Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wellness, fullness, stillness

Today I am sated. I ate a big dinner with soft, white rice covered with spicy daal. There was bhindi cut up in small pieces and fried. It was deliciously red and crusty with salt and chilli powder. I finished off the meal with large spoonfuls of yogurt that was so white and creamy that it seemed whipped with sky and foam.

I was full of memories of my Delhi trip last week. I stayed in a little hotel in Daryaganj. Our room was on the terrace where I waited eagerly for my little square of sunlight to visit me every morning. I remember sipping black tea at a friend's place. It had peach fairy lights strung around a mirror.

I remember rose-tinted sunsets that suffuse the Jama Masjid with so much splendor that the goats there look like bards in Baghdad. They may easily have even been them. I saw one that had a white and black turban coiled on its head and draped in yellow and crimson carpets.

I think of the slow smile that always spreads across my face when I think of Delhi. When I think of the idea of Delhi. Of the India Gate standing tall and proud but the Kashmiri Gate standing broken but noble. I think of Delhi where the breeze is ancient; where it carried the first cadence from a sitar and left it on the velvet cushion of some unworthy royal. I think of Delhi where evenings seem ageless and eternal. I figure all of my life is simply an awakening to greet such an eternity at dusk.

I remember the drive back home  from a rather long day at work. I parked the car and just then, an old song came up on the radio. I recognized the song three seconds later than I remembered the person who made it so unforgettable. Some fellow outside British Council Library humming it. He'd have a coconut in his hands and an easy smile. Always.

So I switched off the engine and sat in the dark. I hummed along as that long forgotten innocence got serenaded.

Yes. Today, I am full.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sun skimming, sea swimming

(A friend posted a picture on Facebook. It's a photograph of a deep, blue ocean during the day. The water is calm with gentle waves. The surface of the ocean is a study in lovely blue gradients. Beyond it is a clear sky. It has no clouds and the waters have no ships. Across this picture is scribbled in white, frothy font - 'free'. Thought of this poem when I saw that picture.)

The body sleeps
The self steps out
Crumbs of broken slumber
Still lodged in nails
 
The horizon tilts
The self slides down
Lands on the velvet blue
Over which stars set sail

 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

These count too

I still count them as victories
Times when I haven't won
Times when I could have stalled
Yet, I simply begun.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Responding to imbecility

Sometimes, Pune exposes me to very nuanced imbecility.
 
Where people actually believe and say things like "Rape is a Delhi problem. Thank God we're not there."
 
Now, here is why a 'Delhi problem' should matter to us - the lucky few who live in the cultured, hallowed lanes of Pune (even if we have come from the corrupted cesspool of Mumbai. The hope is that with time in this virginal city of culture, poetry, and literature, one will be transformed.) Anyway, here's why we should care about a 'Delhi problem'. New Delhi is the capital of India. (Seriously, I'm not joking. It's not Koregaon Park. Who knew, right?!) If this were war, if we were fighting an enemy, if the enemy captured Delhi, then it means they, in effect, capture India. So, if rape is a Delhi problem and nothing gets done there, the likelihood of any solid legislative change or social reform or political will or judicial activism transforming into anything meaningful anywhere else is bleak. Or like Shobha De says in one of her posts, "When Delhi gets raped, India gets raped." So even if rape is a Delhi problem, it affects you and me and anyone in this country D-I-R-E-C-T-L-Y.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Stuff I think I am realizing about myself - Part 1

Number One:

