Friday, December 31, 2004
Short story time. More mush.
The Wrong Side of the Street
I'm seeing you after what seems like years. And I feel none of the passion I did earlier. I love you, still, at least I think I do. But I feel none of the passion, none of the ache. I flirt with you still, I touch your arms lightly, I whisper in your ear, and am aware of the slight tremour in your skin, but I want none of that.
I am content to see you like this.
It was not always like this.
There was a time when I would wait, wait, wait, wait and then wait some more to hear from you. There was a time that I would take the cell phone when I saw your name on the display screen, and scamper away somewhere to sit in seclusion and talk to you, listen to your drawl, the way you told me you wanted to see me, be with me, love me. And then I would come back to my chair and my friends would nudge me, and ask me how fast the rocket that had taken me to the moon had gone.
It was something like that. Something stupid.
I remember that time we were lying in bed, a piece of sinful chocolate truffle cake between us. One fork. Chocolate cream smeared on the white china. My eyes liquid as I looked at you, my lips hungry for you. We talked about love, about what we wanted from each other. The boundaries were drawn, and I knew that. You were from the wrong side of the street, and I was from the never-never land that you outgrew ages ago. We were playing with each other, it was a god-given boon that the play was always so intricate, always so delightful, and always left us feeling slightly unsatisfied at the end, panting always. That was the way it was meant to be, you said, and I agreed. I was panting, I was sighing, I was in heaven, though I held myself back.
But of course, it didn't really work. When we went out for dinner with your friends, I would become this listless creature who is awaiting his last meal before he is shot. When we would be in the dark, in the movie hall, I would slip my hand underneath yours and squeeze slowly, and beg you to reciprocate. I would do little things in the dark, but freeze instantly when the intermission came on, and one of your brainless friends spied my red face and suggested popcorn. I think they wanted to know what the hell you were doing with me. I hope the answer wasn't that hard to come to you.
"I'm not sure where this is going," I would say, in unconcealed ire to my friend. He would stroke my arm in response. Sympathy, sadness, ire, I wonder if he felt any of those of my behalf... I would almost feel the salt in my eyes out of frustration.
"I haven't got any word as yet. I can't be the first one to call. I'll look funny. I'll look desperate."
"No, you can't. Wait, then. Wait. The call will come, don't worry too much," he would say, and I would hope that he was right.
Of course, the call would always come. You would always call and explain things away in a breezy enough way. There were reasons in the world for you to be delayed, and I was supposed to understand it. I told myself that I should understand it. You were from the wrong side of the street for me, for god's sake - everyone had warned me about you. They had pointed you out to me at parties and told me never to go within ten paces of you. I didn't. I believed my friends. I kept away from you.
You were the one who first came up to me.
It was my fault I couldn't resist you.
Not then, not when you first came up to me, a smile on your lips, and not when I found myself slowly slipping into you. I told myself, get your guard up again. That one is on the wrong side of the street, that one is not meant for you, you can't slip, you can't slip, but of course I did. And that was the end of it.
Because you caught on. And that was the end of us.
So, over another piece of sinful chocolate cake, you told me that I was on the wrong side of the street for you, and we should move on. I did. I listened to you, and reasoned with myself that you were right. That this falling business was likely to give me vertigo if I didn't cross to the other side of the street. I looked at you and nodded, and never cried, hugged you that night, and stayed awake the whole night, blinking away tears that refused to come, while staring at the shadows playing on the floor in the dark.
You wanted us to move on, and I did. I moved away to another city, and told myself that Thank God you had caught me before I had fallen wholeheartedly, that Thank God, you had had the grace to leave me my dignity. I suppose I thanked you too, in my mind, in my private reserve, so many times, thanked that you were on the right side of the street.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
I walked in to work today in a highly ebulient mood today. I've been in a mood like this after a long, long, long, LONG time, and it is not particularly endearing to my colleagues, friends and the other hapless retards who work where I work. As one hapless um..um put it - it's WAY too early in the morning for you like this, Rahul! CHILL!
But of course, I refused to be dominated. This mood stayed. And I was singing weird little nuggets from the 80s while I tracked the Bharati Shipyard IPO (boring business stuff, so I'm not even bothering with a link), the dumbest of dumb wise cracks about 'punny' business, and so and so forth. You get the drift. And I didn't even listen to music today on the computer, while working.
For me, that's akin to 'look ma, no hands!'
PS: My coffee intake was also normal - my usual quota of four measly plastic cups. But, ooooooo ooooo, the coffee in the new office is sooooo much better than it was in the old one! Brown hashish. (That was a dumb one. I guess there's some of this morning's heady madness is still remaining.)
PPS: Most of the heady madness disappeared while I was doing the Bharati Shipyard IPO.
PPPS: On a serious note, the need for more participation in the Tsunami drive continues. Please keep tuning in to ChiensSansFrontiers and Tsunamihelp.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Fiction. I create Him through the experience of a friend, but impute to Him actions and thoughts and character that, I hope, are my own. I hope I never become Noah.
Christmas Eve was the same. Party, loud music, loud women, women who wanted to get in his pants, drugs that went up his blood stream and morphed his brain. He was used to all that, he was above all that.
Somebody patted him on the back, near the swimming pool. This was glittering, something in his mind said, or whatever was left of it. He was laughing, he knew, because he could hear himself laugh. He was clinking glasses, eying women through his dark pupils, smiling slightly, in an effect that looked irresistible through the pencil-line of mustache above his upper lip. He could have anything he wanted that night, he knew. He could do anything.
And there was the ring. Something that buzzed him. Not the drink, not the narcotic, not the woman pressing her lips in the back of his neck. It was his phone, he decided. So he pushed the woman aside, and rattled off a text message to that woman he expected to hear from. I'm not here, he said. I was never here. After you left me, I disappeared. I'm sorry I missed you. Tell me, tell me what you want.
