Friday, December 04, 2009
I am constantly meeting people who are doing so much more in life. It’s not easy to quantify and I do hate to put a number to things – but I see more smiles on their faces, and to be precise broader smiles.
So is it actually the money that’s making them smile? I do hope to God that it isn’t true. It would sort of crumble all other hopes that draw inspiration from those big toothy smiles.
So in a way, I am glad no one told me that money is what makes your dreams come true.
What do I want? At 32, I should know. The thing is, I know. But can I do it? Yes I can. But how is the question? That is the biggest question.
Can I give it all up and say hey, I am going to do it? No I can’t. Too many strings attached - and that, I can’t deal with.
Do I see a light? Yes I do. It’s bleak but I assume it will get stronger over time. Would I, then, give it all up and do what I want to do? In a heartbeat.
Life is actually pretty simple – we just screw it up for ourselves. Someone told me that it costs nothing to be nice. Of course it doesn’t. But being nice comes with its consequences. Would I rather have a grumpy person beside me who is nothing but honest or would I prefer a smiling cheery face who is perhaps faking it from the word go? You tell me.
So I come back to ask - do you need money to make your dreams come true? Yes, especially if you’re sort of swimming with baggage. Ironically, baggage can also keep dreams at bay. Much like garlic for a vampire.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The orthodox however were the ones who’d think a girl to be a hooker if she even spoke to man outside her family, or considered getting a job or staying single.
It took me years to struggle with the thought that with the advent of science and development is various segments and degrees, people refused to change thoughts. Were we so complacent with what we believed in that we didn’t allow a new thought even a small chance?
It’s easier today. I meet people who bear completely misguided opinions and do nothing to change them. They have the right to believe whatever they want. For the sake of an amusing argument I might talk, a bit loudly on occasion, stating thoughts and ideas and say “I can’t bring myself to agree with you.” But even so, the respect of another man’s opinions on anything is perhaps important.
When I started out as a writer – I can’t call myself a journalist really – I had different dreams. I didn’t want to become an investigative reporter who followed crime/political/civic stories and reported them. There were and are far better people doing that job really well.
What I was totally appealed by was the fact that India, in all its cultural diversity and expanse, was such a curious nation that they would traverse thousands of miles to understand different geographies. Despite all the socio-economic and religious differences, I have always felt that Indians are very proud of what they have. Yes, we do take it for granted at times but that’s common with what we love. We all complain about it and yet, love it in a very strange way.
I wanted to write about the travels of other people. I could always write about the travels of another person. But how do I bring my thought across to you. How do I tell you that I am like you? How else can I build a connection unless I start with an “I went to…” instead of telling you that “you know, there’s this guy I know who went to…”
I could be an odd one out. I am looking for members for my club really. But when I watch films like Good Night and Good Luck I wonder if we believe in anything anymore.
Do I believe in what I do? Do I believe that what I say will convince even one person into acting upon it?
Opinions of writing are changing drastically across the world. No one really knows if there are any cardinal rules of journalism existing anymore. I thought accuracy, facts, relatively error-free, good writing was all that was required.
Where does the sugar coating come from?
Yes, publication houses need to raise money to pay our salaries so that we continue to keep our jobs to pay the bills. But who decides what we read. It’s funny how in a gathering of more than five people, no one seems to agree with what online and print publications are doing, with a few exceptions of course.
And I love those exceptions.
Write about fashion – it’s a billion dollar industry. But what is more important to you?
Do you want to know where to get a replica of the Prada bag some Hollywood actress wore to a premiere or would you rather want to know how to dress well under $100. I guess both are important – to two different segments of people. The question is, where do I belong? And most importantly, where do you belong?
Coming back to opinions – I have often heard that people don’t read anymore these days. But wherever I go, I hear people complaining that there isn’t much to read these days. The online industry must be booming, with a large population catching up on the news and features online. Then why is an online publication not given ample importance in our country?
You could be working for the top 3 publications in the country and eyes will twinkle when you walk into a party. And by top 3, I am talking of ad revenues earned or visibility achieved. I am not talking of the quality of news. However, if you work for an earnest publication (which I sincerely doubt even exists) that manages to rake in enough to pay salaries because they won’t sell out, you are not cool enough. You’re not with it.
However, the ones who do read you, will always respect you and for that you can be eternally grateful and shove the rest of the world aside.
It could be any category – crime, politics, information technology, economics, socio-economics, industrial, hospitality, food, travel, art, science, theatre, literature, education, environment, civic issues, infrastructure – but the concern remains unhindered. What are people reading? Or rather, what are they not reading anymore? Who decides?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I look at the one in front of me: And I wonder. Seriously? Aren’t psychos meant for prisons? How can I smile my sugared smile when I know what evil lurks beneath that surface… and how many parallel thoughts run through that otherwise inadequate brain – is there no fear of a slight short circuit?
Or take for instance, the person in the next lane. He is smart. A bit good looking too. But I don’t say that. The others do. So I say he’s good looking, just to keep the others quiet. But he has a strange habit of scratching himself each time he thinks no one is looking. Okay so why do I have to witness that? Can’t he just sneak into the loo and do that? Well I reckon he cannot.
So I have a problem. I am constantly thinking. Worrying. Looking around to see if something unpleasant is going to spring a surprise on me. And then one odd pat-on-the-back nut job comes and says, “Hey, don’t look so sad. You’ll be fine!”
Of course I will be fine. But today, is not the day. Pick another day, boy. But every day is the same – SSDD.
I think I’d make a good recluse –give me unlimited nature, books, movies and music and I am good. And yes, the Internet. I love my blog and I have to update it. So yes, the Internet is a must. And perhaps a monthly supply of wine. I don’t mind going down to the nearest wine to pick up a bottle or three occasionally. Yes, that would be lovely.
