Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in a playlist

Happy New Year! Admittedly the delay was mostly because The Creator kept changing her mind about the songs.

It's that time of the year where people begin to make lists of what they did, didn't, did but can't tell anyone, didn't do and don't want to be nagged about and all that jazz. To sing the dirge of a dying year year is quite a depressing task. But everything is better with some music. So here is my year 2010 in a playlist.

January: Tubthumping- Chumbawumba
...I get knocked down but I get up again! You're never gonna keep me down!...

Full of optimistic bravado we started out the year convinced that we are prepared for pretty much everything that 2010 could throw at us. After all we were now veterans of the higher studies rookeries. We had had our trial runs with scary large scale exams, we had successfully juggled multiple papers and survived well enough albeit with the sacrifice of a great deal of our sanity, we had located and cultivated various food sources where earlier there was nothing but a leaking asbestos lean-to or mating frogs. And, most importantly, we had finally gotten the hang of the darned 'Cafeteria system' (nothing to do with food) which the University employed to confuse and subjugate the unsuspecting student masses. In the final semester of our MA.dness we had decided to sucker-punch the system and utilise our erstwhile hibernating potential to it's admittedly not too impressive limits. Armed with this cynical superiority we marched into the New Year. But the University was prepared for us. It was not just courses, but our very degrees that they dangled above the academic shredder. Dire circumstances pushed students to sacrifice their principles and bite the bull-shit bullet. The University may have cornered our comrades into taking up soul-killing courses for the sake of a credit tally but it could in no way make ensure the respect of these excuses for education or even attendance for that matter. Hahah hahahah!!!

February: Avanavan kurukkunna OST Ramji Rao Speaking
avanavan kurukkunna kurukazhichidukumbam gulumaal...

Stuck in the courses we made the mistake of taking or not taking we were literally wallowing in the ditches that we dug up for ourselves. Plus the rebels who had previously flouted the attendance rules and lounged around the tea-stall were suddenly dragged down to dirty reality when profs threatened eviction. Of course the fact that we had lots of company made things better. And it was not just in the academic front but also other areas where we had to carry out trench warfare. This was especially true in the case of the female section of the population for whom the fast approaching end of the M.A also signaled the commencement of the Marriage Wars. On top of all this there is the mounting pressure of academics and futures. So, basically avanavan kurukkunna kurukazhichidukubam gulumaaal, gulumaaaaaaal (translation: the ones who fall into their own unraveling plots get golmaaled) .

March: Feeling hot hot Hot- Buster Poindexter
...feeling hot hot hot...

The heat is rising- not just because summer had begun but also because of the mounting academic and social demands. Being in your final semester places the trust of a lot of juniors who don't know any better on your ill equipped shoulders. There is a lot advice asked and a lot notes shared and the only way to tackle this intrusion of maturity into your bum existence is to determinedly bum around sipping stomach-lining searing sodas and living it up for as long as you can manage to pull it off without being written off as a waste of space ( the fact that you most definitely are one, being shelved for the time being.) And then of course the courses light a fire under our posteriors making us yell 'hot hot HOT' in less happy tones. The papers are turned out piping hot and we left with paper-burns and hot-foreheads. Besides this we are harried by the various applications and interviews that we are expected to tackle. Suffices to say, we are definitely "feeling HOT HOT HOT"

Comfortably Numb- Pink Floyd
...There is no pain we are receding...

The heat waves of the Academic machine flashed into the mugginess of April driving us further and further into madness. The last semester zipped by in a landslide of papers and applications at a frenetic pace that can only find similarity in psychedelic hallucinogenic experiences (also an explanation why several of our acquaintances were permanently stoned towards the end of the sem) The situation reached such obscene levels of insane that at some point we reached plane of sublime indifference. It was strangely fitting that the final song of our Farewell Party (an event of much fun and frolic- thank you juniors) was Comfortably Numb. Added to the vaguely spaced out nature of these last days was the stoic resignation to the fact of our inevitable parting. Applications to faraway colleges were dispatched, while others finalised their work contracts, still others hunted for apartments here and elsewhere and the air was heavy with the exhalations of so many good byes. A zen-like equanimity descended upon our heated heads and we began living the lines, numbing ourselves. Perhaps this is what they call growing up?

Zephyr Song- Red Hot Chili Peppers
...and in this perfect weather, we'll find a place together...

Human resilience kicks into hyper-drive and we decide that Zen is best as the name of a car. May fills us with a sense of chilled out purpose, more accurately with the optimistic belief that a lack of purpose is a good thing. After all that way all our options remain open and we would maintain an optimum level of flexibility. Remember what John Lennon said- "Life's what happens when you are busy making other plans." Besides, we had sent the applications,we had written most of the tests, and what tests remained we would surely breeze through. We were young, brilliant minds that any institution would be dim, dumb and missing half a brain to reject. We would make it, it's only natural.

What's Up- Four Non-Blondes
...What's going on?!...

Apparently it wasn't so natural. Stepping into June our youthful optimism waned in the face of the daunting task of writing frighteningly broad-based (syllabus-wise) large scale national and/or entrance exams while simultaneously placing our eggs in every basket in sight. The noose around our necks seemed to get tighter and tighter as interview after after interview produce only lukewarm results or none at all. Hope grows fainter and our faith in an inevitable destination grows weaker. We are left feeling betrayed by a world which should by all means help us out and instead treats us with indifference.

July: Perfect Symmetry- Keane
...Who are you? What are you living for?...

Disillusionment lead to desperation. Waiting. The interview. Waiting. Still waiting. Waiting again, only now on a list. Waiting for some one else to take the fall so you can step in. Waiting for something to turn up for some space to be made. Waiting. waiting, waiting at every door. And every door leaves us waiting. Until finally at long long last, you find a place. And then you wonder why exactly you wanted to get there in the first place. What are you doing?

August: Mehendi Laga ke Rakhna OST DDLJ
...lene tujhe o gori, aayenge teri sajna...

All the existential angst is shelved to make way for the the great wedding/ run up to another great wedding. Life is all about living: the whys and wherefores make themselves known only after it's all done. And things like marriage, and avoiding the same remind you of the importance of your life. True, it may be just another speck in a large kaleidoscope of specks but it all the same, it is a speck that adds colour. And so we swish our silks and coordinate our jewelery and have a blast. After all, things always work out. Just keep moving on, dance to the music and stampede the questions into the dirt.

September:Hide and Seek- Imogen Heap
...where are we? What the hell, is going on?...

The return to university grounds is also accompanied by a return to unwanted reality. While the reality aspect was unavoidable, the sense of sinking in a malignant sea of routine while everyone else seems to be drifting at the very least is disquieting and leaves one feeling stranded in a sealed off bubble. Of course you always knew that ultimately you are on your own, but against all good sense you expect constancy in those that pledge it. Of course you knew that it is only foolish to expect in the first place. Sometimes it really hurts to be right. And so for what seems like the longest time you crunch yourself into a tight wad of cold and wait for the thaw to break, all the while reminding yourself that even this will pass.

I'm Yours- Jason Mraz
... Open up your mind and see like me, open up your plans and damn you're free...

And it did pass. The oncoming winter monsoons brought not only rain-clouds but also beloved parted friends. October was the month of plans and visitors. It was also the month of revelations. As the monsoons broke above our heads so did the diffidence between those left behind. And once you find out you are not alone in this madness, suddenly everything becomes sane again. Or rather it remains insane but you don't mind anyway. Friends: they either throw you into the abyss or save you from it.You discover that there were a lot of others who were feeling just as lost and that there are still more who remain true even when others do not: their constancy underscored by the fact that age did not wither nor distance mar the infinite variety of the friendship shared. And most fortifying of all, you realise that all that's stopping you from being happy is yourself and so you go ahead and be as happy as can be.

