Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If a fickle heart could sing....

I love this verse from a song in 'Metro'. I imagine it being sung by this jaded poet who goes to live in a shack by the sea. In the morning, he sees the sky and gulls on the sand and thinks that this - this pristine, untouched innocence - is what life and poetry is all about.

He spends the day replete with love and as the sun sets, he gets up to walk back to his hut. He will endure the night to wake up to his new lease of life tomorrow. But as he walks away from the lapping sea, he sees a sky that's getting bluish-black, like the inside of a raisin. And right up there, he spots a thin whisper of a crescent. And next to that hangs a bright, luminous star. His heart, that a few hours ago had found its eternal love, skips a beat. And this is when he sings to the moon, the star, and the sky forgetting the gulls, the sand, and the sea:

Dil khudgarz hai
Phisla hai yeh
Phir haath se
Kal uska raha
Ab hai tera
Is raat se

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Y(ay)ear!

I love making New Year plans! J and I are planning to go to the hills for New Year and maybe trek to Triund as well. I have wanted to go to Triund for a while now, and hopefully this year it will happen.

So, right now here’s how things stand – J and Cy will come from Hyd, I’ll take a train from Mumbai, and both of us will meet in Delhi. Both my roomies would have moved to Delhi by then, and I’ll meet them there as well. Hopefully both will join us on our trip too. It will be so much fun…I can’t wait!

Oh, the best part is that I will probably have to hang around in Delhi for a few hours by myself until J reaches. So I was figuring out what to do. I will probably get down at Nizamuddin and hang out at Connaught Place. Now although I’ve been told that Nizammudin is close to CP, I’m not sure how close I’ll be to the Paalika Bazaar side of CP. I’ll probably roam around over there for a couple of hours and watch those guys park cars in that big parking space in the centre. I used to love watching that. I suppose the shops should be open by then. (I think the Rajdhaani will reach around 10 a.m., so I should be at CP around 10:40 or so.) After my excursion there, I’ll walk to Janpath, and if I get some more time, I’d like to take the metro and go to Daryaaganj. But I think I’ll probably be in Delhi on a Wednesday, so I won’t get to see the book bazaar. Sigh! (Even as I write down all this, I don’t think I’ll be able to manage it all within 4 hours, but I’ll try. Sadly, I won’t be able to do Lajpath Nagar or GK I and II and Saket in that much time, but I’ll leave all that for some other trip. Although I really did want to visit Lajpath Nagar and buy little hand-mirrors made of wood and tiny, colourful beads.)

Later, I’ll meet J at Dilli Haat whenever she reaches. But that’s just wishful thinking on our parts I guess, because we will probably have to go to ISBT or Janpath and catch the bus to Mc.Leods Ganj soon after. Gosh! I hope we get tickets.

If anyone has any other ideas on what I can do in 4-5 hours near CP, do let me know. (And no…I will not simply wait at ComeSum. Hee hee! Although I had liked that place a lot earlier.)

I feel so strangely excited. The last time I landed in Delhi by train, I was just married and the city was this huge big place that I would explore with someone else. It was like having someone read out a story to me. And I’d looked forward to that. So much has changed since then. I’m separated now and will land up there alone. But I can’t wait to get there and take in the sights and sounds at my own pace, in my own way… Now, I’ve learnt the language and am really looking forward to reading the story…before my friends and I head for the hills.

This time, the story will have a happy ending.

Happy Diwali, people! Good things will happen, I tell ya!

Friday, October 24, 2008

How the heart broke and mended - the story of a city road

Every morning, I drive to work around 9:15 a.m. Every morning, I pledge to keep my cool and not honk or curse at autorickshaws flouting lane discipline. Every morning, I break my promise and vociferously hate Bombay roads.

The other day, I had high fever and didn’t go to work. Later, around afternoon, a couple of friends had to leave for the airport. But they weren’t getting autos or taxis because Raj Thackeray had been arrested. The city was tense and people were scared. My friends, both of who are from Delhi, contemplated cancelling tickets. Since I was home, though, I insisted on dropping them to the airport. You see, we don’t have a TV in the house and I don’t read newspapers all that much. So, without these agencies that are designed to paralyze you with fear, one generally believes that things out there are not quite so bad.

We left home after a late, lazy lunch of parathas, daal, and tea. We spoke of this and that, trying hard not to let the discomfort show. What if we got stoned? Or lynched? What if my car was surrounded by a mob and they banged on it? What if we had to abandon Bandra midway and run for our lives? What if…?

