Friday, December 30, 2005

Faith

People are talking about their faiths. Moving posts that shake you out of your slumber. Was reading Pottinger's article on why he left a coveted job of a journalist and joined the Marines in Iraq. If the world is getting bi-polar, with Muslims on one side and Christians on the other, which side do the Jews take?

Or is it the USA against the Muslims of the world? Which side do I take? What happens to my dear friend Khalid, my mechanic Assad, if I join the other side? Do we stop having beer together?

What about the communists and antigods? Should I join them? Yes, I am without a religion, but I don't mind when Srinivasa stops for a few minutes to say his prayers at the temple on the way to office. Should I be antigod, or just remain godless?

If there has to be bi-polarity, then the rest of the world has to join the Americans when they plunder a Muslim country to control their oil reserves. And if all the Muslims of the world unite, how are the Shiites and Sunnis gonna eat from the same plate? How will the converted Muslims be treated, the mujahirs in Pakistan who are bombed every week? Will they be taken into the same fold and given the same status of warrior for the sake of this war? What about the nonradical Muslims who don't want to join but write the best Urdu poetry in the world? Will they be killed before the war starts? What about the Muslims who have married Christians, or Jews, or Hindus? Will they start the war by killing their spouses?

And us, the Hindus. The millions of confused Hindus with a million different rituals and cultures. Which camp do they join? I, being a strict meat eater cannot tolerate the vegetarian Hindus. Will I let them join me? What will the Tamil Hindus want? Which land are they going to grab after Sri Lanka...Singapore?

Tell me something, where do the Cubans go? Without the former USSR, where do they go? Why is the US selling food to them now? I thought you guys had an embargo against Cuba? And are you pissed with Cuba because they are Communists and antigod and because you are predominantly Catholic?

I am very confused. Just today. Tomorrow when I drive my jeep through some abandoned wastelands, I may forget about you all. But today I cannot say Shalom Aleicheim or Salaam Aleikyum...there is no peace that I can wish for you.

If the world is getting bi-polar, let us go to the moon.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Last Weakness

the last weakness, linger on
hover around mindspace, my yellow filter
hold me back when with a violent shrug
I wake up and look around
for a green today

yellow filter's here to stay

while the strength i tasted is saved within,
for a black tomorrow
day without the sun

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spilled to Bloodlessness is the culprit

Every time I feel I have something to write, I think of writing in the other blog. Reason being the readership. At least some people will read me, I think. Cannot tell you how immensely satisfying it is to have somebody read anything you've written. I do that quite often. Thrust my stuff at people and expect them to comment.

Some of them really puked. What mush, they blurted. Someone else gushed, how real. Because I value most of the opinions, I am left thinking what to make of my writing. Is it absolute trash? How come it made her cry then?

But since yesterday I've been finding it difficult to write. Started with the topic of an amblyopic mind, when your mind is gradually going off to sleep, when it refuses to mentally strip for you the girl in the next cubicle. And you feel let down. My mind goes lazy like that at times and I catch myself trying to bribe it. Usually with music.

Was not sure it would make a good topic for a public blog, but that was where I wanted to write. For its readership, again. How vain! Have overcome that today. If I have to blurt out, let me do it here. If I have something separately crafted for Spilled to Bloodlessness, let me post it there.

Because this is where you can goof up and laugh at yourself. But that is like a stage where once you fumble, you trip and fall. Fall where? In others' eyes? How do you care? Who are they? How do they matter? But they are readers, people for whom you write. Yes, sometimes you do write for them, don't you?
Most of the time?
Always?

This is a big one.
"Whatever I write is for them."
Them with the unknown faces and the most beautiful names.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cut

I watched a violent movie last night. And believe me, I sat through it because although it appeared very realistic, there was hope that it'll turn happy later. Hope of revenge being exacted.

It borrowed from various other movies, and the theme was cliched too. There's this merciless village landlord in the lawless state of Bihar. He is above law and his lumpen sons enjoy something like a diplomatic immunity in that village. They end up raping a nine-year-old girl and throw her into a ditch. Her dad, played by Indian hero Sanjay Dutt, manages to buy a gun and shoots the rapists at the court. Till this time it reminds you of A Time to Kill, and although there are tears et al, the class of a Samuel L. Jackson is missing.

Well, my point is, what should the family have done (the dad, his wife, and three children) after having avenged the rape? According to their original plan, they were all to die together by consuming poison at a secluded garage. The landlord's hired killers would have finished them anyway.

If they died at this point, the film would have been a realistic portrayal of what happens in most of rural India. I would have gone off to sleep thinking there was some kind of justice after all.
However, they do not die. Bollywood sentiments take charge of the film from that point on and it turns into a fantasy. The melancholy music that you hardly noticed earlier becomes bold and I'm sure I won't spend any time talking about it here.

There are many films like this that could have been better with a little bit of editing here and there. You should know exactly where to cut.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Like apparitions in the middle of the road that you can sometimes pass through, I can feel the dreams failing me. Sometimes flying away like some used newspaper from my car on the highway. Yes, I do litter our Indian roads. Only paper and biodegradables though. Am a philistine but not philistine enough to throw plastic out the window on a highway.

Not as a habit, only in an emergency.
And the dreams are flying away like tissues used in emergency, landing on the thorny bushes of Maharashtra and getting stuck there. I look back and they become white specks in a matter of seconds. Why is this car moving so fast, I wonder. Not fast, but a speed that makes it very unstable and wobbly. But I cannot stop to check the wheel alignment.

I don't have brakes and this highway ends only there. Yes, where I will perhaps mix you the best drink ever.
But these memories are fading and how. Memories in the form of people whom I've failed, people I've touched and felt and wanted for keeps. Flee with me to another country? Wish you met me in school? Is that a poem for me? Believe me, I just couldn't stop the car and step down even for a smoke.

There were cigars and joints. There were baths in the Suketi river. There were photos taken which too faded over time. There was the dream of watching Saurav win the World Cup for India. There were beautiful sunsets knowing the sun won't rise.

I have a bar in the car
I have a bar in this car
Loosen the seat belt and think
This isn't my last fucking drink
If you have to go, you have to go
I have to go where I have to go
See you there when I see you there
This isn't my last bloody drink
Let my nursery rhyme stink
Of Baileys, Bacardi and pink
Dreamless sleep’s coming
“Trade off, turn a fink”

Who wants to be a martyr,
Lemme have my last bloody drink.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Where do we go?"

"Are we out of Oreen's dream?"

VG looks back. All he could see were Oreen's closed eyes. But that can mean he is still dreaming and has kept them trapped in it. In his dream that takes its own course.

"A dream is much like life, don't you think?" asked EoR.

"Because it is beyond control?"

"Because it springs surprises. Because I never knew whether I will ever get to meet you until tonight." No matter how much I wanted to all these days, thought EoR.

"I haven't poured any whisky on your head. I've saved some champagne for your red locks. The whisky was for Stella."

"VG! You have to try and come out of the dream, we have to find a way out and not get lost in its digressions. Concentrate." Who's Stella though?

