Friday, April 22, 2011

Farewell to Thee Charles Lindberg- Life and Times of a Warrior Friend- To My Children 11

They all called him Thacchu. I don’t know what does Thacchu mean. But some pet names have such strong impact on the people who listen to it. Musicians, boxers, wrestlers, film stars, local goons, sports stars and underworld mafia dons and so on have such pet names. Pet names are given by parents, most of the times. There are cases in which people get pet names when they are in schools. Friends give very affectionate pets name to their friends depending on the character they reveal in these relationships or in their general physical look. My parents did not give me any pet name but I got one when I was in school. Thanks to my obese nature, my friends called me ‘Baby Elephant’. Now when I look at the kids in the metro cities mostly boosted up with artificial nutrients, I try to compare my ‘fatness’ with their fatness. I was nothing. But in a village where most of the kids looked several years smaller to their actual age and impoverished, even if you didn’t have a pair of tusks and a trunk, just a pair of chubby cheeks would have naturally gained that particular pet name for you.

When I reached high school, someone gifted me with a shirt which had the pictures of cats all over. So the first day I wore it, someone hailed me ‘Cat’ and that stuck for some time. There are some pet names that do not stick at all. As the time passes, pet names too vanish. Then you regain them when you are in a professional situation; in an office or field. If you are stingy, you get a name, but then it is not a pet name. It is called a nick name and nick names are often considered to be insults than appreciation. But there are nick names that are caused by the special abilities shown by people in their professional situation. For example, if a police officer is extremely good at cracking cases of kidnapping, he would be called by a name like ‘bacche wala’ or whatever. And the person who carries this nick name proudly listens to anyone who qualifies him with his nick name. Also when you are too nosey about others’ lives, you cannot go without getting branded by a nick name.

In my childhood most of the friends had nick names. And now if you take out those moth eaten, sepia turned, black and white photographs from those days, especially those farewell photographs of primary schools, you would rather find a galaxy of animals, creatures and aliens than friends with proper names. There in that corner you see Arun, the giraffe, in the front row you see, Johny, the Cat and so on. This frozen zoo from the yester years is presided over by one headmaster, who often goes universally with a nick name like ‘thresher’ or ‘thrasher’, and another galaxy of aliens and animals who look like your teachers. A school, in that sense is a place where names are invented for special purposes. Some stick some don’t. If a name sticks, then you should be assured that the person who goes with that name continues to highlight those qualities in his later life too. And at times I wonder how a boy who had a nick name like ‘Shinto, the divine’, later appears in your life with a divorce paper in one hand and proposals from a few other women in the other hand. Some change radically and radical changes are absolute changes.

In our village everyone called him Thacchu and he was not a terrible boy with any special ability to beat people or something. He was good at running and during the school annual sports meets, he got several cups for different kinds of races. And nobody knew why he was called Thacchu. He took it for granted the way others took it. But I did not call him by this name. Somehow, I was very close to him during my upper primary and high school days. I did not want to call him by that name because his original name was more appealing to me and that name suited to his personality. Strong and agile, his name original name was Anil Raj. And I called him Anil Raj and he responded to that name. Perhaps except for the teacher who called out names from the attendance register none actually did care to call him by his original name. Villages are like that. Everyone is known for his or her physical or intellectual attributes. So you have stock characters in any village. You have a Raman who is going around to help people, a Krishnan going around to read the palms of the luckless people, a Tulsi climbing coconut trees, a Sreedevi who had gone mad, a Santa with loose morals, a Kinkini who was a village belle, a Sivan, who was thug in the junction, Sathyan who was a handicap.

But one day I too was forced to call Anil Raj with a different name. I called him Charles. And he instantly liked it. There was a reason behind it. We were in the eighth standard, still were in knickers with a side bulge on the left or right front side as most of us were not familiar with the concept of using underwear, and all of us were realizing our male characteristics, often feeling horny at the sight of the teachers' unconventionally cut blouses and occasional glimpses of the navels and so on. In the Malayalam text, there was one chapter that related the story of Charles Lindberg, a man who first flew an indigenously developed aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean. You should know that our only way to the world was bits and pieces of information like that and our internet was imagination, which had several times better bandwidth than the present ones. So the moment we came to know about Charles Lindberg, we all were excited. We were excited that extent that we all decided to become pilots then and there. Last week we had taken the decision to become a footballer as we had learned about Pele, the Brazilian footballer.

Changing decisions, once the bell rang for the usual recess, Anil Raj rushed out of the door and straight away went into the courtyard of the school where after the assembly hours, the physical education teacher spent time with his boys playing badminton and volleyball. Anil Raj ran in between the courts and nets and huffing and panting, I too ran behind him without thinking why I was chasing him. In childhood, as you might have noticed, the kids really don’t need any reason to run. They are like dogs and crows who keep trotting even if they are not expected to do so. I went behind him and he did not stop. He climbed the stairs and I waited downstairs. Then I saw him coming down with his lips pointed to make a whirring sound and hands spread on either side of his body. He came like a bird and then like an aircraft. Actually he was so moved by the story of Charles Lindberg that he had already assumed the personality of the flyer. I understood it. He came and landed near me. And he told me that he flew across the Atlantic Ocean. I jumped aside to avoid a group of dolphins passing by. I smiled at him, hugged him and called him ‘Charles Lindberg.’

After rechristening Anil Raj as Charles Lindberg, I tried to get validation for my proselytizing efforts by going around and telling friends about the recently taken place historical flight across an imagined Atlantic Ocean right down there in the school courtyard. They called me ‘Cat’ and left me to my imaginations. But somehow, everybody’s Thacchu, and my Anil Raj allowed me to call him Charles, a further shortened form of Charles Lindberg. When someone else tried to emulate my affection for him he growled at them like a tiger and scratched them with his rough paws. It was then I carefully looked at his face. It is said that in everybody’s features, there lies the features of an animal or bird. That’s why caricaturists and mimicry artists could attribute birds’ and animals’ character to the well known personalities. With fear and anxiety thumping inside my chest as I had never seen Anil Raj in such a fury, I looked at his face that day and found his face resembled that of a wild cat. When he pouted his lips, on either side of his cheek there appeared three lines each which looked like whiskers of a cat and his eyes were one shade gray than the brown or black eyes of other children. He deserved the name ‘cat’ than me. And he just did not like anybody calling him ‘Charles.’

Anil Raj came from the neighborhood. His father was an army man and they were four siblings; three boys and one youngest sister. It was rumored that Anil Raj’s father came back from the military, became an alcoholic and married another woman in another village. His mother toiled day and night to bring the boys up. Father visited them once in a while and there used to be fights at home. The whole neighborhood knew about it but in villages family fights were just regular events. You would miss them if you don’t listen to the noises of people abusing each other verbally. Women came out on the road and fought with other women by scratching and pulling down their waist clothes. In these sessions of abuse, they brought out several stories about their extra marital affairs, escapades and romances etc. But none cared. The next day you could see the very same women who fought like two ugly animals going to the market as if nothing had happened in the previous evening. Men also fought and when they fought someone lost a tooth, someone gained a bruise and all these things were the background score of the village life. Nothing really mattered though everything mattered in different ways and fell into the plan of a larger scheme.

