Tuesday, August 30, 2005

So I've noticed

I went to see another movie and thought of several things. Some were my very own observations, some others can be credited to the erudite company I was with. (I shall not name them because a few of them will ask me for money, and mean it.) But most of these observations, to my knowledge, have no grounding in anything more substantial than what can be dismissed as a shrugged-off 'just'…

1. If Salman Khan is dancing with several women at the same time, then none of the women are Indian. The prancing pulchritude must be tall, blond, and Nordic. Oh yes, and it must be a large group, a bevy, an assortment of many. But he is looking very fetching these days - definitely deserves this new mantle of being the collective noun for PYFTs (pretty, young, foreign things).

2. This observation was made by a very close friend of mine with who I have spent numerous hours watching boring movies. We share a bond that can only arise from being suckers of cinematic punishment. We have seen Bewafaa together. And if you don't see anything amiss about that, then you either haven't seen the movie or are part of the film crew. In any case, this is her observation: Priyanka Chopra always has her luscious locks draped over one shoulder - whether she's giving an interview or acting in a movie. (Always, of course, means 98% percent of the time - the 2% being the margin for error we don't admit to.)

3. Newspapers have these brief descriptions of interviews before they get to the Q and A section. (X had a tete-a-tete with Nelson Mandela and found out that he really does like Chinese noodles, Hunan style.) In these descriptions, the name of the reporter is in bold while the name of the celebrity is the same font as the rest of the piece. Perhaps, there is a sub-conscious attempt to twist the spotlight a little, to validate Milton's credo: 'They too serve who stand and wait'.

4. There is something disconcerting about the music videos of London-based Punjabi singers - the ones who fill up the entire screen with been-there-done-that-so-what expressions. Most of their videos are shots of glistening, bronzed bodies gyrating in the foggy decadence of nightclubs - but don't any of the dancers smile? They look empty. Not pouting sexy or stylishly dour; just zombie-like dazed. Surely, that can't be good. You can't turn anyone on looking like an almost-alive cult zombie. And if you can, then..well, there are plenty of things I need to learn.

5. Murphy must win the Nobel. I know of no other law that is alarmingly simple, irritatingly true, infallible, and undisputed. 'If something can go wrong, it will' - now, isn't THAT everyone's E=MC squared?

And the movie that spawned these mental jolts was 'No Entry'. I don't find infidelity funny, but other people in the hall were laughing. So I suppose, the movie must be good if one goes by public demand.

Friday, August 26, 2005

All I had to say

Dear Job,

As you know, I’ll be leaving you soon. As you may also guess, I’ll miss you a lot. But what you may not know, and what I must tell you now, is how much I love you.

Sure, we did get off on the wrong foot. I mean, I was with you for the money; and you were with me for the labor, and that’s always mulch for foolish expectations. But that was only the first week, wasn’t it? That was before we got to know each other; before you found out that beneath this hard, arrogant surface was a girl who could do anything for the promise of creative writing. And beyond your cold, exploitative demeanor, I saw how earnest you were in giving me a chance.

Do you remember how you helped me build a parallel world? You were the first to introduce me to all these concepts and theories and this iceberg of knowledge that I didn’t know existed. You showed me the magic and the madness of pedagogy – of how the mind works, of why and how people learn. You know, when you’d try and involve me in this mire of processes and routines, I used to slip away and read all those books that would transport me to the time when I was in school – when I was learning something for the very first time. It’s delicious, isn’t it? That raging frustration of not understanding something and later, the ecstasy of having, finally, ‘got it!’

You were so patient with me. I remember all those meetings with the technical and management teams. They were so sharp – so prepared with facts and figures and neat numbers to prove to me why I was wrong. And what would I do? Just sit stubbornly like a diva in incandescent spotlight and shake my head, ‘No. Not possible.’ You taught me to respond to people, not react to their opinions. All it takes is to provide a reason – with a hard gridded excel sheet or a swirl of the blue marker. I’m now using a green marker, by the way; much prettier.

Okay, I know this is probably going to upset you a little bit; but I may as well be honest. At one time, I did think that I was too good for you. After all, I was vibrant and gurgling with fresh ideas; and you were a staid wasteland. Ours was a situation of a pearl before swine. But then…

You had this quiet strength..something that plants have. They just grow. They don’t whistle or shout or call attention to their height or foliage. They just grow. And that’s what you did. You grew. You allowed me my prejudices and high-handedness; yet one day, as I walked in, I felt your vigor and verve and got stunned into silence. Now, you had projects that called for the sharpest faculties of the best writers – the mediocre mode wouldn’t do. We had to create and ideate and translate and relate and…there was so much.