But what if, one lost soul comes searching for me because he or she has heard that I lead this perfect life and wants to check it out by themselves? That would be horrible, wouldn’t it? Because then, they would like what I got and want it for themselves. And where would I go? Back to town – back into my cubbyhole? Oh no mister, you aren’t fooling me into falling for that silly trick of yours…
This is the last of the chronicles that I write with your name on it – from now on, it’s all about me…
Now, I shall truly be fine.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Someone had said, "What is lifestyle?"
It is always not 2000 plus words of eloquence, where someone only finds a platform to display their count of known words and phrases. It is mostly, at least as far as I believe, a story that could range from 50 words to 2000 but touch the soul that's reading it. Sometimes, being personal makes a difference. I am reaching out to you. I want you to know that beyond all the money laundering, cheating, scheming, politicking that goes on in this vast expanse, there is a life that is beautiful. A life that shows you the lovelier side. A life that is worth dreaming of.
From the time I first stepped into Sonagachhi, gingerly following Zana and Ross and their camera,watching the film unfold before my eyes, finding the truth that we all ignore, to the time where bright lights and luxurious spreads lay before me - it has been an excruciatingly difficult journey. With each passing week, I have learnt something new and most importantly something different.
I have met people I have come to love over the years, those that have moved on and yet remain in my heart.
I have met people who've used that love to gnaw at my deepest self.
I have met people who've used that love to selfish gains.
But all is forgiven.
From the moment I walk into the newspaper office that I truly hold in high regard, I feel a sense of belonging. I love the smell of newsprint or the splash of colour across smiling faces. From the tiny bullet points that assert an idea to a headline that carries within many responsibilities. It's all part of my reality.
I write about things that many won't bother about. Retail trends, gourmet treats and sometimes, a habit that is only lying within. Stories with meaning, stories without time lines. Here, I have seen a newspaper increase its shelf life. And that is no mean feat. Held strong by many others and carried forward by some more, waking up to the paper I work for is indeed exhilarating.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
I don't know where most of them really are. Not that they wanted to be my friends - not many people do. Plus I had issues. Plus I was paranoid - trusting, but paranoid. It sort of happens when all you are doing in your early 20s is battling with rumours that people spread only because they have nothing else to do. Or best friends tell on you because they perhaps missed a date. Or maybe let you down/stab you in the back/lie about you simply because that day, and just that day, they didn't find anything more interesting to kill time with. Or maybe they just thought you didn't deserve anything more.
Anyway, a couple of them remembered. A couple of them still do. They make it a point to perhaps drop a line or even make that call, take time out to meet me. Whenever they are in town.
But that life is gone. It's so far away in the past that I can't even look it in the eye anymore. I still go back to Bombay. Hang out with a few remaining friends - the ones who didn't care how I really looked, what I wore or whether I said intellectual words at meetings to prove that I was ready to be part of their circle. These guys are there, no matter what - sort of omnipresent, psychologically speaking.
So for me, Mondegar never changed, and neither did Leo's. Or Tea Centre. Now, I can actually afford more than a few beers. Just that I don't drink beer.
Every time I go back to Bombay, even for a few days, I wish to relive a few of those moments. Walking around alone - hunting, scouting for things that I had perhaps only imagined. Nothing existed. The romance of that city continues to breathe into my lungs thoughts that won't survive a nano-second outside my brain and yet I can't seem to want anything more.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I wonder if mother suspects. I don't really care, said Gyan. What really annoys me is the way they're keeping us apart. I can't really tell them that this is not what I want. If only Aditya wanted to take all this up. I would willingly give all my undeserving laurels up.
The sun had risen as far as it could but there was no sign of the agent. His phone rang.
Hi. I am Asavari.
Oh no! It's her! She knows I am staying at a guest house. I have to check out.
Can you call me back in an hour? I am expecting a very important call and don't want to keep the line busy.
Oh okay. Don't worry. I am waiting downstairs. I thought we could catch up for coffee.
Downstairs! Okay, that was too quick.
I will be down in a bit.
Truth be told, Asavari had fallen quite in love with this strange looking man she'd met in the bus more than two weeks ago. But she had no idea who he was and had to find out before matters became worse. So she'd followed him to his motel, found out that he'd booked a car for the festival and which room he lived in. She had to know if he was an honest man. And then, she could perhaps make friends.
Hi. You look really tired. Haven't you slept much? she asked as soon as she saw him. Hanging loose from his gawky shoulders was a deep red kurta. He looked very handsome in it. But in a unkempt way. She wanted to reach out and push a slight lock off his forehead but resisted her temptations.
Why are you here? he asked.
I thought we could go get some coffee? pat came the reply.
I can't go anywhere now. I am expecting a call. I thought I already told you that.
Fine. I'll wait.
Gyan turned around and went back to his room. That stupid girl would be the death of me, he thought. Little did he know that a few weeks later, his foresight would stand by him.
The phone didn't ring for two hours. He was beginning to get hungry. As he walked down to the lobby to go to the restaurant, he saw Asavari waiting patiently on a sofa.
All right, come along, he beckoned her.
She sprung up and followed him. Today, I will make him talk.
What's your name? came the first question.
Vijay Singh, said Gyan. I am 32 years old. Unmarried. I live in Pune. Am here to meet someone for work. That guy never turned up or called back and right now I am so angry that I could kill someone. Will that be enough?
Good lord! You're on a roll, said Asavari and burst out into a laugh.
And in that terse moment, everything changed. Gyan actually looked up at her. She was beautiful. In a very non-conformist way. Her dark eyes would flash occasionally and her mouth had a perpetual upturn that he liked instantly. Her laugh was like the slow tinkling of a thousand bells. And her unruly hair fell on her shoulders without care.
He liked her. Instantly.
My aunt lives in Pune. I often go see her, she said, breaking his reverie. Maybe when I go next I will come and meet you. Would you write your address down for me please?
Not in a million years had Gyan thought that a fake address (belonging to an old school friend) would set off a chain of events that even he and at least 10 others would not be able to control or repair. Nor had he imagined that as he wrote down the address on a piece of tissue paper from the restaurant that someone would be watching them closely from a distance and that Asavari, a girl with the laughter of bells, would actually come looking for him.
