Sunday, September 30, 2007

My silver ballet flats

I bought a pair of ballet flats
They glitter with silver sequins
I would have preferred the nude peep-toes
But they look better on those mannequins

These ballet flats look metallic
In the bright white light of the mall
These ballet flats look like elfin treats
Used to pirouette down waterfalls

I watched with daze and wonder
As they got wrapped in some sheath,
These flats with merry twinkles
And those desires that lie beneath

These ballet flats, in some strange way,
Remind me of those days
When glory was public speaking
And matching a teacher’s gaze

These ballet flats are childish
In their sweet, silver glean,
They tempt with their gullible pull
Of dances in realms of dreams

I didn’t buy these flats as a fashionista
They aren’t shoedom’s Holy Grail,
They are just the way, I would, as a child,
Trap the moon in water in a pail.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

That’s funny? Really?

The other day I was chatting with a friend who had recently watched the film, ‘Dhol’. She liked the movie. I’d found it dismal. There were some glaring factors such as the staid storyline and boring Priyadarshan sequences that involving hordes of running people and Rajpal Yadav getting slapped unnecessarily. There were those cherries on the stale cake - Tanushree Datta’s absolutely insipid performance (and one cannot blame her as she has to choose her suitor from amongst Kunal Khemu, Tushar Kapoor, Sharmaan Joshi, and Rajpal Yadav. Collectively, these gentlemen form the platter of blah.) But the reason I dismiss off the film as I would dump used tissue paper in the can is this: the plots that were used to get laughs are deplorable.

The movie begins with the four actors having tea at a stall. Rajpal Yadav notices a van full of men whiz past. He can hear a woman screaming from inside. He goads his friends to follow the van and rescue the girl, who seems to be getting gang-raped in a closed van.

They manage to stop the van and pull out the men and bash them up. Later, they peek into the van only to see a pregnant woman in the final stages of labor, screaming to be taken to the hospital. (Cue to whistle, clap, and laugh.)

Now, I understand that there is no accounting for taste and you don’t intellectualize over something that was obviously meant to get a few ha-has, but…rape and labor pain... Really?

Now, my response to some films do indicate that maybe I don’t have a sense of humor. Because the chuckle-factor in several movies escapes me. I don’t find infidelity funny. So ‘No Entry’ with all its analogies of comparing the wife to a reliable car and an affair to a test drive is abominable. I don’t see why a joke should be made out of a wife’s naivete while her husband swines through his mid-life crisis. I don’t get the joke in 4 men being voyeurs and peeping into a girls room (Golmaal and Dhol), all the while, deciding among themselves that one of them will be the girl’s husband. So, that basically means, that until the girl marries one of them, each of the guys is okay with his friends ogling at her.

For some reason, I didn’t laugh at that scene in that horrible film (starring Shah Rukh Khan as a cupid with a weak heart) where Preity Zinta goes to a club with Saif and Shah Rukh and they spike her drink to get her uninhibited. I mean, that is scary stuff. You go with your trusted pals and that’s what they do when you’re not looking and yes, you’re lucky if the worst that has happened is that you danced to an inane song on a table-top.

And then there is Salaam Namaste that is el pathetico. I mean, that ordeal of trying to sit through the comic situations while woman anguishes over delivering a baby is...I run out of words here but I sufficiently cringe at the memory. (And Zinta’s pregnant tummy looks artificial to boot.)

I know I am being judgmental. However, I feel that there is just something wrong with this collusion between the movie people and audience…this shared secret understanding that they will laugh at scenes where rape or molestation or voyeurism or pregnancy is mocked. Maybe such movies should come with a disclaimer that discerning audience may find certain scenes reprehensible.

I don’t know what that will solve but, maybe, it will get a few chuckles. And that makes everything okay, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Now is the later I'll never have

I was in bed, having strange dreams that involved a psychedelic mouse. Woke to a lazy drizzle and the comfort of knowing that I have completed all my pending assignments and have nowhere to go. Brushed my teeth and had some tea. Went back to bed and extricated the book I was reading from under the covers.

Spent three hours of glorious, sharp, uninterrupted reading.

Walked to the kitchen where mom had made me something I had casually asked for yesterday and forgotten.

So, settled down to have a slice of crisp, flaky quiche with tangy onion and mushroom filling. And a large cup of nice, hot coffee. Both made by Ma.

It’s time to go back under the covers.