I don't think I can live in a house with a T.V. again. This is possibly why I am a little uncertain of getting a flatmate or sharing the house with someone. Most people get bored without a T.V. My mother often tells me to buy a T.V. so that when she comes over, she won't get bored. Or the T.V. will be useful to keep the help occupied when they aren't working. (If my mother comes over, she usually has some full-time help with her.) I think, however, that no T.V. is good for me and for people such as me - including my mother and her help - and that basically means everyone. It's high-time we got bored. With T.V., one is not necessarily engaged or even entertained. One is distracted and stimulated. Which is a dangerous combination leading to insomnia and stress and a subliminal agitation that is too under the surface to do anything about. T.V. wouldn't be too bad if one is of a certain personality type. But T.V. affects me deeply. I am almost paralyzed with news and the fear psychosis that it peddles every minute. Also, I detest the fact that it is very loud. Maybe that is why I don't want a T.V. It's too loud. Even when it is shut off, there is a solid, silent, block-type scream that wafts out of that dull, dark, void-type contraption. I think when people get bored, people will sleep. I have seen my mother get a full afternoon's nap or go to bed after flipping through a couple of magazines. The night is proper with a full 8 hours of rest and she is up the next morning, full of verve and vigor (trying to convince me to buy a T.V.) I still don't get a lot of rest but that's because I have 20 cups of tea or coffee a day. Since I cannot give up caffeine, I give up T.V.

Number Two:

I like to cook relishes instead of main dishes. Here is one that I have rustled up with great success. (To give a little bit of a context: My cook is not a very inspired cook. She usually just makes rice, daal, roti and some stuff that looks pale and yellow. It's tasty, even though she doesn't use too much oil. But it looks very blah.) So, the other day, she'd made rice with yellow and red peppers. There was also yellow daal, mainly boiled with some turmeric and hing and a tadka of teeny bits of garlic. I wanted something on the side that would make my palate sing. And nothing overhauls a dull palate like mustard. So I heated up some mustard oil and sauteed full, beautiful cloves of garlic in them. They sputtered in the pungent gold oil, getting charred and crisp in some places, getting softened in some others. I seasoned this with some salt and, while hot, put them over the mound of rice and daal. The cloves that I had used were rather big and I had fried them well. They were perfectly salted and alternated between crisp and crunch and velvety smoothness. The mustard oil lent full flavour and a mundane dish of rice and dal got too tasty for words. Just like that.

Number Three:

I need a month between December and January. The divide between December 31st and January 1st is too sharp a break to merit any kind of sustainable resolution making. The last week of December is a winding down. It's a mellifluous ooze of bonhomie and fuzzy dreams and sweet yearning for warmth. The beginnings of January, therefore, must be the slow, lazy, delicious awakening of a beautiful dawn. It must be more a languorous spread of  light instead of the stern flicking of a switch. I need a transition month. Where I can afford to be fuzzy about my resolutions. I'll try a few out for size, see what fits, what doesn't, what I feel deeply connected to, and then commit to doing it for the rest of the year. So, this January, I am not really working on anything specific. I'll go for a walk when I feel like it instead of pledging 1 hour of brisk walk for the rest of the year. I'll write a page of a diary or type up a quick post when I can. I will not berate myself for not having the discipline to work through 10 pages of writing or something. This month I will flow. Hopefully, I will flow in the right direction.



When wit strikes at 2 a.m.

Someone had sent across a picture of two teeny pugs snuggling into each other, fast asleep. One's non-existent stub of a nose mashed into the soft back of the other pug. (I just found the picture. Here it is.)


I forwarded this picture to a friend with the message: "Here's why you're having trouble with your network. It ain't following you anymore."

I thought that was funny.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Bookish Resolutions for New Year


My list of resolutions have the staples – lose weight, sleep early, not use credit card must like a tissue paper to wipe off early sprouting of greed, cook more, eat less, walk more, talk less, etc. And I know exactly where these resolutions will land up in the middle of January. (They will be neatly listed on fancy stationery, with none of the items crossed off.) But somewhere inside me my conscience is whimpering, “Have some scruples!” Hence, I’m putting down some resolutions that I can actually see myself working on.

Get with it: 

My first resolution is to see what the fuss is about all those books that get written in series, i.e. – Fifty Shades (http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=Fifty+Shades+of+Grey), Harry Potter (http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=Harry+Potter), Twilight (http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=Twilight), etc. The truth is, I have never been a ‘Second book of the series’ kind of person. I don’t see the merit of writing in series. If you couldn’t manage to tell a story in a book, then just shut up and rest. I mean, stories dealing with philosophy, free will and drama extensively got written in one book (The Brothers Karamazov - http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=brothers+karamazov). Stories of families and cultures heaving through a long episode in history got written in one book (Tale of Two Cities - http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=Tale+of+Two+Cities.) Long tales of intersecting destinies, a nation’s independence, an entire sub-continent’s search for meaning got written in one book (Midnight’s Children - http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=midnight%27s+children). Heck! Even a book that talks about a hundred years got written in one book! (http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=One+hundred+years+of+solitude). So, frankly, I don’t know why a story of a little boy passing out from some fancy school (even if it was the wizard school) needed 7 novels! This year, though, I intend to be a serial reader and find out.
  