For the next few hours, Gyan wove a tale that was nothing short of ordinary. A tale that Asavari was quite content with. He was a small time businessman who was looking to open a shop in Jaipur and the man who promised to show him some properties never turned up. She liked the middle-class Vijay Singh with three sisters who were yet to be married, an ailing father and a dead mother and that he had to be financially stable for the sake of the family. She admired the 32-year old thin, handsome fellow who was willing to put the happiness of others before his own. After all, isn't this what real life was all about?
Yes, this could work.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Truthfully, Vijay Singh had never been on a bus. So much so, he'd never been to a bus station before this day. But circumstances forced to him to get on this rickety tin vehicle that looked like it would explode at the seams. Very much like Radhika maasi, he thought, smiling to himself.
The girl, standing three seats away holding the railing, is staring at me. Do I know her? Or most importantly, does she know me? he questioned, his arched eyebrows becoming obvious with query. She is pretty though.
Asavari was trying her best to conceal her tattoo with her dupatta. People here aren't really used to forward-thinking women, unless of course they were tourists. A tattoo is an obvious statement of a fallen women, especially the one she was hiding. Finely crafted on her upper arm was the image of a mermaid, one of Asavari's favourite motifs. She was naked of course, except for a few golden locks that fell gently on her breasts, covering them, but not quite. She'd gotten it when she was went to Amsterdam to visit a long-lost aunt. That of course was a completely different story.
Asavari's life was pretty much scattered all over and each tale was complexly ridden with secrets that were either kept from her or she kept from the rest.
Vijay Singh was leaning over his co-passenger to check if his station was near. He found the roads vaguely familiar, not quite used to the topography, something his mother was quite ashamed of.
Incidentally, Asavari and Vijay got off near the main bus station and as their eyes met briefly, she smiled at him.
She must be a hooker, he confirmed to himself, without even bothering to think twice. And almost as if she'd read his mind, Asavari walked up to Vijay Singh and said, I am not that sort of a girl. I smiled because your discomfort back in the bus was rather amusing.
A prostitute with good English. Must be a girl from Bombay, he thought without responding to her.
I don't bite, said Asavari and walked away.
They met again, almost by accident, two weeks later at the Jaipur Literature Festival. It's such a pseudo-place. Fancy, nose-in-the-air writers who don't really write that well but can sell, thanks to their selling skills. Although, Asavari was quite taken in by Jeet Thayil's poetry. They're so beautiful that they're almost lifeless, she'd thought.
Vijay was of course there for a completely different reason. He was meeting a real estate agent at Diggi Palace who had obviously no clue about the festival. And Vijay had forgotten about it. Too much was going on in his head for him to remember.
It's the same girl. Oh lord! Now she'll think I am following her, he thought as soon as he'd spotted Asavari.
Hello there! She said, walking up to the young lanky fellow. There was something charming about the way his hair looked perpetually unkempt.
Umm... Hello, said Vijay Singh, without really looking at her.
Are you here for the festival? she asked.
Yes. And no. Okay goodbye, said the nervous youth and walked away.
Okay, he is really strange.
They met each other on the second day again. And this time around, he avoided her completely. It would not look good if the agent saw them talking and reported any thing back home.
So now you'll avoid me completely, said Asavari, walking up to him. I don't bite you know. Plus I think you need a cup of coffee.
Vijay Singh nodded at her and the two of them walked towards the cafe. Can we get two cups of coffee please and a cucumber sandwich as well. Would you like something to eat? Asavari asked Vijay.
No. I have already had breakfast. It is okay. Thank you, he said uncomfortably.
The two of them talked a bit. Asavari told him about how she'd come to Jaipur to meet an old friend who might have a job for her and how she hated living in Udaipur and so on.
Vijay Singh said nothing. Is she going to ask me questions about my past? She is from Udaipur. That's not very safe. She might know me, or know of me. Has she actually recognised me and is just playing, Vijay wondered.
The sun was setting. The second day of the festival was coming to an end. Vijay would be leaving the next day and so would Asavari. She was heading out to Delhi for an assignment. I wonder if she will ever run into me again. I hope not, he thought.
Can I have your email address? she asked.
Email? I have a number....
Monday, August 24, 2009
What should I do this morning? he asked to no one in particular. I could perhaps jump off the ledge, climb down the roof and then make a run for the airport. My ticket is valid for another month, the next-in-throne Aditya Vikram Singh contemplated.
Hukum. Mandar was back.
Rajmata is calling you. There are some people here to meet you.
Blimey! Already? Getting out of bed, Aditya walked towards his bathroom. He reappeared at the so-called courtroom after twenty minutes. The people were waiting patiently.
Ah son! mother beckoned him, lovingly. Please meet our guests. This is Rampal Singh and his wife Madhumati. And they are here to talk about their daughter's hand for you.
WHAT! was the only word that came out of Aditya's brains, but they didn't reach the tip of his tongue. He was completely taken aback. I am going out mother, we will talk about this later. Nice meeting you. Do have lunch and go, saying that, Aditya walked out towards the stables. I need a horse, he said, again, to no one particular.
Gyanendra was an idiot, thought Aditya of his older brother. I thought he loved playing prince and would eventually become the king. What is this all about him going and dying? It's just not fair. I want the froth lining of beer back on my upper lip, with Amy in tow. That is what I want.
Getting the stableboy to saddle up one of the royal horses, Aditya decided to ride around. It's a lovely day, he decided. Thanks to his training back as a child, he could get on and off a horse with ease, learn how to fence and drink gallons of beer without a hangover, a quality he'd picked up later in college.
How far to the nearest village? Aditya asked the stableboy.
About 25 minutes on horseback hukum, pat came the reply.
Aditya rode off, not really wanting to go to the nearest village.
