Friday, January 15, 2016

Que Viaje!! (Translation: What a Trip!!!)

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The Spanish word for “travel” or “journey” is “viaje”! Now Now. Is it a coincidence that in the only other language I know (Punjabi that is. And by ‘know’ I mean have knowledge of more than 10 words :P) the word “viaje” means “wedding” and half the aunties in Delhi and their mothers (literally!) keep tormenting me to get some “viaje” soon. Well, so here I was getting my usual dose of viaje in December. And what a viaje it was!

(Caution: this joke will be lost if you don’t know that “j” in Spanish is pronounced as “h” :P  Self Confessed language / pronunciation fanatics and Spanish enthusiasts, don’t be offended. This blog is meant to cater to people of all ages & walks).

But then there are wild viajes and sober viajes. You know Grand Delhi-Chattarpur-style viaje vs. Court Viaje-in-a-hundred-rupee-dress! Ok ok, back to normalcy. So there are crazy wild over-the-top trips and then the slightly more temperate ones where you behave more than you expect to.

I mean, there are wild, in-your-face-epic, irresponsible, reckless, impulsive trips where you throw caution to the wind and function on a “major”-high all through. (all innuendos intended). These trips are where the “how was” is answered with jumps up and down (in physical life) and multiple exclamation marks and colon dee smileys (in the web renditions). Where, like Matt Damon in Martian, you come back and cannot wait to tell your earthly friends stories of craziness – intended and unintended, dodgy calls that went right and wrong and dangers taken that went into nail biting climaxes. (but they are not as boring and predictable as the movie itself :P)

But this trip was different from the above. It was different from most trips I have otherwise undertaken, mostly solo, where incidents, rendezvous-es (that definitely isn’t the plural of rendezvous but French isn’t one of the languages I ‘know’ I guess!) and meetings with people formed bulk of the narratable part of the experience. And while all solo trips do provide for moments of contemplation, on the whole answering the question – How was your trip used to be fairly easy as the answers were factual, full of anecdotes and really just accounts of events.

On the other hand, this Mexico trip turned out to be beyond the normal in that when asked after returning – “how” and “stories?”, It was uncharacteristically difficult to find precise incidents to narrate or specific people to describe. (And before the over-smart over-enthusiastic reader jumps to conclusions, it does NOT have anything to do with age :P)

Which is why this blog comes a little late. I usually prefer to write trip blogs in the stupor or high of the travel experience i.e. either at the airport / flight back or at the moment of intersection when you leave one reality or world and enter into another one which is actually the old one itself – your so called home – but everything feels unreal and unknown. But this time, even the 36 hour flight / layover couldn’t jolt me out of the high so much so that after landing in Singapore, I lingered on at the airport cafes for a few extra hours even with all the pathetic-middle-seat-economy-class-squeezed-between-two-fat-uncles-who-drink-too-much-free-booze travel on me, lest getting into a cab break the spell!

So, well, Why?

Well factually, as a last aside, part of the reason was also because I was travelling with a chaperonin *scrunched-up-eyes-and-tongue out-smiley* and extremely cautious travel mate (“TM”) who was traveling in an only-girls group for the first time. For her, this meant that various formidable, herculean tasks like carrying a backpack, ensuring someone doesn’t run away with your money, keeping an eye out on the road, carrying water bottles etc. had to be done on her own which is such a shame because boys usually love doing that for her. (Commonly known side effect of looking like a million dollars!). Consequently, over-compensation worked and the verdict was to confine self to areas where at least 70% of the people are Americans who are apparently “good people” and “safe” (and all the gun control debates can rest in peace!).

Amusingly all the riskiness was happening prior to the trip. A night before the flights to MX, a good samaritan sends the TM some article about the 9.5 rated hostel we were about stay in where 1 chica out of 200-odd found the place a little ‘uncomfortable’ and based on that article the entire trip was about to be cancelled – A night before! ….. ORRR turned into a giant resort-fest! Much cajoling, convincing followed including a thousand examples of “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Logical pleas aside, I guess what really cut the deal was emotional blackmail focusing on our background - Recalling college days together where believe-it-or-not we faced a tribal poisoned spear attack on the entire college which led to a sine die! – Seriously how much worse can be Mexico after that? And so TM agreed to travel - Under certain strict rules of playing extra-cautious.

But the road is such that no matter how hard you try and contain yourself. No matter how many all-inclusive resorts you try and jail yourself in, it doesn’t fail to excite and swoon and seduce in its various ways, creepily smiling from nooks and corners.

