Friday, July 31, 2009

When Things Get Irrational

Frankly, its not just at work but nearly everywhere that I am confronted with gross irrationality and this strip made me nod my head vigorous enough to watch it roll off towards my laptop!

Damn it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dark Delights

"What will it be tonight, my Aakah", she asked me in chaste Arabic.
Turkey, for me was the colour of her skin, alleys marked like her slender fingers, the pulsating domes curved liked her body with promises never uttered beyond the spell of her eyes. Turkey lived in my mind with the name of Yasmine; Yasmine who brought to me delights untold.
"Have I ever known what to ask, my love?"
She smiled through the veil and soft harp strings were plucked. Yasmine's is the world where singularity is an alien unless garbed as ecstasy.
"Would my Aakah prefer to sit down?"
With my will puppeted by her voice, I sank into the ostrich-feather couch. Like the reticent tear of happiness, she dropped with the rustle of silk to near my feet. She removed my shoes and placed them on hot lava stones while I shut my eyes. The walk of warmth up my body sang deep through the throb of my tired flesh. When I opened my eyes she was still at my feet but had produced a large shallow trough with special water (and how did she manage to not have a single ripple on it?). The candles swayed softly in the distant alcoves of her chamber, reflected by little mirrors appearing out of nowhere and rotating into a void. The floor danced to the long orange accompaniment of lamps housed in crevices in the wall and floor. One could walk on a flame and not be scorched while another step in a promising cooler corner might whisper an unexpected heat up your leg. Yasmine's world was not meant to be guessed.
With her hand supporting my heels she moved the stones aside and let my feet sink into the trough of ice cold shock. I lurched forward a bit and she immediately held me back with a firm hand.
"Aah, my Aakah is impatient?"
I leaned back with a smile. Her hand was still on my torso and she slowly let it move up to my collar bone.
"A tired day doesn't call for clothes, my lord", she said and with one deft snap removed the first button of my tunic from its eye.
"Or were you merely playing to entice your love?", and another.
"Could I ever forget the veins of my master?" Another
"Or are there new ones for me to play on the lute of my bosom?" Another was off and her palm rested flat on my navel.
"My ears do lust for new tunes, my Aakah." Another fell off obedient to the masterful flick of her wrist. She leaned over with her light breath falling on my earlobe.
"My whole body awaits your song."
I continued to feel that breath snake down my neck over my shoulder till I heard her voice from a distance.
"Would you prefer burgundy to black or red to emerald or ...?"
The large candle she was facing glowed deeper with her smile and shook a wispy orange finger at me. She brought the silk scarf and extended it to me. I held it with both hands as she walked slowly to stand behind me.
"Black holds it all, my lord. All of it. The Gods created nights so that they could enjoy it all while we mortals groped around and fell asleep."
"Your world is not of mortals, is it?"
"Nor of the Gods, because their delights are written down in books."
She bent over, her long hair brushing my cheeks and the musk of her cleavage filling my being. While my body rose to meet that softness, the scarf was over my eyes and tied securely. Her feet whispered around me as she stood in front of me.
"What the eyes see is all the mind sees and hence, it is the Devil that leads man away from imagining, which is the seed of delight. Why do you need the Devil when you are with me, my lord!"
I smiled at her voice and she placed two finger on the scarf over the near corners of my eyes. Camphor? Whatever she had on her finger tips, seeped through the fabric and cooled my eyes and eased my entire being into a calm. While still holding the bridge of my nose her little finger traced the outline of my lips.
"How beautiful they are, my master! They spell lovely poems and tales and draw wet sagas along my breasts without uttering a word. One minute of sapping my breath with your verses and another of leaving me breathless."
My tongue oozed out to meet her finger, but there was none. She gently held the tips of my earlobes and said, "What's the hurry, when night such as these never end?"
She rustled to a distance and began playing her harp. I sat with a broad strip of nudity exposed to her with my hands lazily dangling on either side of the couch. As the tempo of her soft music increased, I felt something crawl up my shin.
"Don't move, master. For your own good. It wouldn't do well to be found dead in the house of Yasmine."
