Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Your Argentina or My Brazil?

I was thinking why we change loyalties or suddenly like one specific team. i don't know much about football, so i decided that all south americans (basically the Portuguese and Spanish colonies) are ppl to be looked down upon because they are unscrupulous, drug peddlers, and verminous like us Indians... and only the proper Caucasian Europeans (not ... See Morethe pirates from Spain and Portugal) have any real character. I hate Argentina because Maradona, despite being a great footballer, is not a trustworthy man. Can I idolize Tyson? NO. Likewise, we cannot idolize someone like Maradona, a man of dubious morals.

So, loyalties/hatred toward any team are often formed because of one hero or antihero. people loved Pele when he came to Calcutta and half of Calcutta became fans of Brazilian football. My frnd Meghadoot da follows European football for quite some time and he absolutely adores Platini and later Zidane. Hence his love for France. I support Germany, England, Denmark, Netherlands and again Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, and any Asian country. Why the English? They were our masters for a long time and the inertia of genuflection towards whites remains in me. It's a pity they left us in the hands of Indian politicians. A General Dwyer is perhaps less harmful than we Indians are to ourselves. Than the Congress has been to the Sikhs? The Brits also have the best sense of justice. Warren Hastings was tried for misappropriation of funds at one point, and Robert Clive was driven to suicide because of the probe against him after he left India. They built India and we all bloody know it. So support them.

Why the Germans? For the love and respect they have for their country. The way the Germans rebuilt their entire nation so strongly despite the aftermath of the World War, you naturally want to stand up and salute them. Even in business their love of the nation comes to the fore. SAP buys tickets from Lufthansa, Bosch buys SAP applications. They all buy Audi, BMW, or Merc, whereas we Indians buy Japanese or Korean. They love their nation, unlike us. And in football they might not have individual brilliance at the same level as the Argentinians or Brazilians, but they play as a unit, which is very beautiful to watch.

Why the Scandinavian countries? Somehow, the Nordic people seem to be the most caring about human life. In places like Sweden and Denmark, a citizen's medical expenses are forever free. That's the way they value human life. We can't come anywhere close (forget the USA). Hence, they are generally good support their football teams too. Okay, I admit this is kinda lame.

Why the Africans? For Roger Milla, for Didier Drogba, for Asamoah Gyan, and also for all their authors. For Chimamanda Adichie, whom I discovered only recently. For their downtrodden status. For the hatred and racism they faced all these centuries. If an African nation wins, you have tears in your eyes. You stand up and salute.

Being Indians, and left with nobody to look up to but for Leander Paes, Vishy Anand, or Saina Nehwal, what choice do we have? You support your Argentina, me my Brazil. End of the day, we remain bloody Indians after all, with only a commercialized cricket team we can call our own.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To YOU: I'm Dead

I had to die. For you. And to you too.

When your hands brushed against mine, I couldn't sense the urgency in your fingers. It was natural, perhaps accidental. And then you started telling me the story of the princess. And I started talking about how you are beautiful and how beautiful you are.

"How much" was a spiel on the degree of your beauty and "how you are beautiful" was about my perception. I circled you, looked for that angle from which you are not that beautiful but couldn't find it, really. Piled up the books we collected and balanced your face on top of it to see which looked better. And I couldn't even remember the titles or the authors. You passed. Your overwhelming beauty made me gasp... for breath, and for reality to sink in at times. "Someone tell me she is a dream."

While I was wallowing in self pity about you, toying with the possibility of falling for you, trying to build up a story about you, you came running to me with that packet full of groceries dangling. I could see some tuna, some canned sardines, and celery. You are in love with me, you said. I didn't look at your face.

And I had to die. I had to leave that generic letter for nobody in particular. Much like our "to whomsoever it might concern" letters that are aimed at the air around us. I left it for the police. And for the person who will find my body eventually. I am not Pamuk's corpse though. I had to die because I wanted to quietly slink away from your mind that I'd been fucking for so long. And I did. I hid. I cooked up a body in my imagination and left it for them. And they were still looking for it while the doctor gave my death certificate almost in a trance. The insurance claims are already being processed. The house behind yours is vacant. The last place you will search for me.

Not sure I like being dead. Because I am alive. And my mothballed second identity has been brought out and dusted. The money, the money. The money has to come quick and I can't resist rubbing my hands against each other in anticipation. The only thing I can think of is travel. But I can't go very far from you either.