I remember, that time when I just couldn’t write that storyboard. It was 2 a.m. and I felt hapless. S.M. and I went to Powai lake and sat around, looking at the glassy water and sepulchral trees and thought. We talked of the great books we hadn’t read or the trivia about opium and Britishers and some Malaysian sex survey. Then he pulled out the cigar his fiancé had gifted him and in that thin film of cellophane, we both visualized our first screen. We came back and wrote our story.

When I was done with that storyboard at around 5 a.m., I took a printout and sat on a park bench to read it. I read it 7 times, aloud and silently, slowly and fast. Nobody but you and I know what went into writing that piece – no-one else. That was one of the many quiet moments we shared – when only the two of us would celebrate and applaud each other. Me, the gifted writer; you, my winning muse.

And I so valiantly defended it when the client wanted to change the script. I had never before felt so slighted in my life. I mean, I was disagreeable to the point of mutiny. I remember how exasperated my project manager and my editor were. They left me alone to talk to the client. They were so past caring. But I wasn’t. It was self-preservation. It was my story. And at midnight, I slowly walked the client through every line that I’d scripted – telling him why nothing else would do. And I’m sure he didn’t accept my unwieldy, amateur attempts of negotiating. He simply gave in. There’s nothing more persistent than dogged earnestness, is there?

But we were so happy! There was no-one else to share our victory. But so what, right? I remember mailing myself a short: ‘We won’ mail. I remember sitting on the steps with a stolen can of vanilla coke and sipping it in glorious joy. I never thought I’d be able to pull it off; and when I did, you were there.

I’m sure you remember how ‘together’ we were. Just us. My colleagues were fabulous; but it was for you that I went days without sleep, for who I forsake weekends, for who I suffered the taunts, ‘Get a life!’. We were this couple that shuffles shyly on the empty dance floor after the party’s ended. We were the freaks on the fringe, the sad clowns. We had so much in common. We were both misunderstood and given up on. No-one would fight for us – but we did it for each other.

And then, one day, you turned away. It’s not as if you weren’t nice or good or polite. But you were distant. You just weren’t ‘into me’ anymore. There were too many people. Writing was so…crowded. Why did it get that way? We were doing fine, weren’t we? Then one day, I excitedly fleshed out my idea but you wanted it discussed. Didn’t you trust me? We started writing according to some populist barometer. It hurt. I hurt very very badly.

I have sat before my flickering monitors in disgust looking at the ravage that ‘writing collectively’ can do. Yet, I did it for you. I hope you realize that. Because that’s what you do when you love. You accommodate. You sway to another rhythm even if it means tripping up. You bloom for another spring even when you’re kissing the frost.

You had pushed yourself for me. I could do the same for you.

But that day, when I came in and you expected me to write an agenda on how I proposed to ‘enhance my ideas’, I had to leave. I hope you understand. I never stopped loving you, not even when you made this infernally cruel demand. But you expected me to believe that this was as good as it gets. And this was impossible.

I just realized that I couldn’t love you like that anymore. I would love you if I tried, but of what use is the love that has lost its wanton innocence?

That was that.

And this, remember always (for as long as ‘always’ means to you.):

You were all I needed. You showed me what I could do; you told me what I couldn’t. You were my whim, and my whip. You were my window, and my mirror. You were my wounds and my strength. You were the scar I wore proudly into the world. You were the lump in my throat and the smile in my eyes.

You were mine, you were me.

But now, I must leave you because I am tired. I must leave you because being happy shouldn’t be such an uphill task. Because Woody Allen said, ‘the heart wants what it wants’ and I finally see through the flippancy of that quote.

I let you go not for the certainty of something better; simply the possibility of something else.

With the love that two outsiders had for each other,


Mukta Raut,
Employee Code: E******7

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Some things I'd like to be

This post has its roots in my nebulous misanthropy. I do not like people too much. I am fascinated by them the way one is curious about anything that one doesn't like - the noise in the dark, perhaps, or that thing that floats in the custard. It is doubly fascinating for me because I'm not only the eye that observes, but I'm also the thing that floats in the custard.

And now, there shall be no more talk of dessert flotsams because I like custard.

Anyway, Ambuj suggested that I make a list of things I like. But that's entering into a heap on a muddle on a mound of so much. Therefore, I thought of what I'd like to be. In school, we used to write essays that involved exciting personifications. We'd write the autobiography of a pen, of the apple tree in the school compound, of our needlework teacher who was as human as the first two. (I lied about the third one.) I used to love that.

So, here's a list of things I'd like to be. And if it matters at all, I wanted to be point number one before Bon Jovi had that same aspiration. I swear..by the moon and the stars in the sky…that song lyrics do not influence me. (She smiles wickedly and floats away.)

Thanks Ambuj, this was very very enjoyable!

