Friday, December 29

akele hum akele tum

This needs expression …. Also an audience.

I was reading Chasing the Good Life: On being Single. Edited by Bhaichand Patel it is a must for all confirmed singletons (I am told bachelors is way too sexy and spinsters way too sexist).

Chasing the good life is an anthology of successful singles from various spheres of life. It boasts of a rather “Who’s Who list” of contributors ranging from Grand old Khuswant Singh to the fiery Karan Thapar, the dashing Suhel Seth, the feminist Urvashi Butalai and so on.

What I like about this book is its broad definition of Singletons (I honestly think this word sounds like a spaghetti top). It has several stories of those who never took too the altar to those who regretted and re-regretted it and finally those who lost their loved ones. For ex- Karan Thapar, who lost his wife 13 years back still calls himself married. It includes a rather interesting piece from a married, not estranged, single who feels being away from her husband gives her space to be on her own. Also a chance to keep the romance alive… they walk to their spaces before the conflict on toilet seats and unscrewed toothpaste top sets in. To each his own.

But what I could not help notice was that 19 out of 28 contributors are women, not surprising; a single woman would evoke more interest than a single man to an average reader. Majority of the contributors have walked out on an incompatible marriage. Some of them have single status thrust upon them, others have chosen it as one would chose succor over lack of it. The men write about their single status without an emotion, some like Jerry Pinto reduce it to hilarity while Suhel Seth takes it to seduction. The women contributors wear their single status on their sleeves. They take it everywhere with them. To their work, off it, in a party, on holidays, some even go to bed with it. However, there were few pieces straight out of the heart; my favorite was “Simply Single “by Kanika Gahlaut, a non pretentious writing of a woman who just happens to be single…. Because that’s how it is.

Majority of these pieces wallow in their own world, oscillating between defense mechanism and sadness. Yes, a strange sadness .It always took me time to locate the cause of my pain, to go within myself and find out what bothers me, what does not. ….one’s innards are not exactly tourist spots but to be truly free one needs to go back through the dark corridors within oneself, unlock all doors closed, search for the imagined demons behind drawn curtains, look them in they eye, examine them, confront them or better understand them. May be some of the writers in this book would need to re –examine these premises for themselves.

The rest of the book is full of stereotypes, women walking out on their husbands, starting off lives in Barsati, pouncing men, jealous wives, well meaning relatives, support structures of friends and families and loads of I- am-proud –of-my –space.

May be I couldn’t relate to a lot of this because like Kanika, I belong to the generation who saw the socio economic landscape changing like never before. From the austerity of our childhood homes, we now smell the affordability liberalization offers. It means jobs, better pay cheques, and fortress like apartments with security guards, free home delivery and equal opportunity employment offers.

I do not feel part of some movement being single. I think it’s pompous if someone feels that way. It’s just my state of being right now. No, I am not waiting for marriage. Even when I have been in relationships I have never hurried myself to “settle down”. I don’t think one ever settles down, married or single. I just feel these are two states of beings, both with its distinct advantages and baggage.

As a person who is responsible for “Talent Acquisition” (euphemism for poaching), I remind people of my own age to rectify the marital status column in their CVs from “unmarried” to “single”. “Unmarried”, I counter, “sounds like a state of suspension”, likes an unfinished project. “Single” has more character, I often joke.

From the prism of an employer, I work for a firm which is extremely woman friendly. I don’t have to say this because they run my kitchen. Yes, there are times when I have to influence line behavior in field functions, to hire a woman, though she has kids. Or support a female colleague with extra manpower who is on her family way but largely I am glad to be part of an extremely sensitive set- up which is willing to make these differences. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are firms which don’t. Or prefer singles to married woman. Or prefer married men to single women. Or single men to married men. Baggage, after all, is a relative construct.

More importantly, single really does not mean (a), (b), (c) & (d). In eighties it meant loose woman, in 90s it meant career oriented, now it means Grit Girl. I think people are individuals with different cores and single or coupled has little to do with their traits. Some of my single friends are great home keepers with a natural flair for structure and cleanliness and they are of both sexes. Some of my married friends have messy kitchens, dirty sinks and layers of dust in the house, this has little to do with their marital status, it is just the way they are.

Another aspect of a single life that really intrigues the “other world” is their sexuality or lack of it. A bachelor fights to keep up his heterosexual image, in our country; a successful single male has to be a gay. And a single woman, successful or otherwise, is a seductive temptress; She indulges in wanton love making night after night with friends. And colleagues. Also strangers.

Well, most of my single women friends lead a whirlwind existence, morning flights, afternoon meetings, presentations, and client meetings, rushed coming back, locked apartments, cold, well that leaves little time for relationships let alone erotic Arabian Nights. Well, that’s not too different from couples either. Loads of couple grumble about being weekend couples. Brings us back to the point, sex is again about attitude, about how you respond to it, a friend of mine wanted to lose it before 30, another was seeing a guy for 7 years and they waited till the wedding.

