Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A lot can happen over a coffee

A lot can happen over a coffee.

A beautiful catch line but nothing interesting or note worthy happened over the mug of coffee all these years. It’s true I love coffee, rich coffees.

Chocolates, coffee, men...somethings are always better rich, but while I still think straight I have given up them..not yet totally but almost. So a few days ago when I agreed to meet this beautiful lady at CCD, coffee wasn’t any important reason. I was trying to come out of my cell/self and ready to shake hands with or hug people.

So what do you do in a coffee shop? You obviously have coffee, you date, you pass some time, you do many things over a coffee I guess, if we really believe in the marketing jingo.

I and she talked. Perhaps initially with a well-hidden awkwardness but soon thoughts and words found channels that paved their way within. Later that night I delved on relationships. And saw that there are so many of the kinds. A complete rainbow; each varied and of different hue but each talking of some emotions, some thread which binds us all, some hope. Relationships that open you up to something new and exotic, spurring you for an untried venture, area, where you go with an open mind...ready to enjoy the lust for life or ready to be vulnerable enough. Relationships that are old and familiar and you feel instantly at home. Relationships that bring up lots of questions, making you answer with favourable answers or quiver inside seeking answers and relationships that bring you somewhere unexpected. Some bring you far from where you started, and some bring you back.

But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself and your own life. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, and love the life you love to live, wow then, it’s just fabulous.

A lot does happen over a mug coffee. If not elsewhere, in your own self.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

September Nights

Puwali gave him the orgasm that he wanted and then went to the window to gaze at the moon, on the sultry September night. She was thin and beautiful and one could make out through her thin white slip that she was yet to form full round breasts. Though the moon outside was creamy white and almost round. She thought of the fluid he had spilled on her stomach. At 45 he too looked round like the moon. Like the Big O. That is what he came for to her. Sex and smaller o, he had with others; within marriage, with the women he worked in his office. She neither asked nor really cared to know.

She gazed at the moon continuously, without a flutter of her eyelids. It was difficult to decipher her expression as she smoked the cigarette she had borrowed from him. She didn’t like smoking but she didn’t like doing many other things. A grey cloud veiled her eyes. But even despite this smoky veil her eyes looked blank and still- like the lake I had seen in the Himalayas, and cold. It was not an expression you associate with 16 year olds. Young, lively, cheerful, carefree. Girls should be like this. Puwalis should be like this-like children-exuberating innocence, curiosity, a zest for life. But Puwali was different.

She knew he will leave with no hug, no kisses, and no sweet nothings. Their “relationship” didn’t require these expressions of love. And she did not crave for these or anything from him. She heard the door shut softly after him. He was gone from her room. Then she heard another door creaking. He was now in his room. She let a breath out and started rotting:

30 days hath September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31

but February’s the shortest one.

With 28 days most of the time,

until Leap Year gives us 29.

She was still murmuring the poem when she went to the bathroom to have her shower. A ritual like shower. Nothing made her feel clean; loads of water, perfumed soap, ample doses of dettol and a scrubbing so rigorous that it left red marks on her body.

Did Lady Macbeth feel the same before she went insane? Before she killed herself?

Still in the shower, she recited her own version of the poem.

Thirty days hath September,

All the rest I can't remember.

The calendar hangs on the wall;

Why bother me with this at all?

Her friends had laughed at her this creation and she had joined them but actually the poem disgusted her. She almost puked. There was a fire blazing within her, one she wished could devour her, clean her.

Will Ma ever know why her daughter is as she is? Why she is not like every other girl? Or does she really know that she is not like any other girl? Has she bothered to really know her? Or if she knows something is amiss, has she tried to find out? Ask? Talk? Puwali didn’t think so. Often she had tried to tell her Ma but feared the fingers that would point at her, the blame she would have to bear. Feared that she would be misunderstood and made to carry a cross heavier than she was carrying now.

How can you be so ignorant? How can this happen only to you? What did you do to provoke him? Questions Ma may ask. Questions that had no answer.

