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December 27, 2017 at 9:15 AMDec (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

I usually don’t remember my dreams. They evaporate before sleep divorces me. But on rare occasions I remember my dreams. In the recent past couple of times in my dreams I saw myself in the house we once occupied for over twenty years. Leaving that house, in the University quarters, was painful. But I must acknowledge that I did not miss that house much once we moved to our own house eleven years ago. So when in my recent dreams I saw myself in that house I felt quite strange and was naturally puzzled.

During my recent visit to Pune I sat for a class in the screenwriting department. The class was on subtext. When the teacher conducting the class, giving an example, said, “Like rosebud is not a rosebud in Citizen Kane,” I felt my dream, like rosebud, was just a longing for something lost

Home after all is not a structure but a feeling.

Explaining my existential depression to my psychiatrist once I had said, “I don’t feel at home with myself.” Is home supposed to be a state of peace, a state of harmony?

Some years ago when I came back home after a long time and after an experience which changed me greatly I felt distant from what I was at home before I embarked on that journey. I had changed and to come back to something that was still the same felt like a very alienating experience. When I had shared that experience with a friend I had received a reply which said, “Its the same with me too. Every time I go back home I feel more and more distant from home and home is not home anymore.”

“Home is too simple a concept for complicated people,” once said a friend elaborating on how those who divert from the ways of the family/ community kind of become homeless, especially when the diversion is in ideological terms.

In an ever changing world, ever changing landscape of life how is the ever changing self expected to find a home? I dont know.

A friend who grew up in different towns, cities and countries and says each of those spaces did shape her in some ways, at times feels homesick not knowing which home among all the homes she is longing for and feeling homesick for. Home is where the heart is, but which home is the heart desiring?

There is a friend who told me that once while holidaying with friends far from home the music player on shuffle played ‘madhurashtakam‘ between all the peppy songs they were playing, her friends were about to change the music and she stopped them. My friend who is an atheist now had heard, during her growing up years, her mother sing ‘madhurashtakam‘ in her evening prayers. Narrating this my friend told me that she did not even know that ‘madhurashtakam‘ was in her music folder and that some unknown part inside her felt calm listening to it. “For all the intellectuals shifts that as taken place in me,” she said, “Some things within me doesnt seem to have changed.” The very next day, my friend recollected, she saw some brahminical rituals being practiced around the place where she and her friends were holidaying and relaxing which irritated her.

If there are various sides to human existence can one feel completely at home with anything, any one thing? While one aspect of life feels at home, because of conditioning, with something another part of the self might feel totally not at home with that something. Can one actually feel completely at home ever?

A friend who came from the mountains would often tell how beautiful the mountains are and say how much she missed the mountains. Each time she spoke of the mountains her voice sounded like breeze flowing over the mountains. But interestingly I have never heard her say she misses home. Her narrations more than once made me ask myself do I miss the sea, a very prominent part of world I belong to like the mountains for my friend. Yes, when away from home for a long time I do miss the sea and I remember once during my Delhi days how I had tears in my eyes when I had held the conch to my ears and heard the sound of the waves in it.

During some of my phases of melancholia when I feel homeless within myself, I do go to the sea and while listening to the roaring of the waves punctuated by moments of silence, have felt comforted, have felt a bit at home with myself. But that is a very temporary feeling, felt only at that moment.

Recollecting these I have often wondered if home is what our spirit our temperament relates to, associates with? And if home is only a very temporary feeling?

Once while speaking to a friend about a lost love I was told that I was unnecessarily being stuck in a phase and that I had to “get over her,” and that this kind of “hangover” was unhealthy. The words like “Hangover” “Stuck” and “Get over” with regard to lost love and broken relationships have never appealed to me. So I tried to explain myself and words which I had not thought of took wings from my heart. I said, “I am not stuck. I feel homesick because of this lost love,” to mean I felt at home in the company of this particular someone and separation from that someone meant losing a feeling of home, a home a feeling I am missing now.

Is home a person we love? Is love home? Is home nothing but a sense of belonging?

Speaking of homesickness a friend used the word Hiraeth which means longing for a home you cannot return to. That echoed the inner space of what I felt of the lost love.

The saints of spirituality call the other world a home. That is where we have to reach and that is the place the heart longs for, through the spirit. A home is a place where we havent been but dream of.

May be we can read ‘home as a place to reach’ and ‘home as the other world’ as home is the place one needs to create and strive for. Does the ‘other world’ exist? One doesnt know.

