21 February, 2008

Spectacled Satire

Loony picture from cupofjo

Once upon a time...

My tryst with spectacles began at the unassuming age of 14.

Managing to get out of hostel was a humungous task, everyone wanted to, most tried to, few managed to. Across the school gates lay things coveted by all our eager teenage minds. Ice-creams at Dinshaws, phone calls home and other places too, movies at the seedy halls where you often had to keep your legs suspended in midair to allow the rats feast on a forgotten burger or packet of Uncle Chips, "Cooks" - the only place in Gwalior that offered fast food and of course, the right to wear "coloured clothes", as opposed to the bland white salwar kameez that made up our hostel dress (the coloured dupattas were half-hearted relief). Anyway, so when I proclaimed I could barely see and thus needed a very urgent eye check-up in order to not let something as trivial as my eyesight to tarnish my all-important academic prospects, I managed to get out into maddeningly interesting city that is Gwalior. I whistled in the minibus that had been allotted the noble task of carrying me to the pokey little street of the eye doctor. The song went something like this:

There is nothing really wrong with me
You wouldn't guess but I can actually see
I'm out in the city as smug as a grin
I roam free hither as they wiggle within.

After all the gloating and whistling, we reached the eye doctor (a man who learnt to recognize me very soon as will be apparent shortly). He checked my eyes (You know you needn't bother really), put on a ridiculous frame of iron that weighed a tonne (Ha I can read all those letters down to the tiniest size) and finally pronounced his wretched verdict. "Dono aakhein laal hain. Lagta hai zyada hi padh liya hain (here, insert an oily grin). Power -0.25 hai. Achha hua abhi aa gaye varna....." (I hate varnas which trail off into the murky realms of uncertainty - they serve no purpose and conjure up terrifying images thanks to fertile imaginations). And so the whistle died on my lips. I was to become a specky. This was not going the way I had planned. I was supposed to laugh in his face, do my hop-skip-n-jump routine and dash out of this stuffy little glass cubicle of a shop. Instead, I found myself choosing a frame. Aaaah, the injustice of it all.

Two days later my very smart pair of spectacles arrived. They were rimless (wow) and everybody obviously found it very amusing to see me in this hideous new avtaar. I put them on, "Aha not bad. Hmmm they suit me. Great!" The whistle was back, I hopped, skipped and then....skid skid skidddddddddd. In front of the accused splash of water which had converted my jump into a skid, lay a forlorn me and a pair of shattered rimless glasses. So much for being warned for aeons about how fragile this unframed frame was.

And so the next day I found myself in the bus again. The novelty had worn off, the oily doctor was no one to look forward to, my whistle wasn't in tune and the sun was too happy. Much grimacing and unheeded advice later, I walked out with a pair of half-frame specs; I think they make them for clumsy people like me. Now not only was I the butt of all jokes beginning and ending with the word chashma (infact all jokes that could be remotely associated with chashme were aimed my way), I also had to wear the hideous thing. Weeks passed by without mishap.

It was past midnight, way past the aggravating time for lights out and we were hogging on semi-cooked maggi, proudly prepared by Chef C and Chef M. Sitting on the floor, licking our fingers clean, we chatted, gossiped and generally lolled in the comfortable ambience of a maggi well enjoyed and a conversation least required. Hearing some noise from the matron's room, we rushed to hide and even amidst all our shuffling, a thunderous crack echoed, ricocheting from floor to wall, banging on the ear drum, into my cochlea, reaching my nerves, tingling up to my brain which said: "Yes, you stamped on your specs."

I did get another sturdy pair made, it of course looked worse than its predecessors and I managed to mangle the poor thing beyond recognition. Many pairs and years later, I gave up on my abilities to look after something as destroyable and since my all-important academic prospects had been found to be a huge farce, I had no reason to wear the monstrosities. The eye doctor was forgotten, the pairs strewn about in forgotten drawers and my existence shuffled from one insight to another.

And then began these thought-ripping headaches. Alarmed at her "poor daughter's deteriorating health", my mother marched me off to an eye guy. Back to the same rigmarole but with a slight difference. One eye's power had gone up to -0.5. No cause of concern ma'am, said the flirtatious salesman, his tere naam hair gelled into his scalp, jeans displaying artwork fit for walls, his toothy grin a poor takeoff on The Ren and Stimpy Show. Spectacles were manufactured yet again; they were worn diligently for a week and then conveniently shelved. My mother was beside herself in rage, "She will turn blind. I just know it." Off and on I did try looking for the shelved pair in the years to come but they kept themselves out of my destructive reach. I found certain interesting things as drawers were upturned, cupboards cleaned out, books flipped through, but the darn pair of my third and fourth eyes were not to be found. And then many forgotten years later (read three), I found them. In the shoe rack.


