27 December, 2009

Song Sung Blue

Some songs remind me of myself.
Inanimate objects are overvalued and undermined.
Why does it take a bitter winter to make us enjoy the sun?
Here is the only place worth being in. There is too far away to see.

22 December, 2009

Catharsis

When the year end leaves you particularly uninterested and non-plussed, you know something is amiss. That a brand new yummy red diary and three newly downloaded albums of Norah Jones cannot get me overtly excited it disturbing too. I guess its the shaadi fatigue, or maybe all the things I have been doing half-heartedly. It could be so many things and nothing at all. It could be the us in the you and me, or it could just be my solitude. It could the weather (under) estimating me or the people over (doing) me. Its getting colder and the poorly sewed Santa caps are offering no warmth. So I decide to do something that I am told, triggered one of the best things that happened to me this year. So, here I go again, thanking the people who helped me along:

  • The Family: For letting me.
  • The Atul: For giving us all one more reason to smile.
  • The Sopho: Of the 2,10,71,986 reasons I can think of thanking you, I'd like to choose just one. Thank you for staying up with me that bluish-grey dawn. 21st April 2009.
  • The Unwitting Healer, my Roosi, who has only given and given and given. We should forget about our DoC scale and start on a new HoH (Halo of Happiness) measurement. You're an 11 on 10.
  • The Firangi Friends, Maitreyi and Ashwina. Even on different continents you've managed to hear me out. Thank you for allowing the distances make the heart grow fonder.
  • The Beautiful Stranger, Rain: You have (so poetically) been my dirty little secret, my stashed away joy for a rainy day, my tears and fears all rolled into pretty prose.
  • The Warrior, my Rinchen: Thank you for all our laughs and all those trips. They'd have been imperfect without you :) But most of all, for being most fun on the coldest of days.
  • The Russian Romance, Ani: You have to be thanked for managing to make me smile from the most difficult place ever - my memory. Thank you for all those unexpected land-up-on-doorstep times, chocolate-sauce-off-your-misshapen-fingers, crooked smiles and spontaneity.
  • To Zach Braff for being the guy I love to love. All the time. For filling a 101 lonely evenings with laughter.
  • To G, the Gargoyle: For teaching me that I do, after all, have a lot to learn.
  • To Feeder for singing to me a song for every mood. "Been calling out for days, as emptiness invades, another moment's lost again, just sunk beneath the waves."
  • To CPC, for giving me my love for the colour orange. It took me so long to realize that it was because of you.
  • To Leh, for showing me enough beauty to make me believe.

For a year so trying, I think I had more than my share of laughs :) And now a post this drab has perked me up! New Year? Here we come :) Enjoy your parties people! And try to fit it the environment into your new year resolutions. One plastic cup less and one car pool more does make (enough?) a difference.
Take care.

14 December, 2009

Come away with me

I am taking you on this trip with me. To this quiet little place. It's a dilapidated little cottage. Without the Internet and definitely no phones. It's surrounded by oak trees and at this time of the year, the brown leaves must have fallen, our shoes can shuffle out a melody walking on them. There is an old spaniel guarding the place, he likes lolling in the sun and chasing any squirrels he can barely see. We could subsist on canned sausages and that marvellous bread I bake. And a brew of some kind.

Don't become starry-eyed now - we aren't going for long. I wouldn't want you to start getting on my nerves. Confrontations were never my favourite place, you know that too well. It's the library I am going for. That, and the sunsets of course. There is going to be no music too, I am being hard hearted you'll sulk. But this one time, shhhh. I am taking you on this trip with me. You must know, you don't have a choice.

06 December, 2009

Memories

These last few forgettable times
They've been leaving so quietly
That now I don't even try
To lie in wait and listen
Tormentedly as they
Go.
Silent-slippered children
Slither out through me
Softly as if almost
Sensing that I
Sigh as they
Go.

28 November, 2009

Discover you discovering me

I must remember that most of the musicians I end up liking are the ones I can't stand at first. And I have examples to prove my point:
  1. Coldplay
  2. Eminem
  3. John Mayer
  4. Justin Timberlake and Siamese twin Nelly Furtado
Right now's wishlist? To attend a Mayer concert. Not the flashlights and smoke guns and 10,000 fans kind. Not the long queues and signed T-shirts being thrown at you kind. The 100 people-who-don't-need-a-fix-for-the-high, mellow light, I-can-see-the-bass-guitarist-and-the-drummer kind. I want to see his face scrunched up as he sings. Sweat-soaked. Seducing his guitar into submission. Listen to Comfortable, the music makes you hear love.
Well almost. Exaggeration afterall, makes things more than perfect.

26 November, 2009

Philosopher Phixation B

I was good with people till a while ago. Then I just forgot all my social skills. Trust the Memory to remember to forget.

22 November, 2009

Thoughts in Tapdance

You tiptoe in
No stranger to my thoughts
A smile you drop
A whisper shuffles through
Mind marauder
Will you never stop?

I don't muster the will
To look through you
Your courage always
Willing me to fail
Crumbling before
the inevitable chase.

We dance around
Naïve, blissful fools
I sigh content
Never did unease
Seem so tremendous
So terribly spent

21 November, 2009

Memoirs of a Memory (or Park Parody IV)

Time. Time will heal everything. One gets over heartbreaks and lovers laid down.