I stiffened as I felt something long curl up and crawl up my thigh. Its sheer weight told me what it was and it was then that I realised that the room was warmer than usual. It lazily moved up my chest and with every contraction of its body my hair stood taller around my neck. It casually moved up to my shoulder and I think it lifted its head. I felt a wet hair flick my earlobe before a long motionless hour seemed to elapse till the next movement. The chant of the candle flames grew loud in my ear and the harp strings sounded like from a previous birth. The scarf separated a worried and perspiring head holding a spinning mind within, from a stiff face which was thoughtless and entirely watching the being on my right shoulder. It gave one last Dark Delightslick to my earlobe before slowly slithering away. The candles grew less loud and harp seemed more present.
"The scent of the Yarabahi flower draws snakes to them but the taste of them is not interesting. So it is with any woman other than Yasmine."
She lifted my trembling hands and dipped them each in a jar of something which felt like soft wet flesh. I tried holding it between my fingers.
"Oh, you feel like pinching today?" and she laughed a tender cascading one.
Before I could say anything she rustled away.
"It wouldn't be fair if you are the only one naked, my lord."
I heard the soft sigh of clothes fall to the ground and felt every cell of my body alert and awaiting the next contact.
"Would you like to try this drink, my Aakah?"
She leaned over, resting her knee on the flesh of my thigh, and her breasts slowly grazing the hair on my chest.
"Na, na, na. No taking your hands out of the jars."
I let them sink into the gel which seemed to slowly move around my fingers and cool and warm them alternately. She placed a wet finger on the corner of my mouth. I licked the fluid. The sting arrowed to the roof of my head and I jerked and tried to shake off the shock. She kissed me on my forehead and placed another wet finger on the other corner. I was reluctant to try it now but it was seeping into my mouth. It was fruity and cool. I licked it all and her finger. She licked and smacked her finger.
"Now open your mouth, my lord"
I did finding it difficult to hold back a smile. She slowly poured a liquid which tasted different from the ones I tasted earlier, but a little of each was there too.
"Now pinch with the thumb in middle finger of your left hand and then with the thumb and ring finger of your right. Alternating."
I did as she told me, for who would not want to be led by the mistress of delight. As the liquid slowly fell into my mouth, each side of me gushed with a tingle as I released the pinching fingers. The liquid cooled in my mouth as it warmed down my throat. Yasmine slowly moved her hand and the liquid poured down my cheeks and chin, down the length of my body, pausing at my navel before moving further down. The throbs increased and I pinched vigorously. The marriage of the liquid, the warmth of the room, the gels in the jar, the nerves clenched with each pinch, my skin heating the wine as it rolled down and above all, Yasmine, yanked me from one high to another making me suddenly aware of each muscle and fibre of my being. The sweetness of the drink chimed in my tired chambers as I felt each drop of it sear my skin on its way down. As my breath grew shallower, I heard gentle flute notes waft around me. Yasmine was playing a tune which was vaguely familiar.
"Have you heard this before, my lord?"
"I... I think... I have."
She continued playing the tune and I could smell wild orchids. I leaned back with my hands out of the jars and my feet out of the trough. The liquid was drying on my front. The gentle notes soothed my heaving torso. I wasn't sure whether the smells of the flower were real or from the vague memories the tune evoked. She continued playing it while gentle faces rushed through my blackened mind; faces, mountains in the backdrop, tinkling laughter and children playing in the dirt, young women carrying pots of milk or river water, men working near large fires, soft yellow sunlight bouncing on every puddle and this tune from nowhere. People were busy selling their wares and having small market fights. Goats and chicken walked amidst them, occasionally startled at nothing in particular. Young boys grabbed their girls wrist and pulled them behind trees and resting carts. Elderly folks either shook their head or smiled in memory of days past. I was there watching all of this from above a huge haystack, writing in my notebook, when someone called out to me. I refused to acknowledge but the calls grew louder.
I know my bed without having to open my eyes. I smiled as the contours of my room drew themselves more clearly in my mind. She had managed to do it one more time.
"Come down, its already well into the morning."
I pull myself on my elbows and undo my tunic. She has left just a little of her drink on my chest. I scrape it and lick my finger. I spit it out in disgust. I look at my inner thigh and see the mark of a pressed knee. How did she let herself be so careless this time? I pull out my journal to recount what I can, but Yasmine did say that these were not to be written in books. But what use is delight when it cannot be one's trophy? What happens to a joy once it is put on one's window sill beside the rose bush? I put my journal back. Yasmine!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sonnet 11 - A Lover's Wait

