Monday, December 26, 2005
Winter is a time of wistfulness, of discontent. It brings forward the shortcomings of the past and makes me desire better; more, as it were. My need for something higher is only intensified in the winter but more often than not... the yearning is entirely unidentifiable. I don't know why the soul feels so fragmented or what more it desires. One would think that I dislike this feeling, this disjunction. But somewhere from these random shards emerges a cut, a line... which brings a seeping... spreading... ubiquitous... joy.
(Don't you think joy is much more a happy word than happiness/happy. Something about the way it rolls and trickles into the crevices of your mouth, perhaps.)
There is a loneness, an individuality about the winter which other seasons do not allow you. The monsoon is, in my experience, so much a shared exercise. A game of monopoly, in the dark of a murmuring late afternoon; numberless cups of chai (tea) in smoke circles; walking out in the rain to find that one man selling bhutta (corn on the cob) - and everyone feeling entirely pleased with themselves. But it is only in the winter, in its incisive isolation, that you can truly belong to and indeed, dwell in, yourself. And strangely, its melancholy beseeches understanding but forbids sharing. How do you share something that you don't quite understand?
In a different vein, I also think the melancholy of winter accentuates the appreciation of beauty - in every way definable - and I've always wondered, in the most satisfyingly circular manner: am I truly more vulnerable now or am I merely over-reacting, surrendering to the hyperbole I am usually so inclined to?
There is this lovely, lovely song by a young Algerian singer, Souad Massi, that's been making me feel so deliciously blue. The song is called Deb - which means heart-broken - and is the title track of her second album.
You can find a brief artist profile here and an interesting review of the album here. Should you want to hear the song, you can download it here. Please let me know what you thought - and this means you, all you lurkers who refuse to speak though each post asks you to - indeed you, who I should like very much to get to know. :-)
One last thought. Not mine but Camus'.
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
There is no one here with her - but there should be. The overwhelming thought of the day.
Abruptly and silently, the weight of living alone in the big city bears down. She walks to the front door to slide heavy locks into place. Melancholia undulates in those twilight spaces as she makes her way back and settles into her bed and her book. Eighteen minutes later, the letters begin to lose meaning as her eyes lift into the corner cradled by the window sill and curtains.
Tonight, winter has come calling. Lying in bed, listening to the wind saying "rush, rush... but wait" and watching the street lights dancing their way into mosaics on the window pane. My tongue slides out a little. This moment tastes different. Not the vanilla of monotony but salty - like anticipation.
This moment smells of moonlight and peaches, taking birth into the sepia of this midnight.
This moment feels like blue ink drawn slowly... labouriously... beautifully... over scarlet paper into lines of wisdom and emptiness.
Like the underbelly of a fuzzy fruit. Grotesque and tantalizing.
Strange. To be brought, unawares and extempore, to the cusp of something big. Or something small. To feel the blue air and myself intermingling and coalescing to send something bursting forth into sudden, delightful... but hestitant animation.
How I ache this night. Simply living this moment. An eternity in this ephemeral epiphany. A riot of blue and scarlet, brown and copper, and green and tangerine.
For this night, dreamscapes of warmth and a whisper of peace. For this night, a journey to be begun... a road not yet taken. For this night, strength and fragility, forgiveness and surrender. For this night, memories. Old and worn, lovely and cherished.
For this night... may your rest be joyous.
She closes her book and switches off the light. Her smile warms the darkness and the street lights dance steadily on. In a heartbeat, she is asleep.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Umberto Eco, professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna, is one of those few writers whose authorship is an unmitigated joy to be involved in. And no matter how long his sentences or how waxiloquent you think his prose, he is a riveting and an utterly enlightening read. The only times I put The Name of the Rose down was to fill all the gaping holes in my education which, Eco so effortlessly exposed.
His writing is lyrical and witty, not something you would expect to find in a story of medieval religious intrigue and politics, set in a Italian monastery where a monk has been poisoned. A Franciscan monk, William of Baskerville, with his apprentice, Adso of Melk, has been sent to investigate the crime. Along the way, Jorge Luis Borges and Aristotle, the supression of knowledge and strong reasoning make for a enthralling journey. To say the least, the end is astonishing, and for any of you who think The Da Vinci Code is a good, well-researched book, I sincerely recommend you give The Name of the Rose a shot.
On a different note, the movie of the book is one of the few that attempts to do justice to the book. Personally, I do not see how that could ever be possible because the book is layered with stories within stories and you'd need to make a three week long film to do full justice to it. :-)
Among his other works, I savoured every word of Baudolino with its exquisite detail and subtlety and some of his essays and lectures on language and meaning sent me into raptures few writers, especially of the academic sort, can. However, I did not understand a word of Focault's Pendulum and am in the process of re-reading the book, this time hopefully to a modicum of comprehension.
When I grow up, I want to write like him - even if just one paragraph.
To meander back to the article on hand, I had myself a huge laugh at this one in the middle of mind-numbingly boring day at work and since I am in the business of technical writing, knowing the quirks of one side over the other, I found this even funnier!
I hope you enjoy this!
Friends, Italians, countrymen, I ask that a Committee for Public Health be set up, whose task would be to censor (by violent means, if necessary) discussion of the following topics in the Italian press. Each censored topic is followed by an alternative in brackets which is just as futile, but rich with the potential for polemic. Whether Joyce is boring (whether reading Thomas Mann gives one erections). Whether Heidegger is responsible for the crisis of the Left (whether Ariosto provoked the revocation of the Edict of Nantes). Whether semiotics has blurred the difference between Walt Disney and Dante (whether De Agostini does the right thing in putting Vimercate and the Sahara in the same atlas). Whether Italy boycotted quantum physics (whether France plots against the subjunctive).