She shook herself, as if to rid her mind of these thoughts. It was slightly chilly, and she wrapped her shawl tightly, an insufficient armour to the indifferent collapse her insides were going through. Time? That cruel I-don't-wait-for-anybody will heal? Either They had lost their minds or she had. Heal? Did she even want to? She dug her toes resolutely into the grass. It was going to be a long evening. She should have brought something warmer. A leaf fell near her hands. Withered and yellow.

A kid cycled by and reminded her how he had tried teaching her to "balance". With no success whatsoever. She had, much to his disbelief, managed a fracture and toppled over an old lady...but those were just inconsequential after-memories she had no intention of retaining, details she could certainly do without. Her memories were hers alone, to uncover and watch as she pleased. She could play a song softly in the background, emphasize and enhance parts she loved. She could choose from a hundred of them, each with their nuances, each in a different hue. She could stroll around them or rush forth, feeding her fancies, trampling on caution.

She didn't want time to snatch them away from her. Dull her into believing that the incidents were after all mere figments of an overactive imagination, from a period so long ago, fact and fiction coalesced into an unintelligible mosaic. She wanted to remember and forget them at will, to have the power to choose and destroy. To discard and retain. To erase and rebuke. To shelter and encourage.

But her memories, they fed into her, maggots in a fetid wound. They would remind her of parts of her being that she had given up. There was her smile she had parted with so joyfully. Her opinions, threadbare with all the conversations they had been part of. Her thoughts, suddenly so private and at once displayed with flamboyant ease. Her laughter and the way she gave it with gay abandon. Her tears, cherished and wastefully fallen in the crevices of uncomfortable silences. And she had broken off bits of other people, weaving them through her mind in circular patterns, each one entangling itself in perfection with one another. She could hear a whisper in the background, she could feel an embrace hold her, and if she concentrated hard enough, she could see why it was an embrace, not a hug, not perfunctory, not forced. There was some shouting too. Bitterness and anger. Indifference and annoyance. She caught her breath as she heard him mumble something she wished she could hear forever. She smelt him on her and smiled a little more.

Time? She wielded it like a toy. She looked down at her hands, a piece of grass wound around her fingers. She twisted it and then smoothed it out. She knotted it and then untied it. It lay in her palm now. Limp. Compliant and silent. She grinned at it, dusting her clothes, as she got up. They were dank. She put her thoughts back in place, they refused, scurrying around, disobedient toddlers. She walked, in no particular direction and liked where it was leading to.

13 November, 2009

Rasmai Rain


I'm off to see the Sangu
The wonderful Sangu boy
He is, he is, he is, he is
my favouritest boy.

10 November, 2009

Question 19

I can't seem to decide whether:

a) Indecision has become a way of life
b) Or not.

07 November, 2009

Beep off

I was watching yet another movie on yet another sleepy afternoon. Ever since I left probably the best job in the world, I have been in a mood that befits my new found superduperlative schedule. And I realized that the secret to happiness is just an idiot box away. With all the English movie channels coming up with subtitles for people who just never catch dialogues (I founded and currently head that elite group) the motion picture has been relegated to the background while the written (rather edited) word reigns supreme. Trust our censor board to provide comic relief in the most unassuming places. Samples:


Dialogue: "I should have made a move on her. Damn I think I just lost my penis."
Subtitle: "I should have made a move on her. Damn I think I just lost my manhood."


Dialogue: "Did you notice her big boobs?"
Subtitle: "Did you notice her big?"


Do they realize that's not even a complete sentence? And that we can actually hear what is being said and so our pure, beautiful minds have already been corrupted? And that in spite of our muddled education system, we have all been exposed (oh dear is that a dirty word too?) to the taxonomy of human body parts, irrespective of their, well, location?


And the best was:
Dialogue: "You damn motherbeeeeep. Beep off."
Subtitle: "You damn motherbeep. Beep off."


But as I lay dozing off, I decided to imagine that the Board has someone with a great sense of humour. I like to think that the Subtitle Guy hates his job, gets the kicks about writing wrong grin-inducing stuff and weaves jokes into the lines. That's so much better than imagining them not knowing enough to think they are fooling (cleansing?) us.

04 November, 2009

Familyar Friends

My family is a motley bunch. But we are variegated - not like a bunch of badly matched flowers in a bouquet, but more like the different fingers on a hand. Each one with their adorable peculiarities, their beautiful quirks, annoying habits and loving ways. We fight for every cube of chocolate with unnerving intensity, each one hates a different sabji, making sure dinner is always full of fireworks, everybody likes their coffee at different times, and blaaaaaaah. We look different enough to belong elsewhere, we like and dislike things planets apart, lead our separate lives and intertwine and disjoin at a million little places across several generations. And yet somewhere, the seams find each other, the differences blend into this cross patched quilt of colours, so warm, it makes you want to wish for a winter forever.

What in the world prompted me to write thus? Careen into emotions that rarely leave the insides of my subconscious? I guess it is that sometimes the mundane can trigger something so pure, its a miracle that we still quiver to be novel. And sometimes a moment is so precious, you don't mind it ending because it so graciously, so unassumingly allowed you to be a part of it.

