Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Stitch In Time...

I've been scrolling up and down. Feeling like my fingers are hovering over the concluding paragraph of a curious tale.. just like the golden snitch.
I've been 15 for a while now. Sometimes, that was too old. Sometimes, not old enough. I'm teaching people how to be... well, how to BE. I'm cautious..lest they turn into me. (It's so easy to BECOME. The rise of street theatre makes me panic. Deception is everywhere. The stage is all around me now. Who controls the make-up guy?)
Unbelievable. I just fooled myself into dreaming up an apocalypse.
I chant his name sometimes, like a sigh, like a gasp when I roll my eyes.
I believe I came back to school because my childhood has hurt me.. my school didn't see me.. and I've been denied my album of happy memories. This was part of the plan.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Some days... you don't need to think of a title for your blog. The images give your memory a gentle nudge and you comply.
Paawani Trivedi is a Seventh Grade student. Well she's more than that. Paawani is literally the pure one. She is that flickering tongue of bonfire that sometimes leaps majestically in air and mesmerises us. Somewhere beyond her dreamy eyes, there is a warmth that draws close to me when I cross the threshold and enter the room. She glides and conjures many a charm bubble. They aren't gaudy, bejewelled ones. They are all faintly yellow, glowing dimly like the gentle, benign truth. We don't talk much. We don't need to.
The totem?
Well it started months ago when I read the first in the series of "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid". I liked it and asked for the sequel. It wasn't with her and I prepared myself for a long wait. Holidays came and went. A new term began. Somewhere, like every relationship, the insecurities crept into the one that I shared with them. I realised that I'm not new anymore. What if they got bored and didn't love me?
Why did they shout in class one day and why did I leave, broken and hollow? What snapped? I don't know. It felt like a break-up. They apologised, got punished and doodled for me. They wanted to be forgiven. I wasn't even sure they knew what they had done.
But the day I came back, there she stood with the sequel in her hand.
Some days ago, I missed out on classes for 3 days in a row. I wasn't well. I was depressed. And very, very preoccupied. When I came back, there she was again. Book in hand.
I took it this time. It's more than just a book. It's her secret... and it has healing powers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Gold Rush

So I was a little depressed because I missed out on watching Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" at the India Habitat Centre today. But when I went out for a walk... lo and behold! There he was... the Nilgai! The Nilgai isn't a "blue cow" is it? Don't know. The JNU Campus does boast a lot about its flora and fauna...and this one, right here, ambled across the road and into the bushes as a scooter, a cycle and I came to a halt, adjusting our pace to his. They said he's a loner. Doesn't come in your way if you let him be. Not a bad companion when you have a cup of hot ginger tea to get through and a parent-teacher's meeting the next day to worry about. Are there any proverbs that say anything about Nilgai sightings bringing you luck? There should be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great Depression

Tonight, it was Chaplin's "Modern Times" at the India Habitat Centre and the turn of the gamine, Ellen Peterson, played by Paulette Goddard.
Paulette Goddard (June 3, 1910 – April 23, 1990) was an American film and theatre actress. A former child fashion model and in several Broadway productions as Ziegfeld Girl, she was a major star of the Paramount Studio in the 1940s. She was married to several notable men, including Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith and Erich Maria Remarque. Goddard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in So Proudly We Hail! (1943).
I don't like her. At all. Must be the unbearable lightness of being. Flaky, fickle, feisty, frivolous, pseudofeminine air sign.

"Yes, I Can See Now"

I saw her last night at the India Habitat Centre. Not in person. In the movie "City Lights". I liked her there so I ran a Google search on her and this is what Wikipedia had to say, among other things...

"Virginia Cherrill (April 12, 1908 - November 14, 1996) was an American actress best known for her role as the blind flower girl in Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931). Due to marrying an English earl in the 1940s, she is also known as Virginia Child-Villiers, Countess of Jersey.

Virginia Cherrill was born on a farm in rural Carthage, Illinois, to James E. and Blanche (née Wilcox) Cherrill. She was a Chicago society girl with no thoughts of a film career when she went to Hollywood for a visit and met Charlie Chaplin when he sat next to her at a boxing match. He had failed to find the girl he wanted for his film but decided she would do and cast her in City Lights in which she gave the performance for which she is remembered, although her working relationship with Chaplin on the film was often strained. As indicated in the documentary Unknown Chaplin, Cherrill was in fact fired from the film at one point and Chaplin planned to refilm all her scenes with Georgia Hale, but ultimately realized too much money had already been spent on the picture; as Cherrill recalls in the documentary, close friend Marion Davies suggested Cherrill hold out for more money when Chaplin asked her to return to the film, and she did."

There's a point in the movie at which Chaplin steals some money so that the girl can pay her rent and get her eyes operated on. When she eventually gets her eyesight back and recognizes Chaplin as her benefactor, she says, to an apprehensive Chaplin, "Yes, I Can See Now". Reading about her real life relationship with Chaplin, I felt so deflated. I don't know if they really had a strained relationship or if this helps in some way to heighten the curiosity about their chemistry. Does reading about it help me conclude that she looks bad-tempered in the photograph above? Is it the reason I chose this snap of hers from all the others on the internet?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

And All The Things I Deserve...

