Monday, December 06, 2004


Sometime last week, I found myself alone with 2 of my cousins that I hadn’t seen in almost 5 years. I had no choice but to start speaking about Harry Potter – the ultimate ice breaker with kids and certain adults these days. Needless to say, whatever ice was there vapourized in an instant and we felt much warmer in its wake.

That’s when I might have made a little mistake. I asked them to name the one character they identified most with. One smartass cousin chose Hermione, and the other smartass cousin chose Ron. It seemed to me that they gave me a chance to choose Harry because I was the older one and therefore, the chosen one. I promptly said “the boggart” and found them looking at me strangely. The older boy was a little more tactful at hiding his surprise, but my younger cousin could hardly contain herself. She asked me just as tactlessly, “you do know what a Boggart is, right ? Its not Hagrid”. I could do nothing but smile back and insist that I knew what a boggart was, and it really was the one character that I was most like. “The boggart’s scary”, she said. It wasn’t until then that I realized why she thought my choice was odd.

Assuring her that I wasn’t a scary person would have done little to persuade her otherwise. Besides, I wasn’t entirely sure if I were indeed a completely non-scary person and as the older one I had a moral responsibility to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. Somehow, I managed to wheedle out of the precarious position I had landed myself in, and we were back to showing off to each other how many spells we knew, how many theories we could come up with and so on. But I was adamant about my choice of the boggart.

I have a dozen identities that I can pull on myself with ease. They are mainly masks meant to hide rather than faces that reveal. It isn’t as though I have a deadly secret that I plan to carry with me to the grave. It isn’t even as though I’m given to doing juvenile things that I’d rather keep to myself, groping for respect. Its just one of those things that I naturally do and almost invariably realize it when it’s too late. Who’s to decide that it’s late is an irrelevant question. Whatever argument is thrown at me, whatever reason is lucidly put forth, there are matters of the gut that tell me it’s too late and that’s it. I asked myself what it was that I was trying to so hard to keep within me, and yet struggling so hard to unleash. If it’s so deep within me that I can barely reach it, or even identify it, it must be something futile.

My mom once told me that it’s one of those habits that people pick up for no reason and find even more trying to give up because of lack of reason. I’m reminded of the tone in which it was said, and am inclined to disregard what she said. There had to be a reason – perhaps vulnerability. If there were a million masks one would have to remove before they can finally wreak havoc on me, I’m hoping that I’m not that important a cause. Then again, it’s this large sense of “self”, a world that’s predominantly occupied by myself alone that I believe that people even care about unearthing anything from me. I can honestly say that they’ll find nothing in those deep dark crevices within me – nothing that they’ll need.

I look within myself fervently these days to find something that’s actually worth guarding, and I’m almost dismayed when I find nothing. I could turn a little optimistic and say that every tear has dried, every scar has disappeared, every pain has stopped, and there isn’t even the fear of numbness. That would just be going back to sitting atop a high pedestal, looking down and fearing the height. There has never been a large number of tears, or scars that were conspicuous even to me, or pain that’s been unbearable.

I remain though, a boggart that creates a new face for itself depending on its surroundings. Its not a reflection of the environment as much as it’s a varying reaction to even static environments. Like the boggart, I too get startled by large crowds of people consisting of people I know, because eerily they become strangers due to an internal conflict that arises about which identity to adopt.

Regardless of whether I like being a boggart or not, its become part of me. The tendency to sprout a new face on seeing a new face is deeply etched.. The spell JK Rowling uses to ward off Boggarts has the encantation “ridikkulus”. It truly is utterly ridiculous sometimes if there’s a thousand masks that mask nothing. Perhaps I am beyond redemption. Underneath all of this though, is the comforting thought that if ever I need to hide something, I perhaps wouldn’t know where to hide, because there’s so little I know about myself and I make dumb assumptions that every cavity within me is filled to the brim with important nonsense, but on having found the place, I will surely know how to keep it there.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Oh Auntie

Two things drew me to her. One was her long shiny hair, fit to be in any shampoo ad, except that it was white ( not gray). Another was the fact that she spoke English. All at once she broke two of my prejudices- that all old people need not tie their hair in a bun, that people above 60 could speak more than a few words in English.

I remember the first time I met her. I was in the backyard, with an intense curiosity about everything in the world, with a need to experiment. She saw it differently. She called out from her backyard that was behind mine and told me that it was wrong to break leaves, regardless of the reason. I could manage only “sorry Auntie”. Aunties spoke English. Grannies spoke tamil. That was my logic. She asked me my name, and reminded me about its meaning, and somehow related it to the leaf that I was breaking. I wanted to ask her if she knew stories that she could tell me. Whatever my intense curiosity for the world was, it wasn’t as much as my craving to tell my classmate a story they hadn’t already heard.

