Monday, April 29, 2013

That time of day

Unslept sleep
Back that aches
Dusty blooms
On a lane that wakes
Light that is almost
On the way here
With the groan and promise
Of a morning

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Maybe someday

There is a part in Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' or 'Fountainhead' that I have been thinking about. I think it is 'Atlas Shrugged'. This character goes off in search of a big scientist or engineer. She (or he) can't him. All addresses are checked out, referrals interviewed, traces backtracked and follwed, but the scientist cannot be found. The character gets tired and decides to walk into a diner for lunch. She orders a sandwich thinking about her future course of action.

The chef starts making the sandwich and the character is amazed at the way he works. His method is precise, clean, and uncluttered with confusion. There is certainty in how he shakes the salt-shaker or dices the tomatoes.

The sandwich arrives.

It is the best sandwich she has ever eaten.

Bread is soft and properly buttered. Ham is sliced thin and tasty. The right amount of pepper and dill flavours the stuffing. It is superb.

She knows she has found her man.

The scientist (or engineer) was disillusioned with the world. He found the world too corrupt with moral codes that appease the mediocre. He decided to give up his metier and instead use his skills to do something else. He therefore, made up his mind to use his skill and training for another activity that he would excel at. Like making sandwich. The girl asks the man whether he feels he has wasted his talent. He asks her, "Did you enjoy the sandwich?"

She answers yes. She says it was the best she had ever eaten.

"Then, no, I have not wasted my talent."

I have forgotten the details of the story. I remember feeling quite liberated though. That you can take the best of yourself and apply it to someplace else, some other area where you are competent and you like it but it is not related to your training or your profession.

So I think I will stop writing in a few years and do something completely unrelated. Like work in daycare for babies or work as a salesperson in a clothing store. I think I would like that. And maybe I can use all my skills as a writer here. (I'm not sure what they are - maybe observation of people, trying to get into their minds and figure out what they really want and not just what they say they want, understanding discrete pieces of information to figure out a pattern, putting things together, creating a bigger picture out of this, and making up a story with meaning, some kind of meaning.) Actually, I think I could be a guide somewhere. I'd like Agra. I love that place. Or of course, Bombay. That's superb. Delhi or Pune, not sure. Delhi - maybe I could be a different kind of guide - like if you are in the city for only one day and you are free for only one meal, I could take you out someplace that is memorable. In my last trip to Delhi, I really fell in love with Sadar Bazaar. It's punched in with interesting characters - people in colourful clothes, long pathanis and wearing sports shoes. Peeking through the crowds and messes of shops and lanes is a wee strip of a Metro-line or a flyover. Or you know, I'd love to be those guides who take you out to breakfast to interesting places. I'll get the breakfast and then at 4 a.m., I'd drive you to Haji Ali or the docks. Or with a nice egg sandwich and a thermos with masala chai, we could go to Lodhi Road or the Osho ashram or the Teerath park or even just scout around Baner for some fun stuff. That would be cool.

I'm thinking about doing something like this. Let's see.

Friday, April 12, 2013

It would be nice to come home to...


·         endless panels of plain white, silky drapes – nothing embossed, nothing self-printed…just moonlight on a weave.
·         rooms filled with pretty, fresh, new stationery. lots of handmade notebooks and thick spiraled diaries and leather-bound jot-pads and post-its in pop-colors and beautiful parchments in jewel-tones of raw silk. they must be everywhere; piled up on study-tables and by the magazine holder and post-its stuck aplenty on the fridge and whiteboards and sheaves of spotless-white bond paper wedged right inside, to the back of drawers.
·         chilled bowls of cherry-flavored jelly, fruits and thick, creamy, sweet custard.
·         music. soft, lilting, music. maybe flute or piano.
·         lots of plants in full bloom – some with wild, purple leaves.
·         candles, especially candles that are the colour of butter so that when wicks are lit, the yellow and orange conjugate into some kind of molten dance.
·         satin bedsheets.
·         cool tiled floors where one can spread large papers and snip and cut little pictures from magazines and newspapers and do scrapbooking. scrapbooks are fun things.
·         soft, thin blankets with chintz print in minty blue and lavender.
·         books
·         large, yet light, cane and wicker and glass closet for books
·         walk-in closets. a separate one for lounge-wear. mostly consisting of harem pants or slouchy pants made of thin, soft cotton, tiny silk slip-ons, printed skirts, cotton dresses, kaftans.
·         warm, hot food ready to be eaten.
·         colorful garbage bags, maybe in fuchsia
·         soft waffles
·         kitchen shelves lined with the finest, purest honey.
·         large jugs made of cut-glass and filled with chilled, iced lemonade.
·         cookie cans filled with sea-shells.
·         bushes with rose-buds. pink, red, yellow, and white.
·         little poetic verses stuck inside the wardrobe – Shelley near the stack of scarves, Byron with the flowing skirts, Neruda by the trousers, Tagore by the peasant tops.
·         a handwritten letter from a friend from long ago or from far away, every day, slipped under the door.
·         postcards from bombay printed onto pillow covers and cushion covers and cocktail napkins.
·         sky-high heels in kajal-black and blood-red.
·         Perfumes in tiny vials shaped like gypsies and flamenco dancers

