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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 

The Once Over

Yet another curve in the road. I was breathing in ragged gasps now. The very air I dragged in desperate mouthfuls seared its way into the lungs. Sweat poured down in rivulets. Occasionally, one snaked its way down the forehead across the bridge of the nose, and I fancied I could smell a whiff of last night’s vodka.

Another roadside marker rose ahead. In an insane moment, I imagined it to be the headstone over the grave of some unknown unfortunate much like myself. I saw myself collapsing in a shapeless heap, hearing nothing but the throbbing of my temples as I passed into the hereafter. I tried to compose a fitting epitaph for myself. “Home is the hunter” seemed rather melodramatic. RIP seemed trite and commonplace. “Finally at Rest” seemed like an emphasis of the obvious. “Over the hill” sounded irreverent, something a slapstick undertaker would suggest. “Composed at last”! Yes, that was it. It satisfied the corporeal urge to pun and also suggested that the immortal soul had found a pastoral refuge. As it came up, I resisted the impulse to glance at it as long as I could, but it intruded itself into my consciousness as I passed it. 4, it said. A dull feeling of shock washed over me. 400 metres into the promised kilometre, and I was already thinking about whether the present bank balance would cover the funeral expenses. And the climb was getting steeper.

I fell back on the time-tested automaton approach. Blanked all thought from the mind except one. Hummed to myself a single snatch of song, over and over again. I first learnt of this method a decade and a half ago, and its efficacy never ceases to amaze me. “All you need”, I hoarsely told myself. “All you need is a little attention, all you need is a little affection”. “ All you need, all you need”… and my wheezing was accompanied by visions of that busty pin up, Sam Fox. “ All you need”, she mouthed, just a few steps ahead. “ All you need”, I rasped, and put another leaden step in front. A loose shoelace flapped. I ignored it and kept stumbling along, conscious that I could never start again if I stopped. The shoelace whipped itself across my ankle every step, a miniature Discipline. The markers kept passing by, agonisingly slowly. 600 crawled by. 800 stood aloof, disdaining my despairing glances at it.

As I neared the one kilometre mark, the familiar internal struggle began. “ Keep running”, said one voice, and the whole body seemed to shudder in protest. “Absolutely no way”, said the other. “ Maybe a break and then…” said the third. To make things more complicated, the slope started slowly, barely perceptibly, easing out. The much awaited milestone passed by, and I continued past it in a half hearted stumble. Look down at the road and concentrate. 200, 400 and then 600. The next curve, I told myself. The next curve would see me start walking. That’s how it actually happened.

I took the curve at no great speed, and once around, slowed down to a walking pace. Looked up and ahead, on the straight, I saw them. Husband, wife and kid. They were at the viewing gallery on the side. The kid was pointing out to some ship leaving the harbour. The husband looked on in disinterested manner. And she… she was looking right down the road, seeing me come round the curve, notice them, and start walking. She began to gather her flock. A short distance away, I started a half trot again, the minute or so of rest having had the effect to reducing the pounding of my heart to tolerable limits. When I passed them, they had just begun walking down.

The husband had that pugnacity of the chin that comes naturally to the short. His hunched shoulders and beefy arms spoke of the erstwhile weight training fiend, while the generous overhang of his midriff told a tale of too much of gin and too less of the tonic. He was boasting in a loud voice of how he had once swum across the channel on a bet. I could see her cringe as she felt my silent sneer at his overbearing crudity.

I gave her the standard once over. You know, the one that starts with a searching glance at the breasts. Moves on downward, picking up speed. A look at the legs, then a quick flick to look at the chest again before a momentary glance at the face. The billowing wind caught her T shirt and momentarily flattened it against her. A full breasted, generously hipped woman. The taut waist and the slim limbs told of the efforts put in to maintain herself.

Our eyes locked, and I saw immediately that this was a seasoned campaigner. She gave the supercilious glance that spoke more than a thousand words. The man paid no attention to my look. He was probably at that age when someone’s interest in the wife elicited more surprise than outrage. The son flushed. Just at the age when the facts of life had been discussed in furtive whispers with the boys at school. He gave me a glare that evinced a desire to push me off the side. I noticed he had a slight limp. Twisted his foot, probably, on the way up.