And then the conversation loses its meaning. What is conversation for anyway? Is it always used as a means to an end? What end did these two have in mind? None, if you ask me . . . they were brought together in somebody else's dream. The conversation remained highly stimulating though. Stimulating being a relative term. They didn't know that my dream had faded and that I'd woken up. I was busy brushing my teeth as they continued.

"How did you come?"

"Oh, in an airplane, of course, although it was faster in the dream."

"How was the flight?" VG somehow was lost for words. All his words were there in his blog. And he didn't have the password.

"There was this Finnish guy trying to charm a Cuban woman all the way from Frankfurt to Paris. With his knowledge of Oriental art."

"You were in Philadelphia, and now you've come to New Delhi. How come Frankfurt to Paris?"

"Am I? But i distinctly remember the German stewardess. But aren't we in a dream? Or is it New Delhi where we met? Where was the party?"

"In his mind, and he has lost the key to his mind I read once. Which means..."

"...Which means we are actually nowhere!" exclaimed EoR. "Nowhere is where I wanted to be all my life. At least for once."

"Where do we go from here?" VG sounded a little disturbed. He was missing his Toyota and also the old merc he was about to pick up next month. Missing a car? In a dream where there aren't any roads?

"We can walk. Or wait for a short story."

"It is wonderful being lost with you," he smiled back. "Oreen once lost his way coming to Belmont from San Jose. He wanted to stay lost and not step out. At least we don't need to find our way back home."

"Look, there's an apple tree!"

The Party

When I have nightmares of all my frnds having come together for a party, I break into cold sweat. It goes somewhat like this:

Strunk&White is Jewish but doesn't remind you of Woody Allen from Anything Else or Ben Stiller from Keeping the Faith. He is a nice gentleman with some wacky remarks up his sleeve. He can keep an entertaining conversation going without any Christian bashing. Strunk comes in and picks up a glass of orange juice.

As I introduce him to my Buddhist friend AnandaDasa Bhikkhu and the two of them exchange smiles and more, in comes the neo-nazi in his DM boots. Yes, none other than VG with his head shaved.

I start sweating from that point. A nice Jewish guy and a neo-nazi in the same room. While Bhikkhu is more detached from the real world, dwelling in higher plains, his alter ego Puzzled Private walks in every time Bhikkhu walks out. And Puzzled has bought this idea that Zionists are behind 9/11. Some theory, and like all theories, sounds very buyable (oks, viable) despite being full of shit. Don't tell Private I told you that.

By now people have gone ahead and opened my bar, which was replenished just the night before the dream. And in my dream, the bar is big.

VG, surprisingly, does not proclaim his Naziness to the world as he does his baldness and very soon I see Strunk and him engaged in a conversation about Sufi music. They both turn out to be Nusrat fans. Eddie Vedder isn't mentioned.

AnandaDasa walks in. Puzzled went out for a smoke. They still go out for a smoke in my dreams because Aaron's still very young. AnandaDasa tries talking about gods and strength to Aaron, although I have sanitized my house against gods. I even have a multi-insect killer spray for anytime a god peeps in. Marmaladeskies is reading out an Oscar Wilde text to Spider Girl.

So far, so good. My sweat has dried and things are going rather smooth. Religions and beliefs have been shelved for the sake of this evening celebrating music. In the background is Peter Gabriel's score from The Last Temptation of Christ. They all come together as human beings, celebrating life.

Enemy of the Republic walks in. VG stands up, dazed. They walk out together, and the dream fades.

No more enchanted days.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What makes an Indian proud

Yes, a little bit more about our very own Indian cultural heritage. Before I start, let me leave aside a handful of men and women who have managed to evolve into human beings, while the rest of the 1.2 billion remain Indians.

Flashback to 1994: A Japanese girl in a 5 star hotel gets raped in Varanasi, our oldest city, reeking of uncleared culture.

Today: A senior police officer becomes a transvestite and starts dancing around trees claiming he is Krishna's wife. And the media (in any form) laps it up. Nobody takes him to a shrink though. No, I cannot be politically correct today. So what if I too wear a bra at times?

Today: Senior members of parliament caught taking bribe on video.

Flashback to 2001: Tehelka reveals people at all levels (ministers to army heads) taking bribes. Result? The ruling party makes sure the portal is closed and that these investigative journos have criminal cases against THEM! Thankfully they were strong human beings (as opposed to Indians) and could come boldly out of that crisis.

India is the rape capital of the world. Indore, Delhi fight for the top spot.

Nobody has killed Bal Thackerey, Deve Gowda, Narendra Modi, VP Singh, Chandrashekhar (he takes one virgin boy every night), so far.

The seers of a temple are accused of murder. There seems to be ample evidence to prove that. Indians still want to lie at their feet and worship them.

There are conmen and magicians who claim to be reincarnations of earlier sadhus and manage to con people. We see our prime ministers coming to touch their feet. Sadly enough, these peddlers of spirituality (or ism) find a lot of white takers. Next time you see a white guy come to India trading his money for spirituality, tell him the truth.

A goverment tries to talk about controlling population and gets toppled . . .

What is our culture? That of hospitality. Of humility. Of fabulous dance and art forms. Of music the world has borrowed from. Of history and famous historians. Of literature in the various languages. Of mature customs stemming from reason. Of being a good samaritan.

Focus on that. Focus on what can make you proud. Focus on the future. Build roads, send electricity to all the corners of India. Ensure proper irrigation. In your beloved India thousands of farmers commit suicide every year. A tribal woman's hands were chopped off because she refused to withdraw a rape accusation. Female foetuses are aborted in millions. Dowry amounts in Andhra Pradesh range from 50 lakhs to many many crores. Where is the emancipated Indian woman? Buying dildoes and watching strip tease while her dad spends his entire life's income paying for her groom? Oh yes I know where they are: they are all in Delhi, wearing huge bindis and khadi and talking about communist ideals. In the most impeccable English. Now that I mention communists, some bloody Prakash Karat says there should be labor laws in IT and ITES companies. Bugger off with your ideals. Here your people at least have jobs and you want to send the investors back to their countries? Like you closed Dunlop and Bata in West Bengal? What do you do with the retrenched people who have to end up begging or work as gardeners or maidservants? What have you done with the numerous suicides? You couldn't even buy body bags for them, you shithead.

And in the midst of all this crisis somebody from the middle of nowhere comes up with a new name for Bangalore! Boss, there are many things to take care of in your culturally rich nation.
If you really care, open your eyes.

A change of name is the last thing we need.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bengaluru and kukumbaar

Now that they are changing the name from Bangalore to Bengaluru for the sake of holding on to their "culture" (man, some word that!), I guess it is time for us to move on. It seems they will now teach English through Kannada. Exactly the reason I cried on the first day at Banaras Hindu University. A professor was teaching English essays in Hindi. What is happening to India?

What the fuck is happening to Indians? Or were they always like this "only"? First the Bengalis decide we don't need English till class VI. The result? All the engineers who first learned English at the age of 11 were missing from the interviews and group discussions of the world. Potential employers stopped coming to Jadavpur Univ (a prestigious name in Calcutta) because the guys who would otherwise fare well in the written tests, would not appear for the interviews. They were shy. They fumbled. Tongue-tied while other students (maybe not so bright) were taking away all the jobs. They could speak better English after all.

