Audience is like children, should be given right education: Majid Majidi

Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Hindi debut ‘Beyond the Clouds’ is about to hit the theatres today. During a press meet in the national capital, the director and lead actor Ishaan Khatter, shared their individual experiences of shooting the film.

Talking about his experience shooting in India, Majidi said, “All of my films are shot in rare locations that has been really a challenge here. I always take stories from people’s lives, the same happened here. I have travelled in India for a long time. Specifically for this film I researched in Mumbai for three months seeing every location in the city.”

“The biggest challenges were the locations, because we shot 80% of the film outdoors, on real locations. It was difficult to take the camera in those crowded places and to be able to capture the proper emotions. One of my locations was Dhobi Ghat, and we needed a lot of local people to be in the shots. Controlling and organising such a huge crowd, making sure that they are not looking at the camera was challenging,” confirmed Majidi.

The director also urged the common public in India, other than critics and film enthusiasts to watch ‘Beyond the Clouds’ in order to outgrow the standard formula of Bollywood films.



Majid Majidi

In a powerful message to the people through the media, he said, “Audience is like children, and they should be given the right education. If you feed a child a particular type of food, he/she will not be ready to try anything else, similarly if the audience is used to a certain kind of cinema they will initially not be open to receiving a different form.

“Having spoken to some of the high profile Bollywood directors I got to know that they are themselves not very happy with the kind of films they are making, but since they know that the audience is used a certain kind of film, they don’t break away from the usual format due to the fear of failure,” said Majidi, discussing the lack of more quality films in Bollywood.

He also shared an anecdote about how some of his friends suggested him a different ending of the film to fit the Indian audience’s taste.

Majidi also pointed out that very few Indian films make it to the international film fests because they have dissociated from their traditional values. “Even the contemporary Indian dance and music in the films are westernised and are much different from the local culture. If the local culture can be projected in the films, can be viewed by the entire world, only then can Indian cinema reach out to everyone,” said the director.

Majidi Talking about his upcoming films, said that if everything goes well then his next film will be in Bengali.


Ishaan Khatter in a scene from the film

Newbie Ishaan Khatter, portraying the lead character Aamir in the film, talked about his research for the character, “I spent a lot of time in Dharavi, roaming around, exploring the place, talking to the locals. I was fortunate to have some cast members, playing my friends in the film, who were born and brought up in Dharavi. We became good pals. Getting to know about their ways of life and experiences there helped me in understanding my character better.”

‘Beyond the Clouds’ is an extended story of Majidi’s Iranian film ‘Children of Heaven’ (1997). The story set in Mumbai is about a pair of siblings, and celebrates love and family.



3 important reasons to wear a pollution mask

Has it ever occurred to you how fortunate you might be wearing a mask in public? I’m not talking about the metaphorical mask we all wear daily to hide our actual selves, but rather the pollution mask selling like hot cakes in the market. Yes, those white, black and multicoloured masks which enable you to go unnoticed by your friend even when you are standing right in front of their nose!


As Delhi is suffering from the inevitably sickening air quality laden with thick smog, Delhiites have been left with no choice but to comply with the norms of society — trying on a mask and carry on surviving. Coming back to the fun of carrying around the masked look, I’d love to share 3 important reasons for you to put on a pollution mask every time you step out.

  1. Well, of course, it protects your lungs from harmful pollutants and the extremely minute 2.5PM
  2. We often engage in conversation with people on the go, and it’s not always a very pleasant experience to listen to their yap-yap, which inadvertently may produce a couple of yawns, but if you do yawn you’d be labelled rude, and if you don’t yawn right on the face of your communicator, you’d struggle to cover up with awkward hand gestures, and flare your nostrils to breath in as much oxygen your lungs require to bear with the boring content. When wearing a mask which takes care of filtering the polluted air and allowing you to breathe freely and without scary thoughts of choking to death, it also helps you in concealing a big yawn!
  3. I have always had a habit of breaking into smiles and little laughs, for no reason at all, and undoubtedly onlookers may consider me crazy. But believe it or not, the pollution mask which covers almost 75% of your face would bury most of your facial expressions including the sudden and uncontrollable laughs in weird situations, saving you from all the awkward looks.

Even though your lip-colour might get smudged when you laugh or yawn like a hippopotamus, remember how friendly it is otherwise to cover up your expressions.