Some things I'd like to be:

*Saturday Night

*Season's first rain

*A baby's fingertips

*A Christmas present

*A platinum pen

*A perfect shell

*A new book waiting to be read

*The first reaction on seeing the Grand Canyon

*A scriptwriter

*First day at school

*A discount sale

*A lilac moon in an autumn sky

*High tide

*A crazy idea

*A flute

*Something diaphanous with shimmer

*An Urdu poem

*Thirtieth day at work

*A wholesome meal

*A Frank Sinatra song

*Airport at dawn

*A resignation letter

*A Cosmopolitan - the delectable ruby-red drink

*An artist performing before a packed stadium

*Bamboo shoot

*Long earrings

*An ancient manuscript

*A tropical storm

*In the right place at the right time - anywhere but here, anytime but now

*A rivulet

*Handmade fabric

*Fine wine

*A 'WOW' when someone means it

*A stunning photograph

*A clay pot


*A long distance phone call

*Magic lamp

*A Guru Dutt movie


*A plastic bangle

*A last wish

*Curator in a war-ravaged museum

*Cognac warmth

*Turkish coffee

*A moth with a penchant for flames of scented candles

*A tight hug at a reunion

*A job well done



*A search engine

*Luscious Silk

*A Tennessee Williams play

*Quirky lyrics....`You're a twist in my sobriety.'

*A black orchid

*A polished dance floor

*Sea spray

*Winter fog in the countryside

*An uneven number

*A story…oh yes; above all else, beyond everything…a story

It's clearer in the sunrise

Setting the stage

Let's say you're a satisfied, successful person. You are well-heeled and neat. There's no dirt under your finger-nails, your nose is always clean, and you smell fresh all the time. Your home gleams with polished silver and scrubbed marble floor. Your workplace is free from litter and organized into little neat squares and stacks.

Then one evening, as you sit down to catch up on your correspondence, you see a leper across the road. His limbs are deformed and there are stinking, pus boils on his body. He sits amidst muck and looks at you. You look back at him, his environment, his filth; and then inexplicably, you see yourself. What would you feel? When you found out that his world and your world is one? When he and you are the same?


Scenes Alpha - Kappa

Two years back, I remember getting drunk on a l-o-t of tequila. (I love that name, by the way - tequila. It's tempting enough to be alcoholic; but too proud to be a vice. Somewhere, scores of leagues beneath the turbulent ocean sings a solemnly beautiful mermaid - a mermaid called Tequila.)

After having downed a fishbowl of the stuff, I got up to make a statement and immediately fell down with my index finger still pointing at someone's nose. It was left to one of my extremely acerbic friends to reach me home. He did so very grudgingly.

On the way to my house was a patch of garden that I found riveting. I insisted we sit on it. It was close to midnight - the perfect time to sit on grass. My pal conceded only after he'd searched around and failed to find a gun to shoot me.

I put my head on his shoulder because it was too heavy and felt him squirm and gag. Obviously, the smell of Sunsilk Black was too much to handle for the gentleman. But there we were. Seen from a spaceship, we'd be two people sitting on the ground, watching grass grow.

It was then, in the sated fragrance of the night, that I'd quoted Tennessee Williams to him, 'Sometimes there's God....so quickly.'


Scenes Lambda - Xi

Last night, with my acumen sharp as lazer and mind clear as crystal, I finished reading Tennessee Williams. And yet, if I could tell anything to the leper across the road, I'd have repeated my foggy teqila truth.


Scenes Omikron - Upsilon

'Streetcar named Desire' is one of the most exasperatingly sorrowful plays that I've read. It's not a play that just shows you a jagged reality; it sets that reality against a turquoise summer sky and polka tunes...to soften the decay.

The story begins with a stunning Blanche DuBois who comes to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. She comes in a streetcar named Desire. Blanche is so caught up about her fading youth that she goes to great length to avoid being seen in direct light. She behaves like a lady and is condescending towards Stanley, her 'Polack' brother-in-law. But she has a dismal, abused past; an exploited present, and a hopeless future. And this is the obvious part. There's also the depressing, languid breakdown of other people's characters.

After all, pain is so desultory and evil - like a pacifier dipped in poison.

In this gloom, Blanche finds a spark of hope with a man called Mitch. Mitch, for one brief moment, understands Blanche's loneliness and does not see it as desperation or need. It's then that he hugs Blanche and she exclaims, 'Sometimes there's God... so quickly.'

After this, is the cruel bleeding of Blanche's hope.


Scenes Phi - Psi

It's funny that in such a drunken state, I'd quoted from a play I hadn't read. So out-of-context was the remark. In fact, it'd been two years since I'd tried to get hold of the play from all quarters - but I'd always missed it. Then, day before yesterday, as I lay thinking about missed opportunities and the like, this bookstore called me to tell me that they'd got 'Streetcar...'


Scene Omega

Tennessee Williams - as wild and sad and stunning as a tequila sunrise. Somewhere my mermaid sings to him.



Monday, August 22, 2005

To the movies, to the movies...

