Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pompus and Etcetra: A Geek Tragedy

I am not possessed.
No, not today.
There is a strange clarity in the mirror on the wall.
The books gather dust. The chapter is closed. The ink has run dry.
Yet somehow I always knew. It was meant to be.
He owes it to me and my destiny.
She reminds him of his mother. But I’m the father.
He gives her his words and his moves.
With me, he walks in silence. Like a shadow, he defends and protects.
She has his charm. I have his stammers.
She makes him smile. I confess, “Your teeth are yellow”.
He takes her out to dinner. But he waits till I finish eating.
He believes in her. And I am in love with his lies.
He dances with her. I ask him not to moonwalk. “Don’t dirty your socks”.
He drinks her in like she tastes of wine. And I keep him awake.
(Hot coffee. Sugar free.)
She is his leading lady. He is my storyteller.
They celebrate in a dash of colour. He makes me blush in black.
He has chosen her for youth, for life. He wants to grow old with her.
And he calls me when his Grandma dies.
She smiles like bright sunshine. A songbird in love.
I sprained my ankle. I couldn’t dance to save my life.
I’m cold and unfeeling. Old and prescient.
Claiming baggage. Losing my mind.
But I can sleep tonight.
I remember his fever. The sniffs and the sighs.
I remember my healing. His shoves and his bruises.
I remember his days and nights. His history. His dates.
She will be his date tonight.
I’ll meet him tomorrow.
I’ll purse my lips and nod my head. We’ll talk about yesterday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shut Up and Bounce

Someone once said that if you swing a bawling new-born rapidly from side to side, it will stop crying. But is it just a baby that responds to rhythm and swing? When the baby grows up, it has its first mock punch aimed at those knock-me clowns and gapes in amazement at the Jack-in-the-Box. Multicoloured companions who zoom into vision. Spring back and forth. And make gentle melody as you drop them down the stairs with a “Go Slinky, go!” You can’t blame Jim Carrey. He might have been Ace Ventura – Pet detective, getting late for his investigation. But the Slinky comes first and when it stops on the last step, you really do want to tear your hair off.
Remember how the alphabet books zeroed in on “Y” for “Yo–Yo”? That’s not just English. It’s what we need at a much deeper level. Like your very first pet, at your constant beck and call.
And you know how they say time is the enemy? Well those sombre looking grandfather clocks sure struck gold with the pendulum. Keep looking at it. The oscillations kill time and fill time. So does the metronome with its beats. The hypnosis theorists who often depict the sleep inducing effects of a pendulum are not very far off from the track we are on. And nor was Forrest Gump in his pursuit of Ping Pong. Table Tennis in the Vietnam War Camp. Can anything be more soothing for the nerves? “Never, never take your eye off the ball!”
Some prefer swinging in the playground on the verge of teenage, amidst squeals and giggles. Some prefer a gentle swing on the terrace while cracking a betel nut or reading the newspaper.
And then we swing into the sixties and seventies, lull ourselves into a niche that we created coz we wanted to stop the world and get off. It’s pretty much the way we go. Fast asleep, spectacles askew, a faint smile on the lips, a shawl strewn carelessly and a book in hand. Back and forth, on the rocking chair.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lost in Translation

They say there’s a 5 second rule when it comes to picking up objects you dropped on the floor. They say it’s true for a toast you dropped, buttered side down, and also for a donor’s kidney in the middle of a transplant – at least on shows like the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy”. That if you’ve done it within 5 seconds, there’s no harm.

Is there a similar rule for people you feel like reaching out to when they simply happen to be there, just standing... maybe staring aimlessly? Or people you write about when they have been in your subconscious for 5 days?

