30 November, 2008

Aunty in Arunachal: Part I

Tawang \ तवांग \ - proper noun
Administrative district in Arunachal Pradesh, a north-eastern state in India

Everyone is tired of my setting off to places. Friends don't make plans which include me any longer. The family celebrates Chandni-less birthdays and festivals. Colleagues shrug their shoulders while I agonize over the details of my tour plans. Everyone is jaded. I? Grinning in that loony way which means I'm awfully excited and rather unsure if I've packed properly.

This time its going to be the eastern end of the country, Arunachal to be precise. Tawang and Bomdila if you want the geographical details. I seem to have a knack for going off to places that are not the safest and that too at the most unsure times. (Don't get me started on unsure times...here is a better place to learn of that).

Please ignore the extremely poor map quality. I don't have the time, I am (much to my chargin and frankly, disbelief) technically challenged and I don't think you even care. So. PS: I DID NOT make that obnoxious green arrow signifying Tawang. When I saw it I found it hilarious. The arrow is bigger than Bhutan for godssake!

Anyway, since its going to be a month long extravaganza, a blog hiatus is an unfortunate side effect (which I will try to overcome, mostly for my own sake).

Have a good Christmas. And don't forget that smile.
Chandni (who else?)

28 November, 2008

The Weird Vehicle

She was on her way back home from a stimulating day at work. The sky was a hazy shade of smoke, the moon didn't dare break its filth with her charm, vendors arranged socks of an insipid hue on rickety stands, the evening smelt like itself – stale and spent. 

She had wedged herself onto a seat in the bus, precariously perched between The Old Woman With A Wounded Leg and The Man With Three Mobile Phones. It was a chilly evening and the bus’s rear windshield, conspicuous by its absence, ushered in a spirited breeze. The bus started off with its customary fits and sputters. When the pistons defeatedly started their cycle – up and down, push and pull, everyone inside heaved a sigh of relief. The journey began but the bus was so slow that even cycles overtook it. She shook her head at the utter insanity of it all. 

Another fifteen minutes and a few groans later, the bus found itself stuck at a red light. Horns honked themselves hoarse, regardless of the colour of the traffic light. Men, drunk at 6:00 pm, positioned themselves strategically around her, a knee rubbed against another accidentally, a hand hoped to brush against her chest on its way to the handle, bodies lurched in gravity-defying manners, a push, a shove, every gymnastically imaginable position was enacted with practiced ease. Tak Tana Nana Tandoori Nights screeched from the radio in disgustingly nasal tones. Amidst all the rubbing (with people) clutching (at anything), shifting (to grab more of the seat) and sighing (at everything), she found the space and energy to plug on her earphones.
The music soothed her frayed soul and suddenly the world was an infinitely better place, dancing to her tunes, swaying in unison. She tilted slightly and craned to look out of the window. Cars whizzed by in metropolitan madness. A row of dusty trees lining the road tried to breathe. Boy In Boots stood posing near a panwaari, an unlit cigarette in one hand, while the other hand lay in his coat pocket, in a forgotten, supposedly fashionable manner. His hair, streaked an alarming shade of orange, was carefully disheveled. The air around him was drunk on a cocktail of arrogance with a dash of uncertainty. From where she sat, she saw Little Urchin look up to Boy in Boots in a star-struck manner. In the shadows, he stood, trying to ape his hero, one leg lazily stretched out while he placed his hand in an imaginary coat’s imaginary pocket.

Suddenly the bus lurched forward, bringing before her eyes another frame to watch. Harried Man and Willowy Wife were trying to board the bus with Scrawny Kid 1, 2, 3 and 4. Harried Man quickly loaded his brood and then began the impossible task of finding place for putting his numerous possessions. There was a pressure cooker which found shelter near the gearbox. The bundle of shawls was deposited on Scrawny Kid 3, who was, incidentally, on Willowy Wife’s insufficient lap. A suitcase was pushed across the aisle (rather the carpet of toes) to fit under a seat. The pillow, with nowhere to go, was given to her. Jolted from her reverie of musical innuendos she clasped it grudgingly, comforted by the protection it offered, disgusted by what it did to her nose. 

Suddenly, weird vibrations on her left made her start. The Man With Three Mobiles had two of them ringing simultaneously, which got him extremely flustered and rather bewildered. At the same instant someone stepped on The Old Woman With A Wounded Leg which got her shrieking at unimaginable decibels. The chaos in the bus, complete malfunctioning of her auditory organs and yet another red light made her decide to abandon The Weird Vehicle she was in and walk her way home. 

