Monday, November 28, 2011

On 'The Imam and the Indian'

A review I wrote on Amitav Ghosh's rather underrated essay.

There is, perhaps, a touch of indulgence in reviewing a work of an author you have grown to love with time. You try to be as objective as possible, as stern and unrelenting as a Supreme court judge, but eventually, your heart takes over the mind, for reading isn’t purely a celebral experience, is it? You overlook the long uninteresting bits, the geriatric descriptions and the annoyingly obtuse passages, only to land up with that gem you’ve been scourging for all that while. That overwhelming experience makes the scavenging completely worth it.

I felt that way when I picked up Amitav Ghosh’s book of essays, “The Imam and the Indian”. Here was the writer who produced the subliminal Calcutta Chromosome and the very engaging The Hungry Tide, two books I reveled in over the course of many late nights. Ghosh is also the father of another genius of a piece ‘The Ghat of the Only World’, which in my opinion is the greatest tribute one can pay to a relatively unknown poet. Thus it was with a lot of expectations that I picked up “The Imam and the Indian”, despite my general indifference towards non-fiction. I was gearing up for Ghosh 101, revved up and set to go.

“The Imam and Indian” is like a buffet meal at an expensive restaurant – a delicious starter and dessert, but pretty much bland and predictable in between. The book sets off with the brilliant “Imam and the Indian”, stumbles on to the “Tibetan Dinner”, and from there it’s mostly downhill. Mid-way, there are a few stoic research pieces thrown in, something about labour, envy and looking at Egypt from an anthropological perspective. The book then manages to startle some formerly involved reader with the engaging “The March of the Novel through History” and then tumbles down some more, only to reach its final redemption point “The Ghat of the Only World”.

However, the starting essay ‘The Imam and the Indian’ is interesting enough, I think to warrant an entire review on it. This piece works for me because of the simplicity in its narrative, the layers that aren’t visible to the naked eye and of course, the typical Ghosh’s style of writing which is elegant, discerning and entirely captivating.

The Imam and the Indian is a snippet of Ghosh’s travels through Egypt in the 1980s as a researcher. It sets the tone for the rest of the collection - a hint of the underlying tensions between the two civilizations – Egypt and India and the shared envy of the West. The West has always been perceived as the modern, the progressive and the technologically superior while the Other, the East is seen as primitive and barbaric. Ghosh explores this tension underlying the Egyptian society and through his position as an outsider provides for an interesting case of reflexivity – the observer influencing the behavior of the observed.

The essay begins in a very matter of fact fashion. “I met the Imam of the village and Khamees the Rat at about the same time.” Ghosh begins his narrative. “I don’t exactly remember now- it happened more than six years ago-but I think I met the Imam first”.
The opening sentence is only hoisted by the rather intriguing (and faintly alliterative) title. Perhaps the foundations of the contrasts on which the story is built on is laid there – the Imam and the Indian, two Is of a different pod. This hint of a literary device at the very outset had me hooked on to the story.
Ghosh uses the first person narrative throughout the essay, and I cannot see if how it could have been more effective otherwise. Yet, he is not a fly in the wall narrator, he doesn’t merely whip out his recorder and capture what the villagers have to say. Ghosh plays an active part in the story, his opinion, his indignation and his emotions are all integrated into the piece. There is no objective unbiased writing here and Ghosh is clear about who he is – a story teller, not a reporter. His ethicality as a non-fiction writer extends only to a certain limit and he does not deny himself his bouts of fabrication.

Ghosh makes ample use of dialogue in this piece which adds to the conversational village setting. The typical village backdrop with its long afternoons full of chatter is brought out through the use of dialogue, especially of those between Ghosh and Khamees the Rat.
“Tell me, ya doktor,”the Rat said, “if I get on to my donkey and ride steadily for thirty days will I make it to India?”
“No”, I said. “You wouldn’t make it in thirty months.”
“Thirty months!” he said. “You must have come a long way.”
“As for me,”he declared, “I’ve never ever been as far as Alexandria and if I can help it I never will.”

Ofcourse, it’s the fleshing out of the characters that adds to the charm of the story. The Imam, a relic of an era long vanished is an interesting character, one who tries to shun his older methods of treatment for the newer ‘Western’ medicines, one who berates the Indians and their primitive customs and one who worships the West, a civilization which he could only aspire to, never be a part of. The Imam with all his acerbity and undisguised hatred towards the ‘Indian foreigners’ makes for a layered character, one who is polite and withdrawn at the exterior and boiling with indignation at the core.

Khamees the Rat, on the other hand is the typical happy-go-lucky character every serious story occasionally needs. Khamees the Rat – who gnaws away at everything with his words, the way a rat does with its teeth- knows no decorum, or boundaries. His disarming frankness and his ability to put anyone at unease with his questions, makes the reader connect with him immediately. There is a bit of the Rat in all of us, the one who wants to know all the answers, and break away that thin veil called personal boundaries.

The two characters display unguarded horror when they learn that the Indians not only burn their dead, but also worship cows, something unimaginable in the rural Egyptian life. This quaint example of ethnocentrism succeeds in engaging the reader and providing that emotional experience, so integral to a good story. These characters are hardly caricatures even though their indignation may be hard to relate to. Yet they are symbols of the basic human emotions which define all of us – envy of the advanced nations, a feeling of superiority over the ‘primitive’ ones and a sense of insecurity one experiences with a foreigner around.

The narrative is well paced, not too slow so as to lull the reader to sleep, but not too fast either. At every turn, the tension slowly builds up, only to be released in a final outburst by Ghosh, who tries to defend his country and customs to a village which sees him as an alien from a land of strange beliefs.

This passionate narrative relies perhaps more on ‘telling’ than ‘showing’. Filled with dialogues, direct questions and revelations which are hardly subtle in nature, Ghosh does not leave much to the reader to infer from the narrative. The writing which is structured around dialogues and observations is taut enough, a case in point packed neatly into an essay with no loose threads.

But at the end, one doesn’t read Ghosh merely to gain a new perspective, or to expand one’s ideas about the Indo-Egyptian relations. Ghosh’s leverage arises from his use of language and his playing with words to convey a particular idea, something which makes him one of the prominent Indian writers of today.
“The men of the village had all the busy restlessness of air-line passengers in a transit lounge…some of them had passports so thick they opened out like ink-blackened concertinas..You could read the history of this restlessness in the villager’s surnames: they had names which derived from cities in the Levant, from Turkey…the wanderlust of its founders had been ploughed into the soil of the village.”

Well begun is half done, or so they say, and perhaps the first essay in the collection “The Imam and the Indian” does make up for the other lackluster ones. A well written piece is a magical one, in its ability to ship the reader into newer lands, newer uses of a language and newer perspectives. It does not take extravagant writing or obtuse ideas to achieve this, and Ghosh’s essay is a case in point.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sometimes, writing is overrated.

