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. :(