Whether new technologies kill books and cinemas (whether zeppelins made bicycles redundant). Whether computers kill inspiration (whether fountain pens are Protestant). One can continue with: whether Moses was anti-semitic; whether Leon Bloy liked Calasso; whether Rousseau was responsible for the atomic bomb; whether Homer approved of investments in Treasury stocks; whether the Sacred Heart is monarchist or republican.
I asked above whether fountain pens were Protestant. Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.
The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits.
It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach - if not the Kingdom of Heaven - the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.
DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself. Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.
Naturally, the Catholicism and Protestantism of the two systems have nothing to do with the cultural and religious positions of their users. ... One may wonder whether, as time goes by, the use of one system rather than another leads to profound inner changes. Can you use DOS and be a Vande supporter? And more: would Celine have written using Word, WordPerfect, or Wordstar? Would Descartes have programmed in Pascal?
And machine code, which lies beneath and decides the destiny of both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that belongs to the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic. The Jewish lobby, as always.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
Thursday morning I was running so terribly late that unmindful of the cost, I took a rickshaw straight to work because I was to meet a friend for lunch and en route, I was also due to lend my pride and joy, my F75, to another friend. Since the day looked a little relaxed, I also grabbed my entire folder of negatives, scans, contact sheets - the works! I thought I'd put up my feet, post some pictures, do stuff I want to do - I am sure you know the rest of that song.
The camera duly dropped off with the friend in question and I proceeded to work, dying a million deaths about being late for lunch. About twenty minutes later, the rickshaw screeched to a halt and I jumped out, desperate to pay the driver and be on my way. I jammed money in his hand, ran up to the office, signed in, made a pretence of checking my mail, grabbed my wallet and ran down again.
We didn't linger much over lunch because he was due to take a train in a few hours and after we had said our au revoirs, I came back to work, settled down at my seat, and was ready to start posting photos. And that's when it hit me.
My folder was riding in the back of a rickshaw somewhere in North Bombay.
That folder contained everything I've ever shot with my F75... everything. I do not think the enormity of my utter and complete stupidity made any sort of impact at all. All it did was compound the nagging feeling that I should give up all aspirations to photography and give my camera away to someone who actually deserves it. Perhaps it was foolish, but what kept me sane through the rest of the day was the hope that the rickshaw driver would return the folder because he knew where I lived - as it were.
Office day over, I returned home by about 21:30 still in quite the daze. On my way in, I stopped by the security guard's cabin to check if my miracle has happened. I could not finish my question because my folder was lying there on the guard's table.
Sweet Christ, I couldn't react but forty-eight hours later, gratitude and a sense of Bombay-ness are my overwhelming emotions. I know that my folder was a very small thing but whether the rickshaw driver lived close by or away from my home, he most certainly took a good deal of trouble through the entire day for an arbitrary woman who may never take his rickshaw again. I do not think this would have happened anywhere in India except Bombay.
Perhaps I am being unfair in my generalization but my irrational heart tells me otherwise. For all of Bombay's faults - and fear not, I am not being swept away by the romanticism of this seemingly random act of kindness - she's a city with a soul and a heart as big as the world. There is, I believe, sometimes no choice - but to fall in love with her.
This one is not a good shot as far as focus is concerned but I think it makes for a good frame and I love the colours. And to me, it sings Bombay.
Surely I am allowed a "bad" favourite! :-)
Addendum: I mean no insult to any other place in India, really I don't. Please do not take it as such. :-)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The ten minutes before take off are the most fascinating part of flying "The Good Times." You see, Kingfisher takes unbelievable advantage of being India's only airline with in-flight TV. Dr Vijay Mallya, CEO of Kingfisher Airlines, began my journey with a badly written spiel about many things that I do not now remember and but which ended with a cold "I appreciate your business." It may be statment of fact but certainly, advertising and promotional protocol dicates more warmth...?
However, indubitably the best part of the show is when Yana Gupta gives you this fascinating, horrifically lip-synched, "foreign-return" Hindi (and English too!) safety drill. If I had a copy of the tape, I do not believe I'd have another depressed day for the rest of my life! But yes, I digress.
The beginning of the flight was, to say the least, a little turbulent but I do not yet see why because like I told you, it was a beautiful winter afternoon - it was balmy, damn it! With the way that airplane swayed, for a terrifying five minutes, I really thought I was going to die. No hyperbole - I really did! As you can tell, I don't fly much. About twenty minutes later, I do think my stomach gave a blender going at top speed a run for its money.
The airhostess - an aside: I think having blond-streaked hair is mandatory if you want to be an airhostess with Kingfisher - came by with the lunch trolley and I opened one bleary eye and asked for an aerated drink. The look on her face was so magnificiently vacant that I smiled weakly and said, "A soft drink, Ma'am, preferably a lemony one, please."
It was then that she said the words that captivated my soul.
"Ma'am, are you feeling nauseatic?"
Now really, what does one say to that? I do not believe that I have been so sorely at a loss for words in while. I only nodded and closed my eyes again. To be fair, she came back almost instantly with a can of Sprite and a glass filled with ice cubes and a twist of lime. Fifteen minutes later, I was still feeling sick - until I glanced out of the window.
What I saw took my breath away and what I did was technically illegal but at this point, the airhostess would have done anything to keep me from displaying my breakfast all over the place - including tap dance on the nose of the airplane, right there and then!
I hope you enjoy these as much as I did taking them.
This looked like the sun had burst open on its head while it was dancing - it is called ... Of Hope.
Like the sun shining down on the sea - Shine Down on Me.
This photo is called Roiling. I do not think it needs more of an introduction or explanation. :-)
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I must confess, I've been feeling guilty about not blogging and not keeping up with my daily reads. But I'm afraid I've only been snuggling deeper, and deeper and still deeper into me.