Sometimes words just fall on your head like a heap of unwashed clothes. Yet, we pretend to capture the way we really feel by using big fancy words, much like the cellophane covering on your Flipkart delivered book. But words aren't cellophane sheets, they are just torn holey pajamas which you know you have to throw away, but never get around doing so.

Or maybe writing is like a net which traps a budding idea, confines itself to specious adjectives and darned word limits.

Like the way your nose ring gleams on a summer afternoon.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Sometimes I look at this blog and wonder - how much of this is really me?

Because, when I write for a blog, I write FOR A BLOG.. My words are automatically censored and my writing is careful - not too propah, yet not intended to provide a field day for that snoopy-relative-who-just-discovered-the-wonders-of-the-internet-and-decided-to-troll-my-blog.

And these days, I find myself increasingly drawn to poetry. My previous three blog posts have been poems, something which I don't know quite what to make of. I mean, there are some good poetry out there, but there are a lot more awful poems and awful poets who can't seem to think in straight lines. I do hope for the sake of my prosaic comfortable self that this is just a current fad of mine.

Also, I feel I'm becoming just too passive these days. Like I can't get angry (atleast not that angry), even when the circumstances demand that I respond. But then again, I'm a Taurean (a double Taurean as someone recently told me!), so when I do get angry...!

And..and...and...I got a Tarot reading yesterday! It was a wonderful experience and I was overwhelmed by it all. I never was a completely logical person anyway (the Tarot reading pointed that out too) and I fell in love with the whole process.

I am also in love with this! And this. And this.

One of these days, I think, I shall whip out my Megadeth tshirt and headbang to Judas Priest.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Demonic Resurrection

The demons of the world
the netherworld, the toxic skies
the demons lurking in my
dusty, bitter
and belligerent
are nothing
compared to
the ones in my head.

They flay their
angry arms
and ask
too many questions
they fill my head
with caustic bubbles
of futility
much like an empty stomach
at three AM
in the morning

they wail
they scream
they destroy
and demolish
and finally
rumble silently
in vain.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The most beautiful language of them all

Sometimes I wonder
What if I had grown up
learning, speaking and thinking
in Hindi, Urdu, Arabic
and Hindi-Urdu-Arabic alone?
What if I never learnt English
all my life?
Never spent class seven
agonising over modals, adverbs
conjunctives, prepositions
and a dirty red Wren and Martin?
What if I never read
Austen, Dickens, Conrad
The Bard, Keats-Shelley-Yeats
And not to mention
Kafka, Gogol, Balzac
all translated
into a language not my own?

What if, instead
I grew up reading Ghalib
Chughtai, Premchand
Suryakant Tripathy Nirala
Iqbal, Mir Taki
Mir and
Mahadevi Verma
and not their recreated
translations I read

Would my life be any better
more exquisite, meaningful
richer, varied
than now?
Would my inner world
be composed of
characters who speak
in metaphors, of a tedi ungli,
adrak ka svaad
and unitalicised

Would I think different thoughts
or the same
in different ways?
Or would I feel handicapped
trapped in my language
the most beautiful of them all
a wallflower in a world
which speaks a foreign tongue?

Perhaps I shall never know
that feeling of letting go
this language
which has slinked into my thoughts
my words, my indignation
and poetry,
only to embrace another one
live within its walls
exalted, empowered
and hidden.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


There are times when everything enrages me.

It's a slow, bubbling rage. For I'm usually not the type to blow my top, to let out a stream of invectives till hell freezes over.

On second thoughts, the latter is inaccurate. But I never blow my top.

Scream, throw stuff, say things I don't mean.


When I'm angry, I let the fury build within me. I do not respond, I silently mouth curses, yet I do not destroy the peace and well being of people around me. I let the hot, indignant rage build in me, while I cry or listen to metal or simply do nothing, simmering with rage all the while.

Some people say that I sulk during those times.


And I shall continue to sulk till I can't contain my anger anymore. And then, I shall burst out, the accumulated fury of years, months, days. A time I'd lose control over my senses, say things I don't mean, be a person I normally am not.

But till then, if that ever should happen, I'll plough on, trying to forgive, trying to forget. My anger is latent, perhaps it shall never rise as long as I live. But my anger is something I'm not proud of. Maybe with time, I'd shed it a bit by bit and learn to, as they say, love no matter what.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What you should eat before you turn 65 - I

Food has been my passion since a very young age. Blessed with a patient nature and a generally understanding appetite, I daresay I've ventured out quite a bit, as far as my vegetarian taste buds would take me. While I'm not a fabulous cook or anything - I can whip up a really good pasta or a paneer manchurian, but that's about it - this love for food has survived through the onslaught of mess food, the horrors of Basera 'food' and everything else life at IIT has in store for me.
But then, there are certain dishes which make me go weak in the knees that I'd eat them even if served in a black mug and an orange for accompaniment. So this is my food guide, cutting through kitchens throughout India, my own Top 10 guide on what you should eat before you turn 65. Not that I have anything against 65 year olds, but some things should never be put off till age catches us and wrecks us apart.

10.Pazham Pori/ Ethakka Appam

The first time I tasted this Kerala delicacy was at Saarang Village, 2011. Not that I had much of an option, the only delectable vegetarian options on the menu was this, and an utterly forgettable tea. I remember wondering then why the obligatory chutney or tomato sauce was missing till I took a bite…and discovered that it was sweet! Yet, the Nendranka bajji quite grows on you and I should know, I must have polished off atleast six plates that Saarang. The slightly fermented taste of the banana flirts with the taste buds and the very crispy coat disintegrates at the touch, making it a very satisfying culinary experience. It is hard to believe that something as amazing as this could come out of a land which also brought out Avial.

9. Akki Roti with Chutney

Oh Akki Roti, the stuff of my dreams, the breakfast fit for kings! Thou might look very unassuming to the benighted eye, who’d merely laugh at thee and move on to the more seductive benne masala dosa, only to end up with an unshackled bowel! Oh, Akki Roti, forgive me for not having discovered thy wonders earlier!
I stayed with my mother’s friend the last time I visited Bangalore. A wonderful, discerning woman, she was also the best possible cook I could discover in Bangalore. Every morning, I’d wake up to different Karnataka style rotis, one day ragi, another day, jowar, and maybe even bajra. And they were all super crisp, super addictive and super healthy.
The star of the show, however was the humble Akki Roti, the staple breakfast option for many Kannadigas. This dish made of rice and a very deft hand, topped with coconut or tomato chutney is super nutritious and very very tasty. Give me my akki roti over Raghavendra masala dosa anytime!

8. Onion Sambhar with Rice

Onion Sambhar is a staple luxury at every TamBrahm household – you’d know it’ll make its appearance every three weeks when the mother has run out of things to make, yet, its visits are sporadic enough to be alluring to the senses. I’m a Rasam person and sambhars don’t really excite me, neither do vathakozhambu, kozhambu and that miserable liquid called morkozhambu. But onion sambhar makes me sit up everytime it makes its rounds, and with rice and liberal doses of ghee, this Sunday lunch would leave you burping of tamarind and very very satisfied.