And then he waited. Next to the pool. The pool floor was done in this horribly intricate geometric pattern of tiles that made him dizzy to look into it. So he didn't. He looked up, instead. Red sky. It was 4 am, and clouds had gathered over the Colombo night sky. There was going to be hell to pay for it later, he told himself, and looked deep and strong at the phone in his hand, willing it to ring, willing it to blink. Willing, willing to hear some word from her.
The woman who had been angling for his throat, in the short black dress, had given up by now. She had snarled drunk! under her breath, and tip-tapped away on her Italian heels, and moved to where a group of people were removing their clothes and thrashing in the pool.
But he was at the far end of the pool. And the ring that he had been expecting never came. So he decided to go for broke. Fast as lightning, his fingers tap-tapped other text messages, to people he knew who were in her city. He told them, tell her I'm at a party, I'm drunk, I missed her, I miss her so very very very much, tell her I'll call her, tell her I'll be there for her. And fast as a pixie, he sent them all. Like arrows, they would travel far and wide and all converge at the same place. In her heart. She would know, she would know...
One lone reply came back. I'll tell her. So he smiled to himself and lay back on the tiles, disregarding the squeals that came from the extreme end of the pool. It was Christmas Eve, something told him. It was the night of all nights. There was no hurry, there was no cause for it. She would listen to him. So he settled back down, and looked up at the red sky, and fancied that he could see the clouds move faster and faster... There was water thrashing in the pool, his trousers were wet, but he never noticed any of that. He could not see the moon, and wondered if that was a bad omen. Then he shrugged, and wished himself a Merry Christmas.
In the morning, when he checked his phone, he realized that it had never buzzed for him, and the voice inside his head that had been so sure she had called had been lying as well. The lone reply to his frantic messages, I'll tell her, seemed strained and mocking in the cruel sunlight. And he laughed. So, this what they call heartbreak, he mused...
When God set the Flood upon them all, it was too much for him to understand at first. It was strange, a sudden shifting of his ground, of his reality. Everyone else was also in that shift, and that was how he realized he wasn't actually in a nightmare. He ran. He grabbed his camera and his notepad and he ran. In search of ideas, in search of friends, in search of strangers, in search of so much more, he had no idea. He stood in front of the sea, and saw it rear its mighty head, and he ran away.
It had been a sobering effect. It had been a cause of much psychological discomfort. This was the mighty tsunami, someone had said on the radio, on his way over here. The fury chilled him. Yet, in some peripheral way, he was above all that. It reminded him of all the bad movies he had seen on television, Indiana Jones and the Whatnot, where the mass of hot boiling oil would seep slowly towards you, threaten you, taunt you, so that your eyes glittered in anticipation.
But this was worse, he suddenly realized. This was faster. It would lash you and drag you away before you even understood it. It would not taunt you, and your eyes would not remain open to shine at it, but close blindingly in a reflex action of fear on their own accord. He saw the trees lining the great seafront road topple to their bases, and the cars and the trucks tossed aside like matchsticks, and he let himself be pushed along by the tide of the crowd. He heard their screams, and he opened his mouth to scream, too. It was a hollow scream. He had work to do, so much more work than he could possibly imagine.
There was the friend who had his condo. The condo was gone now, the priceless books housed within, in tatters. The area was a swamp, dank and cold. What time was it, he asked somebody, but no one seemed to know.
"My house is destroyed."
"Yes, I am. I'm alive." That didn't seem to cut much ice, so he persisted with his interview. "How was it? Did you see it from afar? What did you think about it? When did you think to run?"
The other man looked at him, his mouth dry from the salt water. He had heard of demon waves before, but never seen them. He had heard of demons possessing human beings before, and he had finally seen one. "Yes, I saw it. I saw it from afar. I stood there for awhile, thinking I was dreaming. And finally, I ran when I could not stand it any more. It was as if something hit me hard on the head - a coconut, perhaps."
"The hand of god?" Deliberate phrase. Drama was always good. It always sounded so much better on the front page.
A wry grin. "More like a scream from my wife. She had ventured down. And seen everything. She screamed, and pulled me back. I am alive because of her." A sigh and a slow sob. "But she died, trying to get the children out. She went back in. I was with the car. The wave came, and I was at the car. It was too fast."
He wrote that down. Was it drama enough for the paper? He would find out, when they paid him for the story.
He thought about the Flood often, and wondered when on earth Noah would come for them all. He was late, he was late, and there was a doubt whether he would come at all. He wanted saving too, in some oddly perverse way. His house was safe, his family was up in their lofty abode, his liquor was under lock and key, and yet he needed saving. He kept on looking at his phone now and then, while touring the country in search of victims, and often pulled the phone out in the middle of an interview, to see whether there was any news from her after all. There never was. Merry Christmas...
"The government will come for you. Do not worry. Tell me what happened." But they looked at him with mouths open in incredulity. He tried again, elsewhere. "Tell me, tell me. I need it for my story. Tell me what you felt. Who's dead over here? Who's in pain? Give me a picture. I'm here to help. My name is Noah."
There was the parting before him. Stories untold, stories waiting to be told. He sat on his rock, and listened to them all diligently. His notebook was filling up rapidly, his pencils were almost blunted away, but still he asked questions and took down answers, and told them his name was Noah. "What are your sins? Confess, confess, and the world will be whole again."
Confess, confess, and you will disappear, he told the bodies that lay before him, in the dark city street. This was a city that had seen its fair share of violence earlier. There had been guns and knives and butchery enough, but perhaps nothing as final as this. "Is there something especially final in this?" he asked the sad priest in the cavernous church. "Does this mean that God has ordained this?"
The priest was old, and toothless. He wondered, too, for himself the same thing and not for the very first time. The new-born Noah was not very original, and he knew it, too. It was a strange, sad replay of a strange, sad story.
When the government came with troops, and with supplies, he was there, too, snapping pictures, talking to soldiers, talking to NGOs. "I'm working for the paper. Tell me what you're doing. When will this get better?"
He got a bemused look in return, and suddenly he asked himself when on earth he had started to care. The old man was a story. His dead wife and his dead children were a story. The dead bodies on the road were a story. The old priest in his old hole was a story. Noah and his Flood was a story, too. And he thought to himself, so this is what they call heartbreak...