...For being such a good girl... honey.
I don't like sardines. Just bought it for Mom. Fried it a bit, spilled it on my dress and then hastened to wash my hair. Sunflowers. The curse of happiness. Like people laughing at me. Slow learners like Voldemort. Wouldn't it have been better if they stripped him of his powers and forced him to live among muggles as one of them? A coughing doctor, living with germs. A troubled psychologist, living with people.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Keep Breathing

Some days, the geyser doesn't work. The sink is full of dirty dishes. Birds peck at the "plain rice" I ordered from the dhaba. Flies hover around the rim of my tea-cup. Cats claw at the garbage bag. The door can't be bolted and I struggle with security. Lizards poop on the mosquito net. The charger hangs loose from the plug-point. I can't switch off the lights and I can't get sleep.
But the smell of fresh laundry curled up like a lovable pet inside the LG Fabricare 3-Step Automatic Washing Machine makes all the bad go away. It's like running back home from the playground and burying my face in Mom.

I am in Silence

It all began when he asked me if I knew what "the sound of silence" means. Since he was neither Simon, nor Garfunkel, I found it deeply insulting.
Hell, I invented Silence. How could he question me?
It came back a few days ago. The way my heart pounded silently. What you don't hear when Madonna and Timberlake team up with Timbaland for 4 minutes. Tick tock.
When I went out for a walk today, it happened again. The campus is full of hidden life that makes its presence known through actions and non-actions. It grows on you, like Harman Baweja in "What's Your Raashee?" and Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter books.
So there was this cricket, making a ruckus and oddly enough, seemingly in sync with my footsteps. I quickened my pace. So did the cricket! I fell back. And there it was, right on cue. A little later, someone started playing the dhaak. It's the drum they play in Bengal during the Durga Puja. And since the festive season has officially begun, this had to happen sooner or later. Except that the cricket and the dhaak churned an intoxicating symphony. They didn't need me anymore. I needed them, instead.
Isn't it irritating when people try to interpret your silences? As if you don't deserve a life filled merely with sensations? As if pleasure needs a purpose. As if Julia Roberts really needed someone like Javier Bardem in "Eat. Pray. Love.".. why did he turn on the music anyway? Why did he fill in the blanks? Why do people always fill in the blanks?
Let the vacuum be. Don't claim it!
Don't ascribe meaning to my silence as if it's a land that you discovered and conquered. There "is" no meaning anyway. You created it for your convenience. Don't make me sit with the fruits and vegetables as you shop for grocery.
I sit when I need to watch and remember and hear the world go by. I sit, drinking tea or coffee. The boys outside the Transit House clap and cheer as the men's doubles badminton match heats up the sneaky coolness of a lazy evening. There are flies all around, dogs barking for redemption, theories built and torn apart all in a smoky minute. My mobile flickers for mercy. The promise of silence because the battery is low. I am gravitating towards that light at the end of the torpor. The promise of solitude in Dehradun. The promise of transformation in Kalkaji. I stop being the only girl watching the match and turn into a dot, invisible to the aeroplanes that whooshed by... high.. high above. Why do they let me pay them later for the tea? Why do they trust me? Why do they remember me?
Why does she call me "dear"? She calls me a bird. I want to believe I can fly. She tries to imply that I have a nest.
Untagged photographs on Facebook. Silence hurts. He won't let go of me if she doesn't let him go.
The racquet whipped the air. And again! And yet again! That's the sound I want for my slideshow. I want bulletpoints. And the sound of authority. The sound of black. A cold squeal. A rumble, like someone cleared their throat. It doesn't matter if they speak after that. They don't need to.

Tweet, Mockingbird

Like I said, I teach English to Middle School students nowadays. The students recently appeared in their First Semester Examinations and Sixth Grade had, among others, a chapter called "Sing, Mockingbird". It's about a girl called Little Feather who valued her pretty feathered bird friends and often looked disdainfully at the not-so-attractive Sister Mockingbird. But then, one fine day, down with fever and quite sure that she won't make it without her bird friends, she is nursed back to health by their songs all night long...only to discover in the morning that it was the Mockingbird all along. That's when she discovers the true value of friendship.
The new term will find no mention of the mockingbird. My own experience with the bird began with Harper Lee's classic and ended a few years later with Eminem's autobiographical music video. Except that now, after reading that chapter, I just can't stop thinking about the Mockingbird. To sing your song for others to listen and heal with, to choose a life of anonymity and yet, cherish every bit of the startling miracle that the onlookers can't just walk past, you need more than pretty feathers for that.
A Mockingbird creates meaning in brief bursts. It doesn't have a story. It's more like a tweet. I mean it. If she were a human, you would find her on Twitter! It's like a patchwork quilt. Experiences stitched together and carried along quite like Hanuman and his mountain, on his quest for the Sanjeevani. A soldier would call it the armamentarian approach and to a researcher, it would just be data collection. Usha ma'am (God rest her soul), our Hindi teacher from school, introduced us to this beautiful word when we were 14; har-fan-maula. It's a bit like being the jack of all trades, but sounds ever so much lyrical.
A Mockingbird lives her life like a sharp, shooting beep. She loses sight of herself and her life. She is scared that she will never be completely honest with herself. It's a cursed life. If she could, she would have run away from herself just like Forrest Gump tried.
She could never have a bucket list. Words and experiences change meaning in her world like the moving staircases at Hogwarts. It would bother her that her wildest streaks would be tamer than she would want them to be. She would discard every pang of jealousy that crept in and reared it's head when a bird with pretty feathers walked by. She wouldn't sit on that barbed wire even if you made her pretty for a day.
She can't stop lying. She cannot be defined. Don't cage her with your promises of fame. She never promised you anything. She entertains you because she feels the pleasure it gives her. And that is the only thing in the world that she can trust.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bearing Fruit

