When it rains in Madras

August 6, 2017 § 1 Comment

When it rains in Madras, it could very well be a place you have fantasised. Forget the potholes and the inevitable inundation for a moment, and just enjoy the magic of an afternoon transformed into an overcast evening, fit to go with the three o’clock steaming coffee and hot onion pakodas or molaga bajjis.

Growing up, I always found it hard to relate to the dullness and dreariness English writers associated with rain and overcast conditions. I remember a July a decade or decade and a half ago when it poured after a spell of drought. Schools postponed their sports days and daily march-past drills as heavy clouds finally stormed the city. I lay on the couch and watched English bowlers swing the ball under sunny conditions on the television while munching on hot pakodas.  The commentators were over-joyed at bright sunshine, which they seemed certain makes a good day- not to a Madras boy though, especially one who has run from third-man to third-man under a mid-May noon sun.

It doesn’t rain often in Madras. Every time the umbrella was brought out, my thatha would recount how everyone in Trivandum used to hang one on to the back of their shirts while walking. A much-green me would dream of distant places where the monsoon was a thundering beast at the sight of which the trees shuddered, and the rivers ran.

If you have lived in Madras, you will know of those evenings when a bunch of clouds threatened to wash away the city, but all they actually did was shed a half-reluctant tear at the sight of kodangal lining-up in front of hand-pumps, as if we deserved no sympathy.

It rains sometimes in May, a light evening reprieve during the scorching Agni-nakshatram days. It rains on a couple of June days, which year-by-year seem hotter than the one before, and then there are a few temperamental showers in July- South-West monsoon mostly avoids us, but every now and then a bit of her flaying skirt brushes the ever-growing fingertips of the city. The real rain comes after the second summer in October, as the winds change, and the North-East monsoon huffs and puffs, and roars into town.

The veppam reduces, and the air-conditioners can finally be switched off as T.Nagar lights up for the festival season- one traffic jam at a time. The season also brings cyclones and kinder versions of it. The ever-enterprising crows and the rowdy parrots shut up for a while and the nagaram stands eerily still as the storms march through and the winds trumpet as if royalties still ruled here.

A couple of Decembers ago, Madras faced the worst rains it had seen for a century or so. The city was turned into islands, as the three rivers which are usually dry or filled with sewage, roared with such might that a medieval saint-poet would have been inspired to praise them with a couplet or two. As the streets lay dark and torn with festering scars, an awe swept us all- we were grains of sand on the Marina, waiting for the day a big wave carried us away.

When it rains in Madras, it could very well be a place you have fantasised. The city’s strides slow down to a hesitant step-by-step prodding, lest you are sucked into an open manhole, the honking not so incessant and there’s an uncertain sigh- the steam out of a pot of perfect tea, whose leaves are from a distant estate with a silent mist hanging over a rippling stream with grassy shores.

My Madras is a bunch of names who criss-cross each other as streets. The city always has felt old to me, holding out with its own, all the while borrowing from those who came to call it their home. And on a day when the sun can’t be seen and a drizzle to fore, there’s a melancholy which lingers on- of grandfather’s tales and time forlorn.

I walk

June 15, 2017 § Leave a comment

 

I am that guy who walks with long strides and short, through cities big and small, towns with paddy field boundaries and villages with a cross road or two.

I am a small force of my own, an object small, determined to walk however far, I don’t know to what. I push through the heat, through the cold, through rain and sweat, drenched, past churches, temples, mosques and elsewhere where people go to seek the divine, but find a human in between instead.

I have no faith,

It just is.

I have hope,

It just is.

I see gorges, I see rivers free, I see the deep valley cut clean. There’s a whisper, there’s a flap, there’s a flurry, there’s maybe a prey or a predator, but all I see is a quietude, a slumber, an afternoon rain weathering away the rocks as if to measure life sans time, in a moment that lasts itself beyond reason or rime.