Anil Raj used to take refuge in his friends’ places or he used to come around in our place and we went out together to the radio workshop where other guys joined us to listen to popular music. In one of the chapters earlier, I had talked about the history of Radio in our village. The gulf boom in late 1970s and early 1980s had brought several National Panasonic stereo cassette players in our village as there were many men who had gone to the gulf countries as laborers. These cassette players were brought for repairing in a shop run by a young man whom all of us called ‘Podiyan Annan’ (Podiyan means Small). He repaired anything under the sun and he had these two huge stereo boxes in which he played music on request. We used to hang out in his workshop that he ran from an old house and learned the songs by heart. Some of my friends used to bring cassettes from their homes to sell to podiyan annan and the money was used as pocket money. Podiyan annan in turn recorded songs with a fast dubbing system and sold those cassettes to local clients and made some extra money. People were enamored by the technology and Podiyan Annan was always in great demand. Once when we got our cassette player for the first time, sometime in 1984 Summer, I took it to his workshop as it was not working however I tried my tricks. He just looked at it and pressed the pause button. Then it worked. Pause button was the problem, which I could not understand at that time. These days, pausing is a daily game, right from music to chat to sex.

Anil Raj and I spent several hours in that old house where we met other friends. But he was slipping away slowly. When all of us reached tenth standard (school final) we were either drifting apart or were trying to concentrate on our studies. After the tenth standard a few of us went to the pre-degree college in a near by town called Varkala and some of us became wage laborers in workshops, construction sites and so on. It was very painful to know our friends drifting away to the worlds of hardships and different experiences. Several threads were snapping and several threads were getting knotted. But the old ones always reminded you of the golden days that you had spent together; those were the days that you came to know about your manhood. You taught each other about the secrets of bodies. You read a lot of rubbish on sex and imagined that everything was true.

But once you are back from your work place or from your college classes, we did not feel any difference between each other. We went to the school ground where elder boys played cricket wearing pads over their lungis. That was the funniest sight I had ever seen. There was a full fledged cricket club in the village. But none of them wore trousers or a pair of jeans. They all wore the traditional lungis and played cricket. Of course things changed later with the arrival of a new generation. We used to spend our times in the school ground watching cricket players running between stumps and the bowler coming from the urine shed end. We joked, sang songs and planned our futures. But things were not happening the way I had expected.

Something was happening in the village. And I came to know one day when I was coming back from the second year pre-degree class (Standard Twelve). I saw Anil Raj standing in the middle of the road grabbing the neck of a local goon. When we were in school this guy was a local terror. He collected money from all the vendors who sold things in the market. He even extorted money from his mother who was a vegetable seller in the market. That day, Anil Raj was finishing his legacy for some reason. I had never seen Anil Raj so brutal and arrogant before. He hit him hard. And the other guy cried. Blood was oozing from his forehead and nose. Anil Raj asked him to run and he ran. He ran behind and kicked him. He fell on the asphalted road and bled. I was shocked and numbed. I could not do anything. Anil Raj raised him by the collar and hit him several times till he begged for pardon and ran like a dog.

I was standing near the ration shop where shell shocked women and old people stood watching the gory sight unable to react. Like me they too were witnessing the birth of a new local goon in Anil Raj. He walked towards me. I was cringing from inside. But he came and grabbed my right hand. With his left hand he opened his shirt and showed me his left nipple. It was bleeding. “Look Johny, that bastard bit me here. I gave what he wanted.” I could not say anything. The bite was the other man’s last ditch effort to save himself. But that bite had infuriated Anil Raj like anything. I could not believe what I had seen. I asked him what had happened to him in the meanwhile. He said nothing. He asked me to go and he entered an alley which hardly people used thanks to the presence of a small forest filled with snakes in the vicinity.

Slowly, the grapevine in the village brought the news of the establishment of a gang in our village. It was called ‘The Company of 18’. I tried to figure out the meaning of the name of this gang. I need not have gone much further and I could have gone out of my home and asked Anil Raj himself. But now he was more reclusive. He was not seen much out in the street. He stopped meeting me. But there were always young boys around him, protecting him and passing information to him. My friend Sunil Lal joined the company as a formal member and once in a while, while coming back from the temple premises where I used to go to meet my friends, girls and to catch some television news, sometimes I met Anil Raj and Sunil Lal and they told me the story of their new gang, which had already started terrorizing not only the villagers but also people in the other villages.

The Company of Eighteen meant nothing but a gang of eighteen people. But the membership was not limited to that particular number. Many became core group members and many became just side kicks. The Company of Eighteen also meant the general age group of the people who were involved in these gangs. All over Kerala state such gangs were becoming operational at that point of time. There were not too many job opportunities and gulf also was becoming less lucrative. Films like Rajavinte Makan (Son of a King), Abhimanyu, Aaryan and so on were projecting Mohan Lal as a young well meaning man turning into an underworld don. It could have been the filtering effect of Deewar or Zanjeer of Amitabh Bacchan. But in 1980s Mohan Lal was making waves in the Malayalam film industry as a wronged young man. He played the roles of a well educated victim of the system. He played the roles of a jobless young man with a lot of dreams and also he played the roles of underworld dons. He gave the hope to the young boys that if they organized themselves into gangs, they could achieve whatever they wanted and also they could take revenge on people and the systems that made them so and in the process they could have proved themselves innocent by clarifying their philosophy in life.

Anil Raj and team were the victims of this outlook. They formed themselves into the ‘Company of Eighteen’ and they found themselves to be holding very strong power over the villagers. The gulf returnees entertained them with costly drinks, cigarettes, porn movies and clothes. Whoever wanted a dispute to be settled, invited the gang members to involve in it and in return they received money. As the name and fame of the gang grew local police also became alert. Once Anil Raj was arrested by the Police. The local politicians were waiting for an opportunity. The Congress men went to the police station and bailed him out. To counter this, the left parties supported other gangs in the other parts of the village. So the gangs fought between each other for political and personal issues.

The major attraction for many youngsters to join these gangs was easy money and access to women who were living alone. Anil Raj once told me about his escapades with many women in the village who entertained him in the midnight hours. But he was not that kind of person who would have done anything for carnal pleasures. However, he was as rebel without a cause. Rich people from neighboring villages invited him and his gang for fighting with their rivals. Like football teams going to play in other villages, this gang under the leadership of Anil Raj went to far away places to fight for others. When they came back some came with broken jaws, loosen teeth and eyes with dark patches. They were becoming really famous. One day I was told that Anil Raj was invited to Mumbai to join underworld. And it was true that he had left for Mumbai. The rest of the gang was waiting in the village to hear from him. Most of the gang members were my school mates and they respected and loved me for that. They passed information to me and shared stories with me whenever they could spend time. Several times they invited me to drink with them and hang out with them but I was afraid of doing anything in open. Besides, inside I was a coward and could not have stood a hard blow from any thug coming in the darkness to wreck revenge upon my friends while I was there with them.

All the gang members practiced Shoto Kan karate. They invited one master from a far away village. The master came and he was a tailor by profession. He taught the boys the techniques of martial arts. I too was pursuing the same course but in a different dojo, where Sempai Siva taught martial art for spiritual uplifting. Sempai Siva later became a yogi, initiated by a Guru, he went all over the world to spread the teaching of the yogi who initiated him. I met him several years after in Trivandrum airport lounge and he was impressed by my body at the age of forty and when I told him that I still practiced karate he hugged and congratulated me. He gave me a signed copy of his own writings about spirituality before waving good bye to each other.

Soon, my village had several boys with black belts. They were literally ruling the village. But they were all for me if I was in trouble. The interesting thing was that when my family shifted to Trivadrum for facilitating our education in better colleges, our house was taken by these gang members on rent. We couldn’t have done anything. They used our old house as their centre of operations but the moment we wanted it back they vacated the house without raising any objection.

I remember an incident where they showed their loyalty to me. I was pursuing my pre-degree and to become an all rounder I was learning music and tabla. Students used to get concession tickets in private buses. I had to spend fifteen paise for going to the Tabla class. One day while coming back from the tabla class, the conductor refused to give me concession ticket. He demanded full ticket from me. I refused to pay. There was a bit of push and pull in the bus when it reached the main junction of the village. My house was near the last stop and the moment the bus reached the last stop, to my surprise I saw the bus surrounded by sword wielding youngsters on their cycles. I realized that someone had seen me having a ruckus with the conductor at the market junction and he had gone to the gang’s adda by his cycle and before the bus reached the last stop they were ready to take the bus driver and conductor for insulting their ‘friend’.

