Sunday, August 27, 2006 

Cognitive Dissonance

I searched for an avenue of escape, even for 5 minutes. I touched the pack in the pocket of the kurta, checked that the all important light was there too. Nodding and smiling politely to the assorted people prattling about the weather and the arrangements, I gently sneaked off to a corner and yes … there was a cubby hole behind the stage. I went into the room, and found it was a sort of office. Went behind a cupboard, and there was a window. Fished the pack out, and lit up.

One of those weddings one is expected to attend. The girl was a daughter of one of the workers. “Well settled”, said the proud father. I had done the usual namaskaars and the congratulations, and posed for the obligatory photograph. The blinding, hot light of the video was irritating, but the usual gift and bouquet were duly handed over and accepted with the forced, tired smile that the groom and girl usually sport on these occasions.

I puffed in sheer relief, and wondered how soon I could go for the buffet and make a dignified exit. Suddenly, from the other side of the cupboard, I heard a shuffle. Someone else in the room, probably making a call or something, I thought. Then came the unmistakable sound of a match being struck. I waited a moment or so, and came out from behind the cupboard ; face to face with the girl.

She still wore the heavy silk saree, and for a moment, her features tightened in pure shock. I looked at her hand, with the cigarette just lit, and at her panicked face, and smiled. Careful, I said gently. You’ll burn a hole in that saree. The incongruity of the situation struck her then, and she smiled helplessly. I don’t smoke that much, she said, holding the stick away from her saree carefully. I’m sure, I said. How are things ?

She smiled. “New Jersey”, she said. “I am a biochemist”. I said nothing, just looked at her hair, bolstered with an ornate scaffolding of bamboo sticks on which was laid a tapestry of flowers. She laughed and laid it carefully on a table. “God, this thing weighs a ton. It’ll pull my head off ”, she said, flicking the ash into the rolled up paper cone I was using. “This…” I said. “Faking it”, she said, with a glint in her eye. I laughed.

“It’s just a week, then we are off again”. “The gent…” I ventured. “Online matrimonial, properly arranged and all”, she smiled. “But he’s cool, we have spoken and mailed each other, he’s in the US too”.

The music outside changed, indicating the next step in the sequence was about to begin. “I must go”, she said. I handed her a breath mint and she smiled. “Biochemist and aadapadachu, believe it. Thanks”, she said. Out of the blue, I heard myself saying “ I blog, believe it”. Her eyes widened, then twinkled. I do, she said, and scurried off.

I made the usual farewell noises, and pressed my host to go ahead with looking after the ceremonies. Waved to the groom, poor harassed soul, and looked at the stage. She was demurely sitting in a wicker basket, being handed over to her new family. There was a flash of the girl I’d met in her eyes, and then she nodded a goodbye.

Saturday, August 26, 2006 

Every Day Is A Whining Road

Meeting. Long. So we do what we always do : free-associate.

Sometimes you're better off dead

There's gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head
You think you're mad, too unstable
Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables
In a restaurant in a West End town
Too many shadows, whispering voices
Faces on posters, too many choices
If, when, why, what?
How much have you got?

West End Girls
Saw your picture on a poster in a café out in Phoenix
Guess you’re still the sweetheart of the rodeo
As for me and little Casey, we still make the circ
In a one horse trailer and a mobile home
And she still asks about you all the time
And I guess we never even cross your mind

But, Oh sometimes I think about you...

and in the whisper, a plea.

A solitary flame.... but this lady would prefer even that to what she feels.

But ....

And when drowning in passion ...

Mere Sanam .....

In my name...

Flee this sadness then ...

Yesudas singing about the one irretrievable mistake ...

Of course. Happier times lie ahead ...

Songs of happiness ? Mmmmm. He had a different opinion.

Song sung blue
Weeping like a willow
Song sung blue
Sleeping on my pillow

Funny thing, but you can sing it with a cry in your voice
And before you know it, start to feeling good
You simply got no choice

But singing it is not so easy. One has grown used to keeping things to oneself ...

Which is why one doesn't allow the heart to address itself much ...

But these people who met with such passion ... it dims. And that is something difficult to come to terms with.

Sometimes late at night you'll still call me
Just before you close your eyes to sleep
You make me vow to try and stop by sometime
Baby that's a promise I can't keep.

Promises have to be kept, however. Especially if the entreaties are as beguiling as this.

Will have to respond ... provided, of course, that one is called for. Maybe you too, are waiting for an opportunity, just as the other is waiting for that call ...

And this person, who is so awaited, permeating every crevice of the mind ...

Hehhhh. These chains of the mind ...

Ohh yes, the meeting's over, and things are getting be'er 'n be'er.

: )

Laters, people.

I've been swimming in a sea of anarchy
I've been living on coffee and nicotine
I've been wondering if all the things I've seen
Were ever real, were ever really happening

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 

Vignettes of home

(A ramble in many parts. Prelude, and then here earlier).

That bridge near Tonk Phatak, where in the winter little children blew out small puffs of vapour, like dialogue balloons in comic strips. And ran behind the overladen tempos groaning up the bridge, pulling out radishes, fresh, pungent.

That last row of books in that dusty basement library, next to the Woodlands, where much coveted membership was restricted only to the school holidays. And where one hot summer holiday, we finished all the Macleans, one after the other.

The house near the District Library in Dwarka Nagar. Where the eldest embarrassed all of us by giving directions like “You know the Oasis Bar ? Ok, it’s second house on the second left from there”, where the more staid landmark would have been Diamond Park. But then, she was always that way.

