Archive for the Uncategorized Category

That B&W Japanese film

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2014 by eightbeats

That B&W Japanese film we watched together at three in the morning spurred a fanciful idea in our heads, Fendi’s and mine. We planned to clam up entirely for a few days – just as a social experiment – to see what reactions this act would evoke in three girls and their respective boyfriends. We thought it a smart scheme.

The strong willed Japanese girl in that B&W Japanese film did it – we could do it too, we thought aloud. Our eyes gleamed like live coals in the tiny dark room, which belonged to neither of us. We got goosebumps from the cold because the temperature was sixteen degree Celsius, the regulator of the AC had stopped working and we lacked the initiative to get it fixed. Therefore, it was chilly in the tiny dark room which belonged to neither of us – because it belonged to a girl who got a Nambudiri Brahmin used to a life of extreme hedonism.

The truth is that we never got around to executing our little plan. The next morning was business as usual.

Looking back seven years, I think we should have seen the tell tale signs then – we only existed in each other’s ego. Nothing was good enough for us, we craved to be different, to stand out from the crowd – not necessarily to grab attention, quite the opposite. Convention would stifle us. To be made to conform was our worst punishment.  We thrived on chaos. We blossomed in each other’s ego, and stayed there.

Without our knowledge, we mastered the art of masquerading as unrestrained and free spirits because we had so much to hide. Without our knowledge, we morphed into conformists in the garb of rebels. It took only seven years for that change, but when it happened it was permanent.

Ruminants

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2014 by eightbeats

For someone who had started doing odd jobs in the kitchen relatively early on in life, she could never mature into a cook extraordinaire. But she was a diligent worker. She could rub the cut edges of a cucumber till its froth dripped all over the knife. Or peel assiduously the skin of a potato till every trace of anything brown or any shade of brown disappeared. Maybe the youngest in the family was destined to be a sort of an odd-jobs-person.

Every morning, she helped her mother arrange the folds in her cotton saree and adjust its length so that only a hint of the heels in her sandals showed. She would watch her mother apply lipstick – her mother would sometimes let her choose the colour. She would fetch her nail color or her bindi; and when nobody was watching, she would try out her mother’s sandals and lip color and bindi and smile her mother’s half smile into the mirror and gush with excitement at the sin.

In the evenings, after her brother was back from school, she had more urgent matters to look into. No time for lipstick and all that jazz. She had to drive tanks while her brother, the Squad Leader, hurled grenades at the enemy. Depending on what the situation demanded, she would have to take cover or scatter or yell out ‘’AAGGGHHH” if a hail of bullets hit her. She would sometimes be called Ram Singh and sometimes, Bahadur. On good days, she was called Phoenix and her subordinates were called Ram Singh and Bahadur. Beats me how they came up with a fancy name like Phoenix. It must have been the heady concoction of all the war comics that they devoured on – it blurred lines between reality and the make- believe world of battlefield action that they’d built for themselves. In their little heads, they were always at a far flung battle field with land mines all around them.

Saturdays, she found the most peaceful. In the absence of other more compelling contenders, she would get all of her father’s attention. And, his time. Her father would sometimes take her to a nursery and after they got home, they would pot seedlings or transplant them into the ground. It was her job to place little stones at the bottom of the plant pots and watch him fill moist soil into it, the smell of which, never left her memory. Nor did the thrill of chasing their hen around the garden, to take her to her father so that he could syringe medication into the hen’s mouth, little by little, letting her swallow after every drop.

It was her father who introduced her to Keats and Tennyson and Wordsworth.

“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills…??” he would bait her.
“And dances with the daffodils!!” she would cry out triumphantly.

It was her father who told her that the cow’s stomach had four parts that were called rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. He told her why cows were called ruminants. He taught her how to say ‘ruminate’. So when her friends found her lost in thought, she would claim that she was ‘ruminate’ing and privately equate herself to a cud chewing animal. She found this thought especially funny and so did her father.

The joke died an untimely death when she found out that this world was so small that ruminants had no place to hide, and no jocund company to keep and no daffodils to break into a sprightly dance with.

The Hunter

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2012 by eightbeats

When I was little child, my father used to take me to the terrace and show me constellations in the night sky – Ursa major, Ursa minor, the Hunter, and the pole star and one of the naked eye planets whenever we got lucky. Over time, I became an expert in identifying The Hunter Constellation; I think it’s also called Orion. When they taught constellations in class, I straightened my neck and beamed with pride hoping that the teacher would ask me a question or two about the stars and the planets. More often than not, the ploy worked. I don’t do that in class anymore. Nor do I scan the night sky except when the news channels are doing a story on this eclipse or the other.