A classmate called me up after six years, to share rather interesting insights. In a class of 30 people, 60% were abroad, 85% were married and 50% were no longer HR people.

I did not fall into any of these categories, I was untouched by all things phoren, unfazed by the vagaries of my HR job, and of course I am “unmarried”.

In a state of suspension. An unfinished project.

And I try to think of an answer: Marriage is an act of faith and I lacked the faith to do it.




Monday, December 11

a chance encounter















A chance encounter.

(A baby python crossing the road on Kollad - Mumbai Road)

On a smooth road
draped in kohl black darkness
Interrupted by two rotating
blobs of halogen light.
the flash of digital.
And its precise noise.
A gone bad attempt to
capture a chance encounter

4 feet away from
the secured wheezing of engine
You slithered with the burden
of a venomened destiny.
a weight you carried through
the darkness
hurrying to reach the other side
avoiding my world
shrinking into your space

And I stood there
with held up viciousness
and the venom of life
watched you barefooted
shrinking into a world
that looked scared
away from
the sinous sinister snake
you are expected to be.

And I inched closer
shedding the skein
of the careful , restrained
barefooted woman
I was supposed to be
to click the digital harder
and better
to make the most
out of our chanced encounter

Sunday, October 29

a cat has 9 lifes, I have 8

The One has tagged me again. Almost out of habit this time.

This time its 8 things about me, he might as well have written it himself. But then it would read like - She got drunk, she got very drunk; she got a high again and danced like a maniac to Ganesh Chaturthi music….well she got drunk again….

Also blogging turns out to be self congratulatory most of the times, so here I go…..


I am truly patriotic – Every weekend when I go to a movie hall, I love to see the tricolor unfold on the 70 mm screen, it fills my chest with an extremely primitive pride, unrecognizable yet understandable, I love standing to the tricolor, paying my obeisance and singing Jana Gana Mana in a guttural voice. Global village be damned… I cried when I watched The Legend of Bhagat Singh, my hair stood on the edge when Devgan boy told an Indian jailor, an employer of the British empire , Tum namak ka farz ada karo mein mitti ka karz ada karta hoon.” Although my patriotism is truncated to singing the national anthem, watching the parade on 26th Jan or reading Indian authors ( I have a collection of over 200 books mostly by Indian Authors) not to mention Indian Cinema, it defines me in many ways.

I am a die hard romantic – It was Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights till I discovered feminism, then Darcy from Aunty Austen’s stable of knights & lords. As a kid I would turn coy when I saw Big B, expecting him to come to life stained in blood and soaked with sweat, out of the hoardings,into my 8 year old childish crush.

The idea of romance has captured my imagination. I have always believed in love, always believed that it is some higher order need, in Maslow’s world, a tenuous, subtle feeling, yet one so integral to our core.

Every time I feel the rain on my face, this belief gets stirred. Every time I feel the warm sunshine on my skin, I know I will be in love. Always. The walk together in the rains, sharing a cup of tea, watching a movie together, listening to poetry together, humming songs, the long lingering looks, the jokes, the anger, the arguing for the sake of it, the assertion, the little gifts, the long wait and more…..

Love is a feeling next to life itself. Nothing deters it. Not a hectic whirlwind 9 to 9 existence, nor the loneliness of a metro life, neither the stale taste of foil packed lunches nor the complicated thwarted realities of the mundane worldly relationships.

Love engulfs all. I know.

Bollywood ki kasaam – I belong to an era where clothes were stitched, with a five year plan in mind. May be two sizes bigger, keeping in mind your growth trajectory. Deprivation was a virtue and the concept of entertainment non existent.

The year was 1981. Maa and Runnmaa (my aunt) went for Umrao Jaan, leaving us behind, saying it was not a movie for kids. My sister all of 8 years started crying stung by the unfairness of it all. I, then 4, followed suit. We cried the whole afternoon pacified only when Papa (who watched all Hindi movies first day first show alone, till he got married to a teacher) promised that he would let us see Umrao Jaan when we grow up.

I remember the only 2 movies Maa took us out for with unbridled enthusiasm, one of them was Richard Attenborough’s Oscar winning Gandhi (1982) ( for its educational properties), and the other was 3D – Shiva ka Insaaf (1985) because it was a technical treat , she, a teacher, did not want us to miss.


All my mother’s well meaning austerity and control could not contain the magnetic attraction 70 mm held for me.

Sundays evenings at home were a delight. I would (pretend to) study the whole of Sunday to watch whatever cinema DD dished out, from “Saheb Biwi or Gulaam” to Aandhi, from Damul To Mrigya, from“Aawaara to Aaan”, election time would be another bonanza as the bulletins on DD would be woven with a movie or two. These evenings were valued because of Papa’s involvement in the cinema.

