Monday, December 21, 2009

Telling time

When I look into the mirror, I like to catch sight of my watch dial, the large blue three grins at me, pleased at having the whole of the dial to itself, as if it were making its solitary way through a personal pa pizza. Lone numeral that it is, it gets people to stare at a watch that guards the secret of the time of the day so cryptically. It is not a watch that you can snatch the time out of in a quick glance from far away that you can pass off as uninterested. You’d have to catch my eye and ask me, I who have come closest to reading it, what the time is. Then I’d flick my wrists, trying hard not to say “Three’ o’clock” and divine the position of the minute hand (I’ve never managed to get it exactly right on this blank white dial) and labour through the “by five’ multiplication” to give it to you.

While I walk through these streets at three’ o’clock, it will tick out of step with my sluggish stride as if it were unwilling to travel along side me through an afternoon nap. Why, it would sigh, as shuttered shops slumbered on, as salesmen linger over a late lunch away from their counters, the rare passer by exchanges glances with me in solidarity, one more who has forsaken the semi-darkness of a curtained bedroom for this heatless heartless glare of this winter afternoon.

And it would sigh again when I step out again into the night this time, waiting for lights to pop up in my head, like streetlamps flickering over the angry buzz of surprised moths.

And when I return , you’ll say, look at your eyes, you haven’t slept. I want to tell you that they have always been dark, those eyes under my eyes that see you clearest. How much do you really hear? You’re a valley away, mistaking echoes for speech and missing every new word that drowns in an old wave of bouncing sounds.

This isn’t exile for you, but a return from exile, for you have been away from where you ought to have been all along. You’re dangerous, a man who has neither a spiritual nor a geographical conception of home and wanders in circles like that minute hand of mine over an unsteady pulse, cornering me into a dishonest approximation.

Monday, December 14, 2009

To lose a story...

I like your chair to be next to mine, not shoulder-to-shoulder or even conjoined armrests, but an easy sideways glance away. Because whenever I look up between pages, expecting to find the next sentence begin on your lips, you mute them in a tight-lipped smile.

Should I lose restraint enough to burst into word, you will not knit your eyebrows together in reply or even work up an answering grumble in that knot of a throat You will smile at me as a person who says out “138 plus 23” aloud and lurches along ten by ten as over the wrong answer ought to be smiled at.

Bookmarks were invented for people who never intend to see the last page, the one left blank on purpose after the ending, just to remind you that the best stories begin at the end of good ones.
Why do I need bookmarks, when the skin between thumb of forefinger is taut with every turned page, remembers exactly how thick a wall I have built around my story and myself?

Hair falls in spirals around me as my other hand searches out traitors among them, and black threaded clumps dance together like dying spiders in concert. The night screams for coffee before crying itself to sleep, with every yawn eyes grow warmer and the sharp clean lines of black grow softer and softer.

Forgetfully sometimes, you walk away in search of that bottomless glass of water, in wait of that phantom phone call that never arrives but keeps you leaning over the balcony railings as if the first note of your ringtone might make you fall over. You walk away because of that voice, which like a dust-jewelled shaft of sun asks you to draw curtains around you and watch in a silence that thwarts my last chance, swallows the words that might have reached you had the doorcrack been wider.

You abandon the seat to suffer my fretful gaze empty and my book lies face down, spine arched achingly, print averting its unread face away from me and hugging its knees shut till you return.

And if you don’t, you will have stolen away a story which trailed you trustingly like a wide-eyed child waiting to be let into a secret.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I have learned...

It can’t be a coincidence that the two women who know me best were born on consecutive days. From them both I learned…

That in love you use your claws as much as you do your lips, it is as natural to draw blood as it is to return a hug.

That you believe every word that falls alongside your tears and so will everybody else. But when you have ceased to believe those words anymore, others will refuse to be talked into doing so.

That you shouldn’t switch on the lights when somebody insists making their way around in the dark nor click a flashlight on gloatingly when they bump into open doors and fall. You can still catch their eye in the dark by the moonlight and lend a silent hand to his bruised questioning one.

That joy has to be reconstructed from madness method by method, moment after moment, as unthinkingly as dance steps are picked up and cross word squares filled.

That you can prod somebody into oversalting a meal by claiming that “uppu-ma” would need a lot more of it, and then convince them to eat it all by themselves just by asking nicely.

That to not raise your voice nor pound your fists in a fight is cowardice, that to sing loudly and out of tune is no shame, that blurting out a silly thing with all your heart is preferable to a cleverly turned sentence voiced a moment too late and a shade less sincerely.

That moods have a break dance of their own, that sand dunes don’t have fixed coordinates and that the staunchest of hearts sway to the music of the moment.

That it’s okay to rage unforgivingly against a thoughtless word or act for a day and a half before deciding to laugh at its absurdity instead.

That wounds ought to be kissed away before they are disinfected and that both should be done with no corners spared though wounds anyway leave without a trace.

That the best gift you can give somebody is to choose for them what they would choose themselves or if unsure, not choose at all and walk bravely back, empty-handed.

PS: Happy Birthday to Amma and to Anshula

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A solitary winter ice cream

I’m sure he didn’t ask the rest of them whether they wanted to trust the half-hearted chill of a winter evening to keep the takeaway frozen on the way home or to make the most of their single scoop before they can set their disbelieving eyes on how much VAT a single scoop of ice cream can generate just because they get eaten on colour-coordinated couches and between sing-along whispers of hip-hop music. He, like the others, expected me to buy a 250 ml pack, eat it slowly over a week in the freezer before giving it away in disgust rather than having an ice cream all by myself.

With the other people in the parlour he needn’t even have asked. The girl had already spent three minutes figuring out the difference between pralines and Bavarian chocolate and her companion only looked too happy that this contemplation of premium flavours had take her mind off the watch. It was ten minutes past the ladies’ hostel curfew of 9 pm.

As for the six men, who had spared only two chairs in the shop in their attempt to from a semi-circle of couches, they were too bravely clad for the winter to venture out into the road again and too numerous to want to go away soon. Their badminton racquets lay limply on the arms of the couches, shunned by the arms which had bid for them frenetically after every finished set.

Economic comparisons between India and china can only have the uneconomical consequence of ordering double scoops and this alone rules out a takeaway for this 45-year old group. Cups disappeared into the bin with every lull in the conversation but not one grey-haired gentleman moved to say, “I’m off. I should be home now.”

I have known the incomplete ice cream of a conversation with a lover, whole chunks of chocolate abandoned, spoon still stuck inside, the unsaid speared to silence by a word.

I have known the ice creams that pass untasted subdued by the stronger drug of the group, so potent that even as the spoon scrapes the last swirl from the depressed moat of the cup, it seeps past tongues too busy keeping pace with other tongues to notice.

But the best of all is the ice cream I order by myself, ice cream that meets the eye first and the heart last, ice cream that contains memories of all the ice cream I’ve ever eaten, ice-cream that I can finish in five minutes yet carry back in each every chocolate-flavoured shiver that the walk back home blesses me with.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On the way

You say you're on the way but it seems like you're here already.

Already, I've bought tea bags on loan from the corner shop, already I've removed hair-entwined bands, bands that keep score of a scalp's losing cause, from brushing distance of soapcase and shampoo. Already, I've gotten the hot water running and the have swept pest-powdered corners clean of white cakes of long-dead ants.

I sit as still as I can, not wanting to add to the noises that make me difficult for me to pick out your footstep- chairs being scraped hospitably upstairs, lifts banging their doors inhospitably shut behind them, cutting short the automated wail of "Please Close the Door", newly ordered cane sofas and teak corner tables being uneasily bounced up the stairs, the protracted foot-stomping of a child unwilling to forfeit his bat and his wicket.

And after an hour, I'll pace across the length of the living room, half-peeping through the doorway crack at intervals, as if expecting to find you standing there, hands in pockets, not ringing the bell, as if your presence itself is a magic word that would get the door to spring open.

And if that doesn't world, I'll sit by the gate swinging knees across the wall, counting headlights till yours meet my eye and stop

I'll walk the entire way, down the lift, past the tussle of bat handles, because we'll have to meet midway on the road, at least. You said you were on the way...

Monday, November 23, 2009

It so happens that yours like mine isn't a name out of the ordinary run of johns and marys, nor it even a vaguely memorable one. It is the kind of name that would suffer mispronounciation, would survive a million possibilities of spelling, would be wrongly heard and confused for another and yet slip out unnoticed by memory.

And yet I would meet your namesakes everywhere, wondering why I call them by a name that seems to belng to you so entirely that the rest of them might be impostors.

But our faces, theirs is a fate not entirely different, only more favourably dealt with by posterity. It takes a stranger on the seat next to ours in the bus, a backward glance along a beachside walkway,an awkward introduction for that barely suppressed murmur of "But I've seen your face somewhere" to remind us of this.

Suddenly, nieces in the flush of summer vacations, tic-tac-toe defeats avenged by bespectacled bench mates and old neighbours come back to life.

And when I close my eyes, they never shut their doors on your face and I have to blink you out of them in two minutes. So I lie awake with the lights on, watching the blankets folding into endless tunnels to my knees.

Monday, November 9, 2009

To love as you did

Everyday, I learn, a little, to love as you did. I learn as I clean the grime off unflinching door hinges, as I walk my way around dead ends and blank walls, as I offer bitter old dreams the tribute of a wakeful tear.

