Saturday, May 28, 2005
One thing's for sure: the food here is fabulous. This is the most fulfilling article ever.
Friday, May 27, 2005
How much love can one take? In this matter, I've learnt today, it is best to exercise some restraint. No more blogging till tomorrow. I'm recovering from love.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
It's still young, but it has a shape already. Check it out. He's in New York now, and as sharp as ever about what the game's up to.
It was literally like a restaurant in a house. You walk through the living room to make your order in the dining room. From there you settle into an adjoining bedroom with leather couches and are lulled into a motionless state by pleasant music. Glass walls separate rooms where the scene played out is similar: college heros and their heroines slumped on couches with a hookah pipe in their hand and a glazed look in their eyes, heads swaying gently to the music.
There he had his hookah, a double-apple, and tried blowing out smoke in rings while scandalised younger cousins watched in awe. "Can I try it?" asked the seven-year-old.
"No. You have to wait until you're in the tenth standard."
"You can blow smoke from your mouth and nostrils, but can you blow it out of your ears?"
Entirely apt conversation in a smoky haze in a coffee shop that's actually a house in Indore at 3:30 in the afternoon.
This is a far cry from something I had heard in Delhi. A politician from Bihar had recently moved to Vasant Vihar. Upon discovering that influential Biharis lived there, he promised them that cows would be allowed free rein there. So he opened up the gates to several farms and cows, lots of cows, now park themselves on the streets of what is a rather pretty area. It could just be a story. But I did see the cows.
But up where we were, there was a different spectacle. In the distance a single layer of thick clouds stretched across the horizon, like an unreal world floating above the real one. They were dark grey and white and grey and pale. They were the same colour as the clouds in John Constable's paintings after his wife died. This was where Odin and Thor and all my Marvel-Comic-characters would play and woo and wage war. This was our monsoon.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
It has everything to do with closing the magazine. Yeah, that's it.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Unlike a typical adventurer, the pilgrim seeks not to conquer the worlds he visits but to surrender to them; and unlike a missionary, he seeks not to preach but, in the silence of his supplication, to listen. A pilgrim does not have to be moving toward something holy, I think, so much as toward whatever resides in the deepest part of him: It could be a poet who gave wings to his soul, or a lover who broke his heart open.Or a writer looking for nice travel writing. More Pico. More truths. Read the full thing.
Cut to a hospital. She lies in bed with a bandage wrapped across her eyes. The doctors unwrap it slowly, as we grow more anxious, bursting with sympathy for this flower. Yes, it turns out she is blind. So she must wear Sunglasses. Big bulky ones that look like two black television screens. A lover places them over her eyes and leaves in tears. Another man enters her life, but she is doomed to blindness. Nothing can be done. Or can it? After sharing life for a while, he pays for her operation and she can see again. Such kindness. Now she will never leave him. Or will she? Her old lover appears at her doorstep one day with a rose, catching her and her new boyfriend off-guard. She rushes forth with her passions to reunite with her former lover.
This is for the videos that put the entertainment back in music, for those that put women where they really belong: in cholis three sizes too small. The ones that are timeless for they skip the 60s and 70s, and aim straight for the stone age, where men watch the mating dance with intoxicated eyes before dragging a mate by her mane. The ones where emotions never simmer, they roar, for happiness is depicted in a mile-wide smile, anger with an ugly frown; think yahoo emoticons on people's faces. Yes, this is for those videos. The ones that deserve The Storyboard Treatment.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
This is a change from being on the web team, where so much happens that sometimes I want to go missing.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
That's one matter. The other is, there are workers who walk on the edge of this skyscraper without a safety device. There are no nets, not even a rope attached to the waist. I see them on the ledge on the 16th floor, balancing precariously - it always looks precarious at that height - on the 19th floor, heck, even a fall from the first floor could hurt some. Do the workers even know they're supposed to have some sort of safety nets? I'm going the easy way and blaming the builder on this one. He has a real-estate empire in Bombay, and though his money-making skills are respected, the methods aren't. Yes, it's possible in Bombay to build a posh building and tell the government its actually middle-income housing, while selling each apartment for over $350,000 - that'll get you three brownstone flats in Brooklyn. It's possible to build that building without safety procedures. It's even possible to work around-the-clock and disturb the peace around the construction site while the police shuts down Christmas music performances at 10pm.
