I favour strong words such as dick and bitch across genders. There’s something very satisfying about calling a large man a bitch and prissy woman a dick, to their face.
But I’m searching for something more apt. How’s tit? “You’re such a tit, man.” “Don’t be a tit about it.”
Is it already taken?
You take a day off because you can’t pull yourself to work. Your body won’t sputter to a start, the key won’t turn the mind’s ignition and the organs are murmuring mutiny.
It could be the runs you’ve had twice this week; it could be your old friend the weak sinus who has come to visit; maybe gym activity is like gang-rape, the treadmill declaring “You asked for it” after passing you among his friends.
All you want is a day of being quiet and holed up and unreachable.
But you *have* woken up. You’ve gathered your nerve and called in sick. You’ve forgiven yourself for this one day’s lapse. And now you can’t go back to sleep.
You can’t sleep in an empty house. You turn off your phone and then fantasise about the emergencies you’re missing. You promise to write that one important story and spend a few hours chasing your subjects. You guiltily visit your old lover, the TV.
But you are strangers now. He’s got channels you don’t recognise; you’ve lost touch with your old programmes. Sometimes, you don’t even speak the same language. You hang around for an hour, surfing shows, looking for traces of the old spark but Faiz Ahmed Faiz is in your head:
… I have reached that age when one visits the heart merely as a courtesy.
You resign to the bed, but find no peace. The list of all the things you’ve put aside to do on that One Day Off is here to collect its pound of flesh. After tossing about for half an hour, you find yourself in the kitchen, making raspberry jelly, trying to decide between dosa and maggie; thinking of that other grandparent, who wasn’t really a grandparent, who nonetheless let you hold his service revolver at six; who called for you in the ICU to say good-bye.
Know now that you will seek sunlight and end up in that valley of the living dead — the neighbourhood mall. Where a colleague’s sister’s neighbour will see you and relay to your boss that you weren’t so sick after all.
I’m expecting two friends over today… well two of Tushar’s friends really. Our lives have merged together so much over the past seven years that they’re all Tushar’s friends now and all I have is a merlin.
As I was saying… we’re having two friends over today and I hope to spend the weekend mimicking my earlier life, which was avoiding reality using mild intoxication.
Which is hard now. I went to a friend’s house yesterday, for work. And after I was done, he urged me to hang about. This was the hardest hanging about I’ve done in a while.
I kept thinking: For what? What do we do now? Do you have an itinerary? HOW ARE WE GOING TO HANG AROUND DOING NOTHING? WE HAVE TO HAVE A LIST OF THINGS TO DO WHILE HANGING ABOUT.
The tension rose with every minute and he finally had to order his big dog to sit on me stop the struggling as he forced a nervine tonic down my throat and then we were all right.
Except that the dog started talking to me. Which is not the problem because I’m good with languages. He started speaking in konkani, which reminded me of my dead grandmother, and all the wonderfully violent things she would say. E.g. Say you’re ill. Really ill. And insist on going to work/school/college. To that my grandma would say: Baghte kashe zaate. Tangdach todun thevin. (We’ll see how you go. I’ll just break your legs so you can’t move).
Or if you misbehaved, she’d threaten to hang you upside down from the fan and smoke red chillies under you.
My favourite was when you’d get hurt, she’s light a ghee lamp, singe a cotton ball and press it to the wound.
I think the problem is this: I don’t have a plan for the afterlife.
We didn’t have a very religious upbringing and just made stuff along as we went. The broad concept was that when you died, you went to God. I don’t know what you did with God and how you’d even talk to a guy you’d spent a lifetime worrying about looking over your shoulder. It wasn’t unlike being called to the principal’s office. You’d sit there, across a large desk on chair from where your feet couldn’t reach the ground, while he went around his business of seeing what everyone was up to.
Maybe he’d look up and ask me the tables beyond 5 and then in my afterlife, I would actually have to learn all of them instead of just adding together like I did in exams.
At some point they told me about going through the entire cycle of births for even the slightest fuck up and I realised I could not win. If I’m going to have to go through the entire evolutionary cycle (from single cell organism to the wonder that is man) for blaming the mess on my brother, nirvana was a long long long time ahead.
I spent the last two years of school in a convent and got interested in Christianity, mainly because they had more fun. They had society sanctioned ball which allowed close interaction with boys, *hip names like Rita and Rosie, did the jive and wore frocks all the time. I started going to church and talking to the priest, who gave me a copy of the Bible. I skipped past all the confusing chapters to the Revelations, because everyone knows the Revelations are the important bit? That’s what the movies say.
So the sinners go to hell and the god fearing go to heaven, which are clearly different in landscaping and entertainment.
But they specified parameters for sinners and I was in the clear, except that they didn’t mention anything about non-paos. I asked my friend, who pointed downwards and waved bye-bye. There was not much choice there. Even though the Revelations freaked the hell out of me to the point that I started praying fervently to Mary mid-reading, there was no way my parents were going to allow me to convert. I was 14 and parental approval was crucial seeing how they could just change my school and freedom of reading.
Then there were some inputs from Theosophists and Buddhists about the different planes and how the soul advances through these levels by shedding negative baggage.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven says each of us creates a heaven for ourselves to wait out eternity or the time till the next shuffle. That is probably the least convincing version of the afterlife
In adulthood, I settled for generic cynicism. You die, don’t pass Go, head for the white light and if you have strong feelings about afterlife, you’ll see St Peter, or a few virgins (or at least technically virgins), or the bare desert you have to cross with only your own faith. If you are low on belief, you’ll see painted backdrops, pulleys and ropes and some giggly girls in long dresses that must be a bitch to keep clean.
You may not meet your friends, your dogs, your relatives.