Last weekend, after a really long time, I went to the movies. And what can I say, it was a Rip Van Winkle experience.

For starters, there clearly are no other colors in the world except for purple and yellow. So, whether it’s DNA (newspaper), FAME ADLABS (cinema halls, Cadbury (chocolate), Purplex (club), Jolly Jimbos (playschool) – everything is purple and yellow. And the exact same shade. Like, those fruit mocktails that you get in all Shiv Sagar outlets. They all look and taste the same. If you were blindfolded and given a sip of the mocktail, you wouldn’t know which Shiv Sagar it’s from. Similarly, if you were jolted out of your sleep and something in purple and yellow were flashed before you, you’d be flummoxed. You wouldn’t know if you’re looking at a DNA hoarding, or had to pick up your child from the school, or had to bribe the bouncer at the club, or what.

Purple and yellow. The new dilemma since black and white.

Also, going for the movies is now, officially a scheduled budget experience. It’s not a take-where-my-whim-takes-me paltry indulgence at all. Each ticket is priced to pay for the wardrobe of the character artist who sits weeping in the corner of a funeral scene. Movie tickets are three digits now. 180 bux! 180. That’s…well, I can’t compare it with anything now, but 180! Appreciate the interjection.

And when exactly did popcorn become such a niche product? 40 bucks for plain and salted. (The ones that get burnt and smoky are snobbishly labeled ‘Caramel’.) I mean, it’s still hot air and kernels, isn’t it? I think I’ll just go with my lawyer friends and have a bag of kernels ready whenever they start talking. That should take care of munchies henceforth.

And the 30 bucks for coffe that's dispensed from machines with 'Georgia' written all over them. What exactly am I paying for? The trip the coffee bean has made across the world?

Oh yes…the movies.

Saw ‘My Wife’s Murder’…watch it for the husband.

Saw ‘Barsaat’..Bobby Deol looking confident, Priyanka Chopra looking confused, Bipasha Basu looking coy, and all of them looking wet – you do the math.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Won't you sit down?

Some people put uncomfortable furniture in their houses on purpose. They do that to gauge how unsuspecting guests will react to discomfort. This, by the way, is an exceedingly humorous 'timepass', if you're not too concerned about bad karma or Italian vendetta. (The last bit is based on an insightful episode of Johny Bravo. That man is genius.)

So, some guys have the centre table located in what is probably the centre of the neighborhood and not the room. So if you want to reach out to take that kebab or put down the glass, you'll need to extend your arms and risk dislocating a vertebra. (which, as my stupid cousin peering over my shoulder just pointed out, is not located in the arm..my point is that such strenuous stretches are bad for the back as well. This is what I meant. I have such Complan-deprived cousins!)

Then they'll have gaddis so soft that it feels like candyfloss. These mattresses do make that statement of 'cultured, refined poet, also humanitarian and sommelier' but they're pains in what touches them first when you plonk. It's not a good idea to sit in them if you want to get up anytime soon.

Then, out of the blue, there'll be a huge, jeweled sword that'll hang on the wall like a Rajput Clint Eastwood lopsided grin. Someone will invariably knock it down and cause trouble. Also, beautiful books in cupboards which don't open unless you irrevocably damage a cuticle.

But the very worst in my opinion are the sofas. They are those sofas that people buy to make their homes look chic and stylish. They are the kinds that are made of that leathery, rexiny material that perhaps looked good on a bovine wannabe. But it's supposed to make a room look 'Soho', so there it is…the pride and joy of the living room.

The problem with such sofas is that it makes the guest come across as uncouth. Not just uncouth, but uncouth with a gluttony problem. When you sit on such a sofa and move, you make a sound. That sound causes other people sitting on cane furniture or wooden chairs to wrinkle up their noses. But you haven't done anything wrong. You just moved because you were feeling stiff. You look imploringly for understanding but sorry. How do you explain the sound? That it was the 'sofa'? A likely story!

Anyway, I always think about how people go to these furniture showrooms and sit on the sofa, feel it all over, before they decide to buy it. So, what is it about these 'hide'-ous sofas that makes people disregard the obvious demerit? I mean, if ANYTHING in the house evokes memories of flatulence, it's wrong. I thought that was a no-brainer.

But then, perhaps no-one can resist great advertising, as I found out the other day.

I was crossing some wet, stinky area - I think Dharavi, but could be anywhere else in Mumbai, when I saw this poster. It had a beige Brando-like gas sofa sitting regally on a wooden floor. Think 'plush'; think 'money'; think 'luxe.' Anyway, the idea of this advertisement was that this piece of furniture is not just furniture. It's Sofa and Art. So if you want one of these pieces, ladies and gentlement, contact the no.: ****** for SOFART.

SOFART: the new dime in home design.

Now, ain't that bumbling-bee tempting!

