Monday, May 30, 2005

Woh Kaagaz ki Khashti

Come on over. Come on. Sit down. Yes, you can use that chair. What's there? Papers? Put them on my bed and use it. Feels good to be back with you guys. Help yourself to the juice and katchoris. Yup, got them on this trip.
Voice1: So how was it?
Voice2: Did you meet all your friends?
Sorta yes, sorta no. The ones I wanted to meet, I didn't, and the...
V1: But you at least called her?
(I smile) I had others whom I wanted to meet as well.
V2: yeah, yeah. But did you call her?
Nope. No point in doing so...
V1: You are mad... seriously.
V2: I think he did the right thing. She is married and ...
V1: So what?
Guys, please. There are other things in Bombay. I bought loads of books. My bag of 6-7 years started tearing under the weight. I might not take her around anymore. I need to find a good seamster to take care of her and...
V1: You mean your bag?
V2: Why anthropomorphise everything, E? It really gets painful at times...
(I smile again. Very few pleasures match smiling amongst friends)
V2: So what else did you do? But wasn't she supposed to come to the wedding... with her husband?
Drop her.
V2: Fine, sorry.
Naah, nothing to be sorry about. I really have nothing to say on that matter...
V1: Sing us a song, E. Been a long time...
V2: No, no. Tell me what happened first. Did you have...
V1: Later. A song, E. I really don't like your voice, but it sounds right when you sing... :-)
Hmmm. Which song?
V2: How was the wedding? Did you spend some good time with her?
Hmmm. I did... Which song? Ok.. (clear my throat) ummm.... UMmmm... ummMMM
V1: Forget the shruti. Sing.
(I smile. Helps me to get into the mood of the song)

Translation: (translations adhere to the original inasmuch as providing a similar effect)
Do take my gold, and my fame, if you must
You can have my youth if you so do will
But do give me back my childhood showers
My little paper boat, the fresh rain's thrill

It hadn't rained when I went there. The first thing I asked the coolie was "Paaus padla, kaa?" and he shook his head. I watched Dadar station glow with a tarnished light and I knew not the reason for the dullness: a changing city or my eyes longing to see a city I left behind. It was still as alive as I had left it, for it wouldn't change no matter how many people came and went...
I reached home and nearly hugged my friend's parents (let's call him S). I really love them and they love me with their entire family and relations! I checked on his grandmother who was always ready to ask me about what I will eat as soon as she had dispensed the usual questions about my well being and my mother's and my sister's (and now her kid).
"Dosha lega kya?" (Will you have Dosa?), her Mallu accent still strong as the white of her hair and her resolve to take care of her daughter and her grand-daughter...
"Abhi nahin, ammamma." (Not now, granma).
Made a few calls and let people know I am in the city. Everyone invited me for some meal or the other! And then they blame me for growing fat. "Saala, mota ho gaya." (Dude, you've grown fat).
I was invited to my dear friend's haldi and mehndi. I had to remind her that I was a guy and guys aren't usually invited to haldi and mehndi.
"Arey baba, sab chalta hai. Tere saat koi problem nahin. Mom ne khud kaha." (Oh dear! everything is acceptable. No issues with you. Mom specifically said so herself.)
I wasn't sure whether to feel happy at being so close to her or feel embarrased for not being treated like other guys were! Most of Thursday was spent in travelling to Charni Road and spending time with her and reminding her that she was the one who hurried it up and we could have got married had she waited!!! :-) Her aunts joined in on teasing us!! It was fun and I was fed katchori, gulab jamun and some other sweets.
"Ye unke ghar se aaya hai." (This sweet is from the boy's family)
I was teasing and playing a prank on my friend S's fiancee. Now that, I will tell you later.
V2: No, no. Tell us now.
Please... later.
V1: Ok, continue...
I spent most of the first day in reliving Bombay as I knew it once. I sang Country Roads while passing Elphinston station and stopped to look while crossing Bombay Central.
V2: Kaalee phukat senti (unnecessarily sentimental)
No boss, you wouldn't understand it... Its Bombay.