She'll come
I paint her name in wine on ebony
Glistening fluid ropes to draw her near.
Hundred nights passed since, and yet her journey
Will bring her to me, or so I adhere.

The sigh of the leather couch whispers fresh
Where she had simmering sat, knee on knee.
Impassive wooden edge kissed her breast's flesh
While full lips drew in a goblet's sherry.

It has been hundred nights, why wait, you say
Such a delight is but a night's mirage.
One night's fate would be futile Fortune's lay,
Sans one more from life's diurnal melange.

So wait I will, living on recall's fire,
Till Time shall yield to the tell of desire.

Convenient Dichotomies

I am often confused with a misogynist. It is as much a tragedy as my frequent association with being a misanthrope. I love women too much to ever hate them and I have immense faith in mankind (not human beings) to despise them. But fairness rules and my role of a paladin brings me brickbats. All in good cheer!

A recent trip with friends (mostly acquaintances) convinced me that women find it extremely convenient when guys fawn over them and will receive every act of subservient yielding, with gusto though quick to proudly claim that they don't ever seek favours from men. I am fortunate in being allowed the escape of a not-so-mute observer and thinker and hence am rarely called upon to perform the job of a lackey or to bestow condescending favours. The women in the group were delighted to have doors opened for them (innocuous) and bills picked (cheap) and luggage hauled (dainty) and errands run (too important) by the boys that I found the whole thing decreasingly obnoxious and increasingly amusing. The girls actually had the boys fetch their shoes from the shoe rack outside the temple. The boys had no sense of self-respect and were more than happy to be at the beck-and-call of their ladies. The ladies, without bothering to wonder whether they were taking advantage of the "niceness" of the boys, enjoyed their well-served existence. I imagined reversing roles: If girls were ordered around and tossed off when the job was done and made to run errands and taken "advantage" of because the guy knew that she had a crush on him, how would the "forward" thinking world look at it? They would call the men chauvinists, brutes, old-fashioned, conservative and few other things depending on their mood and mettle of their tongue. But these girls are just called cute (though amongst themselves some are bitches and some are desperate or more, again depending on the pH level of the tongue).

One thing that I never understand is the notion of footing bills. I pay when a woman accompanies me (tragedy lies in the fact that I even pay when some guys accompany me) and if I don't then I am cheap. If the girl was not earning a living or something like that, one might even consider that as a passable case (but then how do you explain the ready money available to her when she has to buy things for herself like trinkets to hang from her ear or that mobile which rings in so many tunes?). I find it immensely pointless that women who earn their income believe that they should never foot the bill. If the assumption is that their mere presence has paid for their share of the evening's expenses I can't laugh enough. I have rarely been with a girl who leaned over, slapped my hand off and took the bill (one girl was from West Bengal, the other lives in Bombay and one potentially solid girl now resides in Mysore). I always wondered whether they never felt cheap walking out of a restaurant without even offering to go dutch.

Pampering a girl is different. I think it is merely a special case of pampering someone you like (love is a convoluted topic). I pamper my nephew, my kid (I call her that because her parents call her my kid), my dear friends, a few wonderful women whom I have met (and they are genuinely few enough to count on one hand) and most children. My lovely friend who has been with me since we were 11 and 9 respectively, and who now is a father to lovely little girl, is someone I love to pamper. Pampering in these cases is not a stereotype and is hence, treated differently.

A dear friend of mine said, "Come on, E. Guys enjoy doing these things for girls. It is one of the small pleasures of life." I think he meant "small pleasure of the Mating Game". I had written a long article (and I am accused of never writing anything short!) about the Mating Game when I was in school. It is lost (because I wrote on loose sheets of paper) though you surely don't need an article to bring to light what is commonly available to an interested pair of eyes. I accommodate the Mating Game as an inevitable ritual performed at various levels (from Casanova to Seth Ganshyam Das of Tijoriwali Gali in Allahabad whose Mating Game starts and ends in a burp) but when it becomes a stereotype, graduating into a sense of etiquette and hardening as a norm of social life, then, my dear friend, it becomes annoying to my senses. I have lent my jacket to a girl (and I still have a picture of her) though I cogitate that I would have done the same for a frail framed guy, too. I have done things which clearly fell into the bucket of the MG (btw, that is not what M.G. Road in Bangalore, stands for) so the issue is not about the MG. It is about what groups of people are "expected" to do.

Recently, on a trip, I noticed how women (on the train) assume that they will be treated specially. They assume that someone will surely help them load their luggage or give them their chosen seat. A woman had actually occupied my seat and when I arrived told me to take the other one elsewhere because she wanted to sit with her family. Of course, if I don't mind. Point is, isn't it decency to stay in your seat and then ask instead of occupying first and then offering an option to me!? Even in queues (and once at a petrol station) women seem to assume that it is ok to rush ahead. A friend once told me "Come on, E. Try standing throughout the day on high heels and waiting in a queue!" What? Women were born with high heels? So if I wore riding boots with 3 inch heels, I will be allowed to the front of a queue?

