Sunday, October 18, 2015
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
There are flashbacks in my head. I’m sitting at a bus stop outside Xaviers and waiting for 119 to get home. I’m with my friends outside Marine Plaza, sitting on the promenade, singing ‘leaving on a jet plane”. We aren’t singing well. But we don’t care. Not one of us.
We are a shameless bunch of people who have recently found eachother. We have things in common. I have company in unapologetically stuffing tissue paper and facial wipes from restaurants, cafes and on many occasions, the Taj.
My house (if I may call it that) was at a place I couldn’t ever afford in Bombay. It faced the sea in town. The hall had many windows and made for the best place for poets, lovers, writers and alcoholics. From the fourth floor apartment the glistening sea front kept me anonymously unaware of the perils of the shanty that was right at the fringe of the shore. Coming from a place I hadn’t been exposed to ‘bastis’ I would always be curious to peek inside those tiny huts to see what they did for entertainment. They had television sets. And radios. And washing machines even.
The college being in town, I got a chance to explore townside. Weekends at Mondys, Regal, strand, marine drive, nariman point, Apls, the cross tucked away on fashion street, mahalaxmi race course, ghettos, the clubs that are too unworthy to mention now, Kala ghoda, NCPA. I think I must have my cot behind the counter at VT Barista even, for the entire year I was in college. Then soon after student life ended and the fervor to work started brewing inside me, I took up a job at an agency that doesn’t even exist today. It was a run down, tiny advertising agency in lower parel. A good reason to hang out at phoenix mills. I was moving further from home. And slowly being prepared to make a tiny ant-hole of my own. I shifted to my favourite suburb-Bandra. At the time I shifted there, I didn’t give it its due share of importance. I mean how was I to know back then, that Bandra is where everyone who doesn’t live in town (south of Bombay), wants to be in. Or that there were rhyming jingles and jokes written about it. Or that the locals from there would give away their address at social dos with their nose pointed toward the glitzy chandeliers.
I was earning an embarrassing salary but didn’t relaise it until I went to give a bundle of clothes to the laundry outside the apartment. I mean after the house where everything from food to cleaning to cooking was taken care of by a domestic help, I didn’t imagine the real world outside the artsy sobo. Atleast not when I insisted over a telephonic conversation with mom that I want space and privacy and that I am moving out. The tiny place I lived in Mount Mary church steps was my first experience of living alone. I did it up with little pictures on the wall, with my belongings strewn all over the studio and with a borrowed stereo that played my music. It still never felt like my own place. It could never be the house I grew up in and I knew it never would come close. But what I didn’t know is that despite the house, ill start liking my life in it.
Soon I got a job in another agency back in town and started using the local train. While my new pad taught me how to avoid conversation with the land lady, the daily train commute taught me the importance of carrying a body spray handy at all times. I was finally learning what it means to have a breaking back pain while one retires to bed. And how well one can sleep thereafter.
I made more friends in my new workplace. Friends, who spent Christmas with me, took trips together and whose birthdays I was expected to remember. Never mind if there was no home-made meal waiting for me at home, there were friends to go out and grab a burger with. Soon I realized that my initial hesitation to go out and eat alone seemed juvenile to myself. And just like that, I figured out the neighbourhood and moved to another house in the same building. I liked it there. I liked my job, on most days.
I started liking the mucky monsoons in Bombay. Despite the toe infection it gave me, I would give the credit of my first anesthetic experience to the monsoons. After all, before the toe surgery and many visits to Holy family, I’d always managed to avoid hospitals like Osama did, the US army.
I liked how my neighbourhood would swell with joy during Christmas and how American express bakery was selling marzipans delicacies wrapped in packs of immense joy. And those four years there replaced the town side Barista and disposed me to Candies on every weekend. I loved the place I stayed in. Despite my building looking like a earth quake survivor or that it could be soon signed for a rehabilitation project by some big builder any day.
I moved my job and the moved my home. My new home was not so far from my old neighbourhood. And my new office looked swanky. I made new friends again and learnt new roads. I got stuck in traffic jams on Tulsi Pipe road during ganesh Chaturthi and I saw the serpentine line of people outside Lal bagh ka raja.
After so many years of living in a city that made me most aware of my losses and blessings, I can not summarize this love affair in a blogspot. I surely can’t do it in many either. But it will always be a place I made some close friends who I wish, accompany me on family holidays when we’re middle aged. It’s going to be where I had my best college life, outside of college and in it. Where I learnt professional conduct (or the fact that how unimportant it is in my life). And most importantly, found love. So Bombay, if you’re not too busy this weekend staying up making inebriated speeches to a pool of happy faces and going to a fancy hotel for pizza and coffee to sober yourself down, I am saying thank you. Did you hear me? You fishy city, I really treasure our wakeful nights together.
