Thursday, March 26, 2015

728 - What stands between?

Something happened last night that at some point, I may or may not write about.

This morning, I woke up. The right side of my face is swollen because of a toothache. I haven't taken any painkillers yet but through salt-water rinsing and application of clove oil, the pain is manageable. Or just by way of being human, I am getting used to it.

I get into the bathroom and very tenderly brush my teeth. It's really bright outside. The shadow of a pigeon perched somewhere falls on the wall I see through the bathroom window. It coos. Suddenly, there' sound of gushing water from a flat close by. It stops. Then I hear a trickle of water somewhere else. The water gushing from the tap inside my own bathroom is noisy.

My head throbs so I close my eyes. I wet my fingers and rub my temples. I go out and sit on the bed. There are different noises. I look out and there's a tree that looks like a bottlebrush tree but may not be that. It has clumps of thorny, bristly, pointy sharp needle type leaves in a muted yellow. A dusty yellow. Like if you had a yellow desk and never dusted it for months. That yellow.

All that I have heard and all that I have seen is outside me. But it is also inside me now. Everything seems to get inside. The body - these arms, legs, stomach, ankle, finger, neck, collarbone, cavity - all seem to be formed of memories. Of whatever I have seen so far, for so long.

What is this body then? What does it stop? What does it allow?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

729 - a poem and a toothache

Around 9 p.m. spoke to mom. Had started feeling feverish by then. Then the searing pain around the tooth started. In a couple of minutes the ear was hurting and one part of the throat was sore. While driving back, my hands were shaking on account of the pain. In a 10 minute drive home, had to stop twice because I couldn't steady. Reached home and fumbled endlessly for the keys. Clamped the affected tooth by mistake so I was immediately brought down to my knees because of tha...t blinding pain that zipped through my spine. (Just what all is the tooth connected to anyway?) That's the impact of pain in one tooth. ONE TOOTH. Nothing seems worse. No existential crisis where you feel empty. No heartbreak where you think you've lost your one true love. And I don't care about all that stupid poetry and those doofus lamenting songs. If you can write poetry and aren't in all that much pain. So, in case I live through tonight, here's an ode to a lesson I learned:

Not for an everafter
Or an absolute truth
Have i willingly prayed so hard
As i have for a decaying tooth.
Tooth – you cause so much pain
And you are fairly hard to rhyme
Which is why no-one writes about you
More than half the time.
But please duly note this poem
That I write while painfully sucking a fruit
I chose you tonight unequivocally
Over a foreverafter and the absolute truth.

If this ever becomes a music video, I'd like Deepika in there somewhere wearing a dress in yellow georgette with dull gold sandals (oh hey! toothache seems to have subsided...everybody likes her, apparently.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Massive toothache. The day after I slurped many glasses of white wine at Malaka Spice after nearly six years of no alcohol, I think, caused the body to rebel, revolt, and just give up.

The toothache is really bad. I am very averse to painkillers so I haven't taken one yet. Thus far, I've relied on salt and warm water rinses and pressing clove oil. Late night, it was so bad that I woke up trembling and very frantically tried to remember what I'd learned of EFT. I still remembered the sequence of the tapping so I did that. There was slight relief so I could sleep.

Still hurts badly though. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

731 - It's not a small thing

To wake up in the morning every day, to see how the day goes - in whatever fashion...this way, that way, or coagulating like a time clot in a small little rut, and then to see it end.

It's not a small thing.

And every form of life does it. Every frame of phenomenon does it. Feels good to be a speck in this massive tide of courage - the tide that begins something knowing that it will end. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

732 - On account of it being national poetry month or international poetry month or something like that yesterday

Knotted through the days,
Slipping through the hands,
With a sea on the standby,
We waited for home.

Ships crossing by,
Skirting green lands,
With mountains on the alert,
We waited for home.

And home came slowly,
Bloody, tear-soaked and grand
Our fortress against time,
Our castle in the sand.

Friday, March 20, 2015

746, 745, 744, 743, 742, 741, 740, 739, 738, 737, 736, 735, 733 - The evening I saw Jeffrey Archer

He looked tired and signed book after book. Sometimes he'd look up to give a wry smile to an eager reader. I have been an eager reader but I was not in line to have any of the books signed. I was on the second level of the Crossword store and felt bemused at this person who signed books, it seems, with effort and exhaustion. 

