Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I feel the change this year too. Something is happening. The loss has already made an appearance. Now I am waiting for the wheel to turn upwards. The winter months won't let me down. I just know it. And when the transition sets in I will be ready to head towards a new direction... yet again.
I am waiting at the threshold with open arms, ready to embrace whatever it is that life brings to me.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Now, time is of crucial importance if you have chosen to travel by this particular mode of transportation. You must have enough time on your hands. If you are in a hurry to reach somewhere, trams are not a good idea. You could reach there faster by walking. Also a virtue which will be immensely useful on this journey is patience! The tram could unexpectedly come to a halt due to a variety of reasons - a cow choosing the particular tram line to rest for a while and get philosophical about life or even a power cut at the place supplying the electricity for the tram.
To make your travel a little more comfortable, you may opt for the first class compartment. The ticket, I believe, costs one rupee more than that for the other compartment. However, you will be able to enjoy the luxury of huge fans overhead if you invest that additional rupee. Now just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I have always enjoyed observing people and creating stories in my head about their lives. A tram ride is one of the best ways to observe a sea of humanity. You will meet the harried office goer, who will lunge for an empty seat like his life depended on it. If you choose to eavesdrop then the conversation he carries on with his colleague will probably be about politics, football or if he is especially disgruntled then about his boss. It may be advisable to take a seat as far away from this gentleman as possible because there would be high probability of him suffering from a chronic case of body odour. It is actually not his fault. Blame it on the high humidity which is a part and parcel of Kolkata climate and his complete lack of awareness about the existence of deodourants.
Another interesting character would be the chatterbox lady in a gaudy synthetic saree, distributing free gyan to her companion. The words of wisdom could be about ways to deal with a scheming mother-in-law, heavy discounts being offered on 'poran jaye joliya' sarees, high price of vegetables or even the last episode of some saas bahu serial on Star Jalsa or Etv Bangla.
One interesting observation I made was that the crowd in trams seems to be infinitely more civilised than that traveling by public buses. It could, of course, be a figment of my imagination,since I have not travelled by bus in over ten years now. However, most men seemed to be 'bhodroloks' who didnt indulge in popular activities like pushing and shoving and of course blatantly staring at interesting anatomy of their female co-passengers.
The tram conductor seemed to be a rare specimen left behind from pre-historic age. He was middle aged, dressed in a 'clean' uniform, wore spectacles, looked extremely decent and was POLITE and HELPFUL. What a combination! Now, the speed of the tram (or the lack of it actually), probably makes it a transport of choice for the elderly. An old man who was almost blind and had an incoherent speech got up at a particular stop. He could not explain the right destination and as a result missed his stop. The conductor and another gentleman did their best to decipher the place he wanted to go to and realising he had missed getting off at the right stop, helped him get off and took pains to give him proper directions. The tram meanwhile was halted for some extra minutes while this discussion was taking place. And not a single person protested about this delay. One of those things which makes me so proud about being a bangali in kolkata :-)
Next was the candy man. Old man with a jhola filled with a variety of desi candies of all flavours and colours - lemon, tamarind, orange, mango and even pineapple. Old age and candy - two of my major weaknesses. What could I do except buy a bunch of those sweet things from that sweet old man? The way those colourful lozenges filled my cupped palms transported me back to my childhood for a moment. It is just one of those split second feeling which I call my 'aha' moments.
Something about traveling without a destination and with plenty time to observe life around you makes you a little more open as a person. So when I finally got off the tram, I would like to believe that I was a little less introvert than I usually am. Proof? If you know me then you would know I can never ever start off a conversation with a total stranger. But right after we (hubby and me) stepped off the tram and were crossing the road, he ran into a sergeant (police) on duty, who he knew through a common friend. Bikes were the topic of discussion. Strangely, I joined in the conversation - discussing Royal Enfields and Yezdis from a 'bored to death because of bikes' wife's point of view. So there we were, a strange sight for many, a couple happily chatting with a formidable looking policeman on a very busy road of Kolkata.
My spurt of sudden extrovertism didnt end just with that encounter. Next we took an auto. A 'shared' auto - yet another mode of transport which I had completely forgotten about. In Kolkata when you are travelling by auto, be prepared to share the space with strangers. The auto driver usually takes on atleast 5 passengers at a time. Three at the back and two sitting or rather hanging out beside the driver! So there we were travelling with total strangers moving towards a common destination. I sat next to a lady with a child of about 8 years of age, on her lap. The kid threw out a piece of paper on the road and guess what - the mother actually scolded her. She then went on to tell her daughter about civic sense and responsibility about keeping the city clean. I was so impressed that I did it again! Started talking to a stranger. Congratulated her about instilling the right values and discussed about the lack of civic sense in most people, dirty metro stations, blah blah blah, till she got off at her stop and happily waved goodbye. My husband meanwhile was staring at me open mouthed! His expression said 'wtf %%&&^&^*&^'
My adventure ended with yet another auto ride home. On the way I stopped to chat with the flower seller :-) and bought all time favourite rajnigandhas (though they always remind me of funerals or solemn prayer meetings). Overall a great day filled with a stroll down College Street and peeking into every possible book stall, stop over at Paramount Sharbat (in existence since 1918, this place sells only sharbats. Must try - dab sharbat - sweet coconut water with loads of ice and a generous helping of soft coconut pulp/kernel) and gorging on yummy chicken sandwiches and mutton cutlets at the famous Coffee House (never ever try coffee at this place and it hasnt allowed the cola giants to enter its sanctuary so water is the only safe bet).
Shhh...dont tell it to anybody but I think I might be falling in love with Kolkata once again!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
My English teacher, who taught me in school, died yesterday. Mrs. Mukherjee. She was not that old so it was natural for many of us to be shocked by this news till we heard she had been battling cancer. She lost the fight. Yes, I was sad when I heard the news and almost decided to attend her prayer service being held in St.James' church today. Then some long forgotten incidents suddenly came to mind.
