Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Vixen at Sankhumugham

A pair of gigantic breasts, exposed to the sun. Sexuality and heat exuded from the statue to have a tete-a-tete with the intense radiation emanating from the sun. The air shimmered and our malayaliness cowered. Nobody knew why they had put a big naked woman's statue nearby the Sankhumugham beach and people did their best to ignore it publicly. Only ninja-like private glances were allowed.

Acha, Dende aa prathimakku thuniyilla. Athentha angane kidakane?Mukham entha angane?
Dad, the statue isn't clothed. Why is it lying like that?Why is the face like that?
Mone, beachil poyi kalicho
Son, you can go play in the beach.
Achaa...
Dad...
Shaluvee, avane beachilottu kondu poye. 
Shalu, take him to the beach.

People liked Sankhumugham much better during those times when Indian Coffee House, with pride and boredom, used to serve coffee on the beach. Indian Coffee House has disappeared. A sign of changing times. The same reason why our lonely Attar uncle walking along the beach rubbing scent from his small scent bottles onto the back of people's palms find his wares not getting sold much. Attar uncle in that typical lungi, grey-haired and speaking very little.

The toy seller makes a circle out of brightly and differently coloured luminescent sticks. So, that he can sit inside and try his best to attract a new and modern generation to things of the past. There must be a dad out there, who takes his kids to the beach daily evening for a walk together to spend time together instead of spending it only on taking them early morning to the tuition centres. IIT-JEE. PMT. AIIMS. KVPY. Success Guaranteed. 100%. The coloured luminescent sticks in circles and the tuition centres...

Da, How do you people know him? Did you all study in the same school?
We studied in Trivandrum. Someone knows somebody knows someone else.
Navy Blue. Dark Red. Light Blue. Vacuum.  Ties and ties. Stories usually with similar rebellious and preparatory strains, at a stage when rebellion and preparations meant a lot. 

The wind picks up at the beach and the ordinary, bland-faced, people dip their ordinary feet in the salty-and-more-muddy-than-Kovalam waves. Foam and feet. Feet and foam. Children screaming in delight. And, the aged with ice-creaming expressions. The sound of the waves drowns away all the luggage you brought there. And, the approaching dusk made a grandma look at grandpa nearby, all romance and all, out of the corner of her eyes. Dusk and windswept, wet as well as frilly hair and nose-rings. Mothers of all romance. 

Curly haired freakans in eye-blasting bermudas and gone on all weedy at the sea. New values and new meanings and new ways. So, well represented by their presence as by the absence of their generations preceding them. Trapped in air-conditioned offices somewhere. The horses on the beach available on rent, had thick cardboards covering its eyes, on the sides. It could only see straight ahead, just like our absent generation.

Salted and cut raw mangos. Cut, boiled and spicy kadala-tomato-cucumber and roasted peanuts. Strong chai at the thattukadas(dhabas) nearby. Vazhakappam. Ulli vada. Dosa, small and thick with chutney and omelettes. The poetry of food. 

And, you just sit and look at the horizon. As brightness turns to orangeness and redness and greyness and darkness. Time creeps backward and forward as memories mix with contemplation of future. The music eventually starts, as someone sings through a mic, with a bucket nearby for monetary contribution. 

The drone of an airplane is heard from the background of an airbus taking off from the airport nearby. The airport, whose good-smooth surrounding roads lend itself to good-smooth driving for people who want to go in good-smooth circles in their good-smooth vehicles living a good-smooth life.

Our holy, naked vixen exuding oodles of sexuality will eventually fall like Ozymandias into disrepair. The visits back will lessen. The roots will eventually shrivel. And, we'll also fall with her as we learn to ignore and move forward. This slow world of heart-felt abstracts.


Friday, March 25, 2016

The plane

The boy could be best described as scrawny with an ujala stained, dust-covered, supposedly white shirt and navy blue shorts. Standing on the terrace of his house, he drew an imaginary paper airplane in the air and then gently blew it, willing it to carry himself. And, it set off at dusk that day, gliding through the orange sky, through the temporal plane where time acted like space and the spatial plane where space acted like space as well as their intersection where both danced with each other.