Last Sunday, I got a taste of this while standing outside Kracie’s Cosmetics at the IITF at Pragati Maidan. These were your regular beauty products in pink and red and orange and yellow. Fair women. Pitch black long tresses. And a bunch of Japanese being the product description. I looked to my right. Then to my left. And then, with a terrible premonition, straight ahead and counted… 1, 2, 3, 4…. And there it was.
“Hello ma’am!” I smiled back and nodded at them. They had some kind of uniform on. And buns. Now that, for me, somehow, is the ultimate sign of competence. It’s like declaring, “I can handle this”. Well I was glad that there was something I understood about the store. Once inside, I groped about for the product that was least likely to be there. For some reason, I could only think of anti-wrinkle cream. Don’t ask me why. There was an immediate scurry and hushed whispers.

“Wrinkle kaun sa?”
“Arre woh wala do na.. peach hai, anaar hai, dekho wahaan.. paanch ka packet.. oopar angrezi mein sticker hoga.”

The conversation promised lots of fruity smells and I found myself a nice chair to dip into.

Oh it had been ages since my last trip to the Lakme on Bangalore’s New B.E.L. Road with the voluptuous healer who insisted on aroma oils with a raspy “Madam please switch your cell phone off and try to relax”. The Lakme in Frazer Town had Wilma. Dear bespectacled professional Wilma. “Hello thank you for calling Lakme Frazer Town this is Wilma how may I help you” Wilma. Breathe, Wilma.

The Kracie girls were back in my face.
“Yeh kya hai?” I pointed at the pink mush in her hand.
“Ma’am yeh na aap chehre pe laga sakti hain aur aapka complexion.. matlab jo aapke chehre pe jo yeh kaala kaala.. nahi matlab aap to gori hi hain waise bhi.. he he he.. “

What do you do with them? Seriously. You wait for them to scratch the last, compose themselves and start over.

“Haan to ma’am yeh na main aapke haath pe lagane waali hoon.. haath dijiye.. laft hand..”
Fssk.. fssk.. fssk..
“Yeh kya sprinkle kiya?”
“Oh yeh to paani hai”
She smeared the pink lotion on my hand and then rubbed it.. and kept rubbing it.
“Ab na isko aise char ghante rub karna hai”
“Matlab char ghante lagake rakhna hai?”
“Nahi nahi char ghante rub karna hai. Fir pochh dena hai. Napkin lao.”
She rubbed it off.
“Ab.. laft hand ke bagal mein right hand ko rakhiye. Fark dikha?”
Smile. It confuses people. And then shoot a polite query.
“Aur kya kya karta hai yeh?”
“Arre ma’am yeh to sirf 595 kya hai.. paanch ka packet.. aise kaala face mask bhi aata hai. Aap kahaan rahti hain?”
“Khan Market mein koi stall hai kya aapka?”
“Nahi par khulne waala hai. Aur ma’am pehle yahaan se to shopping kar lijiye pehle… he he he.. yeh pink waala Anaar hai.”

Well yes, thank you. My hand smelled nice. I felt pampered again. Wanted to believe in the power of pink.

And then I left. With the perfect antidote to “Hello ma’am”.

“Main abhi aati hoon.”

It bothered me. I had slipped out of the situation without an explanation. And I knew they had seen through me. I reasoned, that it’s just a matter of perspective. They were in their uniforms. I was in mine. Jeans and kurta. Huddled to myself in a shawl. They were interpreters lost in translation. And I had lied outright. I borrowed a touch to travel to my past and they experimented with the future in mind. They were trying to do their job and I was just turning the pages of a storybook. I left when it got to me. I didn’t want to hurt them. I didn’t want to remind them that it’s just a story which they haven’t written, nor directed, but must enact. It bothered me because somewhere, they had touched me with their maturity. I was in awe. This was real-time. This was 2 and 2 adding up to 4. And I couldn’t stand it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Water on the Moon! Water on the Moon!

NASA has discovered water on the moon. You know why that doesn’t affect me?