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Much happens when you step out of the house

I'd spotted a new deli, The Habitats, outside my house and called up a friend, Gigi, to see if she wanted to try it out. It was late evening and a thin strip of fairy lights twinkled around the deli. There are a few tables laid outside but we wanted the cool air conditioning. The menu looks inventive enough even if the dishes are not actually so. The vegetarian section lists several options but they are mainly assortments of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and mayo. I tried the Mediterranean sandwich with a teeny falafel and some hummus. It was okay, even though they served it to me on white bread when I'd asked for wholewheat. Suddenly, the lights went out and so did my hope of having a good cup of cappuccino. (Machines were out.) They were sweet enough to make me a frappe instead. It was good. Cool, not too sweet, with the right amount of foam. (I don't like it when the foam starts looking and feeling spongy.)

 Gigi had to leave soon after because she was doing some fun stuff sorting music and books on her laptop. I had to go back to...well, nothing much. After I reached home, though, I called her up and asked her if I could come over. Since I wasn't sure if my charming company would be enough, I promised to bring two mangoes as well. I was invited.

At her place, Gigi played me snatches of some new world music or some flute renditions of a classic off and on. I'd sip my black coffee (there's a situation in Pune and milk isn't available freely) and look out the windows of her really cute little ante-room. Here, Gigi  has a large Pune map above a single-bed, making it reminiscent of sweet childhood. After we chit-chatted a bit (we have made plans for going to the Sunderbans later this year), she suggested I stay the night and we watch a movie. This was such a treat! We watched 'Steel Magnolias' and I have to say...Julia Roberts is a hundred kinds of wonderful! She is beautiful and talented and that smile is like sunshine over a lake.

Returned home early this morning. All in all, a good Saturday.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

What I am thinking of on a Saturday afternoon

One

Not having a T.V. means that I do not see promos of films. This is why I was not prepared for the new film poster that I spotted. Who the hell in Wadala ever looked like that? And John Abraham looks like he will bring all the histrionics of a gold biscuit to the movie. Anyway, the item song looks nice. Priyanka Chopra's outfit looks like it has been sourced from Lokhandwala's finest.

Two

I have lots of reading and writing to do plus an assignment for work. I wonder if I will get around to doing it today or maybe I should reserve that for the bright sunshine that Sunday mornings are for. I think I should do what Robin Sharma suggests. He talks about making a giant plan for the month and then the week. Then you wake up every day at 5 in the morning and go over your plan and basically have a roadmap for the day ready. It makes sense to have some kind of an idea of what you want accomplished. At least for people like me, who can sit by the window with a cup of tea and listen to the koyal all day. What is it about summer that is so alive? The colours get deeper, the songs begin, the sweetness of fruits comes to the fore, time slows down, clouds march by, and the world becomes a wonderful smear of blue,green, and yellow. I love summers!

Three

Now, typically, I don't like Robin Sharma type of people. They seem to be zealously enthusiastic about happiness and all that. But recently, I came across an interview where he said something that made me sit up and take notice. He said that in today's day and age, where there are a million distractions everywhere, the premium will be on the person who has focus. Not who has exceptional talent or superior technique but one who has focus. Lately, I find that focused people are in such short supply that anyone with slightly more focus than the rest is regarded as some evangelist of productivity. This is only to be expected because if you give in to a distraction, it apparently takes 20% more time to get back in the groove of things. I find that true even in personal equations. I can't understand how people can constantly be tinkering away on their smart phones, not contribute to the conversation in any way, and then wonder why their relationships are fraught with tension. I mean, forget about respect and trust and time and all that good stuff. How can you ever imagine to have a relationship, any kind of relationship, when you are unable or unwilling to make eye-contact? It is so basic! I think this is why my worst fights are with people who don't have the courtesy to put their phones down or dont excuse themselves when they take a call. And then they have the nerve to talk about respect. Sorry. As of right now, I see smart phones as really expensive, high-end leashes that you can play games on.

