Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I am slightly high on nervous energy at the moment. There is lots to finish at work. L-O-T-S. It's not because I don't know where to start and where to finish. I do know. I have started, and after working steadily for a few hours, I've come to realize that 'finishing' today's allotted work is like having hope that's drunk on hemlock. What a way to die.

I missed my yoga class today and I definitely don't feel good about that. Thankfully, I have controlled my diet thus far. I am likely to not overeat today. It's good to feel that I have this kind of self-control. Right now, from where I sit, I can see some tree-tops. They look pretty. A nice, sunny yellowish-green and shaggy type of a gypsy head - a gypsy who travelled all over various lands and decided to set up tent here. Sometimes, when I am really busy or bogged down, I like looking at the swaying boughs - they resemble a happy person swaying to music in her head.

It makes me happy
Whenever I see
My cool and snappy
Gypsy tree.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Later that night

It is 11 p.m. now. I still have questions. Rather, I think the trouble is that I don’t have questions. I have a gnawing feeling that something’s off. My head feels like this drawer that’s stuffed with a million things. At first, I couldn’t get it open, and now that I have it open, I can’t close it. Now, all this stuff is just spilling out. But there’s so much mess that I don’t know where to begin. I mean, at this point in time, I’m feeling so confused that I don’t even have a question.

Just a couple of hours ago, I made a promise that I’ll find my answers in two weeks. Now I realize that I don’t even have a question to ask myself in that time. Talk about landing at the airport without a ticket. Or rather, landing at the station with a plane ticket. Or landing at the bus stop with a train ticket. These analogies don’t even make sense. But for five seconds now, they amused me.

Maybe I don’t need a question. I’ll still arrive at the answer, and then I wouldn’t know what to do with it. It’s like this bit in the series of ‘Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy’. These guys figure out that the answer is 49. But they don’t know what the question is. That’s an awesome series, by the way.

For the longest time, I’ve abhorred people making snap judgments about me. I have disliked people scrutinizing me, decoding me, and then giving a lengthy discourse about what I’m about. I have hated that. But today, as of this moment, I want to be studied and understood. Not “Oh, I love you, so I understand you.” Or “I accept you the way you are.” None of that. I want someone to just, clinically, objectively, methodically, systematically figure me out.

I usually find myself so fascinating (and who wouldn’t, he he), I’d like to do the job myself. But now I don’t have the time or the inclination.

There’s a bit in the movie, “Orphan”, that clicked with me. Esther (the eerie orphan) has been adopted by a family that has two other kids – a ten year old boy, and a younger girl who is deaf. One day, Esther is playing the piano. She, in fact, is superbly playing Tchaikovsky. Her mother walks into the room and is surprised. Earlier, Esther pretended that she doesn’t know how to play the piano and she’d love it if the mother taught her. The mother asks Esther why she lied. Esther replies that she thought the mom would like it. With a studied calm, she explains that it must be very painful for an accomplished pianist like her – to have a son who isn’t interested in music and a daughter who’s deaf.

This movie has several thrills and chills…but this scene made me gasp. This is true fear – to go about your life in a seeming ordinary fashion, and then someone just unravels you like this. So completely, and coldly.

I’d like to gasp this way. I want to understand why am I like this. I want to understand what am I like. Maybe I need someone like Esther sleeping next to me, studying me inside out whilst listening to my breath.

On second thoughts, being confused isn’t half bad. Keeps the mystique alive.

8:30 p.m. and not a moment too soon

It is 8:30 at night now. I’m actually feeling really restless and uneasy. I wonder why I feel this way since the last week. Could it be because it’s almost October now? Everywhere around the world, the country at the very least, winter must be setting in. And I think I am genetically not equipped to handle winter. Maybe I just yearn for some kind of hibernation when that time approaches. I feel that way about winter – it’s a façade. Winter’s like a woman wearing a lot of make-up to hide her scars she’s had from an accident a long time ago. She wears a heavy layer of foundation to cover the stitches on her cheek, and garish eyeshadow to cover up the scars around her eyes. Winter places and winter people, I associate with disguised motives. They cloak their pain. You only see it when it’s transmitted to someone else. Like a rude remark, a sarcastic comment, a sly glance, a disdainful look. I don’t like winter.

