Monday, December 31, 2012

Thinking of Boulder

They play violins in the mountains
And accordions in the snow
The sun seldom shows up
Except in muted tangerine glow.
The music snakes up the forests
Waters in the lake shine
That mood of life in the distance
Not lived but forever mine.

Will you be warm tonight?

Cold and cloaked in
A big thick blanket
With knots and ties and a fancy weave.
The hope fell through
The darkness stained
And withered dreams kept us warm on New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reached Home

We caught a bus back to Pune last night. The bus was from Miapur where the ‘bus stop’ was a small, tinny shed with an open field for a latrine. Buses shuddered to a halt there, not because there were passengers waiting but because little bugs of rickshaws kept getting in their way.
Our bus was late. It was cold. The shed served sweet (and I do mean sw-ee-ee-ee-t) tea in thimble-sized paper-cups. People around me had lit up their ciggies and a huge pancake sort of moon heaved in the sky. It looked a little yellow and bloated, like it had eaten the wrong sort of starry mushrooms. I took our luggage and sat on the dusty curb and took out the book I was reading. {It was a really light read: ‘Confessions of a Listomaniac’ by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan. It has a bright, yellow cover with a drawing of a girl emerging out of a list. Ordinarily, I would finish such a book within an hour. But for some reason I was taking it all in slowly. It’s not a great book but it’s good in places you don’t expect it to be. The main plot of a teenage girl finding herself in the clique-y strata of school, navigating boy troubles, figuring out who her real friends are, who she herself is – it’s all a little trite (down to a slightly iconoclastic brother who will of course be called ‘Shiva’. And all attractive males will have names beginning with the alphabet ‘A’. Why is that, I wonder? Even in movies? Or in mainstream media? If it’s the ‘hero’ or someone important, his name is a Hindu name beginning with ‘A’.)}. But there are places where the descriptions are precious. Like where she explains her grandmother’s reliance on her driver, Sukhdev. It reminds me of a paramecium type existence older people create around themselves along with their help. I have seen that kind of equation between my grandparents and their help. There’s trust in those relationships. There’s respect, there’s a sweet taking for granted, there’s a ‘until-death-do-us-part’. I really liked that bit of the book.
Then, there’s a section about an art contest that Reddy describes. Especially the main character’s entry into the contest. The painting is washed in blue and violet. There are silhouettes of two people walking along a lane that is crafted out of icons of FB, phones, computers, emails, etc. – whatever we use to stay connected with each other. The bushes in the painting are huge rotary phones. I think that painting did much service to the story that the rest of the 100 pages did not. It was a very sensitive, sweet tribute to…well, friendship, yes…but something more nuanced than that. Yep…it was a sweet, sensitive tribute to connection.
I liked the parts of the book that gave me a glimpse of the world in which the main character lives. That, at least for me, was more interesting than the character herself. The world was a Delhi I remembered as a child. Much of it is the same even now, I think. Especially amongst the older families in any Delhi neighborhood.A faimilar set of places. Familiar dinner scenes. Familiar house parties. Those parts were good.
The bus reached Pune early in the morning. It was cold when we got off at Shivaji Nagar and I bit my lip in pain as we hurtled towards Baner in a rickshaw.
A opened the door and I stepped into the homey earling morning darkness of my living room. My cave. My little square inch in the whole wide world that I have felt ‘settled’ and ‘at peace’ in a long time. You know, sometimes, a home becomes a living being. It becomes this child that you tend to ever so often and then one day you leave.
But when you return to it, it returns to you.
Home. I reached it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Spirit

It's a day after Christmas and I spent the whole day sleeping at J's house. Cy sat in her room and worked through her math assignment. Hours passed and the Hyderabad sky muffled the sunlight. By the time I was awake and sipping spicy tea, a cold breeze was whipping about. Later Cy and I went to Inorbit. J was to join us from office later on and A, who was visiting friends, also decided to come by after sun-down.

Around eight, we were all assembled at the Cafe Coffee Day at Inorbit. Our cappucinos were downed and a healthy spate of brownie crumbs dusted the table. Then we decided to dine some place. Syn at Taj Deccan was a pretty neat affair and we tripped over fried chestnuts in plum sauce. (Also wonderful were the latticed faux leather table-mats in black.)

After dinner, we trudged up the pretty cobbled path near the Taj to catch a rick. It was cold. I could feel our noses turning red. For some reason Cy and I had started giggling really hard. We looked up at a lovely moon and guffawed. It was so nice. A looked for rickshaws on one side and J looked for ricks on the other side. They managed to hail one down. We stuffed ourselves into a rick, filling every inch of it. Cy sat on J's lap and A looked like he should have taken an extra 10 minutes to smoke another ciggie. I was so happy at that moment. I felt warm and cosy and my heary felt rested. When the rick stumbled ahead, rocking this way and that, going over the slopes and bends of Jubilee Hills, I felt so ecstatic. I don't know why. Some Telugu rap blared from the stereos of the rickshaw and suddenly, a song from 'Saajan' came on. The air got colder. The rick zipped ahead faster. Cy started horsing around and J got irritated. It felt so good to be in the midst of general, breezy, giddy silliness!