I remember reading his books and feeling so close to him. His stories had this 'gather around' vibe and every time I read a story, I gathered around. My favorite stories of Jeffrey Archer are:

1. The Prodigal Daughter: There is a part where the stern governess is returning to her hometown after having taken care of Abel's daughter, Florentyna, for many years. The governess has been stern and distant in the early years, softening only to drive Florentyna to be better read and better groomed. Yet, the when the train pulls away, this governess says a proper goodbye, goes inside her coach, and sits down. Outside Florentyna runs on the platform or is weeping profusely or waving hard or something like that. The governess doesn't look out. She just feels tears trickle down her cheek as she sits with legs and hankies folded.

I also loved Archer's short stories. In fact, I preferred them to his novels. I don't remember the names of the stories now but here are some of my favorite ones.

2. Old Love: Okay, this is the name of the short story that I do remember. It's a story of two people who meet in Oxford and fall in love. They become professors in the same college. They can't have children. They spar and smile and life goes on well in the idyllic campus life of Oxford. (I think it's Oxford. May have been Cambridge.) They have a steady ritual of solving crossword puzzles together. They compete to see who gets it right first. I think the woman dies of cancer. The man, after having lost a friend, partner, and lover of many decades, continues life as before. Apparently, one of the last things the couples had fought over before the woman passed away was what a particular crossword clue meant. One day the man's friends come over to see that he had killed himself. He had found out what that clue had meant. He'd left a note behind that read, "Sorry. Had to let her know."

This story is special to me for so many reasons. First, the story itself is comforting. Even though there is suicide and death, even though there is childlessness and the hazy sheath of 'What-if's - even though there’s all that, the story is plain, simple and toast with butter and sugar. 

The other reason this story is really special to me is because I read it when I was a teenager or had just started working. My mom and I were having difficulties communicating or just being civil to each other. I remember having vowed that morning when I left home to never ever talk to her again. In the train, I had read that story and loved it so much that I wanted to tell Ma. I rushed home and since the ego was still in place, I didn't actually tell her to read it. Instead, I stuck a post-it on the relevant page and scribbled: "Read this." And left it on her pillow.

The next morning, I had breakfast in the cold, alienating 'Me-against-the-world' silence of the dining table. My mom came in with some food and plonked it on my plate. She ruffled my hair and said, "It was a beautiful story. Had to let you know."

It wasn't me against the world then. And breakfast was good.

3. There's a story of a man who is sharing a cup of tea with a stranger at a tea center. He knows a lot about London. He describes the streets, the senses, the history, the people, the food, the phobias of the city so vividly that the stranger, a Londoner himself, is impressed. Only when the book ends do we come to know that the man talking about London is blind and he has never been to the city. He has only heard about bits and pieces from others and has had people read out about London to him.

4. There's another story of a middle-aged British couple who take a trip to Turkey. They are not very rich but they have always wanted to visit Turkey. They use up their lifesavings to get there only to be befriended and paired up with a loud, rich American couple. The Americans want to spend all their time with them. As a result, the couple are anxious because they are running out of time and money on their trip which literally is once-in-a-lifetime. On the last day before they leave, the British and American couples visit a store to buy Turkish carpets. Now, carpet stores mainly sell two kinds of carpets. Some are overtly colorful and very florid for the tourists. Some are in subdued shades with sparse detailing for the people who know and the travelers who research. The American couple bargain loudly for the most vibrant carpet and come home. The British couple return later and go through the rituals of a typical Turkish bazaar negotiation - they sit on the floor, share cups of tea with the carpet-seller and choose a carpet in ochre and sweet designs of trees. The carpet-seller is pleased with their research and brings down the price for a valuable carpet so that the couple can afford it. 

Those were the stories of Jeffrey Archer that have stayed with me over the years. And until that day that I saw him at the bookstore, I had felt very close to him. Like we were related. He was an uncle who'd come visiting and share the very best stories with me. He knew what I'd like and I think I was his favorite. But that day, he was so far away. I saw him in flesh and blood but he could very easily just have been a photograph on one of his paperbacks. That is exactly what I was afraid of before I landed up at the store. Still, I guess it was good I went. There has to be some way to thank the author the young girl in me is so grateful to. One of his stories had brought me closer to my mum one morning many years ago. 

So, thank you, Mr. Archer. Thank you for the tales. Just had to let you know.

Monday, March 02, 2015


You know what I'd like to do? Just travel everywhere, share meals with people, maybe walk with them, and ask them and record their insights on how do they cope? Really. How do they do it?

I was in Bombay over the weekend and the weather was scrumptious! Rainy, moist, fresh, clean and the Powai lake lay before us like tear-filled grey eyes. Then something happened at night and I was sad again. How or why does it happen? This sharp swing of moods?

But now, on looking back, even though the night was sad the day had been spent well. I think it was Marquez who'd said, "No one can take away the dances you've already had."