Sunday, July 13, 2008 

How Will He Know

“Blaupunkt”, I said, as she braked at the light, and she looked at me quizzically.

We both were in different wings of the same organisation. Passing acquaintances, casual hellos exchanged in corridors and an occasional conversation about inanities when we happened to meet over a cup of tea.

Then I went to another place on deputation for three months, and she came there a week later on transfer. Thrown together in a new place, we interacted more, though our official circles still did not intersect. I was relatively better off, having many old friends there, and I could introduce her to them.

We hit it off well: it was gratifying to have a pretty girl several years younger laugh at my jokes, and I enjoyed her company well enough. She was grateful at having somebody to break the ice in a new place, and for company walking up and down the hills.

We really started talking on those long walks. About the different paths our lives had taken. I told her about my worlds of books and music, she told me about how she had always marched in determined fashion through life. She tut-tutted about my haphazard method of letting life swirl around me, and I smiled (only, inwardly, though) about her earnest plans.

“Navi Mumbai, maybe, or Pune”, she said. “I don’t like Mohali”. We were talking one day about where one would settle after a lifetime spent shunting around according to the caprices of faceless puppeteers. “I’d like an independent house, even if it is very small, rather than a flat. I want a garden, and a swing for the kids”. I asked her if she had the colour scheme mapped out, and she seriously considered the question before seeing the smile in my eyes. “One has to plan”, she said crossly. I went ahead on the path, and looked out over the Ghats. “Door gagan ki chaaon mein”, I said. Or to quote another song, Somewhere, out there …. She again bemoaned my lack of definite plans, what she (adding with due respect) called my woolly-headedness.

We sat down, legs dangling over the edge. Life happens, I told her. And all your piety nor wit , etc etc. So it’s best to roll with the punches during the spats and dance when the music is on. No plans to encumber me, I said. I’m flexible. Throw a situation at me and I’ll face it. Or duck it, I’m no hero. I’m no fatalist, I said. But thinking about the future is not about making a map, but about packing your rucksack with wit and brains and a sense of humour, not to mention a healthy resistance to disappointment. Look at the present, see your needs and if they can be satisfied, hey, you’re happy for now.

Not at all, she said. And spouted the usual self-help book phrases about self-determination. Tcha, and I suppose you’ve got it all pat, I said. Two kids, and a house in Navi Mumbai, and you can come for lunch if you behave yourself, she rattled off. Don’t forget the swing, I said, and be sure that you have fresh lime for the vodka. Since you are all for the planned life, I said. She made a face, and we got up to return. She whipped out a snap. This is the gent I’m going to marry, she said. “Does he know yet ?”, I asked, and she smiled. “He will”.

That was one of the last times we went for a walk together; my spell there soon ended and I went on. We didn’t keep in touch, except for a sporadic (and unanswered) New Year e-mail or a Diwali one. Mutual acquaintances gave news about one to the other. She’d been through some very tough times, for a while her world seemed to collapse about her ;I arranged my life in a not-so-haphazard manner.

When I met her here, after the better part of a decade, she was reserved, and I was tentative, coming to a strange place in a state of flux. She was giving me a lift to the office, making small talk about the landmarks enroute. I pointed out where a kindly soul had taken me out to dinner the previous evening. So tell me about life, she said, suddenly. So yours worked out after all, I said. Even if the gent took some time. What do you want now, she asked, and I mused over the question in silence.

“Blaupunkt”, I said, and she looked at me. “ When I went out last evening, the guy received a call on his mobile, only it wasn’t on his mobile. His car stereo was Bluetoothed to the phone, and it cut off the FM and cut in the phone call, he spoke as he drove and then the radio resumed. I thought it was pretty neat. I want that car stereo and that phone”. She laughed then, and it was a signal of return to the old companionability. It’s probably Mohali now, she said. And probably only one kid, but soon.

I kept a straight face and asked, “Does he know ?”
“He will”, she smiled, and put the car into gear as the light changed.


As Beer As It Gets

In Stephen King's rites of passage novella "The Body", there is a part where one of the kids asks the others if it is right to be having fun when they are trekking to see a dead body. The others agree, but then the fun part takes over again.

I didn't want to laugh too much when I saw this either, considering that it IS,after all,a murder that is the news. But listen to the 2nd witness (there is a spelling mistake there, methinks) talk : no WAY you can be serious about that.

And then read this, to find out various versions of what she said.

(Somebody has just managed an Internet connection, and has WAY too much time on his hands ! )

Welcome home to myself : )

Sunday, July 06, 2008 

Darkness On The Edge of Town

He sat easily on the edges of the group, letting the standard shop-talk flow about him. The sweat on the tracksuit chilling in the evening breeze began to feel clammy on the still hot flesh. He idly noted random muscles in the shoulders and calves twitching as the weariness of the day gradually unwound. A plane went by overhead, impossibly low, and he followed its reflection in the pool, dark metal body undulating in the gentle ripples.

“Orange juice ?” cackled one of the guys. “Hey, what plans for the weekend, man ?”

The weekend, he thought. He heard the muted strains of the music and recognized the lines. Plans for what, he wanted to ask. For the weekend is the houri with dancing eyes and painted lips displayed fleetingly with a swish of diaphanous veils and you unwillingly follow the beckoning finger

(Why does the sun go on shining)

And you know why there are birthdays and that some eyes crinkle when they smile and how people come to believe in miracles and that some things are said without having to put them into words and what the blue in the sky stands for

(Why does the sea rush to shore)

And then there are promises of the future and the joys of the present and you are carried along the swirling edges of the whirlpool, faster and faster

(Why do the birds go on singin)

Till you are sucked into the abyss where all dreams fade to black , where the frenzied channels lapse into the tired re-runs and you are lying with the malignant rictus of that hag, Sunday afternoon, leering at you and you know why all love stories end in the past tense and that even magic has a sell by date and why you clutch at the haft of the knife that is embedded in your heart and the truest things are hardest to tell and that if it had not been for religion and alcohol and the cicatrices of lingering relationships, oblivion would have descended on the world a long while ago

(Why do the stars glow above).

And he feels the madness building up and that curtain of blackness drop just behind his eyelids, the stage where you crook a finger and ask him to bring over a double, then two, threefourfive and then …

(Don’t they know, it’s the end of the world)

He blinks a little uncertainly, like a man emerging into sudden sunshine, and says “Weekend ? Nothing, bro. Just catch up on some sleep, I thought”.