This Christmas didn't have a tree or tinsel. But this Christmas had crazy, crazy joy!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bike wisdom

People on two-wheelers fill me with more dread than smokers (if that were even possible!). However, I do admire their bohemian insouciance. Especially in Pune. They don't wear helmets. They drive recklessly. They talk, sing, whistle, hoot, swerve, skid, repeat. They approach any space on the road, at times the footpath even, with the ferocity of rabid rottweilers. But sometimes, I see them being kind. Especially to other bikers. And sometimes, they are wise.

Like today.

I'd gone to drop off clothes at the laundry. There was a long wait outside. The person who was usually clued in to where bundles of ironed clothes were kept was absent. People started getting antsy. A couple of minutes later, a bike with two men stopped outside the laundry. They peered in and one of them started complaining loudly. He'd come by earlier in the morning and it was just as crowded. Why wasn't the fellow who organized the bundles here yet. And this is exactly the sort of thing that can put you off errands on a Saturday forever. And how all this was just oh so pissing off!

I agreed with him on every count.

His friend, a tall guy with a calm face, grinned. In a lazy, low voice he said, "Humaare pissed off hone se duniya nahin badlegi."

Touche. Sageness comes in many forms.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The little red netbook that I use to type this post has a non-functioning key. It's the '...'. (Here, I was trying to type out the key that doesn't get typed out. And this preamble must point to the event that I have come to this blog despite not having anything to post about.)

I did have a subject in mind. One that makes me Now, I hope I'm reading too much into this. But this rise in crime against women in Bombay has resulted in something that I find shall I put it...uncouth. It has resulted in people in certain other parts of the country deliciously lapping up the city's deterioration and preening about how they are better off. And of course, since my links with all things Delhi go deep and far back, my bones of contention lie there. A couple of conversations and a few things that I read in some magazines somehow disturb me. It's like some woman being murdered in her home or someone else being raped in a gully is now the true Bombay. And the earlier days of Bombay being a safe place is nothing but a farce. These women come tumbling out with stories of their own harassment in the city and then of course sign off with how they are better off in Delhi. (There may be other cities where people feel the same way. But I don’t really care about them.)

Well, I am sorry to hear about their unfortunate experiences in the city. But if you are such a person who does think that the safe Bombay was a farce, well, you are wrong. It is pathetic that these observations come with a kind of relish. A very sickening, cloying relish.

I grew up in Bombay and went about my life in a normal fashion. With other girls my age who were also going about their lives in a normal fashion. Forget the extensive late nights and all (there were plenty of those spent on the roads, and not night clubs, of Juhu beach or Versova or Colaba.) Forget that. We spent a normal amount of time taking buses or hailing rickshaws at wee hours of the morning or night, not to make a point, but to simply live out the time the way we wanted to. We didn’t rush to become some man’s vestigial organ so that we could have someone to drive us to a discotheque or a play. For us, guys were guys. They weren’t a license to a better, more glittering life. We were perfectly capable of ricking it to Razzberry Rhinoceros ourselves or landing up at Prithvi after changing two buses. In the evenings. Without chaperones.

When I studied in St. Xavier’s, I’d take trains – crowded with sweaty, tired people- back home at one at night. As recently as a year ago, a colleague (a foreigner) fainted at a tattoo shop in the city. She was brought home safe and sound by strangers with her wallet and modesty intact. (Sorry if that bursts your bubble about the big, bad city. Such things don’t make it to the papers but they do happen.)

My mother, my aunt, most of my neighbours, maids, friends, friends’ mothers – basically women – have lived free and fearlessly. A neighbour used to be routinely summoned to the neighboring police station past midnight. She’d go and return home by herself. (Her husband would be asleep at home. He wasn’t unsympathetic or anything. He just didn’t see the need to proffer protection when none was required.)

I don’t understand this thing about women from Delhi now suddenly getting all shrill about the safe Bombay facade. Especially after they spend that token one year in Bombay, maybe Bandra or Andheri or wherever it is the done thing to stay at that time. So that basically gives them the license to be authorities on both cities where they go forth and stridently say stuff like ‘the lives you led? That was false’. It reeks of a petty sort of jealousy.

But I suppose if all your life, you’ve had to live some sort of a circumscribed life, I can understand where the animosity would come from.

You know, I’m glad if Delhi is getting safer. I’m glad if women feel free and enjoy leisurely strolls in that goddamn Lodhi Road again. Safety, hopefully like danger, will spread through osmosis.

But I will say this much. As a woman in Bombay, I have tasted freedom the kind it wasn’t even possible for MEN in other cities to think of. And I realize that times in the city are harsh. Harsher perhaps than any other time in the city’s history.

Women like me, though, who’ve spent their childhood by the sea know this much...that just because the tide is low doesn’t mean that the sea has dried up.