Friday, March 30, 2007

Strange and funny like

We have a small police chowki inside our colony. (How imperial that sounds - our colony.) The most action I have seen there are the Nirula delivery guys carrying boxes of pizzas inside, some scuffle for change and such like.

Otherwise, the place is just a landmark for me to locate the lane that leads home. Despite that, I get lost every single time I enter the colony, but that’s another story. (I am stupid - that’s the story.)

So, last evening, as I ambled along a dark, leafy lane, two guys on a motorcycle approached me.

‘Where is C-65?’, one of them asked politely.

‘I don’t know’, I replied. ‘But there’s the police station right there. You can ask there’, I volunteered, all in the spirit of co-operative humanity.

The guy is silent for a while. As I continued my amble, he called me again, ‘Madam, one minute....’

Madam waited.

The guy took off his helmet and asked me quite earnestly, ‘Did I misbehave with you or anything? Why did you tell me to go to the police station?’

Now madam is jolted. I tried to assuage him. ‘No, no, nothing like that. I just thought they would know where the house is, that’s all....’

He wasn’t listening to me but apologizing in a flurry. ‘I am sorry if there was any badtameezi, madam, but I only wanted to know....’

I didn’t quite know how to respond. I tried to calm him down and told him he was far from ill-mannered, etc. but he went on and on. His partner had gone off on a separate expedition to find out where C-65 was.

In the mean time, the Nirula delivery man, now on his way, happened to over hear our little rant of miscommunication.

Turned out, he was going to C-65 next and the guys could follow him if they wanted to.

I wonder if any of the Nirula snack was offered to the un-badtameez guy.

On another note, I saw a small bird shed purple droppings on the terrace.

A man’s mind, a bird’s tummy ... who knows what’s going on in there, right?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Strange things that tear me up

I got into a cycle rickshaw this morning. The rickshaw-wala was a familiar guy. He had dropped me to office a couple of times before. Middle-aged, tired face, thin body, wise eyes, and a sunny smile.

Today, he greeted me, cycled briskly so that I was at office in 15 minutes, instead of the usual 25, and wiped his forehead. As I paid him, he looked at me earnestly and a little shyly. Then he said, ‘Mujhe kal kaam tha. Main aapka kal se daily wait karoonga.’ (I had work yesterday. From tomorrow, I will wait daily for you.)

And he rode off.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Trivia(l) wondering

I was going through some material and came across this bit of information. There is a Command Line Interface command that gets you information about the system settings of a computer. (So, with this command you have access to the vital, heart-of-the-matter stuff.) The command is ‘/info/sys.’

I wonder if the software company is named after this command. If it is, I’ve made a pretty neat discovery.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Oh, that rain on the terrace! Oh, that terrace in the rain!

My office terrace is pretty humble to look at. One can imagine it to be the sullen backdrop of a withering Christmas tree - in the manner of some art-house film. It doesn’t have seats or shade, except the kind afforded by a vacant sky. But there is a slim roof above the threshold of the terrace. This is where smokers (the group that is constantly in need of ‘fresh’ air), slouch around, finding their own zones of comfort.

The last coffee break had me on the terrace, looking across at a grey-blue building. Colleagues who I haven’t met yet wondered why I was there, without a coffee or a cigarette in my hand. After all, what can you expect to see in Noida, right? Even if it is a view from the top.

But I like what I see. There are coarse squares of concrete, bricks, and walls. These enclose dry, parched earth, tufts of coarse grass, and emaciated, dusty trees. While other cities may be urban jungles, Noida still has the feel of an urban farmland.

Getting back to the coffee break. I was generally walking around on the terrace in the sun. It was so hot and bright that I could feel the skin on my nose start to peel off. But I’ve been so fed up of winter lately, that a little bit of extreme heat was quite welcome. I couldn’t really see anything without squinting though. Everything was just swathed in this searing, white, dusty coat.

And then it started raining. Nothing else had changed. It was still bright and hot. The trees still looked wilted and the ground still looked like portions of it might flake and fall off. But added to that now was rain, sharp shards of rain. It actually hurt if you stood out. But then you had to, because, well…in the list of things that can never be explained is how one just wants to engage in the outdoors when it is raining.

The sky was remarkably blue, and in front of me was a tree that seemed to have perked up and become verdant. It swayed as if to some rhythm. Against the backdrop of a cloudless, blue sky was this bushel of slim, thin leaves moving. It looked like a Japanese painting that would be on white parchment, painted with a slim brush and a precise hand.

