Friday, December 30, 2011

In 2012, may you have everything you need 'on your backside'

My trip to Delhi in December was a long and beautiful one. Got a chance to go to Agra with the folks. Somehow, all my memories of the Taj are very tactile. Yes, Taj is of course a visual opus of sorts. But Taj, for me, is lodged in my fingertips, on my palm, on the soles of my feet. I remember the feeling of deep inlay work, smooth expanses of marble, cool grooves of the jharokas, and pricks of sharp grass in the gardens. I also remember the shy warmth of light. When you see the Taj, pay attention to how light behaves around it. The light, both sunlight and moonlight, wafts around the monument the way a poem wafts around a poet's head before he puts pen to paper.

I was thinking of something ethereal to wish all of you for New Year's. But somehow, something else keeps coming to mind. It's a memory that has managed to dislodge the magnificent impact of even the Taj. The memory, surprisingly, involves Delhi. The memory, alarmingly, involves an auto-rickshaw fellow.

It was around 10 night and I was on my way to Hauz Khas village. I'd seen a beautiful canary yellow stole woven with light gold and baby-pink silk threads. I had a feeling that the shops would be shut by then but I decided to take a chance anyway.

I got an auto after walking a fair bit in the biting cold. The rickshaw guy was wearing a cut-off tee shirt (that should have been a clue into his manic tendencies) and was humming 'Deedar De' loudly (that should have been my second clue). I got in and he took off. Not took off the way other autos take off. Took off the way a small, cheap plane would. I'm pretty sure the auto rose two inches above the ground before we sped away into the mist and fog that only the headless horsemen of the world would like riding about in.

Now, the streets were empty. Shops were closed. Restaurants were open. Police was out. On the way, the auto almost collided with a cow. Since cows are big and important, the auto swerved and almost hit a massive divider. "Bachh gaye!", the fellow grinned like an idiot. My knuckles are smashed a little bit and I'm sure the stress has shaved off 3 months from my life. But what does that matter to the lout who starts singing "Deedar De" again? I was really pissed by then and yelled at him to go slow or else! I, of course, had no idea how to finish that sentence.

The fellow got a little impatient with me and for some reason, pegged me to an NRI or something (because, you know, Indians don't mind being casualties in rick-cow collisions). "Madam, don't worry. Kucch nahin hoga. See your backside."

I had a good mind to thwack him on his head for such impertinence. What did he mean? That my backside was so huge that it would cushion any kind of fall? He pointed somewhere and I looked.

At the back of the auto, in hot pink glitter (and I'll repeat that slowly: hot. pink. glitter), was a sticker that read: "Yadav da chhora". That, to my friend, was like a talisman that would protect us all from grave and dangerous things. I guffawed loudly and told him to take me back home. It was 10:30 already and somehow, I'd gotten my souvenir from Delhi.

So, this is what I wish for all of you. May you always have a crazy, strong, force behind you that takes you to places where you feel no fear. And may this force be with you. (Or on your backside, if you prefer it that way.)

Have a superb 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's wrong?

I don't know if it's the weather (Mumbai has been nippy, especially around Mira Road) or some insecurity or nervousness - but I am eating non-stop. And I do mean non-stop. Like today. I ate some rice and vegetables stewed in coconut milk for lunch. Then I had a large cup of coffee with milk and sugar. (Bru Lite - the one that Priyanka Chopra endorses - is lovely. It's smooth, rich, fragrant and less acidic.) A few hours after that, I ate some chivda and chakli that Eva's aunt had made at home for Christmas. (I love those dark, fried raisins that come with the chivda.)

A while later, Eva made tea and we had a couple of slices of fruit bread. I got hungry a while later, so I roasted some makhanas in salt and a pat of butter (I don't know what they're called in English. Not sure if they are lotus seeds. They are white, puffy, and look like solidified tufts of cloud. In fact, when you roast a whole lot of them in a cauldron, it looks like some kind of catacysmic event, like disntegration of heaven.)

Eva then made par-boiled cauliflower for dinner which I ate with a little rice. My tummy started feeling empty an hour later, so I finished off  the rest of the fruit bread.

It was around twelve then and I was still working while Eva prepared to go to bed (the routine involves playing a few games of Mah-Jong on the computer). I got peckish again. So I took the remaining rice, cut a few strips of sliced cheese on it, finely chopped a green chilli, and mashed the whole thing up nice and good. That gave me a sense of satiety finally.