November: The Call- Regina Spektor
... I'll come back when you call me, no need to say good bye...

November was the month of goodbyes. Some were more permanent than others. It is hard to lose a family member. Worse when he was in the prime of his life. What do you say to the parents who, in the winter of their lives, must lay their child to rest? What comfort can you offer the young mother and son who have been left behind? Loss is a lonely feeling.
But is it truly loss in this case?
After all, all the memories that you carry, all the signs of his life, aren't they proof of his continued existence? In every absence he will be present. The pain remains, but in a strange way doesn't he as well?

December: Time of Our Lives- Greenday's something unpredictable but in the end it's right. I hope you had the time of your life...

As 2010 wrapped it's arthritic joints in the memories of it's youthful jaunts we half-hearetedly embraced our academic life and prepared to write large-scale exams yet again only with less enthusiasm. The infinitely forgettable end of that pointless exercise also signaled the entry of new visitors. As if to make up for a less than dramatic genesis, the final tottering steps of the year featured role-reversals, revelations and retributions that aught to find place on the silver screen. While these surprises were unplanned there were other more organised ones that were pulled off with much elan and resulted in a quiet New Years eve punctuated with much conversation and camaraderie and long long walks down winding memory lanes.

To it's dying breath 2010 remained an exceptionally unpredictable year. At moments appearing slower than a glacier's descent and others faster than Santana's guitar-playing. And having zipped through it's ups and downs we emerge winded and disoriented but hopefully just a little wiser as well.

Happy New Year, readers of The World According to Me. It is as much an honor to write for you as it is honoring that you read what I create. The Creator hopes that the New Year brings with it goodness, wit and wisdom not only in The World According to Me but also in all your lives.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Purs(e)uit of Happyness

The sight of my wallet fills me with envy- why can't my stomach be as flat! An academic existence of the padawan stage is never conducive to financial comfort. More times than most one would find oneself trying to make the twain meet in the monetary sense without having to sell any pertinent (or impertinent) body parts. The stipend which is supposed to do the Vishnu act and incarnate in our times of need usually behaves like Godot and leaves us waiting. Whenever I meet my comrades who have ventured into occupation land and the corporate jungles I am besieged by a sense of doubt. What the hell am I doing here living the life of an academic lounge lizard when I should be out there making money and picking up health destroying habits. After all I have the work-load, the deadlines, the sign-in register. All that is missing the inflow of Gandhis.

But then again the impoverished student life has all its cheapskate perks. Your student nature entitles you to be unashamedly cheap. And the cheapness maketh the experience all the better. Living on the fringes of bankruptcy, thwarting the harsh fates of destitution, we become one with nature and lose our earthly inhibitions. Which is why we can walk away leaving negligible tips, fight with auto-drivers for the last extra rupee. I can even composed a ditty to celebrate our poverty stricken contentment! Or may be not- considering I'm a little short on words and most of my vocabulary needs to be trained into my assignment. But either way, The point is that nobody can pull off pilfering sugar sachets at coffee stations or stealing all the somf at the restaurant or causing a food deficit at a buffet like an impoverished student. And we wear our badge of kanjoosi with pride: we got it free! :D
And so here's my ditty anyway-

The lily needs no gilding
The sunset needs no paint.
All the bills are building
But our hearts will not grow faint.
Our pockets may be empty
But they will not be joyless
As long as there are freebies
We can still survive coinless :D

Terrible I agree, but like I said, we are economising. Until later, Cheers!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tale as old as Tam (Brahm)

And finally- the much awaited Tam-Brahm Wedding report!
Disclaimer: The longest post of them all.

Forget Endhiran, the Great Wedding was the most happening event of the year. After all, even Rajinikant with his multiple superhuman talents, cannot compete with the spectacle of the Tam-Brahm wedding. And the wedding that this avid anthropologist had the good fortune of observing was a confluence of both the Iyengar and Iyer sects of the Brahm Fold. This fact holds enormous significance given that the popular Iyengar proverb decrees that "to Iyer is barely human; to Iyengar is divine" and that all Iyers believe the Iyengars descended from a particularly dim breed of primates that forgot to evolve half-way through the process. Given this general animosity, it is a moment of great communal harmony to see these two sects engaged in friendly nuptials rather than sanskritised slandering.The only tension that may have prevailed would be surface-tension of incredibly distended tummies following meal after gigantic meal of rich mouth watering food. I was a part of the bride's retinue- making me an honorary Iyengar (the small fact of my confirmed carnivorous tendencies will be overlooked for the period of this post)

The Tam-Brahm wedding defies language in the grandness of its scale. Rajshri Productions should seriously consider moving their scene southwards given the potent singing-dancing-dressing-marrying-matchmaking fodder that these celebrations provide.The TB wedding I attended was a small affair spanning only three days, including the mehendi, in a hall huge enough to house a medium sized district. Being a member of any marriage party involves intense well-dressedness. This is especially so if you are (a)Female (b)Representing the bride's side (c) have friends like Nose-ring Girl who'd probably skin you alive and send your hide to Prada for a customised creation if you were anything short of haute couture. Besides this, when one is invited by ones friend to a wedding, one is honor bound to uphold her comrades reputation. Especially when the friend in question is Gunther and furthermore is the sister of the bride. Consequently, the author was uncharacteristically well turned out for three whole days (of course she recuperated by being a complete slob for the next week and a half.) Though the Tams are blessedly less gold obsessed than their Mallu brethren (then again it is difficult to compete with the Mallus in this arena, as in any other :D) they do have a distressing penchant towards silk.Well-dressed in Tam-Brahm parlance usually involves several yards of silk. Kancheepuram, Mysore, China and every other Silk-country finds a foothold in the Tam-Bramh wedding hall. Once again it is the women-folk who have to bear the brunt of this unofficial ramp/madai walk. The sari-fetish is satisfied by the various rituals which ensures that one would have to change saris at least twice a day.And given that Chennai, where this drama is unfolding, is rarely anything less than sweltering this is not a good thing. It is difficult to admonish uncomfortable toddlers to not tug at their beautiful silk blouse when the admonisher herself is tempted to chuck the whole ensemble and walk around in a T-shirt three sizes too large for her and shorts of the same ilk. However the author, like the aforementioned toddlers, was quickly distracted by the brilliant pageant unfolding before her.

Wearing ones own sari is a feat in itself. And in a wedding situation of the TB kind, sari drapers are in the greatest demand. The really good ones help the bride and the small fries help everybody else. Both Nrg and moi were employed in this knotty task. This of course meant that we were the last ones to exit the dressing room, leading to misguided assumptions of an exacting sense of fashion. While this a is mildly plausible characteristic in the ever-in-vogue NRG,it is truly ridiculous in the case of the author. Be that as it may, our sari tying stint was a chance to see several aspects of human nature. For example, the amount of sleep the tie-er had is inversely proportional to the number of times the pleats fall off the tie-ee. And it only takes one cranky baby tugging at your sleeve to realise how precious a single undone pleat is. And of course one cannot forget the Murphy's Law of Sari draping which was mentioned earlier- Regardless of how many you saved and how many you pilfered, the pins will always be missing. Another version of this law manifests in the issue of flowers. No South Indian Wedding is complete without it's garden-share of flower garlands- and these are not including the ones draped around the bride and the grooms necks. The jasmine strings are crucial to the TB look.It does not help that the Murphy's Law of jasmine-pinning is that, regardless of how many hairpins you use the flowers will fall off. This is of course assuming that you actually managed to locate the hairpins. Much like safety pins, hairpins too have an amazing propensity for disappearance.

