Saturday, April 26, 2008

Masks: The wrong kind

One noticeable advantage of maturing is: you can better modify your mask/masks to meet your needs. Now, don’t deny you don’t have one because you can deny it to me, to them…but not to yourself. We all wear our masks. That’s when we feel protected, snug and comfortable. We are at liberty to show the world what we want to show. Only when it slips and a bit of our inside is revealed that we feel the first pangs of fear.

Thing is, a lot of those masks out there are way too deceptive. There’s too much of a difference between the actual face inside and the one we see. And then the trouble starts.
I wouldn’t call them hypocrites right away. I have noticed that most commonly people get turned off by hypocrisy (courtesy: Orkut) and it makes me wonder…aren’t we all hypocrites, at some level?

Recently it’s become easy to identify the wrong type of masks in the crowd. I guess it usually depends on your interaction with the people. It’s not that difficult to look beyond the saccharine sweet smiles pasted on their faces and all those over-the-top gestures of concern. One glance at a pair of cold eyes and you never know what’s lurking behind them.

Among the wrong type of masks, there’s another quite interesting variety. These are the best. They fit well, never slip and are impossible to detect. And these can be anywhere. Your best friend, your favourite cousin, the best man at your wedding…it could be anyone. Throughout your life you depend on them, trust them, respect them and then at a point when you are leaning on them, the masks finally slip, they pull away, you lose balance and fall. Those masks can be recovered but I doubt if you will ever recover from that fall. If you do, there’s someone else to lean on, another better mask…and eventually another fall.

We seldom learn our lessons well.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Rest

There is something about air conditioning systems that irks me. It’s like an itch that develops and won’t go away. It is quite disconcerting, actually.
I haven’t been able to figure out what it really is. The consistent humming of the machine or that cold floaty feeling that spreads to the tip of your fingers and makes you feel oh-so-comfortable. Just that, this little rush of cool air makes me acutely aware of the heat outside. And all the men braving it while I sit inside. Isn’t it just so unfair? Like I wimped out?
That’s the itch.
But then again, it holds the same for food, clothes, a roof above my head..all the basic necessities.
Isn’t it unfair that some people have it while the rest just watch with empty tummies?
That’s too many questions left unanswered I guess.

I had pav bhaji after a long time today. I don’t know why but I always enjoy pav bhaji when we are standing on the road all hot and sweaty, balancing the tray, four people digging into a plate of curry with those little disposable spoons and then the tussle over extra pav. That’s a proper pav bhaji treat.
Anyway, today when we stopped for pav bhaji Rai’s malfunctioning wallet finally gave away and a five rupee coin and a one rupee coin rolled into the gutter below. We were all eyeing the gutter apprehensively wondering if we should actually retrieve the coins from that muck when this little girl in soiled knickers comes forward, picks up the coins and promptly hands it over to Rai. This was followed by pleas for alms. Rai obliged and dropped the one buck coin into her outstretched palm. Along comes another urchin in hope of a coin like her mate. Rai, after a moment’s hesitation gave her, the only coin left-the five rupee one.
And this little incident made me realise something. The ones with larger share of the cake are not always the ones who have earnt it. No one is truly responsible for this. And strangely enough, that’s the way our world runs. Atleast, most of it does.
And that’s the reason why some get air conditioning systems and money to buy more of it while the rest…well, I don’t really know.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Saw “Masculin Feminin” yesterday night. Godard is as confusing as ever. The movie is something about “the children of Marx and coca cola”.
Not that I didn’t enjoy it. There were slices here and there which I could follow but mostly it went over my head. Was the film preachy? Or am I just being dumb?

I feel like watching a bollywood flick. Singing and dancing and pretty faces and bright costumes. The works. It’s been a long time since I went for a movie like that. With friends and popcorn. Maybe I’ll do it one of these days.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to resist the urge of chopping off my hair. I don’t even need a salon. A pair of scissors from the kitchen cupboard will suffice.
Of course, my mom fails to understand that. Mere suggestions about getting my hair trimmed is enough to fuel heated (one sided) arguments in this house. Oh, those scissors. What a waste.

I have realized the following things about life after eighteen:

# Just eating your cereals and doing your homework doesn’t make you the good kid.
# You run out of convincing excuses, and you’re in trouble.
# Don’t rely on the younger lot to finish the chores, you’re an adult now.
# Your voice for once, is audible at home.
# If you have some really disappointing news (like bad test results or something),
tell your mom when she’s on the phone.
# That scrawny guy next door does have cute eyes.
# The early bird gets the worm is bullshit. Most people are late.
# Money runs out fast.
# Black coffee helps.
# Weed is tempting, but you’re better off without it.

My grandfather passing away, last week’s visit to the crematorium seems ages ago. It didn’t make me sad. Just a weird numbness that spreads through your body and you feel a tad confused, like someone’s knocked the wind out of you.

And then there are the restrictions. I sampled a piece of chicken a few days back. Naturally I had completely forgotten about the no meat rule. A glaring mistake. Shows how callous and insensitive I am. The restrictions are an integral part of the whole process of mourning. There are people watching, you see.