You see, I was on holiday and awesome does not even begin to approach the first syllable of my time in Bangalore.
I simply loved....
... that city - its weather and food.
... that wonderful old-worldliness of its myriad 13th Main and 8th Cross roads.
... that I could get a 20% discount on a staggeringly eclectic selection of brand-new books.
... that I conned friends into buying me books.
... being one of the guys at Mojo's, over beer and rock n' roll.
... that I made some new friends that, I hope, will grow only closer.
... that I laughed about serious issues and kicked up a fuss over a missing fountain pen.
I've come back about 20 books, much love, a proper understanding of the rule of thirds, and the most beeyootifool sunset richer. I took some other images which I will post once I get the scans back. There are also some hilarious stories of bizzare cocktail mixes through the night to tell - another post... soon, I promise!
Bangalore was a week of nothing but chilling with the girls and...
... lying back and giggling over men and their idiosyncrasies.
... watching movies, remembering an English major not-so-long ago.
... holding hands over broken but healing hearts.
... talking deep into the late night or perhaps, late into the deep night.
... relearning how to be - I think I had forgotten how.
Ah, yes. I do think my soul is rested. :-)
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Tangerine closes about me.
Touching my breasts, my inner spaces,
Caresses this silent lucidity.
In the distance, whispers carry
seductive invitations to misplaced dreams.
My nightmares writhe
In the butterfly death dance and
… release me.
The ebb and flow of the sea…
A hypnotic panacea.
I have .:A:. to thank for this. This was so much fun - even though I did take too long doing it! :-)
Technorati Tag: 55 word poem
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Two nights ago, Diwali really began. After what is too long, I was sitting in the middle of a Laskhmi pooja, looking around at my family be more at peace than I've seen in recent memory - my mum, busy with the different parts of the ritual, my father, completely into the ceremony, and my brother and I, watching peacefully. That's how every single Dhanteras in living memory (save for the past few) has been spent.
For various reasons, for my family, the past few years haven't been as they ought to have. Somehow this year, a simple Lakshmi pooja has restored a normalcy and peace that I have, as a part of a unit and an individual, sought awhile. Amazing really, how easy it is to let things come to you sometimes.
This year's ceremony was different because the priest conducting it was not our usual one. That grand old gent passed away a few years ago. How I missed him this time. You see, as Indian, Hindu priests go, he was a dude - no other word for it! Tall, imposing and with a ready smile and wink for a child (and often young adult!) who couldn't sit still.
This new priest was a little more "with it", gave me analogies that were from a world of gizmos and technology and plain didn't have the personality of our previous priest. All the same, the ceremony was sufficiently similar to the usual one for me to be grateful. Change, it seems, always carries with it a portion of the familiar.
Tomorrow is the Gujarati New Year - among the most important days of the year for my community. It is, by far, the most important day of the year for my family. I will suffer relatives giving me varying levels of grief for various things and yet be happy about the great food and the new year that comes ahead of me.
I hope you've had a wonderful and safe Diwali and if you've been away from family, I hope you've had a lovely time with people you like. May the year ahead be full of all the benedictions that you deserve. May it also bring peace, love and laughter. Like I will tell painful relations in a few hours, allow me to say Saal Mubarak (Happy New Year) to all of you.
I know I started the year right. Please, oh please, leave it be this way! :-)
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Even as I agree, I don't.
Consider this. On Tuesday, you sign in at work at a quarter to one in the afternoon, leave at one thirty for lunch, pick up a beer or two and some sandwiches. Once done, you then head out for a short drive to aid digestion. When you finally stop driving eighty kilometers from Nashik to park near the most picturesque little brook, you sit down by it, looking up at the sky. While chewing on some stray grass, you are contemplating both amusement and murder while your friend is busy bemoaning the lack of beer and you are kicking yourself because you do not have your camera handy. And you have been forced to take only a million images in your head only.
Two cigarettes later, you have sauntered back to the car and are going back to office. After battling some homeward bound traffic, one friend accompanies you upstairs while the other hands you his access card and waits downstairs. In twenty minutes, all three of you have swiped out and are in varying stages of the commute home. What you have to show for a long, hard day at work is a profound, enfolding, soul-satisfying, mellow warmth and the grand sum of fifty-five minutes in the office premises. Now I ask you - how would you define decadence?
Since I don't have pictures of this extemporary(!) jaunt to show, I hope that these of Madh Island will do. Thirty-five exposures and I know that I am only just getting started learning how to create beauty. For the most part, I am content because I can now live in the prayer of something better to come.
For those of you who love Goa, I hope the first photo kindles a memory somewhere and please, tell me this isn't exactly like Goa! :-)
Addendum: Should you want to see any more of my photos from this trip (and others), you can click here.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Before beginning it, my greatest fears about the book were that he would either sell India or be patronizing, as a disturbing number of diasporic and non-Indian writers tend to be. Honestly, I was also apprehensive because I didn't want to read a critique or even an account of India from a "foreigner" and all that nationalist enthusiasm.
I have seldom had the chance to be so happy about being dead wrong. This book is everything a newspaper report/article ought to be but unfortunately, isn't.
Published in 1998, The Age of Kali is a collection of essays about Dalrymple's journeys in the Indian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean and spans from 1989 to 1998. Reading these in 2005, it may seem that some of these pieces have lost either relevance or are, in a sense, anachronous. Instead however, they provide an insightful, incisive look into the history and in many ways, the origins of the current social, political and economic situations in India.
His choice of title is grounded in the Hindu view of the epochs of time in which society will move through four ages - from a golden age into social and moral chaos. Indeed, his accounts of North India would well make you believe that we are undoubtedly living in the age of Kali, the lowest throw of an ancient game of dice, an age where things fall apart.
