Friday, June 30, 2006

Time with SS

A day before my immaculate friend arrived, I had written to her asking her to bring good walking shoes. While ‘good’ is a relative term and ‘walking’ can have several interpretations and ‘shoes’ can mean anything from wedges to pumps, one assumes that the three words taken together would fit some sort of universal sensibility.

I was wrong.

SS came with two pairs of shoes – one with three inches heels and the other one with three and a half. When one comes with footwear suited for soft carpet walking, the cratered roads of Pune come as a rude shock. SS did her very best to not turn up her nose at the rocks that lay untarred on the sides of the road or the huge cracks on the sidewalks. But there are few things that SS can keep to herself – namely her disdain for all things less than perfect.

Anyway, we had quite a walk – all the way from Lane 5 to German Bakery. Once there, she walked in, all stylish and posh in her sky-blue tee and funky belt. She surveyed the area for a place to sit and beckoned to no-one in particular with a tapered hand. A young, jolly boy appeared from nowhere and cleared the table, all the while eyeing her long, silky hair. I’m not even sure he worked there.

Over our cups of coffee, I tried to chalk out a plan that involved going clubbing with friends, eating vegetarian food at a grill place (my enthusiasm was rather dim at this point), checking out clothes out of wooden boxes at ‘Mela’, and taking her to the Nala garden the next day. There are few things more beautiful than seeing a white lotus through wet morning mist.

It didn’t quite turn out as planned.

To begin with the club.

We went clubbing, sure, but there was much to answer for before that. Like this friend we with who we went dancing –Ak.

How did you meet Ak?

Outside Fire and Ice.

So, who is Ak?

Software engineer.

What was he doing outside Fire and Ice?

Umm, quoting Robert Frost..You know, ‘Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor fire.

Shut up.

Then, prodding about the venue.

Where are we going?

This place in Blue Diamond…

Where?! What kind of a place is ‘Blue Diamond?’ Who goes dancing in ‘Blue Diamond’?!

Taj Blue Diamond

Oh. So what’s it called?

I forgot.


No, I mean it’s Solaris or Polaris or something…

It can’t be Polaris. Polaris is the name of a software company.


Why would a club want to name itself after a software company?

Maybe a software company wanted to name itself after a club.

Shut up. It must be Solaris.

The club is Polaris.

We went and sat in a darkened alcove, nursing our drinks. I am fond of places that give me a fly-on-the-wall feeling – simultaneously sequestered, yet in the picture. It is black and tony with fawn-hued sofas and glass tables. The tiny dance floor was swathed in a laser-beam blitzkrieg that filmmakers reserve to introduce space ships or aliens. While that may contribute to the mood when people are actually dancing, they do nothing for an empty floor that people are merely staring at.

The first hour was spent discussing this and that. SS and Ak were talking about Shiney Ahuja or laptops or whatever it is they considered to be a worthwhile discovery. I admired the top SS was wearing. The admiration was profound for several reasons. It was very attractive. I had tried it on and it made me look nice. It was from Bandra. It was only 150 bucks.

Also, contributing to the admiration molasses was how I could never be able to find such a deal. Such happenstances occur only to people who get high-heels as walking shoes. Fact of life.

As the evening wore on, it got more interesting. We danced with gusto, ate nothing, and reached home pleasantly pooped and ravenous. We chatted a little later into the night and then slept.

So, there was no early morning walk the next day.

But with the skies overcast, it matters not whether you perambulate in day or noon. We flitted in and out of cubicle-like shops, got tempted by pretty, candy-colored knit tops, bought Osho chappals, and finally suffused with economic consumerism, decided to eat something.

I absolutely lovely breakfasts; especially hearty ones that follow bouts of solid physical activity. I enjoy them more than lunches or dinners, really. There is something very charming about having an unrushed, tasty start to the day.

So, I took SS to Hot Breads. We chose our food (she always has a veg puff wherever she goes, and I gravitate towards anything that has a juicy-looking grilled sausage in it), got our frothy coffees and sat at a table near the entrance. From the glass windows, we could see the slight Sunday shopping buzz that hovers around Koregaon.