There are no boundaries, except those we draw on our own. And we draw, we carve, the lines that are roads, the way to homes we build in tiny geometric shapes plotted on plans and maps, surveyed and claimed as humanity’s own.

I walk under the sun, I walk under the street lights, I walk through firefly lit starry nights. I watch the match boxes come alive, at tea stalls and humongous complexes with tiny ants rushing in anxiety to fill another day with they know not what, but call a purpose.

I walk past the malls and the neon light boards that insist that the you can’t resist what is within- racks of the same, machine made and mould. There are no rats there, just spiders and cobwebs that escape pest control.

 

The five-o-clock sea breeze squeezes and chocks its way past the sepulchres of everyday life that form a maze with no end, either way. The crows scavenge and steal from the fortnight’s garbage. There’s a rot somewhere, and a nervous laughter all around, no one wants to stir the tea which is already too sweet.

I hear the music play, a coy bride on her wedding day, being apparently given away. I hear the songs of parvenu faith, blaring aloud, thumping chests to twirling moustaches, a goddess is demure when the nine-yards are draped.

I stride, and I leap, I run. There’s nothing in my mind, but the next step, and then another.

I believe in hope.

It remains alive through the dreary monsoon days, the harsh Madras sun and the opaque Himalayan cold that eats into your very bones. It lingers on, like the taste of your first lover, which you try to recount, to remember the day you were first together, young and silly, tangled limbs and messy sheets.

My strides strong and long, never weary. The feet yearn for more, a mile, or a furlong, you can call it whatever you want.

There is no corner they leave unthread on the dirty beaches in my city, with faded boats casting long shadows under which stray dogs rest, under which young lovers hope not to be repressed.

There’s no nook which they not pass by, the crevices in the jumble of rocks destined to become sand, the burrows of wild creatures which hide and prowl only at night.

I seek hope, for I believe in it.

Every road has a memory of love, of grief, of pain, of laughter and others’ memories. There are stories that speak through abandoned shoes and neglected rosaries, there’s always someone who has been here before- wanting to be set free, searching for faith in sand castles and abandoned temples. There are moonlit shadows that smell of cheap wine and rum, lovers in revelry, lost souls washed ashore who cannot burrow like crabs any more.

Some paths split, taking you afar, others which come together to bring worn shoes home, torn to be mended by hands varicose and alone. The streets cut each other at ninety degrees, but there’s always that cul-de-sac which lies forlorn.

I yearn for hope.

There’s a twilight which lingers on, like a long-lost memory. There’s a watch forever stuck at half-past three.

I walk.

I am that guy who walks with long strides and short, through cities big and small, towns with paddy field boundaries and villages with a cross road or two.

I have no faith,

It just is.

I have hope,

It just is.

 

 

Not to be washed away

April 9, 2014 § 1 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.

At a Cafe

August 6, 2012 § 6 Comments

Sitting at a café on a busy intersection and watching the rush hour traffic flow by- a slush is the only evidence of the rain a few hours ago. There is much ado about something. An organized chaos flows through the city like a drug through the blood stream. There is a hope to reducing some swelling but there is nothing to show for it. A medley of horns from clandestine vehicles emerges from the desperation, the need to get to somewhere before everyone else does.

A quick glance at the watch and people are always late. A little smile. Here in another city, which feels far from home. But that’s nothing the nice weather and a good cup of coffee cannot set right. The addict that he is, the caffeine kick helps him settle down. He searches the crowd for a pretty face. Any pretty face would do. He just had to see a pretty face. Not a beautiful one. Not a face with tons of makeup on it. Not a face held together by a deliberate nonchalance or decoction anger. But a simply pretty face- Without the air of high pretension, one that will knock you out with a slight smile. Maybe a hit of recognition would help as well.

One always likes to know people. Meet new ones. Especially pretty new ones. Another kick from the caffeine, he sits a little deeper into the couch. The couple at the next table rip apart the value of humanity to shreds. He wonders if they could shred paper with their mouths. Some purpose might be served. There was enough paper in this world waiting to be shred. Loveless love letters, thoughtless resignations and hopeless letters to distant homes. Some are written never to be read, others are written to be shredded.