More than 29,030 people have died so far, government officials and media from affected countries said. Officials fear the figure could rise to almost 57,000.
The death toll by country is:
- Sri Lanka: 15,000.*
- Indonesia: 5,700.*
- India: 9,499. *
- Thailand: 1,4713. *
- Malaysia: 60.
- Myanmar: 57.
- Maldives: 52.
- Somalia: Hundreds.
- Tanzania: 10.
- Kenya: 1.
- Seychelles: 3.
- Bangladesh: 2.
*Indonesia said its toll could hit 25,000, while Sri Lankan officials warned up to 20,000 people may have died there. Thailand said its toll may exceed 2,000. Up to 5,000 are estimated to have been killed in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Numbers of injured were not available for all the countries affected, but are expected to exceed the number of dead.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Not my news?
The news of the tsunami was horrific. The earthquake that caused it is said to be the fourth strongest quake in a century, and the resulting tsunamis have caused more destruction and loss of lives than any other tidal waves previously recorded.
Why on earth do I sound like an amateur facts-collector? There are so many other people, who do that better.
Have to get used to the fact that I work in a media organisation that gives more credence to Anil Ambani's tantrums than the death of more than 12,000 people in the world. I suppose it's a question of setting your channel's priorities straight. But who do I blame here? The channel, Anil Ambani for selfish timing, myself for working here, or nobody at all???? This is a rant. I'm ranting here, because according to the rules of the Pak Special, I'm not supposed to rant on DMB. I'm not feeling low, rather, it's a combination of ineffectuality, mingled with a vague wave of "hey, it's not my problem - I'm a business reporter"... and then I feel a chill. Dammit - forget about being any kind of a reporter for a second - I'm a human being.
That's when I feel cold, too. So maybe it's right that I go back to recounting facts and figures.
Friday, December 24, 2004
I tell a story again. Something new, something contrived, something lived.
I need an introduction, I think to myself. I need to tell this man something about myself. I need to sell myself to him in some way, and so I buy a packet of mince puffs from the corner shop, nicely warmed to a crisp, though I chide myself for the extravagance. They're a mite too expensive for my taste, but then I'm cheap, I always have been, and so I swallow down my cheapness, pick up the bag of muffins and walk over to the house.
I'm thinking over what I should do, how I should start speaking to him, when the door opens. Big smile on my face, and I say, hullo, how do you do? I hand him the muffins, and I get a glass of rum thrust in my hand.
Something sinful about rum. Like the fact that a single glug from a single glass will mark you with a discerning flavour miles and miles away. Or maybe that's not really the case, but that's the way I like to think. I prefer ice cubes, a lot of them, dark brown, swirling liquid with large volcanic rocks that fizzle and burn in cold rage and dissolve away. They leave behind that sexy taste in your mouth, in your throat. I lick my lips, like a 90's porn goddess, and laugh at the absurdity of my life. I'm a strange person, so many people have told me that, but I'm not strange enough.
I'm not a radical like him, at any rate. Not someone who needs to be there first, all the time, with the eyes, the voice, the ears, the touch, the power to propagate. I'm not like him.
So he likes the muffins, he says, and takes another bite. So do I. "It's from a shop right around the corner, you know," I say, beaming, "I'm sure you've seen it on your way to work lots of times. Maybe you've just missed it." Unspoken words: So, hopefully, you won't miss it anymore. Maybe you'll see it someday, and remember this evening, and remember that I brought something that was vaguely satisfying from this little shop in a corner.
"O," he says, his face breaking into a grin, "It's from that shop. O, yes, I've been there. I've ordered bread from there. I never knew they made little stuff like this, though."
"They have pastries too. Blackforest, if you like it. And apple pie, which looked very nice. All orange and crusty. Would be sinful with ice cream. But it's expensive. I think, something like Rs 45. Too rich for my taste." A grin. A sip of dark rum that shoots back into my throat. "They also have all these different kinds of bread. Garlic bread with cheese, masala bread, Parmesan, bread with coriander too. I pinched one. Very soft. Would be amazing with dollops of butter." I can picture the butter, melting, melting, melting. "And yes, they have a shop with cold cuts and frozen chicken inside." All in the corner shop. I don't know why I'm talking like this, non-stop. I should have been silent. But it's something I can't help. I may not be radical, but I'm quite strange, nevertheless.
The music is not bad, either. Something I cannot understand. In a language I cannot fathom. But, it's good, it fills you up, and I think that is what music is good for. To fill a space in your life. Like the way I wake up every morning, and switch the radio on in my flat. Incessant banter, I listen, Horrible ad jingle, I listen, Song flows through, Water splashes in the bath, I listen. It's a process that gets me out of my flat every morning, and sees me turn in for the night every time. I think, maybe it's the same about the music with him, too. The words fill him, and he talks to me, his eyes slightly red with the scotch in his hand, but his words making lucid sense. They have been filled out, given shape, as it were, in some unknown way, by the strains of the raga that float around in ellipses and circles around the room. I'm tempted to touch one of those notes, but then, I'm not radical enough to think that they are tangible. No more tangible than he is, at any rate.
"There is the past, you know. And however much, you tell yourself there is a present, you keep coming back to that past. So you have to keep on thinking. And you have to keep on hoping that there is a future out there for you, as well."
I listen, but somehow, it all sounds very wicked to me. I don't get that. I take another sip, and ruminate on how dumb I must be, if I don't get what he's talking about. I think about why I came here, and I try to listen to him again, as he resumes talking, as he uses the same words, the same lines, in his drunken loop. I'm glad that loop is there, I'm glad that there's a chance for me to listen to him again and again, so that I may decipher him, and say something to him. Something that will make him look up and look sharply at me -
"I don't agree with that. I don't subscribe to that view of yours."
And I try. "What you are saying is too simplistic for me. It is too simplistic for anybody. How can that be? You're saying, once a person has identified what he wants, he will move inexorably along that path, that unconsciously he is already on that path. That is too easy. It must be harder. I don't agree with that."
