Thursday, June 26, 2003

A strangely familiar smell drifted into senses today when I wore the freshly washed crepe-bandage. I had been wearing the same bandage for over ten days now and it badly needed to be washed. Where had I smelt it before? Why did it smell so bad despite my washing it thoroughly? It then struck me. . It was a smell from my childhood. It was smell that that had teased me every time my maid applied oil in my hair. Every time I went into her house. Every time I played with her kids. The smell of the same clothes worn day after day. Washed daily and yet the smell stayed behind. The smell of overuse, the smell of dirt, the smell of water-rinsed sweat, the smell of hard-work and the smell of pain.
In the long cold winter months when I felt lazy and warm in bed, cuddled inside a soft blanket, I often wished that I was one of the mammals that went into hibernation. A bear or maybe even a bat.
Today I read that hibernating bats should never be woken before they are ready to. The 30-minute waking up process causes bats to use most of their stored fat. And if they cannot find food to replace their lost energy, they die.
Imagine that! You wake up from a long lazy sleep to die a long painful death.
Now, I will think twice about wanting to hibernate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

She was tiny when she first came. Barely a month old, way too young to be separated from her mother. She and her sister, brought in the arms of our vet’s helper. She seemed to be the weakest of the litter. Small and quivering. Her sister was much more confident, running around in our huge hall. I knelt down on my knees overcome with the joy that the two little pups brought to my heart. She quietly came to me, climbed my lap and refused to budge. And I lost my heart to her. I knew even then that I would love her like no other.
The choice was a difficult one. It is always advised to stay away from the weakest in the litter. My parents felt that her sister was a better choice, but I was adamant. She needs us, she needs me. I can’t let her go. My parents, being the sweethearts that they are, humoured me. And she became the new addition to our family.
The quiet little flea-ridden puppy with the lost look in her eyes. The sad one, who demanded to be loved. Ha! Were we mistaken! Never ever, my friends, judge a book by its cover. She turned out to be quite a terror. It is her ploy, even now. Any guest in the house comments on what a quiet sweet little thing she is. We just smile knowingly, my smile just a little indulgent. She is, after all, my baby.
She’s soft and her skin is smooth as satin. She’s got the most beautiful doggy smell. She’s tiny and huggable. She insists that she sits in your lap. She does not lick too much (though I must admit that she licks me quite a bit, and don’t I love it!) and the nudge with her snout, when you ask her to kiss you, feels as if she has bestowed an honour on you. Her eyes are naughty and her face very innocent.
A hyper-active dog, she runs to the door when she hears the bell. But, the time I was down with high fever, bed-ridden for 3 days, she didn’t leave my side for a minute. Her ears perking every time the bell rang, but she didn’t leave me. For three days she was my constant companion. How could I not love her?
My parents called her my little lamb, for she followed me around the house. When she got pregnant, I was scared, for she was precious to me. When her pups moved in her bulging stomach, I was overjoyed, a feeling very hard to describe. When we delivered her pups, I was anxious, lest we did something wrong. And then when she ignored me, I was jealous. For a whole day she stayed with her pups. Refusing to eat. Refusing to acknowledge anyone, even me. I was hurt. And then she finally had to give in to the call of nature, she went out. But before she returned to her pups, she came to me. She asked to be picked up. And when I did, she licked me tenderly. ‘I still love you’ she said, ‘give me some time with my babies.’ Then she demanded that I put her down. And as she ran back to her pups, my eyes filled with tears, all my jealousy gone. How could I not love her?
It was difficult to leave home. And it was difficult to leave her. Every time I go back, she whines and cries for hours. Following me around, she refuses to let me out of her sight. A few times, I have called home and asked my parents to put her on the other end of the speaker or to put me on speaker phone. And then I talk to her, whisper sweet nothings. I don’t know if she realizes that it’s me on the other end. And I wish that there was some way to tell her that I miss her every single day. My baby!

