Thursday, November 26, 2015

Instant Karma x 2

I am on my bike, getting back home. Satyam Cinemas lane. (One-way lane)
This guy is crossing the road a few meters away from me, from my right.
As he is crossing the road slowly, he has completely turned his heard left and is busy staring at me. I'm irritated. He won't look away.

Enter: stern-looking uncle on a scooter. The uncle is speeding on the opposite side of the road, toward me (on the wrong side). Our chap (henceforth called the 'starer') has forgotten all rules of crossing while he busy staring. The uncle who is now really close to the starer applies a sudden brake and his scooter touches the starer's knees. At the impact, the tea that the starer is holding in his right hand, completely spills all over uncle's black shiny shirt.

Uncle freezes. Starer freezes. I slow down. Uncle raises his hand towards the starer. I wait to cross a few meters from where I am, to burst out laughing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Weather I like it or not


A week of unstoppable rain. Four days of house arrest.

Anyone who knows even a little of me knows how much of a romantic I am.

And yes, true to the cult of romantics, I love the rains. I always have. But for the first time in my life, I almost wanted it to stop. Perhaps personal and professional pressures have mounted up just like the laundry pile sitting in the corner of the room. Look! A shirt sleeve menacingly juts out of the filled-beyond-capacity laundry basket. If you've watched at least one horror movie, you'll know what I mean.

If all I had to do was to sit by the balcony and stare at the rain, I would have loved the rain and would have been so much in love--with no one in particular. (We romantics never need a real person to be in love with, okay sometimes.) I now get to visit the balcony only to pull out the half-dried clothes and to pull away the junior dreamer, muttering fear-inducing words like cold-fever-doctor-injection.

I would have loved the rains if I had someone supply me with hot snacks and tea. Forget dancing in the rain. The only water I came into contact happened to be freezing cold soap-water. The only things that blossomed in the monsoon were the callouses on my palms with all the dish washing.

Oh, all that kitchen work and the baby-sitting made the weather even more gloomy. So I yearned for and earned my TV time. The family was nice enough to hand me over the remote. So I plonked in front of the TV, rubbing my palms in eager anticipation of a cheesy rom-com or some classic. But TATA SKY did not think that way. It just sternly asked me to wait till the rains stopped (in 3 clear bullet points). Ah! Now I understood the family's generosity with the remote. Hmph! Not one to give up so easily, I sulked and pouted. The untouched DVD collection was raided. The Malayalam classic Balayasakhi was fished out. A sordid formula: Kolkata rains + Kerala rains + 1 broken leg + 2 broken hearts. Even Mammoty's handsome face couldn't save me from drowning into further depths of grey. (The leading lady was so wooden that they could have made an entire prosthetic limb for the handicapped protagonist using just her face.)

I then crawled to the book that I've been trying to finish reading for almost a year now. Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul. Suddenly his huzun (loosely meaning melancholy, a word I had begun to love) made me whimper.

I politely shut the book and turned to the window only to see a 3-feet deep wading pool on the road - I shut the window with not-so polite words.

I don't know what the weather's got to do with nostalgic trips. This time I had an entire odyssey by itself. Thankfully, I did distract myself with work. And quite a productive distraction it turned out to be, as long as it lasted.

Make hay when the sun shines is one thing. But the motto of the anti-ruling party TV Channels seemed to be 'sow seeds when the clouds burst'. And the TV Channels run by the ruling party pretended as if it were all fun and sunshine (pun intended). However, talking about TV news, I firmly believe that what happens at home should stay at home. It felt terrible to see Chennai and its admin 'lords' being ripped apart on National TV, especially hurtful when it was done by a charming home-grown boy on CNN-IBN.

The lightning, thunder. The noise of the winds. The drone of the mind-chatter in the silence of power-cuts. My rebelling hormones. Flooding everywhere. People living in danger. Cumulative effect of the cumulonimbus, haven't slept well in days. Greydarkgloom.

Day 4, I woke up to see a few rays of sunlight sneaking their way in. Water-droplets on the balcony grill gleamed brilliantly, cheering the sun, as it were. Dear friends from other towns sent me sunshine in jpeg format. The stagnating water outside my house started receding. The romantic in me slowly stretched, yawned and opened her eyes lazily.

Though romance and routine don't get along very well, I have come to agree that there is indeed some comfort in routine. The house-helps are back. I am back at work. The ear worm has finally wriggled out. I now look forward to only two more sounds - the chime of the school-bell and the whir of my beloved scooter. And perhaps a little pitter-patter?


Saturday, November 07, 2015

She would have preferred her father to say that

Happened to read this article a couple of mornings ago. I'm still feeling rather disturbed.

It is the story of a 19-year-old girl who decided to marry her 21-year-old companion from another community. Her father who apparently didn't agree to this relationship filed a criminal case against the boy, alleging that the boy had not only kidnapped the girl but had also lied about his age. At the end of the hearing, the courts told the girl that she could go ahead and chose her life partner.

Let me make it clear right at the beginning that I am not saying 19 and 21 is the best age to get married. Let's talk about marriageable age some other time.

My point is this. In the times that we live in, forward thinking and liberal views are just a dream. A dream that comes true perhaps only for a minuscule percentage of Indians. A majority of us (not just women) still go by what others tell them to do, especially in matters like when to marry, whom to marry, how many children to have and when, what occupations to choose...

Isn't it sad? Two people fall in love and want to get married. The couple should not be waiting for a court order but just a kind word from elders in the family. They should seek blessings but not police protection (just look at the line-up of cops in the disturbing photograph!). Ideally, a responsible father would tell her daughter that he trusts her and will support her decisions. He might want to suggest that she should wait till she graduates. And the daughter should be able to trust the father enough to wait. Isn't that a lot easier than going to the courts?

I hear that today, it has become a 'trend' to go to the courts alleging kidnap when the case is actually marriage with consent. Who is to make up for all the loss of time, money and effort wasted in settling such issues? And given a chance, we all only love to throw darts at the judicial system in this country.

Now what happens after this court order?
The couple might go ahead and 'live happily ever after'. But what about the scars?
Will the family ever patch up?
Will the family desist from further tying to separate the lovers? Don't tell me we haven't heard such stories before (the girl having to lose both her father and husband as well in the battle).

I want to know. Isn't peace the main goal of every human being? Why is it so difficult to live and let live? What is that ONE THING we need to change in our lives? Where do we start? 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Aamani Paadave Haayiga

Remembered this glorious song today.

Ilayaraja and SPB at their soothing best.

The Lyrics: Though I've always known the lyrics by heart, I never took the effort to understand these beautiful lyrics. I have always found certain Telugu songs difficult to understand. Need to brush up my Telugu. Oh! How I love the language.

Here are the lyrics and the translation.

The flute: You can't miss the flute in this song. And if you notice, the flute speaks lovely Telugu too (must have been Arulmozhi).

The Tamil Version: With due respect to Ilayaraja and Mano, can't help but remember the rather unfortunate rendering of this song in Tamil. Just didn't sound right.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Unnecessary Distraction

It was the last thing she wanted to hear. After so many years of friendship that blossomed into love. After so many moments of togetherness and joy. After so many promises, she definitely didn't expect him to say, "You are just an unnecessary distraction in my life. I think you should leave me alone now."

She first thought she'd heard it wrong, till he repeated the words, just like how sometimes, a logger has to strike twice to cut through a strong, old tree. She still wasn't willing to give up. "But what makes you think that, after all this while? Is there something else?"
"No," was his unusually monosyllabic response.
"Sweetheart, I know things are rough now. They'll all be fine soon. Don't worry. I'll let you be now. I'll call you later. You take care, okay?" she said as she got up to hug him. He gently put her arms away and motioned for her to sit down. He ran his fingers through his hair.
"I think you should know the truth. I don't want to lead you on and then disappoint you. I don't think this is going to work out. I have too many things on my head right now. My career hasn't taken off the way I'd planned. I need to research more, learn more. There are a zillion ideas buzzing in my head but not enough opportunity or time. I don't wish to waste a moment more. Then there are my parents. They are of prime importance to me. They aren't getting any younger. I need to be around to take care of them and not disappoint them. They have a lot of hopes pinned on me."
"But then, how..."
"Let me please complete. So, I'm sorry but I don't think I'd have any time to spare for you. I'd only end up feeling guilty. "
"Hey! When did I expect anything out of you? Have I ever pushed you into doing anything?" she tried hard to sound chirpy.
"Leave alone meeting you or talking to you over phone, even thinking of you takes my thoughts away from work. I hate it when that happens. I need to concentrate."
His frown nipped her giggles sharp.
"Whoa! You sound serious. You told me I was your inspiration. How did I suddenly become a distraction? Is there someone else?"
"Then what is it?" she didn't want to sound pleading.
"What I said is the truth. I have no time for love."
"Fine. I'll wait then."
"That's up to you. I can't promise anything," he shrugged.
Now this was getting annoyingly frightening. She held his hand and looked at him, searching his face for a clue. He just got up to leave.

As they stood at the exit door, "I am sorry," he said. After a long, lingering look at each other, they walked away in opposite directions.

"I hope she believed me," he thought as he turned around the corner, tears brimming his eyes.
"I wish he told me the truth," she thought as she quickly wiped her eyes and hailed a cab.


In response to a daily writing prompt from Writers Write.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Road Rage - 2 - 'Break-neck' speed breakers
While roads are being laid, half-laid, re-laid and being prepared for laying, I have a word or two to say about the speed breakers too. After all speed breakers contribute to a great extent in providing the exciting experience of cross-country races well within the city.