We discussed my marriage plans and SS pointed out very astutely that a marriage cannot possibly happen without having a good tailor around. (From whatever I hear of marriage preparations, it seems that finding the groom is the simplest task of all. A practical ‘no-brainer’, as my cousin put it. ‘What did you really have to do?’ A good tailor on the other hand – that takes prayers.)

A group of Chinese kids trooped in, practically loaded their breakfast trays with every piece of baked carbohydrate, and tucked in.

I wonder if it is a universal thing – this warm, fuzzy fondness that comes over you when you watch someone eat with relish. The girl in the group was hurriedly smearing the jam on her bread, she was in such a hurry to start feasting. The boys licked the dribble of honey from their finger-tips. Bit by bit, their plates were getting empty. Finally, after they had actually cleaned off every crumb on the plate, they looked at each other and laughed.

SS was smiling.

I came back to Mumbai with her on Sunday evening.

Some things just hit home.

Friday, June 23, 2006

All this is happening

I feel flighty today.

I need to work on a document, finish the review of a course, put down suggestions for some kind of art treatment (it will all be shot down, of course, because no-one sees the merit of seeing a boiled egg twirl atop a camel’s hump. All art must be ‘relevant’. How deadly dead!) and figure out my budget. It is now getting a little irritating to be so broke so often.

In addition, I need to prepare for a test that I need to take tomorrow in office. Interesting stuff. I just took a preposition test and flunked. I should go to Hemingway’s house and die on the floor. (Or is it atop the floor? Or on top of the floor? Or perhaps at the floor? I flunked prepositions, so I don’t know.) I don’t feel too bad about it because the email for the test informed me that I was to be tested on ‘propositions’ and I had to get a minimum of 90 correct. Well, I’m not sure if I want to make 90 propositions correctly. What would that make me?

Also, a little blight on the bright tube light is the fact that I haven’t seen a movie in a long, long time. Last night, before our regular, weekly skirmish, boyfriend made a joke out about how I can stand in a ticket queue multiple times because the usher at the door keeps tearing up my ticket. I mean, it was supposed to be funny and all but for a brief moment, I just couldn’t remember why someone at the entrance would tear up your ticket. Therefore, trip to Inox soon.
Which movie? I really wanted to catch ‘Omen’ but then, I don’t know. Most probably will be going with J and C, and since C really wants to watch ‘Krish’ (I forget how many ‘R’s or ‘S’es are there in the title), we’ll probably see Hrithik Roshan. However, I think C wants to watch Krish because she thinks that the movie stars John Abraham. (She pronounces it like this: Johnabre- Ham. Like his surname is so porky.) J, of course, will see any movie she thinks has a car chase in it. And she thinks that all movies have car chases in them, even if the plot really has a car mechanic chasing another car mechanic in a garage full of immobile cars.

I am usually at her place because she has cable. Yes, she’s a good friend and all that, but then, cable – that’s why I am there. So, in the event C is playing with my dupatta and does not want me to watch Pogo with her, I try to watch Star World or Travel and Living or Zoom.

Then J comes, all washed and scrubbed and dewy fresh.

She looks at me with disdain. This is because I look scruffy, sit on the floor and gape open-mouthed at some shiny faced blond diving into a champagne-colored lake.

‘I can’t believe this. You’ll watch a travel show if it comes on a lifestyle channel.’

Well, I just slurp tea and nod.

Then, she’ll watch a little while and ask me if it’s okay to change the channel.

‘Sure!’ I say unsuspectingly.

She’ll flick to one channel after another. We’ll bypass gloss and music and drama and documentary and docudrama and a cute koala bear offering fish to a hippo or whatever they show on Animal Planet, until we see this: fumes, scratched steel, burnt rubber, and infallible people who splat across the windscreen and fall off on the side of the road but are still unhurt to start running after the whizzing car.

Having selected the most mindless of things to watch, J will settle down on the sofa and have dinner.

‘What are you watching?’ I ask aghast at what I witness. Do people purposely choose to become more stupid or what?