A dozen steps later came the two kilometre mark. I bent down and touched the stone. Brought the errant lace to heel. Rummaged in the attic in the head for a tune, and set off. Almost instantly, my lungs began to protest. Joined by my legs. These boots were made for walking, they chorused. Why are you running? Jog walk, I told myself. Jog till the second curve, then walk. Then jog and walk. We’ll have you home in no time. “Children behaaaave”, I mumbled. Let the succeeding lines go through in the head. Don’t ask me why, but whenever I need a marker for physical exertion, I always chance upon early 90s pinup girls. I thought about Tiffany and tried to ignore the irregular pounding in my head. And as I rounded the curve and began stopping, I exhaled “ I think we’re alone now”. Wiped some sweat away and looked up : to see that they were barely five paces away. The woman and the child only. She turned her head, gave a cool look that evinced no surprise at my deciding to start walking just then. The kid was nattering on about something. The husband was quite a way down already, lumbering at a good pace, even if ungainly. Mutthead, I thought. At that weight, running downslope was probably hammering at his knees rather than providing any decent exercise.

I walked a couple of paces behind them. Watched her back, where the Tee stuck in damp patches. Stray tendrils of hair that had escaped from the ponytail acted as ramps for droplets of sweat. I watched one such droplet slowly form, then roll down. It landed somewhere in the middle of the ridge of her back. Next curve, I told myself. The next curve is barely a twenty paces away. I’ll start running from there till the succeeding curve. In the meantime, I watched her legs. Nice legs, I mused. Just that hint of soft roundedness that betrays the not so strict adherence to diet. Or maybe it was age. She gave the back of the tee a tug. She’s thinking about me, I thought. She was right, but she had no reason to be worried. I inwardly smiled at the idea of walking up to her and telling her I approved of her derriere. The kid, suddenly conscious of her tension, looked back and saw me. Another look filled with loathing and disgust at men leering at my momma. Hang in there, kid, I thought. A matter of some years and you’ll be here. The curve approached and I bent down to give the laces a final tug.

Got up and took the curve at a stumbling run, to find the kid dragging his mom into a jog. He darted another furious glance at my temerity in running then. Buzz off, kid, I thought. I had no intention of stopping in order to let them pull away. They were ten or so paces away as I put my head down and started wheezing. “ I think we’re alone now”, I went. “ Doesn’t seem to be any one arouuunnndd”. I risked a glance upward to see the kid now limping badly. My humming seemed to intensify his desire to get his mother away. Aren’t doing that ankle any favours, kid, I thought. Ah well, the hypersensitivity of adolescence. I kept jogging at a slow pace, not wishing to jar my knees into injury. The gap remained more or less steady. As we reached the next curve, the situation seemed to worsen, with the kid’s mad need to open up a gap clashing with his injured ankle. They went around the curve, and our eyes met as just before she disappeared. She looked a tigress with a cub in pain. I stumbled to a walking pace at the curve.

There was another blind turn and the road wound its way down to the hill. As I took the turn, I noticed that they had started walking too. Probably the distance between us had quelled the kid’s rage. She turned and gave me a considering look. She knew I could’ve kept jogging behind them, I realized. I kept on walking. Not very far below, the man stood, rummaging in the car parked at the base.

I reached the base a couple of minutes after them. The man stood to a side, his belly heaving as he smoked a cigarette with obvious satisfaction. I heard him boasting of how he’d run up and down this hill, work out, and then go for a 50 lap swim. The boy was sipping some bright coloured energy supplement, paying minimal attention. He was feeling good at having pulled his mother away from the wolf’s clutches. He gave me a self satisfied smirk. Good on you, kid, I thought. And she stood, easily leaning on the front of the car.

She gave me the standard once over. You know, the one that starts at the legs. Noted my badly scuffed shoes and estimated the worth of the faded tracksuit. Finalized my bank balance from the T-Shirt. A quick look at the thickening waist and a flick upward at the unkempt hair. A long look at the face, then looked into my eyes. I met her glance passively.
Suddenly, her eyes softened and I could’ve sworn I saw a smile.

The road curved, and I went on.

Uh uh

Hmmm ? We don't do the nuances. Please amplify.

(as evident from link) This will of course, go down big with your audience.

Where is it ?@ Audience. And what's wrong with it ?

As for the link, poor chap has had a rough day it seems. He could not understand what was being said.

Which, given your reaction, is probably all to the good.

Well, now you've been linked n all, the audiences will probably flock. They'll set up new servers for you. They'll have to lay new undersea cables for you. They'll probably end up paying twice the amount of Diwali bakshishes to all their employees groaning under the ceasless traffic.

The post is sexist, ageist and conforming to every known stereotype.

Oh well, publicity never hurts.

