Monday, December 22, 2008

Shadows, Lines, and the Paranoia


Well, I had a dream I stood beneath an orange sky. I was looking up and staring at the stars. There were so many of them that night. As if they had all gathered to celebrate some iconic achievement of one of them. Even when pinned to that orange sky, I could count so many of those small red dots. Yes, there were red stars that night. They were like small pieces of cherry someone had used to decorate a huge orange pie. They winked at me and I smiled some. Like a school boy who had just been handed his favourite ice candy. I wished they would wink at me some more. Occasionally, one or two of those red stars came loose and streaked across the sky in a brilliant flash of purple light. But all this happened so quickly that I never got the chance to complete my wish.

I looked around eagerly, looking for something else, just like I was in the habit of doing. Everything had to be made picture perfect, isn’t it? There was a lone tree in the distance that almost gave the scene the look of an Impressionist painting by Monet. But the sky was now slowly turning into a dark shade of crimson, subsuming all the stars within it. I grew somewhat apprehensive of the change and waited for something to happen. It was just then that a dog started howling in the distance, signalling everything ominous that would happen. I cursed him with all my heart, and willed him to silence.

Then you came. And the sky turned a dark shade of orange. Very dark. My smile turned into a frown. I wanted you to go away. You, with those jet black hair that swayed gracefully at your command. You, with those almond eyes whose expression I had tried many a time to fathom. You, with that almost perfect smile and the less than perfect husky voice. You, who marched to the tune of your own beat and seemed to me the perfect balance of elegance and simplicity. You, who had always been the one with the eagerness (and quotient) to make the most of all things small, short-lived, and meaningful. You, who reminded me of everything that was imperfect in my own life. You, who made me think of reasons why I was not smiling anymore. You, who had caused my lovely orange sky to turn into a dark gloomy shade.

I tried noticing more things about you. So that I could use the right words. But my faculties failed me once again. I had never been the one with an eye for details. It had always been you, the silent observer of all things mundane and majestic. I just pretended to go along. So that I could make conversation and engage your attention, even if it was for a small while. And yes, I wish I had said all this before. But I never really got the chance. I was too busy catching up with the scheme of things and working them out to my own advantage. But we digress too much from the dream. The one in which I stood beneath an orange sky.

You came to me, smiling vivaciously. Why was I so cynical in that moment? Was it always the same? I was thinking again, and I cursed myself silently for it. I waited for something dramatic to happen. For something to pop out of the now ominous orange sky. It was a dream after all. But nothing happened. You just came up to me and ran your fingers through my hair. You talked about how beautiful the sky had looked just a moment ago. That lovely orange sky. And how the red stars had now almost dissolved into the huge canvas painted right across our eyes. And how you toohad been unable to ask for a wish from the purple shooting stars.

You talked as if you had been hiding behind somewhere all along, watching me stealthily and softly chuckling to yourself. And slowly talking about it, we lay down on the soft, perfectly green grass to soak in the view better. I was still wary of your presence but your smile erased all doubts. I noticed how the sky curved around us and enveloped all that we could see in its ethereal glow. We were careful not to touch each other for we had still not mustered enough courage. And yet, some higher power commanded that we should. So I took your hand in mine and told you I had things to share. Things that had been left unsaid for so long. Things that would make you revile me. I told you your worst fears might come true today. When you had come smiling to me. Beneath the lovely orange sky. When I could not be sure whether it was night or day, dusk or dawn.

You seemed a bit uneasy at the prospect of having to listen to one of my tirades once again. How was I to know you had a different agenda on your mind? I am not psychic or anything. So I jumped headlong into the quagmire and made you indulge in myvanity. I told you how I had lostthe secret to my happiness and how it was slowly eating me inside out. I told you everything. Even the Paranoia that had been subsuming all that was me, steadfastly. How I had cried one night and stifled my sobs so that they did not wake up others. Yes, I even told you about my fears and what those fears were keeping me from doing. I told you about dark, depressing things I had so far revealed to nobody. So that they were unharmed by its pernicious influence. Yes, I told you about that too.

And when I had done everything, you turned your face away from me. I realized it then. With a pinch of salt to go along with the understanding. My stream of conversation had been consumed by my insecurities and fears. It had been a relentless assault on your patience. The gravity of my words had been a load I was not willing to shed. I had taken the hammer and badgered it time and again against your tolerance, being too uptight to notice how I was stymieing your free will. How I was jealous of your vitality and spirit, and yet was afraid to accept so. How I was slowly poisoning the very thing I had come to adore about you.

To compound my guilt, I had never even asked why you had come here. To meet me beneath that lovely orange sky. Your face turned a deep purple. I looked on aghast, wondering if it would change its hue to something more ugly and sinister. But no, it just remained that sick shade of purple. And then you spoke. You spoke the foul words I wished I had never heard. They burned me in places I did not know existed. I am sorry for being so poetic but I can not think of anything else now. You spilled venom at the weakest moment of my life. I had feared that all along. Perhaps it was the only reason I had been keeping you and others at a distance. Wanting something and fearing it at the same time.

I tried lifting a stone, to chuck it away in disgust. But I could not even throw off the weight of that crazy stone. I saw myself wasting away as your shadow began to dissolve into the soft perfectly green grass. You were smiling, almost mocking my incapacity. And I hated you for it. I turned away from you but your laughter started ringing out in my ears. It was then that I did it. I gathered whatever was left of my strength (and confidence) and used it to hurl the stone your way. However, before it could have hurt you in anyway and made me feel guilty about it, your face dissolved into that lovely orange sky. Your eyes became two big red stars. Your lips became some constellation, the smile on them the sparkle of a shooting star. In a split second, all that was left were you stood was the contours of your face, some lines.

And then it was all dark. No red stars. No lovely orange sky. There was no moon either, red or white, to bath the lone tree in its silver light. I was afraid then. I was afraid I had let my fears haunt you as well. And so many others. In the pitch black dark of that starless moment, I stood silently. I listened to my heavy breathing, now very sporadic. I called out to the people who cared for me and whom I had ignored. I repeated out their names, as loud as my fear would allow. Yet, nobody answered. It was scary. It was as if I had been put in a painting I did not know the way out of. But something even terrible was about to happen. Suddenly I could no longer hear my own voice. I wondered whether I had gone deaf or mute. I had no way of knowing. My voice gone, I began to grope around in the darkness. I could not see my hands. Not my legs for that matter. For an incredible second I heard you call out my name from somewhere close by. I stopped, hoping to hear your reassuring voice once more. Nothing. I heard a faint giggle then. Was it yours? I knew I had to find out. But as soon as I took a step in that direction, I fell into an endless tunnel. The proverbial rabbit hole. I kept falling for what seemed like an eternity. No sound. No light. With a dull thud I felt solid ground beneath my wasted self. I wondered what place I had landed myself into. Almost as if someone heard my thoughts, a pale yellow light bathed the ground beneath my feet. And I saw something diabolic then. Your name had been spelt out on the ground. With my bones. I cried. I shouted. And the very next moment, my dream ended. Well, the one in which I stood beneath an orange sky.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ram Ke Naam

An unlikely conversation between two people on the morning of October 30, 1990. The venue is the Saryu Bridge, which leads into Ayodhya.

Anand Patwardhan: Aap kahan se aaye hain?
A Ganges Priest: District Eta.

AP : Aur kya karte hain aap ?
GP : Hum panda (pujari) hain Gangaji ke.

AP: Aap kya karne aaye hain yahan?
GP: Parikrama dene.

AP: Parikrama dene aaye hain?
GP: Haan.

AP: Aur Kar Seva ke liye bhi aaye hain ya nahin?
GP: Nahin. Uhun.

AP: Sirf parikrama karne aaye hain?
GP: Sirf parikrama dene.

AP: To aapko ye maloom tha ki yahan kar Seva bhi kar rahein hain Ram Janmabhoomi ke liye?
GP: Ye maloom hai. Par humko jab curfew khul gaya...aur jo humko...kal bhi humne suna ki parikrama lagegi, to phir hum aaye.

AP: Yaane aapko ye mandir ke aur masjid ke jhagde se koi lena dena nahin hai?
GP: Koi lena dena nahin hai.

AP: Apko farak nahin padta ki masjid bhi rahe ya mandir bhi rahe?
GP: Koi nahin. Hum to jake mandir mein thehrenge...ek mandir mein....yahan ek mandir hain....sagirapatti mein....wahan thehrenge.

AP: To aap ye nahin keh rahein hain ki "mandir wahin banayenge"?
GP: Hum to kuch nahin keh rahein hain. Hum to apne chashme ko khoi gaya to andhe aur ho gaye hain. Hum kya kahenge.

AP: Toh…..toh….chaliye.

A Policeman escorts the priest to the bus which will take him away from Ayodhya.