In honour of the torchbearers (Happy Teachers Day!)

‘Your aim in life’ – had been a common topic for essays during school, and how crazy and ambitious our dreams were! With the guidance of our teachers we’d scribble on about how we wanted to be astronauts, scientists, film-stars, engineers, doctors, lawyers… but how many of us did ever want to be a teacher and pass on the bright torch of knowledge? We are made to dream in a certain way, the way sculpted out by our reputed society, which holds high regards to certain professions while looking down upon others. Ironically, the same is taught by our teachers in most cases unknowingly or unwillingly.


Have you ever heard a teacher talk about how noble the profession is? But you would definitely hear doctors, engineers, scientists and the like, preach about the importance of their respective jobs. And how did they become what they are; was it just by hard work and determination? The answer is quite well known to us.

Chemistry could have never won my love and dedication unless for Mrs Krishna Chakraborty, who ordered me to go home for breakfast post my two-hour session, and come back after 30 minutes to resume class on a Saturday morning! She made sure I understood the concept of periodic tables that day starting from 7 in the morning, and I did and did not forget till I finished school and several years after.

Great teachers like her go out of their way to ensure that their students have actually learned the lesson. It can be stated undeniably that we’ve all, at least for once in our lives, been blessed with some such wonderful teachers. They are the living embodiment of the phrase friend, philosopher, and guide.

School girl writing on the board

“I learned that a teacher can be your friend from Mrs Satyaboti Nadkar, my Geography teacher. She was very witty; I used to attend her tuition classes along with an all-girls group, and when some other boys would attend the class and check out the girls, she would set me as an example and tell them to be descent like me!” exclaimed an elated Chandramoy Ghosh, advertising professional.

“Her son was a few years younger than me, but she’d scold us the same way. She was very happy with my results, once they were declared, and so was I when I came to know that she topped the SSC exams and joined a different school as the principal. We are still in touch. She had asked me to introduce my girlfriend to her. I’ll do so, once I have a girlfriend!” added a blushing Chandramoy.


“Gautam Das, my English teacher, was more like a guardian to me. He helped me get over through the toughest times of my life, especially after my mom’s death. He is smart and caring, although sometimes he was pretty strict at times. He is probably the only teacher who ever slapped me!” reminisces Arpan Paul.

It does not matter what subject they teach, or how old they are, the position of a teacher or a guru, one who imparts knowledge, is above all. Every other profession is like a branch of a strong tree, while teaching is the trunk, the foundation of the entire tree, holding everything in place.


Upon asking around, people had various reasons to love and respect their favourite teachers. While some admired their teachers, some build such strong relations with them that even decades after school they are still etched in the memory fresh. “My favourite teacher? Srabasti Ghosh, our Business communications professor, helped me overcome my fears of public speaking. Once, during a seminar, when I had to speak in front of a lot of our industry important heads, she knew I was very nervous. So she kept eye contact throughout the time and kept giving me encouraging nods, and after a minute or so I gained some confidence. Finally, our team stood second,” said Sampurna Das, Support Associate at MyTasker.

Anya Gupta, PR professional says,”I find my Economics teacher during high school, Mr Sachin the most adorable because he was the most patient teacher I ever had. Everybody used to attend his class and get good marks. The way he used to communicate was amazing as he never gave punishments yet had a push factor to keep everybody on track.”


With different methods of teaching, our teachers have over the years created gems in different fields of life. While every day we take the privilege of eating away parts of their lives, today, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birth anniversary had been assigned for our gurus. Brimming over with pride and joy I wish all the teachers in the world a very happy teacher’s day! If not for them, we would not be who we are now.


(Had it not been for my mother, the earliest teacher I was entrusted upon by the almighty; my adorable Krishma ma’am; our beloved Art teacher Amit sir; our strict Mathematics teacher Parvez sir; energetic and spontaneous sports teacher Rocky sir; my favourite English teachers IC sir and Prabha ma’am, the evergreen fun loving Mathematics teacher Amitabh sir, my Karate instructor Shihan Mir, my supportive and brilliant professors: Jhuma ma’am, Manali ma’am, Debanjan Sir, Reshmi ma’am, Rakesh sir, Ali sir, Sourav sir, and all the everyday teachers I have come across in my humble years forward, I would have been nothing close to what I am today. Cheers!)