He would give me trivia – Aandhi is inspired by Indira Gandhi’s life. When I went to watch the movie 1st day 1st show, the enraged congress party broke down the hall; the movie was banned after that.

My first big lie to Maa was also on account of Cinema, when I sneaked out of college to see SRK romancing Kajol in trendy trains in Europe and the mustard fields of Punjab, even now when I see DDLJ it fills me with a sense of illicit thrill, the joy of forbidden pleasure envelops me.

Then there were those Friday nights of Adult Cinema which I watched standing in front of the TV, tuned to lowest volume and almost to 0 brightness on our black and white TV, scared of being found out. Bhavana, Kamagni, and a whole host of foreign adult cinema invaded my impressionable world.

2001 June- My first pay cheque. The gift of globalization.
2001 August- Lagaan goes to Oscar
2001 – December – I buy my first two white goods– a toaster and a television. The scheme offers me a VCD.

An age old irresistible urge resurfaces and I look for a video library at Cambridge layout, Bangalore.

And watch all the movies which were rationed. It rained cinema in my house.

I watched Umrao for Freudian reasons.

I still cry. For the unfairness of it all. For the loneliness of a nautch girl. For the pain of unrequited love. For the insatiable thirst…..

I am all for cinema, give me the smudged kohl in glycerin stained eyes, the puppy romances, the friends – turned – foe acerbic battles, the lost and found twins tales , the opulence, the melodrama, the madness. They still weave a magical, mystical world. I know I am home.

Writing is my catharsis. - It has been always like this. Ever since I discovered I had the ability to rhyme.

It started with juvenile rhyming…..

A sudden glance, the long look
Sent a flutter down the spine
The smile was a knock at heart
A knock that could not be denied

And it went on…. I have thick diaries filled with poems….my state of mind

The sea is calm after the hurricane
The world so happy and free
As I pick the debris of my broken heart
I wonder what has changed except me?

And

Aapne Tafhree janee hogee mere justozoo ko
Magar Kuch sanjeedgee aayee hein Ishq mein
Wafaa nibhane se

Someday I will write a book, or maybe a collection of short stories, till then blogging makes me happy, really happy.

My job- While it does not define who I am, there are parts of it which does. I get a kick out of addressing a crowd, resolving problems of people, influencing behavior and being in a situation to help. Every people situation ranging from hiring to employee counseling, is an opportunity to influence people and I genuinely like what it does to me.

It has been a tremendous experience to be a corporate citizen, from the year 2001 when I entered the workforce till tonight as I pen this down, the skills that I have added to myself, the value addition, the learning, the confidence, the experiences and before it sounds like a farewell speech…. I think my generation owes a lot to the policymakers…and also has an onus to posterity.

On posterity – I think if I do, and when I do, I will make a good Mom, not the one who peeps happily out of a healthy Maltova ad, but I think I will be a good pal to have around. I can help him with his essay and help her with her maths.

While I have not yet resolved how to deal with his messy, mud stained socks all over my living room or how to stop myself from squirming when she would want to tuck her skirts two inches above her knees, I would largely love to be a mom. I guess it will al come when it has to.

What else ? - I am glad this is the seventh thing about me. I will like to be born every time with every new thing I do, every new project I take, every endeavor I have. I wish next time someone tags me I have 8 new things to say about myself.

8 is a rather long list – I would love to contradict myself. Contradiction is life. Equilibrium is death.
On demand, I tag Sanjay Jha

Tuesday, October 17

blogging, deewali and more...

I find it difficult to blog these days. One reason is nothing I write seems beautiful anymore. It all feels very melancholic.

Fellow blogger Shikha says – It doesn’t matter as long as you have something to say.

Anon (doing the rounds of my blog) feels I need to see a shrink.

May be. But would that lead to happy words pouring from my fatigued fingers furiously typing on my dusty laptop.

I doubt.

I have been a melancholic writer for as long as I remember. My first poem was an improvisation of a half heard poem in school.

Billi ne school khola ek
Jisme aye chuhe anek

(Improvisation: with due apologies to whoever wrote the first two lines)

Jab suna yeh kee billi ne
Maaf ke hein fees
Shuroo me legi rupyee bees
Bili ne ek path parhaya
Mooh se lad tapak aya
Jhat ek chuha mooh mein dabaya
Billi roj phat phadati thee
Aur ek chuha mooh mein dabati thee
Aise beet gaye kayee saal
Huee kamyaab billi ke chaal
Chuho ne ab kee bagawat
Khatam hui bile eke aavbhagat
Billi ko to ho gayee jail
Or chuho mein phir se mail

This poem seems to be the only happy poem in my satchel, thanks to the first two lines. I wish I could write like this again. About cats & mices.

