Not to be washed away

April 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

He was as crumpled as a paper waiting to be tossed into the infinite mess of the world, when she picked him up, straightened the sheet and read their future, as if the wrinkles were palm lines. She was convent educated, he refused to shave more than once a week. She adored eloquence and finery, while he had an old comb and a worn out toothbrush in his backpack.

He never knew love; and now in the verses she learnt him. His scrawl was a savagery, and yet she liked the t’s. There was a margin none too wide, and the words seemed too afraid to be too far away, lest a stranger makes them part ways.

It was a love like none other, and lasted all for a fleeting moment. And then she noticed the chewing gum, smartly sticking to her white dress. “Ugh,” she said, picking the gum in disgust, rolled the paper and binned it, with vehemence.

Yet, the words seemed to have left a mark, not to be washed away.

Abeyance

April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

Abeyance. I haven’t read much of Walt Whitman, expect a couple of poems, but I do know he loved his abeyance. And in abeyance, I live. Like the patient lizard on the wall, waiting for the mosquitoes to make their way within its reach. Of course, there are plenty of mosquitoes for him to feast on, while I am still not sure what the metaphorical mosquitoes are supposed to be. Abeyance.

Life can be as slow and painful as an animation. Just think of all those drawings, those guys drew. What forced them to spend hours of their existence drawing a guy think, or make her blink? That is scary. Though, not as scary as passing the same accounting entries, day after day, forever. Abeyance.

This isn’t true abeyance. True abeyance was March. After a while, all thoughts of the past and the future went out of my head. I was just there, doing I can’t remember what, just there. The days went by, and another summer was born, screaming, wailing even, its inchoate terrors. Mangoes slowly turned ripe in my neighbour’s house. Their dog though, kept wandering up and down the house, howling at strays, barking at pets, as if it is the third ghost of Christmas. Abeyance.

I really wish I could think of some poem to quote here. Or say something fancy, but my mind dares not to think, lest it betrays itself into territories, too familiar, like power cuts in mid-May afternoons or the adhan when you wrote that particular exam paper. Not them per se, but they are the big gates, which hold a dam like none other- until you read about more desperate ones, as high as ‘scrapers, filled with all that potential- only to be spoilt by toxic humanity. Abeyance.

Some say take life by the horns. if you have read Hemingway, you know the romanticism of bull fighters. If you know my friend, you might have heard about the wonderful tartare they make out of those bulls. Some say, just run away from it all. But life has yet to metamorphose into something as sedate as a bull. I let it be, the embryo slowly growing into a metaphor, nourished by nightmares, all rather murky, like the tax departments. Abeyance.

True abeyance is when words abandon you. Broken glasses and lamp shades comfort you. And with a single malt in hand, you flip through a newspaper and listen to friends talk. Laid back, the house is like childhood cramped into a single photo frame; like that spot you hid for hours, hoping someone would seek. Maybe an aunt, long after the rest have gone to bed. Abeyance.

A moment is all it takes they say. You got to live your moments, because, well, you anyway have to survive them. Morality is like a car waiting to be battered by a rugged, torn football. Leave it there long enough and it is bound to happen. You could, of course, play with the kids and do the damage yourself. That maybe fun and there is none to blame. Abeyance.

The participle. Forever left to define itself, constantly, sentence after sentence. If only, it could just be. But then, it wouldn’t be, would it? Ha! Shakespeare. I don’t remember much, but may I misquote thee? Abeyance.

Firmly, I search for an ending. I am hunting for musical comparisons, but am lost in the strange song that plays within. Maybe it is the heartbeat, counting itself. Maybe, I imagine it. After all, we exist as we think. Abeyance.  

Here and now,

Else, there is nowhere.

Past and astride,

Now, forebear.

Abeyance.