My eyes had once again started playing their nasty tricks (actually nasty is a nasty word to use, the poor things had tried to see all these years and were now simply exhausted). I was sitting on the computer way too much, reading way too little, eating zero carrots [my mother (and I too, I just realized) believes carrots = answer to all eye problems] and never washed my face (implying that my eyes never got the Delhi dust out of themselves). So last week I marched myself to the chashme ki dukaan (ok ok I didn't go voluntarily, it was because of the urging of concerned friends and shockingly concerned foes). I am now sitting looking like a ridiculous clown (with a -0.5 power in both eyes), seeing the world in frames (its aggravatingly confining) and wondering how long this pair will last.

12 February, 2008

She doesn't know what to think or how to for that matter
is this it or is it not?
the one thing she loves to hate
the one thing she hates to love.

She's stuck in a dilemma she doesn't want to climb out of
its beheading her senses
and storming past dreams
just the way she likes.

You'd think she's sane but for the evil in that smile
she's a manequin
waiting to come to life
of ridiculous calm.

06 February, 2008

Wishful Listlessness

You wish you were here.

Watching her laughter light up those eyes
Her colourful world gurgle through the skies.
You pluck up the courage to hold her hand
You quiver "Will she reprimand?"
You pry off that mask, the warpaint on her face
Quills of laziness through her hair you trace.
You pick up a fight, she flares --- a gray cloud
Passion strokes anger, you're enchanted, she's proud.

We chase each other's dreams through gallows of our thoughts
trickling into the indestructible sham --- our forts.

Now we are walking over a carpet of green
Silence shrouds us in her comforting sheen.
The sun washes our hair with his golden brush
We talk, we tease, in an urgent hush.
I applaud --- you sit on your throne of question marks
I glisten in the expectant warmth of your dark.
There is a swing in your mood, banter at my cost
I rummage between us, losing again what I lost.

Sometimes I want things badly enough to hate the very being I desire
For bringing me down to my haughty knees
Head held high, I beg you please.

And I wish I was there.

02 February, 2008

:| and half-baked hopes

Communicating via electronic means is so impotent. A colon and a bracket to say you are smiling? A "ha ha heh heh" for your laughter? What about the shadows under your eyes? The way you just clasped your hands? Did your mouth change its shape? The sound your rumbling stomach made? Will I ever know?

Where did this sudden urge to demean electronic conversations come from?

Okay, I went for a Spanish puppet show. "Histories of Half Sole" directed by Carlos Pinero. This animated little man narrated the story of Red Riding Hood with shoes. He spoke Spanish. It was gibberish to me. But the performance was captivating. Stimulating. Amusing. Entertaining. A Delhi winter evening with its characteristic chill. A smattering of people in cheerful spirits. I sat there. I felt the laughter around me. I saw the yellow lanterns cast their light upon us. The quaint words he spoke were notes suspended in a symphony. I almost touched happiness. The sky was a inky blue. The stars were modest enough to let the moon bathe herself in their glory. I couldn't/wouldn't/knew I shouldn't peel my eyes away from the scene before me.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
I am in a smoke filled conical glass building. People are swishing their drinks in slim-stemmed glasses. Weather-disregarding tiny dresses are skirting well tailored trousers. Above it all, percussion carves its sound to me. Bodies sway untamed, helplessly, beautifully. The music pumps life into their blood. A fake smile. A hearty joke. Long Island Iced Tea. Polite conversation is made and discarded. I am asked a very pertinent and amusing question, "You do know that you are weird right?" That makes me grin goofily. Music rises above us all like a halo over our heads. I look up. I only see my reflection in the cold glass.

We are zooming past the the night. Racing against the wind, amid a string of lights, the flyovers a concrete blur of architecture. Gurgaon glass buildings never looked more intimidating, never more eerie, never so magnificent in their silence and darkness. Music throbs in my heart, I watch the moon and her silly game of hide and seek with the clouds. When will she learn? Wherever she hides, that untamed aura will not leave her. Its the albatross around her neck. Her Achilles heel. Her wrath. Her glory. The car stops at a noisy place. The dhaba is bathed in the smell of hot parathas, sweet tea and laughter. "Raju! Chai aur chaar keema parathas". I shiver a little. At the night. At other things. I send a message and curse aloud.

What is less stimulating than an electronic conversation? Typing out my laments.

Question 14


The one book I should read before I die.
The one movie I should watch.
The one place I should see.
The one song.

01 February, 2008

Garbled Geisha

"As he goes left and you stay right."

That happens way too often.

P.S. She grew her nails. Then she painted them. Now isn't that weird?


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