On unhappy melancholic writing

Kiran Desai bagged the Man Bookers for “The Inheritance of loss”. I started reading it yesterday. Kiran is part Arundhati, part herself. However, she doesn’t have Arundhati’s in the face “I- do- not-confirm” attitude. She doesnt have her lunatic, intense and nearly fanatic passion .

But ten chapters into the inheritance of loss, my heart broke.

It's sadness permeates like humidity….. it reminded me of mosquito stung evenings at Patna when I stood at the gate waiting for an eventuality.

Mohanty boy….who works with me ….asks “why didn’t a PG Woodhouse ever get a Bookers”? “And check this out …. He moans ...”most Bookers are given to sad novels.”

Mohanty boy is one with these observations on everything. In the middle of meetings these questions erupt to him like rashes.

Have you heard “The Circle Game” by John Mitchell? Oh, you must. “Or have you noticed his white striped trousers?” Sometimes he sets me thinking.

So I try and conjure an answer through my heavy Caprioska washed voice.

Maybe awards have a self imposed righteousness to them. And they look for messages in writing. And I trail off....

Mohanty is busy rolling joints (which he does best) and nods in agreement…. “they would never give Bill Bryson a Bookers.

He is much doped. Marijuana takes over as he dreams a happy Bookers winning dream for Bill Bryson.


It’s again that time of the year when earthen lamps would be washed, soaked in water overnight, wicks cut out, ghee poured into them washed lamps and lit. Warm glow from symmetrically washed diyas emanating hope into a lonely hopeless night.

The aroma of pure fresh ghee is the smell of deewali fighting the stench of love and loss.

Newness fighting oldness.

I read the post I had written last Deewali, it was kind of sad. So if anon is bugged I know why.

Well, Lots of things have changed since then.

o I have my own house and I am out of sharing my space with other people. I have a lovely balcony that I just love.

o Old Man and Wife are getting old. He wanted me to go fetch his cigarettes because he didn’t feel like going (an errand I had always wanted to run but a privilege that was truly forbidden). She has become more tolerant of who I am not.

o I have lots more to read, write, watch and manage at work and off it.

o I have begun to like my own company. Soaking on the futon, reading on the bean bag, dancing by myself to Gulzar’s poetry and staring into space. And I am happy about it.

o And yet….strangely I have this nagging feeling to be someone else….somewhere else….. a freaking feeling like a tire around the waist that refuses to go…


So with all this and more I pack my bags for Deewali…. Destination Goa.

Banjar hein sab banjar hein
Dhoondne jab hum phirdaus chale
Teri khoj talas me dekh piya
Hum kitne kane kos chale


( Song from movie Saathiya)



.

Tuesday, October 10

Review of Dor


How far would you go to save someone you love?

Well… you have Nagesh Kukoonor’s Dor trying to find an answer, in a two hour celluloid journey of Zeenat that leads her to the parched life of child widow Meera.

Cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee creates a breathtaking kaleidoscope as Nagesh takes us through the lives of two women on opposite sides of the same world. The splendour of Himachal and the charisma of Rajasthan are captured with equal precision to create a virginal background that this story deserves.

So why is Dor such a sought after movie?

Because it’s a rather fresh story that serves human emotion with the garnish of women empowerment. It is backed by good direction for an audience that flocks to multiplex in search of feel good cinema.

However what Dor lacks is genuineness, despite being a real story. The pain of a woman whose husband faces the goal escapes the audience, what remains on the screen is the nostalgia of a Himachal summer. In an effort to contain melodrama, Nagesh shies away from bringing out the best in Gul Panaag’s character. Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Anand dealt with a somewhat similar theme, two men, one facing death, the other cynical with life, whose trauma filled the screen and gnawed at the heart. Anand taught us long back how to emote on screen effectively without overdoing it. Dor fails at striking this chord.

Gul Panaag’s character therefore is a held back, fab India woman, with steely looks, restrained smiles and measured tones. On the other hand is Ayesha Takia, who graduates with aplomb from a sweet as sugar bride, her life gyrating around monthly mobile calls made to her husband to a child widow with haunted eyes. Her bursting into a “you are my sonia” after a week of losing her husband is beautifully etched. The extremely talented Shreyas Tapalde is an unnecessary add - on to the script yet a welcome cameo.

Dor’s music is haunting and accentutes the story, while "yeh hosla kaise jhuke" describes Zeenat’s resolve well while "Kesariya balaam" accentuates Meera’s plight well.

But this one is not from the independent filmaker Nagesh Kukoonor who gave us Hyderabad Blues & 3 Deewarein. Has the maverick given in to the lure of mainstream cinema. Hope not.


Wednesday, August 30

Finally tagged

The One has tagged me… so here I go.