Everyone was sitting in their individual comfort zones around the house. The women flitting across their numerous tasks (how just how are they so thoughtful...day after treacherous day?). Girl 1 was readying to curl up with a book, the rate at which she was devouring literature was alarming and awe-inspiring all at once. The man had changed into his kurta pajama (if India had a dress code and I had any say in the matter, all men would be in white kurta pajamas 24/7) and was about to play some mind-numbing/mood-stunning/blood-pumping/soul-drowsing music (depending on who you were and what kind of music worked for you). Girl 2 was settling into the Children's room that she had recently (re)claimed as her own, marking it with pictures and postcards, with her pens and papers, her faithful friend The Diary and The Laptop.

And then the bell rang. Everyone called out to the other to open the door (in spite of being the great, noble people we are, we are incurably lazy). Someone did. There was squeal. "Girl 1's driving license has come!"
"Whaat?" Squeals, shout shout, laughter, squeal, ha ha ing.
"She has an identity now!"
"Finally"
"They gave her a license in spite of her driving test." Wow
"It says LMV. Does that mean a bus?" Noooooooo.

And so we were standing. This crazy adorable bunch of somebodys. In the thin ohsothin gallery of our house, hyperventilating over a card (the new licenses even have a chip in them. No one knew what the chip was for. Way to go!). The card exchanged hands, chatter played, the soundtrack of the moment. And then we retired, back into our bubbles of individuality and momentary isolation. Nobody and nothing in the entire anywhere could take that moment from us. The somebodys who were everybodys for each other. When each moment holds the potential to be this pretty, how can we help but look forward to time?

03 November, 2009

Humming

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find
The better part of me

I’m more than a bird…
I’m more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me

I wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie'bout a home
I’ll never see

It may sound absurd…
but don’t be naive
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed…
but won’t you concede
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me

18 October, 2009

Trudging to the end

Tumbling
so very fast
up the tunnel
towards the darkness.
Isn't that the wrong way?
whisper whisper
Where is the right?
Somewhere opposite the wrong.
Tumbling over
into a sleepless dream
Has it begun?
shout shout
you took a wrong turn
And now we are plodding
Back to the ending.

05 October, 2009

Auto-pilot

It an unexpectedly pleasant evening. Awash with recent rain, resplendently green. The dust had settled down into smudges and everything seemed to be smiling. My grin of course had been wiped away after all the haggling with the auto rickshaw drivers. Could absolutely no one find it in their hearts to agree to go to Janakpuri? Could no soul be decent enough to agree to go by meter? Since when did 8:30 become so late that fellows would start asking for exhorbitant rates? Just as I was beginning to get Infinitely Irritated, Along Came Polly. No along came a Kindred Spirit (I just wrote Polly on a whim. Ha).  So. He agreed to:
  1. Go to my house,
  2. Via Mr. Co-Passenger’s house and
  3. Go by meter.
With a triple whammy like that, he obviously falls into the Kindred Spirit category (for definition, refer to Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery). However, flustered with the whole auto search and fail thing, I admit I muttured some “Aap auto waale kabhi bhi meter se nahin jaate” lines. Next I know, we had begun the long journey to the Faraway Land of Janakpuri  in absolute  silence and a whir of motion – he flew the rickety little triangle right upto Dhaula Kuan, where we hit the much dreaded, transportation nightmare - Perpetual Red Light.

Here, he turned around and nonchalantly said, “Toh kya bol rahe the aap auto waalon ke bare mein?”

“Err…yahi ki aap log meter se nahin jaate…” I squeaked because he after all was a Kindred Soul.

“Aapke haath mein kitni ungaliyaan hain?”

“Ek mein paanch.”

“Aur kya saari ek barabar hain?” (knowledgeable expression on face of a spider who knows the prey is oh-so-surely-entagled)

“Nahin” (foxed expression on face of a person who does not know where the conversation is leading)

“Yahin toh seekh hai. Sab ek barabar nahin hoteen. Ekdum se sab auto waalon ko achha ya bura mat boliye. Har jagah imandaar aur bemaan log hotein hain.”

Here the light decided to stop stopping us and we carried on in our motionic cacophony. I was quite startled by his sudden outburst (outburst is too strong an adjective, he spoke in a very mild, non-patronizing manner). Our next piece of conversation began at the Delhi Cantt light.
“Aap hi ki tarah ek madam mili then mujhe. Jyoti Madam. Rohini jaana tha. Tang ho gayeen theen. Koi bhi meter se jaane ko tayyar hi nahin tha. Phir mein le gaya unhe. Achhi dosti ho gayi hamari.”

(Here, I scoffed inwardly – “Is this a mujhse dosti karoge moment?” It wasn’t.) 

“Phir main unhe daily le jaata tha. Ek din Jyoti ji ne mujhe Pakistan mein driver banane ka offer diya. Mein tayyar ho gaya. Unhone mera visa passport sab banwa diya, mujhe ek Mohommaden naam tak de diya. Mein ghabraya hua tha par tankha achhi thi. Chala gaya. Plane mein baithkar. Wahan meri mano, sadak par laashein padi milti hain. Mera kaam embassy mein tha jo achha tha. Par wahan ka khana bahut kharab tha. Gandigi itni ki poocho mat. Aur har jagah maas. Mein thehra Hindu. Kaise khata unka khana? Chhe maheene maine dabal roti khakar kaate. Ek din mujhe teen ladkiyaan sadak par dikhin. Unke gaadi ka tyre puncture ho gaya tha. Maine unhe lift de di. Unka driver bhi Hindu tha, mere Bihar se hi! Sochiye! Bhagwan ke ghar mein der hai andher nahin. Bas phir, roz wahin, unhi ke ghar khana. Baarah sal kaise kate, pata hi nahin chala! Paise kamakar mein aa gaya wapas India.”