‘You don’t like this?!’ It's funny - the incredulity that someone will actually want to know why one car is chasing another. Horrors!

‘This is my favorite movie. I have seen this at least 7 times!’, she asserts.

‘Which one is it?’ I’ll ask, because we seldom watch films right from the beginning.

She’ll chew slowly and look determinedly at the T.V.

‘Don’t remember.’


Silence. More screech, slam, screech, screech, screech, screech, slam, slam, slam, SLAM, SCREECH...

What’s it about?’, I ask looking at some guy using the gears for a work-out.

She’ll chew slowly and look determinedly at the T.V.

‘I don’t remember the story.’

‘Could it be because it doesn’t have one?’

‘Shut up.’

Well, excuse me but car chase is supposed to be a sequence in a film, not the whole film itself.

How dumb is that?

At the first hint of an ad, I scurry to the T.V. to change the channel.

By this time, my dupatta has lost its novelty and C is back with us, in a warm, fuzzy, polka-dot night suit.

‘Mukta, you no change channel’, I hear her from behind. It doesn’t sound as dictatorial as 'Mukta, you don't change channel.'

‘What do you want to watch?’


So, Pogo it is. I sit, with C on my lap, watching Noddy chase a goblin in his red car.

Then someday, after dinner, J, C, and I go for a walk in the compound. The air is scented and cool and you could be as brisk or as somnambulant as you wish and still feel at ease. C scampers along here and there, looking for frogs. I keep telling her it’s a good thing that she doesn’t find one.

Then we all sit on a bench. I try to teach C to touch her toes, J makes erudite remarks about plants, and we look at lights shining through lacy drapes or heavy curtains. It’s one of those evenings where you begin talking of your favorite things – holiday spots, restaurants, boat-rides, books, movies. So, when it comes to movies, I tell J of sweet, romantic comedies – Shop around the corner, While you were sleeping, Just like Heaven, etc. etc.

Then J looks around and tenderly asks me, ‘You have seen the Blair Witch project?’

If that isn’t enough, she starts chortling like a hyena on hashish and tells me how brilliant the ‘Scary Movies’ series are. And of course, there is a tremulous prologue before she starts about Jeepers Creepers. I worry for her sometimes.

So, who knows, with J, I may probably go for Omen after all.

What else? SS is coming to visit me this weekend. She is vegetarian and doesn’t like to walk. This means that I can’t cook eggs and um, take her for walks. That also means, I need to get some veggie stuff, such as vegetables, in the house. Soya chunks don’t count. Oh, and SS also does not consider potatoes to be vegetables, so I am in a bit of a soup.

It will be fun having SS around though. She introduced me to Lokhandwala and the pure, filmy glow that surrounds it. People sitting around in coffee-shops discussing the ‘hero’s exit’ or ‘entry’ into some serial. (Of course, the hero has died twice before. Plots with sense get discussed at J.W. Marriott., if at all.)

Then, she helped me discover the thrift stores around Lokhandwala lanes. These stores will typically have belts with two-toned weaves and sequins in three colors and colorful felt flowers stitched somewhere between two loops. These stores will have fuchsia lingerie with fur trimmings for women. For men, there will be tiger-striped briefs. For both men and women, there will be swimming costumes in leopard-print. There will be chunky jewellery, almost the weight of the finger it will be worn on. Once, I saw a very interesting array of rings in a non-descript shop that seemed to make tops from worn-out shawls. There was a bunch of rings with interesting designs. The ring meant to be worn on the thumb had a metallic thumb on it. The one to be worn on the little finger had a little finger on it. So on and so forth. The rings for the middle finger were sold out.

So, when SS is here, we’ll go window shopping. SS is a compulsive shopper. When I was staying in Bandra, SS came to spend the night at my place. We had decided to catch a film, go for dinner, sit at Carter Road, finish off the evening with dessert and coffee at Mocha. When we reached home though, I realized that we didn’t have milk for the next day. So I asked her to wait near the building while I sprinted across to get a carton of milk. I sprint, get milk, and see SS with a shopping bag. In the three and a half minutes that I was away, she had bought a sheer black top for her sis and a pristine white number for herself.