It curved its way deep into a building which had surrendered itself to midnight. Loud music blared out from the speakers, ignored by everyone, who had paper cups in their hands. Full MH bottles stood proudly and empty coke bottles lay around defeated. The air surrendered to humidity and drops of perspiration died down slow deaths on smooth faces as it flowed down. Somebody yelled pointing to the cemented floor."I am not drunk at all. Look. I'll walk on that straight line marked there."

Roy dropped himself onto the floor, beside Raghu, silently watching the unfolding drama. The in-house, boys-only-because-it's-the-boys'-hostel party was the aftermath of the successful completion of the college cultural fest. The challenger did a duck walk, his cheerful butt dancing sinusoidally.

"I don't exactly think he is walking on the line." Raghu commented through the din of the shouts and music. "No. That is obvious from the way, people are hooting at him." Roy replied.
"Drunk idiot. He is pointlessly embarrassing himself."
"I don't know about that. As far as he is concerned, he is walking straight. Seems pretty happy and proud about it too."

Raghu's airplane and the drunkard zigzagged their way through the straight line. At the end of it, nobody even knew what the challenge had been and they all toasted to all that they had done together. The plane twirled a bit, flashing strobe lights and whisked itself away.

February 1, 2003 was a Saturday. Both Raghu and Diya usually tucked themselves in the bed with a splattering of brunch and dinner on Saturdays at his apartment. That day was supposed to be no different. However, at around 11 AM, Diya still in her pajamas, rushed to the bedroom and shook him up from his sleep.

"Raghuuu" she screamed. He woke up alarmed and groggy.
"What?"
"Come. See the telly."
He put on his spectacles and shuffled behind Diya towards the living-cum-dining room. A waft of whatever she was cooking, floated towards him from the kitchen. He looked at the television and saw the images of a spacecraft burning up. The ticker announced that the space shuttle Columbia had disintegrated, killing all seven crew members, including Kalpana Chawla.

"She means something to me." Diya whispered.

He glanced at Diya. She seemed transfixed. Partially here. Partially over in those skies. Her eyes had moistened slightly. He went towards her and embraced her in a tight hug. The kind that can't be described by a writer using weird similes and metaphors. The airplane encircled them, letting out a warm glow and orange-red hues.

Raghu was gazing through the glass door of the ICU. There was nothing symmetrical about heart beats. And, yet the already irregular heart beat could apparently get even more irregular. Roy's mom lay huddled inside. That was pretty much the only family Roy had.  The doctor came outside to talk to him. He was looking grim. Raghu always had the trouble of expressing emotions at the right moment. Anger. Grief. Panic. Happiness. Everything came like the credits at the end of a movie after all the drama got over. As the doctor spoke to him, he felt like he could hear a confused but mild movement in the air around him. It almost felt like somebody had sprayed something to nail a bug and it was stuttering back and forth in its flight.

People expect a relationship to end like cricket world cups. There is a final, there is that one point where that final run is scored, or the final wicket falls. There is a winner and a loser. Everything happens in a definite manner and with clarity. But, mostly it's just muddled up like the insides of a washing machine that's doing what it is supposed to be doing. Smelly with lots of dirty water mixed with slimy and greasy detergent, circling in loops. And, then there are odd times when even that doesn't happen. People just fade and fade and then one of them decides that not only should the clothes be washed but it should be positively bleached, whether quickly or slowly. The colour leaks out of memories and then the black leaches out. The outlines blur and then it's just white. That had been what happened to him and Diya and it had mostly happened without his knowledge.

Colourless. Oddly at around that time, a paper airplane limping around suddenly started becoming translucent. Whereas it had emitted colours earlier unseen, now it had become more visible in a dull, grey manner. And, it's existence was attributed by random people including Raghu to unidentified kids.