But moving on from these hairy issues, we go to the next item of the dressing process. The bride, in all her brideness, must constantly be accessorised to complementary perfection. Which means that everyone in the dressing room must have some rudimentary knowledge of where exactly her belongings are. The subtleties of bridal accessories are mind-boggling. The dark brown bangles are different from the deep maroon bangles and the blue bangles must be replaced with the aqua bangles so that they go with the nth sari she will wear for the n-nth ceremony. In the background the minor characters barter jewelery between each other and help insert thick stemmed ear-rings into narrow ear-holes. Inadvertent swearing by either party is inevitable and highly embarrassing given that almost half of the population consists of the older generation or the younger generation. The last thing you need is the precocious, previously undetected six year old to walk up to the very prominent sixty year old loudly asking "Paati what is "!@#$" ? Akka just said that *angelic smile* ". There goes all your good-will and your friend stares daggers at you. Oops.

So now that the ladies and gents are decked out in their silks and clinking jewelery they proceed to the mandappam in the wake of the bride. The first day is more or less uneventful. Meaning there is only the nishcayathaarthum or engagement and a homam or pooja and another set of rituals and the interminable volley of photographs. The couple's starry-eyed look can be attributed to not just love but also continuous camera-flashes. While the bride and groom smile maniacally at the ever-ready cameras the others saunter over to the dining hall and proceed to gorge. The TB wedding feast is a tribute to the versatility of vegetarianism. Course after course of delicacies pile up on your palate until your digestive system cries out for mercy. Three days of this and you start developing a serious food aversion (thankfully and obviously short-lived of course). Breakfast consists of pongal, upma, idli,dosa,masala-dosa and just to make your stomach burst vadas and several un-named delicious savories and sweets and lots of ghee. Lunch is enriched with a variety of saadams,plain rice, poriyals, rasams, vadaams, diabetes/cholesterol inducing sweets and of course more ghee. Let's not forget tiffin which offers more vadas, dosas, idlis, complementary chutneys, savories and ghee. Dinner involves still more saadams, rice, curries and inevitably more GHEE. Squeeze us out and you could start an Amul Butter Co.

Meanwhile the couple continue to be fried under the glaring rays of effulgent photo-lights, their faces baked to form a unflinching 1000 watt smile. We the spectators mill around the dais sending them sympathetic glances while blessing our stars we aren't in the same position. While they are not being showered with blessings and beacons of dehydrating light the couple also have to be subjected to the garlanding. This is a phenomenon unique to the TB wedding as far as the author can say. Both families bring out a continuous stream of garlands blessed by different temples. The bride and the groom are draped with these offerings and then of course are obliged to pose for a photo with the same. It is all well and good when the garlands are of a normal or at least a manageable size. It is a whole new story when the happy couple are faced with a particularly large flowery confection. The poor bride and groom had just ridden themselves of a larger than common appendage and were nursing the kinks in their vertebrae, when a new procession of priests entered the mandapam and commenced yelling several unintelligible sanksrit shlokas which presumably blessed the couple with long life and happiness. All of this the bride and groom accepted with smiling equanimity, but then say saw what came after-wards. Borne by three people on either side were two gargantuan garlands that probably weighed a ton each. The Groom's eyes bulged, the bride mouthed an involuntary 'Oh my God!'. Both buckled visibly as the garlands were hoisted onto their necks. The bride and groom were then forced to stand Atlas-like while the photographers clicked away lazily. Marriage is a weighty affair.

Day two was the more 'happening' day, To begin with, the day began when the night was still in its toddler state. Two 'o' clock saw the hall buzzing with activity and the bride already shackled under heavy headgear and multiple make-up artists. M.S' Suprabhatam dallied with the annoyed cries of unwillingly awakened babies and overgrown babies. The general chaos was furthered by the fact that there was only one bathroom for more than twenty people. The Sari drapers ran helter-skelter searching for pins and grabbing pleats while the dressing room congregation collectively cursed the grooms-representative who hurried and harried us through out. Finally the bride,physical exertion and minimal sleep notwithstanding, emerged glowing like the sun in the east and proceeded to the mandappan to take part in the delightful Kasi Yatra. The Kasi Yatra is a ritual derived from the shaivite myth revolving around Shiva and Parvati's marriage. Apparently the missus kept the groom waiting and a rudimentary knowledge of Hindu mythology will remind you that patience was not Shiva's strong point. Thankfully he was not inclined to burn everything to cinders and simply decided to huff away to Kasi. The bride's father noticed the absent groom, hurried after the stomping deity, mollified his ruffled sensibilities, got the groom back to the venue and all's well that ends well. The modern re-enactment involves the veshti-clad groom striding a few steps towards the direction of Kasi, a large umbrella/ walking-stick and fan in hand as props, and the bride's father or oldest uncle brings him back to the mandapam. There have been cases where the brides father actually fails to notice the groom walking away and the hapless groom is left wondering whether his in-laws were trying to get rid of him. In this case the situation was humorous simply because of the uncanny resemblance to the myth. The Bride was late to the mandapam and kept her ready-to-depart groom waiting impatiently, umberella-a-tapping. Several jokes and comments later the bride and groom are taken to the longish swing which is the venue for the quaint Oonjal ceremony which basically involved them swinging while being fed milk (why this lactose obsession???!!!) and family members sing for them. The author personally feels this harks back to the days of child-marriage where by this time both kids would be cranky, hungry and sleepy so a little milk and some humming would go a long way in assuring that the next item of the program runs hassle free. And this would be the madisar initiation.The future mother-in-law drapes the bride in 9 yards of torture whose method is shrouded in madness and mystique and which is guaranteed to be unflattering even if you have the figure of a model. It is a tribute to this particular bride's beauty that she could make even this monster sari look good.

In the time that it takes to roll the bride into the madisar, everybody else goes to have breakfast.Food is of course the venue for gossip and fashion tips. It was especially refreshing to be a part of this wedding because the author was not family, not brahmin and therefore NOT MATCH-MADE! Ah the happiness of it all. Besides this the author are also saved from being accosted by unknown uncles, aunts,uncles of aunts etc. demanding that she recognise them on the basis of a short-lived acquaintance during her gaga-googoo years. Meanwhile the Bride is saried and lead to the mandapam for the pinnacle of all the activities- the muhurtam. The author being short and the crowd being large could not record everything that happened. It suffices to say that the knot was finally tied and everyone shed a tear or a dozen for the overwhelming sentiness of it all. Ah love... sigh. Of course time had passed in the process and everyone goes for lunch and somebody remembers to offer the couple some water before they faint from exhaustion. Another homam and several photos and handshakes later, the bride changes her sari yet again, has lunch and goes for the funnest part of the wedding program-the Nalanggu.

The Nalanggu (another throw back to the days of child marriage) is a collection of games that guarantee loud comments lots of laughter and general bonhomie. The bride and groom are pitted against each other in mini-competitions of coconut rolling, pappadum smashing, garlanding (while being carried by the brothers of the respective parties) and more. And of course whoever wins apparently gets the upper hand in the marriage as well. The Nalanggu is also the perfect time for out-of-station friends to go and buy the wedding gift. Which is what the author was doing and hence ended up missing all the fun. Ah well... something's got to give. But on the flip side this also allowed for a rendezvous with the inimitable and evercharming Posh-Git The silver lining,ladies and gentlemen!