 

Such was (and is) his passion for celestial objects that he could go on for hours about galaxies, stars, Copernicus, our Solar System. And we had so many power cuts that retreating into the terrace or the compound during that one hour of load shedding was a routine affair. I don’t know if he remembers it now but Papa used to sometimes ask me to study astrophysics when I grew up; if I did that, we could discover the physics of the universe together! Years breezed past. I became everything but an astrophysicist – I completed chemical engineering, served the software industry instead and now I sit in the second row of an air conditioned auditorium and convincingly applaud someone, who while waxing eloquent about a premium bar of soap, claims it could meet self actualization needs of the consumer. 

Really, Sir? I wonder what Abraham Maslow, whom even Christian theism failed to impress, would have to say about a sabun ka tukda complete with a wrap package ribbon waiting to propel him to the top fraction of the pyramid he designed.

 

“What a man can be, he must be.” – Abraham Harold Maslow

 

Oh did I mention that I clapped my hands? Indeed I did. And I clapped hard enough along with all the others so that the sound drowned the bile that rose into my throat. So that I did not have to ask myself what I was doing there.

 

We have fewer power cuts in Guwahati now. And because we’ve had an inverter for over a decade, we’ve traded off the time we spent on our terrace gazing at the night sky, me and Papa. Whenever I’m home I spend time on other more interesting pursuits online. And whenever Papa wants to talk about electromagnetic spectrum, I shift uneasily on my seat because it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Sometimes, I shamelessly tell him I’m busy. But never without a lump in my throat. I’ve let him down.

 

 Guilt is a cognitive experience that must be the toughest to shake off. Of not being good enough to hold a conversation around astronomy with my father. Of not singing as much as my mother would have wanted me to. Of not writing enough. Of not having once packed a tasty tiffin for Ma. Of not being around the people of my region who need and deserve better lives and instead choosing the easier path of arm chair activism. Of choosing the safest of careers. Of not questioning enough. Of waking up late every morning.

 

Of sometimes having talked back.

 

Of not loving freely.

 

 Of not letting myself be.

 

Of letting myself be.

 

If only life were about a pink bar of premium soap.

Station to station. Lover to lover.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2012 by eightbeats

Stopping now, Emily throws her head back in gay abandon. She’s panting from all the running. Her throat feels like rust. She lets the dust in the wind dry her lips. She lets the wind blow through her hair. She lets her hair slap her face. She lets her face be. Poker faced Emily. Always hiding a saucerful of secrets. Opening her mouth only to spit out the dust.

 

Scared, Emily continues to run. It’s her favourite disguise. It’s her beloved escape from the world of black and white. It is the grey in her bubble. She runs like hell, her mind racing back and forth. Back. To a time when violet delights were purer than religion. When star crossed lovers sought atonement in the bottom of a shared tomb. Forth. To the east. To the sun. To the promise of promises. To hope.

 

And until the time that she is there, Emily lives with the curse. That for her, transience and permanence are interchangeable. That she can never really belong anywhere. That perhaps, despite her evil laughter, the joke was always on her. That she will forever chase chaos and not rest until she knows exactly what the method in the madness is. That then, the tiniest semblance to commensurateness will stifle her and send her back to where she started from.

 

She trembles at the thought. Glances over her shoulder to look at what she’s left behind. The memories are growing distant. The smiles empty and vacant. The voices fainter, so suppressed and sunken – almost like feeble echoes. But the smell of her betrayals grows stronger. Yet again, the only way for her is forward.

 

The labour of love. Of a warm red blanket. Of life and learning. Of the dullness of surprises. Of frightful suddenness. Of doomed thrills.

 

Of a bane. Of running from station to station, lover to lover.

Fortune’s fool….

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2011 by eightbeats

Sanjay sat on the mattress on the floor mechanically packing his Sony Viao laptop while staring at a tear on the green bed sheet. He said nothing. They had a quiet dinner soon afterwards. He watched a little bit of Reservoir dogs as she washed the dishes. Then he stood up to leave. Raaga dried her hands in the yellow kitchen towel and walked up to the front door and stood with her back against it. As if in protest. Sanjay suddenly grabbed her face, leaned towards her but again held himself back and instead led her back to the mattress with the green sheet with the tear in it. Then, he whispered into her right ear, “I have to go. It’s getting late. The train must’ve arrived” She turned her face away and closed her eyes. In denial. Weak because she thought she would be incomplete without him. Strong because she could keep that thought to herself. By the time she opened her eyes, he was gone.

Somewhere in the neighbourhood, someone was playing , “Yunhi pehloo mein baithe raho…Aaj jaane ki zid na karo”. Life has a way of mocking you. Especially when you least expect it to.

Raaga lay still and gazed blankly at the ceiling. She had it coming didn’t she? After all, it was she who had plunged herself into this. And, Sanjay had resisted her. First with resolve. Then with irritation. Then with anger. Then with patience. And then, with fondness. Till he was in, which he later explained himself, a state of blur.