Trolls of March

March 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

left, right, left-Trolls of March, into April we go. Okay, not so loudly, but you get it. Absolutely nothing exciting though, as another summer screams exclamation marks like one of those…

Anyway, I have surprised myself quite a bit, this March. Start trailer, scenes-which-promise-full-censored-X-rated-stuff-right-after -the-9pm-movie-esque, well not really. This month has been about seemingly great opportunities which  rang the door bell and when you run down two floors, huffing and puffing, it is just an unexciting sales person with a flat tone or one of those survey people with a worn out  face who wants to talk to anyone but you. But I have sat through it, unruffled, almost unmoved by the vagaries of life, as the winds Easterlies turned Westerlies(or is it the other way about?). Oh! whatever. The least of the trolls was being served long island, on the rocks, because I asked them to substitute the cola for some juice. That wasn’t so bad, anyway.

This year has been about reading voraciously, but not March. Apart from the complete Maus and three volumes in the Buddha series, I read a book on football tactics(Inverting the pyramid), a couple of children’s books(reviews, coming soon) and a short story collection by Mamang Dai. I suspect April is going to be slow as well, with the exams around the corner again.

I can’t recall what I have been doning in March. It seems like one big blur.  What I do realize though is that I have been happy, mostly. And the two seem to be related. Indifference and I are like <insert random simile with two opposites> but we have come to live with each other. The world is rife with politics, elections and lost planes and conspiracy, but all that is rather too troublesome to process or so my head has decided. And what am I, but an instrument to be used by the head.

Watched this Malayalam movie called Drishyam- one of the best movies I have seen. I would strongly suggest you do watch it Malayalam, as they intend to spoil it grand in Tamil. I also had bhel puri and caramel popcorn at the theater. Not all that blurry, evidently.

Anyway, from cancelling tickets to another country to cancelling local tickets, the month has been…well trolling me. All I have written this month is a poem and nothing else. No photos, no stories, no reviews, nothing. Maybe, I should hunt out one of those month wise calenders, take out March, make a rocket of it and chuck it as far away as possible. I am sure at that particular point, a funny little breeze would decide that it had enough of being little and blow the rocket back straight at me.

Oh! Merchants of hope, summer is here.

 

 

Flat-track Bullies by Balaji Venkataramanan

February 28, 2014 § 1 Comment

Originally published at goodbooks, a website for  reviews, discussions and more on Indian Children’s books. 

Every once in a while, one ends up with a book which sounds promising, gets excited, only to be disappointed in the end. Madras, Chennai, if you want, is my home and it isn’t common to find a children’s book, set here.

The story as such is truthful- Balaji Venkatramanan takes us through the world of IIT classes, cricket coaching, spelling bees etc- the cold, planned summers which are built by zealous, domineering parents for their wards. The book is a journal of Ravi, the child who decides he is to have a few fun things as well, and, along the way learns a few invaluable lessons.

Where the book fails though, is the writing. Children’s books are about children. As such, the best writers for children are great story tellers- they bring to life a world of adventure, discovery and most of all, do not impose adult views of the world on to the story. The author has liberally sprinkled his take on everything under the sun as the view of the narrator. A few examples:

“Storytelling- it’s such a girly session. The less said the better. Only girls and the girl-type guys attend. I am too old and macho for that.”

“Sanaa, though thirteen, is wearing a six-year-old’s top and a five-year-old’s shorts. Seriously, where are they from- Delhi or Denmark? GRUMPY GRAPES I dare not think what they would wear if they went to US or elsewhere.”

“Mom thinks marbles is a game for those who use Indian-style toilets. What skewed logic! But that’s mom for you.”

“One thin AIDS-patient-like guy asked for Suresh’s cigarette to light up his own.”

“Every moron these days can play the keyboard or sing or dance with the exception of me…”

“I do really hate the retired types. The JACKFRUIT retired cases. I think they should keep a warning board in every apartment ‘beware of dogs and retired cases: one barks, the other bites, guess who?”

’Who won it? Was it the yellow-underwear girl or the black-underwear girl?’ Would you believe it? It was our tennis coach”

Not sure what exactly is the author’s intention here, but a plain reading of it, does come out as distasteful, sexist and utterly inappropriate, especially in a children’s book. Not merely the comments, but their position in the book- these could have been done away with entirely and don’t add much to the story. Wonder if the publishing house (Duckbill) holds similar views, considering they have kept it.

