Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some thoughts

...or rather one thought.

I had just pounded the pavement for a brief while. Today I couldn't run as smoothly as the last few days. The rain had let up for a few hours and the entire neighborhood was out soaking in...well, not the sunshine...but less than the kohl-blackness of a rainy evening.

After my rounds, I was headed home when I saw a man leaning against a gate. He was wearing really loose jeans and a black t-shirt. His muddy, yellow windcheater was wrapped around his waist. He was smoking a cigarette and sipping a little cutting chai intermittently. Between a slow drag and a languid sip, he looked around with so much peace. His eyes seemed to trace the path of a cloud or the trail of a leaf in a puddle. He was so blissed out. Everything about him seemed unhurried. Almost like every breath he took in first waited politely until the previous breath had been let out. That entire scene was mesmerizing.

I suddenly realized something in a slightly different context. Considering its effects on its users, this particular apparatus is named so appropriately - 'chill'um.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What is it to you?

I got back from an invigorating walk in the rain. I love walking out in the rain and getting wet. Usually, I don't bother with an umbrella because I find it an unnecessary encumbrance. Today, though, it was pouring away mightily. So I took one. It's almost a reflex - to twirl the umbrella and smile goofily as fat, cold drops of goodness fall on you.

The walk was lovely. I was refreshed and ready to tackle a pile of tough work. Then I saw a few emails. These were from people who apparently have been reading my blog for a while. Today, they decided to write in and let me know what they thought of it. A lot of what they said was also in keeping with what a stray friend had to say a while ago. Their main grouse was that the blog was too personal. In the past, I have written about the breakdown of my marriage which many found appalling. I have also written about phases of ennui and bitterness and my longstanding issue with temper. All this is washing the dirty linen in public and these people don't like it. So, they have asked me to stop. I, of course, will not. And here are my reasons.

When I started writing this blog, I did not want to exclude anyone from reading it. Not even those 'escort service' advertisements that inundate any open blog nowadays. But my gmail account was hacked and I was advised to put in a filter. That's why you've got to enter those funny characters if you want to post a comment. Other than that, I didn't want to keep anyone out. Not even trolls. I have received my share of flak for writing some things. Since I am extremely egoistic, I don't easily take the high road approach to criticism. It hurts. Even so, I value freedom more than my ego. Therefore, I had decided early on that this blog will not be hostage to my ego. If someone comes up here and decides to say that I'm a rotten writer, so be it. I do not discourage Anonymous writers from posting comments. Because if I have put something on a public space to read and you read it, you are free to comment. Just because you choose to not disclose your identity doesn't make you a coward. You are still equally entitled to voice your opinion as someone else who leaves a name and address. If I believe that you can't tell me what to write, then it's fair that I can't tell you what to think of what I have written.

So, my problem with whoever finds my blog impossibly personal and tacky is this - why are you reading me? It aligns with my value system of candour to write about my life. But if it is so distasteful for you, why read me? If marriage is sacrosanct and one's deepest emotions are sacrosanct and you would rather die than a stranger come to know of any problems regarding that, fine. I get it. But then why do you read of someones marital problems or emotional issues then? Is that not hypocritical? Of course, you have the right to be a hypocrite. Lord knows you'll belong to an ever-growing club. But you must realize that you are one. You are a person with many standards - some of them unfair.

It's like this. You don't like changing in front of people because you think it is cheap. So, don't do it because it's aligned to your beliefs. But if someone else is changing in front of you, why do you not look away? After all, she's doing what she thinks is right. But are you? Why do you stare and then comment on his or her cellulite?

I must say I do appreciate the letters. Some readers are sweet and kind enough to praise my writing. Some others are scathing. My problem is with those who are unfair.

To them, my final statement:Your benchmark, ladies and gentlemen, is not my prison. It's yours.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Disturbing sign

A week ago I had a dream. It was a little scary so I tried to put it out of my head. But a bad dream usually leaves behind a residue that is difficult to wash off. A bad dream follows you with a slight, rancid scent wherever you go. It's slightly sickening and horrible. My dream was this:

I see myself in a large building with huge corridors. They are long, long, long ones - in fact, so long that you can't see the ends of them. I'm dressed the way I dressed in college. I'm wearing a long shirt, up to my knees (I think it has purple and white checks) and a knee-length skirt (something grey and in a coarse material). I have the same, loser-type body language I had in college - slouched shoulders, long face. My hair is tied in a pony-tail. All in all I am quite non-descript. I don't remember what I am doing there, although it is reminiscent of a rehabilitation facility I had visited in Chennai.

It's dim and dull there. There's a bluish dusk-light that floods the corridors. Maybe there is a lamp shining out in the compound.  I can see the emptiness but not too clearly. There seem to lots of doors down the corridors and they are all locked.

Next thing I remember, in the dream, is that I am sitting on a bench. There is a round-faced Sardar talking to me. He is a young boy, maybe around 27 or 28 years old. He looks a little older, yet a little younger. We are sitting on a bench that is placed like a right angle. I am sitting on one leg of it and he is sitting on the other. He seems to be wearing a white and blue checked shirt but the bluish dusk-light makes the shirt look more cream, I think.

The Sardar is hunched, his hands are joined as if in prayer, fingertips touching. He is not very tall, maybe a few inches taller than me. He could be 5'9 or something like that. He is looking at the floor (same as me). He says that he has starting having feelings for me. He didn't ever think he would see me that way but he has and very quietly, he says that he loves me. I don't remember exactly what I say in the dream. In fact, I don't remember explicitly saying anything. But I remember getting the message across - like maybe I have told him that I don't have any feelings for him and could we just be friends? His face looks sad but I feel that he is a good man. He mustn't be strung along. I remember thinking, in the dream, that if he tells me that he doesn't want to be friends anymore, I will accept that too.