And beyond that, a sight to upstage every breathtaking moment in my life, was a huge, bright rainbow. A horizon to horizon rainbow. A rainbow where even the violet was vivid. A rainbow you wanted to chase and slide down over. A rainbow you wanted to put in your hair so that it shone in the sun. A rainbow you wanted to wrap as a ribbon around your favorite plant. A rainbow you would put under your pillow and peep to see if it’s there every morning. A rainbow you would put in a glass jar. A rainbow you would put in the grasp of a new-born baby. A rainbow you would nestle on a silk cushion. A rainbow you would trade a pot of gold for. That kind of a rainbow.

My colleague told me that this happens pretty often when it rains.

And they say there’s nothing to see in Noida.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Overheard on the terrace

Japanese animes are being discussed. The next logical stop are cartoons. D recounts this episode of Top Cat.

Top Cat, in Manhattan smart clothes, approaches a fashionista-type feline with red lips and a long cigarette.

‘Hi baby, what’s your name’, he asks, sidling up to her.

‘A.T. Jazz’, she purrs.

‘What does A.T. stand for?’

‘All that.’

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another day, another say; another sign, another whine

I feel like writing something now, but nothing very serious or ‘constructed’. I don’t much care for putting up unstructured posts on my blog. But at the same time, I don’t want to feel hostage to some notion. So, I shall just do as I please for now, because I think I deserve it.

It’s bright and sunny. Since I am not used to the heat, my head and shoulders are paining pretty badly. My nostrils are burning and I am seeing black polka dots on practically everything around me. To top it all, I had a severe argument with my husband. He didn’t know what we were arguing about, so he couldn’t put up a counter-argument fitting enough for my formidable erudite reasoning. This irritated me further. But I was soon beckoned for lunch, so I went.

There was kadi and rice. The kadi is especially noteworthy because it had mounds and mounds of soft, pudgy pakodas that were well-seasoned with jeera, garlic, and chilli powder. The gravy was quite thick and yellow and excellently sour with curd. So, after a couple of helpings of that and rice, I moved on to dessert. One round, brown gulab jamun. I suppose it was out of a packet, but I liked it all the same. It was treacly, soft, and very slightly chewy. Then, someone else in office had bought a packet of kaju barfis and I took a silvery square. My palette had quite a well-rounded satisfactory gastronomical experience.

A couple of hours later, I was done with my assignment. I got up, saw a lovely, cloudy sky and voila! It was raining the next second. I almost rushed to the terrace and saw all these fluffy treetops swaying in the wind. The cobbled terrace floor was getting wet and my hair was getting whipped all over the place.

I missed A. I miss A.

Traveling to Noida and not having my own transport is such a bummer. I try very hard not to feel bad or upset. I try not to complain. After all, this has been my choice. If I had the guts to drive a car here, I could leave any time I wanted to. But I am scared. There’s a price you pay for being a coward.

In any case, I miss being with my husband. Sometimes I think our honeymoon was over pretty quickly. After all, we had a long distance relationship for such a long time. We actually started dating only after marriage. Otherwise, there were those phone-calls and e-mails when I was busy doing other things with other people.

But as a matter of principle, I don’t regret anything. Even when it is strenuously tempting to do so.

Sometimes, when it rains suddenly, I wish A worked in Noida. Just to share a cup of tea mid-afternoon perhaps or just drive to Delhi and back, just like that. I miss not being with him for those 6-8-10-12 hours a day. Some days, it is hard. We can have no 'just-like-thats' during the week.

One day, just to irritate him, I told him that I had read an item in the Hindu that the Supreme Court is shifting to Noida, sector 54. He almost got three heart-attacks in quick succession.

I think the highest court in the land is still more important to him than I. Guess I can live with that.

I start aching for home around 5:30, though. Sometimes, by the time I reach, it is 9:00. I try not to think about it too much. It will make the travel difficult. What’s the point? Why have struggles that don’t mean anything?

As soon as I reach, though, I feel warm. Like something full and complete is blooming inside my heart.

After clearing the dishes, when A and I go for a walk or a short drive, I think of office the next day and start missing him all over again.

But I remember that I wanted this. I wanted this so much that I chose it. The job (absolutely did not want to stay at home, and absolutely could not), the commute (my workplace had to be far from home), and the distance from all things familiar (imperative). So, the sighs and the highs, the woes and the slows, I must take it all.

To quote my uncle who argued this before the Chief Justice of Orissa some day: You give a little, take a little, even though the heart may break a little. That’s life, your lordship.

Defence rests.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Soon enough

It fades from the season’s memory
No more of those nips
Winter no longer remains
Coating my finger tips.