Last night, I was overcome by a sudden desire to eat healthy. So on the way back from Khan Market (which is looking extremely pretty, by the way, because of the Khan Market Shopping Festival - "Shop, Dine and Cloud 9" from 3rd to 14th October 2010, to accompany the CWG), I took a rare swerve and walked into the Safal Fruits and Vegetables store, wide-eyed like a tourist. It was pretty late at night and the attractive yellow balls (fruits, yes) on my extreme right could be second only to the much needed papayas right next to them.
I hope you didn't miss the part about me not being on TLC. The papayas were an interesting green with splotches of yellow. Like a fresh adult, I sent a message to my Mother, asking her how to detect which is the correct shade of Papaya to be bought. She replied "Yellow". I bought something that looked like the one in the photograph above. Her message reached me just after I reached home carrying the papaya in one hand and a yellow ball in the other. They didn't have carry-bags. All I got was a pair of newspaper cartons to manage with.
While walking back with the two paperclad balls in my hands, it suddenly occurred to me that in a parallel universe, I could be Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan and the fruits could be human skulls.
Would it be hideously inappropriate to laugh?
P.S.: Er.. I should throw the Papaya away. Unless fruits ripen by themselves, that is. Do they? Don't they? Wait.. isn't that some kind of virus on the fruit?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


As a Fourth and a Fifth Grader, I was asked to write with an ink pen. And probably the ink had to be royal blue or something. School rules! Don't ask! They did say something about the handwriting becoming better because of it and I agree it was a bit like my pen doing a dainty little ballet recital on the icy white pages. I never broke a nib by the way. Ball pens totally screwed it up Sixth Grade onwards.
So the point is, the other day, I was chatting with a schoolfriend of mine about ink-pens and the kind of ink we used and all that. We remembered "Camlin" quite easily but "Chelpark" took a while. This post is a tribute to many a daub of ink-smear on pages, skin and school uniforms. Let's not wash this away! :)
P.S: I hope some day I'll remember the exact smell of the ink I had used to write my Fifth Grade History Mid-Term Examination. I remember I got 59 out of 60, losing a mark because in a moment of hurried excitement I mistook Robert Owen to be a factory "worker" instead of the owner of the factory in question. Ah well. One can't have everything! What hurts more is the sad loss of the pen that aided me through the test, shortly after the bell rang. There was something unusual about the smell, but I just can't seem to remember it. Seems like it was a pen on a mission. It came. It saw. It conquered. And then it left me for good. :(

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"KYUN JAAOON MAIN GANNE KE KHET MEIN...kya hai ganne ke khet mein....???"

If you don't know what the title of this post means or refers to, this isn't for you.
For all those of us who treated Jab We Met as the farewell fiesta for Shahid and Kareena, how could you forget Anshuman, standing there like a half-naked, muscular, bamboozled pillar of purposeless strength?
But that's not the point. Tear your eyes away from that blurry blend of brains and brawns, if you please.
This is as much about the invasion of privacy and imposition of rules on a hapless individual as a humorous snippet from a cult classic, if not more.
And the reason why I relate to him right now is because my neighbourhood is suddenly festive, spic and span and playing the perfect host to a whole lot of other nations who have enjoyed being colonies of the Brits. Here's to celebrating slavery! Talk about "bonds" not breaking!
The maids are being asked to clear out their slums and leave for Bangladesh if possible (since most of them are from Bengal), the roads have shiny new markers, a huge yellow and black striped tiger named Shera (the Commonwealth Games Mascot) paid a visit to my school (and I missed it so that means I'm a "loser") and I am supposed to sit at home and "enjoy" a vacation as my school has closed for the Games and I can't venture out much because transport is few and far between and I can't get enrolled at a Sports Complex because they are all closed for the Games.
Why should I "Come Out and Play" yaar? What is there to "Come Out and Play" with?

Footloose and Fancy free

Really. Because Delhi can't promise that it won't rain again. And because those pretty translucent plastic shoes from Bata go only so far, umbrellas don't work and nor does sitting at home indefinitely.
This is the other side of the bohemian showers. I can't really go ga-ga about the rains and romanticise the weather without taking this into consideration. Especially when it has magical healing powers.
I'm a responsible citizen, just like SRK. For every Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, there's got to be a Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Raj. Rahul. Rains. Reality. Ringworm?

You want Sports? I'll give you Sports, you *&$!%!

