24 March, 2008

Picture Perfect

I am back from one of those trips.

The trip involved bunking two days of work (am I smart or what), a quiet holi (I wonder when the hell did I get too old to play a regular dirty holi?), my birthday (which was miraculously just the way I like it - sans phone calls) and meeting Shobha.
The trip included meeting relatives (and their adorable, spoilt rotten dogs, listening to family gossip with half a ear, eating gujias and oohing about their spectacular crispiness with the right level of enthusiasm, uncertain hugs and we-must-meet-up-soon-agains). Ah yes how could I forget the question, "So you are studying right now. What do you plan to do after this?" " Oh I? I plan to learn the samba and eat fried brain with chopsticks. I also plan to grow a moustache, own an indecent number of dogs and not bathe. In the long run, I hope to enter the Guiness Book of Some Records. Thank you."

The trip also witnessed numerous sleeping sessions, in each of which I am proud to announce my winning with a HUGE margin. Convalescent Mama was a tough contender for the first position but then my undoubted experience and rigorous training in the field put me in good stead. I slept and slept and slept. Ate slept. Slept some more. Ate.

The trip included exceptionally irrational emphasis on food. The days were just intervals between one colossal meal to the next. One plum and raisin cake to the next. Lunches and dinners amalgamated into a sumptuous mess in our never-satiated stomachs. A tin of fish opened. A walnut cake demolished. Shobha's never-ending stream of scintillating cups of tea and coffee. While watching Amitabh cry copious tears at Rekha's kotha. Muqaddar ka Sikandar.

The trip also took me to one of my favourite places in the world - Mussoorie. No. Not the Mussoorie of blustering tourists who come in their high-heels to shop in Kulri (its the name of the mall road), of honking cars and traffic jams (can you believe it, the road to Kempty had traffic jams now). My Mussoorie - the land of undulating hills and early sunsets. The vantage point from where you can see Dehradun's twinkling spread, St. Georges' stately building and Gun Hill's rump in one spectacular sweep of the eye. The place where begonias peep through the moss on the roadside walls, where the roads turn so sharply, its a miracle you don't fall off, where the cows pick their ways through the steepest of slopes, the Bhutia dogs are hairy enough to face the winter and where time takes on an interesting pace. My Mussoorie of memories, my childhood laughter. I touch the tranquility, still wondering at the ease at which I gave up this paradise so many years ago.

The trip also meant a journey to the stream near home. The gurgling water breaking through the rhythmic sounds of the cicadas. The water was chilly, the ferns awash with sparkling drops, the rocks stood out like sore thumbs being caressed into submission by the stream's coaxing. Some brave souls of the Singh khandaan did some juvenile rock climbing. The ladeej log were content with dipping their feet in the cool water. The tuck we had taken to picnic near the water came back, forgotten and unopened. We witnessed the moon rising, she was blushing an indecent orange, first shyly peeping from behind the mountains, then gaining the courage to look over and finally surveying her kingdom in her full glory. It was a full moon. Ofcourse. (btw I was wondering about the scientific explanation of why the moon looks orange in the hills when she rises).

The trip ended in a satiated whew. A gigabyte of pictures and insane videos. And an empty houseful of Girl 1 and Girl 2. Floundering through dinner. Yet again. I see Girl 1 has taken to chopping the lauki. I better get cracking too.

18 March, 2008

Question 15

Trashy novels
Fast food
Mindless tv surfing

Why do all good things have such a nasty reputation?

13 March, 2008

Uninvited Aunty

When you enter a room whose door proclaims "Clapton is God" you know you are in for an interesting time to say the least.

Everything in the tiny room spoke of amusing carelessness. A fan whirred lazily, tracing ignorant circles in mid-air, blowing a charmingly cool whoosh into the room. There were books strewn on the table, a Bar-One lay unopened, a laptop sat quietly at one end. We sat down on the bed, its sheets slightly awry, wrung from last night's sleep, sighing away dreams. The pillow was propped in a messy bunch, coverless and worn. Newspapers, a weird gadda and other unecessaries swept the floor. I looked around fascinated. One wall lay draped in a poster of Zidane. Near it lay a tired little basket, full of yesterday's dirty clothes. On the cupboard Dennis the Menace was proclaiming something. Nearby, red football cleats lay, their laces undone in fatigue. There was a tiny blue mirror hooked onto a wall, a much-used comb balanced precariously on it. A makeshift soft-board, made from thermocol, adorned one wall. On it were a few crazy photographs. Of friends. In glee-filled times. Those kinds of photographs which have an interesting way of capturing the silliest of expressions. A coffee-maker (whose services were deemed indispensable by the owner) sat on the chair.

Chatter filled the sir. Silly, forgotten anecdotes were retold and laughed over. The greenery outside breathed into the room. As we left, I couldn't help oggle at this beautiful room one last time.

04 March, 2008

Park Parody II

She sat down on the parapet, uncertain about what to do with her hands. The passionate heat of the day was ebbing away leaving behind a gentle evening. He plopped down beside her inhaling the pleasant sea breeze. This evening was particularly spectacular. The sea was lightly lapping at the stones below their feet. She sat cross-legged, as she always did. The lights of the bustling city shone brightly along the entire coast. A string of lamps adorned the coast like pearls. Concrete towers rocketed towards the sky. The trees rustled in pleasurable silence. A boat groaned somewhere, coming home for the night. The intoxicating fragrance of the raat ki rani bush was tantalizingly close. He smiled at the perfect situation he found himself in.