I bid adieu to time well-spent
In a home raging with love
I bid adieu to mornings that went
Unbidden to skies above
I say hello to a peeping moon
That shouldn’t be out just yet
It replies with a cheeky grin
Perched on a lacy cloud that’s wet
It’s the nature of farewells to haunt
With memories of the first greeting
It’s in the mechanics of all things beautiful
To be brittle, perhaps, and fleeting
There are the trodden prints of time
Through every void you look
The final journey of an innocent age
Is to return to the bed and the book.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Delicacy for lunch

I wonder if other households eat pumpkin flowers, but we do. And because they are available only during the monsoons, we eat them every day we get them.

The most popular way to eat them is to coat them with a batter of besan, curd, turmeric, chilli, and salt and fry them. They are absolutely delectable with their slight, flat spongness and the traditional, seasoned batter.

But there’s another way to have them as well, without batter. Simply coat them with a little oil, chilli, salt, and turmeric and shallow fry them. I absolutely love the taste of pumpkin flowers, so I don’t quite care for the besan coating too much.

This afternoon, I had these fried pumpkin flowers with steaming hot rice and kashundi. (Bengali-style mustard paste.) Gorgeous!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What I would rather be doing

It’s 3:41 a.m. and I am working on an office assignment. I really, really wish right now that I wouldn’t have spent 12,000 bucks on a pair of stupid jeans and a stupid kerchief top; it’s too sequinny to be a kerchief and too small to be a top. What was I thinking? I don’t have that kind of lifestyle anymore. Of what use is it? Maybe if there’s a runny glittery nose somewhere, I can pass it on. Or wait, it’ll be my nephew’s first birthday next year. I’ll just be the most inappropriately dressed aunt then. Sheesh! If I had saved that cash, I wouldn’t have had to work at 3:41 a.m., or even 3:42 or 3:43 a.m. Instead, I’d be in bed and have all my delectable reads spread all around me and I’d dip into them as and when I felt like it. (I read more than one book at a time.)

Here’s a list of what I’d like to be reading in the next few weeks:

· A million little pieces by James Frey
· Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald
· The moon and sixpence by Somerset Maugham
· Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
· Midnight’s children by Rushdie
· Inventing memory by Erica Jong
· Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

Maybe I should just wear the shiny top and jeans right now and sit down to work. That’s a really cheery idea! And, the expression on the milkman’s face when I open the door is worth looking forward to.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Aghora – At the Left Hand of God

I recently finished reading a very interesting book, ‘Aghora – At the Left Hand of God’ by Robert E.Svoboda. It was a very compelling read and so many aspects of it fascinated me.

While I would like to write about what this book is about, the prospect overwhelms me. I don’t know how to put it all together. Now, this is interesting because while I was reading it, I was so centered on what the author had to say. However, now it just seems to have disintegrated – like candy floss on the tongue.

Anyway, here goes:

The author has written about his guru, Vimlananda, who was an Aghori. Aghoris are people who follow the Aghora discipline – the most distilled and concentrated form of Tantra.

Now, this is where I slip up because there are so many isolated components and theories and so many interrelations that I can’t seem to get on top of things. I’ll try.

In Hinduism, the main ideal, the purpose of life so to speak, is the realization of God. In essence, this means that you shatter the notion of duality – that you are separate from anyone or anything else, including the Cosmos or God itself. The origin for this whole Universe was the light and the sound. Everything has therefore been born out of that. This notion is evident in many meditation techniques that involve focusing on the point between the eyebrows and reciting ‘Om’. The point between the eyebrows is considered to be the seat of the soul and ‘Om’ is the original chant of cosmic energy.

Now, there are various ways to achieve the state of oneness. There is the right hand path that involves the karma yoga, raja yoga, etc. Then, there is the left hand path – which is Tantra. The first step of yoga is to understand the connection of the causal body (that is the body you are born with – as opposed to your astral body) to your world. Every situation that happens in life is an opportunity for the causal body to work through its karmas. (The book has an interesting take on when the first karma took place. This happened when Shiva and Shakti, equivalents of yin and yang, were separated.) Now, typically, it takes millions of births in various wombs to get sufficiently rid of the karmas. However, if you follow the tantric or the Aghori discipline, this process is accelerated. It is a potent, extreme journey that can rip the soul from the causal body so that it unites with the divine consciousness.

There are several misconceptions about Aghoris..or rather, not so much misconceptions, but facts that float around isolated from their contexts. For example, it is generally believed that Aghoris are debauched because they propagate free sex (with impossible dimensions – foreplay that can go on for weeks, and orgasms that can last up to months.) The thing is Aghoris deem themselves to be dead and consider the world to be a shamshaan. So, the ordinary limitations of time and space do not apply to them. Their idea of sex is basically this – when your body is totally devoid of ego, it is a vessel for the energy of Shiva to enter it. Similarly, the partner is then the carrier of the energy of Shakti. When such entities unite sexually, it is akin to the union of the two aspects of divine consciousness.