Come into my parlor,
And that's just a start,
Get your hiney in here,
And sit on this SOFART.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Life is calling…where are you?

Oh I’ll tell you where I am alright! I’m in this tubular excavated space in the wall that, in Bandra..and only in Bandra, is known as a trial room. I’ve come here to try out a pair of jeans but clearly, not being a hobbit is a disadvantage.

So, I bump here and there and stamp my own feet twice. To add to that, there’s an infernal low-slung fan that gets switched on when my head bumps against it. I have to try out two pairs – one black and one blue…to go with my bruises, am sure. Ah! There’s much to be said for denim metaphors.

Then there’s the waist size. My waist is, say ‘x’. So if I try out a pair of jeans that says Waist size: ‘x’, it should fit me, right? Well, turns out it doesn’t. And it’s not even those low-cut, circle the hips thingies. It’s a regular pair; but then again what does regular really mean anyway.
My extremely foul friend stands outside bubbling with insult as she listens to Rabbi.

‘What’s taking you so long?’

‘These jeans aren’t fitting me.’

‘Why? You said your waist size was ‘x’.’

‘It is…but these jeans are not reaching the waist. Once it reaches there, it’ll fit.’

‘What do you mean once it reaches there! Okay..wait. I’ll get you another pair.’

So I’m handed another pair that I struggle to get into. This one has ‘stretch’ marked on it, so I’m hopeful.

It doesn’t fit either and I’ve already banged my knuckles on one of the walls.

‘This doesn’t stretch.’


‘It says stretch but it doesn’t stretch.’

‘Listen idiot..it’s supposed to stretch a little…not expand like a sofa cover.’

Note to self: Sofa covers expand. Home furnishings is an interesting world.

‘You’ve become fat,’ she continues.

‘Is that a bad thing?’, I ask getting into the jeans I wore when I got into this extremely vile trial room.

She doesn’t answer because she’s checking out extremely stylish but impractical handbags.

I get out and limp into the sunset.

So that’s where I was when life was calling.

I should keep a full-length photograph of myself for the sake of posterity.

Some person somewhere in the distant future (like 2007 or thenabouts) telling her daughter:

‘See women used to look like this before.’

‘What’s this, Ma’, the sweet daughter would ask pointing to an area that now, is a sore point with me.

‘Hips’, Ma would say wisely and then get up to cook dinner.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Wonder if that was 'call'ed for....

As I write about this incident now, there’s a vein throbbing in my head. My jaws are clenched and I’ve removed all sharp objects from around me. But despite the steady grip of fury, I ask this question with a very stable, healthy, intellectual curiosity: What do men mean when they say they’ll call on Wednesday?

Now, I’m a woman. I’m supposed to be complexed with a smorgasbord of moods. I’m supposed to wilt at the prospect of something and bloom at the promise of another with no rationale in sight. I’m supposed to be temperamental and wild and petulant; the unicorn, the centaur, the keeper of many secrets.

And yet, to this emotionally pretzeled creature such as myself, ‘I’ll call on Wednesday’ does mean that the man making the statement will actually call on Wednesday. That, as it turns out, is pure, virgin naïveté.

Because ‘I will call on Wednesday’ actually means ‘I may call on Wednesday’, ‘I probably won’t call on Wednesday’, ‘I will sit and stare at ants give birth to other ants so I’ll be too busy to call on Wednesday’, and the winner: ‘Huh? What call? What Wednesday?’

Fali, (who would also answer to the name Homer Simpson), told me that he’d (if you haven’t guessed it by now) call me on Wednesday. We were supposed to go for this art exhibition where I would get to meet a celebrated artist. Then we’d go to her house for a poetry reading. I was excited…bladder-burstingly excited..because I don’t get to do eclectic things like this. This was supposed to be the occasion to stack up on my Martini memories.

So, on Wednesday, I waited for Fali to call. And call he did…on Friday. He called to say that he’d be coming over.

Now, I don’t mean this to be a gender thing; but you see, women…call. They call when they say they’d call. And if they aren’t able to call, they let you know that. Oh yes, and if they don’t do either, the next time they meet you, they look contrite. Maybe artificially so, but they realize that something is wrong about telling a person you’d call and then not doing it.

Men, on the other hand, seem to think ‘I’ll call you on such and such a day’ is like a sprint round the equator. Who does it? Considering it’s so much trouble and you know, the equator being an imaginary line and all. And therefore, when such statements are made, you are not to take them literally.

Therefore, Wednesday is not the Wednesday we understand. It doesn’t come after Tuesday; it doesn’t come before Thursday. It comes in the distant, undetermined future free from the shackles of date and time. That period, I guess, occurs after all the worker ants have procreated.

So, anyway Fali comes in whistling like a demented tweety bird and squishes on the bean bag.

Gimme juice’, he says. (No, that’s not code for anything. He does want that Tropicana Fruit Fusion glook.)

