Balcony blues 

The light of now isn’t the light that sweeps clean, the remnants of night from the farthest and the darkest corner of your room. No, the light of now, waiting behind the tallest apartment building, morning but barely, awaits the west side of the sky, to try its luck again. 
It escapes, sometimes, filtered, in patches, and pastes itself on my marble floor. What can I do? I am as helpless as you. I tread upon it, dipping my foot in a puddle of morning, and forget about it just as soon as it complains.
It’s time now, it is now waiting, the west windows of my home are painted red in their veins. It again slips through gaps between buildings, snaking its way through gullies, because the night is chasing, and it must hurry. Gasping, stumbling and reddening, it alights on my walls, breathing.
It changes colours, and dies a content death, fading into the fresh paint of my wall. No traces left, but a moist eye here and there, looking out of balconies, mourning.

Self Administered Heavy Dose

I love drama. I exaggerate like I am getting evaluated by the drama council of my life. I need to blow things of out proportion for me to make it all comfortable to me. I am my most comfortable when a loud sound is followed by a glitter rain and a tall vase tumbling down the stairs. Keep the tears rolling, keep the eyelashes long and bat those eyes like they are having a seizure. It will not get you true love, but, you will look sensational when you are crying about not getting true love. I am terrible, thank you.

I’ve watched episodes over episodes of successful drama series on my laptop. And as drama series go, they are extreme. Happiness, Anger, love, although love isn’t an emotion. I think, it’s an entirely different ballgame. But, that’s the gist of it. The emotions are extreme.  And, sadness and grief are extreme too.

A few years ago, as I watched men leaving professionally successful women with a reality check to ponder over, in a bed rampaged by last night’s sex, I just watched. I watched it like I would watch a commercial.  I watched women hand over their two year old engagement rings and I watched blankly. I watched people lie down on the floor on my laptop screen, looking blankly up at the ceiling, not answering their phone. I never realized the background music is a blessing. Without that, it would be impossible to watch people disintegrating in front of your eyes. To witness a gutting of a person is impossible to go through without being hallowed out of all sanity.

Today, the background music too betrayed. Because now, when I see someone slide down the door they softly closed on a person they softly asked to go, playing two years of togetherness in their head, I know, I don’t want to feel what they are feeling.  I don’t want to feel what it feels like to sit down on your bed and not have the energy to sleep or the resolve to get up. I don’t want to know what it feels like to get your heartbroken.

And scripted heartbreaks are even worse. Someone took time out, to figure out the lighting, the words, the music, the cameras and of course, it’s perfect, A perfect administration of tragedy into my veins, like a drip over the next three hours after I shut my laptop.

Drumbeat

Silence rules us. We abide by its palm pressed tightly against our mouths. A breathtaking morning is felt, not laid out neatly like tarot cards, in handpicked cherry like sentences. A freshly laid tar road, ambushed by the autumn shedding is taken in, not talked of.

But a change of season is too tempting to let go of without at least once, half swinging, sneakily to the drum beats of the heralding song.  Winter is here and the moon lingers, the sun behaves like a caffeine addict. It rises grumbling, slowly and by noon, with coffee in its system it rains down anxiety on my city.  The winter sun stings, we scurry off to cold walls, in dug out sweaters.

Flirtations, Listed.

Most of life’s mundanities unravel to me when I take a sharp left or when I go on an adventure of lazy lane switches. And, almost always, the Radio is blaring. I prefer the bad song sounds to my bad engine sound.

Today, while coming back from work, I was wondering if I could phase out and still drive and still reach safely?  I phased out for two seconds. At a red light. I love life, I am glutton about it. So I crank up the volume and refocus and the radio mulled over ” Two minute relationships”

What are those?  Like a silent pact between two strangers sharing standing space on a divider, waiting to cross the road? An agreement to not die or not push the other under a bus. Sounds like an important agreement to me. Then, I started thinking about all the two minute relationships I’ve had.

Flirtations Listed:

  • The never ending stranger meets in elevator. Who’ll push the buttons? Whats that perfume?
  • The red light romance. I see you, you see me. I turn away, because I have to pick my nose.
  • The co shopper. You and I, same aisle, same cereal? I walk away, muttering prayers for the oats in her cart and mine. Look at our waistlines, we don’t eat oats.
  • The book shop love.That one person who picks just the right book. So long, lover
  • The wait at the chemist’s. I know you are lactating, You know I am constipating. We share a bond beyond words.
  • The salesman at the jewelry store. Everything looks good on me? Can I model? No ? Why are you smiling?
  • The everyday guy gang at the end of my street. They hate me for my obnoxious honking, I hate them for the hoots.
  • My watchman, who is picked right out of a ghost story. We only stare, intensely.