I don't agree with that. I spoke about my pessimism, my cynicism, and all this after I accused him of being a cynic himself. I'm good, a voice whispers in my ear, and I turn slightly to see the curtains billowing gently at the open window, where the conspiratorial voice came from. I turn back to see him looking at the curtains too. It is almost as if he can see the slight shadow there, behind the semi-transparent cotton. The figure is dancing now, a sappy little jig, and it is ridiculous to think that at any moment now, I expect him to start out from his chair, and emulate that happy little shadow dancing behind the curtain.
He doesn't. He sits. He looks back at me, and smiles. I smile back.
Soothing music, as we eat dinner. It is something spicy, goat's meat, mutton, lamb, all the same. Vegetarian's nightmare, and I wonder how on earth vegetarians can survive eating their plants and shoots and roots and fruits. I'm an animal. I was meant to devour another animal. We all were, somebody tells me. We make small talk, over the goat-meat.
"There was this person I met sometime back. She was mad. She used to come down to my apartment, and we used to talk together. We used to listen to music together. Sometimes, she would lie on my bed and fall asleep. Sometimes, I would fall asleep too. Sometimes, we would touch at night, fingers, toes, limbs, flesh, bodies. Sometimes, we would make love at night. But always at night. We would kiss urgently, under the cover, and hold each other with a strange idea of never letting go. And we would fall asleep afterwards. I would have my music on MP3, so it would play on and on and on. It would carry on, while we kissed, while we touched, while we climaxed, while we cradled together, while we breathed softly together. I would wake up in the morning, and then I would miss the music, and then I would miss the girl. She would never be there in the morning."
"You first missed the music, and then the girl?"
I smiled. "Yes, always in that order. Somehow, the music was a part of my sleep. I awoke when I realized that the thread had been broken. The song wasn't there anymore, and so I opened my eyes, and saw the music was off. I would yawn, and then I would sense that she had gone too. She was only there for as long as I could hear the music. She was never there, otherwise."
This time, he smiled. He stretched out his legs and lay back on the bed. I could see his chest heave. I could feel his fingers tighten around the glass. I could sense the friction on the bed. "And would she return?"
"O, yes. She would. She would be there again. Maybe not the very next night. Maybe not for another week. But she would come back, knock silently on the door, and smile at me when I opened it. I always had the music on. And she would come in and lie on my bed and smile. I always smiled, too."
"Do you still know her?"
"I do. I do. I think I do."
It is time to leave, and I say so. The goat meat was nice. The rum was sinful. The music was moving. But the mirthful little shadow behind the curtain has fallen asleep, I can see his little form there, heaving in slumber, and I know it is time I was gone. Crumbs remain of the muffins on the table, and I tell myself they were a good choice.
"Shall I drop you down stairs?" I say no, I can find my way out. He relaxes. He was hoping for a way out, and I am good at that. I give people an avenue, a lane, a direction. He gives people a vehicle. He is radical, I am merely strange.
The door to his apartment closes behind me.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Lethargy is sinfully sexy. I have come to that conclusion. There are so many things a man is supposed to do, and it feels so deliciously comfortable to simply ignore each of them, and stay suspended in your private little bubble, content to watch the world drift past... maybe stick your tongue out at the poor slobs from time to time.
Sigh - the life of the idle and sexy.
My phone has a particularly horrible alarm ring, which makes me ache to shatter the damn thing, but I remember just in time that this is the little witch that made me poor in Delhi, after the whopping payment I made for it, and so, reason rushes to its rescue. I am content to merely switch it off, and settle back into a snooze that meanders through the Wizard of Oz's backyard, before coming up through the rabbit-hole in Kansas - at 8 am, I realise I'm late for work, and I scream.
I'm neither idle, nor sexy. Except for when I blog. That's when the Wizard of Oz takes over. Do I hear you mutter 'exorcism' there, under your breath?
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Ho ho ho
Have been Christmas shopping, and went quite predictably overboard doing so. Walked down Hill Road, compared price tags with those in Phoenix, and then beamed, as I handed over the debt card to be billed. Somewhere, I could hear somebody sing in television perfection, 'tis the season to be jolly, and I tranced along tralalalala lalalala...
It's something about the season, I swear!
Hill Road reminded me a lot about New Market, back in Calcutta, though it's a much smaller version of NM. They have the same devil-may-care attitude. People of so many ilks, rummaging for something that someone will be thrilled to bits to discover under their Christmas tree. Christmas baubles exorbitantly priced in an airconditioned store, but so much better and cheaper in a tiny stall just around the corner. Cards being sold by a harassed old Christian lady in a shop called Pinky's Pat; the irate customer (another harassed old Christian lady) threatened to return the cards if there turned out to be even one less than the fifty she had paid for - and I wished them both Merry Christmas! after I paid for my three cards, and left.
But I miss the old days, and these are times when I get wildly, sappily hopeless. I miss the times when I would string wreaths over the windows and doors, sprigs of mistletoe here and there in places you'd never expect, drape coloured lights around the cardboard rendition of Nativity on the mantlepiece. I miss the Christmas tree, big, green - REAL. Shining with lights, antique English bells, stars, and angels that belonged in my antique grandmother's era, that lit up and glimmered and sparkled, when the lights were out. I miss being scratched by twigs, cursing when the damn tree refused to sport a particular trinket, sighing when the wisps of cotton wool fluttered and settled down on the dressed-up tree like soft little snow-flakes hijacked for my personal pleasure, exhaled when I collapsed on the couch opposite the tree, thereafter.
All that drove me to Hill Road, to search for a tree. I found one. Plastic. Cones. Green, not really - more like ugly green. Smaller. Expensive. Very expensive. I've decided to do without a tree this year.
I shall buy a Santa cap from the road-intersection, instead. The one with the flashing red lights on the white border.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
In a manifestation of my supreme ability to adapt, I have merged with Bombay. I do not crave Delhi any more. There, I said it. The words are out of my mouth. Just shoot me.