P.S. I have noticed something recently. In most of my entries, I tend to move from one topic to another with no links whatsoever. I should work on making my topics flow. lol.

My first visit: Night at the crematorium


I was
so blinded by fancy lights
The harsh gray of my tunic
The betel juice stains
a myriad of patterns on the wall
A solitary wail
The collective chants
The pushing and heaving
The bumps so smooth
The jerks so shallow

Little balls of cotton
wedged against dead skin
Stubborn sticks of incense,
Stale tears and drooping flowers
Rusted metal doors
A flash of orange
The heightened scent

And money spent
On elaborate rituals,
Packaged water and cheap biscuits
A muddy canal, some eager hands
And a floating pot

Empty streets, limping dogs
A bleak wind blowing
So listless, so calm
And blackened was the starry sky
So blinded
Was I


The tube. Our city’s jugular.

The ticket.
I always enjoy watching those little metal boxes swallow up my bit of yellow paper. And how you sail through the barrier and the slit in the metal produces your ticket with a flourish. Add to that a light nudge from the flustered commuter behind you (who’s always in a hurry) and it’s the perfect prologue to a pleasant ride.

The sounds.
From the hanging television sets chanting the same commercials to the weary mother calling her son to safety and then finally the much awaited dragon rushing into the platform…bringing with it that tempest which threatens to knock you off your feet.

What follows is a mad rush of people trying to shove their way in before the metal doors rattle to a close and I find myself inside the dragon’s belly surrounded by a lot of blank stares desperately trying to hold on to the shiny steel bars above, my thin frame swaying and my backpack pulling me down as the train continues it’s relentless journey into the murky depths of our city’s underground.

The people.
My home to St. Xavier’s College. Kalighat to Maidan. Three stations in between. Enough time for me to indulge in my daily morning ritual. Looking around.
If you’re pressed against the dirty transparent panes on the metal doors or close enough to peek through the half open windows, you’ll notice the dim, flickering lights; the tracks snaking their way in the darkness and sometimes, if you’re lucky, another train whizzing past.
And then the people. Sitting, standing, leaning.

The kids in starched school smocks. Chattering, running about. The docile ones usually stick to their mothers.

The regular office goer. A loud necktie. An even louder phone, constantly flipped open. Shiny, pointed black shoes

The skinny man in dusty overalls juggling a thousand packages.

The plump lady, wrists and neck swathed in jewellery. A bright nylon dupatta. A flashy purse. Squeezed in between two men hiding behind newspapers.

The lovers in the vestibule. Fingers interwined. Shy smiles. Hurried whispers. Oblivious to the curiously stern glances of the faces which surface occasionally when those newspapers are put down.

The college punk. Greasy hair, black nail colour. Baggy denims and plugged ears. Che smiling from a black T shirt. Hands in pockets, legs crossed, lounging against the door.

The wizened old man with papery skin. Large glasses. A vintage watch dangling from a thin frail wrist. Clutching on to a crushed plastic packet. Trying to read the print on the yellow ticket.

And then there are the rest, who, unlike the others, manage to make their presence felt. Sometimes it’s an outrageous bit of clothing, sometimes a phony laugh or a violent sneeze, sometimes a popular hindi song blaring from a phone, sometimes an unwanted accident like slipping or dropping something and so on.

Promptly, the dragon pulls into the Maidan station. I am washed along with the tide of commuters into the crowded platform. A long trudge up the stairs and I’m out in the Monday morning sun. A few minutes from college, thanks to the tube.

The rains, Sylvia Plath...and more.

Pabda maach and a Bunuel flick. Not the best of combinations. But just the push I needed to raise myself from a Sunday afternoon stupor and actually do something.
I thought I could write. Now I realise, I can’t. Or maybe it’s the keyboard.
Ruskin Bond once wrote, that pencils are always a better option. At least you can chew on the ends when you’re thinking. You can’t chew on your keyboard.
I like Ruskin Bond. And I agree with him.

Last couple of days, it has been raining. Along with the muddy soles and tangled wet hair and sodden textbooks, the rains bring in that earthy smell. Brishtir gondho. Even when you’re indoors with the stereo volume hiked up so you can’t hear the pattering against the windowpanes, you’ll smell that smell. It always made me feel pleasantly lazy. And made me fall in love with the rains even more.
This time, that feeling dampened. Don’t know why or how. Maybe it’s the monotony of the college days. Or perhaps the prospect of a long dripping walk through Park Street. But I always enjoyed that. Did the rains change, or did I?

Sylvia Plath has been taking up quite some of my time in college. No, it’s not poetry. It’s “The Bell Jar”. A fascinating read. Fascinating enough to squeeze in a few hurried pages between classes or when the teacher turns towards the blackboard.
The book reminded me of “Taxi driver”. Funny, I know. What could such a captivating Scorsese flick have in common with a novel by Sylvia Plath? Most people who’ve seen the movie and read the book would say I’m barking. But somehow, as the story proceeded I could sense a bit of Travis Bickle in the protagonist, Esther.
The last line looks funny. Maybe, I am barking.

Dinner’s ready. I’ll end with this:

“…Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.”
( From “The Captain’s Verses” by Pablo Neruda )