I am thinking about...

The movie I wanted to make…

The conversation that didn’t happen…

And those thousand questions that hung in air….

I said...I have moved on…

I want to...get washed on the shores….

Soak in the rain….

Read a book….

I wish...I didn’t have to see the writing on the wall.

I hear...The sound of the unspoken….

I wonder...If I’ll ever be thin…..
I regret...The lonely toothbrush, the cold tea.

Also thrown away gift wrappers…

I am...Finding myself.

I dance...Badly and madly, also when I am drunk.

I sing...Loudly, very loudly. And very very badly

I cry...without tears.

I am not always...moody and sublime.I

make with my hand...scribbles of a life led

I write...When I am really low

Also when I am really drunk

I confuse...myself everytime I try sorting myself out

I need...to lose weight

I tag...

Nobody.

Monday, June 19

stillness

Early today morning
as i woke up to the languid slowness of a day
that promised to be half cloudy, half sunny.
The hushed lovemaking of the pigeons,
the noise of a broom sweeping a coarse floor,
the simmer of milk on the kitchen slab,
life around me.
And then all of a sudden
the idea of my death amused me.
a silent going away of 3 decades of life
stillness of hopes & desires
also sweat and grime
failings & hurt
also agony & pain
and after the last of me
is sprinkled from a copper urn
for an unholy union
in the holy river by shriveled,
trembling hands that belongs to a man
who was awaiting his own date with death

what will my roommate
friend of 7 years think
when she wakes up next morning
to see the slump in the adjoining bed
Of my resting back
Will she crease the untidy folds
Of memory stained sheets,
For another inhabitant?

What will the woman
Living in a small town
By the same holy river,
Do?
Shed lonely tears of despair.
Her life now free
Of years of waiting near the phone
And reading cryptic sms
Of strange well being.
Her desperate pain
Weep, for the hands that were
Never smeared by
Bride red mehndi
matched only by an old man’s
misery that he will drown
in the national news
loud, blaring, sensational reporters
bringing fresh
despair, agony, death
till his innards are numbed

And the brother
Who sells painted
Rainbows to little children
To meet the demands
Of his 9 to 6 existence
Would again rise to the occasion
A boy made man too quickly
Against his own wishes
He will shed lonely tears
In the dark
of a sweat soaked bedroom,
For a childhood mate
Who died unplanned
Like always

And a sister
Who wipes tears
Of those not as fortunate
To die young and missed
In a sea swept town
She would spawn hate
Spit venom, negate grief
And sob
Her whole body shaking in
Violent paroxysm

And he, who shared
a slice of me
Who could put his fingers
On every dark line
Under the tired eyes
And tell my day
Fatigue from anger
Anger from fatigue
He would fold parts of my memory
Squabbles & Longings
Joys & Smiles
Love & Fear
All in a white muslin cloth
And keep in his heart
Smug with Napthene balls

What happens when there is no I?
What happens to every bit of me
Labored through the years
Things. Thoughts. Opinions.
Do I live through others
Guest in their memories
In dark bedrooms,
Violent paroxysms
Muslin clothes.
Live through scraps of life
Doled by others.

Monday, June 5

The Orange Wall

The Orange Wall is a love story of our lives and times that could become statistics
The Orange Wall.
I saw the color of the sky change from black to a light blue. The pigeons started squabbling against a closed window. Like passengers negotiating with the reticent conductor to let them in an overcrowded bus.

An effort to find a home. To nestle. Love. Lay eggs. Live. Happily ever after.

I felt a bad churn in my stomach. One that happens from not eating in the night and lying awake till the black sky turns blue.

I had been like that now. Night after night I would remain awake, turning and twisting on an empty stomach, thinking of the times when we were together in the bed. When I would snooze on your arms and you would gently put me back on the pillow. “You smile when I do that,’ you once said. I felt beautiful. It was the way you said it.

I got up from the bed shrugging off your thoughts. Tried to get busy with morning chores. Pouring the bland tea into the mug. Picking up the newspaper in the morning.

The simple things.

We never discussed the bigger things. “The big thing” was lurking on the horizon. Like the unwanted plant on an old wall, that sprouts right in the middle of it and shakes it. Gradually. Brick by brick. Till the informidable wall loses to the insouciant plant. And collapses on a valiant morning.

We were scared of the big thing. The insouciant plant. The collapse.

So we stuck to the simple ones. And we let them define us.

Like I loved to watch you shave. You loved to watch me watch. You would strike an inane conversation while shaving or I would hang around for something inconsequential. I loved the sight of foam on your face, the smell of cologne that filled my nostrils. It was so fresh, so new, so you.

I looked on with fascination. You looked back with amusement. We would talk to each other through the mirror.