- Mrs. Mukherjee seemed to tower over us, both due to her height and personality. She constantly chewed paan and as a result had prominent bright red teeth - providing enough material for creative visualisation of imaginative students. One day after receiving a scolding for talking non stop in class (what else did you expect from me?), my friends and I drew a symbolic representation of her on the classroom wall. The face on the wall was of a errr...hmmm...devil with horns and two teeth sticking out from the corner of the mouth. We ensured that the drawing was barely big enough to be visible to us sitting on chairs right next to the wall. Each day before her class, one of us would add a little length to those teeth. It was our private joke ... or so we thought...until one day she asked us 'why does that devil on the wall have perpetually growing teeth?' We realised that besides large red teeth she also had exceptionally good eyesight and a sense of humour beneath that stern exterior. Needless to say, the teeth stopped extending from that day onwards.
- I was never interested in memorising stuff. I figured if I loved something enough I would remember it and if I didnt it was not worth remembering anyways. I realise this philosophy is not helpful in case of subjects like history or geography and in case of Mrs. Mukherjee, in answering refernce to context questions. I had seen classmates write flowery essays in english, bengali and hindi with a fair sprinkling of quotes from famous authors/poets. It reflected their immense knowledge. I reflected my ignorance by making up my own quotes instead. Anything suitable to context was put within quotes with a tag saying 'as a great poet/author has said'. I took care never to mention which great poet or author had said those famous lines and hoped my teachers would never discover that the great poet was me. It worked fine till I had to answer questions set by Mrs.Mukherjee with reference to Shakespearean plays which we had to study. One day she read out my answers to the entire class while I stood there praying for the bell to ring. That was the day she officially renamed me 'Ranjini William Shakespeare'. I was embarrassed but I also realised that she had seen the humour even in this circumstance and in her way had appreciated the creativity even if I did mess up my answers. Yes, she made fun of me in front of the entire class but there was nothing derogatory or insulting about the way she did it. I could laugh with her and my classmates even if the joke was on me.
- Mrs.Mukherjee forced me to enter the elocution contest. She even found the perfect poem which I would recite and then coached me for the contest. The poem was 'Cinderella' by Roald Dahl. She was so thrilled with her coaching and my recital that she kept making me repeat the poem for her whenever I bumped into her anywhere in school besides our regular practice sessions. I remember reciting in classrooms, library, playgrounds and assembly hall. And then it got worse. She started to get hold of other teachers and made me recite for them as well while she stood there grinning proudly at me. After a while my mom found me reciting 'Cinderella' even in my sleep. It was then that I decided to put a stop to it. I was convinced I would puke if I was asked to recite 'Cinderella' one more time. Mustering enough courage I finally told her I didnt want to participate in the elocution contest due to 'stage fright'. She was surprised since I had always been an active participant in all cultural programmes. However I was determined. She was disappointed and had to find a very quick replacement to represent our class. I am just happy she never found out the real reason for me backing out.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
He watched as the others started to leave. The fire had settled comfortably into a steady rhythm and burned with a sizzle. He sat down next to her, in companionable silence. He always treasured these moments with her, when they could sit side by side and not say a word. Out of habit, he reached out for her hand, anticipating the comfort of interlocking fingers. Tonight, she didnt respond. His fingers gripped cold air and startled, he quickly withdrew his hand.
He had prided himself on being a no-nonsense, no-emotion kind of man. A man of few words, he believed his actions were sufficient to convey his minimal emotions whenever required. And she had understood. He remembered her eyes widen in surprise when he had once confessed how much he needed her in his life. The look on her face had been worth letting down his guard, even if for a few moments. He now wished he had done it more often.
Memories are dangerous. Simultaneously created with every moment that you are alive, they hide in the dark recesses of your mind. And rise to the surface when you are least expecting them, taking you by surprise and often leaving behind intense pain in its wake. She was doing that to him now. Coming alive in his mind as a laughter, a pout, a glance or a kiss. He shook his head in an effort to clear the images but she just wouldnt let him be. The wind joined in, laughing at his misery, as it ran through the trees.
The fire was starting to die. It would be morning soon. He knew he should leave but he was not ready to let go of her, not just yet. He was so lost in his thoughts that he had failed to see the two men sitting in the shadows, their backs turned to him. Perhaps they were respecting the privacy of his moments with her. So he was surprised when a dirty hand offered him a cup of steaming hot tea. He looked up to see a dark man in a tattered shawl and dhoti, extending the earthern cup to him. He was shocked to note the lack of warm clothing on this man. Noting his questioning look, the man nodded towards the area surrounding them and quietly said, 'these fires keep us warm.' Handing him the cup, the man walked back into the shadows.
Holding the hot cup in his hands he realised he had not smoked ever since he had come here. The aroma of tea had triggered the latent nicotine urge and he reached into his pocket for his pack. He welcomed this opportunity to share a smoke with her, smiling at the memory of how they planned to quit smoking each time they lit up a cigarette. The fire was now just a warm glow but enough to light up the last stick he would share with her.
The sky was waking up as the still hidden winter sun coloured it with a misty hue. He rose and dusted his trousers and pulled his jacket tighter around himself. He then did something which was so unlike him and so much like her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his clean, neatly folded white kerchief and spread it open on his palm. He bend down and with his free hand, scooped up a fistful of ash. Gently, he placed that ash on the cloth and tied it into a tiny bundle and kept it in his pocket. Pushing his hands into his pockets, he turned and began the long walk to his car, parked just outside the iron gates. He did not glance back as he quickened his steps, not wanting to see what he was leaving behind. An empty earthern cup, a cigarette butt and her funeral pyre, now razed to the ground...
Monday, August 30, 2010
From the shadows
And taking control
Of your senses
Into your very being
Till everything else
Ceases to exist
And only IT remains
This mad, passionate obsession
At its peak
Just before it melts
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Lost and found
Whatever you send out
It comes around
A lost slipper
Went out to the sea
Another came back to me
Love faked from the start
A broken heart
Being there for a friend
A smile earned
The favour returned
A friendly hug
A warm smile
Amidst the rush
If you pause a while
Someone out there
Maybe needing you now
It will come back and how
He cut through the crowd and moved towards her. He felt an urgency which he could not understand. It was a need to reach her before she got lost again.
She stood rooted to the spot watching him make his way towards her. She hardly heard her name being called. It was only when her husband lightly took her hand that the ballroom came back to life. She turned to greet the couple being introduced to her by her husband.