Almost immediately I became her friend. When I’d come back from school, I’d leave the backdoor wide open, with an immense faith in all of humanity- especially in the lack of thieves. My mother called it irresponsibility. We’d sit in a little cement platform that covered the sump from which the back door of my house could be seen. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that Auntie did that so she could keep watch at my house, without spoiling my innocence, without instilling me a sense of fear – I would get it eventually anyway.

Soon, I found myself telling her my deepest, darkest secrets. For an 8 year old, my deepest secret was to be A’s best friend and my darkest secret was a hatred for B with whom A was best friends with. I’ve always felt that my mom never read enough child care books. Any complaint I had would be brushed off with a “it happens”, or a “ be friends with C”. My dad came home at 11 or later, and could never quite understand the best friend pledges. Looking back, I think they handled me well. It helped quell my obsession for a best friend. Eventually, almost magically, I did become best friends with A, B and C. For an 8 year old though, all I needed was someone to tell me that I was better suited for B than A, and that C didn’t deserve me. Auntie never did that, but she nodded her head as I recited every opinion animatedly. She would smile at the way I moved my hands. I’d take it to mean that she agreed with me and it was a perfect arrangement.

Her husband had been a high commissioner with the Indian embassy. He’d been all over the world and so had she. I saw photos of her standing next to Nehru, next to Rajaji and a lot more people who in my mind were as fictional as Darrell or the O Sullivan twins from Enid Blyton. My respect for her was ever increasing and so was my awe at how big the world really was, or rather how small it was that I knew someone who knew Nehru. She spoke of cocktail parties and ballroom dancing and dips for chips. She would speak about compassion, about faith, about honesty which was just as interesting as everything else.

I remember when she spoke about dreams. She said that when the eyelids act as a projection for dreams. My obsession with dreams, with building castles in the air or indeed everywhere started then. Somehow if there was a theater somewhere in my head just so I could see things at night, they had to be important. Getting my wishes to be projected on that screen was therefore as real as making them come true itself. Often, when I tell people this conclusion, I get a laugh. Sometimes it’s a reaffirmation of their belief that I’m a slightly wrongly wired person. I feel that all the time. But while most of my friends were vying for A’s attention I was planning bigger things in a childish fashion, and that made the absence of A a lot more bearable initially, and later not even missed.

Haven of peace was what she called her home. That was what it was. Spick and span, tidy, everything had its place, and everything was always in its place. The sink would never have unwashed utensils in it. There would never be a bucket with clothes waiting to be dried. It wasn’t a castle that was elaborate with decorated with gorgeous silk. I didn’t feel lost like I would in a castle that was grand and disorienting. There was a little swing that fit me in the hall. Everytime I went there, I’d sit on it for 5 minutes, singing loudly, listening to my voice, listening to my echoes. When I got much older, she took me upstairs where there was a room that had wooden swings- two small ones and one big one. Adjacent to it were many trunks full of books. I never got to reading all of them, but by that time I knew what “haven of peace” meant.

She had two children. They were almost as old as my parents. One of them, I was told got lost in an avalanche in the Himalayas. The other was in the US. The relationship we had was perhaps symbiotic. I filled a void of a missing daughter, of loneliness that she felt without her children and I felt without siblings. It was the first time I saw in a person unshakeable belief. When she told me about her daughter, I blurted out, insensitively “ is she dead ?”. I got a calm reply, “she’s not. She’s there somewhere. Perhaps she’ll still come back. Perhaps she won’t. She’s somewhere though”. Her faith in God was equally unshakeable. With my parents maintaining a strong silence about God, limiting themselves to the prayer said during festivals, with my dad telling me that the diya lit in the pooja room was simply saying thanks to the energy of life. It was unnerving when she’d recite Sanskrit slokas and try and to explain its meaning. She told me to choose an idol, merely as a symbol of faith, or belief that my dreams will come true and left it at that.

Some of her stories were imagination. I gobbled them all up, the line between reality and imagination always receding. If Nehru was real, so was the incident about the shadow of a man standing atop Eiffel tower, seen in the sky. Later, I’ve had to sort it all out in my head, with some difficulty, but with a love for all things magical. We shared a kitten. A beautiful cat named Leoni. She gave him solid food. I gave him milk and a place to come sharpen his claws in. It deepened the bond that we had. So much so that I became a proud owner of a new best friend.