Policeman: Chasma aapka gayab ho gaya?
GP : Haan. Chasma gir gaya yahin kahin dhakka mukki mein.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vote of Confidence


In general, people have immense potential for good. Possibly, it is inherent in each and every one of us. However it lies untapped because of our lack of confidence in others. Our inability to say good things about them. Our inability to put our confidence in them. Our inability to confess to the transformations they have set off. Our inability to be frank, humble, and honest about it all. Our incapacity to confess to our weaknesses and emerge a better person out of the act. We choose to dwell upon the insufficiencies and derive conclusions from them. We spit spite and think that it can be justified because we have been blind to each other. We survive on the bitter concoction of jealousy and pride, our jaded appetites intolerant to anything more humane. As I observed some time back, the unease seems so palpable that we can taste its bitter tang in our mouths. We qualify humility as an obsolete virtue instead of accepting the truth and letting others know about the same. Instead of making others feel better because of it. Instead of at least sometimes ignoring those pitfalls. Perhaps, that is not how things ought to work. Perhaps, we need to be a bit emotional for once, without preconditioning misguiding our reason. Without ridicule leading us astray. Without indifference making us shrug our shoulders and settle for anything less than that. Let it not be so this one instance. If possible, hear me out.

Should we, thus, move a motion to instill confidence in others? A Vote of Confidence in their potential and not ours? It’s worth a try, if anything. If nothing comes out of it, we can all go back to being ourselves. No harm done. After all, we must walk down that road; the one which runs through ‘The Forest of The Night’. The one which compels us to face our demons. The one, which in turn, helps us in finding our angels. So, in order to start a process, I would use this platform to say certain things to people. Good things. So that they can take something out of this. Perhaps for the better of both of us. Yes, I do intend to be selfish, but not at all self-centered. I might miss out a few people and I sincerely regret that. Rest assured that shall happen only due my inefficiencies and not yours. Due to my inability to mould words around the good that is yours. Due to my blindness which has prevented such a disclosure so far. Due to my incapacity to see something that is inherent in you. Due to the foolishness that had prevented me from looking beyond perceptions. Due to everything me and nothing you. Please forgive the bias, if any, which creeps into this narrative. The order of this monologue is one which is the least biased of them all.

To Ghar Parivar – The debt that I owe you eludes normal statistics. So it is futile to even try making a mention of it. All I can say is that I am indebted to you for accepting me with all my weaknesses and strengths. For accepting my rudeness when it had seemed unreasonable even to me. For accepting my failures in the same vein as my numerous accomplishments. For accepting me for who I am, without any pretensions or complaints, whatsoever. I owe myself to you.

~~~~

To Chacha Chaudhary – There is something in the composure that you carry about you that tells me that no matter what, everything will turn out to be well in the end. I have been inspired by the way you have donned your responsibilities, regardless of their repercussion on your own ambitions or desires. I would go on to say that you have been an idol of sorts. In some ways. It’s strange, thus, that I have been a mute spectator with respect to everything ‘you’ in this comradeship. Let me think about it. Your capacity to love has been a subject of conversation between I, me, and myself. Someday, I wish to emulate it in a fashion akin to yours, without being misled by any preconditioning whatsoever. But most of all, I wish you luck in your endeavours. I am sure you guys will see it through and emerge out of it wiser, even if harried.

I am glad that my initial impressions of you were proved to very wrong soon enough. The only reason why I have failed to describe you is because you remain something of an enigma to me. I have still not been able to understand why we got along well. Or maybe we don’t. Would you care to hazard a guess? You are one of the few people who have given me more than I have returned back to them. I appreciate your efforts in fighting for a lost cause. And I apologize for not being there when you might have needed me. But, please, keep at it. We need more of that. For there might be few people like you. And more like me.

~~~~

To Gandhi Baba – I have known you as a pillar in my life from the time I understood the full implications of the term friendship. It’s another matter altogether that you have been at the receiving end far too often. The patience with which you have heeded to my grievances has been astonishing. Especially since it was never reciprocated with the same fortitude. Your advice always bordered on being labelled abstruse. However, with time, all of it has made sense. I have realized it was lack of comprehension on my part which prevented me from understanding your perspective. You were just ahead of your times. The support you have extended whenever I have needed it has not gone unnoticed. I have just been shy about accepting the facts. I love it when I can talk to you without even looking at you, something rare and special for me. I know you will understand everything. Thank you.

Your idealism might seem eccentric to some, even to me at times. But that is something you must pursue with all your heart. What are we if not the victims of our ambitions? I say victims because we suffer because of our aims, as you have. But please do not think that a battle lost is a war never begun. You know that even though you lost it out to her, it was not because she deserved better, but because maybe you did. Perhaps you should think about being a bit more carefree and gullible than you are. There is fun there that you are missing out on. I have heard stories being told about that faraway land. Pay a visit sometime. I am sure we will have a lot to talk about.

~~~~

To Professor Saab – You have more potential for good than any person I have known. Unfortunately, I have not been able to imbibe most of it. Perhaps not even a tiny little bit of it. But that only speaks about my inadequacies and not yours. It seems that humour comes almost as naturally to you as grumpiness to me. However, let that laughter not be at the cost of others’. The support that you extend to others is something of a miracle in itself. The time, the patience, the effort, the concentration, and the impartiality. All of it is commendable. I have tried a hand at it myself, to no obvious gains of course. Your respect and devotion to family and friends has sometimes made me feel inadequate in the same perspective. However, you inspire, and so there is still hope. Let it never be otherwise. Your diligence inspires awe (and perhaps bits of jealousy) in me and I hope that one day you will get what that merits. Perhaps the desserts might come a bit later than expected. But they will. Have faith.

As far as everything ‘love’ is concerned, look no further than where your memory takes you. You dwell upon the past way too often for comfort. I am sure you deserve to find whatever you are looking for. It will find you before you do. For there must be someone out there with as much you in her as yourself. We can not settle for anything less than the best. Now can we? And remember, being selfish has become fashionable again. Perhaps, you should give it a try. Sometimes, and only sometimes, you can rely upon my fashion quotient as well. Take care and all the best. I shall see you around.

~~~~

To Salim Sinai – You have been a strange acquaintance (friend?) in many ways. I have enjoyed the conversations, the generalizations and the abstractions we have indulged in. Often, if not always, I have wondered if I would miss out on them. It seems that self deprecation is an art that you have not only mastered, but also made contagious. I should refrain from indulging in it too often. If being disillusioned is cool, I wonder if you can take coolness to any new heights. There is this strange mix of worldliness and innocence in the way which you go about life. I love it. Honestly. Your inadequacies have amused me more than once. But only in a matter-of-fact innocent way. Perhaps you will be able to overcome them someday. Or maybe we can endure them alright. We will drink to that. And we will smoke to that.

I have a grouse as well. Something which I have mentioned a few times. You underestimate yourself way too often to realize your merit. So, I must quote Shakespeare here:

But what my power might else exact, like one
Who having into truth, by telling of it,
Made such a sinner of his memory,
To credit his own lie, he did believe
He was indeed the duke;

- Prospero, Act I, Scene II, The Tempest

Roughly translated, Shakespeare means to say that just like a usurper of the throne, by the constant wielding of power, begins to believe he is the king himself; when a person repeats a lie often enough, he begins to believe it is indeed the truth. You get the hint I presume. But then again, it is probable we have been putting up a charade. I say “we” and not “you” because I am as much a part of it as you. As much a culprit, for we look at it as a means for escaping out. A medium for reaffirming our worth. But no more on that.

You quote senseless psychics way too often. And probably you seek to find ratification for all that you do in their ramblings. But who’s complaining? As befits the scheme of things, let me do the same. For I share a weakness I am not willing to get rid of too soon.

Everyone I come across, in cages they bought
They think of me and my wandering, but I'm never what they thought
I've got my indignation, but I'm pure in all my thoughts
I'm alive.

- Eddie Vedder, Guaranteed

And do not worry. I am pretty sure you won’t go bald before you get married. Even if you do, you can always woo the lady in question by means of the pseudo-intellectualism and intellectual chutiyapa we have been practising and perfecting. Moreover, I have heard that ladies with an altruistic bent dig men with receding hairlines, a perspective on communalism, and a penchant for writers like Saul Bellow. Your Shobhaa De is safe. At least for the time being. We will drink to that too.

~~~~

To ‘The’ Med – I have been inspired (affected?) by you in ways you can hardly imagine. If I were to start enumerating the changes that have crept into me because of you, I would perhaps do injustice to others I wish to speak to here. So none of that. I am sure each and every one of those changes has made me a better person. They have not only made me humbler, but more tolerant towards the insufficiencies that plague my character. Pushing me to improve and enhance. Your talent, and the humility with which you ignore it, has motivated me to reach its heights someday. Oh, did I tell you how ambitions have proven to be double edged swords for me? I must keep away from them. Now will I?

I have been a weaker person in your company, something I had not known myself to do. I appreciate the fact that the conversations have not come out of compulsion, but a suppressed willingness. Maybe it’s your skill, and not my inability, that serves the process. I will miss it if we were to part ways sometime in the future. But only in a good way. I would, anyway, have my ‘memory mines’ to serve me in its stead. I say so because I have come to believe that good things do not last forever. Maybe that’s why I have chosen to write about it. To perpetuate it before it fades into oblivion. But I have been known to be eccentric and delusional. Never mind.

The grace that comes so naturally to you has not only amused me time and again, but has also been a subject of thought. That being said and done, your ability to switch from elegance to tackiness with such practised ease has often engaged my attention. I sometimes wonder if the skill has been rehearsed, well in advance. The knack of dwelling upon tiny details in your life, and making the most of them, has amazed me and I wish to someday imitate the feat. Till then, I shall be content in trying, and failing. Compassion. I see it inherent in you even though you have oft claimed otherwise. I expect you will wake up to the fact, more sooner than later. Or were you pretending all this while? I wouldn’t know, right? As a parting wish, I hope that selfishness comes to you as a grace and not as a vice. I say so just because I want you to get whatever you had wanted out of life. Please do not let compromises get the better of you. Do not. We all deserve better than that. Be good. I shall wait and watch.