Now, here’s the twister about this discipline – the reasons why any lascivious person may get attracted to it is exactly the reason why such a person will be unsuccessful at it. To be capable of such sex, one should be completely devoid of any interest for fornication. To be able to live for 500 years, one should be totally unafraid of death. To be able to have wealth in the blink of an eye, you shouldn’t hanker even a little bit for money. It’s contradictory, but to be able to follow this path, you should have renounced whatever this path will bring you when you follow its course. The ultimate aim is, of course, realization of God and if you succumb to any of the temptations midway, then you have to start all over again.

Aghori Vimlananda has a very amusing, petulant take on some matters. He scoffs at people who believe that Westerners can’t get suitably oriented to spirituality. Westerners (and he is partial to Americans and Germans here) are so meticulous that they will take care to do all the meditations properly and not look for shortcuts. As opposed to some Indians who will take half-baked knowledge and become scoundrel ‘gurus’ in the West. He himself does his sadhana listening to Jim Reeves. When he explains the sexual kinship, he makes statements like: “With base people, sex is only about oozing, and sweating, and panting. When the method of sex is so inferior, the progeny of such sex will also be brats.” This is quite cute, considering you will never look at a tot throwing a tantrum in the same way again.

The best part about this book is the way portions of it get stuck to your head and you keep chewing on those ideas like a stick of gum. Like, what would it really mean to transcend time and space. And how is it possible to ever stop thinking of yourself as your body. The best, of course, are the theories on sex and karma. Apparently, all karmic relations are the result of some debts. And sex is the most persistent, insistent form of debt. There are whole systems of sexual behaviors and proclivities in Tantra. It’s pretty impressive – to think that at some time in history, sex was actually studied with the scholarly meditativeness that is supposed to be reserved for astronomy or geology.

Also, there are a million little things that are such a challenge to grasp – leave alone, agree or disagree with. For example, the notion of Maya. How can you reasonably dispute your 5 senses and state that this world is not real. How strong is the extent of delusion then?

This book is definitely a juicy read. It’s amazing when you understand it, and it’s awesome when you don’t.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This cruel city

For 5 months in the capital, I was fed with statements like, “Our house is like your house”, “I am your friend, you can always count on me”, “I am always there for you”, “You are like my younger sister/ daughter/ grand-daughter”, “You have nothing to worry about, we’ll take care of things”, “I will not be partial to my family; I will not judge you”, “You are part of us now”, “I am there to help”, .…and then have everyone disappear and flit away neatly when the time came to actually do something.

And now, in Bombay after people hear my tight voice explaining why I am looking for a job in a different city so soon, etc. etc., all I get is, “This is the job, this is the money…you want or not?”

Thank you, heartless witch.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Shekhar Kapur's piece

In the vanity of darkness, when light plays but an attendant role, the mind wanders. To seek evidence of what once was, to look for predictions of what will be, and to sigh and reconcile that this is all there is.

In such times, I google for words such as Wednesday or diamante or stuffed figs. Searches take me to strange places. I listened to 'Bad' by U2 this evening for the very first time.

Also through some strange coincidence (and I don't believe in those), I came across this poem on Shekhar Kapur's blog:

It's only appropriate that the guy who writes stuff like this would've directed 'Masoom'.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Introspection at 3:00 a.m.

I really should get more disciplined. I have this age-old habit of taking on more than I can chew and it’s awful…I just can’t do it all, and whatever I finish, I feel that I could’ve done better. I suppose it stems from some kind of insecurity that time is running out, and unless I grab each and every writing opportunity that comes my way, I’ll miss that important pulse. Of course, the pit of my tummy and the core of my heart tell me that I have enough to just sit back and relax and absorb it all. But I can’t get over this feeling that my days are shaped like an hour-glass and every minute, every second, every tiny slant of temporal vapidness, grains of sand are shifting down and my time will be up.

I can’t bear to sleep. I have come to regard it as such a waste of time. I just want to get over my share of experiences in the next hour – sunset, wounded knee, twisted heart, crappy travel stories - and then get on with my life. My life with my chosen, scripted experiences. Like I want to find a luxurious cave and live there for eight months, only reading Salman Rushdie. And write a long, rambling poem on the third star to the south of the moon on a Sunday night.

A couple of years ago, I wanted to sit still and live each moment. I lived to suck the honey out of every precious experience and I loved it all.

