Saturday, May 31, 2014

Q for now, A for later?

I have been feeling this since the last few days. I feel that at some point of time, I may lose control of my faculties and not even be barely functional. Like I might get dressed and leave the bra straps unhooked because my hands can't reach behind. The twitch in my eyes get worse and I dribble all over a coffee cup. I can't eat without half-chewn food oozing out of a slack mouth. While physical degeneration is easier to pinpoint, the emotional and spiritual is not. Maybe all these constructs that I have built around me to help me cope with what has been and what will be, will crumble away. I will forget how to respond to a smile and a good morning. I will not know how to recover from a slight. I will forget how to be kind and not even know how to begin to forgive. That practice that I had learned to release and let go, that too will have shifted away somewhere. My brain feels far too fevered for comfort.

This question is so cliched that I metaphorically roll up my eyes everytime it comes up. But in light of what I feel these days, this question shines. It's shining brighter with every passing moment. It catches me unaware- as I fill water or count bunches of lavender flowers or turn the key in the lock or put away food in the fridge. That question bobs up and down around me.

What remains? 

Friday, May 30, 2014

On watching the latest X-Men movie

We, the mutants, have been mutated to save mutants and non-mutants and now, somewhere in the past, the Sentinels will be created who are better-looking mutants and will kill us mutants in the past mutant life and the future mutant world and here, mutant, there, mutant, and everywhere, mutant-mutant. Humanity needs to be saved because they are infernal non-mutants and they shame mutants and us mutants have to unite and save ourselves and also save blue Mystique who looks like a human mocktail that is served when restaurants run out of Pina Colada. I, Wolverine, am best mutant and our Brit man mutant played Gandhi but you would never know it and its just as well because you being non-mutant will not be able to digest this fact.

************

Okay, so I'm not a fan. But I did enjoy it because I was going for a late night movie after SO long! And I did enjoy the blueberry frozen yogurt with the butterscotch and berry toppings at E-Square. E-Square also surprised me by giving 3-D glasses that were not scratched out or splintered or anything.

But this is all what I understood of the movie. And I do not get the deal with Hugh Jackman. Sorry.   

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Feels big

I love that feeling when you get started on a new book and you just know it will be immense. It will fill you up until you get stitches on your side and your mind will swell to altitudes you never even dreamed of looking up at.

I have this feeling now as I read 'The Last American Man' by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Parallel Lines

The day ended.

It did not give Harsh a chance to collect himself after reading the email.  His boss, Cezanne, was upset. She called him incompetent and an imbecile who could not string together five short slides for a presentation despite being given all the help required. This email was sent at 8.00 p.m., one and a half hours after official closing time. But there was nothing official about this cesspool of a law firm. Harsh was too tired right at this minute to snap. While he finished off his soggy shwarma roll, he thought about his response which he would draft and send the next day.

"Dear Cezanne,
'All the help required' that you mention was a ten second brief from you whilst I washed hands after doing my business in the loo and you hollered outside. Assistance was also provided by our legal head, your husband,  who instructed me to:"...do whatever the mad woman tells you to." Over the last 3 days and over 30 hours I have put together the various merits of our law firm in toxic orange branding for a client I know nothing about. I did this crazy, illogical thing at your behest. Tell me again,  ma'am, why am I the imbecile? Best, Harsh."

Mythical correspondence drafted, Harsh left the office a happier man.

Outside, Bombay was a wet canvas of black and neon. A thin film of yellow from hallogen lights laminated it and the grunt of traffic coursed through the city's veins.

Traveling to court had been a challenge and working in that old, musty office in Kalbadevi, even more so. However, Jainath had been kind enough to supply him with endless cups of tea. That had kept him going.
Now, getting a cab to Marine Lines station was going to be a task. He should've just finished that email and waited back until 10 o'clock. Maybe the rain would've stopped by then or at least abated a little.  It would've been easier to walk to the station then.

At this point,  Harsh allowed himself to dream a little. He would have walked across Azaad Maidaan in the fresh,  moist air. The Maidaan itself would be a large, grassy petridish on which he'd amble along like a tiny bacterium on a strip of asphalt. Around it, tall buildings and street lamps would wink and glitter.  Bombay would still buzz low and sedate,  a reminder of the sweet continuity of life. The bricks on Rajabhai Tower would be washed over by the moonlight and streetlamps and Harsh would stand still,  stand tall, and hum to himself. Our hero, happy in victory.

What did happen instead was that a BEST bus careened close, a motley of girls shrieked and jabbed him with umbrellas,  and a wet urchin tried selling him a glossy map of India for Rs. 75.

"Cab! I need a cab!", he thought.