You build for staid trips on the road and you end up missing them like a phantom limb.

And these are where you learn that it doesn’t need to be about activities – snorkeling or diving for the first time, singing with bands, meeting snake charmers and weird madcaps. When you turn away eyes from the wackiness - the honest simplicity of people will endear in an entirely different way. What was supposed to be unsafe place to be avoided will turn out to be safer than your own country where dress lengths decide road treatment. That you will find people so lost in their own dances and music that they don’t need to bother with swindling foreigners.

Although I still cant say for sure what it was. Was it the fact that this was a longer, slower trip? Was it the halcyon attitude of the people, drinking at noon on a Tuesday without a care in world in a city where everyone paints their houses yellow? Old couples coming out to dance every Sunday evening on the streets in hordes. 50 year old men dressed up in hats and vests and women in white Mayan costumes but really barely able to just cling on than move in the name of dance. A local sexagenarian who was literally omnipresent, we found him anchoring the local song and dance performances at every show we attended in little Merida, always sporting a sombrero - Entertaining town people everyday till midnight at the age of 60.


There was Centro Historico with its pretty rows and rows of colorful houses and pervasive Star Wars craziness. Local street musicians on every corner. Throwback to Mesoamerican civilizations and the architecture of Chichen Itza and Uxmal – also a sharp reminder of one of my favorite movies – Apocalypto. We met a brilliant multiple doctorate holding, half-Indian (Indian here meaning Amerindian) guide with a flawless British accent trying to convince the tourists that his culture, the Mayans weren’t all blood and gore and that what was happening in the world today wasn’t too different. At least they had limited means, knowledge and understanding but for looking at the Jaguar that they apotheosized, what is our excuse?

Paseo de Montejo (The Mexican Champs Elyssey) with its museums that were built by the Spaniards on destroyed Mayan cities, now housing the same Mayan artifacts exhumed from below. Cute Mexican guys who would approach you and without a second thought blue streaking in espanol with the “mi amors” and “senoritas” because well, finally Indians are in a city where they got color camouflage! Whatever it was, it was mesmerizing because it haunted and stayed on for so much longer. Not like a flame but a forest fire.
  
There were the local crests and troughs and moments of elation, a heart sink, a jump in a sinkhole (cenote), and two non-swimmers flailing about in choppy waves under wild rain. Dancing with the whole city. Happy gleeful smiling faces reflected in the fiery green sauce generously poured on every taco.

And the food oh the food. Food of Mexico by itself deserves an entry on its own. The usual fare of tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, tortillas, empanadas apart there was so much more. I remember reading this quote recently, “I cannot make everyone happy, I am not Rajma Chawal”. Well after this trip that may as well be “I am not refried beans with huevos rancheros & habanero sauce”. We ended up having Mexican food every meal for those ten days. And don’t for a moment assume there were only 3 meals during the day. I also discovered the reason why Mexican food is always served with avocado and sour cream. They work as emollients to quell the fire that the habanero / jalapeno sauces light in your mouth.

(Mexico travel tip: Do not schedule the visits to beach towns towards the latter part of the trip. None of the swimwear photos will make it to facebook or stay undeleted on your phone for more than 3 seconds if you love food half as much as I do!)

An interesting part of the trip was towards the end when I am having same MX fare for like the 50th time with the same amount of gusto staring at the mouth watering (and soon to be eye watering) Arroz con pollo on the menu and TM stares at me wide mouthed. Conversation goes something like this:

Pre-food Arrival

TM: This guy, that guy, why are guys are like this. Age. Yada. Yada Job. Money. MBA Yada Yada
Me: Dude forget this entire guy / money crap man. Lets order food. Look at this new fare Cochinita Pibil. Pollo duc. Tamales. Chicken Mole! Mexican food is sooooo the best (repeated for the fiftieth time)

Post-Food Arrival

TM: I’m so depressed, I’m going to kill myself.
Me: Chomp Chomp Chomp.

TM is aghast. I order dessert to quell her.

After Dessert

TM: (glaring at me in wonder speechless for 10 minutes like I belong to a different specie). Sigh. Yeh bhi acha tareeka hai life jeene ka. Live in love with food and stop caring about everything else.
Me: Dude its just that Mexican food is soooo good!