The coffee cup stood there in an expensive stance, drawing the attention of anyone who would bother to look at not its contents but its shape and size- an appearance of something fantastic. He took out a ragged book and turned to page eighty-seven, took out the bookmark and began reading.

If only the world was written by Hemingway. If only we measured our sanity against Kafka. If only Shelley had lived longer. It didn’t matter, in the books he left the alarming crime rates of the city and immersed himself in the world of bulls, roaches and winds. The world is but an illusion after another, in between books.

Every page held another minute in a life which could have been written by anyone; or by monkeys on typewriters;  or drawn by a surrealist; or sung as a voppari*. The words are but sounds which the tongue rolls, but what mighty things they do to the little recess of our senses. The way some words are the emotion rather than just a mindless blabber. If he could be a word, he would be spoken by everyone in this world.

He could never be sold or owned or hurt. He would be hurled but someone would catch him. He could be out on the streets and someone might pick him. But some day, he might go out of use, just like that- because no one felt for him anymore. Now, he was a little word in an unknown corner. Waiting to be born- he might become a noun, or be a verb or an article for indecisiveness.

He flipped the page. The world around him stood in perfect oblivion, passing through the motions of existence, contemplating origins from miniscule particles which might never exist. The world didn’t bother to prove its existence and he didn’t search for it. He would rather think of it as a fictitious mystery, a supposing God striking a furious pose behind a closed screen. No atlas was drawn and none held the world, not on shoulders, not on a boar snout.

Page eighty-seven became page eighty-eight and eight nine. A sudden rap on the nearby window- a familiar face looked in. The warmth of recognition followed by implications, struck him. He smiled politely and got up. He walked past the couple who had by now come close to triggering the Gods to unite in decimating them. He walked as fast as he could towards the wash at the far end. His friend from the window, realizing what was happening, made for the door with a mighty rush, shopping in tow.

As she reached, he disappeared. She stood there looking intently at where he disappeared. She knew, he would never come back. But there was his bag, his book and signs of him. She sat where he had just been moments ago. The wait, she had felt was over, but evidently not.

She flipped the book and stared at it. Page eighty-nine. She flipped till a hundred. And ran through till the end and then forward. Nothing.

The book was a blank. So he was, so he was, she told herself content. The world might live another day.

“Sorry madam, this seat is already occupied.”

Startled she looked up. A young waiter looked at her. His face is a blank slate with no emotions.

“Ohh, sorry.” She murmured and walked out.

*Voppari : Tamil. Crying loudly for someone dead. Mostly over the dead body.

Something about me

January 24, 2010 § 20 Comments

This probably has become a habit now. Sunday afternoon posts. There is something comforting about it(though it doesn’t fetch many comments). Today I am going to write something about me.

ASPIRE, is the word. Now what do I aspire to be? The way I talk , people think I have it all figured out. So here is the truth- I haven’t figured out anything.

True, I am doing CA(about 100 days to go for the exam *sigh), but well I am not really into the idea of working as one.  I am doing it because otherwise I will be wasting my time with B.Com alone. Of course, not that formal education is going to turn me into Bill Gates.

SO what do I want to be? Well, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, but that seems pretty far away, especially since I am in the commerce stream(you can make my day, by telling me, how I can still become one). Some how the idea of flying in an almost surreal world, combined with views of swargaloka(though I had figured out,even back then, that it didn’t exist) , comets and planets, captivated my imagination.

I used to be left to my own devices. In a world of “big kids” and  adults, I usually found day dreaming and imagining more fun. Superman and Spiderman, were never my favorites, simple because they had too much to do with humans. I preferred my own characters and turned even the most mundane object into something awesome.

I used to rearrange chairs and make the nether world beneath tables and beds my cool crafts. In short I wanted to be a superhero, but with another dimension- I wanted to be up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.