Sarahah Sarahah!

No, I don’t have a Sarahah account, therefore don’t even bother thinking of what message you might send me.

Remember the trend that started years ago, of creating confession pages of various fraternities? Well, there would be a page titled ‘So and so confessions group’ and you would get added to it or merely like it for the sheer adrenaline rush for online adventure. People would share their confessions with the admin, who then without naming the person would post the message publicly. In most cases those were messages from the not-so-bold persons who unfortunately could not express his/her feelings to their crush!


A similar apparatus — for the sake of expressing views of introverts, losers, and cowards — has surfaced the internet recently: Doesn’t it remind you of the song ‘Sharara sharara, sharara sharara, sharara sharara, main hu ek shararaa…’ — you can’t miss that if you are a 90’s kid.

Even though the app was launched a few months ago, it has gone viral among Indian users in the past few weeks. The app is dedicated to those who cannot vent out their anger on the right person in the right time. Sarahah enables you to create an account and share it with your friends in social networking sights informing them how they can now abuse you under the protection of anonymity! Then, once these users get trolled, insulted or struck by Cupid’s arrow there, they share those messages asking about the sender. Isn’t it obvious, that if someone had to say things to you in person they would have done that already? It must also be pointed out, that people are not simply using the platform to vent out rage, but also express love. Potential love stories might blossom through it, since many have confessed to loving and missing the user secretly (sounds so 20th century!).

The idea of anonymity hit the road with initial social networking sites where people used weird and funny names to address themselves (I did that as well in Orkut!). It is believed that anonymity enables one to act and behave in an offensive way without caring for consequences. If you have followed the kind of messages people have been receiving you can very well make out that this app is not for the weak hearted. Witnessing the ‘bold’ and ‘just-following-the-trend’ Sarahah users, I have come to the conclusion that losers are having a gala time here, saying all the things they couldn’t have said to the person on the face. And when the ‘bold’ ones receive hateful messages they just go mad coming up with ‘haters gonna hate’ tags! Why did you create the account in the first place then?? Just to see how many likes you get on Facebook? Or, whether you fall under the ‘cool’ category? Probably yes, therefore stop whining if someone hates you, or is inviting you in bed.

Is it a possible avenue for bullying? I believe a major portion of a pie chart would agree to that. Only time would answer that. Recently Indians experienced what kind of danger a mere app can impose on the youth, thanks to the Blue Whale challenge, with over hundred people losing their lives to a strangely created game. And to think games were for fun!

Were the irrelevant and haunting ‘fransip’ messages in Facebook and Instagram not enough to irritate you that you decided to open doors to more cyber stalkers? When people around the world is having a hard time coping up with depression and anxiety, here is an app provoking one’s issues. Only time will bare evidence, if the app is just another passing fad or something that impacts one intensely.

‘lehra ke balkha ke, balkha ke lehra ke

Aag laga ke, dilon ko jala ke, karoon main ishara

Sharara sharara….’

It’s impossible to stop thinking about the song! Share your views about this trend and enlighten me please.


Infant evolution

There was a time when kids were so naive that you could make them believe in almost anything you said – like my cousin (as a toddler) demanded to know why she wasn’t invited to her parents’ marriage, on watching their marriage video and witnessing a little me running about. It struck her, that if I was there during the marriage why wasn’t she? My uncle’s story seemed very convincing to her – ‘you were so little that I had you in my pocket… Or else it would have been difficult to look for you in the crowd’. Nobody was surprised that she bought it back then.

Innocence and the wide-eyed attention to everything were synonymous to children till some years ago. Now, it’s about competition and recognition from the very early years of life.
We as kids would actually think that the government was a person, maybe the prime minister was nicknamed the government, for the way people used to talk about him/it. ‘The government is not doing this or that’, ‘the government has done this’, ‘the government has taken a bold step’ .. etc. Some even used a distorted nickname – gorment – and they still do. Upon somewhat comprehending the relevance of government, I did try for years to correct people’s diction, but they are just too stubborn to learn something new. Furthermore, the moment some of the uber enthusiastic, and pseudo-intellectual beings mispronounce my name, I lose patience and start to imagine great doom coming their way.