~~~~

I steal some lines. Let it be so for all of us.

I'll take this soul that’s inside me now
Like a brand new friend
I'll forever know

I’ve got this light
And the will to show
I will always be better than before

To Everyone Else – I wish I were competent enough to mention all the people who have affected me, however subtly. Yet, as you might have realized, that is not possible. Not because I do not wish to do so. But because I stand incapacitated in such a situation. I hope you won’t mind, for that was never the purpose of all this melodrama. Would you like to carry on from here? Take care. Everyone.

PS – Yes, there IS a Calvin strip for each post one can ever think of.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Memory Mines


The past several days have been spent in stepping over several of the memory mines that had been planted a few ages ago. They were both familiar and alien. Some welcome, some not so. Few balmy, while most listlessly nostalgic. In the process, some new ones were also planted for future reference. They will prove to be like milestones in my life, amplifying the whispers when they become too weak to be comprehended. Rubbing in the wounds just when they have begun to heal. Blowing air over the cinders just when they have begun to die out. At least, that’s the idea.

Visiting home was like getting in touch with oneself, all over again. Being haunted by old fears, reveling in the familiarity of known furniture, getting ridiculed by well-known faces (and surprisingly not minding it at all), fretting over the same insufficiencies, and basking in the glory of a now alien success. What struck me as the most peculiar thing about my place was its absolute stillness. The afternoons seem to be so lazy that time itself appears to be dilating. I can look out the grilled windows and still see the banyan tree across the road, holding its ground. The leaves have been mostly shed. The ones that do remain offer a shade that is as inviting as an age ago. Yet, as before, the invitation remains unaccepted. Irony almost stands personified.

The pin drop silence is often shattered by the occasional horn of a passing motorbike. But that seems a part of the scheme of things. Not something incongruous. The motes dance around in the sunlight that has managed to escape the umpteen curtains in the room and trace abstract figures on the carpet. Dad leaves his things lying around in the same careless fashion. On the other hand, Mom gathers them with a recognizable unease that borders on being labeled comical. And while the friendly (albeit a bit mysterious) neighborhood dhobi continues to occupy the same nook in one of the streets of Vishesh Khand, the ghar-ke-diagonally-opposite-paan-wallah refuses to budge from his favorite spot on the main road. (Rumours abound that several young helps in the locality have fallen for him and, in turn, fallen from the grace of their employers. But that is way beside the point.) Things are best when familiar and better when rustic. Yes?

But even in the stagnation of the place, change is managing to keep up. There is this new shopping complex nearby which seems to have become the one stop destination for my mom’s provisional needs, from internet to raita masala, hair cut to plastic glasses, from betel leaves for puja to desi eggs for the yummiest omelets, and from Cetirizine to mosquito repellents. Then there is the mall close enough which, like a modern mela, is gheraoed every evening by an alarmingly high number of Lucknowites in halter necks, tank tops, and jeans. Often, there is a desire to become a part of the milling numbers and pay homage to a borrowed culture. But I try to reserve that opportunity for desperate times.

Closer home, I notice that the color of the walls has changed. Some lamp shades now add to the décor. The number of plant-pots in the garden (and around the house) has increased alarmingly and it’s slowly becoming difficult to maneuver your way to the door without knocking off some of them on the way there. The television has been moved to my room which means that I won’t be spending my nights in the dining room, watching late night movies on HBO. The in-house-temple, though, occupies the same reverent position in an auspicious corner of the house.

Bosky sleeps where Buddy used to spend her lethargic after-hours. He looks just like her, albeit the color and the size of course. There is the familiar patch of black skin over the eyes and the mole on one of the cheeks. Discipline in his life is conspicuous by its absence and its lack doesn’t fail to elicit a mention from Mummy every now and then. I take a liking to him and tickle his tummy just like I used to pamper Buddy. He rolls over and allows me to indulge him.

When rifling through the cupboard for some old paperbacks, I chance upon even older grade reports. They came in various colors – pink, yellow, white, green, and even blue. Regrets flare up with an alarming ease. Even now? Their persistence is both, surprising and pathetic. But I smile soon enough and disarm them. The art of doing so demanded nothing less than perfection (in indifference), something which had already been attained by means of relentless practice over the past four years. After all, we don’t want to live in an age gone by. We want to dwell upon it just long enough. Leaving that aside now.

The cupboard is a veritable treasure house. There is this box with all my sports cards, cricket paraphernalia, knickknack, odds, and ends. The green polythene bag with the precious letters still intact. They reek of the years spent in carefree abandon. I move on. Next up are the paperbacks. Ones Papa bought for me each time he went on a field trip to break stones and dig for exotic minerals in remote corners of Bhutan. They are all in there – Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Sinbad, Scooby Doo, and even Jules Verne and Swiss Family Robinson. Some of the thick, hard bound Reader’s Digest volumes (purchased after much persuasion because of their sky-high prices) have been pored over zillions of times, their facts and figures all memorized long ago. I turn the pages, but then soon shut them, lest a reverie start in mid afternoon. There are several other mines waiting to be disarmed. Moving on.

The photo albums are virtual disasters in the making. Mom can never bear to have a look at them without being on the verge of tears. So I smuggle a few into my room at night and pore over them. The yellow light in the room only serves to help matters. It’s a bit bright for my taste but is still better than the clinical white light of the CFL. There she is. Mom. Cradling a very small version of me in her arms. Dad looks on with an expression of suppressed amusement on his face. They are standing in front of one of the tombs in Lucknow. Amma dotes on each of us in turn while Baba is his reserved self. There is this picture with the entire family in it, all the kids very small and shitty looking, all the parents very smart and proper, and all the grandparents very smug and satisfied. Not much subtlety there either. My sister smiles at me from the confines of a few other sepia colored frames. She is looking silly in almost all of them and I long to tell her that. I long to tell her how much I miss beating her up and getting thrashed in turn. I long for a lot many things but instead prefer giving in to her demands. She speaks in hushed whispers. I just listen.

Her hair is looking so pathetic that I wonder how she agreed to getting a hair cut that obscene in the first place. Then she is racing and finally standing third, just managing to outrun the fourth placed. I see her on the podium (wearing a skirt so long one could almost mistake it for a gown) and smiling, positively beaming as she receives the medal. Often, I see her doting on me on each occasion I cried a bit too hard after bring scolded by Mummy. I see myself sulking in the rain just because she had taken my favorite Mickey Mouse umbrella. I see her holding onto her birthday present so that she was the first person I gave the cake to. There she is, all decked up in a red lehenga and dancing to the tunes of a track from Guide. I see her all dressed up for her first farewell, in the company of friends who are boys and boys who are friends. She is married then, and the distance mellows the discord that had seemed so unreasonable. She has a kid now and seems so grown up and responsible, hardly a shadow of the playful thing I want to remember her as. I see all this and I smile. I see all this and I try. To no avail.

I switch off the light and try to find comfort in Floyd. A lamp flickers nearby and sheds strange shadows on the wall. I try deciphering their pattern for a few minutes, probably inspired by Waters and Gilmour. Then I give up, realizing that even Freud must have abstained from such a pastime. I must be losing it. Why does Lucknow do this to me? Why does it engage me in a conversation that happened so far back in time that even the voices seem blurred now? Why is it so static? Why do I claw at those receding shadows and still strive to derive comprehension in their whispers? Why do those memories never fail to fascinate me beyond reason? Why do I always try to find familiarity in their alienation? Why has it been so hard to let go? The questions never cease to exist and their answers never seem to appear.

As we journey through time, new mines keep getting entrenched. The visit home did not prove to be anything different. New reminiscences evolved and were safely ensconced in the backwaters of my psyche through various means. Possibly for reference in a time less favorable. The gestation period of these memories always follows the same predictable cycles.

When actually living them in their entirety, we hardly notice their wholeness, blinded by a shooting star of the time ahead. Enamored by an eluding phantom. Wanting things we could have now and yearning for people whom we love instead of those who love us. But once there, we can not help but be fascinated by the innocence of the moments we have just lived. Our fertile imagination only assists the process, filling in the gaps in those memories with agreeable details, soothing the transition from now to then. Helping us to dwell happily on the past and always making sure that the present never seems that perfect. This when there and that when here. A vicious circle if you may (forgive the cliché). But perhaps, that is how it is supposed to be. Who knows? All that is needed now is a lazy winter afternoon with the ceiling fan creaking at the slowest possible speed. Rest is, as Barney would say, ‘legendary’. I wish you all the best.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Emotional Quotient of a Door Knob

Interesting excerpt from the movie Annie Hall. Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) has just quarreled with his love interest, Annie, and is walking down the street, looking for some answers, when he comes across a man, a ‘happy’ couple, and the Wicked Queen in quick succession. Here's a bit of the wisdom. Needless to say, it's overtly dramatized.