Later in Dallas at Einstein Bagel

Me: Oh my god I haven’t tasted a Bagel BBQ Chicken Combo like this ever!!
TM: Walks Away

Food. Kilotons of Food. Dancing, Music, Salsa lessons, wedding shows, Untamed blue waters, ballet capital of Mexico, travel in little mini-buses and unexpectedly comfortable intra-city Volvos, 1000 year old temples built over temples. And beautiful people. Maybe the Indians were meant to feel at home in the land of the Indians. Well, that was that. And I am just glad they let me enter without asking me to describe my moustache! (No jokes there, till some time back it was a visa requirement, even for women).

So when one comes back from these trips, and in silent contemplation sitting at office desks, miss those ordinary moments of sipping coffee at a bus stop or eating a roadside chorizo taco while it rains in an ordinary albeit different country – that’s when you know – it’s the quiet epiphany of wanderlust.

When it’s not the expensive so called “experiential” activities that you really yearn for but just the incomprehensible drone of another language, antics of a different kind of people and the joy of trying to communicate with a vocabulary of 5-10 words.

Eating somewhere else but here. Waking up to somewhere else but here. Watching people walk by some other lanes. Different faces. Different attitudes. Learn different histories.

Fernweh – or the painful yearning to be away, that’s what this trip fed.

And now this monster-baby has tasted blood :)

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P.S. Just in case you noticed, extra exclamation in English version in the title because you need more support to express the same emotions in the queens language!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Of green rivers, white mountains and madmen!


Few things in life deserve that you wake up at 3 AM to get to the airport early in order to write about them. A trip to the Himalayas, as I have recently discovered is one of them. And so i sit with a tall glass of coffee at the place i most call home in Delhi – Baker Street Cafe at Terminal 1D and type this out. That my back is in acute pain from the innumerable slips and falls over the last few days helps the cause – kinda makes the memory sharper. So i defer taking that painkiller until im out of this dazy land and back to (for lack of better words) the moroseness and mundane life of Mumbai.

To start from the beginning, as Lewis Carroll usually advises us to (:P), it was a mere coincidence that i ended up going to the Himalayas this winter. The original plan was to wallow in the pseudo-cold of Mumbai and ruminate over my pathetic life. And im not sure if the culprit in this situation was the realisation that “No U, uve done that for more than six winters in a row now” or love for never ending cups of coffee, that made me hang out at the office coffee machine when this trip that a few people i hardly knew at office were planning was discussed or knack for doing random things that made me a say a near-instant yes!

But if you know me hardly at all, you would’ve known that i should not have said yes instantaneously. To put things in perspective, id first let you know about my lifestyle. I drink 3-4 times a week (pray the folks aren’t reading this guys, pray, pray!), smoke more often than i should, been an asthmatic for last twenty odd years, have sinusitis, motion sickness, lead a sedentary lifestyle and carry an inhaler like its a body extension. When the office AC temperature is at 28, i fight to increase it and on any given day, my perennial cold makes my desk look sth like this:



So you can imagine, I was nothing but enthused (& raised my hands to give a high five) at the first thought of spending a few days in sub-zero climes and climbing up kilometre long stretches of snow-laden mountains along with a pack of overly-fit guys from office who are sometimes known as “Gangs of Wasseypur!”. (Please note the subtle sarcasm there, sometimes its not very apparent when you lead a non-sequitur, haphazard life :P)

Of course, the single 28 year old in me also tried to tell myself “U, what are you doing planning trips with 6 married guys when you should be putting on your prettiest dresses and going groom-hunting. The voice I think somewhere was my moms (:P) and was duly ignored like in the past and the question of pretty dresses versus spiky shoes was settled once and for all. :D

I am not closed to opinions so did try to get some feedback from a few guys at office. There were a lot of discussions from the well-wishers things like its a bunch of fit guys, you with all your motion sickness and mountains and low oxygen and asthma will become a liability, “don’t spoilt their trip by falling ill .. because you definitely will” Of course some of the people in the GoW (As we shall call from now the group of rowdy, fit, guys i was travelling with ... the types that my motherland Punjab and the partying streets in London & Canada call “gabru” or “mushtandes” :P) were also low on confidence and that helped the decision a bit :P

Life is too short to have regrets and too long not to have any. So with bated breath and a wry smile assuming even if nothing, itll be a good story to tell my grandchildren as to how i spoilt a team’s offsite / block leave by puking all over the place and then getting an asthma attack i said the final yes. (Some people have their doubts on whether itll be grandchildren or a bunch of cats, go ahead pick your sides :P). Of course there was also the fear that the GoW may bore me to death, and so ample quantities of music, books, sleeping pills and booze were also packed.

