Monday, February 28, 2011

The Last of Him

“Papa told Girdhariji to drive me straight to you,” she said, barely inside the room.  “What happened, grandpa? Aren’t you feeling better?”

“Come here sweetheart. Sit by my side. I need to talk to my darling.”

She sat on the cushioned chair by his bed. Her eyes were busy looking at the small, blue and green lights on the machines that ran wires to him. It was a strange room with a strange smell. There were machines and bottles hanging, all connected to grandpa’s body.

Her hand felt small inside his. But her hands were the biggest in her class. She looked at his wrinkled right hand. It was cold. Then she looked at his face. She craned her neck and with her free left hand pushed back the few strands of grey hair falling on his forehead. She smiled. He smiled back.

“So, how was school?” he asked, as she settled back in the chair.

“School was good. Rahul forgot to get lunch. So, I told him he could share mine. And we had double sports period. I played soccer with the boys.  Then there was math. We practiced adding two digit numbers.  And there’s no homework!”

“Good. Good. So we can spend some time together. Listen to me now. Grandpa’s body has become very old. Some parts need to be changed. But it’s not certain if the new parts will work alright. If they do, great. But if they don’t, then grandpa will have to go to God. And if grandpa goes to God, you have to promise that you will act like a big girl and you won’t cry.”

She looked confused. “But even if you go to God, you will come back as a child. That’s what happens. And when you come, you just remember to join my school. Then I can meet you every day, again.”

He sighed."That’s true… but I may not be born in Delhi. And you see…”

“No. You tell them that you want to be born in Delhi. They will listen to you. You are a good man.” She cut him short. Then counting on her fingers, she added “This is 2011. If you go to God now, you can join class Nursery by 2015. I will be in grade 5 then. You know how I look. I will always keep my hair like this. And I’m the tallest girl in class. You will recognize me.” She was excited.

He gave up, cupping her cheek in his hand; he looked far away into her face. A nurse came and asked her to wait outside. Grandpa needed to be taken to the operation theatre.

She waited outside, humming a rhyme, pirouetting on the shiny marble. Grandpa was driven out on a stretcher. He looked at her and waved as he was being carried away. Suddenly, something dawned upon her and she froze. Her face drained of color, her eyes welling; she ran after him and caught his hand. “But grandpa, you will come only after four years! Who will I talk to till then?” she burst out crying. “What will I do without you?”

Her father caught hold of her and freed grandpa’s hand. She was inconsolable.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Best Part


Some of your stuff is still here. Send someone over, Sunday afternoon sometime.

You know what, beyond a point one just becomes numb. The unsettlement exists in this different compartment of one’s brain and one goes about doing myriad things- cracking jokes and laughing, but it exists all the same. There are times when it surfaces up, and no matter how hard one tries, it keeps coming up and up and then one has to just wait for it to pass. Wait, and tell oneself that the worst is over and these spells will keep becoming shorter and shorter and will finally disappear.

But, one also realizes, that no matter how ugly things may turn, there was a time when they were luminous. There was a time when all of it mattered, and mattered to the point of distraction. And that was the truth of that time. However things may turn later, nothing can change what had been true. Nothing can spoil the beauty that had existed. So, one realizes, that it wasn’t wasteful at all. And that’s the best part.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Moving On

I saw the little structure on top of the hill and was drawn to it at once. From what I could see, it seemed to be a peaceful little hut, done in stones that glowed in the sunshine. It was early noon and I knew I could reach it before sunset.

Climbing up, I saw it hallowed with the sun overhead and then glorious with the sun westward. As I came closer, it seemed inviting, almost smiling back. I wished with all my heart that it was uninhabited; that I get to explore it and understand it. I could see that it had a little enclosure in the front, full of overgrown grass and wild flowers.

I reached it and was relieved to have it all to myself. The daylight was almost gone. I undid my bag and lit the battery-run lantern. It was a small room. The floor was level till about the middle of the room and then there was a minor, but visible, slant. I settled in a corner in the slanted part, with a small window on the wall to my left. There was mud on the floor, which I had to scoop to the other side, but there were no cobwebs.

The wall on my back transfused the warmth that it had saved from the day into my aching muscles. The irregular bricks of the floor massaged my tired calves. When I turned and ran my fingers on the brownish wall, I was happy to find that it had the same texture that I thought it would have. Beneath a thin layer of dust, I discovered the smooth, even surface. The space in between the stones was a tone of beige that merged completely with the color of the back of my hand. This beige filling was etched with a semi circular pattern, like the semi circles on one’s lower lip. 

My hair gently clung to the wall while I unwrapped and ate my dinner.  I ditched my sleeping bag and slept in a light shawl, my cheek pressed to the wall.

Huddled warm in my corner, I woke up to find thin curls of fog entering my room. The day remained cloudy. I made up a fire and saw my room bask in the warmth. The flame leapt up, as if to reach something-came back and leapt up again. I saw a trail of ants, moving with minute eggs that looked like droplets of water.