To love as you did, with your hands in your pockets, fists filled with the furry insides of sweater because to clasp my hands would freeze my fingers too.

To love as you did, to arrive ten minutes early and shrug away every extra minute of my tardiness saying you'd just arrived too.

To love as you did, to walk a step behind me as I rambled away on the phone with another, but cutting short the infrequent buzz of your own phone with a terse "I'm busy now." before switching it off unseen by me.

To love as you did, to affect indifference where I painted myself red with imagined wounds, to love with the shy pangs of first love and not boast, to steer me away from crosses of my own making and yet carry them along on a straight back all the same.

To love as you did, seeing the ocean at the far west of the plain and yet walking those leagues with me, and yet staying on your feet while waves slashed my kneess, and standing still when I drowned.

To love as you did, to meet my tears in silence, my reckless promises without insincere ones and see the truths about myself without trifling with them by utterance.

Oh, I had to fall in love with another to love as you did.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Winter has arrived unheralded as a familiar guest should. Inconspicuous, as it has attempted to be, I cannot miss the rows of stalls, all hoarse with the cries of “Three for six hundred”, their originators curtained by woollen blankets being unfolded for the inspection of those passers by that might spare a sideways glance away from the irreproachably straight road ahead.

Clotheslines of jerkins swing between adjacent stalls, zipped up and strung up by their dubious familiarity of their labels. They stare at you warily as you walk past, you can almost see those invisible faces from within those upturned collars, and feel their disconsolate pleas for attention on your stubbornly unsold, uncovered back.

There is only one other place where I have acknowledged winter’s faltering albeit unmistakeable entrance.

A chetak scooter had trundled passed me, a six year old standing in front of his father, his feet between his father’s feet, straying within reach of the pedals of the scooter, perched as precariously as I once was in front of my father. Except that instead of facing the road and offering it his bundled chest to the chills of thirty kmph wind, he had his back to the road and his head against his father’s chest, sleeping like a fugitive prince being whisked away on a horse.

And this picture, incomplete as it may be, will always be winter for me.

I write of winter because it has lived incognito among us in Madras for sixteen years. I write of winter because four winters’ memories can make wearing a ragged gray sweatshirt seem as snug as carrying a pot of live coals, merely by a talismanic logo emblazoned on it atop my heart.
I write of winter because, like me, it can never have the last word in a bargain, can’t count its centigrade change twice before folding it carefully in its wallet, unlike the rest of the world that walks smugly in the sun without having been short-changed.
I write of winter because I still haven’t switched off the fan or even reined it back below that soothing speed four that sweeps away overhead noise.
I write of winter because it always leaves just when you wish it away, when you claim every day will be colder than the next and that one day it just won’t be there anymore.
I write of winter because I could do with a change of season and that there can never be songs enough for the seasons.

I pause at the last stall in line, aware that I will one day join this growing minority that is already clad in warmer clothes.

“Single blanket?” I begin.

He unwraps a blue blanket, darkening to indigo in the dusk, to its fullest extent, his arms taut and fingers tense with the effort and says, “Seven feet. Pure wool.”

It slips between the questioning tips of my fingers, softer than the lint-spangled exterior promises and yet I ask doubtfully, “Isn’t there anything thicker?” I point him out to blankets that lie snugly zipped away from the dust and smoke of the road within their plastic carry cases.

He unpacks it obligingly enough but adds in the tone of a remark intended to pass as irrelevant , “Three four people can sleep comfortably. Families buy this.”

Thrice as thick and thrice as large, it would obviously cost thrice as much. But why would I buy this, I who have never known the insides a double quilt and it represents, I who have slept and lived solitarily throughout? Mistaking my silence for a wavering will, he slips from nine hundred to six hundred. “If you want, come with your mother. I’ll remember, for you alone it will be six hundred.” The loud spiel of his vendor voice sinks to a confidential whisper.

I nod, “Yes, I’ll return with my mother.” “Remember me, Inamdar. I won’t go back on my word” he completes, a little heroically.

A lone bulb twinkles above us hanging by a makeshift tangle of wires all carrying stolen electricity. Against the polypropylene-papered wall, the blankets make tantalizing shadows that obey the pendulous motion of the bulb as perfectly as the moths above do. I walk away towards a house that no sunlight can blind, a bed that no family-size quilt can warm, a chill that no season can pierce.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old Love

Yesterday, I turned full-throated in class, offering answers out of turn, scrambling under desks for candy that scattered past other hands unearned.

Yesterday, you were sitting at my table, not cross-legged and conversant, but with a scowl that only a stubborn splash of the last night's candle, a blob that refused to be scooped into your fingernails, can inspire.

Yesterday,you could listen to me on the phone with another, for half an hour straight without turning away or pretending to be absorbed in your own little squares of light, and then tell me without waiting for my recap, "That was a very sensible thing that you've just told her."

Yesterday, you could shut your eyes tight enough for my throat to swallow a cry and choke on the song that was already yours.

Yesterday, you could remind me of every kiss yet unclaimed, by a parted hand, a smile that couldn't beget mine, your way of falling asleep.

Old love isn't love grown weary of suppers gone cold and crowded clotheslines. Old love is not love that died young and poemless, having forgotten every line read and having stabbed its own rhyme shut.

Old love tramps past broken hedges, sidles up to me in solitary streets, and steers me instead towards glittering shelves and the fatal charms of peddlers' cries.Old love shoves past the doors I shut behind it, past my ultimatums and follows me out bleary-eyed like a child that refuses to sleep alone in the dark.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Singing in lost lands

I found myself singing today, chorus-clipped songs that had stayed on long after the stage had cleared, the car radio had shut mouth half-open, and my mother’s voice disappeared into a songless senility. Nobody else heard it, in the smack of thumb and forefinger, in the limped detour from straight and fast that my feet have taken, or between drummed wall corners that my fists seek out as if to punch the song out of my being. On buses, the curtain string that cuts window views into red-lined halves trills long with the song but whether they travel backwards like sea waves on reverse gear, I don’t know.

First I merely hear the song in my head, furiously piecing together the lines in order, shunning the absurdly addictive rhyme of chorus, waiting for the music to fill up places that a bad memory and an ear thought to be tone-deaf can’t. And then I hear it – whole and at last, a more flawless version than I ever could have with the best stereo system in the world. Soon my lips play shadows to the words, just the words, because the music will have me out of breath and crying even before its starts. But lips are taking cues from a resurrected melody only to jump every gun and miss every note. And soon its is not the song I hear but my own voice groping for tune syllable for syllable, missing refrains and filling the place of words missed with hoarse helpless breaths.

Soon our conversations will wrap itself around a glossary of abbreviated endearments that we’ll both grow impatient with, until they wind themselves into a silence unbecoming of lovers. And one day, we’ll say nothing to each other that desire can’t mute and habit can’t muffle. .
And when I hear the raindrops at the windows, leaning against long-forgotten shoulders, I will sing every line (but the chorus) I have snatched from an intensely unmusical life. And you will listen, not to any reckless rendition but the song as I hear it, its stabbing sobbing senses intact.

Because you will have touched me enough to sing in spite of myself.

If you outlive me, as you probably will, you won’t give way to a grief that you can’t afford, but shake your head and hear those songs in your head just the way I had, chorus clipped and perfect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't take them off.

To see you as if on the brink of a waterfall, still wet from a misfired kiss goodnight, falling off the edge of your sleep into my own, snapped shut from your dreams

To see you as if your first tear had scorned my fingers, waiting for your eyelids to trick them out of sight like a magician's cape, still as a sheet of first snow, ready to shatter when you turn away.

To see you as if your bedside table had turned its drawers over to me with a sigh, dentures and after dinner mints intact.

A sight too intimate to be unveiled by a casual flick of your arm, a sight so intimate that even I haven't earned it yet.

Past the patch of sweat grinning the wet grin of an eavesdropper, I see them waiting, dark pearls waiting to be plucked before they shrink back within tricks of light,little squares of mirages and black-framed blankness. When you take off your glasses, you don't just blink yourselves blind, but blind me too.
And I ask myself, is it another pair of eyes that I see? Another's face?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

They stared at me red-eyed, peering past slits of skin that lidded them. Not a number that could betray itself to me, they bruised my fingers black-currant when I prised them out. Like the unconfessed remnants of a congealed regret, clots sobbed into my hands, bleeding us both, two-minded, solitarily and in bitter red clumps.

I swallowed them unchewed in achingly quick mouthfuls,and they are wrested down my throat each time by the yearnings of your heart that eat into mine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Waiting for crystal balls

There are lines enough on my palm for it to have dodged this errant knife. Like an axe gone astray from sweaty arms, it struck right at the roots of my thumb.

When we were younger, we took each other's palms into our own and spun tales of a future that had not a trace of my tumultuous grays of twenty years.

That was before we knew that if a line run deeps, it doesn't foretell the coming of wealth but merely that one fist was clenched tighter than others,that long fingers didn't necessarily portend a cancerous death because pain wouldn't be saved for the end, that the right palm mirrored the left and it didn't matter which one we chose because there would come a time when the foretaste of future wouldn't taste so good and we wouldn't wait breathlessly for crystal balls nor practice the palmistry of consensus.

Yet I listened to them through Hindi dictation classes and periods of play that we could still wring out of rainy days. And a great many fortunes were told.

The how-many-children one, the one that ran the longest before falling into the tanned sea of the back of my hand, never mentioned a a foundling of disremembered dreams. The line that fell headlong through my wrists to meet swooning bloodspouts never said that I would live many lifetimes through a life that would be two middle-finger-breadths long.

