Sunday, November 2, 2014

A little Jazzy

I went to this Jazz performance organized by the India Habitat Center as part of the Delhi International Arts Festival. That was last evening. A Czech quartet performed with the chelo and violin. An hour or so. I was late for the performance. Generally I am one who respects performances and always makes it a point to be seated well before the beginning of the performance. But an unforeseen traffic condition was responsible for my late arrival. Fortunately I had friends reserving a seat for me. They had even denied it to a pretty girl who had asked if it was available. It was a very hearty gesture on the part of testosterone charged young males fuelled by flamboyant “pick up” acts by suave Hollywood actors on screen.

But back to the point. The Jazz. The quartet. The amazing symphony in the air. From the moment I sat down, I was captivated. The music was enchanting. Alluring. Beyond description even with the difficult words that my English school teacher had taught me. I was transported to a different timezone and space altogether. With my eyes closed I suddenly found myself on the streets of Florence. The sinewy cobbled streets, the ancient stone buildings, the rustic iron gates, the narrow charming streets, dimly lit by the golden glow of the street lamps hunching over from the stony pavements or crooning from the tall houses. And I was walking in these streets. Like a hundred other beautifully dressed people. With smiles on their faces and arms around each other. And some of them even did a little jig with the music! And the pretty women had bouquets in their arms. The men all wore crisp shirts and had their arms through their partners’. And they leaned against each other. Some shared a cone of gelato. Some ate queer Paninis. And they all smiled.

And suddenly the rhythm changed. And I was teleported again. To a scene from very many years ago. I was inside a cartoon. A cat chased a mouse…to the rhythms of the quartet. A mischievous grey cat with a white dipstick tail and a diminutive brown mouse with pink ears! And a burly bulldog who was convinced that the cat was the cause for all his troubles. And they ran hither and thither, chasing each other, hitting posts, stepping on rakes, running into frying pans! It was a chaotic comedy. From years of the past. When tears were rare and jokes were simple. When comedy was not bounded by age. When father and sons sat together and shared a laugh over the same television show. Parental guidance was a term which we hadn’t heard of yet.

And then again the tunes changed. I was now in a ball room. The ones they had in those old Hollywood movies…set in Austria. And there were beautifully dressed women around me. They wore long satin dresses. That seemed to float as they moved. And they had blue eyes and they always seemed to sigh as they spoke. The men had very carefully set hair. And black coats. With shiny boots. And they danced with the women. Holding them at the waists and swirling them around in sync with the music. And the women sighed. That’s all they seemed to do. And smile. The music peaked and troughed and they danced to the tempo…floating gracefully around or bobbing with the beats. And there were was champagne being served…in quaintly shaped glasses on silver oval trays by men with white gloves.

The music stopped. There was clapping all around. Even a few hoots. It was a standing ovation. For the quartet who now stood side by side bowing to the audience. I got up too. Clapped. The show was over. People started to leave. As I left the auditorium with my friends I felt very light. The music was still playing in my head. All I had known about jazz was only a name that I had heard. John Coltrane. That’s just it. But now I felt very different. I felt like an enlightened soul. I did a jig up the stairs. A little tap of the feet too…

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

13.08.2014 Musings...

I thought I’d ask her whether they were dating now? I flipped open the “Whatsapp” screen. “Dating” would be a weird term to use since they were already so intimate…and “boyfriend” seemed too childish and shallow. So I decided not to ask. I couldn’t decide which word to use… I felt that no matter which word I used, I would either offend her or risk being whisked away as a joke from a jealous former boyfriend. There! The word boyfriend sounds so shallow! It is in no way indicative of the relationship we shared. So, I let it be…pressed the “home” button on my cell phone. I let the music play on my cell phone as the office rushing crowd in the metro rail kept squeezing the life out of me…”Lights will guide you home…”. Coldplay.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Led by the light...

The wasp was feisty
He was stubborn
He would not give up
He was possessed
Possessed by the thought of reaching the light
The light that glittered alone in the dark
All the swatting hands
Through the dark of the night
Ever so intent to take him down
Smash his wings and break his bones.
The light led him on
The light from the candle…
He dodged and he ducked,
He fought the wind
And his eyes lit up…
He was close, he could feel the warmth
Now there was nothing more
Just the light from the candle
And when he thought he was going to grab out
The flame lashed out
Engulfed him.
It was all suddenly pitch black.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happier times

I told myself that this blog post had to speak of happy times. This is something I learnt at work. Not everything (almost nothing actually) will be the way you want it to be. Especially the people. The people are always going to do things that you don’t want them to do. But you must learn to keep quiet and accept it because not everyone thinks like you. Unless something is absolutely necessary, don’t go worrying your head about how you are going to change it or complain about how things are not the way they should be. Just take a deep breath…look away…and tell yourself that there is nothing there. So, I shall speak of happier times! (God knows why I came up with that expression!)

