27 September, 2010

The Next Big Step

is here. Cross-continental hopping. Travel and trepidation. You want me to stay. Then ask me to leave. Time whooshs past. And then it crawls. Overloaded. Under prepared. Exhaustion. Energy. Cheers to the new. Here's to the old. Phoneless. At last. Snail mail. For sure. Smiles. Fears and free falls. A room. Pinned photographs. 6º C. Smells not yet owned. Forlorn? Obligations shrugged. Opportunities embraced. Laughter. Lonely Planet. My dearest. Orange. Cacophony. Wishes warring with wants. Penny wise. Food? A warm blanket. Phew. Overcast sky. An open window.

24 September, 2010

Bubbles

Photo credit: Pulsar Media

I overrate happiness.
Exaggerate it.
It assumes
Bollywood proportions
and rainbow colours
in my world.

I had this
little chat today.
Shouldn't we just
do away with the notion
of Love?
I barely comprehend
it anyway.

We should
look for our bubbles of happiness.
Yes,
the Exaggerated
over the top kind.
Bump our bubbles
into others'.
Till they merge into this
obscenely gigantic
balloon
of hilarity.
And happiness.

And even when
they burst.
As we know they must,
The laughter
can colour
my dreams
a purgatory purple.

23 September, 2010

Thresholds

"I always feel the way I allow myself to feel. Even if another person/thing/event makes me feel a certain way, it is because of me. And the thresholds I set. 

17 September, 2010

Rasmai ya Ramgarh?



Rasmai could well be my own private Ramgarh, the perfect rustic backdrop to a lesser known Sholay. There was the deadly family feud, which involved multiple murders, avenging one's honour, wiping out an entire family, trials, life imprisonment and subsequent revenge. The warring sides, famous for their high standards of extreme treachery and debauchery, live in a house near the maidan - a wide expanse of land lying fallow because its owners are serving time in jail. The house itself is a yellow monstrosity, built more like a fort than a house. It's mean little windows set high on the jaundiced walls look like the filthy eyes of a wicked old man, peering upon us passersby with ill-concealed loathing. In those days of a carefree childhood, those windows were my fodder for nightmares. Over the years, the maidan that lay in front, has serviced the entire village in several ways. It is the undisputed cricket ground, a place to dig up mud for free to put a lep (fresh coating) in the courtyard or to fill a now defunct well. It is a meadow for the shepherds, a venue for an impromptu meeting.

As I walked along the patri, I was passed by a man on a horse. Regal and straight-backed, he'd lost a son in the feud. That he was a distant relative of mine in the way most of the village was somebody's someone was too convoluted a thought for me to follow. Through the ugly family war, he'd managed to retain his love for horses though and road bareback, sometimes a canter sometimes a spirited trot. The buffaloes were walking back from their evening swim - their black backs glistening like polished leather, they smelt of dung and milk, water and hay. 


Rasmai has had its share of mystery, adventure and gossip. The young girl who was kidnapped and kept in a kothari in a mango orchard. The lady who complained of acute pain after delivering a healthy child and was later discovered to have a scissor in her stomach, left behind by a preoccupied doctor. The man who bought his bride from Bengal, a practice made necessary because female infanticide had skewed the gender ratio to alarming figures. The bride subsequently ran away. The trend of a large number of homeless cattle chomping through the crops could be traced back to Rajasthan where their owners would abandon them once they were unproductive. The strange tale of the Kafkaesque Satyanarayan ki Katha. The fungal disease that wiped away all the Sheesham and Babool trees a few years ago.

A little ahead I saw a cricket match in progress. Instead of a cloth ball, a leather ball was being thrown. Some boys were even wearing elbow, wrist and wherever-else-you-wear-them bands! Many wore track-pants with the familiar white stripes running along the sides of the legs - four instead of the usual three. The economic dividends of a 'Shining India' had touched my Rasmai with its gold-dusted (?) fingers. I saw it in the newly installed pump-sets, the white Fiat Punto that whizzed passed me, kicking up a dusty ruckus on a road where once a bullock cart was a rare luxury. I saw it in the tractors ploughing the dhencha (
Sesbaina aculeata) - a rich source of nitrogen and biomass for the upcoming demanding crop of potato. I saw it in the women and their fancy new saris. Almost all had footwear now. And yet as the tube wells increased, the stories of a plummeting water table were louder. A 180 feet now! The trees once lining the patri - that adorable grove of Bel trees where squirrels were always chattering, was there no longer. The bamba (village canal) where we had once floated (and capsized) in our big red inflatable boat, was a dry memory of its former self.