Reeling under the sudden turn of conversation and the socio-religious implications of this man’s interesting journey, we moved onto the next red light. For a moment I wondered if he was bluffing, cooking up a tale to make fun of the snooty girl who had defaced his kind. Then I shuddered at my cynicism (or was it suspicion?) and decided that even if it was a tale, it was keeping me hooked, so simply for its entertainment value, I should listen along. At Thimayya Park, he resumed: 

“Haan toh vaapas aakar maine auto khareeda. Paanch lakh ki aati hai ek. Pata tha aapko? Kaise pata hoga. (oh you poor richer-than-me kid sigh).  Phir bas dekhte dekhte ab mere paas teen auto hain. Ek chalata hoon, baaki chalwata hoon, achhi business hai.” 

Towards the end of the journey, he threw caution to the wind. He gave up on red lights and spoke irrespective of our state of motion. “Log ache hote hain, bure bhi. Bur ke bina humein ache ki kimat nahin pata lagti. Ek machli poore talaab ko ganda kar deti hai toh suna hi hoga aapne. Yahi taqleef hai hum auto waalon ki.”

We spoke of bribery and treacherous officials, potholed roads and karma, money and how daughters were a curse (that was his opinion). My dismal Hindi disallowed me from convincing him otherwise, which was thoroughly shameful. The journey ended (as do all journeys, which is rather depressing) and so did our conversation. He left me with a parting shot: “Logon mein burai nikaalna bahut aasaan hai. Achhai bahut hai. Bas use dhoondhna hamara kaam hai.” 

He had reached me home in record time, surprisingly decent tariff and sufficiently entertained. I realized, that all journeys, no matter how mundane they could be, become interesting.   

01 October, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the loneliest of us all?

There is something terrible about eating alone in a public place. It seems improper and is astoundingly tragic. I saw her open the menu card, she had an air about her which wished she already done with this one meal. Although I noticed her decide what she wanted right away, her eyes lazily ran over the printed words, hoping for them to provide some solace, for them to start a conversation, entertain her, occupy her in any way possible. Resignedly she ordered, just a nod of her head beckoning the waiter to her in a familiarity that was almost amusing if not pathetic. Now came the waiting and she did it with subdued impatience. She fidgeted with her phone, feigning deep involvement in every little button it had, but she couldn’t fool me. She looked at the couple sitting on the next table and studied their conversation with an interest she thought she concealed well, but then I am after all, a fanatic observer. The couple couldn’t understand the misspelt chomin or sandwitch on the menu and engaged a whole waiter for a whole 10 minutes understanding what each item meant. I saw her lips curl upwards in amusement, or was it scorn? With her you couldn’t really tell. I told you I had been studying her long. I knew the way her features moved, in that intimate way a lover knows each frown, each smile.

Just when the silence was deafening, there arrived a gaggle of people, each competing with the other for being ostentatious and obnoxious. They brought with them a fur clad perfumed spaniel pup. I saw her eyes widening as she saw the little puppy, she almost choked on the water which she had been sipping for well over a minute. There were four of them with one woman, fat in a shapely way, a voice louder than the words she spoke, impeccable English with an authoritative air. She sniffed at the water and asked for mineral water, petted her spaniel with affection and laughed heartily. My object of observation frowned as she watched this ridiculous display of garrulousness, and looked sympathetically at the three men around the table. One had a nervous twitch, so noticeable, it made me want to twitch. The other fellow nearly collapsed in relief when the waiter permitted him to smoke inside the restaurant. The third was one of those people who have nothing specific, they are a face, like any other, listless, without character, the kind of face you wouldn’t want to hear talk, the kind my mind has no use of. the verbose lady carried out pompously discussing everything from cheap hotels to unending journeys, pets and politics.

But coming back to her. Today she is wearing blue. Heightened against her dark skin. Her hair has been left loose. I can make out she hasn’t brushed it and the dishevelment becomes her. She started as her food came and she rolled up her sleeves, as if it were an unpleasant task to be done. Slowly she chomped through the chapattis, taking big mouthfuls and washing them down systematically with water. She cocked her head slightly and I knew she was eavesdropping. I could tell by the way her expressions tattled. There was a frown. Sometimes a grin. She rolled her eyes at times and almost chuckled when the dog peed on the carpet. I played along her emotions, wondering if she saw me sitting beside her table. I had ordered what she had and matched her movements. Break a piece. Make a bite. Put in mouth. Chew a bit. Just a bit and swallow.

She carried on till the dishes were empty. The cheeky waiter, a boy at best, cleared away her dishes. She rose now and I with her, but I left abruptly so I wouldn’t be too obvious. She stood near the counter, picking at the saunf and smiling at the manager. Her knee was bent, she toyed with the tassels of her shawl. It was a balmy night and I hated to say goodbye.

16 September, 2009

Dislocating Duality

"Hinduism has always acknowledged the existence of opposites (and reconciled them): pain and pleasure, success and failure, creation and destruction, life and death, are all the manifestations of the duality inherent in human existence. These pairings are not contradictory but complimentary; they are aspects of the same overarching reality. So also with the secular and the sacred: a Hindu’s life must involve both."