Post Nalanggu everybody gets to rest a little. Which really means there is time for the bride to dress and change into yet another sari for the evening function-but this time she is unhurried. The wedding reception is dedicated to photos.The bride and groom probably suffered from sunspots in their eyes for at least two weeks following this event. It is during this function that the author had the good fortune of meeting the surprisingly sane Crazybugga as well as enjoying the musical talents of Nithyshree who was sadly greatly ignored by the thronging crowd more interested in gossiping, getting photographed and heading for the dining hall. I guess some things are common regardless of what kind of wedding you are attending. At long last the wedding comes to a close and the bride- who changes into yet another, less grand(?) sari- heads off to the new home. And the friends, sister and mother gather together hit by the sudden realisation that she has actually gone. That she is now a wife and that things are suddenly so different.

But such is life, change comes on swift,harried chaotic wings.And it's beauty lies in its uncontrolled flurries that sweep us away in its bewildering turns. After all what is life without drama and excitement to colour it. And all's well that ends well.

Friday, September 10, 2010


The Tam-Brahm wedding will have to wait- partly because it's a formidable package to fit into a single blog post. And partly because I have just attended another wedding this weekend. And too many weddings are a fast-track for your funeral. So as a short breather let us look into another frame.

The 'Offer' phenomenon is a product of of modern retail which has successfully harnessed the inherent human something-for-nothing instinct, better known as 'greed'. The words 'Sale', 'Discount' and most importantly 'Free' are sparkling lures to bait willing wallets.We would probably even accept steaming barrels of toxic waste if it came free. "It might come in handy at some point of time..." we reason, as reason flies out the window.

The Freebie Fetish was drilled into me during a shopping expedition into the savage territories of Big Bazaar. One of the hazards of getting a single room is that there is a lot of expenditure on infrastructure and no one to delegate work to. And thus I found myself marooned in a vast retail jungle hunting for curtains, dustbins, wash-cloths, bottles, cups and the like. And needless to say I amassed a bill that could support the primary education of three children in the LFC convent. While I struggled under the weight of the receipt, valiantly holding back my tears at the looming financial crisis, the billing attendant magnanimously declared "You get 1kg sugar free!" Please consider that at that point of time I had had enough of Big Bazaar and all it entailed. All I wanted was to nurse my sorrows in a comfortable horizontal position. Mumbling an incoherent mutter I headed towards the exit. "Madam! 1kg sugar, Madam!FREE!" he yelled, seeing that I wasn't heading towards the freebie center. "FREE!" he repeated rolling his eyes in consternation that I was actually saying no to a free item.

Let me make my case. What was I going to do with 1kg sugar, free or otherwise. I didn't have any cooking facilities and lived in a hostel. What was I supposed to do with 1kg sugar?? But in the face of the billing-guy's desperate exhortations I wavered. "Hmm.. it's free.. and I just might need it.. and it's FREE... it's FREE...FREE" Logic blurred. I heard myself say, "Where can I pick it up." The guy gave a relieved smile, the world was right again. "The Customer Service Centre."

Finding the Customer Service is a task in itself. And it becomes herculean when you are lugging three shopping bags at least 2kgs each. I went all the way to the third floor only to be told it's in the first floor. And since the escalators were too full, the ramps were the only way down. A trundling descent later the customer service center was located- at the end of a queue as long as the Nile. Reason reasserted itself.'Go back home you twat! It's not as if you have nothing better to do! You don't even need the sugar!'The mental-slap revived my flagging intellect and turned my feet purposefully toward the nearest exit. Self-flagellating under my breath I handed the billet to the security and prepared to stomp my way back to hostel when a voice stopped me. " Amma, 1kg free sugar." The guard had taken it upon himself to actually do his job and check my bill and could not believe that I would let a free deal pass by un-reaped. Once again I tried to explain that I really didn't want the sugar. And yet again my protestations fell on deaf ears. In fact the guard was so astonished at my disinterest that he called another of his bretheren to augment his case. "It's free Amma. It's Free. FREE..."

I believe I suffered a black out because the next minute I found myself at the end of the never-ending line of freebie-grabbers. An hour later with aching feet and screaming shoulders I shuffled up to the front of the counter to get the godforsaken sugar. But the universe conspired to make me pay for my greed. The only packet they had at the counter had a hole in it. Another half an hour wait ensued in which I endured the glowers and glares of other customers and learnt several varieties of swear words. Finally sugar-laden I escaped to freedom only to realise that the sun had set and consequently the autos were refusing to stop. The end of the day saw me paying double to get back and encumbered by an extra packet of sugar with no place to keep it. Ah the humanity! But such is life- even the free must be earned. Even if it leaves you feeling dumb. And in all fairness the sugar isn't a waste! I bought coffee and milk to go with it and a nice dabba to keep it in and...
I bow my head in utmost defeat.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Wedding Chronicles 2: Pre-Wedding and Post-Wedding Stress

Disclaimer: Long Post dead ahead

The Wedding is supposed to be one of the most important days of your life. Probably because it takes off several years out of your life in the process. The Wedding Day is the culmination of several mini-madnesses. While the locus of all the Wedding madness is the bride and groom, they are greatly exempted from the background drama. The minor characters have the responsibility of bringing together the various aspects of the giant chaos called The Wedding.

It begins with the Inviter-Invitee tussle, kicked off by the Invites. The design of the invite takes on as much importance as the blueprints for the newest space-shuttle. Prototypes are selected and rejected. Blood pressures ping pong off the walls and stress levels hit the roof. The family is driven to the brink of insanity, haunted by the memory of the nasty comments they had hurled at other invites and are spurred on to avoid a similar fate. Just when the design gets finalised, the extended family decides to give their 'constructive criticism', successfully destroying any previously established consensus. And when the invites are finally decided there comes the task of actual invitation. Armed with packets of murkus and laddoos (chips and jalebi is another favorite combination) the inviters trudge along to do their dreary duty. The Murphy's Law of Wedding invitations states that regardless of how hard you try to remember everyone, you will always end up forgetting someone. And that someone is most often the most cantankerous kin in the fold. The appeasement process is penance for all the sins you might have committed in your past life.(Come to think of it, the Wedding as a whole is like that.) Finally, when everyone has been more or less mollified, the process of clothes shopping is initiated.

The Shopping Saga is an epic tale in itself. And it is a painstaking process not just for the females. In fact it easier for us women because we have the advantage of choice. Men have it harder because there simply isn't enough variety. There are only so many decent borders for mundus or colours for kurtas. And one must remember that in the drama that is the Wedding, everything is a topic of gossip. Insignificant details like where the bride/groom's clothes were bought, how the sari bought for aunty A is the same colour as aunty B's, how cousin X's dress was not of the same quality as cousin Y's, uncle P's mundu has more kasavu that uncle Q's- become hot news and are discussed at length. In the course of the Wedding there is always going to be at least one member of the family bursting into tears for reasons that barely brush against reason. As you can see, drama is an integral part of The Great Indian Wedding. Another caucus race is the process of housing all the migrating family members. Unknown aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins of cousins, the friends of said cousins etc. congregate for the wedding relying on the family for domicile. And Dubai uncle and family cannot sleep without an AC, Madras Aunty must have dinner at 6:30 because she is diabetic, crusty Calicut uncle wants his dinner piping hot even if he comes late, Bangalore cousin has an army of brats that need to be baby-sat and Delhi grand-uncle wants fresh milk in the middle of the night. Suddenly the unpredictable bouts of crying make a lot of sense. But all this is worth it- After all, they are all here to celebrate the joining of two individuals in a hopefully life-long relationship.