Alvy Singer: I have to ask you a question. Don't go any further. With your wife in bed, does she need any kind of artificial stimulation like, like, marijuana?
Man: We use a large vibrating egg.

{walks off}

AS: A large vibrating egg. Well, I ask a psychopath, I get than kind of an answer. Jesus!

{along came the happy couple}

AS: You look like a very happy couple. Well, are you?
Lady: Yeah!
Gentleman: Yeah!

AS: So, so, how do you account for it?
Lady: Uh. Uh, I am very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Gentleman: And I am exactly the same way.

AS: Aha! I see. Wow. That's very interesting. So you have managed to work out something, huh? Wooww. Thanks very much for talking to me.

To Himself: You know, even as a kid, I always went for the wrong women. I think that's my problem. When my mother took me to see Snow White, everyone fell in love with Snow White. I immediately fell for the wicked queen.

{In an animated sequence}

Wicked Queen: We never have any fun anymore.
AS: How can you say that?

WQ: Why not? You are always leaning on me to improve myself.
AS: You're just upset. You must be getting a period.

WQ: I don't get a period. I am a cartoon character. Can't I be upset every once in a while?

Me: Err. Aha! I did not know it was that simple. Hmm.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Venus and Venus

Let’s jump straight to the point this time. Without much babble about lyrics that are either abstruse or philosophical. We don’t want any of that. So. There has to be something about them. The way they have all the time in the world to not only look, but actually be concerned about all our worries and vices. The way in which they can advertise their weaknesses only because it makes you feel better. The way they have turned predicaments into something fashionable. The way they can take care of you better than yourself. The way they can keep you hoping for the best, and expecting the worst, all at the same time. The way they can remain silent just because you don't know how to talk. The way their pimples seem something exotic and worth emulating. The way in which they hop, skip, and jump, making each of those maneuvers seem like something only they are capable of. The way the words ‘mundane’ and ‘monotonous’ attain new connotations in their presence. The way they rest their chins on their hands in the same fashion, the world over. The way in which they don't change, but mould, you to become a better being. The way they always end up making you feel self-centered, no matter what. The way they inspire good, almost always. The way their gross inadequacies don't seem that inadequate after all. The way their dresses can flatter like no other. The way their love not only teaches you to love, but also hate in return.

Why the big deal about their eyes anyway? What makes us so blind that they manage to become a part of us, so integral that the very thought of coming apart seems unbearable? What makes them think they can make us feel special and neglected when they desire? Why do their little idiosyncrasies make us fall for them, time and again? What makes humility come so naturally to them? Why do we always smile when they crack jokes about us? What secret to happiness have they refused to share with us for so long? Why do they make us remember things we never thought we would? What prompts them to smile at our pathetic jokes and even worse choices? Why do they give us more than we can ever repay? What makes them do all this and then not want to do anything with us at a moment's notice? More importantly, why do their hair still smell so delicious after every bath?

Then there is the other side. Only more abstract and mysterious. It’s revealed in the way their eyes seem so innocent even when they divulge the worst of their crimes. In the way they can perpetuate the most mundane of gestures into fond memories. In the way their affection seems like a distant prospect even when they have shared their most intimate secrets. In the way their association takes you to the brink, and back again, as if it were a game. In the way you always end up forgiving them for wrongs you would punish yourself for. In the way they can fool you into believing that you know them. Yes, girls, they must be having something to them. Something much beyond our limited comprehension. Something special. Ah girls, they still do black magic and still get away with it. Damn.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Air I Breathe


There’s something in the air I breathe. It’s almost perceptible. Almost tangible. Although I have jumped in surprise, time and again, each time its presence has become known, its ignorance has come just as naturally. Its acceptance as a part of life even more so. Now, it hangs over all of us like an invisible miasma, its stench unbearable and suffocating. If I were to stretch out my palm, I would be able to feel its greasy existence on my fingertips. See its vile presence soiling almost every aspect of my person. I wince at the horrid prospect and close my eyes, willing that somehow the act of doing so will make things better. Like they promised in the movies. Like they wrote about in those books Ritwick recommended. It’s a pity I never got around to reading them. But none of that.

I can witness it on the faces of the people around me. They used to be honest faces. A long time ago. But maybe it just seems that long. Time itself seems to be dilating in order to accommodate the worst of it. The façade that people seem to have assumed seems just that, a farce. They converse with each other about subjects they hate talking about. They pretend to feign nonchalance even when something is eating their innards, slowly but steadily. They smile for the benefit of others and put up a show of crying too. They try to look worried when gloating over their ill-gotten gains and cribbing over not so ill-gotten ones. They search for an identity that was never there in the first place and cry blood when someone shows them the mirror. All this while, the others have been staging a show too. Ritwick has been playing his part as well. Quite commendably too. It just keeps going around in an unending spiral.

Friends have now been compelled to don a moral obligation and look concerned. When did friendship entail that? A pretence even a child can see through? When left to their devices, they luxuriate in the bliss of the success they have managed to win in a contest. Humility has suddenly become an obsolete virtue. The sadness that devours each of us leaves a gaping hole, something we defend with fierce gumption. Nobody is allowed to touch or heal it for suspicion has become inherent to our thoughts. As a foregoing consequence, friends don’t speak their thoughts as easily as they used to. Even Akanksha seems to be hiding something. And Ritwick never managed to really open up anyway. I wish they shared their opinion so that each of us got a chance to improve. I wish their frankness didn’t seem that intimidating. Grudges, complaints, and grouses have now welled up within us to the point of causing an eruption. I wish for it to happen. So that the magma that seethes inside us burns everything in sight, necessitating a fresh start. A new beginning.

We spit spite at each other. Believe in rumors and shed the mantle of composure when calling each other names. Sometimes, when alone, we wish we had not done so. Wish we had been a bit more humane and yes, naive. Yet the disdain that we had despised with all our might seems to be gaining a foothold in each of our hearts. Trust seems conspicuous by its absence and it takes inebriation to reveal the vileness that plagues our souls. The unease seems so palpable that I can taste its bitter tang in my mouth. Feel the essence writhing its way down my gut, scarring it in its wake. Sometimes, the restlessness takes you by the scruff of your neck, jolts you into submission, and when you have accepted its ascendancy, leaves you in a deplorable state. It’s then you realize that things could not be worse. It’s then that the decision has to be made. You can either wallow in your plight or see this as a silver lining. Ritwick said so last night. He was mumbling something in his dreams. I never got around to paying the attention his incoherent muttering warranted. I was too busy telling my story to a nondescript writer and waltzing my way to glory through his words. I wished I had been a bit nobler.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In Another Universe

I guess, sometimes, acceptance of facts and bending over to take a bow only serve to make one humbler, and wiser. I will try to find out if that's true. And I will try to swallow my pride in the meantime. I assume I stopped writing, for some time, because I found it hard to digest criticism in the guise it was dished out to me. Someone even went ahead and said that it was a cheap publicity gimmick to increase the dwindling number of readers. Gimmicks for a damn blog? What next? I do not even know how to respond to such a vile comment. So I will refrain from retaliating.

The Writing. Someone said it was too inane, others found it lacking quality, while the majority just stopped giving a damn. I decided to give it all a break. And I had meant it to be for good. Perhaps I was foolish and, yes, naive. But maybe I have realized that none of that should stop me from doing something I like much more than a lot of other important things. At the same time it dawned that while writing, it is very important to be honest in depicting the emotions we talk about. I am going to search for that honesty. Give it a try again. Strive for the benchmark. I hope for the best.

In case you didn't understand this, do not worry. You probably were never meant to :)


He felt the ink of her name, gradually moving his fingertips over the word and smoothening out the rough edges of the letters. They shifted uneasily in their slumber, not wanting to be disturbed. However, he continued stroking them, just like he would have petted his cat. This time they purred in approval. He smiled and let the reverie take reign of his senses.

He tried to imagine what she would have been like in a different life. In another universe. Perhaps he believed that if he could feel her soul through her name, he would be able to rid himself of all the preconditioning that had accumulated like soot over his instincts. In this parallel universe, he would be one with her, with none of the inhibitions camouflaging his affections. His passion would not be mellowed or reserved, but pure and unbridled. She would be his consort and he her lord, he thought, giving an almost divine touch to his itinerant feelings. Surprising himself with his own eccentricities, he began to whisper to her name, half excepting it to come alive any moment and begin telling its tale.

For a second, the alphabets did not feel right. They were dead and callous. How could they tell him about her lively past? How could they talk of her ravishing beauty, or her vivacity for that matter? The color of the ink did nothing to help matters. It was jet black. So offensively monotonous. He hesitated in feeling them, as if the pristine beauty of her name had somehow been corrupted by writing it down. Then his curiosity got the better of him and he relapsed into the daydream.

He called out to the well formed shapes gracing the ruled pages, just like a tantrik mumbling his incantations. Slowly, he saw them shed their shyness. One by one, they started jiggling their toes, shaking off the dirt that had accumulated over the decades. They blinked in surprise when they saw who had summoned them. Then they chuckled with delight at the prospect of the sacrilege they would incite. Finally they gathered round and began.