What did the trick for me? I'm damned if I know, and I'm damned if I don't. It can be anything, anything, anything or anybody at all. The fact that I can walk down roads again linking fingers, or whisper sweet soft words that mean absolutely nothing at all into receptive ears. The fact that I can sit at my seat in the bus, and look out the window, and somehow, somehow, somehow find a one hour journey terribly engaging. Mills and offices, bungalows and courtyards, colonial hang-over and new-age frightfulness, all jumbing around, jostling for space, irked by humanity, and yet, somehow revelling in it, all the same. A disclaimer is due here: I still find the seething masses irritating. I still need my space, I still need to be in a situation of relative desertion - and somehow, somehow, somehow, I have found my little nooks and crannies, here in this megapolis.
There is something terribly attractive about living on an island city. I get to project flights of fantasy, as I cross one linkway after another, over hills and dales, miniature lagoons and ponds of salty water. Something terribly exciting about whizzing past an expanse of deep blue ocean, however foul the fish smell is, that wafts up from everywhere around you. When the fisherwoman clambers up in the bus, with a basket of newly arrived bounty, I crinkle my nose in mild distaste, but curiously arch my neck to see what fish she has. I argue with my Marathi maid, in my typcially horrendous Hindi, and end up smattering my arguments with words from English, so that neither she nor I understand. I call her my mausi, and while she refuses to work every week for the salary I pay her, she always turns up the next day, and I hand her down old newspapers, old bottles, old packets.
They told me, of course, that this would happen. That I would become hooked to the city, within six months. But look - today, I counted, and it has been only three so far. And yet, I have this strange desire to be nowhere else. I have this strange question mark in my head, that keeps on asking what I would go back to Delhi for, now. Love's labour has been lost, but friendship still remains, it is true - and yet... and yet... there are so many of those 'yet's that never help me find an answer. I'm here, now, and I'm here with you, a voice tells me from within, another voice tells me from without. I clench those fingers that offer themselves to me, and I pray and hope and I murmur that this time, it may just work. Fingers crossed, not so tight that knuckles turn white - a strange song plays on in my head - let it be, let it be, let it be - take each step as it comes - let it be, let it be and yet, isn't that the mantra of this great big polluted, overcrowded, insomniac city that keeps on pulling and pushing in so many divergent directions...?
This is my here, and this is my now. I do not crib, I do not whine. I adapt. I morph. I blend. I stand out. I scream for more. I pander. I beg. I steal. I win. I deserve. More. Much much more. I get. I live.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Tapping feet, and listening to George Michael who says he wants to be my 'father figure' - good heavens! So this is how I 'work' at office - various computer applications switched on, and here I am, fingers typing something, anything (email, chat, blog entry, short story, corporate news and events, market ups and downs) while my head wears this terribly cool-looking set of headphones, listening to music, sipping my fourth cup of coffee for the day. A warning voice squeaks in my ear: stop! stop! stained teeth alert! stained teeth alert! Aaa, what the hell, I have lots of alter-egos, so I can afford to ignore this one!
Welcome to the rabbit-hole.
Hmmm... I haven't used that line in a long time. For anybody interested at all, all alter-egos included, that was the title of my very first entry on livingHIGH. Full circle, half-circle, open circle, yet?
Wonder what they'll call an open circle?
Alright, so this is officially the 'nonsense' entry - haven't written one of these in a looooong time. I guess you have to be in a kind of mood to do this. Just sitting, have nothing really weighty or touching or funny or piercing to say, but simply let the inner babble babble babble come forth. That reminds me of some old poem about some brook (?!), but then I never appreciated poetry completely, so I may as well not start now. Babble babble babble till I die. Which I hope, is still many, many, many light years away.
I plan on discovering immortality. the world would really hate me then! Peace...
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
No time, no time. Plenty pissed off.
Wrote a nice blog entry and deleted it by mistake!!!!!!!
Yes... PLENTY pissed off!
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Story-teller time again. Feeling quite creative these days - or is it, excessively mushy? Be kind. ;-)
He was watching her across an ocean. It seemed small for an ocean, but the world was strange, he mused, scratching idly at the tiny brown mark on a spotless table. Strange things happened, like this for example, he was looking at her, watching what she did, in all the clear confidence of being anonymous, unknown, just another figure among millions, thousands, hundreds, tens...
Cool air blew from her lips, slightly pink, slightly plum, as they made their way through the froth on the coffee. It was a bright blue cup, large and round, cheerful simply by virtue of its rotund appearance, and the coffee within was dark and swirling, brown, with a lot of milk, remnants of cream that crowned an exotic nature... and the cool air from her lips blew through all of that.
She had a slight bent to her head, as she sat there, reading, reading, reading... too far too tell, to near not to feel. Her eyes were half-closed, half-open, something like that first sensation one goes through every morning when sleep drifts away, a bit of restlessness, a lot of desire, a hint of activity, suppressed by deep, dark contentment. It was content in her eyes, that was it, as they pored over her book. Not too big, not too fat, hardcover and yet it did not seem intimidating in some way - perhaps because of the manner in which she was reading it? - calm, content, focused, easy...
Legs crossed, but that was to be expected. No signs of mystery, no signs of the Madonna, no secrecy here, now, then, no little cliched gesture that hid so much more than she revealed. She could not be omnipotent, she was vulnerable, as she had to be, and there was that hint of a rebel within her too. Homely, perhaps - angry, quite likely - rested, without a doubt. Mannerisms were difficult to tell - somebody called them the mirror to your soul, or was that line about your face, never mind, never mind - mannerisms were difficult, but this was something that you felt sure on, seeing her. You felt sure that if the waiter bungled up, or she would drop something on the floor, caught up in her intense reading, she would look up, bewildered, smile with an embarrassing blush that threatened to go out of control, give a short staccato burst of laughter, and then settle back down, book, book, book.... fingernails tap-tapping on the wooden table.