They didn't see the little flecks that first flowed, then flooded through the fortuitous delta of of lifespan, love and lucre,before banishing it underwater, where like dying mermaids,it will turn into the endless foam of the sea.

Nor did they see smudged pencil marks resisting erased oblivion, Jakcson Pollock shadows, footprints of faraway crows etched already into an aging skin ,and a line of crosses awaiting crucifixion.

Nor did they look so far into the future as to see this resolutely red line that has picketed my palm, tearing down every film of skin that tries to broker a scab, refusing to leave, refusing to heal. A jagged red of scraped paint, it tells me that old schemes of colour,like old schemes for life don't ever fade.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

An afternoon nap has all the enchantment of ritual and the timelessness of a dream. No sooner had I gotten into bed, vowing to read a chapter more before allowing my wandering consciousness to play out its will, had my book parted ways with its cover and my eyes had surrendered to a torpor that made them appear as intent as it was glazed.

“Kishore! Come out fast” Trring . “Vidya! Come and play” Trring. The cycle bell followed that hopeful young voice like a lagging herald, traversing the roll call of playmates over and over again, as if it were a muster to war, crying louder where the name belonged to a particularly valuable companion.

And my nap takes me back to the now-foreign territory of my childhood, when cycle bells and whistling signals that made their way to my windowsill sought out ears other than mine, where lessons were learned by a heart stung by a dancing tumult it didn’t feel, the fierce tumult of street cricket. Soon, those sounds didn’t cause me to survey the scene with that longing bred of isolation, but with a sense of growing delight at my self-sufficiency.

The doorbell buzzes with an impudence that shakes me awake. “Akka, shuttle cock.” The boy looks at me with an impatience that, surprisingly is devoid of trepidation. I smile as I lead him in. He vanishes into the kitchen without waiting for as much as a nod. As I follow him into my kitchen, still, festering with the smells of a series of capsized culinary efforts, I hear the anxious murmur of suspended play through the balcony. The rest of his time waited, not without nonchalance as the chosen scout bravely mounted the footholds of the window bars and manoeuvred my mop with the proprietorship of an armed warrior to dislodge the object. A wave of merriment broke out as play is resumed at the evry instant the cock touched ground but interrupted by the remonstrance of the rescuer, protesting ingratitude. “Wait for me.” He screamed, with a violence that made the meaning of his words as clear to me as they would have been in my own tongue.

I might have lingered longer at this scene, that had the outlines of a tagore poem and none of its music, had my phone not rung.“Happy friendship day!” she chirped. “And what are your plans for the weekend?”

After I finished an incoherent description of my weekend routines, (“Just woke up man. I’ll catch up on some reading, take a walk, relax.”) she laughed appreciatively. “That sounds like a good plan.”

Her colleagues, she explained, by way of celebrating the first paycheque had proposed a movie outing, and the group, to my struggling ears seemed large enough to drown attempts at prolonging the phone call. Hanging up, I realized that my batch too, would be in the midst of a similar revel and as usual, my disinclination for the plan had been taken for granted. And suddenly, I was back at the windowsill, again, preferring to inhabit silent worlds, either of my making or those of a book to the rough and tumble happiness of boisterous play.

I returned to the kitchen, attempting truce with disquieted utensils that have been at the centre of my kitchen misadventures for the past week. But the kadai simmers in silence as the onions I have cast into it congeal before turning black. And the milk vessel boils dark brown anger as it is transferred to the embers of the stove from its refrigerated confines without as much as a foreword. But still, I delight in turning to my own kitchen instead of venturing out for pani puri, though my meal of bread upma and coffee is only edible.

I might have passed by life’s feast uninvited but my larder isn’t empty either. The deeper my solitude buries me within myself I find that I’m less empty for choosing to be left alone. The world within us is as entrancing and as labyrinthine as the outside world that youth lusts to travel around. Or more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Don't come back home.

Don’t come back home. Because the night-light guided footsteps of your dream sleepwalked right through my sleep, trampling the simple pleasures of fatigue asunder.

Don’t come back home. Because every time you do, it becomes a new home all over again where I fumble against forgotten passwords of switches and rusty locks, where the pillows forget the curve of my neck, ad where the stove splutters to life only after being asked twice.

Don’t come back home. Because you threw open windows and doors that swept in reams of sunlight that had snubbed my welcome all along through doorcracked shadows.

Don’t come back home. Because you painted in hot oil all over its bare majesty, listened to the mute cries of empty nooks and shelves too proud to ask for sheets and sofas, and left me a difficult cleanliness to live up to. Sentenced. To a constant lifting up to looking down, to dusting what is beneath, to bury dead cockroaches and dead loves, to ignore the grime at the bottom to hiding the crime floating on top of a conscience.

Don’t come back home. Because even your silent presence dimmed the clanks, honks, reverse gear tunes, tears and coughs of the roaring world into a soothing song to which life was danced to. And without you, my solitude has soured into a seething anger at all sound, be it the cooing of doves, the slap of soaped cloth against the washing stone or the banging of doors. Doors that you won’t ever leave unlocked again, laughing cheekily at feeble ghosts that lurked in the dark, waiting for you to leave.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This city might do what Pilani never did- complete my hindi lessons. My workplace has an atrocious attitude of disobeying rules that don’t lose their emphasis on repetition- No hindi, no telugu.

There is this faint lemony smell of room freshener that permeates this place, the first thing you sense in the air when a tired throng rushes towards a 30-bus long queue is this smell, it clings to everything- toilet seats, Styrofoam cups, Kimberly Clarke dispensers, door knobs and ultimately to us. In the factory, it's different- you come back to an irate mother who repeats her admonitory reminder to take a bath even as the medicinal stink starts fading from my clothes.

The view from my office is pretty indeed- trees forming guard around a lake that emerged unscathed through the landscaping onslaught. The glass library windows that like a shrewd bouncer that lets the sunlight slip through hand in hand with its pretty green picture of a companion while keeping straggler sounds out. Tired 4:30 footsteps that succeed the siren announcing succession between shifts, the desultory talk of trainees dividing their time between lab and plant, the snip-snip of the gardener’s hedge trimmer and the tears of an abandoned hosepipe.

But when I look at the trees the scripted quality of the scene betrays itself to me, the trees are placed as if on stage, like cardboard-cut-out trees that are propped up merely for backdrop’s sake. Too still, too green and too perfect to pass off for real trees, these palms could have been plastic imitations with serial lights dangling from them in front of a newly inaugurated airport. It made me believe that no one had ever slept on the grass on winter afternoons or walked mindlessly through reborn rows of flowers or aimed stones that plopped right into the serene eyes of lotus leaves. It was as if they had set up the place to pose for a camera and their deliberation had nearly ruined the effect. I say nearly because the artificiality didn’t make the view less arresting.

It took me three successive days of missing the 6:15 bus and waiting for the 7:15 bus to understand that dusk does justice to this place more than any other time of the day. That hour of solitude in the cricket grounds is the most special time of the day even for me, someone who’s leading a pristinely solitary life.

If I turn my eyes towards the factory, it leaves them searching for the sea in vain, for that 24X7 rumble that goes on within that nondescript building is indistinguishable from the sounds of the shore. It’s not the monotone of murmuring machinery that I can only hear a tempestuous ocean groaning one minute and sighing another. The trees too nod sadly at the factory for this hair-tousling breeze that is only a hint of a monstrous wind that should have set the waves rolling, for it is easy to grieve for that caged sea that is howling from within.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The arrival of my negative balance dues slip from Pilani has been the most unpleasant among the banal reminders of my graduation.

This post is not going to be written in that endearing BITSian shortcut to posterity- the comma-separated memory format or plainly, “acknows”, the way one of my batch mates has. But six months in an environment as different from Pilani as possible has if anything thickened the nostalgia soup that I’m wading out of.

My leave taking from LatentView Analytics might not have been as scarring as my last week at Pilani was, but it was every bit as ceremonious and complete as the latter was
-Right from composing thank you cards to my bosses, hoping that I didn’t mix up the cards the way I had switched their names in a rather disastrous internal email from my first week, to dropping an expensive chocolate bomb at office, to the retirement party-esque gesture of a fast track watch that’s ticking away on my wrist right now (believe me, this is the first watch I’ve ever owned). The feebleness of these resemblances didn’t deter me from reliving the 13th of December and strangely this has had a curative effect.

PS at LatentView was catharitic and I will never thank it enough for allowing me to acknowledge that the ambitions that I’d professed were ghosts of a PS Senior past and for giving me he reasons to go back to what I really wanted.

“How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.
Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.
Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.
Yet I cannot tarry longer.
The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.
For to stay, though the hours burn in the night, is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mould.
Fain would I take with me all that is here. But how shall I?
A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that give it wings. Alone must it seek the ether.
And alone and without his nest shall the eagle fly across the sun.
Sons of my ancient mother, you riders of the tides,
How often have you sailed in my dreams. And now you come in my awakening, which is my deeper dream.
Ready am I to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind.
Only another breath will I breathe in this still air, only another loving look cast backward,
Then I shall stand among you, a seafarer among seafarers.
And you, vast sea, sleepless mother,
Who alone are peace and freedom to the river and the stream,
Only another winding will this stream make, only another murmur in this glade,
And then shall I come to you, a boundless drop to a boundless ocean."