You see, there are basically three kinds of speed-breakers.
1. The Prim and Propah: These are of the right height, the right breadth, marked with black and white stripes. So we know what exactly they are, from even a distance 10-15 meters. Therefore, boring.    Of course, there are uncles in their shiny cars (with the plastic covers on the seats still intact). They sometimes block the entire traffic while they carefully deal with the brief uphill moment.

2. Half-baked: Now these are grudgingly erected at random places by the Corporation under pressure from the public. They are therefore half-done and haphazard (but surely more than half a hazard). They are perfectly camouflaged under the tar. The irritated worker forgot to paint lines over them. These challengers rise up at the most unexpected places. Now if there is a bike moving in front of you and you happen to pay attention, you brace yourself for the approaching hurdle. The other day, I happened to be the lone motorist on the road. It was a cool afternoon, I was in a state of bliss, with a song on my lips. I thought it was my state of mind that lifted me up some 10 inches in the air. It was only after the bike came down with a thud and I bit my tongue did I realise that the speed breaker was the actual cause of my levitation. With this rough incident, the last bits of spiritual bliss left my body with precisely two cuss words.

3. Custom-made: This is the most unique variety. Now these speed breakers mark the high-handedness of the local kingpin/daada/temple owner/rich man/ex-municipal councilor living on that street. These are just roughly laid mounds of concrete and blue-metal stones in varying altitudes. My guess is that they are laid by chefs or gardeners of these VIPs in their free time. The height and breadth of these killers vary depending on the VIP-ness of the aforementioned person. I tell you, these speed-breakers are the real deal. You won't know of their existence till you actually get close to them. But by then you are so close that you can't do anything really. If you are on a two-wheeler, use it to master your control over the machine. If you are in a car and you are a believer, you can just say a silent prayer while the monster speed breaker scratches the innards of your car with its devilish fingernails. And well, if you are non-believer, didn't they say you are already doomed?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Déjà vu - Part 10

Translated By Priya Arun
 from the Original Tamil Novella, Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai by Cable Sankar

pic courtesy: Alan Cleaver/
“Hello….Shankar?” That voice in a heavy American accent, sent shivers down my spine. Could that be her? Really? After so many years? It must have been at least two or three years now….?


“Hi! This is Shraddha.” A brief pause. Oh god, it WAS her! Only she could say that name with such elan.

She had vanished without a trace after that terrible day at the office cafeteria. It had been so many years now, and her voice still had a mesmerising effect on me.

“Yes Shraddha. This is Shankar. It’s good to hear your voice after so long.”
“So, you haven’t forgotten me. Great! I need to meet you. Can you come to Hotel Trident?”

I checked the time. I was a little free in the afternoon. It was only the next day that I had a client meeting regarding an ad-film shoot. “Sure Shraddha. What’s the room number?”

“208...I’m waiting...just for you,” she said before hanging up.

It’d been so many years. Yet, she sounded so casual. I wondered if time would have changed her. Did she still look the same? Or all grown-up, perhaps sexier? It had been five long years since we had met. The first couple of months after she left were indeed difficult. I just went numb, unable to comprehend the sudden developments. Life had become a meaningless routine. It took me a few years to completely get over her. I had given her up along with the other opportunities that she had brought along, only to pursue my dreams of the silver-screen. After that, the only opportunity I got was that of an assistant in an advertising agency. With a little effort and struggle, I have now managed to start off my own agency, a small one though. I’ve clinched a few deals for corporate ad films. Well, this is the closest I have been able to get to direction.

As I parked my car and walked towards the elevator, I felt a little nervous. I was almost close to 208. Should I ring the bell? As my hand hovered near the doorbell, there she was, standing by the door.

She beamed at me, flashing her ever attractive smile. “Welcome!” she said, with open arms. As she shut the door behind us, I found her looking at me from head to toe, making me feel a little uncomfortable.

“You don’t seem to have changed much. Maybe you’ve just put on a little weight...otherwise, you look the same. Why don’t you sit down?” she said, pointing at the sofa. She sounded the same—as stylish and as laid back as ever. Her gold loops had given way to tiny trinkets in her ears. The way they shook every time she nodded her head still appeared very cute. Strangely, I was filled with exactly the same feeling as I did, the first time we met. A mixture of awe and self-consciousness.

She sat down very close to me.

“Would you like to have something? Coffee?”

“Nothing at all. Thanks. How have you been Shraddha?”

“Oh me? Been good. I weigh a few pounds extra, that’s about it. You tell me. So, have you been able to fulfill your dreams?”

Whoa! Was it her actually asking about something? Unbelievable. Yet, I cleared my throat and nodded, “Yep, kind of.”