 Happier times in the school auditorium…bunking classes with the excuse of rehearsals for performances that didn’t need rehearsals because the acts ran through our veins. The knack to entertain was our gift at birth. Happier times during walks back from tuition to save Rs 5 on the bus fare and ending up with a chicken roll on the 3rd day of money saved. Those brisk walks when two friends spoke of Irodov and Backstreet Boys, of f(x) and f’(x), of growing up and changing the world. Happier days playing “Trust Games” at St. Thomas Presbytery and gorging on Chelo Kababs at Peter Cat. Happier times in City Centre and random parks in Salt Lake and going past the “Rainbow House”. People fade but some memories don’t. That winters’ day she wore a red high neck cardigan and cream coloured trousers. And there were white Polka dots on purple!

Happier times in CH 2-2 where the benches were nailed to the floor. Of exams and exchanged papers. Of rooftops and beer bottles. Ghosts in the Food Tech Department and plastic guns. Happier times on the field where we ran barefeet, in jeans and all…till our backs ached and sweated so much that nobody wanted to sit beside us in public transport.

 Happier times of unknowingly falling in love. Happy times outside the Open Air Theatre with cheap mocktails. Of waiting at 8B bus stand. Of letting numerous buses pass with excuse of them being overcrowded, just to see which bus she got on to and quickly rushing home to check the route of that bus on Google. Happier times of walking to Jadavpur Police Station. Happier times of when we rushed for the seat just above behind the rear tower in the Prince Anwar Shah Nimtala minibus. Of times when I let my stop pass so that she wouldn’t have to travel alone the rest of the way to her own stop. Happier times of getting lost in search of the Maidan. Happier times running with a bottle of Slice after the bus. Happier times on JUPC outings and dark room sessions. Happier times at the French Loaf. Happier times in the “ Garage Ghor”.

That’s a lot of happy times for one night. Its 1: 38 AM now. The 30 long playlist has played 2 times over now while I was writing all this down. If I had written down each and every happy time that came to mind, then I could have published a book. Some memories are best kept as secrets…to take with us to our deathbeds. And am I happy now? Well I never said that I wasn’t in the first place. Till the next time, follow knowledge like a sinking star…

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Perfect Picture

There is something bizarrely blissful about waking up in your own bed. When I say my own bed, I mean the bed I have woken up in for 22 years…not just any bed in a dusty overhyped town in north India. It has been some time away from home now. I am going on the ninth month presently. It isn’t a new life or a new city for me anymore. I was never really the sentimental types to miss home and family to be brooding over the idea of staying far away from home for too long. In fact, the thought hardly ever crossed my mind. From the moment I arrived, I was one determined bull dog. I hadn’t come here to settle down. I had come here to take what I had to take and leave. Till this day, that thought drives me on. Like a vagabond, refusing to settle down and uncertain of my next destination. Sometimes I feel I tend to become too hungry. Everything takes its own time. That time is good. It teaches you a lot of things. And the world and its people aren’t exactly the types who would step aside and let you pass just because you are running very fast and making a lot of noise about it. They would rather box you in from all sides, burn the rubber of your wheels, slow you down and suck you in…suck you in to their own sweet pace which seems to you to be as good as stagnant. That’s how the world is actually. It really doesn’t matter does it? Whether you admit it or not, you NEED those fellows. They are the ones who make you look “awesome”. If everybody thought like you and everybody worked like you want them to, then you wouldn’t be enjoying all the attention you are getting now would you? So you accept them for who they are. You can’t control them…besides they are inherently confused. So just let it be.

Ahhhhh where was I ? The waking up in your own bed part… Wake up and you know you don’t have to worry about breakfast. There happens to be an elderly lady sitting in the veranda wondering what to make for you. You happen to call her your mother. Bathroom time is also fun. Singing at the top of your voice on the pot is so much more satisfying than having to wash clothes in the bucket. The smell of omelette fills the air. It has been SO long that you have had an omelette that the smell alone is filling enough. You eat more breakfast than the entire food you have all day on other days. Even before you finish your food, you proudly announce what you want to have for lunch. It seems impossible that you might even feel hungry before dinner time if you take into consideration the two eggs that you gobbled down with the bread and baked beans. I forgot to mention the peanuts you kept munching on while the eggs were being fried.

