Updated to add: As I was pointing out to Kirtana, Even 2 is a stack. I was cleaning the back log of unread books and these were the ones I wanted to read most. The pile that's remaining? I suppose it'll have to be one month's stack at a time!
From the pages of inattentive reading in new places, she rises to look at me over your shoulder. This night, I cannot stop thinking about her and you.
Did her hands play idle games with your waist and her lips with your ear on the ride there? Did you check into a hotel with her the way you have with me? Was your smile as intimate? Did you meander through the same motions of unpacking and undressing, of sharing those secret, shy glances as you shut out life out at last?
As you lay down on that unfamiliar mattress, did you draw her to you the way you reach for me? Would she have sighed like me, when your fingers went wandering on their way to her breasts and in between her legs? I wonder if she lay on her side while your breathing slowed and you played with her back.
I lose my way into letters you wrote when you were first aware of me. Letters you wrote when I wavered and you did not. Letters you wrote in those nights of persuasion and reassurance. Cruelly, your words draw me down sepia streets, not long abandoned. Streets where prospective lovers unendingly dance the tango. The same streets where you and I first raised our arms to begin an awkward interpretation of love.
Do you remember how you first whispered to me… frantic… tender… when I was mad and gorgeous and admirable… when I came to you, holding broken illusions of nothing in my hands?
That which you once loved tires you now. I scratch and replace and scratch these mediocre words furiously. Reams of paper and images wash into insipid renderings of the vastness in your eyes.
Tonight, I finally understand. She is a part of my silence and your impatience. She was a time of impassioned phrases melting in dark grottoes of desire. She is our past... your hands whispered to her body in streams of unrest and black. In these streams, I will meet your silence.
I do. It's a sickening, heartbreaking, miserable feeling that makes you want to scoop your eye balls out with a melon baller designed for Lilliputians. Why the hyperbole and drama? Well, I realised on the way back to Bombay last night that the the camera I'd borrowed from A was set to take pictures that could be "used for e-mail attachments". E-mail fricking attachments, would you believe it!
This might not be a big deal you might say but as a photographer, this is the most tremendous waste of close to 3 weeks of photographs. I loaned George to the elder sibling's art partner a while ago and have been using A's wonderful Sony DSC-H7. I didn't bother to check the settings because it was a damn fine photographer's camera and was, presumably, set up properly. *Sigh* More the fool I.
I've now got over a 1000 pictures that are bloody low-res and hence are pictures that I cannot zoom into and play with. These are pictures I took of the TOI Crest William Dalrymple event at Bandra Fort, the ex-reviewer and other performances at Kala Ghoda, the World Book Fair in Delhi, and my Ahmedabad trip (making up 600 of the 1000 photos).
Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. No use crying over what's done but I cannot stop feeling bloody upset. I suppose when I get down to working with these pictures properly, I'll know the full extent of the damage. Until then, let me leave with this photo from the wedding in Ahmedabad.
It has been many years since a train journey to Hyderabad. Too many, I fear, because as this train snakes its way further and further south, it feels much more like going to Hyderabad than taking a flight. The anticipation and excitement have settled firmly into my stomach. Suddenly the prospect of waking S up at some obscene hour of the morning and making sure that she is alright is enough to make me grin at the rather surprised man in the opposite seat. He undoubtedly thinks I'm being friendly and will presently begin a conversation!
You'd think that by now I'd have learned that the more you run away from something, the more persistently, the more doggedly it follows you. The IInd AC compartment was supposed to be the quiet journey of my daydreams... the "me-time" that I'm craving . The plan was to put my feet up on the opposite seat and re-read my way through 31 Songs. But with a side seat and some eight men squeezed into the compartment opposite me, all of whom belong to some kind of sports team, I don't think so. Pray I don't get arrested for murder by the time we get to Hyderabad.
The technological change/advance in India is nowhere more apparent to me than it is in this train bogey. There are at least five laptops (I suspect there are more) within a ten foot distance of me. Mp3 players, phones and other things are blaring their own songs – from old Hindi numbers and what I suspect is music from a selection of B Grade Punjabi and Hindi films to Akon and other bullshit hip-hop and rap. Train travel was a lot less noisy six years ago. Pity is, glaring for 3 hours straight isn't getting the volumes down. The guys right opposite have been watching 3 different movies through the afternoon. The headache I have is much more because of the cacophony than being cooped up in a train all day.
For the first time in a train journey, I have not spent most of the daylight hours at the door. I reckon that’s mainly because the landscape has changed beyond recognition. When I could once experiment and learn at the door, this time I didn't find much to keep me there. Little towns and settlements have sprung up over the wide open spaces. Ugly pink and green two-three storey buildings and empty construction shells dot the route from Maharashtra to Hyderabad instead of those interesting trees. I looked and looked after Daund but I couldn't locate the lake of my first attempts at photography.
