Wednesday, December 30

Heart like a wheel

Q 1: Why have I never written a New Year's eve post before ?

A: I was too busy bringing in the New Year to bother.

I did not mean to do a post on it this year, but it's another slow day at work (shocker!!), the Eng-SA test is over & Google Reader tells me stubbornly that no one is going to write anything today. So, well...

Q 2: How was I going to go about it ?

A: The easy approach would have been to write a short description of 31st Dec 07 & 08 & compare them to 2009. Whoop-de-do & all, but it would have been a futile exercise. Or rather, pointless because I gain nothing from it & you, the kindly suffering reader, would have muttered darkly about unnecessary revisions & heaven forbid, redundancy.

Instead, I went back to the posts I wrote this year for ideas. Now, just to keep you lot from falling asleep, I've conjured a set of visuals to explain the whole deal. I am really bad at art, so if you don't like it or don't appreciate it, jog on.

2009 Graph of Emotions

2009 Career Graph
2009 Social Graph
That sorts everything out rather lucidly, no ?

While I've given my sense of humour a rest this year, the melancholic side of me seems to have gone into hyper-drive. Less posts have been churned out in 2009 as well, but I like to think the quality of writing has picked up a smidgeon. New styles & themes were explored (sadly, only as regards writing... heh) & I'm okay with the results.

A year of shake-ups, of affirmation of ancient fears, a year of hesitation & one of... resignation, perhaps ? 2009 has been a year of existing in that purgatory between being sure & unsure of the world around me.


Yes, it has been that kind of year.

Cheers all.

Song for the moment: Aanewala pal - Kishore Kumar

Wednesday, December 23

Age of innocence

Her untidy, muddy-brown tresses, the latest pixie rage, served to compliment the dusky hue of her skin. On anyone else, the turmeric-yellow top would have clashed with the skin; on her it seemed subjugated by some quiet confidence. The red calf-length skirt with plenty of mirror-work swished too & fro, the blue sandals demurely completing the ensemble. She was pretty; her eyes, nose & mouth conspiring to project a picture of childish wonder & amusement. Around her, the crowds swirled & ebbed but she looked steadily at one man.

At first glance, his clothes, shoes & weary demeanour shouted 'casual labourer'. Another look might just suggest something better... a low-pay clerk at a small, dusty office perhaps. The faded blue checked shirt, the grey trousers & scruffy black boots covered him with a familiarity that suggested they had been doing so forever. His hair, slicked back with the help of much oil, was black, yet white had begun to touch the roots. The face was craggy but managed to suggest a kindly pride dulled by tiredness.

The two of them eased their way through the throng even as purple dusk spread her wings across the sky. She held his hand even as he sauntered on, seemingly oblivious of her fingers twirling in his. Together they made their way to a bench that was already occupied by two other men. He sat down without a word. She stood in front of him for a moment, swaying gently on her heels, contemplating. With the grace of an autumn leaf in the wind, she slipped into his lap. It was done so naturally that no one looked. People passing the bench did not even glance at them with that pseudo-voyeuristic delight one sees otherwise. Not a word was said between she & he. They continued to sit & watch & mull over their own worlds.

The young man who had been watching them all this while, continued to watch. He was waiting for something to happen. Surely they would not continue to sit there all night ? He wasn't going to wait around to find out, that was for sure. For now, he waited, his foot tapping to the music on his mp3 player.

It happened.

He heard two whooshing sounds & people began to run. Through the music, he could hear yells & screams. And her voice crying out...

"बाबा बघा ! दोन-दोन ट्रेन आली आहे !" (Dad look! Two trains have arrived!)

The two of them got on the train heading to VT. The watcher got on the train to Andheri.

Bandra station was left behind.

Song for the moment:
I want to hold your hand - The Beatles

Sunday, December 13

Paper cuts

It was the first free-flowing laugh he'd heard in some time. Even without putting a mouth, a face or crinkly eyes to it, he was envious. And instantly amused at his envy. Had things reached such a nadir that he was jealous of a stranger's happiness ?

Shuffling through the quiet, familiar bylane, the suddenness of that rippling sound had startled him. He was contemplating his Osho's with some vexation as they were just 'that' annoying bit too big for his feet. Shoes never seemed to fit him well, a fact consistent with the rest of his clothing. His body gave the impression of having given up on growing as a thankless task, leaving him to struggle along in clothes that were too big or too small & shoes that were too tight or gave the impression of clown feet. The Osho's though admittedly comfortable, were no better & forced him to move like an arthritic tortoise contemplating it's life with dissatisfaction.

As a force of habit or perhaps to avoid the idea of his lurching gait, his mind wandered along a different path, but one he'd been on before; change. He'd attended a wedding the evening before & found it interesting that he could not picture his friends any differently after the ceremony. To him, it seemed like they had moved on from being casual daters to people just more committed to each other. Marriage ceremonies did not signify the occurrence of anything special to him, unlike in childhood. Back then, there was something solemn & urgent in the air, almost like being in the eye of a hurricane & being unaware of it. As a child, he had viewed weddings as grand, social occasions with a singular event - the actual moment of marriage. Now, being an adult, he was aware of a lot of the back-stories; the gossip, the heartache & the bitten lip, the planning, the deliberate steps & decisions people took... even the blossoming love story, if that be the case. The magician's trick had been explained & no longer seemed extraordinary.

