Friday, February 27, 2009

What the...

Roommate (RM): Dude, I need to talk to you
Me: yeah? (did I forget the rent?)
RM: er…well its
Me: Anything important?
RM: No, no…it’s just that…you need to watch yourself
Me: ? (??)
RM: Well, I’ll come to the point, you keep saying fuck that’s not good
Me: ? What? (what the F...oh no!!)
RM: Well you keep saying the ‘f word’ in front of everyone so, especially in front of the girls
Me: oh…so? (Still confused)
RM: Well, if you keep saying it, then the girls will want to say it too…I mean they might pick up this habit from you. So
Me: eh?
RM: Well, it’s not good for our girls to say fuck and such things and we have to take care of all that so.

I refrain from saying anything. After all I have been effectively silenced. I leave it to my perceptive readers to comment.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Encyclopedia Geographica


Most families discuss politics at dinner. Some well read ones bandy about famous words, and talk of Rushdie and Khalil Gibran. Still others watch soaps and grin at the vamp’s evil machinations. In my family, we talk. But none of that normal stuff for us. Being the dysfunctional unit that we are we talk geography. If this conjures up visions of people talking of Darfur and Patagonia, again dispel those. Let me elaborate.

Appa or Amma will start with where they went that day. The travelling spouse’s modes of transport would be acutely examined and then a long and protracted discussion would occur. Major roads would be discussed, the number of signals computed. The number of panwallahs, gutters to be navigated and the closest relatives abode from the point of destination would all be taken into consideration. Then the weather comes in. Mumbai being what it is, and more importantly where it is, you wouldn’t want to be flushed away in the rains. Hence all previous parameters would be voided in the face of the south western winds and newer, drier routes plotted.

Hinduism neatly divides the year into two halves, one replete with festivals, the other conspicuous by their absence. Travelling secular Mumbai in dakhshinayan compounds life. Amidst all the mandaps, mandals, makeshift temples and human detritus thronging them appointments must be made, offices reached on time and examinations be vomited upon. This is where we really excel. Sample this actual quote by my father to a bewildered rikshawallah: “Don’t take the left at the Church like you normally do, instead take a U-turn, immediately get into the housing society, pass through it and leave form the other gate. Never mind their watchman ill take care of him (!). Then get into the bus depot, circle the lake, go the opposite direction through that one-way and you will see a small gap between two trees, go through that, and you will be the first to reach the station today. Don’t thank God, thank me, and you will live to see another traffic jam”. Needless to say rickshaws avoid us like the plague.

Bandhs and political stirs leave all people scared and wary. My parents call too, but with detailed instructions on reaching back avoiding all the ‘political hotspots’ of the city (usually involving walking alongside stinky gutters, trespassing through several plots of private property and in one case, going through a tabela. No the cows weren’t pleased either).

Records, inevitably are set. “My husband can reach the mall under heavy traffic in a matter of seconds” Amma will proudly boast. In a benevolent mood she might even confide “We take a right turn at the vegetable market. Cuts 13.7 minutes, but watch out for cabbage peels.” These candid confessions sometimes lead to us bumping our rival families on one of ‘our’ secret routes leading my parents to froth at the mouth and devise newer, faster (and decidedly shadier) routes. We could give Google Earth a run for their money any day!

Talents rarely stay hidden and we are the local neighborhoods preferred database. Recently my father went a step further and lectured a cousin on how to find her way. Nothing wrong in it except that she was in Chennai and he in Mumbai. “Don’t listen to that autofellow, no train comes at that level crossing, just go across and you’ll reach home in time for dinner”. I was stumped. Amma, unfazed added for good measure that if my cousin took a particular lest turn she could pass by a temple too (and thank God for geographic mastermind relatives?).

All this knowledge isn’t gainsay. We have an original Rand Mc Nally atlas 1985 edition. It is a work of art no less. Mapping the entire globe form Cambodia to the Caucasus, Buenos Aires to Bangkok (with helpful footnotes on how to get to Juneau from Jakarta). The bloody thing must weigh a ton if anything at all. Then there are countless Indian atlases, from various publications. Also every time we take a vacation, as souvenirs we collect maps. So we have maps of almost all major Indian cities, two towns and some vague scribbles detailing a hidden Shiva temple a few kilometers off the railway tracks at Arakkonam. And then Appa bring maps from his sojourns abroad. So I know the way to wadi Haifa from Sharjah, and that the river through Gloffhausenbach has no bridges on it (leading me to pontificate if all Germans prefer wading to walking, but there is a time and place for every discussion). The digital age taught us to operate Google maps and latest versions of Google Earth are downloaded as soon as they are available.

A few weeks ago, I saw Amma reading a book on the Solar system (National Geographic special edition, weighs another ton and is a beautifully informative book). Houston, be scared. We are almost up there. “Beam me up Amma”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cadence


Red room presence requested now the message blinked. All round the room there was a flurry of activity. Samir woke up from his deep revere and blinked stupidly, all the others were already on their way. M was there with his ubiquitous sheaf of papers.

Sarika Khanna was trained in espionage. Tall, fair with hazel eyes, every time M looked at her he felt a surge of testosterone. Ususally she prowled Chandini chowk in salwar-kameez, speaking unchaste Punjabi, on her activa.