Oh! Juice is what he’s gonna to get.

‘What happened on Wednesday?’

Now, he gets that dumb expression of a moronic emoticon.

‘Wednesday? What?’

‘You said you’d call on Wednesday. You didn’t call on Wednesday. I want to know why.’

‘Oh…I mean…’ (he doesn’t mean.)

‘I was waiting for your call.’ (to be fair, it sounded like: I WAS WAITING FOR YOUR CALL.)

‘Oh but..I mean..' (again, he doesn’t)

‘What DO you mean? When you say you’ll call up, why don’t you? If you didn’t think you could call up, then you shouldn’t have said so.’

‘Why are you making such a big deal about this? It’s not my fault that you were expecting my call on Wednesday.’

Ah! Here it comes…that mindless tirade about how I’m making mountains out of grains of sand, how I’m being so preternaturally emotional about nothing. How I am over-reacting. Oof! Eternal blindness of the thoughtless mind.

‘Listen jackass! I was only expecting your call on Wednesday because you said…pay attention…you said..you would freakin’ call on Wednesday!’

Now, Fali’s a little scared. I could tell. He had started out looking like a wiry semi-colon on the beanbag but the position was getting more foetal.

‘I just said I’d call on Wednesday…I didn’t say this Wednesday.’ (Okay, who let him out of the playpen.)

‘Then which Wednesday?’

‘Come on…it’s not as if …’

‘As if what…not as if you’d said you’d call? But you did, remember?!’ (Corrosive stuff here.)

‘See, don’t take these things seriously. I mean, it’s not as if I meant to not call you on purpose.’

He is trying to confuse me but I’m not falling for that.

‘Did you mean to call me?’

‘Yes…I mean no..It’s not like that.’


‘Mangal Pandey.’ (the last vestige of effective communication – change subject)

‘What Mangal Pandey? He’s going to call?’

‘No. I can get tickets for Mangal Pandey. Let’s go.’

Now, I don’t let up that easy but Aamir. Aaahmir! Aamir. Yes, I would let up that easy.

‘Okay. When?’

‘Lemme see. I’ll ca…I’ll message you?’ (What a charming cop out!)

He got his juice then.

PS - This is my 50th post. In answer to dismissive 'So?'s, here's my reason to celebrate...I didn't think I'd get here.

So, Mukta stands under an imaginary balloon that bursts and sparkly glitter dusts her uncombed head.

Here...have some cake!

Me Too!

Thanks to Nagesh, I have a gmail address as well.

It is...guess! guess!

No! Guess once more!

(Okay, here's the thing. It's lunch time in office and this girl is acting cute with a boy who is sitting on my chair. So I'm getting irritated. She's wearing a Beavis and Butthead watch for God's sakes! I'm imitating her.)

Guess noooooo.......

(Okay, he's up now.)

My gmail address is: mukta.raut@gmail.com

Therefore, all missives to be sent there.

Again, thanks Nagesh. Gmail is spiffy!

PS - That watch is rather nice though! Geez! It's digital! Shuxdom!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Will rhyme for food

Let it be known, let it be said
Long after I'm gone and dead;
That in my lifetime, from so far,
I reached my office in half an hour.

I lost my scarf in the whizzing ride
And yet I take it in my stride
I write forced poems and I laugh
And cheerfully script my epitaph.

*Waits for applause to die down*

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Rajeev and I became friends because of the way alphabets are arranged on the keyboard. There’s a ‘Y’ next to the ‘T’ and sometimes, when you type fast (in my case, using all of three fingers), you hit both alphabets together – even though you didn’t mean to.

So, one day I used the office messenger service to ask him: ‘Are you busty?’
He replied: ‘No..and stop rubbing it in. By the way, I’m not busy either.’

Anyway, Rajeev’s like that. If he were a category, he’d be ‘Miscellaneous’; if he were a color, he’d be something with an ‘ish’ suffix…bluish, pinkish, hazelnuttish. If you met him, you’d think he was one of those guys who’d sit in the Stalls of theatres and hoot and whistle…or he’d be one of those who’d know Gunther’s last name. (Gunther – waiter in Friends who has a crush on Rachel.) He described anything excellent as ‘CLAAASS!’ That meant first class I suppose. If something were boring, he’d call it ‘jaded fuck.’ That always conjured up a bejeweled mattress in my mind, so I thought that it was a rather beautiful slur.

Rajeev was cool – the way being cool was when you’re nineteen. He didn’t begin sentences with ‘basically.’ He’d just straight out say: ‘I’m a lawyer.’ ‘I live in Malabar Hill.’ ‘I play the saxophone.’ And it’s not that he was just clever…he was an irreverent iconoclast. Bart Simpson grows up, goes to Harvard, drops out, becomes a sous-chef in Seychelles, and comes back home. Rajeev.