Actually, I don’t think that’s entirely correct. I like it. It makes a place look ethereal – mist, sunshine wrapped in a blanket of fog, poetry literally swirling around bright, fresh winter blooms. I wonder what my problem is with this season.

Actually, to drill it down even further, I wonder what my problem is. Why am I currently feeling so restless? In terms of health, I think I’m in great shape. I have more stamina than I had earlier, and the yoga’s made my body a lot more flexible than it was a few months back. I f I get injured or if I suffer from something, I recover immediately. And good health for me is a priority, so I’m okay on that front.

Work is good too. It’s interesting. There are times when I feel stifled. But that’s okay. It’s something that I negotiate with on a case by case basis. Most importantly, there’s learning every single day. That definitely beats boredom. So, work’s cool as well.

Maybe I feel a little selfish. I don’t like this feeling. I feel like I’m not doing enough for others. The thing is I dislike charity. I don’t like giving money or help to people I don’t know. Unless it’s for a catastrophe they had no control over – like a flood or a drought or something like that. I like to help people I can connect with. Like my cook. Like some woman in the train who’s feeding her baby. I like helping people. I wish I did it more, though.

I think I’m restless because I don’t stand up for enough people on a regular basis. Like if I see someone being slapped on the road by goons, I don’t think I’d stop and intervene. I don’t like that about myself. I wish I could change that. Maybe it will change. I mean, it can’t be too difficult. There was a time when I couldn’t stand up for myself. Now, besides standing up for myself, I can practically trample people into the ground if I have to. But I’d like to have the guts to do all this for a rank stranger – like maybe a guy being beaten up by hoodlums, and I’d stop to help him. I wonder if it is fear holding me back. Yes, it is. Stupid, crappy, goddamn fear! It’s such a wasted emotion. What good can come out of that feeling? Even something like jealousy can be useful – you think about it, you face your insecurities, you learn something. But what does fear do? I don’t like being afraid.

I’m even scared of cats, bats, rats, and lizards. They make me feel icky. Where did this fear come from? How do you get rid of it?

In the past, if something’s made me afraid, I’ve done it. Like maybe say sorry to someone who I know will yell and shut me out of his/ her life. I’ve done that. Travel somewhere with an unruly crowd. I’ve done that. Go to Connaught Place alone at twelve thirty at night. Done that. Sit outside a cemetery waiting for a friend who’d gone searching for her ear-ring. Done that too. (Although that is an experience I would NEVER like to repeat.) But some other things, I’m still scared of. I wish I wasn’t.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t like winters. This season just throws up these sorts of emotional dregs that I don’t notice in the midst of summer.

After my current project is completed, which I think should be around January or February, I will take two weeks off. Do yoga for 6 hours a day, eat steamed rice and sprouts and meditate for around twelve hours or so. I AM going to get to the bottom of this…whatever this is… before the winter of 2010.

That much I promise to myself.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

If all else be true

A stuffy room, noisy crowd. Inchoate, pulsating anticipation. Scented mist of dhoop. Rousing chanting and blare of conch shells. Large platters of diyas swaying around the deity. Ascending rhythym of the dhol. A priest moving a feathered pankh to the sound of shlokas. Customs designed to mesmerize. In the end, absolute pin-drop silence as a hundred heads bow in devotion. And yet all this pale before the searing eyes of Ma Durga – eyes that blaze through ceremony and rituals with something…something that’s the mark of a true goddess and testament to a true human – courage.

Happy Dassera.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Where it cracked

Not in front of known ones
But before strange faces
Not with a legacy of blazing trails
But with assortments of traces
Not in neat, straight flushes
But in haphazard aces
Not in large, loud, shiny cities
Big hearts break in small places

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Looks like they're having fun!