Monday, June 23, 2003

I ventured out for the first time in one week. Everything has turned green. The earlier barren and brown trees are green with their newly sprouting light green leaves. A nearby hill, a wooded area, alluringly inviting. Green trees and the ground covered with soft moss and grass. It makes me want to slip out of my shoes and run up. To feel the wet grass.
The rains always bring new hope. And with it, a smile on my face.
It’s difficult to let go of the past. It has been two years since I left home. And yet, now that I know my parents are shifting to another house, to another city, it hurts. I have spent almost 12 years of my life in that house in Calcutta. I have grown up there, from a moody teenager to a moody grown-up.
Last night, I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. I had been dreaming of our house in Calcutta. I had seen myself sleeping in my own bed, with my dogs at my feet, and Mamma trying to wake me up. As she shook me, I woke up with a start. Back into reality. Disoriented at first, my surroundings looked unfamiliar. It was only after a while that I realized that I had been dreaming.
It had been raining heavily all evening. It had stopped raining when I woke up from my dream. Everything was quiet. The steady chirping of the crickets somehow added to the silence of the night. A leaky faucet in the bathroom, water dripped in a ceaseless rhythm. I covered my ears, trying to cut away the sound. But the silence was deafening. I got up from the warmth of my bed to shut the tap. Wide awake now, I found my way back to the bed, which had already turned cold. I looked at the time. 3: 17 a.m. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. Images from my dream kept bothering me. Twelve years! So many firsts in that house!
Our first dog.
My own room
My first heart-to-heart talk with Mamma
My first short-story published
My first-hand experience of death of a grand-parent
Relatives intruding constantly in our lives
My first fight with Papa
My first job
My teenage-tantrum fights with my parents
My first drink
My first crush
My first boy-friend
First day in college
My first late-night, tip-toeing home at 4 a.m., trying not to wake up my parents.
My first intense love, for our second dog; my baby!
My first-hand experience with birth, assisting my baby when she had pups.
Fights with my brother
My first heart-to-heart talk with my brother
The realization that not everything is as it seems to be
Hours spent playing scrabble with Mamma
The morning tea/coffee with Papa
Going for long-drives and picnics with the whole family, dogs included
My friends
Getting admission in the post-graduate course in a reputed institute.
Knowing that I will have to leave Calcutta
Knowing that I can go back every semester break
And now, I know that there is no going back. How can I let go of so much? The good times and the bad times.
And then it hit me. I will never ever go back there, to that house in Calcutta. And then I cried, with my face buried in my pillow. I cried for all that I had, and for all that I will never have again. I cried because I know that I have to finally move on. There is no ‘home in Calcutta’ to run away to, every time the escapist in me needs to get away. I cried for my brother who will now be in Calcutta, living in another house, another life. I cried for my parents, for they will never have their children with them, the way it was in that house in Calcutta. And I cried till I drifted into a dreamless sleep.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Don’t we do the craziest things when we are in a good mood! The following is an exchange I had with a friend of mine on messenger. It’s in Hindi and I won’t translate because it will take the entire fun out of it.
Situation: A friend of mine (lets call him Ramu) likes another good friend of mine (say Pinky). This is me fooling around with him.

me: “Main tumse bahut pyar karti hoon, par dosti ke liye main apni pyar ki qurbani de doongi”
me: “Tum aur woh khush rehna ... (sniff sniff.).. “
me: (this is the part where a stray bullet from the villain’s gun comes and kills me)
me: (and as i die....I get to say my longest dialogue....)
me: " (cough cough).. Ramu.... main hamesha hamesha tum se pyaar karoongi... "
me: ( I look behind your shoulder at Pinky)... "Pinky.... tum isko khush rakhna..."
me: (I look back at you)... " Ramu…..(cough cough).. mere papa mummy ko keh dena ki main unse bahut pyaar karti hoon....unhe kehna ki woh mujhey maaf kar de… main unke budhape mein saath na de payee.."
me: "aur har saal …… (cough cough)….mere trust fund se tumhaare bacchon ke liye b'day gift kharidna...”
Ramu: "nahhhinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn mujhe chhod ke mat jao"
me: (now, I am almost dead).." Ramu aur agar ho sake... toh mujhe kabhi kabhi yaad kar lena... main tumse hamesha hemesha pyar karoongi… hamesha hamesha"
Ramu: “nahhhhhhhhhhhiiiinnnnnnnnn”
me: (stop crying i am dead)
Ramu: "main tumhe khabhi nahin bhoolunga…kabhi nahin.. tum hamesha mere dil mein rahogi"

Friday, June 20, 2003

An albino red-vented bulbul! For the first time in all my bird-watching years! Another call to Papa. He’s never seen one before. He’s envious. Another bird to add to the list of birds seen without him.
When will we go bird-watching again? Will we ever again?