She’d write a series called “Oh Auntie”, based on our talks. I’d read them every evening with a sense of pride that I was being mentioned on paper, with fascination that I was capable of saying so much, and sometimes taking home the subtle hint that would be left there to show me that I was wrong. For a very long while, she was a big part of my life. The major part of my evenings would be spent with her on that cement platform, with her stroking my hair and telling me that I had wonderfully large eyes. “You’ll have trouble lying with such expressive eyes”, she said. I do. Not because of large eyes, because she grilled in me, the importance of honesty. When I was much larger, she said “ you’d have trouble eloping. I don’t think you can keep love a secret”. I think I blushed, because the entry in the “Oh Auntie” series said I did.

When her husband died, she began maintaining a distance from everyone. I had been gone for almost a year, and when I came back, I saw an Auntie who was looking dejected and despondent. My parents told me to leave her alone, and I did. The last time I saw her, she wished me all the happiness in my life and I felt a sense of finality in that statement. It was one of the few times I came into the house from the foreign front door, instead of the familiar fence in her backyard. I held her hands tightly, hiding my tears. She looked at me “ you still have trouble lying, I see”. I didn’t know what to say. She seemed to know and bid goodbye. With almost a bollywood style, I turned back and told her that A, B, C and she were my best friends. It was time to leave her – forever.

But there are memories of her that I continue to savour, an obsession for dreams that I continue to cherish as well as an obsession to keep the child within me alive. Everytime I pass by the now reconstructed house, I look at the window on the right side and imagine the swings, and the number of days I spent there with the creak of the swings as solace. Everytime I pass by that house, I get transported to a haven of peace, and I am determined to be there for longer and longer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Road not Taken

It looks like they’re finally going to lay the road. I want to jump about in joy in advance because my optimism is short-lived. I remember the last time I thought the road was going to be laid, and the time before that, and how I waited with bated breath so I could dance to tunes that I set myself instead of being at the mercy of that stretch of land that seemed hell bent on breaking my bones. I’ve figured that I simply cannot wait to rejoice until they finish laying the road ( I’m afraid that day will never come).

Never mind the fact that my world’s going to shrink many times over when this road gets done. Never mind the fact that my parents will be happier that I’ll be closer to humans than to the apes, and that perhaps I’ll start behaving more civilized.

My horizons will expand.
My world will be more than plain sand.
My! Won’t it be grand ?
No, please. I won’t fall.
I don’t need to hold your hand.

I fear though, that my inability to make polite conversation will now be exposed. While everyone was talking about the weather and one’s health, I would talk about broken roads, potholes, dogs drinking from the water it held, and the fear of malarial epidemics due to mosquitoes breeding from stagnant water, ecosystems, and web of life ( how bad roads increase our expenditure on oil, how them oil exporting countries become richer, how other countries become greedier and how WMD’s are finally unearthed), the world and finally the universe. Now that potholes are going to be a thing of the past, ecosystems are passé and universe and infinity is clearly not to be messed around with, I am the last of the species that makes interesting polite conversation. To survive, I must talk about the weather and my health. “Nice sunny weather. Yes, I’m doing good”. That’s as far as I can say and anyone who talks curtly is rude, not polite. For once, the dismal road was the unifying factor. One always knew that they wouldn’t be faced with the horror of not knowing what to say. In fact, we’ve proceeded from being civil to being friendly to our neighbours only because we understood each other’s woes and back-aches, and why things got worse during the rains.

Perhaps we’ll realize that there are better things to do than to classify the potholes on the road. At one point it seemed like a very interesting idea. I’ve raked my brains about what the best system of classification would be. Perhaps one could classify them according to dimensions, and they could then be co-related to how accident-prone they were. For people who want to yell at someone as a stimulant apart from caffeine, I could give them exhaustive information regarding which diggings ( PWD, OFC companies, water lines, telephone lines ) lead to the formation of which pothole.

For nothing else, except for an extended coffee session and therefore delaying treading that dreaded road, GPS systems could be used to inform them about new potholes that got created the previous night because a bunch of very nice fellows decided that one way to remove all the obstacles that the road was causing to the leading of smooth lives, would be to construct a Ganesha temple ( ganesha is the remover of obstacles) right in the middle of the road and then leave everything to faith. Except, the extremely nice fellows couldn’t spot the middle of the road, or the side of the road, or the road itself because the moon provided dim lighting, so they simply dug everywhere.

Do I sound like I’m going to miss the non-existence of the road ? It helps to absorb the full gravity of the issue, because it’s important. I’ve fallen in those potholes many times over, because I didn’t know how much force I had to exert upon myself so as to not succumb to gravity.

Do I sound obsessed with the road ? I’ve got to be. My world’s revolving around a non-entity, an illusion called a road, a grand dream called a tar road, and a nightmare called a cul-de-sac. Sometime in the distant future, there’ll be a road that’ll never have been taken before and I’ll be among the first to take it.