7. Khandvi and Dhokla

There are two things you ought to do if you do happen to go to Gujarat – shop and eat, and if you miss out on any one, you ought to be shaken up and packed off in the next train to the Kathiawar Peninsula. While all the Gujarati food sends me in rapturous delights and every time I make a trip to Ahmedabad, I return three kgs fatter and three times happier, there are some which are my especial favourite. The pretty Khandvi, made of gram flour and curd tops the list, followed by Dhokla, also made of gram, I think. It’s hard not to fall in love with these two, especially if they’re backed up with Green chutney, or my favourite, Imli chutney.
It’s been a long time since I had Khandvi anyway. When I was a eight or nine years old, there was a wonderful Gujarati restaurant called Bhavai in Chennai, which made the best Khandvis I could ever imagine. I used to be a very fussy eater as a child and all I’d have at that restaurant was their super soft khandvi decked with mustard which you could count off the tip of your tongue, and chaas. I think that restaurant’s closed now, I’m not sure and perhaps I need to wait it out till Ahmedabad calls me again.

6. Gobi Manchurian

My eighth standard was a decisive year, for I fell in love with both Abhishek Bachchan and Gobi Manchurian. It’s been five years since then and the love’s still there, but the priorities have changed. There’s Ranbir Kapoor now, Abhay Deol, the very alluring Imran Khan and so many more. And similarly I discovered Doodhi Halwa, Cheesecake, Paneer tikka and many more, thus relegating The Gobi Manchurian to a docile 6th spot.
Gobi Manchurian is a very tricky dish and can be scarring, if badly made. I have braved through many Gobi Manchurians, the salty Bangalore version, the undercooked, nauseating Tifany’s version, the tomato-sauce-can-salvage-me-after-all Adyar Anand Bhavan version…so much so, the original Gobi Manchurian, if it exists seems to have disappeared into the recesses of good cooking. Yet this Indo Chinese dish is a particular favourite of mine, and like narthanga, drier, the better.

And these are the five food items I'd want to eat, if marooned in an island with Johnny Depp for company etc etc. What did you eat today? :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

How To Write A (Marvelously Mind-blowing And Astonishingly Authentic) Kafka Story: 10 Easy Steps

Something I wrote for an course on German literature I took last semester.

"Now you've started telling me off. Well I suppose I deserve it as I shouldn't have let you in here in the first place, and it turns out there wasn't even any point." - The Trial.

Let’s face it. Everyone goes through this phase of obsessing over Kafka, his life, his times, his dog and the works. And everyone at some point in time wishes that they could write as marvelously as this 20th century German writer. There is something deliciously addictive about the feeling of despair and being trapped in this cruel cruel world, because deep down you know, everyone hates you. And who knew that better than Franz Kafka? So this is one among the many How-Tos, How To Write a Kafka Story (in English) And Convince People That You Actually Did Unearth It From Somewhere. And yes even though all his works are in German, most have been translated into English so if you do not know a word of German, do not despair. This guide is for you, if Kafka is your hero unto death, or if you just need a good story to narrate at the next dinner party:

1.The Father: How CAN one possibly conceive of a Kafka story, without some subtle referencing to The Father? The Father played a Very Important role in Kafka’s life and features in almost all of his stories (one, directly, many indirectly and some as unearthed by Kafka Researchers). If you must write a Kafka Story, you must criticize The Father Figure. Describe in great detail how he oppressed you, how he is insensitive to your feelings, how you feel trapped when he is around, but yet how, you must accept his presence, for after all, he is The Father. These details are of crucial importance. Be deliberate, be subtle, but remember, everyone looks for The Father Figure in a Kafka Story. Do not disappoint them.

2.Kafka stories are pleasantly peppered with incongruities. Do not fix your mind so on Rationality, Order and Method. Be irreverent in your thinking process. Preferably, start out with a random out-of-the-blue opening line. Like this :
One morning, Harrod Hamsa woke up from beautiful dreams, to find that he had been turned into a dishwasher. He finally had proof that his wife was just using him.

3.If you want to write a Kafka story, you must slip into the psyche of Kafka. You must realize that the world now hates you. No one would want to let you write, there is simply no peace of mind that you can find and nothing can possibly go right in your life. Know it. Live with it. If possible, cultivate a low self esteem. Write about how constricted you feel and something must always go wrong with you all the time. Trust me, that is terribly attractive.

4.If you happen to contract that awful awful disease called the Writer’s Block while writing your Kafka story, do not panic. Write as much as you can and leave it. Most of Kafka’s works are in fragments anyway. You could convince a few researchers that the remaining story was burnt, during, of course, a bout of insecurity.

5.Be sufficiently mysterious. If you can’t make any sense of your story, it’s fine. There are many eager researchers waiting to find myriad interpretations of your work – religious, political, social and gastrical. You could even try out the Early Morning Writing Method: As soon as you wake up, grab a piece of paper and a pencil and let your thought flow. Edit it later on for grammatical errors. You will be amazed to find how profound you could get.

6.Be prosaic. Short, crisp sentences are a strict no-no. Rambling sentences describing a woman’s attire, a house and other things of consequence are appreciated. Keep your story short, but your sentences long. Do not pause anywhere in your stream of thought, write write and write some more. Do not even take a moment off to worry about your tortuous sentences. A large cup of coffee would probably help here. Preferably black.

7.Begin in a casual, conversational style. In a tone you would use, to borrow a clich̩, to describe the weather. Act like it is no big deal. The suspense should ideally lie at the end of the first sentence. For example РOne morning, Alfred K had two omelettes for breakfast when he happened to glance at the morning newspaper and discovered that he was a spy. Be dramatic, but pretend like you do not understand the first word about drama.

8.Remember, that if you must pull off a Kafka story, eager readers would look for many popular trivia associated with Kafka. Do not disappoint them. One of them would be naming your protagonist after Kafka. Or just the initial K or any German name beginning with the letter K. This will establish the fact that your writing is perfectly genuine and that what you write is indeed a mirror of yourself.

9.Your description of objects and people must be voluptuous. From the painting on your wall to the woman who hates you to the construction of a monument, focus on the visual imagery. Be as imaginative as possible and write in great detail about the setting. Ignore huge gaps in logic, but pay special attention to trivialities such as your breakfast, you taking a bath and so on.

10.If you are the protagonist in a Kafka story, you must remember that your work is of utmost importance. In fact, The Three Things Which Are On Your Mind All The Time Are: Your Father, Your Sense Of Being Trapped and Your Work. The world may end, but you must reach your workplace on time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The moon cake and the white jet of light

It was a cool dark night in April and two friends were sitting on the Humanities and Social Science block rooftop.

The HSB rooftop is possibly one of the best places in IIT. Unlike Tiffanys, it offers no food and unlike Gurunath, it offers no entertainment. Yet, it is alluring in its own special way, even though it’s just a big, dangerous terrace, and I say dangerous for it has no parapets. At night, there aren’t any lights on the terrace, save the moonlight and if one were to take a casual stroll across its perimeter admiring the night sky, one would land up in the institute hospital.