Thanks to Ranjani, for a book that opened right away to these verses the day I got done with PS. And I seldom use the phrase “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The L-boards had been on these cars forever, from the day of registration through every premium of insurance renewal and the expired learners' licences. I walk past dust scrawls of graffiti on windshields that have neither been wind whipped nor water-wiped in its long days that are as motionless as itself. These walks save me becoming that stationary and I'm grateful.

I wonder why the black emergency water tank weeps at night. All those leaking tears of water, left over from Sunday carwashes, snubbed crow beaks and feet muddy from barefoot play flow in invisible sheets over white letters that glow sintex in the telltale glow of streetlamps. It takes the angle of my view from the stone bench to see the water for it is as inconspicuous as it would be if tears fell through ears. But if tears could be meditative, these were, streaming out serenely, unconvulsed by sobs and sorrowful thoughts.
Is it the ghosts of children's play, abandoned to obey maternal cries of meal time, that makes this place so eerie, with empty swings swaying deliriously with its own weight.

Event Ants tread warily, sniffing their way around fallen blackberries past laid to waste by a summer that takes back all the life it gives. Brambles litter the ground, broken free by hands that reach higher and higher into the tree with every passing month. If I should have an unobscured view of the starless sky from beneath the tree these hands should grow faster than the trees.

Who has raked these leaves? Why sweep them together into vacuum-pumped piles only to leave hollow echoes for bats to graze between. The stand there sentinel-like, bonfire-expectant.

But when a breeze ruffles its head, a solitary twig lifts itself upright against the chidings of stem and flutters in delight, like a mastless flag frozen in a disobedient moment before sinking black to horizontal sleep. Suddenly I hear his laugh, that surprised laugh that was the only recognition I was allowed whenever I returned to him, unfailingly, predictably. His delight never did escape the clutches of levity into the civil clothing of words. His laugh was an incomplete sentence that has left me a lifetime of strained guesswork and unsatisfactory fill-in-the-blank answers.

And when I walk back through l-boards wearing thin with every loan instalment paid, the black tank isn’t the only one watering sleepless seconds with tears that cause the past to sprout to life in places where the present dies unfulfilled.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"This document reproduces the elements of a visual presentation. It is incomplete without oral comments that accompany it." is an elegant disclaimer that I often encounter in my work, which chiefly involves making PowerPoint presentations that will be delivered by and to strangers across the seven seas.

What struck me as elegant about the phrasing of these words is the way they emphasize the inevitability of the spoken word. It is an admission of insufficiency from the very first slide of a communication tool, which, like all communication tools of today strives to do away with conversation altogether. It reinforces one of my fondest beliefs that in spite of all the twittering and instant messaging (which will always be an impostor, albeit n impostor humoured in our midst, but one who will never successfully impersonate face to face conversation), this creature inside us will put up a fight for life. It may have been weaned off a nourishing attention span and placed on a starvation diet of brief virtual exchanges, may have been made to train on the circuits of online dialogues under the merciless whip cracks of touch screen phones and mouse clicks, yet it will be alive enough to hunger for that occasional Vitamin pill of good conversation.

I wish we had better things ( a weed, like other weeds of inanity sprung from modern soils, refuses to be exterminated from my vocabulary) to say to each other. things that wouldn't be flushed clean from our minds in the daily deluges of web pages we subject our minds to, things that would sprout to life and flower in the silences of our nights and awaken us with the floral smells of truth the morning.

I don't know if people will be so conversation-impaired in the future as to sit across each other laptop in hand, listening to the voices of each other's keyboards. Perhaps we, as a species, have said all that there is to say. Our collective military history, our record of repetitive political rhetoric, that drying dying stream of literature, and the fact that we are running out of ideas for reality television shows are all testament to that. There is nothing more to say after all. And our whole-hearted embrace of these newly fashioned idioms of social networking and online communication takes us away, if only for a moment from the uncomfortable realization that these are only self-taught lip reading lessons for the blinded.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Silentium. Fyodor Tyutchev (translated by Vladimir Nabokov

Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.

How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought once uttered is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.

Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard...
take in their song and speak no word.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Only at night

Its backyard beach was all that drew us both to that temple those days, when her mother was alive. Through each of the thirty four years of our marriage she had nagged us into fully attired piety and yet the silkiest of my veshtis and the heaviest of Padmasini’s paavadais had posed no guilty encumbrances to our enjoyment of the sea. Half-built sandcastles and muddy waves strayed into gold zari margins and slipped away stealthily when the combined drone of our washing machine and my wife’s muttered chastisements began.

It was never a noisy temple. In the lull between a reckless rendition of “Maha Ganapthim” by the drunk nadaswaram prayer and the din of the temple drum we would hear nothing but insinuating whispers of the sea that would beckon us as a neglected mistress.

My wife used to claim that you could hear prayers being answered in your head if you listened close enough but we never found out. We were content to dissipate out godlessness in clinks of five-ruppee coins at every hundial and by meeting each others impatient eyes through slit-eyed glances when my wife’s eyes were safely shut in prayer.

We would stand apart from my wife as she squeezed her pious girth that grew wider with every post-menopausal year, past narrow passageways between wall and the sanishwar sanctum.
“Appa why are the navagrahas lined up so haphazardly?” Padmasini never tired of this question.
“They are not supposed to look at each other, if they do they start fighting over our fates and our solar system will collapse. But Sanishwar, that sly villain is the real star as far as your mother is concenrned.”
“No. she’s bent on appeasing all of them… that’s why she insists on 9 suthus…you need one full round to see each face clearly.” And both of us would burst out into blasphemous laughter, laughter that would linger in the glint of her irregular teeth paavadai zari till we reached the temple hall.
Family jokes are never allowed to stale, unlike familial love. Perhaps repetitive humour, recurring conversations and time-warped outings are much easier to preserve.

Keshavaperumal, the reigning deity of that temple had every inch of granite skin clothed in grayish brown with a robe of countless folded cockroach wings. They clung to silver strands and held wilted garlands together and sometimes they fell into sacred plates perhaps aiming for the camphor-fed fire, only to be brushed away by priestly fingers inured to their crawling colleagues.
Local temple legends that imbued the cockroach-affinity of the idol with all manner of divine powers, encouraged the infestation.

Padmasini, whose anti-animal cruelty stances gave away into pest-extermination tirades in the presence of anything that wasn’t wallpaper-puppy dog material, who would stop breathing whenever we unloaded chests of gollu dolls from lizard-inhabited lofts, who would shriek during current cuts at buzzing shadows of tiny moths, blown up to monstrous proportions in candle light, would clutch her stomach and attempt to deliver dire warnings to her between retching noises.
“Ayyo, don’t threaten to puke. It’s inauspicious. What’s the point of coming all the way if you don’t even present yourself to perumal for a few minutes?”

“I never sought an acquaintance with his filthy cockroaches in the bargain.” Padmasini would mutter. “What’s the use of getting us to come here all clean and dressed up when the temple is grossly unclean?” Whether this grumbling stream of words had been cut short by the danger of cascaded vomiting or by her mother’s glares I never got to know. When her mother would deem that we had spent a sufficient amount of time in the divine presence braving flying dangers and nauseating sensations, we would retreat to the beach past the reach of maternal reproaches and the wrath of cockroach gods.

Today Padmasini and I have settled down in our usual place amidst piles of disused fishing nets, slipping past the temple sans a courtesy visit. But there is no mother to cut our seaside idling short, no archanai plate to pounce at and no chakkara pongal to feast upon in the convenient post-traumatic forgetfulness of its distasteful origins.

“Do you want to get prasadam?” I ask her, groping for a trigger that will prod her memory awake. But it’s as futile as setting your alarm clock to ring on a dawn that has already passed you by.

It was a face that had gone straight from looking sharp at sixteen to a careworn thirty three without displaying any signs of having been in its twenties. Why did her the first specks of grey furtively from her temples sadden me much more than mine ever did?
“It’s hard, Padmasini. Are you sure you want to live me with me? Widowed father. Single daughter. Watching each other grey, grow haggard and age.”
She smiled. “At least I’m spared wrinkles and a paunch.” She added with a rather obvious poke in the vicinity of my abdomen.
“We’ll be fine, dad. You will cook everyday and I will stick up post-it notes every night on your medicine cabinet and get your dosages right. We’ll walk here every week and stare down couples away from the beach….dad, you know, Harsh and I have never gone to beach together ever?”
I hadn’t expected this casual reference to the ex-husband, having assumed that this was a topic that I should tread with anaesthetics at hand.
“He hated the smell violently. Just like him. Mr.Finicky-I-want-breakfast at eight-dinner at seven-and a dark quiet bedroom by nine. Would be sensitive to anything that wasn’t wiped down with Dettol ”
“Come on. He lived all his life in Bombay. I would imagine that the smells of Bombay beaches would have gotten to him.”
“Nobody gets so morbidly disgusted with something like a fishy smell.”
“Nobody develops morbid even a debilitating disgust for cockroaches either.” I retorted, surprising myself by taking his side.
She smiled. “It’s something like amma dragging us to that temple every week despite knowing that we hated it.”

