Saturday, June 30, 2007

She cried. That gut wrenching cry that leaves one gasping for breath. She didn’t even know why. The weather in fact was perfect. She looked great in the mirror. Her routine was undisturbed. Life wasn’t any worse than the day before. But then all of a sudden it flooded her thoughts and choked her senses.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Final Cut

Pain is a many-layered thing. At one level it's uncomfortable, difficult to deal with, hard to cope and infinitely avoidable. At another, it's soothing, comfortable, seductive and easy. At yet another, it's universal, inescapable and the only absolute truth. Are there degrees? I am not sure. But the one thing that I know is, to the sufferer it's very real and there are many expressions of it. The pain of losing someone is real as is a bleeding finger. But pain at times is not this explicit. I have found that the most difficult of them all.
Now, where am I going with this?
Today, I was hit with news of bereavement in the morning. First, a message from someone I was once close to, that spoke of his recent loss of a parent. Despite everything that went wrong in our relationship (if one can even call it that) the news hurt deeply. It hurt, for I have known loss. It hurt, because even as an adult I look up to my parents for guidance and support. They are my anchors, emotional and otherwise. Though our everyday relationship is transactional, I draw comfort from knowing that they are there for me. Knowing that this loss is inevitable doesn’t ease the pain. And knowing that they are irreplaceable hurts even more.
Then came a mail from some one I revere. He had written about his child, who he is close to losing. He wrote about the joy of having someone special in his life and the pain of knowing that he has to let him go. This brought back a host of memories. An oft-remembered anguished journey through desolation and despair.
Yes, I have seen life and death from close quarters and it sure ain’t pretty.
Thought I oughta bare my naked feelings,
Thought I oughta tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands
Prepared to make it but just then the phone rang
I never had the nerve to make the final cut.
-Roger Waters-

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It happens only in India!

Has anyone ever seen anything like this anywhere else in the world? Educate me if you have. Mistake me not. I am fiercely patriotic and love these idiosyncrasies that make my country great including the disgraceful sham of evicting a charming, learned, non-political man from Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Knock...Knock...Knocking on...

“Don’t worry, it may be nothing” Dr. Sundaram, her GP, smiled looking at his engraved Cross pen. It’s definitely not good news she thinks. Dr. Sundaram rarely smiles. Despite his usually busy schedule, he agreed to see her, which had surprised her. He dislikes rearranging his day and accommodating trivial complaints like hers. When she called him this morning he was unnaturally attentive asking her a host of questions about her infected throat.
“Come and see me at 11” he had said.
“But I haven’t taken appointment”
“Don’t be late” Click. The line had gone dead.
Here she was sitting in front of him worrying about how to make up for the two hours of her day spent here.
“Would you be able to go to Manipal tomorrow and get the test done?”
Tomorrow? No, I have a lot of things planned...test? What test?”
"I need you to get this done at the earliest.” He pushes a scribbled sheet of his letterhead towards her.
She reads what is written.
Biopsy?”
"Yes. It wouldn't take too long. Just about an hour"
“But it’s just a small lump. It doesn’t even hurt!”
“That’s why. It maybe nothing”
Maybe?”
“Please don’t worry. Get this done on Saturday and see me positively on Monday” He looks at her this time and smiles.
She nods. Numbness.
Driving to work she calls a friend.
“Nothing will happen to you!” He says cheerfully.
“But..Ro….” She chokes.
Chill! I will adopt him and we will both go out and flirt with PYTs”
“Some consolation that!” she smiles despite herself.
"And you like yellow chrysanthemums right?"
"Yeah, but......? Ohhhh! I hateee you!" She laughs loudly remembering their talk about flowers on their graves. (except that she wouldn't even have a grave!)
This silly banter lifts her mood.
She goes through the rest of the day trying not to worry about the inevitable.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Crossroads with Tommy