The road ahead is pretty to tread,
Clearly a reason to get out of bed.
Come laughter, come rain.
And sunshine or pain.
Hurrah! The road ahead isn’t after my head.

The road behind is stony and rude.
Not the only reason why I brood.
Full of ups and downs.
Hardly like merry-go-rounds.
The road behind left me in a sore mood.

The road behind is dead and gone.
In its treacherous game, I am no longer a pawn.
No bone shall crack.
No trick behind my back.
I leave the road behind at dawn.

The road ahead is one smooth ride.
Time to get up with effortless pride.
Its colour may be gray.
But I feel no gloom, no way.
And as I go on, I might even humble the tide.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


When the tears are too comforting,
When the night's too warm,
Will I ever learn to smile again ?
Will I see the light of day ?

When the heart's gone cold,
When the skin's gone numb,
Will love be able to thaw ?
Will a needle be able to prick ?

When I lose myself in a desert,
When I hide behind a tree,
Will the dunes lift me to safety ?
Will the tree bend and reveal me?

Must I lift my spirits?
Only to fall again.
Must I open the door to sunlight ?
Only to be shunned again.

Portrait of a Girl

Yesterday, I was sitting in a rather boring lecture. I figured I'd write some verse. Its not something I do very often, but I finished about three stanzas.

My heart a flimsy gossamer,
As dew weighs me down,
A ray of sunshine lifts me up.
Somewhere I float,
Until I drown.
Somewhere I float,
Waiting to fly.

My eyes but a mirror,
While ash and tarnish cloud,
Rainbows glint from behind.
Immediately I shun,
Instantly I brighten.
In darkness I linger,
Until I twinkle again.

My skin a tender mimosa,
I curl when grazed,
And blush when stroked.
Again I shrink,
Shying away from pain.
Naively I spread,
Yearning for touch.

I couldn't think of any more romantic organs. There's plenty of them, I'm told. And there'll be plenty more boring classes too. Which means, by the time I'm done with this I'll have finished the portrait, and be fairly conversant with human anatomy.

PS: The portrait isn't necessarily a self-portrait. Although, i will not deny that its roughly based on me. At least the part about the person in the portrait being a girl and me being one :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A thousand full moons

A few weeks ago, my great-uncle turned 80. I was told that the significance of 80 years is that one sees a thousand full moons in that span of time. One of the rituals of the Sadabhishekham is the renewal of marriage vows. When the same uncle came down to Bangalore, along with his wife, I could clearly see how inseparable they were. They walked slowly, holding each other, constantly telling each other to be careful, and then again constantly asking the other for assurance.

I’m sure she came as a young, shy bride who was terrified of her husband’s wrath. My great-uncle is famous for his short-temper. My mother still shudders every time she thinks about the time she was hit on her head for speaking out of turn. I spent 5 days at their place, suffocated by his authority, many years ago. He’d made a conscious decision to move away from urban life, to settle in a little town, to live with the bare necessities- no fridge, no TV, no furniture. He had decided to do so in a moment of rage. I remember pitying my great aunt for not having the guts to walk out of that marriage. I’ve had arguments with my mom in this regard and I’d even decided that she was there only because there was nowhere else to go. Few years later I began respecting my great aunt for staying along with such a stubborn man. This time though, it was neither pity nor respect. It was just a realization that everything made sense. Clearly, she loved this man enough to want to be with him. The majority of her life had been lived with this man. When she smiled, I could see that there was no effort in it. When she kept quiet, when he began speaking, I could see again that she didn’t consider it a big sacrifice. He loved her enough in turn. The red kumkum on her forehead and the pride with which she showed me her new mangalsutra said it all. Here was a couple that had learnt to love and be loved in return. Here was a couple that had decided to spend their lives away from the rest of the world, but not away from each other. Allow me to get mushy here, if that’s not love, what is ?

My parents are a different story altogether. Unlike my great-aunt who never knew anything else other than fending for her husband, my mom does. There have been times when my mom chose to work for a few extra hours and dinner was served late, regardless of my dad’s growling stomach. Then again, there have been times when she would be awake for hours, waiting for dad to come back from work, hoping that it was only a traffic jam and nothing else. I’ve seen her reach out for the phone to call the police, and then decide against it, so that she could at least pretend that nothing was wrong. Thus far, my dad always turned up citing the traffic jam, and my mom could validate the presence of the sticker bindi on her forehead for another day. Here I am, jumping up and down that my parents have managed to stay together for 25 years even though this time there was little or no social pressure to do so. Allow me to get mushy again and ask “if this is not love, what is ?”