Mom had once been to this theatrical show, where a couple of characters representing the underprivileged of our society had a hearty exchange about gorment!
‘Tumi gorment a dekhiso?’ (Have you seen government?)
‘Ha dekhisi! Mota-shota, shosma pora, kalo gaari kori hoosh kori soli gelo.’ (Oh Yes, I have. He’s a fat spectacled man who swooshed by in a black car)
In contrast to the aforementioned details of naiveness and innocence, now we get to see kids talking about politics (something I’m yet to grasp and argue about in my twenties!). And the baby starts walking just minutes after birth in Brazil! It might not be a very distant future that all babies start walking the way the Brazilian did and went viral on the Internet – a celeb is born(literally). But, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, babies sometimes take steps when they are upright with their feet on a solid surface, and the reflexive urge to do this generally lasts for about the first two months of their lives. (

The transformation isn’t just happening psychologically but physically as well. It doesn’t seem to be far for us to reach the preconceived evolutionary level that the MTS ad had shown a couple of years ago.

Just the other day, at a cafe I noticed a super-excited selfie freak mom trying to make her baby pose for a selfie with her. The child was just too occupied in looking elsewhere admiring some silly majestic looking ice coffee on the opposite table. When the dad comes, he tries to take a pic of the mom and the baby… Now suddenly the baby decides to bite his mom on the chin, interesting pose, huh!? Upon a brief explanation through sign language and eye gesture, the child looks towards the camera, tilting its head and waits for a second. As soon as he assumes the click of the shutter, he starts to nibble on his mom’s chin again! Such smart babies. They know when to pose, how to invent new angles and set a selfie trend!

This takes me back to our childhood when we looked so lost staring at the camera, we did not know what was happening till we were three or four. And now, the strike of fast-paced evolution gives babies as young as a few months the ability to pose for photoshoots! Not only do they come ingrained with the knowledge of selfies and other important things, but also they get to play with these multi-keyed gadgets – a luxury we were not entitled to! I’m a little jealous.


The key to the heart is through the …?

Being a human with a bird’s appetite, it is quite a tough job to eat everything good and then write about their tastes to make others drool. Not that I have any major objection, but a little cloud of fear hovers over my head when I think back about the delicious items I had consumed which might contribute to a towering development in my body – a potbelly!

But really, it is not so much of a worry as compared to the growing confusion about myself! Just when I thought that I was clear about my choices and self-desires, the skies decided to drop a bomb of confusion and cloud my judgement. Since then, I have decided to not judge or decide anything about life and give in to ever-flowing time.

I grew up with a passion for writing, a curious eye for photography and an eager ear for music. But not until my teens did I venture into adventurous cooking, in fact, the adventures started once I took charge of the house commanding mom not to step into the kitchen while I’m at work. And so it continued gradually, from hot beverages, little unhealthy snacks, to Mughlai or Mexican lunch and Chinese or Italian dinner – I developed a very loving soft corner for cooking.

Chivalry took over when I moved out of home and set up a nest in the Capital. Experiments followed, with thankfully very few disasters (My banana pancakes were yuk! Never tried that again), and I made an eternal friendship with corn. Not only did I invent some new corn dishes, I also taught my mom one of them and guess what – she loved it! Plus it’s healthy. That’s what everyone thinks of now if your food is not healthy nobody would bother sparing a mere look.

In the past few days, I scraped out time from my don’t-know-how-the-day-comes-to-an-end schedule to prepare some ‘delicacies’! With that word in mind, how can one not picture spaghetti with red sauce? Yes, I made spaghetti – loaded with vegetables, and then an experimental broth which turned out to be a good supper-material, I’d like to call it ‘Sweet n sour corn broth.’
I might not honour myself with the title of a foodie, but making new things out of sheer pleasure of creation is definitely my cup of tea. Here are a couple of images of my humble attempts:


IMG_20170503_221735A recipe for beginners:
The corn broth is very simple. It contains boiled sweet corn, chopped onion, green chillies and tomatoes grinded together. Add salt, sugar and black-pepper according to taste into a boiling mixture of the paste. I have NOT used oil at all. (You might choose to opt for either pepper or chillies, I added both since I like it hot!). Turn off the heat once you get a desired thickness of the broth. It is filling, healthy and tasty.