29 August, 2009

State of Soul

I am out.
And about.
My mind
it's fooling me.
Into
believing.
That it's
doing
something.
Ha.
It seems
the soul
is shuddering.
The mind
a-shutting.
The nose
oh-so-sillily
a-sniffling.

Tip: Visit Leh in August. It's (unbelievably) even better.

28 July, 2009

Deluge in Delhi

What do you do when you realize that the entire day’s work has been lost because you replaced (this is the operative word here replaced) the new file with an old one of the same name? And then, to add to your mortification, a perfect storm picks up outdoors. Swaying trees, torrential rains, special effect-like lightning, thunder, flooded roads, wet scurrying people. The works.

Half past nine on a monsoon night. People getting wet. Pee getting washed off the numerous pee soaked walls of Delhi. Birds were shivering. Traffic jams a-building. “Sonam” cab service sent us a car (whoever heard of a Sonam cab service?). Anyway, out we ventured into the dark stormy night. Neon lights flickered over soggy stalls of whatever. Lightning tore across the inky sky, illuminating washed out dogs, sodden motorcyclists and glistening trees alike. Thunder raged across the heavens, competing with the cacophony of the downpour. Water gushed from everywhere possible. Our car raced through puddles, sending sprays of water on everything that dared to cross its path. We exchanged suitably abusive language with the guy we drenched on his lookatme bike. There were enough broken down DTC buses and marooned cyclists to certify the monsoons had finally arrived in Delhi.

Delhi was under deluge. The journey was interesting – I got an education in the transport systems of Calcutta from Sujati (ha ha ha), which made me want to visit the city more than ever (it definitely goes on my list of places to travel to along with Pondicherry, Andaman & Nicobar, Sikkim and Gujarat), we nearly had a gazillion accidents, dodging potholes and second guessing similar surprises like speed breakers and open manholes was quickly developed into an art...in short it was an eventful drive on a backdrop of a movie-like scenario (really, superheroes were just waiting to appear).

Then I got stuck (ohsostuck) in a never ending ribbon of various modes of transportation, stretching over kilometers. Barely functional autos, spewing out copious quantities of fumes, big bad buses which hogged most of the road, tractors which moved slower than each other, two wheelers of various shapes and sizes filling into any lacuna they could perceive, cars – elegant so-not-fit-for-monsoon sedans and burly high end I-can-hog-large-chunks-of-the-road SUVs. A friendship sprung up between the taxi driver and I, where topics of conversation ranged from traffic woes in Delhi, to the construction of the Metro and its side effects, to the child wailing in the next car, the surprising weather conditions, his inability to understand Delhi roads and my ability to give last minute swerve-crazily-or-you-will-miss directions. He was as new to Delhi as the rains and appeared just as lost.

The radio station played a Floyd number and managed to surprise me. Then they followed it with Michael Jackson and won me over with their predictability. A man in the next car was reading a book, the name of which I didn’t manage to catch. A dog waded through the river and looked at me with forlorn eyes. A breeze started and shook a few bougainvillea flowers which stained the divider with their scarlet exuberance (bougainvillea flowers have so much character, it’s inspiring). It was post twelve and dreams beckoned with their characteristic naivety. I reached home at some ungodly hour and got another glare from the madamji-aap-itne-late-kyun-aate-ho guard. He laughed at my wet clothes and I pointed to his folded pants.

The deluge, it had done wonderful things to my state of mind. And I thanked you for this cruel summer. It made the rain that much funner. (Wow I am thinking in rhyme now!)

15 July, 2009

Of Animals and Aesop's

“As a rule, man is a fool
When it’s hot he wants it cool
When its cool he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not”

I remember this poem from a time frame so obscure, that it’s a miracle I remember it at all. The poem was from this thin little copy of Aesop’s fables I had. Yellow cover. Red lettering. Very poor quality paper. Bad printing. I learnt the poem thinking it meant something very important and adult like, not realizing how true it would turn out to be. [Adulthood fascinated us so much when we are kids, its such a let down I tell you. The only part I like about it is that you don’t get shooed into bed at an ungodly early hour.] So, coming back to Aesop’s, I realized how my treacherous memory was failing me and I couldn’t remember even one story [or fable whatever]. So I picked up the book [this version was a hardbound, tastefully illustrated version, nice yellow paper, beautiful slanting font and delectable printing] and began a very loud rendition of … wait I think I should read it out to you people as well (since it seems like I have nothing else to write anyway :P). Here goes:

The Wolf And The Sheep

A Wolf, sorely wounded and bitten by dogs, lay sick and maimed in his lair. Being in want of food, he called to a Sheep, who was passing, and asked to fetch him some water from a stream flowing close beside him. ‘For,’ he said, ‘if you will bring me a drink, I will find means to provide myself with meat.’ ‘Yes,’ said the Sheep,’ if I should bring you the drought, you would doubtless make me provide the meat also.’

Hypocritical speeches are easily seen through.


That, I realized was some moral. And yes its been tried and tested by so many, that it's not a hypothesis by any stretch of imagination. But then I also came across another one, which was sort of, let’s just say, a little drastic?



The Ass And The Grasshopper

An Ass, having heard some Grasshoppers chirping, was highly enchanted; and, desiring to possess the same charms of melody, demanded what sort of food they lived on, to give them beautiful voices. They replied, ‘The dew.’ The Ass resolved that he would only live upon dew, and in a short time died of hunger.