Because I don’t work for Palmer’s. Nor for Biotique. I am talking Cocoa Butter here. The most effective prevention and cure for stretch marks. At least touted to be. See, the high tide theory is already in place, right? We know that we feel emotional and behave impulsively on full moon nights because the moon pulls all water bodies here on earth and also attracts the water inside us. Which is why you have werewolves like Professor Remus Lupin (the Harry Potter series) and MJ (the landmark Thriller video and legendary “Moonwalker”) and Rahul Roys who turn into tigers on Poonam ki raat on the sets of Junoon. The animal instinct. And you do know that drinking lots of water is advised for people on diet and people who are pregnant and well, people in general, because it’s the best natural moisturiser. So on full moon nights with all the water being flirted with, the skin runs dry and the fissures run deep, not unlike the craters on the moon. So, basically, now that water has been discovered on the moon, it won’t pull you anymore. And you won’t need to spend seven hundred bucks on Palmer’s cocoa butter massage lotion for stretch marks or even a hundred bucks on Biotique’s cocoa butter. And with the emotions in check, you won’t go mad or “lunatic” (yes, the word does have the same roots as “lunar”. This is ancient wisdom.)

Oh no. It does affect me. I am a Psychologist. :(

P.S: Cancerians (born between June 22nd and July 23rd) are said to be governed by the Moon. What happens to them?

HIPPO (Delicious Baked Munchies!)

There are some experiences which must be relayed to mankind with minimal interpretation. I hereby pass on the baton to you. This one's from Parle Agro, chanced upon at the IITF, Pragati Maidan. The following is the product description. Uncensored.
HIPPO. Delicious Baked Munchies. Not Fried. Only Baked.

"Hello, me Hippo. Hippo make lots of Hippo delicious baked munchies for everyone.
Hippo feel bad you work, work, work and not eat on time. Hippo like you keep Hippo munchies handy.
Look, Hippo care for you. Hippo say, 'don't go hungry'.
Hippo think hungry people less happy. Hungry people more fight.
Hippo believe world will be better place if nobody hungry.
So, Hippo try."

Help Hippo fight hunger at
And now for the flavour...

"Hippo love Chinese Manchurian.
Hippo think Bruce Lee foolish. Bruce Lee learn kung-fu not cooking. But Hippo smart to make Hippo Chinese Manchurian munchies. They little tangy and have Chinese spices. Look, Hippo have both, munch and punch."

Monday, November 16, 2009


Trade Fairs are one of those things that seep into weekend conversations like children into kindergarten. You don’t reason with it. Just accept it nonchalantly like you would the radio in the gym or the biscuit with a cup of tea.

And so when Mom and Dad laid out a Sunday across the breakfast table and spread out the quilts to herald the winter, Pragati Maidan tick-tocked its way into our consciousness with the India International Trade Fair. We heard it’s on till the 28th of November and decided to begin with the Khadi Village Expo. Now I could focus on the output here and talk about the Tea Drops we bought for fifty bucks before the stall walah could finish reciting the list of ingredients. But I am going to be a customer and pamper myself with the moments that have left an indelible mark on my memory. A small plastic gun and soap solution. Bubbles. Isn’t it ironic? I saw a five year old blow them. And then when I wanted to reach out to the thin films of pink and blue, the shopkeeper sprang into action with a swagger and announced, “Idhar dekhiye.. mujh se seekhiye. Halke se gun ko saabun mein dooboiye.. aur phir dheere se dabaiye.”

Er... okay something wasn’t right here.

As a bunch of bubbles mushroomed all around me, I teetered on the brink of buying the stuff. A few bubbles burst around me and so did the illusion. Shreya Ghoshal was crooning somewhere. “Kaise Mujhe Tum Mil Gayee” from “Ghajini”. Apt. Very apt. A 25 year old smiling at and planning to buy what is hopefully a permanent inhabitant of her bathroom. Yes, the song was created with the dual purpose of haunting and healing. Rehman had done it again. Ghajini. Asin. Kerala. Seduction. Marketing. Gullible’s Travels. Have it any which way. The associations are too strong and too easy. And I wasn’t going to fall prey to them. So I compromised, took a few shots of our gun-toting hero and tried to capture the bubbles much against their desire. He posed. I clicked. Shook the fluff off my brains and moved on.