Bombay, city of dreams; you can do anything here.
Monday, May 16, 2005
For the fourth time in several minutes, the train shudders, eases forward and jolts to a halt. It can't seem to make up its mind. I eye the door. I have snared the only empty compartment on this train, and I'd like to have it all to myself ... The train begins to move again, this time with more of a sense of purpose. We clear the platform and then the station, and for the first time in more than an hour I can breathe easily. But it proves premature because, just then, the door to my compartment opens suddenly and two people enter, one a tall man in his 30s, the other a girlish-looking fellow in his late teens. For a moment I think I'm hallucinating -- that lack of sleep again -- because they're lugging two very large, very ornate mirrors, which they stow in a luggage rack. And then, without speaking a word (they act, in fact, as if they haven't noticed me), they leave.Read the rest of it. It made me want to pack up and get on a train.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Friday, May 13, 2005
Watching a Tendulkar six over midwicket was theatre.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
If life were a song, I’d make it noisy and raucous and loud and loveable. And each breath would have meanings that needn’t always be understood but whose beauty was understood. And the notes of each second would hit high and low, and each note would know its history, and know its place in the world.
A few days ago, I asked a friend whether modern songs had become less memorable, or were we just getting older? She explained to me that songs had changed because this was earlier the domain of poets and writers immersed in poetry. Then standards dipped in the 70s before dying in the 80s – this I can confirm, for the classic of my childhood was a Jeetendra musical called ‘Mama Mia! Pom Pom!’ This left us with Gulzar and, to a lesser degree, Prasoon Joshi, who can write some wonderful songs. But these are only two – there must be more – in an industry of average work.
But I wonder if writers who don’t write for a living can be moved enough to compose songs of their own. Song-writing, from what I hear, can be a personally rewarding experience. With blogs sprouting everywhere, it seems like every other one of us wants to publish a book. A bit of help, and many could adjust to creating songs. It’s exciting to imagine that there’s a talent waiting to be exposed so we can all be blown away and feel songs and music again. But who could? Or should? My nominations are Chandrahas and one other, who I'll link to later. I haven’t read too many blogs, but of the few I read everyday, there’s something of the poet in this bunch.
There's also one more, but she doesn't blog.
Most of the verbs are irregular. Half the idioms make no sense. The [Stanislavian] dictionary is full of words which are almost impossible to translate into any other language.
'Grk' is one of those words. There isn't one single word in English which means exactly the same as 'grk'. To translate it, you would need at least three words, and probably more. In a rough translation, 'grk' means brave, generous and foolish, all at the same time. You would use the word 'grk' to describe a warrior who lost his life in the service of a noble but rather pointless cause.
When Natascha Raffifi was given a tiny puppy by her parents, she thought that he looked very brave, very generous and a tiny bit foolish. So she called him Grk.
One day, I’ll actually get used to this. The jostling for space, as if every second has to be spent moving forward and forward only. I was one such jostler today, battling cars for a right to cross a busy road, as much holding my left arm out valiantly to stop them as to block them from view; if I couldn’t see them, they didn’t exist. Such tricks traffic plays on you.
Anyway, I crossed it to run right into more traffic: the two-legged kind. But this I didn’t mind. This was at Juhu beach, the city’s longest, most visited beach. To get there, you have to pass a great wall of eateries, where boys offer you samosa, dahi wada, dosa, whatnot. I remember these as shacks of dubious exteriors when I was a child, corrected now, visually palatable only because of one of those occasional frenzied modernisation drives that grip Bombay every so often. This was where camels’ owners fought for attention a dozen years ago, where miniature ferris wheels squeaked and rattled to add to our horror as we hung on to life when the wheel reached its terrifying nadir of eight feet. The horses were gone, the air guns that we used to shoot at balloons were gone. Only the people remained.