Speaking of the two individuals, the wedding preps guarantee that the couple do not get an undisturbed moment together. If it's not aunts barging in to feed them sweets then it's uncles cracking dirty jokes with complementary whacks on the back or other parts of the anatomy. And then of course there are the annoying cousins who have a habit of walking in at exactly the wrong time with an unrepentant 'oops' and to drag either one of the parties in question for some interminable errand. It's enough to make the lucky couple want to elope to the nearest register office and get it over with. But then again I guess abstinence is good for the soul. Or perhaps they their eagle-eyed guardians detain them from making an escape. Either way, by the time the preparations end the couple are pretty much worn out and decide there is no point in resistance.

The wedding itself is, as previously discussed, madness. The lunacy of this program is underscored by the fact that the female members are necessarily dressed in saris/dressy salwar kameezes or churidars and most often are shod in high-heels. Between all the thalam carrying, the errand-running and engaging in the general obstacle race that is a wedding, your lower limbs begin to hate you, your feet decide that you are the devil and your toes will never be the same again. Besides this physical pain there is also mental trauma. One is constantly waylaid by unknown kin who demand that you recognise them. It does not matter that you only saw thrice when you were still in your diapers. It is a curious trait that the regular attendees of the weddings circuit always remember each other. This feat of memory is accomplished by keeping track of wardrobes. Observe the logic:"Oh yes she is XYZ, PQR's sister's husband's cousin's grand-aunt's neighbour. Remember? she was wearing the same red sari for LMN's wedding as well..."
The wedding arena is also the scene for the planning of prospective weddings as well.Single individuals within the age range of 19 to 30yrs are subjected to painful matchmaking. The popular "you're next" makes its rounds. The 'you're next'-at-funerals routine fails miserably because most of these spiritually inclined matrimony.moms (and dads too, mind you) will only smilingly reply, "And then we shall bless you from above" It is enough to drive one to distraction. Thankfully they are easily distracted by the story of a distant cousin who got divorced or another one who refuses to marry.

And of course, the great Sadhya discussions. Every minute detail ranging from the degree of green-ness of the banana leaf on which the food is served to the over sweetness of the perfect payasam comes under the microscope and God help you if there is a shortage. A Mallu wedding, as discussed earlier, revolves around the food. Considering this, one would think that eating wouldn't be too difficult a task to manage. But for the close members of the Family getting a taste of the Sadhya is a formidable goal. For one thing, there is the general edict that you get to eat only after the guests. But then again the human body is programmed to handle only so much hunger. The Murphy's Law of lunch eaters states that even if you spent the entire afternoon waiting around, it is only when you put the first morsel of food in your mouth that they call you for the family photo. The photo session itself is fraught with pitfalls. Someone is always left out, or someone else is convinced that the photographer deliberately clicked when they were in their least flattering avatars. And once the album comes out, an unending stream of shrieks and humphs follow in the wake of every leaf turned. The photos are always an entire skeleton of contention.Be that as it may, the one thing one must always remember about Indian weddings- and the South Indian Wedding in particular- is that everyone is too full to hold a grudge. "So what if I look like a zombie in that pic," muses aunty M "at least I look better than Aunty N! Orange?? What was she thinking?!" And aunty N thinks " Ah Orange was always my colour. But what is wrong with M? I think she forgot her medication..." And then their thoughts blend as they sigh in unison ".. let's get some betel leaf and head home." And this is where everyone heaves out a sigh of relief.This does not apply to immediate family of course. They are most likely scrambling to get the harassed bride into her nth sari and matching accessories while simultaneously organising the welcome ceremony back home. The mobile phone is a wonderful thing.

The sun finally sets on the Wedding day and the bride and groom are ushered into their private scented chamber- where they probably sleep like the dead considering how exhausted the wedding left them. And the other players in the drama exit stage wherever to get some of their own much needed rest. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next up- the Tam-Brahm wedding.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wedding Chronicles1: The Mallu Wedding

Disclaimer: Much like it's subject, this post is going to be very long.

The inimitable and ever-aged Clint Eastwood once commented that "Marriages are made in heaven. But so are thunder and lightning." I myself completely affirm this view. However I am but a minuscule minority. This fact is confirmed by the fact that I had the opportunity to witness two weddings in the short span of the last two weeks and will be at another one in September. The Indian Wedding is a dazzling experience. Not just because of the blinding amounts of bling and flash photography, but also for the sheer spectacle of the whole program. Unlike the sedate and neatly packaged concept of popular weddings, the Indian Wedding-and more specifically the South Indian Wedding- is a riot of happy chaos which relies on anarchy for successful execution. Furthermore there is a marked sadistic trait within these functions that will prove curious to the budding anthropologist. The following accounts will substantiate the previous generalisation.

To follow chronology, we will start with the Malayalee Wedding. As a disclaimer I state that my presence at this spectacle was entirely my mothers fault. The Mallu wedding is perhaps the shortest variety, lasting all of ten minutes with the main attraction being the sadhya that follows. But one must keep in mind the Mallu propensity for extension (a passing glance at any Mallu serial will affirm this). After all,where's the drama in a quickie ceremony? And we Mallus love Drama. Our politics is proof enough. And so in a hasty bid to add some masala to the bland molakushyam we split this simple ceremony into three parts- the Thalikettu, the Kalyanam and the Sadhya+photo-session.The first part more or less adheres to the original scheme and consists mostly of praying in the temple of choice and tying the thali. But the fact that it is conducted in an ungodly hour on the lines of 4:30 am makes it the most painful part of the entire program. Just this small detail ensures anarchy. Imagine, if you will, the bawling of irritated woken up babies, the gurgle of reluctant taps followed by the badaboom of banged doors as time flies and delayed bathers become desperate. Added to this is the fact that females in attendance must necessarily be decked out in Saris or at the very least an incredibly itchy salwar-kameez/churidar. The donning of these are by themselves chaotic to say the least. Any sari draper will be acquainted with the Murphy's Law of Sari wearing. No matter how many there are and how many you saved, the pins are always missing. Furthermore, negotiating sari pleats when you'd much rather be dallying in dreamland only adds to the pain. And when one is as determinedly nocturnal as the author, the morning Muhurtham is nothing short of excruciating.The knowledge that all this pain is merely to catch a barely noted tying of a thali, which even an untimely sneeze would render unnoticed only makes it more frustrating. Thankfully, this time I merely had to attend the second half- the more showy Kalynanam.

This consists of four parts: 1.Escorting the Groom, 2.Escorting the Bride 3.Exchanging garlands 4.Lots of blinding photographs. All this escorting means a lot of escorters. Again it is the womenfolk who have to do all the work. Females within the age group 8-30yrs are rounded up and armed with thalams- plates carrying flowers, rice, a small lamp and other such items. The lasses are lassoed into two parallel queues flanking the escorted- probably to stop them from making a last minute bolt for freedom. All this seems very neat and orderly. Ah if only... These processions are notorious not just for the fact that it kills your feet, but also because your hair is constantly in danger of catching fire what with a plate with a lamp right behind you. It's true. It happened to me. And at the wedding that I went to it happened to my cousin. I prudently showed up only afterwards. The thalam girls carefully accompany the groom and later the bride to the dais where there is always a traffic jam. Inevitably something is knocked down and everyone is praying that it wont be a lamp.