He saw her turn to smile at the man who now had his hand possessively placed around her waist. He abruptly turned around and walked back.
She scanned the room once again and caught a glimpse of him walking out of the door, a beautiful woman by his side.
Two strangers, a chance meeting and a moment frozen forever in time.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
And strengthened its hold
On two unsuspecting victims
Something once beautiful
Had turned ugly with age
Something once strong
Failed the test of time
Perhaps it was wrong to begin with
And so people had said
Just an escape route
Now it was too late
The choices had been made
And destiny had claimed her victims
Two souls entwined in karmic bonds
If only they could have seen
What lay ahead
When they began their journey
Would they have chosen differently
Or would they have still taken a chance
Treading more carefully perhaps
Participants in an unfair duel
With destiny as their nemesis
Each choice we make
Has a lesson in it
And often the hardest lessons
Are the ones we remember
Long after the class is over
Each lifetime is such a classroom
So learn your lessons well
Monday, August 9, 2010
It was a beautiful, crispy morning and I woke up smiling at another new day!.....Okay I am lying. It was hot and humid and I woke up cranky. And it was not due to the fact that I had had less than two hours of sleep. I always wake up cranky. If its morning and if I have to wake up = I am cranky!!! And its not a new phenomenon. I have been like this since birth. In fact I was supposed to be born on a bright early morning in June (some year in the stone age). I refused. The aged doctor waited patiently, the fat ugly nurse waited patiently, the sweeper who was supposed to sweep the floor clean right after this eventful delivery waited patiently, my dad waited..err...nervously and my mom waited...ahem...not so patiently. But I refused to make a grand entry into this world because it was still MORNINGGGG.
I waited patiently, twiddling my tiny thumbs inside my mommy's tummy...waiting for the auspicious moment. And then at sharp 12 noon, when the cuckoo clock on the delivery room's wall sang coo coo coo coo coo coo coo coo ...choli ke pichey kya hai....choli ke pichey. Okay I am lying again. This melodious and meaningful devotional song was not invented till much later. But you should have guessed I am not being entirely truthful when I said cuckoo clock on the wall...I mean which delivery room has a cuckoo clock hanging on the wall...duh??? Don't you remember looking up at the clock to check your exact time of birth, hanging upside down being held by that hairy doctor who gave that resounding thwackkk on your baby bottom when you were born? Do you remember seeing any cuckoo clock on that wall? What's wrong with your memory? So the gist of this post is that there are no cuckoo clocks on hospital walls...delivery rooms or otherwise. No...something doesnt read right here...hmm...is this what I was talking about when I started this post?
Nooo I was talking about how I hate waking up on early mornings. When the sun goes up I want to go down on my bed, curl up and sleep. Dad, do we have Count Dracula hanging somewhere on a branch in our family tree? Anyways, so I hate mornings and I woke up at 6:30 am this morning, feeling as fresh as a daisy that has been lying on the grave of Mr. D'Souza for the last thirty years having been placed there by his only surviving relative ...his wife...who died of a stroke right after placing this daisy on his grave. By a strange quirk of fate the cemetary closed down on the same day and has never been cleaned since that fateful day and no wind nor water has managed to remove that daisy lying on that particular grave since that day. Ohhhh spooky! Yup thats how fresh -as -that -daisy I felt when I woke up this morning.
Okay so far so good. Here I am ...not so awake...groggy...irritable and anyone who knows me would see a neon sign flashing over my head which would read "Stay Away...She Bites". Even my dogs stay away from me at this particular part of the day after I bit one of them when he playfully assumed I would be interested in playing tug of war right after waking up in the morning. Cheee that dreadful word again. Okay okay I know how to be concise. I woke up in the morning today. There...happy?
So I woke up and after lots of growling, tantrums, threats and coaxing, finally I was tempted to crawl out of bed when I was promised kachauri and jalebi for breakfast. What all a woman has to do papi pete ke liye...sigh! Cut to scene two...me all dressed up formally in purple t-shirt and deep blue jeans and favourite blue slippers with red, white and blue striped bag slung over my shoulders, red nail paint, purple headband with white polka dots and sunshades. No I am not going out to play colourman colourman with my six year old nephew. I am just colourblind. And my parents hid this secret from me till I had made it a regular habit of going out wearing pinks with oranges and purples with yellows and maroons with whatever. Only when Govinda (the famous actor...remember.... he taught the nation the hindi alphabets in a very user friendly manner while sliding up his lungi or pyajamas or whatever....singing aa eeeee uu oooo...and karishma aunty helped him in this educational campaign) became a style icon for the youth of India, was I told by my parents and polite friends that I had been unwittingly wearing 'his' kind of colour combinations all these years. Life sucks! Okay so where was I? Just a minute...are you still reading this? Whyyyyy? You really dont have anything better to do? What..you dont? Okay then stay with me and find out what I did with the rest of my day. It's a long long story. So far I have tried to be direct and to the point and concise but bear with me if I tend to get a little carried away from now on....it was such an interesting day after all.
So I walked out of the door thinking about those jalebis and humming a tune to myself. By the way, my friends have noted that I always 'hum'. If I am sad or happy or worried or depressed or scared or nervous or ecstatic or in any state of mind....my way to deal with it is to 'hum'...off tune ofcourse. Besides being colour blind I am also tone deaf. Some of my close buddies from work had lovingly named me the 'psychotic hummer' because they said my 'humming quietly while sitting at my desk pretending to work' scared them as it gave a feel like I was enacting a scene straight out of the hitchcock movie 'psycho'...(visualise scene: psychotic serial killer posing as a copywriter at an ad agency, sits quietly at her desk. She hums to herself while cutting out and pasting the snaps of her next vicims on her murder list. Topping the list is her creative director who stole numerous ideas off her during brainstorming sessions. A close second is her art director who argued he would not reduce the size of the stupid font on the layout and dared to suggest that she should change her earth shattering award winning headline instead!) So, friends, romans, countrymen and also women...if you ever have the misfortune of meeting me personally and then if you ever hear me humming during any part of our intellectually stimulating conversation .... run, dont walk, towards the nearest exit point. Just a friendly warning! And if you dont read this post till the very end now that you have come so far, you just might instigate me to start humming and cutting out your snaps (which I shall somehow locate in this cyberworld) and pasting it on my list. So where was I?