Anyhow, back to Robin Sharma. It has been a few years now that I've had the feeling that talent is over-rated. Decidedly so. I have seen many people at my various jobs do really well, much better than me, even though they are not as proficient. They will not have too many ideas, they will not be great at thinking solutions, their writing styles may be staid and safe, but they will do well. And the only reason for that is because they are disciplined. They are solid and reliable. Give them a job and tell them it needs to be done by this time, they will do it. It will be very mediocre, sure. In fact, one can always predict mediocrity from them but they are dependable. And when dependable people put their minds to something, they can become creative too. In my case, if someone were to give we a week to do something, there are chances that I'd come up with something superb the next day or nothing at all even a month after. And frankly, managing this kind of wayward 'creative spurts' can definitely get tiresome. In recent times, though, I've had to work with people who are similar to me. That, as anyone can tell you, is a recipe for great anguish. So, I've come to see the slow toilers in a more beatific light. But I agree with Robin Sharma on one thing, though - you do need hard discipline, unpleasant schedules - even if you want to venture into streamy-dreamy territory like creative writing or meditation. Nowadays I try to follow schedules I set up for myself. I find that when I am indisciplined, I lead a very bloated existence. My mind is always choked with thoughts that don't really lead any place, allow me to do something well, or even just get on with stuff. I know it sounds corny to make a list of all the books that I will read over the weekend or all the stuff that I want to write or whatever or whoever is irritating me or how much time could I spare on Wednesday for meditation. But it really helps. I'm sure it would help a lot more if I followed through but at least this is a start. I'll get right up there in the super-zone of efficient time-management in some...well, time.

Four

Last couple of months and especially last week, I have been so over-wrought with tension and irritation that I do think my body has aged considerably. In fact, just before my birthday, I had such a bad outburst that my hands were shaking until yesterday. I also had that slow hotness of anger-fever that washes over me when I have been particularly agitated. But Thursday I came back home late after work. My house was empty because A had left. I was a little disoriented at first because I looked in the rooms trying to find him. (I'd forgotten that I'd said bye to him earlier.) The empty house made me feel sad a little but then, almost immediately, there was a kind of peace that was so pulsating that I almost had tears in my eyes. It was soft and cool and welcoming. My heart seemed to open up and I could breathe. I ate quickly and lots. Then I went and lay down on the bed and closed my eyes. And I slept. Dear Universe, if there is a God, if there is actually a Higher Power that loves souls and looks out for them, it is definitely in the form of sleep. I felt like a thick sheet of black aura around me ripped a little bit and all the anguish and irritation and rage bled away and I slept. I slept. Thank you, thank you, thank you - whoever up there made it possible.

Okay. Now I will go and make coffee.

River Dream

River dream with red night sky
Which drowns a hundred moons and the simple sun
River dream that throbs with liquid heart
With stars chipped like ice from a block of one
River dream where pebbles rest
Hurled to their end, as pebbles must
River dream that flows on over
Sinking hope and sunken trust.


 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Don't they see it?

Behind every freelancer, is some staid soul with a job who listens to tales of how the freelancing world is different and dangerous, how great despair must be endured for supreme creativity, how they fight the lonely battle of clinging to principles and personality when you sorry EMI-ridden creature have sold your soul to be a corporate cog in the wheel that itself is stuck in the rut. Having a job somehow ensures that you will never bring a worthy enough problem to the conversation. But having a job makes you a necessary evil to reach out to for contacts or funding or cleaning up some mess that the freewheeling world of working on your own gets you into. Behind every freelancer is some person in the house willing to make do with less attention, more mood-swings, extensive participation in 'I-me-myself-my woes-my creative dogma-i am alone but will make it - you will never understand because your life is so much easier' soliloquy. Behind every freelancer is possibly someone who has accepted, if not understood, that you can't plan a regular holiday or a regular day in the park or Sunday grocery shopping because you never know when work comes through. Someone who has accepted, if not understood, that they will always have to take the fall or will never be asked, "Did your day go well?" Someone who has accepted, if not understood, that they will always come second to a head-rush that a new assignment will give.

In recent times I have met freelancers. In recent times, I have been one. How can anyone who freelances truly believe that they do it on their own?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Dear Universe

It is my birthday tomorrow and tonight feels like it's so shitty. It will be a horrible birthday. Away from family, away from every person I like...it is shitty and horrible and so painful.