My grandmother was a Tuesdays-Thursdays-Shravan vegetarian, fasting-on-the-right-days kind of Hindu. According to a more graphic description, she’s hanging-upside down over a canyon, waiting for her descendants to hurry up and bear children so that she can be reborn.
So in my case, she’s upside-down, ranting and threatening to break my legs if I don’t get knocked up. Not very different from what she did here. At least the view is different.
*To be honest, the attraction to those names was more a part of my pre-10 years.
Does this happen to you? You want to write, but there’s nothing to write about. I have about five “topics” in mind and if you were my editor, I would earnestly spin them into stories, ask a shrink for an opinion and tie it all up with a sweet pirated semi-nude picture.
You know what the problem is? Wait, I know what the problem is.
I am stuck. I’m stuck in life and terribly horribly bored. I’ve been in the same job for the past three years and living in the same suburb for nearly 16.
Please don’t say heartless things like at least you have a job and your health. There is a name for a situation like this — our classical friend calls it the Limbo. The last exciting thing to happen to me was in 2007.
I could really use a change. A change in work, a change in home, a change in city. I’ll even settle for a change in floors.
So this is my ultimatum, universe. I have it on good authority that you spend a lot of time on the internet and take advice from bloggers on how to avoid inter-stellar catastrophes.
I want to move out of this city. I want to move to another country. I’d like a fun-er job. Please.
I want out. I have done my time.
I talk in my sleep. Did you know that? Of course you didn’t. That’s because we don’t sleep together. Should we try?
I used to speak, say once or twice a year, but lately the frequency has gone up to once every few weeks and in the last week, every alternate day.
Needless to say, TB is enjoying himself. When there’s nothing on TV, he perches on the headboard and stares at me with his beady eyes. And when I say something, he sqawks and flies away to the kitchen.
Now you’re thinking: “That’s nothing special. My sleeping partner is a bit of a cock himself. That’s doesn’t mean I mumble in my sleep.”
But I don’t mumble. I talk! I sit up, open my eyes and say full sentences that have no reference. Here are a few examples:
1. I bolt upright, stare straight ahead and say, “What the fuck am I doing here?”
2. Wave out and say, “Why didn’t you remind me about Namrata’s magazine?
3. “Is this when I take off my clothes?”
“Is it time to take off my clothes?”
Snuggle back to sleep.
4. “Are you sure you want to get into acting?”
5. Sit up, stroke TB’s head and ask him in a loving voice: Why did you decide not to sign up?
I’m going to add a widget to the side and update every time I say something. Because our relationship is on trust, I made Tushar swear on Boo that he wasn’t making this up. You’ll know if anything happens.
Stimulus: What does Yad VaShem mean?
1. “Everlasting place, or literally, I think it means a name and a place. It comes from a biblical phrase. It’s symbolic and literal because Nazis tried to reduce Jews to numbers and there were obviously no graves or markers for the those murdered in the Holocaust. So it’s a symbol of resurrection and resistance.”
2. Google shows that the phrase comes from Isiah 56:5: And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad VaShem) that shall not be cut off.
3. The mind goes back to the Wikipedia page about Adolf Eichmann and how after his execution, his ashes were scattered over the Mediterranean so that no future memorial could exist.
4. Names are important. Civilisation is our weapon against the anonymity of death. Which is why death rites are so ceremonious. Deviate from even the smallest ritual and you slap the face of a community/clan.
5. So when Rakhee refuses to surrender the ashes of her murdered husband to the Ganges, she’s refusing to let him pass away peacefully from the community’s conscience. She keeps them in a trunk and completes the last rite only when Bhishamber and Bhanu Nath are killed.
6. That shot where Lakhan shoves wads of bribe money in the trunk, not realising his father’s ashes lay there is a symbol of how she may fail…
Result: Urge to immediately download Ram Lakhan.
Obama reminds me of these lines from Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
There was a eucalyptus tree behind the watchman’s cabin at one entrance to the school. I used that entrance more than any other because I was dropped there my father in the mornings and took a private bus home in the afternoons. For that reason, it was more special to me than other paths. I walked in through it long before the most children came. A whole school, its paths, trees, chalks and blackboards at my disposal.
In winter, the tree sprouted new leaves which were transparent and red. When the evening sun shone through them, they looked gold. I learnt what that tree was and would tear off leaves to crush and smell. Amazed each time. I couldn’t pluck them when they were gold.
I remember standing one day after school on the path that sloped towards that gate. It was during exams, which meant that school ended early but the buses came at the usual time, giving us a cherished hour or 45 minutes to play in the chill. The best time of the year.
I was stopped in my tracks by the pressure of the moment. It was one of those times you can feel a memory being made. A memory that will stab your heart — two, 10 or forty years later.
The noise of children in the playgrounds on the left and right, who have no use for sweaters. Groups of friends stumbling out of classes, laughing, crouching against the wind, discussing the papers. Older girls parading, watching the boys shoot hoops. Boys shooting hoops and exaggerating their disappointment for the girls.
Me in the centre in my white jacket with brush splats of purple and pink. Breeze on my 10-year-old calves. The tree glowing. Anticipating the flavour of the Hit biscuits in my backpack. Sad that the moment would be gone as soon as I moved.
I was at Bombay’s “beloved” Taj a few weeks before the terror attack. As I passed through the security gate, the lady at the door kindly held my purse. She gave it to me, without screening it, when I stepped out the other end. If I had a cartoonic bundle of red sticks labelled DYNAMITE, she wouldn’t know it.
I expect the government to be negligent. But you, Mr Tata, you lack neither the money nor the know-how to protect your jewel. You are not shackled by bureaucratic or lack of funds or agencies.
Just because you were a victim, doesn’t mean you weren’t responsible.
merlin’s toys couldn’t get the song out of their head either.