Anyway, walking around the little boutiques of Koregaon will be fun. I was also thinking of taking her to MG Road, but that becomes a walking plaza over the weekend. And SS is allergic to putting one foot after the other to get somewhere..unless it’s to step inside an auto. So, let’s see how perambulating with Miss SS goes.

I can’t focus on any of the books I have right now. I get into these phases where I must borrow a book to read it. So, now I am reading ‘Angels and Demons’ because I can’t zone in on anything more complex than the detail that ‘ILLUMINATI’ is such a perfectly symmetrical ambigram.

Just wanted a gulp of something new to read, so read a short story, ‘Blind’ by Ann Fischer. It’s not really a story, but well-written all the same. She has written about her marriage with a guy who used to be a financial planner. The guy upped and left his job, then became an interior designer, left that, and slid into sloth before he took up jewellery designing. So, the story touches on blotches of frustration in an idyllic life. It’s how you walk into a really pretty sun-room, it’s all so pleasant and suddenly you see a small, dark lizard dart behind a rose wood shelf.

Another quick, delectable shot of short story is one called, ‘Essence and Attribute’ by Fernando Sorentino. It’s an amusing story of a man who finds a little wart on his left hand one morning. He gets deeply interested in the wart, watching it grow on his pinky. When it becomes the size of an elephant, he gives it a name (he calls it ‘Elephant’). They are then kept in a zoo where people come and throw biscuits at them. Yet, in that time, the author knows that the elephant is shrinking while he is growing. So it is only a matter of time before the elephant becomes the essence of a major attribute that lies in wait.

It is quite surreal and humorous but I suppose you need to be in a kind of a mood to want to read about a man and his wart.

This afternoon, Z and I walked to MG Road for lunch (a Lucknowi Khasta chaat for me and a vegetable Hot Dog for her washed down with Peach Iced Tea and Aqua Slush). Then we dropped into Bombay Stores and I absolutely loved the fantastic variety of candles they have. I can just imagine having a huge room with mocha-colored walls and floor and little scoops in the walls to keep these candles. And then, all of them would be lit, and the entire room would look like a warm puddle of chewy candy.

But first, let’s shape up the budget.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My friend that was

When it comes to people, I am not very intelligent. I’ve been luckier than I’ve been smart. I’m usually dull with vibes and jibes; most escape me like the sense in fine print of license agreements. (Or in the case of license agreements, the big or the medium-sized print as well.)

Therefore, when my friends introduce me to people they are engaged to, involved with, want to get to know better, I am usually very happy for them. I like the subjects of scrutiny, because well, I like most people I meet. Of course, there are times when I may not like the person concerned. I strongly resist the charm that was described to me as ‘irresistible’. I can very well contain my laughter and run no risk of laughing my head off at limp jokes. Or sometimes, although very, very rarely, I think that the person is deceitful.

But that happens once every blue-striped moon.

Generally, if I am not gushing about a significant other, it is because I think my friends are too good for the people they are with. (It’s a realization that is so wasted in its premise that it’s amazing how often it gets made. A relationship, at best, is whimsically lopsided, and at worst, dismally disproportionate. Good person does not equal good partner. And good person and good partner most certainly do not equal good relationship. What with the whole being more than the sum of its parts and the seeing-unseeing quotient of people together and the jamboree of the heart having its reasons that reason knows nothing of.)

Yet, when a friend tells me that he or she has found someone to be happy with, I am glad. I really am springtime flowers-in-the-valley glad. Sure, there are many instances where I feel my friend could have done better – that he or she (more often she than he, though) could have found someone who would value and cherish him or her more. But those reservations aside, I feel a tremendous sort of joy in seeing two people choose to love each other.