Back in the palace, the queen's guests were readying themselves to leave. Lunch was not an option, especially since they hadn't brought any gift for the queen as such, not even a token of appreciation. Rajmata was very worried. Frowns had formed on her forehead and took various shapes as she paced up and down the landing of the staircase. Has he become insane? she wondered. At 29, I'd have thought him to be slightly more mature. All these years of 'foreign' education hadn't really worked. Inspector Ghanshyam will soon have to solve the case. Aditya needs to wear the crown by then.
I will have to have a word with him. Only if the king were alive.
Riding downhill through the hilly roads, Aditya stopped his horse for a minute to take a look at the landscape. All this? Mine? Bloody hell. I wonder if this horse will make it all the way to the Udaipur airport.
He found himself a clearing by the side of the road and parked the horse. Getting off, he sat under an unfamiliar tree, lighting another cigarette. I need to send for some more, he thought.
I cannot do this. I don't know why I agreed to even come. I haven't seen mother in the last seven years. I am not even sure if she is my mother. I didn't see my father's dead body and Gyan was gone by the time I was called back. How can they even expect to fill in so many shoes. I don't know the first thing about administration. Why can I not live with my Keats and Byron instead? I should have never come back.
But no one heard Aditya Vikram Singh, next-in-throne, the crown prince, the would-be king, the handsome man who hated wearing anything beyond his jeans, a man who hadn't told a soul of his royal lineage back in London. No one came to his rescue. I am doomed, declared Aditya, loudly. No one was listening to him anyway.
150 kilometres away in Udaipur, she was wondering if she should make a trip to Bombay to meet her agent. He promised to call me sometime during the week. And 'the' week was two weeks ago. What if he took the money and ran, she thought.
Asavari Sinha was sitting in front of her computer and searching for a mail that had actually never arrived. Do they call people for auditions over email? she wondered.
Moving to Udaipur was a really stupid decision. But she had found work, thanks to the various jewellery houses that constantly needed the 'Indian-looking girl' to pose in their jewels. She made enough money to get by. Maybe I should consider a job in Radha's advertising agency. She could pass off as an account executive and then find enough clients who'd make her a model. Lousy option, she counteracted.
It was time for tea. She walked to her miniscule kitchen and put on a kettle. Her mother had promised her a bit of help but that never came and Asavari was too proud to ask. I don't even have a fucking boyfriend, she said. At least the movies would be sponsored.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I wonder what Amy is up to? She would probably be going to the library just about now? he thought. He missed the smell of the campus. The busy streets of London and the non-intrusive life that he had so carefully built over the last 10 years.
Below, people were scurrying around the household, getting ready for the royal dinner. There were to have guests that evening. Ashokaditya Singh, Maan Singh and Virendra Singh and their respective wives. Uncles and cousins from different family tree offshoots. None of them spoke much English and Aditya's Rajasthani was unpolished. Damn, those bloody pretentious blood-sucking dogs, he said aloud.
Hukum. Mandar whispered.
Turning around, Aditya saw their faithful servant standing behind him, at a distance. His head was lowered in obeisance. His hand folded near his chest.
What is it Mandar?
Rajmata is calling you. The guests have arrived. And you are not yet ready.
Aditya looked down at himself. He had draped one of the royal robes that were in his wardrobe. Underneath, his favourite pair of Calvin Kleins.
Go on ahead, he said. I will be there in a minute.
Mandar nodded and left.
Aditya lit up another cigarette and bent over the ledge to look down. The sun was just about setting and its flames licked the hem of the sky in greed. He took to the stairs, not so ready to meet the guests.
Downstairs a mehfil was all about to begin. The musicians were setting up their instruments and tying their turbans, pretty much at the same time. Ragini Devi would soon be here. She used to be Aditya's father's favourite court singer. After his death, the queen would send a monthly stipend to the girl to further her lessons in music and urdu. She knew that the king looked at Ragini as her daughter, which was not a very uncommon practice. There was no cheating or jealousy there, so it made it easier for her to support the girl's endeavours.
Aditya changed into a royal dress. Churidaar, bunched up neatly near his ankle. A long kurta, delicately embroidered in gold and black and a robe that made him feel a few pounds heavier. He was not obliged to wear a turban and decided to skip it. Strapping his Rolex onto his wrist, he took a look at himself in the mirror. Amy would die laughing if she were to see him like this now.
Hukum. They're waiting for you. Mandar whispered near his ear, without being too informal.
Yes. Let's go.
The royal rituals had changed quite a bit over the years. Aditya's father, Aditya Vikram Singh I, was quite a liberal ruler. He believed in education, trade, slight modernisation that wouldn't harm his subjects and above all, had done away with false and ancient traditions.
Unless it was a large and formal gathering, he didn't think a king needed to be announced in all glory. Everyone can see that I've just walked in, he would say. Ironically, that was one of the last things Aditya remembered his father telling him.
Walking down the winding staircase of the rather worn out palace that needed desperate attention, Aditya saw that a bunch of men and women were huddling down on the low divans, waiting for the music to begin. His mother, was on a chair, nearby, looking up anxiously at her younger son. I do hope he gets used to this. His disdain is so apparent, she said to herself.
Namaste chachaji. Namaste tauji. Namaste Maan Singh. Namaste. he wished everyone and then found his spot and sat down. Ragini Devi was clearing her throat to begin her first ghazal of the night. Under the dim ceiling lights made of etched glass and through a fine embroidered veil, Aditya noticed Ragini's nose ring glimmer like a star.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
D said, of one of my writings, that it felt like nothing. He said it didn't touch him because the two subjects in the prose didn't reach out to him. Or something like that. D is one of my favourite writers. And I believe what he says. But then again, that piece was a fragment of truth. So perhaps like reality I allowed my detached thoughts to permeate my words. Then is that no mission accomplished? Then why does someone say that they need to relate to it?
