Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Different times will come

Big changes are afoot. The rest of this year I’ll make choices that will probably throw me off the deep-end very often. But I know how to swim. Although, literally and figuratively, knowledge of swimming is not the only thing that saves a person from drowning. However this month, a few months into 2010, I realize that hard times will come…but they will come beckoned.

Nowadays, I take short runs in the night. It’s dark, where I go to run. There are few street lamps surrounding the promenade. There might be one or two where trees are the most dense. This promenade circles a pond that is joined to a marshy creek somewhere else. Mostly, the water in the pond is still. At times, though, the surface shimmers with gentle creases. The water looks like the thin film of cream that begins to form on milk when it’s allowed to settle.

Bats circle in the sky. Those scare me. I have, at one time, seen a silver and black mottled snake slither away into the marshes. It was so beautiful. In the light of a smudged moon and a fistful of stars, the snake looked like a creature specked with magic. A couple of runners ahead of me stopped in their tracks. But I didn’t. Snakes don’t scare me.

Bats are another story, though. I wonder if the moon makes them mad. I wonder if the term ‘batty’ comes from the weird, hap-hazard way they fly about. Not caring for boundaries or for anyone crossing their paths. Swooping down, almost flapping close to the face before taking off again. I run with my heart in my chest. Waiting anxiously for their delirium to settle. It doesn’t happen.

There’s a section of the promenade that’s my favorite. It’s a portion where trees from both sides meet to form some sort of an awning. There’s a streetlamp near by, so the light shines on the leaves. The underbelly of this arboreal cover is what is most fascinating. It looks like it’s glowing. It looks like a surreal entrance into another dimension. It looks like what the rabbit hole might have looked to Alice on a bright summer morning…the day she fell through it.

That path, as I approach it, seems to be laced with something sinister…and promising. It seems to even have a slight smell of dark poison about it. As if crossing it would, at some level, mean that one has stepped over the point of no return. Something is bound to get stuck to the fat, glossy leaves that gleam in borrowed light.

There is darkness that follows this ‘tunnel’ section too. But things look different somehow. There’s a bit more menace, and a lot more beauty. There’s the chutzpah of a dainty woman with a perfect navel, but who looks like she has a mouth on her. She’s smiling now, but she could cuss if she wants to.

Somewhere around there, the lake sees a lot more play. The water trembles a lot more. It feels as if someone is lightly blowing on it. Sometimes lights from the road beyond get reflected and you see a diamond choker dazzle on the surface of the pond.

That part of the promenade has it all:

An illusory souvenir from a cavalier night.

A question of whether a night could ever be so dark, that you can’t see anything at all?

A reminder that the eyes will always, but always, spot the light.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ma's birthday

It's my mother's birthday tomorrow. I was planning a surprise party, but since my mother just wanted to know everything about everything, there's going to be no surprise. As for party, we've kept it for the weekend. So, as of right now, it's whatever show I can put up tonight and a family dinner tomorrow (where we will undoubtedly discuss the subject of endless familial hilarity - my brother.)

This is the plan for midnight, though. Go up to the terrace and cut the cake under the open sky and rhinestone stars and a winking moon. The terrace has become really pretty now - with cool, marble flooring, cane furniture and a glass table from my Bandra home.

I also got a humungous Chocolate Melange cake from Costa. That's the best I could do. It didn't occur to me to order a fancy cake yesterday. I was floundering about what to get, when I thought of Costa (I am always thinking of Costa, by the way). So, I just went and bought over a whole cake.

At one point, I considered buying 6 muffins - a single banana muffin to put in the centre, surrounded by five dark, chocolate ones. But the Melange looked nice and whole and also, well, traditional. The last bit holds a bit of favour for my mum.

Next, I had to come home and look for candles. Now I don't understand what we store gazillion fancy candles for. There are thick, white ones with delicate spidery scrawlings in silver, there are plum-colored votives, there are long, elegant black ones, there are squat, cheery yellow ones, there are blue ones and pink ones, there are ones that float and ones that smell of cinnamon and raisin, there are brown ones that look like hunks of chiselled chocolate, and some that can be mistaken for fancy organic soaps.

My point is that they all have wicks. So, they all can burn. But we won't let them because, like my mother says, "What if we need them later?" (A period in time that seems to lie beyond the purview of humanly understood infinity.)

Now, I didn't want to start an argument with my mother for planning, well, her birthday...but it's just so exasperating! And this is even before I started angling for the candle-holders. But there's nothing a little bullish resistance won't do. So I just trawled through the drawers and pulled out a couple of nice, silver candelabras. Of course, in the background, I did have to put up with some comments on my Mongolian warrior hairstyle and didn't I know that a comb had been invented yet? And why was I wearing a skirt with a slip that looked so geriatric, etc. etc.

