Friday, January 27, 2012

Last few days

For a couple of days I've had to stay at the company guest house. This guest house is mid-way between my home and office. Rooms were neat and they had the friendliest staff. I wouldn't usually eat there because I'd get my staple of Pune viewing and course-wise eats at Linger On. However, one day I did have their vegetarian dinner- daal, rice, kofta in a spicy curry that carried the slightest hint of nutmeg, and curd. It was delicious!

Another excellent consequence of the guest-house stay was my re-acquaintance with T.V. I haven't had one in a long time now and don't plan on keeping one in Pune either. But there's something so delicious about T.V. programs. It's such a mixed bag! You have salty treats like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or Rules of Engagement, rock candy like The Shield (has anyone seen Glenn Close in that series? She IS rock candy!), or sweet and pickled prunes like Sex and the City. I think it's a great idea to call a service that provides T.V. programs 'dish'. What else could it be?

It's my new resolve to do some meditation every day. And after the meditation, the idea is to reflect upon the meditation, or quietly wind down the brain, maybe read a few quiet pages, and sleep. But the time after meditation, at the guesthouse, was spent observing the hand gently reach for the remote and turn on Star World. I mean, if the subconscious has to get in touch with me, maybe it's trying to do that through Homer Simpson. My sub-conscious isn't snooty that way. And Homer Simpson is as valid a representative of Id as any.

So there I was, tucked under swathes of blankets, all lights off. Just the flicker of the T.V. screen dancing on the headboard of my bed. I switch, switch, switch, and come across a set of movie channels. Now, I haven't seen a film on T.V. in ages! For a minute, I had to get used to the idea that I was watching the film alone. I could go get myself a snack in the middle of a film without steeling myself against angry stares. And I could even take a phone call without hushing up.

One night, I caught a couple of really good films. One was 'Half Light' starring Demi Moore and another was an Irish production called 'Once'.

Half Light's a thriller set in Ireland. The cinematography is beyond stunning! Moore plays an author whose son has drowned. She carries the guilt about her son's death and tries to immerse herself in her work. She's actually based in London but I think she needs a break from her marriage. (I missed the first half-hour or so of the film). So, she comes to this part in an Irish village that seems to be a break-away tuft of land. She puts up in a lonely house away from the main village. There's an angry sea dividing Moore's house from the other end of a cliff where there's a lighthouse.

There are scenes where Demi has rowed over to the lighthouse, waves lashing against sharp, rust-colored rocks. Over there, her dark hair keeps getting whipped around her face. Her fingers are pink and her face is flushed from the cold. She's clicking three large, beautiful horses - black, white, and dark brown. That's where she meets the light-house keeper.

The movie has scenes of storms and darkness that have that Celtic iciness I love.  I wondered what if Pune turned out that way someday? Sure, today there are people-distractions now. I have a house, neighbors and heaps of shops I could just go into and talk to a shopkeeper. There is a very different place in this world that could some day take this city's place too. Maybe all I could have one day is a little window in a pretty isolated cottage from which I'd be looking at a light-house. And listening to epic sagas of the sea.

It's a lovely film - visually, at least. I like horror flicks and this film has a supernatural theme going on. But mostly it's predictable. What's unexpected, though, is the lasting, lingering touch of Ireland. It's like remembering, forever, what it felt like being a piece of melted ice.

The other film, co-incidentally (although I don't think there are any such things as 'co-incidences'), was by an Irish production house called 'Once'. It starts with a musician playing at a street square in Dublin. Some people stop to listen. One guy tries to steal his guitar case and run. The musician stops him and they exchange a few exasperated words. It turns out they know each other. The musician gives the thief some money and they part ways.

One day, a young woman throws in 10 cents for a song the musician is singing. This is not a popular or a known song; it's not a crowd puller. The musician stops, thanks the girl, and says sarcastically, "Thank you for the ten cents." The girl (we later find out she's Czech) is not really fluent in English but sarcasm she gets. They talk and she learns that he actually repairs vaccum cleaners. Excitedly, she brings her bright blue vacuum cleaner. He tries to dodge her off, he fails, and they end up eating together.

She is really keen on his music and he shares some songs with her. Stuff happens between them - a night where he propositions her, a morning where he tries to make it up by asking her to write lyrics to his songs, a bus ride where both their personal histories tumble out, their difficult families, their meiotic dreams. Then they record some music together - after which they go their separate ways.