Did her hair curl cheerfully over her forehead? Is that what the k told him? “Did the illimitable love in her eyes show so conspicuously even then?” he asked an a matter-of-factly. And her lips? What about those lips? Did they convey an unfulfilled longing? Or were they much too innocent to give away any telling signs? Her lissome figure? Had it only accentuated with age? What about her bosom? Was it just as comfortable as it seemed now? The s preferred to keep quiet this time. Each time he asked them the questions, they giggled mischievously, never giving away too much. They were aware of the repercussions their answers. Eventually, he got tired of the game, accusing the name of cheating on him. Akanksha just shrugged off and went into hiding in the pages. Realizing the ramifications of his misdemeanor, he called out to Akanksha, cajoling, pleading, and even begging. But it had already vowed to never again tell him the story of its bearer.

He looked at those letters again, now as lifeless as the dust that had once again settled on them. He looked at them wistfully, hoping they would someday complete their tale.

“Ritwick”, he heard his mother call out. He hastily shut the covers of her journal and slid it back into place, as if it had never been touched. As if its confines had never been defiled.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Turn On. Tune In. Drop Out.

What if the dark desires we succumb to where none of that? What if we are meant to jump over the edge in order to realize how high we have risen? What if the final step is the only thing that can help us realize that potent imagination? What if we answered more questions than we asked?

You go about your life in zombified dignity, expecting someone or something will disturb its suffocating humdrum fashion. Yet, no one or nothing ever does it. Even if something cataclysmic does happen to disturb the doldrums of your existence, you are just too timid to take notice of it. You end up just another tombstone. Just another poetic epitaph in the graveyard. What if you were meant to take risks? To challenge authority and sometimes, if only sometimes, risk it all? To break free from this lack of dignity?

But none of this today. I had meant this to be the last post on this blog. Maybe it will be. Personifying another cliché, I had meant it to be special in more ways than one. However, the fertility of my imagination was found to be lacking on several occasions. Often it was the style. Sometimes it was the words. On the rarest of rare occasions, it was my inspiration. When I could no longer keep it to myself, I just decided to put it out in the open. There it is. Go on. Pelt it with criticism and sarcasm. Isn’t that what you had been wanting all along? Well, now you have the chance.

I am sorry if the tone of this epilogue doesn’t agree with your taste. If it is not fashionable enough. If it is not hip or in touch with reality. That was never my intention to begin with. But it is my mistake that I got caught up in the predicament. I will take your leave now. The others are waiting. I am hoping you, of all the people, will understand what I have meant to convey.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Needless to Say

Disclaimer - What do you do when there is nothing (even remotely) interesting happening in your life? You almost have absolutely nothing to share. Most of the days are spent staring right into the computer screen, trying to decipher whether another asterisk or a hash sign would make a lot of difference. Then, do you seek refuge in fiction, yet again, or do you try to salvage something worthwhile from the wrecks you had been safeguarding for exactly such a crisis? You be the judge. Albeit an intelligent one.

Dear X,

Now that I know that around 150 people know who {someone} was (and is), I can probably die in peace. The promise of a wonderful afterlife was given to me by the angels who visited me in dreams. They came again today, while I was day-musing under a creaking ceiling fan. I was told that my work on this planet is done. Thus, I will now indulge in my darkest desires and wildest fantasies, their consequences being hardly of any, well, consequence now.

I have also been wondering why day after day both you and I waste several of our precious hours, typing out these monstrosities, when we could have been utilizing them in several other (more) lucrative pursuits. The answer is left to the responsibility of the responder, SHE being the more intellectual, refined, and creative of the two. I am hoping I won’t be handed disappointment in expectation’s stead.

Coming to less welcome subjects, I think we can safely divide retro(-intro-)spective atmospheres into two broad categories. One might be called the Creaking Ceiling Fan while the other can be vaguely described as a Nocturnal Wonderland. Both are equally competitive and strive for attention on a day to day basis. I am also speculating why there has to be a certain algorithm to every nuance in an engineer’s life. Even subtle subjects like philosophy, love, and music are dissected with clinical precision and their mortal remains examined with a certain surgical finesse. It’s all very frightening; and amusing at the same time. Let’s digress to less intimidating subjects (if I can come across any).

Your habit to write your journal daily certainly surprises me. You come across as the girl in Before Sunrise, who keeps a written account of all her days, and still pretends to forget some of the most remarkable moments in her life. I started off as a die hard fan myself, often addressing my journal as something very feminine and real. With time, the writings started improving in quality but the quantity went down considerably. Now that I look at my journal, I find that I started it off way back. It has a well defined Prologue in which I announce my far fetched ambitions to fill the ruled pages with ink of all sorts - blue, black, red and even graphite. I think the implementation went awry somewhere down the line. Another algorithm is called for. But we will save its dissection for another afternoon, when the sun is more obliging, and the time less so.

The park story seemed amusing because you should choose a park (of all places) to explore. I have, if truth be told, thought of similar places I might like to visit in another lifetime. Am I beginning to sound very intense in my writing? I guess the reader doesn’t have much of a choice in these matters. SHE has to bear with all the crap certain meditating souls come up with. Oh! talking about meditation; have you ever tried imagining a perfectly clean blackboard? I believe if one can do so, with nothing and no one soiling the pristine darkness of the board, one has succeeded in achieving control over most of one’s senses. I have tried attempting the feat several times; having succeeded in keeping the slate clean (pun intended perhaps) for at most a few seconds. Not bad eh?

The relentless urge, and pushing, to excel and be on top of the game seems post-worthy. Does it strike you as amusing too? However, laziness has probably caught up. This discussion dwells on the borders of being futile. So I will defer the subject for the time being. Maybe you can come up with something worthwhile on the same. Who knows?

The length of this obscurity seems praise worthy already. I have, exactly at this moment, realized that this mail can be perfectly described by a word I learned a long time back - BLAND. It’s a monologue one would want to get over with. A yawn would probably greet the footnote and the innovative signature won't be even glanced at. This enlightenment calls for a course of action. Hence, acting in accordance with this new found knowledge, I will now go and attempt something constructive.

“The entire world is our oyster again / Waiting patiently to be by that genius awed.”
Proverbially me,
Y

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Venus and Venus

The song was slow and melodious. The lyrics profound and abstruse, just the way he loved them. A melancholy singer, who had died too young to prove his mettle, was crooning in the most wistful of voices. The book lay on the bed, untouched and unopened. The bookmark still extruded from the page he had last been reading. In juxtaposition, the novel had been devoured in a fashion that could only be described as ravenous. But then wait. He had not meant to write about songs or books. So should we, if you don’t mind, digress?

Let’s jump straight to the point. The other point if you please. There’s something about girls. There has to be. The way they carry off nonchalance in the most dignified fashion. The way they make spite sound so amusing. The way they can inspire the very notion of infinity. The way they balance the crooked equation of humanity. The way they instigate malice and malevolence in their most sinister incarnations. The way in which they have turned persuasion into an art form, honed to perfection. The way their hair smells delicious after every bath. The way they can make you read the most absurd of letters until your eyes have started to smart. The way they turn dumbness into a hypothetical concept, not worthy of their attention. The way they have led themselves to believe that spotting one bird, instead of two, is just fine. The way they inspire literature and music alike. The way you can be the one to share their most intimate secrets and yet be frighteningly distant from their affection. The way they can be the only overbearing presence in your life and yet make it feel like it’s perfectly normal. The way they can make you remember each and every nuance of the colored rays of a dying sun, a picture perfect ending to the last evening you spent together. The way you go over their old photographs, just to catch a glimpse of the person you now miss. The way their humility teaches you more lessons than one. The way you feel jealous of their manifold skills and yet adore them for the very same reasons. The way their smiles usher in sunshine in the darkest corners of your lives. The way they bring completeness and void in our lives in such extremities that you begin to hate them for that. Yes, they must be having something to them. Something much beyond our limited comprehension. Something special.

Ah girls. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent. They can be the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining, or the curse with no cure. They can do black magic and still get away with it.

PS - Certain glaring grammatical errors in this post were pointed out by Kartoon. Have now rectified them (Y).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Parched Lips of Desire

Inspired by the television drama, “Tell Me You Love Me”.

Akanksha demurely fussed over her skirt as she waited outside the closed teak doors. She had been, for some time now, pretending to straighten out a few imaginary creases. Or plausibly not. One couldn’t be too sure. The fidgeting had caught the attention of the small urchin who was trying to serve tea to the victimized faces in the waiting room. He looked at her expectedly, smiling his most affable grin. She politely turned down the offer and shooed him off. “This is no time for tea”, she reprimanded herself. The urchin loitered off, disgusted, and the fidgeting resumed after a moment’s notice.

Her pale blue blouse was in sharp contrast with the black skirt. A necklace of perfectly white pearls and a pair of modish sandals completed the guise. The dress had seemed so somber that she had thought about changing into something livelier more than once. She didn’t want Shlok suspecting anything. Not now at least. However, deciding that the purpose was probably just as gruesome, she had gone along with the prior choice.

A sign on the door, in golden letters, proclaimed the presence of Dr. Renu Makhija, Psychotherapist within the hallowed confines. She waited for it to devolve into something less intimidating. When she started smarting with the lack of consequence, she chose to look away. Another couple shared the waiting room. It would be some time before she would be called in, it dawned on her.

