Saturday, November 9, 2013

Under the Stars

It is a strange day. I am supposed to be happy, but I am not. All I think of is the imperfection of my life, how chaotic it is and how things don’t go the way I want them to. I decide to walk. One of the self-help books I had read long ago recommends walking as a sure way of alleviating anxiety and sadness. The walk takes me through a canopy of dense green trees. As I walk on the path strewn with bright leaves and pretty red flowers, I stop and take a deep breath. I stop worrying and then start again. I feel guilty of not worrying at times and pretending that life is good. I keep walking on, my head hung down, gazing steadily at the road. A few minutes of walking brings me to the end of the road which opens up on a beach. The sun is about to set. Twilight is the time when old memories pop up, the mind is restless with uncertainties and fears, and one dislikes being alone to face them.

I sit on the beach, my toes wriggling in the still-warm sand. It is very reassuring. I take a deep breath again. The smell of the sea captivates me and the sound of tides crashing on the shore calms my sore nerves. There is no one around.  I decide to take a break from my routine of worry and soak in the moment.  Soon the sun sets, giving way to a thick blanket of stars. I lie on my back and look up at the starry sky.  It is a beautiful symphony on the pitch black background.  I gaze at them and feel the earth slipping off. The stars beckon with their music and glory, and I am drawn toward them. As I stare into the night, I find myself relaxing. My mind is surprisingly thoughtless and I like the tranquility in my head. The Universe unfolds before my eyes and I feel silly about all the things I fret over. I smile. I came here with a trembling heart, worrying about how messed up my life was. And yet, as I sit under the stars, gazing at their infinity, I am amazed at how I am no longer worried. Every nagging thought, every anxiety is miles away. At this moment, I feel blessed. I want it to last forever.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


She remembered Appibai. Every summer when Abha visited her grandmother, she also visited Appibai, the hunch-back old lady who lived next door. She was cocky and foul-mouthed, but there was a huge mango tree in her backyard. She piled Abha with the mangoes every time she went there; and that was all that mattered.

Appibai had two sons and seven daughters. All had moved out for work and settled with their families. Abha had never seen them around the house. Appibai's spiteful tongue had a role to play, or so her grandmother would say. This made Abha wary of the old lady. She never spoke when Appibai was around. She would silently eat the mangoes, praying that Appibai would not notice the mess she was creating. After eating the mangoes, she would wash her hands and arms at the well and walk home.

"It was a long time ago, I must have been all of five then.", thought Abha. She stared at the note accompanying the box of mangoes on her dining table. Every year she would receive a box full as was bequeathed to her. "Did Granny send mangoes Mama?", squealed her 5-year old daughter in delight. "Yes love", said Abha, as she wiped her tears.


Monday, December 17, 2012

On 'The Fourth Protocol'

It is great to read a book and then watch a movie based on it.

I favour the order particularly. A book is an insight into the writer's mind. It is full of details, explanations and a great deal of elaboration. The writer has the liberty to proceed at any pace that the reader finds suitable.

A film maker on the other hand is constrained by time. He has to use pictures and actions to convey the same emotions that a writer uses words for. The idea has to be evident to the viewer without any elaborate explanation.

A book leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader. Though writers do create the entire setting, it is all upto the reader to imagine the place, the exact features, the clothes, the emotions, the colors! And readers generally do a good job.

A film on the other hand constricts the flights of the mind by forcing it to accept things as they are portrayed. There is very little work for the mind, except perhaps listen to the dialogues carefully.

I recently was watching the movie 'The Fourth Protocol'. I absolutely adore the way Forsyth has created a web of mystery around the story of a middle-aged MI5 agent versus a suave KGB Illegal. So a comparison with the book was inevitable.

There were no Jim Rawlings or Billy in the film. The brilliance of the theft in Berenson's apartment loses its charm in the film. All the details of how Rawlings works with the skeleton key, works his way with the alarm system, of Billy's excellent work the previous evening and the use of CLC and water as the shock absorber vanish in thin air. I am sure anyone who has seen the movie without reading the book has missed the relish of a mind-blowing robbery.

Then the excellent ferrreting in Pretoria to discover Jan Marais, constructing the nuke by breaching the Fourth Protocol, the entire stint of tying the goat and waiting for the tiger, they all vanish into ether in the film. Michael Caine is good, so is Pierce Brosnan, but the flavour of the book is lacking in the film.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A ten-rupee note

I was shopping for groceries with Mom one Saturday. It is the local vegetable market. Unorganized and yet organized in its own way. The vendors spread their offerings on gunny sacks in neatly piled heaps of french beans, cucumbers, beetroot, carrots, onions and coconuts. Men and women haggled alike to get a good bargain. People moved slowly from one vendor to another, enquiring about the prices, picking up a potato here or a cabbage there, checking if was worth its price and moving on with a this-is-so-damn-expensive pout. It was a welter of humanity with its myraid forms.

We stopped to buy vegetables from a lady. She had her son besides her, a lad of five. Crowded as the street was with people, vehicles played their role in adding to the commotion. BEST buses, cars, autorickshaws, and bikers trying to snake their way through the traffic, were aplenty. As we were sorting and picking up cauliflowers, a car crawled behind us. I did not pay any heed, but the little boy perked up. 