The darkness was split open by a single line of light and it widened very hesitantly. That December morning had been particularly cold and Raghu was finding it difficult to wake up. It had been two months since he was fired from his last workplace. The floor was littered with cigarette butts and other waste. Summoning whatever reserve of strength, he had and went towards the balcony of his apartment. He looked at the people milling in the streets below. It did not evoke anything in him. In fact, it almost appeared as if everything was pressing against him. It reminded him of Roy.

"Plath once compared depression to being inside a glass bell jar, you know. As if suddenly, you are gasping for breath and you cannot reach beyond that glass wall and make contact. You are trapped. You are constricted. Everything outside seems distorted when seen through the thick glass wall."
"Must be tough."
"Very." Roy paused for a second. " But, you know, sometimes I think depression has made me more human. Being able to understand grief and pain. And, understand it when it happens in others. It's almost like you can touch it and it's like jam or jelly gone wrong."
"You should have let me known about what you were going through. I never imagined.."
"..that I could go through that. I know. Somehow, I didn't want to tell anybody. Not a really good move. But, I am opening up now."
"So, what exactly are you doing to tackle it?"
"I am taking professional help, yes. If that's what, you mean. No drugs though. But, more importantly, I am trying to see again the things that I took for granted. If you reach the rock-bottom and summon enough courage to stand up and look around, it's very different from what you see from above and much better. And, even when you look behind, it's different. People like me tend to have tattered memories initially because of all the things you feel like blanking out.  But, work your way around the holes and you have scraps of things that you had never paid attention to before. And, before you know it, what you thought was tattered mends itself and becomes visible albeit in a different way."
Roy paused for some more time and continued "But, you know the best thing. At one point of time, you positively want to rebel. Like you want to gather all the scraps and whatever you have going for you and make a last stand."

Memories of long ago are sometimes so effective that you almost feel like the real person is standing beside you. Raghu glanced sideways to make sure that it wasn't the case and that's when he noticed the paper airplane lying on the floor of the balcony. He smiled. Ever since he was little, he always had a thing for planes, rockets and space shuttles. He took the plane and looked at it carefully. It was not in a very good condition. He closed his eyes for a few seconds. And, then he launched the plane against the wind. It went up vertically and he almost immediately lost sight of it. That's weird, he thought before going inside.

The plane meanwhile vertically shot up. All the layers of air pressing down on it was heating it up. It was burning and becoming almost incandescent. Yet, the flimsy thing held itself together. And, it soared higher and higher to an unknown destination, as if to prove a point to some unknown entity somewhere. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Face-to-Face

The beach winds usually made Raghu's hair dry, frizzy and unmanageable. What was left of his hair, that is. He was sharing roasted peanuts with Diya. They were sitting somewhat close to what Raghu called the Sea-Lick line. Behind which, they were somewhat safe from a frontal assault from the creeping waves which would have gotten their asses wet and sent them scrambling backwards. Right now, only the finely grained sand possessed any threat to their jeans.

"Ey. The ape-to-man picture right. The one that starts from the monkey and ends up in Sapien Sapien." Diya suddenly pricked the ballooning silence against which the sounds of the waves were making little effect.

"Yes. What about it?"
"It's odd that they can see the backs of their evolved versions. I think they should all be looking backwards and wondering at their previous versions. Not one of them should be able to see their future versions. That's not how it works."
"I take this to be the starting point of something else."
"No. Nothing. It's a fascinating picture, that's all. I look at you and I can see six of you."
"Myself and my past selves?"
"Something like that. In parallel. Almost like Trivandrum itself."
"How?"

Little tanned boys in uniformed shorts were playing in the sand at a distance under the watchful eyes of oily haired, saree clad and underpaid teachers. They seemed to be from a Govt. school. None of that christianised, private school-ish illusion of sophistication.

"Look at Trivandrum now. It's almost like a cultural clash. You have a generation putting their feet into two boats. Weed is abundantly available and so is pre-marital sex with no semblance of any sort of emotional relationships. International Film Festival of Kerala flourishes.."