I had really a tough time in dissuading my ruffian friends from injuring the poor conductor. He was doing his duty. But the fraternal loyalty felt was so intense on that day that they were planning to kill that poor conductor for my fifteen paise. Anil Raj called the conductor out and asked him to apologize to me. He did so. But later on I came to know that the conductor was my sister’s friend’s brother and they belonged to a very poor family. To support his sister’s education the boy had to stop his studies and work as a bus conductor. Now it was my turn to apologize to him and without my friends knowing I went to him and said sorry for whatever had happened.

Anil Raj came back from Mumbai. Nothing had happened to him. But he became more and more recluse. As time passed I left for Baroda and my friends were getting tired of their own activities. They wanted to live a life of dignity. But the past had come to haunt them. Those youngsters who were insulted by this gang were getting ready to strike back. Many went into jails for different charges and came out as living vegetables. Anil Raj went to the Gulf countries and he was jailed for bootlegging. Once he came back, other guys with better physique and better intelligence had taken the lead of the village. Things had already changed. Boys were anymore allured by the heroism in the streets. They burned CDs and made money. They talked a different jargon than the ones we used to talk when we were youngsters. Anil Raj found it difficult to cope.

He was a refined man, once he told me during one of my visits from Delhi. Anil Raj told me about his life and his sentiments for people. While talking about the follies he laughed at himself. He spoke of the insults and injuries he had suffered in lock ups and jails. He did not mind getting beaten up by his rivals as he could fight back. But unilateral tortures were insulting for him. He pined for revenge but he was a spent force by then. He could not fight against the police and the strong systems of the government. The politicians who had used him once for their ends were not giving any damn to him. Many people who were afraid of him during the days of his glory now did not give him any weight. They started avoiding him. He could see all these things and he was learning to live with and in shame.

For the first time in his life, Anil Raj told me about a love affair he had in the village. Nobody knew about it. Perhaps, his close associates knew about it but I did not know. When he related the story I knew the girl in the plot. She was my student and was a god fearing girl with a very soft conduct. I could not have imagined her falling for the charm of a village villain. “Yes, she was in love with me and she waited for me. I thought I could marry her but things were not happening the way I wanted. I was in jail in gulf and here she had to get married to another man,” he said. “Do you feel hatred for her?” I asked him. He did not say anything for a long time. Then he lit a cigarette and looked into my eyes. His gray eyes glinted as his yellowing teeth. “No, I don’t. I don’t hate her. But I don’t understand why she could not wait a bit more?” The question lingered in the air for sometime. I told him something this effect that for a village girl however educated she was it was difficult to wait for a lover who was languishing in jails in some gulf country where penal laws are stringent. He did not say anything for sometime.

Anil Raj got married to another girl, as expected. Often, it is said that when you get married you become a refined man. But it does happen only in rare cases. You in fact ruin the life of a girl. I did not know this girl. Still I do not know her. But next time when I met him, Anil Raj was a shattered man. He did not resemble his former self at all. His elder brother had become a chronic alcoholic. His younger brother had gone to some gulf countries and was trying to rebuild his life after his stint in the gang. The youngest girl was married to a good family and was leading a good life. Anil Raj was alone though he was married.

Last time when I met him, it was dark. The electricity board had shunted power for an hour or so. We were standing in the junction as in the old days, but this time a bit more matured and in our late thirties. We could not see each other in the darkness. We lit cigarettes. “Johny, have I done anything wrong to you?” he asked. “Come on man, you have not done anything wrong to me. You were always there for me whenever it was needed,” I told him and jokingly reminded him of the bus incident. He eyes glinted in the darkness. And in silence we deeply dragged at our cigarettes. “Do you know, this is my last attempt to regain my life? I am going through a very terrible time Johny,” He said in a slow and low voice.

“I think I am having some illness which is not curable,” he said.

“What kind of illness?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. Then he added that he was waiting for a Visa to go to a gulf country and if he gets it he would be a changed man.

We smoked and stood there for a long time. The current was taking more time to come back and light up the streets. And I had to leave for home. Anil Raj also sounded tired and wanted to go and rest.

We shook hands and parted ways. He went into the alley where once the Coir factory stood. I walked ahead.

Next morning someone shook me up and told me ‘Thacchu has gone. He hanged himself last night.”

I just could not believe it. I did not go to see his dead body. Perhaps, I knew I was the last person whom he confided with and he had not told me too many things. But I felt he had said farewell to me forever.

Common friends told me that he had some terminal illness that he contracted while living in Mumbai. Some people told me that he was depressed because he could not marry the girl whom he loved. Some people said that he did not like his married life. Someone said he did not have children because the custodial tortures had rendered him impotent.

Anil Raj was gone. And he was standing there in that junction with me last night.

Even today I cannot refer him as Thacchu, which had become a by word for terror in my village. I always called him Anil Raj.

May be if everyone had called him Anil Raj, he would not have become a goon. But that is just a speculation.

I forget all those sword wielding gory episodes from his life. But I remember the day he flew his flight across the imaginary Atlantic Ocean at our school courtyard.
Farewell to thee Charles Lindberg.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love as Disaster Capitalism: To My Children 10

Whenever I think about the love affairs that I had during my childhood, adolescent and youthful days, I remember this story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read this story titled ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane’ in a collection of short stories by him called ‘The Strange Pilgrims.’ Interestingly, I read this story while traveling in an airplane. It is all about an anxiety ridden encounter of Marquez with a very beautiful woman whom he happened to see in an airport lounge. Marquez liked her at the first sight. Like any other young man would do in such situations, Marquez too imagined so many things about her. He even imagined getting married to that ethereal beauty.

His flight was announced and he went into his flight. And to his shock and wonderment, the woman came into the same flight and walked along the aisle only to sit next to him. She looked like an angel. Marquez was tongue tied. Flood of words came and they were stopped at the floodgates of her beautiful silence tinged with the arrogance emanating out of her consciousness about her own beauty. She called the stewardess and asked not to wake her up for any meal. She went into a deep sleep as the flight took off. Marquez waited for her to open her eyes during the long flight. And he had the choicest of words ready for her. But she did not open her eyes. Just before the landing of the aircraft, she woke up as if from a dream, opened her vanity bag, touched up her face with sponges and brushes. And finally she walked out of the plane cabin the way she came inside stately and royally like a princess.

Today love affair has different connotations. In our country there are extremities about love affairs. Some people kill their own children who are in love with a boy or girl from a different religion or community, in the name of family’s honor. The rate of honor killing has increased considerably in the last few years highlighting the imbalanced cultural growth of our society. Recently, the newspapers spoke of a gory incident in which a criminal on parole killing two women in his family for he thought they were having affairs with some guys whom he did not approve of. Interestingly, this criminal had been jailed for raping a minor a few years back. While such honor killings exist in our country, we have very liberal love affairs happening elsewhere simultaneously. Today, there are parents who approve their children’s love life as it is. They give consent to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Today, even the boys and girls are practical enough even to demand dowry for themselves. Love affairs have become a preamble to practically arranged marriages.