They may have reasons to do that or they may not. They may have thought through things or they may have not. They may be making ‘compromises’ that they don’t know of or they may knowingly be accommodating each other’s quirks. In a few months, they’ll fall in a heap of dirt with nothing more to show than a bruised little ego and a fractured judgment of people or they will share a kiss in a cranberry sunset dusted with early evening stars. Whatever the case might be, I very deeply celebrate the choice of two people being in love. As an experience, it is such an oxymoron: to be stupid enough to want to love someone wisely; to make bizarre little assumptions of wanting to understand someone when really, how feasible is it? You will only see that person through your prism. This person will be a sweet kaleidoscopic spectacle of your own mind’s story. What else or how much more will you understand other than yourself?

But given all that, when a pal tells me he or she is in love, how can I help but not be happy?

I am a little disappointed with the reaction of some of my closest friends though. I’m sure they are happy for me but I don’t think they believe me when I say that I am thrilled. I have been thrilled before. They smile when I tell them the Delhi story and the smile doesn’t reach their eyes. They laugh at the jokes boyfriend and I shared and their laughter rings a little cautious. Their eyes soften when I tell them that this time it feels different and they nod - they way they did the last few times. They hear what I say of what I mean by togetherness and ask me about the wedding date. The date that hasn’t been set yet. The date that is their discreet reality check that there is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

Well, when more wisdom and maturity prevails, I will appreciate all that. But for now, I am deeply hurt.

Perhaps, they believe that you could put down the first sour relationship to inexperience, but subsequent ones to carelessness. Or perhaps they don’t want to join in a collective gush because that is now passé. And yet, I miss the silly enthusiasm and over-the-top joy. I miss that young, congratulatory ‘Good for you!’ thumping. I miss the heartiness that didn’t get diluted with wariness and polite discretion.

Ten years ago, K and I were caught in a storm in Bombay. We were at Joggers Park, sitting on a bench, watching the sky get slate grey in heaps of swirling motions. It rained and poured and slashed. People left the park. We sat there until the park was almost empty. At 4:30 in the afternoon, under a thunderous sky, K and I started walking backwards on the mud-track, all the time being pushed back by this wall of wind. And suddenly, when our eyes were used to the inky blackness, we saw beyond the veil of water, across a torrid sea. We saw a ship.

The storm abated later, people came into the park, and laughed about, splashing into puddles here and there. There was so much chatter when people saw the ship, partially slanted in the water. No-one noticed two girls, wet and ragged, silently watching the people around and not telling them what they had missed. How the wind had howled and the rain had whip lashed everything in sight and the earth seemed to spin and hurtle this way and that. How in such cataclysmic tumult, two people stood transfixed at the wolverine silhouette of a stranded ship.

Later, K told me that if I died, she’d have lost forever the only person in the world who could get her back to that afternoon with a glance.

I met K recently. She is as beautiful as ever and married to a very sweet man. His voice sounds like the strumming of a guitar.

I showed her my ring. She looked at it and didn’t take my hand. She smiled and said, ‘Congratulations’ and looked down at the menu to order. I chose my dish and we talked of other things.

Perhaps in time, I will not feel sad thinking of Michael Cunningham’s line: ‘Maybe there is nothing stronger than the recollection of having been young together.’ Perhaps in time, I will not feel this deflated and distant. Perhaps if my relationship does not work out, I may realize that K was right in not getting too happy about it. Maybe she had seen something I had not.

But now, I wish she’d put aside the intuition and the sharp memory that remembers so much. I wish she’d forget that what happens as magic today will probably rise as a routine tomorrow.

I wish that when I get her back to that afternoon with a glance, she won’t think that ‘such things happen’.