Unkindness had been it, I sensed. What else would happen if two people decide to build their personal deities out of the other’s revulsions? But that’s what we all do to each other. Making my gods from their cockroaches, wringing my ecstasy out of their agony, my truths pouring out their untruths. And then we glare each other, say “Pay obeseiance to that, never?” and turn away. To be unkind, is almost as easy to learn as

“Will you go to bed now?” was the first sentence I’d ventured after our silent trudge back to my yellowing idlis.
“Don’t act like amma now.” She sneered. I suppose it will be two by the time she falls asleep, Or three. I can almost hear her adolescent tantrums that would resound though the house when her mother would make the inexplicable choice of offering resistance to Padmasini’s perennially haywire sleep cycles. I suppose Padmasini never noticed the absence of a timepiece in her room. Her mother (who would poke her head through the doorway to deliver a hourly reminder of “Aren’t you going to bed now? The time is….” would have been quite sufficient.
“How does the light in my room keep you awake? You don’t have to wait for me to go to bed.” And my wife would never be too sleepy for her monologue on sleep habits and the virtues of a disciplined life.
My wife wasn’t alone in waiting for the Beatles to stop singing in Padmasini’s room. I never slept either till I made sure that she was fast asleep. When she was younger she would wake me up every time she had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night when she discovered that her slender wrists were helpless against a tap that I would have locked tightly against the escape of unruly drops.

“There.” I would say, showing off with a quick anticlockwise twist and the water would gush out. And I would shut it tight again after tucking her into bed. Sometimes we’d eat a biscuit or two sneaking past her mother to raid the out-of-bounds biscuit dabbas of the top kitchen shelf.
Tonight the bathroom tap doesn’t need my fists to set it free, she has used it three times already. It isn’t the Beatles but something else that is keeping her awake in her favourite insomniac refuge- an endless wakefulness cycling through her between gulps of water and visits to the bathroom.

Why does she take so much pride in her silence? And guard it so jealously? It reminds me of the way she used to adjust volume settings o her walkman- with her headphones off her ears. “Sometimes it’s so loud that others can hear it in spite of the headphone.” She’d say. “You can’t hear anything right?” she’d check between songs.
Though she thinks through her headphone to tune me out of her thoughts, I can still hear snatches of the song that’s playing.
I can’t ask her whether she misses Harsh for her smirk of denial will be my only reward. I suffer speculation instead. Is she happy? Does she think of him? Miss him? Sometimes? Everyday? All the time? And having endured every “You’re a divorcee you poor thing” sympathy session to its end, she’d say of her friends “Why does everyone imagine me broken hearted when my only trouble is that it’s burning with late evening coffee and conversation?”
What enraged me the most was Harsh’s persistence in wounding her up to keep time with domestic routines. I wonder whether it escaped him in the glow of first love, my daughter’s bohemian disdain for domesticity and the impossibility of whipping her into a housewifely shape.
Whereas my wife had willingly shackled herself to the minute hand and unsuccessfully tried to drag our home along in Sisyphean circles of chores. I suppose all her Friday fasting and weekly archanais got her what she wanted. An indecently early departure.
That was the phrase they all used when Harsh and Padmasini’s divorce fell through. Indecently early. Six months of marriage had given them enough time to decide against living together. But it wasn’t enough for me. What was I supposed to do in the interim period between mourning her marriage and mourning her divorce?

I fall asleep to the lull of my insomniac ramblings, too late as usual. But tonight I’m awoken almost psychically as I used all those years by the knowledge that Padmasini is crying.
Was it a lizard this time or a cockroach? Or will I rush there empty handed, as I used to twenty years ago, with a HIT-armed wife in tow, only to find a sole baby cockroach squashed flat under an abandoned pink bathroom slipper, like a guillotine hacked down by a guilt-stricken executioner. And then as my wife dealt with the unsightly remains of brown on gleaming tiles of white, I would ease my puffy eyed (with tears and burgled sleep) daughter into bed.

“They won’t return Padmasini. Not to your room. Nor to the bathroom.”
“They won’t come tomorrow?” she would protest bleary-eyed
“Not in the day. Only at night” I would reply, somewhat honestly.
“Only at night huh? Like bad dreams. And tears.” She would complete with a yawn.

I switch on the lights and I see her surrounded by that moat of tears again and unchanged by her adult years that have passed, she whimpers, probably at the sight of a cockroach climbing up the crevices of the toilet bowl. Certain that it would scurry towards the safety of the drain on being discovered I lift my right foot in readiness over the drain. And then I turn around at a sob that has escaped her and realize that there aren’t any cockroaches here. Not a single one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

There is no road I can tread where I won’t be trodden upon, there is no space where I can be pelted into without boomeranging in a suicidal trajectory, no river that would keep me afloat while singing me to sleep. In flight I’m a death wish waiting for a landing skull but can I become a wishing star? If a rock flies close enough to the sky won't it become a meteor, just as a meteor becomes a rock when it flies close enough to the earth?
This is not what I wish to be- just another creak from a wound-up wheel just another tweak of a tightened gear just another scream just another jolt of this awful machine just another tear that slinks past, unwiped, just another note in this babble of deaf men.

It is not the orderly ordinariness of “just another” that I shrink from but the existence that succeeds these two words. So many other “just another” s would have been nice.
To have been just another rock in a fish tank and grow green and soft with the years that bubble past me like the kisses of fishes. Just another pebble scooped out of a pallanaguzhi cavity snuggled between a girl's fingers and juggled into a dozen others. Just another stone tossed into the waves by a schoolboy perversity to check if it would be borne back to the shore, intact by bobbing waves, as if the sea were a bounding puppy to play catch with. But these stones are retrieved faithfully. Always.

It is not in my nature to be whole. After I was brought forth from an infinity of fissions and an infinity of fissions is what I’ll give myself up to, no spectacular exploding end for me but a ground-down worn-out hammered-flat one. The ignominious farewell that is the lot of a long-used shoe. Of rust.

I was born million-pieced the day I broke away from the earth and my existence can’t be much more than a delayed disintegration, relinquishing a smithereen a day, scattering myself in a dust of death a little at a time. And I’ve learned that if you’re not whole, wholly yourself, you’re nothing.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where did she go?

Where did she go, the one who bought my silences and unsaid words so dearly?

There were neither any precociously articulated avowals of eternal faith nor was passage fare paid for parting sentences. We waded through the ocean braving the jitters of midnight walk long-winded talk first-time coffee and spilled cookie crumbles. And secrets were jettisoned in the middle of the sea when nobody but the two of us were looking, plop upon plop, drop by drop, blurted whispers streaking between blink and stare into the shelter of “don’t tell anybody else” pretence.

How will her pawned secrets be mine to keep when she has bought out her debt, taking flight like that crow which paused mid-air above my ears in greeting only to ruffle my hair against her wing before flying away into anonymity into a roost-filled tree?

Why did she shut herself into passageway of darkened rooms thus? I feel my way through a battle formation of light switches, successively switching on lights, groping for the next by a slender shaft of door ajar light. Every victorious flicker only leads me to another and soon enough it’s the switches I seek not her.
How is it that phone calls die as phantom key strokes, undialled, mails lapse into hurried and her face binned like a boredom-dissipated doodle.

When I was a child I used to buy groundnuts in rolled-up Reader’s Digest cones. Once, to my intense agony, I happened to read the words. Perhaps I’d wanted something to keep munching to the thought of.
Recall is a traitorous, while the article was memorable enough to have created an impression on me, an impression to make me to this day, it wasn’t powerful enough to stick around in scrapbook glue or even as a half-remembered sentence. Whenever one of those yellowed magazine shets that have escaped archival imprisonment, recycled rebirths and failed groundnut shell paperweights land at my feet I will remember that I had read something that was lost to me forever.

I know that my worst nightmare will come true when I’m singing my daughter to sleep or playing rhyme games with her, when I’ll be pushed off my seat halfway through the swing of the lullaby/rhyme and fall hard on an empty ground, voice hoarse and strained with a recklessly hopeful repetition of those fortunate first lines, beseeching the others to return to my memory. But they won’t because I will have forgotten the songs of my childhood. Save the beginnings. Beginnings (of anything) are usually coarse enough to stay on top when memory is ruthlessly sieved.

Sometimes you need only one conversation to know a person. I think I know the one whose memory prompted me to start this story. Because that’s all I’ll ever get with her. Would it make a difference if we spoke again? I wish it would.

Some things have happened to me more than once, even regularly throughout my life, but how many versions can I recall? One. I realise my reality in cloned days stood-up seconds and fleeting moments of happiness that were so desperately longed for but finally everything has been recorded as a single copy each.

One conversation in an acquaintance of hard-fought smiles and embalmed confidences. A split-second childhood with only one remembered rendition of “Kai veesama Kai veesu” (How does the second stanza go, anyway?) bouncingly sung on my mother’s knees. And only one shot at that blissful void of complete forgetfulness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rhyming Dreams

I've been reading too much Tagore (again)

"I dreamt that she sat by head, tenderly ruffling my hair, playing the melody of her touch. I looked at her face and struggled with my tears till the agony of unspoken dreams burst my sleep like a bubble.

I sat up and saw the glow of the milky way above my window, like a world of silence on fire and I wondered if at this moment she had a dream that rhymed with mine."
-I dreamt,Lover's Gifts

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Among the set of people I've fallen in love with over a lifetime, women outnumber men. Perhaps by one hundred to one. I'd never given this too much thought until well-meaning friends suggested that these might be unconscious outgrowths of latent homosexuality.