And yet there was more silver lining than cloud. For a village where electricity was a luxury unheard of till a few years ago, the many televisions and DVD players told a changing story. Everyone had a mobile phone now. Of course they were used mostly for giving those very important things called missed calls. A private school had opened, complete with computer facilities. Yes, the kids were caned often but last year one child had topped the district results from the school. Potato cultivation had brought prosperity like nothing else. Big companies like Pepsi, Haldiram and Frito Lays were courting the farmers, eliminating the middle man, if only somewhat. MNREGA was equally abhorred and adored. The dust still flew in torrid swirls every summer. Janmashthmi was still celebrated with almost unsettling fervour in this land of Krishna. 

Just as I was returning, S let out his characteristic wolverine howl at a passing stray. The pokhar mirrored the evening sky - blushing an indecent orange as it prepared for another inky night. The smell of chulahs lighting up for the last meal were distinct. And I yearned for it to stay this way. I wanted to be blind to the impending changes. People from the city, however well-meaning and honourable, often romanticise rustic charm to a fault. Spending a while with a villager almost always assures that change is the only constant we all look forward to. 


And as I got back home in time to meet the departing maid, I looked at her worn face break into a smile. Closing the gate behind her, this 50 year old who had never been out of the village, had always stayed in purdah in front of the men and did not utter a word in their presence, looked at me and said confidently: Bye. Not her usual Ram Ram but a long, if somewhat laboured bye! Then she laughed and walked away, her purpose of surprising me, elegantly fulfilled.

15 September, 2010

Your Muse

You make me strong
cripple me weak
Hit me down?
Here, the other cheek.

You riddle with words
Sear me silent
What thinks that mind?
Make me your vent.

You go too far
Pry me shut
Another step back?
Stuck in a rut.

You love me hard
Allow me a falter
Mend will you?
I agree to alter.

Refusing to take offense
I'm covering the scars
Does not the moonless night
have its share of stars?

12 September, 2010

Tarnished Torai


The making of torai (sponge gourd or tori) is not as difficult as it may appear to some. That the idea of even embarking on as ridiculous a task as cooking the most pathetic of all vegetables may not appeal to your senses (gastronomic, cullinary or otherwise) is an emotion I can well comprehend. You may argue that no one in their senses would want to indulge in the seemingly useless activity of cooking something as banal and utterly uninspiring as the humble torai and perhaps I couldn't agree more. But anyone can make a great dish of the lissome  Bhindi or the Stuper Star Spud; our friendly potato. These limelight grabbers are pre-dispositioned to tickle the taste buds - they can't help being delicious. They are well-loved and have a dedicated mass of fans. They pirouette among the vegetables in the market, willing you to buy them, promising sumptuous meals of mouth-watering glee.

But what of the ignored Cucurbits? The Languishing Laukis (bottle gourd) and the Timid Tindas (Indian apple gourd). You turn up your nose at them. They are the taste bud tarnishers. With an appearance so unappealing one can barely imagine the horrors they could unleash in your gut. They are so watery! Wasn't such aqueous consistency reserved for things of dubious character? And even the spices, no matter of which exotic descent, retaliate in sheer disgust at these Cumbersome Cucurbits, refusing to grace them with any flavour. Who would want to associate with the scum of the vegetable world? The undisputed untouched outcasts. 

But making a good thing  better is mediocrity. Adopting the unloved is what my gracious soul sought to accomplish. And so I took up the cause of the torai: shunned and unloved. I tried to salvage the reputation of the Tarnished Torai. Which I did. With aplomb. The proof of the Torai is, of course, in the Tasting. And what a splendid taste it had! If I must say so myself. But then with these potatoes putting on such audacious performances, one has to blow one's trumpet. Loud and clear. After all, it is for the humble torai I speak.

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