This movie, to me, is memorable because of the songs. I can't imagine how those songs could be so innard-scopic insightful and yet sound like easy ditties! They're fantastic. That movie is a keepsake because of the songs. Each of them has maybe 10 to 12 lines. Yet, they cut through thickets of love, longing, loss, pain - and whatever vegetation of feelings poetry grows around a broken heart. The songs just make it simple. Cut down all that angst and silence and make it easy. There were, in the end, only two things to say, "That hurt" and "I'm okay."

I'm back at home now. Time for books. That's okay, though. A book is just a movie in my head anyway.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Domesticating goddess

All gas cylinders must have a fuel gauge. The gauge must indicate how full or empty the cylinder is. What's the point of constantly lifting up cylinders to figure out from heft how much gas you have left? It's annoying! My rant is based on my inability to figure out if I can go for a week or a month or several months on a gas cylinder. Since I'd be staying by myself and subsisting basically rice and daal every day, I estimated to have gas until March. Therefore, I go ahead and invite friends and promise them feasts and stuff and then, I run out of gas.

Today is Sunday and the gas agency is shut. Actually, they aren't much more responsive or sprightly when they're open either but...Now, I'm not sure how long it takes to get a gas cylinder here but I'm guessing it would be at least 2 weeks. That's what the last tenant told me. I am not sure if I can trust him enough now.

When I first met him, he very helpfully pointed out the closest route to my office, amenities of the flat, latest electricity bills, etc. He said that he was leaving to get married and all. Now, he really looked like a smitten bachelor. His dishevelled look and the crumpled shirt led me to believe something about him. I pegged him as  one who, until then would cook up some Maggi, log in to the net and skype love songs to his fiance. Such a man, I supposed, wouldn't have been using up too much gas for cooking, thereby leaving me with a cylinder full enough to last me until March. But clearly that wasn't the case. Maybe he was using up all that gas to practice cooking and feed his future bride. This is exactly what microwaves are for.

The same gentleman had also waxed eloquently about the washing machine. And today I tried to use it and got stumped beyond measure. I must say that I've never used a washing machine before. I have never washed clothes for anybody other than myself. So, I either washed it myself or had them cleaned by someone else. It's all been very manual thus far. And frankly, after today's experience, I prefer it that way.

The broad, white contraption that currently occupies three-fourth of the kitchen balcony looked harmless enough. So I fit in the valve for water to the tap, and as instructed, turned on the tap for the water to fill the machine. But, the water did not fill the machine. Instead it started draining out from a stubby, short valve at the other end. No biggie, I thought. I'll just plug in the other valve where it's supposed to go. And...well...I couldn't figure out where it was supposed to go.

It was around 11 at night and I was unfortunately wearing a cotton nighty and standing in the cold. So I looked hard and urgently at every orifice of that machine and unfortunately, only came up with stupid labels and wire diagrams in German and Japanese. I tried doing it again but no...the water kept draining out. It was cold and all that draining just makes one want to...you know, pee. By this time, I was mighty annoyed and I treated the washing machine like a computer. I thumped it hard. Then I treated it like a car. Kicked it hard. And then I treated it like a project manager. Derided it in my head. (I came close to that short valve and called it a hobbit. Hee hee!)

Clothes had to be washed anyway. So I did it the old fashioned way, happily soaping up the clothes and then washing them in blissfully hot water. Yes, it did take really long and by the time I was done, it was almost midnight.

I took the pail of clean, washed clothes to the other balcony - the prettier one - and started hanging them to dry. Somewhere between hanging dark blue harem pants and a grey tee, I saw a star. A single, lone star. It shone like a Greek myth civilization vaguely remembers but prefers to forget. I thought that maybe that constellation just consisted of one little star called Domestizeus. She rolled down Zeus' eye one day when he figured out just how important housework was and how no-one ever gave it enough credit. It was Zeus' one and only thought on home and hearth.

As I fabricated all of that in my head, I saw other stars. Lots of them. Suddenly, the majesticity of the Greek myth was lost. Now, the sky looked pretty run-of-the-mill, with stars appearing like cosmic tweets.