What is the problem you guys have with English? Why do we have to call Bangalore Bengaluru or Oracle Orakulu? What would Larry Ellison say? Why does cucumber have to be pronounced kukumbaar? Haven't you realized that had it not been for the English, you would probably be a medieval nation where women would have to cover their heads and stay home? Haven't you realized that had it not been for English some cities would not have existed on the Indian map? People would not have held jobs, or you wouldn't be riding a cushy merc at the expense of the taxpayers today? You, the bloody ministers, the upholders of "culture"?

Hold on to your culture, while I get some gravel to fill the potholes on the roads.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The English Teacher

Apex Information Services were closing down their offices in New Delhi, and all of us "abstract writers" were about to be out on the streets of Delhi. We were mostly scavengers and hangers on, moving from one city to another looking for some work. Most of us had come out of Calcutta, because Calcutta was dying. For us, New Delhi offered many dreams.
We were all busy looking out when one day I got a call from a government school in Taki, on the border of Bangladesh, to teach English. A government job! A job where you can actually get paid for not working all your life. What else could I ask for?

Back to Calcutta. In a bus to Taki.

If Taki Government School is famous for churning out the highest scoring students every year, it cannot be very far from Calcutta, I thought. My interview was at the Taki Ramakrishna Mission School, which I thought would be equally good. Such pleasant dreams should always come with a good day's sleep and I happily dozed off in the bus. When I woke up, the road had become narrower and there was this huge river I could get glimpses of through the trees. Taki turned out to be a village after all. Very green, with lotus ponds and a view of Bangladesh across the river that made me yearn for home. That is where home was.

As I walked toward the school through the rice fields, I thought how it would feel to work here, in this small village with tricycle vans and bullock carts being the only modes of transport. A stark contrast after the Mercs and Land Cruisers in Delhi, but what the hell, I don't drive one of those!

The wall around the school had a lot of political graffiti on it, but that is nothing new for any Calcuttan. The communists believe in voicing their opinions through political graffiti on walls, something that apparently started with Mao Tse Tung in China. He wanted an otherwise silenced generation to come out with their grievances on the walls. Bengalis being a very loud race incessantly voicing their unwarranted opinions at tea stalls and in buses, I could not see the reason behind writing on walls, but they were there anyway. Loudly announcing their obscene presence.

There were many candidates who had come for the same interview. Despite my English having a thick Bengali accent, I realized I was the only one who could speak any English! That boosted my confidence a few degrees. I will have a good time, I thought. Soon it was my turn and I had to enter a room where I first got a glimpse of my interviewers. One swamiji in saffron seemed to be the principal, and there were others here and there, watching me. That is when I realized I was the only candidate without a moustache too. And then came the questions.

"Can you tell me the difference between subjectivity and objectivity? With examples?"

This was a fat man with fat, black glasses. I pretended not to have seen him holding a chit of paper under the table from which he was reading out the questions. After each question he had this contented look, aah, one-question-well-put kinds.

"Tumi toe shohorer chheley, tumi ki thakbe ekhaney?" (You are from the city, will you at all stay here?)

I tried to convince them that I was fed up of life in the cities and that I wanted to settle down in a beautiful village like theirs. I guess I was even ready to worship their goddess Kali for the job, complete with her blood and gore and necklace of skulls.

When I came out, I knew I would never hear from them. I even had to teach a class of 30 odd students, for whom I had to translate each sentence I read out from an Oscar Wilde text. I had a good mind to tell them about Mr Wilde's sexual orientations, but controlled my devilish urges for the sake of my life.

Waiting for my bus back to Calcutta, I met this young lady who too had come for the interview. Probably a little late.

"Do you think you'll make it?"

"Don't think I want to," she smiled back.

The romantic dream of life in a laidback Bengali village was gone. I was busy looking for a ticket back to New Delhi, my city of my kinda dreams.

Monday, December 05, 2005

LOR

A pub in Koramangala was the last thing I expected. That explains the skepticism on my eyebrows as I entered Legends of Rock. On a Monday evening.

Already having downed a couple of pitchers of beer at Pecos, we were here to check out the ambience, the sound (BOSE), and the huge plasma TVs . . . we found some guitars signed by Satriani, Mark Knopfler, Sting, and some other gods of guitar. And there was Eric Clapton on the screen in his half pants, singing with BB King, who was enjoying himself to the hilt. Could not recognize the other two men (one white and one black) who were playing with their eyes closed. Now that is when you are praying, I think. Praying to the goddess of music, eyes closed, playing with your soul. It wasn't soul though, it was pure blues.

One guy with us was singing along. Bad Co., Sting, you name it, he knew all the songs by heart. He was singing along as we ordered some vodka and a Cuban cigar. The cigar was passed on from one pair of lips to the other . . . and i still don't know who to attribute the sweetness as I smacked my lips . . . the lipstick, or the tobacco?

There were guitars everywhere, as I said, and there was this huge relief of a guitar on the cieling. You see it everytime you look up to blow out the thick blue cigar smoke.

Apparently there's live music too. Lemme chk them out and let you know abt it. But till then, it was a welcome change from the crowded pubs on MG Road. As I walked out, the frown had given way to a contented smile.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Deep Orange

Is not a nice color on the screen. Curtains or bedspreads can be orange, I don't mind, but the new crazy orange when you sign in to blogger is rather jarring. Especially when you feel the onset of another barren phase. Times when irritants like Martina Hingis are coming back and you are getting relegated to the background. Of what? Of your own mind. Just about when you thought you got a grip on yourself . . . you slip away.

This pit is crazy. You carry it with you but still cannot reach inside and pull yourself out. It's like a nightmare from a sci-fi, you lost the code to your mind. And it remains inaccesible.

And then you sit befuddled, resting your chin on a table top. In all imaginary broodings, there's always a table and a window next to it. Not only mine, pick up any painting of a lost mind and there's a table and a window next to it. It's kinda reassuring to have those next to you. The table for resting the chin and the window to step out lest you need to. You can, but you still won't. You'll stay back and brood, because that makes you feel special. You stay in because you eventually intend to key it all in.

And then there are times when you stop wrestling and go out and stretch yourself in the sun. A good, long stretching of every bloody nerve and sinew. Look back into the room and focus on the poem framed on the wall behind the table. Can you read it from here? Can you read Rudyard Kipling's If through the clear glass?

Believe me, sometimes the room appears dark if you're standing in the sun.

