Wednesday, February 23, 2011


By Sadho Ram
[With Photographers Swapnil Shahane, Shruti Chheda and Deven Saxena]

Of everything that is expressive, I’ve always found written poetry to be the most expressive form of art. It could be for the sole and selfish reason that I like to play with words myself, but then looking away from blank pages and the pen kept beside me, and looking at the above Black & White picture I try to wonder over this enigma as to what makes this picture a poem? There are no words in it, no play of any kind or role of words in it. It is just as it is; a portrait where a poem is alive. Open almost like a faded sky. Inviting as if to share the world and experience what you wish in her simple Joy! Call it what you wish, address her as you desire, but if anything describes who she is, is that even in DIRT she smiles unperturbedly with hope in her eyes, for a better tomorrow, for a DREAMY tomorrow.

Welcome to the DIRTY TO DREAMY: the WALL PROJECT, an attempt by the inspired people to add some colors of varied moods to an otherwise grey and grim area of SAKI VIHAR PIPELINE.

It is not much, you know, this place SAKI VIHAR PIPELINE, spread over about 2 and half kilometers in straight line, a toy-like rail track (now closed) in the name of road in middle, which divides the place in two parts, both filled with crumpled houses made up of concrete, some plastic, and some other materials. In between there’s a school, newly opened, two well maintained gardens, transformed from dump yards and garbage disposal places by the inspiring efforts of a MAN from foreign KANE RYAN and a MAN from the ruin ASHLEY PARRIERA of JANVI CHARITABLE TRUST, who had organized the DIRTY TO DREAMY: the WALL PROJECT to give a new shape to one more dump yard where about a month ago kids gambled, fought & hurt each other, the male adults of the Slum area lay in corners, under the influence of drugs & alcohol.

This is what IT WAS about a month ago, and on 6th February 2010 the very dump yard had became a JOINT of Artists and Art Lovers, Photographers and Dancers. All present there, just to fill in the space, with their presence and in their own sense. With efforts from KANE RYAN and ASHLEY PARRIERA, the dump yard has been converted to a community place for the people living in that Slum to make good use of it and garden cum playground for the kids to have some quality time.

So I was talking about poetry. Well, though I’m a poet but I feel that poetry, in general, should not be limited to written words, as poetry is nothing but a vibrant impression of a mere expression of variedness of the feelings and or desire that we, humans, have, possess or build in our day-to-day life and in fight for our life. And though it is being expressed in several forms, but somehow we have not taken notice of it. Of all those forms which besides everything else, carry a poem inside, living, breathing, staring blankly or simply blinking at us, at our arrogant ignorance and at our self-imposed hurriedness.

But everything else takes a back seat when poetry just doesn't stick to where it was supposed to remain/be but gets down and dirty to force people to take proper and appreciative note of it, in a place least expected but most celebrated in manners not imagined but moments well captured.

Pictures have the power to tell stories in most vocal manner, yet there are times when people have taken refuge of written words to tell the tale instead, people like me. You can well label me as a hypocritical narcissist, someone who sometimes will make use of double standards just for the sake of it or even for the pure selfish reason to satisfy the inner greed of self to tell the story my way.

When I reached there at around 12 PM, after little direction searching, along with my friends, a dark man greeted us, standing just steps away from the dingy stairs that fell and lead to the SAKI VIHAR PIPELINE.

SHITHOLE was the first word that came to my mind after getting down and taking a first view of the place. It was an unlikely village NOT inside but UNDER the city, which I along with several few still call  Bombay and others, now Mumbai. At first sight, it’s the perfect example of what the glossy media describes as – “A breathing shithole; an amalgamation of people, piss and potty!”

But hold it; it is here that I found poetry alive and kicking with joy and spirit to infatuate anyone who came even remotely close to it.

You can curse me for being honest here, but at least I’m not hiding behind any lie. I could have written that, ‘oh, it was just awesome, people living and shitting almost at one place and yet not complaining, kids roaming around naked with smile and amusement on their faces. It was just fucking awesome.’ Well, it was exactly like that, though I doubt if it could be called awesome. Anyways, the dark man, who I latter came to know was the very ASHLEY PARRIERA, who had greeted us just above the dingy stairs, took us to the place, the dump-yard converted into a community cum garden, which as soon as fell into the full view of my sight, hit me with the colorful freshness that at least I had never imagined I would experience at such a dingy place.