Some how I have always felt more comfortable, in my own world. People who know the gregarious me , will be surprised. After all, I keep making friends(and ‘enemies’ so to speak) all the time. But behind that there is that love for being in my own world. And probably that is why, I have never feared any God, as such- I saw the idols as “fun people to play with” and used to think of new wars and stories.

And I used to be shy(The change probably came during the summer of 2007 and of course blogging, but more about it later)- I couldn’t stand being blindfolded(those games at kiddy parties) or being too far away from people I knew. There is a gap of six years between me and my sister, so that probably, added my preference for playing alone.

Building blocks were a strong favourite. I probably would have made will make a very good architect. The scope they offer along with their definite proportions is overwhelming. Only wish I had bigger blocks to build now.

We have a swing at home. And I have never fell down from a swing. For others it might be horses and ponies, for me it is swings.I came up with a variety of polo- cycle polo(among myriad others) The opposition- chairs, tables and anything/anyone in my way.

Imagination changes everything. It gives you a lot of freedom, blank walls become carpets of history and thoughts, the sky holds animals  and people.

I was and still am a very cautious person. I never take on anything head first. I see, I analyse and then act. People around me can make fun of me, but I analysed how to walk on walls way before any of my class mates did, I am sure. Walls offer a great way to practise balance.

Walking around the perimeter of my house and imaging all sort of opponents and ways to fight them. I think I have fallen from a wall, only once, that too, when I tried to get down hurriedly, for some unknown reason but then again, that probably is it. I hate making big mistakes and make sure they never happen again(?).

My judgement is mostly right, because as I said, I never get into something without thinking about it. The only place where my prognosis might be wrong, is here, the blogging world. It still hurts to think that my idea failed to materialise.

I am a bad loser. I cannot stand losing. And yet success in competitions, exams and even sports, has eluded me. I set high standards (probably too high, thanks to being the hero in my small little world) and when the bubble broke, I used to feel very very low.

True to my sun sign, I can very emotional, sensitive, while in fact I seem the contrary. And that has given a sort of “emotional photographic memory”. Colours have always fascinated me(my mom will tell you, that she had to teach me “white”, because I refused to accept white to be white, I am very tenacious) and though I am not all that great at drawing, I like to doodle.

Cricket cards and cricket. I remember the vigour with which we used to collect those things. When I grew older, it was replaced with cards, but it was cricket at least till I was 9-10. The only part of cricket I still like is bowling. I like anything which can be made to act under my spell. Batting is no fun, I probably got no where in cricket, because I refused to play forward defence in my coaching class(much much later).

Watching. Trains, autos, sky, construction etc. Sitting quietly and observing things, is second nature to me. And questioning when I don’t understand is first. While now I can articulate and describe it, back then, I think I understood that a lot of effort goes into it and felt that everything could be figured out. The element here is, that things can be moulded and can fit in.

I am already approaching the 1000 words mark, but these are things which I love to recount. Someone questioned me a few years back(on one of my poems), how can someone so young write such stuff. To me and probably to people who have seen me grow up, it has never been a surprise. I enjoy thinking, watching, observing and most of all creating.

From Drop Box

I started to write much later. But writing is a sum of all those things which I used to love doing, which I cannot do now because of various reasons. It is my shell, where I can hide, it is where I am the hero again and where things cement and mould into each other, the way I want.

The paint will stain the walls in the angles I want and the sky is probably not that high. unlike other kids, I never wanted to be a doctor when I saw one, an engineer or a teacher, I wanted to be an astronaut and I believed it was possible and still do.

I learnt history, tales and fables and politics through my grand dad. That probably is the reason, why I never struggled in social science like others- I knew them already and to me, they were plays being performed in my head. India in my head, was a fantastic idea, it was a passion and something which we fought for and got it. It is our home and we belong here.

Yet time has disrupted that view. More than time, it is people. I still have the belief in my dreams. I still believe India can be much more, India can be the best. But it is the people. And that is the element, which though I understand a lot about, I fail to understand one thing- the need to be caught in a box. Or maybe I am.