But you let go of the smaller battles to win the final war. So I just polished the candle-holders and put them aside. I was going to take out something pretty for Mum to wear when I turn around to a sweet, soft noise. Noise that went 'zzz!'

So now, Ma's dozing off! Shoot!

Making your mother feel special on her birthday shouldn't be so goddamn hard!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What would it tell you?

If one somehow came to know that she had a very short time to live...maybe three months, at the most...and one still decided to live life the exact same way as before. Wake up on the same side of the bed and use the same mouthwash, and miss the office bus by exactly the same ten minutes and curse the fourth rickshaw-fellow. Smile the same way at kids, or still fold newspapers without reading them, still wait for the same phone-calls, still hang up on the same people.

What could one gauge about such a person?

1. That she loved her life so much that she didn't want to change it?
2. That she was so thick in denial that she didn't know she had to change something before she died?
3. That she was so far gone that death could not really alter the way she lived.

If option 3 is the only option that ends with a period instead of a question mark, is that a give away?

How different, then, is an answer from a judgment?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rising and shining

Today would be a tough day to get through. There is a lot, a wheezing, creaking lot of stuff to tackle. I really just wanted to sit on a couch, slurp Maggi the whole day, and wait for it to end.

But I had a sleepless night (yet again), and the sun rose. For lack of anything better to do, I went up to the terrace to do yoga.

As I unrolled my mat, I saw a dove hopping on a window ledge. It flew off a second later, and its wings seemed to be made of milky silk handkerchiefs, rolled gently around the edges, like serviettes.

Another terra cotta bowl in the corner had a shock of bright, vivid moneyplants pouring out of it, like green vines of smoke.

And further from my line of vision, unimpeached by distance, was a rose bud on a long, straight stalk. It was the only nib-point of red in the vista, and it was stunning.

The day has begun, and as expected, it is gruelling. But I'm still glad I woke up early to greet it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There were times like these...

They came like rain
Those nights and dawns,
Unbeckoned, unruly,
Like gold, wanton storms;

Black, velvet sheaths
That covered and held
Filaments of beauty
Exquisitely jeweled;

Nocturnal whiffs of the easterly
Tangled in open hair,
Messy and strong and braided
With memories of us there…

By the sea, gazing at a constellation
Of innocent, fairy lights,
That descended to crown and serenade
A thousand passing nights.

On the shore, feeling the tenderness
That cloaked those luminous boats
On the fringe, wondering against reason
How exactly do dreams float?

Those nights that came like rain,
Would end with cold flames in the skies;
They’d begin with uncertain hellos,
They’d end with unspoken goodbyes.

Written in gratitude for the night trips to town for fruit and cream, for the breath-taking view of the harbour when the day's split between ending and beginning, for the overflow of the heart, for the reminder that it is still possible to get so foolishly happy about some things still.

Answer this

Have been there in the morning, watching sunlight bleach the lazy streets and glint off multi-colored gypsy necklaces.

Have been there in sweltering afternoons,walking on paths cloaked with pink and yellow flowers.

Have been there during dusk when the sky shimmers, purple and flimsy, before a stronger night takes over.

Have been there at night, when the harbour gets lit with candy-like gemstones.

Have been there at dawn, when that area is getting doled out the most perfect part of tomorrow.

How do people breathe in Colaba? When every moment could take their breath away?


I left my Bandra home yesterday. My building is going for redevelopment, so the house will be broken. I'll come back to a bigger house on a higher floor. This house, the one I left, will be gone, though. And with it, all the information that made me 'owner' of the place.

Like knowing that the better views are from the side windows, instead of the main ones.

That eating porridge on the floor of my rather large kitchen, listening to the bird songs, is the best way to begin a new year.

That, when it rains, while the rest of the city gets wet and flooded, the little square world framed by my window pane gets magical.

That sitting slightly crooked on my cane furniture is the best angle to paint your toe-nails.

That lying down between the joints of my sofa-cum-bed is uncomfortable; but it's worth every ache to see the moonlight trapped in the hair of the person next to you.

That the third fold of the left curtain has a tiny smidgeon of tamarind paste.

That, although, it is only a 1 B-H-K, it can resemble any place on earth in the magic hours of dawn.

That butterflies, in my home, always flit in through the windows and fly out through the door.

That, if you keep silent...really silent...in the heart of the afternoon, you will hear music.

That if you sing when it's drizzling, your notes will wash the marble floor and rainbows will gleam on them when the sun comes out later.

That days and nights will alternate in beauty, intensity, ache, and passion - much like friends and lovers do.

That the hardest part of me will get undone when I realize this - I'm the only person who knows where the garbage bags are stacked.