The wedding that I attended featured a silk clad groom who looked cheerful and happy- probably because he was reminded of his reassuring comfort whenever he chanced to glance at his mate whose face one could barely make out from within the crown of jasmine and the shield of jewelery. It is my firm belief that if one were to shoot a Mallu bride in the chest her multitudinous gold chains would save her with nary a smudgy bruise to show for it. This particular bride was encased in a sheath of gold which swayed with her uncomfortable movements to reveal even more gold in the form of the zari on her Kancheepuram Sari. The poor lady literally creaked as she walked(a feat of great strength and endurance), what with all the metal she had on. But it truly is a tribute to the marriage impulse that despite such obvious difficulties she still looked very happy.

Somewhere in the time that it takes the bride to lumber up the stage and lumber down to sitting position, most of the audience rush to the dining hall.This is the scene for several almost-riots. Mallus love their Sadhya. And anyone who comes in the way is at risk of being trampled. Several jaws and joints have borne the brunt of particularly zealous eaters kept away from their mouth-watering goal. And once there, they make it a point to vocalise their demands as well as loudly declaim/proclaim the quality of the food/servers/the serving/anything remotely food related. So while the crowd mills around the dining hall the bride and groom are abandoned to exchanging their garlands in the face of an indifferent trickle of individuals who decided to wait for lunch or carry on conversations. Following the exchange of garlands the couple are subjected to a stream of relatives who feed them bananas and milk.It is a custom guaranteed to render anyone lactose intolerant. After several gulps of milk interspersed with banana morsels (... is there a metaphor here?...) the bride and groom raise themselves to stand in the glare of several camera flashes as the guests, burping and satisfied after their hard-fought lunches,make their way towards the duo to give them gifts and grin for the cameras.The groom has it better- at least he is not weighed down by his apparel. But the bride gives meaning to the phrase 'grin and bear it'. Several hours of photography later the bride and groom finally get a bite to eat. This too is monitored by the cameramen who vie with the paparazzis on the intrusion scale. So instead of eating ravenously, as they most likely would be by then, the bride and groom are forced to take delicate, pretty bites. Ah poor souls.

At long last they are released from their wedding. Breathing a sigh of relief they make a break for freedom only to be waylaid by relatives who say a million good byes over and over again without actually leaving. The last I saw as I left the venue was the tableau of the groom and bride with frozen smiles bidding the fiftieth farewell to the same aunty who had circled them two minutes ago. Ah marriage is a difficult prospect- but the wedding is the actual killer.

More on weddings at a later date.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

It has been a while, hasn't it?
My supervisor- understanding as he is- will probably go into an apoplectic fit at this blatant stalling in writing. And by now he'd have written me off as a lost cause to good writing. But I shall smile in the happy knowledge that he doesn't read my blog :D

It has been while. The hurdles of final submissions, entrance exams, doubtful admissions, interminable tension-filled waiting followed by interminable procedure are all valid justification for the inexcusable hibernation. But more than all this, the evaporation of any creative impulse is the true culprit.
In every writers career there comes a period of intense emptiness. One might find subjects to write about but never the inclination or the excitement to actually write. Everything feels fake and hollow. You peel the skin off your writing you find only a puff of fetid empty air. There have been days when I spent hours staring at an unrelenting page only to slink back defeated. So much so that I considered ending it all. After all, it is an insult to The World According to Me if I am unable to contribute anything of worth to it.

It was somewhere around this period that Friendship Day came and went. The next day was punctuated by phone calls and wishes from friends laden with remorse for having forgotten the event. This guilt was completely unnecessary considering these were comrades who have stuck by my side through thick and thin. So why does it all supposedly boil down to a single day? After all the years and the experiences that we shared, how can a tiny thimble of twenty-four hours be capable of containing all the copious times we have shared. In that cusp of pragmatism I had an epiphany. The World According to Me is not the story of a day. It has been my friend, my confidant. It has suffered through my bad phases, laughed and smiled with my good ones and always been there. The World According to Me is my friend. And I cannot give up on my friends.

Here's hoping that I can be a better friend and that this dry phase too shall pass. And while the going might get tough, I will keep trying to add more and more to The World According to Me. Because that's what friends do. :)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Time stumbles over the crack in the watch face


Inside the chasm we float in timeless limbo-
Like leaves caught in cobweb strings,
spinning in slow-motion
While minutes melt above our heads.
We brush each other
in our graceful pirouettes-
Cherishing that glancing graze
in the veins of our Beings-
Letting the corpuscles make electrified love
Charged with the current of the ephemeral circuit.

You and I, we hide
In this secret cusp of temporal amnesia
Holding each other in brushes and strokes
Knowing that time will not be fooled long
By our absent presence.
We touch with careless care
Knowing that, should Time stumble over us
We will be pulled out squalling
Into an alien world
To be herded by managing minute hands
Into lines of days and years
Never to touch or be touched ever again.


We heard Time stumble.
The leaves twirl again in pointless grace,
The protean dimensions more precious
With every numbered minute.
Veins are traced and colors memorised
To comfort in cold remembrance.
A final timeless touch and
The leaves pause in an amber moment...

Stumbling Time picks up its feet,dusts its robes
And marches on again.
The leaves swirl towards each other.
We are safe.
For now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fringe Benefits

Of all my many physical excesses (and there are many excesses in the physique, I assure you) it is the cranial furr that has caused most familial strife. Coming from a stock of Class A (or should I say Class ‘Yay’) Mallus, as the female offspring, it is imperative that I follow the edict of hair-iditary long-locks. Rapunzel was the ideal to strive for. The fact that I am more on the lines of Rumplestiltskin did nothing to sway the family's convictions. Any petition for a haircut was faced with fierce opposition on the likes of an Indian parliament session, and just about as many stipulations as a government form. And, hot-blooded Mallu that I am, I endeavoured to make sure that these stipulations were almost always broken (yes, yes-Don’t ask me, I don’t understand why they haven’t disowned me either)Living in Chennai, and later in Hyderabad has convinced me that the less hair you have the less hair you’ll lose. And while long and floating is all well and good, long and bushy is definitely not. I have it from reliable sources that looking like a walking hedgerow is entirely unbecoming. And besides, where’s the fun in long hair. There isn’t really much you can do with it except may be tie it up. And since my hair takes after me, it’ll probably escape its bonds and become a nuisance anyway. It’s not like my family has anything against barbers. The concept of a ‘haircut’ itself was a family mandate. It was the amount of hair cut that raised questions and voices. But truly, I ask you gentle reader, what’s the use of getting a haircut if there is nothing to show for it? And I am not planning to pay good money for a wimpy snipper-snapper here and there. But all these perfectly sane arguments went unheard. And every homecoming was unfailingly inaugurated with a hair-raising ‘YOU CUT YOUR HAIR AGAIN?!”It was time for compromise. I needed hair-citement and they needed length. And that is when I came upon a brilliant plan.