I, however, insisted that we’d be okay. My friend got irritated and asked me how I could be so sure that nothing would happen. After all, in times such as this, things did happen. I told him that I wasn’t sure that nothing would happen, only that nothing would happen to me. I believe that.

We left from our house and the roads were free. No autos, no trucks, not too many buses. No crowds, no pedestrians, not even cows perambulating slowly. No-one on cycles, no kid trying to dash across in traffic, no traffic police at cross-roads yelling at bikers to not jump the light. No bumping or grinding into potholes, no jostling for space, no edging into other lanes. There was no trace of it being a Bombay road. There was no trace of it being Bombay.

Yes, the drive was smooth and easy. We reached the international airport in 15 minutes. Yet, I didn’t feel good. I felt horrible, as if something inside of me had been scooped out and filled with something heavy and dead.

For the first time, I saw the road as something more than inconvenience. For the first time, I understood what a crowded road stood for – an entity that would make space for you, no matter what. A Scorpio would nudge to the side to make place for a bus, an auto could squeeze in between two cars, a biker could weave through a couple of trucks, and yet on the side, a man could be pulling his handcart at his own pace. Yes, there were sharp turns and potholes and slopes and rain and flooding, yet the road was a place where you managed somehow – sometimes with people, and sometimes despite them. The roads didn’t make you complacent. You were on the lookout until the time you finally parked the car outside your home. It was that playground where rules got made up with every kind of game. You saw how ugly people could get when they wouldn’t stop for an old lady to cross the road. You saw the unabashed kindness where a stranger would help you change tyres on the highway. The roads choked with populace; but they also throbbed with purpose. They intimidated during traffic; they exhilarated unexpectedly at times. The road was the teacher that didn’t have favorites. The road, warts and all, ugly and dysfunctional, was still the only great equalizer.

And that day, it was empty.

When we reached home, we had a heated discussion on what was wrong. I want people to like my city; I want people to love it. I want people to understand that that man, the one who says ‘This is my city, not yours’ is wrong. I want people to know, really, really know that you can’t shake off the city from your skin even if you leave it. That Bombay, at some point in time, doesn’t remain a city anymore. It’s that feeling, that seamless rhythm of enthusiasm that courses through your veins long after you’ve thought of a brilliant idea suddenly. Bombay, the city, the experience, the ache and longing, remains. I usually have a mind full of words to explain all this.

But that day, it was empty.

We spent a fitful night. No-one really ate too much and I think I remained wide awake until the wee hours of the morning. I wondered whether we should go to office the next day.

But there I was, bright and early, with really parched eyes. My heart still felt heavy and I wondered whether I should step out. Suddenly I heard a man yell. He was a construction worker and was shouting at his friend to throw him a bottle of water. As far as I knew, two people were at work already. And I wouldn’t feel okay completely until I got out of the house.

So I got dressed and walked out the gate. There was a line of auto-rickshaw people, one of who asked me where I wanted to go.

“Marol”, I asked him.

“SEEPZ se loonga madam…Chandivali main bahut traffic hai.”, he replied. I nodded and got in.

And there they were – the crowded buses and happy bikers and silly people running across the road. The Swifts and Scorpios and trucks and a Maruti 800 with a ‘Built for Speed’ sticker in flaming orange. Stalls selling samosa pav and poori bhaaji to hungry workers. Large cauldrons of steaming chai simmering on black stoves and angry traffic cops at crossroads.

There was a lot of cacophony, heat and dust, and just about everything looked so bedraggled. The roads were as badly off as ever. But….scanning the road for traffic was like checking the pulse of the city. It was like this – your child had got into a fight and had been beaten up so badly that he’d fainted. You checked the pulse and it was feeble. You think that you might lose your baby and you’re angry at the thought of someone you love being snatched away. But more acute is the sense of pain and loss. You don’t know how you’d carry on if your baby was no more. But slowly, your baby comes back. The next day, when I saw the dust and heard the honks, when I felt the ‘business as usual’ buzz palpable around me, I heard my baby bawling and kicking and acting rowdy. But all I felt is relief. If I could, I’d just pick up the city and hug it really, really tight and never let it go.

Later, one will pick one’s battles – one will take on the bully who hurt your child, one will teach one’s child how to behave…but for right now, you just hold on and send a little prayer.

