Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Tale of a Passport-Sized Photo

Today, I went to get my passport size photographs taken for opening a new bank account. To save time, I chose a shop right opposite the bank. It is important to say this because really, there was nothing at the outside of the shop to encourage a customer. It was a tiny hole in the wall place, with a dusty hand-written board that said PHOTOSTATE (yes, with an e). The only indication that it was also a photo-studio were a couple of framed pictures showing through the glass door.

I walked into the shop, no bigger than 6 feet by 8 feet. The man inside was busy stapling a bunch of sheets that he had obviously photostatted. After a brief nod to my request for photos, he ignored me totally. There was a bench with a very dirty velvet cover that I did not want to sit on, so I stood around, waiting for him to get done with stapling. It had to be a rushed job, because he was totally consumed with it and refused to multi-task to any extent. After sometime, he asked me to sit down on the bench, which I did with trepidation.

While waiting for him, I looked at various things inside the shop. The first thing that struck me were very bad pictures of people framed up. There was one of a stunned looking man, another slightly blurred one of a serious looking old woman, another over-exposed/faded one of a couple of kids, and one of a young man. That picture of the young man was the most amazing of all. It was totally blurred. I could make out the shape of the face and that the young man had a mustache, but the picture was majorly out of focus. An obvious mistake- even a child would tell you that- but lo and behold, it was framed in an ornate frame!

The second thing that struck me was a collection of really old looking cameras in a showcase. I mean each looked at least 10 years old and very dusty. Why would anyone display these cameras? I was reminded of Kanto, our gardener, who recently bought a second-hand canon camera and was so proud of it (until it broke down a month later). Maybe, this shop sells second-hand cameras, I thought to myself, but makes no bones about them being very second hand.

As I sat there admiring the pictures and cameras, and trying hard not to think of my clothes getting dirty on that bench, the stapling was done and the man took out his camera from its packaging. Quite an elaborate process that- first he took out a bulky black bag, then a cardboard box from inside it, then unwrapped some bubble wrap and finally took out a point-and-click camera. That's certainly a first-hand camera, I thought to myself. My photo was taken in a single shot and the man briefly smiled looking at the picture, implying the picture was good (or did it mean it was suitably blurred?).

By now, I was in a hurry to get done. At my age, I don't care to see how I look in passport pictures- as long as it looks like me and meets its bureaucratic requirements, I am OK. So I didn't even bother to check it before it was printed. After a few minutes on the computer, he finally printed the set of 8 pictures and patiently cut each picture with a pair of scissors.

This photo of the photo doesn't do justice,
but you get the drift.
When I finally took a look at my picture, I was taken aback. This was not me! This was someone 10 years younger with flawless skin and no wrinkles! And two shades fairer! I am telling you no foundation I had ever used (and I have tried many) has had that kind of effect on my heavily pigmented middle-aged skin.

When I looked up enquiringly at the man, he smiled broadly and said "Thoda photoshop kar diya hai"!

That's the pleasure of living in a small town. And that's exactly the pain.

P.S.: Well, dear Mr. photographer, when you were at it, couldn't you have made those eyebrows a tad darker too?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Humsafar- Translation

Whether you are a fan of the Pakistani drama Humsafar or not, here is its title song, a ghazal worth listening to. It describes a love-hate relationship beautifully- resonates in parts with my experiences in life. Here is my attempt to translate it with the help of another translation I found online. My contribution is in softening the original translated text. Sometimes that took changing only a single word, and sometimes I rewrote the entire text. 

Tar'k-e- taalukaat pe na roya tu, na mae
Lekin ye kya ki chaain sae soya na tu, na mae
When our relationship ended, there were no tears in our eyes
But how is it that afterwards, neither you could sleep soundly, nor I?

Jab tak bikaa na tha tau koi poochta na tha,
Tu nay mujhay kahreed kay anmol kardiya!
Until I was sold off, no one valued me
You bought me and I became invaluable instantly!

Suna hai gair ki mehfil main tum na jaaogay
Kaho to sajaluu aaj ghareeb khanay ko
I hear you’ve decided against going to my rival’s party,
Should I decorate my humble home, in case you might visit me? 

Woh humsafar tha, magar us sae humnawayee na thii
Ke dhoop chavun ka aalam raha, judaii na thi
Though he was my life partner, yet with him I felt no harmony, no camaraderie 
We blew hot and cold all the time, yet did not once part company.

Na apna ranj, na auurun ka dukh, na tera malal
Shab- e -firaq kabhii hum nae yun gunwaayi na thii
I did not grieve for myself that night, nor for others, and certainly not for you darling
Never had a night of parting been frittered away in such bizarre gaiety!

Mohabatuun ka safar is tarha bhi guzra tha
Shikastaa dil thae musafir, shikast payee na thii
The journey of our love was strange, to say the least
The travelers were both heartbroken, yet neither conceded defeat.

Aadawatein thee, taghaful tha,  ranjishaen thii magar
Bicharnay walay mae sab kuch tha, bewafii na thii
There was negligence, unpleasantness and often bitter animosity,
The beloved who forsook me indeed harbored all of these, but not infidelity!

Bichadtay waqt un aankhun mae thi hamari ghazal
Ghazal bhi woh jo abhi kisi ko sunayee na thi
At the time of parting, those eyes sparkled with my melody,
Strangely, the melody that I had not yet sung to anybody!

Kabhi yeh haal kii donun mae yak- dilii thii bohatt
Kabhi ye marhala jaisay aashnayee na thii
There was a time when our hearts were joined in absolute unanimity,
Now is such a time that we deny even an iota of familiarity!

Kisay pukaar raha tha wo dubta huwa din
Sadaa tou aaii thi lekin, koi duhaaii na thii
Who was it calling – the day that sank into the horizon so rapidly?
I heard an echo for sure, but no, there was no wail of agony!

Ajeeb hoti hay rah`e sukHan bhi dekh Naseer
wahaN bhi aa gaye akHir jahaN rasayi na thi
Naseer look! The poet's path is lined with irony,
Even a wordsmith has been reduced to mumbling incoherently.

Borrowed heavily from:


Without doubt, this last year has been the happiest year of my rather long eventful life.

I live in a place that brings a smile to my face the moment I wake up and look outside, a dream come true. I live with my mother and daughter, a blessing I did not even have the guts to ask for. I spend my time the way I want to, a true privilege. I have new and old friends who love me like I have never been loved before, a gift I could not imagine would be mine at this age. I have met a person who inspires me, such a rare treasure. I continue to work but have no boss, a real deal if there's any. And I have a son who is thousands of miles away, yet my closest ally, best friend and pupil!

And all these gifts have changed me totally. For the first time in life, I do things for myself without guilt or shame. I feel beautiful. I feel entitled. I feel young. I laugh a lot. I break rules and fight for the freedom to do so. I talk and talk and talk. I cook. I dance. I love. I live.

To all those hard struggle-laden barren years, I say thank you. Thank you for giving me so little earlier that I can take in all this with gratitude now. Thank you for the rough bone-rattling journey that brought me to this place of restfulness. Thank you for the empty cup that is now brimming with all the good stuff.

Cheers! 49 times!