Okay, so I leave home in search of jalebis and hubby drives me to six bloody sweet shops who have just raised the shutter and are not selling jalebis! Did I mention life sucks? But not always because the seventh shop has ja-le-bees!!! We discover jalebis and I yell 'Bhatindaaaa". What? Did you expect a 'eureka'? Nooo that has been the copyrighted 'yell' word of Eureka Forbes for years ever since they created their company's first vaccum cleaner which sucked! Aw c'mon I am not criticising their product...a vaccum cleaner which sucks is doing its job well, right? Anyways, jalebis discovered, bought, alongwith other health food items like samosas and thumsup and off we go to our actual destination...my aunt's place.
Now if you are wondering why I went through all this trouble to drop in at my aunt's place so early in the morning...you are normal...you should be wondering. Well the details are as follows:
1. My aunt is a designer
2. Sarees are her forte
3. She needs to make a catalogue of her designs and also needs to listen to and follow common sense suggestions like publicising her work through websites, magazines, blah blah blah
4. So far she has done nothing except exhibitions and word of mouth publicity. Hell, we are related you know and in some cases she is as lazy and laid back as me. Blood ties I tell you!
5. Newsflash: She finally agreed to get a photo shoot done
Today was Day One of this fashion photo shoot. And me, with my Govinda inspired dressing sense, colourblindness and all, was helping her out with creative suggestions. Do you need help climbing back onto the chair? I noticed you fell off laughing. You are not very polite are you? But I am, so I will help you climb back on that chair and then I will firmly tie you in place for your own safety. So, where was I?
Yes, there we were at my aunt's place. Sarees here and sarees there sarees sarees everywhere! What, you have heard this rhyming line somewhere before? Well, how innovative do you expect me to be at 4 am in the morning? Just wait till I get an opportunity to shake you awake when you are snoring at 4 am someday. I will ask you...chal ab original poem likhkey batah....Thennnn you will understand. Hey, its 4 already? You mean its gonna be daylight soon? Oh no...my pet vampire bats (Dad, did you locate that family tie to the Count or not?) are already getting anxious searching for dark corners to hide and Pedro my pet owl is impatiently staring at his watch wondering when he can retire for the day. So I will have to be even more concise and end this post soon. Time is running out...tick tock tick tock tick tock....tak tak tuk tak tuk tuk...(sorry, it got bored running out in the same style since it was born and decided to run out to a different rhythm today). So, where was I?
Oh ya I need to end this post now...I am starting to feel sleepy and hungry. So will just give you the bullet points about the rest of the day:
The shoot went exceptionally well even though the daylight was already starting to fade out when we bums realised we should get some nice outdoor shots. What? You were expecting bullet points to be in bullets? Life sucks you know. Okay so the shoot was superb. The sarees were simply beautiful. Breakfast was good. The lunch was even better....authentic bengali preparation of finger lickin good mutton curry and rice. I also noticed there were some other UFOs on the table which I didnt try (for the dimwitted: UFO = Unidentified Fried Object. Dont even think about trying this category of food at my aunt's place...she thinks of innovative ways to feed dangerous stuff like karela to my cousin and me).
Some crucial life changing lessons which I learnt and observed at the fashion shoot today and will remember for the rest of my life till tomorrow:
1. My aunt is a very very talented designer in spite of being my aunt
2. My hubby does know a thing or two about fashion photography as well. Nah, he's pretty good in spite of being my husband
3. My sister (cousin) is really good looking (she modelled for the shoot ...willingly)
4. My brother (cousin) is really good looking (he modelled for the shoot....hmm.... not so willingly. Damn where did I keep that gun I was holding against his head?)
5. My brother's girlfriend is really good looking (she modelled for the shoot...willingly)
6. My aunt is really good looking (she did not model for the shoot)
7.I belong to a family of good looking people who could have chosen modelling as a profession. Damnit damnit damnit...life sucks! I need to lose atleast 51 kgs to appear to be remotely related to these goodlooking aliens which I call family. I am depressed. I will go eat that last slice of plum cake right after I sign off from this blog.
8. I can plan out an alternative career as a highly paid creative consultant for glamorous fashion shoots. Or alternatively I could be the 'spot boy' for a production unit conducting such a shoot. I can fetch water you know.
All in all, a highly productive and creatively satisfying fun day. Will post some pirated pics from the shoot in my next post, if I can learn how to remove watermarks from copyright wala images. And then I will tell you all about...oh nooooooo....did I just hear caw caw caw...the crowssssss...subah ho gayi mamu.....nahinnnnnnnnn.......
Friday, July 16, 2010
She: How do you like this one?
He: It's nice
She: Just 'nice'?
He: No actually it's really good
She: Then why did you say 'nice'?
He: I meant it as 'good'
She: So you don't mean what you say and don't say what you mean
He: I do. I just...this is really good
She: Do you love me?
She: Do you love me?
He: Of course
She: How do I know you mean it?
He: Because I am saying it
She: But you said 'nice' when you meant 'good'
He: I was just confused. I am sorry. But I meant it was 'good'
She: Really? Do you think it suits me?
He: Yes. Take it.
She: But I want something in pink
He: This is pink
She: This is peach
He: Peach is not a fruit anymore?
She: (Rolling her eyes!) Do you like this or not?
He: Yes I do. Take it
She: You are just saying that coz you are tired
He: No I am not, this is really nice
She: Really? But the length's not right
He: Then don't take it
She: See I told you - you actually did not like it
He: But I did!
She: Even if it's not the right length? You don't care about how I look
He: Baby, you look good in everything.
She: You are just saying it because you don't want to help me choose
He: I mean it. Ok try something else
She: But this one's so pretty
He: Ok. Take it and adjust the length
She: Why should I buy something if I have to adjust it?
He: Then try something else in pink
She: Ok. How do you like this?
He: Bu..bu..but this is yellow!
She: I love yellow. I'll take this!