My baby’s back.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The house that's painted in my shade of happy

Open windows, marble stairs
Sunshine, rain, and wicker chairs
Moonlight dancing on silver spoons
Orange, yellow, and lavender rooms

Lush green plants outside the gates
honeysuckle painted on china plates
bowls of custard and summer fruits
And racks of slippers and high-heeled boots

Magenta cushions on the floor
A tinkerbell knocker on the door
A quilt with pictures of time gone by
A cobbled balcony to gaze at the sky

Roses growing in knitted bags
Mirrors framed with colorful rags
Organic soaps and scented candles
Gingham aprons and shiny handles

Doors that open up
to a shaded glade
Pickles and jams
all home made

A rocking chair
in postbox red
A big wood oven
to bake unleavened bread

Merlot bottles with moneyplants
Candy, mints and tibetan chants
Find their place in a treasure chest
That's where they fit in best

Rainbow beads and earrings too
hang across a silver net
They catch the winks of a playful sky
right when the sun's about to set

Later when night falls
With dulcet tones and velvet ease
Those lamps light up -
the ones hung on the trees

And within these walls
lives the irony
that only within these walls
i am free

Not really liking it

This was a headline in some newspaper: Mumbai writer wins the Booker

Whatever happened to ‘Indian’?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Someone else to do the job

We had to meet the secretary of our society today – to be told that the ‘committee’ has decided to disallow singles from continuing in the society. “Only families allowed”, the man said. “How do you define a family?”, I asked. “Husband/ wife – obviously”, he told me.

No, it’s not obvious.”, I replied. “Are 3 single sisters a family?”, I asked again.

Yes…I mean…no…I mean, there will be an interview…no singles allowed. You have to move out within a month.”

Well, when it comes to pressurizing people to get married, we don’t need families anymore. There are society committees to do the job.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Irritation and brinjals

I hate this day. I hate it. This morning this dunce of a watchman came and started clanging the gate. I had to move my car because the house opposite to ours is having some kind of a puja. I told him I’d be taking the car out in the next half-hour as I would be leaving for office. He came 15 minutes later and started clanging the gates again. Irritating dunce buffoon constipated donkey with a twisted tail. I yelled at him and told him that he was irritating me. And then he makes these funny eyes and says, “Nahin madam, hum to naukar aadmi hai.” Sappy, on top of that. I told him that he was not naukar aadmi, but he was an irritating aadmi. To which he insisted that no, he was not irritating, but he was a naukar. No-one’s a naukar. They are all irritating and they clang at my gate.

Then I get inside my car and there’s really little fuel. I somehow got it to office. Now I don’t know how I will go back. The only problem with petrol is that it costs money. Why should it cost money? And why should it cost so much? Oh…and brinjals cost a whole lot too. I mean..brinjals! Why should brinjals cost money? It’s not even fuel. Or who knows? It might be. No-one’s tried running a car on mashed brinjal. Or maybe that infernally loud, irritating naukar admi has tried.

I don’t have fuel, I don’t have a parking space today and tomorrow and I don’t have money. Someone needs to feed me a brinjal.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Thanks for the signpost

Over the weekend I met up with a friend with who I go back a long way. In fact, when I returned from Delhi, she was the only one who came to meet me at Vashi. My other friends would be willing to meet me half-way to some place to talk or whatever, but she made the two-hour trip to visit me at home.

Living in this city for this long, I understand that convenience generally tempers enthusiasm. So it was definitely moving that she, who probably doesn’t even consider going to a place that can’t be reached by auto, would hop into a bus and cross the great divide (also known as the Vashi toll bridge). I remember we had a simple lunch and she just asked me stuff straight-out, without any preamble. In fact, before she had reached my place, I was wondering how awkward it would be to answer her questions (and Lord knows, she has plenty of those…). I felt myself getting agitated just thinking about how I’d have to fence off unnecessary (to my mind) comments.

But she stepped in, looked at me, and simply asked, “What’s going on?” And it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Saturday, I met her. I took along the belt I’d bought for her from Bangkok. She opened the door and hurried inside to get juice and also informed me that she’d make tea for me later, so I shouldn’t bother to ask for it now. (I don’t think we’ve said ‘hi’ to each other in a long, long time.) Later we went to Lokhandwala and she happened to spot a shop that had a great collection of chic, affordable clothes…and that’s a combination one doesn’t see too often nowadays. Yep – no one knows Lokhandwala more or better than she does.