As we made our way to Yelagiri this weekend, I could see that my dad was feeling much more relaxed than I’ve known him to be. When he compared the folds in the road to the chocolate mixture making folds on “Dairy Milk” in the Cadbury’s ad, I got a glimpse of a little child who was beginning to love the simple things in life. When my mom asked him if he hadn’t taken to eating a dairy milk everyday, and my dad insisted that he hadn’t, I knew that he was back to being “ I can do no wrong” head of the family.When we made our way up a very misty hillock only to come back and realize that my dad was catching a cold, and my mom ran around with Vicks action 500 and Amrutanjan, I suddenly felt like the oldest, most mature member in the family. The weather was beautiful, the air clean, and the trees were laughing about in joy.

There are only so many things you can do in a little place such as Yelagiri. There was a little pond and my mom rowed us around the pond, with the boat house guy wondering loudly why “saar” wasn’t doing the rowing. My dad replied that he knew how to drive a car and my mom knew how to row a boat, and since most of us were afraid of heights we had most of the earth-space covered.

A friend once asked me if the universe had ever made sense. We were in the mood to make mountains out of molehills and when he said universe, he probably only meant my day or perhaps just that minute. In my own naïve way, I said “yes, many times”. I truly believed that it had. If I were asked the question again, I’d say “yes. Just recently, everything made sense. Everything fell into place”

For mom, this vacation was about seeing dad laugh and smile like never before. It was about finding pleasure in the fact that she couldn’t find a single frown on his visage. For dad, it was about dreaming about dairy milks and seeing how many sweets he could eat without his sugar levels going overboard. I’ve told my mom often, that it was cruel I didn’t have a sibling, that there was no one I could complain about me parents to, without feeling guilty. What with my dad’s non-interference policy in most of my affairs and my mom’s firm belief that I’m too timid to commit gross errors, there isn’t a lot of complaining I do, and I’d think that my sibling and I would have some of the most painfully boring conversations.

When you’re in a sleepy village and you’ve finished playing Boggle and Scrabble and you don’t want to see either of 2 games for the rest of your life there are few things that you end up doing. First you hope that there’s a long life ahead, a long life devoid of Boggle and Scrabble. Then you hope for clear skies and a thousand full moons and someone to see it with.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Of Tales Untold

A friend of mine asked me a couple of days back about my story. After the initial “what do you mean my story ?”, and the ensuing searching around for anything concrete with beginning, middle and end, I found nothing.

I asked him quite pompously if he wanted the one where I won the Nobel, or the Pulitzer or the Oscar.

I asked him rather childishly if he wanted the one where I lived by a beach, or atop a hill in Switzerland. Then I added with a touch of reality, if he’d like the one where I lived in the middle of a bustling city.

He repeated, emphasizing on the word “your” this time. I knew that this was one time I wasn’t going to get away with big talk, verbal paintings or smiles. I tried anyway, by saying that my story was too fragile that it might break by just talking about it. Often, I’m at a loss for words. For some strange reason, conversations replay in your head at times when other important things are at hand, Like concentrating on the road, for instance.

This morning, I was riding on my scooty drowsily. The cold wind hit me and tried to wake me up and get me to look at the road ahead. I woke up with a start, in the middle of the road suddenly thinking about what my story was. There’s a lot of things I could have said, should have said.

I should have started off by believing that there was a story to tell at all. Perhaps one that wasn’t quite so moving or great, but it had a beginning and an end, and a middle that was lived entirely and completely.

I should have been honest and said that it was imperfect, with glaring flaws and mistakes that can never quite go away.

I should have been unashamed to say ordinary. But then again, happy to say satisfied.

I should have just for once, gotten up and said, “don’t know. I haven’t yet begun writing yet”

I didn’t say it, like so many other things I didn’t do.So much for my story. Yet to unfold, and yet to be told.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Optical Delusions

I now have most of the fictional pieces that i wrote over the last 3 months in another site.

Hopefully i'll have more stuff there later.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

To go back in time.... again and never again.

Now that my colossal pile of work is about a nanometer less high, I guess I’m justified in dwelling on the things that I’d like to redo.

When I was a little kid, I used to sit below the dining table and imagine it to be my castle. The space enclosed by the 4 legs of one chair would be my throne and I would sit under it. The remaining legs would either be more rooms, more people, more princes… whichever caught my fancy. I remember teaching the same trick to my cousin once, and she wasn’t even slightly amused. She had an actual tent big enough to hold her and a brother who would play prince, person or room just so she’d stop trying to scribble on his precious book report. The three-legged chairs don’t squarely form my throne anymore. In any case, I’d like to go back to the world where frogs, when kissed transform into handsome princes instead of giving you a rash.