I just wish she’d see the storm through my eyes again. I wish she’d be really, really happy for, what this moment is, as that moment was, my one true thing.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Unending

Through powdered dusk
With caramel light
And hint of musk
A cloud floats in sight

Over a thick green grove
curtained with fog
It's a treasure trove
By a smoky bog

A trove of Navajo lilies
And fairy bees
And striped bass
And wood berries

The cloud swirls through moments
When nothing much matters
When the sky is silent
And the moon royally flatters
And shines so distant
Over grass and thyme
And makes such songs
With note and rhyme

One time when colors are yet to settle
One time when darkness is sharp with nettle
One time when there are motes of twilight dust
One time when the day is here but..almost..just

The cloud looks down on the orchid earth
So solid and peaceful it rests
Its crannies with foliage, its nooks with winged life
So full of troughs and crests

It's tender core lies beneath
Very stoic, blue, and quiet
It whispers to the frail roots
And its whispers are ivory white

It susurrates of times to come
Of stunning awe and fame
Its ivory specks go and fix themselves
To those frail roots with no names

It tells of silence that is yet unborn
The denouement of wistful prose,
The silence that will herald and thrall
The epiphany of a rose

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ten days and then some

I am finally back in Pune. Not much has changed in office. Looked around for J but she wasn’t in. Z had her own immediate plans of punching the boss. A couple of colleagues mentioned how I was ‘glowing’. Must be the spanking new white shirt with slender sparkly stripes and my white capris. I love them. They fit me when I’m plump and they fit me when I’m…well, plumper. So, the white attire was much complimented.

A couple of people asked me about the trip. Strangely I felt a little shy about showing off the ring, but I think I blushed furiously, so people caught on. Not about the proposal or anything, just that there were dozes of love-mush in my little holiday. I like that phrase – little holiday. Very beachy and balmy. Gherkin-colored shorts, sea sonatas, and moon shining over a rickety boat.

Work is perfect. Not too hectic and not too humdrum. I will still be typing away, hitting my pointy nails squarely in the centre of the alphabet squares. My thumb will be poised to hit the spacebar. I can shoot the breeze with a pal if I want to and still finish the work on time. No rush, true, but also no inclination to dawdle. The work ethic is fit and jumpy and fine.

The work environment is also pleasant. I have not heard the phrase ‘Big time’ when a harried soul responds to the concerned query ‘Are you have problems with your phone/ computer/ gym instructor/ husband’s adopted goldfish?’ How prosaic and stupid and flighty ‘Big time’ sounds. ‘Big time’. ‘Big time’. There is the endless continuum – Time, and that too needs to be saddled with an adjective. ‘Big time’. No. No ‘big time’ on this sunny, breezy day.

I think of taking pictures. Nothing too ambitious. Just a sharpened pencil near a piece of crumpled paper. Someday, I’ll get good with the camera. I’ll set the crumpled paper on fire and take a snap of the embers eating into it at the ridges. From the angle where I shoot it, the loop of an ‘l’ will be partially ablaze.

I am also looking for a recipe for light, vegetarian, cream-cheese sauce. I remember the mushroom and leek pasta at Prithvi café. That’s a good dish to try and prepare. It’s wholesome, healthy, novel without being ostentatious. I like humility in preparation. I like flamboyance in service. The kitchen must be bereft of drama. The table must be full of it.

My mind is quite ready to digest new stories. But I’m not in the mood for anything too long or elegiac or stagy. Short stories. That’s what I’d like. Quick, tidy snapshots of plots that didn’t swell to complexity.
There. I have it all sorted out now. Now, if only I can manage to keep it simple.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Delhi Daze

I am back from Delhi. I have plenty of snaps, loads of stories, heaps of memories, and not many presents. I still have a couple of days before I get back to work. So I spend my days wrapped in an after-holiday gossamer sheath of bliss. I get up lazily, sip my coffee by the window watching the roads get bright and dusty, feel the sheets getting cool in the air conditioning, and look at the snaps. This feels a little strange now.

What look like glossy reminiscences were actually moments that were clicked in anticipation. Sometimes a stranger was hailed to click a photo, sometimes the gardener of a manicured lawn was taught to zoom and focus, sometimes a waiter added a vase of flowers to the table to enhance the composition, sometimes my cousin or Jaygee or boyfriend clicked me looking sharp in the setting sun.

Now, when I see the photographs, I think of how much got recorded with each click – the mood, the memory of the person not in the frame, the hope of what this picture will mean to me tomorrow…so much.