And the cinema street in that beautiful city, named after that stone theatre in the middle. Where once, in order to celebrate the first time away from parents ever, Wild Geese II, followed by Silkwood. And just for the heck of it, a Kannada movie immediately after. Though one came out feeling slightly green after that. So that every time that place is revisited, we think of Meryl Streep asking if one was huchcha.

Salisbury Park, Gidney Park, old world cantonments, pretty girls in Deccan, Aurora Towers and Ten Downing Street and LB Road, all subsumed in memories so bitter that the abiding memory still remains of the final stretch of nearly vertical slope on that famous fort. Where burning muscles asked if there was any point in going through all this, before the bliss of cold coffee on top regenerated both rebellious thoughts and limbs.

God’s own country, where the evening run ended in a steaming cup of Horlicks on a bench near Priyadarshini park, ostensibly watching the mammoth tankers leave the channel, but actually waiting for that particular girl who worked at the Taj to catch the evening ferry back home. To see her stop at the same bench everyday, make pretence of having a breather, whereas what she actually did was to swap her dainty heels for sensible flats slipped out from her bag.

That stretch of the Western Ghats, where once a daily run consisted of going up the whimsically named hill, and sitting in solitary peace on the edge of nothingness. Till a blue coloured Udayan Express chugged its way out a tunnel in the hill, an oddly coloured rabbit, pregnant with sweaty hawkers selling 100 year calendars, pocket diaries with a goddess on one front cover and Madhuri Dixit on the back, and key chains.

That beautiful stepped path, a relic of colonial times, starting ahead of Nayantara Sehgal’s house below. And going on through achingly beautiful stretches of moss covered stone. And just before Jharipani was it, that moss covered stretch ending in a turn, where a sudden gap in the trees showed the Bahai temple below.

That computer lab in the slave camp turned educational institution. Where we worked and played and sometimes did both, obscure programs for gridding irregular objects interspersed with shooting monsters that oozed green, gelatinous slime before vaporizing when shot with the BFG.

That lonely stretch of the marshes in the arid, baking land, the stench of the salt pans, though the delicate pink of the flamingos that come there will now forever be associated with the bloodletting that effectively erased all traces of the spectacled man who once came from those parts.

And the allegedly Maximum City. Hideously, graspingly wannabe and wretched, like an aged crone wearing rouge. Over the years, I have grown to understand some of its compulsions, some its drives, maybe even reconciled to them. Affection ? We’ll pass.

To the homeless, every place is truly home. Shorn of a place to identify ourselves with, we call ourselves Indian.

Happy birthday, home.

Saturday, August 12, 2006 

Yeh Tera Ghar, Yeh Mera Ghar

What is home, actually ?

The standard reply, of course, is that it where the heart is. Is it really so ? And that heart, it is transferable? You put it into a family, a friend, and it is packed and ready to go? And what happened to the home in this place ? Is it the same home that you carry?

We are all pragmatists, by physical constraints if not by choice. We may yodel out songs to the contrary, but we do not step off balconies believing we can fly, or touch the sky. That being so, a perennial search for comfort, physical and mental, means that we can make a home almost anywhere.

Almost, of course, being a big word. For example, almost everyone, from sweatshop programmer to behind –the-scenes wheeler-dealer, probably made a good living and more out of, say, Paveway. Except of course, that “almost” left out the wailing mothers and crippled children in a desolate country. Who cried not at the loss of the dead, but at the reality that the dead were probably better off.

But we digress. So almost any place can be home. And thinking over it, more than one place can be home. All the places that were home remain so. In the mind, as reality makes us stay near one home at a time. Several of those homes now only remain in the mind, because the places have re-invented themselves, and who knows, are now in the processes of becoming home to different people now.

Mere comfortable eating-sleeping places like hotel rooms cannot become home. Because their very easy adherence to your demands ensures that neither do they leave an impression on you and nor do you stamp your persona on them. In the end, home is the place where you make your own, which leaves an imprint on your persona.

Which of course, deviates from another common notion of home: as being a place that claims you. That accepts you, where you return to. In more fanciful days, one scribbled “Home is where there is a soul/ silently grieving with a me shaped hole”. But that was mere rhyming indulgence. Because people who claim to have me-shaped holes do so with a slightly discomfited air, as if abashed at the implicit admission that life goes on. That the holes are now stopped with the essential inanities of living, with TV serials about illicit affairs of bejewelled socialites.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, August 06, 2006 

The Lull in the Storm

It's been stormy outside. And yet we have the peaceful, easy feeling.

Went on the hill to find Nature imitating bad angst-ridden prose, seeking the twisted satisfaction of self-mutilation. Trees had huge branches ripped off;some of the younger trees themselves were uprooted. The wind keened continually, but like the dessicated paroxysms of the hurt-too-often, the rain came only in short bursts.

It is a day to sit and revel in the shrouded silence around us; a day to be spent listening to disembodied voices on the phone, till the phone ran out of juice. No charger meant that the silence took hold again, enveloping.

So one listens to Mahendra Kapoor singing

Aaj puraanii raahon se, koi mujhe aawaaz na de
dard mein doobe geet na de, gham ka sisakta saaz na de

And who are we to disobey such a clarion call ?

So we cut short the couple of poems that were germinating in the head, and instead are content with a lazy set of lines ....