I was woken up in the middle of the night by the harsh rain water that came splashing on my face. I had to leave my corner. I went and slept against the opposite wall, in the steep half of the room. I kept shifting in my sleep. I woke up stiff, and cold. The rain had stopped. But my corner was filled with water. The sun was not out and all wood was wet. I sat in the dry, steep part. The wall behind me remained cold; the floor painfully uneven. The room was dark as a tomb. I waited for the sun to rise.

When the sun rose, I looked out of the window for the first time.

I am climbing up again. Sometimes I lose sight of it. It is so much higher up. But whenever I’m able to see it, I know that every living atom in my body wants to reach it. I must reach it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who Smokes Colored Cigarettes?

She waited for him to answer the door. He had messaged her at nine in the morning that he was back. She guessed that he must have taken the late night flight back from Frankfurt. He had been gone for two weeks. She stood there, holding her arms tight against the slightly chilly late morning wind, smiling to the door.

His maid answered the door.  She smiled warmly at the maid. After a moment of hesitation, the maid greeted her.

To her surprise, the house looked immaculately dusted and swept. There were flowers in the living room and on the ledge besides the stairs to his room. The door to his room was open, and she shut it behind her.  The latch clicked. She could hear the shower running in his bathroom. “Give me five minutes,” he called out. “Take your time,” she responded. The water continued to gush.

“How long have you been back?” she asked, from outside.



“Three days,” he said, his voice barely audible.

She raised the window screens and the sun came pressing on her face. She walked over to the bed. The ashtray on the bed- side table was full. There was his brand, his brother’s, and stubs of lilac colored cigarettes. She looked at the floor- exotic marble that they had chosen when he bought the place a month ago. She went over to the wall cabinet and opened the side cupboard in which he kept the things that she would forget behind- earrings, Chap Sticks, watches  etc.

He came out, dressed.

“Who smokes colored Nat Sherman?”She asked, facing the cabinet, her back to him.

“A… friend of mine,” he said.

She looked at him and their eyes met.

“I see,” she said, turning back to the cupboard.

She began keeping her things in her handbag. And he looked on.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Are You Listening?

I find it hard to concentrate on what you are saying because every time you talk, your face goes into its own world and gets so brilliantly animated that I can’t register anything else. I just manage to get the feeling of what you are saying- from how the look first appears in your eyes, and then depending upon what the thing is, how you tilt your neck or flick your eyebrows or just blink your eyes before the thing starts manifesting itself through the muscles of your cheeks and finally reaches your lips and nine out of ten times causes them to break into a smile. All of this happens in one tenth of a second, but I start looking forward to it two seconds before it begins and keep thinking about it for ten seconds after it has passed and so I don’t end up listening to you. Your smile lingers on and turns into confusion and then you look at me for a response.  I don’t know what to say! You smile in some twenty different ways. But my favorite is your patent smile, the one which can be felt on your shoulders if one held you, and which is yours and yours alone. Every time I see it, I think nothing can go wrong with the world as long as someone can smile like that.

So, this smile analysis takes some twenty more seconds and then you ask me if I’m listening to you At All. Of course I’m listening to you! And watching you. And loving everything I see.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

of Harley Davidsons and Business Cycles

“What do you want for your birthday?”

“I have two leather jackets but no Harley Davidson.”

“My brother has one.”

“How old is he?”

“He’s not in the market… doing his PhD in the U.S.”

“Shit.  Some people have everything.”

“I’m famished. Good I turned a non- vegetarian before you decided to take us for lunch.  Sanchit asked me what was wrong with me! I told him I had a craving. He asked me why I had a craving.”

“Cravings are good. They are like business cycles, they help you grow.”

“And you have trouble understanding why we are geeks!”

“Alright. We are geeks.”

“Are we there?”

“Next station.”

The four women push off.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There’s a hollow which resounds my voice and I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know if I want it to stop echoing my voice or stop being a hollow. Or am I the hollow, the reciprocator of measured tones? It’s very hard to be a hollow; to let go of everything you want and to suspend yourself freely into that air which is harsh and gentle by turns.

But it’s also very beautiful. This unmoored, free- flow with the current has strangely lit up every moment of my life, because the past seems surreal and the future is like a void and  for the first time I’m  not grappling with the uncertainty but just letting it be.

And in the middle of all this, I have these moments of clarity when I know everything for sure and can act absolutely intelligibly, but a nap, a song, a conversation and I lose that hard achieved, much longed for knowledge and am back into this abysmal unsettlement.

But that's not to deny the element of profound beauty I was talking about. The beauty is really based on an undercurrent of pain, or some sort of suffering- something which, when you come to think of it, makes you look at your life from a third person perspective, makes you incapable of active, decisive action but  helps you feel the full emotional impact of things without being overwhelmed by it.

I don’t know if this will pass. It hasn’t. I don’t think it will. Maybe, we’ll just have to coexist- this thing and me.