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Impatiently he blares the horn
We rush to the car, my friends and me
Off on an unplanned trip to Jaipur.....yippeee
All of us wearing worn out nightsuits
If you think we are crazy...we care two hoots!!!
She watches it crawl across the floor
Right in between the bed and the door
She racks her brain and an idea pops
When it comes to innovation, at nothing she stops
Creepy crawly lizards simply give her the chills
So, to tempt it into slumber, my aunt feeds it homoepathy pills!!!
It's 1 o'clock at night
We are at a petrol pump to fill petrol and grab a bite
My friend points at trucks travelling to some unknown destination
And for some weird reason the vehicles become object of fascination
We follow them for hours into the dead of the night
And soon enough Rishikesh is in sight!!!
We are headed to a friend's brother's wedding and we'll also visit the Taj
Resplendent in sarees and suits - ahead we charge
The traffic on the highway takes its toll
We are in a celebration mode and life is on a roll
The car's turned around and we head back to the city
End up in South Delhi, eating crabs - a pair of dressed up dudes and damsels pretty
Three of us in a balcony stand
The silent night with shiny stars looks grand
We contemplate on virtues of silence and attraction of sound
Suddenly with a crazy gleam in her eyes she turns around
We rush to implement an idea to merge silence with sound
Dropped from the 5th floor, the crashhhhh is exhilarating, as the crystal glass touches ground!!!
He practices his guitar on the terrace, all night long
She teaches salsa steps on the road as we sing along
In a traffic jam he gets off the car and dances on the road
She talks to Ghatotkach the mouse when she's simply bored
She's an expert at signature fraud
At her GM's insistence she copied his mother's too - dear god!!!
He's out of town, the car's parked at home
The night beckons us - come out and roam
A desperate ice cream urge takes over and we head off to India Gate
It's as good as driving a stolen car, it just feels great
We're back soon enough and promise not to utter a word
If he should ask we'll just pretend - what? took your car for a drive - that's absurd!!!
Do you know me a little better now that you see some glimpses unfurled
These incidents and these people make my world
All of them unique in their mad mad way
Oh Lord let them always be the same I pray
A bunch of like minded people, all family and friends
Life is one big adventure that never ends!!!
Monday, May 31, 2010
My grandma was my anchor and in some ways, I was hers. I stayed in Delhi and she was in Kolkata. Our lives were entwined and connected through the mobile phone throughout the year except for my occasional visits to the city when I could be with her for a few days. She began to lose her power of hearing and her memory with age. Gradually our phone conversations sounded like this....
Dida (grandma): Kemon achish? (How are you?)
Me: Bhalo. Tumi kemon acho? (I am good. How are you?)
Dida: Kemon achishhhh? (How areeee you?)
Me: Bhalo achiiiiiiii. (I am goooood)
Dida: Shorir bhalo nei? (Are you not keeping well?) - As she could not properly hear my response, she got worried easily and assumed I might not be well. It would take few more minutes of convincing till she moved to the next question.
Dida: Kobey ashbi? (When will you come?)
Me: December e
Dida: Ashbi na? (You will not come?)
Me: Ashbo Didaaa....December mashey (I will come in December)
Dida: Kotodin dekhini...aye na ekbar (It's been so long since I have seen you, please come once)
Me: Ashbo toh sheeth kaaley (I will come in the winters)
Dida: Ekhon sheeth kothaye? (It's not cold now) - She might have just grasped one word in the conversation and made her assumptions.
Dida:Phone korish na keno amakey? (Why don't you call me?)
Me: Kalkei kotha holo toh Dida (We just spoke yesterday) - Due to her failing memory she would forget having spoken to me just a day or two earlier and would be sad about lack of communication from my side.
Dida: Phone korish na keno? Kobey ashbi? - And the entire conversation would start all over again.
My voice would rise with every sentence in an effort to make her hear better and at times my patience dipped. Also, since such conversations would usually take anything between 15 minutes to half an hour - I gradually started spacing my calls from everyday to once in 2-3 days. I would also ensure that I call her when I was in a relaxed mood and had plenty of time in hand. On days that were stressful or hectic - the calls were 'postponed'. At times these calls became source of amusement to the listeners around us and at times their patience was also tested. My scheduled visit to Kolkata also kept getting 'postponed' due to other factors which gained priority. It is not as if I did not want to meet her and spend some quality time with her - but it was just that other 'important' things kept coming in the way.
Finally I visited Kolkata. Met up with her almost everyday of my stay but could not manage to stay with her even for a few days since I was in the city for only two weeks and there was so much to do and so many people to meet. I returned to Delhi - happy that I had finally met her and spend some quality time with her. As soon as I was back the phone calls resumed:
Dida: Kobey ashbi? (When will you come?)
Me:Ashbo (I will come)
In that year, her health, memory and hearing deteriorated at an alarming rate. Soon she could not remember or recognise family members and had almost lost her sense of hearing. The phone calls ceased to matter to her. She was now living in the past where she did not need a phone to connect me to her - I was already firmly rooted in her past so she had me with her in her mind. I still called but she usually did not hear nor remember a word. I was relieved of my duty to make regular calls. I kept taking 'updates' about her from my mashi (aunty) who had been her primary caregiver. I desperately made plans to visit Kolkata once again to see her soon. This was last year. In december 2009 - my dida died. I relocated to Kolkata in February 2010. I was two months too late.
I have no clue why I am sharing this very personal experience in a very public forum except maybe because writing is the strongest form of catharsis for me and also perhaps to make an appeal:
If there is a friend whom you have not spoken to in a while and have been meaning to call - pick up the phone. Do it now.
If you have been meaning to take up a hobby but just have not found the time yet - Do it now.
If you have been meaning to say something to someone but the time just did not feel right - Do it now.
If you feel like chasing your dreams and turning your passion into profession but are not sure if it would be the right thing to do - atleast give it a try. Do it now.
Living life without regrets is the only way to live it. Maybe the behaviour or action will be considered impulsive or even wrong by everyone else but if it brings you happiness without hurting anybody - do it now. Following your heart every moment of your life is perhaps the biggest gift you can give to yourself. Maybe the logical thinkers will want to crucify me for even suggesting such a thing - they are entitled to their views - just like I am entitled to mine.