19 November, 2008

Dhakdhaks and the like

We had an exam the next day. We were the last minute study and pass variety of people. Still, when he arrived at our door unexpected (as usual), urging us to “relax and have just one cup of coffee”, we agreed. The usual banter peppered our walk – kicking each other’s ankles, cribbing about the yet-to-be-discovered course, getting collectively enamoured by the stars. It was just another winter evening. Some incorrigible kids flirted with the fountain…its spray falling on us, specks of rainbow. She got up to get the coffee. I was scowling, nursing a bruised ankle, he sat, draped over his chair, smirking at my frown through those adorably crooked teeth. And then he slid across the table, this sheet of paper. White. Just one fold cutting across the middle. His sloping graphite letters falling over themselves. A letter? He asked me to keep it to myself, just this once, not to share what he had written with her. I didn’t.

8 December 2006

I have piano keys falling all over me.

“Freezing moments a little bit longer…”
‘Time Stand Still"

Drums have followed and now chords sing their turn. All this while a shy guy awaits his turn to a million heartbeats…only this time…shared dhakdhaks.

Shyness, ma’am is trying so hard to try and not flatter you. At one point, you know, I have stopped trying to overload this feeling of being…so…aware of you. What you should not do is let me get into unchartered territory. What you should do is let me let you to let me doubt and re-think and retrace and fumble and slip a million times over something so unfound that my feet don’t touch the ground anymore. What you should do is let me flatter myself over you, to sleep a deep sleep without you, to free float on a daydream lighter than you…

I rest heartbeats while talking to you, you know? I am so much of a heart in my mouth…I am such a needy eye contact with you. I am a needless shimmer of hope with you in me.

You are my spine tingler, my hair stand-up artist. You are the prettiest reason I can think of. You are the most beautiful spare I can get. You are the shortest distance between any points I make.

And the worst part is that I made me rich…grand…giving away the millions that you are to me at the cost of the charity that we do to each other.

Thankyou for making me feel selfish about you.

Yours if…

12 November, 2008

“Garp felt most people confused being profound with being sober, being earnest with being deep. Apparently if you sounded serious, you were.” The World According to Garp by John Irving

“There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us.” The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
“The watchman looked at her with such a lack of expression that it was almost an expression in itself.” A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

10 November, 2008

Lucknow ka Ladka (LL)

From the moment I set eyes on him, everything was wrong. His glossy purple striped shirt. His inexcusably tight pants. His face which uncannily reminded me of things I had learnt to forget. His in your face rudraksh mala wound around his wrist. Yes everything was very wrong with LL.

He had the emotional bandwidth of a doorknob, so obsessed with himself was he that he thought the horizon ended at his upturned nose. Every sentence began with a crib and ended in a tragic ‘i-am-so-unlucky’ whimper. Perseverance was a word he didn’t recognize, self absorption peppered with unflattering quantities of self pity was his specialty and he actually thought being courteous wasn’t in fashion. He had that irritating way of pronouncing twelve as “twel”, licking his chapped lips in quick obnoxious flicks of the tongue. One day, confronted with an exceptionally spectacular view of Kinnaur’s mighty mountains, we were collectively sighing at the scenic beauty. Later, a very worried harrassed LL said, “Arre itna sunder tha ki mein dekhta hi reh gaya. Photo toh kheench hi nahi paya. Faltu ho gaya.” That, in all its pathetic glory, sums up LL’s depth as a person.

Two months after LL’s torturous company, he decided to be generous to his surroundings and resigned. I thought I’d be delighted and for some blissful days I actually was. But as the last few days of his tenure cam to an end, a disturbingly comfortable camaraderie sprung up between us. We actually caught ourselves laughing with each other (that, in my understanding, is the hugest indicator of compatibility), devouring innumerable thaalis at our favourite Dhaba in Tapri (its this tiny place sandwiched between - A One Tailors, Golden Star Jammu Tailors and Meena Tailors), having impromptu drinking parties, listening to music (we discovered some songs that both of us liked).

Of course there were spouts of irritation that made their presence felt. His idiotic ideas surfaced from time to time (eg. I ordered an omlette on a Tuesday and LL instantly springs up, “Mangalvaar ko anda? Kya tum bhagwaan mein vishwaas nahin rakhti?” The connection between a cooked egg and god that he grasped so easily was completely lost on me.). He still walks with an irritating swagger. Still speaks terrible English with his call centre accent. Still does not bother who’s walking behind him and just slams doors in his wake, makes alarming noises while eating, talks so loudly that embarrassment makes you resemble a beetroot.

Yes he’s all that but something more too. The last few days with LL showed me that. Situations. Moods. Perspective. They do weird things to your convictions.

PS: He was sitting around as I was scribbling and asked, “Kya kahani bana rahi ho?”
“Blog post.”
“Woh kya hota hai?”
I knew my story was safe.


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