Thursday, August 31, 2006

Things I learnt in the last couple of days...

‘Not to worry about the future, it would come soon enough.’

That someone can find you beautiful even if the person can't see you for real.

That I am able to love with abandon without apology or guilt.

That prophecies do come true, for however briefly, but they do.

That a sincere ‘ I love you’ in native tongue sounds the sweetest.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

last evening

“We love your songs!”
Gang of Girls
Written in Zubs unmistakably neat scrawl on the yellow paper napkin. It was a rainy August evening last year. She, Caroline and I were sitting in Casa's in Devatha Plaza, Residency Road. The beneficiary of her enormous affection was a white haired, white bearded old man who usually sings live in Casa's on Thursdays. She hands the note over to the nearest waiter with a smile and points towards the old songbird. Caroline and I are still giggling over Zubs rendition of Country Roads a la our casa-songbird style which would make you wonder whether his adenoids are the size of golf balls to allow him to emit such super nasal sound!! The napkin returns with a plain ‘Thank you – Collin’. We giggle some more. Collin of course wasn’t aware that his super specialty talent was the reason for the three crazy women giggling like their brains fell off in the nearby gutter. He was all smiles and waved at us from far. I suppose she made his evening.
That is Zubs. Was. She drowned in Goa on 27th January this year. By her standards, going for a swim at midnight wasn’t crazy at all. But the tides thought otherwise. They found her body five hours later in the early morning. They got her back to Bangalore the next day. "Die when I may, I want it said of me that I plucked a weed and planted a flowerwhere ever I thought a flower would grow." - Abraham Lincoln. That’s what her email signature said. And she did. Planted flowers wherever she went, touched who ever she met. I was supposed to go along with her and Bins. We had planned the trip in meticulous details sitting in Only Place one Saturday afternoon with her ankle still in the blue fiber cast. We planned the trip once her cast came off in 15 days. Leave for Goa on 26th January night and come back two days later on the Sunday. She was to join her new job on Monday. Tickets booked. Hotel arranged. Bags packed. 25th January, R is down with viral. Both of them wanted to postpone the trip. I insisted that they go ahead as planned.
Fate. If only I had not insisted. If only I had gone with them. If only I could…..
Her mother looks at her wrapped remains and asks no one in particular ‘why did she have to die’. I try to hold her but she is ‘unreachable’ in her sorrow. She looks at me and says ‘you would understand, how it feels to lose a child’. I am searching for words. Nothing. Her father sits in silence. Not a sound. I remember other times. He would give her a tongue lashing whenever I went to pick or drop her and more often than not we were sinfully late. He is old and diabetic and surviving virtually on medication post his medical complication. All dressed for a party, she would keep his medicines in separate tiny containers marked with the time they need to be taken. He is visibly upset. For a father who reads namaz five times a day without fail, he obviously doesn’t approve of the ‘non-conventional’ life that she leads. Unfazed, she would squeeze his shoulders and say, ‘Abba, don’t forget the medicines and I will check if you have taken them once I am back.’
I don’t want to cry. I can’t. I didn’t.
All that came back last evening. The tears and the pain. I was getting down from the car in front of the Cunningham Road Citibank ATM. Collin, guitar case in hand was walking towards me and we almost bumped into each other. He gave me an apologetic smile. I don’t remember if I smiled. By the time I walked up to the ATM machine I couldn’t see through the tears.
She knew she had touched his life that rainy evening. He didn’t even know that she is gone. Only the little yellow note still lies somewhere in her handbag. Unopened and silent.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Jana Gana Mana...