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful place, which you can never quite leave once in. Such haunts are few and far between in IIT.

On this particular Monday night at eight PM, two friends were dangling their legs and enjoying the sweet breeze blowing from nowhere, perhaps caused by the combustion of certain members of the plant species. They gazed at the sky, looked around the dark terrace in delight, felt like the conquerors of the world, till one powered her laptop and suggested that they study Aristotle, for they had a HS3214 Aspects of Western Philosophy endsem on Wednesday and they had loads of slides to do.

One, however, was an armchair rebel. ‘Why must we do this?’ she enquired. ‘Why must we mug something as dreary and as ridiculous as Kantsian agnosticism? What is philosophy afterall and why am I made to study it? Philosophy and I exist on different planes of existence. We aren’t made for each other. There’s no love lost between me and philosophy. Why must I mug something which goes above my head?”

The other sagelike friend made no response. She opened the powerpoint presentation. ‘Aristotle’s theory of causation’, she read out. ‘Formal, Material, Efficient and Final.’

And thus she continued for another twenty minutes or so, as the night breeze swept across their faces. It was very still, in that quagmire of a terrace. It was truly, the best place to be in IIT.

‘Thirty slides over’ she announced after a while. ‘Only twenty three more to go.’

But the other wasn’t paying attention. ‘Look!’ she said, pointing at sky. ‘Look at the moon!’

And she turned around and looked. A jet of white light swished through the full moon which looked like a particularly delectable cheesecake. It was initially a tangent to the circular moon and then slowly began to submerge the moon. It was like a jet of milk was drowning the moon. It was like, as the foodie among the two later declared, vanilla icing on a cheese cake.

The two friends stared open mouthed at this astonishing spectacle. The white jet of light seemed to grow bigger and bigger in size and one friend tried to capture the wonder with her cell phone camera.

The other one laughed. ‘You needn’t have bothered’ she said. ‘It would look very ordinary in the picture. And perhaps there isn’t anything extraordinary about it. It’s just the white smoke of a jet plane passing over the moon.’

But still, the two friends continued to gaze at the peculiarly long spectacle. The terrace was still, like it was waiting for something miraculous to happen. It was like they weren’t at the centre of the IIT, but far far away from civilization, if there is any difference between the two.

And then, slowly and gradually, one friend sitting on the HSB terrace, realized that in reality, she knew nothing about the person sitting next to her, staring dreamily at the moon. ‘I know her name’, she thought, ‘her age, bloody hell, she is my best friend and yet I really don’t know her. Why is she sitting so silently?’, she wondered, ‘What is she thinking? What am I doing in this dark cold, God forsaken place with this person who I know absolutely nothing about and I never shall, no matter how long it takes? Who am I anyway? It is so dark here that all I can see is my long nose. Can I thus conclude that only my nose exists? I can anyway quite effectively convince myself that my intestines are merely a figment of my imagination, so perhaps I really don’t exist. What sort of a place is this and what the hell am I doing here?’

‘What would happen if I scream?’ she wondered. ‘Yes, she’d be shocked, it’d be unexpected. But no one else would hear me. Or perhaps they would. Perhaps someone would emerge out of the dark shadows and accuse me of ruining the silence of the night. They might ask me what I’m doing here, at this time, with a laptop and a scream. And then I’d have nothing to say.’

‘Why am I thinking all this?’ she wondered ‘Why doesn’t she say a word, why does she sit like a mute rock, watching the sky? Are thoughts buzzing through her head, like mine? But she isn’t anything like me. She’s calm, composed, an enigma. She is rational, thinks before doing anything and is very emotionally stable. Completely unlike the emotional, impulsive, hysterical me. What would it be like, to be her, just a day?’

And then slowly and gradually, the white vapour began to diffuse into the night sky till nothing was left, save the moon. In a few minutes, the clouds cleared and the night sky was the same well loved picture as the world knew it.

The other friend turned around and smiled, her eyes crinkling like they always did. ‘Shall we start on slide 31?’ she asked. ‘Only 23 more to go.’

Thus the two friends continued to dissect Nichomachean ethics as the night flew by. Two days later, they were asked to write on the Aristotelian Theory of Causation, for seven and a half marks. Neither of them wrote about the moon cake and the white jet of light.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Plato's Nemesis

Something I wrote for an elective I took sometime back. And I think, one of the three poems I have written in 18 years.

I cannot write poetry
I cannot feel,
or pretend to
the way you do.
No, I’m not ‘feeling blue’
I just can’t set sensible lines
into a confused skew.
My words aren’t collapsing
into one gigantic volcano
or a particularly warped snake
so don’t look for patterns,
symbols, metaphors , politics
or of the gastric troubles of
Aunt Leo down the road.
My words shan’t tumble
tossed there and there
words which mean the same
words which mean nothing
words which beg for attention
Misery! Tears! Anarchy! Nature!
I can’t write about
how I feel like a used ball of tissue paper
Existential, caught in a world
of hypocrites and poets
how I seek for inner justice
and despair be the drowneth of me
when all I can feel
is my stomach rumbling
in hunger
remembering that blueberry cheesecake
I devoured last night.
I cannot even pretend to ramble about
when my mind is so fixed on order and method
to wander all over, drop political hints
criticize Marxism, espouse Post-modernism
Flaunt a tortured childhood
while all I talk about
are the red peaches
growing in the corner of my garden.
My middle name
is not a convenient melancholy
on my inability to rhyme
and I shan’t write anything happy
for no one likes a merry poet
who writes only nonsense verse.
Ow. Ow. Ow.
I’m pausing at all the wrong places.
I’m punctuating. Emphatically.
Don’t read that as a mirror
of my wretched soul
Because what’s worse than bad poetry
is psychoanalytic hyperbole.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Nocturnal Adventures of WishSong

