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.