The leave from work had been difficult to explain. But she had handled the situation deftly. Shlok did not know. Of course. It was best that way. Akanksha had deliberated over this visit for some time now. He had been apprehensive about the whole idea. His unwillingness had even metamorphosed into an altercation that had seen him sleeping in the guest bedroom. He had held onto the opinion that once they accepted the idea they were a couple with problems, they would become one too. She had been a bit more open minded. Or maybe plain ignorant. Ultimately, she had decided to proceed on her own.

Five minutes later, the couple went in. They somehow seemed a bit ill at ease for people who were going to share their best kept secrets with a total stranger. Secrets about their troubled relationship. Taboos about their sex life. Squabbles over in laws and what not. Maybe theirs was a first time too. And mulling over that line of thought, Akanksha began to retrospect on what had gone wrong.

It was a ritual she had indulged in often. Without much consequence. A money plant in the lobby caught her wary eye. She smiled absent mindedly. Shlok and her were comfortably well off. But affluence can not guarantee everything. She had only now begun to comprehend the beauty of the cliché. Their busy schedules hardly gave them time for each other. The problem was, neither of them complained about it. But that was just one of the reasons, some obvious many indistinct.

What had started off as a picture perfect love affair, had now managed to assume a much more sinister form. Conversations had assumed the garb of a compulsion with alarming ease. As long as they possibly could, they avoided every mention of everything. It had been almost a year since they had made love to each other. It was not like any of them was having an affair. They still loved each other. Very much. But the spark had somehow fizzled out. She questioned whether loving each other was enough. Shlok simply chose to ignore the questions, fearing the answers might throw up more demons than he was prepared to face. Their life had turned into one of the clichés they had once abhorred.

The daytime reverie breathed its last when it was finally time for her to see the therapist. Akanksha thought about running away when her name was called out. About giving Shlok another chance. About crying and hoping everything would be set in order. About somehow resolving their differences just like they had managed to as a young couple, madly in love with life. And with each other. Maybe even she had come to believe that there was no coming back from this. It would just be a desperate attempt to salvage something that had already been lost. A fight against a few evens, and several odds. But she was not willing to witness the downfall like a mute spectator. So she steadied herself once again and walked in.

Dr. Renu turned out to be a wizened old granny who had somehow managed to hold on to the glow of her youth. Her face was comforting, as if she knew the cure. Already. Without even listening to her problems. The beige couch was frighteningly comfortable and Akanksha made it her oasis in the desert of the office.

Dr. Renu spoke nothing for the first few minutes, probably trying to weigh the gravity of the desperation she would be confronted with. She had, as a marriage counselor, managed to salvage several wrecked relationships. Hopefully, this would end up as being another one of them. Once the introductions were over, she asked Akanksha why her husband wasn’t there.

“He, Shlok, has some misgivings about this rigmarole. His apprehensions. We have our differences.”

“The sad part is, Shlok’s apprehensions probably have more weight than you give them credit for. It won’t be long before you both start arguing over this, well, rigmarole. Your husband will feel misrepresented and outraged that he doesn’t have a voice in something that’s so important for your relationship. He will feel angry and would invariably end up on the same couch, beside you, hyperventilating about how unfair all this has been. Then we might progress to the next phase of this therapy. Is that how you want it?”

The wily old fox seems to understand this, thought Akanksha. It’s her job after all, thought she again. “I guess he will understand”, she ended up muttering, more under her breath than over it.

“Let’s forget about your husband for a while. What do you want?”

“I don’t know. I guess I want to be close to him again. Like we used to be.”

“Do you think something like sex would make that happen? Or is it connection on a philosophical level that has gone missing? Do you feel that you want to have the same kind of romance that you enjoyed when you guys first started off?”

“I was hoping you would be able to sort out that tangle.”

~~~~

A few days into therapy, Akanksha decided to break the news to Shlok. Office had not been pleasant for him that day. The traffic even more so. Common sense dictated she postpone the trauma for some other day. However, she decided to pile it on him all at once. The melodrama turned out to just as she had expected it to be.

“Shlok, we don’t try out anything anymore. I mean it’s been almost a year. Not that I am hinting at anything. But still. We sometimes need to get out of this mess we have landed ourselves into. Get it out of our system.”

“You know, we do my version of things.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That means I love you. And that’s what matters. We have been around for a while now. We are not going anywhere. Not me. Not you.”

“This is not who I want to be Shlok. Or not what I wanted to be. You never help me.”

“Akanksha, all I do is help you. So much so, I am sometimes sick of helping.”

“I just feel we need to talk about this with someone.”

“Oh, that. Oh. Oh! So you have been seeing a therapist? Haven’t you? And you did not think I was important enough to be included in the decision? Since when have the sessions been going on dear? Since when? And when did you plan on letting the cat out of the bag?”

“It’s just been a few days. You don’t need to get paranoid and start getting hyper about this. I was sick of all the things that kept going around in circles in my head. I needed a way out. You were not ready for it. So I decided to proceed on my own.”

“You really want to do that? Turn us into a couple with problems? That’s a slippery slope you know.”

“So is this. Well, I just did. I am just gonna see how this goes.”

“You talk about me?”

“A little. Not really. It’s mostly about me.”

“Why are you doing all this?”

“Why do you care?”

“If we have sex, will all this go away?”

“Are you kidding? Please don’t dwell on that subject.”

“No. Maybe this was needed for me to know how much it matters to you.”

“Please don’t. Please.”

~~~~

A month later, Akanksha chanced to meet Nethra, a friend from college. Over a cup of coffee and two sugar free pastries, she opened up to her. The incessant battering of her emotions over the past few weeks had left her considerably weak as far as restraint was concerned. Even things not meant to be discussed over coffee were debated about with abandon. For a second, even Nethra was stumped. But she must have sensed the plight in her friend’s voice. So she chose to just listen. Sometimes that is all it takes.

“Do couples start hating each other if they stop having sex?”

“I think they stop having sex, and then they realize they hate each other.”

“No, is it like they start hating each other because they stop having sex? Or the other way round?”

“Sex is a great thing to hide behind, you know. Do you get what I mean?”

“I am not that sure. It should be more than just that. Love was a beautiful experience.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Clichés of Conceit

One can not get any more conceited if every line of a post starts with “I”. I would have loved to deprecate my worth one more time and then feel all smug about it. But I guess we need to be selfish some most of the times. Or else we won’t be ourselves. So let us celebrate vanity for once and be content with it. Everything else should take the proverbial back seat.

Oh by the way, this tag came from El. I wonder who that might be.


I am a conceited pompous ass. I am always thinking about myself.
I think continuously. It’s almost on the lines of an ailment. I am thinking of seeing a shrink about this.
I know this post is already getting tedious. But don’t blame me. Needed to do it.
I want nothing more than a bed and looooong dream sequence. Did I tell you I never dream? Well now you know.
I have a lot of smelly clothes in my room that I need to wash asap. The stench is getting overbearing man.
I wish someone would come and wash them for me. I am as lazy as He makes them.
I hate arrogance. Even when it comes from me.
I miss mangoes. As of now.
I smell like a sweating pig. Seriously. Ha ha.
I crave something I can not divulge.
I search for contentment. This is the first of the clichés.
I wonder why you still haven’t given up reading this.
I love the way she smiles. Who? Well, I am not telling.
I care about my family. But they don’t know that.
I ache for Samtse, Bhutan.
I am not as depressing as I might seem.
I believe God made women because he found man was imperfection personified.
I dance like a madcap. You step on my tail and watch me fly off the hook.
I sing in the bathroom. Sometimes when I shit. Most of the times when I am alone.
I cry rarely. Though it’s an activity one should indulge in more often.
I don’t always like these tag thingies. They are boring half the time.
I write loads of stuff. Some good. Most mundane. Rest hogwash.
I win when I am the only one playing.
I lose when there is someone else too.
I always end up confused.
I listen to what gets my gun.
I can usually be found in my room, fussing over the most trivial things. God. This was the mother of all clichés.
I am happy about this tag ending.
I imagine her. All the time.


I tag Chandni and Abhinav. Listen both of you. Feel free to ignore this tag. I know tags are a pain.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Everybody Loves a Loser

Ritwick tottered on the edge of indecision. Quite literally. The parapet was dangerously low for his height. The dormant mortar, four floors below, seemed frighteningly distant. It glistened in the summer heat like some Neolithic monster, ready to ambush him. The sun was beating its hammer on the anvil with a hitherto unknown fury. A welcome breeze had already begun to breathe its last, accentuating the apprehension in air. Months of tormenting heat had by now parched the leaves. The grass had shriveled up and turned yellow. Even the squirrels had taken refuge somewhere.

Ritwick smiled. The feeling was almost electric. Wiping his brow, he took a swig of whiskey from the improvised hip flask. The vile tasting liquid numbed his hyper active senses, bringing less important matters into focus. Fast-forward.

He realized he had been waiting for the two juniors to finish their cigarettes. He could see them sharing the joint, thinking they had already faded into oblivion, notice the smoke curling into various shapes, each distinct like the snowflakes, and then melt away. But none of this today. Ritwick shook himself out of the reverie to utter just two words. “Bloody addicts”. They had been going on, like forever, and beginning to get on his nerves now. Just when he had begun to make a move towards them, they puffed their last rings and scuttled down the stairs, not forgetting to glance sideways like terrified terriers, lest the warden catch them in the act. Ritwick smiled again, even if unwillingly. Everything was going against plans. That was surely a good sign.