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I observed her from behind my raised window
The cool of the air-conditioner teasing my skin
Her lips were painted bright red
Her finger nails painted a cheap nail polish, chipping at the edges
Her face bleached and her hair dyed blonde
The tiny hair on her face shining in the dim light
As she stood under the neon of the street lamp
The white in her eyes reflecting the light
Her skin fair but harsh with the repeated use of cheap cosmetics
She paced on her high heels, not ungracefully
With the unconscious ease of someone who’s done it so many time before
As the strap of her spaghetti top slid down her shoulders
She let it be
A practiced gesture, she put a leg forward
Teasing with the display of skin below her short skirt
She might have been pretty
She might have been young
But that didn’t matter in the night, in the streets where she walked
I wanted to lower the window
To go close
To see if she had pain in her eyes
Did she smell of sweat and cheap perfume?
Of alcohol and cigarettes?
Were there bruises on her skin?
What made her walk the streets for money?
Provocatively pleading every passer-by
Did she want my pity?
Did she enjoy what she did?
Or did she want out?
Was there a resigned acceptance of what life had offered to her?
What if she were born as I am?
Would she have been my friend?
Sitting with me in the comfort of the soft-cushioned air-conditioned car

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Ever wondered what it is to experience life in slow motion? It was when my friend and I were coming back home (from the disaster that The Matrix Reloaded was) that we met with the accident. We had turned to take a u-turn and my friend hadn’t yet seen the car approaching from the left.
I saw the car coming at us at full speed. The next ten seconds were the longest ten seconds of my life. I could have jumped down from our bike, as we were not moving, but it was as if I were stuck, hypnotized. As the car came closer, I saw the expression on the driver’s face. His face contorting as he applied the breaks as hard as he could. I knew we would be hit, but it was as if I were in a trance, almost daring the car to hit me. The world had stopped moving then. I heard no sound, not even my own voice that had screamed out my friend’s name. Time had ceased to be. No consciousness. No thought. No emotion. I never once thought that I might die. My life didn’t pass through my mind, as they say it does. I was completely blank. As if observing the scene from a distance, as a cold unfeeling third person.
It’s an experience that I’d rather not repeat, knowing that it’s a memory that will haunt me for a long time to come.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

There are disappointments and then there are disappointments. The Matrix Reloaded was a disaster. The Matrix had moved me, it had made me think. The Matrix Reloaded moved me too. It made me so fidgety that I kept shifting my position, I could not sit still. There sure were more than a few glitches in this movie!
Some alternate titles for the movie:
• Matrix: The love story
• Matrix and the superman
• Morpheus: Braveheart II
• The Kiss
• Return of the Oracle
• Planet of the humans
• The Keymaker
• The Machines Strike Back
• Seventh Sense
• Men in Black 3
• Saving Trinity
• Close Encounters of the Multiple Kind
• 100 Years of War
• Armageddon II
Please Note: This, ofcourse, is my opinion. Please do see the movie. The special effects are awesome.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Everything’s a lie
Everything’s a deceit
So I sent God a “Please take me away” letter
Still waiting for the receipt.
Mamma, when you sat me down
And told me about boys and girls
You never told me that love’s a heartache
A mystery that never unfurls

Mamma, you spoiled it all for me
For every time you exchanged a smile
With Papa, I saw the tenderness in his eyes
That lasted longer than just a while

Mamma, I am so scared of love
I have so much of it to give
But I don’t think that I will ever find
‘The’ love, as long as I live

Mamma, I know you’re worried for me
Cause you want me to have what you do
Don’t you worry, Mamma, my love
I’ll get a dog, or maybe two.

Friday, June 13, 2003

I know that you love me
More than you could ever say
For did you not caress tenderly
The cut on my lip, when you hit me the other day?