Dalrymple's experiences demonstrate the strangehold the caste system still has on not only rural India, but much of "modern" and urban India as well. The essay on Bihar chronicles the decay of governance in North India and the manipulation of a state into poverty and lawlessness. The pieces on Rajasthan are frightening in their observation of the interdependencies between politics, the caste system, poverty, sheer brute force and the terrifying oppression of women.
The situation is no different in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, where Hindu widows - many of them child widows - languish in an apathetic and corrupt system and are most often left to beggary and singing in ashrams for "a cupful of rice and two rupees." If a widow be unfortunate enough to be young and attractive, an unholy nexus between the ashram managers and some sadhus ensures that she finds her way to the bed of a local landowner who, in his turn, will sell her to a brothel once he is done with her. And yes, the police are paid well for their non-interference.
At complete odds with this is the prosperity in urban southern and western India. In Bangalore, this boom calls forth the irrational xenophobia of the Karnataka State Farmers' Association which trashed a KFC outlet since the primary agenda of every MNC in India is to debase and violate our culture. In Bombay, it gives rise to a Hindi rap star (Baba Sehgal!) and a city full of people like Shobha De and other Page 3 regulars.
His essays on the temples of South India are travel writing at its most beautiful - evocative, descriptive and grounded in careful research. In the essays on Lucknow, Goa and Hyderabad,which are a requiem for a time and grandeur long gone, Dalrymple captures every sight, sound, taste, and sensation from another's memory and brings it to delightful and immediate animation.
His essays on Pakistan have a different character and I think, as a whole, are weak: Dalrymple does not seem to put as much into them as he does into his travels in India. However, the section on Peshawar is brilliantly etched and his description of the ancient Gandhara civilization is unequaled by any other account of the area that I have ever read.
He is also a wickedly funny man and takes subtle potshots you could miss if you blinked a little too fast. His use of anecdotes and incidents is subtle and always well timed. He tells the tale of India with a lot more compassion, warmth and understanding than I have often read Indians accord her. And I don't think that his reverence is something born of "exotica".
My only grouse is that his interactions are mostly with the urban, educated elite - both page 3 and the literati, as it were. I am not sure if that is the only or perhaps even right way to approach the subcontinent because even as we are now moving full steam ahead into globalization for all, I do not think Shobha De, of all people, can be taken as a snapshot of life in Bombay - of all cities. It also seems contradictory to his experiences in north India, i.e Rajasthan, Bihar, and Vrindavan, which deal with the middle classes and lower sections of Indian society.
At the heart of the matter, William Dalrymple is a gifted writer; someone you would come back to over and over. What I liked the most is that his observations are so gracefully unintrusive - unlike most reporters that shove both fact and their opinions in your face. The book and indeed, his writing is an interface between him, the place and you, his reader. You are free to make of the experience what you will.
To the one I wanted to speak with - I hope I did him justice...?
Monday, October 17, 2005
Last weekend, I grew up. I made the greatest single purchase of my life to pursue a passion. After months of saving, scrimping and yearning, last Saturday, I bought my fully loaded, unbelievably beautiful Nikon F75 with a AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-100mm lens.
I promptly spent the next day reading through the manual and learning that I know sweet nothing of photography. No matter; forward interprid traveller and all that later, I took her out to test yesterday. Dear Christ, I don't think I have enjoyed the sunset more. In my life. And this is not my usual dramatic self, hamming away to apoplexy!
It started Saturday morning; a friend asked me along to Madh Island. The Bombayites know where it is, and for the non-Bombayites - well, it is the north-western most tip of Bombay and where idiots like me who haven't been to Goa in coherent memory feel a little better about being idiots. It would be a good idea not to digress into the "I-haven't-been-to-Goa-in-twenty-years!" rant now, though I feel compelled to say that I am the only 25 year old I know who hasn't been to go Goa in twenty years! Sigh...
To meander back to the point, the road to Madh was so much more gorgeous than memory serves me. Hardly Bombay at all. Shadowed roads curved in and out of breathtaking verdance while schoolboys skated wildly across to get to the football ground. Mild-mannered misses and their mammas walked sedately to an early evening mass while eager young college kids replenished their beer supply and drove back to a party. A lazy, almost comatose vibe beckons you closer as you push further into Madh, and is really hardly Bombay at all.
This was my first view of the beach, taken from a friend's digital camera. Once my film is developed, I will post the progress of this sunset as well. :-)
I almost feel that I should end this post with the image but I must gloat over the sheer volume of books I bought today, the number that arrived with a friend and the wonderful afternoon I spent with him. I bought fourteen today and thirty odd were brought from Hyderabad and these I will post about later. All of this, a lovely pizza lunch, loads of conversation, plus one of the cutest babies in the world! How much do I rock? Let me count the ways.
I tell you, a girl could really get used to this!
Saturday, October 08, 2005
This weekend, I did things unlike other weekends. I consciously stayed off the phone, watched a movie, listened to some music and started Ulysses (which decided to call to me at last) instead and had me a blast! Apart from the wonderful Saturday evening, of course! Two and a half years of promises finally came to some fruition over two days.
There is nothing either extraordinary or "different" about what I did. People do it all the time but I, who have been drowning in self-pity and a ridiculous (and almost false) sense of loneliness, was experiencing something new... with a little twist of déjà vu. Like 'her' of my story, I too will head out for movies alone.
It is, I think, a funny thing with me. I always have opportunity to retract every last claim to maturity and sense three months after I have made it. Mark you, not 2 weeks, not 3 months, not a couple of years but precisely three months. There is a curious sort of solace, a familiarity in this steady kick in the teeth. I find it keeps my feet on the ground.