Ravi Venkatesan, a twelve year old boy, loves to swear. Of course, there isn’t actual swearing, just names of fruits, as he fears the journal might land up in the hands of his mother. Funny name calling should be fine, but page upon page, we are put through mangoes, grapes and watermelons- bigger the fruit, the more intense the emotion. It is almost tiring even, to imagine an adolescent with such a big gutter mouth. JACKFRUIT tiring.

The strength of the book is the plot. Ravi gives the slip to his parents to play with Durai, the son of his family’s ex-maid and Durai’s friends along with his best friend, Ramesh. The adventures are exciting and fun. We are even taken on a tour of the Mylapore street festival. As the boys lounge in a graveyard and Ravi ensures they win a few bet matches against rivals, the trouble comes when there is a “gang” fight- Ravi and his friends jump into a flat, where a car with broken glass gets them into trouble. The two worlds of Ravi meet, with an obvious ending.

Ravi is also obsessed with breaking coconuts for God, with him offering the tropical fruit for all sorts of favors. Nothing wrong with that, just might not be everyone’s cup of filter coffee, especially when the same thing is repeated over and over and over and over.

While the story as such is exciting, it wasn’t a fun read, as the author keeps tripping on his shoelaces, imposing his sordid views throughout. Overall, the book could have been made to work. Looking at the plot objective, there is nothing wrong with it, in fact the book presents a reality. If the author had kept out his prejudices and merely written the story, the book might have worked.

Let a book consume you

February 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is a certain comfort in letting a book consume you. You turn into that person who watches all, and yet doesn’t take part in it; except that you do. You let the deaths, the tortures to become your own. You let the joys, those frivolous little things bring happiness. You see people walk into lives and walk out, crushing, churning, screaming, loving, but in the end, it has to end, inevitable.

Is it at the last word on the last page? Or is it when a week later, finally the plot germinates to become complete, to become yours, rather than the writer’s? When the story however strange and alien, becomes your own, to tell, to discuss? Or is it when the story after months shreds everything, and all that remains is that character, that condensed plot, and the emotions condensed to a few frames, to a certain smell, an image maybe?

When is the beginning? The day you first hear of the book, or see its cover in a book store? Or is it when you buy it, steal it or borrow it, to read? Is it when you are through a few pages, when the writing pattern and the tensity are established, when the tempers morph to a familiarity?

The book consumes you. You begin to live it. You are in it. At first it is like adolescent love, but soon it becomes a person, complete. And it becomes a part of you- not as a child, born and separate, not a conjoined twin, but a begin much closer, within you, which exists apart from you, but still with you.

The book finds you and then devours you, slowly. It squiggles into your reality, mercilessly eating into it, opening the cracks and in a while making you change. Out of it, you come, as a different being, one who has gone through the book, literally, musing over, lost to words, which seem to be images, which seem to be sounds, which seem to be smells; but surely they are words?

Let a book consume you. Don’t be afraid of it. It might seem unreal, but it is real. The story is true, the people are alive, whatever the disclaimers tell you- don’t be fooled by the writers, that is what they do. And while it might all seem like an almost forgotten dream, dreamt on a long Sunday, it isn’t really a dream. It is part of you. Let the book consume you.

Knowledge

February 8, 2014 § 1 Comment

In his sleep, he turned over and inadvertently cut the cord.

 

 

The knowledge sunk in, under its own weight and drowned.

 

 

The sea swelled a bit and touched his little toe.

 

 

He felt a tickle.

 

 

It was the end.

 

 

Maybe the beginning.

 

 

He was afloat, he lay, straight.

 

 

He opened his eyes.

 

 

He felt the world within.

 

 

And the terror grew.

 

 

He closed his eyes.

 

 

And the world rested.

 

 

A cord grew, through his navel, yearning for light.

 

 

He was dreaming again.

 

 

A flower bloomed.

 

 

Knowledge was reborn.

 

 

The more you know, the more you believe.

 

 

The more you believe, the more you are lost in it.

 

 

Someday you too shall dream, like the God.

Dreams

January 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Inspired by an experience, a friend had recently. This isn’t a real dream, rather a work of fiction,er…I think.

And the gas cylinder burst. I woke up with a start, only to find myself in a room full of what seemed like Oompa-Loompas.  They peered at me, curiously, through the bright light; a few moments later they panicked when I blew my nose and a boogie hit one of them in the eye. A big ruckus followed, I lay there, tied, unable to shut my ears, nose or other er…entries,er…access points? Before I could choose the right word,a big needle emerged, which I guessed, they intended to poke me with. 

