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Posts Tagged ‘Thoughts’

Cobweb Clearing!

Ok I’m not dead. Dusting off the cobwebs once again like I’ve done many a times before. I wanted to be back with a bang, with some meaningful writing, a story perhaps, but no meaningful writing seems to be coming to me any time in the near future. So I’m back to the kind of writing that requires no meaning or thinking whatsoever. Rambling.

In the past few weeks,

Was admitted into a hospital after a long time. Actually, a very long time. So long that now I don’t even remember being admitted in a hospital before. Not even a vague memory. Amma tells me often that as a child I was admitted into a hospital once at a very critical stage and after 3 days there, I pointed to my tummy and made hand signs asking for food. She says she feels like crying every time she even thinks about that incident. But I have absolutely no memories of this supposedly ‘emotional’ moment and getting to stay in a hospital now was a very exciting and new experience. I actually liked being there for a lot of reasons. For starters, everyone was doting on me like never before. All that extreme paasam made me feel like the thangachi in thangachi paasam movies. People only didn’t stand around me in a circle and sing ‘Azhagaana chinna devadhai’ while patting my head and pinching my cheeks affectionately. Everything else was done. Relatives came visiting every evening in hordes and we had to get chairs from the reception to accommodate everyone. P who usually doesn’t lift a finger at home stayed with me during the nights and was running around with water basins and medicine prescriptions. Dad had become my competitor for the hospital bed by the end of the second day and had to take medicines as well. In fact I wasn’t even dying or had some six-months-to-die kind of sickness. Just the good ol’ routine typhoid which has already struck me some four times and something the entire family is very nonchalant about.  Now I may talk cheeky but I didn’t hate it one bit when it was all happening. I was basking as much as possible under all the hospital light glory. Go away typhoid and stay away, any other sickness! It isn’t time for me to play harps in heaven already. Too many people love me here.

Watched two movies, one of which should go into history as among the best made in the country and the other should never have been made. 40 crores, Mexico, superhero, kokarako dance, pichumani, shriya… there was no end in sight to the miseries that Kanthasamy unleashed on me. I walked into the cinema hall, a full 40 minutes after the movie started wondering if it was really worthwhile going to watch a movie after missing out so much of it. I usually get the kick of having watched a film only if I watch it from the opening credits to the vanakkam at the end. But after the Kanthasamy ordeal I thanked God Almighty and Chennai traffic for having made me miss out on most of the first half. At the end of it, I was left gaping at the screen with a lot of how-could-they questions and a WTH feeling. How I wish they had made a true Superhero film minus all that fake masala! Sigh! And then there was the other one.  Kaminey. What a fantabulous movie! A true blue gangster caper that is raw, edgy, intelligent, dramatic and funny all at once. Jaw dropping screenplay, on-the-streets cinematography, mind blowing music, brilliant is the word. Ok, I’ve run out of adjectives. Vishal Bhardwaj is a rarity in the world of Indian cinema that has come to become melodrama, mindless action and songs in foreign locations. A truly well made movie pulls you into its web. It makes you relate to its characters, laugh with them, cry with them and run with them. That’s what Kaminey made me do. I’m not against the slow paced arty kind of films but give me a completely commercial but rocking Kaminey over them any day. I hate feel good happy endings but this one time I was left praying that neither Guddu nor Charlie (for all his ultra grey shades) should die. And Kanthasamy, well it made me long for the superhero to die or atleast get caught as soon as possible. Mudiyala da samy!

Caught up with a lot of pending reading. The other day I was at Odyssey when I came across a book titled ‘The 50 most influential books in the world’ It seemed to span all genres from fiction to nonfiction to history to science. Bible was on it and so was The theory of Relativity by Einstein. What caught my eye was The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. Having seen this book on almost all ‘best books list’, I decided to find out just what was so influential about it, only to realise after reading that I was now too old to be influenced by it. The book is a slice out of a teenager’s life, how he gets chucked out of a fancy prep school, what he does enroute to going home after being dismissed, his face offs with people whose kinds he isn’t accustomed to coming across in life so far, his love for his sister, and the inherent child inside every human being irrespective of age. Teenage is that period in life when you are so vulnerable but put up a brave front to hide and mask all the bewilderment. From that point of view, this book is a teenager’s bible and it’s written in an abstract disjointed way, much like Holden Caulfield, our teenager in question is actually sitting across the table from you and having a conversation. But at the end of it, I was left wondering, ‘Now how does this INFLUENCE people in any way’. Then the ever nagging inner voice said, ‘Girl, it doesn’t influence people your age. You are way too old for this. Should have read it 6 years back. Too bad you were busy being influenced by Ayn Rand back then’ So there, Catcher in the Rye was another reminder that I was getting too old – for even some serious teenage literature.