She, who, lived here as old as the road
She, whom we children, called granny
She, who wrapped fairies in sweet songs
She, whose wrinkles of years so many
And who, try as much, could forget them
Her fresh long tales filling nights so tiny
I spent most of my day on Friday sleeping. I had received an interesting call in the morning and was happy. I slept through most of Friday trying to rid myself of the jejuneness that days of walking in the heat and running around had filled me. I was also preparing myself for the long night.
Uncle had a lot of stories to tell me before I left for ammamma's place. She had insisted that I have breakfast at her place and...
V1: Aapam and stew? :-o
(I smile for the taste hasn't yet left the roof of my mouth) Hmmm. Fresh hot aapam and stew. She kept making it and dropping it on my plate. At a point I had to run away from fear that my stomach would burst. It was wonderful. Amazing that something so simple can be so delicious and lasting.
V2: Lucky bum. I am coming with you next time.
Any day. Ammamma likes to feed as many mouths watering at her dining table as can be seated there. This time, like every time, was better than before...
V1: Enough. Don't make it worse for us.
(I smile) Then we were going over the recent incidents in the family and how she was settling to her grand-daughter marrying a non-Mallu. I didn't take the kid's side because she had already gotten things her way so I listened to what ammamma (which basically means mother's mother) had to say.
"Dekho na. Pehla ladki shaadi kartha humare ghar mein aur... dekho na." (The first girl to get married in our family of this generation and look at what she is doing.)
"Ammamma, choda na. Aaj kal to..." (Granny, forget about it. Nowadays...)
"Choda naa. Ab kyaa kar sakta hai? Ab yeh bhi (and she pointed to her other grand-daughter) aise karegi to kya bolega?" (Forgot about it. What can I do? What can I do if this girl too does something similar?)
I simply went over and sat at her feet. What she couldn't say, she combed into my hair with trembling fingers... At least some of it left her. She soon was back to her cheerful self.
"Haircut mangta hai tereko. Par aise bhi achcha dikta hai." (You need a haircut. Still it looks good on you)
I returned to my friends place and had lunch with uncle and slept. I woke up and had a quick shower. My friend who was getting married called me and demanded that I come over. I got into my north-Indian formals and remembered to carry the gift I had picked for her. It was basically a large glass bowl and a few packets of pot pourri (dried flowers and leaves which give off a sweet fragrance). I needed a haircut...

To walk out in the scorching heat
To larks and those jays and chasing butterflies
We'd marry our dolls and fight over it
High in our swings jumping far from watchful eyes
And those little trinklets of copper and bark
Those deep scarlet marks of broken bangles and cries

The wedding was fun. I was running all over the place and then settled in with the bride helping her arrange her hair and helping her sister get her bangles in the right order. It was fun. The 3 of us were the only ones in the chamber and had a wonderful time...
V2: Tereko andar kaise choda? (How did they let you in, there?)
I dunno. They just let me. Her mom and aunts told me where she was and I walked over. It was so sweet. One of her aunt, who seemed to be very fond of me, comes over later and says "Most gifts are coming from his side. You go now and give the gift so that things look balanaced." I was so touched. Without a formal word I was part of the "girl's side" and I was so happy that I jogged all the way to the stage where the couple was receiving guests. She introduced me to him:
"This is ------. I told you about him, right. Remember?"
"Of course. Nice meeting you. Whenever she spoke about her gang you always seemed to be in it. Glad to meet you finally."
I was glad to meet him too. Smart guy. Fits her well. I smiled and shook hands and clicked a few pictures together with them. I later realised that I was standing at a foot's distance from the couple...
The rest of the gang came in with their husbands and "would-be". It was great fun. We joked nearly about everything.
"Hey, -----. Aise saal ko ek bar at least aaya kar. Aise hans ke kaafi time ho gaya." (Hey, --(me)--. Do come to Bombay at least once a year. Been a while since we laughed like this.)
Felt nice to be considered thus, esp. without trying to. I watched all of them in their marriage. All of them glowing or tired. And then I turned to look at her on the stage. She was radiant. A fine damsel in blood red and colour turning to a softening pink on her cheeks. She was happy. I was happy.
It was so funny watching all my friends married. One of them wasn't so I told her "You and I are the only ones left. Let's get married." She said "Cool, my parents have also come. Why don't we go now and talk to them." I ran a mile away from there!
My friend's fiancee, D was also at the wedding and I was given the responsibility of taking her back home. She was looking pretty as ever.
Few more pictures... few more memories... greater distance creeping in...
It was nice. Didn't feel like eating much and then I picked up D and went back home. Dropped her at her place and walked into the house at 00:45 hrs.
V2: What? You stayed up that long?
Fine fine. Laugh away...