 And I screamed my lungs out- never, ever use a needle which you are unsure about; or razors. I have screamed quite a bit in my life, my voice holds its own at those decibels, much like the singer who can out shout..er, sing, supersonic planes, but for some reason my lungs decided to tear. Blood splattered as I continued to scream and splattered the white wall, the whitest thing I have ever seen, except the face of the Oompa-Loompa on whose face the boogie had landed. The blood painted the wall and  suddenly the red queen came up to me.  She was happy and even conferred a title upon me; the plaque awkwardly placed, caused itches, and I desperately wanted to scratch. At that moment my lungs decided to disintegrate- they seemed to have popped out through my mouth and lay on the floor, the queen stamped on them and the alveoli popped like bubble-wrap. The red queen tasted the blood which seemed to have hit her face, concluded that I was a slimy wretch, decreed I had to be executed. 

And I whimpered unable to move. There was water all around, I could feel it and see it out of the corner of the eye, but I couldn’t turn. Above me were the most beautiful colours I had ever seen; what a lovely sunset, I thought. I relaxed, though I knew my limbs were bound and was waiting shark food. It was night, but the sea was lit by some sort of light, I knew not what- maybe a meteorite making its way to end humanity or a volcano- but I wasn’t particularly in a mood to think about our very evolved species. Suddenly, a single horn appeared at the horizon of my sight. I was glad, I would be saved, this was surely a manifestation of the god who has over numerous ancient, not-to-be-questioned books saved quite a few from impending doom. I wasn’t sure I had done enough to merit this, but, strange are the ways of…this is when I became aware that this was a dream…but what if… 

And I was right. This wasn’t a dream, I saw that it wasn’t a fish approaching me, rather there was a school of them. Each of a religion, I thought. Food for thought, maybe now their brain might build with that tiny-winy additional protein. I heard screams, so there were others here, lots of good protein, though I am sure they aren’t as fit as I am. As the fish(one, not the school) swallowed me, I felt a tug, there had been a string attached to me all along, so this was all a ploy to catch them…

And I felt the acids burn. It corroded me, my skin was coming off…I was on a mountain top- die, they said, burn, for that is the law of this land, they said, I felt something moving below me, it left familiar, it was my fiance and he was dead. I didn’t scream and accepted it, for there was nothing else to do; it wasn’t done yet. Wait, I am a guy or am I- my hands are still tied. 

And they planned to pull my brains out of my head. This seemed comforting, for this would all surely draw to a tame close. At that thought, the doctor looked at me; they wanted to peel my skin, for science. They wanted to test the pain barriers, apparently, for science. Presently they taped my mouth, and the man in the white coat walked up to me and assured me that it would all be deliciously painful.

And bear our sins, they chanted. You are our messiah, I could still smell the perfumes they had sprayed me with a few hours ago. It all burnt, like old cloth I burnt, a mess…

And I could smell the paper burning. I woke up with a start. This was the issue all along, I guess, the paper burning. What a way to wake me up, I chided my head. The paper had caught fire from the mosquito coil, and was burning. I picked up the water bottle and doused the fire, dark the other half.

And the nurse walked in- there she stood, a nurse in perfect whites, hair in a perfect bun, perfectly shined shoes, with a perfect shine, perfect in every way a nurse is perfect. I could even smell the shampoo she had used on her lovely, perfectly curly hair. I smiled, but she looked perfectly horrified. I did not know what and glanced at the bottle. The terror grew, with the pain. At first a tickle, and then a recognition, by the time the terror reached adolescents, my head hit the pillow, I lay.

I could hear someone else walk in, not nurse shoes, maybe a male nurse? But…it was the doctor. I could feel the light slowly fading out, exactly like in the thousands of movies you have seen, but just before I popped off, I saw the doctor, he smiled and stroked my jugular, and said something which didn’t sound too promising. Vampire food, but don’t they like it fresh? I felt something pierce my neck. Damn you, twi…

And blink now, thrice or you shall die.

 

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