In our times, love affairs were really affairs that often shook the core of the village life. In places like villages where everyone knew everyone else as a close acquaintance or as a relative, love affairs were hush hush affairs. If today’s kids do not find the boy-girl difference as a very much pronounced one in terms of gender and social positioning, in our times, even the length of the hair of someone seen from behind with you could have ignited a scandal amounting to the scale of a wild fire. The boy-girl divide was very strong and like the ones who had been parted by the divine intervention at the origin, these souls sought each other like desperate ghosts. Boys did not speak to girls and girls did not speak to boys. In each other’s presence they shrunk to themselves. The boys watched them from a distance and the girls in the process learned to giggle, chuckle and send side glances with darting eyes.
These side glances had their own beauty. You just waited for the girl to look at you. Or if you were a girl, you just anxiously imagined that the guy who escorts you everyday by his bicycle to tuition classes to school, school to tuition class and from there to home, always keeping the right distance between you and him, would come on the right time. You may pretend that he is a pest and you desperately want to get rid of him. But the moment you don’t see him you feel like a day from your life is lost. An important page from a thrilling story is missed and you curse the natural elements for holding him back. You pretend that you develop sudden migraines and headaches. Those were the days of silent gestures. A love affair developed out of silence. It had its own colors and times. It had its fragrance and light. Sometimes you could see your imagined girl friend only by evening. She always came against a setting sun. So you always imagine her as a silhouette. Sometimes you could see your imagined boy friend only eight o clock in the morning. He accompanies you to your tuition class, in distance and silence. So on Sundays you experience eight o’ clock in the morning as an hour of torture in solitude.

Today I am amazed at the ways the girls look at you or boys look at girls. Forget boys and girls; the women and men of my age (forty years and plus) look at each other boldly but with desire filled eyes. There is no meaning to the words like ‘glimpse’, ‘glance’ and so on today. Girls, when they come back from school or college know for sure that some guys are following them and they like them to be followed. And often the guys following them literally come around and talk. They are like friends. When they are not friends they are mutual admirers of evening adventures. The boys look into the eyes of the girls and they do not avert the eyes. The middle aged women look into the eyes of the middle aged men and they do not shrink away from each other. Haruki Murakami in his famous book on jogging speaks of the visions of a young girl coming against him from the other turn, perhaps which is something that makes him run every day in the same park.

Love has a different meaning today. Love is about sharing now. There was a time when we considered love as longing. It was intense pain. It was intense longing. It was prolonged sessions of day dreaming. It was about writing love letters in the middle of the night and search for a place where you could hide it. You thought that there was not a single corner in the house where your parents’ eyes would not reach. You were like criminals who could be caught red handed at any time. So you shiver while you write your love letter and shiver more when you intend to give it to the girl whom you like. But often it turns out to be failed attempts.

In the era of facebooking (some one told me the new word for facebooking is effing) and free text messages, built cameras and skype chats, sending a message across is the most simple thing when you think about a love affair. You want to convey the message that you are in love with someone? Then you send a text message. If the concerned person likes it, he or she accepts your friendship, which you slowly want to convert into a love affair. Or the maximum snubbing that you could get is that he/she would unceremoniously delete your message. Today you could send Facebook friendship requests. You could pose as the most romantic person in the world in facebook and many other social networking sites. After a few years there would be some other technological innovation which would help you to make the other feel what you feel about them without the aid of any handset or monitor. It would be a kind of automated telepathy. You could even have sex with your willing partners even while you are standing in the middle of a buzzing city. Of course, there would be check points to this technology also. There would be booking for cyber raping and stalking if you try to do anything with unwilling partners. After all we are human beings currently addicted to technologies and gadgets.

In our times, to convey that you are in love with some one you needed to wait; wait like an animal who is hungry but not able to catch anything. Your instincts are so alert. And you are in love with so many people at the same time. Each person looks so alluring and so potential and in our times we never used to think about having sex with the person whom you think you are in love with. You may entertain sexual fantacies about your imagined girl friend’s friend or with a film actress or even with a magazine illustration but not with your imagined girl friend. The moment you think about her, she is the purest being devoid of any sexual presence. May be you are so naïve in your approach. In the agenda of your love affair sex is not included. And you want to communicate everything through silence and gestures.

As in Marquez’s story, you wait for the girl. She comes and you stare at her. And it continues for many days and nothing happens. Then you change position thinking that that angle would help you to come into her perspective. And on that particular day she also would decide to change her position thanks to reasons known only to her. And this game would go on for a long time. And one day you come to know that she has gone to another town as her parents got transferred to that place. You feel so bad about things and you even feel like committing suicide but you are such a coward, you even fail to make some one notice your recently broken heart. So you die a silent death in spirit only to be resurrected in a few days’ time targeting another girl at the same bus stop or tuition centre or wherever they flock.

Finally, your glances cross paths. And she recognizes your presence there. You are simply happy. Next morning onwards you are there before her. You are very conscious of dressing and you behave like a grown up man. The only conflict of interest is that your status as a ‘lover with dignity’ is now known only to you and to that particular girl. The whole world is oblivious of your existence. So when the really grown up people come to the place where you stand to buy a cigarette or bananas, they tend to push you or shove you around. And you have to bear with this insult for a long time. You cannot buy a cigarette and smoke to prove your worth as a lover because you are just fourteen or fifteen years old and you are standing a few paces away from your home where your father sits in the drawing room as if he were waiting for some complaint to come against you so that he could pull out his cane and thrash you black and blue. You may want to prove your might by punching at the bulbous noses of those lungi clad ruffians but you realize with all your meekness that you can’t even withstand a hard sneeze of those monsters. So crestfallen you stand there ogling at the girl till she gives you one glance which would weigh several kilos more than the insults that you have just suffered.

One day, you really feel that you could take yourself to the next level. If she is your classmate what you do is that you ask for a notebook from her pretending that you had missed some very important matter about hydrogen doing something with oxygen and making it water. You are all inclined to become a scientist and you don’t want to miss anything. So you ask her with all politeness and earnestness for the notebook. She snubs to by saying that you could get it from one of your boy friends. And you again feel like committing suicide. You become very philosophical for a few days asking yourself whether those covert glances that she used to give you at the bus stop were real or fake. Then you try your luck once again. But this time with making yourself absent from the usual place in front of the bus stop. You are punishing her. You imagine that she would spend torturous moments. She would regret for not giving you the notebook. She would worry about your well being. When you are absent in the class as well as in the bus stop, you would imagine that she would die of pain. And on the third day like a victor who had just got a small cup for a sack race, you would enter the class room only to find that she is already in love with the youngest English master in the school.

During your youthful days, you are like James Bond; you never say die. So you target another girl in a different location, in a different time. This time, she is not from your class. She is in the same school or college but not in your class. You happen to see her at some point and your instincts tell you that she is an easy target. As usual you start your mind game by standing against her at the bus stop. Then one day she looks at you. You are in love head over heels once again. One day, by mustering up all your courage you go to her class (only after realizing that she too is pursuing your subjects) and demand some text or note book. She, without suspecting your intentions gives you the note book and you take that note book (one precious object for which you would even sacrifice yourself. One precious materials that carries the invisible impressions of her touch and fragrance) to home and spend a sleepless night looking at it. Next day you refuse to give the note book to her, which would obviously put her into some trouble during her class and you enjoy her discomfiture with a greater sense of satisfaction.

And the next day is your day. You have recycled your old love letters which had been written painstakingly but read only by you and had been hidden in your collection of old comics. You recycle them in such way that it would look very fresh and intense. You have avoided all the stock images and stock phrases as you have grown two or three years more from the days of the first draft. Now you embellish the letter with some literary allusions and you take some liberty in citing some words with sexual connotations. And you push that letter into her notebook and in the next morning with heart beats which would put those of a hundred meter sprinter into shame, you would go to her and hand over the note book. Next morning, when you reach college, you listen the choicest phrases from your letter being recited from behind the pillars, etched on the walls and black boards. She has ditched you and she has given that letter to everyone to read and enjoy. And that day you come to know that she is the girl friend of the college union arts club secretary and he was behind in spreading the content of your letter all over the place. That day again you do a virtual hara-kiri. But nothing happens to you.

