air conditioner and the delicious pizza was too much for them to be bothered about anything else.

Earlier in the day

Ramakant was obediently sprinkling water on the orange marigold garlands in his shop. The droplets shone like diamonds in the early morning sun. This has been a subconscious activity for him since long. It not only kept the flowers fresh but also spread the fragrance of the marigold.

The 55-year-old was passionate about his business, although it hasn’t made him rich. The fact that his garlands get a place around the neck of the idol in the adjacent temple, albeit for few minutes, was too fulfilling for him.

Bharatpur was the land of the extreme. The wealthy families of the town had to wonder where to spend their money. The poor, on the other hand, saved every penny to ensure they won’t stay hungry the other day. There are areas where the luxurious high-rises lie just besides slums. Two separate worlds exists just few metres away.

The abnormal gap does become a cause of concern for Ramakant, who lied somewhere between both extremes. He knows much more about Bharatpur than his calm face and joyous nature show. With his keen interest in history coupled with the fact that his father being the freedom fighter, he understands Bharatpur in and out.

But he sees little hope in the socio-political situation of the town. The new regiment, that had promised heaven, has been destroying the once ideal town brick by brick. Apart from economic collapse, the secular fabric of the town has been under serious threat since recent times. Atrocities on the marginalized were a regular electoral feature.

On top of that, anyone who criticizes the establishment or raises troubling questions was labelled either an enemy of the land. By the way, being an enemy of the land was equivalent to being an enemy of the majority religion.

Ramakant now concentrates only in his daily routine and service to God, more so after he lost his beloved wife Lakshmi to tuberculosis (TB). He finds solace in God. He believes the Kalki Avatar, the 10th avatar of Vishnu, is the only hope now.

Marigold Garlands

His daughter Damini, however, has the opposite mindset. The 25-year-old Political Science professor in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College is a fiery young woman. She has a strong heart of a revolutionary but, at the same time, is soft-spoken and compassionate.

It is this emotional side of hers that compels her to champion the causes of the marginalized. Protests and demonstrations are her regularly routine. Holding banners with her hair tied in a ponytail in her usual attire of a kurta and jeans is a familiar sight in Bharatpur. She is also known for her polite yet hard-hitting articles.

Damini’s transformation has been revolutionary to say the least. She was almost the opposite as a child and during her early teens. During her schooling period, she was a reserved student who hardly opened her mouth. But studying Sociology during her college days proved to be a turning point in her life.

The subject sowed the seed of transformation in her. Studying about the oppressed classes of the society, both in India and abroad, gave her a completely new perspective about the world. She realized that just earning money and living a luxurious lifestyle can never be her aim. Doing at least something about the oppression around her was necessary in order to live a life, instead of just surviving like blind consumerists.

Participating in inter-collegiate drama competition increased her confidence no ends. Soon, she was seen performing street plays as well on social issues. The person who was hesitant to speak even in front of handful of people now didn't care even if hundred pair of eyes were glued to her.

The passing away of her mother had a lasting impact on Damini, obviously. The incident made her more responsible at an early age. In other words, it further honed her skills as a leader ready to shoulder responsibilities. By the time she enrolled for post-graduation in Sociology, she was a different individual altogether.

Despite her father’s profession, Damini has never been sure about the existence of God. But she is more than sure that one shouldn’t expect Him to solve our problems.

Ramakant wasn't oblivious to the massive change in Damini. He knew she was walking the razor’s edge. But he always saw his late father in her and that ensured he never stopped her from walking her path.

Damini was teaching in her usual calm manner today. But deep inside, she was all looking forward to something after the lecture. As soon as the bell rang, she barged out of the college campus, travelled to the town hall area on her bike and marched in the protest rally against something serious.

Back at his shop, Ramakant wasn’t hoping of any major business that day as it wasn’t any festival or special religious day. So, it came as a pleasant surprise when a man came to buy around a dozen expensive thick marigold garlands.

But his joy was shortlived as his friend came running to give him the news about Damini’s arrest along with a number of other social workers, activists, journalists and professors for holding a powerful rally against the government.

Ramakant was sad to hear that but not worried and not at all surprised. He knew this was coming. Off late, the current situation has been reminding him of the days of the freedom struggle his father used to narrate.

The family in the rich household just besides Ramakant’s shop was watching the news about the important development in Bharatpur that day. The seriousness of the issue didn’t matter to them as they hogged on to the pizza slices in the cool breeze of the air conditioner.

