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.