The subject had received enough attention. Hadn’t it? Yes. The eddy of thoughts had made its presence known a few days ago. The pros and cones had been analyzed with clinical precision and their mortal remains dissected with a certain surgical finesse. It was nothing new. The same old monsters had reared their dormant heads. They had made him think. Again. They had made him repent. Again. Even the skeletons in his closet had jeered at him, as if they already knew what was bound to happen. He wanted to disappoint them, more than anything else. But he feared he lacked the guts and the feeling made him sick. So he took another swig to calm his demons. It seemed to be working. The voices were distant now, feeble and weak, already giving up on him. The cacophony of uncertainty had faded to give way to a morbid symphony. He relished it with a satisfaction that was almost diabolic. Peace.

It was now time to reach a decision. Should he or shouldn’t he? What was he thinking? Nonsense. This time it was not the solution that had seemed abstruse. It had dawned on him in a moment of inspiration, quite suddenly, yet failing to take him by surprise. It was its implementation. Would they react? How and why? He smiled again. He had decided he wouldn’t think about it.

Last night, she had been exceptionally beautiful and remarkable. Just like a freshly cut nail. Wispy clouds had tried to hide her from view as he lay on the grass, ruminating on his decisions. But they had only managed to accentuate his love for her. Her light was pure and virginal. She had appeared out of hiding after several days and Ritwick basked in the satisfaction of her presence. He called out to her and poured his heart out. Surprisingly, he felt light and better. He stayed back longer than usual, taking it in. He went back and slept soundly for the first time in many months.

Morning was cheerful and full of promises. For everyone. Ritwick had a promise to keep too. He smiled. The lunch he bought that afternoon ended up being left untouched. Flies had taken to the orange juice with delectable delight. Ditto for the squirrels, who had gorged on the dry chapattis. Chakram and Shlok were nonplussed. Ritwick was not one to miss his meals. On being grilled about his non existent love affairs, he had left the mess in a huff. They won’t understand. Never. Hence the terrace. Ah! Now you see.

The smell of nicotine lingered in the air. Ritwick waited for it to clear. He wanted this to be perfect in every way. The sweat made his shirt cling to his body. As he stood there, he thought about last night and pondered whether he should reconsider. But he smiled again. There would be time for contemplation. More then asked for. And more than desired. No more cogitating over a spent force.

And then, in one final act of defiance, he stepped over the parapet. As the peeling paint on the walls flew past his eyes for one last time, Ritwick sighed with eventuality. He could feel the wind pass through him, as if he were already a shadow, no more a part of the substance. He didn’t see his life flash past him. None of the montage of images and faces he had thought about just a few seconds before. He had never expected the stories to be true anyway. So he accepted this as one of the umpteen compromises in his life. All that he could think about in his final moments was the impending thud – terrifying and absolute. As the black mortar threatened to engulf him whole, Ritwick felt himself floating, leaving his body. He could see himself fall but he knew he won’t feel it. When it did happen, Ritwick smiled one last time. This would not be the end. He realized with a satisfaction that was, this time, innocent. I guess we know better.

For all I know, he would get up. Again. Entertain us in some other world. For doesn’t everyone love a loser? For doesn’t everyone like a clown? Falling over himself. Getting up again, only to falter again. Just like the starry eyed junta on the sidelines. They see their reflection in his eyes, finding acceptance not from the crowd but from the tiny little voice within. Failure, someone said, finds approval more readily than success. Maybe they loved Ritwick for being just like them. For floundering in the ocean and then finally giving up. For giving up when he should have tried. For blaming himself for faltering. For being too much like them for his own good. I guess it must be so. Don’t worry. He’ll be back. In some other life.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Let's Fly Tonight

The clock's running down
The team's losing ground
To the opposing defense
The young quarterback
Waits for the snap
When suddenly it all starts to make sense

He's got all kinds of time
He's got all kinds of time
All kinds of time
He's got all kinds of time
All kinds of time

He takes a step back
He's under attack
But he knows that no one can touch him now
He seems so at ease
A strange inner peace
Is all that he's feeling somehow

He looks to the left
He looks to the right
And there in a golden ray of light
Is his open man
Just as he planned
The whole world is his tonight

- All Kinds of Time, Fountains of Wayne

Sometimes, just sometimes, one feels like letting go of everything. Oh yes, the feeling lasts only a moment. And it should. It must. But tonight, I feel like floating. Flying. Let’s. Yes? We will.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Faces on My Wall

Last night, while shifting in an uneasy slumber,
I saw them all. I saw those faces on my wall.
They winked and smiled, stunned in wonder,
For I had surprised them, and invited them all.

I drew them on my wall, canvas of fickle whims.
Each of their expressions – sadness, disquiet,
Laughter, agony – I imagined hard and painted.
New feelings surfaced; appeased emotional riot.

Each scorn, and all the love, it breathed anew;
One by one I saw them live again on my wall.
Wanton hair flew amuck, so did nascent smiles,
Sunshine skipped around; I was there to see it all.

For so long I had ignored them in my vanity;
But they were there for me, at my beck and call.
One wistful pleading, or a fall from humility
Was all it needed to bring my faces to my wall.

They pondered why I was being so generous;
But little did they know about my dirty secret.
My fears had instigated this party so frivolous;
Fears so dark that even in my sleep I had fret.

But this time I have vowed not to let them go.
(And even in my dreams I promised them so)
For what’s a canvas with just blankness to show?
I hope the feeling lasts just long enough to grow.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Insipid in Lucknow

Having realized that the love of my life had relegated me to some derelict corner of her affections, I finally decided to affect something substantial with/in my life. I had initially decided to mope about the fateful episode and, in a fitting finale, jump over the edge of a cliff. But wisdom suggested that “The Plan” was not that substantial after all. Junta might have ended up happier or worse still, better off. So here I am, effecting something much more tangible (or not) and writing on a subject that had so far eluded my exceptionally fertile (and potent) imagination. It has a lot to do with a city that has engaged me in a love-hate relationship for the past thirteen (unlucky already?) years. Why the sudden drastic shift in loyalties? Why a monologue about a city hardly anyone talks about? You would ask. I have no concrete answer. Maybe you should blame the Gandhinagar municipality. They don’t have a single cliff in the city. Talk about public interest. Humph.

But be warned! This is neither a tourism advertisement for some godforsaken city nor an egoist passage by a self deprecating android. It’s a bit of both, with a little bit of Chemical X thrown in for special effects. Baah. I will let you be the judge. Let’s get on with the story for the time being.

For the uninitiated – Located in the industrial belt of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow is a city that is almost as famous for its adaband tehzeeb as it is for the kattatoting university politicians. A city that reeks of filth and sweat during the day but still manages to smell nice (of water melons) if you happen to take a stroll along the Gomti in the night. A breeding ground for politics, where one would find more ambassadors with red beacons than traffic policemen in their ancient jeeps. A culture that totters on an edge, as it blindly embraces an alien cosmopolitan look, while desperately trying to retain its wildly romantic medieval identity. A town that still boasts of chaat shops in every nukkad and kebab counters in every second one. A city that almost managed to kill me on one of its generously potholed roads when I was trying to run away from it. A mentor that has, in return, nurtured my sharp intellect and managed to turn me into a raving psychopath.

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s always the easiest. Hmmm. It’s ironic that my family was never supposed to be in this sleepy town in the first place. Transfer from Bhutan had translated as a posting in Jaipur, a familiar place with familiar faces. However, the government machinery, it seems now, had not been greased properly by means of some liquid assets. So the kunbafound itself searching for familiar grounds in an unfamiliar Lucknow. The buildings were thrice as tall as those in Samtse and the people half as friendly. I hated the place from the very onset. Didi and I had to drop in early so that I could get admitted into some school before all the prestigious ones closed their shutters. I remember Mummy sweating it out, making her pilgrimage to almost every school in town, trying to prove the worthiness of her wretched son by means of all the numbers she could imagine. Sweaty rickshaw rides, arrogant principals, neglected report cards, a flustered mother, an indifferent ass, and the tormenting June heat. That was my first intercourse with the town. It seems a futile exercise NOW. Anyway, I managed to scrape into a decent institution, but only for a year. When the family settled down into a rhythm, I was shifted to a place closer home. Fortunately and unfortunately, it would personify education for me for the next eight years.

My earliest impressions of Lucknow are those of moped (Luna Super to be precise) rides, clinging like a baby langur to my mother’s back. The city, it seemed, had shrunk to the route we followed from home to school. Everything else languished in an alien planet. On-the-way stationary shop (Modern Bookstore) and the friendly-uncle-wallah grocery store encompassed my map of the city. As the moped got promoted into a Kinetic Pride, and then a Kinetic Nova, the routes multiplied exponentially and my purview expanded to include the congested lanes of Daliganj and Dandaiyya, the bustling markets of Aminabad, the glitzy malls of Gomtinagar, the coaching district of Ashok Marg, and the glitterati of Hazratganj. Ironically, the stationary shop is still there. So is the friendly grocer. They obtrude like relics of yore. So I try avoiding them, lest a reverie start. Strangely enough, through their lingering presence, I have managed to see the town evolve from a lumbering leviathan into something more alive, agile, and lively. Pardon the cliché. It’s an old habit, both figuratively and literally. On we go.