Something I wrote for a Creative writing event at IIT

It was a fine moonlit night when WishSong danced all alone on 5th loop street as the stars watched him and laughed.
WishSong was a gnome and a very ugly gnome at that. He had a grotesque spotty face, bristly grey hair and a stubby disproportioned body. His skin was a dull weary brown for he lived underground all the time and never dared to go to The Beach And Acquire A Very Becoming Sun Tan.
WishSong, contrary to his name, did not wish to sing, or some such conclusion most humans tend to jump to. He was Wish, the Third Son of Song, brother of FishSong, DishSong and YishSong, all exceedingly handsome gnomes I assure you, who are capable of introducing something akin to love in your human heart, if you didn’t know that they drank squid-juice every morning to cleanse their bowels.
However WishSong was a delightful singer. He preferred to call his music the ‘Notes from Underground’.
But apart from that one redeeming quality, WishSong lived an awful life. He was after all a Gnome With A Very Huge Complex. He Hated Himself.
‘Why mamma?’ he had implored of his mother many times. ‘Why am I so different from the rest? Why am I the black sheep, figuratively of course, in this clan of Exceptionally Good-looking Gnomes? Why did God make me thus? Why me?’
To which his mother would sagely narrow her eyes at her son and reply in a monotone. ‘When the gnoming gets tough, the tough gets gnoming.’
He never quite understood what she meant, but it sounded fascinating, and strangely relieving. He did not of course know that several years later, his mother would be De-gnomed by the terrible Mr. Tough who unfailingly ploughed his lands every day. Such tragedies could happen only in the Gnome World.
WishSong had three overachieving brothers, which did not help his self-esteem one bit. FishSong was a Water Gnome, DishSong was a Garden Gnome, YishSong was a Tree Gnome and more importantly, they all had Girlfriends.
Every evening, DishSong, FishSong and YishSong would scuttle back home to WishSong, full of tales of their love lives and their work lives which were so full of life and animation that WishSong’s fat body would only swell up more and his fiercely beating heart would threaten to burst out of his skin, which he invariably attributed to a bad case of dyspepsia. For WishSong was perennially down in the dumps, and painfully single.
DishSong was the eldest in the family and the handsomest of all gnomes. He was a Travelling Gnome and hence had a Girlfriend for Every Reason and Season. Of course he had only one, but that line sounded nice on his resume and on reading it, every company had wanted to hire him. His charming elf girlfriend however singularly made up for the lack of plurality, so there was nothing DishSong had to complain about. He was fifty three, in a relationship and happy.
Only once did DishSong bring his girlfriend home. On that ominous occasion, she had caught sight of WishSong lurking in a corner, with such a look of misery on his positively revolting face that she had screamed a scream and scuttled away as fast as she could. Later on, she defended her unbecoming act by saying that it was too dim at the Gnome’s Abode and that she couldn’t see clearly what she should have seen. But ever since then, the three brothers resolved never to bring their loved ones home.
This only made WishSong hate himself all the more. Infact, the only time he escaped to the world above was during afternoons, when people were too sweaty and irritable to pay any attention to him, and during early mornings, when he had the world to himself.
Every night, he would quietly sneak out around 11 and dance to his heart’s content until the wee hours of the day, while the moon smiled indulgently at him and the stars pointed their silvery fingers at him and laughed.
And that was precisely what he was doing on the morning of March 2nd, at three A.M. Today, his dance seemed to possess a renewed vigor, a sense of freedom he couldn’t quite place his finger on. Probably because it was his birthday, he was forty one and one more year was all that was left in his search for the Answer to Life, Universe and Everything.
It did not trouble his Sense of Priority that his family was waiting for him underground, all five of them, with a gigantic squishy green cake which resembled a caterpillar which had only recently died a very painful death. It was his favorite and FishSong had painstakingly scrawled all over the cake in caramel – We Wish You A Very Happy Birthday, Song - although the caramel was slowly diffusing into the green mass that lay underneath. In another hour, the cake would resemble a rather exotic herbal pudding.
‘Does he know that today is his birthday?’ piped in Little FishSong after an endless hour of waiting. It was well past the midnight surprise and the five gnomes were all too eager to hit the sack again. But Gnoming tradition stipulated that Every Gnome Celebrating His Birthday Must Take A Bite Of Birthday Cake Before Dawn and when in Gnome, do as Gnomans do. So the five sighed little sighs and continued to wait, for their touch screen cell phones had no network underground.
Meanwhile, WishSong was feeling very cold up above, but he was determined to knock off all those kilos piled around his tummy and he continued to dance, alternating between samba and rather embarrassing pelvic thrusts.
Eventually tired of the exercise, he flopped onto the ground and gazed sadly at the stars above. He ran his stubby fingers through his graying hair. A lock of hair landed on his tummy.
He recalled the time when he paid a visit to the Gnome’s One Stop Shop for Everything. It was a sprawling mall, supposedly the largest mall in the Universe with restaurants of all sizes and boutiques of all shapes. He however had made his way to the Gnomessentials and had politely enquired of the elf-shop lady, ‘Would you kindly, madam, have any products that would make a Gnome like me handsome and charming? Thank you very much. Yours sincerely, WishSong.’
The wiry elf-lady frowned at the shiny bald patch in front of her for WishSong did not dare raise his chin and look at her in the eye for the fear that he would hopelessly fall in love at first sight.
She did direct him to the shelf containing Impossibly Herbal Gnome Improvers. He had bought an Aloe-Vera Cream with Oh-my-goodness REAL Keratin pearls and with a one year warranty. He had even bought a real bouillabaisse flavored shampoo which FishSong eyed warily. But it didn’t help. He turned uglier and even more dejected than before.
He sighed and sat up. He had to continue dancing, no matter what. The show must go on.
He started on a particular brand of Jive which was his especial favorite. For some time, he swirled and swirled, panting and gleaming like a gnome anointed with Real Human Perspiration enhanced Magical Hair Oil. Then he heard a Voice from nowhere.
‘You really love to dance, don’t you?’
He collapsed on the ground immediately. In his forty one years of night-time dancing, never once had he encountered another specie. He had chosen the secluded of secluded areas for this express purpose. This was an Aberration From The Normal and he wasn’t quite sure how to react.
‘Eh heh heh heh.’ He laughed nervously and cleared his throat. ‘Have Feet, Can Dance is my motto. I wish I came up with that from the very beginning.’
The Voice was clearly unimpressed with his answer. It snorted. ‘You do know that you dance awfully, don’t you?’
WishSong was angry. This pesky Voice had no business to spoil his birthday jive. He was about to make a brilliant, dead awesome comeback, when the Voice stepped out of the foliage and presented itself. It was a stunning elf, the prettiest of them all, and even prettier than how he had imagined the Shop-Lady to be.
‘Er…Erm, Ahem, Hmm…’ WishSong managed, clearly uneasy. He had heard innumerable words of advice on How To Behave In Front Of The Female Species and theoretically, he was the Casanova of Gnomes. But unfortunately, that was only in theory.
She stopped him from saying anything further and perched comfortably on the branch of an olive tree. ‘Go on.’ she said. ‘Dance.’
Now WishSong encountered what he loved to call an Existential Crisis though he never quite knew what that meant, for he never read any Kafka in his life. He hated to admit that he was feeling self-conscious and that something in those two big amused eyes in front of him was holding him back. He began again, promisingly twiddling his toes. His protruding stomach wobbled to the beat and his pointy ears twitched, not to be left behind.
She laughed, a clear, tinkling perfect laugh. It was a well-behaved sister of the Cruel Guffaw and he very well knew it.
‘Madam.’ he began, addressing the ground. ‘If you would be so kind as to recognize my need for privacy, I would be eternally grateful to you. Thank you very much. Your humble servant, WishSong.’
‘Alright, alright!’ she replied in a voice which did not betray her merriment. ‘I’ll leave you to your awful dancing, just as you wish! See you around!’ and the Voice disappeared into the darkness.
He continued dancing and thoughts flew in his mind in musical harmony. Was this what the Others called a Date? He wondered. He had once, hesitatingly asked YishSong what it meant for a Specie To Date Another Specie and YishSong had rather cuttingly asked him not to be such an Ingnomarus (The gnomes weren’t particularly strong in their spellings). Later on, DishSong had told him in private that he mustn’t ask such difficult questions for no gnome had figured out that complex social phenomenon yet, but it generally meant having coffee and holding hands and talking of Politically Correct Matters with members of The Female Species. It was true that the elf and he did not hold hands, nor did they have coffee, but they did talk and very politely at that. This potential aberration in his life sent his adrenaline pumping and his heart beating very fast.
‘We must calm down, WishSong’ he told himself a little later after sense returned. ‘We must not build mountains out of molehills. We must not overanalyze the events in our lives. We must stop thinking and start living.’
Meanwhile, at his home underground, five gnomes waited patiently for the birthday man to turn up. Two of them were getting hungry and eyed longingly at the pudgy caterpillar cake which eyed longingly at the door waiting for WishSong to show up. He didn’t however and not once did it cross the minds of the Gnomes to feel remotely worried about his safety. The Gnomes were Insured after all.
Meanwhile WishSong, injected with a new found sense of exhilaration, attempted to decipher the System of Traffic Signals down the road. He could not however understand why the yellow light must continually blink at him thus and resolved to Google it one day, for ready-made knowledge is always better than systematic observation, random experimentation and definite conclusions.
‘I can do anything!’ he suddenly shouted out to the world. ‘The world is my oyster! I am no longer yet another fish in the sea! I am not the proverbial black sheep anymore!’ he thus screamed and realized that deep down inside, he was experiencing an excruciating hunger eating up his intestines. ‘My life is under control!’ he screamed for extra effect, and sat on a park bench, holding his stomach in agony.
He did not want to go home and partake of the birthday feast. He was suddenly ashamed of himself, there was no reason he should celebrate his birthday, after all, what had he achieved? Forty years had slipped by unobtrusively and yet another miserable birthday cake which he loved symbolizing a fresh new beginning in his life only depressed him. He leaned back, looked at the stars and sang a very sad song. The trees rumbled dismally and the birds shivered in sorrow upon hearing it. It was powerful, it was intoxicating, it was dangerously addictive in the way only melancholy could be.
‘You do however sing very well.’ the Voice spoke gently after the music died down. ‘You do know that, don’t you?’
Yet again, WishSong was faced with the terrible task of finding a breath-taking comeback. He soon gave up. ‘Yes, I do. Yes….I do.’
‘You should make a profession of it, you really are good’ the Voice piped in. ‘The people out there are just waiting to hear you, they just don’t know it yet.’
WishSong had a sudden vision of him singing in a circus, paraded by elephants on either side. They would make him wear ridiculous amounts of make-up, a shocking pink and yellow outfit and he would have to sing, to bored audiences which waited with bated breath for fire blowing lions and self deprecating clowns. It was too unbearable for him to even imagine.
‘I’m sure…Actually I’m not’, he replied. ‘You see, I’m only a gnome after all. What else can I dream of doing apart from mowing lawns, building tree-houses and cleaning septic fish tanks?’
She laughed, a gentle laugh without any condescension. ‘But to me, you’re the best singer I will ever know.’
WishSong found himself beaming in joy which sprouted from nowhere. This is what I’m good at, he thought, this is my strength. This is what I ought to list under the ‘Core Competencies – Mention Relevant details’ section in my resume, if I had one. I have the best voice in the world, I can sing to my heart’s content, I can make people happy through my music and ultimately, make myself happy too!
He smiled at the elf in front of him. ‘Will you create music with me?’ he asked. ‘Will you be my melody?’
The elf laughed, all too familiar with The Lame Pick-Up Lines Of The 21st Century. ‘I sure will’ she replied, her eyes twinkling, ‘if you promise to dance to my tunes!’
And so they serenaded on 5th loop street, while five gnomes snored contentedly below, green pudding slobbering on their chins.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