All good days must end with self-aggrandisement. Hence, I've taken upon the mantle of being Domestizeus. Now I shall proceed to try and make coffee in a rice cooker.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

The first of Pune recommendations

It was really cold yesterday. I woke up very early, shivered around for some time, and kept looking out to spot the sun. Many hours later, I went out to the balcony and tried sitting in wide shafts of sunshine that had made their appearance. As pretty as the light was (very chic in a European movie sort of way), it didn't help. The sunlight wasn't warm enough.

I cleaned up some more, arranged some stuff, and then shivering and cold, fell asleep. I woke up around six in the evening. It was grey with no semblance of any sunshine having visited earlier in the day. I felt like taking a short walk so I got dressed and headed out. The little lane that leads on to the main road has some construction work happening. It reminded me of walks I used to take from my place to J's house in Koregaon Park.

There's a lot happening along my road. A small temple opposite the lane was decorated with marigolds and orchids - a very unusual combination. The flowers didn't really 'go' together but the saffron and purple colours definitely piqued the old temple ambience. Diyas were lit but even their flames seemed to be bright, yet mellow. Warmth didn't visit Pune at all yesterday.

A couple of new mattress stores opened yesterday. Several eateries were offering discounts and specials. I walked on straight towards Aundh. It was such a pleasure to walk! It wasn't as cold outside as it was in the house. It was a...how do I explain...it was a soft night. Saturday night, sure, but a soft one. Lots of stars, no moon, a few clouds, and an endless river of careless whispers around the city.

I came to this cafe I had spotted a few days earlier. It's called 'Linger On', opposite the LG showroom on Baner Road. It looked small and toasty from the road. They have a narrow porch where 3 young men sat and discussed some matter very seriously. One furiously stubbed his cigarette while trying to get his very good-looking laptop (aqua blue) to run a program. The other recited something that could have been Gibran but was really a list of sandwiches he wanted to share with his pals.

Inside, the cafe has a mezzanine floor and is stocked with books and board games. I ordered a tofu burger and masala chai and sat outside.

Now, I don't know if it's the cafe or Pune but the experience of al fresco dining is so cheery. This place is on a busy road, yet it feels like you are just watching the world like a movie. So much goes on, so much chatter around, yet you are by yourself doing nothing more than observing someone peel away a bubble gum wrapper and then fold it neatly into a square. It's really wee...and nice.

My burger was really well-done! That was the closest I had seen tofu resemble a non-vegetarian patty. It needed a little salt but everything else was spot on. The top of the burger bun was greased, so it had this nice salty smoothness. And the masala chai was masala chai indeed. You could sniff it from across the road! And there wasn't the 'dip dip' ridiculousness that CCD has. (They just give you a cup of hot water and a single tea bag! That's just cheap, I think.) This was brewed strong and tasty.

I took my time. Watched a few regulars come in - the kinds who look through the menu as a formality, yet order what they have always ordered. I really liked the place.

Hope to go there for a long, lazy brunch soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moving day

Today, I stirred my coffee with a pair of scissors.

Here's how it began:

Many moons ago, I was born under a star that decreed that I would be...well...weird. Someone capable of doing much but someone also likely to do nothing. And whatever little I'd do, I wouldn't really do them right.

So, anyway. For several reasons I decided to shift to Pune. My stuff - which is my bed, kitchen utensils, etc. - all of those would be reaching the new flat a couple of days later. However, I had to shift immediately because of some interesting arrangement with the broker and the landlord. When I started from Mumbai, I decided to take the bare minimum that would carry me through the next couple of days. I'd also need to shift out to another place for another 2 or 3 days while I started my new job. In the mean time, the rented place would get sorted out, etc. etc. and then I would move in for good by next weekend. (All of that had made sense to me a few days ago.)

Therefore, I thought and made a list. What would I need for the next few days? Clothes - formals and something to lounge around and sleep in. Comfortable shoes for walking. Towels, napkins, facewash. If the toothpaste doesn't squeeze out from that doggone tube, then a pair of scissors to rip it open. And of course, for the morning cuppa, the materials - a vessel to boil milk and some water in, some container to keep the sugar, the lighter to light the stove with, a cup, wipe cloths to wipe the cup after rinsing it, and also the book I'd peruse as I sipped my sweet, strong coffee.

No flaw in the plan thus far. I reach my flat and impatiently wait for the broker to just hand over the keys and go. But he is sweet enough to take me through the house once again, just to make sure I'd be comfortable staying there alone. It's a semi-furnished place so it looked huge. At least for me.