The news anchor was heard saying, “The activists protesting against the release of those convicted in the gruesome lynching were arrested by the police. On the other end of the town, the convicts were welcomed by their party leader with thick marigold garlands.”

By: Keyur Seta

2Sep/180

10 Years of A Wednesday: A film that gave an identity to me and this blog

When I went to see Neeraj Pandey’s directorial debut A Wednesday in 2008 in Dadar’s Chitra Theatre, I was expecting to see a thriller about a terrorist’s plot of carrying out multiple blasts in Mumbai being foiled by a bunch of good guys. I expected it to be a regular formula thriller, but it turned out to be the experience of a lifetime personally.

The film, which starred Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Aamir Bashir and Chetan Pandit starrer, completes 10 years on September 5, 2018.

During the interval point, I was convinced that I am in for some thrill. I was crazy for action or dramatic thrillers back then and used to watch every film in that genre including Acid Factory [2009] and Woodstock Villa [2008] (don’t judge me).

But when Shah’s character revealed his true intentions and identity as the 'Stupid Common Man,' I was not only thrilled but also pleasantly shocked and blown away. His long monologue with hard-hitting and moving dialogues mesmerized me like anything (I still watch that scene regularly).

There must be very few occasions when I must have rooted this much for any fictional character to survive. I heaved a sigh of relief when Kher’s character lets him go. There is no denying that apart from the brilliance of the film, the subject struck an emotional chord for the Indian or Mumbaikar in me.

A Wednesday poster

I also respect A Wednesday for subtly rubbishing religious and other such identities by not revealing the name of Shah’s character. “Insaan naam ke saath mazhab jod leta hai,” is what is said.

As a person, I have always been comfortable living a simple life and enjoying the simplest of joys without caring or needing any sort of luxuries. There has also been this desire to bring a change in the society, which I hardly ever express. But I didn’t know how to describe myself for following such an ideology. Well, A Wednesday helped me out with that. The Common Man it was!

Also read: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero: A film that forced me to go down memory lane.

Of course, it was the great R K Laxman that brought out the concept through his iconic cartoons. I was introduced to it much before I saw A Wednesday. But somehow it took this movie for me to latch onto the title. Maybe the power of the audio-visual medium turned out to be higher than cartoons.

Less than a year later, when I started this blog, its name came extremely easy to me.

But apart from giving me and my blog an identity, A Wednesday also made me realize the power of an ordinary man (read: humans). Normally one would expect a good looking, strong ‘hero’ with muscles to carry out the task of killing terrorists. But here was a man in his old age managing that even after his plan going haywire in between.

Not that I have been able to realize any such power till now. Maybe someday I might.

By: Keyur Seta

19Aug/180

How to donate for Kerala flood victims? City wise details and helpline numbers

Kerala floods

As we all know, the floods in Kerala have been too serious and devastating. The loss is amounted to thousands of crores. Needless to say, the victims need help and they need it now. Here is a compilation of city wise centres where you can donate items along with various helpline numbers and other modes of donation.

Collection centres:

Mumbai:

Kerala donation centres Mumbai

Delhi:

Hari Nagar
Near Swargashram Mandir
Contact number: 8587875939

Mahavir Enclave
C-81, MCD School Road
Mahavir Enclave Part
Contact number: 87503822423

Mayur Vihar
76 F, Pocket A-1, Phase 3
Contact number: 9911053603

Jamia Irshad
Contact number: 9656696980

Ayannagar Church Jomon
Contact number: 9633985280

Ashram
Sunil Malayali Store
Contact number: 9958129458

AIIMS
Dayal: 8556010208
Fahad: 8750603526
Midhun: 8556010209

Dilshad Garden
P/35 A, 5 Pocket P, Near Shani Mandir
Jinomon Joseph: 9495306683

Dilshad Garden
Varughese: 9990034332

Mahavir Enclave
Augustine: 8587035792

Noida:

Sector 20
E-53, 1st Floor,
Renjith: 8010475625 and 9319761425

Dehradun:

Anandhu Chandrasekhar: 9526625771

Cochin:

Regional Sports Centre, Kadavanthra
Contact Number: 9809700000, 9895320567, 9544811555)

Kerala floods

Photo: Kashmirnewsobserver.com

Trivandrum:

Weavers Village in Rosscote Lane, opposite Trivandrum Club; Sri Mulam Club, Vazhuthacaud; and B-hub, Mar Iavnios Vidyanagar, Nalanchira

Hyderabad:

SMR Vinay City, Bolarum Road, Miyapur
Contact Number: 900035188, 9703503573, 8886555226, 9840921173

The English and Foreign Languages University, near Sitaphalmandi Overbridge
Contact Number:8086869573, 9746286425, 91775096030

Banjara Hilla, Flat No 6-3-594/10A, Anand Nagar
Contact number: 7842216157, 8790408101, 8606821009

Tata Institute of Social Sciences, NIRD Road, Rajendranagar
Contact Number: 73820922647, 7995926635, 9633134831, 8547930466

Bengaluru: 

Sankara Eye Hospital Kundalahali Gate, Varthur Main Road
Contact Number: 9739011685)

Avohi, Venus Building, Kalyana Mandapa Road, Jakkasandra Ext, Koramangala
Contact Number: 9731980066

Confederation of Indian Industry, CII, 12 Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar
Contact Number: 7001663618, 9740233244

Tanzeb, 4017, First Cross Road, Stage 2, Domlur
Contact Number: 9916900719)

Keli Cultural Association, Pruksa Silvana, Nimbekaipura Road, Budigere Cross, Old Madras Road
Contact Number: 9945481192

Midway City Owners Association, Concorde Midway City, Basapura Road, Hosa Road Junction
Contact Number: 9964741820, 8041234875

Ganga Vertica, Neeladri main Road, Electronic City
Contact Number: 8867846625

Chennai:

Lotus Exotic Journeys, 33/17, Thomas Nagar, Little Mount, Saidapet, Chennai - 15.
Contact Number: 9789053919

 

Helpline numbers as per location in Kerala:

Kasargod: 9446601700
Kannur: 91-944-668-2300
Kozhikode: 91-944-653-8900
Wayanad: 91-807-840-9770
Malappuram: 91-938-346-3212
Malappuram: 91-938-346-4212
Thrissur: 91-944-707-4424
Thrissur: 91-487-236-3424
Palakkad: 91-830-180-3282
Ernakulam: 91-790-220-0400
Ernakulam: 91-790-220-0300
Alappuzha: 91-477-223-8630
Alappuzha: 91-949-500-3630
Alappuzha: 91-949-500-3640
Idukki: 91-906-156-6111
Idukki: 91-938-346-3036
Kottayam: 91-944-656-2236
Kottayam: 91-944-656-2236
Pathanamthitta: 91-807-880-8915
Kollam: 91-944-767-7800
Thiruvananthapuram: 91-949-771-1281

 

A man called Nandkishore Varma is in touch with army person who has been running a rescue operation. You can What’s App him on +919526157437 with the following details:

-Co-ordniates of the location (very important)
-Address
-Contact person with mobile number
-Number of people
-Exact nature of requirement (rescue in the case of immediate danger - otherwise food and -water will be dropped)
-How many people (to decide upon the size of the rescue vehicle)
-Whether any immediate danger (old people, infirm people, sick people, babies)

 

Donate through Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Funds:

Account details:

Name of the donee: Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Funds

Account Number: 67319948232

Bank: State Bank of India

Branch: City Branch, Thiruvananthapuram

IFSC: SBIN0070028

PAN: AAAGD0584M

Account type: Savings

SWIFT Code: SBININBBT08

11Aug/180

Short Story: The product owned by a family in Versova

A rich Mumbai family consisting of a man, his wife and their 25-year-old son staying in Versova reached a place in Goregaon in their expensive car to buy a product they badly needed. The sellers, who were keen to sell it soon, presented it in a must-buy manner. The family was initially not sure if they should believe them.

But after asking numerous questions about its various features of the product, they were finally convinced. The deal was done!

A number of guests came to see the product the day it was brought to their luxurious home near Versova beach. They couldn’t stop being in awe of it while the three family members looked on with pride.

The machine was performing brilliantly as it was brand new. But after a few weeks, it started having some issues since the family started over-using it. It was asked to perform more than its capacity by the husband and wife. On top of that, the son also used it after returning from office.

Versova Beach

Hence, it stopped performing as per the promises made by its sellers. The family got furious and complained to the people from where they bought it, although they knew they were wrongly overusing it.