Then, I don't remember what happens. I see myself at a pay-phone in one of those long, endless corridors. It is still dusk and the light is that same, sorrowful blue. Nothing seems to change there. Yet I think the time is around dinner-time. Maybe around 8:30 or 9. I call up the Sardar and ask him what he is doing. I think he might have asked me to go somewhere with him earlier but I declined. I have changed my mind and now want to check if I can accompany him. I remember the conversation:

Me: Hi, where are you? If it's not too late, can I join you?

Him: I'm with a friend. We'd come to Jama Masjid, the Kareems here. (Or maybe he said Daryaganj). It's good fun.

Me: Oh great! I wish I could have joined you. Looks like you're having a good time.

Him: Yeah, we are. Lots of good stuff here and my friend got a new car.

Me: Oh great...was it the red...

Him (very slowly and very coldly cutting me off): Bitch.

That's when my dream ended and I woke up feeling a very sharp pain in my stomach. I felt very icy cold around my neck too. There was something about the way this man abused me that made me fearful. Like I felt that this abuse, this 'bitch', was very well thought out. It wasn't because I had turned him down or anything like that. His round, genial face had been a lie. If I had indeed gone out with him, he would have harmed me greatly.

The worse part about this feeling is that it is familiar. I have felt it before. 4 years ago, when a cold, sickening paralysis gripped my gut. If I am not mistaken, this can mean only one thing.

At some point, I will be moving to Delhi again. And if that happens, I won't be coming back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When your heart gives out a long, slow whistle...

A  few days ago, I met a friend at Bandra. Despite traveling off-peak hours, we battled huge and heavy traffic and were late for our meeting by forty minutes. Several things made up for the delay. My friend, MG's fiesty raconteur skills, delish veg Zinger burgers at KFC (there is something sublime about any combination that is spicy and batter-fried), and a trip to town.

For some weird reason I had to get into a general compartment instead of the ladies one. It was packed and I must say that I was not prepared for the civility I encountered there. The men tried to make way for me as much as they could. A gruff uncle told me to stand tucked away near the windows so that I could get a seat quicker. I told him I'd stand anyway. It was only fair since there were so many people waiting for an empty seat before me. There was no yelling or scratching. (The ladies could definitely learn something from these guys.) And there were these small moments that make my heart surge with happiness. No-one misbehaved, no-one passed a comment, and no-one stared. It was just so decent and good.

At Parel, two eunuchs got into the train. There was a British couple seated next to me. So, one eunuch looked at them and told the other one, "Unse paise maang." (Ask them for money.)  The other one collecting a few bucks from a tired Sudoku enthusiast shook his head and said, "Arrey nahin re...un log ke yahaan recession chaalu hai." (No, those guys have a recession going on.) We are nothing if not considerate. Also dubiously informed and opinionated, but doesn't matter. The heart's in the right place.

Then my friend and I went to the book exhibition at Sunderbhai hall. Book feasting over, we thought of nurturing our slightly eroded selves. So, we went to Nariman Point.

That place...that has the direct, phantasmagoric mysticism of any natural wonder of the world. It is concrete, all right. But it is the concrete of a memory, of a soul, of a song. 

It was raining when we reached there. We were at the rocks at NCPA and the entire skyline just diffused and melted into monsoony greyness. The sea was lush and turbulent, those tripod-like wave blasters looked like giant, wet ochre gems, and we saw so many crabs shuttling in and out of crevices. The magic, however, was in the rain drops that fell on the edge of the granite bulwarks. As soon as they would hit the granite, they'd transform into dancing drops of mercury and skip away in the wind! It was such a joy just watching that.

When we sat on our haunches studying little globules of skittish perfection, there was beauty. When we stood looking at the wide horizon swept with silver memories, there was beauty. When we lost ourselves in the ebb and flow of the friendly waves, there was beauty. When we stood soaking in the rain with our palms outstretched foolishly, catching  spittles of goodness, there was beauty. And finally, what struck me as truly awesome, was surveying the skyline right up to Malabar Hill. Because of the mist and fog, the sharp silhouette of the high-rises got hazy and blurred until they blended in seamlessly with a fuzzy beyond. You couldn't see the tip of Malabar Hill at all. In fact, from where we were standing, it looked as if the city just slowly exhaled away itself.

That is Nariman Point. And I dare say, that is forever.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Good morning with Yann Martel

By writing 'Life of Pi', I think Yann Martel has set a benchmark so high that it frightens me. And I'm just a reader. In fact, I am even wary of picking up Beatrice and Virgil, Martel's second book. What if it isn't as good? What if I am not astounded and rendered speechless with every paragraph? What if I don't want to commit every page to memory? What if I don't end the book with this queasy, stunned sense of beauty that I ended Life of Pi with? What if Beatrice and Virgil, unlike Life of Pi, doesn't 'happen to me' as tremendously? What then?

Reviews of Beatrice and Virgil are less enthusiastic than his first work. NY Times calls it a rushed description of 'postmodernism' (or something like that). It's described as being too clever, having narratives within narratives, lots of references to Nazi history (the plot does revolve around the Holocaust), etc.

So while Life of Pi would touch and move just about everyone, we aren't quite sure how many readers would actually finish reading Beatrice and Virgil, leave alone understand or appreciate it.

But these reviews mean nothing. They said the same thing, heck they always say the same thing, about everything that Salman Rushdie writes. But Rushdie just floats away on his magic carpet of genius anyway.

Also, a friend had recommended Yann Martel's blog where I found a lovely sentiment ( I also found a reason to straighten my back and say, "Okay, Mr. Martel. I will read you again."

The phrase: Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?”