There's a sofa and two arm chairs. They seem cushy enough. However, they are a difficult brown to co-ordinate anything with. But I'm a big one for curtains. I love buying curtains. Especially those huge, floor-length ones in wispy material and soft prints. They look like they've been speckled with Raphael's paintbrush. Gauzy, dreamy motifs in pastels against transparent whites or creams.

Anyway I got a few curtains - really pretty ones. One set is a light, minty blue and the other one is a thin, soft white one with candy stripes. As soon as I reached the flat, I put them up, admired them for 5 minutes, and then got started on the coffee. So, the water got heated and so did the milk. I shook the right amount of coffee from the coffee jar and did the same with the sugar. I hadn't yet realized what was missing. Then I poured the coffee, closed my eyes in bliss at the rich, earthy fragrance, and then looked around for a spoon.

To any other human being, to anyone else, the necessity of a spoon would be more obvious than the requirement for scissors to tear open tightly wound toothpaste tubes. I wondered, aloud and softly, to myself and God, in wonder and amusement, why I was not like any other human being.

And that's how a perfectly good looking Vega pair of scissors found itself swirling deep, dark brew.

The coffee was good, though. I had it watching the curtains flutter in the wind.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Move to Pune

I'm moving to Pune tomorrow. It's already been a month into the new year and I'm not really feeling so fresh and new about anything. Pune, though, holds the promise of a shiny, fresh kind of ching! Over the last few weeks, I've been to Pune a few times. Mostly, I've stayed over at a cousin's place in Khadakvasla and just had the most restful time there.

My niece, nephew, and I had once taken our cups of hot tea and chocolate milk and gone to an open field. It was early evening, yet the world had this sweet winter vapour around it. The light was soft and it was chilly. We sat on dried grass, spotted plants with bright orange hibiscuses, and made up stories about the neighbor's labrador, Tipsy.

In Pune again, I'd gone for a birthday party at one of my cousin's friends home. There was dinner around bonfires under a starlit sky. My finger tips remember the smudge of warmth I coaxed out from every dying ember.

I had a few chilly auto-rickshaw rides from Chandni Chowk to Baner. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine traveling in a far simpler world. I was in a bullock-cart - one that carried springtime by the sackfuls.

My interview at the job there required me to wait for a couple of hours while the company made their decision. I spent the quietest, happiest time at a nearby CCD watching the world go by. Every curl of chocolate shaving on my coffee corresponded with a smile from a happy stranger.

Pune is my second innings. I have no friends here for now. But Pune being Pune will give me a few things to start with - skies delicately embroidered with clouds, the best shafts of sunlight anywhere in the world, moments wholesome like fruits - like pretty garnet pomegranate beads. I'll have nights where the moon looks like an impostor trying to gatecrash a party of elfin stars. I'll have daybreaks that lightly tiptoe over tree-tops. There will be summers - hot, parched summers. There will also be summer evenings where my frosty eyes will look up at whisky skies and the season will get intoxicated.

Pune being Pune will give me the world where hopefully, someday, friends will come.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Faith? Really?

Through shoddy shards of fate,
Across fractured bets and odds,
With blind faith we prod along,
Being so forgiving of our gods.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So it ends

Saffron linen of an open sky
And on that, a reddish moon platter
In the cab, the hand-holding
Yet looking away, as if it didn't matter

Thick, cottony winter breeze
And shrubs with firefly dances
In the shadows, the kissing
And the stealing of nightly chances

Unsaid, undone, thrills, words and deeds
And maybe the guilt of not knowing
Penitent, imprisoned in cold, steady gaze,
And yet...redemption in a poem.







Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Essential reading

I will perhaps be the one millionth person to recommend  the article 'Joy of Quiet' by Pico Iyer for NY Times. It bodes well for the new year that it has begun with such tender and piercing insight.

Maybe, in 2012, the world will not end.

It will simply get unplugged. 

That weird feeling

Last night. I wrote about the knot of anxiety in my stomach. Early this morning, I got a text from my father. My uncle had passed away due to a heart attack.

The day was very busy. I sensed some kind of discomfort in my heart. Tried to come to terms with it. Couldn't. Felt a little better when I received my offer letter from a Pune company I had interviewed for. I now need to look for a home there as I need to shift base by the 20th of this month. Have spread the word on twitter and facebook. Also, written to a couple of people whose details I got off Makaan and MagicBricks. No leads yet.