The Manipur emporium was a last minute decision. We had 15 minutes in which to experience “The Jewelled Land”. We crossed the reception. Two girls sat there looking like they just won a game of Dumb Charades. A huge golden dragon stood on a wall next to them and – I honestly don’t know why I cared so much but – I ended up asking them to explain what the Manipuri word written below it means. The girls looked shaken out of their slumber and in no hurry to dish out facts. They looked at each other, blinked a couple of times, uhhed, ummed, and offered, “I think it’s the name of the dragon”. I think what followed was the best fake thank you I have ever muttered. Key takeaway – and I quote J.K. Rowling here, “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”. (Never Tickle A Sleeping Dragon!)

The stall next to it – M/s Tokpam Leikai WCS Ltd. – bloomed bright and soft with sweaters, shawls and sarees in pastel shades, enhanced by the two unbelievably docile looking women sitting inside in their white sarees and mauve blouses, both with their eyes closed. I paused. Surely this is a passing phase? They are on stools. Soon they would sway forward and with a jerk snap out of their slumber. But no. We were talking sunset here. They reminded me of flowers closing in their petals and catching a wink before Photosynthesis resumes. I nearly yawned myself. And I mean that as a compliment. Thankfully someone whispered an “Excuse me?” with the tact of a bomb squad pro. I moved on.

There were dry flowers all around. M/s Viciwon Artistic Dry Flowers Unit for starters. Bursts of colour that mimed their scent and called out to you in a silent symphony. Flutes and crossbows for love and war. The legendary red and black striped dressing gowns. Bags. Purses. And cocoons by the dozen. Mulberry cocoons. Muga cocoons. Tasar cocoons. Cradle tales of soft, sensuous, liquid silk; secretive in their wizened and gnarled appearance. I thought I was done when I bought myself a pair of white, red, yellow, green beads strung together as danglers.

But there is that occasional sleeping pill that sucks you inside a marble and sweeps you off your feet like a gust of fantasy. You wake up to a good morning and the smell of rocking chairs and secret passageways that caved in long ago. Like an island in the middle of the stormy seas or the dampness inside a museum in the winter. Like a long walk around Delhi’s Khan Market on a long weekend or a picnic on a cloudy day with no umbrellas to shield you from the showers.

Zomi Star Artisans is a result of Lun Tonsing’s need for creative satisfaction and is inspired by Manipur’s tribal cultures. Lun asked me why I was taking the photographs and I told her about my blog. There were shawls, coats, bags, dresses, bracelets and mobile covers to call my attention. And yet, I could not look away from the petite pairs of shoes tucked away neatly inside the shelves. These were no ordinary slippers. These must be what Dorothy wore on her way to meet the Wizard of Oz! They were for feet that returned from the tuitions late one evening and sought comfort for the Friday night out. These were for feet that wanted to take small, measured steps through the fog and curled up as you read a book beneath a tree on the lawns near the India Gate. You wore them when you got into a car and got out again to sift through K Nags (Kamla Nagar, shoppers’ paradise near the University of Delhi, North Campus) in all its hues and aromas. Lun had a pair in salt and pepper with a dainty flap across the feet and a pair in red and black that made you want to crawl back into Mother’s lap and go to sleep with your head against her shoulder. You wore these shoes when you scurried along to the Indian Habitat Centre’s Film Club, just in time for the screening of a black and white classic. You wore them on days when someone compared your dimple to Preity Zinta’s and on days when you sympathised with Vidya Balan. You wore them on days you had skipped gym and tiptoed to the All American Diner like a silent rebel. You wore them because you loved yourself and you had a cold and Mom had heard you sniff. Now I could go on and on and so could the shoes. But they come in single sets and I couldn’t get ones in my size. I turned to the clothes rack and then a strange thing happened. The fifties’ black coat with the red, yellow and orange embroidery at the bottom yawned, stretched out its sleeves and put them around my neck, planted a soft and tender kiss on my soul and refused to budge. Lun helped me put it on and showed me how I could raise the collar for the perfect Humphrey Bogart look. She also took a photograph. Customers were gathering around. Someone said “Nice!”. Most of them just smiled. I eyed the price tag and looked at the coat like she was my Black Beauty. I could have taken my wedding vows with her, then and there. I did bring her home with me. And the only other black coat in the store is a slightly different creation. But don’t despair. Lun has lots of surprises in store for you. You could find yourself the perfect short jacket or a delightfully demure cotton purse with a gnarled knob of a clasp.