And really, the language, the language ! Strong stuff. Hell, pal, its a blog and its called poetic licence, even if it is prose.

Licence is OK. Licentiousness is not.

Plus it is cheap and panders to the lowest common denominator.

That, of course, would be you ?

You really think that all men look for sex and all women look for money ?

Not at all.

All men look for sex and money.

All women look for sex and money.

Given nothing more than a cursory passing-by, this man looked at the sex angle. Maybe she did not look rich.

This woman looked at the money angle. He was already ugly, so that ruled out the sex.

I thought you generally went in for the mush.

Of course we do. Cho chweet n all, cupcake.

Shows how little you know@ sweet. You better have stuck to those lovelorn whines of yours.

Oh well, we shall repost some of the old stuff. That'll make up for this and things will be all sugary.

Jalebi, you mean.

Jalebi ? Awwww, how sweet.

I meant, drippily sweet when fresh, and prone to sour rapidly.

Nafrat se dekhna pehle, andaaz pyaar ka hai yeh


Shaayad unka aakhri ho, yeh sitam, har sitam yeh sochkar hum seh gaye.

Tum wafaa karke bhi tanha reh gaye ? Back to the weepies, we see.

Not at all. Our sweetest songs are those that sing of saddest thought and all that.

At least say Song Sung Blue. Mebbe people will think its retro hip or assume there is a remix.

Son, there isn't anyway you would ever sound hip. And anyway, whats it, you looking for women on the Net ?

Nope. And given your ideas, fat chance too.

So then what are you looking for ?

It isn't a question of what I am looking for, isn't it ?

You are. What's with the prying and all ? Why are so dementedly interested in other people's lives?

Off for the nonce

Back. And the prying: well, people lead different lives. In different worlds. So I am an armchair tourist.

nIt isn't tourism, more like excavation.

But why ? Everybody is the same inside.

No. Everybody is roughly the same outside.

It is on the inside that everybody is both same and different.

So you collect people, like say, people collect stamps?

mmmm No. Actually prying tells you a lot about oneself.

Prying into others tells you a lot about yourself. How profound. Wassamatter, cant shine a light into your own head ?

Well, apart from the clinicality required, there is the little matter of the Heisenberg.

That was proved wrong, and you know it. The EPR.

Pal, the EPR paradox just proved the precise point I was making.

Which would be ?

That you can only peer inside without disturbing anything by watching others.

Read your books again. That was for entangled particles.

Everybody is.


Yeah, right. Now play family trees and tell me how exactly the Ambanis need to share their wealth wth you.

I meant, idjit, everybody you connect to is an entangled particle.

mmm. So someone speaks/writes/mails and they are entangled particle.

Boy, you think you are brown sugar, aint you ?

Bah, get off the smut.

When somebody connects, then what you see and generate there obviously is a reflection of what goes on inside.

And pray, can we know what this connection might be?

Well, it just is a connect.
A recognition of mutual interests. Of seeing inside somebody's head :their thoughts, their ideas.

(peers inside)

( Is it time to go home yet ?)

( Hope I can pick up something to drink)

( Why are we now only restricted to idle banter ?)

Whew, very profound stuff inside, I must say.

Starshiplog 200602061935 : Peered inside his head. I feel airsick. I need a vaction now. An overdose of banality.

Pal, which is why we peer inside OTHER people's heads.

And if they are happy ? If they are sad ? If they are as banal ?

(a) to a watcher, nothing is banal.

(b) Whether they are happy or sad, it is something you cant influence. Cept peripherally, maybe.

So then you can experience it ? Vicariously?

Sort of. Not exactly. But yes, some of the pleasure and even some of hurt, only it is good to hurt that way.

No, not meant that way, it means it is good to feel per se. Rahter than just being numb.

Begaani shaadi mein Abdullah deewana.

Par kar chale hum fida.

Off for a break.

Hmmm.. Congrats to the both (many?) of you! You have made Nilu puke!

And your life changes henceforth! :D

aNTi, people like Nilu ( who is not Nilu , yawn, so familiarly cheesy that line), are much loved. They give us that peaceful, easy feeling.

As in, whenever we are struck with fear of being loserly, talking to oneself on blog comment pages, it strikes us that this gent actually *collects* crap and posts it on his blog.

Which is filled with a blogroll who promptly click on his links, thereby increasing traffic our way.

Man, we are Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and Deepak Chopra put in a mixie and made into milkshake compared to him.

Kaash ke dil ke armaan ansoo.n mein beh saktey! :p

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