I had a wonderful evening today. It was partly on work but that aroma of pepper brie and wine, fondant and the smoked salmon with pear... I couldn't help but forget that I was on work. And amidst all the shiny glasses and the white linen (which is how I typically like to describe Toscano) I couldn't help but think if life could be like brie, especially this one. Smooth to taste, a giddy aftertaste, a slight remnant on the upper palate and of course, a bit peppery.
And a good wine to wash it all down with.
I can't really write about food without thinking of some movie or life in general. Actually, I can't think of it in any other way.
I saw Delhi 6. And strangely, or perhaps not, I really liked it. I like Abhishek Bachchan's slight sense of insecurity in the film. Or his portrayal of it. I like Sonam Kapoor, the brash wannabe Indian Idol. And I like the soundtrack. I like the way ROM let his feeling and his imagery run loose. It's something I can relate to. Even though I have never lived in Delhi.
And all that, amidst all that, I was reminded of one dal baati churma I'd eaten long time ago. It was way too heavy for me to deal with but I had this bizarre sensation of being at home. And I am not from Rajasthan.
Enough of gibberish. Tomorrow is another day and with that, shall come uncertainties I have to be ready for.
Good night my friends. R, K, S, J, Paleth, M (whom I have almost relegated to a distance) and everyone else who are always in my thoughts.
"I am going to plant a tree."
"I stopped using plastic long ago."
"I am always careful about using water."
"I don't take printouts unless it's an emergency."
"I only buy organic vegetables."
"I only wear natural fabric."
"I don't use chemical stuff at home."
"I keep computer and laptop usage to the minimum."
"I have switched to an electric vehicle."
"I cycle to work thrice a week."
Everyone is concerned. Everyone wants the planet to survive at least till the time they survive. No one wants the earth to give up on us suddenly. We don't how it will happen. Will it implode? Or will there will flood and we will die painfully?
No one wants annihilation in an expected manner. We all want to perish in less than half a second. We don't want to bear the consequences of what we've been doing to this host that put us up for millions of years.
We will write about it. But no one will say: "Can we stop publishing a newspaper for one day?" That should save some paper.
Or perhaps stop smoking. I am no one to say this. I smoke too. But I want to stop.
No one will say: Maybe today we should stay at home and not take the car out. Maybe we should just go take a walk in the neighbourhood, or meet neighbours we don't really say hello to.
No one does that.
They just talk about it.
As for me. I have to go to work. I have an edition the next day.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
how can u use the word fortitude in an article that just talks about designer wear?
okay, pause here.
you are not thinking straight.
actually, you aren't thinking curves. think curves.
and make sure whatever you write is attested by a known face, please. we really don't give a flying f*** about your opinion. you are just the one who knows how to type and string sentences together. that is all, please.
why are you reading sri aurobindo's savitri? oh we'd highly recommend Bridget Jones' diary. very good diary. please. (like i really needed a woman to tell me when it's the right time to smoke or kiss... like, seriously...)
oh, you're the cocky one we see... that smile... (nod nod) we know - deep down you're thinking you will be smart elsewhere and people will regard your brain to be a considerable contribution the functioning of something. you are so wrong please. anywhere you go, unless you go on your own, someone else is always giving directions.
like you needed us to tell you that.
i like hash. it smells good. i don't smoke it. have smoked like thrice. i like smoking cigarettes too, which is paired with good single malt. and ice, i don't care about the snobs. i like my ice.
i like the smell of fresh tomatoes in pasta or the giddiness from excess coffee or chocolate.
i like the touch of his hand on my head - it's like consolation prize.
so trust me, i really don't give a flying f*** whether you think i'm useful or not. just because you need someone to type doesn't mean i am going to keep my nails trimmed at all times.
your deadline is early. be happy please. you can go home soon and do what you want with it. yes please. yes please. yes please.
and with your typing speed - you have nothing to fear.
yes, you don't get paid as much as you'd like - but tell us, so far what has really worked according to plan? no whining please. this is not your home. and please remember, if you talk to someone too much, rumours will be spread. that's how this system works. thank you please.
ah i see she's getting there too.. the greed of the green. i really don't want it. i want the green in different forms. i want the old life back. the old things to remain the same. i like the way the fresh air skims past my face and doesn't leave any mark. i want this night to end so the next could come, soon. i don't want your fancy words. i don't want to wake up every morning feeling like a yes man. i don't want your kindness.
no thank you please.
Monday, April 20, 2009
This city is my consolation prize. If not home, here is where I’d rather be.
Spending time with a few old friends and some good old memories over some rosé wine and some rather Bengali Chinese (which isn’t very uncommon in the city) I was at peace.
It’s ironic; this city rejects and embraces me all at once. I cannot erase it from my wish list and neither can I go back on a whim. And yet, every time you ask me, this is the place I want to be. If not home.
J says I should come back. And I miss him tremendously. He and I share this strange understanding. We never tread each other’s path and yet, stay connected and concerned. Life has changed for both of us and we, as people, have changed too. But that ‘us’ has remained, the way it used to be.
It was so nice seeing R after so long. I really like the way she’s found her footing. And I have seen her struggles and shared some of the same pain. We’ve both fought for something that was so intangible that often, we’d lose track of what is it that we were fighting for. We’ve given up and regained our trial.
It was nearly a two-hour drive from Cuffe Parade to Goregaon where R was staying. I fell in love with her apartment instantly. There’s nothing fake in her welcome and she didn’t treat me like a guest. What more could I ask for?
I didn’t shop at all. In fact, I barely went out. I just spent time looking out her large open windows, wishing that nothing would ever change. Not in soul at least. I am so against this whole transformation that the spirit of every individual goes through. I think R loves me just the way I am. The way I used to be nearly 12 years ago when we met in college.
Something happens to me when I come here. I can’t explain that something. But the best part is I never really have to; at least to the people who matter.
And I would rather be with the people who matter. If not home.
I don't mind the crowds here or even the dust that leaves a strange residue on my nose and between my toes. I don't mind the long standing traffic or the irregularities of life. I don't even mind the pungent body odour that doesn't remember its source.
