Brake lights

The back attaches itself to the car seat, in anguish and boredom. It’s fine. It has resigned itself to the boring wind through  the pockmarked roads of my city. The arm extends, just as tense as it is bored to the steering wheel, fingers gripping the steering in a mix of lethargy and urgency. The kind of urgency boiling water has as soon as it reaches the boiling point. The kind of urgency, that will die out in vapours of resignation. 
And the eyes restless and vaguely registering everything, flick about, returning to the red light. Bathed in the brake lights red wash, that pours through windows and windshield, a temporary life breeds in the red concoction. A life which suspends itself on the impatient, yet resigned wait of a hundred tired eyes. A life which is red, has the temperament of the faintest mist and the personality of a weakly plotted murder scene from a B grade novel. The eyes flick back to the signal and the brake lights, emit their last fierce roar and the signal clears. The red vanishes like a lunatic’s days of lucidity. 

Cleanse the city of its gods.

The Tip off

“Did you look at the moon? It’s crazy”, texted Jigi.

I went into my balcony which faced east and looked up.  I couldn’t see the crazy moon. Crazy moon was on the other side, the side, I was not dressed for. I told him I couldn’t and went to sleep.

 

The sighting

I find it unfair that the light just before morning is no different from the light at midnight. The only indication of it being morning, were the huge, rumbling milk vans zooming past me as I braked.  Idiots.  I accelerate in anger; my car gives a jerk and effortlessly climbs the flyover.

As we go higher, it gets calmer. I am tempted to slow down, but I resist. When I reach the highest, I see the moon, now against a slightly lightened sky, which was at least a little indicative of the morning to come.

It was crazy. It stuck to the top right corner of my windshield, like a maniac. I take a turn, losing it for quite a few minutes. By the time it appeared again, it was pasted against a soft blue sky.

The sight

The wrappings of cold, desolate and far were ripped off of it, it shyly shone, like someone stretched a net of silver across a vessel of light. It was beautiful like I know it will never be after those three minutes I spent, with a glass partition between us.

It hung like an enchantment waiting to be cast upon Hyderabad.  If I touch it, will white dust light me up?  If I pray, will god grant my wishes? No.

The sun cleansed the city of the mist and the drunkenness.  Who will cleanse the city of the goddesses?

The Breakfast Show with Arnab

Sleep sometimes refuses to come. Sometimes it feels like trying  on  an old blouse, now two sizes smaller. Its a stubborn effort, its painstakingly long and it is a grim reminder of the forgotten resolutions. kale, my ass.

 I lay, eyes closed forcing all my fatigue to my brain. I was not dropping hints anymore. This was the romance less, “You, me, here and now” rendition.

I kept waking up throughout and my alarm went off at 5am. Relieved, I took a shower. At least now, there was no pressure to sleep.

Sleep eyed, I sat beside Jigi’s brother in the car, as he drove. I kept talking to keep myself awake at the expense of his divided attention. In the bus stand, we waited for Jigi to arrive, whatever time we had, we hunted for tea, drank coffee, he smoked a cigarette while I tainted his early morning cigarette experience ( if there is one? I dont know. What is the fuss all about? The entire trip, right? The exhale, the little masturbation exercise of watching the smoke drift by, like life, one cigarette at a time.)

Bored, we went back to the parking lot and waited in the car, watching a particularly charismatic Indian journalist turned entertainer yelling on national television. On a news channel.  His familiar voice calmed my nerves. The senseless pride we feel at showing a friend the big garbage dump in the  neighborhood was  replicated. Come, see, here is India’s finest entertainment, disguised as news.

 *Preach Begins*You watch some people do somethings not because there is any intellectual value in it, but only and only because, there is a shock factor to it, which when not coupled with brutality, is entertaining in healthy doses. *Preach Ends*

Arnab Goswami was the shock factor that refused to wear off. He was slow, killing, numbing and always, the entertainer. I let go. Entertain me, Arnab.