Another thing about Rajeev is that he noticed. He had the world in his Petri dish. With Rajeev, I thunked.

He got me thinking about why all the Cotton World outlets are located in some obscure corner – the afterthought areas of cities. If there’s a main road, with a dingy bylane, with a dark corner, with a shady basement, you’ll find a Cotton World there.

He asked me once how stupid I could be. Just that. The potential for dumbness. We were in a movie.

He pointed to one of the exits and said, ‘You see that Fire Exit sign?’


‘Okay, suppose there’s a fire now. Do you think you’d be so stupid that you’d get stuck inside because that sign confuses you?’

‘I don’t think that sign could ever be confusing. It’s straightforward. Fire Exit. You can’t confuse it with staying trapped inside.’

‘Yeah – but what if you’re really stupid. You see Fire Exit. You think it’s not for you to exit in case of fire, but it’s an exit FOR the fire. Get it? FIRE EXIT. Get it? Get it?’

As is often the case with most vibrant people, I lost touch with Rajeev when I left the job to study for my law exams. And then, one Jane Austen evening, I saw him at Barista, Bandstand – playing scrabble by himself.

‘Hello’, I smiled down at him.

Long pause. Wide smile. Tight hug at waist. He didn’t even stand.

‘You can join me if you want. But ‘busty’’s already been used.’

‘I’ve learnt other words since then.’

Over a rather crumbly brownie, we got talking. He was lunching at THE Zodiac Grill at least thrice a month and well…I could afford to treat astonishingly recovered pals to crumbly brownies. But both of us were happy doing what we were doing. So, different leagues but same score.

Then, of course, we moved on to love’s labors – lost but hopeful.

‘So, why are you still single?’, he asked.

‘How do you know I’m single?’

‘You look it.’

I let that pass.

‘Why are you so picky?’, he continued.

This rattled me...because I’m not picky.

Rajeev couldn’t date a girl if she dressed carelessly. He couldn’t date a girl if she used too much make up. He couldn’t date a girl if she wasn’t quick and flowing with witty repartees. Simply put – Rajeev went out on a date with a girl and didn’t go out with her again.

Here was a coal mine calling an icicle black.

I told him as much and ended with a curt, ‘I most certainly am not ‘picky’.’

‘Then how come you’re not with someone?’

‘How come YOU aren’t?’

‘I’m waiting.’


‘Your answer...How come you aren’t with someone?’

‘I think two people should be together because there is one reason to say ‘Yes’; not because there’s no reason to say ‘No.’

‘Jaded fuck! Any other stupid song lyrics you believe in?’

‘Several…but you should choose one kind of stupidity to live by..and this is mine.’

He was making a pile of the Scrabble squares.

‘What do you say to all those guys who..you know..want to be with you?’

‘Well…it’s not that there are so many…but usually, they understand…you know. I mean, you don’t need to spell it out.’

‘And if you had to spell it out…’

I was getting nervous now. I think these things but then they sound trite when I say them aloud.

‘It’s just that it’s important how I feel with that person. If I feel precious and special and happy and deep…then….but mostly I’m agitated and you know, just my most difficult self. So, it’s clearly not meant to be. I explain, they understand.’

‘No, they don’t. They accept and move on.’

I let that pass. I make little square designs with the Scrabble pieces. Why do I think of Mohenjo Daro when I do that?

He finished off the brownie.

‘You know…you’re not picky about people. You just let them down easy.’

My city-state was looking pretty on the table.

He dropped me home and made some cruel remarks about the pattern on my bedcover. (‘Shouldn’t you be washing off the vomit now? Even though it has spread so symmetrically?’)

The next morning, I get a beautiful spray of pink and white flowers. It’s from Rajeev with the message: For the only one in Bandstand without highlighted hair.

That’s the thing with Rajeev. He always, always noticed.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Paradoxes All

Last week, days and nights rolled together to form one long, wet continuum. In such continuum, sometimes there was respite. I’m writing about the experiences I had during that respite. The exact date and time I do not know. I just remember those moments as the time when the rains had stopped and the air was filled with mojo.

Wee hours, Marine Drive

It’s an even indigo sky. Rain falls softly like scales of a silver fish. The sea is torrid but is generally behaving itself. The roads look freshly coated with paint – that’s how wet roads look when they don’t have potholes. This is Marine Drive. It now looks neurotic and beautiful – like the brink of sanity; like the psyche’s twilight zone; like the rim of a whim. This is the unreal Mumbai where there has been no flooding. Rain and its attendant despair are still meiotic.

My friend and I have driven here in silence listening to Dire Straits. We get out of the car and walk towards the Drive’s breastwork. Every time I walk with someone on Marine Drive, I slow down and observe this: who goes and sits down with the back to the sea and who remains standing looking into the distance. In my experience, it is always the one who sits who begins talking. The one who stands generally scans around looking for dreams this city is famous for; all kinds of dreams – old, new, lost, forgotten, stolen, broken, borrowed, own, unknown, familiar; all sorts. City of dreams. Stand and scan around. They’re there.