To drag our feet over smooth high dunes
A castle here, a hillock there
Our innocence filling every picture and tune
Our life of toys and dreams
In a world of joy, relations none did prune
Wasn't it beautiful, that life of ours?
V1: I love the way you end it, that song, in a hushed whisper... really nice.
(I smile) That song is pretty much my song too...
V2: Our song
Yes, our song...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Of Decibels and Desi-Belles

I suppose I have been equanimous about my preference: I cannot stand loud-mouthed women (men too, but definitely not women). When I meet someone new and find them insisting on pulling the entire mall into the conversation, my system shuts down rapidly. I stay away from loud crowds, loud music, loud shirts, etc. And this trip (so far) has blessed me with the most annoying bunch of loud-mouthed people esp. women.
Mom insisted on getting a 3rd AC. As I had said earlier, I prefer travelling in sleeper class (pseudo-masochistic?). One look at the sun in Hydi and I decided to listen to my mom. Like often enough, I regretted that! :-(
Its a foolish notion that many people bear: people who spend more are more decent, well, at least they are more snobbish or something of that sort. People all over tell me "A/C-aa? Nice people!" I would have prefered all of them to be snobbish, so that no one talks to anyone and I have all the quiet in the world to myself. But no, God sure decided to put money into the wrong pockets this summer. Our compartment was filled to the teeth with the noisiest human beings. My mom and I took fancy to the game of occasionally exchanging glances which usually meant one of the following: "THIS is decent?" or "Can't these holy pig-heads shut up?" or "What is the going rate for cotton used in stuffing animals and mouths?"
This lady barged in with her son but her shouting orders and instructions reached us before like the twitching of the eye before disaster. She wouldn't shut up and kept telling us "Enna cheyardhu? Ivan pechey ketka maataan" (What can I do? He never listens to me). If she had stopped making that statement, we would have been deprived of 80% of the noise in the compartment; without regrets. She yawned with her mouth wide open (the first time I saw a tunnel in a train). Yuck! And she was ready to repeat that trick as many times as it fancied her absent brain. She kept shrieking to herself, to her son and to the world in general. I gave her time till 21:00 hrs. After that I was going to ask her to shut up, in the most uncensored fashion. I couldn't concentrate on my book, relish my snacks or even catch forty winks (most of which were lost over a few sleepless nights which preceded this trip). She was jarring. My only reprieve was this lady in pink who walked past our berths once every 45 minutes or so. Pretty lady... and then... noise!!!!
Like Providence at its favourite game, 21:00 hrs saw her shut up like magic! :-( I missed my chance of shouting her head off her shoulders. I don't quite expect you to understand the utter frustration of losing such an opportunity. I was waiting and planning for hours... I had rehearsed the dialogues and prepared rebuttals to her possible responses... Damn! I had nearly tasted blood before ... Damn!
After she shut up, the rest of the compartment took over (or were they muted by sheer volume, earlier?). Someone had to argue that 17 was theirs, only to have light dawn on them and their tickets and reveal that it is not 17 but 7 that belonged to them. Such people should be shot as soon as they were born! Winchester...
Madras woke me up with sultry air and early birds smeared with parallel lines of vibuthi (ash), as endless and strict as the railway tracks they crossed or sat over.
And then the cacophony started. Relatives and noise go hand in hand, especially when they are placed within a radius of 10 meters. Like the S shell in atomic physics. They had to shriek into your ears while they spoke to someone a few yards away. I actually ran away from home. I did, honestly.
I got on the roads. I prefered that maddening heat to the noise. Got into a run-down PTC bus and regretted my move again. The ladies had to fight right between the 5th and 8th seat (from the front) and made sure everyone participated. It was so funny and noisy when an old lady turns towards me and asks me to say something, that too in Tamil. I fumbled and asked them to let me know when T-Nagar bus stop came into someone's view. Someone said "Romba mukhyam" (a sarcastic way of letting me know that what I said was the most pointless and stupid thing in the world). I got off the bus and back on the roads. The sheer expanse of the roads swallowed all noises save the blowing horns (which reminded me of the women I met ever since I left Hydi) and the heat kept tongues busy at licking lips.
I avoided the main road (near Valluvarkottam) as there was this tea shop playing loud dampan-kuththu (a really well designed mix of rap, samba and cacophony with lyrics I have never understood. What on earth is "O podu"? Drop an "O"?)
Madras (the one I was presented) doesn't like quiet. People discuss serials and recipes and how Iyer-mami's daughter ran away with Chettiar-mama's son and how "I knew something was going on between them long ago..." right beside me, while I am on the phone. They love to hear Mariamma bhajans on full volume from the temple a few streets away. They love to fight near the water pumps and let the water evaporate while they decide whose pot should be filled first (with what? Steam?). The heat suddenly makes every voice louder and every touch feel like a slap.

Let's see what Bombay has in store for me...