It was late night and rainy – a perfect time to be out on the streets. There’s a time of the night when walking along Marol actually feels beautiful. Limpid light from the lamps, reasonably empty walkways, fruits and vegetables stacked on wooden carts and looking ornate in the soft, lantern glow. A few yards ahead, though, a huge crowd had converged. The traffic had started to build up. The next second, an auto sidled up to me and…well, the temptation of an empty auto was too much to resist. We zipped off to Bandra.

Fifteen seconds later, we were stuck in a traffic snarl. It was around eleven thirty. I love being in traffic at that time of the night. It’s comforting. Makes me feel that people are busy and everything’s all right with the world. It had started pouring heavily and the city seemed to be shrouded in this cold, gauzy mist – like those souvenirs that are wrapped in strips of silver nets.

We inched along, slowly but steadily. Up ahead, there was a basti to my left. People dressed in bright clothes and sequined shoes danced in a circle. It looked like a merry-go-round of pink zari dupattas, shiny, teal sherwanis, stacks of green and gold bangles, with maroon and silver dandiya sticks. They looked so festive. All that music, glitter, arclights, gusto – concentrated in the grim dampness of a slum – made that gathering look like a party for fairies…and everyone was invited.

Suddenly, the traffic had cleared up and people started revving their engines to forge ahead. I had my head stuck out of the auto like a dog. The rickshaw fellow turned around and asked me, “Ruk ke dekhnai hai, madam?”

I nodded. We pulled over and watched the happy, shiny people for some time. They were dancing with so much joy – it was palpable. That happiness moved through the cool night and heavy downpour in waves. A little girl in a wet, yellow ghagra looked at me and waved. I waved back.

A few metres away, people cursed the traffic some more.

There’s so much to see on the streets. So much to learn from. So much to live with.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thinking of more

It was a nice weekend – a perfect blend of spending time with family, spending time with friends, and spending time with myself. And there was peaceful weather and of course, good food.

My cook had made a really nice, spicy-sweet chutney – grated coconut, lots of peanuts, lump of jaggery, and a hint of ginger and chillies. It was really tasty. In fact, I spent my time snacking on scoops of chutney with soft, hot rotis.

I saw ‘The Ugly Truth’ on Friday night with Jaygee and quite liked it. It’s clichéd, and there’s a very annoying cat in it, but the cast is quite competent. Especially Gerard Butler. He doesn’t look like the typical Casanova – with square jaw and razor-sharp nose. He looks like he’s rough around the edges, a bit of a boor, resigned if a woman out of his league exits his life, and pleasantly surprised when she returns. The movie had its moments. Although I did think that the script got drunk on Harry met Sally the night before and tiptoed in its hang-over the next day.

In the Landmark sale (which, by the way, I strongly recommend), I bought two books – ‘Burnt Toast’ by Teri Hatcher and, ahem, ‘Sun Signs’ by Linda Goodman. I have not read any of Linda Goodman’s books before. This brings to mind the question – what was I doing in college? I was, in fact, reading stuff like the Economic and Political Weekly. Waste of time all that was since Ariens are likely to be bad at both - money and politics. I definitely seem to be the poster-child for the wastrel-type traits Aries is supposed to have. As for politics, well, I’m told I demonstrate unmistakable traits of megalomania which some people have a problem with.

I’ve just about started reading Goodman – and I don’t care about how accurate she is...but man, can she write! The characterizations are just so interesting!

At some level, I suppose every human being will demonstrate traits of all sun-signs, but the way Linda has created this integrated, cohesive profile for each zodiac, in each of its roles (as man, woman, child, boss, and employee) is remarkable! She definitely should have been a scriptwriter!

Of course, if the book is to be believed, I am an Aries male. Oddly, I seem to display most male characteristics of various zodiac signs. I wonder why.