Her name is L something P something. I think. She's an Aussie. And I think she won the Women's 50m Breaststroke in Swimming here at the CWG 2010 in Delhi. I can't say I got used to the hurried rush of Indian notes wafting through the air inside the auditorium as one moochh waale bhaiya marched up to the Presentation podium, leading the ladies. She stood there, shivering, dazed and blonde. Well I couldn't help remarking on it. The losers were both brunettes. And both Goldie and one of the brunettes were Aussies. They hugged, of course, after the anthem was through.
But let's rewind to the anthem.
Now usually I'm a big fan of a good show. Growing up in Bollywoodland has its side-effects. I am all there for a spectacular Oscar moment or a formidable "A Beautiful Mind winning the Nobel prize" Russell Crowe speech (which was good enough to earn him an Oscar moment) so that I can tear up and keep my emotions loose and fresh and flowing in summery cotton garments with a mere flick of my remote control (read "magic wand"). Lazy. Brilliant, but lazy. (Borrowed from Spiderman 2).
So here I was, expecting patriotic quivers of the lip and quiver, she did. Except... hold on... she was singing the anthem. Now I know there's nothing strange about it but I just couldn't understand why I have never seen anyone do that before. Not a single athlete. Not a single championship. Male or female.
I liked it. She was proud. But she wasn't putting up a show. Maybe she thought it's expected of her to sing it, with the cameras hunting her greedily. Maybe she did it out of habit. But I'm glad she did it.
I'm also glad because I now know that Australia doesn't just love beer and go looking for the next Masterchef.
Closer home, Abhinav Bindra got a Gold for shooting. I got inspired and decided to enroll in Shooting Classes. Not inspired, actually. Just hoping for some discipline and blowing off steam.
STATUTORY WARNING: This kind of therapy is done by professionals and should not be tried at home.
What really inspires me is the release of endorphins. Too bad they only get released with brisk exercise. (I hope I am wrong!)
I went for a walk, drinking tea (and therefore gaining back all the calories I had lost in the process). I also decided to go for Kerala Ayurvedic Massage lessons. They don't have medals for these things because they don't time them. They do have awards, though. Didn't Phoebe Buffay from the sitcom "Friends" once win a Nobel for Massage? Well, even if she thought she did, clearly, massage works. :P
P.S: Hang on... I just realised where I've seen boys and girls ardently mouthing the anthem with a glazed look in their eyes.. at the morning assembly in my school!!! LP is a schoolgirl!!!! I know it doesn't create quite the same effect as Tom Hanks discovering Leo DiCaprio is a High School student in Catch Me If You Can, but worth a shot, right?

Monday, October 4, 2010


There are faces that say nothing and yet, say it all. It doesn't always have to be the Afghan Girl on the cover of the National Geographic. It doesn't have to be a victim of a certified epidemic. This face is not famous enough to make it to the newspapers. He isn't a lead actor; just a recent regular on the tele-series "Bones". John Francis Daley, playing Dr. Lance Sweets. Psychologist. A lopsided smile here and a tender nod and a hug there. This face has been haunting me ever since I saw him slightly tilt his head on one side with a frown in the opening credits of the show. He's sweet enough to carve out a niche for himself in the "basement" of my mind, going by the "Inception" theorists. Little wonder, then, that the track "Time" from the Inception soundtrack makes for the perfect wave that washes over me when I look at him. If this is the Universe's plea to me, asking me to remember the face that once broke through my defenses, I will oblige. This is the face that makes me feel like an instrument; I'm here to let words flow through me and gently perch on my fingertips. And I can't take my eyes away. This is the shade. This is the "kick". This is the Prince of my Neverland. And I'm 12. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Where's the Duster?

It bothers me. How little I read nowadays! I really thought the dry spell would end with Ruskin Bond's "A Handful of Nuts" and Anthony Horowitz's "Granny".
But it's back. With "Inkheart". I watched the movie instead of finishing the book. I shouldn't have.
But I guess I'm just scared.
Isn't it funny how we base our decisions on the slightest of suggestions sometimes? I liked the beginning of the book and so I went ahead and watched the movie. I might delve into the Chronicles of Narnia after all, since I saw parts of a trailer that I liked. I saw the trailer because I was waiting to watch "Despicable Me" which I watched because I heard Jason Segel talk about it. I like Jason Segel and listen to what he says because Facebook says I'm like him. I'm on Facebook because a friend of mine recommended it. I like that friend because she reminds me of someone.
And I was happy to see Cinnabon when I went to the mall today because Lily Aldrin wanted to share one with Robin Scherbatsky on HIMYM.
I really do need to unlearn!

Despicable Me

As a kid, when I was asked who I want to be, I am told that I replied, "Why can't I just be a girl?" You can't be a Capricorn and not be wise, can you?
Years later, as a Postgrad student of Psychology at the Delhi University, sitting at the women's hostel canteen and waiting for a cup of coffee, I had nodded in agreement to something similar. "Don't you think what we've studied so far is just helping us realise what we already knew? It doesn't seem like being bombarded with new information. Is that learning? Are we really wise souls?"
I don't know.
But I do believe that when I come across the roads in Delhi (or anywhere else) named after people who lived a long time and more often than not didn't affect my life, I don't feel awestruck. I don't believe I imbibed the qualities of Mahatma Gandhi because I walked down M.G. Road or that I would go back home and Google Rao Tularam or Benito Juarez or hell, even Aurangzeb. I don't believe I mourn when I chance upon "Tees January Marg" or that one is supposed to take that lane only on the 30th of January every year either! (Don't get me started on what a waste of money building that road would have been!)
It's not the road less travelled. It's not even the road not taken. Sorry, bestsellers.
I am in a zone where I have begun to believe that I am inside the story of Hansel and Gretel. I am in a crazy trip inside the jungle, leaving breadcrumbs behind to mark the trail. Sadly, when I look back, they are gone. And I can't go back.
There's always a way of believing that I don't need to go back. And most of the time, between teaching and reading and BRT and Chicken Masala and tea and coffee, I can bring myself to care about how Ted Mosby met his wife. But then when I leave my residence and look at the blue watering can on my neighbour's windowsill or spot the shadow of an eagle gliding across the tall, looming trees on the roadside, or when I remember the orange Lamborghini that used to speed past my erstwhile kingdom on Lodhi Road, I realise with a shock how time is passing me by.
Despicable me! Yes, I did go and watch the movie for the sheer delight of listening to Jason Segel lend his voice to Vector, the supervillain and yes, I cherished every moment in those luxurious seats as Mom and I sat back, the only audience at 10:25am on a Friday. And yes, it felt good when Cinnabon caught my eye.
But why is it that I feel depressed all over again? Why is it that even the thought of re-bonding my hair at last doesn't leave me with any fuzzy, pink warmth? Where's my fairy tale? And if this is it, why doesn't it feel like one? Was Prince Charming special only because he came from a kingdom far, far away? Like that Lamborghini or that watering can?
How far is far enough?
How far away do I need to go from Delhi and from my life here to call it a vacation? Am I sad because Delhi is gonna be crowded because of the Commonwealth Games?
Maybe I am. But wait. Don't call me "The Selfish Giant". I think I'm just sad because the universe has declared Delhi important for the next few days.
Do you see the flaw in the plan? "There's nowhere else to go."
This is me. For now. That's it. :(