I saw you through the black-eye you gave me
And loved you inspite it all
I kept your house and ironed your clothes
Despite each push and every fall

I gave you all that I had to give
Yet, money from my purse you’d steal
I was bruised and battered and beaten to pulp
But I still cooked you your favourite meal

How can you say that you’re leaving?
You say that you now love another
Will you love her the way you loved me?
Another death of a soul, yet another murder

Don’t leave me now, how can you go?
What did I do wrong for you to go away?
Say that you’ll stay with me
If not forever, just for another day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Right now, I could die and I wouldn’t even notice.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Nothing is more beautiful than the first rain of the season. To smell wet earth and to get wet in the rain and to share it all with someone special.
Now that I have been cooking for almost two months (47 days to be precise) I’m almost qualified to help out other poor lost souls like me and hence here it is.
Cooking tips for beginners:
• Maggi (instant noodles) is your savior. Though targeted to children, it is a verified fact that Maggi sells more to single working professionals. Thus, please do not try to alter consumption statistics. Cook Maggi with the frequency of 5 nights a week.
• Leave aside Rs. 2000 for phone bills every month. Every time you cook, call up your mother (or any other helpful female relative) and get the recipe on the spot. This avoids lapses in memory later when you are cooking (IMPORTANT: Leaving out some of the ingredients while cooking could make the food bland.)
• Never pour water on hot boiling oil. It’s not a good idea at all. It usually causes something similar to an explosion and can be quite scary.
• Hate cutting vegetables? Thank God for mixers! Wash vegetables, peel and put in the mixie. (IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to put the lid on, or the vegetable spray will turn the walls of your kitchen into a modern art painting.)
• Work on your PR. Get friendly with people who can cook and invite then over for meals. The idea is to get them to cook for you.
• Buy a refrigerator. Every time you cook, cook for 10 people, which means 10 meals. Store in your fridge. When your fridge starts smelling funny, throw away the food and cook large quantities again. (IMPORTANT: Do not try to eat more food in one meal, just to finish it. It could cause severe indigestion or weight gain.)
• Instant popcorn makes a good evening snack. If you have a pressure cooker it’s easy to make. (IMPORTANT: Read the instructions properly, or your kitchen could be flooded with white popcorn. On second thoughts, if you’re the romantic kind, try it once. It looks quite nice!)
• Always keep tomato sauce bottles in stock. Whenever food cooked is bland, add some tomato sauce for taste.
• Stock up on bread, butter, cheese. When all else fails, you will not go hungry.
If you found the tips helpful, please come back after a month. Next article on cooking will be: Cooking tips for the no-longer-inexperienced-ha-ha!