The blue mug was the key. The blue mug said so much about her contrast. She was thinking - it was placid. She was calm - it contained the swirling black coffee within, bubbling, boiling, frustrated. Her lips creased into a smile - but the cup remained, blue and round, and heavy, and strangely, mildly cheerful, but strangely, mildly out of sync now.
She blew cool air onto the broth again, and for a second, her lips seemed to shimmer. Or simmer.
Green eyes hidden behind a black frame, slightly square at the edges, held at the nose with two tiny grips, they might have been missed had you been less observant. Those eyes were poised now, looking, darting, playing a strange game that refused to die down, refused to submit. They were teasing what they saw, looking alternately at furniture (dead wood in a bland brown store), or the pastries under the glass case (chocolate, chocolate, something red, chocolate) and then coming back to the chase. It was fun, a test to see what would happen, you could almost feel the pupils dilate, the iris quiver in a flash of emerald pigment, something was going to happen, something was bound to happen.
Adam's apple was bobbing, slightly, up and down, not really voluntary, and he couldn't have any idea about it at all. Or that his finger was now tracing idle circles, ovals, ellipses on the table, his thumb pulled back, slightly clenched for no apparent reason - or the fact that his feet were upturned now on the table, brushed softy against it, and his left knee was rocking slowly, almost silently. Yet, it spoke, as it rocked, softly. Will she, won't she, now she, not now, godawlmighty, pretend now, look away, little whispers carried forth on a strangely invisible stream, across the ocean.
A tall, tall glass of something blue stood there, half-full, half-empty, squarely in the centre of one of his table-ellipses, its frosty surface coated with little droplets of condensation, the ice cubes within melted by now, and yet, there are many more miles to go in his vigil. There was a thrill when you thought about him drinking that, then his Adam's apple would bob some more, involuntarily, and you could take cover behind your book, and stare back at, and examine in turn, things across the ocean.
Things like the speck of dark tanned skin at his throat, like some modern-day rendition of the legend of Nilkantha, like some modern-day ascetic who has braved the flings and fortunes of unceasing life, and has taught himself never to stop either. It is all in motion, you understand, the room, the ocean, the table with the brown speck on it, the tall glass with something blue, the boy with his teasing green eyes and his excited Adam. All in motion, and there is a sense that if once something, anything, pauses, the entire framework will collapse. The composition will be marred, and the ocean, though small, though large, will somehow be sucked away dry. His frames will clatter to the table, he will look around, hoping that he has attracted no one's attention, then quickly drink the remaining blue, and saunter away out through the revolving doors to the passive outside where he will disappear. The motion will be stopped. That will be the real tragedy.
A part of her smiled within, and the alphabet on the page before her focused in her brain to crystal clarity once more. She read another sentence, but was soon watching him again, discreetly, softly, across the room, the ocean that separated the two of them. It seemed strange to be doing this, watching someone, who you knew was watching you, pretending not to watch him watch you watch him, feel oddly secure and confident in the anonymity that comes with the feeling of being just one among millions, thousands, hundreds, tens...
Just another rant
Everytime you think about it, your life seems to make sense to you. Posthumously perhaps, in a strange and morbid fashion that you wish had come eons earlier perhaps, achingly irritating when you understand the meaning of irony perhaps - but yes, it usually makes sense. There's an underlining somewhere, when you sit down and think about it or when it suddenly comes and hits you out of the blue: this is the way it is, this is the way it was meant to be, this is the way you lived, and how you live from here on depends on how you grapple with the truth. Potspone your life, if you will, try to tell yourself that you can make things change. Accept the truth, and make decisions, easier said than done - hell, I know so much about that, so, so, so, so, so much. But this is the way I am.
Simple. Complex. Dilemma. Damn. Life.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
We.They.Me.I. What People?
So there are things I want to say. Like the fact that I saw this gorgeously blue poster of SRK in Swadesh, and stopped short. I loved that poster, and not in the least for the blue. Blue is a splendid colour. Maybe that's why I like looking up at the sky whenever I’m free. Simply stare forth, like a strange seagull who's lost his way - or a wannabe astronaut who still hasn't taken his science lessons as yet. There's something mesmerizing about the waves of the sky - blues, golds, dazzling whites, sombre greys, ravishing reds, the whole lot. The sea? No, the sea is but a poor imitation - water is colourless, and reflects someone else's glory. If it's beauty you want, climb the stairs to the terrace. A cup of coffee, some soothing music, is always helpful, too.
But I like the slogan. We. The People. That was clever, I think, using the first line from the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. Puritans may be horrified at its use in Hindi filmdom, but me, me - I quite find it clever. What does that mean? That I'm not a puritan? (exhales now) Well, that's fodder for yet another introspective entry.
Whenever I see rushes from the movie, I'm reminded of how I've traveled like this, or like that. In Calcutta, I avoided the bus like the plague. I hate those buses - all tin and growl, lurching angrily forward, spewing out black smoke. I traveled by the Metro - much more cleaner, more antiseptic, much more bhadra, to borrow a Bong expression. (smiles in lost memory to oneself) But to go to the Metro station, I had to go by rick, and in Cal, the ricks take five-six-seven people at a time. It's like SRK, sitting boxed up in a train/bus/car/rick. In a Cal rick, everyone sits boxed in, and it doesn't matter if it's raining cats and dogs, or shining sunbeams like a supernova exploding - there's something oddly stable about community seating. The rick does not leave the subway station unless you're packed in, and it will not arrive there unless you're packed in, either. A law of nature.
It's like the buses in Chennai, and the trains in Bombay. Both of them of course vastly different in character, though both of them also adhering to the maxim of 'snug as a bug in a rug' (gawd! it's been ages since I've said/heard that!). Hanging from a rail, in the bus, watching nothing but endless Tamil posters hastily pasted on the insides of the bus, talking of fertility clinics and life insurance policies and mobile phone touts, it was all strangely engaging. The conductor trings his bell (you have to warn him from before, in broken English, that you don't know Tamil and you don't know where you're going, so could he please inform you when your stop comes), and you snap out of your reverie - it's time to get down. Rub the red out of your eyes, walk under the cool shade, and head out for your assignment, rookie reporter. It's a brand new day in Chennai.
