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