“You should have just come with me.”

“If I’d done that, I wouldn't have been able to achieve even half of what I have Shraddha.”

“I heard you’re making ad films these much for your tall dreams of becoming a movie director. You might have reached halfway to your destination alright. It hurts to say it, but in my opinion, you’ve missed the target.”

“I don’t think so Shraddha. What I’m doing now is just a means towards reaching my goal. I’m really close and I know I will do it. It’s just a matter of time, maybe a few months. Anyway, forget that. You tell me. You wanted to meet me…” as I was saying this, I found her moving closer to me. It was the same heady mint fragrance, all strong and powerful.

“Don’t you like me anymore Shankar? Don’t I mean anything at all to you now? You sound so detached.Yes, we did separate but I’m sure the feeling of love towards each other will never go away. Have you never missed me all these years?”

I smiled at the irony of it all. “I don’t think you should even talk about separation. It’s been a whole five years after that moment you walked out on me. You never felt the need to inquire after me in all these years. If you think there is pain in separation, I guess it’s me who should be talking about it.”

“Fine! I agree. But you know, after so much struggle to get dad’s consent, having arranged you know how I hurt I felt? Such opportunities are so hard to come by. You chose your principles, your dreams over me. Such a foolish thing to do. I was so mad at you, could have torn you to pieces. But I didn’t want to express my anger that way. So, I moved away...far, far away from you. I felt separation was the only way to make you realise my importance.”

“It was your decision.”

“But it was for us...the separation happened because you didn’t see the ‘us’ in this relationship. I am ready for you now. I still love you. Let’s leave to America immediately. Let’s first settle down there. And then you are free to do what you wish to. All my money is yours after all. You don’t have to sweat it out here doing films for silly, insignificant products. You deserve happiness. Only I can give it you. Just come away with me. Let’s live in the best of comfort and luxury. I’ll make life beautiful for you Shankar. Just come away with me.”

I was dumbfounded at what she said. This woman hadn’t changed one bit! After all these years, she still insisted on taking decisions on my behalf and was even thrusting them upon me. What’s more, she even wanted me to accept the decisions wholeheartedly.

“I can’t do it Shraddha. No.”

“What do you mean? Is it that you can’t come or don’t want to come with me?”

“I can’t say anything if you corner me this way. Since you’re insisting, let me tell you. I was as upset with you as you were with me. Still, I feel being in love is not everything. An unsatisfactory marriage and career can completely crush a person’s spirit. I strongly believe that a man and a woman should work together as a team and help each other in achieving their dreams and aspirations. That’s the only key to a happy marriage. If we decide to overlook that, I guess a bitter break-up is all that will remain.”

“Fantastic! So you don’t want me anymore, right? You say I can’t be a good wife to you, isn’t it? Bloody hell, what a bloated ego! You’re are rejecting me. Shraddha Reddy is being rejected? Wow! Great, okay,” she nodded her head vigorously and shrugged, her eyes welling up. She began to sob. I’d never seen her cry. I was quite surprised. I actually felt sorry for her. I pulled her close to me and wiped her tears away. We were now sitting really close to each other, just short of an embrace. All of a sudden, she held me really tight.

She started showering me with kisses. She was soon on top of me. With the warmth of her entire body over me, I felt losing all control of myself. My mind was in a muddle and I just didn’t know what to do with her or even myself. I grabbed her hard by her shoulders and pushed her away. She fell towards the floor in the impact. She was shocked. She didn’t move but kept glaring at me. I honestly didn’t intend to do this. As I got up and set my clothes right, I held my hand out to her. She refused to take it and got to her feet on her own. She whispered accusingly, “Aha! Your time for revenge hunh?”

“No Shraddha. That’s not my intention. This is not just about sex. If that’s all you want, I can give it to you even now. As far as I go, my emotional needs are way above my physical needs. You know, the feeling of love must be mutual. And I’m sorry but I really don’t have such feelings towards you anymore. My heart lies elsewhere Shraddha. This woman knows every bit of me—my weaknesses, bad habits, tantrums, my dreams and wishes—everything. The same goes with me too. Of course she’s had to adjust and accept a lot more than I had to. I cannot betray the woman who has been the pillar of my strength ever since the day you left me. All of us do fall in love at some point in life but somehow don’t always end up with the same person. I think you should start looking at it that way. Oops! I can’t change your point of view. Can I? Look, I’d better get going. I don’t want to make things difficult for you and embarrass you further.”

“Great! The person who you say has dedicated her life to you...may I know who that angel is?”

I turned around to look at her, my hand gripping on to the door knob. Her eyes were a flaming red. She stood with her hands on her hips...seething with anger. I responded, squarely looking at her in the eye, “Meera.”

With that I left the place to go back to the woman who had firmly planted back my faith and hope in love.