I have only a few hours left in this space and most of them will be spent asleep. Very, very unfortunately, this journey is nothing that I expected or even imagined. It’s been noisy, intrusive and I can’t wait for it to bloody get over. This has been a loss of innocence... of sorts. Truth be told, a part of me was looking forward to the random conversation... looking forward to the “Why aren’t you married” and “Why do you read the books you do?” conversations. Instead, I've had bad music and loud, intrusive hockey players to deal with.
What I've been doing: I did it, just so you know. The airport store, I am happy to inform you, has been operational for the last fortnight now and is doing spectacularly well. So, if you're traveling out of Bombay via anything but Kingfisher, Kingfisher Red, and Indian Airlines, do check out the store. And let me know what you think please.
I'm also just back from approximately 20 days of almost constant travelling - Madras, Bombay, Ahmedabad, Madras. As always, work was insane but a number of the evenings were full of cheatery at various games. The young son of the dear friend I stay with in Madras is an absolute delight and is probably the only person on earth who can get away with calling me all kinds of pet names. My mother's very happy that I bond with him so. It gives her great hope for grandkids, don't you know.
What I’ve been eating: Meen kozhambu (Chettinad Fish Curry) and some rather awesome prawns with utthapam at the home of the aforementioned friend. There was also some rather good grilled red snapper in Mahabalipuram and awesome French fries to go with it. It is rather surprising how few vegetables I eat in Madras. I think I eat more meat in Madras than I do in Goa! Chicken/prawn biryani, idlis and prawns, fish curry and rice, uthapam and fish curry, all kinds of kababs. No fruit either unless you're counting two sitaphals.
What I’ve been reading:Leaving India by Minal Hajratwala, the new release from Tranquebar Press. When Kulbushan met Stockli, an Indo-Swiss graphic novel collaboration from Harper Collins India. Chai, Chai, also from Tranquebar Press, a lovely travelogue of the places in India that you pass but don't get off at. Dragon Horse by Peter Ward, a young adult fantasy set in ancient China. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi, forthcoming from Random House UK, that I have been commanded to give a super-quick review for by the boss.
I'm particularly interested in Leaving India though because the author's tracing and documenting the migration of her family from Gujarat to five different continents and in a larger sense, she's tracing the roots and motivations of the Indian/Gujarati diaspora. You must check out the Indian edition - Tranquebar's done a *way* cooler job on the cover than Messers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the US.
What I’ve been listening to: Some very awesome stuff off the ipod of the super-awesome boss. Are we not horses by Rock Plaza Central, Vampire Weekend, Okkervil River and about ten others that I don't remember now. Pearl Jam's Back Spacer. Assorted Regina Spektor. Lots of Tori Amos, Nick Cave, and Love Aaj Kal (you can put down the eyebrows now) - comfort music, really.
What I've been thinking: The returns room at the store is a lonely, lonely place and DAMN, I miss being in an office full of people. What I'd not give to be around the super-awesome bosses and my colleagues in Madras. What I'd not give for the the delicious, enveloping feeling of being part of a team that works together... well, at least for the largest part. I miss the laughter the most. They're always laughing in Madras, you know. It might be in a language that I don't understand but there is always an undulating, omnipresent laughter around the office. It's not that the store isn't a team but... they're not in the way that my merchandising colleagues are. And I fear that they never will be.
What I’ll be doing next: Trying to keep my head above the water mainly. The elder sibling's art partner, a sister of the heart, is getting married and I'm quite, quite excited because we're hosting the mehendi for her next Sunday. That I might be running to Ahmedabad for the next few days is a very real possibility and I'm really hoping that it doesn't work out. I'm exhausted in a way that I cannot even fully fathom. All I want from my life is to curl up in a cold room in Pune/Goa and read my life away. If only wishes were horses...
... I've also taken on daily attendance at the 11th Mumbai Film Fest, don't you know. I believe that it would have been wrong - really, really bad juju actually - not to go because, you see, the largest venue is hop-skip-and-spit away from my workplace. As in, I could trip out of the office and fall into Fun Republic. Honest!
Unlike the last time I was at a film fest, I'm not on holiday and can't be watching films all day. I'm, in fact, in the middle of setting up a store all by myself. Yes, you heard me - ALL BY MYSELF! And most certainly going whatever comes after insane - this is not the time to go running off to watch films. And so, I settled for one film per day, the 8 p.m show. I figured that if I could get even six films through the fest, the delegate pass would have been worth it.
But most fortunately, I completely forgot about Sunday. I'm four days down and I've already watched six films and there's another another three to go! I cannot tell you how happy that makes me.
More details from me later but you can get more details about the fest here.