Borrowed stuff

Again, I'm finding it hard to write anything. So here's from a borrowed e-mail someone forwarded:

One phrase every Bengali worth his sweater has grown up with is thanda lege jabey.
It is the ultimate warning of impending doom, an unadulterated form of existentialist advice. Thanda lege jabey.
Thou shalt 'catch the cold'.
'Catching the cold' comes easy to Bengalis. It's a skill that's acquired almost immediately after birth.
Watch a Bengali baby and you would know. Wrapped in layers of warm clothing even if the sun is boiling the mercury,
the baby learns quickly that his chances of survival in a Bengali household depend on how tightly he can wrap himself
in cotton, linen and wool.
Bengalis have almost romanticised warm clothing, so much so that Bengali art has found eloquent expression in
a form of quilt-stitchwork called kantha. I'm sure wool-shearers even in faraway Australia say a silent prayer
to Bengalis before the shearing season (if there's any such season).
I'm also sure the very thought of Bengalis sends a chill down the spine of many a sheep.
In winter, the quintessential Bengali's outfit puts the polar bear to shame. Packaged in at least seven layers
of clothing and the head snugly packed inside the queerest headgear, the monkey cap, he takes the chill head on.
Easy lies the head that wears the monkey cap. With a pom-pom at the top, it's not just a fashion statement;
it's a complete fashion paragraph.
I remember strolling down the Walk of Fame in Hollywood on a pleasant May evening.
My eyes scanned the glittering stars on the asphalt - each an ode to a Hollywood heavyweight.
Suddenly, my ears caught the unmistakable Doomsday warning - 'thanda lege jabey'. I stood transfixed.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is probably the last place one would like to get caught 'catching the cold'.
I turned around. There was this Bengali family braving the American chill. The young brat of the family was adamant
that he didn't want any more clothing but mom wouldn't have any of it - "sweater porey nao, thanda lege jabey."
I need not translate that. Mom won, and the family - sweaters et al - posed for a photograph.
For a race that is perpetually running scared of cold weather, Bengalis have a surprising affinity for hill stations.
Probably, warmth of heart is best preserved in shawls, pullovers and cardigans. In an age when you are judged by how
cool or uncool you are, the warmth that the kakus, jethus and mashimas exude can melt icebergs.
I wouldn't trade that warmth for any amount of cool. However, the monkeycap may look cool without the pom-pom.

This email is confidential. If you are not the addressee tell the sender immediately that you are not a Bengali and destroy your monkey cap.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

When

When you change machines, you have to copy all your stuff from the earlier one to the new one. And that is when you start sifting through memories. Did some of that and found the poems that I posted below . . .

It was strange to trash all the memories that I held very dear even a couple of years back. No wonder my hair's grown . . .

One Year Has Passed

When memory evolves,
The dark green of your door becomes moss
And the yellow walls, orange
The sun that set behind us a year back
Is setting out there in the distance today, behind the hills

East, did you say?

Let it be in the east,
Defying all that we think natural,
When memory evolves,
Your silhouetted face facing east
Is lit up by the setting sun.

March 3, 2004

(for the friend who wrote all the paper memories)

Of Preferences in Vain

in my getaway with you, i even dream of rain . . .
although i myself prefer a sunny day
but prefer you over the sun
even sunny california
or fornicating in a bath tub
tumbling down a snowy slope
or mud-slinging, bitching sessions,
over beer,
girls, mobikes, magazines,
and guns . . .
rain over sun
if only you came . . .

will you at all come?

August 24, 2003

All the paper memories

What I have left of you now
notations I made in my book
of arrival and departure
an itinerary of activities
some forced, some fanciful
others imaginary

The schedule was always
subject to change
and the documents accumulated
in and out the door

Here and there I captured
your handwriting somehow
an address that you left for me
a note in the margins

Paper traces have their beauty
a register of style
only two-dimensional
a challenge to your absence
which manifests like a house of cards

These days I see you in my mind
and hear you by electricity

These beautiful communiqu├ęs of words
and blocks of sentences
on almost paper

in white bright empty spaces

April 8, 2003

(by a friend who doesn't want to feature here)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Not Moderated

And there are those farts called moderators for e-groups on the net.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The first crush (part 2: The Missing K)

So, my algebra was always weak. Except for the concept of the constant "K." I understood that very well because I experienced one constant through all my evolving dreams. As Kakali (also a K!) gave way to secret fantasies about newer girls and my constant endeavor for growing a moustache, I was also exposed to other necessary things that one should be exposed to as part of growing up proper. I changed schools and moved to this government school for boys when I was in standard eight. My concept of being "bad"was thoroughly jolted. The guys there had taken perversion to an art form. I later heard some of them went on to join the Indian Army and some others were making bombs for the local councillor. At least they don't pelt bombs at unsuspecting young girls any more.

I still used to meet Kakali at the tutorials sometimes. She liked biology (she too seemed to have missed out on algebra) like I did. It was the only option if maths was too much for you. All I could ever mumble was a Hi and she returned it with a polite smile. By then the world knew about my continuing crush for her (it was already five years by then), and probably even she had an inkling. What the others didn't know was that in the meanwhile I had had quite a few other crushes parallely.

Frankly, these were purely platonic in nature. We still had our sexual fantasies about the "white woman" but these girls, our dear classmates, were never subjected to any such desires. We loved to think about their moms instead. The "we" stands for me and all my peers, because our dreams were always shared.

Much later—having lost my virginity one sunny afternoon and after having spent many years indulging in frenetic promiscuity, when I was almost certain that the K on my mind was this pathological urge to slam dunk just about anywhere—I suddenly felt it slipping first from my loins and then from my brain.

I panicked, looking for something to hold on to. Hey, that is me, all I'm about. But it was gone before I even realized.

Now I have a jeep and a Royal Enfield motorbike and tell you that these are the two balls of a man. If only you knew that I'd lost mine trying to learn algebra.



P.S.: The day she got married, Kakali confessed to a common friend that she shared a crush for me too, only wanted me to speak first.

The first crush

Lemme start from Jan 15, 1981, the day I first realized what a schoolboy crush was. It hit me, almost like a huge cricket bat across my face, and I was in love. Kakali, the object of my crush (and as I later discovered, of so many others in my class), was rather blanched, almost like a Caucasian. And that made her stand apart. She was sweet, no doubt, but not really good looking. There were other little girls who were far prettier than Kakali, but she had the "right" complexion to tilt all the pre-adolescent attention to her side of things. We were only ten years old. All of us.

Now we had seen white women in pictures. Mostly pictures in the magazines from Soviet Russia (they used to translate their magazines into ALL Indian languages!!). And also in the National Geographic magazines my dad used to get from his office library. But the latter usually carried photos of African and Latin American tribes, and also of chimpanzees and gorillas. Of Indian shepherds too, at times. So, we had to devour the pictures of the bovine, buxom, Russian women, but white nonetheless. As text never meant anything to me in those days, I just remember the pictures. And now as I try to reconstruct the articles that came with them, they were probably about workplace environment, pollution control, gymnastics and huge ugly trucks (with the white lady in the driver's seat).

But there were women in them. Women who we mentally disrobed everyday (tough, they mostly wore dungarees), experiencing a funny throbbing sensation somewhere deep inside. We were growing up together. Into this entire generation of hungry perverts.

And Kakali walked in. With her red hair and pink lips and light-brown freckles.

The initial silence gave way to utter chaos. It was nothing but a sudden need for seating rearrangement, if I may call it that. There were the shy guys too who quietly looked away. I was one of them. And soon Kakali was sitting between the strongest of the monsters, Subbu and Kumar. A few rows behind me, although I could feel her presence with every hair on my body.