There is no questioning that women are not often built for physically strenuous jobs and have to juggle (often, though not always) multiple roles and responsibilities. But these are individual choices. As much as a child cannot be delivered without the due gestation period so required is the necessary physical, mental and psychological abilities for a job. Dagny Taggart didn't use her womanhood to get the job done. It was sheer ability. I simply adore women who can do a job the way it should be done without acting cute and batting eyelashes. It is, hence, an individual's choice. If work in the quarry is not your cup of tea then don't go there. To join the quarry and insist that women should be given greater privileges and shorter work hours and lesser loads to lift is ridiculous. So be it with a job as a scientist in a lab. I will not give you the culture in my petri-dish just because you are 6 months pregnant (what is growing in the dish is at least my effort). If you can't juggle many things, choose. There are tonnes of women who give up a family for the sake of a career and conversely. There are men who also care for the family and buy the grocery and take out the garbage while putting the baby to sleep. Does the woman of the house get up to give him the only chair in the room?

So a woman likes to have doors opened for them and seats on buses offered to them but will not tolerate a man saying, "They are weak humans." They want men to be chivalrous while they cry sore about women's lib.

A woman will love to have her dinner paid for, and her movie tickets bought but will hate it if she were told that she needed his money or was dependent on his money.

A woman enjoys receiving gifts and baubles and surprises but will not accept that she can't even think of getting her guy some nice gift as a surprise. After all, "What can you get a guy? They are so boring!"

A woman likes to quote the traditional role of the male as protector and provider till he has expectations of her; then she quickly chants the virtue of the modern liberated man who doesn't hold old-fashioned notions of roles based on sex or creed. Equality is, then, something that makes sense only when it is in favour of one person.

Men are not to be pitied as long as they enjoy being fools. It is when women assume that men are there for doing their work or earning for their entertainment or free for their whims that the otherwise simple acts in a relationship appear vulgar. So be it when men make similar assumptions of women (though most men don't think that their wives earn for their entertainment, some think that their wife is entertainment!). At the risk of sounding repetitive, it is about a sense of Rightness. When there is respect for the other person, when there is a genuine affection for the other person, when there is respect for oneself, when one truly cares about the relationship and the various facets to it, there is action borne out of a genuine goodness and Rightness which doesn't crumble to petty convenient exploitation or, as a girl aptly said, "timepass". It would be such a delight to be with a woman who would take me out to dinner, too. Or help me pack my luggage or let a guy sleep on her shoulder or lap (has to be some other guy because I can never do that!). Or bought me a bottle of ink because I have just exhausted mine.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Rajasthani Miniature

"The skill is in highlighting each minute details and hence it is called miniature art", explained the tobacco chewing Madan Lal. He confessed to eating a heavy breakfast followed by nothing till late in the evening so that he could spend a lion's share of the waking day dedicated to his art. Learning Rajasthani miniature art from him was a pleasure. The weekend was spent in anecdotes about how he would create various details and how his ancestors have been involved in this art for centuries together. He told us of an elaborate painting that he sold in Delhi for over a lakh (but by then we were so much in awe of him that a lakh sounded like pocket change).

He was glad to have me in his class because I was the only guy! The coordinator of this workshop expressed her surprise about finding a guy sign up for a painting workshop ("only girls have signed up till today"). With great pride I cherish that moment when Madan Lal-ji thought that a particular piece of painting in a picture was done by him when actually I had done it. He kept insisting it was his work till the fine ladies in my group had to show him the canvas on which he had actually done it. That, was accolade enough for me! Pretty Bina, from Nagaland, added to my joys (in more ways than one) by proclaiming that my first piece was better than the sample artwork (which was up on sale in Madan Lal-ji's shop). I could have hugged her just for that but I had to keep telling myself that this is Madras! Having gone for this workshop without any expectation it was easier for the Master to mould me in the way he wanted and for me to emerge with great satisfaction and a sense of joy.

Rajasthani miniature is not something to be learnt in two days. Any claim to having mastered the technique in such a short duration is ridiculously stupid. Two days into this art form and I realise the great amount there is to still learn and master. I have become comfortable with only two techniques: flattened brush shading, jaali-work. We worked with delicate squirrel-hair brushes and my wrist and every tendon in my opisthenar cries in pain! Madan Lal-ji is available in Dakshina Chitra till 4th of Aug 2009. It would be worth your while to stop by and learn from him.

If I may bring to your notice, note the jaali (something like a mesh but supposedly made of fine silver threads or similar precious metal) bordering the elephant's howdah (blanket). One can actually see through it what lies beneath. The background colour is textured to give it a feel of mural (with chipping plaster, etc.). Rajasthani art (the way they draw their figures and objects) is not meant to be realistic (would an elephant really have such a bump on the forehead? Would its nails be collected in the front? etc.) but artistic-fantastic-realism. The human figures have elaborate eyes and lips but the women are mostly flat chested though the roundedness of the breasts is depicted. Clothing is transparent and that is a technique. I would share the other work in my possession which provides a sample of the detail work that can go into landscape, but it is incomplete and would add it to this blog once complete.

Rajasthani Miniature