Only people remain. I found her, arms folded, standing straight as children of a young family ran around her. She was watching the sun go down. It vanished softly, taking its colour with it. The moon was a sliver of white in the sky, lost in the light blue now, but it would distinguish itself soon. (Wait, wait, your turn will come.) So under this ambivalent sky we walked and talked, the direction of both of which were familiar. Joggers bounced by, giggly infants raced ahead and then cried at how far behind their parents were, couples linked fingers and arms and themselves in scattered formations over the beach and voyeurs sat nearby to watch. The seaside is a great provider for all sorts in this pressure-cooked city.
According to her, the roasted ear of corn was good, the chana had too much masala, while the dry bhel was the work of an artist. We ate using strips of a magazine cover as spoons, with only the glow of lanterns and streetlamps lighting the beach. If, at that instant, all the lights went off, there would be shrieks, giggles and the sound of clothes rustling. Power cuts should happen at night, when the pent-up heat in this city needs somewhere to go.
Homes that took us to Goa mixed along the beach with buildings that cruelly brought us back. There was a time when this was Goa. Then things happened, the city grew up, grew beefy, grew mouldy. But she loves this city. Like many other who hate it also love it. But we were far from all that then, far from the city’s sounds and opinions. One by one the families left with their children, leaving the sea sole rights to address our ears and calm us. During the day there is no time to think; at night, by the beach, with the sound of waves in the ears, we are not allowed to think.
On some days we find actors rehearsing for a play in a corner, a cigarette in one hand and a dialoguebook in the other. Always animated, eternally alive to life. Today there were none, so there were no rehearsals and no dialoguebooks. The roles we played were our own. She strode lazily, pausing to ask questions, and then started abruptly and walked quickly if the answer was snide. I would pace behind, stepping on her footprints in the sand until she slowed down. So it went like this: talking, moving forward, tracing footsteps, and then moving backward. It was wonderfully un-Bombay.
And so a day at Juhu passed.
I ran upstairs in a huff on one particularly noisy day and discovered why the 15th floor home had taken over nine months to do up. The floor was of wood, as was the ceiling, the walls, the commode and the bathtub. It was, by far, the most senseless house I had ever seen. Nine months of noise in the morning, afternoon and evening and this is what they come up with? But hope was alive, for their work was gradually ending, as was the next-door neighbours'.
Then one day, the floor went 'tap'. It was a soft tap, as if someone had knocked once. A while later, there came another tap, with more conviction. By the third tap I knew we were dead - construction was about to begin below us. We were in the unenviable position of being under siege by powertools since early 2003. And when this is done, I suspect the guy above will discover his house is a monstrosity and tear everything down.
A silent afternoon. What I'd give for a silent, peaceful afternoon without drilling and sawing and hammering.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
These days hinted long ago that they would come. And they came, jarringly at first, but more fluidly after, perhaps hastened by my recent move to Wisden Asia Cricket, which gives me twenty days to write before production kicks in. Or it could be the 58 books bought in the last three months, including Maps for Lost Lovers.
And it's good to know these mornings could get even better a month from now when the rains come and wash the streets with their own pitter-patter beat.
Monday, May 09, 2005
During rare moments of absolute clarity the road forward appears as muddled as during times of confusion. Do I take the path taken before by my ancestors? It guarantees a degree of fortune, if not fame. Or do I choose the road that appears more desolate? Because trading, not writing, is in my blood? But what of its rewards, those intangibles that leave the sweetest of tastes?
A reward of this nature is difficult to explain to anyone but those who have sought it and tasted it. It is like the first drop of the monsoon or a warm conversation or a meal prepared well. The rewards are beyond value. You feel as if you have been touched by life itself. It is a tempting path to take.
I wonder whether years from now a sindhi child with a wide nose will imagine his predecessors. "Do I take the path taken before by my ancestors?" the child will ponder. "There is fame, but no fortune. Or do I choose the road that appears more desolate? Because writing, not trading, is in my blood?"
Couldn't that cut have come a minute earlier? When she opened her mouth, for instance? The movie was littered with similar sledgehammer instances. Whatever happened to silence and a look that said everything? Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love, for example, spoke with their eyes and bodies. They spoke gently, aware that their own marriages were in peril, as if words would break what held them together. It was subtle, it was beautiful. But then again, Kingdom of Heaven is one of this year's first summer blockbusters.