I didn't as much as protest when I heard this because fortunately sexual desirability or its absence had little effect on these inexplicable attacks of ...not attraction, worship; else it would have shredded my soul into more bits than I could have put together. Some of these women were extremely attractive (by conventional standards) while most weren't. I've always taken it for granted that sex was overrated, an insignificant variable in romantic equations. I've once heard someone say that everybody is bisexual by default. We're all capable of singling out from a glance, sexually advantaged specimens from either gender, aren't we? Anyway, if we use these crooked yardsticks all women would be considered homosexual for we have better taste in women than any man can ever possess or cultivate.

Never had to open my eyes and see them for what they really were, only dreamt. Of childhood pains pleated into shrinking skirts. Because I could catch a failing seam or two between pirouette swirls .Of tears tucked between eyelids that were making stalactite arches around perennially unblinking eyes. Because I could her the drip-drop that everybody else missed in the laughter. Of the trapdoor under thickly carpeted conversations. Because I kept falling through.
Nothing beats the pleasure of creating alters for people who have no intention of painting themselves in enigmatic hues. Especially for unimaginative women who’ll never understand how beautiful their silhouettes are or realize that shadows shouldn’t go unnoticed just because the glare of a torch is unflattering to the image itself.
I fall in love with women the way I want to be fallen in love with. The only person who would love her the way she ought to be loved lives in me. And I pay homage in part to the lover I might have made of my male self and in part to the woman who brings him into existence. With lips pursed into secret pouches bursting with unspoken sentences and choked silences. With upended glances that might have betrayed more than a quizzical “just looking” expression if they had been allowed to stand upright and meet another pair of eyes headlong. With every moment swallowed back into a parched throat along with the utterance “I see you as clearly as I’ve seen myself and what’s more, I see myself better than ever for having seen you.”
It is my self that I’ve been falling in love with, the woman and man within. Over and over again. More than I’ve ever . Hundred times to one.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rain, Rain...

It's raining in Madras.

The first drop wasn't my imagination and the second merely insisted that it wasn’t so. My skin takes them in the way a passing stranger would pick up runaway scraps from an overheard argument between the leaves. But when I glance up at the whispering green parliament they fall silent to let the wind speak in their stead.

It's raining in Madras.

Somebody up there has acid-polished the sky to a starless silver tonight, scrubbed it hard till every black cloud disappeared into a wiped retreat. Nothing is left behind but lightning beams that wince thunderously at every blink.

It's raining in Madras.

Penitent winds of a childhood of truant monsoons tramp through the emptied streets, desperately seeking notice in every sheet of paper that flies past long-handed lunges and the surprise flecks of rain that it sprinkles. Nobody looks up in recognition and smacks their lips in a smile that washes away in advance all that post-rain perspiration.

Soon enough it walks off huffily, yet another stranger shunned by the uncaring hordes of my city.

It's raining in Madras.

The rain got me to write my first essay at five “My favourite season is the rainy season” It got me acquainted with the only streets I’ve trudged through, skirts drawn and shoes abandoned to puddle squelched steps, Sunday-sunlight and Kiwi White. To say the only prayers I’ve mouthed- between unbalanced redox equations in the Chemistry class before PT (“Not now. Not now. Please.”)and in the shivering arms of my mother (“Arjuna Arjuna”) when we waited for cyclones to vanish into a dry-cleaned dawn. I’ve fallen short in races thanks to treacherously long raincoats and I’ve waded back home in battered bicycles to hear “scoldings” (where did our absurdly coined Tamilian English words go?) between sneezes.

It's raining in Madras.

The rain and I have no more firsts to exult in or any long-time-no-see pleasantries that friends long lost to each other, exchnge.
If this is not the first rain has kissed my skin, if I’ve never before articulated twenty years of vagrant rains why do I repeat this simple sentence with a sadness that befits a first heartbreak?

Because it's raining in Madras.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A curious bystander, leaning its neck across the street turning in L-shaped enquiry. Impossible to miss from either of the roads with a name boards for each arm of the right angle- "Ramaas Cafe" spelt in white over navy blue polythene stretched tight, clean large old-fashioned capital-letter calligraphy, instead of the usual neon ugliness and illuminated projections of alphabet metal.

I knew I was transformed into a regular the minute I stepped in because I didn’t feel the need to look at the menu or deliberate over decisions. I already divined for example that the best time to onion vadai would be around dour-o-clock when they would be hot and freshly made and not six when the batch would have run out. That the perfect circles of parottas would be gold-specked and crispy to a thickness of 2 mm and then white chewy and elastic. That the coffee here was prone to eccentric swings of personality- deliriously sugary one day and despondently dilute the next. Thick and strong sometimes on those rare early afternoons that I drop into and milky-light and teary-eyed at the end of a long caffeine-intensive evening.
But I preferred this temperamental concoction, its roller coaster rides between stainless steel tumbler and “davara” and the sight of the coffee kicking up deliciously brown foamy fuss (watching the foam rise to the brim is an aesthetic stimulus that can compensate for any defects of taste). Rather than subjecting myself to the hiss of a shamelessly displayed coffee-maker that makes the same decoction (the making of which is an art and not a formula) day after day in a fast-food joint that gallingly, serves it in plastic cups minus the all-important “davara”

It was the kind of place that couldn't have made you feel any other way but an old-timer because baubled familiarity hung all over it. Between the perpetually-rolled up bamboo-stalk window shades, on the mica-sheeted tables, behind the juice and chat counters and all over the waiters who would treat you as if you’ve been eating there forever, even if it was your first time. The kind of place that promised to remember your order by-heart and then prompt you, “Idly- vadai , as usual? And then half a serving of coffee?” even before your memory clicks awake.

I chose the corner table for that was the closest I could get to the street and with the window shades rolled up and welcoming, the street lounged within its precincts all day. This has never happened before, my wanting to enjoy roadside views as an accompaniment to amid-evening meal. My “ambience” preferences have always been carefully disinfected of noise of any kind and vehicular noise has the same effect on my mood as that of a well-oiled spanner on an ill-fitting bolt.

But then identities were stripped off in that quaint Madras setting and everybody assumed the role (Sambar guzzling south Indian whose audible burps somehow gladden proprietorial hearts?) appropriate to the setting. All of us ordered the same things, ate with their hands, smearing entire finger length with chutney-flecked sambar. The establishment must have dispensed with spoons altogether because it was impossible not to spread sambar and chutneys over you plate and soak your hands with that satisfyingly untidy mixture. It was a relief not to be confronted with an sulky spoon or to feel awkward about asking for your fourth extra helping of Sambar. The waiters always refilled my cups without a single word or glance being exchanged. And I’m certain that they don’t stock tissue paper or choose to arrange those coarse sheets into flimsy white floral patterns within glasses.

In short, it was a place the likes of my father would have patronised in their youth or my grandfathers (I’m quite sure of this though I haven’t known either of them, alive.) would have turned to all their lives. It has survived the fast-foodisation of Madras café s, the disgusting pretences of pseudo-gourmet culture and the wander-lust impulses that gastronomic infidelity has inspired among my contemporaries (Most complain of having run out of “Italian places” in Madras to “sample”. I suppose they wouldn’t condescend to give these idli-dosa joints a try) and has still preserved remnants of my city’s old-world hospitality. And to think that a newly constructed flyover (I don’t know which one, there has been a spate of flyover inaugurals in the last 3 years) almost shut this place down. Its transplantation from the bustling heart of an Alwarpet main road to this leafy little street corner might have been the best thing that’s happened to it. I wouldn’t have enjoyed an exhaust-clouded view of a or bust-honk-symphonies too much.

PS: Glamorizing places that are sworn to antiquity or falling in love just for the fleeting taste of the past is habit I don’t seem to be able to break.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A creed for quitting- somebody else will do it.

Many a time hot-air balloon strings have been thrust between my fingers along with a whisper. “Hold it for me in memory of each of my warm breaths, my hot tears and my half-dreamed dreams that fill it. For I’m out of breath and can fly this no more but with you it might just touch the sky.”

But why should I tie foisted dreams to my fingertips? I won’t hold a candle to a dream that’s not mine. Nor a balloon.

Not long ago, my mind glided about on borrowed steam. When love (or youthful foolishness or both) got me to parade around, clothed in invisible hopes, borrowed.

Righteous relinquishment of things you had once resolved upon is easy when you realize that there’ll always be someone else to takeover a stove you’ve abandoned and boil the meal to completion. Sans burns. Sans spills.

If I’d believed this earlier it would saved me all that guilt of not stepping up to start out on what I’d promised to. Why should I take up anything I dislike when somebody else is going to do that anyway, in my stead?

Like all the lines of Java code I refused to write a month back.
Like all those B-school entrance applications that I didn’t buy
The GMAT dollars (=52Rs?) that went unspent.
Those 99th percentile CAT scores I turned away from (At the risk of sounding arrogant, this wouldn’t have been a far-fetched possibility had I chosen a lifetime of board-room doodles, year-end bonuses received between nail-bitten fingers, and client conversations that necessarily have to commence with a round of feeble jokes.)

Somebody else did it. There will always be somebody else who'll miss my sunsets and park-swings but they will keep the world going.

It’s simple to just unclench my fingers and let the balloon leave me. Because it won’t explode or deflate but fall into somebody else’s hands, somebody else who will make it fly, like they always have. It’s a big world after all, big enough to dip its hands into waste paper bins, flatten crumpled paper balls and read inky ghosts into existence.