Harsh had lived in Bombay all his life. He knew that a living,  breathing human morphed into a phantom creature for autorickshaws and cabs the moment rain poured down and the moon came out. You suddenly became invisible. The cabbie didn't see you, the rick guy didn't notice.  For all your flailing arms to stop the vehicle,  for all your hollering of "Rickshaaaa!", "Taxiiii"- you did not exist.

Yet, one does what one has to. So...

"Taxiiii!"

And a cab stopped. Except that it did not stop in front of him. It stopped some distance away. In front of another passenger.  Who was a woman.  Just like one of his bosses.

"Of course!  Stop in front of the chick who's wet in white!", he grumbled.

The wet chick in white,  however, looked at him and shouted, "Going to Bandra. You coming?"

Harsh didn't answer but his superhero leap towards her over open manholes indicated yes.

"Bhaiyya, Bandra West. Tezz chalaiye. Jaldi pahunchna hai,", the girl instructed the cabbie.  (Drive fast please.  I need to reach quickly.)

"Where in Bandra West are you going?", Harsh asked.

"Linking Road. Around National College. Where do you want to get off?"

"I'll get off there. It's close to Bandra station. "

"Madam,  Haji Ali se loon?", the cabbie asked. (Madam, shall I take the Haji Ali route?)

"Bhaiyya, J.J. Flyover se..." (Take the J.J. Flyover instead).

Harsh interrupted. "J.J. will be crazy. It's a very narrow road. "

"Theek hai bhaiyya. Haji Ali se le lo." (Okay. Take the Haji Ali route. )

Harsh smiled and looked out the window.  "You know what I find sweet and exasperating about women? "
"Huh? Is this going to be that kind of a cab-ride?"

"No, no! I'm sorry. Didn't mean it like that.  I meant it's sweet that you just trusted my judgment of the traffic situation over yours. I mean...about the Haji Ali ...J.J. bit."

She stared at him while her fingers rummaged through a rather large purse. Oh yes. Large purses - also exasperating about women.

"Well...you looked like a local so I figured you'd know. "

He nodded and looked out again. They had just crossed Wilson college and the city looked inviting again. It always did until you accepted the invitation, he thought morosely.

"Naaz", he heard. "My name's Naaz. You are...?"

"Harsh", he extended a damp hand. "There's a Cafe Naaz near Haji Ali, you know. It has a dubious crowd but a terrace with the best view of the city."

"And very good kheema pav, I've heard."

"Right!  So, how long have you been in the city?"

"A month. Little over a month. "

"Liking it?"

"Trying to."

"Don't. Stop trying. Exhale and then let it fill you up."

"Oh...that it does! The stench does fill you up, as you put it."

Harsh guffawed so loud that he startled the cabbie who was trying to fidget with his radio.  Naaz had brought out a small packet of chips which she offered Harsh and then the cabbie. The former accepted.  The latter declined.

"Looks like it will be a long, long ride back," Harsh drawled. Cars snaked all across Walkeshwar and even the swanky strip into Malabar Hill looked like a car park.

"Moojik nahin chal raha hai", the cabbie piped up. (The music system's not working.) Niether had exactly asked for an update but well...what can you say to information offered up with such earnestness.

"So, where are you from, Naaz?"

"North."

"You from Delhi?"

"Of course, because that's all you people know of the North, right?"

"No...we also know Punjab."

She smiled. "Kashmir. "

Harsh gave a long,  slow whistle. That did seem very far away. He wondered why. It's not like Kashmir was that much further than Delhi but Kashmir just seemed like another world. For some reason, he felt a little lost for her.

"You must really miss it."

"Yeah. But when we were driven out, we just had to make our way here, you know."

"Driven out meaning? That Kashmiri Pandit issue...but you..."

"What?"

"Nothing. Just that your name's Naaz, right? Aren't you...? I thought only the Pandits were driven out."

"Well, we had to leave home too. Some of us Muslim families. But yes, it's linked to the Kashmiri-Pandit issue."

There was silence while the radio coughed up whirring sounds.

"Hey, Naaz! We'll be reaching Haji Ali soon. You want to pick up something to eat?"

"I don't know, don't want to get delayed anymore."

"No! No! Haji Ali Juice Centre is right there!  You see that? There. They have these ready to eat bowls of fruits and cream. We'll pick those up and be on our way. 5 minutes! "

"Okay. I may as well be sweet and exasperating again. Whatever you say."

The cabbie was quite relieved to park and get off for a quick smoke. Harsh dived out and brought back two large, chilled bowls of figs, almonds, and cashews blended in with thick, sweetened heavy cream.

He banged the door shut a little too hard. This jolted the radio to start again...and this time, it burped out actual music. The cabbie ran back happily. "Arrey! Chaalu ho gaya!" (It's working now.) Soon,  they were on their way. The traffic had thinned out a little.  Naaz watched as Harsh peeled off the clingfilm from the bowl and dug his spoon into the dish. "What is this?"