Puwali changed into T-shirt and tracks. Drops of sweat fringed her forehead like dew droplets on the greens. Dewdrops are said to be the purest form of water created by the forces of nature in the silent womb of the night. The thought brought tears to Puwali’s eyes.

Puwali was not her name. He called her that. Her name was Dew- pure and serene. That was the expression she bore when she looked at her Ma, at her new world when she was born. And her Ma had said: My darling Dew.

She was 6 or may be little over and had just got a bedroom of her own. She was sleeping, the deep, calm, innocent sleep which only a 6 year can sleep. He had crept into her room like a thief, lifted her mosquito-net.

“Puwali, do you know of the story of Snow white, the beautiful princess or do you know the poem 30 days has September.......” He was on her bed, removing her sheet, lifting her cotton slip. His one hand warm, sweaty, trembling but discovering her with intended force and the other on her mouth.

The room was silent except for his movements. The room was silent except for her muffled, anguished groans. It was a cold night. Cold like death. She could feel the numbness all over her body. A cold numbness that penetrated into her spirits. The only thing that was warm, was the salty tears running down her cheeks, under the mosquito-net in that dark room. A crescent moon shone outside, a mute witness to the forces of the night which ruffled, tore, corrupted, molested, raped Dew.

Ten autumns have passed. The moon often witnesses this gruesome act. Dew carries the burden of guilt, filth, shame with sealed mouth. The web around her has become more stifling, more complex with each silent day. Puwali is indifferent; seems indifferent as she gives him, the Spider, the orgasm he wants every time. But she never forgets her bathing ritual- her survival string.

Her Ma cleans the room every day, after Dew leaves for school. She finds the same note glued to the mirror everyday: Ma, please help clean the web.

Ma looks around the room. There are no cobwebs anywhere. She thinks her daughter is a clean-o-freak and takes the broom and sweeps everywhere. Every day.

( Published in The Eclectic in the September issue 2009)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stray Moments

10th May  ( But does it really matter? )

It was only the other day; a reader asked me why I named my column as Stray Thoughts ( and now the blog too). I wanted to tell him that perhaps my intellectual capabilities and my age are growing in an inverse ratio. A few years ago things used to come in a flash and I would have lured the readers with perhaps more romantic title for the column like Magical Musings of a Maiden or cheekily copied something from the bestseller’s type How to make fools (of people) and still influence them or one that had a double meaning which at least made the men raise their eyes to the article in anticipation of more rising elsewhere, hence increasing readership, something like Woman Bares All but then, I said, what the heck, a rose by any other name would be as beautiful, and therefore, logically enough, a bad article by any other title would be as unreadable. So, there.

6th May

From my very childhood, living in a small town which had very few distractions I started living in my own world….imaginary world of my own making. And this world I realized was always hungry and I ended up feeding it with books. Its appetite was voracious and many times a book a day was also not enough to satiate its devourer nature. But somehow it had no taste for the MBs or even the Danielle Steeles. It never believed in the Prince Charming coming on a white stallion or even a red Ferrari and those lines “they lived happily ever after.”

My world had a few movies too, initially only the Hindi or vernacular languages ones and now English and other foreign language films. But here my mother played a crucial role. Even when I had not reached my teens she had baptized me with Gurudutt, Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Bimal Roy, Govind Nihalini etc. So I am neither surprised nor hurt when JB says I jumped from Bachpan to Burapa.

He is not too far from the mark. But I have my funny bone too but one that David Dhawan and his likes cannot tickle. Why are you so serious? Why do you have to think so much? They ask me. I don’t know and I have never delved too deep inside me. I like to discover myself but often I come across things which seem more worthwhile to discover. And I abandon the discovery of myself for that. A book. A movie. A hobby. A game. A place. A person. An art. A cuisine. An ideology. The list can be endless. And being a person who cent percent believes in only this one life…I know I have to do the good, the bad and even the ugly in this very life however clich├ęd it may sound. Yes, I must be accountable of that and have the maturity and strength to accept the consequences.