And intensely staring, I get into my car, for another adventure. I lead the bug to the morning sunlight. Bathe, little bug. We have a lot more flirting to do.

 

 

 

Moving away from the coast.

I lived by a coast for eight years. Eight years of watching a doomed sea, rush psychotically towards the city, sometimes breaking sadly on the rocks, sometimes touching the feet of tourists, but all the times, sulkily being pulled back into itself. It’s a mental exercise to look at the sea.  It’s deafening, its senseless and it eats away your time.

But, who is to explain the sadistic soup of salt and humidity that the sea brews up?  The struggle is endless.  My hair is not on the list of “Types of Hair” articles on the internet, I see myself comparing my hair to coconut coir. My skin isn’t dry, isn’t oily, isn’t combination. It is dreadful, is what it is. My complexion is inexplicable. I will still try to explain it. I look like a marble cake made out of dark chocolate and milk chocolate but left to dry out in the sun for a month. And to that explanation, there isn’t a complexion correcting serum on the market.

My day starts with waking up, sweating under a blanket in the middle of winter. I take a bath, to which end, I cannot explain. Even before I exit the washroom, I am bathed in sweat again. Still, I defy and get ready. I come to my hair. I don’t even try to do anything with it. It gets pulled and twisted into a braid. I step out of the house and the humidity and salt, take me prisoner.

After 10 hours, I come home and submit myself to the self-inflicted torture of looking into the mirror. I see a coal mine writing poetry on my face. It’s distressing. I wash my face, I change and I channel into the virtual world.

It was an eight year exercise. I now live in the highlands of Hyderabad and I do not know what humidity is, the only salt I tolerate is in my food.

Before leaving the coastal town, I paid one last visit to the sea. It was the happiest sendoff I got from anyone. It was the same; it promised to be the same if and when I ever returned to it. Selflessly, it played it’s sick, old game of rush and retreat and repeat and the last I saw of it, was from the small window of the flight. I don’t miss it enough to let the absence make it fonder for me, but I do miss it just enough to throw one stray thought its way. Catch.

Cars and Cameras

Moving cameras inside moving cars,  I pass by lights. Many lights. I click pictures. I check. 

Okay. 

Cars and cameras on phones fascinate me to no end. I am riding shotgun, I am jobless, I am thinking of how the ocean is a sink. I am thinking of how the time is 7:00 in the evening and the sun refuses to set. I am thinking of the noise from the backseat. I hope no one is choking. I am too absorbed to care. If they do, they’ll stop the car. I hope they don’t stop the car.

I turn sideways. I look at the steering. It looked so limiting. In front of me was the careless spread of the sky and the steering was taking me into it. How very un romantic. 

I realise, our days are such. We have a sensory ocean to jump into and ropes and technicians to make the jump easier. Easy, is the keyword. Take it easy. 

I ease off. I switch my camera off and drift to sleep.

Drift to a sensory ocean I so romantically hold dear, but hey, ropes and all. Can’t get too hurt,  can’t get a scare. Let’s control life. One inch lowered at a time. I wake up after five hours. 

Noise.

What worries me? Hmm let’s see. People succumbing worries me. 

People succumbing, weak kneed, slack jawed, limp faced. Your fall has no purpose, no where to end, to reason to begin. You fall, because it’s fun to fall. Because it’s easy to fall. Beacause if you fall, you do not have to answer your conscience. Your conscience will see you falling into the yawning abyss, it will try finding reason in your eyes. But, you are mad. Madness knows no reason. So though, you are looking at the bluest sky of the year, your  conscience only finds cloudy black pools staring back at it. 
It mutters a distasteful scorn and returns. You are still falling. 

You are now alone, falling. How long has it been? A year? Two? A day? A second? Do you still remember to count? It’s just you and me now. You can be honest. What is being honest? Hello! Yes, you dozed off. No, it’s okay. I think so  too. It must have been all your lifetime. 
Relax. We will be at this for a while. Your conscience is now dead. Yes, it was a quiet funeral. Your mother was the gravest mourner. Get it? Haha. Sigh. 

So, it’s just you and me. How does it feel to finally meet me? You cannot hide your face forever. I am not that bad. There, that wasn’t too hard was it? Oh you are crying!

Mirrors have the toughest life man. Tch. 

* The sound of bones breaking, a devastating scream and the lost sound of a broken mirror* 

Walks melt distance

Bonds between people play out over a lifetime of their own.  They fall prey to neglect and rust and when traversed after three years, I did not expect it to carry us over to the other side, like a strong bridge on a mellow river. I expected it to creak, to sway and to threaten to give away. Instead, it hardly seemed touched by time and Olivia and I enjoyed the walk.

