The anonymous bus conductor!


The world can be very harsh, but if we look close enough, there are little little positives for us to feel good about.

Of late, things have been rather gloomy. The print media seems to be enjoying a golden spell of bad news. Every single page had nothing but depressing stories. Scandal, corruption, crime, dirty politics, natural disasters… the list is endless. As far as news channels are concerned, quite frankly, I’ve lost hope on them and stopped watching TV altogether.

Seeing all this gloom only has a compounding negative effect on our lives. How our life is, and how happy we are, is plainly a matter of perception. If we choose to look at only the negative aspect of things, then that is all we will end up seeing. We act as magnets. The more we think about bad events, the more we end up pulling bad things towards ourselves.

A few days back, I too suffered an attack of negativity, and everything around me seemed very very evil. There seemed to be no good left on this planet.

But life has very subtle ways of bringing us back on track. And when I say subtle, I mean very subtle.

One day, while I was travelling aboard a local bus, the conductor got up an announced to all the passengers that they would have to get off the bus. He said that the bus had to go and pick up some students and that they were late. As it often happens with the DTC buses that ply on Delhi’s roads, routes are cut short, or altered, or bus stops are skipped at the will of the driver and conductor.

So as usual, there were a lot of angry passengers shouting at the driver and conductor for leaving them stranded.

The conductor instructed everyone to get off and said he would make arrangements for us to travel in another bus that would be approaching shortly. And soon enough a bus did arrive. But it didn’t stop at the bus stop (nothing unusual). The driver got pretty frustrated because they were pretty late (or so they claimed).

As the other bus sped away, the conductor paused for a few seconds, and all of a sudden instructed everyone to get into the bus immediately. ‘If we’re late, we’re late! It’s just too bad!’ And so the bus resumed its journey, albeit with quite a sense of urgency and the conductor told the passengers that he would drop them off and then pick up the students.

He could have easily left us at the bus stop, and it would not have affected him in any way. On the contrary, going so late to pick up those students would surely land him in big trouble. And none of the passengers would ever bother about him for his troubles. But he still completed the route for the benefit of the passengers.

I know it is a very very trivial incident, but somehow, it made me feel good. I felt relieved that all is not so evil in the world 🙂

The Good People Of Kotla


Long long ago, when I didn’t have a blog page, I just recorded the random thoughts that came to my mind in separate files on the computer. I wrote this little journal entry on the 22nd day of the month of May in the year 2010. It is in relation to the video about the monuments around Kotla Mubarakpur.

I was working on a short film about the little known monuments around kotla mubarakpur. The narration had been finalised and all that was required was to go for the photo shoot.One of the monuments that was to be covered was that of the Tomb of Mubarak Shah.

I had done a little research about how to get there. And all that I could find were a few photographs, and the location on the satellite image of the area. I could not find any information about the occupant of the tomb, except his name.

A week ago, I had gone hunting for the monument with a friend of mine. I feared going there all alone, knowing that it was a medieval village, and there were very narrow gullies. We asked for directions from some locals, and after a long time, finally managed to locate it. An elderly gentlemen, who gave us the precise direction to the tomb, asked us rather suspiciously why we wanted to go there. We just replied that we wanted to see it. It was rather awkward.

When we reached the tomb, we found it fenced up and locked. We were expecting it. Entry to the tomb was sealed. The village buildings were barely a few feet from the monument. The monument cut a rather sorry picture. It belonged to one of the rulers of Delhi during the fifteenth century. And it was languishing in the middle of some obscure village, with even the locals not bothered about it.

Today, I had to go there again, with my brother, for the actual shoot. We left early in the morning, in order to avoid the scorching summer sun. I felt rather lazy and was beginning to regret the idea.

But we had set out, and the work had to be done. I traced back my steps and to my relief, we managed to reach the monument without asking any one for directions. A horrible stench and open drains greeted us. My brother pulled out his camera and began taking some shots at a very close range.

Anyone with a rather fancy camera is bound to attract attention. And some shop keepers were leaning out of their windows. After a while, a few men surrounded my brother and began questioning him. He answered them in his usual calm and friendly manner. We had come there to see the monument, and were clicking photographs for personal reasons.

His answers seemed to be sufficient for them to relax around him. For, a few seconds later, a middle aged gentleman passed by and told me that it was the tomb of Mubarak Shah and said that we could enter it through the gate on the other side. We reached the gate and I climbed up the ramp in front of the locked gate. I looked at my brother and told him we could enter it. He joined me, and then we realised that it was locked.

Gates Unlocked
Gates Unlocked (Photo by R. Karthik)

By this time, a lot of eyes were fixed on us. And just as we were turning back, a youth walked up carrying a set of keys. He opened the lock on the outer fence and entered the tomb. An observer shouted light-heartedly, “yeh yahaan ka maalik hai!” (He is the owner of this building).

He asked us to take off our shoes and we entered the tomb’s premises. It was then we realised, that we were probably the only outsiders to have set foot in this tomb. A very special privilege indeed. The caretaker then allowed us to enter the main burial area.

When we entered, we were awestruck. There were six tombs inside the tomb – not just one. They were covered with half burnt incense sticks and sweets. There was a broken street lamp fitted on to one of the walls lighting up the interiors. The inscriptions on the walls were well preserved and it was rather peaceful being inside. We took as many photographs as we could and exited the gate, thanking the care taker for his generosity.

As we were leaving, a local called out to the caretaker. “Upar bhi le jaao inhe” (take them upstairs as well).

My brother asked the caretaker, if there was a way to go upstairs as well. We had been around the circumference of the tomb and not noticed any staircase.