Isn’t this a simple thought? So why do you think me and my thoughts complex? I write about simple thoughts, stray thoughts of stray moments. I don’t always deconstruct or annihilate, scream a cause or voice a polemic. I have done that and got recognition and awards I didn’t dream of, didn’t try for. But the inconsequential, the trivia, the silly, the ridiculous, the personal, the vagaries of mind, the tides of seasons, the joys and pains of living, each has a place under the sun, on some piece of paper.

And once in a while during my travels I do meet people who let me see that when we take it all too seriously always and demand too much from the people around us and ourselves, we lose our way. So what sayst thou? Chill and take the time to be not so perfect and laugh at the madness of life???

7th May

But today I feel lonely and I take out those bits of paper, I keep in my drawer where sometimes on a forlorn, melancholy mood I scribble. I read them. I see many things have changed over the time but some are glued to me, the thoughts or events surround me, never to go away. And how idiotically I thought stray thoughts are like winds….they touch you, caress you or pierce you and move on to do the same to someone else somewhere! But then I was wrong. Often they stay with you. Forever.

I read these lines which I wrote years ago and they feel like the twin sister who I never had but who might have echoed the same things because at least in the womb we would have been one for some time. But sisters need not be blood sisters. Sisterhood can be found anywhere. It’s universal.

They say -

At twilight,

at that moment when the blue night falls on the world,

the world becomes silent,

silent for a moment,

like the audience in rapture after the curtain drapes down the stage.

Perhaps it is this moment- the moment of complete silence

when I hear a muffled voice say your name.

Where are you?

Who else is with you?

Saying what?

Are you busy?

Making big endeavours in a still bigger world?

Or are you thinking of me?

Remembering the smaller moments of my small world?

Why does love come on me

and the whole of me wants you in the evenings,

when the hills recede into blur lines

and the gloomy trees into erasing shadows?

Often I have sat in the rocking chair


Watching the sun sway behind the purple clouds.

Watching it display the wonders of melting into a darkness.

Of dying.

The tea has turned cold.

You will be late-as always.

When you will come you will be preoccupied-as ever.

I know you will move into the room called “self”.

Where is the key to this room?

Do I have it?

Do you?

Or is it lost?

Lost and gone like the sun.

And we?

We will recede like wonderless, dark silhouettes

Into our “selves”

Into an oblivion

Into death.

( Poem Published in Assam Tribune as a series of poems titled Meloncholy Moods.
The write up is a part of article published in The Eclectic June issue. )

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Indian August

August 1947 / November 1984 / December 1992 / February 2002 / December 2007

Naked to the bone, the morning crept through the barred windows. Piercing the curtains, it stood in front of me to wake me up. A needless effort! I am wide awake even before the night has completely melted away. But these days, I wait for yet another morning, naked from head to toe, to arrive before I leave my bed and fumble with the numerous locks. My day begins with the opening of the locks and my last duty of the day is to check that every door is securely locked, every window shut, every curtain drawn. I do this at the first hint of darkness.

In fact in my city (its name changes with the date), these days, silence deep like death, arrives much before darkness. What do I do between day break to dusk? How do I occupy myself? I open locks. But I have said this earlier. Yes, but listen again. These days we often talk the same things and listen to the same things. I open the locks to witness a morning, stark naked, stripped of any beauty and hope, shamelessly flooding the streets, entering every home to fill it with either fear, despair, anger, vengeance, loss, tears, shame. I try to cover it with the newspaper. But newspapers are not regular these days. No, the newspaper-wallas are not regular these days. On those days I shut my eyes tight and stumble inside the house. Those are the days when the morning wears a thick garb of red; gory, warm, spilling on the streets. A strange and cruel effort to cover the nakedness. Effort so ruthless, so exhausting that by evening, the morning collapses in some alley, as a bare, nameless corpse.