As the day progressed, this sense of fear came back. A weird sense of loss. I don't think it was my uncle. I wasn't too close to him. But of course, he was part of my childhood. And that, I guess, inextricably binds you to someone. Somehow, I feel that the year hasn't really begun for me. It still has the stale dishwater feel of last year's rinses.

I was so restless and anxious to get out tonight. Oddly, I had thought staying in Mira Road would put me in touch better and faster with the rest of the world. I get the feeling that maybe Vashi is better connected. Of course, this could be because I am not really used to Mira Road. But still, I feel people from Vashi are getting out to go to different spots all over the city. From Mira Road, they usually only travel the Western line.

A friend called me up to wish him happy birthday. I did. Very contrite I was about forgetting his birthday. Truly. He's been such a good friend over the years. He was the first one in life to have organized a surprise birthday party for me. We'd gone to a Barista in town. I think it was near Regal or Sterling. He'd brought a large, thick chocolate cake and a couple of sleepy friends. We cut the cake and clinked our cappuccino cups and sipped our coffee. I think I was 22 or 23 then.

At 11:40 p.m., I stepped out of the house to go meet him at a nearby CCD. I miss Bandra. I miss the Bombay of before. When there weren't so many dogs as now. Even if there weren't as many streetlights, the darkness was friendlier. I miss the time when my heart was more open. I miss the Bombay when my head was held high.

As I walked down the road, a couple of auto rickshaws tooted their horns, peered at me, slowed a little, and then whizzed by. A very handsome young boy drove by in a long, silver car. He gave me a long look, seemed a little unsure, but drove anyway. When I walked ahead, I saw him park the car on the side. He was even more handsome up close. Something very aquiline about his features. About his stance. Mighty but could take flight any minute.

I think I stared at him a little too long. He seemed embarrassed and looked away even though he'd been looking at me first. I walked past. The CCD was shut. Opposite the coffee place, though, is a really nice Chinese place called 'Marvins'. It was past closing time but my friend and his buddies had managed to sneak inside and get a table.

We cut a pineapple cake. My friends ate some spicy Chinese starters. They also had a pale, beige looking soup they enjoyed. I sipped a chilled Coke. One of them said I'd put on a lot of weight. He's the same guy who's told me I'll die this year. Got a little pissed off with him but that's only because he's right.

They dropped me off home and I sat in front of the computer trying to type this out, look for agents on magic brick, and find an answer. I need sleep. I need this feeling to melt away. It won't until I sleep unfettered for a while.

I think I'm just a bit high strung right now.

Good night, I wish you all.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Writing for the heck of it

It's just the second day of the New Year and I'm feeling really icky today. There's a knot of fear in my stomach and I'm feeling really anxious about something. Like there's something wrong in the offing. I know this is the first post of the new year and it's supposed to be cheery and all. But tonight, I write to get my mind off things.

Yesterday, I watched Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes - 2 in the theater. I loved the final scene of the film. The film has been released in the year when the world is supposed to get over. Will it, though? In a sort of cheeky acknowledgment to this speculation, the final scene of the film has Sherlock quickly reading a document and adding a question mark to the very last phrase...which is: "The End". (So, it finally reads 'The End?') Clever. I wonder if that was intentional.

I seem to have my appetite under control now. Ate like a regular human-being yesterday and today. This means that I actually got through a meal and there was some stuff left over. Now, that could be a start to a health regimen - eat food, not inhale it.

I just went to bed for a while now. Lay in the darkness with eyes wide open, then half-closed, then tightly shut, then wide open again. So I took a cup of cool milk, sweetened it with sugar, and sipped it slowly. My head and heart just feel too crowded now. Too much stuff is combating for attention inside me. I hate that. I honestly want to bolt. If I could escape right now, and I do mean right now, to some place, I would do it. Unfortunately, I realize I'd be taking this screaming fight with me.

Maybe tomorrow I will figure this out. Or maybe I won't. While the rest of the world lives through 2012, I'll be going through 201? (Get it? The question mark is the last digit and it resembles 2. Indicating that my year is uncertain, more so than most, at least. Or so I'll believe for now.)

Not bad. The cool milk feels good and it seems to have given me the Guy Ritchie touch.