And subtlety, romantic as it is, isn't a prerequisite in money-spinners.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
His story is by far the most interesting - like magic realism - in what is an overwhelmingly large clan. The youngest son of the youngest son in a brood of eight, he emerged crying, and that's all the sound he could make for years. For three years he strained but remained largely silent. What does one do? Treatment, surely, but doctors said not much could be done. So everyone took turns conversing with him and, in some time, the sounds he had begun forcing out became coherent. Then, suddenly, within months, he spoke with more clarity - both in sound and thought - as if it was nothing new. He spoke as quickly as words could come out. Barely would one end before the next began. There were no fullstops, no commas, no silence, and all day long he was a fountain of speech. The more stunning thing was that he thought as quickly as he spoke, which led us teenage cousins to believe that we had a genius on our hands.
So Indore, with its kaanch mandir (glass temple) and markets and havelis (palaces) and a cousin who can't keep quiet, beckons. This is all rather exciting.
My smiles to no one attract attention from everyone as I mentally plot an unsteady line across India, imagining the train's path, the fleeting villages and people of every colour and accent. There is some detachment from reality here, because the trains run on time, these people of varying colours and accents are always amicable, and the village huts are almost always made of straw. In other words, I need to see more.
"You need to see more," a friend said quite some time ago, nodding her head sagely. Well-travelled, lucid, and often too worldly for her own good, she suggested travel as a method of learning more about India. I was fresh off the boat then and bathed in the particular clueless self-assurance that afflicts many college grads from America. Travel? Pshaw. "Sure," or something like it, I said. It's been a while since then and India has been calling. I'm not sure how I'll answer, but it's calling, and the calls have been ringing loud for some time.
Something has been shifting steadily: an understanding of my own life and place in the world. There's nothing extraordinary about it, for I guess everyone has their silent but monumental moments. India has a lot to do with mine. It has few laws and yet it survives and grows. It throws up and swallows crises everyday. It does this, it does that; nothing surprises you, everything could horrify you. This utter chaos is appealing because it is, in a sense, like each of us. Understand me and you will understand yourself, it says.
So I'm wondering how I got here. Sometimes it feels, rather romantically, like predestination. At other times, it's like waking up groggy one morning in Vegas and finding yourself married to Britney Spears. I love it, but it leaves me and a few others I know utterly helpless. What to do then? Fight it out? Or throw yourself into it and see what it makes of you, like it has done to countless others before?
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Some time last month I visited Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) in Meerut to write a story on balls. There I met Paras Anand, who runs the place. We spent the afternoon walking about, him talking, me questioning. There was one utterly enchanting spot in the factory, where unlabelled bats leaned by walls along a long corridor. They weren't shiny yet but, man oh man, they looked gorgeous. One had a heavy butt (curve?) and a label around its neck naming an Australian player. I stopped to stare while Paras went on talking and walking. "Do these cost less in Meerut, since they're made here?" I asked.
Sure, I expected him to say, it costs about 200 to make it. I would have snapped up two, or maybe five. "If you want one, you can have it from the factory," Paras said. "Free."
Free scares me. Free is light on the wallet but heavier on something else. I grinned, nodded no, and we got back to talking about balls.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
I'm at Pratt Coffee Shop on the corner of DeKalb and St James. A pink milkshake and a half-eaten burger are on the table. It snowed last night and there's a line outside, huddled shivering figures trying to get in but too polite to evict us slow eaters. The Russian owner smiles and digs for change while I find the Rupee and Dirham notes cluttered among others on the wall behind him. I step outside and the cold goes through my nostrils to my head. There is homework to do, but all this weather does is make you sleepy.
I'm thinking of Kashmir, a mountain in north India. I find myself there in a cottage, writing happily and without a cell phone. We're having chats outside the bread shop, and at six in the evening, the storekeeper joins us for drinks and we tell stories in the dark. No woman, no cry plays somewhere and I hum with it, singing my favourite parts: Everything's gonna be alright.