We both remain standing, monarchs of all we survey. There are few other groups milling about. A couple sits next to us and is arguing the way couples do. The woman shrilly says why something will not work out and the man infuriatingly stonewalls. Both are sitting with their backs to the sea.

Somewhere else a guy addresses his coterie of friends dressed in mustard yellow and rani pink and other colors you find in Jaipur palaces. He flails his arms and hollers a claim: ‘I’ll own Mumbai’; ‘She’ll be mine’; or something like that. People often say this on Marine Drive to others who sit with their backs to the sea.

I spot a guy on a cycle selling tea, coffee, and bournvita. My pal and I get our cups and talk about this and that. Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rehman actually – its weird, the things you associate with vanishing sea spray. Then I ask him about the last significant memory he had of this place.

He was there many moons ago with a girl. They had been friends for a long time and she was going away to follow her dreams. He knew she’d make it. She knew she’d make it. There was only one million other people she had to convince. Anyway, she’d made it. They were not in touch anymore.

I was there a couple of seasons ago with the person I was in love with. We were discussing home loans and where we’d shift and how we’d raise our children (okay, that’s what I talked about while he agreed.) Then he reached across and held my hand – and I had my first inkling that this was probably not meant to be.

We scanned around and went back to Dire Straits.


Some Saturday night

An interesting observation about Mumbai pubs, discs, lounges, restobars, or similar mutant variations – something called Insomnia will put you to sleep; something called Bed will keep you awake.

Speaking of Bed – the place has unearthed the kinky punster in so many of us. Sure, the Bed guys asked for it but then, it gets rather tiring after a while. ‘Will you go to Bed with me?’ (Wink! Wink!) ‘I was in Bed with three of my friends.’ Yes, yes – I grinned sportingly the first hundred times I heard it but now…blah!

Oh! There’s another club in Bandra called Squeeze and it’s amusing to see how people want to get witty about that.

‘Let’s go dancing?’

Hmm, it IS rather difficult to weave a name like that into a conversation.

Anyway, about Bed. S.H. had got his car that had spent one and a half days submerged in water. It was reasonably dry but still reeked of ..well, stuff that cars reek of when they’ve been under water for two days. So Doe, I, and S.H. headed for our night out. During the drive, our behinds were getting damp; and pretty noticeably so.

Doe: ‘Where are we going?’
S.H.: ‘To Bed’
Doe: ‘For what? To wet it?’

Sigh! You can get imaginative with a name like that.


One Monday morn

There’s a cute corporate graffiti that goes like this: ‘In times of crisis, some people turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.’

But it’s funny who all go to work in Mumbai when the tracks are flooded, the roads are overflowing, and gutters are spilling over.

Anyway, there I was in office with only two other people. One of them was reading Time Out, the March edition. The other one was watching Shrek 2 on the computer. I was stupidly waiting for more people to arrive.

Dana chortled and snickered and laughed eerily. Somehow, watching Shrek 2 in an empty office seemed sordid. Dunno why but…

Sanjana was reliving the time Mumbai was hot and scorching and dry. When people would actually venture out to check out a Ragz jean sale and go for a morning show at Fame Adlabs.

I was bored. And when I’m bored, (like when I’m sad or happy or agitated), I suggested that we go to Mocha.

A couple of reveries snapped.

Are you crazee! In this rain!’, they squawked. ‘It’s raining!’, more squawk. ‘Do you know how heavily it’s pouring?!

Here’s the thing about my pals – to say a thing well and to say it once is not their virtue.

We have umbrellas’, I patiently explained.

Sure! And THAT definitely means we won’t get wet!


Mukta, no idiot would have stepped out of their houses to come to work’, Dana said with mock brilliance, like she was voicing some real original thought.

We came.’

Dana sheepishly looks about. No-one else around.

Okay, let’s go.’

Anyway, Mocha was open. We ate, drank, and made merry. Then these women started thinking about ground realities. They had to buy some alum because the water they were getting could only be used to peel off nail-polish. But, would the alum shops be open?

Mocha was open,’ I zenly stated. (It is indeed a glorious day when I get to have the last word.)

So off we trooped around Hiranandani. Grocery shops – closed. Chemists – closed. Dispensaries – closed. Doctors offices – closed.

The only shops that were open were opticians and jewelry stores.

Sanjana was flummoxed. ‘They expect people to buy glares to shield themselves from the rain?’

Dana: ‘And jewelry? Lets take gold chains and boil them in water. I think Romans used to do that or something.’ But that’s how Dana explains any ridiculous idea under the sun. The Romans – her eternal scapegoats.

Seriously, it is strange – the kind of people who turn up when no one else does.