I marvel at my insouciance – in another city I’d be intolerant, with a speech ready on how the world will never change, simply because of the sheer volume of ignorance towards urban development. Here, everything is forgiven. Here, time stands still. People still beg on the streets and labourers find a decent meal in ten rupees. Here, you are resigned to life. There can be no way out unless you are prepared to battle your way through various social layers that are often invisible but poisonous nevertheless. I have given up everything that I held true and moved to another part of the country looking for something that I have not yet found. Ironically, I have lost much. Words that I once took pride in. passages that were read under the light of a kerosene lamp and remembered – all through childhood and youth. And now, in the dark, without the lamp, I close my eyes, tightly shut, and try to remember a verse or even a line from an old book that still smells the same.
There is something about this city, he tells me. And I couldn’t agree more. As we both would walk down familiar lanes, in the heat or rain, thinking of those days that we never really wanted to move away from, we’d want to return to a place that we know more closely as the only home we’ve ever had.
My aunt says she finds it easy to breathe whenever she returns home after her travels - despite the pollution and the long stretch of stench that follows her into the shower.
And I smile, because I know that I will return and that stench will be mine too.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
He spoke about youth and politics. I am not really sure how old he really is, but he was very passionate about the youth being part of politics.
Apart from that he also spoke about this whole ‘refrain’ from voting concept in India where the youth of course don’t vote because they don’t want to and mostly because they don’t know whom to vote.
And of course, when most of the candidates are either a stranger to us or of very little good, it’s best that we don’t condone their intent to come into power.
Then again, the whole political nexus that exists in our country can never really allow a different scenario.
There’s very little white money in politics and at a day an age when the so-called youth are busy wondering how to pay their home loan EMIs for their 3-bedroom apartment in a swanky part of a cosmopolitan, the drive to do ‘something’ for the country lies dormant within. Can we blame them?
Now Barack Obama is being used as an example. Only because of his humble backgrounds and of course the fact that he is different in colour, at least as far as the White House is concerned. And let’s not forget his unbelievably moving speech.
There are a lot of speech writers and makers in this country, which we cannot deny.
Coming back to this man – he is (apparently) doing his best to make people at the grass-root level to understand the basic functioning of the country and its people, or something like that. But he isn’t involved in politics because he isn’t sure that an independent candidate like him would cut a difference. Moreover, he doesn’t want to support any specific party.
So, he asks: would we vote for a man who has no right to represent his nation?
And I wonder: Why doesn’t he just not talk?
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Or perhaps a shutter bug will cross your path; with an interesting tale to tell. Or a woman whose life calls for a retake. Or maybe a child who still wonders why her parents can’t look her in the eye.
But where does this big idea hide?
Is it in some dust-ridden corner where no light trickles in? Is it inside the head that refuses to cooperate most of the time?
I haven’t stepped out to breathe in the summer sun – to see smiling faces go about their way – or drench in an accidental shower.
I haven’t seen life beyond a certain measurement. And as I draw into a close, closing up like a clam without the cheese, I realise that my ideas have died a natural death, mostly because of being ignored for far too long.
But even so, those ideas that managed to stay afloat, purely out of vengeance, don’t have enough steam in their blood.
You could be speaking and no one will hear you. Because let’s face it, you aren’t really saying anything that makes sense.
Who really cares to know if John Coltrane’s music could remind one of a shadowy afternoon in the rains? Or that Michael Buble is for the broken-hearted. Does anyone really care to know why it was important for a film like Juno to be made? Or perhaps how Clint Eastwood deserves a standing ovation for Gran Torino, and how accurate someone was when he told us that it was Dirty Harry walking into the sunset.
Or maybe when on a tired evening, a bunch of soft shell crabs filled my heart with so much warmth that I was finding it difficult to write about it later, without going overboard.
I don’t know so much. Sometimes I feel I forgot to evolve. Living in a world with Franz Kafka, Edith Piaf, Cole Porter and Leonard Cohen, I find myself often retarded. Ironic, I say. No one nods in agreement.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Circles in the rain
Creating splashes of water
And trickles down the drain
Your wet feet
Make little footprints
And disappear into puddles
Of myriad tints
He stands and smokes
Wet rings in the air
There’s no smile on his face
Just an irreverent stare
The white lace at your hem
Plays at your knee
As the rain continues to rage
Till it is all that I can see
Friday, March 20, 2009
a letter that would speak louder than i did
of how my mother wiped her tears
or my sister smoked in the silence
i wanted to paint a picture
not pretty by far, not in the least
i just wanted to paint what i saw
of the truth that you can't see
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Sunday, March 01, 2009
and there she ended. because she had nothing further to add.
he was being patient, partly out of disinterest. the car was running on ignition and he was waiting for her to get off. she did.
she walked into the apartment building without looking back. fishing for her keys at the bottom of the bag was a good escape plan, she thought. he stared at her walk away and his heart felt a bit heavy. she was a good kid but it had to end. it's been far too long.
she reached her flat and switched on the light. then, she switched it off, walked into the bathroom, found the razor and slashed her wrists. deep enough to kill her over the next few hours. but she did not wince. and as the blood trailed from the bathroom door and formed a misshapen pool near the bedside, she lay on her pillow, looking up at the fan that moved at very slow speed.
the last decade or more was the best, she recalled. she remembered the colour of his shirt when they'd first met, she remembered even the last.
she remembered her nostrils taking in his smell. his smile. his eyes. his kiss.
their first kiss.
it had never ended.
it was always the first kiss.
he drove back, slowly. tomorrow he would leave town. that should simplify things. he knew she would never call him. the closest she'd get was to stare at his online status on her gtalk chat window. that, he could deal with.
it would never work, he rationalised. she was not his type. he did care. but not in the way he'd want to, if he were to make a commitment. she had to understand that.
she probably did.
she'd try to work things out in her life. he trusted her. he had to disappear.