Now I’ve reached this stage where to even ramble any more I have to start thinking, which I’m not really inclined to do (unless forced, as always). So I’ll stop here and get back when I really have something to say. Might take real long, who knows!

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The pigeon nest

Nilanjana sat sipping coffee at the front porch of the three storied duplex house. It was a conservative old fashioned house which seemed to be an eclectic mixture of aggressive raw looks and elegant neatness. The porch which seemed to be built more of raw stone and lime rather than bricks and cement gave the front façade a rather cave like appearance which was in sharp contrast to the passive quiet elegance of the rest of the house. But the carved wood railings and imitation Chippendale furniture somewhat smoothened the effect. Ashima sat on the couch next to Nilanjana, legs stretched on a table, dozing. Looking at Ashima sleep with her head tilted on the neck to one side, forming a double chin, Nilanjana felt sleepy and light headed. The coffee was for sure not doing its trick waking her up. Three in the afternoon, the perfect time for a nap but she had chores to do. The washed clothes had to be put up for drying and the dishes were to be done. Moreover Ashima would put a long face if she saw Nilanjana sleeping when she woke up. Sleeping in the afternoons was a strict no-no according to Ashima. But that didn’t stop her from ‘dozing off lightly while looking at the papers’ every afternoon day after day. Nilanjana glanced at her sleeping mother-in-law, drank the coffee to the last drop and went in to the kitchen. As she drained and washed the coffee cup, her eyes fell on the calendar. March 16, 2009. Exactly four months since she first entered this house on a cloudy day, blessed, wished well and surrounded by dozens of friends and relatives. Four months since she married Ashok.

She carried the bucket filled with washed clothes up to the terrace. This was the place she loved the most in the house. The only place which gave her solace when the loneliness threatened to drive her senseless on some days. She thought of Ashok. Her husband who had a time table for everything. Eating exactly 20 minutes after bath, sleeping half an hour after dinner at night. He loved her but showed it only when the time table permitted him to. He asked her if she wanted anything while knotting up his tie everyday. And kissed her goodbye when he put the car keys into his pocket. As per time table. She thought of her father in law who barely acknowledged her presence in the house. In fact he acknowledged nobody’s presence. All he cared about was his hot water bath, three meals a day and cricket on television. She thought of Ashima, who pretended to love her but complained about the new bahu to every single guest who came home since the wedding. Complaints that Nilanjana found ridiculous at first, rebelled at later and then accepted with a stoic silence with time. She reads such thick books written by foreigners, god only knows how corrupt it would make her! Listens to English songs with obscene lyrics and even hums them in the bathroom. Wears imitation jewellery, such a let down for a dignified family. Sits cross legged on the chair before husband and mother in law, no respect for traditions. Tired of the arguments and rebellion and fighting, Nilanjana gave it all up. Reading, English music, writing poetry, laughter, everything. Her days were now an endless cycle of household chores, mind numbing television soaps and gossip of which she never wanted to be a part of.

She wrung the clothes and put them up to dry. As she was placing a clip to hold the last one in place, she heard strange noises coming from a side of the terrace. Like water gurgling from a running brook. She went over and looked along the edge of the terrace. There, she saw it. In a corner of the terrace wall, along a crevice on the outer side, was a pigeon nest. With a mother and its baby pigeon inside. The mother pigeon sat with its wings spread out and its baby was nestled underneath. The mother looked at Nilanjana with wide benign eyes but made no effort to move or make any sound. She saw the pigeon as a reflection of herself, frightened, hopeless, cramped and lonely. She saw it as a being which lived only out of love for its baby. Just like how she lived only out of love for Ashok and her parents. She felt connected to the pigeon by some unknown common thread and the pigeon nest became a part of her life from then on. She would make an early morning visit to the terrace to see the mother and baby ruffling their feathers and waking up, making gentle noises as if to assure the dawn in. She brought them grains after serving Ashima breakfast and watched with pleasure as the mother opened up the baby’s beak gently and dropped the grains down its throat one by one. She stroked the soft flaky feathers of the baby when the mother was not around, having been nipped once trying to touch the baby in the mother’s presence. She watched sometimes, with a lump at the throat, the two pigeons cuddled together looking like a single white ball of fur late in the evenings, thinking of her own mother who was now all alone by herself a hundred miles away. She watched the mischievous glint in the baby’s eyes as it nipped its mother’s beak playfully while being fed.