I still have a voracious appetite for stories, and to me an experience is just that. It doesn’t matter what happened, I will remember it differently, once several twilights have receded across the cosmos. But now, it’s this gaping hole. I wonder why I haven’t floated down the Amazon yet and why, just why I am not doing something more…I don’t know…`creative’ doesn’t begin to describe it. I want to do something that involves, engages, and thoroughly instigates every one of my faculties. I can’t begin to understand or explain this urgency.

All this pent-up ‘get-up and go’ is knotted in my veins and tires me beyond exhaustion.

And today, this urge comes with a razor-sharp urgency. I only need to think about tomorrow and my teeth and fists clench and I want to DO something now. I have so much inside me that is misdirected. It’s a major character flaw that I have not learnt how to pick my battles. I have given the best of my self to unnecessary lousy choices. Not that I am complaining, but I can’t seem to benefit from hindsight. I just keep going down that same road again and again. I don’t know why I respond to imagined cries for rescue – whether it is a job or a person. As long as I feel that it is up to me to salvage a person or a situation from dire circumstances, I am all alive and fabulously zoned in. But once that passes, I just…wither away. I think I am good to have around during crises, but not otherwise.

I should just consciously be less stupid. If I go over any of the situations in my life that have given me grief, I can safely say that those were the times when I was unintelligent. Why can’t I learn that there are people who will say things they don’t mean? They will talk only what they feel I like to hear? Why can’t I learn something that is so fundamentally simple? I mean, if I could learn to reverse and park a vehicle, surely there must be some atom of smartness somewhere in my dull head that gets that. It amazes me, sometimes, this abject refusal to see things for what they are. My take on such people is that they meant what they said then. But I don’t think it’s quite correct. There are people who will compulsively talk to please and to keep appearances. Of course, I get angry when I think I get fooled by the lot time and again, but it’s not their fault. They do their best in a given situation. Why do I have to be such a sucker?

This last month, I have berated myself so much. I wish I could harden myself to stay guarded and not succumb easily to sweet talk. But…fundamentally, I can’t balance things out in my head. On one hand, I think it’s tragic – dead tragic – if we cannot listen to a person with an open heart, with belief, and assumption of truth. On the other hand, a lifetime of experiences of feeling let down in various degrees has not taught me anything. That you must choose reserve in some situations with some people, and complete absolute trust with some others.

From this moment on, I need to learn this lesson well, and once and for all. Because something in my bones tells me that soon, there will be a time of reckoning. I remember having this sense of ‘time running out’ just a few weeks before my grandmother expired and before my marriage took an unexpected turn. I know that this feeling is not going to go away unless and until whatever it is foreboding has come to pass.

But this doesn’t worry me. I know I will get through this too. Years ago, I had read an article on Ross Perot in the Time magazine. Perot was described as the guy “..who knew more about returning from the dead than to actually live.”

This may be the most accurate description of myself yet.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Good morning...morning

I must appreciate the mornings more. They are bouquets of such fuzzy delights. I wake up after a night of fitful sleep and try to stretch the first lazy moment of the day. Before long, I’ll have to switch on the computer and begin peddling my resume or getting on to my office tasks. The fresh fragrance will be gone before I even start noticing the wilt. So, here’s to days with deep, deep whiffs.

Today. The dreamy, grey drizzle and mottled sparrow wings from behind frog-colored leaves. A slow and slick earthworm curling up on a white pebble. And a bizarre sight of a rambunctious puppy splashing about in a puddle with a khakra in his mouth.

Then, there was my steaming chai with a plate of spicy poha. I don’t really like poha but the way one of my cooks makes them is wonderful. He cuts up potatoes in really little pieces and fries them along with the poha. These chunks are like delightful, unexpected presents and their crispy, crusts of chilli powder, turmeric and salt is tasty.

Sometimes, the morning also means rushing about in an auto, sipping a Mc Donald’s coffee through a wet, humid tunnel.

And sometimes, it’s just getting up in the middle of a difficult hour to feel the spine of a poetry book. And remember that Endymion still lives on the finger tips.

Monday, September 03, 2007

When once upon a time is not so long ago

It’s a long way back to innocence
From this pavilion of fear
It’s a long time since pretense
Of happiness was so dear.

It’s a long time since a summer nap
Was snatched inside a class
It’s a long time since a season’s snaps
Were believed to linger and to last.

Two layers of pebbles in a bell jar
Make a reed a poetic symbol
Two drops of blood on a thumb
Make a Judas of a thimble.

Forlorn words and tragic smiles
Thread together in a verse -
Lyrics of a twilight song
Rotten pennies in a purse.

There’s beauty in a canvas of splotches
Or a bowl of wild grass grown
Or a life of dripping hopes
And mistakes that were one’s own.