Friday, March 9, 2012


These city roads on which I glide today
whisper in my ears a promise
to remain the way they are.
Ten years from today, shall they be decked
in the carelessness of love
that they are clothed in today?
The full bright moon bathes
the dirt-coated blades of the coconut tree
that sits in its uninterrupted, continuous existence,
just like that grandpa in the balcony,
sitting, rocking on his armchair.

The bridge runs over my head
but the barriers that line the roads
with signs begging for people's patience
are now draped,
with rows of tuni bulbs, that illuminate
the rusting metal underneath the peeling blue paint.
And the navy waters under the
purple, benevolent sky
hum that tune now too familiar
(endearing?) to my ears.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

He stood against the wall, staring into nothingness.

His long fingers curled around a cigarette he promised would be his last, and as he exhaled a puff of smoke, his eyes glazed. He had tiny little sunken eyes, that shone like little black diamonds and reflected what was left of his youth. I'm 28, he'd say to himself occasionally. He kept wondering where all the time had gone by.

"There's still a hint of Sunil left in you...the Sunil I knew not so long ago", the voice on the other side of the phone would say to him, with a hope of consoling him. Instead of showing a silver lining to the cloud, that comforting voice now gave rise to turmoil in his heart.

He bought another cigarette to buy time, to avoid going back into that cold, marbled office that was sapped of ventilation and sensible life. He had grown used to being "the loner with a mission". Years ago, when his peers were still conjuring dreams, he set out to turn his dreams into reality. Never did he imagine that his dreams would be realised, and that a dead-end such as this would confront him. Living a dream is nice for a while. But then, the restless soul (which is suitably confused often) needs to be let out of every cage, even if it's a cage of some past choice.

As he lit the cigarette, he thought of her. There she was...with her head bowed down. It was a dimly lit room, and her dupatta was draped around her and a loose end swept the floor as the breeze gently danced past him. Just then, suddenly, his mind started playing tricks with him. Sunil couldn't remember her face...

He quickly rushed to the lady at the corner of the street and bought another cigarette. "Classic!", he roared. The old lady shuddered at his voice, which was turning raspy over the last few months. "Bhai...this is bad for you. Leave it!", she said in a voice that did little to hide her maternal instinct. She had been seeing Sunil since his first day in this new office, which was not so long ago. The boy is nice, she often thought to herself. She even saw him on a few occasions with a girl a few years younger to him. She knew it wouldn't last. The girl looked like she wasn't very sure of herself. Handling a boy like this didn't seem like the job for her, who was yet to figure out her own life. But she did like her, and was touched by how much love she had for him. It was written in her eyes.
Sunil chose not to respond to her. He only smiled a half smile and went back to lean against the clean, white wall, resting against it with a heel for support. Lighting his cigarette on the second attempt, he tried to jog through his memory again. It frustrated him, how he couldn't remember her face. He tried now to put pieces in his memory together...her eyes, her round face, her thick It wasn't working. His worst fear had come true. He forgot what she looked like.

Wasn't I waiting for this to happen? He asked himself. He had loved her dearly. He didn't know that letting go of her would be this easy and painless. Neither did he know the realisation of having let go would be so painful instead.

He slowly stubbed what remained of the cigarette, and navigated his lean body towards the door of his office. As he walked those few metres, the rain, it seemed, suddenly echoed what his soul might have wanted to say. A smile crept over his face instantly.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anna anna everywhere

There are several sights of this sort that have been plaguing my television screen in the last 10 years or so. Patriotic individuals, especially young and impressionable university students playing truant to classes and leading protest marches, reminded me of images I had so often seen in movies and thought were cliched. It's not that I was, or am not, patriotic.

I'm a skeptic, but aren't we all? If you take one quick look at the content of any leading newspaper daily or rummage through television channels, you'll still see a hint of skepticism, despite the magnanimity that the Anna Hazare protest has gained.

I took my time to form an opinion about the issue. Protests and hunger strikes are not something I'm new to. Being a student of a politically volatile college, I was exposed and hence, immunised to any political drama. I knew that sitting through a couple of episodes of it would prove to be futile, because it was teenage hot-bloodedness that was waiting to vent out its accumulated anger on an issue that was redundant and meaningless to begin with. This is why I treated any protest as an anti-colonial hangover. That we need to find a way to go down into the musty pages of history, and shall grab onto any issue that comes by, like a drowning man would to a straw of hay. The Lokpal bill issue, however, has passed that nascent stage. It is now an issue that has been recognised as one of national importance.