It’s time for the March guest
To arrive like a drummer
It’s time for the unwanted one,
The famed Delhi summer

It will be my first here,
For now there isn’t much to say,
But I’m sure I will love it,
I was born on a hot, April day.

Stories of candle light

I went to Ansal plaza the day I moved to Delhi. I had a job interview the next morning and no appropriate shoes. The Shoppers Stop at the Plaza didn’t quite stock sensible black or brown shoes, what with sequins and flower-Austin-power dominating every kind of footwear. However, I managed to find one that wasn’t so bling. It made annoying clickety-click sounds and if the office was carpeted, the heel was likely to get stuck in the rug and make me trip. But it was either that or my four-inch platforms that I had worn for my reception or my sneakers that I had run in since two years. So, the clickety heels were bought.

At the counter, I seemed to be in the slowest line. One girl in the line was a Shoppers Stop ‘Citizen’ and she was trying to adjust some points or the other. The couple after her were also Shoppers Stop ‘citizens’ (whatever happened to ‘customers’?). They too wanted to redeem some points, use gift vouchers, be updated on how many points they had accumulated so far and ALSO wanted to pay the difference with their credit cards. The guy at the counter was overwhelmed with this list of conditions/ requests and suggested they approach the Help Desk. Of course, there was no-one there. And if this were not enough, as the bill was being whirred through the cash register, the guy wanted to know if they had a ‘fresh piece’ of the TAG Huer he was buying.

All this while, I stood behind, ready to pay hard cash for one pair of shoes.

As one can imagine, I had a lot of time to look around. After a few seconds of glazed eye survey, I saw a wicker basket heaped with candles. There were red votives, lime gel-candles, pink, peach, and saffron tea-lights, ivory long-stemmed flickers, mauve pillar candles, black dinner candles, psychedelic container-filled candles. There was so much choice. Enough to host a fairy party. But I especially liked a couple of candles that would suit our bedroom. They were white and honey colored with gold swirls reminiscent of the sweeps you find on Renaissance art. Perfect for some occasion in the future. I promptly bought them.

Next began the wait for the perfect occasion.

It came quickly enough on Valentine’s Day. We spent the better part of the evening at our wedding reception in Delhi, where neither of us really ate anything. When we finally reached home, I suggested we do something romantic. Since neither of us can think on empty stomachs, the most romantic idea at that moment was to go some place for grub. (‘Some place’ was Claridges, ‘grub’ was 6 monstrous chicken sandwiches.) Sated, we came home and entered our room. I again brought up the topic of doing something romantic. A thought we were already done with that, what with us sharing chips from the same plate. But I wanted more, so I brought out the candles.

Now, lighting those microscopic wicks posed quite a problem. I tried holding the candles upside down, sideways, slanting, etc. until I had used up every single match in the box. Husband, who until now, was making sad clucking noises, got out his lighter. It had never occurred to him to offer that to me in the first place. ‘You hate smoking’, he reasoned. I missed the point.

So, he flicked the lighter and with that little spurt of fire, tried to light the candles himself. Again, he played out the sequence of holding them upside down, sideways, slanting, slanting even more, slanting so much that he was positioned at an acute angle to the bed. But it was a no go.

I chaffed. Chaffing doesn’t go down too well with A, so he indignantly handed me the lighter. I couldn’t even get the blooming thing started…until I flicked it one last time in exasperation and threw it on the bed. And then, it got alight. The sheets didn’t catch fire but only because A had spilled some water on it. Or may be, the sheets were not genuine satin and I had been ripped off. Nothing shocking there.

Since A had now got the drift of what I meant by romantic, he pulled out two spindly wax sticks from somewhere. (Things that came free with a Monginis box of pastries or something.) We lit them, much against my keen sense of aesthete, and I told A that it looked as if we were ready to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a two year old. A took note and leaned over the bed to switch off the lights; and knocked down the candles on the bed. Again, there could be two reasons why the sheets didn’t catch fire - my naiveté or the dampness. I’ll go with the latter for now.

Clearly, romance was not for us, what with us skirting the territory of arson every time we wanted soft shadows on the walls.

A suggested getting heart-shaped torch lights and keeping them in the corner for mood lighting. Silence on my part. Darkness soon after. We slept.

Several days later, there was something strange in the air, something special. Something in the wind reminded me of my childhood. Something in the ripples through grass reminded me of a frozen pond under icy stars. Something in the flurry of leaves on the road reminded me of the sea. Something in the shivering flowers reminded me of Bombay. There was something in the air; some kind of promise, some kind of hope….some kind of rain.