So, reading times have been fun. But I am growing restless intellectually. I think I want to go back to studying. Attend classes, take notes, pore over books in the library, write reports, and wait for my assignments to get their A plus grades (I am usually that good!). I’m still undecided about what I want to study. My favourite topics are phenomenology, history (especially historiography or art history), or do some kind of research on prejudice. I was considering literature. But my reservations about literature are the same today as they were when I was in college – I think it’ll take the fun out of reading.

My cousin also suggested that I do a creative writing course, but then again – I don’t think I’ll enjoy it a lot. First of all, what I like about my writing is that it is coarse. It’s not polished, doesn’t have finesse’, but it it’s adequate to convey what I think. It’s just about enough. I don’t want that essence to change. My writing, if I dare say, is like that Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi – imperfect, impermanent, incomplete. One must look for beauty through it all.

Anyway, I don’t think writing is a big deal. Any one can do it. The problem is that writers generally get so full of themselves...full of words. A good writer, or rather any kind of writer, should be keenly aware of just how inadequate words are. At best, words serve to provide a menu to someone who’s asking for food. Words are layered, they carry weight, they have several meanings...strung together they’ll paint one bright Rorschach test. But over and above that, words can’t do anything a reader doesn’t want words to do.

I think I’m getting tired of words. Perhaps I should stop writing. It’s irritating me now.

Maybe I should study design. I love design – as a discipline. It doesn’t matter if it applies to making clothes, or houses, or ships. I want to study design principles – what makes a design good, what makes it bad, what makes anything a design to begin with. For a while now I have observed that good design is about restraint. It is a natural tendency to create something for everyone. Good design, though, is created for a purpose, not a person. In fact, this is most apparent for me in writing. One may start writing to communicate an idea. But then, there’ll be a mental editor that’ll shart chattering about how this sentence is too long, and shouldn’t you try turning a phrase here and there? Or else, you picture an audience. Sometimes, there’s a face, sometimes there’s an imagined opinion. And unaware, you start writing to that reader. You write with shackles.

I suppose what I really want to learn is how to get free. And stay that way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Not really poetry, almost pulp

A wounded bird
A hurtful word
A sarcastic smile
An unused pile
Haggard summers
And rims of rust
Bloated nights
And fingernail dust
Tasteful sludge and mucky blood
Searing sermons in an explosive flood
golden flowers with Jules Winnfield
To urge and push and use to yield
Magenta slits on the wifey's wrist
Vincent Vega and the twist
trippy dreams and vanilla shakes
Marsellus' fiefdom in smokes and quakes
Snaky music that twists the brain
And haunts and hurts like acrylic rain
Pulverizing shocks and beautifully so
What were you thinking, tarantino?

on a clear night, you see THAT movie sparkiling in its own constellation of unprecedented genius...a constellation of one

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Like you isn't there

They debated about the existence of love. They said it was a hormone. They said there was no such thing. In time, a beautiful cloud passed over. Somewhere, they smelled a warm cake. Somewhere in a car, a song began to play on a scratchy sound system. They remembered - cycle rides on the beach, feeding donkeys on hill-tops, mother's day cards that had purple butterflies painted on them, fireflies in a jar, sugarcane for the teacher, blue checked shirt that got torn with overuse. They remembered and they smiled. Over what, who knows? Then they looked up this smile in a thesaurus. And it came up with this word: love.

Monday, September 07, 2009

I recommend...I strongly recommend

If you can do one thing after a long, tiring, dull day at work - go watch 'Aage se right.'

It is super! Watch it especially for Kay Kay Menon and Vijay Maurya. Shreyas is good as usual. The title track is catchy, the story's funny, and don't miss the beginning - especially the animation when the credits roll. It is too cute! The movie though belongs to the two of them - Kay Kay, a terrorist who falls in love with a Bombay crooner, and Vijay Maurya, a Shetty gangster, who teaches him to call his lady love 'item' (out of respect, he explains solemnly)...they are brilliant!