there was way too much history between the two of them. he'd erase it all. it's not as tough as people said. she would be history.
so he lied, she told herself. big deal, she counter-argued. i can live without him. if i could live without him all these years, him telling her was going to make no difference. she could love no one else and that was something she'd come to terms with even before she'd realised. and now, there would be no time to love another.
the pool was getting bigger. she could feel her breath turn cold. it was a lovely sensation. it was like walking on ice - only there was none. the sky had turned purple in her head. this is how she always wanted it to be, she recollected and no one would believe her. now, she wouldn't have to convince anyone. that's a relief, she confirmed. a little wave of cloud formed near her mouth as she reassured herself. it was always him. and she was sort of relieved that there would be no one else.
she has a good smile, he remembered. and when she'd smoke in a dark room, the lit end would form a halo around her; she looked almost ethereal. her pursed lips would be blowing out smoke. she never really inhaled. he could watch her forever. or when she'd lip sync to his favourite song. it was as if she was singing it. she did have a good voice, he said.
when did he meet her first, he wondered. he couldn't remember. it didn't matter. once the night was over, he wouldn't have to think of such things anymore. she would be gone. life is twisted. he had hurt her but he didn't really care enough to turn things around. that would be too much to ask for, he said. it wouldn't work. he was sure.
Friday, February 20, 2009
The fantastic invisible sweep of time rushes and roars past us every dull and intense second that ticks relentlessly away every day, and all around us things constantly morph. Twin towers crumble, good people die, the good earth turns brown and bare, and old love fades.
And what precisely is your role in the incredible kaleidoscope of change?
A slack-jaw by-stander who barely registers the impact and implications? A commentator spectator who freely critiques but somehow rises above being affected by it all? A fatalist loser who bemoans everything and blames it all on circumstances and other people?
Look around you, you who reside in the so-called mind and knowledge capital of the shining new
Many of the quiet avenues that used to snake through the wooded shades and fragrant flower-scatters of a thousand gulmohars, flames of the forest, bougenvillias and silver oaks are now shorn of even a single blade of grass, their tar guts upturned by mammoth earth moving equipment, tortured sites full of grime, steel and concrete through which an endless procession of loud vehicles crawl back and forth, utterly indisciplined, frothing with impotent anger and frustration, from the early dusty dawns to the midnight hours, every single day.
We are the victims, you say? The civic governance of
I am re-thinking this premise, my friend. Unfortunately not a self realization case, but prompted by a black incident last Friday, 6th February, 2009. And this time it was not about aspects that affect your life and mine indirectly. It wasn't the death of yet another 100+ year old tree. It wasn't another instance of criminal neglect of any civic infrastructure. It wasn't road rage. It was a kick in the groin. Literally. And it woke me up all right.
So, in brief, this is how the drama unfolded:
A few of my friends and I were just paying our bills and coming out of our regular Friday night watering hole and dinner place in Rest House Road, just off Brigade Road, and most of the women in the company were already standing outside. Some of us outside were smoking, people were happy, there was laughter and jokes, as there were many other people in the street, all coming out, satiated, in the closing hour of the various pubs and restaurants around.
Suddenly from up the street a massive SUV comes revving and speeding, hurtling down, and stops in a scream of brakes and swirling dust, millimeters away from this group of 4 women, barely missing one of their legs. A white Audi, imported, still under transfer, with the registration plate of KA-51 TR-2767. Some millionaire's toy thing, that in the wrong hands can kill.
Naturally the women are in shock. And quickly following the shock comes indignation. These are self made women running their own businesses, managing state responsibilities for global NGO firms, successful doctors. They are not used to being bullied. So they turn around, instead of shrinking back in fear. They protest.
And as soon as they turn around in protest, the car doors are flung open, and a stream of 4-5 rabid men run out towards these women, screaming obscenities in Hindi and Kannada against women in general, fists flailing. Some of us who came in running at the sound of the screaming brakes now stand in the middle in defense of our women, and then blows start raining down. One of the goons make a couple of calls over the cellphone, and in seconds a stream of other equally rabid goondas land up. They gun straight for the women, and everyone – a few well-meaning bystanders, acquaintances who know us from the restaurant, basically everyone who tries to help the women – starts getting thoroughly beaten up.
Women are kicked in the groin, punched in the stomach, slapped across the face, grabbed everywhere, abused constantly. Men are smashed up professionally, blows aimed at livers, groins, kidneys and nose. A friend is hit repeatedly on the head by a stone until he passes out in a flood of blood.
A plain-clothes policeman (Vittal Kumar) who saunters in late stands by watching and urging people to stop, but doing absolutely nothing else. A 'cheetah' biker cop comes in, with our women pleading him to stop this madness, but he refuses action, saying a police van will come in soon and he cannot do anything. Everyone keeps getting hammered. Relentlessly.
The carnage continues for over 20 minutes.
Finally when the police van does come in it is this vandals who are raging and ranting, claiming to be true "sons of the Kannadiga soil", and we are positioned to be the villainous outsiders, bleeding, outraged. How do the cops believe them, especially seeing the bloody faces of our men and the violated rage of our women, while they carry nary a scratch on their bodies? Don't ask me! Yet, it is us who these goondas urge the newly arrived law-keepers to arrest, and the police promptly comply, and we are bundled into the van, some still being beaten as we are pushed in. Some blessed relief from pain inside the police van at least, even if we are inside and the real goons outside, driving alongside in their spanking white Audi. The guy who was hit by the stone is taken separately by the women to Mallya hospital.
Inside the police station at Cubbon Park it becomes clear that these goons and the police know each other by their first names. The policeman in charge (Thimmappa) initially refuses to even register any complaint from me, on the purported grounds that I am not fluent in Kannada and I have taken a few drinks (3 Kingfisher pints, to be precise) over the evening. No, it doesn't matter that I didn't have my car and was not driving, and no, it doesn't mater that the complaint will be written in English. We watch them and the goons exchange smiles and nods with our our bloodied and swelling eyes and realize in our pain-clouded still-in-shock brains the extent of truth in the claim of one of the main goons when he claimed earlier in the evening in virulent aggression: we own this town, this car belongs to an MLA, we will see how you return to this street!!