The Appointment

I call her shamelessly out of the blue and ask her if she can meet me. According to her, I was in another state, a thirteen hour train journey away and I was asking her if I could walk to where she lived. She sounded angry and on the edge over the phone, still she granted us audience. Jigi and I were going to meet Olivia, the girl I haven’t met since school.

The walk .

Chennai is very humid and the evening was just around the corner when we started walking. I wore a chiffon dress which clung to me for dear life after 20 steps and as the walk progressed, the dress and I became one. Jigi was sweating in his own glory beside me, his’ is another story.  He speaks to me like nothing is amiss, his face is a playground of anguish and sweat and I look at him in absolute horror as he smiles and almost looks like he would burst like an overripe fruit with delight. His nonchalance to the humidity was annoying me.

“Look at you, you’re drenched”, I tell him, hoping for some kind of acknowledgement from him towards the absolute horror of the weather.

“Ah”, he nods, “This is me now..” , he says and continues to lecture me on encroachment of lands.

I still was very conscious of wallowing in my own sweat, in spite of, or maybe, more so because everybody else seemed to be enjoying the city sunset. I came prepared for an evening of strolls under arched ancient trees. I did not sign up for the “Experience the true Chennai” tour. I got one anyway and I wasn’t happy about it.

The walk – Part II

Olivia suggested meeting in the allegedly subsidized Café Coffee day outlet inside her campus. I found it too suffocating to sit inside glass door-ed, dimly lit corporate coffee house. Chocolate wasn’t on my mind, a very long scrubbing session, a tryst with hot water and soap, a sensual dialogue with shampoo was what I had in mind. Soap bubbles drifted across my field of imaginary vision as Olivia came walking toward us, as the last of the bubbles popped, I was hugging Olivia. Her long hair was freshly washed and I wished for my shower more passionately.

I introduced Jigi to Olivia and we start walking the lush campus of IIT Madras. It was quiet and cut off from the outside world. There was life inside which thrived at an entirely different frequency than the life outside. It was a high tension, low voiced, complacent environment where according to Jigi, the rivers would flow unabashed due to encroachments and where I sensed, thoughts would flow a very retarded course due to a lack of judgement. 

Deformation of thoughts would come naturally, where silence meets knowledge of a thriving business beyond the compound walls.

Jigi and Olivia get along well.  Olivia is the perfect tour guide. She guides us through the campus, as much as she tells us about her life there and her devious plans to marry a professor, so she could live on the campus. She doesn’t know which one, and a good part of me is scared to admit, she doesn’t care which one.

Olivia and I exchange very intimate eye contact now and then as Jigi says something funny or witty. This was two girls, acknowledging and assenting, evaluating and accepting, finally, nodding a silent and decisive  “yes” to the evolution from adolescence to early adulthood that we missed witnessing in each other. It was a rewarding experience.

The walk was a long one.

The dehydration was taking its toll and we stop for supplies. I buy guava juice, Jigi grabs the chance to have something else other than sambar and buys himself a puff and Olivia gets entrusted with extra strong coffee, thanks to Jigi. That man is a person of habit like I have never seen anyone be. Olivia texted me about the coffee two days after the walk, telling me how she won’t ever forget someone ordering something that they like for a person they just met.  She likes him.

By the time we reach the other side of the gate, the talk isn’t exhausted. Olivia hugs me real tight again and we wave our goodbyes. Jigi and I had another 30 minutes of walking to do through winding lanes, in chunky heels. There was a festival afoot that day. The loudspeakers played a very pleasing song, very loudly in Tamil and we passed by smoldering fires, heaps of flowers, women dressed for a coronation at 8 in the night and streetlight after streetlight, we reach the desolate stretch of  Jigi’s college.

The night life of his college milled around the tea shop, as I bid him goodbye and got into the taxi.  I watched him walk to the tea shop, becoming one among the many aspiring journalists, among a cloud of cigarette smoke.

 

 

First flights. 

I remember my first flight vividly. I boarded the plane not through an aero bridge, the tube like, grey, boring way of getting into flights.  I got on the plane, as the doors hissed open and the stairs fell at my feet, like a heroine, I stepped onto the first step. Aero bridges now put me off. I have always liked the machine air of a plane chasing me till I stepped inside the cabin.

It was five in the evening, and eveything around me was lit in those happy, Sunny, single tone Colours wax crayons used to be come in.