Friday, June 25, 2010
scraps from the hills.
Okay enough said, it’s time to divert the traffic of thoughts to this narrow lane in McLeodganj. Inside the honey brown ambience of café Oogo’s. The waitress just came by to collect the order I’d left on the table and happened to peer into my notepad. And, with a broad smile she said, “your handwriting is very beautiful”. Without a thought I replied, “Thankyou. So is your café.”
You see my point is that I’m really good at changing topics. See earlier we were talking about the golden theory and now just a few lines ago I brought up the waitress. And now, we’re discussing ‘topics’. By now I’ve thought of so many random things to diverge, that I can now look forward to my doctorate on this subject.
Fluorescent makes me happy. It’s got this distinct energy of colours that is easy to spread. And considering the choice of colours on the monasteries, this town seems to have that in abundance. Soon after being here, I realise that the Tibetan religion confuses me (like any other religion). Their god’s seem to contradict their emotions. On one side the Buddha sits high, with a striking contrast of frowning eyebrows, angry eyes and a repressed smile. What mood he really is in, is beyond us to decipher.
Inside the temple of the Dalai Lama this afternoon, I felt a mix of vibes. A particular goddess grabbed my attention as she stared angrily at innocent spectators, from her high throne. Adorned in a crown of silver skulls (people she may have devoured for dinner the night before) she gaped downward without a change in emotion. I slowly felt my optimism diminish. She wasn’t going to break into a warm smile and invite me over for tea or to share her assorted goodies (Pringles, Oreo cookies, juice and candied fruits) that her devotees had placed at her foot. I had to move on quickly as it can get a bit unnerving to be stared at by a ferocious woman, with multiple ferocious faces and angry eyes bulging from her socket.
From Dharamshala, we went to McLeodganj. It was almost as through the hills had been sliced to make way for a winding road that would allow for people to take complimentary joy-rides. The kinds that the biggest of fete cannot offer. Mainly because it’s not everyday that you hang on to dear life while the metal box that you are seated in, makes its way through narrow lanes that are just about as wide as an elephant’s backside. I’m pretty sure, Jumbo the circus hero would’ve reconsidered his trip to the hills and opted for a Hawaian holiday instead.
Anyhow, so as we went along, I was starting to realise that apart from the idea of a highway, even the idea of a traffic jam here, differs drastically. This realisation dawned up on me when I saw the bus conductor pleading a black mule that had blocked our way. Refusing to let us pass by, the mule was one arrogant donkey who was probably abandoned by his folks and was angry at that. After repeated honking and much commotion that it managed to cause effortlessly, it stepped on the edge. Finally, that swine will know what it’s like to be in that spot.
As the metal box speeds further with a potential to win an F1 race, I feel my stomach tighten and my head going dizzy. But a zephyr distracts me as it hits my face like a refreshing splash of clear water. It indicates a bent. A very steep bent.
Further ahead, there are a bunch of cows grazing at the side of what they call a ‘road’ here. They’re pretending to be serious like the traffic cops in the city. But as we can all see, they are just as idle.
They look back at me and I get a feeling that later at a cow’s tea party, my horrified face will be a topic for them to laugh at.
We are finally at McLeod and my conclusion is that the hills are that they are like life. You can guess, assume what’s on the other side of the bend. But you can never be too sure.
Before the metal box that we are in, halts, I see a man dressed in a uniform attending to his first offender of the day. It is a disobedient buffalo.
McLeod has a cheery happiness. I decide to remove my rose-tinted glass to confirm. The tint remains. It’s a masterpiece of a landscape, painted by the greatest artist of them all.
The aged-but-functional tape finally stops. Welcome, I whisper to myself.
We’re sitting in a rooftop restaurant. The sun is seeping through the wrought iron roof overhead and falling on us. Because it’s mellow and doesn’t touch me too much, I am comfortable. Nasar however, is going to feel the heat in a while, I predict.
We turn our faces and conversation toward the monastery across. It is under construction. On going there earlier, we had discovered that it has been under construction since 9 years. It’s covered in ice-cream colours. Imagine those serene colours holding their cause in the middle of the violent hammering of nails.
An old painter who looked like he’s meticulously working on his final masterpiece, decided to play teacher. He had been there since 5 years and was now much too familiar with the Buddha. As I looked up at the humungous golden statue of the Buddha, he almost seemed to look down upon us. Our man, went on in awe about the natural paints he’s been using on the statue and credited the beauty of the Buddha to the golden plated head on the idol.