Anyway, Universe, still some time until midnight. Please make it beautiful. Tonight, tomorrow, and forever after.

Update on how it turned out:

It was nice. There was some relief from the choked up agitation that I was feeling all evening. It's how one would feel if one has been wearing pants too tight and for some reason, the top button popped out. So, it was like that yesterday. Some metaphorical button popped out. So, I suppose there was some sort of a break but also some sort of freedom that allows one to live free, breathe deep...which, in no measure is a small thing.

It's interesting how bad, screeching arguments turn out. The worst in you can bring out the worst in someone else also. And when all that happens, the moral highground that generally exists like some pretty, exotic sparsely populated island breaks away from the landmass of regular value-code and floats away...while the stronger person in the argument can dive into the ocean and scarmble up that island while the other person may splash and flail about and drown.

Anyway, life learning aside, I learnt a few other things. That summer breeze is perhaps the most soothing element in the world. It can lull and normalize the heartbeat. It can be the perfect accompaniment to soft music playing on late-night radio. That the pool at the Taj looks like it has drained a hundred peacocks of their colour and the tile of the pool floor has the sheen of mother-of-pearl inlay. That summers are when the colour comes out.

I like April. It's a cheery month. Despite whatever sadness and despair may come, April seems to be a mad month. April is a rambunctious aunt who gives precious gifts that are crumpled and packed in crushed gift-wrapping paper. But April evenings are like this same aunt giving you a cup of chamomile tea and honey.

This April, my birthday comes with the message that sunshine...I can be sure of.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Stewed

This afternoon, I got back from a short trip to Panchgani. It was nice, sort of.

I don't get the deal with short getaways and brief stints anyway. I had planned this one because I was really eroded by work and some other goings-on at home and hearth. So when A visited, I thought it would be nice to venture somewhere briefly. Frankly, I like long holidays. In fact, more than holidays, I like sabbaticals. Smaller holidays seem like such a dash of desperate escapism. What can you sort out in 2 days away from routine that you can't by switching off your phone for 4 hours on a Monday evening? In fact, with this trip I realized that when I am frazzled, I need to be in my familiar surroundings to be soothed. Being agitated and taking short trips just really wears me out. Because here's the thing. I like being treated with tenderness when I am stressed. More than compassion or kindness, I need tenderness. Soft voices, soft footfalls that are mindful that I am trying to sleep, soft words (not harsh advice). Lately, though, it doesn't seem to be happening. I find myself going hoarse explaining what I want, why such and such is hurtful...but it doesn't seem to make any difference. It's easier to handle such apathy in my own zone. In a new place, it's just too awkward and messy and I will undoubtedly be really hurt about something but then I don't want to ruin the mood so I will crib about unclean napkins instead. (Which, by the way, you must be careful about if you are headed to Panchgani.)

This is exactly why I prefer sabbaticals. Take 6 months off, Take a year off. I would rather do that, replenish myself in a more wholesome manner and then return to regular programming, so to speak. Short trips only come in the way of any real progress and wind me up even more. When you need change, why settle for distraction?

Anyway, that was a rather large prelude to what I am coming to. 

I got home today, somewhat pleased but also a little miffed and bruised at certain things. In fact, I was so upset that I willingly took a nap. (Apparently, deep anger brings out the sloth in me.) When I woke up, I decided to cook. (I'll take a moment here to reiterate. I...decided to...cook. COOK. Which involves one to  be in the kitchen for some indeterminate amount of time, handle utensils, chop veggies, dispense vegetable peels, etc. I decided to do all that voluntarily. Just points to the fact that I was out of my mind with some deep gnawing worry.)

Anyway.

I made cauliflower stew. It was a simple stew with lots of onions and garlic softened in a mix of olive oil and butter. To this were added cauliflower flowerets, tiny slivers of ginger, cumin powder, salt and hing. Then I added a lot of water and let it boil on slow flame. Meanwhile, separately,  I dissolved some Maggi coconut powder in warm water. Here, I didn't follow the instructions correctly. For thick milk, I had to dissolve 3 heaped tablespoons in one cup of water. Instead, at first, I dissolved 3 spoons of powder in 3 cups. But since I like a strong coconut-milk base in stews, I increased the amount to 6 heaped spoons in 3 cups water. Then I added that in slowly to the stew. I loved that pinkish hue that slowly spread across the thick white base, making it slightly sweet, creamy and flavorful. Finally, I finished it off with a strong dash of pepper. 

It was really nice.

Given the increase in sullen moods now, I think I'll be cooking more often.