Kingfisher airlines was known for their very pretty air hostesses and for domestic air travel that wasn’t “Air India” .I shamelessly gawked at each one of them. My mind was screaming “They’re only people.” But my eyes refused to look away from the impeccable ness they were. My shirt was XL and too tight. A few of them smiled down on me, benevolently and I grinned back, like a perfect idiot. 

When the flight took off, sunlight streamed in. I say ” streamed” , because it was so beautiful, it filled the vivid red cabin to a memorable scarlet. I look back to see if my father noticed that.Hesmiled at me. He didn’t notice anything. I don’t return the smile and go back to gluing my nose to the window.

This was also the era of digital cameras. Where a 10 megapixel camera was all the excuse you needed to switch to “macro” mode and embark on a disturbing course where all the pictures you took, involved lying down. Buttons. Rugs. Idli. Anything, with an excuse of a texture to it  was brutalised. One such camera, I owned too. I took so many dirty pictures of the sun, the clouds, the sky. The heavens must have issued blatant indecency warrants against me. Like pornography for instance.
I walk/ tumble across the aisle and reach my father and show him the pictures. He is disgusted and worried about my future as a citizen,still, he tells me I am an artist. I roll back happily to my seat and click more pictures. If I would have listened better, I could have heard my parents sighing. 

I get down from the flight, the happiest fat kid in town. 

Today, I write this, sitting next to my colleague who has boarded a plane for the first time. When it took off, the generally genial person in him was gone. He lit up. All adjectives and grammar were lost to him. The city of chennai hung like an expensive tapestry off an ancient wall, as the flight tilted. He looks at me. 

” Lighting…… ” , he says  and looks out of the window again and before my face could lose the smile, he turns back and says ” Super!”. I haven’t stopped smiling, we are about to land now and the city of Hyderabad makes its grand entrance. 

“Zeenath”, he says and points at the window. He hasn’t regained his grammar or vocabularily yet. I crane my neck and look. The city of Hyderabad looks like scattered pearls and peices of gold. Nizam’s fortune.  We descend. My colleague will definitely have to do something tomorrow about his neck pain. The person refuses to look away from the window for even a second, except  to point at more lights and exclaim. 

Home, at last, the familiar Telugu fills my heart with ease and my head with a numb indifference I missed, trying to decipher Tamil in chennai. 

A nineteen rupee adventure. 

Holding on to dear life in a city bus, my mind had to go off on a romantic tangent. What better time to think of childhood friends and work culture than when in a city bus in rush hour. It’s not like the bus was suffocating and the conductor could not hear what I saying. So yeah, my head rolled, lazily, on sunny, grassy planes while I was inhaling poison.

My mind flooded with snippets from three years ago. Walks with Dixita.  Dixu knows me like an open book and the best part, she finds it fascinating. Dixu, who used to drag my overweight flabby self through the coastal city of Vizag, in winding lines, in broad daylight, with me huffing and puffing beside her lithe, graceful form.

Not very different from the bus I was in. Maybe a little bit slower, but the rest matched. I blankly stared at people from the Windows after that little jump into the past. Some stared back, some turned away. When all hope of ever getting down from the bus was slowly vanishing, my stop came. In nineteen rupees, I would call my experience , exploitation. I had exhausted the little journey of all it’s character and was very exhausted.

But I was there to meet someone. A someone I was very curious about and strangely had a soft spot for. This someone was also down with the flu. I met her and we clicked. I thanked all the gods, weird and eccentric for that. I couldn’t commit the crime of asking her how she felt every 10 minutes for the entire time I was there. Thankfully, I didn’t.

We walked in circles, alternating between busy roads where her voice was barely audible and quiet streets where I could hear murderers lurking in the dark. No paranoia. I wish I paid more attention to quranic verses when I could.

So scared, irritated ( is traffic always that annoyingly loud? Sheesh!)  and strangely drawn to her, I walked. Trying not to trip. It wouldn’t really sync if I fell in a pile of leaves while talking about why men are lustful idiots. I emerged victorious. I didn’t fall, I tripped only once.

I remember how she stepped back a small step, every time she spoke of something she felt strongly about. I found that new. I never saw someone do that.

I bid goodbye after a good immersion therapy of 14000 steps and took an auto this time. I have had it with buses and nostalgia.

Although this isn’t about you, Dixu, as much as it should be. This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t think about you then. I owe you this. Beautiful, ever patient Dixu. She always asked me to write about her. Her curly hair,  big eyes, her music, none of that inspired me. Only her memory does. The memory of the most loving girl I know. I know you wanted poetry, but this is all I have got. So, Dixu, there. I wrote about you. After three years of asking.