I bring myself back to where we are. This rooftop café. Sunshine has finally started to hurt. With a big gulp of our beverage, Nasar and me pretending to be philosophers, invent the ‘Yolk’ theory.
It goes like this. We are but particles of a yolk. It’s golden and all alright, but it’s also the most cholesterol-filled part. In short, it’s unhealthy. And we are fat with all things unimportant and unhealthy. We need to swim to the whiter side. Of life.
After these cryptic discussions, I say something that I find difficult to understand later. McLeodganj is like my new, blue overflowing pajamas. You don’t feel a thing until you sit down and rest a while. And when your mind is devoid of all things, you feel its silky smoothness and delicate softness.
I realise how scraps of paper become so important to me. It’s like I’ve subconsciously predicted their use and have saved them for a later day. Writing on this food bill from last year, I just reinforce its preciousness.
The ‘No problem’ shop and the ‘Chocolate log’. Where the shop names are such as these, you know you are amidst a crowd very different from your city folk. It’s another thing that you may get into problems of bargaining inside the ‘No problem’ shop. But then again, atleast the owner envisioned a shop where he doesn’t permit problems. And dogs. So I walked inside and came out within 15 mins. With a hefty bill.
The town seems to be engulfed by silence a long time ago. The faint resonance of trance from a neighbouring room tries to break this pattern of serenity that we are slowly getting habituated to. Or rather, getting inducted into. But the music only propels us further and acts like a catalyst to make us creatures of this lovely habit. This metamorphosis of restlessness and tiredness into tranquility and imagination comes easily. Our room is a fluorescent shade of sea. I use this comparison loosely because I think I can get away with it here. After all, one can’t refute the fact that the sea wears the garb of many kinds of blues and greens and goldens.
Getting accustomed to this room that is reminiscent of the sea and overlooks the hills, is not much of an effort.
As I work my pen limitlessly and Nasar absorbs the words of his novel with exactly the same spirit.
This place is clearly meant for writers, readers, artists, chocolate shop owners, singers, weed smokers, farmers and people.
I just looked up to stretch my neck and saw an Israeli father walking by, carrying one kid over his back, and three alongside. A thought crosses my mind. Maybe they’re holidaying here or maybe they are a part of the drug mafia. All four of them.
This room is not furnished with a television. There’s a bit of electricity and a notepad. What else did you expect from me? A tap dance performance, maybe, had a chance. But because there isn’t a mirror here either, I shall continue to write. I mean how good is a tap dance performance if you can’t see it, right?
Over the last couple of days I’ve noticed that I’ve been waking up on the shy side of noon. Something about this place discourages me to sleep away. The air is pure and crisp, the landscape is resplendent with mellow sunshine and the birds are playing my favourite kind of music. Ideally this would encourage me to dive deeper and deeper into a good slumber. But I am compelled to lie awake and Nasar teases me with muffled snores. I just want to be awake to made sure I don’t miss out on what the birds outside have to say.
We have a guest in our room. It’s a cup of tea. It walked right in through the window and made itself comfortable on the bed. Apart from distracting me from my frantic speed of writing. I take a few seconds to reflect on my writing speed. On the computer and on the keyboard. I’m so used to typing that writing feels like a slow luggage train. It’s passengers, my thoughts that are not on schedule and yet, blissful cheerful about it.
Suddenly, I am diverted by two quilts right in front of me. It’s strange because they have maintained their peace and lived there, at the foot of the bedside, for a long time. And now I am distracted by them. One is a bright orange, with flame smeared over it. The other is pink. The kind that can shock you and wake you out of sleep if you see it the first thing in the morning. Other than these two aesthetically selected things, the room is plain.
I am thinking of chocolate.
We’re in a café called the Milkyway. It begins to drizzle. There is a group of Isrelis right near us and they fill the place with their laughter. Sharing a joke (or a toke) and depriving the world of its humour content.
As the rain falls on the ground, a sweet fragrance rises up and makes its way to fill my lungs. The fragrance is like a tonic. It’s energising and taking over my being. It’s almost like I’m losing to it as it pushes its way inside me. At one single moment, my eyes, ears and nose are engaged in pleasure.
This morning I beat my record. I woke up at twelve for the first time in days. It wasn’t like any other morning in June. It was the peak of summer and I was enveloped in a soft orange quilt. I remember instantly succumbing to its softness last night. It wasn’t freezing outside though, but I had taken a liking to this monster-sized quilt.
In conversation with Nasar, I learn that I had been mumbling in my sleep through the night. Maybe the quilt and I had become really good friends after all.
I have a habit of walking out of the bathroom while brushing my teeth. Usually, I open my closet and stare, dazed with plans of deciding what to pick. But reach nowhere.