*As I see the rain pouring down and feel the cool breeze soothing my parched soul, I feel this strong urge to step out and take a walk in the rain. Everybody else around me is huddling under shelters - protecting themselves against this downpour. My mind shouts - you know you have a perpetual throat problem and getting drenched is not a good idea - I repeat 'Not' a good idea. My heart smiles and softly whispers - go ahead - Do it now. I ended up in bed - sore throat, severe cough, runny nose, constant headache, throat infection induced fever. Was the momentary insanity worth all this? U bet!!!! :-)
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
As she spoonfed him every morsel or wiped his mouth after every bite, she was careful to avoid any physical contact as far as possible. She specially avoided his eyes and his hands. The eyes which used to seek her out from every hiding place. The hands which then pulled her on his lap and then onto his bed to do unspeakable things. Oh yes, the hands which strangled her innocence to death on the night she turned eight.
She wondered what was wrong with her. Why was she helping this man live, when she had prayed for his death every single day in the last two decades? He had destroyed every emotion in her - love, trust, respect and left her only with hatred. She felt hatred with an intensity that was overwhelming and destroyed everything in its path. Over the years this hatred had become her only reason for survival. She had planned vengeance and was ready to extract her pound of flesh as soon as fate bestowed her a fair chance. Now she had that chance. Then why couldnt she bring herself to destroy her tormentor and satisfy her hatred once and for all? She then realised that perhaps he had won again. Just seeing him lie totally helpless on that bed had snatched even the hatred from her. He now left her with nothing.
As she turned to put away the glass of water from which he had just sipped a few drops, she heard a hoarse whisper. Startled she turned around. It was the first time he had spoken to her since she had returned to look after him. She strained to hear the words coming out of his twisted, saliva dripping mouth. She bent closer and closer.....and then she heard them...the words she had waited to hear for all these years. He was finally saying, 'I am sorry'
It all came back with a rush. Every emotion, long dead, surged through her heart. Pain, rage, grief, hatred and even a fleeting sensation of deep love which she had once felt for this man, filled her being. A deep sense of calm descended on her as she slowly came back to life. She brought her mouth close to his ear and uttered the words which finally destroyed him. She softly whispered, "I forgive you, Dad"
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Her two elder siblings lay on the naked floor, holding on desperately to the last remnants of sleep, before the day's struggle for livelihood began. Baba was already at work. He could not afford the leisure of staying in bed after sunrise, considering the number of mouths he had to feed. She was the latest addition.
In the background, she could hear the comforting sound of her mother's voice talking to her Dadi. But wait...Ma didnt sound her usual self. This was not the voice Ma used when she was singing her a lullaby or crooning while she suckled at her breast. This was different. Ma sounded really upset. She could feel the tears in her mother's voice and that turned her little world upside down. Not knowing how to comfort her mother, she began to wail loudly. If only Ma would come running and pick her up in her arms, her world would be secure once again.
She could hear her Dadi's voice raised in agitation. She did not like her Dadi at all. Nor her father for that matter. Her elder sisters were nice and played with her at times, but only when they came home at night. It was only Ma she loved with all her heart and could trust with her life. It was only her Ma who made her world a happy place. Every little wail or toothless gurgle was understood and her every little wish fulfilled - Ma fed her when hungry, patted her to sleep when cranky and even understood when she simply wanted to be held in her arms for that warm, fuzzy feeling of love and protection. So then why didnt she come running to her today when she wanted to comfort her Ma in her own way?
Ma was now sobbing while Dadi was trying to explain something to her. Oh how she wished she understood adult conversation! And where were her sisters going? Her sisters never left home before she had been given her second feed after waking up. It was still too early for them to leave the house wasnt it?
Finally, Ma came to her. She felt a wetness on her cheeks as Ma bent over her to comfort her. The wetness trickled into her tiny mouth. Salty...just like her own tears. She babbled desperately, "Don't worry Ma, it is alright. I am here. Just hug me tight and you will be fine." Her mother only cried harder.
She looked at her mother, her eyes filled with love and trust and reached out with both hands. But she didnt quite understand the look in her mother's eyes. Why were they saying 'sorry'? She was so engrossed in trying to decipher the look in Ma's eyes that she failed to see the pillow descending on her face, cutting off her air supply.
She thrashed her arms and feet in the air, mustering all the strength her little body would allow. It was a painfully short struggle. She was no match against the strong arms that held down the pillow. Life was snuffed out of her within moments......moments that would stretch into eternity for Ma.
"Now stop moping woman! We had to do this. How do you think my son would manage to feed another hungry mouth. Two girls already and you had to give birth to a third! Oh Lord, when will I get to see the face of a grandson who can support the family instead of being a burden? Now will you snap out of your zombie mode and help me bury this thing. It will start stinking soon enough. And why, may I ask, you had to look into her eyes even knowing yourself to be an emotional fool? In fact, why did you even have to be there, I could have handled it alone."
"To uphold that trust Ma," she finally spoke. "I wanted my daughter to die with trust in her eyes and not fear. And I am willing to be haunted by that look for the rest of my life....only for that momentary trust I saw in her eyes."
Friday, April 23, 2010
Lets go out
For a cup of tea
Lets talk it over
You and me
What went wrong
What went right
Why this estrangement
Without a fight
Two spoons of sugar
A dash of lime
Hot sweet tea
I'll listen to you
While I sip my tea
And rationalize every fear
Whatever they may be
I'll sort your scrambled thoughts
Just listen to me
Do away with confusion and once again
Go walk beneath the woodapple tree
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Belongs to you
All that is bad in you
Belongs to me
Oh can't you see
The problem lies with me
It lived it thrived
Because of you
It rots it dies
Because of me
Oh can't you see
The problem lies with me
Love, care, patience
Offered by you
Grief, hatred, disappointment
Offered by me
Oh can't you see
The problem lies with me
You tie I break
You give I take
You try I don't
I can but won't
Oh can't you see
The problem lies with me
But then its a reflection
Of me in you
And you in me
Jinxed from the start
Perhaps its destiny
Oh why can't you see
It was never meant to be
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Mesmerized I stare at the window and watch the blue lights. I suspect she keeps the television on only to keep her company - a physical object filling a deep void. She does not need the sounds of the outside world as they would only cut into her solitude. Perhaps it is his voice that she yearns to hear.