Apart from boasting about my culinary skills, it is important to give a vote of thanks to the worthy teachers – mother, grandmother, roadside dhaba cooks, luxury hotel culinary sessions, food reviews, and a major contributor – the Internet (All the mouth-watering videos… What would we do without you!?). People who appreciate taste, go ahead and create some, add some spice to the lives around you.

A suggestion for those who are trying to maintain a diet by starving or torturing themselves by not eating what their tummies are craving for… “Seize the moment, Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart” – Erma Bombeck. After all, a happy stomach is a step ahead to achieving eternal peace!

From ‘damsels in distress’ to action divas

“Bachaaaooo; Help; Mujhe chhor do!!!” and such similar helpless screams of the Bollywood heroines have now changed to curses like “Jhand fakir suar ki aulaad mar ja saale kamine, thank you.” From “Ek chutki sindoor ki kimat tum kya jano Ramesh babu” to “Ek ulte haath ki padegi na to tere plastic sergeon ko bhi surgery ki zaroorat padegi” – the Bollywood heroines have evolved to much bolder beings. And that is not just in terms of dialogues, but in action and appearance equally.

Even two decades ago, there were only a handful of female protagonists in Bollywood, but in the last 10 years, the frequency of women-centric films have increased giving humanity a hope of progress. Some of the mention worthy films would be The Hate Story series, Samay, No One Killed Jessica, Gulab gang, Queen, Mardani, Akira, English Vinglish, NH10, Pink, Mary Kom, Parched, Angry Indian Goddesses, Dangal to the very recent Naam Shabana. And they have also been some of the most impactful films over the box office. Even though there have quality films like Mother India (1957), Mirch Masala (1987), Arth (1982), Lajja(2001), Aandhi (1975) and Bandit Queen(1994) but the frequency of such superior matter has been very less as compared to the recent decade.
It’s time that girls start having some fun without men saving them from circumstances. Filmmakers are pushing the limits of the definition of a ‘bhartiya nari’ with her ‘komal surili awaz’ to being an ideal wife. Life is not about being and living as someone’s wife, it’s about creating one’s own identity. Bold women were portrayed differently earlier through characters which were mentally tough. Mental strength and perseverance is not a sole weapon to tackle the cruel world out there, that is where action steps in. Like all emotions, an existence of fear is necessary not just in the minds of women but also in their male counterparts.
Hollywood and the Chinese film industry can be considered inspirational in terms of introducing female actors in action with some outstanding hits like Kill Bill volume I and II, Charlie’s Angels, The girl with The Dragon tattoo, Salt, Lucy, Kick-Ass etc and several Chinese hits like Kung fu Hustle, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (internationally co-produced), Chocolate among others. The internet as well has been a major contribution in this progress. Quick and worldwide access to information helped people in gaining inspiration from happenings around the globe.
Film viewing audience in India has a fair access to watching Hollywood and Chinese films other than Bollywood and Regional Cinema in the country. Chinese action heroines like Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Qiu, Connie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, JeeJa Yanin have done awesomely great in their films setting a good example for Southeast Asian countries, which are ‘considered to be’ not-so-favourable for women, where they are submissive, and do not have much participation in decision-making processes, as opposed to the West. Action heroines from Hollywood like Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, Uma Thurman, Carrie –Anne Moss, Rooney Mara, Cloe grace Moretz are widely known to us but how many actions heroines do we have in our film industry? Bollywood has released very few female action films and out of the numerous potentials only Tapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Rani Mukherjee, and Priyanka Chopra have had opportunities to demonstrate hands-on action on screen.
Thankfully, some storytellers are taking up the responsibility to educate the mass about how a woman can remain a woman by not following the age-old mantras of remaining quiet and enduring violence through the big screens. Being bold is not just kicking asses and punching noses, (that’s a little part of it!) but also about knowing when to step up and say ‘NO’. Let’s hope that similar action films influence women in the country to take up martial arts and send a tough message across to bullies and potential molesters.
Tapsee Pannu’s performance in Baby, Pink and now in Naam Shabana, and Sonakshi Sinha’s Akira shows that there’s always an opportunity for females actors in B’town to try their hand at action and yet look dapper hot. You can ditch the low waist saris, and bikinis to pick up martial arts and make jaws drop and heads turn as you walk away from your injured victim. It is not so much about strength, but a power packed combination of techniques, determination, practice and stamina, can definitely make one win the game – a crucial lesson to learn from the audio-visual media.