Saturday, August 28, 2010

English, August

Changes...changes...changes...for the past month and a half, I've been teaching English to a bunch of Middle School students. It's been tiring, rewarding and strangely cathartic. The red pen has helped but so have the teaching aids: the music of Mozart on my laptop, the yellow smiley badges, the Harry Potter Grammar worksheets (excerpts from Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone), the hurried scribbles and doodles on the blackboard and in their notebooks and of course, the role plays. It's been ticks and crosses and happy faces and sad faces as I took (irregular verb!) them from the Simple Past to the Past Perfect (it really was perfect back then, wasn't it?) and helped them express themselves through abstract nouns. There have been hiccups that snuck (or is it sneaked?) in.. but somewhere deep inside, I have known all along that English will be back in my life some day. And so will passion. :)
Now it hasn't been a joyride obviously, with viral fever and us moving and yet another ambiguous relationship which reached an even more ambiguous condition and terminated, apparently. Can you miss what you never had? The use of "love" as an abstract noun should really be banned. It's a verb, through and through. Always, always a verb.
Some might want the opposite, I guess. Easy to believe in, impossible to do!
I was going through my stuff and found my college diary. A poem caught my eye. I wrote it on 28th December, 2004. The occasion? The death of Sirius Black, Harry Potter's Godfather. I don't know why, but I really, really want to put it up I know there are references to details regarding the conditions of death that you can't follow unless you've seen the movie or read the book "Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix" but I'll risk it.

You sit and watch the hours turn
The rose into a thorn.
The night, it darkens into night.
There's night - and never morn.
You're waiting for the gushing stream
And oh... your face forlorn
And you're waiting...

The memories...each day, each hour,
The moments ticking by.
"And it's okay.. and it's alright.."
(How much could you deny?)
"He should be here, right here.. with me.."
(He isn't.. wonder why?)
But you're waiting...

You see him in your dreams so oft,
Don't want to stay awake.
"But he's alive! I'll see him still!"
(Your faith.. would nothing shake),
And yet, for every breath of yours,
What chances won't he take?
You're still waiting...

You'd seen the spell that hit him so,
You'd seen the shock, the fear,
"He isn't going ANYWHERE!
He's still so near!"
You'd seen the veil - it rose and fell.
You'd seen him disappear...
And you'd waited...

And THEN, the truth your heart had felt
And cried a silent shriek...
He's gone...and there's a void inside.
You're stunned, you're numb, you're weak.
But then, from somewhere deep inside
You heard him... heard him speak.
He said...he's waiting.

He said he waits for you to rise
Above the gloom, the chill,
He waits to see you make him proud,
You've promises to fulfil...
And just as grey your days appeared,
Your life, a burden seemed,
He clutched his aching heart and said,
"Harry, I'm with you still."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Crumbs of melting Time

Was it Jorge Luis Borges who said Art cannot be platonic? You know what? Nor can food. I swear by Nigella.
The soft, pulpy tomatoes slide off the prongs of the small, white, plastic fork as the instrumental in the background morphs from "Lady in Red" into "Take My Breath Away". Chicken Quiche is my way of telling myself that the sun will rise again. Not just tomorrow. Today, as well. Right now, if I want it to! Again and again.
I'm in Eatopia. Food Court and more.
Ah, bliss. I could read Alice in Wonderland, leather-bound and unabridged. I could swing and sway the musical totem pole at the entrance of the India Habitat Centre and hope the tinkling chimes resonate with my prayers. I could take my digicam and go on a tour of the city once again.
The crumbs of the quiche disappeared from my plate, one by one.
The lady in the orange and green patiala blew my concentration.. JUST then. An ID card hung from her neck. And suddenly, I got stuck in the Present. I don't like her nosepin. I don't like her floaters. I don't like her peeking into the veg. burger and I don't like her resting her elbows on the white marble table in the restaurant.
The little pouch of mustard is untouched on my tray. The Heinz sachet of ketchup squirted a slanting jet all over. My fingernails taste funny when I lick the red drops right off them. And just when I thought I had had enough of the molten chicken and the buttery mush inside it, I spilled my last swig of hot coffee all over my T shirt.
My body feels like the city of Harappa. But do I really want to boast of the sewage? Why isn't there a loo around when you really want one?
Things I want to think about at this point to distract myself:
  • The A.C. is nice and cool, good for my heat rashes.
  • How green is the golfer's turf on that LG Flatscreen! Is it a shade different from that of the FIFA grounds?
  • Stana Katic has started shooting for Castle - Season 3. :)
  • Am I boring?
  • Can I ever beat the sound barrier?
See how the lack of good food creates a bottomless pit, a vacuum that random thoughts rush in to occupy? Go slow, foodies, go slow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bohemian Showers