It was hot and comfortable inside the car and I was getting sleepier, in spite of the unnecessarily high pitched and dramatic narration by Arnab. Yes, Arnab. No, Arnab. Whatever, Arnab. No Arnab, a questioning is not reasoning. Reasoning results from… Alright, sorry Arnab. I will shut my mouth. Your show. Shame on me.

Jigi called. He was here. We pick him up.

Jigi eases into the backseat wearing a grey T shirt and all the misery of Chennai on his face. He shuts the door and says “Roll it”.

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.

 

 

 

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. 

Mockery of the heathen gods

There are a few things in life, deemed romantic by a majority of the population. And then there are, half asleep, groggy eyes, silently watching with a half smirk on their lips with the taste of bile at the back of their throat, this romance.  I was one of them.  I hated the romance woven around rains. It was like seeing the kid you hated in the finest pink gown at your birthday party. Who invited you?  No, I don’t want your gift.

 The splash wasn’t a good sound, it was a death knell. The thunder was undeniably the true death knell and the smell of earth when it rained was the equivalent of the elixir like voices of cannibalistic sea nymphs. Yes, I have no reservations when it comes to expressing just how much rain ruins my life and it has earned me a lover and a few enemies.

But, one day, I met rain not in the school hallway with her miniskirt too high to be ugly anymore. I spied her from a distance as she sat alone, on the steps, braiding her hair deliberately, reading the fine print at the back of a hand cream. I caught rain in its element and the story follows.

 

I look back upon that day like it’s from five years ago and not five days ago.  The feel good factor about that day is so strong, according to my memory, there has to be thick insulation of nostalgia to it.  So, I let it trick me into it.  Somehow, what I was wearing in a moment becomes an important part of how well I remember that day or through which lens I remember that day. I wore a luxurious silk dress and rightly so, a thin; but noticeable varnish of luxury taints the otherwise pure memory.

I sit down opposite to the man I have missed terribly in these two months and the delicious smell of baked cheese wafts up from the ground floor dominoes kitchen. First bite into the cheeseburst pizza, I turn into a very confusing audio file.  I moan, I yell, I chirp and I almost sing.  Molten cheese is a pain to eat, quite literally and I never had a cheese burst pizza before that.

The man in front of me shrugs and continues eating.

In all this cholesterol championship finals, it started raining outside.  We were sitting next to a ceiling to floor glass window on the first floor. It wasn’t a brightly lit street. The streetlights were perched too high to illuminate anything but the shops and the traffic compensated. So the rain fell in many colors on a background of black and when it hit concrete, the city resisted it, with a tiny splash. A hundred thousand resistances like that, made up a pretty war scene. I took a picture. 

We were done with the intense talk and the intense pizza love; the rain too, had taken a break. The plan was to hail different taxis from there to our respective sleeping alcoves. But the talk was far from over and we had already started walking. To stop a walk is one of the most tasteless things to do. So, we decided to walk till his college from where I would take a taxi back to my hotel.  Agreed. The walk slowed to a more romantic pace, knowing there was a distance to cover.

It started to rain. Both of us hated rain with a passion but, we still walked. He held my hand over wide puddles, I held on to him when traffic skidded. Our talk had reached a crescendo as we turned onto the very desolate stretch of road, by which his college loomed. Ancient trees arched the wide road and the buildings on either side were high and walled. 

Now, the rain was steady and strong and the road was deserted. It was 10 in the night, we were wet to the bone, and I still had to hail a taxi to get back to the hotel. Only one obnoxiously priced taxi was available in the area then, and reluctantly, I took it. The driver would take fifteen more minutes to reach our spot.

Fifteen minutes of waiting when no one dares speak, is an experience worth paying for. I paid for it with a week’s of ill health. The experience started with unrest and wonder at the inconvenience of rain and as the minutes deepened to a five minute wait, I resigned and lost my posture, swerving slightly to his side and hearing, actually listening to the roar of the rain. Seven minutes into the wait, I wrapped my thin, wrinkled fingers around his arm and widened my eyes to a much greater downpour. It was golden, it was alone and it did not care. 