On why I hate second hand books.

I am scared of second hand books.

People tell me all the time about Moormarket in Chennai and Orchids(?) in Bangalore where you get fabulous low priced books. But they are all mostly second hand books. And that's why I steer clear of these supposedly delightful places.

Ofcourse, I do own many books handed down by my cousins and friends at some point or the other. My painfully limited bookshelf at home does possess that Grandfather Copy Of The Decameron Which Is So Carefully Covered With A Sheet Torn From The Hindu Newspaper Of The 1970s. And I don't mind. These books are filled with memories of people I know, or people I am vaguely aware of. They aren't strangers, just good old friends or the easy- to- talk- to acquaintances.

It is the books I pick up randomly from nowhere, which originally belonged to someone else, that scare me.

For they once belonged to someone else who I don't know. Their pages are filled with the stories of these unknown strangers' lives and when I place them among familiar faces in my bookshelf, they stand out awkwardly. And most of these books contain embarrassing dedications like "To my darling sister, Soumya, on her twenty second birthday, With love, Raji" and I always feel like I am prying into the lives of Soumya and Raji whoever they are and wherever they lived. The book gifted to Soumya does not belong to my bookshelf, no matter how fervently I try to hide it behind my very own Anna Karenina and Kafka on the Shore.

So every time I pick up a second hand book which was owned by someone I do not know, I am filled with some sort of revulsion. And uneasiness. The feeling you would get if you steal someone's lunch at a restaurant. Or attend a random wedding celebration down the street. I should suppose it is an awful feeling and I never shall buy second hand books even if I have to shell a Holy-Mother-of-God 300 bucks for Ulysses. The folks at Flipkart gotta love me!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What I learnt from Rock, and Roll.

Stairway to heaven taught me that even the best can be ruined by a repeated nagging glitch.

A tout le monde taught me French.

Symphony of destruction taught me world politics.

The painkiller taught me that music isn’t necessarily the best cure for a headache.

Heaven and hell taught me that no matter what, Black Sabbath is God.

No one like you taught me that a song which is on-your-face romantic needn’t necessarily be so.

Never walk alone taught me that a song which isn't apparently romantic could be perceived so.

Give it away now taught me the importance of charity.

Nothing else matters taught me how to open up about the way I feel.

Bleed it out gave me the song which I want people to play in my funeral.

Fear of the dark kept me awake for nights on end.

She-wolf (almost) gave me a new purpose in life.

Laid to rest asked me to find out who gives a darn afterall.

And Seize the day taught me to how to very effectively bullshit.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What's on my mind

(a) Coffee. Cliches apart, I never really have coffee during the week and when I come home, all I crave for is coffee. Not good. Not good at all!

(b) The very beautifully written Of Human Bondage which I have read a hundred and fifty pages or so. I have to return this book soon. One more book to my Flipkart wishlist.