He does his duty. Visits her every evening in his big, black car. Gives her a glimpse of a life she desires but can never have. He stays for a few hours each day except on weekends. Maybe the weekends are reserved for his 'family' - maybe a wife and a child or two? She does not have a right over the weekends just like she cannot have his heart - not even for a night. But then she has the television!
It is strange that I notice her open window only at night. Maybe its the curtains or maybe its the blue flickering light or maybe her world comes alive only in the darkness. But we connect each night, she and I. The window inviting me into her world and yet keeping me out.
I hope to see her someday, standing at her window, looking down at me from the shadows. But till then I will stand beneath her window each night, in the darkness and wait for permission to enter her world. Till then, the open window will suffice...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Some things I love:
1. Blue - I mean the colour, in all shades. Blue sky, blue jeans, blue shoes (just bought two pairs last week), blue walls, blue blue blue so much so that I am even wearing blue nailpaint! Also, usually I am at my creative best when I am feeling blue :-)
2. Movies - specially watching them at a theatre munching popcorn (and I don't share!). I can also watch films in any language without subtitles only for the experience of watching it on the big screen. I love Shah Rukh Khan (ya ya ok don't roll your eyes at me) and I have watched each and every film he has acted (or overacted) in...some of which I am sure even he didnt bother to watch.
3.Rainy season - Have loved it since school days when we would get 'rainy day holiday' and we could eat our 'tiffin' in the school bus on our way back home. Love the sound of rain beating against the window panes and the sound of thunder and the sudden flashes of lightening when your dark world becomes super bright even if only for a second. Love the smell of wet earth, the puddles on the road and the khichdi and pakoras which any self respecting Bengali mom would rush to cook, the moment she hears the thunderclouds rumbling!
4.Winters - my absolute favourite season! And especially love the Delhi winters even if my nose turns red like Rudolf the reindeer and my fingers freeze over!!! Nothing beats the cozy feeling of being wrapped up in a blanket and holding a steaming cup of coffee in your hands while the temperature keeps dropping and dropping and dropping. In fact, I am convinced some intrinsic internal change happens within me each year between the months of November to February. I have consciously made an effort to note this strange phenomenon for the last couple of years. The four crucial months bring in a sense of rebellion and also a desperate need to break free. Some crucial life changing incidents happened to me during these months. It's like I evolve, step by step, each year during the winters. I have quit most of my jobs during these months and have also undertaken journeys for my soul to places like Haridwar and Rishikesh, again and again. One of my ex-bosses was forced to take me to Allahabad and Benaras to calm me down, when one fine day I just announced 'I quit'. It was during the early days of my career and it was in 'January'.
5.Books - specially fiction and especially if it is a thriller and there is some pathological serial killer on the loose and in the end the detective catches him/her and there is some psychological reason as to why s/he was such a nutcase! Also love reading about the occult/paranormal and am currently engrossed in reading 'Beyond the Occult' by Colin Wilson. I also love the smell of new books.
Other random things I love:
a.Staring at the wall/ceiling, waiting for it to change colour
b.Holding lengthy, meaningful conversations with my dogs/any other dog/infants who have not yet learned to speak
c.Eating ice cream in winters
d.Wearing black in summers
e.Singing in the shower
f.Experimental cooking (only my dad loves me enough and is brave enough to sample and appreciate everything and anything I try out)
g.Shopping at a medicine store
h.Walking from one end of the terrace to the other, all the while looking up at the sky (you should try it out sometime, it is as good as walking blindfolded)
i.Staring outside the window when its pitch dark outside
j.Collecting idols of Ganesha (yes the elephant God) in every shape and size
k.Eating milk powder with rice
l. Wearing purple
m.Talking to myself
n. Smell of petrol
o. Eating chocolate/sweets - usually - middle of the night!
p.Telling my grandma's photograph that I really really love her
Some things I hate:
2.Any complicated mathematical calculation (2+2 is also a complicated mathematical calculation as far as I am concerned)
5.Discussing any stuff related to me with my mom - we seem to have diametrically opposing viewpoints about everything in life. But we get on famously when we are talking about anything/anyone but me :-)
Ok now its nearly 2:30 am and I have this strong urge to eat something sweet. Signing off now...got to go raid the fridge!!!
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Its morning on the roads of Kolkata
Two angry men on the road
A verbal fight, heated exchange of abuses
Their cars haphazardly parked
Blocking the traffic
Amidst the sea of angry vehicles and sweaty people
Stuck in a man made traffic jam
An ambulance wails
Someone is fighting for life
Maybe the roads will clear up
Maybe the ambulance will make its way through the maze
Perhaps its only a matter of few extended moments
But will those moments force a choice
Of life or death for someone somewhere
Who knows and more importantly who cares?
Its late at night
People come in fancy cars
Its a posh locality after all
The brightly lit gas station does brisk business as usual
Somewhere in the corner
Drowned in darkness
Sits a beggar, considered insane by the sane world
A gaping wound on his head
Maggots feeding on his brain
Some see him but none really see him
Maybe the wound will claim his life
His soul is already taken
When and how
Who knows and more importantly who cares?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Frankly I am a little surprised!
Shouldn't it be the days that scare us?
Days during which you pretend to be someone else
Smiling through pain, carrying on polite conversations
When all you really want to do is scream.
How are you, he asks.
I am fine , you say.
How's the job going, she queries.
Simply great, you grin.
How are you feeling today, they want to know.
Just as happy as I was yesterday, you have the answer ready.
The day demands you conform to rules
Society has set them
Follow them if you want to be a part of the circus
Defy if you dare and be an outcast
If grief tears at your heart
If you feel your insides sliced by razors
'There, there...now stop crying' they will say
If anger threatens to take over your senses
Breathe easy and count upto 10 or maybe 1000
If you are happy, remember your manners and don't laugh too loud
On days that you feel its not worth climbing out of bed
Get ready and face the world for it is expected of you
On days that you feel too happy to be trapped
Concentrate and ensure you complete that task in hand
Oh yes, its the days that I am scared of!