A perfect depression. And then the rains. When was the last time I inhaled the intoxicating smell of a plastic raincoat and wore the yellow Duckback with the black piping and the funny seed-like buttons? When was the last time I huddled along with the rest of the travellers inside the Metro station, inches away from the dripping roof? A thousand feelings engulfed me in a deluge that I succumbed to. I didn't want to record what I felt, because to capture their dynamism would make me claustrophobic.
I never knew that there could be so many colours of mud. An ant crawling on my patchwork jhola. A peacock calling its mate contentedly. A man sitting in front of a computer, peeping out of a broken windowpane just below the Delhi University logo of "Nishtha, Dhritih, Satyam". The Central Reference Library.
A lonely dog tries to sleep beside an open door as people around me squabble and chime.
"Toone andar list dekhi hai?"
"Dehaat mein ek kahawat hai, kurkur aur murmur eksaath nahi hota. Samjhe bhaiya?"
Random, of course.
The wet wood of a van-rickshaw parked next to the bicycles drips into a puddle below. And as I sit there and wait for my fellow members of a Campus theatre workshop, I wonder whether we really can be original enough to stop imitating Nature. For the Sun is a symbol of all that glitters and dazzles, creator of mirages and master of puppets. But the rains wash away all that isn't pure, all the colours of the mask that we hide behind.
Are the rains silent? I'm not sure. Faded jeans don't speak to me. Nor do the ear-rings worn by wet, wannabe dudes. As I fetch myself a hot cup of tea from the Spic Macay canteen, I cannot be sure whether the water dripping into it is my sweat or a leaking roof. I walk carefully as dogpoop floats precariously close to my feet. It isn't all constant vigilance. I splashed about in gay abandon on the way to the campus, all the way from the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station, down Chhatra Marg. Relished every sudden eddy that a speeding car hurled at me. And this was a joy that lit me up and made me visible.
"Didi aapko bohot maza aa raha hai na?", a kid exclaimed.
Yes, it would have been a perfect grown-up day if I had let it go. But I believe I can't deny that my black trackpants are wet through, my feet are washed in dirt and slime and a seemingly subtle T shirt from Kamla Nagar is finally making sense. Tri Single. "Try" Single.

Taxi Shikara

17 year old M Namoos Bukhari doesn't immediately surface from amidst the crowd inside the India Habitat Centre's Experimental Art Gallery. As I walk in, a most unusual smell teases my senses and makes me frown. I walk down the corridor and past the State Bank of Hyderabad ATM, right into the familiar humming that always heralds the arrival of new talent. Kurtas and salt and pepper beards peek at me and I peek into the frames silently adorning the walls all around me. The Dal Lake. Many moods of marvel, indeed. Try as I might, stereotypes creep into and cloud my mind's eye, making me want to see the oft-repeated conversations between sunlight and the waters of the lake. A reflection here, a cauliflower cloud there and a hunched up Kashmiri inside a Shikara on a chilly morning.
But what greets me is so re-assuring that I smile indulgently. Shikaras in ones and twos, with advertising from "Rupa" frontline briefs, shikaras for the thoroughfare covered in yellow tarpaulin and named "Taxi Shikaras", shikaras that keep the promise of paradise alive with names such as "Janat House" and like the rest of our "filmy" nation, shikaras that promise to provide "music on demand".
"I've seen you around, do you write for a paper?", asks a gentleman in spectacles, "By the way, meet Namoos."
Namoos glides into the space in front of me, almost like a genie in a bottle, conjured by black smoke. A young lad, a trifle shy and seemingly hesitant in being on the other side of the camera. He stands with his arms crossed and whispers about the places he's been to. It's almost as if words, if not tenderly cast into the universe, might warp the calmness and the beauty of the Dal and his memories of it. And yet, he invites me to be a part of his world on the nearly done to death Facebook, a strange, virtual word that is too realistic right now and would have woken me up had this been a dream about Namoos.
"Your photographs have a sense of balance. There's the dawn and the dusk at the Dal, and yet, there's the commerce and the tourism."
He nods his head and thanks me politely. There's a fragile truth in him that I walk away from, a truth that exists in moments. He isn't lying but he isn't just a conduit either. He carries the Lake with him.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Please Stand In A Queue

Gayatri works at the McDonald's outlet in Kamla Nagar, the shopping paradise for students of Delhi University's North Campus. Three yellow badges: Master in Hygiene, Grill Station Master, Fried Products Master. Green stripes, black shoes and a nosepin. And concentration I wouldn't dare mess with.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Recipe for Redemption