"IFFK flourishes and attracts even non-cinema lovers because of the nudity. I wonder whether the vast majority can make any sense otherwise of those movies and I certainly do not think it is flourishing because we have, overnight, developed impressive art analysing skills."

"Anyway, I think the new generation is more casual and accepting about a lot many things. And yet, while they seem to be almost swinging all the way to that end..You know, one of my cousin's childhood friend called him up to ask about this girl who studied with my cousin during his graduation. I think it was a marriage proposal or something for that guy. My cousin promptly told him that she had more than two relationships during their college days. And that was it."

"I see. An eerie foam of orthodox morality beneath the mattresses of testosterone and estrogen."
"Yes. Not only that. Try visiting the Museum and Park during the evening. It's populated by the grey haired. Or families-with-bubbly children. Our generation is absent."
"Hmm. Diya. It's not like they can find any jobs here."
"I know."

"I do not mind hypocrisies and absence. The former is probably due to the fact that we are that generation where entrenched ideals are slowly changing. It's never a smooth transition. And, absence. Well, there is something about Trivandrum. I don't feel the same way about this place like I once used to. Familiarity and all. I have been away from this place for long. But, this place still calms me down. I think our generation may not like the idea of living forever around here but they will always return, once in a while. The city will always pull us from the distance and push us away when we stay around here too much."

Diya looked at Raghu as he was talking. Dilating pupils. A distant look. One that was scanning the faraway orangish-bluish boundaries.

"But, something is bothering you." She ventured.
He nodded.
"Sometimes, I get this idea that we are ageing at a more accelerated rate than what is actually happening physically. As compared to the generation before us for whom a stable job and family were more important, I think we really want to make an impact on life. And, because of that as well as all the multiple difficulties our generation has to deal with, personal and otherwise, I think we are getting mentally grey-haired."

Diya smirked.
"You just miss us back then."
Raghu turned and faced her. One side of his lips slightly taut.
"Anyway, it's not like you can make people rewind experiences or forget them." He commented.
"I think you can. Momentarily, anyway."
"Huh?"

"I don't know. You realise that we don't keep in touch, in the conventional sense. It's not like we call each other every day or every week or even every other month. But, we do try to meet up whenever possible. May that be twice or thrice a year. We have some coffee or watch some distant birds or people milling around like bees and we talk. We catch up. And, I get this sense of satisfaction, you know."

"As if time's like a washed piece of cloth, neatly pressed. So that what should be distant, dirty and wrinkled, come together and touch each other."

"Weird way to put it, but yeah. The moment we really talk, it's like every bad thing that ever happened lightens up a bit. Some of them even seem downright silly and others, survivable."

The day had faded and it was beginning to darken at Sankhumugham, the beach where they were sitting. Raghu could hear the vague sounds of aeroplanes taking off from the airport at a distance. He looked ahead. At a distance in the sea, the fishing boats turned on their lights one by one. Points of light stubbornly resisting the invasion of night. Points of light at a distance in the sea in a horizontal line and a curly, moist wind wafting through the beach. Points of light like parallel versions of themselves, each by itself illuminating and yet at a distance not easily touched. But, visible to the two of them who were sitting and ruminating so much.



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Scattering

You touch this Earth with your palm
And a whirlwind happens
That turns into dust
the many shadowy strangers

And at the dead centre of it,
you carve out a new world.
From out of the void.

But, what can be made out of emptiness?
Except emptiness.
And, you have opened one more eye
There is no more sieve.

It all falls down.
The good. The bad. The irrelevant.
That new world.
Frightening.
One pair of footprint trailing behind.
Multiplying into many.
All of which disappearing under the dusty winds

And, the tempest you made refuses to die down,
Stirring up so much dust
that you can't see ahead.
And, your feet walks slower.
It gets colder
And, the dust piles up.
And your feet walks slower.