It's been a long, long time I have laughed this hard in a Hindi film...for the right reasons, that is.

Friday, September 04, 2009

When it rains, it happens...

Something shone on the marble floor
Something shimmered on the glass paneled door
Somewhere there was ivory light
Here, though, it was a blackbird night
Little sprays of promises
splattered through
restlessness in the dream
Inexplicably grew
Woke up to see silver mist
Threading perfect needles of rain
Woke up a fairy tale
Not seen before, and perhaps never again
Woke up to an ethereal haze
Shrouding everything in sight
And so, unseeing, I lost
My heart at two o'clock at night

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Art for art's sake

Yesterday, I joined the working class again. The first of September. I like starting a job or resuming work, on the first of a month. It feels new and fresh. Young, one might say. Jaunty, in fact. Like reading a book where the first chapter begins on page 1. Or writing an impeccable essay on the first, fresh, white sheet of a notebook and getting an A plus.

My day at work was good. I had expected to flail about a whole lot given my workload. It was fine, though. I actually exhaled within fifteen minutes of getting in. And as good signs go, that one’s solid gold.

However, I worked a little late. Not out of design. I had stepped out of office early, but it was raining. Lovely, beautiful, friendly rain. Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying an umbrella, I had just recovered from malaria, and I was wearing a very, light baby-pink shirt that would get really transparent when wet. (I wouldn’t have minded that too much, if it would have helped me get an auto. But I knew it wouldn’t…so, why take chances?) I retreated to office and did a smidgeon of work. Then, I caught a rick back to Bandra. I’d be seeing my home after a week.

Throughout the rick-ride, I kept thinking of Vashi. I missed it. My mom would be alone this week as my dad’s travelling. Not that she minds being alone. I think she prefers it. But I felt bad that when I was weak and sickly, I was at Vashi with my parents…and now that I’m healthy and make better company, I scamper off to work and my life. Sometimes I wonder if it is fair that my parents get to be with the weaker side of me, while my more capable self is reserved for the rest of the world.

I reached home and found it dark. My cousin wasn’t there. My mind was still a bit woolly from all that thinking. So, I did the only thing I know that’s certain to calm me and sort my head; I made a cup of tea. I opened up the windows and pulled back the curtains. Switched off all the lights, held my cup close to my cheek, and breathed deeply. I love my Bandra home for this reason…for affording me such consummate comfort and safety in simple and wonderful things – like watching rain with a cup of tea in my hands. My Bandra place feels like a womb.

Later, I switched on the lights, curled up on the sofa and read a magazine. Suddenly, I noticed that the air was getting more chilly. I went to close the windows, but stopped. Outside, conspicuously, with impeccable nonchalance, covering the whole, mighty world was a phenomenal sky. It was dark, but with a strong, unmistakable misty, white glow shining through it. It looked like a perfect pearl caught under heavy folds of black cashmere. Genteel, playful, poetic.

I looked at the sky for a long while until I felt the residue fatigue take over. That’s the thing about malarial recovery. You never know when you’ll be taken hostage to weakness. But illness aside, I slept happily.

The next day, I had planned to resume my yoga class. Yet, when the alarm rang, I shut my eyes tighter, still intoxicated with the image of the night sky earlier. My body, though, seemed to have a mind of its own. It was ready for the stretching and breathing, and far be it for the rest of me to come in its way. As it happens, my body is usually never really gung-ho about exercise.

I got up and stood by the window, getting by bearings to face the world. The world, it seemed, sighed deeply in comfort. The breeze was cool, the trees were fresh and calm, the cobbled lanes were splotched with wet leaves and bright pink flowers. The day was as nourishing and comforting as jasmine tea.

Two days into the month, and I’ve seen such exquisiteness already. September has such etiquette. The month comes across as one that will shake your hands with a velvet glove. If September were an artist, I’d think it’s on its way to producing a masterpiece.

And I bet it’ll be a portrait of a lady.