Nlanjana watched, smiled, laughed. She felt light, relaxed and happy when she was in the company of the pigeons. She began to hum to herself again, initially only in the solitude of the terrace or her room but later sang occasionally while cooking in the kitchen. She felt herself grow out of her loneliness as the baby pigeon grew day by day. Seeing how careworn and unkempt she looked, she made a visit to the beauty parlour to have her long hair trimmed a little. She went shopping for colorful bangles and bindis. She smiled a dazzling smile when Ashima complained about the changes in her. Ashok noticed that her eyes shone when she spoke and was happy to see his wife finally stop looking miserable and unhappy all the time. She started reading Tagore and Shelley again. She visited the pigeons five times a day, feeding them once, singing to them another time, reading out poetry to them some another time and just watching them together sometimes. The happiness the pigeons passed on to her spread over to the other parts of her life as well. Life began to look more tolerable and a lot more pleasant to Nilanjana.

It happened on a Sunday, a week after Ashok came back from his business trip to Bangkok. Nilanjana finished her morning chores, made lunch for the family and went shopping with Ashok. While sifting through sarees she suddenly remembered that she hadn’t fed the pigeons in the morning. How forgetful, Should feed them first thing after going home, she scolded herself furiously. Back home, she found her mother in law in a very good mood. Ashima welcomed both of them with a smile and said she was waiting for them so that the whole family could have lunch together. As she set the plates for lunch, Nilanjana heard Ashima talking to Ashok in the hall.

“Guess what Beta, I’ve made a special dish for you today. I made it as a surprise after you and Nilanjana left for shopping. Have you ever tasted pigeon meat? It’s such a delicacy. Especially the young tender meat of a pigeon that’s only a couple of weeks old. I’ve been waiting for the right time ever since that pigeon built its nest on our terrace and laid egg. I know exactly the time, when the flesh would be just right for cooking…”

Nilanjana ran blindly across the room and clobbered up the stairs to the terrace. Her eyes rummaged the pieces of straw and rubbish from the nest on the terrace floor and slowly with dread fixed on the empty nest. Then her eyes fell on the mother pigeon sitting on the terrace wall with its beak open but with no sound coming out of its throat. She retched and began to vomit uncontrollably on the terrace floor.

* All names from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth.

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Small Things, Big Things

I’ve been looping a song over and over again while at work for the past few weeks. Not that it’s a brilliant number or has top notch music. In fact it has a terrible chorus at the end of each paragraph which goes ‘va va va va va’. Sukhwinder Singh chews and spits out Thamizh mercilessly as usual, but the opening lyrics of the song totally floored me.

புன்னகைக்கு நேரம் ஒதுக்கு

பூப்பறிக்க நேரம் ஒதுக்கு

நிலவுக்கு நேரம் ஒதுக்கு

தினம் நிம்மதிக்கு நேரம் ஒதுக்கு

மழைத் தண்ணீரோடு ஓடும் குமிழி போல்

வாழ்க்கை இருக்கு

பொழுதோடு காதல் வலு காணாமல்

வாழ்க்கை எதற்கு?

which roughly translates to

Set aside time for a smile

Set aside time to pick flowers

Set aside time for the moon

Set aside  time for some peace.

Like a bubble with rain water, Life is washed away

What is Life, without Love getting stronger everyday?

If you have already excused the terrible translation, thank you, let’s move on. I make it a point to listen to these lyrics everyday morning just to remind myself that there are certain things to life other than ambition, money, career, fame, power. That there are Small Things that make a Big difference to what life means to you at the end of a lifetime. The world now is fast food and cut throat. It is considered a heinous crime if you stop by at the office cafeteria to smile at a colleague. “You could have fixed two bugs and got a pat on your shoulder instead of wasting time smiling at strangers”, Ambition sniggers. “Soap up the manager. Don’t you want a raise this time?” Career jeers. “You don’t have to know people. Let people know you”, hisses Fame. Amidst all these Big Things, the smaller players lose out. They are crushed, forgotten and battered. We are all busy scheming and plotting to pull each other down and Love lies tossed aside, unwanted and unattended. We remain caged in glass cubicles, staring at computer screens not knowing who sits next to us. Friendly Banter lies gagged, hushed up and stuffed into the cubicle locker. We travel in luxury cocoons, irritated at a drop of rain on our faces or a ray of sunlight on our eyes. Nature lies ignored and unsought. The mobile phone mints money and makes business across continents. Family lies uncared for next door. We exchange Rainbows for Mirages and remain content. Only when the Big Things are all there, we realize that we still aren’t happy with Life. We are still restless, sad, disappointed and hopeless. We realize that we’ve locked up Happiness, Love, Kindness, Peace of Mind and lost the key somewhere along the way in the mad rush for Bigger Things.

Do we have the time for a cup of coffee while looking at the sun rise over the horizon? Do we have a few minutes to share secrets with the moon at night? Do we still have time for Love, Joy, Peace and Happiness? The Small Things are all there. Waiting for us. Do we have the time?

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