Unlike herself, Raaga hadn’t stormed into his life. She had tiptoed in.

Thoughts from the last two years in FMS flooded her mind……

It all began with intrigue. Doesn’t it always? Raaga first saw Sanjay in a Kolkata IMS GD/PI workshop. The students present were divided into two groups. Raaga was in the group that watched while Sanjay was in the one that discussed WTO – what with IIFT GD/PIs around the corner! With a deep baritone voice, Sanjay seemed to emerge the natural leader. It was a delight to watch him speak; he seemed to have an opinion on everything. He called the Doha rounds a sham and he convinced his peers that GATT wasn’t all that toothless after all. By the time the session ended, Raaga’s curiosity was piqued.  She followed him, went where he went, aimless, until at the Karunamoyee bus stop in Salt Lake Sector 5, he boarded a shared auto and left. Wow, Raaga told herself and smiled foolishly. She dialled her best friend – Meher’s number to tell her about the “he’s diferent!” guy.

A s luck would have it, she saw him again a few months later. Sitting with her, in class! Not IIFT but FMS. Almost immediately, she messaged Meher ‘ He’s here! He’s here! In my class! In my class! That WTO chap!’

Pat came the reply, ‘Get him!’

Raaga never got around to ‘getting him’. In fact, she was convinced herself that she wasn’t out to ‘get him’. What a coarse way of looking at it! What she felt for him was a hedonic mix of respect and intrigue. And fear. She was scared of him at some level. And it only added to the halo effect. She would observe him for hours in class. She had done it for so long that now, without even looking up once, she could sense when he entered the classroom. When he stood up to make a presentation. When he raised his hand in dissent. When he fiddled with his newly bought smart phone. When he nudged his friend sitting beside him. When he nodded his head in agreement. When he frowned at front benchers. When he smirked at seniors. When he dozed off in class.

It amused her that Sanjay didn’t even know of her existence, let alone her name. He was still trying to reconcile himself to the fact that he had given up his well paying job to join a college where, in a matter of one mock interview, he was made to crop his hair short and forego of his favourite slippers. Complaining to his mentor backfired; his mentor turned out to be a loyalist of the campus legacy. Not one to wallow in self pity, he found his solace in taking pot shots at all the conformists of the system.

Sanjay was much kind to the mavericks. Which is why he noticed Raaga finally. An economics graduate from Bhubaneswar, she was the anti thesis of public diplomacy and known to speak her mind. Shortly after noticing her and strangely enough for an individualist, something about Raaga made Sanjay very angry; he was not very sure himself what it was – it could have been her guts. It didn’t take him long to discover that he got a lot of attention from her. Not knowing how to deal with it, he got irritated with himself and with her. Sadly for him, this only made her resolve steelier.

For Raaga, Sanjay was a living breathing case study in flesh and blood. When he was writing notes, she was observing him. When he was leaning against the teacher’s table in the tea break and talking on the phone, she was observing him. When he was buttoning his cuffs, she was observing him. In some uncanny way, he sensed it. He wasn’t sure if it made him swell with pride or angry at being monitored.

This was shaping up into a form of weird communication Sanjay couldn’t put a term to – he knew that she knew that he knew she was looking at him all the time.

He grew cranky; and, he grew crankier.

All things, good or bad, come to an end. After so much ado, all it took was a placement party to break the ice. It was Sanjay who spoke first. “I think the DJ has no idea how to mix music and which track to play when”, he told Raaga. That conversation ran into hours. By the time it was morning, they were sitting outside a mall, still discussing poetry and music and the fakeness of hurried presentations in class. It didn’t take them time to discover that they were so similar. The next two years were easily the most memorable days of their lives – they wrote, they read, they travelled, they ate, they debated, they laughed, they fought, they sulked.

They dreamed.

Raaga sat up on the mattress now battling to shut out the thoughts on her mind. “Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think”, she reprimanded herself. Somehow, telling herself the same things thrice always seemed to work for her. Like on the nights before her exams, she would tell herself, “Study! Study! Study!” She pulled herself together and then took an auto to Meher’s flat in Greater Kailash 1.  But she was thinking of Sanjay all the time.

Around the time she reached GK 1, Sanjay reached the New Delhi station.  Nivedita was anxiously waiting for him. Dressed in a pink salwar suit, she was easily the prettiest girl he had ever seen. There was a sort of naïveté about her that he had once found endearing – now he had to put up with it.  Her complete and absolute dependence on him that he had once treasured was now increasingly turning into a liability. Her incessant barrage of questions which he once found adorable now got on his nerves. She was everything Raaga wasn’t and would never want to be.  And yet, some things were never meant to be. An expert hand in veiling the emotional side to her, Raaga had borrowed from Miss Roy to explain the catch -22 situation they found themselves in. “We crossed into forbidden territory. We tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much”, she said to him feigning a yawn one night so that she could turn around and pretend to sleep.