Aman Khan. Liaison officer. Hard to believe that the soft spoken man could stop hardcore gangsters in their tracks. His Arabic was a definite asset in these troubled times, especially when most trouble stemmed from the near west. It always irked M how it was the ’Middle East’, even though it was clearly to the west. But then lots of things had irked M more lately.

Vani Ganapathy. Msc Physics, IISc. halfway through her Phd. M picked her up noting her extreme analytical skills, would she like to work for the country’s think tank? Sure…did it exist though? Over pav bhaji and lassi he explained to her the intricacies of the organization. How the CBI and the government had created it, sometime in the 60’s. It was hard to believe that even in a country as corrupt and as underdeveloped there existed a think tank to rival any nation’s. Some of the country’s finest brains, heavy funding (some of it illegal, M smirked as he thought of all he had done) and the governments unending support, they had established it. In the mess that is old Delhi, in one of its many ancient mazes was a house no 14 approachable only by scooter and within an seemingly innocuous home lay some of the most sophisticated piece of computers the country had ever seen.

Shruti Deshpande. Weilded the rolling pin and a gun with equal ease. The team loved her food, she loved to cook. She churned out exotic dishes with alarming regularity and most team successes were celebrated at her South Delhi pad.

Samir Sinha. IIT Kanpur. IIM Ahemdabad. No one knew more about contemporary India more than he. With his vast knowledge and experience in espionage he was more the father everyone looked up to. The world often failed to realize just how deeply India was involved. Often it projected itself as a struggling third world nation occasionally throwing out a Pokhran or a Chandrayaan at the world news, a few inches in some papers. Foolish pop-fiction had glorified Jason monk, failing to point out to the quiet Raj’s and Shalini’s laboring away for Indian (and sometimes world) safety. 9/11, the capture of Laden (M’s smile would often turn into a laugh, whenever he thought of this) the eventual liberation of Myanmar planned, the dealing of LTTE, life went on (it was her birthday next week, he had to buy her a gift how would she like the head of the b****** responsible for the Mumbai blasts?).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shrouds


"So we broke up. I mean it wasn't so much breaking up as..it dint work out ok "

I nodded sagely. The mall around buzzed with activity. Young lovers held hands, leery youths looked on partly intrigued, partly repulsed. Fat aunties splurged their husbands assets seeming to be hep and an anachronistic chaatwaala pushing his cart settled in front of Mocha. She carelessly brushes her hair off her face and looked again. I was listening, coz this was the first time she was willing to talk about it. they had been the envy of the college. She the babe of chiffon dreams, he the life of every mehefil. He wooed her bollywood style, she left him hollywood style. Like a 1920's actress, tormented. Seeking deliverance.

She has always been some sort of an enigma. Not in the girly way and. No femme fatale buisness for her. simply put a mystery. In all those years of friendship none of us knew where exactly she lived, what her parents did (her behaviour most likely suggested a super dysfunctional one). She never asked for love nor gave any away. He was free to woo her and she was free to indulge in him. She did so. And then she gave it all away in a disinterested way.

He drinks like a fish now. Apparently. Smokes till ethereal smoke consume him. In that darkness of tears and the sweat of his weariness only she resonates. And yet in that chaos that one calls Bombay, they met at the local station and looked gravely. Held hands and caught together that fast local to the sunset.

PS:
I havent been smoking anything. True friend. True story. I tried to recreate the mood of the moment. I think its safe to say I have failed miserably.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One


Today is one year since I started blogging. And hence, it is time for the mandatory reminiscence post. I could talk about a year gone by and how seasons fly and all that. I could talk about drafts sitting about, words waiting for release. Of songs and singing, of geographical mishaps and maamis. Of temples, travels and meetings. I could unleash a flurry of cheap jokes or write something really profound (both of which I am capable of).


And then again I don't feel like writing about any of these things, which is precisely why I am doing this whimsical post, hoping that if I linger on those drafts long enough, I won’t have to write them.

Every year leaves its mark in various ways. Some mysterious, some blindingly obvious. And being humans it is a must for us to age and to learn. Make newer mistakes and get over older ones. Fall in love, fall out of it, and go through the entire gamut of emotions (dont' try this alone at home though). As clich├ęd as it may seem, writing this mush-ridden post is good. Or so I tell myself.

I have always been writing. I wrote for newspapers (my finest hour), wrote for trashy publications, worded pamphlets for Shantala cooking classes and have written introductions for babas and God-maamis. And publicity shy that I am (Ya right!), I never thought of blogging at all. T'was a fine cold day of -17 when she persuaded me to blog, she would have gladly got a gun to my head but a few thousand miles saved me then. She was to whom I cribbed about my blogging ambitions and the Einstein that she is, she created the blog, sent me the URL and left me to post. Thanks are in due. Also to him, My fiercest critic, foulweather friend and intellectual blogger himself.


Thinking back in time and getting a little philosophical this blog couldn’t have happened at a better time. Instead of being a Tom-Riddlesque diary for my misplaced feelings it has turned out rather fine I think. I have read some great stuff in other blogs and rather surprisingly made great friends, got me in touch with some older ones and made my ancient grandfather click his way here to read whatever the hell I write.

So here's to a year of blogging, wishing for more to come and lots more to read.
Cheers!