I made another attempt to shrug off these thoughts. I switched on the FM. It was a unique leveler to drown thoughts. I could absorb myself in the warm honey like voice of the RJ ignoring the hollow conversation.

FM music filled my ears – badly churned songs dished out by a warm honey like voice.

Music brought us closer.

I remembered the quaint little booze place we went to those days.

Your were surprised at my sense of lyrics. Almost like a new bride who hits upon her mother-in-law’s recipe book in the old attic and tries out one dish a day with meticulous precision, you brought out the half songs in my memory…

It became our routine. Booze, old monk with soda for you, vodka with tonic for me … and loads of music.

You would start with a romantic song…Pal Pal dil ke paas tum rahtee ho .You would look at me flirtatiously… and put your hand on your heart. Till I would move on to intense numbers: Tum Aaaye to aaya mujhe yaad…. Gali mein aaj chand nikla…I would throw a rather victorious glance at seeing you touched while the singer crooned the sublime Dhalta suraj dheere dheere dhalta hee jayega.

I loved the boy in you, the boy who would close his eyes, pucker his eyebrows, shake his head vigorously and sing. From Inside.

We would drink into the night till the flowing music got replaced by rude shutting of lights and pulling of tables. We would then look for you car in the parking lot... I would scream at you for being drunk... while I slurred and bumped into strange cars myself.

‘I don’t think we are working out.’ I would say. “We will work at it”. You would reply.

And it was in the open air restaurant, host to drunken diners swaying to soulful songs scribbled on soggy napkins, I found love. I knew this was real. This was it.

We moved in together. Against all odds. We build our nest like conspiring children who bunked school and went out on a small boat. Away from the laws of land.

The maid switched off the FM. I didn’t notice when she came into the house. I didn’t notice that she had kept the breakfast on the table. I didn’t notice that she was muttering at my lack of interest in the household.

All I knew I wanted you back. No….I wanted us back.

The us that made us different people, made you do things and made me do things.

You painted the living room walls orange, spruced it with yellow lights, built a small bar, and bought our kind of music. I made the morning tea, you made the upma breakfast. We did the laundry together.

In the evening we watched movies or chatted like babies in our little flat at Mahim. In the nights our bodies sought each other for a midnight feral celebration.

We were no longer school kids on a misguided tour.

I was an in-the –face – rebel, a tourist of life while you were the system’s favorite maverick. One who pulls out tricks from his magic satchel, not to shock but to amuse. To make everyone around happy.

And all the while we were bonded by our own needs to shock and please in turn, to an imaginary audience till us happened.

What happened to that us?

If life was a sequential chain reaction consisting of points, I would be unable to explain which of the points were responsible.

Was it the day I spotted fatigue at the corner of your mouth when I screamed at you? Or was it your niceness, the need to keep everyone around you happy that made me want to smirk out loud.

Was it our claustrophobia with orange painted walls and love reeking laundry or a deep rooted primitive need to confirm to all that was standard…all that was in a template?

A chasm grew between us….deep, wide and fearful. At first we both ignored it, and stuck to the simple things. Later we acknowledged it to ourselves yet avoided any discussion with each other.

We were so scared to lose us that we made it our impaired child.

We are like strangers living under the same roof. I know you are getting dressed in the bed room getting irritated that I am being lazy around the house and you will be late again.

I am not going to work today. And since you would come to switch off the computer irritated at my carelessness…. I would want you to read this and understand that I don’t intend to do anything normal or routine till I get us back.

I want to make a new start. Will you give it another chance?

PS- The orange paint in the living room is coming off. We need another coat.

Thanks in advance.

US

Thursday, April 27

i wanted to blog today, write about the turns & twist ... my life is taking. or not taking.

about the 9 open Sales Manager positions that i had to fill and have not.

9 dreams. 1 peddlar. no takers.

went peddling all the way to ahmedabad yesterday.

the day was marked by microvaed breakfast , foresaken lunch, bad socialising, missed flights and peddling.

Thursday, April 20

Goa....breathtaking... last weekend.

still there.... sun soaking.

Monday, March 20

countryroads...take me home

I left the frenzied arrogant afternoons of my here - and - now and went home to what Erich Segal would say “retrieve my childhood tricycle". Yes, my childhood was littered all over the place. In half written old diaries and musty stacks of India today dated 1990. A moth eaten cover, a clammy face of a half - man- half- boy in flames.