Friday, June 06, 2003

I see
I feel
I understand
I realize
I know
I can
I don’t

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I can feel my brain atrophying
A numbness that’s taking over my mind
Lethargy in every bone
Inertia pervading into all my senses
A sluggish slothful stolidity
In my languid movements
Murphy haunts me.
Situation: You’ve had a bad night twisting and turning. You wake up with a terrible headache. Work seems like a daunting prospect. You reach the bus-stand and stand there for ages waiting for some mode of transport. Finally you sit in the front seat of an 8-seater auto, next to the driver and his help, as he drives rashly on a dangerous hilly stretch. You clutch on dearly for your life, beads of perspiration on your forehead as you finally totter out of the vehicle. You walk up the hill to your office and even before your pulse normalizes, your sandal strap breaks. You limp into office, your hair all awry. And then:
• An important client who had given you a brief for a project which was barely profitable to start off with and had then wanted 110 changes in it, sends you a mail saying, “The design of so and so is not acceptable. Please stop work on it.”
• Next, your director comes into your room and informs you that you are going to Bombay. That’s four hours away!!! You look at her pleadingly, you have way too much work. Whoever listens to you! ‘When do we leave?’ you ask resignedly. “Why in half an hour!” is the reply given as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
• You work in super-sonic speed. Finish off some of the work. Preparations for the meeting. Hundreds of print outs. All this with broken sandals. Just when you are ready to leave, your director walks in and tells you that she got you out of the meeting as you seemed really busy. Why couldn’t she tell you that half an hour ago!!!
• Your phone rings right then. You are informed by your administration angrily that some friend of yours sent you a very heavy file and it almost crashed the entire server. You apologize profusely and in your mind abuse your friend.
• Irritated with life you switch on your monitor to see that you have 20 new mails. More work!
• You open your messenger window to chat with somebody. Anything for some respite! You exchange a couple of messages and then messages stop coming from the other side. You wait and wait and wait.
Still waiting!
Just when you think that some things in your past have receded into the forgotten lanes of your memory, it all comes back with a jolt in your dreams. A dream so real and a dream that you remember when you wake up in the morning.
In the summer of 1990 when we were touring Iraq, we had seen hundreds of tanks on the way to Basra. Another military exercise, we had thought. Little did we know! Even a stray bullet which had embedded itself on the walls of our caravan-like house gave no warnings.
The first month after Iraq attacked Kuwait, we were stuck in Baghdad. The borders were sealed off. We didn’t even know if we’d get out of the place alive. I was too young to understand the enormity of it all. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to go play outside. My father and the other men of the colony would huddle around a radio in the dark. I wonder what they heard, as most of the signals were blocked, the shrill screech shattering the otherwise silent dark of the night. The women whispering in the background. The three children; my brother, another boy my brother’s age and I, were constantly shushed. The sudden rounds of bullets that would wake us up in the middle of the night, bringing my parents to our room.
It seems such a long time ago. Two and a half years of my life spent in Iraq! It seems like another life, perhaps not even mine. Yet every time I read about the happenings in Iraq, I cry a little in my heart. Now, I have even stopped reading. I try pushing it all away. Still, it haunts me, and I know that one day, I have to go back, to relive one of the most beautiful times of my life.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Why do the simplest of things seem complicated at times? Why can’t we do things just because we want to? Does everything have to have a reason?
Tender, loving
Silky hair, warm breath
Soft voice
My mother

Impatient and beautiful
Unsympathetic words
Never understanding me
My father's wife

Unkind and criticizing
Distant but suffocating with her presence
My adversary

A surprise
Newfound friend
A hoard of advice
My ally

Her dependence on me
My support, my love,
My idol, my need
My best friend

This is a poem that I had written some time back and perhaps describes best my relationship with Mamma. The long transition from her being my worst enemy to my best friend. I hated her mostly for the reason that Papa loved her. Now I know why he did… ‘to know her was to love her’. And how could he not!
Her different facets! Her understanding, her quick anger and her quicker repentance, her amazing sense of duty to her mother, her sense of humour, the naughty glint in her eyes, her sensitiveness, her love for her children, the way she smothers our dogs, her obsession for computer games, her beauty and her smile, the softness in her voice, her soft skin and the smell of her hair, the way she teases my father, her short-stories, her quiet suffering, her quest for perfection, her unending patience…. my Ma!

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

When I was young, my father always told me bed-time stories. He seldom read them aloud from books. Beautiful stories based on what he would read in books and newspapers. Stories about expeditions to the North Pole. About planets and the universe. About people, aliens, animals and birds. He had told me the story of Titanic when I was three. I remember this one evening a long time ago, I had been in bed suffering from viral fever and had begged my father to tell me a story. He had read out the story of Happy Prince (Oscar Wilde) and I remember hot tears had run down my cheeks, and he had kissed my forehead and had narrated a happier story.
Years later, even when Papa stopped the bed-time storytelling, we would spend an hour every morning together. Pouring over the newspapers (something that I hated doing and my father forced me to), I would interrupt him every five minutes, questioning him about something that I had read. That one hour was ours. He would patiently discuss things with me (not counting his comments on how his intention was to read the newspaper and not chat with me). That was when we spoke about life, problems, friendship, boy-friends, disappointments, et al. It helped that both of us have common interests. We spoke about science and art with as much zeal as we spoke about books, music and movies. My longest phone calls are yet to my father.
If there’s anything that I hate about growing up, it is the nights. As I lie alone in my bed missing the comforting warmth of my dogs at my feet, and the silence of the night is broken by the loud strains of music, I wish that I could once more listen to Papa’s bedtime stories, knowing that if I cried he would hug and comfort me, till I fell asleep.

Monday, June 02, 2003

What on earth am I doing in here on this beautiful day?! This is the only life I have got!!
~ Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes