Friday, April 29, 2005

Sometimes the mind goes on a trip and from the mind's eye, emerges pictures rosy, honey sweet and perfectly practical.

What if...

The mind plays games and treads dangerous grounds. Games that I want to try and play. Games that I hope I will win.

What if...

The heart interrupts for awhile and chides the mind... are you crazy? The mind rears its head and stands its ground.

What if...

Life, for the mind, is beyond the reach. It is scattered with wants, needs, achievement and fulfillment. Nothing extraordinary.

What if...

The heart looks around for reasons to believe, for hope to hold on to... finds none. And extends a quivering hand towards the mind.

Only if.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Smelling the flowers on the way

It's summer. Almost. And I try to desperately think why I have no memories of scorching summers during childhood.

Most recollections are warm summers that were just hot. Never unbearable. Summers remind me of shady trees, sleepy afternoons, ice lollies, long walks, longer daylight hours, millions of fireflies in the night as I rest my head on mom's lap and count stars. While I listen to her stories, fascinated.

But winters were a different story... foggy, little woolen gloves, warm fireplaces and lots of cold cream. And finally the huge olive tree at my grandma's place. Forbidden to eat the fruit in the chilly weather, my earliest memories are of racing towards the olive tree as the icy wind slapped my face. Of eating the sour fruits and getting my throat hoarse. While I pant, under the tree, face flushed red and hot from the run, my cousin would produce a little brown stick and light it. A gift from the cousins from 'foreign'. And dear cousin would smoke half the ciggy and give me tips on things to eat later to cut out the smell of the smoke.

Grandma's lovely cottage, I believe was gifted to grandpa by the British. He worked for a British tea company and mom spent a childhood with little English children chasing butterflies with their nets. The cottage stood pretty surrounded by lawns and gardens and open fields.

Along the lane after the cottage, was a little village and a full day of my holiday would be spent being dragged by mom from one house to the next as she went to visit the members of each and every house. Everybody seems to be somehow related and the way promises were made to visit, I had visions of the whole village arriving at our door some day. Aunts and uncles emerged and I would be hugged and squeezed and pinched. Finally at dusk, stuffed painfully with food lovingly fed at every house, we would head back to grandma's cottage.

What I loved most was the ritual after that. We would walk past a field with wild flowers and bamboo trees. And in a clearing in the middle lay a neat little patch. A stone epitaph marked my mom's father's name with fresh flowers around it. He was cremated in the place he loved best. Close to his home and hearth. As I bow in reference to a man I have never seen, I wonder what my mother must be feeling to be standing at the grave of the man who taught her to walk and talk. A man who openly loved his only daughter and shamelessly favoured her over his 7 sons.

At that moment I feel my heart tug as an invisible bond tightens. A bond with a dead man. I look at mom and see the serenity on her face. We are both one, two women, part of him, part of the circle of life, standing against a crimson sky. Slowly mom takes my hand and we walk home.


Happiness is

-driving on a sunny day on the beautiful expressway without a destination
-singing loudly to the music as you share a can of coke
-smiling at the man beside as the breeze plays furiously with his hair
-breaking away at little towns and little pools because he wants a swim
-driving through a city he spent a few years at
-listening to old stories of wild parties and wilder women
-eating "for old time's sake" at every place he recognized
-meeting friends and bonding over coffee
-dining together like a couple of lovers on their first date
-getting surprise gifts at midnight from the man
-reviving lost memories over a beautiful lunch with more friends
-making promises and plans to meet again very very soon
-discovering new places and admiring it all
-buying little knick knacks like I do everywhere I go
-the impatient hubby patiently waiting at every little shop I slip into
-getting lost and driving on for over an hour in the opposite direction
and not minding it
-surviving 4 years of marriage and feeling a deeper special bond
-looking forward to many many more years of driving together, singing loudly to the music

Yes, we did all that this weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Happy Birthday and thanks for all the cake!

We celebrated a birthday on Saturday. The husband's.

I baked him a cake which, I dramatically whisked out at midnight and asked him to cut. The vain man refused. On grounds that it was too beautiful a cake and he wanted to make sure all his equally vain friends saw it, before he proceeded to mutilate the lovely frosting and icing on top.

But how come on my birthday, I am dragged out of bed at midnight and made to cut the cake without friends seeing it? I questioned him immediately. Well, he doesn't bake my birthday cake himself so there's nothing to show off. I accepted it.

The next day, as friends poured in, they were offered everything to eat and drink. Not the cake. Finally when someone asked about birthday cake, I again produced the piece of art from the fridge. As people oohhed and aahhed I realized it was indeed a good ploy to cut the cake and have it then. And I smiled at my smart hubby as he paused for breath blowing a zillion candles.

Age had definitely brought in much needed wisdom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The domestic help is on leave. For two months, she said. She has to take care of certain rites for her dead father. She got me a substitute who drives me senile every morning for the 2 hours she takes to finish her work in my house.

After she proffered her name I tried repeating after her "Sririmalitha Vengalama Murugath.." or something to that effect.
"shart caat... Shardha" she came to my rescue.

Unlike the earlier one, she can't cook nor even help in the kitchen. All she likes to do is stand next to me. It's eerie! I tell her to get on with her cleaning and dusting and she gives me a strange look and laughs with a full throttle.

The first day, as I made breakfast, I asked her if she would like to have breakfast too. She nodded. That set the routine and I regretted my generosity. As I race to work, hungry (for lack of time to eat!) every morning, after cooking, filling water into bottles, my substitute help eats my food, drinks my water, uses my bathroom too, I suspect, and forgets to clean the house!

With guests from the in-laws side due to arrive in 2 weeks time for a long visit, I am wondering if a no help show is better than the one I have. Then visions of me slaving in the kitchen, wiping my brow and doing dishes, hit me and I growled menacingly at the hubby.

So the hunt has began for a new domestic help. And for peace in the house every morning. A dream maid who would feed me instead. One who my visiting ma-in-law will endure and train and shout at, as she sees fit. While I retain my sanity and smile indulgently from the living room.

Excuse me... here comes the first candidate I need to interview, to hand over drudgery.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Gone with the past

Last night I finally managed to get through the marathon "Gone with the wind". I started it a few days back. First I couldn't finish it as friends landed up and the next time the DVD konked off. Yesterday, when I finally saw 'The End' flashing, it felt like completing a marathon without a leg.

Now I am sure everybody must be wondering what took me half my life to watch this classic. Like hubby said, I must be a late bloomer, as he mentioned if there's any blooming going to happen at all...

And what does a mere male know what he gained by his wife not watching it, at the time when the whole city was talking about it!

Much over a decade ago, "Gone with the wind" played at one of the popular theatres in Bombay, Regal. And everybody who heard of the book clamoured to get into the theatre and come out beaming, "Not as good as the book... but great movie..."

"I just love Rhett Butler!" shrieked the girls. Most of these juveniles were my classmates and friends.

And in all this, B, my Kenyan friend and I remained above the berserk crowd as we walked the tree lined lanes of Colaba. We were the same size, had the same sense of humour, wore each others clothes, spent money on 'frivolous things' and were often broke. The beginning of the month, we lived like queens, and by the end, we walked everywhere and ate only hostel food.

The only difference was, B was a terrific dancer. I was not. I bunked class and hid myself in my room to read. B attended classes religiously and shared her notes with me. I also had a permanent murderous look etched on my face for all those who stared at B's pretty face, chocolate skin and braided hair.

We often went to the Salvation Army where B's sister was putting up for some time. In the afternoons, there would be people lazing in the shade of the huge verandah on the first floor. A few would be leaning back on armchairs with their books, a few without books listen to music. Some chat and some just sit. Interesting people from different countries, some travelling, some staying there for a couple of months. But one thing was certain there was no hurry here. Time stood still and everybody had a look of calmness on their face.