So that was the prelude, and now im wondering as to how to go about the rest of the entry. Its too long already and am sure the twitter-fed generation of today’s attention is starting to waver. Am a little sleepy too, so the rest of the entry shall be made at a different time.


The thing about planning trips is that you try to compress your life into a small punchy fifteen days trip which involves visiting at least 5-6 cities / countries and meeting all from family to arbit juniors to long lost friends to random people you never knew before.

Hence, this trip spanned the states of Jharkhand, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and finally Uttaranchal. While the all of it was an overwhelming affair involving visiting old lanes of college and drinkin cutting tea with old autowalahs (!), and flicking coasters from pseud places in Kolkata, the ending was just something else and something indescribable. Which is why i would like to describe it before moving on to the rest of the story (:P).

Have you ever felt like you’ve been transported to an entirely different place in world? That a few days of life felt like a walk through an endless universe. That when you got back you could not recognise the people and the world that you already had. Like the few days were a decade of time spent in which all other feeble memories got erased. Well, that was this trip. And i don’t know if it was the ethereal heavy blankets of snow or the white mountains that locked you in a different era completely or the rivers making their way obstinately through those mountains, but my life and perspective changed completely in those 5 days. 

A sneak preview at this junction and thereafter the real story ....



We started at Nai Dilli Railway Station. The train ride to Haridwar from Delhi is short one. The pace was still being set, topics of discussions still hovered around office people and credit bashing and the occasional banter. Still the excitement of next three days and also stepping on the janmabhoomi – Haridwar after more than fifteen years did not let me sleep. There is something about standing at the door of a fast train running at 150kph+ and watching blackened things run by. Probably cause it flashes back memories of childhood. So I roamed around the train looking for an empty door not occupied by a supine cop at the door or a man in a closet who insanely reminded me of Harry Potter every time.

Haridwar of course was the first tete-a-tete with the cold. As soon as we got off the train, everyone turned a shade fairer and breathing white waves of smoke like water buffaloes. Second and third layers were piled on and we set for Kund straightaway. The way to Kund from the Hardwar is  long and windy. And as much as i was regretting not getting to visit some of the hallowed lanes and bylanes of my childhood, i knew that thus was one trip where the tantrums wont work and i was a tagalong :P. So i trudged on!

The meandering river made for beautiful company. All my life Marine Drive and other seafaces have been my inner sanctum. At that moment i could find no reasonable justification as to why despite having been born in that very same place, for nearly twenty eight years i was kept away from the love of the river and she was kept away from me.



It wasn’t as cold as we had expected, packing subzero especial jackets and all that. Or may be it was just that en route other the stuff that makes either your blood warm enough to insulate your insides or your brain numb enough to keep them from knowing was brought in ‘thok’ (wholesale for the uninitiated!)

We reached kund by evening and it was about a 6 km up-trek to Ukhimath temple where the shrine from Kedarnath is kept during the winter months. The average tourist, the hoi polloi took the car. However, then there were the enthu-cutlets! So one of us came up with the idea of wanting to go up running (to be noted this was after 12 something hours or train and car journey!). Having not yet been fully acquainted with the GoW, i was dead sure this was a hilarious joke being played only to scare off some of the people and retired to my room to freshen up, only to find out that the devil and his sidekick had already set on their trek! Intense feeling of remorse and regret at not having tried kicked in. At this junction i would like familiarise you with my basic philosophy in life which is to try everything that any one has ever tried and a few more things!

Of course it was another thing that this was one of those Yoda situations – “do or do not, there is no try”. These were dark and creepy roads recently rendered lifeless by a cloudburst. Going midway meant giving your succulent self on a platter to a nice and pretty leopard. As much as i loved them wasn’t to keen on doing that yet.

The temple visit was hurriedly completed where a South Indian pundit in the highestmost alcoves of North India gave us a lecture on Shiva and some more deities as also told us that whatever you wish for today will come true. This was the first of the two times during this trip when my mind was completely blank. There was nothing i knew i wanted to wish for in that moment. Does that really ever happen to us – the ever dissatisfied animal?