It was a riot there. Only that this time there wasn’t any blood being spilled or people being butchered. It was a riot of people and paint and music and dance. Cultural riot is what I thought it was. There were people from all strata of society and each community. The number was astonishing for me, I had thought only few would show up, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the huge number of people present there to paint that 100 meter long and about 20 feet high WALL to paint, to give it a new face, a new identity of its own, unique yet familiar with its surroundings in a very keen way.

The WALL had ironically become the reason for the people to be present there and do what they wished to do with it, but their action, their emotion and above all their compassion had what people living in that Slum needed the most; UNIFORMITY. A sense of coming together of people with a desire to help by doing their bit, of culture to bring harmony, of dreams of the lesser ones and of efforts of the capable ones, of love of the uninhibited kind and of care for fellow human beings. It was a celebration of its own kind, not witnessed daily, never experienced twice.

There were as many poetries in each soul present there but I can only share a few of them here. These might not be the best poetries that were present there but are certainly the ones that deserve the most to be shared here. While the event was completely successful and was true to the purpose of it, but I know that this post of mine has not done any justice to it. I've been trying to come up with this post since that day itself but one thing or the other has been stopping me from doing it. Please bear with the abrupt end and incomplete story presented in this post of mine.

The pictures used in the post are all copyrighted to their original owners and have been used by their permission.

#Special thanks to Richa Jain for her inputs on grammatical aspect of this post.

For those who wish to know more about the Project and the Men behind can visit:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Father; an almost Sober Man!

By Sadho Ram

“The only difference between a man drenched in his passion and a man peach drunk is that the former knows where he’s headed and why.”

My father was an alcoholic. He drank that intoxicating oil unlike anyone else I’ve seen or heard of in my life. He drank it like it was the last thing on earth drinkable. And he drank it as if not for it, his heart would stop pumping due to a lack of lubrication to its motors. The alcohol, therefore, served as the lubrication for his heart and unsurprisingly went on to become the reason behind his every action. I wouldn't mind, as I once did, if today one would say that alcohol was his passion. 

I’m not sure about the exact year that he started drinking, but I was told by his mother that it was when he had turned 19 and had participated in a Jatra, the folk version of theatre popular in rural areas, performed on a temporary tent-like stage that is built either on the streets, in playgrounds or outside temple premises, by local artists, and is based on issues ranging from religious to current affairs. The purpose is mostly to entertain.  The groups associated are largely active during festive seasons

He was playing the role of a drunkard and, she told me, he mesmerized the crowd with his performance. What impressed the crowd the most  was that a boy who had never touched alcohol could go on to enact the role of a drunkard with such horrible honesty. From then on, he was hailed among his friends as the drunkard. And, I heard from her, he enjoyed the attention immensely. She said, “I think it gave him the satisfaction that he’s good. Good at something he had never done in real life. Good at fooling people.”

“Slowly the attention, the label grew on him. He started believing and behaving like one. Like a drunkard. You know, I had tried to stop him from playing the role of the drunkard when he had come to ask for my permission, but he didn’t listen to me. As he never did.”

I had felt hurt in her voice when she told me this.

“And I knew the inevitable was now just outside the door waiting for the right moment to strike; it was bound to happen, given the kind of air that blew around him after that Jatra. And then one night it happened. He had come home late, very late. And when I opened the door, the first thing that came inside was not my son but the horrible smell of the thing that I’ve been dreading since the night of Jatra: Alcohol.”

And she had wiped her misty eyes after recalling those scenes from her past.

But I’ve observed during the growing-up  days of my life there in village with him, that alcohol somehow did not change him. He remained mostly under his own control, even after being drunk. He knew of the things he had done the night before when he woke up in the morning, fresh. He remembered the words he had uttered and in what manner. And most of all, he never seemed to forget the face of the person who thought he was drunk and so wouldn't remember. This was one of the reasons people took him seriously, I think way too seriously, when he spoke, whatever he spoke, irrespective of his condition - drunk or sober. He was after all the stronghold, Bahubali, of the nation’s second most powerful political party and its ally, JMM, in that region (which now falls under State Jharkhand, district Pakur). There was equal amount of fear and respect among people for him, his name: Gulab.

I wonder if it was the role which made him perfect or something else that he perfected on his own. I don't know! Somehow no conclusion seems to make any sense. And now that he is no more, poisoned to death, burnt into cinders, smoked into air, one with nature, I think I should refrain myself from coming to any conclusion about him remaining and let him remain what he remained when he was drunk: Almost sober.
#Edited by Rabia Mehta