Lun’s creations are characters that are waiting to bring you to life. All you need is to listen to the voices and follow your heart.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Father's Day

Paulo Coelho believes in it. Rhonda Byrne swears by it. Even SRK dishes it out in “Om Shanti Om”.

And yet, I never really felt the need to fine-tune my thoughts into action. I never dreamed an event or an individual into reality.

When the cold war between Dad and me had made my mind foggy and numb with words unsaid, I blinked back my worries on hearing him confess to Mom, “She hates me. I feel it. I know it. She hates me.”

I couldn’t hear what Mom said and certainly didn’t intend to bring it up when I was alone with her later. But just like the sperm that survived and brought me to life, what I overheard sank through my mind and hovered on my eyelashes. I tossed and turned all night on my creaky, wrought-iron bed.
Why would a father not investigate such a thought?
Why would he go to sleep after such a revelation?
What had Mom’s reaction been?
Had Dad been frowning? Scowling? Despondent? Or just trying to suppress his rage? What was the plan?

He did seem calmer nowadays. But somehow, that scared me even more. I feared for his health. No, it wasn’t exactly a sentimental cry of alarm that rose inside and shrieked to get attention. It was more like a dull, thudding certainty. A pain that comes from knowing that you must rip off the Band-Aid from your wound right now.

So the situation stood exposed. Here I was. Depressed. Alone. And longing to run away from home and yet without a clue. Minutes before I heard the first snore from the bedroom, we had all been watching Cameron Poe plot an escape from “Con Air”
and I had secretly been considering it a sign.
A little de-tour here for a much valuable heads-up. I love signs. All shapes and sizes. Any colour, sex, ethnicity or even zodiac. A sign stands for subtlety and wisdom of communication. And I worship all signs.

So here was Mr. Nicholas “Good ole Capricorn” Cage, telling a story of a wrongly convicted U.S. soldier who spends 8 years as a well-behaved jailbird but finds himself in a nice pickle on the day of his acquittal. Oh it goes without saying that he makes it in the end. Doesn’t run when he could have and responds to the call of duty like a true ranger. But he comes home to his little baby girl on the 14th of July, as promised. The date rang a bell. But that sign would have to come back later or just leave a message.

Meanwhile, I was slipping into slumber and words and phrases floated towards me through the dark like little burnt pieces of parchment. Unfinished business. Delhi. Opportunities. The gym and the diet. Free internet. Get your passport. Responsibilities as a daughter. Have fun. Make a choice. Sleep over it. Yeah, I liked the last one.

The next day was cold but bright. It felt like I had woken up inside a nunnery and the Lord wanted me to listen to Him. Did someone just break into a hymn somewhere? Nah.. just too many commercials. Especially the new one – “Saint Juice” or something – honestly! I switched on the TV. The signs kept pouring in.
Next up - A movie called
“Picture This” where a desperate Ashley Tisdale
must lie to and phone-punk her Dad on her way to a party at the modern day “Camelot”. And why not? It isn’t everyday that you get to try your luck with the “most handsome guy in high school” and hope to make out in his “tower”. So when you’ve lied to Dad about being at Alexa’s for “tomorrow’s Science test” and he promises to call after every half-hour, you’re gonna need to improvise. Bottomline – it’s dad vs. you. Some really cool ideas. Some really helpful gadgets. But no, she had to go and be Miss Goody Two Shoes in the end and be worth Daddy’s trust. Aww crap!