A few years ago, we went on a vacation to Vaynad. Our hum saath saath hain family consisted of almost 20 people, each of us insisting on having fun in our own way. Even when it came to card games we’d have endless debates on which game to play. Literature was too long, poker can’t be played amidst the children, rummie was too boring and what not. Vaynad, was beautiful. How we managed to get ready and look around is beyond me. There was always someone getting a sprain or faking a stomach ache. I remember the vacation because it suddenly dawned on me that I had a huge family. Never mind the dozens of diwalis that we celebrated together. It didn’t strike me until I stood in that sylvan surrounding and wonder at the irony of having no siblings but dozens of cousins. It’s been a while since we’ve vacationed together. But there’s something I’d like to do again. Fight endlessly and tirelessly about what game to play and then retire to bed feeling quite satisfied.

I was reminded of the first time I spent the night at my friend’s place. It was my very first time with someone who wasn’t related to me. I was worried that I might blurt out something in my sleep, or fall off the bed. We weren’t very close friends back then. In fact, we spent more time in proving each other wrong than we did in smiling at each other. As it turned out, we never slept that night. We spoke about common fears, common enemies, conspired complicated plans, and designed elaborate strategies for usurping the then reigning queen. None of our plans were realized because in making all those schemes we found in us the possibility of a great friendship. Something that has lasted for more than a decade. I’d like to go back to that night and put a time capsule of sorts.

Going back in time is great. From where I stand, there’s a lot more road in front of me than behind me. All there is behind is one cul-de- sac. In front of me, there’s nothing but a vast expanse of roads, and forks and tiny lanes that are yet to be explored. All of them too lead to some kind of dead-end. But it’s so far ahead of me, that I’d be much too silly if I worried about it. Never mind the boulders or trampling on pretty flowers. As for now, I’m going to move ahead, because that pile of work next to me has got to be reduced to zilch.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

To go back in time....

I was complaining to a friend a few days back about the amount of work that I had undone. I wasn’t talking about the daily muddle that I am perpetually in. When I have nothing else to do, I lean on the undone work to give me a sense of purpose. I was talking more about the million dreams that I seem to come up with every waking second. From cleaning my room, to climbing Mt Everest and everything in between, there’s nothing but colourful dreams and a fairy tale world to be explored. There’s also a list of things that I’d like to do again.

I’d like to go back to Mt Everest. I haven’t ever climbed that place, but I did go to Nepal when I was 4. I don’t remember anything except memories fabricated by looking at photographs. My dad’s not the greatest photographer and he simply hasn’t captured the grandeur of that lovely tall peak. Perhaps it isn’t grand at all. Either way, I’d like to see it again.

Few years ago, I was at Penang. The hotel we stayed at was next to the beach. I remember walking on that beach on a moonlit night, with my parents many yards behind me. I remember breathing fully for the first time in many months. I wasn’t romantic enough back then, to hold that moment in my heart or even to try and stop time. I remember now that the lighting was diffused, the waves were tender, the sand was soft and I should have, had I been in my senses, got completely lost in the serenity of it all. I did something like go and shut myself in the room and sleep. I’d like to go back to that beach and reclaim that moment, that belongs to me. My vocabulary back then also didn’t consist of warm fellows and woolen sweaters. It does now. Someday I’d like to go back to Penang, sweaters and all.

When I was a kid my mom had a knack of covering me up with the blanket in one swift motion. Every toe, every finger, every frill of my frock would get covered in that blanket. I used to sit for hours, feeling cold, but would not cover myself up, until my mom came and did it. And then I grew up. It wasn’t right anymore for my mom to put that blanket over me. It wasn’t right for me to confess to anyone, any kind of fear. Grown-ups after all, were fearless. So was I. I also grew much bigger and I don’t think its possible for mom to cover me up with one swift motion anymore. I’d still like to go back to being tiny and vulnerable and be in a world where it was alright to cry in the middle of the night.

The list is endless and I could go on and on. One of these days I’m going to have to rip off my mushy personality from me and throw it into a bin. Until then, though, tiny whims are here to stay. So is hope for a better day.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Instances of Wonder

If you articulate your question well enough, you’re almost close to the answer. Its my life’s motto. That’s a silly stretch of imagination. It’s a foundation made of rickety bricks on which my entire existence rests. A foundation so weak, that it’s almost ready to collapse.

I remember being asked once “what do you expect out of this life”. In a flurry, I answered with much unwanted fuss “I want to look around and wonder, and have my questions answered satisfactorily”. The person beamed at me, either because he thought it was the polite thing to do, or because he knew I meant it. I did mean it. Look around, I did.Be amazed, I was. How did it all come about, I asked. The answer “somehow” was generally satisfaction enough. In a slightly more contemplative mood I might have answered “ there has to be a reason”. Every time I say that, I suppose another brick somewhere gets cemented and stays in place. It would make sense if that brick was right at the bottom. It would lend itself to the stability of everything above it. It’s the one that’s right on top that gets cemented with another brick. So much so, that it becomes harder to get to the one at the bottom.