And who giveth the importance it has managed to gain? The opposition party. Of course! They'd bring up any issue to bring down the government that has already been stuttering and shuddering. It is funny to see how a party that is fighting within itself and crumbling with every passing day, is raising fingers to point out the flaws of the ruling party. The BJP is trying a rare feat: to rise from the ashes. We'll see where that goes...

The ruling party's truth will be out in the open any day now. The answer to why it's been so defensive about its corrupt ministers lies in the Indo-Italian home itself. It's an open secret, and that man who, being an ordinary citizen, is let off without security frisking at airports like all VVIPs is waiting to be revealed in the open as the one who's behind all the political drama that's been rocking our country for so long. The media houses fear being wiped out and will not speak about he-who-must-not-be-named. The opposition is waiting for the drama to reach a climax.

And lo and behold, Rahul questions the arrest of Anna Hazare. Bad timing or truth-must-prevail? Time will tell.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

90, not out!

When I switched on the radio this morning, a friendly voice emanated from the speakers, reminiscing about a childhood that was set against the backdrop of the 90’s. It was different then…the world was still making a slow transition from black and white photos to coloured ones. The world seemed a different place with globalization touching our lives, but not in a very blatant way. Only a younger Manmohan Singh (with black hair strands still finding place on that otherwise white mane of his) making a speech that would change India’s trading scene forever. But not all of this really mattered to me.

The 90’s meant something very different. Quieter,definitely. I fail to now attribute any substantial reason for why it was quieter back then. Perhaps because TV in the night then did not mean a heckling Rajdeep Sardesai or a crusader-of-the-truth Arnab Goswami. My childhood was spent in the 90’s when 9 pm was late, which meant Prannoy Roy was dominating the airwaves with his 9 pm Star News ON Star TV. There was no soap that grabbed eyeballs then…it was only the debut of “Janmabhoomi” on Doordarshan that gave us an idea of what a daily soap was. The title song, sung by the then struggling Pt Ajoy Chakraborty, blared from most TVs at 6 pm. Housewives (yes, that term was still used for the now dignity-seeking homemakers) would huddle up in front of their television sets, ladles et al in hand, all eyes on that one family that for once, made them forget about all their domestic troubles.

The 90’s meant Priya and Menoka. Standalone theatres that stood proudly, serving popcorn in plastic packets, often tinted with turmeric, much to our indifference. And the indifference? Because of Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan on the huge screen, who possessed the ability then, to keep women of all ages, and their plumper heroines, hooked. You’d say, they still have their charm intact. I’d say, go watch Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

There was something charming about a life in the 90’s. There was no hurry. No, I don’t mean that as the world was running past us, we were sinking into oblivion with our work pace. We were good at our workplaces, but we were cellphones-internet-dish tv less back then. Such a world wasn’t as closely knit and “globalised” as it is now. And a life like that helped you gaze at the stars to your heart’s content, not complain about everything as much as we do now, and relationships were, thankfully, based on tangible grounds. “Virtual” was virtually non-existent. Internet did make its grand debut and the PC was an intriguing object, but it didn’t trample upon half the waking time our lives.

The 90’s also meant the “Philips Top Ten”, the only show to my knowledge, that played hindi music on TV which us kids liked. Everytime they played the song “Amma dekh, aa dekh, tera munda bigda jaye”, we’d dance like we cared two hoots about the world, without having the slightest inkling about what the song was about. There was Baba Sehgal, and there was the big-nosed-Shilpa Shetty. Then there was the “hawww” factor too. Who can forget Karishma Kapoor’s bold “Sexy sexy sexy mujhe log bole”, and how everytime the song was played on TV, a big fonted “C E N S O R E D” would appear diagonally across the screen. I remember running up to my mother to ask her why the song was censored. When she said it was because of the word sexy, I prodded her further into explaining to me what “sexy” meant. And then, thanks to sex education still remaining an unconceived idea, my mother, who was very young herself then, just stared at me blankly, unable to come up with a good enough reply to a question that she didn’t anticipate one fine day as she sat down to chop vegetables for dinner.

The 90’s meant the birds chirping. The siren in the mornings. Lake on southern avenue for leisurely morning walks. A family with more time to spend with each other. Farinni cakes for lunch time in school. Five rupee coins sources of boundless joy, giving us a sense of achievement when earned from mummy, to buy that one biki max or orange stick after school. And fatafat golis and pretend-cigarettes…those minty cigarette candies…just to bear that Marilyn Monroe look, replete with red lips, thanks to one end of that candy.