"It's dry fruits and cream. "

"What's it called? "

"It's called dry fruits and cream.  Why?"

"Are you sure it's not called Kashmiri something or the other? In Bombay,  the idea of a Kashmiri dish is to add kaju- kishmish."

"True but maybe instead of analyzing it so much, you just ate?"

She did. He could see that she liked it. She licked her lips, dug into the bowl a little more, and he thought he even heard her slurp.

"Nice", she said.

The radio hummed a sweet old Madhubala song. The cabbie whistled out of tune. Outside,  the city had become a soundtrack on mute.

"What do you miss about Kashmir?", Harsh asked.

Naaz stopped eating for a second,  fished out her handkerchief and wiped her lips. She folded it back neatly and answered. "Lots of things. Like what do you miss about growing up?"

"Nothing. My childhood was rotten."

"Oh...I guess what I miss is taking beauty for granted. Kashmir was like that. Like you know...how do I explain...like say, so many places are beautiful. But Kashmir is beauty. Know what I'm saying?"

He didn't but nodded anyway.  "Okay,  so what kind of beauty did you take for granted? "

"So many questions!  Are you a lawyer or something? "

Before he could answer, she had drifted on. "I miss full moon nights. I'd look out and see condensation on zaffran plants. The dew would shine like diamonds. Imagine so many diamonds across a whole field. And not just diamonds, mind you. Diamonds on that priceless spice -zaffran. Kashmir was full of things like this. So careless with such treasures. You could take them for granted."

She wasn't looking at him when she said this. She was looking out. They were at Mahim Causeway now. The area was splintered with dingy buildings,  rough and tumble shops, and hordes of people crowding into buses. He thought he'd point out a jeweler's shop (in reference to her 'diamonds in the field') and the orange poster of a political party (for the zaffran connect) but kept quiet. Maybe it wasn't the time for jest.

She continued softly. "I miss being shy. It sounds strange but I feel that. I wonder if I'll ever manage here."

"Naaz, can I tell you something? "

"Hmm?"

"You called out to a stranger and spent nearly two hours  in heavy, city traffic with him. You ate what I gave you. I wonder if it even occured to you whether I'd mixed something in it or not. By the way, don't do that again - eat something a stranger's offered you. But, you know what? I think you've started exhaling. You'll manage."

Naaz shrugged. A tad exaggeratedly, Harsh noticed.

"Okay, then. You're the local. You should know."

The cab turned left to National college. "By the way," he said as they split the cab fare and got off, " I am a lawyer" and handed over his bright orange visiting card.

In the light of the night, though, the card seemed to have softened, from a toxic orange to a pale saffron.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Long enough

You wait long enough and the dispensabilility of that and those one has moved on from, surfaces.

Or as one is taught in yoga - hold that pose.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On a perfect day such as this

It's dark, moist, cool, and wonderful outside.  Trees sway, leaves tremble, tiny, colourful blossoms shiver tucked into strong boughs. I have just woken up. Eyes still heavy and breathing still deep. Across, the netted verandah door seems like a portal to a land that's endless. Time flows from my room to the outside, on a steady stream of grey. Along the continuum of a dream. I plan to go. Merrily, merrily, merrily.

Friday, May 16, 2014

on this gorgeous, windy moist, cool day...

i have realized that I don't quite like it when the word 'super' is used as an adjective, as a replacement for 'very'. So..."this cocoa butter...it's not synthetic...it's super natural!"

Okay then. Looking forward to all the smooth, moisturized skin in the twilight zone.

Prayer

Last night, I sat on the terrace and prayed. There was a big, shiny full moon that floated somewhere behind tall trees and gauzy clouds. I was feeling sapped and confused. I prayed that it must all make sense to me. Or else I must be free of this urge where things have to make sense to me. And here's what came to me...that it's time I got myself off the hook.  That , like the sea, time will have its ebbs and flows and will leave behind dregs of what was once beautiful. That friendships will end, passions will dim, furies will rise, breathing will be choked, ideas could be invalidated, identity may be rejected. But none of that may be because of me.

At times, one does nothing more wrong than being a pearl before the swines.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

sundown

that love comes up to me. shining down on the road, trembling through leaves, but not lighting up anything really. with a murmur that is muffled, soaring on melody that is sighed out. that love comes now with pain and choked heart and unshaken compulsion. that love comes...like unfinished business.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Witness to my life

I think it was Virginia Woolfe who said something to the effect that marriage was necessary because everyone needs a witness to their life. Why I quote, or misquote Woolfe, at 7 a, m. on a Sunday after zero hours of sleep...I don't know.  Or actually,  I do.