My spectators are mostly my roommate and other friends who have stayed the night before. They feel subjected. This morning, as I walked outside, there was no closet to pick from. Nor were there any friends to let out a sigh of disgust. I conveniently skipped my fat travel bag and flung open the room door. Soon I was outside, scrubbing my teeth, making eye contact with the Dhauladar range Pine forest. They seemed to care little and ignored my habit. I must say, the hill folk are really kind.
I think that the hills are really conducive to writing. Their very expanse teaches you to open up your mind the same way. They silence provokes you to talk to yourself. And more importantly, listen.
Day 3- Naadi village.
This place is infiltrated by Indian tourist families. Even though the Dhauladar range right in front is breathtakingly awesome, it is hard to overlook the empty wafer packets and crushed water bottles strewn at our feet. We walk past the slush of mud that once was the glistening Dal lake. From the well of memory inside my head, I dug out the last time I had been here. The lake was in its youth and it made me wonder if it ever predicted this to be its future. I hoped that it’s happy and gushing with life once again after the place is renovated.
We walked until we saw nothing but the pine trees. Trees that made us look so insignificant and miniscule, without offending us. There can’t be much said about those trees there. You must just go there to greet them yourself, and let them do the talking.
I roamed around endlessly pretending it’s my backyard. Nasar and me even marked our own separate territories like Lions do.
I remember looking up at the few sunrays that had filtered through the dense blanket of green overhead. It was awe-inspiring beauty. And we were a part of it.
Finally, when we’d have our fill, we came down to a chai shop that was in the middle of nowhere. I imagined the shop owner quickly setting it up as he saw us walking down. And thought how he’ll fold it up and go elsewhere just when we’re done.
In conversation with Kaku, it’s owner, I realised the distinct perception he had about the city we came from. It was the land of Bollywood stars. It wasn’t the city with the highest real estate. Not the hub of Indian advertising. And nor the place with the highest transit population in the country. It was just Bollywood. Kaku was satisfied with that much knowledge. Behind the steam that arose from the kettle, I noticed pictures of Bollywood stars. Pictures yellowed with the passage of time. Pictures where the stars looked like they don’t any longer. And they were the only precious pin-ups that he decorated his shop with.
On our way back to McLeod I enjoyed the complimentary joy ride. We were two satiated children.
One thing happens when you say goodbye. And that differs depending on whether you’re the one leaving or staying back. I decided to take back something from my hilly-holiday. But the tree didn’t fit my bag. So I wore the garb of the hills and carried on with my little scraps of paper.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Raising a new generation of the refined gene pool.
Not many of us are multilingual are we? Or did you all visit grandparents living in the extremes of the country during summer vacations? Well, If you’re a child with parents from different cultures you should feel blessed rather than confused.
Here are some winning combinations. And why they take the prize.
Combination: Bengali + Marwari
This combination works well because: There will always be a variety on the dinner table. On days you want to eat some bhaal machi look no further than your own dining table. Your dad loves to cook (when he’s not philosophising). Your education fund will be right there in place when you’re 18. Primarily because your mother will save each penny since ties the knot with your father. Otherwise, he probably would’ve spent it all on a fine Sunday morning, ordering another ‘Raam and coke’, while the debate went on. He’d have spent it, if he knew about that secret saving account your mother has.
Your summer vacations are be colourful. Mainly because you will have grandparents who are complete opposites. While one set educates you on the importance of fasting for teej, you can go to the other, and enjoy crispy fried fish while the Poojo goes on. That’s fun.
Combination: Mizo + Sardar
This combination works well because: You will not fail to amuse the world. Ever. Because sometimes you will talk in a hyper-nasal tone and just when your audience is confused, you’ll pat them on the back, real hard and laugh out loud (Chal, koi nai). Real loud. So, naturally you may be the laughing stock. But at least your hair will always be the best in class.
All your friends will look for excuses to drop-by for notes or just to say ‘hi’ cause they’re probably passing by. Be careful, it’ll always be around lunch-time or dinner-time (sometimes, even at breakfast). Get the point dummy, it’s not for your notes they want, it’s the food on your dining table. The Tandoori meets Thupka. Finger licking fatness plus healthy bland broths. Another obvious reason could be tips for that perfect hair. Always keep your suggestions ready.
Combination: Tamilian Brahmin + Rajput
This combination works well because: So, you could grow up and become a Journo or just remain jobless and live off your ancestors. There’s one side that will have ambitions- fluffy as Idlis, waiting for you before you exit your mother’s womb. While the other side of your fam, will be drinking in merriment on their way back home, lugging a fat Black Buck. You will be torn between two world, even before the onset of adolescence. Over-ambitiousness vs baap-dada ki Jayezaat. Lungi vs Cravat. Dosai vs Lal maas. Your life is speckled with adventure. And so shall it be.