The images below were taken on Saturday night. The first one is of the Gateway of India, taken from the other side. For those familiar with Bombay, we were driving in from the Radio Club and I thought this was a good shot. The second one is the water-front in South Bombay - one end of the Queen's Necklace. Not particularly great shots but I'd like to share them anyway. :-)
A funny sort of weekend, really. A liberating, thoughtful and lovely sort of weekend.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
“I must, Charlie.”
Lizzie gathered up the baggage and one potted plant that were the last five years. Life must now be elsewhere.
In mere minutes, she left, ignoring the pleas and tears of both their hearts that were strangling her resolve.
Leaning against the door, Lizzie whispered, “Goodbye, Charlotte, my love.”
This tag first began with Words Worth, who I believe, was merely getting back at me for a tag I passed on to her. The same meme was then passed onto me by Geetanjali yesterday. This seemed to me a reminder of my shameful dereliction of duty and so I sat down and tried my hand at a story in 55 words.
Before that, I'd like you to know that for a woman whose friends call her Wax, this was not an easy task. Sweet Christ, my introduction to this tag is now 93 words and counting!
However, I'd also like you to know just how much I enjoyed this tag. The distilling of expression is something I often forget about and sometimes outright fail to do. And lose so much meaning in the bargain. Much like writing a haiku, I believe this was. I know I am going to work on some stories and haikus later. But till then, I shall hope that I have done a decent job with this one.
And yes, this tag goes out to:
- Peppered Soul on Ice
- English, August
- Manan (who does not have a blog)
Saturday, September 17, 2005
The thickening shadows in the room needed some light. The small candle nestled in the window pushed through into yellow warmth as she slipped away. Slipped away into a blue-purple-white dream of nothingness.
Everything's a gentle, blue haze, shaded and stark... It is a peaceful place, this one... That's curious... shaded and stark! My pen needs refilling... As does the refrigerator... Let us go then, you and I, Where the evening is... Why should I cry for you... Something stirs, in the east, everywhere... What was that?
The real world is reeling me in like a marlin in the death throes of its defence.
As she crosses into the living room, a faint hammering rises louder and louder on the roof. Inside the room, he was sitting at the table, under the light of a cane lamp hanging by a finespun weaving of blue-green threads. He seemed like he was both working and irate.
Peculiar, familiar interdependencies... but then he's a peculiar, familiar sort of person.
"It's raining again." he said, a sigh in his voice.
"What of the movie?" she asked, resignation in hers.
A new whisper unfolds through me, sits up and streches its arms and takes breath. Looks around at everything. At the unaccountability of checks and balances that is my life.
"You cannot possibly want to go out in the rain. I won't get parking, the traffic will be crazy, and you don't have to drive. I do."
The indignation emanating from him was magnificent. Nothing short of it. She replied, "Yes, I suppose so. It does seem like too much effort."
It watches me breathe, as if to remind me not to forget how to.
He looked at her suspiciously then. Very suspiciously. After a moment, he started to speak, changed his mind and bent his head once more. She kept looking at him though.
The time is nigh to put together these scraps of wholeness and be unbound... from me.
She moved to the window, and while settling into the armchair with the rain and the book she was reading, she said, "No, don't worry; I am not mocking you. I think... I understand."
He looked up at her. And although he looked straight at her, it was sideways; a look you could call doubtful and distrusting. She didn't see but felt it instead. She smiled sweetly at her reflection.
Seek and ye shall find.
Her feet lowered gently to the ground. Her smile only rose as she picked up her anorak and slipped on her sandals. But he didn't register anything until the latch clicked open.
"Are you going home? The rain's still heavy; you could spend the night here."
"Where then...? NO! No and NO! In this rain? You have to be mad!"
"Did I ask you to come with me?"
I need no one else to appreciate this moment but me.
The door shut behind her. His confusion followed her from the house, like a cabbie dogging a potential fare. When she turned the corner onto the main road, she could still see him staring after her, wondering and questioning if this was, in truth, her.
The roads are indeed terrible and the traffic crazy. He was right. Maybe I am crazy... but maybe not...
And so it continued for the twenty minutes the theater took to arrive. The ticket line was serpentine enough to convince her that there were some others plucky (or foolish) enough to venture out. The line also seemed to take an interminably long time to move.
My first movie alone. No monster under my seat, drooling or otherwise. Sweet Jesus... the missed movies...
Her turn was suddenly up. She asked for "one ticket, back row, near the aisle, please."
"I trust you enjoyed the cab ride." His voice was dry... and unmistakably proud.
He looked far more wet than she did. There was a stub in his hand for a spot in the private parking lot around the corner. It would cost him twenty bucks an hour and this was a three hour film.
She turned back to the booking attendant and said, "Two tickets, back row, near the aisle, please."
After he bought popcorn (since she bought tickets), he looked her in the eye and said, "Thank God, you're not my girlfriend. You're not my headache." He smiled sweetly, almost falsely.
The strangest déjà vu... I have said this somewhere else to someone else in some other lifetime.
I must mention S, soul sister. With my thanks for the "scraps of wholeness." I must also mention both the elder sibling and the reviewer. Thanks for your patience.
Monday, September 12, 2005
She is a bag lady,
rummaging among Garbage
For an unsullied memory.
There is nothing here.
nothing left to save... or hide.
It is time.
time now to find another blind alley.
Like a circle in a square...
there is no exit.
In the abrupt silences of her dead laughter,
NEVER to be her.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Fascinating man, Neil French. According to Ihaveanidea, French has been a "rent collector, account executive, advertising manager, waiter, singer, matador, beach-bum, pornographer, bouncer, debt-collector, concert promoter, nightclub owner, Judas Priests' rock-band manager, copywriter, art-director, creative director, film director, actor, television station owner, Worldwide Creative Director of Ogilvy and most recently, Godfather and Worldwide Creative Director of WPP."