Why did you fall for me? I could live with me falling for you or anybody else, but why did you have to? I am not used to this, you know. Of people like you falling for me? Or people falling for me in general. They don't, with emaciated, yellow, wrinkled dogs. Harsh? I am. On myself, mostly, but then, that's twisted modesty if you read my mind. That's fishing. That's expecting you to say you want to make love to me although you are not attracted. But then you say you are in love.

Are you confusing me?

When I told the other woman about you, she threw a piece of brick through her window at me. She keeps solid bricks inside her house. To throw at passersby and dogs. Or for the kicks of it. She had thrown me out of her house when I hadn't held her with affection after we fucked. She too, like you, likes to call it making love. I prefer fuck. She wants to see me bruised but still wants me to forget you and go back. This is getting confessional so I will keep it private, but heart of hearts I haven't thought about making out with you. I have, but the thoughts couldn't grow into anything realizable. Some cop in my fantasies rejected them. I would prefer a walk down a jungle path, listening to your princess story. It was unfinished, if you remember. Yes, I would definitely love to hold on to your soft hands.

You wonder why I use words like "beautiful" and "soft" despite them being used ad nauseam, but even today, beautiful is just that, a superlative in its own right, and soft is just like a rabbit's bosom.

The house the house. Will it cage me in? The second identity, will it let me go far and wide?

The freedom from life, will it kill me in the end?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Green Mug Has a Flower on It

"Get up, we have to rush," urged Manjunath to his wife. They had to catch a bus to Tirupati where they wanted to ask for a son. Silpa was already pregnant for six months, so if they delayed this prayer trip to Tirupati, she might eventually have another daughter. Manju was obviously concerned. Being an autorickshaw driver, you didn't want daughters in Karnataka. Anywhere in India, he consoled himself. "Get up, like now!!"

Silpa was in this blissful state of having had a complete sleep with no hurry to wake up. She had asked for two days off from all the houses she worked in. And today was a paid leave for her and she wanted to enjoy it by waking up late.

"I don't want to go."

Manju pretended not to hear her. He always felt lucky to have found Silpa. She was beautiful, with big eyes and a round face. Her skin glowed like those foreign chocolates the babu's kids eat all day. And she had the best smile. It wasn't sensuous or inviting, but very charming. A little beguiling too because Manju couldn't make out if she genuinely liked him or if it was just an innocent smile. He was always in love with her, so couldn't believe his luck when finally their alliance was arranged by the families. So he pampered her. Dropped her to the colony every morning in his autorickshaw and waited till she and her shadows got engulfed by the huge buildings. Every day he waited for a few more minutes, wishing for her to come out and smile at him again, but she never came out. But that wait had become habitual.

"I said, I don't want to go."
"Come on, just get up and drink some tea, and we can catch the bus."

Their only daughter was with Silpa's mom for a few days and their mornings were usually free. Her mom sent little Usha to school everyday and the next one should ideally be a son, they all thought. Silpa, somehow, never talked about her preference. Manjunath had a sinking feeling that Silpa probably wants a daughter again, but he was too afraid to ask. After all, they had gone to the local temple and asked for a son and now it was time to please Lord Venkateswara. He didn't want to miss the bus today.

"I think I've already seen god, so I don't wanna go." Silpa was feeling the baby in her bump and fondling her. She knew it would be a daughter. And she had lost trust in day trips to Tirupati in the heat. The buses were crowded, the journey tiring, and the queues horribly long. That wasn't what she expected from a visit to god. And what do they say about Him being omnipresent? No, she doesn't want to go.

"I have already seen him."
"What are you talking about?" Manju was getting impatient and now she was talking nonsense. From the time she started working at the house of those North Indians, she's come back with a lot of strange stuff. They are Hindus but don't have any temple inside their house. The lady of the house smokes. And although they had given them an interest-free loan of Rs 5000 and also paid her a lot more than the other people in the colony, Manju didn't quite like them. And now she comes up with this new story.

"Guess what happened yesterday? These guys bought me a new tea mug."
"So what's the big deal in that? We are getting late for the bus, let's please go now?"
"No, no, listen to me first. Guess what happened after that. A new tea mug isn't what am talking about. They kept the mug in the same rack where they keep theirs. Can you believe it?"