After all these years can I blame her for my not learning algebra?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ticket to Ride

And then one day there was very little time for all that I had on hand. I was holding the tickets and there was your e-mail out of the blue, after two years!

What kind of a hibernation was that, through all seasons, twice over?

It was a long e-mail, but I could only skim through it.

I will come back and read it. Today, I am holding tickets to somewhere else.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Koln Concert and some other gods

If you have heard it, and gone back to it time and again . . . thank me for not writing about Keith Jarrett.

My current god, and seems like will remain my god for a long time to come . . .

My other gods: Dr L. Subramanium, Ian Anderson (for Divinities) and some others lent to me by velvetgunther. He has this huge collection of gods at home . . .

he he, Thom Yorke too . . . don't cringe . . .

Fecundity

Comes and hits you. You are then suddenly left with many children . . . awaiting another long, barren hiatus.

What do you do with those children in those barren days? Toy with them, toss them around, shove them under your bed and forget about them for days on end. I don't have an answer, why do you ask me? I myself have thrown some of my children out the window when I came back to them. Nopes, not all children can be called mine. They were born unwanted in a fecund phase. So go.

And what do they do? They grow, some hibernate, some turn yellow. Some rot, like only mangoes can. "Rotten mangoes" is a very Indian expression, ain't it? (We don't say rotten apples, because we don't let them rot. I think I can even count the number of apples I had in the last 34 years.)

And being an Indian, fecundity is something you cannot avoid, be it in anything. When you talk, you talk more than necessary. When you write, you digress and talk about ten other things. When you reproduce, you resemble a protozoan. At the workplace, you do every thing other than work.

I'm not here Indian bashing. Just keying in the incessant monologue happening in my mind. Otherwise I might have been caught talking to myself. That is a nonbailable offence I hear. Must be true . . . it's our dear beloved country after all.

Fecund for no reason, didn't I say?

Just waiting to drive his newly acquired Toyota. Left-hand driven, so it should be quite something trying to drive it on Indian roads. He? My self-proclaimed Nazi frnd . . . who I'm very fond of.

No, we spent nights in the same room, even on the same bed at times, but no, not him.

And there is AnandaDasa, another dear brother of mine. Somebody who is very very proud of being an Indian. He made the new British Airways ad "for India, the world is waiting." Drove his car too.

And then one sunny afternoon I carried her luggage across the road. This she?
No, not now.

Is this a suicide note? Why can't I just stop? Is this fecundity as you know it? My pen needs a condom too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The liberal

The liberal says I don't agree but I agree that you have a right to disagree. Let all the different paths float around and not collide.

And the same liberal looks away when a witch is burnt in today's West Bengal. Communist state? Hah!
When thousands of female foetuses are aborted everyday in India.
When a court issues a nonbailable warrant against a woman who says men shouldn't expect their wives to be virgins. Ha ha ha . . .

Why aren't the Brits coming back with their whips, guns, and constitution? But then again, they are busy taming the weapons of mass destruction. Give me a race to look up to, will you? Or an entire army.

No, I can do without your god, thank you, we have 330 million of them already!

Facing Fear, Alone?

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Himalayas

Just a line about why people go to the Himalayas for all the answers.
Because the mountains make you realize you don't need the answers after all. That life is much beyond seeking answers to petty everyday questions.

It is the essential Hindu spiritual quest. One place that makes you realize how puny you are after all. How futile your entire life is. And for those who are at awe of the Himalayas, nothing else matters.

My salutations to you, Alison Hargreaves, for having found salvation in your death, whatever your faith.

Wish we all could die like you. Heroes, and having overcome all fears. Let me kiss your feet.

Overhead projectors

Yes, AnandaDasa, I can sympathize with your angst but cannot empathize yet. Agnostic was a term probably invented in the 1860s after Darwin shook the dark world of the white Christians. I don't want to reach out to the Merriam-Webster lying nearby to even check. Who cares? An agnostic is someone who questions the existence of god. Someone tells me Aaron questioned the magical powers of some god, so is he the first agnostic from our myths? I could never finish reading the Old Testament. Or the New one.

(The Charvakas, or the materialists were there before the times of Buddha, trying to spread the cause of reason as opposed to blind faith, which is always the easy way out. Like the dead sea scrolls, even their literature was destroyed by the Hindu Brahmins, who never wanted the poor, ignorant populace to see light. I have older atheists to choose from if I want to. More than five thousand years old, in fact.)

So, agnostic is not a fit term in my dictionary of things to describe someone who questions the very necessity of creating a god in the first place. Today, when my little Aaron watches the clouds come down and pick up huge cows in this videographic rendition of a tornado in the movie called Twister, he feels the first signs of fear seep in. Okay, so if there's a tornado, even my all-powerful daddy won't be able to stop us from being picked up and thrown around like in a circus.

Or videos of that quake, or why not the bomb blasts all over the war-torn world? Today, if you pray to your god, pray to him/her to stop the next bomb from being blasted in a crowded marketplace. Jordan, New Delhi, London, wherever.

If fear gives birth to the desire for something powerful that can keep you and your loved ones safe, it can be mathematically put as: Fear = birth of gods, everywhere in the world. Almost at the same time, perhaps, but for that I got to consult some encyclopedias of evolution, compiled by mostly believers anyway.

Why not learn to accept the fear as part of our lives? A short life, some fears, big or small, and nobody to protect you. How do you like such a world? Sans gods?

Sadly, that's not going to be. Today even newspapers have columns on astrology, horoscopes and psuedosciences. It sells, buddy. Our stars and our gods know hot business. And there will be news clippings of a Pope claiming the Universe was an intelligent creation. Yes, all the light fell on Rome. So much so that they were blinded enough to choose a ruler who allegedly subscribed to Hitler's anti-semitic view of a world ruled by white Aryans . . . have you seen his eyes, AnandaDasa? What do they tell you? That the world should listen to him? And what do you say when one such god apparently comes to Prof Bush's dreams and asks him to go plunder at his own free will? So gods support personal vendettas these days?

If little Aaron has a fear, I'd want to teach him to analyze it to a point where he cannot find any solution. The next step shouldn't be to give in to external influences that egg him on to start believing in something abstract, controlling
everything from up there. Yes, give up and accept that it is humanly impossible to fight this fear. And there's nothing beyond the human brain either. Nothing called superhuman. In stories, yes, because stories are always nice to read. In stories of the Asura being slayed by Ma Durga. In projections of our fears out there in the sky, like some new age laser show, projecting gods . . . in their dhotis and robes. I wonder who sold them clothes, though.

Come down for once. Open your eyes. In times when all around you have chosen to close theirs. Accept the fears, live with them, and walk proudly to your grave.

No prayer can save us from the inevitable "scheme" of things.



p.s. I use "scheme" because it is a nice word, not because it suggests some intelligence controlling everything.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Master-moshai

I never saw him in anything other than a short dhoti and a short kurta. White. When my dad closed the door to his room to practise playing the violin with Master-moshai, I used to spend the next sixty minutes standing outside, listening to them play. My dad was learning, while Master-moshai, who usually played the tabla, rarely picked up the violin.
I heard from my dad that he used to play like god. Then why doesn't he play any more?