Now, I just gulped down a cup of cold milk with sugar again.

I have a feeling this food inhalation is because I'm uncertain about the future. Maybe I should just be grateful that I have a full larder that helps me get through the unknown.

It's ending

December's haze weaves remembrances
In strands of annual candy floss
With sweet aftertaste of success
And sugary emptiness of loss 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The cold explained

The sun sulked
And turned its face away
And that was, in Delhi,
Another winter's day

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Strange feeling

It was a rather good day today. I woke up late with my head stuffed with unfinished business. I also felt that I should just chuck the idea of working for the rest of the year and streamline my thoughts. It's feeling too crowded up there. In Mumbai, regular life sort of takes up all the time and energy so it distracts me from the very important business of 'getting down to it' and thinking things through. In Delhi, even busy moments seem quiet. Even hours that should whiz by when I'm with friends or roaming about here and there - even those hours feel slow. Delhi really has started feeling like heaven. Like I died and came up here. And maybe my soul is not evolved enough to take this, so I've started pining for my sweet, bizarre hell, Mumbai. Maybe my soul needs to grow some more and Mumbai will stretch it out nice and long.

Due to some recent developments, I need to look for a place to stay. My friend in Mira Road has very kindly offered to share her flat with me until June. (After that, I think she plans to move in with a Dracula. I do think Twilight fans can be batty that way.) Post June, though, I need options. The freelancing is going well and it can go a whole lot better. However, I need a very strong base for that. I need to not feel uprooted or hunted or in some sort of unending transition. That's why I need a place. My budget is currently 6,000 and that too is stretching it. So, searching for a spot in Mumbai will need to begin early.

June is when the rains descend and it would be nice to have a beautiful place by then. Of course, I could get a really plush assignment and then I'll stay in a spot overlooking the Mahalakshmi Race Course.

Hunting for a home, a flatmate, figuring out what to do, where to go, etc. are actually pressing thoughts. I ought to invest a lot more time and energy into that. However, today I just feel empty. I was at the Mocha in Select City Walk today and ordered for some apple and cinnamon tea. It came in a cute little black cup and kettle. That cup was wee. It looked like it belonged to a pixie or an elf. And the seating in the Mocha is such that I actually imagined sitting ensconced in some cubby hole in a magical tree that would fly away to the moon.

With the last pour of that fragrant, ruby tea, I felt drained. I felt like everything is out of me now. I felt so empty.

So I paid up, had a bizarre conversation with a young lad who wanted to know of places to eat ("You look like a foodie!", he said.), and went to meet family for dinner.

I wish I had kept December free for some really quiet time. I want to clear my head, pick one thought at a time, think things through, and set it aside forever. I want to plan for June properly; not in the haphazard, spontaneous wildness I hop from one circumstance to another.

In the mind, I really want to take it slow. Hope it happens soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What it must be like to live in Delhi

I write this in my hotel room, swathed in a thick, rust-colored blanket. It's 3 a.m. and my finger tips are cold. The coffee I'd ordered a while ago is now tepid and a thick layer of cream has formed on top. I look back at the day I spent, at the sun I chased, and the misty, foggy night I sliced through in an auto-rickshaw.

Delhi is breathtaking.

To live in Delhi must be like being the mind that takes in wafts of art and shapes its muse. It must be to fall like the soft ash of an incense stick, happy in the knowledge that one burnt for beauty. It must be to live nestled in calligraphic verses, in the delicate cursiveness of leisure and longing. It must be like being an absurdly yellow stray petal that flounces about on a window ledge. It must to be the nuance of a poem, the delicate timbre of a song. It must be about being under a spell that compels one to write odes and rhapsodies by the hour. To live in Delhi must be difficult.

Because Delhi is breathtaking.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lit by an eclipse

Saw the lunar eclipse the other day. I was at the T3 Terminal in Delhi, waiting for my parents to arrive. The moon was slowly and seductively slurped in by the sky. And just as slowly and seductively, it oozed out from the mouth of darkness.

A bizarre sharp-white moon shone down on this crazy, simple truth - If you can love one, you can love many. If you can love once, you can love again. If you can love today, you can love forever.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Time with mom

Over 32 years, I think I have seen several lows. Yesterday was the worst. It was worse than the worst that had happened in the worst part of my life. There was shame, betrayal, and such erosion of trust that I got physically ill. I balled up with pain in my stomach, my head started hurting, my legs were shivering, and I actually started foaming a little at the mouth. This was anger, a familiar emotion in a completely new avatar.