I usually travel in the evenings, by train in Bombay. That's when they happen to be the most crowded. Or, I travel late night, and that's when I put my feet up on the seat opposite mine, and look out of the window. Armpits nudged into my face when it's crowded, and people kissing-signaling to get your fat arse inside the bogey, a couple flirting right there, surrounded by highly interested bystanders, and I grin, like a schoolboy. I'm not a rookie reporter anymore, I'm a correspondent (or so my card says), but this is not the kind of story I can file, this is not the story I can profit by (CNBC-TV18: Profit from it). I'm hungry for fame and recognition, and while something tells me that Bombay is the best place for that to happen for me, another voice whispers, I should get my arse out of the train and so some heavy-duty chasing of my dreams!
So, yes: We. The People. Lovely slogan.
Monday, December 06, 2004
A short story. Fiction. Now, why on earth did I have to say that? Maybe a warning - it IS long. Perhaps all love stories should be.
I remember how it used to be, at one point of time. You would send me messages on my phone, and I would suddenly stop, paw at my phone like an excited child with an unexpected Christmas gift that was not there under the tree earlier, and i click on the arrow keys to see your message. It would be something silly, as a rule. Some silly joke, some silly comment, and I would love it all the same, and send back hastily composed poetry to you.
Poetry. God, you made me into a poet for those split second-moments when I was trying to tell you how much you meant to me.
When I was on the bus during those days, and the road rolled ahead of me, ochre and green and burnished, and the sky yawned loud overhead, shots of purple and gold and angry grey, I could almost feel the tiny sting of the raindrops, and put my hands out, as far as they could go, to receive them. I think it's true, what they say. You get creative when you're in love, or when you think you're in love. Which one was I? I thought I knew, I thought I knew.
The cell phone was my hotline to you. I never imagined it could be so potent a device. I never imagined that my first conversation with you, over the phone, could be as electrifying as it was. Sparks, here and there, as you asked me little things. What I liked, who I liked, when I liked them. We talked about sundews and past lovers, and deserted fields ripe with corn and sunshine. We talked about walking in empty avenues and eating cold, wet, creamy ice cream till our noses turned blue. I swore I'd take you out and feed you rich, dark, chocolate mousse, but somehow, somewhere, that promise got lost, and I never did do that.
God, you made me a poet. You made me feel happy.
Silly little trips made swiftly back home from work, where I would see you waiting on the curb. We would take that last twenty-minute walk down the avenue, to my doorstep, and discover ten thousand things each day as we strolled. How the roach arched, how the fabric shimmered, how the rickshaw swayed, how my lips creased, how your eye brows twitched, how painfully long that road seemed to get, as we got closer and closer to our destination. So was it about sex then? Was it about that instant attraction that we knew was there, the first time we met? But if it was, how on earth did we spend six-seven-eight hours that time sitting on the abandoned car at one end of the galli, and talking...? We never even held hands that time, but it was so clear in my mind, the longing, the despair - maybe, the two should not have been there together - maybe it should only have been longing (less complicated), maybe it was too personal... how many more maybes can I add to that?
God, you made me a poet. I can never get over that one.
I can remember your little gestures as if you were still here. I can remember the subtle nuances of your voice as they ranged from mild disapproval to utter annoyance. I bled you to death - you worried for me ever so much, and yet, somehow, none of that mattered to me. What mattered to me was the now, the present, and I guess I never worried about the future, like you did. For me, it was enough to run my finger down your arm, to kiss you softly behind your ear, to brush your hair back, as I licked your lips. Was that my problem, the fact that I was too much involved in pleasuring you, I wonder, but if sex was all there was to it, would sex compel me to write a sordid tale of an affair to remember? Would sex alone make me remember you tenderly, and hate you vehemently when you told me never to call you again?
More importantly, how on earth, would sex make me a poet?
But you broke your promise to yourself the other day, when you called me. You said, you came here, only for me, to speak to me, to hear my voice. I felt angry at you then - why on earth would you do this to me now, why on earth couldn't you let this snarling dog lie asleep, and let me just go as I was… But I said hello, and I asked you how you were, how your job was getting along, the usual kind of crap that nobody ever cares for, but say nonetheless, and you answered in that quiet tone of yours, slightly hesitant, and I could actually picture you jerking your head slightly, voice slightly cracked... did you have a cold, I asked, suddenly concerned, and when you said no, all my hostilities returned - how was HE? I asked, and I heard the much-hated and much-expected reply: he's well, I'm well, we're good together, we're happy together.
Fuck off, I roared. How nice, I said. I kept on staring ahead at the computer screen, the words I had been writing. They were opaque, and all I could see was you, you, you, wringing your wrists, talking about yourself, about how you were 'happy' with him, but called all the way from your city - our city - to tell me that you missed me. To tell me that you had broken your promise.
So you spoke, and I listened, and I remembered that night in Delhi, when you called unexpectedly and heard music in the background, and asked, where it was coming from since I had told you I was going home early. So I lied, and said there was nobody there, that I wasn't going to cheat on you and that you should trust me - if you love me, then trust me, don't put me through this because I can't handle it, I roared then - and you believed me. I won. I won. I lost. I won. So, no - you stay there, where you are - in our city - away from me - you stay with him, and you stay happy, but please, please, please... miss me, I thought. Miss me, please. That was when you said goodbye, and I said that too, and you said you'd call me later.
That was when I swore I'd never call you again, though you made me a poet for some fleeting moments, though you made me think about you, hate you, love you, possess you, cheat on you. Now why on earth did I do that? Poets do funny things, even though it's momentary.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Happy babbling/ blogging hours
I think blogging has something to do with the kind of people you blog with. Maybe it's an unspoken rule of sorts. Something that just happens. You blog, others around you blog, that makes you blog some more. Extra. By default. By some strange force. And yes, I'm babbling now.