(The above post was created 2 days after I reached Madras. Apart from that and the heat and ... forget it. So as I was saying, apart from that and a few others, the trip was good. I will detail my Bombay trip soon. Well, the trip from Madras to Bombay was noisy too! :-( , but not THAT bad)

Friday, May 20, 2005

And we shall meet soon...

I will be off blogging for the next 9 days. No, no. Nothing to do with getting bored or finding better avenues of entertainment. I am off on a vacation. Will be visiting Madras (when will I learn? May-July: Madras is a bad place) and Bombay. A good amount of plans in store, but I would be glad (glad? Overjoyed!) if anyone in either place holds a tickling fancy to meet up. Please leave a comment saying so. I am sure we can work out the logistics. I would be meeting some of the bloggers in either city. I am in Madras for 4 days and in Bombay for 4 days (and in the train for 1, although I don't expect anyone to plan a meet in AS2).

Have a great weekend and a wonderful week ahead. We shall meet soon...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Colours in black and white...

Yards of green undulating
A litte pink and a lot of gold
Mustard with red beating
Your love, to someone sold

Diaphanous for the fresh bride
Sanguine for the shy betrothed
Dark colours, but black aside
Thus fair skins shall be clothed

Here I see some bubbles
And there some merry flowers
Heavenly azure with tassels
A delight to end the hours

The colourful ringing prattle
Amidst the various grains
Shakes his head, to their battle
Between temples and plains

Such colour can never be lost
Not to the moist clouded eye.
Who holds the maroon, tossed
With memories, time can't deny.

Scant grey hair with no vermillion
Clean white is all she will wear.
But he had bought her blues prussian
And tucked flowers in her hair.

I watch her relive those sweet moments
The silks she gripped, were his warm hands.
They shelved the cloths, those merchants.
Life slid away as she held some dark strands.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Back to business

I let a quiet week pass in order to gather my ideas as well people's opinion related to the literary journal. Let me just call it a magazine. Journal makes it sound too important like a nose pointing to the stars.

I got to speak to a few people offline (for instance, on the telephone line) and they don't think it is an altogether crazy thing. Glad. I am fairly enthu about it and whether it is a success or not I think I would still like to go ahead with it...

I had some nice surprises in the last week. I was researching other literary journals and came across a few blogs where literature and writing as such is tracked and followed and discussed. I was so glad to find them. Some of them are typically like any of our blogs (although updated more frequently). Here are some of them:

Indian Writing
Caferati (thanks DV)
Chekov's Mistress
The Page
Arts and Daily
Arts Journal
LitBlog Co-op
Conversational Reading
The Reading Experience

Apart from these, the author of Indian Writing offered this link to me:
The Little Mag
I wasn't expecting any mag in India related to literary affairs, and was half glad half sad to be lead to one... :-)( (that doesn't look half sad half happy! That looks like Hercule Poirot!!!)

Continuing with the torrent of comparison between my writing (including the ones on this blog) and other authors, Amrita mentions that my "idli-story" (see Wookie? Idli. Spelt correct :-) reminds her of ammani's "quick tales". I ask myself: "What/who is ammani?" and then let it slip by like one lets the waves drag the sand from under you while tickling your toes... Maybe it was a spelling mistake and she wanted to say something else...

Today I find a friend's offliner:
I asked myself: "What might this be?" Since we were talking odd stuff earlier I thought that this might be some blog she spotted related to Jiddu Krishnamurthi (don't ask me how I reconciled to the missing extra "k"). I chase the link and land on Ammani's (with the uppercase "A") blog. I couldn't help smile at the picture which was part of her profile and verily, her life. Fun picture. Lucky her. Lucky kid. Then my eye's fell on the "Quick tale". Aaah! Amrita. She was talking about this... :-)

So I read a few (nearly all) of her posts. Interesting blog. This is the second blog (Melancholetta being the first) that has come to me from various directions (numbering being done for the present financial year; the previous year had its own share :-). Maybe you guys would like the blog too... Lots of mushy stuff and/but good! (the sharp ones would have caught me had I used a "but" and the one I live with would have caught me had I used an "and"!!! ;-)

Don't know what I have in store for this week... or what the week has in store for me...
I want to work on my Tao blog which is fairly neglected as well as the creativity and ideas blog which is also neglected (sorry John).

Let's see...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A Literary Journal

I'll make this post short as I want you to read it quickly and provide your opinion as comment, before you lose your patience.
I have been (over the past few years) reading freely available articles of the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harpers etc. and recently found a fancy for articles published in AGNI, Virginia Quarterly Review, Story Quarterly and a few others.
I am unaware of any such literary journal in India, published in English. I have spread the question to other people who are into the field of journalism and have requested their response. I shall post their response as soon as I get it.