(c) My slowly growing Flipkart wishlist. Amidst many others are Lolita, The History of Sexuality, Ulysses and the French Lieutenant's Woman. Maybe one day I shall spend less money on icecream and buy them. Till then, I dream... :)

(d) Movies. There was a phase I went through when I just couldn't sit through three hours of a movie which annoyed my mom very much. But now I seem to be enjoying them more, and yesterday's 7 Khoon Maaf was simply delightful.

(e) This complex labyrinth of emotions and mood swings I'm experiencing right now. Maybe I'm just going through a rough patch -sigh-. And if not for some very special people, I'd have metamorphosised into a gigantic ball of stress by now.

(f) Academic work. Piles of work.

(g) Questions which randomly keep bouncing off my head like - Who am I? What am I good at? Why am I this way? Refer (e) for more

(h) Can life exist without Facebook?

(i) Gurunath. A friend of mine and I go there almost EVERY SINGLE DAY and I still don't know why. I just love going there, a je ne sais quoi I can't quite fathom.

(j) I love saying 'Gurunath'. The 'th' at the tip of my tongue sounds very conclusive and the resounding 'na' lingers even after I say 'Gurunath'. Gurunnaatth. Photocopies at Gurunaatth.

(k) That watch I still haven't bought.

(l) Planners. I have FAR too many planners and post it notes and the like, being this compulsive obsessive planning freak. I think I need to go to Stationery Rehab

(m) And oh yes, the Cricket Match yesterday :D I think I might be in love with Dhoni! :)

(n) Why I never ever publish a post without editing it again a few seconds later.

And a lot lot lot more on my mind which are probably entangled at some sub-conscious level which will probably emerge later in the night when I'm fast asleep.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Responsibility Mug

On my disorganised table in my hostel room sits a fat Responsibility Mug.

This Responsibility Mug was a birthday gift from my parents on my 12th (?) birthday. It is from Archies, I think and it has the word 'Responsibility' scrawled on it, with the Four Signs Of A Responsible Person written all over.

By virtue of being A Very Big Mug, it contains everything you could possibly imagine, pencils, earrings, eraser bits, passport sized photographs, an ugly heart shaped keychain, pens which ran out of ink and a black permanent marker, among the easily discernible items.

It is a Very Dirty Mug too, for it is emptied and cleaned out precisely twice a year, a process which takes exactly a minute and a half and the clutter in it is replaced meticulously, for well It May Prove Useful One Day.

One day, I shall set the Mug at a very prominent location and read its inscriptions with utmost diligence. Till then, it shall continue to slowly gather dust in the corner of my table.

Friday, March 11, 2011

German poems.

I'm doing an awesome course this semester called "Readings in German Literature and Culture" and one delightful poet (among many many others) we are discussing right now is Kurt Tucholsky. Here's a poem by him which I found interesting. Hope you like it! =)

The Other Man

You happen to meet him at a dinner.
You start conversing with him.
He knows the name of each Davis Cup winner.
He looks attractive. And slim.
He dances superbly. His face is clean.
And then your husband appears on the scene.

You measure one man against the other.
Your husband comes off second-best:
What a disgusting figure-oh brother!
So paunchy! So sloppily dressed!
And you say to yourself: Why, certainly
that one would be a man for me.

Now, lady, I may sound irritating
but what I tell you is true:
You'd give that other the same low rating
just after a year or two.
By then you know his technique of caressing;
you've seen him in every stage of undressing.
He then has his fill of your affection;
you've heard all the jokes in his collection;
you have observed him in joy and in fear,
from top to bottom, from front to rear....
believe me, the more one sees of us,
the less one finds us glamorous.
We may be charming at a party
and other times just like Joey or Marty.
Don't fall for those Sunday faces we carry-

and if the fellow you chose to marry
is someone with whom you can get by,
then-take my advice-hold on to the guy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Heating up

Summer is back in Chennai, where it rightfully belongs.

I had to trudge out in the sweltering midday sun today. I'm still feeling cranky. Maybe this is a wonderful opportunity for me to actually drink three litres of water a day and feel all detoxified and not like a bloated rhinoceros.

Maybe this time I would get huge branded sunglasses and teeny sun dresses and paint my face with sunscreen and eat garden fresh salad and drink cucumber rich water.

Or maybe I will just sit at home, scowl at everyone and eat copious amounts of blueberry icecream.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On a roll

I got a free one month membership to a library in IIT just yesterday and I intend to make full use of it. Afterall, the best things in life are free,right? ;)

So I started off with Devdutt Pattanaik's The Pregnant King. I love his column - Management Mythos in the Economic Times and I think the way he connects mythology and business is simply fabulous. This however does not make him a great story teller and The Pregnant King is just barely above average. A slightly disappointing read, or maybe I expected too much.

Next up is JM Coetzee's Boyhood and the Restaurant at the end of the Universe. Can't wait to read them. And there is a copy of Beauvoir's The Second Sex which I'm eyeing. Let's see how it goes!

PS - Would anybody know where I can get good Hindi literature? Trying to revive that language within me which I was once compelled to learn and later enjoyed :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Girl who loved Food

Sakina was just another seventeen year old college going student. She loved books and beaches and hated sports and thriller movies. Yet she was different from all the other seventeen year olds in the same way every seventeen year old is. We are all similar, because we are all different. She was different because she loved food.

Her love for food went beyond the habitual fulfillment of gastric cravings thrice a day. She dreamt about food, wrote stories on it, became lyrical to the virtues of dessert at night, tried to find a philosophical bent of mind suitable to her rather unusual craving for food. She dreamt of food all day long, when she was eating and when she was not. Even in classes, even while bathing or petting an ugly dirty dog down the road which everyone loves to pet for a reason which evades the Gods, she thought of food.

Dharwad pedas, she’d announce to her friends, are my favourite sweets ever. The feeling you get when you take a bite and the crisp, burnt sugary sweetness fills your mouth and your fingers are coated with sugar which you can’t wait to lick off….that feeling can only be paralleled by reading Zizekian Existentialism. Its cousin, the regular Peda, doesn’t give you that kick, of course. It’s like having jam for your sandwich at morning, when you can’t have Nutella. It’s like reading Artemis Fowl when you cannot read the Lord of the Rings. It’s just way out of Dharwad Peda’s league.

Her best friend could never understand why she should sigh and gesticulate while eating ice-cream. It was vanilla ice-cream, for heaven’s sake. But she could never explain that feeling of bliss she experienced when her overactive taste buds detected something cold…hmm…something sweet…hmm….VANILLA ICE-CREAM - ALERT!! Every spoonful made her so happy, filled her with a je ne sais quoi that it was bound to show. She never did understand how people could eat ice-cream looking grim like it was Physics class, shoving in each spoonful like it tasted like mud. She knew it didn’t. It tasted heavenly!

Thus happy plates of crisp, brown and spicy Gobi Manchurian, paneer butter masala where each white paneer was poetry in itself, pav bhaji flaunting dollops of butter and medu vadas with coconut chutney , so perfect it would make one cry, filled her life. She knew all the restaurants in town, the ones with the best falafels, with heart rending masala dosas and the ones which served delicious delicious pasta, the kind which existed only in fairytales. She lived a blissful life, she certainly wasn’t obscenely thin, but she pulled along. It was a perfect life, she loved food and food loved her unlike most romantic relationships. It was everything she could dream of.