And so I realised that when we wish, we wish for two kinds of things. When we have all that we want, we wish for it not to change. And when we don’t have something, we wish for attainment of that thing, that place in life. And that was one of those rare moments in life when there was nothing i couldn’t have let go of and nothing that the whole of my body soul and mind wanted. It felt like a ‘super-freedom’ of some sort. Like some “ultimate happiness”. Like the super-computer in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy worked for millions of years to find the answer to The life, the universe and everything else and the answer was that moment. That moment in which you wanted nothing. Like loving life enough to live every moment of it and just enough to want that moment to pass.

Of course in that moment too i wanted to wish for a few people dying a gruesome lingering death but who wants to waste pristine Himalayan mountain wishes on office people :P Also i have a feeling that some of these people frequent this blog and hence they shall not be named here :P :D

Went back to Kund where we were going to park ourselves for the trip. Met up a couple of thirty-seven year old girls (girls!? really! are you sure :P) who were travelling the same trek alone, with kids to their husbands care. I looked at them was like if i can be like that in ten years, i would’ve achieved something in life. Promised self that ten years from now will come back to a similar trip, or better still.. with my kids. (or cats as you prefer lols). Of course such a promise will involve major overhauls to lifestyle and a whole percentage point shave off the turnover of the global illicit substances industry but those things we can ponder over later.

Coming back to the story, a bonfire was finally lit. I had been off food since morning because of the motion-sickness prevention so was famishing. Have you ever felt so much hunger cold and fatigue in the same moment that you would curl up and die!? We did, at that time. So pop went the brandys and whiskeys and cognacs, the cigars and the quick tikkas. And while we were still chomping on these the soup was brought in forcing us to sip  a cold brandy sip to quench the soul, follow it up with soup to warm the insides and a bite of the tikka to keep the stomach from collapsing.  Yeah, it was so cold that by the time the boiling water from the thermoflask touched the bottom of the glass, you could’ve washed blood with it!

And while this melange was being intricately managed, a few adventurous ones among us wnt out to taste the dessert and came back with lengthy tales of its greatness. Sigghhhh. So before it fell prey to the beasts who made a beeline for it. i had to strut in myself and bring some to manage an even more complicated food tango thereafter.

Needless to say after the tiring day we were all quenched and collapsed on our chair by the fire in no time. Staring at the fire for too long makes you sentimental for some reason as we discovered. (It also makes you bend over double as the frontsides get heated and the backsides remains cold till youre bent over like a thermocouple!.) Or it could’ve been the booze and the fruit from the custard too im not sure (which i think was slightly fermented and hence even more delicious and addictive :P). So came out the questions of the personal nature. The most magical thing youve ever done. the happiest day of your life, the love stories complete and incomplete.

And listening to those stories in the warmth of the fire i realised that when people meet each other theyre like grandsires cut in alabaster (for the Shakespeare freaks) or the Brits with a stick up their ass (for the racists) or like heads of buy and sell side IBs meeting at the negotiating table (for the bankers!). The real them is concealed and buried.

And i believe everyone is a kid. The child is core of our existence. Probably when the spirituals speak about the soul, it refers to the child – the purest form of our being. The purpose of all that we do in life should be to bring that child outside and keep him alive and giggling and cracking up. Why you ask, because the child is lost and cloaked in years of formalities, cynicism and doubts picked up through the years... pleasantries meant to fool and fake and some manipulation. Tricks of trade that we have picked up over the years to hide our real selves. And when we meet each other like children, we live like there is no tomorrow, no pain, no next day, no savings, no troubles and no baggage. 

These layers stay alive in these contrived environments but in the real force of nature, these are forced to strip one by one. And the fire, well the fire, helps them melt. So in no time, they peel off and become like kids. That thats what i realised is the aim of life. To reach a stage with each man, where you are like kids with one another. To be with someone who can reveal that child within you. Where every response is uncluttered, unmeasured and unclouded.

Which is why the best part of the trip was finding more drunk crazy runners and madmen ... isn’t that really the whole point of traveling, finding more madmen like yourself!


The Last Gift


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They were a pretty sight. Each other they could not lose.
From their minds, not literally.
Caught in the bowels of a rustic greek ruse.
Like rose-tinted glasses they'd donned.
They  walked. They talked. They were a little odd.
But they lived with the idiosyncrasies. They lost the rest of the child.
They became mellow and mild. They were in love.
They were in love like they had been. Many times before.
They were in love like others had seen. That glinty spark their eyes bore.
But like stories do. This story too. Found a close goodbye.
They death knells rang, the banshees sang. She was left to cry.
But like that stone. On the iron throne. Came a breath of wind mild.
She rose up and glowed up. And found she was with child.
The last gift you give to me she asked.
Marry me honey for old times sake. This child needs a father.
He rose and swooned. He moaned and mooned.
He said he would and promised her he wouldn’t fall in love again.
He would be there to share some joy and a few months of pain.
But then she was on her own and they’d walk their own chosen paths.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gradually


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It goes slow.