The people came over to their place in a jiffy. After their visit, the product started functioning like before. The family was just happy that it is ready to function as per their wishes! The three of them didn’t know what those people did to the product, whose name was Ashwini. (Read again if confused)

Note: Inspired from a real story. The name of the character and places has been changed.

By: Keyur Seta

5Aug/180

Did we normalize lynching and killing last month?

Lynching protest

As we all know, the horrors of lynching have emerged since last three years. The common pattern is that those suspected to carrying or storing beef are lynched mercilessly by the Right Wing Gaurakshaks, the so-called protectors of cows.

In 2015, when it all began, prominent people from the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) played it down and even went onto justify the horrific incidents. There was, obviously, a huge outrage in the country.

The incidents have started happening more regularly since recent times. And, as expected, members of the BJP and RSS, their affiliate, have justified it.

Here are some reactions to the latest lynching and mob killing incidents:

Comment: “If humanity gets rid of this sin (eating beef), the society will get rid of this problem (lynching).” – Indresh Kumar, RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) leader
Meaning: If you don’t stop eating beef, you will be killed.

Comment: “It’s (lynching) not the reality of Rajasthan. It’s the reality of the world.” – Vasundhara Raje, Chief Minister of Rajasthan
Meaning: It’s happening everywhere in the world (which is a lie). In other words, bade bade deshon mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain.

Lynching protest

Photo: IndianExpress.com

Comment: “I would have got the intellectuals shot if I was the Home Minister. Our country faces grave danger from intellectuals and seculars than anyone else.” – Basanagouda Patil, BJP MLA from Karnataka.
Meaning: This one actually makes you speechless. It’s self-explanatory actually. It’s like a dangerous goon openly threatening to kill anyone who asks questions or criticizes the government. The second statement compares intellectuals and seculars, which are praiseworthy qualities, with someone as dangerous as a terrorist.

However, there is no hue and cry this time. One can understand the silence of the unofficially government owned loud-mouth pseudo ‘news’ anchors who are otherwise ready to tear into someone from opposition even for hugging someone. But what happened to the genuine social media users?

If those ruling this country openly threatening to kill anyone who believe in secularism isn’t outrageous enough, what is? This raises a disturbing question as to whether we have normalized such Talibanistic behavious, statements and attitude.

By: Keyur Seta

22Jul/182

Short story: Letters in the valley (Inspired by a real story)

Rajouri

The road going through the picturesque valley of Rajouri in Kashmir suddenly came alive with the arrival of a herd of sheep walking through with discipline. Their white colour went well with the blue sky above. When the herd ended, the 10-year-old Sanjukta slowly emerged like a fresh flower just blossomed from the early sun rays.

She appeared carefree in her school uniform covered with a thick sweater and her hair tied like always. She walked as if she was swaying to the tune of nature all around her. With a smile on her face, she enjoyed passing through the herd of sheep. Although she had experienced it many times before, since she was born and brought up here, it still made her joyous.

There was another reason for her joy while going to school. Generally, most of the students are always on the lookout for a reason to bunk school. But Sanjukta surely wasn’t one of them. The reason for this was Damini, her class teacher, with whom she had become friends recently.

Damini ma’am, as she was always addressed, was somewhere in her mid-20s. Dressed in her simple usual salwar kameez, she had a peaceful expression on her face, which didn’t need much reason to break into a smile. Her appearance went perfectly with her nature. The long red purse with flowery designs always accompanied her.

Damini was kind and understanding and went out of the way to help and comfort her students. Attending her class was like therapy for Sanjukta. In fact, her presence itself was enough to bring positive vibes around.

As Sanjukta entered the main town, her mind was recalling the times when Damini put in special efforts to teach her and few others who were struggling to master a topic. It was so nice of her to go out of her way, she thought. But Damini’s kindness was not limited to teaching. She showed special affection and care when a student falls ill or gets injured.

Sanjukta still remembered the day she had hurt herself while playing. Damini provided her with first aid and consoled her. The two always shared a good bond but this incident brought them closer. The comfort she felt with her after that incident was the same one provided by a steaming hot cup of Kawah in her chilly town.

Rajouri

Rajouri (Photo credit: Trekearth.com)

Sanjukta entered her classroom with these thoughts and her trademark smile. After the formal ‘Good morning teacher’ Damini gave a smile to Sanjukta and few others and started teaching. The little girl was quick to realize that her smile had something missing today. She didn’t think much about it and busied herself in the teaching.