Then come the winds of questions, threatening to bring along with it a white barren answerless winter. From nothing else but a sense of desperation some more questions are answered. Concrete is broken and badly patched up. The wall’s never smooth. The floor’s never steady. Only cracks in the walls serve as windows to anything, because you’re quite confused as to what to focus on. You go in that badly built place and try and take refuge in it. You go in there and ask, “how did it all come about” and answer knowingly “ I built it”. You come out and look at the vast expanse of the bright blue sky and ask “how did it all come about” and answer, more confidently this time “somehow”.

Ignorance is bliss. Clearly.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Bon Appetit

Grandpa had never asked me to dine with him privately. He was trying to be very Western nowadays. He’d started ever since grandma died. At least that’s what I heard. When I was born, he insisted that I called him grandpa. My family consisted of appa, amma and grandpa. He always spoke to me in English. For a farmer who lived in a village, that was an achievement. In fact, it might have been a sign of early senility. Grandpa was 85 now. I always thought of him as a virus. Viruses are organisms that are neither modern nor ancestral. I could never quite decide if grandpa was youthful or was indeed very old. A private dinner. It sounded so odd, so western and I could only conclude that Grandpa too was bored with all the tamil sitcoms and had begun to watch then English channels.When I reached home that day, I wondered where we were going to privately dine. There was only one dining room. Grandpa had set the table in his room. Mom had cooked and had laid everything there.

“First things first boy, you will call me thaatha from now on”
“ What did you say grandpa.”
“Haven’t you been taught to obey your elders boy ?”
“Sorry, thaatha”
“You young fellows, you go with other girls on something. What is that”
“Ah, yes. I think I’m going to have a date with your grandmother. Hell or heaven, it doesn’t matter. While she was here, she fed me really well. She was very much a part of the sins I committed. If I’m going to hell, then she’s already there. I want to prepare for it, so she’d accept me. I still look handsome don’t you think. My wrinkles, are they too much”
“ Thaatha. Grandma must be wrinkled too. I don’t think it would worry her”

“ You’re forgetting boy. She was never beautiful. While I was married to her, the only thing I looked forward to when I came home was her food. She made this dish – masial. Your mother can’t cook it. My experiments in the kitchen have failed abysmally. She also had a very nice smile. A timid scary smile. My moustache always scared her. She wore a red bindi all over her forehead. Like I was going to die and she wanted to reassure herself that she still had a husband or something. She was never beautiful on the outside, but every other quality made up for it. I was never beautiful on the inside, but I was a handsome dude”
“Dude, thaatha ?”
“Yes dude. And you’re supposed to say that I’m just as good on the inside as I am on the outside. So tell me. My twinkling eyes, my dashing smile, my stubble, my tan. I make quite a handsome old man ?”
“I’m certain thaatha.”

That night I told him everything I knew about impressing women. He listened patiently, and interjected when he didn’t understand. It was the strangest conversation I ever had. It happens to be the best conversation I ever had. He showed me a painting he’d made of grandma, smiling. She did have a pretty smile. Even if it was Madhubala in the painting.

For three days in a row he went to bed clad in a suit. Every morning he’d get up and tell me that he was stood up again, and would go into the kitchen to see if he could get the masial right. He’d scream at mom.
“It is yellow, and it tastes strange, but nice. With all your experience in the kitchen, this must be easy for you to understand”

On the fourth day, he came running out of the kitchen “ginger, ginger”. His heart couldn’t take the excitement and he was admitted to the hospital immediately. Over the phone, he explained to my mother how “masial”, had to be prepared, with ginger. I took it to the hospital, where dad was almost in tears.

When I walked in, he asked me. “How do I look, boy”.
“ Very handsome thaatha. You’re going to sweep grandma off her feet”
“I don’t want to break my heart and end up back in Earth you know. Your grandma is going to stay rooted in hell”
“Heaven, grandpa”, I said in tears.
Grandpa was very eager to see if his masial had come out right. It had, thankfully.
“Bon appetit son”
Those were the last words I heard from my grandpa. The last words I heard from virus thaatha.

PS : Category - CREATIVE

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Tanya spent too much time in her room these days. Every night she’d open the curtains, and every morning she’d close them back. She was beginning to hate the sun’s heat. It deprived her of purpose. If she went and stood there, naked, with nothing to protect her, she knew she’d survive unscathed. The warmth of the sun would fall on her, just as it did on everyone else without bias, without feeling and she would have nothing to worry about.