PS: The concept of a story with a moral seems so proper and naive.
PPS: Narrating stories with animals as characters lessens the blow. But that doesn’t make the moral any smaller or more frivolous.

13 June, 2009

Philosopher Phixation A

Indignation doesn't sit well upon the shoulders of those who don't do anything with it.

03 June, 2009

The Song That Was Never Sung

Ours is a different kind of love baby,
Everyone says that I know.
It teases and appeases and hell yeah it pleases.
Its the painful high, the exhilarating low.

Ours is a funny kind of jive baby,
We are always dancing out of step.
Any song that plays through my soul
Has a rhythm you can't interpret.

Ours is a silly conversation darlin',
You talk to me with baited breath
We listen to our fancy silences,
Words die their silent death.

Ours is the unfinished masterpiece my dear,
The one that could get smudged anytime
We are so drunk, we're almost sound sober now
A crazy cocktail? The shameless wine?

01 June, 2009

Leh Journal: The Pictograph


The view from the plane.


Snot and awe (Courtesy: Rinchen)


The Buddha at Likir.


Ladakhi shoes. Size teeny.




Moss


Apricot flowers blushing away.



Pangong Tso


Icicles at Igoo (photo by Dr. O)


A Bactrian camel at Chuchot (they are the double humped ones as opposed to the single humped Arabian camels).


The Maitreya Buddha


26 May, 2009

Guess who's back?

Travel, as usual, never fails to amuse, entertain, educate and fascinate. And when you have four whole days of unplanned rides from Leh to Delhi, things can become awfully exciting. And so we set off on the first leg of our adventure, R and I, two very tired souls, on the long and awe-inspiring journey from Leh to Srinagar. We were greeted by the imposing and sufficiently famous Lamayuru Monastery (have you noticed how people love flaunting how they have visited places of "high tourist value"? "I have been to the highest motorable road in the world." So what if the ice there it’s just dirty slush and you can catch more dainty ladies crying woefully to their gallant beaus there than in the whole of wherever). We passed Fotu la and Zoji La, the fascinating passes en route. We drove through walls of ice, skidding frequently, wide-eyed and held-breath. Ice looks eerie at night - solid blocks of cold, reflecting the dark of a moonless sky. Imaginations are not extremely pleasant things to have at such times and especially if it’s like mine - wild and out of control.

After a tumultuous night of bumpity-bump, we woke to the coniferous greenery of the Kashmir Valley. Remember how they told of paradise on earth and how you snorted (well I did)? They were true (the they I tell you, often get it quite right). The stone and wood houses with their sloping roofs and walnut groves. White waters gushing past blades of grass and sheeps' noses. The smooth rain-soaked roads and perfumed winds. Wild flowers nodding amicably at the groggy sun. And amidst that, me, squashed in a Tata Sumo, trying to guard my packet of chocolate cookies from crumbling into anonymity and rearranging my legs into another insane pose.

And then before we could breathe in the beauty of Sonamarg and feast on the pastoral landscapes that identify the valley, we rudely charged into the bustle of Srinagar. Indian cities, on a whole, are uncannily similar. They may have their own "look" and character but deep down, they thrive on the same values. Jugaad. Bullock carts jostled with taxis, a fruit seller washed his shop and threw the water on the road, unsettling some lethargic dust, garbage was placed at prime in-your-face locations, people walked around with familiar nonchalance, a dog lifted a leg and urinated on the tyre of a parked car, trees made themselves heard by whistling in the wind (yeah yeah they were the famed excessively beautiful and grand chinars, but they were trees)... so you know, the regular. A market in the morning is a fascinating place. A man was wiping his Quran, another was dusting a picture of Ganesha. The air was heavy with the aroma of spices. Cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, cloves. Walnuts poured out of gunny bags. Shopkeepers pushed vegetables onto wooden planks and washed them more vigourously than thoroughly. Watermelons were sliced and put on display at positions reserved for the enviable. Cows jostled with other road riff raff for morsels of yesterday's mangoes and discarded vegetables. The intense activity, all carried out in languid precision was a sight to watch. I could've been in Agra or Cochin and the essence of the scene would have been identical.

The Dal Lake, on first glance, disappointed. The houseboats were infinite in number, the shikaras too eager to help, the waters looked murky, the air smelt dank. And then we actually descended into a boat. It was like entering another world. The heart shaped paddle gently cutting into the water. It almost caressed the waters, willing them to part and give way. The waters lapped around the boat in fond familiarity. We steered through the first row of "important" houseboats. They were large and almost had a pompous air about them. Like people who know they are powerful and like to flaunt it. Then we reached the "backwaters". Here an amazing world, a planet in itself unfolded. I saw white-capped men pray. Women, blue eyed and fair skinned waved to us. A boat passed by, urging us to dress up in "true kashmiri outfit mam" and get a "Kodak" clicked. The houseboats here were smaller and humble here. Singhara and lotus leaves fought for air space. A boat full of flowers passed us by. And then we reached our houseboat. Ameen guided us through its beautiful interiors. He spoke at length (with inspiring passion) about his people, how it gladdened his heart to see Indian tourists come and bust their notions about an “unsafe” Kashmir, how Srinagar was indeed jannat. He spoke of his religion and how some fanatics had maligned it irreparably, “Islam talks of peace and humility. It tells me to look after my guests and place them before my family. It tells me to be humble and kind, certainly not kill and spread fear.”