Like that well watched drop of water making its way on a wet pane on a rainy day. Or that glass of wine with someone whose company you love and don’t wanna let go of.

No. They din wanna either.

So they told their stories slow.

Over a million cups of coffee and thousands of cigarettes. Through a warm and sometimes eclectic set of songs and verses.

Where each one told the story of a single move, a precarious turn and a fragile step in their story. The music, it told you what they felt. Whether he cried and she was unaware or whether she cried and he pretended not to know. Whether it was silent and spelt heartache or whether it was spanish guitars and sounded like the seldom found realisation. For him. For her. Sometimes just one of them.

The words were long and never unambiguous. They were never intended to voice their states conspicuously anyway. Carefully hidden in web trap of words were the feelings. Where two veiled and buried words would tell the true story of their hearts and minds and what the next step should be.

And in these duels of discovering the right words, the grains in the bushels of chaff, they fell even more in love.

Sometimes they took a wrong step too. But it was good. It prolonged this slow waltz. This wait to execute a flawless dance piece. The need to find each other lingered, thus, for longer.

It was beautiful. Like walking silently by the river on a still moonlit night. While some divine power played exactly the songs that said what you meant. Except the moonlight had to be imagined and sometimes faded too.

But the rivers and seas were real. So was the rain. It would sometimes even be just the backwaters or the sounds of waves crashing violently, repeatedly in the distance. But there had to be water. There was something about water that made a love-struck dimwit out of him and a starry eyed nincompoop out of her.

So rest assured, this too started with the walk by the backwaters. But to tell you the truth here, it was only mangroves really and all the sea there was, was either really far in distance or really far in the past. But there was the moon and the blue black of the ungodly hours of the morning. It was a busy street even at that hour..... but they lay there stating at the sky, both pretending to hear the waves weave their magic, unaware of any presence around that could break that cocoon they’d been crying silently under.

What they were really hearing were verses from songs each made the other hear. One by one. And each heard only those words that they wanted to hear. There was no text, no prose, no eyes that met. Only James Taylor or Billy Joel or Joni Mitchell or Thom Yorke spoke.

And so gradually the songs moved on from inside that cocoon to occupy the rest of their lives. Some mornings started with David Gilmour with her wondering if he was referring to the fortuitous meeting verse or the abandonment verse. And then sometimes it was her turn to send a mysterious Bee Gees sound that would not let him know if she wanted to be left alone or wanted him back. Whoever it was, in this sea of verses they lived.

And then amidst all this, was the crying song. She had only heard it twice and cried each time. No, not because it took her back to any one person or any one thing. But as if, involuntarily, it awoke this part within her that was submerged under a hundred years of realism and solitude. It was beautiful. Without any reason, any thought, any pictures.... tears would just stream down her cheeks and she would feel like putty ready to crumble at the first careless touch.

So when on that black blue night by the sea – this time a real, real sea – he said that the song made him cry and that for some strange reason it reminded him of her, she was putty again.

These things don’t just happen, do they? But there may be six billion people on earth and based on personality types and faulty childhoods I guess one could arrive at an estimate of the number of people the crying song could send into tears and then the probability of those people meeting each other, but then that’s just a heretic missing the elephant for the trunk, isn’t it.

So they went on. Wrote more scenes that could be set to their favourite tunes. After a while it was difficult to say if these coincidences created the music or the music created the coincidences. She loved him because she could see his face melt every time he heard her songs. He loved that he could see her feel the music on her skin the way he felt it on his. He knew that every time he made her hear a new song it wasn’t just those five minutes. That every song would change her life in some way, and he loved her because she knew that too.

But.

Yes, there was a but.

This was just a blip in their long dinful lives.

One day, she took her songs and went away. Vanished. Without a trace or a last verse. Poof. Poof. Poof. From social media, from her physical address, from her space on the rock by the sea.

And it was silent like it never was.

And now all he was left with was the web of verses to re-interpret and figure out if he had understood the wrong ones all the while. Wondering if she was always telling a different story .... from the one that he heard.