Books are books and movies are movies and seldom the two shall meet:  

‘Hobbit’ the movie made me a little angry. As did the Lord of the Rings series. Here’s my question to filmmakers - if you just want to make weird creatures look ‘realistic’, take up Enid Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’ (http://www.indiabookstore.net/search?q=Faraway+Tree). Do your wizardry with Moonface and the Angry Pixie and Dame Washalot and Silky the fairy. Leave Tolkien alone! Because frankly, LOTR just seems like a video-gamey advertisement for Middle-earth.  Maybe that has been my biggest grouse against movies based on books – the loss of sub-text; the glossing over of nuances to amplify the obvious (and now, in horrendous 3D technology). In recent times, I liked Life of Pi. I think it’s better that Ang Lee made Life of Pi instead of, say, James Cameron. Somehow, the movie was not as ‘literal’ as it could have been in the hands of a less evolved director. Yet…I have read the book and I can say that Life of Pi the movie, is possibly a shadow (maybe a perfect shadow but a shadow nevertheless) of a huge, character-exalting mountain range. For one thing, what the movie doesn’t explore fully (or rather, it can’t…the medium of cinema must have its limitations), is why Pi held on for so long. Why? Instinct for survival could keep him alive for one day, for one week, for one month…but for days on end, Pi lived. With the drabness of unending days on sea he lived. With no hope on the horizon, he lived. Why? There’s this part in the book where Pi explains that he is not a skilled or talented person. He does not have a terrific prowess for anything. But he is someone who will do his damndest to stay alive. He will weep for his family, he will lament loss, but he will live because he has a mule’s stubbornness to exist. I’m paraphrasing here but this piece was so vital in the storytelling. I missed this portion completely in the movie. In fact, this specific description in the book made me marvel at the author’s choice of the title. Yann Martel didn’t call it ‘Adventures of Pi’. He called it ‘Life of Pi’. The immenseness of this twist came to me only because I sort of understood Pi’s character in that paragraph. That a human-being so firmly ensconced with the business of survival will retain his sanity. He will go from sharing a boat with animals to later, sharing a domestic life with a cat…and not have a nervous breakdown.

In hindsight, though, I can see the appeal of a filmmaker to convert a book into a movie. It’s just their way of sharing a fantastic story. That’s a human drive and I must see it that way. This year, I’ll stop the judgment and comparison and simply enjoy what is on offer.

 Make a thoughtful booklist

Every year, I want to make a reading list and stick to it. I want to read the important books and the serious ones and the ‘seminal works’, etc. Then I get distracted by the next buzz on the block and pick up a Danielle Steel. Over the years, I have become curious about authors, especially about what they read. What my favorite authors read, I must too. Anyway, Yann Martel (an author who has currently captivated my imagination) got curious about the Canadian Prime Minister one day. There was a felicitation ceremony for writers and the Prime Minister did not seem to be interested in the people he was felicitating. Martel noticed this. He wondered about it. He wondered what kind of a leader does not read. According to Martel, a book is a great way to explore the ‘other’ – to know the world and life of people you will never know and possibly never meet. If a leader does not read books, how does he build and maintain empathy? So Yann Martel decided to send a book to the Prime Minister every two weeks. Each book would be accompanied by a note on why that specific book was important. This list is available here: http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/. The list is superb and the notes are gold! I intend to read through this list, even if I’m not the Prime Minister of Canada. I’d like to be in Yann Martel’s ‘good books’. 

Note: I'd written this piece for this site: http://www.indiabookstore.net/bookish/. They'll be putting it up next week or so and I was just really keen to share it with the world so couldn't wait. He he! Anyway, there are other resolutions up there if you'd care to take a look.
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