But one thing is for sure. What I want to be, What I really want to be , What I really really want to be, is , a writer. And I am one. It doesn’t matter if no one reads what I write. I have always been the hero. The skies and the walls and the chairs and my friends are there for me. That is why I say, I write for myself.

It probably is a wall, erected to block the disappointment of not being what I imagined what I write will bring to me, but it has a door. You can knock, I am waiting.

P.S:- The post should tell you one more thing about me- I can be random and let my thinking cleave it’s own path.

licence to…

September 20, 2009 § 25 Comments

So I got my driving licence, yay! Of course, getting one is no big deal, except that you are made to wait for ever, let us not go into that.  ” No one cares and has time, you and me are going to talk about, I might write about it, but there it ends”, That was my reply to others like me who were waiting for their licence

. We Indians have refined the art of corruption and bribing. There exists a corruption hierarchy, which apart from the officials includes the driving school people among other. Forget Shaktimaan and Captain Planet, we need a Anti-corruption Man (AC man).

And talking about super heros , I have plans of hosting a blogging contest on super heros/ super stars. You are to create your own super hero/ star , complete with powers etc, what do you think?

In solidarity with the cows; Apparently we love to get offended. Remember how people took offence , when “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” came out? I bet half the people didn’t watch the movie and I know it is a safe bet because many still feel that the “west” is calling us Slum Dogs, pity. And in this case of the austere Cows(though, they do get their horns painted once a year, during Maatu(cow) Pongal), we should be proud that our herd now includes all the Congress Ministers(and the extra guards).

Navarathri has begun. My mom and sis have come up with a creative gift this time(will put up photos soon) 🙂 There is nothing special for me though, no holidays, even if college gives us off(even if they don’t I bunk, cut about 10 hours last week), I have those CA classes everyday morning. Its been days since I got to read the book(Argumentative India) , it is an amazing book, I am lovi’ it but no time to read.

Went to McDonald’s yesterday and again today. It’s on the way to the place where I went for the rehearsals . The Aloo Tikki Burger tastes really good. The violin rehearsals are bad though. So bad that, even the lazy me , had to prompt for more practice. Playing all the songs once over  is not rehearsal.

I manage to update my poetry blog(yes, I am talking about it again, vanity indeed) about once or twice a week. I want to write 3 posts a week (at least over here), but then my schedule is so irritating , that I feel too sleepy to write about anything. There was a time, when I wrote about 60 posts a month, now I am not able to do 6. But being me, you can expect to writing pretty soon.

And I have to start studying as well. It’s freaky, to see all those weird sums. CA is no joke. You do to be really fast and see beyond the obvious. Lets see what happens. One thing is for sure, I am not going to get to sleep *sigh.

Between , check out this video, awesome, no clue, how he(Jascha Heifetz) does it. I want to learn western one of these days. I love the way, how the music travels and tells its tale without words.

I got a new phone-Nokia 5800. Its got 8GB memory and I have already loaded about 4.2GB of songs. Got lots more in my Comp, but I want to try out new stuff, especially something without lyrics, what would you suggest?

There are many things which I want to write about, the ideas do come and go, but arranging them is the problem. And writing is tough if you are tired-words do come out, they get stuck. There are moments when I wish, I can sit down and write forever..*how I wish..*

Among other things, I think I will be writing about something I have observed- though we talk about equality , a new stratification has started to form in our world, I do wonder, how many of us realize this. I do wonder where this will lead.

And yes, I did shoot a few things, think this is the best of the lot:-

From newcamera2
From newcamera2
From mocha…

The last photo was taken at Mocha. Yes, I almost got choked. Spent 25% of the time closing my nose, another 25% taking photos and the rest talking/trying to breath. But the shot is worth the effort(I guess) 😛 Anyway, hope I find time to post this week. Will try to record the violin programme.

And yes do tell me, what you think about the idea of another contest?

P.S: clarification- that is not me.. I am allergic to smoke 😛

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