The apple fell while I was trapped at the hairstylists’ getting a trim. There I was, draped in the dreadfully shapeless cape thingamajig (I think all barbers are supplied enmasse with Jayalalita’s cast-offs) lulled to half-sleep by the snipetty-snap of the flying scissors, when I noticed my forehead emerge like a humpback whale out of the waves of my hair. ‘Was it always so prominent?’ I wondered. A need to mask the size of the gargantuan appendage gripped my meagre but fastidious vanity. Meanwhile the hair lady had finished the miniscule trim job and was proceeding with the brush-and-fluff routine, signalling the impending end of the session. Must do something, must do something, must do something, must do- Aha! A few minutes later I sashayed out of the salon sporting a swath of hair veiling my forehead. The fringe was an instant hit with the peers and a dramatic change from my usual sedentary hair-style. Plus, the length had been retained so the Family couldn’t fault it. Brimming with fashionable confidence I alighted from the aircraft and marched smartly to my waiting parents and brother who were, I realised with assurance overflowing, staring in wonder. Filled with a sense of job-well-done-ness, I waited smugly for them to take back the usual greeting. And the first thing they said was “PLEASE GET A HAIRCUT!”

The fringe did not go down well with them. And the fact that it refused to stay down due to the burgeoning humidity and consequent frizz further aggravated their hurt aesthetic sensibilities. I realised they truly detested it when my brother, the greatest champion for hair-growth, as we have discussed earlier, offered to personally escort me to the nearest haircutting salon and see to it that the thing got shorn off. And that’s when it hit me- the best way to get haircut sanctions was to figure which style will annoy them most! And now I wait for my hair to grow out so I can try out irregular swaths or may be streak it blue or some similar hairscapade. The fringe became a learning experience in negotiation: The best way to compromise is to present a worse scenario. If you think about it, that’s how unfinished work gets completed; whenever we are faced with something we don’t want to do, we automatically find other things that must be done or should have been done earlier. The logic is slightly hairbrained, but so are humans, eh? So let’s not split-hairs and focus on the fringe benefits of dysfunctionality. Or so I tell my maligned Family who regularly tear their hair in frustration at my insanities. All I can say to them is, I might give you gray hairs but I do love you. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm a good sport-II

Yours truly has never been the sporty type. But I do come with particularly thick skin of titanium-like tenderness. So when the University Football Association's girl's team lacked female players my recruitment was based solely on my utter lack of shame. But even the shameless cannot be utterly clueless on the field. And hence, in an uncharacteristic fit of initiative, the fledgling footballer in me shuffled into dubious life.

The day of my initiation into the field was an eventful one. Under the able guidance of the football-obssessed Miester and the ever affable Floppy-hair we women tried to learn the ropes of the game.During the course of our exploits, we had gathered other spectators and players in the form of the children of the staff who lived on campus. In the spirit of generosity, they were augmenting our numbers and helping us out with our technique (hah hah hah).It suffices to say that any one of these kids (age range 3yrs-8yrs)could play better than all of us football-illiterate women put together.Even the two-year old who kept wandering near the goal-post knew more than us.(show offs!)While it was a comfort to know that I was not the only novice on the field, a few brief minutes was all it took to confirm that I was the most sports-challenged of the lot. Though aim was alien, speed was MIA and stamina was a distant dream, I did have more than my fair share of thick skin and I have been told that I can be terribly stubborn (not true, by the way). Therefore with the tenacity of Sisyphus I proceeded to continue playing.

Two hours of frustration later, I finally began to get the hang of the game. I was not confusing football with handball, I was making contact with the ball rather than just dirt and the ball was actually going where I wanted it to!At this juncture we decided to play an actual game. And- yes! I was playing! In the rising tide of euphoria I joyously made contact (with my foot this time!) with the ball, sending it flying in a splendid speeding shot straight into the goal post and- SMACK!!!- right into the face of the sportive two year old.

The field froze in a tableau of shock- partly because the kid was hit, partly because the ball actually went into the post and partly because it was me who managed to kick it.While we can call the child cranially challenged for carelessly ambling into a goal-post,we must also take into consideration that there was no precedent of the ball coming anywhere near said goalpost in the two hours that we played. And if it ever did end up there by mistake, it was usually with barely enough velocity to burst a bubble. Either way, we were awakened from our shocked coma by the glass-shattering 'waaaaaaaaah' issued by the injured party.

The kid was soon mollified and probably wont go anywhere near a goalpost for a while, if ever.And I now carry the scarlet-letter of child-abuser. As both Miester and Floppy-hair constantly remind me, I have gained a reputation as having a wonderful talent for kicking minors. They'll probably hire me in juvie-discipline boards soon. Ah well, it's not like I ever had much of a reputation anyway.And besides, I did kick the ball. Into the goal too! Sure there was a kid in between but you can't have everything now, can you.
The irony is that after all the work and rigorous practice everyday, I never got to play. Ah well... doesn't stop me from being a good sport eh? :D

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Apologies and Excuses

I believe the title says it all.
I have been suffering from an acute case of AIDS (Assignment Induced Deep Stress- term courtesy Dr.Thyme; the 'Stress' may be replaced by 'S**t' whenever/wherever applicable)which successfully dammed any creative impulse which survived the onslaught of two years of intense academics. To cut a long and infinitely uninteresting story short: 'writers block' was merely one of the bricks in the colossal pyramid entombing my creative powers.

If this were a marginally fairer world, this post would signal a golden era of increased creativity. Sadly we live in our world. The AIDS (now definitely 'S**t'), has developed complications in the form of rashes of exams and scabs of paperwork which does nothing to dissolve the block in the creative-vascular tissues.

Ah but why do I do this? Why mar your pristine face with the pimples of my failings. I try yet again to fashion a form from the flaky earth of my fancy and all that rises is a the slow static dust of intention that weighs down in your lungs, making you cough up intermittent puffs of that forgotten thing called Soul. I raise my hands, poise my fingers over the board, but gravity and grace fail me. That swell which once rose into your bosom, carrying you upwards until you are balanced joyously on the crest of the wave from which you are not afraid to fall: That glorious swell is now merely a confused trickle too lost to actually make its way out. It is not a void. Rather it is full to bursting: I can hear the voices, sense their scent, feel the hum and the sizzle of the radioactive presence. But, like figures behind a veil, these formless somethings refuse to materialise.I seem to have forgotten the way to that 'Away' that we all draw from.

It was Coleridge who perhaps best expressed this incredible loneliness. Bereft of the words that have always been your friends, what are you left with? What can you believe in? Where do you search to find a vanished door? Faith spins lugubriously, suspended on the gossamer thread of hope and I remember why I began writing this post. They say everything returns if you call it enough. I keep calling with the desperate hope that what is hiding will reveal itself soon. After all, '...if winter comes, can Spring be far behind.'

Monday, May 03, 2010


Something fished out of the archives.

It was all so clear in her head.

She would slip her arm into his, look straight into his eyes so he would know she wasn’t joking and say the lines with the blasé seriousness of someone making a general suggestion on the lines of adding more blue in the wardrobe, a better haircut, the effectiveness of odomos over mortein, a walk around the perimeters. The harmlessness of the tone would befuddle him into indecision, beguile him into consideration, and then bewitch him into acquiescence. A possibility, that’s all. But a possibility, all the same.

And she was confident in her ability to weave an eloquent spell. He would perhaps consent to the careless cadence of her voice or to the simplicity of her logic or the silky smoothness of the summer night. It was all so perfect in the infinite canvas of her flamboyant fancy: A beautiful dance of truthful artifice, performed in perfect grace like an ancient bolero on a spicy Spanish evening. There was no way he could elude the spell. He wouldn’t want to.

Confidence overflowing, she placed a hand on his shoulder and got ready with the practiced opening line.But as she looked into his lambent eyes her tongue cemented itself to the roof of her mouth and the words beat a pulsing brand against her closed lips. It wasn’t dissemblance; she believed every single one of those unsaid words. But the cost of it stared out from his trusting eyes. The steady guileless vulnerability that made him seek her out glinted like the edge of a knife as she tried ineffectually to put her plan into action. People told her he was ripe for the plucking. He would comply simply because he was so alone. Besides, he trusted her...