But there is a woman. The song is a parody now, sung in bachelor days of the past. My clouds don't have silver linings now, they don't need silver linings. They're whiffs of cloud, feelings of eternal lightness. It's night and I'm on this mountain, thinking of all the times I sat and watched the stars and I remember that each time was significant. Once, on a bus to Goa, and then in a tsunami-swept village in Tamil Nadu; at either end of a relationship.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
I get off a plane, 17 hours out of joint, and tell naked secrets to a person I know I don't trust. A friend starts talking about her days - her plans, her friends, the things she wants to do - and tears start welling in my eyes, in a restaurant. I can't sleep at night (because I've been sleeping in the day), and so I try to go through my routine, as I might in the daylight world. But I write the wrong name on the uncharacteristically emotional letter. I shower the stranger with endearments. When the lady at the bank offers me a $3,000 credit for the $30,000 cheque I've given her (a large part of my yearly income), I smile and say, 'Have a nice day'.Catch the rest of it at the Guardian.
At midnight the immigration officials came banging on the doors. The train was still so you could hear them coming. For an hour and a half the carriages were infested with uniforms, Polish, Belarus and Russian passport officers in green and Belarus customs inspectors in blue and without hats. Three countries' border formalities completed in darkness in a single, surly bureaufest of inkpads and suspicion.
At 3am, with a series of resounding jolts, we were shunted into a dimly lit shed for one of the most eccentric frontier procedures in the world. Because the gauge of Russian railways is 89 millimetres wider than the standard gauge used in the rest of Europe, the wheels of the entire train have to be changed. Each carriage, passengers and all, is jacked up and adapted for the rails of Mother Russia. Nobody has ever invaded her by train.
Peter Hughes takes the Trans-Siberian Express, a fine journey.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
In Andheri, living on a higher floor is not a good idea. On the 18th floor, one side had a view of slums, while the other was of the rooftops of residential Andheri, in itself a rather glum sight.
If the builder says it'll be ready in six months, add another six to his estimate.
Builders will throw in words like 'Diwali' and 'New Year' to influence you. Eg. "It'll be ready for possession by Diwali." Why Diwali, you ask? It's an auspicious time to buy a house or make major changes, according to Hindu tradition as I know it.
Building societies are a monstrous pain in the butt. Any changes you would like to make in your flat, a place you have spent your own money on, have to be approved by a fat, balding, wheezing building secretary who isn't getting any.
Going by the intensity of the schpeil a builder gave me about the Otis elevators, home buyers are influenced by the smoothness of their elevator rides. "And it has 24-hour music too," he added.
Builders begin by assuming you're an ass. One took me to a tenth-floor window and pointed at the barren ground that lay below. "Look there," he said, "you have a view of a garden."
"What? Where?" I asked.
"There, where you are looking. It is a garden."
"But it doesn't have any grass and there is nothing there. There's no one there. What makes it a garden?"
"It is government-owned and there is a sign outside the plot that says it is a garden."
I didn't know what to say.
The second was quite good, and everything seemed right, but something important I could not think of was missing. The next was boring. But the fourth, now that was love.
The dealer unlocked the door to a smallish two-bedroom apartment on the first floor and I stepped in. What happened next was, well, just like love. It struck hard. I felt that if I moved here, nothing would ever make me sad again. It was cozy, it was warm, it was near the ground and the rooms were clustered together, like a little commune. At that moment thought would have been useless; amounting to nothing. I wanted to bring the world here and say 'this is happiness, this first floor 2bhk' with a view of children playing and a little flowerbed outside each room and a kitchen with a full length window where I imagined cooking pancakes and Thai green curry without gobi.
Friends could cook themselves something and crash out. They could come and go as they wanted - while I was around, of course - and we could watch movies and have tea and make plans to do devious things. My front door would be a revolving door.
I used to think love was an intense feeling that no one understood, so it could not be shared with others. But I was wrong, for I want to jump about and share this place and tell everyone I've fallen in love.
The kindly broker took me about to three more places but it was of no use. My mind was elsewhere; I'd found love.