I don't know how long I lay curled up like that on my bed. There comes a point in emotional exhaustion when you just give up. You capitulate to whatever nonsense wants to besiege you and kill you. I was probably there. Suddenly I woke up to some soft humming. My mum was singing to me. So sounded like the song was traveling through all those years from childhood. She was stroking my hair, gently. It felt like sea-breeze. But she wasn't getting me to sleep. She was actually waking me up.

I woke. She then took me to the kitchen and made me coffee. We sat on the steps in the dim moonlight and sipped it. It was so peaceful that I could have been asleep or I could have been dead.

My mother is just so right for me. I could go through those sickening, rotten episodes all over again to feel this loving satiety once more. But mum being mum, after the coffee was done, told me to rinse the cups and then "go the hell back to sleep!"

And no, I didn't tell her that she had woken me up. After all, I'd just had the best coffee in the world!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Decision time

Sometimes, one goes through life thinking whether one needs companionship or not. Whether marriage is good or dating is better or a steady relationship will give comfort or a deep embracing friendship will provide safety. Sometimes, one might even get close to one or more or all of these.

But a think a time comes to face the truth. It's not hard or bitter. Just one that has you thump your fist angrily at the skies a little bit.

That none of these companionship or friendships or steady relationships, etc. is for you. That maybe your lot is to muffle the screams from your open wounds.

Best done alone.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

At some point...

Happy stillness and smiling peace
May come, if a tad too late,
On realizing that in a mediocre life
At least the expectations were great.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

December comes

It's the last month of the year and it promises to be crazy and frenetic. It almost seems like this month doesn't have any patience with remembrance. Memories, this month seems to think, are easily dispensed with. I don't quite like it when I don't get enough time to unwind and reflect on the year gone by. However, this crazy hurtling of minutes and seconds into the next day is most encouraging. Maybe December of 2011 knows something about 2012. Maybe that's why it's rushing towards 2012 so quickly. Everything else can wait.

I wish I could say something momentous and clever now. Considering I am writing this post at 3:45 a.m. after having worked like a dog throughout the day, I need some release. After coming to Mira Road, I have mainly stayed at home or gone here or there for a bit of work. So, this is actually my space, right now, to vent. Or rant. Or say something. I can't think of anything other than the night two days ago.

We were out of groceries and Eva and I decided to step out to get some. But when two freelancers step out of their home without their laptops, even if it is to dash off and buy bread, an excursion begins. The whiff of winter in the air, the dull, yellow streetlights, colorful salwaar kameezes hung at the Ladies tailors - they are a party to anyone working at home for a long spell. So we buy our bread and milk and eggs. "Do we need anything else?", she asks me. I shrug. She shrugs too. We don't want to head back so we decide to buy vegetables.

This part is my favorite. We go into a lane where a hawker sells a large mound of tomatoes. Hundreds of squelch-worthy, fresh, ripe, red tomatoes. Tomatoes that ripened in the best sun and got ruddy and lush and rich. Tomatoes with pulchritude and pinchability. We were so tempted but we already had a few at home. So we just gave them our love and passed on.

A little ahead, we saw onions. We decided to get some. It was quite an ordinary task until it became the stuff dream sequences in movies are made of. We looked up. We saw a moon that though milky-white, reminded me of Salman Rushdie's 'Qara Koz' in Enchantress of Florence, meaning 'Black Eyes'. This moon looked mysterious and transparent. You could look at her and feel her smile. You could imagine her with delicate, pink fingertips. You could imagine her walking through a large, verdant Mughal garden with hibiscus and rose bushes and rolling an onion playfully towards you.

11 months have passed. Every day of these 11 months something has happened. And I remember buying onions in moonlight.

Friday, December 02, 2011

All that it is

Sometimes love be the anchor
Sometimes love be the sea
Sometimes love be the escape
That binds.

Sometimes love be the epic
Sometimes love be the small talk
Sometimes love be the author
Stories find.

Sometimes love be a June bloom
Sometimes love be the spring
Sometimes love be a trembling sea
Before rain.

Sometimes love be a world with music
Sometimes love be a hush
Sometimes love be the end that
Happens again.