I am overawed by the range of his experience. This is a guy you want to sit down and get bloody hammered with! But to get to the point, French is engaging and funny. And a thumping good writer! I would seriously recommend (if not outright insist on!) exploring his website.
The ad campaign closest to French's heart is the Union Bank of Switzerland campaign. And after having seen all the films, I can see why. To emphasize the base line of the campaign, Here Today. Here Tomorrow, famous (and outstanding!) actors read timeless pieces of literature that make your soul ache like only great literature can.
While exploring the films, I was introduced to this poem of William Ernest Henly called Invictus. It touched something truly deep within me and I should like very much to share it with you.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Beneath the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the goal.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
- Alan Bates - The Road Less Travelled
- Sir John Geilgud: Ulysses
- Dame Maggie Smith: Discern
- Dame Maggie Smith: Bag of Tools
- Ben Kingsley: Ozymandias
- Sir Paul Schofield: The Ballad of East and West
- Sir Paul Schofield: The Sands of Time
- Ying Ruo Cheng: Desiderata
- Harvey Kietel: If
- Harvey Kietel: The Man who Thinks He Can
I look forward to hearing what you thought.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
These are my attempts to record the progress of the sunset, my favourite time of day. However, I do not think that I could express my endeavour quite as well Borges does:
Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.
-- Jorge Luis Borges, from the essay "The Wall and the Books"
The last image would have been much more beautiful had my camera been able to maintain both sport and night modes at the same time! Oh well! :-)
Friday, September 02, 2005
This is something I must share with you, especially those of you who are planning to travel.
When travelling alone, never, but never carry Ogden Nash with you. The night before I left for Hyderabad, I came home past 3 a.m., posted about Nash post haste. Six hours later, I had slept (for what seems a nanosecond), packed, and then hared off to catch my train. While leaving I figured that after two miserable workdays and no sleep, I deserved some more Nash and picked up my Candy is Dandy.
And so it came to be that Nash and I boarded the train. We didn’t say very much for the first few hours, till about three in the afternoon. You see, I find it difficult to be coherent in slumber. Around three thirty, feeling more awake, I settled myself down to a long, relaxing read.
Unspeakably daft idea from the second I thought it. Nash is not one for light, delicate laughter – the sort you’d come across at a society do, yes? Nash brings forth a rich, deep laugh that bubbles from somewhere in your toes and by the time it has articulated itself from your throat, the world resonates with it.
While this is wonderful when you have your own space, in a train compartment full of my brethren (alright, alright, I’ll admit it – I am Gujarati) – is not the most intelligent idea going. Why being part of the Gujarati community is an embarrassment is going to make little or no sense to those not from India, so I’ll give you a brief bio.
You see, we’re mostly a business community from the western coast of India, with little or no sense of the fine, subtle or the beautiful in this world. This is not to say that we don’t have an immensely rich tradition of literature or no culture at all – oh we do! Though going by most Gujaratis now, how both literary and cultural traditions have either flourished or been appreciated is an utter mystery to me!
It seems a point of note that in the twenty-three trains journeys to Hyderabad in the past four years, I have never, ever, NOT met my brethren. I have also never been spared either being hit on or a lecture about how I am not a “good Gujarati girl” or whatever that means! Enough, I think because now I digress.
So there I was, laughing my unmentionables off and there they were, staring and gawping like I was Zaphod Beeblebrox! I tried, and mighty unsuccessfully I might add, to tone it down; to be a good Gujarati girl. I promise you, I tried. Finally, about one hundred minutes of laughter later, a meek voice from a corner of the compartment asked me what was so hilarious.
I must admit I was struck speechless because the question was asked in Gujarati and I had no way of answering lucidly. I still have not been able to understand why he thought I would understand Gujarati and I don’t like to think of the answers. All the same, I proffered the book to the man of the question, which he gingerly accepted – like he expected it to bite him. Mean of me perhaps but his reaction was almost as amusing as Nash. It was all I could do to hide another guffaw.
I think he spent about fifteen minutes examining and looking through the book. He even asked me a few questions about Nash – who he was, where he came from, if he wrote short stories and why this nonsense and not other writers who make more sense. I answered his questions with as much clarity as I could. However, He still looked incredibly confused about the whole thing and especially my most unseemly hilarity.
Was there a point in explaining this, elucidating and holding forth on the subtleties of Nash? No? Well, I thought you would see it my way. I shook my head and with a sigh, I closed Candy is Dandy, grabbed my camera and headed out to the door of the coach.Good decision, that one. I got some shots I like – some shots that give me hope for my photography obsession. Those are up next. :-)
Thursday, September 01, 2005
The last time I left, I came back to
Neither one of these happened. And I am still not sure what happened precisely.I know that this was an important trip. I recognize that I made my peace with some matters and picked up new fights with others; that there are things that died and were buried in the backyard of my soul; I know that I gained some new perspectives (though nothing earth shattering, I am afraid!) about people - who they are, where they come from, and why they treat one in certain ways. I also found out that consistent behaviour, especially of the good sort, is singularly lacking in most people, including myself.
But this isn't all I learned. Along with some other curious revelations about myself—the subject of subsequent posts, I believe—I discovered that in some matters, I am now able to commute from experience to expression quicker and with far more objectivity than usual.
I cannot seem to make sense of this discovery – though a plausible answer would be welcome – because I do not know which direction to work in. I cannot even seem to gauge if this has affected me for the better. And as usual, I may well be making a mountain of a miniscule molehill. For now, I am content with accepting this as a natural progression of the way of things are… whatever things may be.