My winged neighbours… Who outnumber me by hundreds

Ever since the mercury in the capital has gone up the scale, mosquitoes have begun breeding limitlessly, and as it seems they have all chosen to fly up six stories high just to feast on me. The reason? I’m just too sweet! Nopes, I’m not bragging…
From my very childhood, I’ve been a constant feasting item for mosquitoes, be it alone in a room or even in a room full of people of various sizes and shapes. These horrible blood sucking noisy insects would not feed on others but me, only me! When I complained of mosquitoes, I would be told that nobody else was getting affected as much as me, and that must be because my blood was too sweet! “Hahahahaha,” they’d all laugh. And funnily even if the mosquitoes did bite them, these humans seem to not notice that they were being bitten and that a fat insect was clinging onto their arm. Fat; so fat that they could not even fly away after their meal. I observed them hop away to safety else a slight touch would make their torso burst – literally.
With the summer sun being a killer, mosquitoes do not tour around much in the day, but after sundown, it’s party time for them. It’s like breaking a day long fast, as soon as you see food you just stuff your face like a monster.

As soon as I open the front door in the evening entering my home, along enters a thousand mosquitoes. I guess they shout “Spartaaaaaa!!!!” as they rush in past me and start taking positions in the house preparing for the war to come. Now that I’m writing this, I am under a vicious attack by an army of suicide squad! I’m typing and slapping my limbs and clapping in the air murdering them.

Imagine this: Ready with tiny sharpened knives and forks, and beeps tied around their neck, they wait with starving depression in order to set foot on the hunting area. The huge iron door to foodland opens, there’s light and the aroma of blood so inviting to be feasted upon.
“Friends, Mosquitons and clanwomen, lend me your proboscis,” shouts Antenna, the leader and orator of the team. What follows is an inspirational speech on why they have chosen the location and type of their meal for the day. “Now, even though we know that our host isn’t very friendly or passive and that we might be martyrs, we must still try to achieve the best for us, for our children and their future. Food is more important than life, it’s better to die with your stomach full than to live a life devoid of food that you so deserve. Good nutrition will help us bring betterment to our successors. Hosts are huge and single, and we are small but united. Let our union be the cause of their itching skin. Ladies, are you with me?”
“Yay!!” yells the squad dripping with enthusiasm.
“Then raise your forks and let’s show the hosts what it is like to be slapped!… Oh and yes don’t forget to sing to her ears.”
Ending her memorable speech and leading the attack of the century, Antenna had made her place in the history of the Mosquito civilisation, but sadly it was her last combat and she will be remembered by her clanwomen and men forever for her oratorical skills and leadership.

Our Uncle

He always woke up in time, served all the meals in time, never took leaves, stayed away from home for months and yet he earned only seven thousand. We called him ‘Uncle’, as if that was his name. Even on his birthday, some girls who had time to prepare a colourful birthday card for him wrote ‘Many many happy returns of the day Uncle’. I never cared to know his name and neither did anybody else in the hostel I presume.

Uncle never called me Lahari, he always addressed me as ‘Jyotsna’. I have not been quite fond of that name as I associated it with one of our house maids back when I was a child. It was sort of a demotion in rank… Rank of what you ask? Well, I could not come up with an answer either…

But the way he yelled out after 10 in the morning, ‘Arree Jyotsna, khana nahi khayegi kya?’ made me feel loved and I gradually started to like the name. I had asked Uncle a few times, “Mera naam to Lahari hai, aap mujhe Jyotsna kyu bulate ho?” (Why do you call me Jyotsna, when my name is Lahari?). But I never got a clear answer. He would just smile and say, “Hum to tujhe Jyotsna hi bulayenge.” Maybe he has a daughter called Jyostna, and I remind him of her…

Uncle hailed from the eastern part of Bihar and knew some Bengali. He would often try to converse with me in Bangla, especially if I made a face at the not-so-delicious-looking-dinner. He’d ask, “Toh tumko kya laga, hum aj muri-ghonto banayenge?” (So did you expect me to cook muri ghonto {a fish preparation} for you?) Being a fond non-vegetarian, the vegetarian dishes served thrice a day often took a toll on my mood, so sometimes I’d stuff my tummy with some chicken outside and skip dinner at the hostel. Uncle, a staunch vegetarian, would come to enquire why I had not stepped into the dining area yet, and on knowing about my fetish for chicken he’d say, “Ha, tumko to wu bahar ka khana hi pasand ayega, hum jo yahan mach bhaja aur chicken nahi banate…” (Why would you like anything I cook, you are so fond of chicken and fish from the restaurants)