Does anyone remember the controversy involving Tommy Hilfiger and his alleged racist comment on Oprah Show and her asking him to leave? This was a couple of years ago, at a time when I couldn’t afford his stuff even if I wanted to (which I do not!). Following that incident, his innocence has been claimed by one and sundry and the 'rumour' recently squashed by Oprah herself. However, he was in the news again lately, for a certain ‘unfair’ decision.
Back then, I had decided not to wear Tommy even when I could afford it. And I stuck to it (lack of affordability ensured that). I remember sniggering loudly when my ex-boss announced one day that she wears only Tommy Hilfiger underwear! I sermonized and she jocularly called me a “Commie”. In riposte I had said, "Yeah they should make diapers too. They will be good to shit in!" and we never discussed Tommy (or her taste in fashion brands) again.
Most of my friends, particularly those who shop with me, know my aversion and avoid the flagship store in Forum mall, Bangalore. Also, they are tired of me repeating ‘my-ex-boss-and-tommy-story’ a tad too often. (OK I am painful...at times!)
Tommy also fell from grace for naming an ordinary hideous sneaker after my name. What was he thinking?! Consider this: ‘Pia’ comes from the Latin ‘Pius’ meaning ‘pious’. So that makes these ‘holy shoes’ eh? (‘Pia’ is also slang for alcohol in Hungary, but we shall let that be!)
Well, therefore it’s rather unfortunate that my cousins recently gifted me a Tommy Girl perfume (OK to be fair I am not particularly anti-american, I like Estee Lauder but I am a Dior girl!) and a Tommy Hilfiger watch (It's truly not worth the money these poor kids spent!) Mindful of their enthusiasm I neither mentioned my aversion nor regaled them with my ex-boss’s story. Not wanting to be misunderstood, I wear both regularly and am left feeling a slight discomfiture of knowing that I am endorsing a brand I do not admire (Given I am no Anna Kournikova, but still!). Irony?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ugly

She gave in to rage today. Something she should have never done. It had been building for a while. She has been failing miserably to deal with her day and life in a manner she should. With grace.

So what if life has thrown more curved balls than usual? So what if nothing is working out? So what if she is late on many of her commitments? So what if she is worried sick of her aging parents? So what if she hasn’t seen any light for a while now? So what if she has nothing for a future? So what if she has been maimed and cheated? So what if the world thinks she is worthless scum? So what if she is losing her battle with frustration? So what if she feels overwhelmed with all her responsibilites? So what if she ain’t allowed to cry? So what if her little boy broke the light switch in the car without intention today?

So what?

Right now she hates being her.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Winds of change...

I drive through the notorious Silk Board junction twice everyday.
One who isn’t familiar with Bangalore, may wonder why this particular crossroad deserves any mention at all. Allow me to explain.
This intersection on the Hosur Road is a vital connect to Electronic city, which is one of the key IT districts. It also connects two large residential layouts and leads to the Outer Ring Road, which is fast becoming the leading IT corridor around the city with large infrastructure projects all along the highway. To ease the confusion and the frustrating traffic snarl, the BDA constructed a CSD (Central Silk Board) Flyover, which I learned is the widest flyover in the country with anti-skid coating and provision for rain-water harvesting. That it took BDA a full two years to get this functional causing enormous inconvenience to the residents and travelers can be veiled under its imposing glory. The latest construction activity is an ‘elevated highway’ which will extend this flyover further.
Now, this post wasn’t meant to focus on Bangalore’s ripping-at-seams infrastructure.
Reams have been written about the transformation of Bangalore from Pensioner’s paradise to a Silicon Valley. But I have very different take on this change.
I have noticed with fascination the changing profiles of the beggars operating on the Silk board junction traffic halt. The average ten minutes traffic signal, allows me the luxury of such observations.
When we first moved in to this part of town a couple of years back, I always met an old man at the traffic lights and though I never gave money (I am against the concept), we always exchanged smiles. Occasionally, I carried some old clothes, used bed sheets and woollens and he accepted them gracefully and never failed to smile. He was benign, gentle, and never made any extraordinary effort to beg, happy with whatever he collected. A reflection of old Bangalore.
When I returned from Mumbai, after a year, the old man had disappeared.
He was replaced by a new breed of aggressive, younger crowd from the rural heartland (apparent from their dialect). When I enquired about the old man, they shrugged casually and moved away, realizing I hold no potential as a customer. With this crowd, began the trend of ‘teamwork’ as opposed to ‘lone ranger’.
Then came the ‘Lambardis’. Hoards of them. Swirling skirts. Babies covered with grim. Young girls doing cartwheels. Squabbling mothers. Noisy folks. They swarmed the crossroad, taking over the entire stretch and pushing out the other group. They lasted longer than the rest. And towards the later part some of them had morphed into entrepreneurs selling useful items like boxes of tissues or packets of cotton earbuds.
The latest arrival is a band of eunuchs. Raunchy. Garish. Loud. Abrasively entertaining. Not surprisingly these guys (guys?!) are the most successful lot if one calculated the group's per capita income. Bikers, car drivers, auto drivers, waiting pedestrians, irrespectively dole out money even before they are actually asked. And this happens everyday. At the traffic lights, these folks give me a cursory look from far and ignoring my existence, proceed towards the profitable male prospects.
Should I feel discriminated against?
I am not sure how long they will last here, but, with their arrival, Bangalore has most definitely arrived as a metropolis of enviable stature. Applause anyone?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pour on ME!