You try out different things with different girls. As you grow up in years, you go behind girls by bicycles or motor bikes but always keeping safe distance from her. You drop love letters on her path. Sometimes it is picked up by her and at times it is picked up by her friend, who is many levels down to her in terms of beauty and looks. Sometimes, it is picked up by her brother who is a local thug or a well known body builder (I used to wonder why most of the beautiful girls all over the world have body builder brothers). I have seen so many unlucky guys who becoming boyfriends of intended girl friend’s friends and vice versa. Giving a shoulder to cry on during the moments of ditching is the biggest trap that the young and women of our times you to fall into. First you give a shoulder, then chest, then lap and finally your life, which you see like a landscape after battle when you look around now. If the letter is picked up by the girl’s brother, then you are refined man for at least six months; three months for joining the broken bones and another three months for getting back to former shape physically and emotionally.

Then one day you find your true love. Then you are really in love. You need not write hollow love letters instead you need to write very thick ones with a lot of content. You write volumes to her and she writes one or two lines as if she were appreciating a crescendo performance by you in one single clap. You do not write such heavy letters on that night and on the next morning she burns you with her scorn and barbed words. She would not talk to you for couple of days and she would accuse you of having interest in some other girls as if you were a kind of remaining specimen of a Casanova in the earth. You go back home and spend your precious nights in writing letters pepped up with poetic allusions and wit. You would never question her demand for having one letter each every day even you meet each other every day and spend almost eight to ten hours together both in class rooms, libraries and whichever corner where you could just take the measurements of her body parts over the clothes. You have changed the concept of your love. Now along with her friend’s and film actresses’ images you can imagine her also a sexually potent individual.

One day you would take her to a movie and during those days it was more difficult than a real elopement. Today boys and girls go together watch movies. In our times, going together for a movie (it is not the movie which is scandalous but the three hours spend together in darkness) was the most dangerous thing. You always imagine that her father or brother would come to the theatre where you go. Though it does not happen you think that her father has employed spies ever since your girl has started spending an extra twenty minutes before the mirror and her father noticed the cosmetics bill has gone higher within one month than her mother’s total consumption of cosmetics till date. Failing to make any changes to her countenances after continuous application of various cosmetic products available in the market, her mother had totally developed an aversion for anything that enhanced skin color.

So you go to a theatre and watch a movie together. You believe that you are Spartan and it is the time given by God for proving your charity, chastity and chivalry. So you spend those precious and tumultuous three hours not even allowing any hair of yours touch her on her body. Next morning triumphantly you ask her about your good behavior and she gives one of the most scornful looks in the world and says, “I have been thinking about those three hours for a week. And I thought you would touch me all over in the darkness.” You feel like a stupid for the whole life in that one moment and to add insult to injury she would add, “Women dress up for women and undress for men.” You look at her as if she were one of the sluts that you have only seen in the dirty magazines. But then you control yourself to behave like a gentleman.

Through accidents you learn to love. I should say you learn to live. Slowly you learn to put up with the insults heaped against you, initially for being sincere and later for being genuinely insincere. I am an old timer. I too had my stint of silent love affairs till I got the real ones. Who said love is an accident. It is a disaster conjured up, invited and enjoyed for some perverted reasons. But disaster has its own charm. It clears up a lot of things and builds a lot many new things in its place. Love, in the conventional sense, is a way to disaster capitalism.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Death in a Café

Not like a
But like a
Taking away
All the pleasures
Scars of poetic justice
To lick up
And forget.
Petals of wails
To be rested
In the grave of
Death is not a joke
It could spirit you away
The whirls of
A cup of Espresso.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Judgment Day

On a sunny day, like a breeze
Laden with the fragrance of dreams
You came and beckoned me
To the meadows far and wide
Where a spring from the mountains
Wet the newly blossomed fingers.

Wandering at last lost to oneself
And lost oneself we don’t even know
Why we sought each other until
Seeking itself became the thrill
Like the kids who forget tears
And smile into nothingness.

Still your name heard from a
The shepherd’s bugle and the one
Hanging from his cap’s tip
Enthrall me with memories of
Kisses locked in prints and
The tastes of dark recesses.

Sinners are we as the pilgrims of desires
And on the nights of cloud and storm
Under the shades of shabby shames
We light up our guilt and flood
Into each other like molten words;
Angels do not judge us before apocalypse.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Last Wall

Four walls. That’s strange. You don’t generally become aware of the four walls that cover you everywhere; it could be your room at home or the home itself. It could be the office, your cabin, even an elevator. Four walls always define your space. Oh, yes architectural experiments would make these walls to look a bit different in form and shape. Some walls could be transparent, some could be semi transparent giving the person who stands outside a feeling that he is looking at a mirror than looking into the secrets of a room hidden by that mirror.

Interesting thing is that you don’t know about these walls in your daily lives. You call your room as the coziest space in the world. You have your music, your wardrobe, your collection of shoes and your books in there and you don’t complaint about the walls. You beautify them with your favorite colors and adorn them with your favorite paintings or posters. Some times you look at these walls and smile as if they were your closest pals who understand everything about you. Perhaps, that’s true also. They know everything about you. Your nudity, your body odor, your scars, your warts, your dreams and tears- they know everything about you. But you don’t find them oppressive.

The moment someone tells you that you are not allowed to go out of your room, these walls become oppressive. It is very difficult too see your friends turning foes. The saying is true that a friend turned foe tells the right things about you. But these walls won’t speak anything against you. Perhaps they are more loyal than your partner in life. They don’t betray you with the change of their emotions. They don’t twitch a muscle in their faces because they don’t have any muscle and they don’t even have faces. They love you with their entirety. They love with their totality.

Still, the moment you feel like stopped from doing anything that you like, you start feeling that you are confined in a room. You call it four walls. You betray your friendship. You abuse the walls, practically and metaphorically. What a pity. Walls don’t talk back to you; they are like silent servants who are old and understand you thoroughly as they have seen you through your life. They don’t even mutter words under their breath. They just love you; still when it comes to a dire situation you just give them away. You push them before the firing line and save your skin. And that’s how masters behave with the loyal servants.

Lying on a bed covered with green bed sheets, her head raised by two pillows and the auxiliary appendages of the cot, she looks around the room, which has suddenly become four walls for her. She does not want to call it a room. These are four walls coated with pale pink color that is supposed to sooth the disturbed minds of the patients who are admitted there. From the fifteenth floor of the hospital, she could see the city sprawling towards the horizon; in the beginning you could discern the buildings. This one you know, this one, you go into every day, that one must be the multiplex, that is the famous shrine of a sufi saint, those are the ghettos where the dirt of the city lives and then again the high rises. Then they fade into a line made of jumbled forms and the rough edges of that line gets dissolved into the imaginary horizon of the city where you think that one could find a sea or a range of hills.

She anxiously looks at the horizon for a while and tries to turn her head to the left where she imagines that her husband has left a few books, her i-pod and her beloved blackberry. She wants to tell all of her friends that she is bed ridden at the age of thirty for no reason. But she instinctively knows that her husband has taken away the lap top with the internet connection. Doctor has strictly said that she should not keep her neck straight. She needs to recline against a support besides the collar that she wears now.

The moment she came down with a severe pain in the neck, her husband had given her one of the dirtiest looks possible in the world, which she translated as, ‘you deserve this as you spend endless hours in chatting with strangers and befriending online Romeos. I have been warning you and now God has given you an apt lesson, now put up with it and face it.’ He did not say these words, but with the same look in his eyes, he said, ‘Darling, do not move your neck. Just listen to some music. Doctor has even said you should not read for some days as it could put pressure on your neck. I love you.” He left her in her suddenly found deafening loneliness in the middle of a hospital room at the fifteenth floor, which she refused to call a room but four walls the moment she was trolley-ed in.