And the unsaid confessions crackling noisily in her mouth were swallowed in a dry, husky trail of vain hopes withered yet again.

He was waiting for her to say something, but she couldn’t free her otherwise glib tongue. “Why so serious?” he joked and she choked out a convincing chuckle. The conversations flying around the sputtering bonfire permeated the air with a banked buzz, filling the blank spaces left behind by the words she didn’t say. Someone laughed, someone else cried, someone debated, someone else berated. His quiet sadness lay wide open in the noise, crowding her expanding heart into a tight little corner, where it crumbled like dry earth, emptying its overcrowded insides into her more crowded soul. His head hung low, and the words hummed sadly in the baritone thrumming of the blood in her veins. She laid her hand on his and he smiled that familiar sad smile. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” he says. She smiled eloquently, her lips replete with meanings he could never guess at or wouldn’t see. They hugged each other close with the sincere, comfortable camaraderie of true friends that filled empty spaces regardless of unsaid words. He sighed a quiet sigh. And unseen she sighed silent words, letting them diffuse into the dark night to find their home with the other voiceless words, floating away into the starry expanse of open sky while she remained earthbound in incomplete embrace.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Observation 2

The way to a man's heart may be through his stomach; but keep following that axiom and you will need a highway to traverse all that stomach.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Heat Stroke.

Summer is the time for
Burnt offerings made to a Sun
That cannot look at you
Without sucking you dry.

That smile, that burns
In its scorching benevolence:
Truly derisive
In it's universal bonhomie-
Its complete impartial indifference.

You are merely another.
And he likes you, well and good.
It is only your folly
If you dry yourself up in vain
Every Summer.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Comedy of Terrors

Meatstick was at it again, and Firestone was reaching the end of her tether. She was of a sensitive disposition and as a rule avoided unsavory, threatening scenarios as much as she could.She was merely... skittish. Nothing else.
But that did not mean she would put herself through the test.

"But I don't want to!" she said for the nth time.
"C'mon Stoney, go for it!" said Chew through a mouthful of bread-omelette.
"It's no big deal. Just go ahead and do it." agreed Meatstick warming up to the challenge.
"But I don't want to go ahead and do it!"
"Oh leave her alone Meat," piped up Ant. " If she doesn't want to, she doesn't. Let her be."
Steadily ignoring Ant's feeble attempt at defense, Meatstick went on. "Slick's got it all fixed up, Stoney. Face your fear! Confront it and make fun of it! Freud pointed out that-"
"Please Meat, not Freud! It's 2 in the morning!"
" Ok, ok no Freud. But seriously, try it man- what harm can it do."
"Yeah Stoney," chimed Fashunista, "be strong!"
"Then why don't you do it!"
"Wha-? Ok, pedal back a bit."
Meatstick's face took on a determined cast as he turned to Fashunista and Firestone " Ok, both of you do it!"
"No way, nada,nahi!" interjected Fashunista while Firestone desperately shook her head.
Ignoring these mild intrusions in his declaration Meatstick continued with a flourish,"And Ant will give you company." Promptly sending Ant, who was comfortably nursing a steaming cup of chai, hurtling back into sputtering reality " How did I come into the picture?"
Firestone meanwhile was being persuaded that company may ease the pain.
"C'mon Stoney, Ant and Nista will get your back." assured Chew
"And who'll get ours?" exclaimed Fashunista.
" Well, I'll get yours Nista." He countered, waggling his eyebrows.
While Fashunista mock huffed, Firestone bit her lip in confusion. Next to her, Meatstick leaned in again " Think of it as homeopathy- like cures like. Fear cures fear."
A few tension filled seconds passed. To do or not to do...
Firestone raised her head and squared her shoulders "Ah chuck it! It's only a movie."

And that is how she came to watch Paranormal Activity.
But this is not the story that you have been waiting for. What we are going to see are the repercussions of this phenomenally bad idea.

It was the night after Scare-much, when all through the hostels,
Not a creature was stirring , not even the Construction Workers.
The curtains were flung and the windows were bare
In the vain hope of letting in air.

Firestone couldn't sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she was afraid to open them. In a rather contradictory bid to save her sanity, she was now determined to not sleep at all. As the reassuringly human face of Tom Welling fighting aliens lent her fortitude, Firestone made the mistake of checking the time. 3:oo am. A shudder went down her spine as she remembered that, 3:00 was the time the demon struck in the movie. And it didn't help that Boro and Slick had recently told her that 3:00 am was the time the Spirits walked the earth. Her panic escalated when she turned and saw the blankets on her bed move of their own volition- just like in the movie! Firestone jumped off her chair making a wild scramble for the door when an ominous 'brrrrr' filled the air: again, just like in the movie! Fear paralysed Firestone as the brrring continued in sharp staccato spikes. Trapped in the liminal space between dead and scared-s***less, she closed her eyes tight against whatever was coming for her, while feeling an incredible annoyance that she was the wimpy first victim in the real life horror movie. And then,just as suddenly as it began, the brrr-ing stopped. Firestone cracked open an eyelid- the room was still, Tom Welling was yelling at the bad guy... and next to her computer her cellphone blinked sleepily. And as she watched, it jumped into life and brrrr-ed.

Feeling like ten different kinds of idiot, she picked up the call.
"Hey Stoney..." quavered Fashunista's uncharacteristically shaky voice.
As it turns out, Firestone had company on Fear Street. Fashunista's spiking adrenalin and racing heartbeats failed to be calmed by switched on lights and loud music. And it did not help that Ant was infuriatingly unspooked. Finding comfort in company, Firestone joined her compatriots in their room (Ant escorted her through the dark corridor) and they proceeded to collectively curse Meatstick and Chew, and Slick as well for giving them the movie in the first place. And as the night passed on, Ant too got a fair share of the hiding since she seemed so unbothered by the previous night's fear fest.

The morning dawned with the women ready to commit murder. But they had to hold out when they took a look at their comrades. Meatstick and Chew had obviously not slept the night as well. A little interrogation brought out the story. Meatstick had been disappointed by the fear fix and wanted his adrenalin spike. He spent the rest of the evening watching Ju'on and Grudge trailers and fell asleep content in the belief that he was neither shaken nor stirred, just mildly entertained. Somewhere in the middle of the night he awoke to the sight of long locks of hair hanging above his face. He jumped up in fright seeing all 23yrs of his life flash before his terrified eyes and then realised that the 'hanging hair' was actually the straps of his shoulder bag hanging off the side of the of his cupboard. Sheepishness did not negate the fact that he was now undeniable spooked and could no longer go back to sleep. Chew's story was similar: only in his case he thought the pile of clothes on his chair was a monster.

"I don't know why you guys are getting so spooked." Shrugged Ant, oblivious to the dirty looks thrown her way. "I mean it's just a mov-gaaak!"
"What happened Ant? You look like you saw a ghost!" exclaimed the concerned Firestone.
"Yeah. You ok?" added Meatstick.
Fashunista quickly fished out a bottle of water as Chew looked on worriedly.

Meanwhile Ant had recovered and was now letting out sheepish giggles.

"Heh heh heh, I thought that heh heh lady in the Burkha was a heh heh heh... you know..."

While the others did a quarter-hearted job of not looking smug, a motion was passed to avoid horror movies for a while: after all they had enough abnormal activity to contend with, minus the paranormal activity. The lights remained switched on all night for a while longer, though.