Monday, March 2, 2009


A poem by Pablo Neruda

Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the
perfumes of spring.
I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands;
how did your lips feel on mine?
Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks,
the white statues that have neither voice nor sight.
I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten
your eyes.
Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of
you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will
do me irreparable harm.
Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every
Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because
of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting
stars, falling objects.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The first amla

Gayatri’s shoes bravely bore the spray of the puddle’s spittled laughter, a spray that had doused less fortunate unshod feet. Even before its rippled smile damped down, she was off. The traffic signals cleared a bewildered passage for her to the fruit stall.

Her fingers, ringed with a folded ten-rupee note, skidded over her uncertainty about the Tamil name. They hovered over the pea-green pile like an indecisive pebble cornered by an avalanche. “Five rupees of that.”

The fruitseller blinked sunbeams out of his eyelids as he groped for five rupee coins, elusive in their sunburnt glare. Cars and bikes whizzed past that intersection, their horns screeching as if in denouncement of this transaction. He rolled out a glossy page-3 funnel dripping with gossip but they would plug leaks of amla.

Generously sprinkled masala powder didn’t make it past her lips. Like shoes banished respectfully at a doorstep and recalled into the house in a trice by hospitable hands, her lips swept them into her mouth between mouthfuls. The spice warmed a tongue that had welcomed those tart yellow marbles frozenly.

Was it her teeth that cut into the fruit or the fruit into her teeth? Its sour scalpels scribbled words onto her tongue, incisions that she could never utter. What was that her mother used to say? Something about people with black-spotted tongues who possessed the power of turning anything that escapes their mouths true. “It isn’t the same as a prediction. If they wish to experience anything they just have to say it aloud. Curse or blessing, their pronouncements always come to pass”

Gayatri wished the amla would etch citric scars on her tongue that would perform that miracle in reverse- narrate whatever happened to her the way it did. She envied the amla’s quality of truth. Sharp and clear like a polished knife.

The walk back to her office was hot. Madras heat is unlike any other, an amicable despot who declared frequent tax rebates for sugarcane juice stalls and coconut water vendors. Sometimes his generosity led him as far as to unloose ticklish gusts of wind that consoled congealed cotton and teased dark sweat-blotched faces of out of armpit-hiding. How little of him had she seen all these years in that cave of an A/C cubicle.

“Gayatri, I hope you know that the presentation starts in ten minutes. Where have you been?” There she was, Madhu, standing hands-on-hips, head tilted at an intensely disbelieving angle, eyes narrowed as it were a polarizer in search of the right wavelength of excuses to filter.
Gayatri’s tongue ceased to lick, and her teeth shivered loosely in denuded relief. The wrapper unravelled to scatter fruit all over the conference table, a conical scroll spreading bad tidings in court.

Madhu continued, pout-in-place “This is irresponsible and unprofessional. Never expected this from you. The client will be here in 10 minutes, and you walk off god-knows-where to buy gooseberries.”

Gayatri’s mouth bulging with the runaway retorts exploded in a shower of slurped rinds still singing the amlas’ sharp notes.
White seeds bounced off the LCD screen in surprised spots and landed on laptop keys, saliva fingering the keys like stenographic hands poised to type at an order. Gayatri wondered if it was just the seeds that she spat out or whether bits of teeth had followed them out, teeth that had hitherto been bared in smiles of counterfeit obedience and had crushed despairing smirks behind quivering lower lips.

She walked back arm in arm with the Madras heat. A two-rupee packet would be enough this time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A road to dream on.

It was a road to dream on. Trees leaned across walls for neighbourly chats that spread whispered canopies over the entire stretch. Spittle starved out under whole sunny days but swam bravely before finicky feet quelled bloated bubbles that rose and collapsed like chests choking in suppressed rage.

In the evening the wafted announcements of boiled groundnuts would bring me to a momentary halt in the zebra crossing. As if the vendor had wheeled in that cart straight from Elliot’s beach. If I’d heard his bell had tinkle in tune to the creak of his wheel, I might have heard the waves that were slowly bulldozing the beach away. But the road made earplugs out of all of us. My fingers wriggle into my ears through each of those million honks, ignition tantrums and war drums sounded between gearshifts and clutches. The evenings were always the best, when you crossed the road as a mass of homebound people tied together by waiting dinners and clock-suppressed yawns. Like migratory birds that travelled in flocks that alternately made V-shaped mobs and scattered like new-born stars in an exploding sky with season, we surfed over breaker after breaker of road-crossings together. Bottled together at the approach of a vehicle and then uncorking in sync, the fizz greenlit and the bubbles shoe-shaped.

They looked unnaturally happy in the evenings. Faces that had performed stoically to the plastic waves of a whistling conductor in the morning would shatter into zombie smiles. But it was a comical sight- a green man prancing after an appointment only to deflate to the inertia of a film negative in 30 seconds.

Sometimes, I’d plot ambitious coups against the timed tyranny of the traffic light. If my treachery was caught red-handed, I’d send smilingly apologetic envoys though wind-pummelled windshields to irritated feet and surprised brake pedals. And gracious reprieves would be dispatched along with those rare return-gifts- a kindly wave to go on forward or a resigned smile that would set their finger joints cracking whips against fatigue during that unexpected recess.

It took me a month to spot that streetsign. Walking everyday on an anonymous road is like befriending wayside strangers. You might take turns for the window seat, hold their lunch bags, and swap newspapers. One day, by pure accident you might chance upon a half-hidden ID card or the scribbled first page of the notebook that cursorily introduce its owner between your half-guilty glances. You realize that you are a nameless shadow in the other person’s head, a shadow that is summoned along with the image of a bus and your anonymity becomes only keener. And their name bedews your memory reducing itself to a lettered rot. Three words. It lay drunkenly in a half squat, drooling peeled paint at the foot of a mountainous pile of a makeshift dump, enjoying his beggar impersonation. Kavignar Bharathidasan Road. Nobody in TN needed the Kavignar prefix to remember that Bharathidasan was a poet. But I think the guys who painted this sign knew what they were doing.

It was a road that dreamed on and on. Plucked a little of everybody else’s dreams that were shed little by little like heartbroken hair and plaited them into wigs, worn and thrown with every violated traffic light. But the walking scalps fallowed on as they followed the road with their nose.

And only three other heads were in the know. For the road dreamed with them.
With the street lamps that stayed awake till seven in the morning and then put its head down when nobody but the road was looking.The road extracted a severe price for the secrecy.

With the bin-raiding woman lodged on the grimy tongued road like a half-tasted morsel of food, saved for later to be picked out between the road’s blue-grey teeth and slurped down into its gutters. She shook out specks of dried gravy and half-grains of rice along with wrinkles premature and hungry out of packing foil after packing foil, her hair as silver as the aluminium.

With the twenty-year old who made up poems while walking on the left side of the road and scattered them through her perforated consciousness, the way she allowed coins to slip out through worn torn pockets and then resisted that stooping instinct that weighed her down more than the coins ever did.
Pick them up she never did.
But she brushed her stray hair back into her elastic manacle at every intersection. Carefully. Each hair secure in its place, each dream safe from the road.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What would she say?

What would she say?

Anybody watching me might have shook their head in sympathy, believing that my eyes were blinking back tears, straining to catch a glimpse of a notoriously infrequent bus number on every display plate that swooshed past the bus stop. But what I'm searching for instead is a place that would cup me between crowded palms of inconspicuousness. Instead of allowing my foam cage to tie my arms to its own or blotting my restless screams on muted tissues of office routines.

If she saw me substituting an air-conditioned wait for six-o-clock with a wait for a phantom bus, what would she say?

I love standing on the road median when I wait for the traffic lights to change. Caught in the middle between armies of pedestrians on either side of the road looking longingly at the signal for the green flare. I'm not enmeshed within that 30 second large web of anticipation. Sometimes I wish that the signals would break down so that I go on standing on that road median forever. All that stands between me and annihilation at the hands of joyous just-released wheels is my wily strength, localized away from my head in my feet. But the signals always change in time. Always. So I cross the road back and forth, switching between armies till my own livery blends into a traitorous camouflage among theirs. .Till my fingers have brushed enough knuckles clenched around battered brief-cases and emptied lunch bags. Towards a chair bound exile.

If she heard my meditations of my close-to-collapse feet, what would she say?

There is a street filled with my dreams of houses. I've seen each of these before, between quilted childhoods in malarial visions. But in my dreams the gardens weren't locked behind these gates. Gates that forbid you to worship what lies, and like a dust cover that steals a sculpture's glory, making itself a monument instead. I ignore the sentries and walk on.

Why does that street side temple stand like that then? A crucified pose. On their toes. With a back hammered to the wall, eyes drawn away from the road and a face scrunched as if in preparation for a slap. It doesn’t even dodge when vehicles run knead its feet. As if this was it expected all along. I know what it feels like. Perennially braced for slaps and then turning my face thankfully when none of them landed.

If she knew that walks along broad beautiful roads were being frittered in nourishing my grief with such recollected pigswill, what would she say?

There is only one more suicidal drop of juice left in that straw, resisting my out-of-breath rescue attempts. Low backed chairs make themselves more uncomfortable by gliding greasily along a floor carpeted with samosa crusts and spilled ketchup. Am I so paranoid about running into my colleagues that I choose the grubbiest eat-out in the vicinity? Anxiety coaxes out every calorie that I've wrung out of carrot juice.
If she could sense that I was mangling perfectly ordinary outings into escaped eternities, what would she say?