She prays for her imaginations to be true. Some how she turns her head towards the left side to see whether he has left the Blackberry on the table. To her dismay she finds only the i-pod there. She listens to some music for some time and after those few minutes of listening she realizes that she is not in fact listening to any music. She hears some buzzing sound in her ears as her minds wanders off along the walls. She pangs for someone to call her. She wants to share her feelings with anyone of those people who are seen in the chat lines. As nothing happens she decides to review her own medical condition.

It all started when she drove along the Marine Drive with a friend who was on her way to shop for books at the Strand near Fountain. They were talking about the latest arrivals in their wardrobes and the latest books that they were reading. Her friend took interest in reading crime thrillers and sci-fi novels. She was not particularly interested in any literature. She was a very eclectic reader. The blurbs at the back cover fascinated her rather than the name of the author or the prizes that he had won in his literary career. In this way she had read about a guy who spent three months in the Alps alone as he had fallen into creek while climbing the snow covered peaks. She had read about the love life of Rumi and also had read some biographies of people known for some crazy achievements in their lives.

On the first left turn from the Fountain she felt a pull at her neck, which she eminently ignored and to ignore it she eminently indulged in an elaborate session of gossiping with her friend about the coolest gals in the city who had recently started appearing in the celebrity columns of the city newspapers and magazines. However, the more she gossiped the more intense the pain became. Brave men and brave women behave alike in situations where they are required to keep their vanity unscathed. So she did not show a hint of her pain on her face and did not allow her gossiping friend to know anything about her discomfort. If she came to know that she was having a muscle pull at the neck at the age of thirty, it would have been translated into a terminal illness by evening thanks to the good efforts of the friend.

But by afternoon, once she struggled back into her room, she could not help but calling her husband over phone to inform him about the pain and it was when he stepped in after an hour or so that he gave one of the dirtiest looks that a man could bring into his eyes.

Now, lying alone on a bed covered with green bed spreads, she looked at the ceiling. Then suddenly she realized that a ceiling without a fan is a man without his organ. Then her cheeks went red as in an impulse which she could not control. She smiled at herself. She tried to concentrate on other things and she found there was nothing in the hospital room other than her I pod, which she had started hating by now. So she started thinking about her illness. A pain in the neck. The X-ray told nothing. The MRI scanning said nothing about an illness. Many specialists came, suggested many tests and now they all had told her to wait for two more days so that they could observe her thoroughly.

So here she was with an illness which was not yet diagnosed. She was not taking any medicines as the doctors did not prescribe any. She was not even feeling invalidated at any other part of the body than the pain behind her neck. But she was made to lie on the bed with her neck raised and collared. She felt like a culprit put into a torturing machine. She felt that she was wronged against the divine will. This pain was a momentary aberration of her own body, a rebellion of muscles. But it was not a divine punishment as her husband had interpreted. Now she was inside four walls. She felt cabined, cribbed and confined. As she had been a literature student once, she remembered Hamlet for a moment and then she slept.

In sleep, she dreamed of a wall just out side the window amongst one of the four walls. This wall was now looking like a screen and there were several green lights with so many minute profile pictures. Her fingers started moving and she was typing things furiously and the virtual friends were speaking to her as if they all were waiting for her there at the chat windows as children wait for their mothers. She typed out things as per the need of the person of the other end. She pretended herself as an art collector to an artist, a musician to a guitarist, a beautician to an ugly duckling, a culinary specialist to a glutton, a cultural theorist to a hopelessly argumentative man, a fashion model to a designer who was about to launch his brand.

And in sleep she had three orgasms and one long feverish spell with shivering.

When she opened her eyes, her husband was sitting right next to her with a smile on his face and the dirty look in his eyes was gone. “How do you feel now?” He asked. She smiled at him as she was not feeling anything particular. She wanted that dream to continue. But he woke her up again. “This is just a life style illness. Nothing to worry. Doctor has advised a vacation than medicine. We are off to LA baby,” he hugged and kissed her.

She looked at the wall out side the window. It was not longer a screen. It was just a wall.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Between Cup and Lip: The Story of a Couple Who Wanted to Kiss

So, when they met after a gap of three years, what they decided and wanted to do was to kiss each other.

Though it was not a chance meeting, the circumstances in which they met after this gap was not conducive for a kiss. You may ask, why could not two people kiss each other when they meet after a long time? Kissing is not prohibited in this city or country.

They had decided to meet in a café near the museum. But both of them were impatient like the blazing summer sun. The stipulated time to meet was two in the afternoon. She had things to tend at home. And he had a very important seminar to attend.

Housewives and high profile corporate executives are in way lead the same kind of life. They are bored to their bones and at the same time when they review the things they find that they don’t have any reason to feel that their life is boring from any angle. Things keep them engaged.

Housewives are busy because they have awful team leaders at home. The assumed team leaders and other people go out as per their schedule and the housewives are expected to look after everything. Though they are equipped with several machines and servants, they need to involve in everything. They hold the key to everything and literally they keep the keys of everything around their waist and a lock too.

Corporate executives, if they are really high profile, find the worst enemies in their team heads. The bosses are always good (or supposedly good) because they run a company successfully as there are hardworking executives. When the success comes these bosses take away all the credit. The executives travel all over the world; develop gastric problems by eating erratically from different time and cultural zones. But they hold the key to the success, if not around their waist right in the middle of their groin.

Desperate people are desperate in a similar fashion. They drive rashly, they shout at people, if not they become deeply silent. The silence is so imploding that the whole world seems to have set into the mute mode. It is like watching the footage of some natural calamity again and again in a television which is kept in a glass cage or seen from a distance. You know everything about it but you don’t hear the new commentaries.

So desperately the woman comes out of her home leaving things to the hands of a maid servant whom she deems to be incapable of doing anything perfectly. The man somehow finishes his highly sophisticated lunch program as if he were going through a medical checkup, with anxiety and terror, while keeping a smile on his lips throughout the lunch. Skipping the attempts of some Korean delegates to speak to him further on the project that they were just discussing at the lobby before the lunch was served he rushes out to the streets and jumps into a taxi.

When you are ready to meet a man, however busy you are you take special care to make yourself up. You look at the mirror twice. You adjust your sari in such way that your curves are concealed while revealing their full potentials. You don’t want others to peep into your cleavage but you definitely want the man whom you are going to meet to take notice of it. You want your fragrance to be known by the man. You want the man to know how tenderly you have prepared yourself for this meeting.

But a man is not like that. He is just rash. He knows that he perspires profusely in a taxi, which has a conked off air conditioner and stinking seats. He does not mind to eat an additional mint to ward off the smells that he acquired while swallowing his lunch. He may absent mindedly roll his deodorant on his wrists or under his shirt the moment he feels that the stink of his own body becomes too much for himself. Then he may light a cigarette while thinking about you.

As they are desperate, in more or less the same way they reach the same spot at the same time, well twenty minutes before the stipulated time. The place they had decided was not right in the middle of the street, in front of a cinema. It was an in a coffee shop near by. Hence, the romantic feel of a meeting after a gap of three years becomes too realistic and they stand in the middle of the pavement right in front of the movie hall like two marooned sailors looking out and waving a flag at another vessel passing by the horizon. Their minds have already reached out to the other, saved him or her. They have already taken her or him into the arms and have kissed deeply several times right on the lips and then into the mouths.