"Can we ride in it?", he asked his mother. 
"Hmm", said his mother very passively, as all mothers do when they see a tantrum coming. 
"What does it take to get a ride?", the child went on, "only money, no?". 
"Yeah", said his mother with some irritation as she tossed the cauliflower in our grocery bag. Life had perhaps taught her the hard way to avoid day-dreaming. But her son went on.
"Is a ten-rupee note enough? That thing is not as big as a bus!". 

I smiled. It was innocence at its best.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flights of Life

An airport is never a dull place. Though it may not be a great idea to reach an airport 3 hours early, it certainly is a great time for a study in human behaviour. If you are lucky to be in a good mood inspite of the long queues at the ticket or check-in counters, you may well be surprised at the sheer variety of human species around you. There are people of all kinds - seasoned travellers, novices, well-behaved gentlemen, snooty aunties - they all add their own shade to the canvas.

There may be times when a gentleman in front is filling in for his entire family of 8 with tonnes and tonnes of luggage. Strangely deceptive, one may feel, while one spends the next quarter of an hour waiting for the aunties to sort out which bag will be checked in and where the bottles of achar should go. While it is the perfect way to a foul temper, a detached soul can smile at the predicament of the hapless head-of-the-family as he tries to fend off the embarassment and bring some order to the setup. Straight from one of Wodehouse's pages!

Move ahead to the check-in counter and one may encounter a long queue. There always is someone who has a bottle of cough syrup neatly tucked in the bag for her kid; or the lady who forgets to take her boarding pass out of the handbag before she checks it in. Then comes the long wait for the flight. One may be seated next to a Chilean family, not understand a word of what they are saying and yet know that the mother is scolding her daughter for not sitting still while she braids the kid's hair. One may see an old couple waiting patiently for their flight, silently grateful that they have each other for company. There are professionals who scream into their cell phones while pacing near the doors; and parents who have a tough time ensuring their kids do not wander off.

Humans. This grand prologue to the travel makes the flight itself pale in comparison. Its best to catch up on some sleep.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Romancing with Heels

As an ardent lover of flats, I never really understood the magic of heeled footwear. Flats are so comfortable, they are easy on the heels and toes. And so much more lower-back-friendly. I always found heels difficult to walk with. I had a pair that an aunt had gifted me. They were pretty, black, pencil-heeled shoes. I wore them the day I got them, strutted across the drawing room and crashed after a few steps. I sprained my ankle and could not wear my usual sneakers for a week after that. And the laughs my cousins had were even more painful. Since then I have been dead against heels. I would almost feel like a bohemian when I would fervently articulate the hazards of heels during discussions with my girls' gang.

But after almost 25 years of resisting, I finally fell for them. The temptation of heels was so overpowering, I was just drawn into the welter that I so hated. I must admit I was apprehensive when I gifted myself a pair of heels. The first day was very difficult to manage. I feared I would trip at every step. The distance from the road felt weird. I was extra-cautious of the uneven roads and kept a tab on my speed of walking. The second day was better. Though my knees hurt a bit because of the shift in weight, I found myself managing better. By the end of the week, I pranced as if I had walked about in those shoes all my life.

I love them. They have a charm of their own. You feel you are on a pedestal. There is a sense of power and confidence that a good pair of heels inspires. Most of it is psychological, but who cares. As long as it feels good!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Garba Nite

Garba and Dandiya - things that describe a true-blood Gujarathi. After jalebi and fafda of course!

My best friend Nikita is getting married this weekend, and she had organized a Garba yesterday instead of the traditional Sangeet. I was there for around 3 hours, dancing most of the time. But in that span of time, I got to know almost all of the 40-50 people assembled there.

For those of my friends who do not know what Garba is, here is a brief history.

It felt like a whole new way of learning about human beings and their behaviour. The evening started with catching up with old friends. The traditional Gujarathi songs felt good and few of us could resist hitting the dance floor. The good part of Garba is that it is a traditional dance form which has evolved over the years with the incorporation of more liberal and complicated moves. Yet the age-old form of clapping to the tune and moving in a circle is still as relevant. So even Uncles and Aunts who were on the other side of 40 could participate as easily as we did.

They say the best way to participate in Garba is to get on the dance floor as early as possible. The enthusiasm is infectious, and soon people start following your moves. So we took the lead and started off. Easy steps at first. It felt like a warm up. There was plenty of space here, unlike during Navratri, when space is at a premium and everyone jostles each other for a little more room. Soon Nikita's relatives joined in and we were dancing like a big, happy family. I love the free-style dance at a Punjabified wedding, but the Garba, with its disciplined layout, has a charm of its own.

After an hour or so, we switched over to Dandiya. Its an extension of the Garba, only with the addition of foot-long sticks in both hands. Dandiya is generally played in pairs, people keep moving and pairs keep changing after every set of 5 beats. It was an eye-opener for me. Each person had a unique style. And the way they played said a lot about their attitude. Some were shy or reticent, some were enthusiastic, they exuded a warmth with their smiles. Some were outright arrogant. Some were patient, some were not. I realized even 4 year olds knew how to play the Dandiya, (and I need to revise the steps each time I start playing). It was as rudimentary to them as learning the alphabets.

After 2 rounds, I knew almost everyone there. Atleast, I knew what their nature was. I still have a few more encounters till the wedding to know them better. The way you dance for an hour says all about you that even a week of conversation would not reveal. Its not surprising that Navratri is so popular for scouting prospective soulmates :) Gals are you listening?