Monday, July 23, 2012

This too shall fuck you

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It took me 28 years to realise that the phrase ‘this too shall pass’ is such a farce.

They keep saying it. Like we have short term memories. As if we forget about the pain when it is not there.

But when does it fucking just “pass”. It never passes. It’ll crawl through your life and under your skin. It’ll make breathing hell. It’ll leave these indelible gory horrifying scars that’ll haunt you for the rest. You will be doomed to live this regressive life where you will live and relive that pain again and again. Every time you are fucked. Or close to be being fucked. Or you watch someone else get fucked.

It will not pass my friend, it’ll just whiff away for a while and sit waiting for you at some other turn. Unlike the night where you got drunk, passed out and woke up to your normal world, nothing will ever be the same again.

Or even unlike the train stations that pass by in the night while one’s sleeping during a train journey, that no one noticed and no one got off at and might as well have not existed, “things” don’t just pass. They are more like the phantasmagoric picture you saw that night standing at the door when you couldn’t sleep. The witnessing of a rape or a live burning or a self flagellation that will never fade out in your memory. The screams piercing through the din of the metal wheels of the rail and the still night, the look in her eyes as your eyes met for a flash as the train rode by, the chill that ran through your spine on the feverishly humid night.

Sometimes it did too feel blitheringly foolish to say that to self, all these years. Every time something got over and I emerged on the other side. For the first few years it did feel like I can get through anything. And when I was happy I forgot all about it.

But this grey and white slate only has so much space on it …. Today the sun, like the one in Punishment in kindergarten, is white and steely. There is no need to remember the pain. But there are only so many areas of our brain that are touched by all we do in our lives. And when those same areas are piqued pain will remember itself. It will fly screaming back. Into your ears. Into your limbs. And pump blood out of your heart.

Like Alex in Anthony Burgess’s novel conditioned to remember his pain everytime he heard Beethoven, all our life is nothing but a process of being conditioned. And as it has been brought out today, it takes 28 years to realise that the process has been completed and you can go home or whatever you call it but youll never be the same again.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Marine Drive at midnight



A glistening parapet that looks like a third, another road going somewhere. With no auto mobiles...only manual ones. The ones you need to carry and trudge around. A wet ribbon with pinnings on both sides, pinnings of people tied. Tied to their others. Some physically, some in their dreams, some in their nightmares. All there to lose bit of that weight, that baggage.

The sea was black perforated in lines, some white waves sometimes like holes grew large enough to wonder and gape. Some times these white holes come very close to those malingerers to engulf them in the black. But they never could and needless to say they all got mended.

The black sea never ended. Not as far as your eyes could see. It just merged... with the black sky in the distance. The sky bent as if curtsying, bowing and lost itself in the sea. It tries it too, a number of
times...to lose the whole of itself.

The quadrapods - they were dark too ... rather browned from the rain the dark night and the yellow signs of humaneness filtering through. So they looked like a weird, diffident but leviathan animal whose corpses were slain across and belched out of the sea.

Or sometimes they looked like this army of armored men holding the entire world, the roads, the tress, the ribboned parapet, the hopefuls perching on them. As if, if they werent there, the entire world will fall into the sea.

A black figure walked on that ribbon. Fast towards that black ending. Abandoning all the others and leaving all the light behind. Untied. I wished i could be her, walk fast, run and chase the shadows away. Run and jump to that black end where the sky dove into the sea and get lose somewhere in between. Break in to a million bits on the way. A million dark bits that spread on that ribbon of light and tarnish it for eternity.

The white waves danced to her tunes. When she ran they jumped. When she fell they broke. When she stood they got lost. They swayed sometimes down under. then she took out her flute and orchestrated the piece. The flamenco of the poesssed and possessive. And when she finally dove for that great end, they rose for her, to meet her, and finally broke before they found her.

The way back home or something like it


Its so hard to go ahead and start living a life you had imagined youd be living with someone else.

And if you are the imaginative kinds and among the ones to succumb to dreams... it is like everything you do now has a picture .... kind of like a memory in your head. And it is being played now with a tiny little change. After all, what are dreams but memories that may or may not be. Some of course, we know cannot be. And the rest of waking time would be spent wrapping your head around that fact.

There is no freedom. Just the illusion of one. That we choose to keep ourselves in. Like our own little matrix weve conjured up for ourselves when the reality is hard to get by. And nobody know if its time to take the red pill home yet.