I went and took a shower. Shivered. Cursed. Muttered. Nearly scalded my skin. And then finally hummed in incandescent bliss immersed in the perfect confluence of hot and cold.

Mom was home. I nibbled on some fruits before she could say “lunch” and tuned into my third exposure of fatherhood for the day.
Geoffrey Rush in “Shine”.

David Helfgott
, the young gifted pianist with the tyrannical Father who thought his son’s admission into London’s Royal College of Music would destroy the family. He hit him. Walloped him with total abandon. And terrorised the poor chap with his incantations “Nobody will ever love you as much as I do. Never trust anybody.” David’s rise and fall and gradual adjustment into society post his spell in the Glendale Psychiatric Ward were moving and indeed deserved the Academic Award that Geoffrey Rush received for the role – the first Australian-born actor to do so. And yet, it was not quite about him today. I sought more of his Dad. Herr Peter Helfgott. How strange that he too should utter and with just as much confidence as my Father, “Nobody will ever love you as much as I do”.

Does a father mean every word of it? Or does he merely fear the child’s journey away from him? Is a father full of insecurities and tries so hard to make himself a part of the child’s conscious environment? Or is it simply as Herr Peter put it, “This is my son”. We all want our creation to be praised, applauded and guided into the hands that we trust. How do they manage to mess this noble emotion up and antagonize their child? Are all fathers alike?

My queries wouldn’t end. But luckily, nor would the day without a trip to the Habitat Centre Film Club to catch Charles Dickens’
“A Tale of Two Cities”.
Mom and I made it just in time.

It began with a father, suddenly discovered by his daughter and ended, well, not very differently. The French Revolution. The storming of Bastille. (14th July!!! That’s the day Bastille broke open. That’s why it had seemed familiar.) Death to the Aristocrats. And the hapless family of Dr. Manette. Having once been a victim of the Marquis de Evremonde, he finds no fault in the latter’s nephew, Charles Darnay. Darnay and the Doctor’s daughter, Lucy, fall in love and eventually get married and produce an Evremonde heiress (Young Lucy). But soon, Darnay is framed and arrested. Sentenced to death for being an Evremonde heir. And this is where the father-figure is born. Sydney Carton, the repressed anti-hero, the drunk barrister, the forefather of the likes of our dear
Professor Severus Snape
. But much, much milder of course. To turn his unrequited love for Lucy into a promise fulfilled. A far, far greater end that he goes to than he could ever have imagined. A far, far greater death. Carton is sardonic, pragmatic and a closet romantic. A wicked sense of humour, able to melt the frostiest of exteriors. An opportunist even in death, he looks forward to being the one that Lucy would be grateful to and remember all her life. And, as Lucy puts it, “Young Lucy’s favourite”. It was disturbing, inspiring, and too ambitious a story for someone like me who prefers being alive. But I loved Sydney Carton. It bothered me that society has to be about your mannerisms and that you might not gain much when you’re in love. It bothered me that Carton kept quiet and didn’t tell Lucy a word. Literally, the characters seemed to be following the book.

Dad came to pick me up around 9 pm. Something must have given me away. He asked me why I was so quiet. Mom talked about Sydney Carton. I denied it and shrugged it off. The drive back home is always uneventful.

Back at home, I watched
The Pink Panther. No fathers in the movie. Just someone I had always known as the “Father of the Bride” - Steve Martin
. Hurt, depressed, anxious and crazy jealous of the guy that his little girl is engaged to. The guy who felt he wasn’t getting acknowledged. The guy who felt like a “discarded shoe” and second to the new man in his daughter’s life. I watched The Pink Panther with Dad. We laughed together. Looked at each other. Connected.

Suddenly, my mind was clearing up. I was sorting the scraps of modern fairy tales and timeless classics. Spotting swatches of Allen Solly and Khadi. The strand around which the day spun like a silvery cobweb. It was a day of heroic fathers, misunderstood and dependable, suspicious, stubborn, loving and forgiving, proud and headstrong, reluctant and resilient, possessive or just in for a good time.

