30 July, 2010

Notes to Myself

Hugh Prather is a very smart guy. He went and wrote things that most of us think about/ feel/ do and then made millions from his anorexic book. Though he's written several 'bestsellers' after the initial one, I've never wanted to pick them up. Or even glimpse through them. The first was complete for me in everywhichway.  

Amma rarely recommends books to me, but when she does, I make sure I read them. I discovered The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and Thorn Birds through her. So picking up Notes to Myself was only natural. That was two years ago. I still find myself going back to it. It is also one of the things I've decided to keep with me as I take The Next Big Step. And since I am still hobbling along my learning curve, I thought to pen down some of my notes to myself. The most trusted friend, the faithful diary is a good place to begin:
"Some friendships do not last. I changed. You changed. Understanding and accepting this helps me let go."    

25 July, 2010

Past Tense

When I counted up my demons / Saw there was one for every day / With the good ones on my shoulders / I drove the other ones away


20 July, 2010

E tú?

In this communal collapse
you wear blinds
to others in this boat.
We rock silently
the treason of reason?
The incomprehensible
art of the heart.
Another knot of thoughts
unties, unwinds.
You're not the first,
certainly not the last
and yet, you're lonely.
Pull off these blinds
we're just as scared
just as ordinary
just as perfect.
Heroes of our tragic little tales
We're broken little mirrors
of each others'
brittle whims.
And we're shining
in each others'
tears of fears.

17 July, 2010

Brij Ki Raj

In Rasmai, one is so close to the dust that it almost assumes a god-like quality. It is within you and without - omnipresent and omniscient. It can cover you and enter you, grit and dirt, at once making things so worthless, so worthy. It assumes a life, a breathing, cloying life, often clawing, often comforting. It takes on a million forms - slipping under doors, particulate and small, a sickening slush when the clouds decide to wail, a delicate sheet over resting surfaces, intermingling in glee as the wind plays with it, flying higher and higher in playful swirls...

The dust in this part of the world is considered sacred. People bend down and put a bit on their heads, from dust unto dust. Little mud idols adorn the village temple, only Shiva and Nandi; his chubby bull, are cut of stone. It is used to wash away the filth from one's hands. A handful, scrub scrub scrub. She rubs it into the utensils, the grease and grime fight a pre-decided battle. The girls apply it as a pack. Pretty eyes peer through the white masks multani mitti. It is used to cloth the houses, a new coat for the peeling walls, a new carpet for the veranda. And just as carefully, it is swept away, with a stick broom, relegated to become yesterday's dirt. To the swallows on my roof the mud is their home, each little round ball painstakingly made to join the jigsaw. For the termites, its the aftermath of a door well chewed through. The farmer watches the dust fall through his fingers, gauging its moisture for his seedlings, the willful direction of the wind. Is it a rain-bearing easterly blowing?

And as I dusted the books, sneezing every few moments, I looked down at my hands. The lines were coloured brown, as if roughly filled in with a sketch pen. The lines looked sharper, almost more sure. A grittiness laced my mouth and the books looked worn out in the pervasive company of the dust. 

The dust it rises
the dust it settles
it is all knowing
ever changing
the foundation of forts
earthen limbs of 
all powerful gods
a mother's
nurturing womb
and the anger of 
a thunderstorm
it is the pure
and the impure 

07 July, 2010


They spite and they spit
They mock us to quit
fancy cars
and sequined bars.

They ask us to choose
to use and abuse
we try not to pander
not run as we wander.

Is it need, is it greed?
to which should we heed
our minds they've accosted
we look on exhausted.

04 July, 2010

Of slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails

Ok so you're a pig-tailed little girl who's doing great in her class, are in a healthy relationship of enmity with the girl who comes first (oh Kanika Ballani how will I forget you?) and enjoy your Sunday morning dose of Daanasur (chhipkali ka nana of course!!!) and Jungle Book as much as the next 90's kid. You are secure in your top position at the Bag the Bus Seat pecking order, you relish your orange bars like no one's business and of course, you play vish amrit like a pro. Life is a riot of rainbows, a non-stop re-run of Pink Panther cartoons, oh a perfect kaleidoscope of bubblegummy fun. Basically, you're me. A microscopic version.

And then whoosh, the bubble goes burst. The rainbows go monochromatic. Ice lollies in summer vacations melt away. Bus rides and window seats? Discarded with the earlier life. Mowgli? Hell we don't even have a TV now. And to make matters incorrigibly, inescapably worse, I found myself, at the ohsocrazyage of 9, sitting in a classful of boys. Those despicable fellows who cheated at every game and troubled anything with a pigtail. I went through teenage stress even before I got to being a teenager! As the only girl in a classful of boys, I became the proverbial sore thumb, the only one with hair longer than her head, the one who had to use the teacher's loo because I couldn't pee like the boys. Oh the miseries of being that Person With Plaits.

That first day ushered in my topsyturvy life for the next three years. The Mother came in to check on me at break and I was found crouching under my desk (I lacked the balls of course). My first friend was to be Tinku, the guy who told me the warts on his face were because he caught, tortured and ate flies (I later learnt that was a lie, it was an allergy to rain or something. Baah perhaps he was the precursor to my love for gore). On the class picnic, I was looked at curiously, blatant disgust would be what I would call those expressions now that I look back. And that was just the first day.

I quickly realized that naughty boy shoes gave me painful blisters that lasted forever, that wearing pants was way more convenient than any skirt ever invented, that if I was to ever be respected, I had to climb the rope in gym, that no matter which gender you belonged to, crying was the sport of the sissies. I watched the boys make their ties in fascination and a few kind ones would help me with mine. I marvelled at how they could eat practically anything with a generous helping of ketchup (seeing them eat mountains of rice with tomato sauce gave me my I Abhor Ketchup badge). 

But when you're a kid time flies by like a floundering bird, it goes so fast, whooping and flailing, a funny fumble and soulful sweep in one jumbled arc. Before I knew it, I was in the groove. I was cheering wildly at the Jackie Tournament (you don't know the JACKIE TOURNAMENT?). I was reciting Robert Frost and swapping WWF cards (it was not WWE then). I was learning what chungi was and making my first paper aeroplane. Chits sprung up between pages of notebooks, paper balls were thrown at me during break, I knew everyone's nicknames, dirty and otherwise, Biology classes started to invite sniggers. 

And almost as quickly as it began, it ended. From an all-boys roller coaster, I was plunging into an all-girls school. "Yikes", they said. As a girl who had systematically forgotten how to be one, the change would be drastic. Day scholar to boarder? What would I do amongst girls? And from being the outsider, I was suddenly receiving farewell cards, swapping addresses to keep in touch. Ah I love the faith we have in goodness when we're young. Suddenly I was to miss tying all the rakhis the boys got from their sisters. To march proudly in a vest and blazer just like the others on Sport's Day. To scratch one's knees by crawling on gravel as punishment for marching badly. To discover and discard crushes. To dress up as a witch as the boys became the ghosts. To feel out of place when the boys would be hit, no one ever touched a girl. 

My memories have a way of falling into extreme categories. Only the painfully poor ones and the ecstatically absurd ones stick. The mediocre in-betweens, the monotonous blahs just smudge each other into anonymity. Manor House and its roller coaster three years always hit the higher happier notes.  


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