When night falls
You can take off that mask
Stay in bed if you want to
Or roam at the risk of being called weird
Stare at the ceiling for all its worth
Or observe the empty roads while the world sleeps
The sudden noise of a lone car might shatter your illusion that you are alone
But once the noise subsides, you can go back to your imagination
And finally be at peace
Till sleep claims you
And drags you into the world of nightmares or dreams
Depending on where your mind chooses to wander, free at last!
It is no wonder that I chose to write this at 2:15 am
Headphones in place, camouflaging a make believe world with music
But tomorrow is another day
Maybe good maybe not so good, who knows?
But I am prepared
I have a secret hiding place
If it gets too much to bear, I will run away and hide
Crouch and lie low till the day passes
And night falls
Releasing me from the clutches of the real world
Then I will step out gingerly
Stretch and spread my wings
Happy to be free
Someday I hope my senses will wake up before my intellect does
And allow me to see the world without pretensions
But till that day, on most days I will hide
In that secret place inside my mind
And wait for the night!
Friday, March 19, 2010
It's been a month. But each night I go to bed wondering why do I feel like an outsider in my own city? I mean , I was born and brought up in this city for godsake! Attended school and college here. And then I left.
Now after a decade I have returned home ...armed with a bagful of memories. But reality has changed. I do not recognise this city or her people anymore. I look at her with the awe reserved only for outsiders. I see, I observe and I register...renewing acquaintance with my birthplace.
I have always been fascinated by people. One of my favourite pass time is to observe people and make intuitive guesses about them - what kind of a person is he/she, what kind of work do they do, how is their life, how are they feeling at that exact moment, what is their relationship with the person with whom they are chatting over a cup of coffee, etc etc etc. Until now this had been just a hobby. But ever since I have relocated to Calcutta, this has become a survival tool. I feel I have to understand the psyche of the city by getting to know her people. It's a desperate need to blend in, to belong once again. And for that I have to get a feel of the place by observing, talking and mingling with the faithful - those who never left.
But I have a confession to make. The separation of a decade has converted me - slowly but surely. Delhi has seeped into my cells and made a home in my heart. Delhi, with all its rudeness, its aggression, political highbrowness, indecent flaunting of exhorbitant wealth, is home. Delhi, with its maginificent wide roads, its historic monuments, its metropolitan culture and 'I-care-a -damn' attitude, is home. I now look at Calcutta with the eyes of a Delhiite and thus feel out of place. Some friends here comment that I am now a 'Dilliwali' - and though I would die before I admit it in front of them - I think that maybe the conversion has indeed happened. Like an authentic, spoiled 'NRB' (Non Resident Bengali equally snobbish and pseudo as the NRI) - I complain "Ufff the heat here is unbearable (conveniently forgetting the soaring temperature of a Delhi summer). People here sweat so much and they stink (As if north Indians have an in built fragrance generator to help them combat body odour). OMG what are these people wearing - didnt that go out of style like about 7 years back? (ya right - the Punjabi aunties in Delhi are the fashion icons of India). Everybody uses public transport here - and am I seriously expected to travel by a public bus - you must be outta your mind! In saddi Dilli everybody goes to the local market to buy vegetables in their spare family car (pollution, global warming, what?)" - Yes people - I am a Delhiite and proud to be one!
Now having said all of the above, I must also accept that I am not immune to Kolkata's charms. Waking up to the scents and sounds of the city is sheer bliss! Only here my mornings start with the rickshaw horn going 'pyan pyun' (cant spell it right), the sizzle of fish being released into hot oil in kadai (every bengali household has this utensil in various sizes) and yes, a baul or a minstrel (Mihir Pal - just had an early morning chat with him) singing devotional songs right under my bedroom window. Please note: for the princely sum of twenty rupees Mihir Pal obliged and sang requests too :-)
Among other things, Kolkata is also one of the cheapest metros in the country and you can easily stuff your face in any decent joint in the city and pay atleast half of what you would in Delhi. A foodaholic's paradise - the variety and flavours on offer here are simply unparalleled. You know you are a true Bong from Kolkata if you are intimately acquainted with these terms and it doesnt seem like I am talking gibberish: 'Chittoda's eshtew', 'Gol barir kosha mangsho', 'Paramount er shorbot', 'Anadi r moghlai', 'Ralli's er mixed chaat and kulfi', 'Oly pub er beef steak and world -famous- in- kolkata kashundi' etc etc etc. And words like Aliya,Rahmania, Shiraz, Arsalan are household names for you. I am sure any Bengali worth his fish can add atleast 50 more names to the list but I am restricted in my knowledge due to the handicap of a NRB status!
My vocabulary has also increased by leaps and bounds since my return to the city. Some words and expressions which I recently learned and re-learned include:
1. Enti r bari = Entire house/independent house (courtesy: brokers helping with our house hunt)
2. Bombay cutting er bari = House with a contemporary style, usually white in colour with border of a contrasting colour (courtesy: same as above)
3. Hostell = Horsetail aka Ponytail (courtesy: neighbourhood kakima/aunty)4. No poblem = No problem (this one was easy to comprehend wasnt it?)
5. Chanp achey = 'There's pressure' or 'this may be tough'
6. Mata (T pronounced as in tomato) = An idiot
7. Mairi bolchi = I swear I am telling the truth
8. Dhhop = A lie
9. Adda = Chatting with anybody about anything at any time of the day (also a national pass time for the average Bong)
10. Jol khabar = Snacks (supposedly light morning/evening snacks which may consist of puri & sabzi, kachauris, samosas/shingara etc.)
Please feel free to add to the list :-)
And last but not the least, Kolkata has ensured that I get reacquainted with Bangali kalture (culture) through the most common medium - Rabindra sangeet! So every Wednesday between 8:30 - 9:30 pm my hapless neighbours stuff cotton into their ears as I exercise my vocal chords under the guidance of my 'teacher' - a dear kakima (aunty) with the voice of an angel.
So far so good. But will I be able to live and work here and start my life afresh? I don't know. Will let you know as soon as I find out.
signing off for now. Goodnight.