And so here’s the deal – I am staying put and refusing to run away. I smile at him and he smiles back. He is just an older reflection of myself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Wednesday

Pain beyond pain that rips me apart.
Waking from a nightmare. The same missed calls.
Honey I’m home. I’m hungry. I’m hurt.
Hot swigs of warmth. Flush out the angst.
Listen to me. Please. Don’t tell me what you did.

At ease, soldier! You’re a statue. Don’t smile.
Let go of your keyboard. Look at me. Don’t lie.
I prefer David Lean to a seminar on the brain.
I found the book on weight loss. It must be online.
I nibbled at the mutton. On a diet in Eatopia.

A lady who resembled a turtle from the Galapagos islands.
Like Grandma’s cookies. Gone or will be, soon.

Hurry back. Miss the door. Smile. Don’t be laughed at.
Grab a seat. Put your mobile on silent.
Did I watch this before? Watch out for that scene!
What if you hadn’t? Can you sit through? Discover?
It’s black and white. Eccentric. The same old emotions.

And yet, it sets you free. You smell in the cold.
The misty moors of England. Corridors and classrooms in Lucknow.
Blazers and ties. Pleats and plaits. Ties and woollens.
Smell in the fog. Lean back. Lean forward.
Survive the future. Smile at predictions.

Your muse. Losing your mind. Trapped in a bottle.
Sing a soprano and break through the glass.
You’re not a genie.
Bare shoulders are beautiful. And stranger than fiction.
I don’t want to pretend.

Don’t believe in fairy tales. Go make one on your own.

Circus Shoes

Today I spoke to a man who reminded me of a Pinball Machine.
Maybe a car that’s running out of gas.
Take comfort in the jerks and hold your tongue.
It’s the effort that counts.
Two ears. One mouth.

A patchwork T-shirt can make your life a moment.
If you don’t comb your hair, there’s always a chance.
Fifty bucks spent on a roadside children’s classic.
A discard from Lynndale School Library.
Circus Shoes. Go on, run away from home.

Milk and bananas. A monkey. A snake?
Creating a need. Weaving a story.
Italian seasoning. A cheese burst pizza. He’s in love with turmeric.
Food critic. Head-chef.
When we’re hungry, love will keep us alive.

Habitat centre. Membership for two.
Or should you be my guest? Or should I be yours?
That photograph on Orkut. Just the two of us.
Rachel and Monica. Aniston and Cox.
The cat under the bench. We stared at each other.

Open the gate. Or let me do it myself.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t smile. It’s just a few steps.
Find me online. Give me a quiz.
Tell me something I don’t know. Download my songs.
It’s okay to be a rival. Congratulations.

Lights inside the gym.
I made you run. I made you walk.
Two tablets and water.
A long drive and a baby.
I’m reading a book. I’m wearing my shoes.

Adding Value

It bothers me when I hear a crow at 2:15am.
I want to clean the greyish flowers bowing out of the vase.
Mop them clean and paint them white.
I want to take a deep breath and not hear myself wheeze.

I want my room to have a theme.
The books should find a reader.
The sofa shouldn’t creak. I’ve been quiet throughout the day.
I want to re-write all the prayers and see in God a friend.

I could watch TV all day.
Fill up my head with voices and beings.
I want to train my biceps.
I want to live in a pocket.

I don’t know if the guard is awake.
I don’t know if he brought his woollens.
My curtains are dirty. I keep them drawn.
My photos of childhood are yellow and blue.

I like my tea black, put ginger in it.
The lemon is so silent. The honey is so sweet.
Papaya in sickness. Papaya in health.
Have I earned my Bournville yet?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Day I Forgot How To Make A Paper Boat

The dog tried humping my leg. (Serious breach of trust there. I sincerely thought we are just friends.)
Someone at work reminded me of my muse.
And it rained. Obviously. Why else would I be trying to make a paper boat in the first place?
My head started thudding in pain. A friend from University called up after a long time and observed, “You are actually thinking of taking writing more seriously? You know I love how you follow your heart.. but yes, oh of course you have never been known for being practical”.