The 90’s…my childhood…it meant something else. It meant something happier. Something I never knew I’d have to abandon so soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I always believed strongly in love having to do with spirituality. More often than not, what you want and the way you want it lands up in your lap.
It was perfect. The way it happened, the stars, the cosmic connections...

The big question we all forget to ask ourselves, though, is, what do you do when you get it?

It so happens that the last month or so has been a beautiful discovery for me, of a life I wanted to live, of a life that shook away all its sorrows and worries. A life that showed me to soak in a moment with a smile and look skywards when there's anger or misery beckoning, for it shall pass you by. In a lifetime, everyone must experience it sometime or the other.

For some, sadly, it doesn't last. Or maybe, for all of us...

And when it does pass you by like a little gust of wind or perhaps just a gentle breeze, you wonder, as I'm doing now. My mind goes back to that painting I love so much, and a strange hope springs up again. Hope....another of our greatest weapons from God after love, of course. This is what hope looks like for me....

Friday, February 4, 2011

She stands sideways, facing the wall, waiting for the door to be opened. She’d have wanted a more handsome face, not to mention that of a man, to open the door, instead of the bespectacled scowling woman that opens it. She swings sideways from her pose, leaving that romantic thought with her new shoes outside the door.

She swings the leather handbag down her arm and puts it gently, deliciously on the stool near the kitchen. Then, she starts washing the dishes in the sink. Oh, but those large eyes, though not beautiful, and that face ,though not attractive, are holding the glance of the dirty utensil, furtively. She’s used to this. This waste, and this feeling of longing she has for a life like they have in the movies, which she watches ever so often on her broken and protesting TV set, given to her by her employers. These employers of hers are benevolent people. The lady of the house realized a long time back that his is no ordinary domestic help she was hiring. Her name was bengali for poetry. Forget about whether there was any poetry that sprung up in her father’s mind when he named her so. With this romanticized daze of hers, she would sometimes stand in the verandah, lost in thought and with time coming to a standstill, perhaps embodying in herself the true meaning of her name for once. Ah, those thoughts. How she gets lost in them. She imagines she is that woman at the verandah, standing and watching helplessly, as her husband (now her favourite hero Uttam Kumar) leaves the building. There’s perhaps a tear that trickled down the corner of his eye. Or so she caught a glimpse of, before he turns away, leaving her weeping helplessly. He’s going to war and so they must separate. “Kobita!”, yells her employer, shaking her out of her dream. She gets back to the dusting. She gets back to being the household help, who often pretends she does not exist and isn’t party to the conversations that happen between the husband and wife whom she works for. She, in fact, caught this young couple fondling each other once, if only for a brief second. It was when she was dusting their room and wiping their wedding photo in a frame she wanted to possess too. She had a photo of herself and her husband, clicked in a studio when he was still alive and she looked much happier, with vermillion gracing the parting of her hair. She wasn’t jealous, no. She did not even curse her fate for taking her husband away on the impossible pretext of a fall into a mine while he was at work. She just took a look back at what she was like and then, almost mechanically, put the frame back in its place and went on to attend to the other chores.

As she leaves, she swings the handbag back on, draping her sari back perfectly. She cleans her hands with a soap her daughter gifted her, which smells like fruit she never tasted, and steps into her shoes, back to a life that wasn’t meant to be the way it is. But in her head, it’s almost always perfect.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The nomad in me is waiting to be granted freedom. It's been surprisingly patient, especially with taking it in its stride the cancellation of my trips by myslef to Singapore and Malaysia last October, and then the Sunderbans expedition this winter. Cancellation thanks to my paranoid parents.
Of late, the people I meet and the websites I'm coming across are fuelling the patience and undying hope of this traveller in me. Especially last night, after meeting the fiesty traveller Shirin from Singapore whose courage and enthusiasm I'm totally in awe of at the moment.That's not surprising...the more hopeful we are about something, the more patient we are till we get it. Perseverence is the word, I guess. I'm still watching TLC and taking notes at a manic pace, with my mom and brother stealing glances wondering about what I'm upto.
Here's what's serving as an inspiration for me at the moment. Backpacking across the length and breadth of India is a Herculean task, but there's someone who's dared to make an attempt. Others soon shall follow suit, I guess. Maybe I will too...someday :D