When newspapers come, I glue my eyes to it. By midday, however, it has been shredded to bits- they try to give an identity to the blood spilled-name of some community, ethnic group, religion practiced. Don’t they know that blood has only one identity, only one colour? It is red. Call it crimson red, scarlet red, ruby red, purple red, warm red, cold red...but it is red. Red whether I put vermillion on the parting of my hair, red whether I have no foreskin, red whether I grow a beard and tie a turban, red whether I light a candle in front of the wooden cross.

You don’t believe me? I am surprised! Surprised that you don’t believe me. But I do. I believe and I know. I had cut my wrist and asked the sap seeping out. My colour is red, it said. And no matter who and where you are, my colour is red. That is my only name.

Why did you do that? You may ask. Because I could not stand those days. Days stained of brutality. Days that echoed the stampede of human feet, clanging with sounds of unsheathed swords, spears, lathis and guns. Because I could not take the nights. Nights like crazy, raped, homeless hags, wandered the city, shrieking.

That is why I keep the doors locked. My heart locked. My mind locked. My conscience locked. Lest the shrieking make me mad, make me insomniac, make me a sleepwalker.

Lest after 64th year of Independence, I realise freedom is far.

15th August

I lived in a colony as a child. And January and August had a special meaning for all the children in the neighbourhood. We all had voluntarily taken a task that made us feel important, special. Selecting a ground or someone’s courtyard, clearing it of weeds, decorating the area with sand, chalk powder, brick powder etc. Digging a hole, sacrificing a part of pocket money to buy a bamboo pole, a rope and the tricolour and the laddos and candies. Practising the anthem, selecting a chief guest – someone’s parent/grandparent, learning to tie the right knot and begging, even stealing flowers from neighbours’ garden for the flag. It was an act that united us in one faith - faith in the country, faith in oneself that only children can have; that everything is achievable, by us, by our country and one can dream dreams that went beyond the kites that we flew in that August afternoon.

Hurrying to the school after this “ private” flag hoisting was still better. Marching past with heads held high, saluting the flag, listening about the freedom struggle that inspired us to do our own bit, going home earlier to watch a patriotic film or the kite flying session, everything was a celebration, a matter of pride.

Years have passed since then. I still live in a colony but time and complacency has perhaps got the better of us. The attitude towards the national holidays has changed. I miss seeing that kind of enthusiasm within the children. The significance of the days lost somewhere and what remains are another two days of holidays. Yes, the government building will have the flag flurrying and the representatives attending the state ceremony but the Aam Admi? Very few.

Someone said patriotism need not be displayed merely by standing there and singing the Anthem. True, it is a symbolic gesture in one way but what other gesture did we do to show respect towards the country for the whole year? I read somewhere that the progress of India did not depend on the government, as important as that might be, but was enormously dependent on the initiative, individual and group- of the Indian People.

18th August

An idea was growing within me for a little while. To give you a blank page titled Stray Thoughts. Period. Not a joke. Blank page for you to fill up with your thoughts. Blank page as an emblem of Silence. To listen and hear the Silence, to listen and see the Silence, to listen and smell the Silence, to listen and taste the Silence, to listen and feel the embrace of the Silence.

I had been travelling within the city a little more than my liking the last past weeks and unfortunately during the rush hours. The city seemed chaotic and engulfed by a constant noise, loud voices, blaring music, honking vehicles, and meaningless talks, the cacophony of sounds to hide restlessness of unhappy minds. I longed for silence, the quietude of the inner self, the meditative spirit, the gentleness that soothes the dusty, crowded, enervating roads. I longed to watch the humble serenity of a flower, the glorious blaze of a yellow moon, to hear the soft twinkling of the stars that braves the polluted air to reach us, to hear the movement of clouds, the rustle of earth under my feet. And hear no words, air no opinions, write no words. But I got the call from the editor and the idea was aborted and you have these words.

( Published in August 2009 in The Eclectic magazine. Made some minor changes though. )