After breakfast it is time to read the newspaper…the newspaper which has been reduced to a 10 minute reading marathon in your PC at work every morning. There isn’t really a lot happening around the world to make headlines…just a crazy lady doing a bad job posing to be the Chief Minister of a perpetually hopeful state. It is more a comic relief than any headline. When you are done, you go and lie down...amongst the familiar smell of fried fish and the clanking of metal vessel from the neighbour’s kitchen. You lie down on your stomach and stare out of the window. The sparrows still come to sit on the branches of the tree in your courtyard. You wonder if they are the same sparrows who used to come 8 months ago. Probably not, you tell yourself. There is a sudden weight on your back! It makes you cry out in pain. You try to fight it off…but it just keeps on getting heavier! Before you know it, there is a whole lot of hair on your neck and you can make out a hard temple pushing against you shoulder blades! As the weight decreases and hands grab your sides and squeeze your breath out, you know its your Dada. The bear hug relaxes and he collapses on top of you like a dead weight. It feels kind of good and you wish he stays like that forever…yet after a few seconds you groan at him to get off like you have always done. And as he lies there beside you, both of you gaze at your father…in his trademark whites. He sits at his table scribbling something. He never seems to run out of things to write. You stare at the wrinkles on his forehead. He catches a glimpse of the two of you, lazing like sloths on the bed. For an instant you can see the edge of his lips curl in a smile and his chest inflates a few inches. He goes back to his scrawnings and scribbling. That very moment…in mid April…on a not so hot summer day…in the panting City of Joy…in a place called home, you were part of a perfect picture.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bits of life

I can hear the whistle. I am on board a train again. It’s the third time in 6 days. AC 2 tier upper bunk, Bengali Aunty travelling with her dad on the lower seats, young couple making faces at their adorable little kid on the side bunk, Chinese mobile phones playing “Aj ei din ta ke” at unimaginably loud volume, Air Conditioning at full blast right at my face. That’s the scene here. Add to it the fact that the only food I have had in the entire day is insufficient amounts of Jeera rice and Dal that was mostly soup. I am regretting the fact that I decided to skip breakfast since I was late. I have no idea what led me to be really confident that they must be serving dinner on the Yashwantpur-Howrah Express but since its 8:45 p.m already and I have not seen any signs of any of the IRCTC crew, I keep saying sorry to my growling stomach. The fact that the old man in front of me and the father daughter duo below me have all opened up neatly packed tiffin boxes seems to have driven the final nail in the coffin. Oh well, 6 months away from the luxuries of home has taught me to just accept certain situations.
The only thing that has kept me going through this journey thus far is Chetan Bhagat. Thank heavens I picked up the copy of Revolution 2020 as I had hurried past the entrance to the station. I was reluctant initially because it would mean parting with a major share of the Rs 250/- I was carrying with me (thanks to shitty SBI ATM at the station that dispenses no cash). Chetan Bhagat my man. That patent style of his. No I cant describe what stands out in the way he writes. It’s the entire package. The thoughts, the words, the euphemistic sarcasm and the weird brush on reality. I am not really a great fan of the stroylines he comes up with but I am definitely a fan of the little bits and pieces he so masterfully portrays from the eyes of a realist. I have only gone through about 80 pages now. I have no idea what this story is shaping up to be. But already I am in love with this book. The ironies, the sarcasm, the comic references, the pain and the natural human reactions…all of this expressed in words for which we never have to look up the dictionary. That is what is Chetan Bhagat. I don’t give a damn what this story eventually ends up to be (in my opinion except 5 point someone, all the rest of the stories were outrageously dumb) because in this book, once again I can feel the essence of Bhagat. The smoothness and the lazy lingering around simple thoughts that propelled him to stardom.
The IRCTC guy brought two trays filled with dinner for the Bengali father daughter. Must be the second course in their dinner. I asked him about mine.He looks at me flabbergasted and says, “Did you order?” “Am I supposed to?”, I ask him. Apparently, food is not included in the ticket fare. We are supposed to order it. When I asked him why he didn’t ask me for my order he enquires of where I boarded the train. When I said “Vizag”, he tells me that he had taken the orders before Vizag. God knows why do we have to give order for dinner before 4 pm! I was preparing to go back to Mr. Bhagat without any regrets (see what only 6 months away from home does to your sense of adjusting?) when old uncle in front of me says, “Sorry, I have finished my dinner already but would you like some butter milk and sweets?”. For a moment I didn’t know what to say. So I said the usual…”No its ok. Its not a problem”. ( I said it in an amazingly casual tone and surprised myself. See what 6 months away from home and working in a MNC does to brushen up your communication skills?). But he insisted. He was already thrusting two packets of buttermilk at my face. I made a few quick calculations in my head. Now, it is my principle not to take anything from any stranger on a train. This doubles up when I am travelling alone. But I quickly reasoned that the packet was sealed and from Visakha Dairy, I had seen him sucking on one such packet just moments before and the guy has been reading the works of Swami Vivekanada for the last 3 hours. The last reason trumped everything else. I have tremendous respect for Swami Vivekananda and the strength of his words. Any person who could read his works for 3 hours, was definitely not a goon trying to knock me out with spyked drinks and rob me. So I held my hand out for the packets. And then after the logical realist in me had succumbed to the genuine kindness of this man, the softer guy in me felt good. Actually, he felt great that you could still run into such warm people on random train rides (see what 6 months away from home does to the emotional part of you?). As I munched on the Milk Peda he had given me, I asked him whether he was from Vizag. A little conversation here and there…and I kept it simple…not probing too much (see what 6 months away from Bengal and nosy Bengalis do to you?). I asked him whether it was his first time to Kolkata. The UCO bank employee admited that it was the first time he was going to Kolkata…he had some training programme in Saltlake. I advised him to take a taxi from the station since it is very far.
He is fast asleep now. As I take one more look at him, I see a simple Telegu bank employee about 50 years old, using his worn out bag as a pillow and sleeping with a smile on his face. Nice guy, I say to myself. I think I should have told him “Thank you” one more time. I had thanked him thrice already though. The Bengali aunty below me has finished schiding her father about how he should eat his food and how he should do this and not do that. She never forgets to throw in those English phrases and words in her typical Bengali accent! She is now on the phone with her mother complaining about her husband and how insensitive and egoistic he is. I better get back to Mr. Bhagat…Oh wait, whats this…SMS!