Once again the care taker unlocked the gate and ushered us inside. He told us not to take off our shoes and we followed him to another gate. It led to a hidden staircase to the roof. The stone staircase was steep, dark, narrow, and smelling of rotting flesh. With difficulty, we climbed up and reached the terrace. The main gumbad was surrounded by many chattris. I stood there chatting with one of the locals, sharing whatever little knowledge I had about the monument as well as the surrounding tombs, while my brother went around the terrace.

Once we had exited the premises, we spoke to some more locals who were still very suspicious. They told us how officials from ASI would just come there, give some false promises, and leave. The locals had taken it upon themselves to protect the monument.

It was amazing how, just a week ago, I had formed a rather negative opinion about the tomb – how it was lying completely neglected. And today, I had a completely different perspective. Some hospitable locals had granted us access to the monument that few could get. They had taken care of the monument that no one had bothered about.

We left the village and the stench behind us, still unable to believe our luck.

Back home, I edited my script for the film. To the concluding lines, I added, “Though these monuments are over 500 years old, there are no wide-eyed tourists gazing in awe at their magnificence. They might have suffered the ignorance of officials, but they have stood the test of time and survived with a little help from the locals of this enigmatic city called Delhi”

The video that I had been working on, had a roller-coaster of a journey and after almost a whole year, I am relieved to say that I’ve finally managed to complete it! The video has been uploaded to youtube:

Photograph by R. Karthik

Getting the monkey off my back!


For almost a whole year, I have had a tough time trying to negotiate my way around a project that I was very enthusiastic about. It began in the month of April last year, and I had rather grand plans for it. Now, looking back to what I had planned, I think I ended up trying to bite off more than I could chew. Perhaps it was too ambitious.

Being the superstitious person I am, I wanted to keep the project a closely guarded secret, and then reveal everything later on. For I am of the opinion that you should never divulge your plans before executing them. Otherwise, the plans never materialise. But, as luck would have it, that did not happen.

Due to unavoidable circumstances, word got out that I was working on a short video. And very soon, what was supposed to be a month’s work just kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed… I began losing interest.

With great difficulty I managed to get the footage together. But by that time, I had begun my freelance project. Once I was done with it, I thought, well, time to finish what I had started. Even as I was thinking about getting to work, the annual creative minds competition was announced, and I was selected to work on a small 2D movie. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be completed on time, and ended up being shelved. It was quite a setback, even though I was shortlisted for the finals in another category.

Soon after things had settled a little, I decided to get back to my project.

But this time, technology let me down. Not once, but thrice. Something or the other just kept cropping up. Finally, when things did work out, over six months had gone by and I was getting frustrated. I thought I would quickly finish it and get it off my back. But, when I took my finished project for evaluation, it received a very negative reaction. One after another, people came up with flaws and suggestions to fine-tune it.

I did the video-editing from scratch and created animated footsteps. That again took a lot of time. The next time I got it reviewed, I was told the audio was not good enough. And that there should have at least been some sort of an interview in it. That really threw me into a fit of rage. I had given up.

Then one day, my uncle paid us a visit, and saw the project. Not bad, he said. Just add one interview. That should make it complete. I was severely dejected. But he told me to complete it. He made a few suggestions, and they were very good ones too. But I was mentally tired. The very thought of looking for an interview, editing the video again, and changing the whole story, was too daunting.

The video was now haunting me. I felt like I had let myself down and I was severely disappointed.

It took me a few more months to actually think about touching it again. I kept thinking every morning about doing something about it, but it never happened.

There are times when you plan for things, and they never work out. And there are times when you don’t consciously plan for something, but its there, lurking quietly at the back of your mind, without you realising its there. It was just one of those days, I just mechanically opened the file and started editing the audio. What I had feared would take me weeks, I ended up doing in a day. Well, not exactly a day. But the major part was accomplished on that day, and some fine-tuning the next day.

And today, I feel that I have done it. For a major part of the process, I felt I could not accept the outcome. It was a failure. It failed to impress anyone.

But over the last few months, I have come to accept it for what it is. Partly because I have little choice, and partly to get over the setback. Unless I learn to accept it, with all its flaws, no one else will. It still does not have the interview, and the audio is yet to be evaluated. But unlike the other times when I was scared of a negative review, I can say right now, that I am satisfied with the outcome.

I have finally realised that I was looking at it through a completely wrong perspective. I was trying to impress others. Ideally, whatever we do, we must always strive to do it for ourselves. If there is an external benefit we are seeking, it will never make us happy. But if we are satisfied, no one else matters. It was not for others that I took on the project. But for myself.

It was not exactly what I had imagined it to be. There are perhaps a million flaws in it, some of which I am aware, others, which I am yet to be told about.

Perhaps sometime in the future I will look back and say, that’s crap! But right now, I would say its done. I know its not yet got the final nod, but no matter what will be said about it, I’m not changing it. It may not be complete, or perfect for someone else, but to me, its just right!

Holy water!


Imagine that it is the festival of holi. You’re walking down the road and someone throws coloured water at you. How would you react? Right now, I can think of two broad possibilities. One, you take it in good humour and continue playing in the spirit of holi. The other option is that you get frustrated and angry and try to take revenge on the person who threw water.

Well, you could argue that there is a possibility that the stranger was actually not a good person and that there was some really bad intention involved. But for now, let’s just assume it was in good humour.

The point I’m trying to make is, our life and our happiness depends on our perception. If we choose to look at life quite literally and seriously, and choose to look at only the sad aspects of our life, then our life will only seem sadder.

Right now you’re probably wondering where all of this came from! Well, this morning when I was brushing my teeth, an overhead pipe cracked and sprayed water all over my head! Fortunately it was clean water 😛 Is it time for Holi already?