R and I discovered the city like children in a candy shop. We ran around the expanses of Srinagar’s famous (and after a point monotonous) gardens. Shalimar Bagh and its colours. Nishat Bagh and its fountains. Pari Mahal built by the unfortunate Dara Shikoh. Chasmashaaheen named so because of the spring in the garden, the waters of which are considered to have medicinal properties. An impromptu thunderstorm moistened the hues of the setting sun. We indulged in a shikara ride lasting hours and which cannot be described by any other word but the rather ambiguous adjective – “romantic”. We slept that night in tune to the rhythm of the waters lapping at our boat and the gentle swaying of a dreamless sleep.

The rest of the journey back to Delhi was a muddle of assorted modes of transportation, erratic meals, a curfew in Punjab (because of goings on in Vienna if you please), smelling pee-perfumed air at the Jammu bus stand, delays and fatigue, pacifying a harried family, awe at activities inside and outside the sleeper bus and of course major sessions of slumber. The journey came to an abrupt end, earlier than expected and rather comfortable in its final leg. I am back in the heat of Delhi (I had forgotten how it makes your skin melt) and the madness of office. I am back with a new face (it's the unflattering and woe-of-my-life tan), a new mood (which I am unable to describe) and a new peace (no I am not splattering every sordid detail of every single thing in my life people). So yes, cutting the loooooooooooooong story short, I'm back. Yet again.

30 April, 2009

Leh Journal III - Of rods and unfinshed baths

He was lurking in the compounds, with, of all things, three emersion rods in his hands. What would a man be doing in someone else’s house flaunting devices to heat water in such a manner? We gave him a look and he just shuffled his feet somewhere else, looking around shiftily, like an amateur detective. He had grimy salt and pepper hair which was arranged in disarray on his thin long head. He wore something maroon I remember. Was it his sweater? Most likely. Can’t be his pants. Definitely. He didn’t have the look of a person who experimented with his clothes. So there he was, looking lost and trying to figure out whether this is where he wanted to be.
* * *
I hadn’t bathed in time frames that defy normalcy and so my haste to check whether there was hot water in the HUGE orange bucket (those tall HUGE fellows which don’t fit anywhere in the bathroom) was justified. I ran up the steps, turning back just once to look at the ridiculous guy with his ridiculous rods (no matter what they say, I think puns are always intended). I removed the emersion rod in the bucket and checked the temperature of the water. “The water is lukewarm, another 10 minutes and I’ll be having a luxurious bath.” My whole day had gone by in the hope of this one bath and thus, no matter what you believe, it was imperative for me to get this one thing done. As if I would accomplish all there was to accomplish, as if I would suddenly become the clean good person we are supposed to be. I smugly put the emersion rod back to heat the water. The bath day had come!

Suddenly, things began to happen very fast. Bhaiya (the landowner, self-confessed worshipper of all things electric and usually sloth-like person) was seen running at speeds of light to the bathroom where I stood. Within seconds, the emersion rod was unceremoniously yanked off its socket and pushed into the bucket. Fast on his heels, the unknown pseudo Holmes came, sniffed at the air and looked around the bathroom in this irritating self-important manner that was at total loggerheads with his persona. He looked at the orange bucket suspiciously.

(Imagine the conversation in Ladakhi)
“What is in this?”
“Nothing, only water”, stammered Bhaiya (poor acting if you’d ask me).
“Then let’s see...”

And of course the offending emersion rod was discovered, wet and guilty. The triumphant look in unknown pseudo Holmes’ eyes was a sight to behold. The guy got kicks from confiscating peoples’ emersion rods! In this freaking cold, where geysers are banned because of the scarcity of electricity and these rods are our only path to hot water! The guy must be a sadist. When he was a kid he must have been the boy who tattled to the teacher about who stuck chewing gum to her chair. I could’ve struck him then and there and got back the rod (just as well I didn’t, he turned out to be an “Assistant Linesman” which makes him a government employee and striking such a man for something like an emersion rod would not seem too convincing in court I think).

After that, unknown pseudo Holmes searched the entire house. Downstairs, another emersion was discovered and captured in unfettered delight. We groaned and pleaded with him. I even ran after him shrieking, “I want to bathe. Pleeeeeeeeease give us back at least one rod.” To which he looked back at me in such disdain, it’s a marvel I didn’t wither. Before leaving he said, “Sharam aani chahiye aapko, ek ghar mein do do rod lagate ho. Pandrah laakh ka transformer phuk gaya kal. Huh.”

Right then and there I hated him SO much. Here was this goon, walking away with my only hope for a bath, and that too with such aplomb. Yes he was doing his job, but STILL. I heard Bhaiya mutter profanities under his breath. That made me smile. Then Bhabhi returned (she had gone shopping to get us some veggies...brinjal costs 160/- per kg here hoohaha!!!!! Lemons are an appalling 120/- per kg!!) and shrieked out profanities. That comforted me a great deal. I entered the kitchen, to rehash and laugh over the incident. In spite of the lost bath, the absurdity of the entire event had me in splits. Bhaiya was sitting there, in the middle of an impressive assortment of wires, screws, heating elements, screwdrivers and what nots. He was, of course, making another emersion rod. “Koi nahin Chandni, kal subah tak garam paani mil jayega nahane ko.”