Saturday, December 31, 2011


The last thread binding me to my College days has tweaked. Convocation was my last excuse to go back through the hallowed gates, smell the fresh and youthful fragrance of the greeneries. Even as the day appraoched, I was more apprehensive than excited. No I did not bother too much about whether I would get my degree or not…that wasn’t really an issue. But somewhere in my heart a question kept fighting to grab my attention…”What next?”
Even as I got off the bus on the cold winter morning, there was a skip in my gait. I could have taken the cab. It would have saved time and also been more comfortable. But I wanted to do things the way I did them for 4 wonderous years. And as the cold December wind lashed at our faces, most of the passengers in the bus squinted and gritted their teeth in disgust. But to me it felt like heaven…so unlike the modest winters in Vizag from where I had arrived the day before, it felt like home…23 years of my life summed up into that chilly breeze in that hackneyed bus at that very moment! The University has hardly changed. Only the bank has been repainted (orange seems the weird favourite for all JU ites!)
We met. All of us. After 6 months. The best friends…the groups…the duos and the trios! They were all there! The geeks and the rockstars, the dudes and the duds! The wannabes and the carefrees. They were all there. And we hugged. And slapped each others’ backs. We shouted when we saw each other. We swore in joy. We called each other names that we hadn’t been refered to by for many months now. And we all felt the same. We had all gone back in time. We had all gone back to those days when we enjoyed the liberty to be who we really were…not any ambitious and diplomatic young man working his way up the corporate ladder. We all knew we were in a place where we had very little to hide…and where we felt safe…we were among friends.
We collected our degrees, we played cards, we revelled in Park Street. But all of that seems an unclear dream now. So much of it happened in a day. What remains is just a handful of emotions and sensations that keep coming back to my mind suddenly. Suddenly over an aromatic cup of coffee, suddenly looking at myself in the mirror when I wash my face, suddenly when I close my eyes at night, suddenly when I tie my old shoe laces and suddenly when I feel down.
All of us have memories of college. For some of us they are sweet. For some of us they are bitter. Some are simple…and some quite dramatic! In college we had friends…and we hated many of our classmates. We hated their guts…or we hated their ways. But still we miss them. We miss them because they are part of that perfect picture in our minds. Without them, that picture would not be real. They are what make that picture perfect.
When we parted that day, I knew that it was the last time I was going to meet many of them out of my own will. So I took one last look at them. The JU Chemical Engineering Batch of 2007-2011. It was one hell of a group. As we stepped up to collect our degrees, each of us felt it…felt that this was the end. To some of us, the position in the line was important…at what number were we called up to collect our degrees…our prestigious ranks in class. But for most of us ( the slightly level headed ones), it was a moment of flashback…a flashback of 4 years…4 years during which not even for an instant had we thought of this moment…this moment of the end!

PS- This post was written on the flight back to Vizag from Kolkata.