Then, there was the exciting journey of discovering who my boyfriend really is. While I had some idea of how much he cared for me, I did realize I didn’t enthuse him as much as his car did, or all the clients who owed him money. These two topics, particularly, moved him to an eloquence I didn’t know he was capable of.

Interestingly, before I got to know his mother, I was introduced to the ‘Car’. No love lost there – mutually.

As affectionate as one may get about one’s third car, I think it is a little unnatural to get misty-eyed when you talk of each bump or scratch on it. The coagulated fondness for the car must be seen to be believed. When he picked me up from the airport, he first fumbled for the car keys, and then for the single rose he had bought for me. He was happier finding the keys.

Another one of his extremely irritating habits is switching radio channels without checking with anybody else in the car. And the one time I happened to do it, I was met with a thick wall of hurt silence. I mean, it’s not as if I had killed his pet rabbit and made a stew out of it.

Then, there is his absurd quirk of never getting out of the car once he has got into it. He would pick me up from Jaygee’s place and we’d drive off without having a plan of what we’d do during the day. Now, I like going on drives but I’m not sure if I’d like to conduct every single activity in the cruise mode. When I’d ask him to stop somewhere for breakfast, he’d say, ‘Not here. No place to park.’ And we’d drive off with me gazing at the empty lanes with some puzzlement. ‘No place to park’ indeed! I think that boyfriend thought that cars grow to twice their size if left motionless and therefore one must keep driving them to maintain their ‘lean machine’ status. However, a couple of hours and a few tantrums later, the car did stop in front of a restaurant. And there was honking. Why? Because boyfriend seemed to have this arrangement with some joints where the food is brought to the car. When I suggested that we actually park the car, leave it on the road, get out of it (the resistance begins here), and go inside for grub, he sputtered a little plaintively, ‘But….but…’

Anyway, we had a lovely, if an unconventional, breakfast of chicken momos and hazelnut lattes.

Speaking of breakfast, Jaygee and I had a nice, sated morning snack one Sunday. There was tava toast, marmalade, cheese, and good coffee. And the conversation was, as usual, solid and comforting. Thankfully, some things don’t change with time and distance.

I met up, quite unexpectedly, with my cousin and his friend. All of us went to the ‘Garden of Five Senses’ where we respectfully appreciated the landscaping without understanding much of its raison d’etre, so to speak. We just took a whole lot of pictures in quiet incomprehension – like when you read, and then randomly quote Walt Whitman.

There was a token shopping spree at Lajpat Nagar where I got all that I needed in 30 minutes flat. Everything in 30 minutes. Boyfriend was quite pleased, although he told me that he knew a shop where the shopkeeper would show you all that you were interested in and ‘you wouldn’t even have to leave the car.’ I didn’t pay any attention to that.

Then, my experience with Delhi food. Well, every thing – every single, minute, broad, sweeping, flattering, hyperbolic, deifying, eulogizing, praise-worthy, worship-worthy, paean-like thing you have heard about Kareem’s – it’s true. You taste tender marrow and succulent mutton, all wedded with spices in artistic marination and cooked with such guile as to render the taste of meat immortal – you taste something like that and you start looking for a culinary altar where you could worship it.

Boyfriend had always told me that this place was special. I had guessed as much when he readily got out of the car to get inside the restaurant. Otherwise, we’d be outside and honking for food.

Then there were these other times that I think about to get a sudden wave of euphoria. These are the times I thought of when the plane lurched in the turbulent weather and people closed their eyes and clutched at prayers.

I think of the night he and I visited Mocha – both spiffily dressed in black. This was where we had first talked two years ago. After that night, we had become steady friends while we separately explored the little travesties in our routine lives.

I think of the day we both stumbled onto this stunning ruin on Pandara Road – this huge, red-bricked assemblage of timelessness. The kind of thing you see and get a glimpse of how old ‘forever’ really is.

Then there was the night we drove and drove and drove and every song that played on the radio, played for us.

There was the evening when he took me to the temple. He prayed while I waited outside under a blanket of glassy stars. I watched him and strangely felt him holding my hand – despite being several feet away.

There was the afternoon when I was in his office checking mail while he talked to a client. I turned back to see him smiling at me.