I still don’t understand the scant divisions of Oshiwara and Lokhandwala and Versova and Yari Road and seven bungalows and four bungalows and (oh geez!) four and a half bungalows…but every time every time I see Fame Adlabs all big and purple and crowded, every time I spot Fun Republic and giggle over all the crappy films we’ve seen, every time I walk down Lokhandwala market and see slinky tops with bling and feathers, every time I notice people posturing with laptops at the Versova Barista…I am reminded of how she changed these streets with no name to familiar places.

Over time, we’ve had sharp, ugly fights. She finds me very temperamental and I find her too inquisitive. I think we’ve both push each other’s buttons quite a bit. And still, nothing felt easier than curling up on the bed, sipping juice and telling her that I definitely wanted tea by 4.

I was probably meeting her after ages. And I know it’s a cliché – that feeling of picking up where you left off…but it never surprises me. As if this gap of time between two people can be erased so completely with a simple text: “If you’re free, come over.”

As demanded, there was tea at 4. As expected, there were drives around those familiar streets with no name.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Last night at the party...

Last night at the party
they asked me how I’d die
with a moan, they asked me,
or perhaps with a sigh?
Would there be a tear or two
rolling down the eyes
Would my heart be choking
With regret over lies

Would there be sorrow
over all those things unsaid
Or would it be trifle surprising
to finally find oneself dead?
Could I finally explain
to the stubborn naïve, heart
that it’s a set-up for teary noons
this promise - ‘until death do us part’?

I didn’t realize there was so much stuff
to sift through and to know
before finally winding up business
and getting all set to go
But I think I’d simply take the hands of life
and look her in the eye
and with my mind and heart in attendance
simply say ‘thank you and goodbye’
P.S. - These slippers are Anumita's slippers; this sand is Phuket sand.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Playing tag

Iscribblehere ( tagged me. Here goes:

Q: If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?


Q: If you could have a dream come true, what would it be?

Live (for a while) in a penthouse in New York (some absurd floor- perhaps 183rd), do some fabric painting and make great breakfasts every single day. The rest of the day, I’d spend around the lanes of New York and eating street food and possibly collecting brochures and catalogues outside the art galleries.

Oh…that and a superbe! (I mean superbe!) body – the one that can kick metal doors open with one kick, change truck tyres, bend into pretzels, run for hours without panting, get rested with 2 hours of sleep…that sorta body.

Q. Whose butt would you like to kick?

Sigh! Mine and mine alone. A greater fool was not born. (And if there were indeed a greater fool, I wouldn’t know..because fools don’t know anything, really.)

Q. What would do with a billion dollars?

Travel alone
Start filing Public Interest Litigations against the civic authorities here
Buy a house, a horse, a yacht
Live in the Presidential suites of as many places as I can afford
Study in NYU and Harvard
Work as an art historian at a gallery, a salesperson with a designer, a research assistant with a law firm, assist a movie director – for free…
Make a movie
Pay off my car loan
Make sure that my parents never have to worry about money again
Make sure my daughter never EVER has to worry about money

Q. Will you fall in love with your best friend?


Q. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?

I’d say the true blessing is when issues such as this don’t really matter…but if I had to choose..I’d say…loving someone. My heart, my love, my expectations = me.

Q. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?

As long as it takes. Have been waiting for New York all my life, and the wait continues…with hope and smiles.

Q. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?

feel bad, write poetry, move on, and search for him in every one else I meet.

Q. If you could root for one social cause, what would it be?

Female infanticide

Q. What takes you down the fastest?


Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Shuttling between New York and Bombay – and winning every single PIL I’ve filed.

Q. What’s your fear?

My heart getting crusty with cynicism, losing my health and becoming dependent on anyone. Or losing the ability to feel.

Q. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

She's a wandering soul with an open heart - one that’s got a whole lot of interesting stuff ‘scribbled’ all over it.

Q. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?

Single and rich, baby...single and RICH.

Q. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?

The New Yorker. And if there's no New Yorker, then it will have to be the one who can play the flute and swim. And if niether can play the flute and swim, then we may as well just have a good meal and be on our way.

Q. Would you give all in a relationship?

Will definitely try.

Q. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?

Either I do that or live with a clenched fist and a tightness in my chest throughout life. It's very very hard though.

Q. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?

Hmm...preferably single. But can be happy both ways.