Fir se late? Hamesha late. Baat nahin karungi tumse. Kya huwa? Kya soch rahe ho? Koi aur mil gayi hai kya?” said Nivedita in one breath even as she rushed into his arms.

Nahin yaar, kuch kaam aa gaya tha. Cab khadi hai,chalo”, he told her.

Nivedita fell asleep almost as soon as she got into the cab.

Sanjay sank into the seat.  And, thought of Raga’s piercing kohled eyes.

 In a form of weird communication Sanjay couldn’t put a term to – he knew that she knew that he knew she was thinking of him all the time.

Of inflexion…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2011 by eightbeats

A lot of water has gone down the bridge. I am stuck at a point of inflexion. Yes, we speak like that nowadays. We talk of economies of scope and we nod knowingly at sector analyses.

True Neha, we appreciate things more now.

I took a walk in my lane at about 2 a.m. some day last week. It is one of the things I do on impulse. (And no, I don’t relate to the talk of impulse buy of chocolates at all ).The petrichor that rose from the soil took me back to a life that was.

No, Tomar, that life was not on rent.

I had read somewhere about life’s patterns. Not stock cycles, no. Patterns that connect reflections to images, glints to light, weaves to fabrics, needles to thread, walls to rooms, love to fear to anger to remorse. I often think of them. Like I did today when I made friends with a mehendi artist in my lane this evening. “ Mera bhai toh teytoo banata hai madam”,he told me, even as he made intricate design after design on my hand. I smiled.

“Wah Wah”,you would have said Rohit.

It’s time to set my alarm and crash. The “car key” already has. Who knows what will be unleashed on us this Tuesday. In an Edwardian summer where bliss came from a radio head, I would’ve said No alarms and no surprises.

But from now to October, some songs will have to remain the same. Not because of our Buland Khudi but despite it.

The curious case of the tea strainer….

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2010 by eightbeats

 The importance of the tea strainer cannot be overstated to the teetotaller. Anyone who starts her day with a cup of tea will surely understand what I am talking about. Ironically, I don’t. It intrigues me how missing that first cup of tea in the morning could cripple your day or make you cranky in the morning.

I am hardly a paragon of abstinence; my kitchen never had a tea strainer. This was first pointed out to me by my elder brother who came visiting a few months back. I could sense the exasperation in his voice when he could not find one in my kitchen. Necessity is the mother of all inventions and his need was so urgent that he resorted to using a nylon mesh bag to strain his tea into a mug. Thankfully, I had a mug! All my life, I have never been so unabashed in my admiration and respect for anyone but my brother; therefore, I decided that there must be more to drinking tea than meets the eye. So, after he left for Delhi, I began to drink tea first thing every morning in office. Just to satiate my curiosity. And stopped doing it just as suddenly as I had started. Nothing happened.

My parents drink up to four cups of tea every day. My mother drinks tea just after lunch – beats me why. Ma and papa spent some time with me at my place last year. It never struck me that they had to manage without a strainer while I was away in office the whole day. That I own an immodest vacuum cleaner but not a humble tea strainer is nothing short of an idiosyncrasy. For the teetotaller and the non teetotaller. For me, it’s perfectly logical.

Or was.

Until the other morning, when I had this sudden craving for a cup of tea. I poured a spoonful of broke bond tea hastily into a saucepan of boiling water. Then it occurred to me that I did not have a strainer. Like I had written a complete event handler program but did not have the server access to run it. But I was desperate. I tried the sedimentation method and poured the tea gingerly into a cup. No sooner did I drink it than I realised that motes were floating in my beverage – my sedimentation stunt had flopped miserably. The nylon mesh bag looked at me invitingly. I picked it up and attempted to strain my tea. The tea formed rivulets, flowing in all directions – down my thighs, on my shirt, on the kitchen slab, on the chopping board, into the sink and what have you. An unassuming trickle found its way into the tea cup and I drank it lustily. The kitchen was a veritable mess.

I am wont to learning things the hard way. More often than not, when it is too late. Like in my engineering days, I used to invariably find out the night before my exam that I should have bothered to take notes in class. Help lay a painful score kilometres away because I did not stay in the hostel. I really should have bothered to buy a tea strainer earlier. I felt immensely guilty about putting my parents and my brother through the agony of having to make do without a tea strainer. It is as bad as giving someone tooth paste and taking away her tooth brush.

I bought a tea strainer last week.

My parents are coming over in a few weeks from now. Hopefully, my brother will be here too. A stitch in time will save three or is it four (if I were to include the penitent sinner 😉 )?