I feel like these photographs. They are of a lake ahead of a town called Dhaund in southern
Well, welcome to my mind right now! I do hope you enjoy the mess.
Friday, August 19, 2005
I bought a volume of Ogden Nash called Candy is Dandy this weekend past. It has the most wonderful introduction by Anthony Burgess, another one of my favourite writers. Over the past two days, Nash has kept me from drowning in despair and what is to the honest eye, self-pity. I've come to realise that it is such a pity about cliches. There is usually so much truth in them... especially the cliches about laughter and happiness.
And moving back now to Mr. Nash, I should like very much to share a few of my current Nash favourites.
You and Me and P. B. Shelley
What is life? Life is stepping down a step or sitting in a chair.
And it isn't there.
Life is not having been told that the man has just waxed the floor.
It is pulling door marked PUSH and pushing doors marked PULL and not noticing signs which say PLEASE USE THE OTHER DOOR.
It is when you diagnose a sore throat as an unprepared geography lesson and send your child weeping to school only to be returned an hour later with spots that indubitably genuine.
It is a concert with a trombone soloist filling in for Yehudi Menuhin.
Were it not for frustration and humiliation
I suppose the human race would get ideas above its station.
Somebody once described Shelley as a beautiful and ineffective angel beating his wings against the void in vain,
Which is certainly describing with might and main.
But probably means that we are all brothers under our pelts,
And Shelley went around pulling doors marked PUSH and pushing doors marked PULL just like everybody else.
There was a brave girl of Connecticut
Who flagged the express with her petticut,
Which her elders defined
As presence of mind,
But a deplorable lack of ecticut.
There was an old man in a trunk
Who inquired of his wife, "Am I drunk?"
She replied with regret,
"I'm afraid so, my pet,"
And he answered, "It's just as I thunk."
I love this guy! Over this long weekend, I am going to make Mr. Nash's acquaintance much more intimately, I think.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
I open the front door and smile . Into the living room, a door on the left leads off to the kitchen while the evening from the balcony seeps in, soft and easy. I hesitate to walk in, lest I should disturb the tranquility of this space with my relief.
I shut the door gently behind me, drop my bag on the dining table in the corner, my shoes on the stand next to it, and go into the kitchen. Soon enough, the brisk smell of lemon tea and a cigarette fills the house. I put on Fields of Gold and make my way to the balcony to watch the city, spread out beneath me, going about its business. There is nothing here except the enormity of the twilight and I. Comfortable in our silence, old bedfellows are we.
Almost instantly, my arrogance is shattered by a small movement in the far corner of my eye. I look leftward to watch a bat glide with grievous beauty into the deepening evening. Presumably it was in search of food or some company. Or perhaps, both. It is an envious, gentle smile that curves my mouth.
I turn around to flip the switch for the uplighter in the balcony. A whisper of yellow floods the room, lighting up its corners and lines. A couch, a mattress clothed in earth tones lives on the left (or the right, depending from where you see it). It serves double duty when a friend stays over.
Two overstuffed pillows sit companionably across the wicker table that separates them from the mattress. A charpai stool resides between the pillows. Under the glass top, an exquisite pillowcase is a red-toned patchwork of mirrors. It is a reminder of the endless frustration I endured while picking it out with him. It is also a reminder of the delight, of the joy we share.
I look towards the frames on the wall - a favourite etching from a friend, jigsaws put together while studying for a GRE long ago, some Van Gogh (my aspiration to high art) - and then sweep towards the bookshelf that stands faithful, a little ahead of the couch. The book I bought yesterday crooks a seductive finger which I resolutely ignore.
The colours of my home wash over me, soothing, comforting, on my way back to the kitchen to start dinner.
My kitchen. The greens and yellows of this one of my favourite places welcome me and my evening reverie. Soup, chicken, sauteed vegetables and bread, I decide, will make up this evening's fare. Within minutes, the aroma and sounds of dinner fill the spaces in the house. A few minutes later, I turn off the stove to go into the bedroom.
The table lamp I switch on provides a subtle yellow light as I pick my way through the debris. The bed against the far wall bears loud witness to the fact that we were late for work this morning. I spend ten minutes picking up towels and toiletries carelessly cast aside, shutting wadrobe doors and going through the motions of restoring order. The books on the bedside table are unsurprisingly unaffected. I spend another five minutes preparingto wash the day off me.
In twenty minutes, I emerge from the bathroom, feeling mellow and refreshed. I have a message on my cellphone. Reading it, I move back out into the living room. Fields of Gold is still playing as I begin to the set the table for dinner.
I have been waiting barely five minutes when the doorbell rings. I open the front door and smile.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Monday, August 08, 2005
I will deny this lapse afterward but in this moment of maniacal lucidity, I will tell you this secret.
I was reading a snippet about a guy who went on a date to some nice restaurant. When the bill arrived, his date offered to pay. For reasons best known to him, he took her up on it, without a fight. Later it seems, she told mutual friends that he was cheap.
Just to confirm, are we all on the same page? Do we all agree that the woman was WAAY out of line? Or I have taken my first step in treachery?
Perhaps I was and still am naive in giving this so much thought. Perhaps I should simply let it go. Perhaps I am foolish in writing this post too. And yet, I spent a good deal of time talking this over with a close male friend, trying to understand this because an unspeakable number of women actually feel this way about first dates.
I am afraid I am going to force this down your throats as well. Shall we then?
I assume, like any other rational human being, that two people go out on a date because they feel an attraction for each other. We will not waste time arguing the semantics of attraction – friendship is platonic attraction and there are NO technicalities on that one!
If mutual attraction exists, why expect the onus of anything to be on only the party of the first part… or the second, whichever you prefer. A mite unfair, don’t you agree? And the argument “That’s just the way it is” does not hold because if you want to go with the way of things, don’t offer to pay. Don’t be a superstar.