Drags.
And, then it too turns into sand.
As the whirlwind preys on itself.
You scatter yourself,
ever so slowly.
You comprehend and understand
that you have slowly become your world.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Storifying

#Courtesy: Waltz with Bashir. Daniel Kahneman. Some random articles. And, what I always love doing. Talking and catching up with people face-to-face.

It was almost dusk. Two old friends were sitting on the grassy lawn of that beautiful park. It was evident that they had been sitting and chatting for quite some time. About things that happened long back when they were together as well as things that happened afterwards.
"Do you know that famous experiment involving childhood memories? " Nihal asked Liz.
"Which one?"
"So, they conducted an experiment in which the subjects under study were shown 10 photographs of their childhood. One of them was fake with their selves superimposed on a background of say, an amusement park. They were asked to recollect their experiences after being given those photos."
"And what happened?"
"80% of the subjects actually 'recounted' experiences surrounding those fake photos. They were able to build stories around it."
"Memories abhor gaps huh? This story telling, I understand somewhat though. The mind, I guess, would have a tendency to fill gaps by making up something that would ensure that it's a part of a coherent story. In fact, I have read somewhere that it is difficult for human beings to think of their lives as something other than stories. Think of it. Our lives are actually anything but stories. It's a collection of totally random incidents, one bearing little relation to another, except for the relationship that we want them to have. And, yet we insist that our lives are like a progression. A sequence with one event connected to another."
"Hmm. But, Liz. Our lives are stories. Each time something happens, it changes us a bit. So, the next time we face something or make a decision, we would do it differently."
"Maybe. But, there is no sequence. Whatever happens, happens randomly and individually. We storify it in retrospect. In retrospect, we believe that it couldn't have happened any other way. It makes perfect sense. However, the problem is that it makes sense only because we have experienced it and we make a story out of it. We haven't lived out the million alternate versions and those are not as real to us. "
"That reminds me of Kahneman. Ever heard of him? In a famous TED talk, he actually compares experience with memories. He talks of patients going through an endoscopy surgery. He compares patients who have had a short period of painful surgery and also patients who have had a long period of painful surgery which ended on a gradual note with the pain decreasing towards the end instead of being constantly high like the former. The latter actually had a worse experience but ended up with better memories of the surgery than the former. "
"All that we talked about adds a different perspective, doesn't it? All of us meeting up together long after schools, college and all that. What are we meeting up for? Nostalgia? But then, that's different for each of us. We look back and each of us have our own perspective. Even what we underwent individually afterwards, influences the memories we look back at. The way you remember things will be totally different from the way I remember it because we went different ways and lived different lives afterwards."
"And yet, we meet. We end up feeling a certain sense of relief as well as comfort in meeting and we hope to rekindle our relative memories of our experiences."
"And sometimes after all those years, when we meet up and talk, we realise that we idolised some people and experience because of who or what they were to us. It's when we talk, compare notes and allow our mind to accept the various perspectives and versions that we are finally able to understand and comprehend. Even if a person was not lying or an experience felt awesome, we realise that what we thought at the time was just like copy-paste. We missed out all the nuances of the person or the experience because we thought without actually thinking by ourselves."
"Hahaha. Liz. So, in the end, all this meeting up and nostalgia is faltoo. It's like what somebody once said. New is always better. Never anchor yourself in the past."
"Naaaa. I think I would like to understand the past me, the past you and the past everybody. I also like tracing how all of us grew up."
"Storiiiifying, Liz. Double standards, you have."
Liz laughed. "Maybe. I never said that I don't indulge in it. I do because I need to make sense of it. I am not narrow minded enough to think that the way it played out is perfect. However, those stories often help me understand who we all are and to understand why each of us have changed. From those same stories, I derive my sense of identity and belonging."
"Mm. Yes. And there is no right or wrong. Just all the stuff that happened."
"Exactly."
"I have definitely missed you a lot, Liz. Hmm. You reckon that it'll always be the same between us even if we keep in touch only infrequently?"
"That depends on what you decide to tell me and what I decide to tell you when we do meet. Also, you need to ensure that you buy me the best ice-cream around here when we meet up. "
Nihal got up from the lawn, wiped his jeans and extended his hand towards Liz.
"That's a deal."