It's strange...the things that make me special here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sun spots

Was battling bitter sleep and heavy ennui in the pantry. A friend came over to say bye. She was leaving for home. I mumbled something and slumped over. A minute later, she poked me, pointed at the window and left.

Outside, the sky hung spongy, dirty grey, muddied with the day’s grime – like this deep, thick quilt of heat and nothingness. Right in the middle of it, the sun shone. It seemed as if a white, smooth, round pearl got prematurely exposed in the oyster’s womb.

With that, the sun set. The day was complete.

Maybe things really do get perfect just before they end.

Ready? (yes) Steady? (not at all) Go! (Already!)

I am older now, wiser and hence a tad more aware of the discontent that rumbles in the pit of my heart. It's the kind that won't go away. It won't get distracted with all the pretty things I show it. It won't balk and run away because of the myriad fearful scenarios I put up. It just stays there, filing away its nails, not forcing me to look at it, but compelling me all the same. With its faux nonchalance, it whispers: whenever you are ready.

It seems to me that now, for a long time, I am wrestling to do something with my life. Or, if not all of my life, then at least significant portions of my days. Now, I am usually not one for subtle negotiations, etc. So, I usually try to pummel restlessness into subservience or shove it aside. But it comes back, all cool and strong, arching an eyebrow, muttering: whenever you are ready.

I usually don’t have a hard time knowing my mind. Well, it’s fairly blank and straightforward, so what’s to get confused about. But there are so many things that I want to accomplish…yes, accomplish. Steadily, one by one, bit by bit. I think there has been enough meandering. I wanted my soul and my mind to roam unfettered, to pick up souvenirs from whichever lands they traveled. And boy, have they traveled! If my internal recesses were long corridors, they’d still have sands from the shoes of these wanderers.

It’s time to pick a spot, though, and build a home. I think it’s time to consecrate all my focus and efforts and just pour it into some kind of steady flame.

So, now that I am exasperated with holding back a feverish mind, I have decided to do this. I’ve decided to pick up the little postcards, ticket stubs, or gritty shingles of whatever experiences I might have had. I’ll put them all together in a heap. I’ll push them in the center of the room, sit on the floor, and wait until my consummate discontent deigns to look at me. I want it to make something of me. I want it to give it all some structure, some shape, some…something. It’s a lot of fragments. It’ll take it a whole lot of time and a mountain of effort to sift through it all to figure something out.

I’ll be patient, though. I do want to get it right this time. I’ll just sit quietly, watching it assess the amount of work. There’s no rush now. There’s no rush yet. If it looks at me expecting an admonishment, it won’t get it.

With reserve and understanding, I’ll simply say, “whenever you are ready.”

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April, my April

I am so unbelievably happy today! Not sure why. Maybe because April has begun. It's my birthday month. I love April. It's the equivalent of a splash of tobasco sauce on a dish of bland mashed potatoes. It's like magenta nail polish on fingers that have only seen French manicures. It's like a slip of red lace peeping out from under a serious grey jacket. It's the big, full kiss on the mouth when you're simply leaning in for a discreet hug.

I get a little crazy when it’s my birthday. I’m so thrilled to be born! Of course, it would be nice if people around me shared the same enthusiasm, but never mind. Some people just learn stuff late. That’s what I love about myself this month – this warm, muffin-sweet magnanimity.

Anyway, I have lots of plans for April. I am going to spend more time in town. I am going to plan my sabbatical meticulously. Will definitely create something during that time. Will practice yoga more regularly. Also meditate. And study something. Or at least do something that my mind can chew for a while. Like maybe write-up synopses of chapters from text-books. At night, I’ll be able to stare at the moon for as long as I want. I’ll go for the morning shows of films. I can take a bus to town during off-peak hours.

I can have cereal with warm milk and honey and read books for as long as I want. Any time I want. I can sip coffee and flip through each and every page of a magazine at dusk. I can wear shorts or little dresses and go out in the afternoon, feeling the warm sun on my legs. I love that feeling, by the way.

I can finally take up scrap-booking. Also, make the time to go the tailor and give her the 100 odd materials for stitching that have been accumulating for so long.

Every single night, I’ll write something about the moon. And play with kids.

I love the sense of possibilities that April brings. It’s just burnished with freedom!

I am just so happy! My heart feels like this box that has tissue stuffed inside it, so much so that it can’t hold even one more element that light and wispy.

It’s ironic that I’m at my most gleeful on a day that celebrates foolishness. That’s what I’ve always suspected, by the way – that intelligence is over-rated. I think it was Disraeli who said, “There’s a joy in delirium only mad men know.”

They may as well be synonyms, these words – ‘Mad. Happy. Free.’