He was the manifestation of an axe through a nation's undivided psyche, a charred face that jolted me off my childhood. And threw my generation off guard.
A restless generation walked out to begin life rendering a quarter of homes in Bihar man less and in some cases womanless (is there a word like that?) but I was told to write a happy post by those who care.
I tried being happy as soon as the overly- delayed -yet- least- embarrassed Air India flight landed at childhood world. I smiled back when I paid 130 bucks to a rickety auto ride from Airport to Boring Road. Smiled indulgently when he stopped to fill gas and squabbled endlessly at the gas station.
I smiled through the rows of mushrooming coaching centers appended with the fungal growth of lodges that housed many a “the great middle class IIT dream".
I smiled through the smoke lit chowmein & egg roll carts.
I smiled through old man and wife's shrunk world, hung to badly churned TV news interrupted by the blip of battery that runs their idiot box. I smiled through the old man’s undeterred hope in the electrical – engineer - turned student - activist who rules the State. "Nitish is a clean guy", he said with unmingled enthusiasm, "things will change".

I smiled at the static contours of my neighborhood and their unbridled interest in my single status.

“And why did you not marry?” they asked matter-of –factly, several times that evening.

I smiled at this neighborhood kid who was writing his Board exams, the most negligent participant in whether -plus – two – or – college discussion in my Holi stained living room.
I smiled till I wanted to scream.

A loud screeching voice through the silence of night in a dark afraid forest that wakes the dead.

But I stifled the sound till it dissolved within.

And I could smile one last time as the train pulled off from childhood tracks to a world where I had unfinished business.

Sunday, February 12

29 lives

Last night I sat basking in the yellow red patch of my living room it struck me. I had lived my 29th year.


Twenty eight of them. passed by. like a train chugging on the tracks through a sluggish town.

When I was 19 I couldn’t imagine being 29. I thought it will not happen to me. somehowI would escape the clawing talons of age. of receed. of decay.

Somehow I would turn the clock backwards.

At 19, I looked at all 29s who weren’t rock stars, actors , or public figures as people who had missed the mythical bus to El Dorado.

At 21, I was scared of missing it myself.

I freelanced for Times those days after college. I read up Graham Greene and Michael Odjante at the British Library. I taught street kids on weekends in a not -ambitious -and -not- bothered- NGO in Patna. I savored Golgappas at the Boring Road Crossing once in a while. Yet there was a sinking feeling that guys around were taking a mythical bus to El dorado. And I did not have tickets.

And I walked out on home. On a taken- for- granted- life. On care.

Even at 24, when I entered the precincts of adult world with lot of Organisational Behavior models stuck in my head, being 29 something was a reality for the lesser celebrated mortals.

And then the 29th year slithered its way into my life. Without intimation. Much less a warning.

Last Sunday when the clock struck 12 and when loved ones popped the proverbial champagne I felt 29th year permeated my yellow red living room.


I saw it sitting in my favorite alcove, reading my copy of “100 years of solitude”.
I saw it sipping champagne, smiling victoriously at my don quixotic “it-will-not-happen- to me- thoughts.
I saw it in my giggles that give in to my restrained smiles.
I saw it in my held – back self when a loved one hugged me.
It stood there between a world – that- was- to- be and a world- that - became.
It stood there as though it was always there, like the first form of life that walked the earth centuries ago.


And yet I survived the ogre.


I had fought back the ogre of recede, the demagogue of decay.

It could read my book, sip my wine, infringe on my space but it could not do some things.

It could not stop me from loving.

I can still love.
Life. People. Colors. Stories. Acts of courage. My country. Parts of my HR job.
I can still feel something stirring inside me when Rekha surrenders to Amitabh saying “Teri bahoon mein hein janaam jismo jaan peghaal ke”
I can croon bad poetry into vodka laden nights with drunk eyes and still trust to be dropped back home safely. Also without any complaint.
I can still cry when I watch the movie “Daddy”
I can still chat to this class mate from school and laugh about who we have become and who we have not.
I can still feel excited about wasting a Sunday on buying silver jewelry which I would in all likelihood never wear.
I can still write pages and pages of script for a documentary I do not have time to make.
I can still write chapters of my book that I want the world to read some day.
I can still love madly.
And now I wait eagerly to be 40. The countdown has begun.

Thursday, January 19

a life waits

Between us a life waits
to be lived
waking up lazily to
waiting tea turned cold
the deceit of togetherness
in an already worn T shirt
hot running water
dripping with anticipation
a tired remote coping
with squabbling channels
yawning chandler with
sideways glances
waiting to end
those thousand whispers
to start a morning
with a folded newspaper
lying on the floor
spurned off. unread.
rushed baths.
overworked morning cream
moisturising a dull day
frenzied arrogant afternoons
of meaningless games
vodka with tonic laden evenings
rented happiness of few hours
foil packed dinners of
conceited independence
elusive slumber
through bad radio music
and a life waits on hold
between us
to be lived

Wednesday, January 11

a new year

The sand in the proverbial hour- glass announced the going away. Decided to celebrate the going away like any one else. Mostly.

Loud Music. Booze. Bad dancing. Mad friends. Revelry.

But just before the clock struck 12 and the world at INS Hamla waited to wade into the New Year by the high tide I was thrown into my default state.