We hold hands, the chair and I. I’m being welcomed into an exile like someone who’s returning from another. My mouse pointer hovers between pdf poetry and excel sheets, poised to pounce to the right window at the sound of carefully memorized footsteps. Of course I get a day’s worth of work done in two hours at the cost of reducing every word to gibberish and every task to a system of repetitive actions. Poe’s poems and revenue statements. Fuel hedges and blogs. They equally irretrievable in my trying to be equally attentive to both- whim and will.

A g-talk message raises its head sleepily from my taskbar. I submit to her gentle interrogation with suitable subservience. For all my bravado, I worship authority. This if nothing else is the saving grace of my otherwise disintegrating professionalism.

She’s a good sport of a boss after all- my offers of taking on more work are received favorably. She says “Good girl.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm stuck in the throes of a pilani tea craving. And my new-found obsession with filter coffee has fizzled out. After a month of fighting off intoxication at Coffee Day counters (PB pure and Plantation A beans are expert nostril-raiders who seldom spare my olfactory lobes that obligatory neuronal short-circuiting that disrupts brain activity three hours afterwards. Watching the attendant comforting polythene packs bursting with coffee with those digestive pats mothers use to push babies off the brink of a burp doesn't help. Nor does feeling their hot anger of diminution through printed plastic through the journey back. It takes the hotter stimulus of a steaming coffee tumbler in your hand to cure you.) A month of adding caffeinated post-scripts to Murugan idli meals braving blatant "Why?" looks that my sister is apt to shoot.

I'm one of those sickeningly typical creatures who prove all those pseudo-universal adages starting with "After all it's human to...."right. It's human to long only for absent loves while taking everyone else for granted. It's human to fall desperately in love with what is lost to you forever. It's human to choose exactly those things which are worst for you. (This one's from Rowling I think). It's human to love the dead far more intensely than their live presences would have ever deserved.

I started calling myself a tea-drinker in Pilani -a place that gets people seeking a well-traveled boast to begin many journeys at once and then end up in places they would rather not have found themselves in. (but useful to construct charming never-heard-before anecdotes out of all the same. What else matters but winning the crowd while appearing to scorn them?) The more perilous ones drive you towards alcoholism, pot-addiction, a supercilious belief in your superiority to the rest of humanity while simultaneously allowing loneliness to hollow your soul out, a misplaced sense of pride in a dystopian world view that is cultivated carefully to look cool, multiply enhanced respect for sarcasm and belief that it's the supreme form of humour and that secretly fostered lovechild -insecurity in defects previously invisible. Was that in ascending order? Yes, I checked. I guess I’ve been more fortunate. I ended up with merely a gastronomic issue.

The seed of any habit is a harmless imitation. The way you order exactly what the other person is ordering at a restaurant. Not because you want to conform or please them but because you don't really know enough to have strong preferences. Then it becomes a group ritual, just one more feature of your time together with a person or a set of them. Once you develop a private relationship with the habit, (the day you start ordering tea in double-chai doses alone without realizing that you've already done 6 cups that day.) you're done for.

Tea from the beverage machine here is an optimization problem. I have to optimize the tea-bag diffusion operation in a way that maximizes flavour absorption and minimizes cooling-down-to-tastelessness time. As for the street side tea stalls, an all-male domain that I ventured to buy from, the tea was probably the third infusion of infinitely reused tea powder and tasted of the strainer it was poured through several times with those expert hand maneuvers that would make a bystander wonder if it was tea or gravity-defying plasma.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On the wrong side of a sunset.

Waves flush yet another wager
Down its hoarded whirlpool of
Spilled split seconds and squandered Sundays
Pulling magic carpets woven out of
Pickled promises and piggy-banked fears.
From under dream-embalmed feet.

I wish every hair of mine were a brush.
That they might brave
Windy strokes of invisible knives
To paint your hideous orange orgies
With the west.
In brazen bruised purple.

I wish every grain of sand
Stormed into open eyelids
And hacked away
In a blinking blinding rage
An eyeful of tears
Would resurrect their
Upper hourglass lives.

Why do I keep my back turned to you?
Not these last moulting hours
Second skin
Falling off dream-embalmed feet
Drying dying grain of sand
Falling off dream-embalmed feet

Parley with me across this azure table again
Wash foamy blue sleep out of your eyes
Raise your head slow and proud
And strike a clean bargain this time.

You’ve got this day stashed deep
Within chameleon pockets scuttling up the sky
Let me reclaim it before you
Vanish into thin- aired repose
Between blankets star-speckled and sly.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

There is nothing better than a small workplace to see corporate realities sans make-up sans airbrush in its helpless nakedness. A place where no conversation is confined to the cubicle it happens in. Where people switch of their screens whenever they leave their desks where you might accidentally spend restroom queue times with the Director. Where an official communication is incomplete without the words "ideate" "revert back to" (?) and "ad-hoc commitement" (again(?)). Where unless you adjust your timing very carefully, you might happen to be the only intern in a lunch group of managers.

It’s been interesting so far. I can now gauge from the intensity and frequency of footsteps whether I should minimize my Hangman window or not and I’ve progressed to the extent that I can figure out whether a telephone ring is emanating from my instrument or one 3 cubicles away.
My “organization” is 30 employees strong. Everybody right from the founder to the youngest employee aboard (me) use the same kind of desk space. I don’t really resent the fact that laptops are given only to ranks of manager and above because my LCD screen is pretty easy on my cornea.
For a fairly flat organization (Founder= Director>Manager>Analyst> Office boy) the feudalistic rituals that exist beneath the first-names-only façade are chilling.

If you’re getting the idea that I’m not enjoying my stint here, you’re wrong. I’m glad I”ve been insulated to the maximum possible thickness from intern-bashing. These guys really understand and respect their interns and the desire to provide us with the maximum possible “exposure” is derived purely from good intentions (“We’re a people-oriented company”) than any malicious plans of grooming work horses.

Training sessions are voluntary (I’m quite shameless in admitting that I’ve skipped all of them.) and are conducted in a thoroughly informal potato-chip-munching setting. And add to all this the fact that only three people in the company are 35+ to make it feel positively utopian.
I’m in love with most of my colleagues (Seriously. I’ve never appreciated a group as much as this one.) that is the ones I’ve exchanged at least one sentence with. I love the managers for their fuss-free competence and desk-perched pep talks. I love the top two for their sharply purposeful strides. Merely hearing them walk into office and clicking their laptops open gets me to do twice as many slides. I love everybody else for working 12 hours a day and making my schoolkid sprint out of the office and my beatific freedom-at-dusk expression seem like something to be ashamed of. Honestly working more than 8 hours a day ought to be outlawed. I’m earliest to arrive at office and earliest to leave. More than fair.

I love the smell of new wood that steals into my lunchbag whenever I snap my drawers shut, a smell that speaks of four year wildernesses and desperately extended project deadlines.
I love the water bottle that bears my name with cellotaped dignity for forgiving me everyday for misplacing my attention along with its cap by filling up all by itself and greeting me tight and closed every morning.

I’ve got a time-lag problem. My experience of happiness lags my memory of it by 180 degrees. Maybe I’m doomed to savour only the memory of happiness, never the feeling itself. To realize that a place has made been infinitely happy only after leaving it for good. It’s not going to happen to PS-2. Most of all I love my workplace for telling me that while I may understand its rules I can never last out the entire game. I may be in this world, alive comfortable and well-adjusted. But I don't belong to it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

As I type this from a chair that’s way too low for me (Do I notice this because of all the Wikipedia entries I’ve just read? The ones on repetitive strain injury, computer vision syndrome and all those hideous things that happen to coffee (the coffee is brilliant at my PS 2 station, filter-coffee level, never knew that a dispenser could work. Blame ANC.}-guzzling beings confined to swivel chairs in air-conditioned office spaces) I realize that multiply bracketed sentences don’t provide the best starts to a post, especially one you type under a glancing-behind-your-shoulder strain that only a deceptively semi-private space like an office cubicle can inspire.
People here don’t even pretend to look away while they are caught staring at each other’s comp screens. Sheesh. I know it’s an office comp and that I’m supposed to figuring statistical modeling out instead of contemplating mails to friends who are probably so entangled within their razais in the anticipation of vetti new courses, that they will find it near-impossible to read mine completely and compose a reply as long as my mails are bound to get. Still…
Tamilian faces aren’t pretty. Or should I say south-Indian faces? Of course I’m referring to the roughly hewn ebony-hued majority, the throng with whom I juggle change and tickets , fight devious toe-scrunching elbow-shifting shoe-wringing wars for standing space near the bus windows and share the spoils- those rare breezes that sneak on you from beneath and move up your clothes in a way that makes you grateful for your city’s perennial summer.
Of course I didn’t mean to sound the way I did about the homely Tamilian. But it’s a sign that I’m starting to get smothered by Chennai and domesticated at home
1. My culinary debut has been successful.
2. I’ve spent half my time in supermarket queues and the other half in the corner shops on the way home to purchase provisions that I’d missed in the supermarket.
And I need as much help to cross these roads as a blind man does.
Fortis Guard is the eleven-letter combination of letters I hate the most now. Signing into igoogle and then adding the Gmail gadget to view my inbox on my colleagues’ suggestion made me realize how much resourcefulness desperation can manufacture to make continuous inroads into webguards.
Here’s to my resolution of not transforming into that unproductive net-grazing stipend-wasting no-good -an exquisitely standardized PS2 product.