It's this picture right there. That's one of the three wardrobes I set to arranging last night. That's probably one-fifth of the clothes I own. Clothes...managing them...is posing to be bit of a situation.

I have given away clothes copiously to people...the help mainly, sometimes for relief activities,  and at times to kind friends who have liked a certain top or a skirt and haven't minded a hand-me-down.

I still don't understand how the pile seemsto grow so much. I think they procreate inside the wardrobe once its shut. Often, I have this sinking feeling that the situation is uncontrollable. Just getting a shelf in order proves chaotic. But all of last night, I spent making spicy oats and chai and clearing this wardrobe.

Got it to behave itself somewhat.

Hurriedly clicked this picture because even the semblance of control needs to be recorded as evidence.

Two more to go.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Evening

Spicy sent of almost rain.

           Clouds grey like a gentle gaze.


                        Lavish bunches of lettuce and foresty broccoli.


                                    Evening - spicy scent of an almost day.


Ditty around my shoes

With the sun, around the world,
Dotted places fun and free,
While the footprints left their trail,
The earth too roamed around with me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

What I would recommend and what I would not

1. Had Red Bull and coffee late at night. Slept very fitfully with a burning sensation in my stomach and nausea. Avoid.

2. Had masala macaroni. Plain boiled curls with chilli powder and the masala for Bisibele Bhaat. Very, very good. Try it if you are not a purist.

3. Curd rice made with brown rice. Interesting texture. I added a few green olives and chilli flakes to spike the taste a bit. Works.

4. If mangoes are ripe but a little sour, having it mixed with vanilla ice-cream and a little bit of mixed fruit or pineapple jam helps.

5. Sometimes, after yoga class, I feel really parched. It's a strange kind of thirst. Water, even cold water doesn't quite cut it. One day, I had some diet coke with a wedge of lemon and a sliver of really spicy chilli. It was so beautiful. I sipped it in the car looking at a new moon. Definitely recommend. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

so...

Thought hard about
What made me tick
Picked out some labels
And made them stick

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Cubicle Zen 2

It goes away somedays. The anxiety,  the fears of having missed out on smeling all those beautiful flowers - and you wait out endless summers for the backyard to be less barren.

Long hours of sleeplessness, grafted on the wings of the bird that is tucked away in its dry nest right now but will fly away tomorrow. At dawn.

A cane basket with books. Sweet fruits. Pale yellow eggshells. Somewhere else, a storm moves through a village. Breaking nests. Tearing books.

What I have seen in Denver. Across the empty sky, large paintbrush strokes. Clotted with purple, pink, green, and yellow clumps. Slowly softening as condensation mists over. Sunset.

Monday morning. A movie plan for Friday night. Monday evening.  Checklist for exotic groceries for scrumptious Saturday brunch. Tuesday afternoon slump. Game plan for lifelong project to begin Saturday night. After a dinner of very healthy steamed broccoli,  asparagus, and cup of mushroom and potatoes mashed with garlic, butter, and cream. Monday to Friday, then. Days. Beads onba rosary. Weekend.  It's a prayer.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Cut my hair short so...

1. Shampooed and dried my hair in under 5 minutes.

2. Fingers worked well. Didn't use the comb.

3. Summer breeze on an open neck feels brilliant.

4. Spraying perfume on the neck feels cold and tingly in a nice, non-horror way.

5. One has discovered the neck, the way one discovers the smoothness of a heel after a pedicure. It's a happy feeling.

6. A personal preference – short hair goes far better with saris than long hair.

7. Much time has been saved that was earlier spent looking for scrunchies, tying hair, untying hair, loosening knots, swishing the hair about in appreciation when it wasn't knotted, etc.

8. In the time that has been saved, one is considering taking up carpentry.

9. Ears look nice and open too.


10. Next step, at some point - clean shaven.

Khichdi, almost

I returned from Mumbai tonight to find that my cook hadn't cooked anything. I had specifically told her to but she hadn't.  It is going to come up in a stern conversation tomorrow.  Anyway,  not only was there no food, there were no vegetables or salt either. That's the really annoying part about my cook- she never tells me that we are running out of something until we have actually run out. So, on a night when I want to have a cup of creamy porridge is when I'll find out that there's no oats. Or when I have my 2 a.m. coffee is when the milk won't be found or the sugar jar will be empty.

But milk, sugar, and oats is still okay to run out of. Salt, well...that posed to be a bit of a problem.

So here's what I did: took some green moong daal, some brown rice, and soya nuggets. Then, I mixed them together with some mustard oil, salt, sabzi masala, and hot water. To this, instead of salt, I used dark soya sauce. After mixing it all together well, I pressure cooked it.

It tasted remarkably well! I think I will try this again when I am better stocked with bell peppers, shallots, and carrots. And yes, even though I hope to have salt then, I'll give it a miss.