Ten minutes into the wait, I felt my heart beat very loudly against my chest. The rain was getting under my nerves, It rained entirely too much and too loud for me to ignore it. I was forced to acknowledge it and it looked beautiful and sounded like a love song. My love song. Fourteenth minute into the wait, I was maddened with fear. The rain wasn’t stopping, the clock was ticking and my brain couldn’t stop noticing heavenly tinges around the edges of my madness in the rain. One more minute and I would be one of those romantics who weave romances around rain.  In time, two lifesaving lights pierce through the hypnosis and I wave a relieved goodbye and get into the car. The windows were appropriately fogged and restored a sense of normalcy towards rain in me, slowly. It still made lives dreadful.

There will always be a little part of me that will like rain. For those fifteen minutes, I was a slave to its beauty, in a way I will always bow to it a little, like a faithful servant to his queen, even after she is made to wear the scarlet letter.

The drunk drinks harder.

Two cups of diluted decoction, two long breaks, two times I felt the urge to look out of the window for a long long time and by the end of it, I was grabbing the keys off the table and making a run for the stairs. The day was over early and there were still a few minutes of twilight I could catch, filtered blue and big through my dusty windscreen.

Dusty, dotted and neglected, my windshield still did a great job at filtering the blue. I stopped at a red light and saw  stray bits of cloud making a slow, reluctant retreat, like the last ones to leave a funeral. The dots and the dust bothered me. It spoke of a drunkard.

The durnkard

She earned odd notes of 50s and 100s, she sometimes pushed him back, she at times, hit at him with all her might, she sometimes cried it out. All this I see in the short walk from the car door to the lift. Sometimes she stood adamant, arms crossed in front of my mother, she absolutely needed five thousand rupees to pay her bills and the drunkard woke up each day, cleaned all the cars in the parking lot, lazed, and the odd 50s and 100s broke down to just bouts of guileless drunken slumber, that I sometimes spied beyond oily curtains, barely hiding anything from view.

The she, is my watchman’s lawfully wedded and bedded wife and the he, is the drunk watchman.  The spots on my windshield  turn green around the edges and off I go, as the blue runs deeper into itself, I climb the flyover, still mulling about the drunk.

When I finally park the car in the parking lot, I stare at the dots and dust. He hasn’t been cleaning the car for three days now. He never misses a day.

I haven’t even seen his wife around for three days now, I haven’t seen his children.

Later, I come to know, I might never see one of his children again. His son is in the hospital battling fatal burns, that burnt as deep as his breathing vitals. Each breath must hurt, I think as I exhale, feeling privileged.

I try not to imagine the pain, as I stare at the ceiling, my mother is still talking. Does it matter?

Will it really matter if someone pointed out that there wasn’t anything to tie together between the boy’s burns and the father’s habit? Dots and dust on my windshield speak of a drunkard, who might never hear a kind word again.

How do you fight two battles at once? The loss and the lost.

The next day, I clean the dots and the dust myself, as the dots browned, they sang of the kid’s slow demise and I didn’t have the strength to pray for a half burnt life of nine years.

 

 

Mama!

You always have to get somewhere, somewhere important

Somewhere where there is maybe a steaming hot or a sedately cold pot of rice for you

But you have to get there

And I had a place like that to go to

At six in the evening, a winter evening, when everything and everyone likes to sleep earlier than usual

A warm bath for your feet, a soft mattress under your back and a ceiling with cracks that you have christened

Ram, Shyam, Peter, Cause why  not ? Peter too!

I was driving, shabbily, annoying other people.

A stream of vehicles, trying to live through the grind went past me as I did by them

By the half night, half day, confused light that lit my way

I saw on the side of the road, two brown spots from a distance

Mother and puppy when I got closer,

Waiting for the madness to pass, so they could cross

I looked, I loved the sight, it was tender and magical

I could have stopped, who am I kidding, the guy behind me wouldn’t and I would have been dead

But I would have stopped. A mother dog and a puppy crossing the road, in the headlights, not confused.

Very patiently waiting, protecting, all seeing, understanding. I wanted to stop to look at them or to let them cross

That little bit of a dilemma, I leave to the gods.