‘What does jono gono mono mean, mommy?’ R asks looking at me with his big brown eyes, which looked like limpid pools of innocence in the early morning light. I can see the reflection of his long thick lashes on his eyes. He is a beautiful child. My grandmother would have been upset. Mothers should never admire. Now you see he will fall sick, she would say.
It was 8 in the morning and R and I climbed on the terrace and ‘tied’ the tricolour on the top of our now defunct TV antenna. It looked like it might rain and R was worried, what if the rain washes away the colours of the flag, can we paint it back again? I couldn’t help but smile. The innocence of the young. Both of us sang jana gana mana in our mis-matched off key off-pitch tones. R of course sang his ‘hindized’ version and me in the original bengali. No one would offer to record this duet for sure. What amazed me was the goose bumps on my arms. Amazed because I wasn’t expecting them. Not when a diet of mayhem that the morning newspaper brings from across the country fails to elicit a reaction anymore.
15th August was a big day for us during childhood. My grandfather’s house was about 80 kms away in the suburbs of Kolkata, a peaceful haven called Kalyani, and it was there that all of us cousins would assemble every Independence Day eve. On the big day we would wake up early and race each other to finish our bath and run to the terrace of his two-storied house all ready for the grand event. This ritual didn’t change since I was about 6 till my grandfather’s late stage of Parkinson’s. My grandfather always kept the flagpole ready the previous day and before we reached the terrace he would have taken out the satin cloth flag from the cabinet where it ‘rested’ for the rest of the year. The flag always smelled of mothballs and always had the same number of precise folds. He would fix the flag and at 7 am he would gently tug the ropes. The flag rose in to the morning sky and unfurled with a riot of colours. Goose bumps as our hearts swelled and our voices chorused the anthem. Pride. That was what we felt wearing pristine khadi kurta payjamas standing amidst my grandfather’s terrace garden of potted roses and chrysanthemums and dahlias singing jono gono mono
Never expected to feel that way after so many long years.
R pulls my sari end and I give him a hug and a smile. Tell him I would come back from office and tell him about the heroes of our nation. He accepts that easily, happy to return to his world of cartoon heroes. Driving to work, couldn’t help thinking will he ever feel the goose bumps as the flag sways gently with the breeze.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Misty ominous morning. Not unusual for this time of the year. Today I am at the benevolent auto rickshaw's mercy. Radio advices avoid Nandi Durg Road and therefore my helpful driver decides to take a detour. Through S K Garden, Pottery Road, Masjid Road. Houses, building, shops. Familiar places. Caught in a day dream I wasn't prepared atall for Coles Road and Sherlocks, looking very different in the late morning light. Familiar trigger.
Traffic slows. The dark tinted blue Aveo is two inches away. The sub woofer pulsates Robbie.
There’s a hole in my soul,
You can see it in my face, it’s a real big place.
There is always a song to match every state of mind. Sardonic.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