Due to some illogical rules, we were not allowed to bring any non-vegetarian item into the hostel premises, and I followed that rule until the last night spent there. When I was almost done packing, I went to get my dinner, but Uncle winked at me and said, “Tu room me ja, thori der baad bulata hu” (Go to your room, I’ll call you after some time). I knew that he was up to something, but I leaped up in joy when hearing a loud knock at my door I opened it to let in the aroma of brilliant chicken butter masala! He handed me a plateful of steamed rice and a big bowl full of chicken (enough for two). He broke the rules to treat me. That was the sweetest gesture I had ever received.

There had been several other perks of owning a room by the kitchen. Uncle would at times prepare special items in less quantity and call some of his favourite hostelites to treat them secretly. I’ve had the luck to taste a very delicious kheer, spicy dish of green jackfruit and some pasta. Being on his list of favourites I also had the privilege of going in late and getting the best of parathas for breakfast (not that I was fond of parathas, but the simple gesture was enough to show that he cared).

I never bothered to buy aluminium foil to wrap my lunch even though Uncle had asked me a few times to buy one roll and keep it in the kitchen so that he can pack my lunch in them. But one fine day onwards I started to get my parathas wrapped in the shining foil!
I don’t know whether “Thank you” is a phrase good enough to acknowledge the gratitude, but I thanked him every time yet a feeling of dissatisfaction remained. He does not need our thank you’s; all the others like him, they do not need our Western formality, neither do they desire money. Paying someone of Uncle’s level would rather be a sheer insult to the person, what they actually need is us to remember them and love them back, something I eventually failed in, trying to be good at the many other ‘important things’ in life.

I bought some sweetmeats for the staff the day I was leaving the hostel and handed the box over to Uncle authorising him to distribute them to all. His face lit up in a very unique way, something I had never witnessed before. He almost welled up as he opened the box, and with teary eyes, he took out the first sweet and forcefully fed me happily. Maybe nobody ever gifted him a box of sweets…

He would often call me over the phone and ask how I have been doing, and then say, “Tu hume bhul jayegi Jyotsna, par hum tumhe nahi bhule. Kitni ladkiya ayi aur chali gayi, par pata nahi kyun tu yaad reh gayi…” (You might forget me Jyotsna, but I won’t. So many girls have come and gone, but I don’t know why I still remember you) Not knowing what to say in return, I’d try to console him by saying that I had been busy with work and therefore could not call him sooner. I remember the last time we spoke over the phone when I was too tied up with work. On receiving the call after a quick chat I told him that I’d call back when I get time. I managed time and remembered to call him back in a week or two, but a female voice on the other end of the line said, “The number you have called is out of service.” And I had not heard from him since. I failed to show him the respect and love that he so deserved.

I do not know whether he lost or changed his phone, or left the city, but I have not had the courage or will to enquire about him to the warden in the fear of receiving a bad news. I hope that he’s back in Bihar living with his family, his daughter Jyotsna.

I was always taught to be myself: Akasa Singh

Gifting the nation with its selfie anthem last year ‘Tu kheench meri photo’ singer Akasa Singh, shares her story of doing a duet with pop sensation Ricky Martin recently.C4JlbNqUYAAs8Gi

Tell us about your childhood, growing up in a family with musical background…

As my father is a singer, there was always something or the other going on in my family. Growing up with that, before I knew what a career is, I already knew that I wanted to be a singer. I got my dad’s voice, and I pursued singing under his guidance, eventually, I started my career with Mika Singh. He would often come to our home and he used to make me sing and asked me to join the band with him and perform live.

Please share your experience working with Mika

Working with Mika was great. I was in a band at a very young age, I was the only girl in the band which had about 10 male members over the age of 40! Very early on I got to experience a lot. I got a chance to travel the whole world to perform for different audiences. Basically, working with him sort of moulded me, because he is one of the best performers of the country, and I learned a lot from him . Whatever I do on stage today is because of how Mika ji groomed me. I learned the best thing from the best person.