This was the turning point of the saga, I guess. For we refused to lie down quietly and be victims.
One of our girls, a vintage and proud Bangalorean who is running one of the town's most successful organic farming initiatives, took upon herself to write the complaint, when I was not allowed to write the same. Another Bangalore girl, a state director of a global NGO firm, wrote the other molestation complaint separately on behalf of all the girls. Some of us called our friends in the media and corporate world. Everyone stepped up. And even when the odds were down and we were out, we did not give up, and as a singular body of violated citizens we spoke in one voice of courage and indomitable spirit. That voice had no limitation of language, not Kannada, nor English, or Hindi. It was the voice of human spirit that cannot be broken.
And in the face of that spirit, for the first time, we saw the ugly visage of vandalism, hiding behind the thin and inadequate veil of political corrupt power, narrow-vision regionalism and self-serving morality, start to wilt.
We spent 6 hours next day in the police station. The sub-inspector of police who filed our FIR, Ajay R M, seemed a breath of fresh air inasmuch that he did not appear a-priori biased like others, even though the hand of corruption and politico-criminal power backing these goons was still manifest in many ways: a starched, white-linen power-broker walked in handing over his card to the sub-inspector in support of the goons; the goons got an audience with the Inspector because of this intervention, while we had to interact one level lower down in the hierarchy; the plains cloth policeman of last night, even though he had arrived far too late in the crime scene, gave a warped statement, passing it off as a "neutral" point of view, repeatedly stressing that we came out of a pub and hence were drinking, positioning this as a 'drunken brawl', while completely forgetting to mention the unprovoked attack against the women and the one-sided vandalism and violence that ensued. I guess one cannot blame the low ranked police officer – the criminal connections of these goons must be pervasive enough for him to be careful.
Thanks however to the impartial handling of the situation by Ajay, soon the goons were all identified. The lead actor was one Ravi Mallaya (38), a real estate honcho and owner of a small property off Brigade Road which he has converted into a "gaming" (you know what that means, don't you?) adda. The others identified are Mohan Basava (22) of Chamarajapet 12th Cross, R. Vijay Kumar Ramalingaraju (25) and Shivu Rajashekar (20). All are residents of 12th & 13th Cross in Vyalikaval. Their bravado and machismo were by that time evaporated. It was good to see their faces then.
Of course nothing much happened to them, nor did we expect it. They were supposed to be in lock up for at least the weekend till they were produced in court, but we understand that they were quickly released on (anticipatory?) bail. The car, purportedly belonging to an MLA, also does not figure in the FIR, apparently for reasons of "irrelevance to the case".The media also have given us fantastic coverage and support so far, strengthening the cause.
The goons meanwhile, as an after thought, also filed the customary reverse complaint on the morning after we filed our own complaint: the women have apparently scratched the car! (Why did they not file the complaint the same night, considering they came to the Police Station in the same car? Why was the car allowed to be taken off police custody? Why is the car still irrelevant to the case and not in the FIR? Questions.. questions..).
Is this the end of this saga? Probably not. Are these women, more precious to us as friends and wives than most things in our lives, safe to walk or drive down Brigade Road from now on or are the goonda elements, slighted by this arrest and disgrace, are lying in ambush, waiting, biding their time to cause some of us more grievous harm? We don't know. Is there reason for us to remain apprehensive of future attacks and victimization? Perhaps.
But here is the point.
We stood up.
We believed in the power of individual citizens even in the face of hooliganism, intolerance, corruption and power mongering. Even though many of us have the option of leveraging political or government connections, we deliberately chose to fight this battle as individuals. Sure, these connections have been activated and they have been kept informed, should the worst case scenario unfold tomorrow. But we have chosen to not leverage them. And in every small win we register as a group of individual outraged citizens of Bangalore and India, however insignificant these milestones may be in the larger scheme of things, there is one small notch adding up in favor of what is right, one small notch against what is wrong. And we believe that every such small notch counts, each such mark is absolutely invaluable.
It is the people who make this city, this country, this world. It is you and I, as much as the terrorists inside and outside. And in our small insignificant little ways, it is my responsibility and yours to not shirk from investing effort – not just lip service or any token attempt, but real effort – in backing up what we ourselves believe in. It is so easy to logically argue that everything is corrupt, nothing is worth it, there are so many risks involved. We must not fall trap to this escapist trend. We must not fail to try.
Next time you feel outraged, violated, abused, don't let it go by and add up to your list of litanies and complaints. Stand up and take it to the limit - at least your own limit. Not in the same way as they wrong you, but in the way that every citizen, at least in theory, is entitled to complain and protest. Do not let the hooligans power rant scare you or prompt you into submission. Do not allow the corrupt cop make you give up trying. Carry the flame forward. Try harder.
If are up to it, start right now.
Forward this note to everyone you want to be made aware of this. Post it in your own blogs. Talk about it amongst your circles. And if anyone of you should like to step forward with a word of empathy or advise, talk to me. Comment.
It is not Bangalore that is going to the dogs. It is us. We have far too long become accustomed to let everything go. And the more we let things go without any protest or fight, the dormant criminal and dark elements of the society get that much more encouraged. Every time we turn the other way, the hooligan next street gets incentivized to push the boundary a little further, provoke a little more, try something a little more atrocious. It is time for us to refuse to let this go on. We are responsible for making ourselves proud. Lets believe in ourselves. We can do this.
My name is Saugata Chatterjee. And I am standing up.I refuse to let Bangalore go to the hooligan slumdogs, even if some of them are pets of corrupt power millionaires.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
I wonder about him.
I want to wander towards him.
But first, he has to realise that I am there.
Now that, is a completely different concern altogether. I am just glad my brains don't really care of reality.