Her head was turned away from him looking into the inky blackness that stretched beyond them. He casually put an arm around her tiny shoulders. “Not too much pressure, you don’t want to make her uncomfortable. Just a friendly grasp that won’t scare her away.” This was new. The physical closeness. He had mustered the courage to touch her for the first time a few weeks ago and had been tingling with anticipation ever since. She felt warm now, very small and very warm. In fact feverish now that he gave it a thought. She stiffened as she felt his arm go around her. The movement was so slight that for a second he thought the breeze was playing tricks with him. Then suddenly she looked at him directly and at once he felt something was terribly wrong. Her mouth was shaped in a crooked way he had never seen before. Her large eyes looked wounded and defiant at the very same frightening instant. He knew not what was coming but whatever it was, it had the forbearance of doom. For no apparent reason, he couldn’t help focusing on the way her kajal was slightly smudged, just below her right eye.

“Hey, is everything ok? What’s the matter?” And as if to prolong the moments before she said what she had to, he added, “Your kajal has got smudged. Ya there. I got it.”

“Oh”, she gasped, those lips that drove him crazy were about to break his heart. He knew it. Without her having to utter a word. “I don’t know where to start…” and then she did. In a few agonizingly unfeeling words, delivered so smoothly, you’d think she’d said them a hundred times before, she told him she didn’t love him. That it was over. He didn’t know what to think. Dully he looked at the twinkling lights: their cheerful faces seemed to be mocking him now. He removed his hand from her, hoping to put some distance between them. What amused him that at this very moment the only thought that kept coming to his brain was what his friends would say when they heard about this. “Is this all I have to worry about? Can’t I think of something suitable to say? I can’t bring myself to shout at her. Shouldn’t I demand an explanation? Is there someone else?” As soon as that thought came into his head, he shook himself. “Of course not, I know her better than that. What is wrong with me?”

She looked straight ahead, her face set in an expressionless mask. She focused now on trying to keep her hands from fidgeting. Her skirt flew a bit and she saw a scab developing on the wound on her knee. With nothing better to do, she methodically began peeling it, one hurtful piece at a time. She felt surprisingly calm. The fear, the anxiety that had made her sick: mentally and physically, seemed to ebb away with the rhythmic sound of the waves. The cool breeze was calming her frayed nerves. She was feeling hot and cold at the same time. And then her mind drifted away to sickeningly mundane things. “I have to buy vegetables for the house. I’ll get some mushroom today. Damn, the milk is finished too.” She was unnerved by her detachment. He was still sitting near her and yet she had already forgotten him. No longer was he the person who could make her breathless in anticipation. He could have just been a stranger. Sitting next to her. In the park. As she planned her grocery list. And yet a few days ago he had meant everything. “I am fickle like the sea, one day torrid, one day calm. Fickle like the sea. Fickle like the sea.” The words fell with a dull resonance in her head. And yet she wished she had done this in a better way. She yearned to hold him and tell him things were going to be ok. “Why does it have to be like this? We execute the blow with steely precision and smart from its pain too.”

She squinted into the blackness of the night and saw the outline of a boat. A fisherman was squatting, lighting a beedi. She looked down and saw the foam making quizzical patterns on the waves. Irritation flared inside her as she saw a piece of thermocol bobbing up and down in the water. It’s exuberant playfulness making her furious in an inexplicable way. Amongst the stones there lay a broken basket, discarded and forgotten. She peered, leaning into the sea and saw a few forlorn flowers in the basket, nearly dead now. Looking at it made her sad and she sighed. Resignedly. Tiredly.

He looked at her now. Tiny wisps of hair were flying about her face, in tune with the breeze’s gentle caress. He longed to touch her. Maybe hit her. Unsure of what to do, he fidgeted. She looked too calm. Not like the his friends’ girl friends who threw tantrums said I don’t love you a zillion and one times, cried and then pouted. He could handle that. But this unnerving tranquility was unsettling. He looked around. The place was befitting. It was here, that he had professed his love for her. She had nodded, he remembered, meekly as if it was what she had wanted all along. He had expected a goofy grin, maybe a laugh, certainly not a tame nod. This park held so many memories for them. They had eaten that delicious sev puri which had given them both diarrhea for a week. She had befriended all the dogs in the vicinity much to his amusement. She laughed every time he opened the gate to the park for her. Then there was that day when she had lost her keys and then threw his into the sea too. Breaking away from the reminiscing, he actually looked around the park. Two old Parsi ladies in their printed dresses were hobbling along the path. There was that pretty “babe” walking briskly, chattering into her phone. An old man who was a regular and swung only one hand as he walked, smiled a toothy grin. A few couples sat around, reveling in each other’s company. A boy ran his fingers through the girl’s hair. She giggled and snuggled up to him. He mumbled something in her ear thatmade her blush. Below the bunch of palm trees, a stocky man was shouting at a burkha clad lady. “Yeh saala chutiya phone na hota sab theek rehta.” He smiled inwardly at the poetry of the line.

Suddenly he got up. “I think I should go.”

“Ok. I’ll walk you till the taxi.”

They walked away, one muddled and unsure of why this puzzling little creature had so easily shattered everything he held special and why he couldn't find the one emotion he searched for: anger, the other mesmerized at her ability to be so nonchalant, so numbingly bland: her detachment making her tremble slightly.

“Goodnight. Take care”, she said, more out of habit than affection.

“Yeah. Bye.”

She traced her steps back to the park. It was a lot emptier now. She threw off her slippers and swung her legs across the parapet. She felt light in the head as her heart weighed lead. The tide had risen and gurgled below her ankles. Thousands of feelings flit around her brain but none made their presence felt. She hugged herself tightly. She felt no pain or regret. Just very tired. And suddenly she laughed. “And I had thought this was my heaven.”


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