The night was a different story. The cold night air would blow into her room. Perhaps it didn’t do that to every room. The breeze had definite direction, unlike the sun’s rays, which simply went everywhere. Often, it would be her room into which the wind would blow. She’d wait for the crispy air to threaten and haunt her. She would then take her blanket and put it around her, and smile smugly at the formless breeze. It was the only time she smiled during the entire day. She’d perfected the feeling of purposefulness.

Curiosity gets the better of so many people. Tanya spent too much time away from the world in the day that she wondered what morning dew felt, when even as you were seeing it, it evaporates. What it was to revel in the sudden coolness you get when the cloud comes over your head and gives you a minute of respite. The peaceful sight of dogs curled up on piles of sand on a hot summer day.

All she took was a peep one day. She opened the curtains and looked out. There was a little boy in a fruit shop who waved at her. Not for a moment did he think that it was strange that there was a face out of the window. For him, faces were to wave at. Somewhere at another corner on the street, a group of people lifted their hands. This time, not to wave, but to point. They had been on earth long enough to have prejudices and stereotypes so grilled into them, that they’d forget to wave. All they did was point at something or someone and group it under one of the very many pessimistic categories that they had.

Tanya looked out with a sense of urgency. She had to get out there. She had to get out there before the boy grew up and confused idiosyncrasies with insanity. Before he grew up and forgot the use of most of his fingers. Tanya ran down the stairs, to smile at the boy who called out to her. As she came out of the door, she saw a mother holding the baby up to the sun. Tanya came out and chose a patch of road where there was no shade. She didn’t need it. The warmth came to her, without bias, without feeling, soothed her pale skin and melted her cold heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Meet the Parents

Meet dad, who once came home barefoot not knowing where his shoes were and never realizing it. Meet the man who used to try and light a cigarette with the wrong end of a matchstick. Meet the man who quit smoking a month back and has suddenly started realizing that his wife’s an excellent cook. Meet the gentleman who has never hurt anybody intentionally yet. Meet the guy who can coolly sit in another room reading a paper when the hall is teeming with guests. Meet the man who still cannot recognize his daughter’s friends. Meet the man, who when his daughter chose a different career path, didn’t go ballistic and instead started reading up about her chosen field. Meet dad who cannot light a stove, cannot make his own coffee, once tried to serve himself food on an overturned plate. Meet my dad who never fails to inspire me. Meet my dad who is the only who can control me with words any nothing else. Meet my dad who is forever perplexed by my idiosyncrasies by loves me regardless.

Meet mom, who’s such a strong woman that sometimes her absence is hitting. Meet mom, who doesn’t care one bit about criticizing in public. Meet mom who brought me up in the one way she knew – trial and error. Meet the lady, a teacher – by profession and by life. Meet mom who’s the only one who will deflate my ego and give me a knock on my head when I float around buoyantly. Meet mom, who knows me better than anyone else I know. Meet mom, who understands that I’d like to think that I have secrets kept from everyone. Meet mom, who made me call everyone in my class and apologize when I had a fight. Meet mom, who’ll never encourage speaking ill of anyone. Meet mom, with whom I’ve had engaging surreal fights about broken hearts and life imprisonment in hell. Meet mom, who knows to win a fight by simply keeping quiet. Meet mom who hates shopping and crowded places and passed on the trait to me. Meet mom who makes my life as difficult as possible sometimes. Meet mom who’s made my life very easy for the most part. Meet mom who knows my worst fears and my gravest mistakes. Meet mom who thinks I can fly high.
PS : Meet my parents, as special as anyone else’s, as normal as anyone else’s. They’ll have been married 25 years in another year, but I don’t think I can wait that long before writing this.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Frankly speaking....

Unpolished mirrors - I remember reading a long time ago about how friends need to be like well polished mirrors. Mirrors that show you as you are. No aberration that hides something, no magnification that exagerrates your flaws, no hint of bias, no attempt to be diplomatic. The truth is the truth. Any attempt to smoothen the edges, to trim the uneven strands takes it away from being what it is. It becomes a lie. A fib, fiblet a nanofiblet, whatever it is, it simply isn't the truth anymore. And real friends must speak the truth.

I do not care much for those perfectly polished plane mirrors. I'd really rather look at silhouttes and speculate the rest. In any case, unpolished mirrors can be silvered when I'm ready for brutal, naked truth. Someday, I'll be able to get out of my cocoon and accept that not all the world's a white warm blanket. Until, then, my world's an endless unpolished mirror, where I am just a shadow, a formless silhoutte.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Post # 1

Post # 1 says it all. For lack of an interesting idea, as well as a sudden bout of laziness I shall leave it at this. As for unpolished mirrors and the comforts they provide, I will come back to them later.
Seeya for now.