Thats what you realise during the trip. We try to sever and lose all ties, get in to the unknown, picking up this back pack called freedom, wanting to succumb to what life may bring us. But its really just loosening some cords to tether oneself to some other fixed poles in the ground. Some its not even poles, just some other cattle like your own self ruminating about. Kind of like waking up from a dream to another dream. Or jumping universes. If you jump fast enough, you may even be able to witness what you may or may not have been doing in another, parallel one.

How else does it explain that in remote corners of the world, where within miles and miles is no one you know, you dare say things youve been afraid to confront to yourself, to complete strangers.

We run away from destiny only to find it sitting pretty, waiting for us in the place we ran to.

Coffee & Smoke


At first its the snugly coolness of cream. Not just any cream. One that has been carefull whipped to bring to its tuft like form. Meticulously placed over an icy bowl of water to prevent the curdling. Would in to an alluring shape peaking right out of the mug. Appearing to may an unsuspecting bystander as a little cup of heaven. Cool, rich, light dollops of manna brimmeth over.

But you holding the cup, know it was not the dream you bought it for. Sure enough, the untainted pristine sweetness gives way to a steamy, dark foam. Not scalding as yet and easy on the back of my tongue.

It doesn’t last long, so to heighten the experience, you whip out an 84 mm stick of joy. The ash rests on the tongue for a while inviting the next sip in. With that next sip mixes with the foam. Not cloying sweet like its predecessor, but a broken lasting taste – like chewing the bark of mahogany tree.

Soon, like all beautiful songs, the steamy crescenzo whittles, giving way to the warm bittersweet notes of the shots. The overpowering is too much, much more ash is needed too. Smoke from the bosom of the cup and lighted end of stick commingles.... as if in a flamenco of its own and reaches out to the olfactory senses. Like a well-orchestrated piece, each plays its part leading to the nirvansque climax.
The chocolate-like body is a never ending sea of pleasure. And so every part needs to be gulped. Like molten lava eruptions from a violent volcano playing in reverse. On the one hand the violence of the volcanoes. In the other hand, the serene whispers of smoke soaking in on the senses.

The smorzando slowly creeps in. The dregs make a feeble entrance. Receding waves of smoke conspicuous by their absence. At last, its only the grainy insipid texture of the leftover dregs. Some uninvitingly resting on the tongue and the rest at the white bottom of the cup. A strong last drag through the stub washes them down.

Twenty four hour cafe near a smoking zone at the airport. Small mercies of life.

Free


Bas main hoon, dhuaan hai
Aankhon mein ek gum ka ruaan hai
Chodh aaya hoon sab neeche
Bas ek katra reh gaya ho jaise
Na aage kya hai jaana hai
Na peeche kya chodh aaya hoon
Waqt aur main pathar se ho gaye hon jaise
Like time and me have been put in to a coma
Endless sprawling sky stretching on to the endless sea
The weather, the leviathan structures floating around,
Like messengers of a demi-god
In this moment i knew i was happy
Just happy
So happy i could cry
Aaj nahi likh paya toh socha kabhi nahi likh paaonga
Aur jaise hi likha toh
Ek akele aansoo ke saath woh
Katra bhi nikal gaya

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sugar Stings


Garlic Bread from Birdys. To meet at the church during a fight.
Ivy. Marine Plaza.
To reach out and erase it all.
To even try.


Or even think about reaching that stage with you.

The microwave we planned to buy. A lost earring in one corner of your closet.
The power you have lying next to it.
The power to break me.
Stirred at first. Moved then. Then not halt not move on.

What is a year after all.
After a little while messages move down. That itll be a labor to take them out.
Mails will get archived. So will memories. Some time later maybe move into a vestigial drive that I hide in an old suitcase.

Baggage.
What is a year after all. Enough to make moments to remember for the next one year? To leave imprints for a long enough while? To lament over a loss. To feel like a lost something?
To regret the times i din make the most of?
What about the years of plans i made in that one year?

What about that seldom uttered past. That long august night. That inebriated July fortnight.
Bookmarks. Glenfiddich. Unasked for gifts.
But so wanted.

The wait...oh the wait.
The roller coasters in my heart every time a bell rang. Or the phone beeped.
The umpteen number of times i ran that scene in my head.
The break down without you.
The breaking down in front of you.

All those restaurants not tried yet. All those second visits not done.
The things not spoken still. Gifts bought but not given.

My pain. My pleasure. My efforts. Efforts first ever.