 

The reason for the missing spark in her smile came after the period got over. It struck Sanjukta like a thunderbolt when Damini announced that she will be quitting the school as her family has shifted to the outskirts of Rajouri. She had to take the decision since traveling to and fro daily would be a toll on her. This semester, which will be ending after two weeks, will be her last.

Sanjukta stood numb fighting her tears. Obviously, her body language was alien as she walked back home. The usual chirpiness and delight was nowhere to be seen. Her condition was opposite the lively and enchanting greenery of Rajouri. She finally broke down after reaching home. Her mother comforted her while she kept asking as to why Damini ma’am can’t travel a long distance for work like few of her classmates.

Sanjukta did well in the half yearly exams. This was followed by the vacations. Needless to say, it didn’t bring much joy to her, like it did every year. She did speak with Damini few times during the exams while trying to appear normal. It broke Damini’s heart as she could easily make out the efforts she was putting in to be strong.

Just like her last few vacations, Sanjukta went to the outskirts of her town with her family for an outing. She bumped into her school friend Nazia. During the course of the conversation, Nazia revealed that Damini ma’am has shifted just near her place. After soaking in the news, an idea stuck Sanjukta.

On the first day after the school re-opened Sanjukta hurriedly passed on a white paper to Nazia after the final bell. The next day, Sanjukta was happy to know that Nazia delivered her letter to Damini ma’am. Her joy doubled when her friend instantly gave a verbal reply from Damini’s side.

This became a regular routine for Sanjukta. She kept writing letters to Damini who would reply verbally through Nazia. The letters were written in broken English with lots of mistakes. But despite being a teacher, Damini ignored the errors automatically. She could only see the innocence of a lovable 10-year-old girl.

The give-and-take continued for six months as her fifth standard came to an end. The regular conversation was enough for Sanjukta to return to her swaying steps while going to school and vice-versa. She once again started appearing as delightful as Rajouri.

The summer vacations meant not meeting Nazia to hand over her letters as she, like Damini, stayed at the outskirts. When the school finally re-opened, Sanjukta was excited to resume the process of sending letters.

She was trying to think about the contents of the letter as she passed through the staff room. Something caught her eye and she went back a few steps and peered in. On the handle of a chair in the staff room hung the long red purse with flowery design.

By: Keyur Seta

Inspired from a real story of a sweet and innocent little girl in Rajouri.

15Jul/186

Why the usage of the word ‘Mardaangi’ is worrying

Mardangi movie

In a country like India, wrong notions are spread easily through generations. People blindly believe and accept whatever their elders believed in, without realizing the changing times. This also includes the educated lot, including myself (at one point of time).

Patriarchy is so deep-rooted in Indian society that it appeared fine or normal to me all these years. It is only since a decade or so that I realized its toxic nature. One such characteristic of patriarchy that is considered normal even in today is the usage of the word ‘Mardaangi,’ which translates to masculinity or manliness, and its context.

The real meaning of the word might not be dangerous. But in India, the word is generally used to describe qualities like:

Strength (physical and mental)

Bravery

Courage

Hence, using the word ‘mardaangi’ in the context of having the aforementioned qualities is very problematic. Why? Because it affirms the belief that only men possess such qualities.

Mardangi movie

Ask yourself, don’t you know a single woman or girl in your life who regularly displays qualities like strength, bravery and courage? I am sure you can put down a list.

That’s not all though. For some reason, the practice of drinking liquor is also considered a by-product of mardaangi. Just recently I came across a person who indirectly expressed his bravery of discussing about hard drinks with a man in the presence of few women. Little did he know that I know quite a few women from the group who drink.

I have seen people blame our films and television serials for this. In the popular serial Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, women are never even seen having soda. Only the men residing in the Gokuldham Society gather around at night to have soda.

But cinema or any piece of art is a reflection of the society. Such beliefs about mardaangi are accepted even in 2018 and that is exactly why I am forced to write this. And if you think only older people belonging to previous generations hold such beliefs, you are grossly mistaken.

Holding such beliefs is detrimental towards men as well because it is assumed that they can never afford to appear weak in any way. And if by any chance a man is seen weeping, he is not considered mard enough. Dialogues like ‘Mard ko dard nahin hota’ being uttered even today make it worse.

So, next time you hear the word ‘mardaangi’ used in this context, give it some thought before accepting it normally.

By: Keyur Seta