Untrimmed fingernails and a hasty ponytail seem so justified when I walk into The New Lazeez Meat Shop. The people fell silent when I walked in. One kilo. I didn't feel like checking the weights. I frowned when the butcher cut right through the goat's privates. I didn't hear any scream in my head. I just chose to keep looking. It was a split second decision. He cut off the fat as much as possible. Everytime the chopper came down, I closed my eyes. But that was only because of the loud sound that I anticipated. Flecks of flesh flew. Sweaty customers around me, waiting in a makeshift queue. Neat discs of meat in shelves surrounded by dirty flies. Keema? I didn't ask. The chopper came down, again and again. A hollow, black laugh inside my head made a feeble observation. "That's a goat. And so are you." The hand that took the money from me had a ring on the index finger. Faith? Passion or religion? Why did it hesitate? One more experience that forced me to breathe. Later that night I dressed up the truth with onions, tomatoes, bayleaves, ginger, garlic, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Marinated it for 15 minutes and left it to simmer. I was hungry and gobbled it up pretty soon. It wasn't a sin anymore. Just a delicious dinner I had cooked for myself and something I felt like I deserve because I was there with it all along. Or was it just the feel of the flesh against my fingers as I mixed the vegetables with the meat? I guess one shouldn't question the food chain.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Thursdays, around 3pm, are so blah. It’s too late to go out anywhere far from home and too early for the weekend. It’s too early for a pedicure and definitely too early for the gym. I feel like selling off the car that I haven’t yet bought and signing up for driving lessons only if you give me the license in advance. Too hot for taking a stroll outside. And I can’t remember whether I took a bath. I know if I really want to find out about the Kerala Massage options here in Delhi, the information is a mouseclick away. But it’s too early for a cup of coffee to keep my eyes on the screen. My orange T shirt now smells like sardines soaked in sunflower oil because I spilled some on it while prying open the can. Time has slowed down so much that when I talk about a choice between pooping and getting off the pot, there are no metaphors in question. And I’m definitely not going to arrange the sentences in chronological order. My toenails are curling ominously and my wish to become a witch might be granted after all. The desert cooler makes it difficult to talk on the phone. The bedsheet with small mirrors on it pokes my feet and when I scratch the itch, I get reminded of TV commercials about dry skin. The first time ever that I sat with my chin in my hand, someone should have told me not to. I skinned my finger when I tried shredding cheese. I like poking the wound with my fingernails. It still threatens to bleed and I hope this is a case of barking dogs that seldom bite. Apologies, like love, should come accompanied with background music. How does one decide what to message, tweet, talk about on Orkut or Facebook or just know without talking about?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Games People Play

“It’s white and black on alternate days.”

“Your soul? So is it grey at midnight or is the switch more sudden?”

“No. Although let’s come back to that later. I was talking about the girl I keep spotting in my neighbourhood. She has curly long hair that she leaves open. And her clothes, I mean. She was in white today. I met her today for the third day in a row. She walks down all the way from somewhere on Max Mueller Marg. I usually meet her as I cross the red light just before the India Habitat Centre. Today, while I was returning from Khan Market, there she was again, crossing the road. She never looks hurried. In fact, the image of her dainty steps is calming me down as we speak. We usually walk towards each other but today we were at right angles. And then she just walked away.”

“At a hundred and eighty degrees, is it?”

“Laugh all you want. I’m choosing to treat her like a point whose coordinates keep changing. She’s a traveller.”

“Aren’t we all?”

“Well.. you are.”

“Okay what’s wrong?”

“They dug up Khan Market. The roads beside the pavements. It’s like ploughed land with huge boulders. All because of the Commonwealth Games. There are less cars there, so that’s good. But then someone had to go empty a huge can of nailpolish remover somewhere. The smell is all over the place.”

“It’s a nice smell. Come on, I thought it was next only to the smell of burning rubber. You love that, don’t you?”


“And look at the bright side. You usually go out with your camera. But it’s busted, right? On a day when the images didn’t leave you with a good feeling. It all works out.”

“Not all images.”

“What do you mean?”

“Foreigners with funky sunglasses and girl in pink slippers with a shiny, pretty pink shade of nail polish. Made me think of the piano piece called Bella’s Lullaby from the movie Twilight. And then that black dog outside the market with flecks of grey that walked side by side like a Godfather and parted ways a little later as it went in through Gate no. 2. And then that woman with that fluorescent ball, yellow, orange and green. Oh no, not her.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was wearing capris and her legs weren’t waxed.”

“Details that you could have skipped. Anyway what were you doing in Khan Market? Wasn’t there a movie you wanted to go to?”

“Yeah but that was at Teen Murti Auditorium at 6. I left late and didn’t find an auto. And there was something else as well.”


“Well this movie is from Austria and called ‘All The Queen’s Men’ with the tagline ‘War is a Drag’.”


“That’s like men dressing up as women.”


“Starring Matt LeBlanc. The guy who plays Joey Tribbiani in ‘Friends’.”


“Don’t you get it? I don’t want to support the universe’s decision to constantly make fun of him. It’s bad enough that he was the only one in the Friends cast to not be settled by the time the series ended.”

“He chose that life. He chose freedom. Just like you choose not to talk to that girl with the curls or the old guy who’s back in the Stein Auditorium to watch the film festival although all he can do is grunt. So what was the real reason you didn’t go to watch the movie?”

“The signs. It’s always the signs. And the realisation that you have exactly the amount of money that you need to recharge your cell phone. And a little more actually.”

“Oh. So why didn’t you go to the temple and offer some? Or try good old McDonald’s?”

“Not enough for Mac. And I ran out of prayers. Nobody’s sick. Nobody needs a boyfriend. Nobody needs a job. And if I need emotions, I know where to go.”



“Looks like someone found their addiction.”

“No. Lost it. But I’m still writing. And as Ingrid Michaelson insists, all I can do is keep breathing. So tell me. What colour is my soul today?”

“I can’t tell. It’s playing Hide and Seek. Get found, kid.”

The Age of Stupid: Are We Worth Saving?

The European Union Film Festival continues at the Habitat Centre and this time, it's a climate blockbuster from England, which, legend has it, premiered at the solar powered cinema tent at Leicester Square. This movie starred...

  • Pete Postlethwaite
  • Jeh Wadia
  • Alvin DuVernay
  • Layefa Malini
  • Jamila Bayyoud
  • Piers Guy
  • Lisa Guy
  • Fernand Pareau

This was a movie about our future, the one we were too late to save. But were we really ready to star in it? Could we really be up on the stage, under the spotlight?