25 April, 2009

Leh Journal II - My Magpie

He looked at me with his black beady eyes
Those eyes lost somewhere in that black face of his
He had a piece of flesh in his mouth
Still dripping red
For the moment he seemed to see right through me
Through my farce
Through my fears
Right to my core
Where nestled my dearest woes
And then he flew away
Resplendent blue feathers
Metallic
So shiny
The white accented by that ebony face.

Have you ever seen a black headed (or is it called white-chested?) magpie? Its a beautifully coloured large bird found EVERYWHERE in Leh. Google it for some images. I find the bird obscenely beautiful. And the funny thing is its large head (it looks like Moose - the Archies comic male version of dumb blonde guy) which makes it seem like a bully, with its squating oh look at me gait.

15 April, 2009

Orange and Red

He emptied another packet of sugar into his coffee, knowing very well he wasn’t supposed to. What with his diabetes. And all the weight he was putting on. As he stirred his coffee he had a weird feeling that something was waiting to happen. He saw someone from the corner of his eye. She was standing on her toes to reach counter in a ridiculously bright coloured sari. It was orange, vibrantly sunny and she had coupled it with a red blouse (a red blouse? Whoever wore orange with red? She did. Apparently.) He turned to face her. Slowly. He felt himself move in slow motion. He felt this encounter was going to be momentous. It had that air about it. As he turned she happened to look up at him and the full impact of her hit him. Her kajal-lined eyes, her black hair left loose, her sari’s orange paloo falling off her shoulder in unhurried abandon. Her eyes registered surprise and something else (irritation? Anger? Resignation?) when she recognized him. She still looked beautiful, her eyes still smiled along with her mouth, she still seemed to look like she had somewhere to go, something important to do.

Now she was talking to him. “So how have you been? Oh isn’t it amazing to meet after all these years? (She said amazing. Not nice. Not great or splendid. But amazing. Like how one is amazed at seeing a satellite launching into space. Like how one can be amazed at the squalor people live in. Like how one can be amazed at beauty of a blooming flower.) You look so different!”

He tried to reply coherently. Her enthusiastic greeting had a hollow ring to it. Falsely cheerful. Her smile was shrouded (when had it not been?). “Aah yes it’s been long. I’m working, earning well. I am married and have a baby girl. She’s six.” He felt smug, almost proud telling her of his life. He was living the dream everyone wished for. A perfect job. The beautiful wife. A child – appropriately bright and sufficiently pretty. Then why was he feeling foolish, almost cheap telling her of his wonderful life? As if he was back in school trying to impress his teacher with a drawing he knew was mediocre. He saw her smiling at him. That pretty face exasperated him. He looked closely to find some flaw. He asked her a mundane question, buying time to observe her. “So how have you been?” He didn’t pay much attention to the words being said. He noticed how her hair seemed thinner, the curls fewer. The wrinkles around her eyes became her. She had a scar over her left eyebrow now. I looked like it would hurt if he touched it. There were more lines around her mouth, seemingly there because of her smiling. She wore no ring, there was no red powder on her forehead, her neck was, as always, unadorned. He drank in these details with satisfaction. She was still alone. It made him smirk and he felt slightly light-headed. He had managed companionship, a successful career and a ‘normal’ life. But then how did she manage to make him feel insufficient, make him feel that although he had it all, he didn’t know the secret, make him want to ask her how she seemed so content in spite of the glaring inadequacies of her life? It unsettled him. And the fact that it unsettled him fascinated him. She had always left him perplexed. He went back into time.

She was standing in the doorway, her hair tied back, it was much longer then. A dusting cloth draped her shoulder, her worn-out-spring-cleaning skirt kissed her ankles, one of which had a silver anklet with little colourful beads hanging from it. Blue. Red. Yellow. Green. Her hands were on her hips, she had a cheeky grin on her face. She was calling him, urging him to see what was coming on tv. He was reclining on the pillows, drinking her in. Satiated. Wondrous. Content. Even then her wholeness, her laughter had disturbed him. He remembered often feeling that she was crazy. Mentally unstable. But when you are young you believe strange things. Looking back now, maybe she thought he was crazy. “Perspective, you fool,” he chided himself. That was one of the lessons she had taught him. Then he had believed and that too strongly that they would last. In spite of all her excesses and his insufficiencies. His excesses and her insufficiencies? She made him feel so terribly complete. Snapping back to the present, he fumbled to catch the thread of her conversation. “So now I am living in a house near a zoo. A zoo. It sound ridiculous, but I guess someone has to stay near the zoo. Ha I knew it would make you laugh. It amuses me no end. I just have to hear the elephants trumpet in the evening and I remember the world is just as hilarious as I had imagined it to be.”

Suddenly he was tired of her. She made him feel terrible. The joy in his heart was shriveling. His life seemed a sham. It was OK for him he thought. “I am perfectly satisfied with being ‘conventional’. I like to value things that normal people cherish. So what if she is happy with her singledom, trumpeting elephants and a pathetic zoo-house, her ridiculously bright saris, her thinning hair and aging face, her wild notions and stupid books?” He was sounding mean, a word no one who knew him would use to describe him. That delighted him no end.
She touched his elbow. And asked in that sincere beautiful voice of hers, “Are you ok?”
“Yes. I am.” Yes I am? Blatant lies.

Suddenly he was seized by the urge to get away from her. Tear himself away before he was swallowed into her world again. It glittered and glistened – but for her alone. It was an unhappy world for an outsider. It was complete for her. A colourful world of his orange clad girl.

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