Every Sunday morning they used to sit together for one hour. Then Master-moshai had to go visit his other pupils. On foot. I watched him from my upstairs window as he walked till the end of Sovapur Road. I never knew who his other pupils were. "When did you hear him play?" I would be curious at times, but my dad's answers were vague.

I grew up, went to college and got to meet Master-moshai only when I came home for vacation. He was still the same. Same white dhoti-kurta, and looked the same age. As if warped in time. "How are you, Suvo?" was all he asked every time he met me. I even played the harmonica for him at times and he would pat my back and walk out. To meet his other pupils. Maybe I'm no good, I thought.

One such Sunday morning I was sleeping late as usual. (Those days were blissful, weren't they?) I woke up to this wailing of a violin from downstairs. It was like a mendicant friar singing a sad story, to no one in particular. I kept listening till it stopped playing, wiped the tears that welled up unawares, and rushed down to meet Master-moshai. There he was in dad's room. My mom was standing at the door. And there were two other people that I'd never seen before. My dad introduced me to them: Mme Reba, a beautiful old lady with her exquisite violin on her lap, and Mr Gunther, a rather lean German who worked at the local Max Muller Institute. They were obviously the two other pupils that Master-moshai used to go to. Apparently, most of the others were dead.

I never saw him after that. And I would never have known his story if I didn't chance upon a strange article in The Statesman last week. It was the story of an unsung hero. Siben Guha, or Master-moshai as he was popularly known, was a Naxalite leader. In 1971, the year I was born, the police had beaten up and paralysed his sister Archana (a fellow revolutionary) in their custody. For the next twenty-one years she kept fighting two battles, one against her paralyis and another for justice. One never knew where the funds for her lawyers came from. Archana Guha finally won the case against the ex-police commissioner of Calcutta. It was a moral victory she had to trade an entire lifetime for.

But Master-moshai was never to be seen again. The police suspect he is still a leader of this secret society of Naxalites who remained underground after the uprising in the early 70s. Some say he is dead.

I haven't called up my dad since. Maybe I will, some Sunday morning, to hear a violin wail in the background.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dui Naari (Two Women)

Dui Naari is a book by Sunil Ganguli, two stories about two different women. Here're two stories of two different women, and I just had to borrow his title:

You

There's music
and there's music in a washing machine
A mother's lap
or a disturbing dream
A jog
or some late morning sleep

When I'm dead, you'll cuddle up, eyes closed, still.


The other

There is a pause somewhere,
longer than a comma,
blank somehow.

Has the free fall ended in a stark white page?

Monday, September 12, 2005

mypasta dot com

Hi,

Here's the simple recipe for the pasta we had that night.

Ingredients:

a normal packet of fettucine (or macaroni)
minced meat (howmuchever you want)
1 carrot
beans
1 capsicum
1 onion
pepper
English mustard (or a cheap substitute can be Kasundi)

Fuck, I'm tired already. Will cook tomorrow. You get the stuff by then.

Lebu Cha (lemon tea, served hot in a thick, chipped glass by Laluda)

"Lalu da, a couple of lebu chas please..." I ordered the tea, and went to the nearby paan shop to buy her a couple of Gold Flake cigarettes. I don't smoke, but I try a puff or two from her.

"If this is how you light a cigarette, I wonder how you will remove your undies when you get married," laughed the paan shop guy as he lit it for me. I had already wasted a couple of matchsticks, so I thought he had the right to make that dig.

Without informing him that I am very capable of removing my undies and that I have been married for eight years now, I smiled and walked back across the road to Laluda's tea shop.

"There you go," Laluda smiled as I held the couple of glasses gingerly and walked toward the stairs where she was sitting.

She was looking brilliant in a white saree. I've never seen her in a saree before, and if you ask my opinion about sarees, I'd refuse to comment. Better avoided is what I feel about sarees, quite frankly. But this was a different twilight. The sun had set on us, and probably we were meeting for the last time tonight. A saree did not look out of place at all. Maybe you need that much cloth to drape one's unrequited dreams.

"So?" I asked, not finding anything else to start a conversation with. "Why did you call me at all? I thought you didn't wanna meet me again."

She looked up, looked into my eyes and held her gaze for a second longer than usual and looked away. Please, Niks, I don't need sarcasm right now.

"I told you what happened."

"How is it possible? How can anybody show him my letters?" If not you...

"I don't know, Nikhil, he just knows about our plans."

"So how does that change things? Why can't we go ahead with them? Tell him all."

"I cannot."

That was all she said. End of discussion, period. Find peace in your existing life and trudge along. The faint light from her cigarette was reflected in her eyes. And there were a couple more reflections that found their way down from her eyes.

Maybe she is really crying, maybe she is just calling it off, maybe I was being too pushy for sex. Maybe she thought I wanted to just sleep with her and never loved her at all? How can I read her mind when I haven't been able to read mine till date?

"Ouch," I scalded my tongue trying the lebu cha! How come it never got cold all this while?

"So, there's not going to be a getaway? No Pondicherry together? I should have known all this while," I tried to sound a little off.

Apart from placing her hand on mine she didn't utter anything. I was supposed to understand everything from that touch, make all my conclusions from her exceptionally dry palm that night.
I couldn't.

This is what I think would be our last goodbye, a big lump forming in me, tears welling or perhaps even trickling down to embarrass me even further. Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow when we meet?

Only my scalded tongue seems to hurt already.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

So, finally

Nothing really happened. Nothing expected or unexpected. We had very little time to catch up, except for one evening when we discussed sizes. Of various things. We did that every time we met. Exchanged notes. He and I.

It happens, boss. It happens to you sometimes. Happened to me many times. You are led on, carrots dangling, and then dumped. So big deal! You go dump someone in return, simple. Your hurt ego comes back to its normal size. You feel good, "another one bites the dust." In your mind it's only cliches that run.

Not in yours. In ours. That was a generalization, "you." Not for you, because you are special. You have a vaster repertoire of analogies or quotes to choose from. Your mind has stored many more metaphors and symbols than ours could in the last ten years. Maybe more. I know you for the last ten years.

The significant other is in the dark. Gullible and unsuspecting. She calls to find out how you are, how work is. I want to see her. Is she very sexy? "Do I get to sleep with her if I ever go there?" I wondered. A man's mind is one track. Mine is. Especially when I think of making love to a strange woman who's desperately in love with someone else. It is not kinky to think like that. It's natural, trust me.

You are drunk. And hence quieter than the usual quiet.

I liked your choice of Smirnoff Raspberry Twist. It has an expensive taste. But I couldn't figure what to have it with. Soda tasted nice, but I would have preferred to cover up the raspberry with lemon.

We talked about our first bike ride together. All the way to the Rohtang. About Vinay and Revati who are busy catching fish these days. About the gay Belgian who kept ogling at me all day from his third-floor balcony. The idea of making love to that guy did cross my mind, but by then (this was in the year 2000) I had become very heterosexual. I wanted one of our designers to come along with me, but you came with me instead.

