Wednesday, July 18, 2007



You asked me if I ride now.

I used to ride a bicycle from 82 to 95.
And, when you are sleepy, that's where the story ends. When you are partly sleepy, you probably write a few more sentences about the time you went to see a dead Royal Bengal tiger hung from a tree by the villagers who killed her.

Poor girl just escaped from a circus. And looked for a jungle to escape to.

We were either three or five of us on our bikes. Hearing about the tiger in the morning, we went riding to a village some ten kilometers away. Could have been twenty, I won't know. We could ride on and on then and never heard of Tour de France. We could ride without water for hours. Racing each other. We were never tired. It was unheard of. And then played football in the afternoon.

I had a tape recorder that had an output of 2 watts. Sanyo. We would come back and listen to In Square Circle in that. The cassette was recorded from an LP. Stevie Wonder! What a guy, we would think...and then his famous chromatic harmonica. We also had Nat King Cole to listen to. English songs were almost frowned upon unless some really respectable, elderly uncle came and recommended them. Nobody recommended Stevie Wonder I remember. Those fat uncles hadn't heard him. Just Nat Cole and Frank Sinatra. So we got to hear some of their music. Couldn't figure most of what they sang, but we did sing along.

Dad had a Hero harmonica stashed away somewhere. It was a C. I started on that later. Much later, after I left school. Michael Jackson's Thriller was available too. Just one copy that changed hands. A cassette tape.

And Europe. The Final Countdown. Cyndi Lauper. All on the Sanyo.

You asked me if I ride now. I used to. Trip, that is.
Keep writing. And do sign in to chat too. You ride now, I know. I will join you like I joined my gang of little urchins every day. Just let my knees heal...


Forgotten Names

When Bini died, I didn't go to see her. I could not look to the end of the street where her mom kept her body and was crying. I didn't see Bini when she was alive either, but her mom Aduri used to do the dishes at our place for a meagre sum of Rs 30 a month. This is way back in the 70s, so I guess she could make do with whatever amount she earned then. I just hope she could. I don't know. Like I never could get myself to go up to her and console her for her daughter's death, I couldn't look at the little hut they used to live in. The hut was so low, one would have to crawl inside. I would walk past. But I was pretty civil to Aduri. In fact loved it when she came over to clean the house. I wouldn't have to study then. I would just follow her from one room to another and listen to her speak.

I could speak her dialect. And she definitely took pride in that.

My mom, when she gottu know about Bini's ailment, paid for her treatment at our local hospital. But they couldn't save her. And I forget what happened to her. And cannot ask my mom either because mom too passed away some years back. And believe me, she has taken away with her some awesome recipes...of dishes that I grew up on. I miss her.

Aduri in Bengali means someone who is loved and cuddled all the time. Our Aduri definitely didn't have time for that. She was too busy working as a household help in some ten houses all through the day. And in the night her drunk husband would either beat her up or try to get her pregnant again. That is, unless she already was pregnant.

She was always pregnant. When I remembered Bini's death (just the faint wail of Aduri sitting at the corner of the street in front of her body) last night, I placed a hand on Aaron. He was trying one of his Z poses in his sleep as usual. He can be a great contortionist. One just has to make him sleep during the show.

And then I wondered how Aduri would have felt at her death. She couldn't cry her heart out...she didn't have time time. And then she had her other children to feed. Her eldest was a son, probably my age, a guy who played all day. Believe me, I envied him. I met him later when I was in senior school. I had gone to one of the local hooch shops to buy liquor for the first time in my life. Me and some friends of mine went up to the shop and bought some country liquor, saying it was for our dads! As if the guy selling the stuff cared who we were buying it for. I don't remember how much it was for, but we did fall short by ten rupees. And this fellow, Aduri's son, lent that money to me.

I never saw him after that. I eventually left Durgapur and then moved on to Banaras, Delhi, and then Bangalore and forgot all about him until last night. I remembered him because I remembered Bini. Or her death. But I don't remember his name. He must be grown up now, working somewhere. And I calculated how much I owe him back. Going by the sensex way back in 79 at 100 points, I should owe him a lot today. The sensex has breached the 15,000 mark, and those ten rupees would be? Rs 15,000.

I called up my friend in Durgapur today. He said he will find out about Aduri. She must be really old, probably still working as hard, scrubbing the plates, mopping the much do we actually owe her? Can I buy her a retirement package? Not with Rs 15,000 for sure. You can buy just a couple of standing wooden speakers from Sonodyne with that kinda money. And I've been eyeing the Sonodyne Sonus speakers for the last three years now.

What if I say I don't have that money? Will the wail stop coming back to me?

Monday, July 16, 2007


I'd been meaning to write about trust for a long time, but I guess I needed to be pushed into writing about this. There is this picture of a waiter passing a laden tray from one compartment of a train to another waiter in another compartment. The funny thing is, the train is moving, and they are hanging out of their respective compartment doors to reach out to each other, their lives depending on how strongly the handles are bolted to the door. Each handle is bolted to a door at two ends, with two bolts at each end. Enough to make you trust the strength of that handle. Enough for you to lean out and be sure you won't be thrown out onto the cactii in the fields.

We trust our machines. When I ride through the 40 kms stretch inside a jungle infested with elephants and even tigers, I trust my motorbike not to break down. I trust that any nail lying on the road would not pierce my tube and deflate it. Such is the strength of trust. And most people garner immense strength from their trust in various gods. When you don't have any gods to turn to, you have to trust yourself. I know my engine is sound enough not to break down now. I know the tyres and tubes are new and "shouldn't" ideally go flat, leaving me an easy prey to whoever is out there, waiting.

And being able to trust gives you a lot of strength. When you know you can close your eyes and just let go backward knowing someone's behind you to hold your fall, you feel powerful. You feel cushioned and safe. And we all need that cushion. And I am happy for all of you who have found your cushion in god/s. For others who do not have that luxury, there are other people. Like today if I want to talk my heart out to someone and I know I can trust one person, I am lucky.

Tomorrow, if that person spills my secrets to someone not even distantly related, you suddenly fall. It's like you were promised that you will be held from behind when you fell, but it was just a prank being played on you. Imagine someone cutting off your bungee ropes?

So, for people who haven't the luxury of sitting in front of some gods and pouring out their miseries, for people who have to turn to other people to even talk normally ... there's a fine catch. Can you trust an apparently trustworthy person? Someone who appears to be a wall, taking in all, can actually be like a dam on the other side, gushing everything out for public consumption.

It is absolutely okay when you don't find out. It is quite another when you do. Those are times you wish you allowed your neighbor to give you that labrador pup.