Of Course.

The lights went off. Maybe the power cut was designed to protect me from spooking myself out completely. I was watching Star Movies. How Michael Myers went on a rampage on Halloween night. And I realised I could have been him. But when the screams were just beginning to surround me, the lights went off. And stayed off. This is rare in Bangalore and so when it does happen, you can feel the spotlight on your neck and wish you could raise your hackles and bark. “Ok.. so I am supposed to acknowledge the special occasion and make this momentous, right?” Yes I realise it’s my last day here in this house, all alone. Tomorrow, Mom flies in. And then soon, the hunt for the new tenant begins. My house, with the dog, the gate, the hand pump and the trees, to say nothing of the terrace – blue stains on white shirts gently swaying in the breeze as you blame it on the small bucket, the red wicker mat on which you squat and hum along with mosquitoes and laugh with Woody Allen and old friends, Happy Birthday songs whispered in candlelight with hushed giggles and precariously balanced chocolate cakes, New Year’s eve “I think I love you”s that are proposed tentatively and analysed with confidence and realising that the door to 1999 is 5000 miles away. Memories of a friend talking excitedly about her marriage. Not knowing whether to envy her. Letting the smile reach your eyes before the tears can. Taking your laptop with you – sipping on grape juice and munching on chicken nuggets after carefully selecting a non-controversial playlist of songs. Erecting boundaries and yet, longing to break through them as you fall. The terrace. The illusion of being high.

I don’t want to make this about the whole house. The temple smelled of forgiveness. The bathroom smelled refreshing. The kitchen smelled of shortcuts. Meri “pehli naukri” waali Maggi. And a list of junk food that was almost out to prove a point. The lizard that lived in with me, though resilient, was intolerant of the tales I cannot shed. And spiders were not allowed.

The curtains were yellow. The walls were pink. But it was my house. My space. My canvas. My interpretation. My shelves. My books and CDs. My den. My mess. My coordinates. I ran away from it. I cribbed about it. I groaned when the maid prodded me through the window and made me let her in at the crack of dawn (yeah ok, 8am.) I always thought she smiled enough for both of us and made my peace by tuning into a local channel. So this is what the legendary Raj Kumar’s youngest son Puneeth looks like? Ninnindale ninnindale kanasondu shuruvaagide.. is it? Yeah, heard it on the radio about a zillion times.
No newspapers. But a sip of herbal tea to go with the gossip. Wondering whether I should make it my caller tune on the way to office. And then a hurried note to myself – “This, too, shall pass”.

I sat on the staircase leading up to the first floor. I could hear the thunder. Closed my eyes to let the rain in. The house hadn’t let me down in quite some time now.
First morning flights and cabs that honked outside. Waking up at 4am when the fireworks go off on Diwali. Waking up to Carnatic music. Waking up to an alarm clock. Waking up to phone calls. Good morning. I’m sorry, did I wake you up? Questions from my boss. Quotes from his boss. Days when you take a leave. When you want to. When you have to. When you go on a tour and come back to your home and fall in love with it all over again. Home deliveries. Cable bills. Welcome guests. Unwelcome guests. Opening the door to charity. Opening the door out of curiosity. Bottles of red wine that arrived along with midnight messengers as well planned but hastily executed birthday surprises. You gulped it down. Tick it off your list and forget about the purple stains on the yellow bed sheet. Let your thoughts linger on that. No. Don’t. And don’t beat yourself blue if you can’t smell the scent of wet earth. What was that Dido song that caught your eye.. the one with Shahana Goswami in the video? Oh yes.. “Let’s do the things we normally do”.

Yeah.. let’s do that.

My mobile blinks. Message from Mom with detailed instructions on how to make a paper boat. A smile spreads inside like a warm blanket of love. I will always be a child who smells of Mom.