Shreyasi, bless her soul, got me nostalgic about rain. (so this post is all her fault!)
Now, I am not a rain-person, if you know what I mean. I love chill winds blowing on my face and tousling my hair. I love frosty winter and I love snow (impressions of childhood remain through life).
But.
I do have some fond memories of the rain. When we moved back to Kolkata permanently, it was in the middle of a stifling, oppressive summer. I remember, the painful prickly heat that erupted all over our bodies and I remember the ‘load-shedding’ and I obviously don’t have any fondness associated with these experiences. Towards the end of summer, we were carted to my grandfather’s place in Kalyani and at the very least we could share our angst with the rest of the cousins who had gathered there for summer holidays. Then suddenly, one afternoon, it all changed. The sky turned dark. Thunder rumbled. The winds turned restless. Pushed by the strong gusty wind the dust, the dirt, the sand, the littered plastic, the torn papers all rose to a grubby crescendo in the middle of the tarred road. Then the skies opened. Big drops, followed by smaller incessant drops. The smell of wet earth. Soon the rain tried to tame the winds and thus ensued a tussle. We rushed to the first floor terrace and ran around singing and dancing in the rain without a care till our parents threatened us with Dr. Sen’s bitter medicines (Dr. Sen, our then family doctor had one set of bitter white pills that he administered no matter what the complaint and needless to say it was on our most hated list next only to holiday homework). Therefore, my first ‘Kalboishakhi’ left a massive impression.
Later, in Kolkata, the most enjoyable part of rains was the rainy-day holidays at school. Once, I don’t remember the year, our school was inundated during monsoon season and school was closed for almost a week. When we returned to our ground floor classrooms, the stagnated water had left its mark on the walls. The other interesting part was the leeches that infested the water-logged lanes and the way one had to pour salt over them to get them off the skin. This, for us, was straight out of ‘Book of Alien’ and our maid with her embellished, inflated stories fired our imagination of blood-thirsty leeches sucking humans dry in their bid to take over the world. Count Dracula of the Waterworld!
As an adult I haven’t really enjoyed rains, except once in Goa where, we were there for about 10 days during the monsoon and to see it rain over the sea was amazing.
I never quite liked the Mumbai rains. They are careless and inconsiderate, unlike in Bangalore, where it rains mostly at night.
But rains also meant “khichuri” and “eelishh maach” in our Kolkata home. It meant watching the floating paper-boats with our names on the flooded streets till they were sunk by the waves of a rushing car. It meant damp, limp hair that just wouldn’t sit straight on my head. It meant moist white mold on our school shoes. It meant competition for the most attractive raincoat at school. It meant a regular ‘health checkup’ of all umbrellas at home before the rains. It meant wearing only well-worn (read torn!) shoes and saving all new shoes for less messy months. It meant many an innovative excuse for not doing homework. It meant waking up scared in the middle of the night with the sound of a violent downpour. It meant ‘dead’ telephone lines and power-cuts. It meant sharing an umberella and a tea. It meant drenched bike rides. It meant holding eachother close under a sheltering tree.
Oh! How I wish it rained again like that.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Requiescat In Pace