It rained that night. Dulcet, genteel, stylish, cloqued fuzzes of rain drops. Magenta and yellow dahlias seemed dusted with pearls and the little pathways in the colony were wet and gleaming. A and I went for a walk, sometimes throwing off the umbrella to get that gust of fresh, clear breeze in the lungs and hair and face and body. We meandered around brick-laid houses with colorful tumbles of flowers and leaves all over the façade. We stood in the diffused lamp light by wrought iron gates, looking at pale pink curtains fluttering the wind.

After a luxurious, heady gambol in the drizzle, we reached home. A told me to wait out while he arranged some thing in the room. Then he called me in.

It seemed like I had unknowingly stepped into some-one else’s dream. My honey and white candles were lit on the book-shelves, and A had somehow unearthed another pair of crimson lacquered candles from the drawer. These stood grandly in front of the oval mirror. All those waving flickers added something to the moxie of spontaneous candle-lights.

The liquidy shadows on the bed and the floor, the mellow luminescence on A’s face, the seamless glow in the folds of the curtains, studiedly parted to show the drizzle beyond.

The setting for a special day...when a walk in the rain is an occasion.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thus we sat by the sea

We were at Tranquebar for our honeymoon. It’s a sea-side village a few hours from Pondicherry. We sojourned at a bungalow on the beach (helpfully called ‘Bungalow on the Beach’). Our room had a verandah with wicker chaises, white cane settees and tables, clay ash trays, and choice views of the landscape and the sky.

Sometimes, we’d have coffee there. Sleepy, slightly disheveled, scruffy in glorious holiday indolence. Our morning brew would come in bright, navy blue ceramicas with a glint of teal. On the round, white table-tops, the cups looked Mediteranean. Opposite the verandah was a Danish fortress that seemed, at once, blanched, bright, and faded. In the Hemingway sunshine, it conjugated through shades of yellow – corn, butter, chartreuse, beige, maize, Navajo white….

Sometimes we would walk on the beach, just the two of us. The sea and the horizon would be rimmed in a green that looked like the iris of a fairy’s eye. There were deep gorges and fissures where crustaceans lay and planktons grew. And the strip of sand stretched like a grainy, ecru carpet. The water licked our toes and the sides of our feet, until I could stand it no longer and splashed my way inside. The swell of waves almost lifting me until I was wet to my waist was incredible. A watched indulgently and took a few snaps.

One day, we found an abandoned canoe. An abandoned canoe on an isolated beach with swaying palms in a raspberry sunset is the stuff movie dreams are made of. But we were there for real. We sat inside and looked around. A surveyed the vastness of the ocean quietly. He turned to me and said, ‘Don’t you think this is perfect?’

‘For what?’, I asked, knowing fully well how sublime twilight on sand can be.

‘Smuggling’, he replied.

I do look forward to growing old with him. The poet.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Married and back

It has been a long time since I was here last. I know that because it is my blog (obviously) and because I had forgotten my password. Actually, I think I remembered the password but had forgotten the username. So, I couldn't post.

I am now in Delhi and have thus far traveled by bus to Noida and back thrice. I loved it. Very rustic - the manner in which passengers are hailed, the conniving conductor looking to see if I would actually ask him to return my change, the slightly smelly but cute children who benignly parked themselves on me when the bus lurched this way and that, and the hindi declarations of numbers which I do not understand. What is 'chaurasi' and 'pacchatar',etc.? Noida is divided into sectors (maybe chaurasi sectors or pacchatar sectors or something like that). Once I needed to go to sector 29 and since I did not know what it was called in Hindi, I got off rather belatedly. It was nowhere near where I wanted to go but the bus guy was quite polite. He gave me some hard to understand directions and also shoved a guy from the bus to ensure I got down comfortably.

Then I got into a cycle rickshaw and I just have to say this - the people operating the cycle rickshaws are the sweetest people in the whole world. They are helpful and willing and so soft-spoken and honest. Perhaps I gush but they deserve it. I asked a fellow where I would get a bus back to Delhi. He took me to the bus stop and waited for me until I got into the correct bus. Then he waved and went off. If that isn't sweet, what is?

Also, what warmed my heart but for entirely different reasons, is the slothful, greedy, overcharging, meter-rigging gang of auto-rickshaw fellows. You come across a rickshaw stand and no-one is willing to take you where you want to go. Finally one agrees at a price that makes you wonder if you are making a monthly transaction. Then 7 minutes of haggling and a tripping ride over some 3 flyovers that look the same. And that's when you think of your year in Pune and how that prepared you for the world. And you sigh!

Finally, my first encounter with slightly scummy male populace happened at an interview in a software firm.

Some things don't change.