Alone.

I saw the year 2005 dissolving into a new year as fireworks exploded in the halogen soaked night at the Aksa beach.

I saw my own inhibitions dissolving into the smoke.The vodka mingled in my hopeful veins as I clapped with strangers to usher 2006.

I took the tipsiest walk of my life all alone by the sea, with cold sand under my feet and the breeze that told me dark sea secrets.

Aksa beach swayed to Kajra re Kajra re while I dug my heel in the sand.

I made a small sand hill with a little boy whose name I couldn’t recall. Maybe I didn’t ask.

It was strange; I tiptoed to where he was sitting alone trying to build a house. Together we first heaped sand and smoothened it. We started digging from the two ends of the smooth hill till our hands met.

In the mid night madness I shook hands under a sandy hill with a child whose name I didn’t ask.

And I got on with my walk. Alone. Till friends tired of looking for me caught up for niceties.

Another strange year in my life slipped away. Unceremoniously.

2005 was like the tepid tea on a bland morning.

Yet there were some things that stuck on through out the blandness.

Old Man and wife

Their world hung around news from children who announced their independence rather hurriedly.

Bunty

Whose childhood had exploded into an adult world. Just like mine. Without a warning.

Loneliness

I was lonely. All through 2005.

lonely in a crowd, drunk and dancing badly with mad friends.

lonely when I was part of something that felt beautiful. Lonely also when it turned ugly.

Reading and writing

They lay claim to my here and now.

Read some good people last year and wrote some bad stuff last year.

Mostly wrote on borrowed time. During sleepless nights or early mornings or delayed flights or on the way to office in a yellow black cubicle.

Friends

They were there. In my loneliness and in my revelry.

Homelessness and Drift

Happens to all of us. All the time.

Heartbreaks

Yeah, that too.

Things I would do again

Getting drenched in the rain, worse wading through knee deep water to home

Getting drunk and losing myself on the sea beach

Dancing badly and madly

Writing another story, and the much awaited book

Reading

Falling in love


Things I would not want again

Trips to my physiotherapist for the bad back

Shutting down pubs at 1 pm

Working on weekends

Traffic jams

Laloo & Rabri in Bihar

Early morning flights & the micro waved breakfast

Salad lunches

Bad bollywood movies (hah, tall ask!)

I would drink to the New Year. And to that smile I lived for, for a while, the sunshine that streams through life’s window on an occasional morning, the squabbling of the pigeons in my kitchen and yes for Life.

It works.

Sunday, January 1

the chasm

I woke up to the smell of cooking oil; I knew Maa was making Parathas. The kitchen and the passage were filled with nostalgic of the cooking oil.

The pigeons in the kitchen, witness to my toasted mornings watched Maa in surprise, rolling out the dough with one hand and turning the paratha to a crispy brown on the simmering tawa. For the morning intruders in my kitchen the tawa spectacle was an unusual one.

The brown fluffy triangular shaped paratha, cooked in postman was an unadulterated smell of childhood. The oil smudged fluff felt heavy now, stuck somewhere in the throat, like a lump.

Lump of time lost. Lump of innocence relinquished. Lump of betrayed love.

Maa and I finished the parathas in uncomfortable silence.

She groped for words.

It was strange. Words flew out of her like oil. With measured viscosity.

Yet she groped for words.

It is difficult to find the right words to say things to a part of yourself.

A part of you that you fed and nourished, a part of you that you grew like the rest of you, but a part of you that grew away. Never to return.

Like your own hand that slaps you in public. or an invisible head that laughs with an ugly noise when the other head mourns the loss of a part of you.

I saw her picking up the plates and take them to the washbasin wordlessly.

She let silence flow between us.

A silent chasm of 7 years. Where a part of her packed a suitcase on a cold evening to find her own way.

A part of her that sounded distant and preoccupied through those metered public booth phone calls.

A part of her that came home for an occasional weekend home with a wall around her.

A part of her that shrunk to sms messages of well being.

A part of her that was determined to fight her own battles. Alone. A part of her that did not want to share.At any cost.

I looked at her bent over the wash basin soaking the plates in a studied motion. I saw the dark circles. I knew they held the dark secret of a life led.

A consistent dark truth.

I knew if I looked hard enough the dark circles would talk to me. Through the silence.

I would fill the chasm between us.

They would tell me all about the forsaken dinners, reread messages, life hung on phone calls, old albums ,polished old medals.

A part of me felt nauseated. Of the expectations that a life hung on a phone call put on my whirlwind existence.

A part of me wanted to look hard enough at the dark circles that would talk to me. Through the silence.

I would fill the chasm between us. Yet I withdrew in my own carefully crafted indifferent world.

It is difficult to find the right words to say things to a part of yourself.