She was the most sought after girl in 7th standard. Then she got herself a 'princess diana' haircut and lord were we envious!
One afternoon during lunch hour Tina and I were strolling aimlessly on the ground when a stray piece of shattered glass hit the top of her head, right on the middle. First time I saw blood spurting out. Blood trickled down her forehead and she had the opaque look of shock in her eyes. Held her tight when the resident nurse, a monstrous creature we loved to hate, pulled out the glass piece with gusto mumbling something about the current generation having no tolerance for pain etc. I held Tina's hand tight till a blinding rage to shove the needle on her fleshy bottom passed. The ogre and our classteacher took Tina to the nearby hospital. I saw her again the next day after school in her room. She was lying on her bed among a sheet full of blue flowers. Were they lilies? I looked at her. There was this huge white bandage on her cleanly shaven head.
Tina didn't come back to school for the whole of next two months and I missed her terribly and kept a copy of all the class notes for her which I took along with me when I visited her every weekend. When she came back to school, her wound had healed and her hair had grown about two inches but her spirit was forever scared. She never stepped out of class during lunch and she always wore a cap though her hair had grown long.
Next year we were in different classrooms. She spoke little and wasn't the livewire that she used to be. Even our after school shakespeare workshops led by the boisterous Anil Sir became a drag. By this time I had made it to the junior hockey team and made new friends. Years passed and I saw less and less of her. The last time I met her was when I went to collect my 10th standard board exam marks card. She had come with her mother. We talked for a while and promised to keep in touch. The next few years as I traversed through my now complex life Tina was forgotton. Till I came back from Delhi and rummaging through my old pile of keepsakes found a well preserved autograph book. 'Drink coffee, drink tea, when you burn your lips, think of me'. Scrawled across the pink sheet with 'Lots of Love Tina' at the bottom with an arrow through a heart. I called her old number that evening.
'This number has been disconnected'.
Somedays later went to the lane where her house was but the neighbours didn't have her new address. One friendly fellow told me that she was studying dentistry and no he didn't know which college. I never found out either.
We were 13. He a couple of months older. They lived in Nigeria and visited Kolkata once every year for about a month where we were neighbours. Our parents were friends and bro and I always got invited for his birthdays which always were during their annual Kolkata trip. Though he would spend most of his time in our house - eating lunch that MY mother made and chatting with MY dad in the evening, I didn't consider him a friend. He would always greet me with animated enthusiasm and I would give him a passing 'oh you again' smile and go on about my work. Deliberate disregard. My parents adored him ofcourse. Which was the big problem to begin with.
He was quite intrepid for a boy of that age. My brother hero worshipped him. Which was the other big problem I think. We had this group of neighbouring kids led by Glamour Queen (the young neighbourhood beauty - she was always three inches shorter than me - my saving grace) who would meet up every afternoon and have a good time mostly chattering away as pre-teens do. He desperately wanted to be a part of that group. I ofcouse ignored the request. Glamour Queen can do with one less fan. My brother finally introduces him to the group and everyone seems to like him and his accented bengali. Except ofcourse me. On our terrace, Glamour Queen suggests Go-Statue. A silly game if you ask me where most of the time you are supposed to freeze pose and the tagged one tries to unfreeze the 'statues'. All agree enthusiastically and someone says 'go'. He is tagged and we freeze as statues. We are allowed to blink and I try hard to control the giggles as I watch him make funny faces and body gestures to make all of us laugh. He moves from one to the other and finally he is infront of me. He smiles. Gosh his teeth are REALLY white. Must be because his skin is so dark. Contrast. I blink. He sticks his tongue out. Crosses his eyes. Pulls his eyelids till he looks like a chinaman. Nothing. He bends a little and inches his face close to mine. I can see his pupils. They are jet black. Smell the faint mint of his breathe. Its not so easy to scare me. I don't even blink this time. We hold each other's stare. Dumbass. He thinks he can 'out-stare' ME? Next second without warning his lips are on mine. Soft and warm. My eyes close and his hands are on my shoulder. I jerk my face away. He straightens and there is a funny look on his face. They all laugh out loud. I am tagged.
Glamour Queen's mother calls and we all disperse. My ears are hot and he nonchalantly comes home with us to sit with dad. If only looks could kill. God how I hate him.
One sunday we went to 'Wonderland' which was the only video game parlour in the whole of Kolkata. I have always been a bad driver. I am more of a pac-man person. That day I was a disaster on 'Night Rider'. I cringe as he stands next to me giving me helpful instructions and then suddenly he just grabs the jog stick with me still holding it and took over the game which I was losing 3-10. If I had a sharp object near by he would have been dead right then. How dare he? I deserve to atleast lose with dignity. I try to push his hand away and in the ensuing tussle realize the zipper at the back of my summer dress had given way. There I was all of 13 standing in the middle of the game parlour with a open zipper and a flushed face. My bro no where in sight. Shomit turns towards me. Heck he was a good three inches taller and I bet he saw my now bare back and frozen form and must have the sweet look of revenge on his face. I refuse to look up. He touches my shoulders. Yeeckkks! Isn't it bad enough that I have a gaping hole of a dress! He says,"I will be back". Back for what? He returned in a few minutes with a grin. Hell!!! He must have told the entire crowd and the TV station!!! I cannot hold back the tears anymore. He moves behind me and I hear stapling sound. He turns me around and shows me the stapler, that he got from the cash counter. With a puzzled look he asks, "Did it hurt?"
The drive back home I was perfectly quite while dad, bro and he were sharing their exploits of the afternoon.
They left for Nigeria the next day. I met him two years later. He came over to say hello to all of us. What had happened to him? There he was in his blue denim shirt and faded blue jeans looking like the tall dark handsome M&B heroes I read on the sly.
He hugs me and says, 'Hey did I ever tell you that you were a damn good statue'.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


This is Wendy (Ro calls her 'Windy' - I haven't found out why)! The cutest thing on earth....she has all that you look for in a friend..funny, smart, gentle, loyal, confident, lotsa attitude and absolutely adorable! She is one heck of a cool gal...