Was it Kasaul? What was the name of this place near Manikarn? Kasaul? Do you remember the pair of panties we sniffed at? Or did I? I haven't written your name here, so don't get worked up. We do like sniffing panties of beautiful, young, stoned, Caucasian women. Only we don't get the chance too often.

And you rolled us joints. Very potent, adventurous joints. Fat, too.

Sayantani saw the pictures later and asked me why I wasn't wearing my jeans that day at the hotel balcony. She is possessive about my legs.

Even when the night got over, we never knew it was the last night together, catching up, listening to five-year old cassettes fished out from my shoe box of memories.

You got over it. I got over the bitterness lacing my mind. We were buddies again. We connected, no matter how far we were. The onlookers thought we had fought and were making up. They needn't know what we were bitter about.

Thanks to Smirnoff, or to the coolth in the September night.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"saying goodbye to you has been the toughest thing..."
"in an ideal world it wld've been like that with me too"
"maybe i know"
"maybe you do"

(maybe when we meet again, there won't be a reason to?
maybe?)

have a good trip, break a leg
is all i say to you

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Blue Women

“I got you something.”

“What? Ooooh, that’s my favorite brand, how did you know?”

“I didn’t know, I just liked the color of the packet. Don’t some famous people smoke Camel?”

“And what’s this written on the pack?”

“That’s a little poem for you,” I smiled.

“Yeah, lemme see how you flirt with your women. With poems, huh?”

She reads the short poem . . .

“I’m very much a prose person, and hey, wherefrom did you get the notion that I flirt? I gottu find out who’s responsible for all this damage.”

She is taller than I expected. When I first saw her, it was from a distance, and from another perspective. Tall, with her hair falling on her forehead and eyes, she made a pretty picture. Sharp eyes, I noticed. Why did she say I would find her unwomanly? I was already pretty conscious of being in the presence of a strong, beautiful woman, who probably likes to call all the shots in a relation. But we are not friends yet. We are gauging the possibility of a friendship in this. I am. Maybe she isn’t even thinking.

“Okay, so every time there will be something that burns out? Hmm, candles, perhaps?”

“Hey, guess what, I wanted to get you aromatic candles. Only didn’t find time to go to Forum. They have some nice candles there.”

“But good you got the ciggies, Manas. Do you want to smoke a joint?”

“That’s what I’ve come for,” I lied. I had come to meet a woman, perhaps watch her out of the corner of one eye, or maybe even stare. I can look at beautiful women for hours on end. But so can you all. I have stared at these stills on my desktop for hours. I am exaggerating . . . not hours, probably a few minutes.

She meticulously filled her bong with some exotic weed. From Kerala, she informed. While she was at it, I lapped up all there was to offer in her room. There were these acrylic paintings that she told me about. Very vibrant colors, and some of them were worth a second look. Almost all of them, in fact. I think, out of the seven paintings displayed on the walls, I didn’t like one. One that I, with my limited levels of art appreciation, couldn’t make any sense of. She calls it Blue Women.

"You know what, one Suraj Mansukhani wanted to buy Blue Women. He offered an absurdly high price."

"Yeah, I know him. He is obssessive, people say. He can go to any length to get what he wants. Have you ever met him?"

"No, man . . . in fact I have an exhibition coming up. My paintings are never for sale. If I am not driving a merc, who cares? I paint for myself. For some friends too at times."

Will she ever paint something for me one day? I will wait, perhaps. Perhaps not.

After the smoke, everything became lighter. I realized I was rather stiff till then, sitting across the breadth of her living room, facing her, watching. What is she thinking? The intros are over, as in mine is. I never wanted to know anything about her. Somehow I find it difficult to ask too many questions for the sake of a conversation. I also realize that the weed has opened some valve in my brain that was bringing out words from Babel.

So I talk, looking into her eyes. Her intense, piercing eyes. What is she thinking, I find myself wondering again. We are talking about short stories now.

***

PTI 22 March, 2005: The famous painter Arundhuti was found dead in her condominium yesterday. The police suspected suicide but the post mortem report found poisoning as the cause of death. The police found some foreign cigarettes laced with poison among her belongings. They found no fingerprints, just a short poem scribbled on the pack. The investigating officer refused to comment.

Tomorrow there is an auction of Ms Arundhuti's paintings.

***

The phone rings.

"Hello, Manas speaking . . ."

"Hello, Mr Mansukhani? There's some good news for you," it was my agent Vinod, "we picked up Blue Women."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Letter from Nowhere to "Catherine" in Pune

rishikesh is where my mom wanted to go for her vanaprastha . . . only she dint live long enough. she wasnt religious. a nonbeliever, actually. but rishikesh to her was this place with a pleasant weather up in the hills . . . no pollution, and better still, no family to look after.

she never wanted a family. one mistake was to get married. was never forgiven for that mistake. she never wanted a child. she told me that she wanted her own life. but she never could have one.
wish i could give her life back to her.

from her i learned that you should not compromise on anything that you want in life for others. you die a sad death. there are happy deaths and there are sad deaths. hers was a sad death. although she never realized how she was dying, she still had many unfulfilled wishes. many.

i have many wishes too. i will try to fulfil them in this lifetime. because, unlike you, i don't believe in an afterlife. wish i were a hindu. then i could be born as a butterfly away from the reach of cruel children. again, somewhere in the hills.
so, if i ride my bike to the hills tomorrow, don't blame me. i will be doing it for my mom. because that's something i wish for. doing something for the memory of my mom.

my mom i never got the chance to know.

i never saw my mom in you. you were always like the younger sibling. wayward, lacking discipline. wish i could cane you sometimes. cane you into sanity. back to sanity? or maybe you were never sane at all? maybe you were this insane little girl roaming around the lake, testing the murky water for pollution and waiting for the moon on top of that hill.

i saw in you a lot of unbridled energy . . . which i used to get back on my own two feet. so when i moved ahead . . . i left you weaker, while i was strong. fresh as a young gorilla ready to lick the world single-handed. who said that? Carl Muller?

Ari

Thursday, February 17, 2005

From Tehran

From: "The Last Star"
To: "Ari"
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2005 12:30 PM
Subject: Re: where are you hiding, my last star?



Oh! Ari, Ari Aziz...

I am so crazy and lazy girl, too,...serious.
These days, I walk in snow, listen to BACH and,...at all.
After my exhibition,...I'm depress,....I could'nt sell my
paintings and sculptures,...any work...in Iran ( same every where) people
sell simply art works, thing for adaptation with their furniture, but my
works weren't good for furniture,...mmmm,...dead beetle, mug, old
watch, adjustable spanner, sun flower, saxophone and my hand, my hand, my
hand ... no no Ari ..people don't like these works, they don't like my
world, my solitude world...and critics and journalists like every art works
then people like...ha ha ha...any way....I'm so tired and poor! ...Then I
walk in snow, ....at all,...and so sorry for late writting to you.
Tell me about you, in winter, about your motorbike (new!) and your wishes!!!!
warmly and kiss
Jinoos

Monday, February 14, 2005

On the Way to Jaisalmer

"Will you watch my stuff when I'm gone?"
"I sure will, don't you worry pal."