But nothing happens. They stand in the middle of the sidewalk like two stupid souls accidentally meeting outside their prescribed graves. They smile like two patients who have just got discharged from the same hospital where they had been treated for the same disease called anemia. Their faces go red first and then paper white. They tremble and shiver like two dogs caught in an unexpected rain. Then they grin at each other, extend their hands to have a formal shake hand (which they had been disapproving to do ever since they connected themselves almost a year back over some social networking site). She had once told him while chatting that when they met first time after the gap of three years they should never touch each other formally. He also thought the same at the same time and had sent a smilie back as an answer.

But they shook hands and then proceeded to the café without uttering a word. Everything was happening as if they were enacting a script they had learned by heart long back. They walked silently, entered the cool zone of the café and looked at the farthest corners so that they could steal some private moments. To their dismay, so many desperate souls were on prowl in the city that day and they had already invaded all the farthest corners in all the available decent cafes in the city.

So they stand at the counter, find places at the high chairs and order for two cups of coffee. The boy who is in the red uniform with a black apron mans the counter and from nowhere he looks like a boy who could do such jobs. They look at the guitar hanging from the wall of the café and think that the boy must be a musician by night. And they think the same thing at the same time and the smiles that they exchange the message that they have been thinking the same to each other. The boy takes their order and the slip that comes out of the printer is taken out mechanically by his nimble hands and goes automatically behind the counter where a fabricated table with coffee machines in place.

Boys move around as if they were apparitions while they sit looking at each other with all those passions vying to take upper hand in their minds and the reason chiding them to behave. So in the silent acts of passion and taming, their lips quiver and they smile at eacj other and like any other housewife and an executive of a big company do during those occasions lower their shades from their heads across their eyes. They hide from each other by the darkened goggles and let the rest of the faces speak to each other through the twitching of muscles and minuscule hairs seen highlighted by the yellow light of the café now further deepened by the color of the shades over their eyes.

The stereo in the café belts out some song which many other people in the café seem to be enjoying thoroughly. But for them it sounds like some hopeless DJ playing a trick on the grooving couples in a dingy dance floor in an ill reputed discotheque. Then again they smile and man finally asks about the promises that they have made each other while their stolen moments of chatting. She tells him that she does not remember anything of those promises and she laughs at her own joke. He too smiles and the smile looks very pathetic now on his face. Soon her face also turns serious and now they think about getting out of the place.

He needs to catch a flight in another four hours. She promises to drop him at the airport. But there is a problem. His luggage is in the hotel room and also he needs to sign certain documents with the local company which has hosted the meeting. Besides, he cannot breach the protocol of his company by deserting his colleagues in a hotel lobby and going alone to the airport with a damsel in love. So they decide to make it out in the car. One kiss. One kiss. Just to keep the promise.

She decides to drive him around the city within the one hour available in his hands. They get out of the café without heeding much to collect the change from the nimble fingered boy. They walk out and she leads him to the park a few yards away from the café. They get into the car. Like the café, the car interior also provides them with a make belief world of protection and perfection

With unprecedented driving skills that are shown only by desperate people at desperate moments she takes the car out of the parking lot and drives into the streets where the sun beats down its heat with some kind of vengeance. But form inside the car, the light outside look tamed and bearable though they find the people wrinkling their muscles around their noses to ward off heat. Many of them are drinking water. Many foreigners walked like creatures without shadows.

First she takes a turn to the right and after driving for a few minutes she reaches to a police station and smiling at him, she reverses the car and enters into another lane. She drives on and they were now desperate to fulfill their promise. She drives to left then to right and wherever they stopped they felt the people of the city came around the car to peep inside just to know things are happening as per the rule there.

They drive through the main road. At the traffic junction, street urchins come around the car to sell different things. After driving for half an hour towards the south of the city, she stops under a tree and turns her towards him. He too turns his head. Before they could do anything, someone knocks at the window and asks them to move from there as a huge truck wants to take a right turn and their car obstructs its smooth passage. She revs up the engine as if all those bad words came to her mind at that moment were transferred into the engine through the acceleration of gas and moves the car towards the infinity of people and vehicles milling in the next turn.

The watches in their wrists show the same time and they look at each other as if they were destined to be hanged with in five minutes. He tries to reach out his hand to her hand at the steering wheel and suddenly he finds two police men riding parallel to the car in their motor bike. Shocked by the sudden intervention of the state in the vicinity of their private life, he with a shudder takes his hand away from her.

His mobile rings and he speaks into it. The color of his face changes. He looks at her and tells her that he should be dropped somewhere near the hotel where the seminar is being conducted. She without questioning why he should be off right then, speeds up the car towards the hotel. The message from the phone disturbs him. Something has gone terribly wrong in the memorandum of understanding. The local company is not ready to sign it with his company. They want to clarify certain points and he should be there in another ten minutes to save the situation.

He went on explaining things. She drove with a smile. The slanting rays of sun seeped into the car and they brightened her face from the right side. He could see the evening sun at the tip of her nose from that angle. She was still smiling but he could not see what her eyes were saying as they were covered by the brown shades.

She stopped the car at the porch of the five star hotel where the seminar was on. She, without letting him know glanced around whether her husband by any chance could come there for some reason as they frequented this hotel’s restaurants and bars by the weekends. None of her acquaintances was there. She sighed and looked sternly straight out of the windscreen. Then something happened in her. She turned to him and pushed her right hand into his hands which he had been holding out impatiently for sometime.

See you soon, she said. Yes, he said and rushed at the main door of the hotel where a tall man in royal uniform was holding the panels opened for him for some time.

She pressed on the gas. The car gathered momentum. She fished out her mobile from the purse and called, “Laxmi Bai….aaj dinner keliye aaloo parantha banao. And make some kheer too.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Anna Hazare as Gandhi and We as Sharad Pawar(s)- 100 ways in which we corrupt ourselves

This morning I woke up and found out that Anna Hazare’s fasting unto Death against corruption has shaken the conscience of the middle class Indian. The newspapers say that the Indian middle class is up in non-violent arms against corruption. Are we really? I thought of jotting down hundred ways in which we in our personal lives practice corruption. Shall we able to do away with these following corruptions from our personal lives? If so we build a better India. If not we are doomed to be just newspaper readers and cheerless cheer leaders. As a semi-cynic I couldn’t have escaped this thought of seeing this anti-corruption sentiment of the middle class as another craving for another spectacle just after the world cup cricket. But let us think about the following points:

1. Refusing to take a deep look at the bathroom mirror when we face it for the first time in a day, and to contemplate on the question, ‘Who are you?’
2. Keeping your Tullu water pump on for hours even after you know that your water tank is over flowing.
3. We refuse to believe that anything excessively consumed by us is a way of denying others a chance to even taste the same.
4. Taking bath in a bathtub when you are sure that your neighbor is sitting before a dry tap praying for some miracle to happen.
5. Cleaning our house and throwing the garbage right in front of others’ homes.
6. Throwing the garbage from the car’s window at the desolate patches, which we also know that would soon turn into a dump yard. We just don’t care about the people living in the vicinity.
7. Ogling at the neighbor’s guests and pretending that we did not even hear a whimper when the neighbor is in real trouble.
8. In the name of religion, blaring remixed bhajans in Bollywood tunes into others’ ears.
9. In the name of cow protection, throwing the left over food in front of others’ houses. We expect the cows to eat them until the food get rotten.
10. Writing poetry on the ‘death of a pet dog’ when you see a dog run over by a car lying before your neighbor’s doorstep and rotting. We just don’t care about burying that corpse.
11. Deliberately scratching on the body of a new car bought by one of your neighbors.
12. Fighting over parking lots. Earth doesn’t belong to anyone. Tsunami has proven it twice before us.
13. Speeding up and honking horns when you know that there is not an inch for the other vehicles to move forward.
14. Feeling a secret happiness over the distress of those people who couldn’t jump the traffic light before it turned red.
15. Thronging around an accident site and enjoy the thrill of somebody’s pain and gore and doing nothing to alleviate the victim’s pain.
16. Refusing to be a witness to anything.
17. Jumping queues.
18. Taking advantage of gender. Some women jump queues, especially when they are dressed ‘modern’ and wear a pair of shades, thinking that their ‘class’ would deter people from complaining.
19. Speaking loudly over phone while traveling in public transport facilities.
20. Behaving and proving that you are many times better than others in the places like airports and railway stations.
21. Trying to prove that you are unlucky that’s why you had to catch a train; you just had missed your flight (Spice Jet) to Mumbai.
22. Stopping in the middle of the road and exchanging words with your friends sitting in the other vehicle, as if the roads were your father’s property.
23. Refusing to pay toll tax at toll bridges citing that you are somebody’s somebody.
24. Flaunting the symbol of Police in your number plate thinking that you could get away with your misdeeds.
25. Writing ‘Press’ on your wind screens, when your relationship with the press is your daily dose of newspaper reading.
26. Claiming yourself to be a doctor or an advocate when you are just a property dealer.
27. Walking along the aisle of an aeroplane in flight and speak about your achievements in your life to a friend sitting in the 32nd row. You don’t know you look like a hawker who sells one ball point pen, one screw driver, one Hanuman Chalisa and five rubber bands for ten rupees in a private bus.
28. Letting your children play wherever they want, especially when you are in an airport or flight. You think that your child is the next Shah Rukh Khan or Aishwarya Rai. But others need not necessarily feel so.
29. Occupying both the hand rests in a flight seat.
30. We think that middle class women don’t do rash driving. They do. They claim their equality with men in this.
31. Being abusive on road.
32. Talking over mobile phone while driving and think that you are very smart.
33. Showing the middle finger to your elders when they object your rash driving.
34. Fishing out your mobile phone and talking to some invisible power center when you are caught by police for violating traffic rules.
35. Escaping punishment by giving a few hundred rupees to a policeman.
36. A policeman receiving bribe.
37. Any kind of bribe giving and taking.
38. Refusing to attend clients and their grievances when you are in a position to help them.
39. Pretending that the government has given you a job to earn salary and believing in it.
40. Refusing to work before and after the office hours.
41. Extending lunch hour into lunch hours.
42. Playing cards or other kinds of games in the office premises.
43. Using the government facilities for personal purposes.
44. Asking for a work of art against an article written in a hardly read newspaper.
45. Gallerists refusing to give the works back to the artists.
46. Gallerists sending out bouncing checks to the artists.
47. Artists trying to pretend themselves as cutting edge when they are in fact traditional or modern.
48. Artists trying to speak in accented English while they know that they had spent their half of the life speaking their mother tongue.
49. Artists pretending to be gays when they are in a gallery run by gay couples.
50. Artists taking money in cash (if they pay tax, it is fine).
51. Gallerists paying artists in suitcases and designer clothes stuffed with banknotes (Those good old days look so remote and sepia toned).
52. Attending seminars and pretending that they understand everything.
53. Writing in convoluted English to make others believe that anything made difficult commands respect from the readers.
54. Not questioning authorities thinking that it would deter our progress in job or profession.
55. Accepting offers which we are sure that we are incapable of performing to the client’s satisfaction.
56. Lobbying in the name of culture.
57. Calling names to the ones who blow the whistle.
58. Believing too much in Milton who has said, ‘they also serve who stand and stare’.
59. Not going for casting vote.
60. Refusing to give the voters’ id card to the deserving people.
61. Gallerists refusing to acknowledge critics and curators.
62. Art teachers specialized in miniature paintings, terracotta sculptures and folk art running special courses on contemporary art and drawing salaries without any prick of conscience.
63. Using public platforms for private ends.
64. We don’t allow untrained pilots to fly planes. We don’t allow unskillful doctors to operate us. But we allow untrained art historians to teach our artists.
65. Drawing salary for thirty years for doing nothing to the students.
66. Hailing below average humorists as world class graphic novelists and artists.
67. Considering white skin as the best thing ever happened in the world.
68. Considering anything from outside your country as truth and best.
69. Artists from moderate origins smelling wine before they drink it and at times refuse it as if they were born in a castle in Scotland.
70. Businessmen calling themselves art experts.
71. Tired artists becoming Biennale organizers and refusing to be transparent and tell the world how they use up the government funds.
72. Refusing to consider bikers, cycle wallahs, rickshaw wallahs and so on as human beings.
73. Pretending to be intellectuals.
74. Enjoying David Dhavan movies secretly and talking about Iranian movies in public.
75. Covering Mills and Boon books with Arundhati Roy’s or Noam Chomsky’s book cover.
76. Feeling guilty after extra marital affairs (if you do it, don’t feel guilty).
77. Torturing the partner during the divorce process.
78. Teasing women.
79. Refusing to treat old people with grace and dignity.
80. Old art critics wearing young girls’ clothes.
81. Eating while talking over phone.
82. Spending unusual amount of time on pornographic sites and prevent children from even looking at Modigliani painting.
83. Making partners to act out what you had seen in your net during the day.
84. Being a male chauvinist in public and private spaces.
85. Being a female chauvinist in public and private spaces.
86. Speaking in Hindi to dark skinned artists thinking that dark skinned people don’t speak English.
87. Spitting all over.
88. Speaking when it is not necessary.
89. Keeping silence when it is not necessary.
90. Refusing to show discipline in public and private life while showing a lot of love for the country.
91. Giving and taking dowry.
92. Spending too much on marriages.
93. Refusing to believe that a society without charity is possible. That means one needs to strive for equal rights and justice.
94. Flooding the roads on week days in the name of religion.
95. Not respecting others’ religious sentiments.
96. Cleaning roads for the religious leaders to walk on and littering the same with the food and plastic waste once the leaders pass.
97. Trying to behave cool when you are not really cool.
98. Forgetting love.
99. Forgetting sex out of love and vice versa.
100. Helping to establish Brahminism even in the field of art (one good thing about this is that former sudras could have membership in this newly formed brahminical structure. In religious brahminism, it is not possible).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Opening Shots of Collective Nouns by Manjunath Kamath- A Photo Feature

(Collective Nouns, Manjunath Kamath at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai)

(Display view)

(The Pregnant Bed)

(Foot in the Mouth)

(one of the paintings on the display)

(Priyashree Patodia and Usha Gawde)

(Jitendra Bowni, Babu Eshwar Prasad, Murali Cheeroth, Vivek Vilasini, JohnyML)

(G.R.Iranna and Manjunath Kamath)

(Bhavna Kakkar and Vivek Vilasini)

(Veer Munshi and Yashodhara Dalmia)

(Jitendra Bowni)

(Sanjay and Valay Shinde)

(Chintan Upadhyay)

(Sudarshan Shetty)

(Geetha Mehra and Kanika)

(Manjunath Kamath and Somu Desai)

(JohnyML and G.R.Iranna)

(Mr.Janghiani and Qaroon Thapar)

(Rajendra of Art Journal)

(Sanjeev Khandekar, JohnyML and Abhijeet Tamhane)

(Abhijeet Tamhane and Sanjeev Khandekar)

(Khan Shyam Dasgupta)

(Krishna Nayak)

(Murali Cheeroth)

(Sudarshan Shetty)

(Vaishali Narkar)

(Anant Joshi)

(Veer Munshi)

(Geetha Mehra)

(Babu Eshwar Prasad)


(Medha Prabhakar and Abhijeet Tamhane)

(Manjunath Kamath and Yashwant Deshmukh)

(Manjunath Kamath and Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery)

(Usha Gawde)

(Sunil Gawde and Gopal Mirchandani)

(Vidya Kamath)

(Gopal Mirchandani)

(Chintan Upadhyay)