I often read there while B spoke to her sister. One afternoon, I watched the group nearby engrossed in chess. While the handsome Frenchman pondered and pondered, I asked if he wanted some help. He yelped, "oui! oui!! yesyes!!"

I made my move. The game, alongwith a few hearts were won. All of us became friends. The Frenchman, Jacque, considered himself special. He was, actually. His face turned bright (I imagined) when he saw me and we spent many afternoons exchanging stories. I learnt he was a swimming instructor, who worked for 6 months in a year, and the other 6 months he spent travelling. I was facinated with his tales of people and places he went to.

And then he asked me, could he take me out for a movie... "Gone with the wind" to be precise. It was playing nearby, supposed to be a great film, and he would love to go with me. I could almost see the only French connection word I knew, playing in my mind "French kiss"!! Ah! Surely I wasn't ready for it ye..t. B was so excited that she screeched, "Great!ShewasdyingtowatchitandIdidn'twanttogo.. soyoucantakeher.. tomorrowthen?" And the next day, I lied to him that I wasn't free... "could we go tomorrow?"... and he said "Certainly. Tomorrow then." very kindly. I felt a little guiltly.

The next day, I heard of some party my friends in Pune were going to. I went and told Jacque, I had to rush to Pune as I had to see a sick friend. But we would catch the movie when I got back on Monday. He said, he would wait.

When I got back Jacque was gone. He left me a note with his friend. "I am sorry I have to leave suddenly. My mother is very sick, maybe dying. She asked for me. I hope to come back next year. Remain happy and smiling, my dear. Love Jacque. p.s. We will watch the film next time. Wait for me, please."

His friend asked if he could take back a letter for Jacque. I replied I would post it to him. This was before the days of mobiles phones and e-mails. I realised Jacque didn't know anything beyond my name and what I was studying in college. Everyday I meant to write a nice letter and didn't. When I finally did write it, I found out I had lost the slip of paper with his address. I was miserable for some time but recovered. After B's sister moved out a month later, I never went back to Salvation Army.

And last night, I finished watching a movie, I was supposed to watch in my past. I just hope Jacque too has caught up on "Gone with the wind."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


As 10 year olds, we were as friendly as a boy and girl could be. As we played Table Tennis on the same side of the table, doubles partners, post another romantic rejection by an older female, BM said to me, "Not to worry. I could always marry you." And stupid me was secretly flattered he chose me; and hurt at the same time that he chose me when none agreed. Anyway, I had the sense to not show it and scowled as usual at him. "Bah!"

BM was far matured and intelligent than me. That's why he probably never had patience with people his age and size. And BM wooed girls long before we realised boys were to be flirted with and maybe married one day. Possibly because BM had siblings years elder to him, hung out with much older friends... he got used to older people. And he liked women a good deal older than him. But his tragedy was they never took him seriously!

We sat on the old club's stone steps and giggled together. He made fun of people and taught me to laugh too. He seated me on the bar of his cycle as we raced through the little lanes. When he demanded and got his bike (at a pretty young age), we vroomed about town. He gave me a puff of his cigarette and I swore off them for life.

He was the smartest in his class. A born leader. Everbody wanted to be his friend. But he was bored of it all. Very soon, there was nothing left for him to do, to have. He turned to new challenges, dangerous ones.

Several times I caught BM gulping down bottles of banned cough syrup. Around the same time, I got caught in other activities and travelled a lot. A few years later, Mom informed me, BM had turned hard core drug addict. The next time she told me he was in a rehabilitation centre. Some common friends I met, said he talked of me with fondness.

Time went by. Nobody spoke of him anymore, including me. And one day I was told casually, that he was gone. Passed away at 23.

Strangely inspite of the madness the surrounded BM eventually, I relate him to sunshine and laughter. I find in my memories, happiness and a great friendship. A partner on the same side of the table sending me a look that said "Unleash that deadly serve of yours, and I will follow it up!!"

Sometimes I wonder if I could have made a difference. If I just bothered enough to pull him out of the hole he was sinking into...

My conscience pricks me till I am left bleeding.