And then he led him to the execution chamber. That was when they had the electric chair, i think. I was curious what happened to the packet after the black man was dead. Did it reach his wife? What did he have in it? He must have made sketches, of people around him, of the jailer, the sentries, the other inmates, of his daughter, probably of his girlfriend too.

I watched the execution, despite being very scared about it. I have to watch a death happen. And suffer the nightmares for months after that. I always try to see how a knife slits the throat of a poor chicken, probably half dead by the time it is picked up, neck twisted. Done with elan, by practiced hands, unfeeling. I watch. I pretend I am not affected. I am macho, I ride a heavy motorbike, how can I be flustered watching someone die?

The morning when Dhananjoy was executed, I stayed up from 3.00 a.m. till about 5.30, thinking how long his body must have twitched after death, hanging from that rope. What is it with me? Is it the horror of the thought? The thought that the state can coldbloodedly decide to take one's life?
If it is the horror, why did I want to be a hangman? Where exactly am I?

I am on the highway. My money seems to be running out pretty fast, although I found free accommodation every night so far. Won't have any such luck as I get into Rajasthan. Jaisalmer? When did I watch Shonar Kella? Must have been more than twenty years now? Sometimes I forget how old I am . . . people like her make me forget how old I am.

She has a very beautiful smile. Maybe I could have met her in Bombay. Why didn't I? Someday I will tell her that I find her very beautiful. Will she feel good? Will she get pissed off? Nah, one thing I've known in these thirty years . . . pay a heartfelt compliment to someone, he/she is definitely gonna feel good. So I will tell her that I had a mild crush on her. Let me see how she takes it. Maybe tonight when I surf the Net?

What if we suddenly connect? What if she writes back and I feel this absurd urge to take a U turn and head back towards Bombay? One thing's for certain: I cannot afford hotel bills. I have my tent with me, which I can't pitch anywhere in Bombay.

Why am I thinking absurd things?

But you gottu be prepared for eventualities!

What eventualities? I am going to Jaisalmer. I have to see the sandstone fort, the golden fortress. Why am I thinking of going back to Bombay?

Who's this new "she"?

She is a mother of two.

So what, isn't it all about being able to connect?

Connect and what? I cannot afford to be in Bombay. Where will I put up?

Whenfrom have you started thinking about consequences? Why did you set off on this journey in the first place? What has happened to you?

Okay, so she hasn't even written, Ari. Don't you assume so much far ahead.

If I don't, I will cease to exist. I will cork my imagination and it will find outlets in other things. I could make a few sketches, for instance.

Keep riding.

I kept riding at a steady pace of 80 kmph. Mentally converting it into miles per hour. For my American friends. Someday I want to drive a left-hand-driven vehicle. But I need manual transmission . . .

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Moving On

"So where are you headed now?"

"Tehran."

"don't be kidding, how will you go to Tehran? Why anyway?"

"What do you mean how will I get there. I can choose to ride my motorbike, or take a flight from Bombay."

"Is there anybody you will meet there? Why Tehran of all places?"

"Yes, I want to see the last star in the morning sky..." I laugh.

"Don't try juvenile poetry early in the morning, Ari, go brush your teeth first."

"Oh no, she is called Jinoos, meaning 'the last star in the morning sky'. I will be meeting her."

I am not going to Tehran anyway. But I can't tell her that. I have to move on. Not possible if I leave any traces. I have to find a new life where my past will not haunt me anymore.

"Oh, a girl? Ari, I really don't understand you. Who is this Jinoos by the way? How do you know her?"

"Don't be a nag. You sound like you are married to me or something. I'm not even sure you have the right to ask so many questions."

She quietly left the room.

I don't know if she had any more visions after that. I left Pune and rode on. Stopped near Nerul for a while to get my chain tightened and moved on again. Jinoos is this sculptor friend of mine from Tehran. Very, very pretty. Very pretty indeed. Yeah, that itself is reason enough to go to Tehran, but don't be a fool now. Don't get waylaid by the lure of beautiful faces. Someday you will have your harem, but now is not the time. So my mobike chugged ahead, its steady, pleasant thump almost transponding me to another world.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

47 kms



"I love you love you love you, Ari . . ." she whispered into my ear.

"You sound like Catherine."

"So let me be your Catherine tonight. How do you know I didn't use any commas?"

"There weren't any pauses, and not much of the night left, is there? It is already 3.00 in the morning. so good morning, Catherine."

"I will still call you Ari."

"Okay, so you be my Mia."

"Mia who?"

"Mia Farrow."

"And you my old man? My Woody Allen?"

"Whatever."

"The smirnoff was smooth, but i still seem to be swimming in it, Ari."

"I puked it out."

Earlier that night we were together reading a posthumous novel by Hemingway, and I could not help relating her with Catherine that moment. Short hair, crazy, full of surprises. Only we couldn't be married, could we?

"Let's go to sleep now?" I offered.

"Since when are you awake? Has it been 24 hours?"

"Umm, lemme see . . . yes, I woke up last night at 3.15 to get dressed."

"Oh, baby, just go off to sleep now..." she sometimes changes her tone and pets me like I were her son or something. Somehow I feel very comforted, protected whenever she speaks like that.
She has to turn to her left, and so do I. I let her snuggle into me and am surprised at how comfortably my body allows her to dovetail into me. As if we were these gears of a machine, made to order. Is that a bad analogy? Why am I thinking of gears right now? The gears of my motorbike were pretty well-behaved all the way from Bangalore to Pune. They never slipped like they are wont to sometimes. After crossing Kolhapur my body gave up, but I carried on like a machine. I had to reach Pune in one day. I had to reach her . . .
And then, near a diversion, I saw a milestone announcing: Pune 47 km. The other milestones passed me by, every fifty seconds or so . . .

"Ari, I had a vision this evening."

"You are my clairvoyant, aren't you? My very own, my pet psychic. What did you see this time?"

"Will tell you tomorrow."
My eyes were closing. I parked my right hand on her breast and went off to sleep.

"Don't, you won't let me sleep this way! I am sore . . ." she mumbled.

***

"Ari, old man, wake up you fatso!"
She was standing next to my bed in her pajamas.

"When did you wake up? What time is it?"

"You were snoring, my Woody Allen, I went to the other room."

"Oh, so sorry, why didn't you wake me up? Shit, hope you don't hate me for snoring?" I was embarrassed.

"How can I hate you? Maybe when you leave me and go back to your life, forever, I would. I so want to hate you, Ari. It would make things less painful for me, won't it?"

"Let's talk about something else. I am not leaving now, am I? What were you saying about having a vision yesterday?"

"Oh, it was around 9.30 in the night. I thought I saw you taking a turn on the highway where there was this milestone reading 'Pune 47 km'. But of course all that cannot be true. I so wish it were true though," she was smiling . . .

. . . and that moment I realized how I cannot ever go very far from her, no matter how far.