One dusk, I fell asleep in the spare bedroom, subconsciously listening to the regular household noises in the background. I woke up to see him looking at me and making one of those silent promises you make when your heart is so full of love.

And most of all, I think of my last night in Delhi.

It was getting increasingly difficult to get through. The evening felt sour and my heart just seemed to be padding away on a lonely road. I had seen so much of him – where he worked, where he lived, where he prayed, where he played, where he got foolish with his friends, where his mother and he dined on special occasions. I had seen Delhi with him. I had seen his Delhi. I had seen what he’d shown me. I missed what he’d whizzed past. I didn’t think I could ever remember Delhi other than the city where he lived.

It was one of those feelings you get when you want to gauge how much you’ll take with you and how much you’ve left behind. It is so darn difficult. Like if you had to relinquish your shadow, how do you figure out how much darkness and how much light you’re letting go of?

As the hour neared midnight, I was filled with that soul-bursting urge to celebrate. I could feel the explosion of firecrackers in my fingernails.

We went to Taj (after carefully counting pennies.) In the walk from the lobby to the café, I wondered why I loved him the way I did. After all, he smoked, he didn’t read books, he didn’t watch English films, he didn’t dance..but…inspite of that (or maybe, because of that – who can tell?), I felt so together. It is weird, the places where the heart finds its home.

I love the way he will fearlessly voice his opinion and gently help his mother up the stairs. I love the way he explains patiently that his car does not have a central locking system and I must be careful to not leave it unlocked.

I love the way he rubbishes my taste in films but unexpectedly steals my heart when he narrates this scene from ‘The Doors’; the scene where Jim Morrison follows a girl to her house and keeps watching her from outside. Many hours later, when she confronts him and asks him why he’d followed her, he replies, ‘Because you’re the one.’ My heart twists a little bit every time he says that.

I love the way he is not barraged with pessimistic thoughts. How he doesn’t have the arrogance of cynical people – of having seen it all and not finding a new day important enough to be hopeful for. I love the way my eyes shine with unshed tears when he holds my hand.

I love the way when, at Taj, he ordered for beverage and asked the waiter to take his time and not hurry back with the order. I love the way he said ‘I love you’ and knelt down (upsetting the table.) I love the way he earnestly slipped a ring in my finger (the wrong one at first) and asked me, ‘Will you marry me?’ I loved the way his eyes lit up with a hundred sunrises when I said yes.

They say that the best trips are where you surprise yourself. In a word, my Delhi trip was fantastic!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Going on a holiday

I will be on leave for the next few days. I will be in Delhi, where I have spent some of my happiest childhood vacations. This time round, of course, I go for very different reasons. I go to eat mutton, have fun with Jaygee, visit all the coffee places with her - at least Mocha and one other one that she recommends, and meet my boyfriend. J, my very own wet blanket in Pune- also from Delhi, told me that I did not have to do all that in the month of June when there are records of people dropping dead in the heat. But well, I can't wait any longer.

Much before I fell in love with a typical Delhi guy (and Mumbai girls were wary of that for the longest time until Shah Rukh Khan came and changed the 'picture' - bad pun, yes..okay, I'll carry on..), I loved Delhi because of the aloof beauty that it was cloaked in. The mist, dust, gardens, roads, color, market places selling vermillion chunnis and coriander and bangles and ceramic pots. But what I loved most was the food - tasty, flavorful, and so much of it. I still get tingly thinking of the tart, pomegranate chutney I was served with aloo tikki.

Really, June will be a most excellent month. I plan to catch at least one play there - hopefully something my cousin's NSD friend is acting in, and then eat at Kabab Factory, Noida. J's recommendation. And then, visit the deer park where J and my boyfriend have spent many happy times - not together though. Also, both have told me interesting stories of a peacock they had spotted there.

Also, visiting the Supreme Court and the JNU campus and maybe taking the metro and possibly, buying interesting cushion covers and sparkly hand-mirrors.

And yes, long, long drives listening to a tender story for the millionth time - the story of how he came to love me.