Lost self, lost love, lost home. Accessed, possibly, only through dreams.

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A Tour in Nostalgia: Begamon Ka Bhopal

December 25, 2017 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Friends, Letter, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

Begamon Ka Bhopal an experimental and experiential documentary directed by Rachita Gorowala was premiered on 09 Dec 2017 in the city of Bhopal, inside the structure of Taj Mahal.

I was fortunate to be a part of this memorable event and experience. That evening the beautiful Taj became a tour in nostalgia. This was designed by turning the structure of Taj into a canvas for light and shadow and through the several installations curated by Rachita Gorowala, Puloma and Farzeen Khan. All of these created an atmosphere for the film and also enhanced the experience of the film.

To be in tune with the experiential nature of the film, instead of writing a review I would like to reproduce a letter/ mail (with minor editing) I wrote to Rachita, trying to join the dots of my first impressions, soon after I watched the film Begamon Ka Bhopal in the month of September.

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Hi Rachita

First of all accept my congratulations. Now accept my apologies for being late in viewing the film. After a month of you sending me the link, finally I watched the film today. But I am not delaying in writing to you my impressions about the film.

In the context of Begums and Bhopal this film is predominantly about Huzun, it appeared to me. This is made quite clear at the very beginning of the film and the interiority of the the feeling of nostalgia is felt throughout the film.

Nostalgia is not just remembrance but also longing with the knowledge that the longing for the remembered will be un-achieved which gives the happy recollection of past a shade of melancholy. When the word nostalgia first made an entry into human language it was considered a disease and it is said that during the civil war in America few soldiers actually died because of nostalgia. But eventually the world of psychology stopped viewing nostalgia as a disease and also started viewing it as a factor which can generate some kind of ease to fight the decay of life in the present. Like the meaning of nostalgia has conflicting and complementing meanings the history of how nostalgia was viewed by medical science is also conflicting and complementing.

Nostalgia in some sense is a rebel against death, it is a fight for life, even if in the form of a memory, and in a subliminal way a reminder of continuity of life, the presence of absence and the shadow of past on present.

Like a river time flows. Its the same river but not the same water. And as the famous Buddhist saying goes one cannot take dip in the same river twice because the river is ever flowing. But there is something interesting about the rivers especially in India, the physical river and mythical rivers are not the same. While the mythical river is the same forever the physical river is ever changing. But in the mindscape of this civilization the mythical and physical merge and become inseparable, like the past is ever present in the present in nostalgia.

Nostalgia is also a way of keeping the past alive. It is, in a strange way a non-tangible form of architecture, graves, writing, film, ornaments which freeze time in themselves and then slowly melt into meanings and stories when time slowly passes and sun shines on them.

In nostalgia the past shows the design to beautify and the present gives the threads and colors to beautify. Nostalgia is an effort towards beautifying life.

While nostalgia is a way of coping with the present for some, like those who lived the past, for some others, like the writer and you the filmmaker, it is a way of coping with the past.

The past gains significance in the present not because of nostalgia but the nostalgia exists because the past is of significance even in the present. Hence someone finds it important to write about it and someone finds it necessary to film it.

At a closer look there is no clear cut between past and present. The past flows seamlessly into the present, like the azaan echoing in the distance, grass growing on a tomb.

A collection of 8mm films shot in and around Bhopal during the years 1929-75 by Salahuddin Ahmed’s father and grandfather

When memory/ past is being turned into a memorial through institutes or by the state the memory is turned into a ritual without meaning like a hymn learnt through rote. Memories or past can be kept alive only through living, through body, through touch, through stories, through songs and not by making museum. But that doesnt deny the significance of institutions making memorials of memories. They are necessary and it requires great labor too but still is inadequate.

Because the longing for the past remains unfulfilled, nostalgia has a Sufiyana touch to it for the available but inaccessible quality of the subject/ object of longing/ desire/ love.

These are some of the quick thoughts that pass trough my mind. I am sorry for I have written this in a general way but all these general words are pointed to specific things in the film, which I am sure you are able to see.

Through this journey what we learn of the Begums of Bhopal is not much. But telling the story of Begums, I guess, is not the purpose or the intent of the film. The Begums like history live not through their details and documents but through the impact/ impression they leave on the times to come and generations to come and when the future lives them not by celebrating anniversaries but through living in daily lives.

You have captured the junction where past meets present, the youthful beauty of the wrinkles on the skin, the shine in the rings that are fading away.

A warm hug to you, Rachita.

~ Samvartha ‘Sahil’
19 Sep 2017

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