I came home late evening to find Baba engrossed in the French Open women’s final and Ma packing some of my old books and notes and other pointless college memorabilia (so long piled on my creaking bookshelf) in a fresh carton to be stowed away in a safer corner of the storage loft. Scattered on the floor were obsolete memories and yellowed pieces of an old life.
Ma was explaining to Ro why it was important to go to college and Ro was suitably daunted by the heap of books one had to read in college. With that, he looks at me with new respect and awe.
“You read aaall these?”
"Yeah..”
Suddenly his eyes catch a bunch of wilted photocopied pages that had faded a little.
"Who's that?"
"His name is Freud…"
"Froo-ed? Why did he have a funny name like that?"
"I don’t know…"
"Ok. What did he do?"
"He wrote a few books."
"Books? About what?"
"Well…lots of stuff.."
"Like what?"
"Like dreams…"
"Dreams? What’s there to write about dreams?"
"Lots of other things…you will know when you grow up.."
"Why can’t I know them now?"
"Cause you wouldn’t understand…"
"Why?"
"Cause you are young…"
"Noo I am not, Mommy! What did he write?"
"He wrote about the mind…"
"Hmmmn….what’s in our brain?"
"No not brain sweets…mind…psyche.."
"What’s that?"
"OK…lets see, it's like when Dii gives you your glass of milk, what do you think, honest?"
"I hate milk."
"So what do you really want to do?"
"Throw the milk."
"Do you?"
"No. How can I do that? Dii will feel bad. I drink it. What to do…"
"Right. That’s what he wrote about."
"Milk???"
"No, not milk, honey....about the mind."
"How?"
"When you want to throw the milk, it’s the bad part, not really bad bad but well it's called Id. Then you don’t want to hurt Dii, so that’s the good part, your Superego. So what do you do? You drink your milk, that’s your Ego. Simple!"
“Ohhh! Ok…I get it…”
He looks satisfied with the explanation and trots off to his next mischief muttering to himself and Mr. Freud must be glad that he died when he did, thankfully a long time back. .

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Spidy in Town!

Courtesy my cousins Ro got a mint-fresh Spiderman3 Web Blaster in black among other things. Right now he is the ‘neighbour’s envy owner’s pride’ in our apartment block and will soon be among the chief attractions in his new school. Although I do not overtly encourage his worldly ambitions, for a young boy this is a time most cherished. I may therefore be labeled as an indulgent mother. Oh...My mother’s crystals are currently bearing the onslaught of the Web Blaster and she has earnestly started de-selling this particular gadget, sincerely hoping he would get bored with it soon.

Desi Americans

Last couple of days just whizzed passed even before I got to savour them. My cousins came over from Atlanta to spend four days with us before they went off to met the rest of the De clan in other parts of the country namely Kolkata and Mumbai. It was a delayed beginning. The Lufthansa, (which, in my mind has a 0.0001% delayed flight record and therefore didn’t need checking before rushing to airport), reached Bangalore at 2.50AM on Friday instead of the scheduled 11.50PM on Thursday. So it was a long night of waiting with mosquitoes and Coffee Day mochas for company and trips to the parked car for some music, which one couldn't enjoy for long with the aforementioned mosquitoes in tow. Finally, they emerge from the haloed portal of the Arrival gate around 3.40AM and I am amazed that two innocuous looking young girls (one 13 and the other almost 16) can actually manage this much luggage! Hugging and the customary ‘oh you have grown so tall’ got over in a blink. We got back home just shy of the morning light. Exhaustion crept in, result of the long workday, the wait at the airport, ok, old age too if you insist. Jetlag ensured that my cousins were awake and I got a miserly two hours sleep.
Next day, (actually the same day), thankfully my mother took over and fussed over them like I would if I got myself a brand-new puppy. Well puppies needed rest so I let them be and left for office. Evening was filled with stories of yore, updates on what’s happening in various peoples’ lives and exchanging mp3s.
Saturday, was filled with shopping, binging, mall-hopping and driving around Bangalore (which wasn’t the least bit pleasant with hoards of traffic!). My parents had a prior engagement and guilt-tripped me into baby-sitting the three ‘children’, foregoing the Aerosmith concert (the friend who inherited my ticket assured that I would definitely go to heaven!)
Sunday was spent mostly at home and in the evening a dinner hosted by Baba, which was a formal affair that required dressing up, thrilling my cousins to no end. It’s sure good to be a teenager. They deliberated over what to wear and the makeup (they love desi clothes). The post-dinner adda involved tuneless, off-key singing by the bong crowd who think it’s their birthright to sing at all gathering, joyous or otherwise (most times the audience die before the song itself!). After we politely persuade the boisterous guests to leave, we stay up to watch the night rain.
Yesterday, we went book shopping. They shopped and I enjoyed the smell of new books. The haul included a few Cathy Cassidys, Terry Prachetts and Adam Gopnik’s A King In The Window. Despite being a passionate reader, I have never read any modern teen fiction, (No, not even Harry Potter) so this was indeed an eye-opener. Heartened to know that teen literature is a thriving business.
My cousins left last evening to complete the next leg of their journey. I spoke with the branch of the De clan that would host them for the next few days and they seemed so excited that I felt a pang of envy realizing I would miss the girls.