One fine June morning she woke up, not from uneasy dreams or premonitions. Her horoscope for the day showed no sign of potential upheavals in her life. Indeed, it was a normal day, she had to submit an assignment and sit through five hours of Philosophy. Thus she was taken aback, to put it mildly, when she found that she had absolutely no appetite for breakfast.

Let me see now, she tried to reason in her mind, I have no exams coming up. I do not have NSO practice today and I even do not have Physics class. Why then, am I not able to take a single bite of this fluffy white idli decked with sambhar?

No answers came to her mind. She could feel her stomach churning, not with gastric acid, but with dread. Could this be true? She thought. Am I on the brinks of starvation? Am I going to hate food so much, am I suffering from Gastric Writer’s Block? Am I on my way in becoming a size zero model?

The idli and sambhar stared helplessly at her. Do you not love us anymore? Is this how we break up, you and I, after everything that happened between us?

It’s not you, it’s me, she answered. Or maybe it is you which is making me acting thus. Or it is both of us. Or sometimes it is you, and sometimes it is me. Ugh, I don’t know. That is just a convenient line.

But she was rational and logical. After all, didn’t she empty three bowls of carrot payasam last night? Crisp, red, juicy carrots they were, cooked in foaming white milk and seductive cashewnuts. That was normal. This had never happened to her before.
She tried forcing down a piece of idli. She just couldn’t swallow it. It was like her teeth and her jaws and her stomach and her intestines were conspiring against the love of her life. She just couldn’t do it, she drank some water and left.

It was the same during lunch. And today the lunch was brilliant, juicy spinach cooked with tomatoes and bright yellow turmeric stained aloo curry. But she was strangely repulsed by the very sight of it. It was too much for her to take, the very sight of food made her nauseous. She barely ate anything, forcing herself to smile when her friends teased her about going on a diet. She couldn’t concentrate on the general merriness around her, her mind was whirring with thoughts.

Am I working too hard these days? She wondered. Am I too intellectually satisfied to be tempted by something as ordinary as good food? Am I in love? Are my hormones working overtime so as to not let me feel any pangs of hunger? What could possibly be wrong with me?

Atleast, she sighed looking at her stomach. You will be happy with this turn of events, won’t you? This must be like paradise for you, after everything I’ve put you through. And she tried to smile and be happy for her stomach.

But deep down, she was unhappy. She was losing weight, much to the delight of her parents and her stomach seemed to be content too. She no longer dreamt of food during classes, much to the delight of her teachers and she never once raved about Taco Bell opening in her neighborhood. She couldn’t even if she wanted to, it was like something in her was shut tight, lest any emotions spilled out. It was awful, unimaginably awful, way more awful than Basketball practice. It was like she was being punished for something she hadn’t done and she certainly didn’t deserve it.
Is it my karma? She thought. Is it the inexplicable nature of life that all good things must come to an end? Did I steal someone’s dinner once? What did I do, to suffer thus? What? What? She demanded of the world in general and her stomach rumbled in agreement.

She found no answers of course and like every sensible person, tried to take her mind off this horrible predilection. She tried reading Dostoevsky, pretended to be deeply absorbed in politics and espoused Leftism. She tried to involve herself in football matches and pretended to be indignant when Liverpool defeated Arsenal FC. She tried reading overpriced self help books which claimed to help her find her inner energy. In short, she tried everything, but it just didn’t seem to work.

Many years passed, and many things changed. She graduated, she got a job, she drifted from one philosophical bent of mind to another. Yet, deep inside her, as an amateur punner would say, something was eating her up. Pain, regret, confusion and anger, all mixed in a glorious amalgam, ate her intestines. She wasn’t particularly unhealthy, she ate just to keep her alive. But every meal would bring back a barrage of emotions, every spoonful she took reminded her of the time she actually enjoyed that morsel of food. She avoided parties and weddings, ingesting became a strictly functional process for her. She did live a happy life, tinged with many happy events and fond memories. But this void grew in her, refused to leave her alone and constantly reminded her of how beautiful her life was, once.

One evening, she was walking on the streets of Besant Nagar, for the lack of anything better to do. It was a beautiful place, by sunlight, the myriad shops all lit up, shops selling brightly coloured kurtis and pretty bangles which carried an air of self-assuredness. She could see the beach from a distance, the blue sea guarded by a multitude of balloon sellers, hawkers and young couples foolishly in love. She loved this city, this city she now called home, despite its oddness, it was still home to her. It made her very happy, she felt like nothing could possibly go wrong and she lived the perfect life everyone dreamt of.

And then, like it always happens, despair crept slowly and stealthily inside her. It was a beautiful contradiction of feelings, but that’s the way life is. She felt miserable and lonely and all those emotions lifted straight off an American teenage angst book.

To hell with it, she suddenly thought. To hell with my despair and craving for that which cannot be. If I hate food so much, then that’s the way it is and ought to be. Screw my astonishing memory, screw longing and screw this hope for something which isn’t worth it at all. Yes, I loved food with all my heart once, despite impeding dangers of cholesterol. Yes, I have somehow changed overnight. Yes, I am feeling terrible about that. But screw that, because maybe there is something else I could love. Maybe that gigantic void within me has to be filled in with something more satisfying.

And sooner than expected, it was. She developed an almost abnormal liking for Science Fiction films.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Morning blues

Every morning,I wake up at 5, refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Every morning,I wake up to the denim shorts and jogging shoes I lay out so meticulously the previous night.Today,we shall go jogging,I promise myself.We will exercise furiously and become so fit and positively glow with health, as we creep out of Sharavati in stealth.

Nothing stops me,I'm good to go.The music I want to listen to,the splendid morning breeze,the empty roads I can visualise,which smell oh-so-heavenly of thyme and camphor, or some such smell which I can't identify. The familiar route, State Bank of India,Kendriya Vidyalaya,Delhi Avenue,Bose-Einstein Guest house,Led Zeppelin, Nirvana,System of a Down.When the world sleeps,I rule the roads.

Excitement makes my teeth rattle.The prospect of five classes at a stretch during the day doesn't deter me.I imagine the oxygenated blood pumping within me,from the aorta to the arteries and all the glorious calories dying a slow death. This is just too good to be true!

And then I did the unthinkable.My eyes fell on two people sleeping peacefully in another corner of my 4X4 room.Two faces which radiated absolute bliss.Two pairs of legs and two pairs of hands well tucked into two blankets. I can feel my bare arms freezing.An adrenaline rush,possibly.

I sighed and crawled back into bed, my head just too glad to hit the pillow. At once,I experienced bliss,like a million bells were ringing in my head and like I was floating on the clouds,like I could smell hot melting chocolate and other such experiences you would be all too familiar with if you harbour shamelessly maudlin fantasies.For afterall,I had two more hours to sleep.