Let's rewind. In front of the Stein Auditorium in Delhi, a foreigner sat dangling her legs, a fluorescent orange figurine of the Hindu God Hanumanji in her hands. The lady in the Bohemian gown with splotches of inky red, black and blue had her hands behind her back, holding a green Sprite bottle without a label. The fat lady with a bun had her right hand clenched in a fist, pressed against the side of her head, leaning against a shelf. The guy with a knapsack was pulling the nylon tails hanging from the straps of the bag on his back. He stood straight, focussed on the auditorium doors. Most of the men had their hands in their pockets, exploring the depths and tempted to draw themselves to their full lengths to make up for the apparent discomfort with waiting. No one stood with their arms akimbo. No takers for Superman, I guess! Not when you’ve come to watch a movie about global warming, called “The Age of Stupid”. We’d been waiting for a while. And everyone from the bespectacled guy with a rolled up pamphlet in his hands to the security guards confessing to the localite (that's me) that the DVD is simply taking an unusually long time to get set up, was at one point or the other walking about in the lobby uncertainly, not entirely sure why they were there in the first place. Stupid random molecules! I was no exception. I took a leaf out of Facebook and pretended to text in this awkward situation. They have a community for people who do that. I told myself, that at some point during all the walking in circles, if I find even one person who dares to stand straight with his hands by his side, at that very moment an intriguing hypothesis would stand dismissed.

“People never know what to do with their hands”, were the words of the director of a theatre workshop I once attended.

I found the guy, though, standing in between two guys who had their arms crossed. Minutes before the wooden doors opened for us, there he was. Senior citizen. A white kurta with a blue jean collar and faded blue jeans beside which his hands fell naturally. Confident body language and fresh out of a bath with a talcum powder look on his face. Drumrolls, people; we have a winner. I wasn’t just imagining the radiance and the white hair scarcely covering that wise baldness. It might be just a guess that he knew something that I didn’t. But I was sure that he looked happy. I looked away because had he met my eyes, he would have seen no reflection. He would have seen a girl in a black kurta and faded jeans with a shock of curls that sprung up on her barely a couple of days after she got her hair straightened. And a face that struggled to communicate that she isn’t fake, just controlled.

And then, he would have been the one to blink first but it would have been my lips that twitched. And I was scared of catching that infectious acceptance of me and my ways. He stood there like an open invitation card and I couldn’t even have believed that he’s a complete stranger to turn me away from him.

I would have felt like the woman inside the hall who later sat behind me and laughed throughout. She pointed out grammatical errors. She laughed because if she believed what she saw, she would have to carry it home. That was her reaction to the movie’s accusation that consumerism has taken over. It was almost like her saying, “What? No! I’m not even consuming the crap that you’re throwing at me. I’ll laugh it off instead and get amused.” She managed the moment and diluted the arguments being made with her windchime giggles. She made me want to leave the hall and look back and blast her to smithereens.

But I sat through. I obeyed. I looked interested because this was a classroom all over again. And I was competing for the award for 100% attendance. And for once, I wish I could use my hands to break a piece of chalk and throw it at that girl in the backbench who smiled with her gums showing. She could do with a speck of white on her forehead. It wouldn’t hurt much. It tasted nice too. And I would have loved to see her cry.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Solitary Fragments

All this month, the India Habitat Centre is screening award-winning movies from the European Union. The festival kicked off with Spain's La Soledad, a.k.a. Solitary Fragments. (Speaking of kicked off, the reason I wasn't glued to the FIFA World Cup and chose to be in the Stein Auditorium instead is that I never was a Football fan. At least not since 1994, when the Brazil vs. Italy finals interfered with my right to enter my classroom and I found it offensive that a young Mr. Lohia ask me to choose my team before I can step in. Especially since he didn't belong to my class at all. What nerve!)
The movie, directed by Jaime Rosales, is about how life for Adela (played by Sonia Almarcha), a single mom trying to raise her infant son, and Antonia (played by Petra Martinez), a widow with three daughters, are forever altered by the terrorist bombing in Madrid. I think it made it to Cannes. And both the film and its director also won the Goya (Spanish national film awards).
Rosales is known for films that show fragments of life and still shots. And I think that's what I liked about this one, too. It didn't force me to come up with an opinion. I could just sit and be with the characters. For me, the movie was like swatches of silence and characters that swam in and out of reality. Almost every other person in the movie had a pair of faded jeans. Of Antonia's daughters, the one that I wish I knew in real life was Ines, especially in the shot where she shrugs her shoulder, raises her eyebrows and matter-of-factly goes back to ironing something on a pale blue ironing board, scratching her head.
That reminds me, there is a lot of ironing in the movie. Ines irons. Adela irons. While Ines is more demanding and straightforward in her need for comfort, Adela chooses to be polite and withdrawn. I don't know if it's about being a control freak who's trying to smoothen the creases in her life or using the warmth to bring some order into lives touched by terror.
And this is where Rosales scores yet again with his use of profile shots. Two people sitting face-to-face and talking are seen through two different lenses. And the screen splits them up into a profile and a full frontal. Much like a coffee talk, or a visit to the therapist.
Speaking of characters, along with the humans, one of the main characters in the movie is the palette of colours. A lot of the sets have dollops of white and sky blue. You often hear conversations where two people are perhaps in two different rooms across a corridor and yet the camera never budges from those white walls in between. The kitchen has a white refrigerator, white cabinets and white casseroles that get replaced only by ones as red as an apple. Antonia is seen rustling huge white sheets and Adela typically seeks comfort in a bathroom with pale white walls with a solitary crack inching up inconspicuously. And later, in a dressing gown, sky blue again (the screenshot above). White empty chairs are all around Adela as she returns to a restaurant she had once been to, with her son. Makes me wonder, is white so alone because it's transparent?