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Our Holy Potato

Greetings to my fellow human beings.

I am a follower of YoYoism and I want to talk to you about the immense amount of disrespect that is being shown to the Potato, the living and magnificient symbol of our religion.

YoYoism started in 10000 BC when humanity was far more advanced. In those days, everyone flew from every place to every other place by attaching biogenetically engineered crows to their feet. Humanity has fallen much afterwards but we still maintain vestiges of that greatly civilised era by being ready to kill one and all in the name of our great God, YoYo. We believe in YoYo because he keeps sending his bearded sons and daughters and hot secretaries once in a while to the Earth to teach us the YoYo way. We hope he sends one right now. We desperately need it.

But, back to the potato. You see the potato is different from your tomatoes and brinjals. It shouldn't be eaten. Our holy scriptures say that it is our daddy. We mostly believe so. The most exalted, YoYo, constantly carried the Potato around with him. The moment the most exalted YoYo felt bored, the potato would fly from his pocket and randomly smack some lesser God's head much to his delight. From the potato, comes life, goodness and all things nice.

You scientific pricks. You do not believe us? Jagdish Chandra Bose, the great Indian scientist, once proved that plants have life. They can feel pain. Don't you get it? The Potato has a beating heart. And, yet you skin it. Boil it. Kill it. And, eat it. Our holy symbol. Our giver of life. Skinned. Boiled. Killed. Eaten.

Our blood curdles when we think of that. We feel like stoning you all. We want legislations and court judgements banning people from eating the Potato. We feel offended and abused. What food chain are you talking about? No. No. We don't really care if you gently kill the potato and then eat it. We don't really care about brinjals, radishes, bittergourds and all such other vegetables. We only care about potatoes.

 All potatoes have a right to live. In fact, all potatoes have more of a right to live than human beings. Potatoes can shrivel and waste out slowly but they shouldn't die. And, those who dare lay their teeth on the potato should be lynched. Traitors!Cold Hearts! We don't care about age or gender. They should all die a slow, painful death.

Hail Potato Daddy..

Indian Government, you hear? We expect potato laws to come in soon

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop.

Greyish skies, monochrome people, slanting rainfall,
A strong chai by the roadside, an assortment of bajis to eat from.
And, a city inside this city, that has to be pulled up,
that had been kept deeply buried in woolly memories.

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop.

Brightening and simmering headlights with prancing droplets between,
Bobbing umbrellas and running people and confused street dogs,
Warm-hearted Malayalis dipping their noses into businesses, big and small.
Always prying, advising, policing to preserve a once-tremendous-culture.

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop

Seven cents of land with your name marked on it.
With tapioca and bananas growing in it, to keep the soil wet.
For that time, when you will return bearing all that dust on your face
North Indian dust and if-so-happens, American and European dust.

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop

Two parents, growing old together and wide-eyed waiting,
for the shorter-than-seconds moments together
With rasam, murukku and paayasam.
And the separation growing longer and longer and longer

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop

As dreams sour and stale and become cliched,
Paths become murukky loops and you dance on the border of your equilibrium,
The steamy chai and the watered air conspire and moist your glasses
To blind you to the apparitions walking around from your memories.

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop

Apparitions and their mirrors in reality, the change and contrast,
the ageing, the greying, the clouding, the water-exposed wrinkling,
the maturing, the 'practical'ising, the wearing down
Apparitions of connecting webs, still lingering from the past.

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop

Against that all, an animalistic love is let loose into that bulky air,
A-class Malayali love,  dusky, bubble-gummy,coconutty,
A love to the faded and the beaten and the average and the struggling,
To the lonely, to the distant, to the separated, to the long-lost
To the oily, unanswered prayers and the unheard, fresh-smelling archanas
It balloons and wafts and floats and sinks
And lights a fire in those dying scars

Plitter, Platter, Plop, Plop