Your performance is quite versatile. How did you work on your charming onstage persona?

I was born and brought up in a Sardar family, I grew up with only brothers. While growing up, I never hesitated for anything,  thinking whether it would be inappropriate to behave in a way since I’m a girl. I did what I saw my brothers do. So, with that confidence, I never hesitate onstage about how I’d look while rapping, or whether I have to behave/perform in a particular way since I’m dressed in a lovely ghagra choli. I was always encouraged by my parents to be myself, I was never taught to behave in any particular way just because I am a girl. Growing up that way I explored many opportunities – if I wanted to rap I could, if I wanted to jump onstage or crack jokes I could – it sometimes does not go with the way I look or with people’s expectation, but it’s because I was always taught to be who I am. People do get a little shocked sometimes when I crack little jokes in the middle of my performance or jump…

Did you ever have stage fright?

I used to have that sort of fright before my exams! (laughs) When I used to study for exams, I would think Yaar Geometry chhodo, main stage mein 5000 logon ke samne gana ga dungi. I never experienced stage fright on the stage, because I felt at home on stage. I always wanted to go on stage hold a mic and interact with the people when my dad used to perform. But I was really young, and I could not sing properly. When my dad asked, what would you sing if you go on stage, I’d say ‘I don’t know, just get me on the stage, give me a mic and let people watch me and I’ll interact with them. Since the time I saw my dad perform on stage in front of a huge audience, I guess that stage fright was wiped off even before I had it.  In fact, I feel more at home on the stage even if there are 50,000 people in the audience rather than meeting new people. All thanks to my dad jinki performance dekh dekh ke woh dar nikal gaya.

How did you get your first Bollywood break?

Himesh Reshamiya was the mentor of a show I did – ‘India’s Raw Star’. When he heard me sing for the first time he promised me that he’d give me a break in Bollywood. After the show, a lot of people asked me whether I got a chance in Bollywood. An acquaintance gave me Himesh’s contact number and pushed me to talk to him. I messaged him ‘Hi Himesh ji, Akasa here. Hope you are well’ and in reply, he texted, ‘Hi Akasa hope you are well, come to the studio tomorrow, we’ll dub a song’. It was as if I reminded him about his promise. When I went to the studio the next day, he told me, Tum apne tarike me gao. That was the best part, and I sang the song, ‘Tu kheench meri photo’ from Sanam Teri Kasam in that ‘masti wala’ tone. He liked my tone and that’s  how I got my break in Bollywood. Kafi filmy kahaani hai meri! (laughs)

How did your collaboration with Ricky Martin for ‘Vente Pa Ca’ happen?

Another break that happened before this break was me signing up with Sony Music. Sony is his label. They told me that there’s a Spanish single of Ricky Martin, and that he was making an English version of it and whether I would like to lend my Hindi voice to it.  I got so excited that I agreed at once. My vocals were recorded and sent. Ricky really liked it and that’s how I collaborated with him on the duet, ‘Vente Pa Ca’.

What have you learned from this experience?

Unfortunately, I have not met him in person yet. When we were discussing the song, we exchanged e-mails where he explained me the feel of the song, how to sing it and a little praise. But the fact that I have a duet with him is a big deal for me. I hope that I get to meet him in future and work more with him.

Any Bollywood heroine you’d like to lend your voice to? Aaj

Aaj kal actually itna talent aa gaya Bollywood mein, that some of them are singing themselves. I cannot decide on any one particular person. I love Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra… In fact, I would like to sing for any of the heroines! They all are absolutely beautiful, I can sing for any heroine. Sometimes I think it’s better to be the heroin and sing my own songs! (laughs)

Would you like to share any memorable moment?

Recently, I did a show called ‘MTV Angles of Rock’ with three other Bollywood singers – Jasmine Sandlas, Shalmali Kholgade, and Anusha Mani. It was a women empowerment oriented show for which I wrote and composed two songs for the first time in my life. I also performed them for the people I had written for. That feeling of them appreciating, getting emotional and loving my songs is something that I’ll never forget in my life, which is why I don’t just want to sing but also want to compose and write so that I can touch people’s lives in more ways.

What are your hobbies?

Well, other than singing, I love to dance and read. I have a passion for bullet motorbike, so I’m trying to convince my mother to buy me a bullet. I’m also obsessed with animals – a pet lover.