Combination: Malayalee + Kashmiri
This combination works well because:
Anyone would know that it is best to pair a Mallu with anyone but a Mallu. Mainly because they don’t make XXXXL seats for vehicles yet.
Well, moving on, this combination is good because it combines beauty and brains. Of course, you’ll go wrong with the food on the menu with all those cashews absurdly stuck in your Karimeen. But then you’ll be so pretty that all else will be forgotten.
You can immerse yourself in the news while it is being created right there, in your backyard. You, the master of tough languages, you are lucky to have your foothold in the extremes of the country. Care to invite the others for a summer vacation??
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Labours frantically, without a wage. Gets dictated and deceived by drugs and occupies itself into blurring faces, dissolving rage and churning thoughts.
It’s the appendix inside our body.Waiting to burst and spread its poison.
It helps us to think of things that will forever remain questionable. The stupid dreamer. Whatever the human race believes in can disappear in a poof with just one single question that you may hesitate to answer.
So, my suggestion to people of the world is- Use it less.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
I saw Kartik calling Kartik. Twice. I liked its dialogues. More than anything else, i liked Farhan Ak.'s acting. Before this movie, i never imagined he could play such a difficult role, so convincingly. (I must confess that I got goosebumps in more than one scene.)
Apart from his good acting, he looks stunning. But you'd say, 'So what? So does Deepika." All I can say in his defense is that he can act.
If you haven't seen the movie yet, then stop reading now. The things that follow may be a real spoiler in case you plan to watch it later.
An IIM topper, a south-Indian bred boy, an underdog. That's Kartik Narayan. He toils day after day in the tiny cubicles of a construction company. The girl he has written 3000 emails to, doesn't even know he exists.
Everything in his life is speeding downhill. (On a side note, how many of us have a stock of sleeping pills in our bathroom cabinets?) Anyway, so this guy decides to end his life but is interrupted by a call. A call that changes his life. (Also, the tag line of the movie).
The voice on the other end claims to be his well wisher. It talks him out of guilt of killing his bother years ago (something his therapist could not manage). It tutors him on how to 'get the girl' and it basically morphs his personality from meek to mean. Here, i'd like to point out that this transition is played brilliantly by Mr. Akh. The scene in which he strides into office, in what looks like a fine-cut Hugo Boss suit, is absolutely notable. The expressions are perfect. And so is the Farhaan Ak’s presence on screen. His new found self is oozing with self-confidence and charm. Something more suitable for a man with such qualifications. You may even start liking the person on the other end of the phone who is responsible for this pleasant change.
Well, so Kartik’s life starts to change in his favour. The girl is his. The promotion is his. But power comes with a price. His secret caller must not be revealed. When Kartik does tell his to-be wife about his secret friend, the next call from his secret friend is not so friendly. It’s a warning. It’s a declaration of destruction and downfall.
The voice of the other end has made some devious calls in the night. The next day Kartik is fired. To makes matters worse, the loving girlfriend is hurt and turns away from his. Even his bank balance is wiped out. There seems no other way but to flee. Kartik leaves for an unknown destination, blinding himself to the world around him to get rid of the mysterious caller. He lives a disconnected life, leaving Bombay and all its memories behind. And of course his telephone.
But when a stroke of fate leads him to get a new connection in his new residence in Cochin, he spends the night panicking about the return of those haunting calls. However, nothing happens.
Relieved he returns home and sleeps a sound sleep. But the calls return.
Meanwhile, back home the therapist explains to the estranged girlfriend the reason behind all this mess. Kartik is actually a schizophrenic living with a split personality disorder.
What I really liked about the second half of the film, and the first, was the sound track. It totally compliments the tone of the film. Kudos to Medival Punditz and Karsh Kale for their efforts.
The movie ends on a happy note (with the only scene of the film I didn’t think was necessary). The couple is married and we see the damsel reading a book that is titled ‘understanding schizophrenia).
Over all, my claps are for Farhaan Akh. for acting so well.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Money. It stinks.
The fading paper tucked in the murky rag of a rag-picker.
The catalyst that enables man to sin.
The faint whiff of success. And loss.
The stimulant, temptation that results in disaster.
The reason peace treaties are denied.
It’s an album of lost heroes. And the hero itself.
Sometimes the god. And sometimes the offering.
The cure for stalled projects. The universal language.
The green the world wants to see.
Money. It's the smell that stinks long after it's burnt.