It is usually a bit difficult playing the part of the quintessential bookworm. But I handled the responsibility reasonably well. It generally comprised of thinking that all girls got good marks because of favoritism, managing to get a full score in Sanskrit every time, and sucking spectacularly in practically every thing else. Naturally, school years went by in a blur of exams, unit tests, and CW (Class Work dummies). There was just one “Games” session in the week and I vaguely remember gearing up for it from a day before. I looked the part of PT Usha, dressed in my white uniform and shining canvas shoes. Unfortunately, despite the elaborate arrangements, I could score just one goal in all my school years in Lucknow. That was the pinnacle of my athletic achievements. It’s been a downhill ride ever since. (I’ll call it symbolic of my relationship with the city. For the time being.) On all other days, the time table primarily consisted of waking up way too early, gorging on breakfast, classes, recess football session, more classes, home, TV, and HW (Home Work man). One did not have the time and patience to indulge in poetic endeavors and life was, as Floyd would say, comfortably numb. Lucknow had been aptly disguised as the cover of an erotic magazine, intended to be drooled over but never meant to be perused in public.

Summer vacations were a welcome respite from the hectic schedule – time meant to be utilized reading National Geographic in Papa’s library or completing summer projects while watching Power Zone on Cartoon Network. The trivia that I accumulated by means of these banal activities served me in good stead. That is because quizzing was the only extra-curricular activity I excelled in. Apart from sucking royally in the annual day parade that is. I could have won a medal for that achievement on ANY given day. So much so, I was regularly pulled out of the ranks and made to march with the rest of the losers. But we digress too much. Fast forward to other things.

As the famed and dreaded board exams loomed on the horizon, all pretences were shed quickly and tears shed in copious amounts. Life revolved more and more around books and any kind of distraction was considered a taboo. (It’s another story that my adolescent mind found quite a few attractive ones, Elsa Benitez being one of them.) Amidst almost violent trepidation, the monster spared me an untimely death and I lived to see the light of the day. But I was to realize that it was just the beginning. The remaining part of my existence (roughly four years?) in the city was confined to mostly two rooms in two different houses. My “brief flirtatious fling” with Lucknow was in one of these. Secret escapades to the video parlor, splurging indecent amount of money on boy bands, and day dreaming about distant horizons became a part of routine. It was probably then that I began to think on a different scale and frequency and my geography somewhat assisted the subtle changes seeping in. Friends became a lot more important than I gave them credit for and very importantly, a journal became a boy’s best friend. Writing gained precedence over reading and a considerable time was spent in imagining the consequences of a Lucknowite apocalypse. Even girls, in flesh and blood, were considered humane for sometime. Romance, as I see it and as few of you might, was the latest buzzword. But let’s not get mawkish already. There’s an anticlimax coming up (Y).

The last two years in Lucknow were terribly lonesome, and replete with nightmarish fears. Competition, competition, and more of it had consumed every aspect of my already negligible social life. The only discussions that mattered were the ones which had something to do with the direction of tension in pulleys or the IUPAC names of organic chemicals. Support, the kind I desired at least, was hard to come by. Few people consoled. Others inspired. The remaining reprimanded. I tried living up to the expectations, more theirs, less mine. Or so I have led myself to believe. I never got to know whether I met them. I have been asking ever since. Every time, I visit home, I get to know the questions afresh, strengthening the unseen bond I share with the city. It’s immaterial whether I want to shrug it off. It’s as much a part of me as I am hers. And so, as of now, I am trying to resist the temptation.

This sluggish town does not embrace you with open arms. It tries you. Then tests you. And when you have failed in all of your ordeals, it smiles benevolently before letting you cross over to the other side. I had my fair share of such trials and tribulations. And so did some of my friends. It made us saner people, if anything. I still remember one my friends pouring his heart out on a fateful summer night. Kids we were. Boys we had become. Ha ha. One would wonder what role a sleeping town played in the evolution of boykind. But what’s a city if not its people, their ambitions, their fears, and the tale of their triumphs? Someday, in between all the cursing at unrelenting traffic jams in fifteen inch lanes, while snapping at the nearby scooter wallah for drawing in too close, and haggling with the vegetable vendor over a kilo of baingan, I must have realized that I had become such an integral part of the other, that it had begun to affect changes in me. It was precisely at that moment that I contemplated falling in love with Lucknow, hoping my love for her would change me (and her in turn) for the better. There was something pale, prosaic, and insipid about her. I sighed inwardly. The moment passed.

Lucknow has been home for the past thirteen years. The city personifies a lot of things for me. My parents. My first victory. My numerous failures. My solitary soccer goal. My thirteen orange bars. My only crush. My several romances. My best friends. My silent afternoons. My fall from grace. As a foregone conclusion, my story is my city’s as well. It lives and breathes in my toil, tears, and dreams. It has been a witness to my evolution, the wrenching out of all my desires, and a miracle of co-existence and acceptance. As both of us stake claim to an unknown future, we realize these bonds were forever meant to last. For each one of them has sculpted a facet of my personality, distinct and yet a part of the whole. I have, in turn, played my role in contributing in the smallest of ways. Like all of hers, I feign nonchalance and think of moving on to greater and better things. But I shall remain hers, as before. And these invisible ties will keep me coming back, just like the prodigal son, no matter how much of the world I have seen.

Now that I have narrated this strange tale, I would call upon certain unwilling souls to do the same. I, therefore, tag Piper, Banter, and Reader Anonymous. Ha. Ok Pinky. You can write too. But make sure it’s comprehensible.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Repository of Regrets

Akanksha was on deathbed, fighting against the slimmest of odds. Ritwick was crying, expecting that the worst would be over soon enough. While they waited for time to pass them by Shlok fidgeted. He had never faced such a situation before and it opened up a whole new side of him. One he would like to keep under the covers; or if possible, somehow get rid of. He doesn’t want anything to do with it.

There was silence and five people in the room. None knew what to do. And hence, everyone assumed a look of concern. Not a soul knew her as well as Ritwick. Yet fate had thrown them together to mourn a sorrow only one of them had a clue about. The air seemed heavy with morbid anticipation and a plethora of nightmares raped Shlok's mind. “Did they feel the same way? What were they thinking about?” He could not help thinking and each and every one of his thoughts shrieked at him. It’s strange how death can make one realize the fleeting nature of almost everything. He wondered about writing it down and almost immediately, felt so selfish that he was disgusted with himself. He felt like hating himself for it. “How could I even be so? Is that all I am about?”

~~~~

Got the news that Akanksha had passed away. Ever since, Shlok has been walking around. Clueless. Again. The repercussions have failed to notice him in the crowd. The only way in which he is affected by the incident is when he imagines the trauma in context with his own life. There is no other way. “Is that selfish or is that just how we are supposed to be? Sit there with my arms folded and look solemn? Appear sad when I don’t know what I should be feeling like?” Blank.

Even the skies are overcast today. Weird co-incidence. Maybe. Some people are likely to think otherwise. It’s strange how this kind of thing passes on to others. The paltan has been immersed in an eerie silence since last evening. Nobody has been cracking the trademark lewd jokes. All sounds seem to be coming from somewhere cold and distant. They all pretend to understand. But each of them knows better.

It’s difficult to forget things. Every time Ritwick will look at her photograph, a smile will come flooding back and the heart will ache in an inexplicable fashion, almost willing itself to explode. But then the pain will subside. New lovers will be loved. Different photographs will be cherished. And the memory of the dead will be relegated to some unspoken corner, not meant to be disturbed. But as of now, the ache will be fresh and the reminiscences vivid. The mind will question often and the pain hurt more so.

“I think I am too selfish”, decides Shlok. He imagines his life going out of control in the same fashion and is appalled at the ramifications. This is the only way he feels anything. Putting himself in Ritwick's place and fearing the aftermath. His thoughts are spattered with regret and more than once he thinks of breaking the cocoon and saying things before it’s too late. After all, it’s all ephemeral.

Even the smallest mundane tasks seem like blasphemy. One is supposed to wear a mask of misery and wait for time to pass you by. Telling someone about the same seems utterly selfish. Fruits brought from Subhiksha become the portrait of ignorance. There's a tear strained handkerchief too, still wet when he touches it. His mind goes into an overdrive and he notes down everything, as if he had already decided to come back and relive his regrets.

It’s all going to end. They all know that. But the embers will continue smoldering for several months, maybe years. Shlok doesn’t know what to say. Not what to do. He sits there and finds a teardrop finding its way through years of barricades. But it dries up as quickly. Just as the handkerchief on the bed had begun to. Is that symbolic of something? Or was he a fool to think like that?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Romance is Dead

Let it never be said that romance is dead
'Cos there's so little else occupying my head
There is nothing I need 'cept the function to breathe
But I'm not really fussed, doesn't matter to me

Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby
Do ya, do ya, do ya, do ya
Know what ya doing, doing to me?
Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby

Due to lack of interest tomorrow is canceled
Let the clocks be reset and the pendulums held
'Cos there's nothing at all 'cept the space in between
Finding out what you're called and repeating your name

Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby
Do ya, do ya, do ya, do ya

- Ruby, Kaiser Chiefs