I was discussing with Meera last night, regarding the prospects of establishing a literary journal. What we mean by a literary journal is a periodical (say, a quarterly) which contains pieces contributed by a variety of people. The pieces would include poetry, fiction, analysis of various bodies of work, book reviews, opinions, well researched articles and essays and some artwork. I would like to invite your opinion on the following matters:

1. Are you aware of any literary journals in India in English?
2. Would you be interested in such a periodical publication?
3. What do you expect from such an effort? What would you like to see in such a journal? What would keep you looking forward to the next issue?
4. Would you like to contribute and/or involve yourself in the construction process?
5. Any other comments?

We would consider paying the contributing authors, but that would be possible only after some time. I suppose for the initial year everything would be voluntary although not lacking in quality. I have seen good writers and people who love to research something and present an opinion (these are not disjoint sets of people) come to this blog and to other blogs as well as write on their own blogs. It would be great if all the wonderful minds came together to make this possible. Details of this effort would be discussed later. I need your opinions and ideas now.

Friday, May 06, 2005


This was an exercise which I had responded to as a part of a writer's workshop in which I was involved many years ago. These were lying somewhere gathering dust when a friend of mine insisted on reading them. I decided to put it up here as well.
The exercise was basically to present a sentence which reflected a sensory perception: sense of sound, sight, touch, time, space, taste, etc.

I am still trying to recover the rest...

The last word Damien spoke was "Dad", which was also his first one, five years ago; I was holding him then and now.

He sucked her tongue into his mouth, savouring the lust and definite completion of the the 3 million dollar contract, while she licked at his naivete'.

I was about to turn around & complain about not hearing a single bird in these woods, when he gunned his Hummer making it roar for a couple of seconds before shutting it suddenly; I got what I wanted and more.

I watched her eyes moisten to the news, softening the blue of her eyes to a painful shade of grey, & as the tear tried to slip down the side of her face, she tilted her head slightly & brought it back within the wrinkled folds of her eyelid; her tears were hers.

He had to write to her, so he wrote the words "Dearest Erika", stopped and smiled at the sparkling ink on the words before licking the portions that made her name.

Every hair on my body stood and watched his wet finger trail down my neck to unchartered, but eager, grounds.

As we were positioned in the back of the truck with our sides pasted together, knees dovetailing into each other's crotches, unable to turn our heads around, I counted thirteen children in front of me and assumed the same number on each of the five benches I saw when I was hurled in, hence sixty-five; this was my first unofficial assignment in math which helped me work towards my doctoral thesis.

(I realise the sentence above is too long, but I didn't want to help myself against it! )

When Uncle Joe hugged me, rather crushed me against his barrel sized chest, it was cheap whiskey instead of the usual Armani which told me that he hadn't recovered from his wife's death; this was my cue to make him mine.

Did he do this because his astrologer told him he would, or was it written in the stars; what difference does it make now?

When Gmail decided to stop counting :-( !!!

Hitting the 1000 conversations mark!!!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

When all I have to offer is this...

"I will pack idly for you"
"No, chithi. I am fine. I will buy some sandwiches if required."
"Hah! Sandwiches! These will be nice and soft. Everyone likes idlis."
"Of course they will be good, but I am not sure whether we have time now and..."
"It will take only 20 minutes" and off she went.
I watched the clock tick slow enough for the white disks to steam. Idlis were never my favourite but I'd rather say yes to this than have her prepare something new and lose more time.
"I will put milagai podi on it. Or do you want chutney?"
"Anything, as long as it doesn't leak out. I really think I need to rush."
"Its done, its done."
And in a few minutes I got hot idlis securely wrapped in layers.
"Don't forget to have it" and then she added her nonchalant bit, "If you want you can still buy the sandwiches, but have this first. Its better to..."
"I will chithi. Thanks. Very sweet of you to prepare this in a hurry."
"What is there in this? On one stove I had this and ..." she went on to detail the entire exercise while I tied my shoe laces.
She smiled as she waved out to me while she watched me leave with a part of her; the part which she thought was her best and the only that she could offer in this world...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Unknown paths

"But why did you get me this pen, Chitra?"
"You don't like it?"
"I do but... I am usually the one who gets you gifts and.."
"So I got you one this time."
"Don't know.... I am not used to people spending on me."
She smiled
"Chitra, you know I have nothing to give you."