Choose a point of view: either you go with the flow of “things” or you stand by what you say and are fair. Don’t be a hypocrite because you see, an offer to pay signifies forfeiting your “right” to call the poor bloke cheap. Calling him chintzy then only ensures the negation of most things women have achieved in the past one hundred years or so.
As a woman, I don’t understand this. Why say something you don’t mean and then complain when he believes you? Why expect him to put up a fight and “take care of it”? This is not about “tests” the sexes give each other. Giving the man every benefit of the doubt, should you fail a man on some ridiculous “test” because he respects your equality?
Why does only the guy pay? Stereotypes apart, I’ll be the first to admit I love it when a man holds open doors and puts down his fork and knife in between bites to listen to what I am saying. Ah yes, I should add: this is fun only when it is a part of who he is and not something he is doing to impress me.
But I love it as much when I split the check for a first date. Not only do I feel less obligated to someone I don’t really know for having paid for me, I also love the reminder of my independence. I love it that I have contributed to this first date by doing more than just sitting there, looking pretty and making witty conversation at a table like this one.
p.s. The gorgeous photo - not mine though I sorely wish it were!
Friday, August 05, 2005
Thursday, August 04, 2005
In words. In colour. In music. In art. In emotion. In description.
Something about the melancholia, rains and the accompanying wind undulates through the soul to engender a primeval oneness with all things around you.
I spent a lot of time this long weekend reading. Reading new material, leafing through old favourites and feeling deliciously alive. And at complete odds with that, I also felt bored enough to climb the walls. Since I haven't sorted out the dichotomy yet, I will wait for another post in which to discuss it. :-)
What follows are extracts from two books: a collection of short stories by Anais Nin called Under a Glass Bell and Ulysses by James Joyce. One is a well-thumbed favourite, the other is still being discovered.
These are two pieces of inexplicable beauty I thought I should like to share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did... Do tell me if you did!
"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "
-- James Joyce, Ulysses.
The houseboat was tied to the foot of the stairs…. The shutters opened and closed in obedience to the gusts of wind and the heavy poles which kept the barge from touching the shore cracked with the strain like bones. A shiver passed along the houseboat asleep on the river, like a shiver of fever in a dream. The lights and shadows stopped waltzing. The nose of the houseboat plunged deeper and shook its chains. A moment of anguish: everything was slipping into anger again, as on earth. But no, the water dream persisted. Nothing was displaced. The nightmare might appear here, but the river knew the mystery of continuity. A fit of anger and only the surface erupted, leaving the deep flowing body of the dream intact.
--Houseboat - from Under a Glass Bell by Anais Nin.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
"Memories, within themselves, are not enough. Only when they have changed into our blood; when they breathe in some corner of our minds, melting into glance and gestures, movements and thoughts, and are nameless and indistinguishable from our own self - only then can it happen that in some very rare sacred hour, the first word of a poem will arise in their midst and move forth from among them."
This is why I know the muse will return. This is why three lines will turn into a post someday soon. "I can feel it in my bones." :-)
I do not why I stopped.
I attempted a beginning the following day and have precisely three lines to show for it. I am at once amused and disappointed by myself.
My muse will return to me... I am certain of it. I remember the passage from what was plainly catharsis to what I considered accomplishment. Times unnumbered, my pen ran dry and not merely of ink. Those were the days I used a fountain pen and lovely, lovely handmade paper books, full of criss-crosses, fresh starts and the joy of expression.
What follows is the particular bit of poetry (if I may presume to call it so) I am most proud of. It came of great love, both given and taken, a time of joy... and a time of parting.
Of You and I
Beautiful, beautiful summer,
Evaporating faster than vodka.
Like ghosts in the fragile dawn,
Memories emerge to speak to me.
Speak to me...
Of evenings of Irish Coffee.
Drowning along the water's edge,
Panoramas of Elves, Men and Halflings unfold.
Frustrating, unintelligible letters
Become intimacy within smoke circles.
Around us, the silence is gray.
The silence is a pebble in my mouth.
You touch me... and smile.
I turn - to return to you.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Finally. The miserable heat is over. The hill right behind my office building is awash with verdant life; ballooning clouds of mist intermingling with cigarette smoke. A languorous stupor slowly envelopes me. I feel more reluctant than usual to go back to work.
I am obviously not alone.
... Since everyone's lingering over their coffees and cigarettes.
... Since contentment tempers the mood all around me.
... Since too many eyes stray window-wards.
I wrote this impression of the rains a few weeks ago. I am still not sure why I didn't post it right away. Much has changed since.
... Since, a thousand mm of rain has fallen in Bombay- in a single day.
… Since, years of life have been swept away.
… Since, 768 people have died in Maharashtra.
... Since, the phrase "Nature's Fury" has taken on new dimensions.
... Since, I've learned callousness annoys me as much as dishonesty and is every bit as distasteful.
… Since, for the first time in living memory, I've felt daunted in Bombay.
... Since, too much has happened to still fully comprehend.
For me, the verdant lushness of the first photo will forever be Bombay in the rains. The second, however, is to remind me of the here and right now. To remind me of the helplessness of the 26th of July, 2005 and yet to also remind me of this city's strength, indefatigble spirit and the sheer will to survive.
Forgive the sentimental, trite ranting. Us Bombayites and our city went through quite a right mess this week. We emerged scared and yet awestruck by both our resilience.
Bombay , illic est haud alius similis vos. Ego tutus vos.To give credit where it is due, neither photograph is mine. I have made use of someone else's images this time. Unfortunately, since they came in forwards, I don't know to whom they specifically belong. Accept both my apologies and my gratitude.