During my ACJ days, most of the column of names on the left below Chain were active bloggers, and we all used to bunk afternoons/ early evenings/ late evenings at college to check out each others' blogs and leave comments and yadayadayada (very Mallory Towers thing, actually, ouch!) and that somehow meant, by the simple laws of action and reaction, that everybody around you was blogging frequently, building Frequent Blogging Miles (also called sore fingers). Nowadays, unfortunately, most of the names in the column have become links to defunct blogs. Sigh - cue for violins.
And now, it's happened again. Courtesy Sharonica, who led me somehow to a whole lot of other people, who keep blogging, chatting, bitching, blogging, chatting, bitching - and the entire rigmarole - which suddenly has me blogging regularly again. Blog engine, here I come. Corny, yes - but hell, I have nothing of note to talk about right now, anyhow. I have a party to go to, but I made Gabbles much more prominent on the left now, and I thought I should just write a couple of paras of babbling just to leave something along the way.
So, adios. Happy hours are here. Blogging hours.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
An old short story I resurrected from a dusty old web-journal, with some touch-ups. Seems I have a thing for the pretty ladies.. hehehehe
If you had looked close enough, far enough, you might have spied her there on the icy surface of the lake. Her eyes were closed in remembrance, her hands were clasped in prayer. Her hair was open, loose and placid in the chill air, long and expansive, untamed and wild, and now lay sterile on her back. But you wouldn't be able to tell her apart from the icy wastes surrounding her by those tresses, for they were tired and fragile like her, the colour of white sun. You might have thought she was pure mirage had you spied her there.
Had you noticed her and walked over to her, slowly and silently, you would have been mesmerized by the fragile enchantment before you. You would have longed to gently unclasp her hands and unshadow that perfect face. In your heart, you would plead fervently with her to open her eyes, and had she done so… Had she done so, your heart would have stopped.
You would have seen your hopes and desires and all your longings crystallised in that face. You would have seen the burning embers of fire, and the placated remnants of ash. You would have seen the seasons pass by and taunt you with memories. The tallest glaciers with blue-white ice all around you would seem concentrated within that oval of her face… Nose, eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes, milky white skin, rose pink lips, chin - had she opened her eyes, your heart would have stopped.
Had you noticed her and walked over to her, you might have watched the lone tear drop take form below long lashes and slide ever so gently down her cheeks. You might have heard the sighs from within a thousand hearts that accompanied the fall of that teardrop. You might have seen it fall, eventually, down onto that clear white mirror, upon which she lay. The slight wisp of steam might have caught your eyes then, as the drop hissed onto the cold white plate, as it cut a hole in her ice. Had you been watching hard enough, you might have seen the rose bud there, young and gawky, which clambered up from the icy wastes where the teardrop disappeared.
Her eyes were open now, but you couldn't see because the long sun-tresses on her back didn't let you. You couldn't see how she gazed with empathy at the piece of dry birch that stood squat there, on the other side of the frozen lake. If you had looked up and spied the tree, its deep dark wood would have haunted you. The wood old and rotting, long dead, its roots broken down in the cold, its foliage nonexistent. If you had seen it, you would have curved your lips in a derisive sneer and turned away, searching for greener maples.
A robin flutters in and perches on the dead birch.
Had you noticed her and walked over to her, you might have seen her body tremble as her fingertips touched the blood red petals before her, as her cold eyes gaped anew at the red breast that heaved with life beside the dead bark. You might have heard the soft whimper that erupted from deep within her, and spied her retract her hands away within her closed circle, clutch at herself again, and her eyes squint themselves shut.
You might even have wondered why.
Had you not gazed at her, across the icy wastes for that split second, you would not have noticed anything amiss. A shrouded figure in white that clasped itself once more, unknown and invisible from the world. She was what the heavens cried for, and yet the earth was what she pined for.
There was no howling gale that day, no blinding blizzard, no terrifying spectacle. The air was silent and the snow gave way easily underneath your feet as you walked on. The sky was a pale white that led you up to the Gods and you were headed There. You trudged wearily, looking forward to a new fantasy. But you never looked askance, at the figure that had been doomed to live your fantasy her whole life.
You never looked close enough, far enough, and you never heard her heart groan in longing.
Who wants to live like a virgin?
Documenting a crazy, zany life is not as easy as you think. It's hard. Getting the right touch, the right mood, the right way to start and the right way to end, the right kind of incidents to recount and the right kind of moods to capture - the right kind of moods to capture you, rather. On top of that, explaining what a blog to all those people you knew two years back in college is tiresome, to say the least. It grates on your neveres. Hey, have you popped up by my blog? What the hell is that, transmitted through empty eyes, still held togther by a dumb smile. Never mind. How's the weather?
Ho hum. Fee fo fum.
Thinking about that enigma called living high. Thinking about what fuels it. Laziness, perhaps? Had a brilliant plan today of finishing work early and going down via train to Colaba for some amateur exploration. Planned on walking down the causeway (I've always been a snob and been in a cab there), planned on ducking into Mondy's for an early-evening vial of poison, planned on strolling by the ocean front, planned on sitting on my haunches and leafing through second-hand books, but hell, never did any of that. Took the excuse of a forgotten phonecall and neglected to get my lazy ass off the cushion-backed chair, and so here I am, sprawled like a sales department clerk, punching keys in a computer. Hope that the secret of living high can be found in the cradle of 80's pop songs, but a lot of people tell me that the period was not exactly known for its sheer genius.
Damn. At least, it produced Madonna. (goofy smile now, as I admit I loved Like a Virgin.)
Never mind. I shall go on my Colaba road trip another day. Margaret Mitchell's almost famous almost-last lines. Tomorrow is another day. There shall be a Colaba trip, and a ferry ride to Elephanta, and a walk down to Lalbaug, and a jaunt through Fort (I barely remember the place now)... yes, yes, I assuage myself, there shall be all that and more. If walking around is the secret of living high, then you shall have two bloody painful legs!
Damn. Double-edged sword, methinks.