He was making his way back from an old haven in Hong Kong lane & change had caressed that corner of the city also. It used to be impossible for him to leave without at least one book in hand. This day, followed by the disinterested eyes of the owner's crony he had found nothing. He had found nothing on his last four visits. As his back turned on the shelves of the 'latest rages' without a farewell glance, he swallowed the bitterness. Magic was gone from here as well, not deconstructed but fading away. Beauty replaced by convenience.

He turned at the corner & saw her. Resting against a concrete post, she was in classic Puneri winter attire; sari, sweater over it & a hanky tied around her head, protecting her ears from the cold. Except that winters in the city were no longer cold. He could hear her saying something as he approached, heard her laugh again & not finding anyone else around, assumed that she had one of those hands-free gizmos. A heartbeat later, he understood. She was mentally ill. Then, he saw where she had chosen to rest.

It had once been part of a gate-post, the start of a wild garden leading to a house with a small central lobby & to shaded rooms with two cane chairs that defined comfort. A house that meant something intangible to a great many people now scattered around India. Walls & spaces that were valued when they stood & were were now priceless when only the mind's eye could see them. Change had taken the house away, but even the last remaining piece could still make someone laugh without paying for it.

Change was not invincible.

But it was merciless.

Song for the moment: Blowin' in the wind - Bob Dylan

P.S: This is not an argument against change, just a slice of the opinion pie.

Wednesday, December 9

Slim slow slider

At work, there is a large window behind & diagonal to where I sit. From my seat, turning slightly to the right I can see the fawn coloured guard tower of the American School of Bombay through this window.

I see the guard in his chair facing away from the setting sun. He is sitting in one of those simple black plastic chairs with stainless steel legs. The chair rests close to the metal pipes that pass for railings & his left arm lies extended on the first pipe.

The guard is gently rocking back & forth in his chair. Again & again. Just to break the rhythm, he tilts sideways. His hands now cradle his neck as he bends forward, allowing his spine to stretch. And he continues to roll gently, now being practically unaware of his own movement.

The view of the world from the tower is insignificant & I should know. I have almost the same view. I feel a strange kinship with this man who sits less than 30 metres from me and does not know I exist.

It takes a moment but I understand why, eventually. I close the drapes & turn away, a luxury he does not have.

Right now, I can sit at a desk typing these words & he can sit on a black plastic chair with an insignificant view.

But we both see only dead-ends.

Song for the moment: The Pretender - Foo Fighters

P.S: Anyone out there know of any openings in Editing / Publishing / Writing with decent pay, in Bombay, let me know.

Monday, December 7

Cover down, break through

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live - H.D Thoreau

Twice now, I have heard this quoted; in twilight after a game of cricket in Pune & at a Bandra pub this weekend. To me, the essence of it has become the proverbial pebble in the mental shoe. You do not know how it got there, between the pad of the 1st & 2nd toe. It is discomforting & irritating. You want to take the shoe off, shake it violently & watch with an almost evil glee as the innocuous object flies out into the distance. But you don't. In the recesses of your mind, you wish the pebble would make it's way out just as it made it's way in. Nudging this is the certainty that it will not. More often than not you continue walking, resigning yourself to temporarily suffering it. It is a familiar approach to you anyway. After a while, the discomfort becomes a part of your shoe, your gait.

The following is my attempt to take the shoe off.

I have spent this weekend thinking about the above idea. My initial instinct was to concur. If I had, perhaps this blog would have stayed silent for a long time, maybe forever. Not catastrophic in itself, but it could have led to a domino effect on other areas of my life. However, what it did result in was some serious thought & this post. It is not a refutation, A. This train of thought flagged off as I saw the bike roar off in the distance yesterday afternoon. And wondered why I did not just ride pillion. So bear with me.

I am 27. Or will be in a matter of weeks. My life so far has not been remarkable. It has had it's upheavals. Lots of them. There are precious few instances or occasions that have made me genuinely laugh or be glad that I was there, alive & well. More often than not, I have taken the safe / mundane approach, the result of some interestingly colourful upbringing. Like you, I have obsessed about the nature of life, railed against my existence & what it could and should amount to. Some posts have reflected that. For the longest time, caressing the present even, this state of affairs has pissed me off, sent many a futile rush of 'do something now' adrenalin coursing through me only to dissipate sheepishly.

I like roller-coasters. I like to cross a road in speeding traffic. I like the narrowing field of vision as my bike hits 80 km/h. I like to play the perfect bar on my saxophone. Take that perfect photograph. Where is this going ?

See, what I wanted to say in my previous post, but could not quite pull off is that there are very few moments when I am completely alive, aware, in control, helpless, fey & at peace, all at once. I think my readership will understand what I mean. An easily understandable example was the Goa trip I made in 2003. But these instances are exactly that - far & few. Do these mad & priceless moments become the reason for writing ? Do they permeate the text, the spirit of this blog ?

I don't think so.

Like I said, had I agreed with Thoreau's idea, this blog may have breathed its last. The blog would have been the first victim because it is one of the very few things that I take pride in. I write because I can; in part because I have a readership (and readership is valued, as this writer's post will tell you) but also because there are times & resultant posts that I know I am proud of. Not of the content itself, but that I can write. No one has yet told me otherwise.

I do not write thrilling tales. I do not write about many unreal, unbelievably mad moments. I have little to none of those. And I write about whatever I want, when I feel like I can.

But here's the thing. I personally do not believe that it is this quality about someone's post that brings me back to their blog. What does bring me back is Good writing; the ability to get across even the most innocuous of ideas or events with words that keep me riveted. Even a single sentence from a post that stays with me, makes that exercise a good one.

I sit down to write because I am living & I can.

Song for the moment: Freebird - Lynyrd Skynyrd