For a moment Manju was not sure of what she talked about, but then it dawned on him. She kept talking about how she's treated in most of the houses: she has to keep their footwear in the shoe rack; her tea cup in most households would be a chipped or old one, kept on the window sill; one day an Oriya lady threatened to not let her into the colony for being late by thirty minutes...there were many such stories that the other girls glossed over. They had thickened their sensitivities and carried on. These rich bastards will die of plague one day...was a collective hope among her people. But Silpa didn't like to be treated like the others. She felt bad every time one of her employers raised her voice. Tears would well in her eyes and Manju would have to make do with no dinner those nights. Manju knew what she was talking about.

"They what?
"They kept your mug with theirs? Are you kidding me?"
"No, when I washed my mug yesterday and kept it on the window sill, sir came and kept it along with theirs, saying 'Silpa, why can't you keep your mug where we keep the other mugs?'
"I don't know Manju, but I could have cried there. You don't know what it means to me."

Manju was silent for a long time. He came and sat on the bed next to her. He had tears in his eyes too. So what if the madam smokes, they are not like the others at all. They acknowledged and smiled at him every time they met him on the roads, they treated them like human beings. He kept sitting there for a long time and heard Silpa say that if there's god, He has to come in human form. And that she has seen him already.

Tirupati didn't happen that day. They enjoyed their weekend, driving to Bannerghatta National Park in his auto. Just the two of them. It was bliss, and forgive me Lord for I enjoyed my time in Bangalore, thought Manju. The next day, Silpa came out a few seconds after entering the building and gave him a smile. It was like falling in love all over again. Maybe she is right about god and his human avatars…Manju thought as he said a silent prayer for the North Indian employers of Silpa.


Arka got Campari from Sri Lanka for us. "I didn't notice the 'bitter' part on the label when I picked it up from the duty-free," he quipped. The sun was setting and we were out on the balcony, savoring the last rays.

"How about some tea? I make a fine Darj brew. Wanna try it?" he offered.

"Awesome...I don't mind the guest making himself useful, but remember not to pick up the green mug."
"Which one, this green one with the flower on it? What's wrong with that?"

"Oh that belongs to our maid. We are a politically correct household, sir, can't you see?"

"Ahha, impressive! That must work wonders, huh? The one with the bump? She's hot, man...I hope the child ain't yours?" Arka laughed even as he suggested it.

"Lower your voice, bugger, Niharika will be here any minute."

It was a good joke that led to another and yet another. Evenings, as I always noticed, have this distinct advantage over days when it comes to turning memorable.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

David Davidar: My Hero

Since morning I received three calls and several messages from friends all over. And all were about David Davidar. Why did people remember me when they read about him in their morning newspapers baffles me because I left Penguin 13 years back after what can be called a really short stint. Well, the reason might be because I never stopped talking about David ever since. I have told the denizens of Bangalore about him, my common friends about him, my girlfriends about him, and pretty much everybody that I can remember. Even my wife, who's seen him from a distance like you see a luminary from the fringes of a social do, is at awe. Still.

What did I tell people about him? First that I looked up to him. Literally, because he was 6'3" in 1997 and I a mere 5'7". He would like "Hello" in his booming voice down at me, a scrawny, mongoloid, tongue-tied editorial assistant who was taking in everything he saw and heard. And second, that he was surrounded by a bevy of beauties, who never, ever complained about him trying to make a pass at them. Never. I know because I have been really close with some of them and they would generally complain about lecherous men to me. But nobody, ever, spoke about David. We were all, always, at awe of him. Third, because he would finish reading manuscripts overnight, or write for the Book Talk column (in The Hindu) in a flight! Fourth, because he was as handsome and charismatic as Vijay Amritraj, but never used his power or charms to go philandering about. The publishing world is very incestuous when it comes to wagging tongues and nobody talked about him slapping any woman's bottom or asking them to meet him after work.

I know Shobhaa De will write about this tomorrow. She, in her memoirs, has written about almost everybody, even about Sanjeev Kumar (whom we all have so much respect for) being a lecherous drunkard. But she always had good things to say about David.

David married a pretty lady called Rachna in 1998 after a longish affair. And what happened in the last 13 years that made him fall for someone like Lisa Rundle? Did he fall for her? Were they in a relationship? He says they were friends for three years, so what happened? Did she fall for him and didn't get a response? Is this her way of making some quick buck? At what expense?

I, even after 13 years, will have to stand by him and show my solidarity. Whatever version of truth comes out after the trial.