Musings

Of cows and independence day!

The little miss, as is her wont these days, has been shooting me a heap of questions. There is not a thing that passes the attention of her senses that just passes by without a question popping up. Be it an earthworm, a snail, a ridiculous honk from an autorickshaw, the neighbour’s loud movie screening, the sartorial choices of her mom (& dad ) etc etc. You get the drift right?

Me and the missus have had to work overtime to ensure that we engage with each of her questions and give her answers. Most of the time she ends with a ‘whatever’ look. Especially when I attempt to answer. The missus fares better.

The ‘whatever’ look is what I remember my physics teacher reserving for me, in school.   She would ask a question and her eyes would droop so much that they would be waiting to roll down her cheek if I was late by another moment. Her shoulders would drop and a smug smile would lurk at the corner of her lip. Her whole body language would seem to be so much waiting in expectation of a ridiculously inept answer. I guess I met her expectations every single time. I would dread those classes.

It is kind of dreadful to think that the little miss reminds me of that time. The only difference now is that the little miss forgets the inept answer in a jiffy and moves on to some easier stuff at the wave of a hand. Like, ‘Can I go touch that cat Appa?’ Or even, ‘can we go say hello to the rain drop appa’? Now, these are like lifebuoys to someone in a cesspool. We survive with her kindness and love.

She has been excited about the Independence Day for over a week now.

“Appa, when are you buying me a gift?”

“A gift? But why?”

“It is India’s birthday appa!”

I realised that thats how Independence day has been positioned in her mind.  Gandhi, Nehru and the freedom struggle can come much later.  For now, if there are some festoons, cake, pizzas and a gift to boot, all is well. Fortunately, the gifts that she has demanded haven’t yet gotten to meaningless stuff that pops a hole in the pocket. A national flag was all that was desired this time around and was dutifully bought too.

So today, on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, after the flag hoisting ceremony in the apartment complex where we live in,  came another string of questions.

“If we hoist a flag for India’s birthday, why didn’t you hoist one for my birthday?”

Patient explaining ensued.  Of India having a flag and it being a country and that individuals don’t have a flag etc. Inept answers, I can guess. With drooping shoulders she proclaimed, ‘Appa, once we go home, I am going to draw my flag. You have to hoist it for my birthday”.

I demurred in agreement. “My flag will have a cow and a cat in it Appa”.

“A COW?” I spluttered.   The nation would want to know now.  An involuntary muttering of ‘Holy Cow’ under my breath reached her sharp ear.

“Not holy cow Appa”, she said. “Just one nice cow”.

Silence ensued. And then with a momentary pause she asked, ‘what is a holy cow Appa’? I didn’t know where to start. Or end, for that matter. And then, she threw me a lifeline. Actually two.

“If you don’t like the cow, let’s just have the cat in the flag Appa. It is easy to draw the cat “.  A huge sigh of relief clung to the air as Lata Mangeshkar ruled the Independence Day sound waves of the apartment complex.

And then she said, “Can we go to the play area and slide Appa?”.  She was on her way to the play area and shouted out a changed plan.  “I have been on the slide for sometime Appa. Today can you push me higher on the swing?”

“Of course”, I said. “Of course”

 

The Pink Pony

Days turn into nights. And nights lead to day. The repetitive patterns that lead to the next day, the next week, the next month and the next year form a beautiful facade that keeps in obscurity the years that speed by.

Then the years reveal themselves. Sometimes the mirror tells the story.  As a stray strand of grey morphs into a lock of plentiful grey. When a parent passes away, the realisation is stark. When a friend passes away, it is pronounced.  The parting of the beautiful facade, often comes in a reality check, happening in sorrowful environs.

Sometimes they do in moments of pure joy. Especially, if you have a little daughter like mine.

So the little miss has been going to school. She enjoys it and has had a great deal of fun thus far. One day in the last week, after a long and tiring day, I creep into bed.  Long after the little miss’s bed time. As the silence beckons me further into slumber, she wakes up. Realising that I have crept in and wakes me up too, demanding that the lights come on.

She is all excited and she wants to show me her ‘Pink Pony’. She opens her palm to reveal a small piece of plastic. I see the effect of her clutching it hard are showing on the palm too. The Pink Pony spread some pink to her palm as well.  She obviously has been waiting to show me. ‘Aryan gave it to me papa’ she said. In sleep soaked excitement. I gave her a bear hug ad asked ‘was it his birthday today?”

PP1

“No Appa”. She says. A tad disappointed and perhaps surprised at an antiquated line of thought.

“He gave it only to me”. She says with emphasis on the ‘only’.

“Ah”. I say.

With curiosity dripping out of every word I ask , ‘That sounds like fun. Tell tell me, tell me more’

“Because I like pink colour Appa”.  And that was that.

With those words she slips back into sleep. Clutching the pink pony and happy that her little secret was no longer just hers. I stare at her for a while and switched off the lights.  Her innocence and joy override my tired mind.

The next morning comes with the precision that is customary.  The missus catches me shooting darts into the clouds. “Thinking of the Pink Pony?”, she asks. “It is some toy that they give out in a Fast Food chain”, she says. I smile. I am thinking of something else.

She knows me well by now. She jumps tracks and joins my train of thought.

“She is no longer the tiny toddler that you carried on the sling” she says. I smile. “She is not the toddler who would purr like a cat to get some milk”.

I nod my head in silence. Even as I soak up the Pink Pony moment, I realise, it was riding away into the inner whorls of memory.  The simplicity of childhood, the sincerity of affection and the joys of watching kids growing up, can be the best way to age gracefully. Even as day turns to night and night to day, children add a rich melodrama to a vague momentum.  And that is precious.

Rain

When it rains, it pours. I sit and watch the rain rail against the window sill. Many years ago, when Facebook was nascent (and seems like the world was a better place) – a different profile picture greeted you on my Facebook timeline. It was this picture.

 

Rain

 

I recall the clicking of this picture. The beauty of the moment stood tall in solemn elegance. That which had just jumped off the cloud, had flirted with the railing for a brief trickle of a second, was poised to leap and flow into another moment. It got me to smile.  That it was going to jump off was sure to happen. Yet there was a small swirl of energy to the moment. The moment when imminent change that was expected just about arrives, there is a certain magic in the dramatic poise. If you care to notice it, that is.

To me, this droplet of rain, held an entire monsoon together.

My dad lived in an era where there were no special days called ‘Fathers Day’.  He wouldn’t give a damn and urge us to think of ‘meaning’. Thinking of him today seems natural, when rain strikes. For several years he had a giant poster in the dining room. It said, “A single rose can be my garden”.

That was many seasons ago. Much rain has kissed the Earth since then. Facebook has since grown. Many new people came into it suddenly adding relevance to several lives. Many left. Because of the very reason that many ‘new’ others were in. The rains, though,  have been keeping their seasonal regularity with this part of the country. I have looked forward to their arrival like a child for the customary goodie from a visiting uncle. The rains have helped keep stock of the passing years, like nothing else. The most physical of the changes to seasons in this part of the world.

I write this, sipping freshly made filter coffee and staring into the Sunday evening that is fast giving way to the night before Monday morning. Monsoon clouds have enveloped the Sun and make the intense rays of summer a distant memory, and bringing smiles to a parched population. This monsoon will be intense. I think so. I hope so.

Last July, I was in Goa driving in the rain along with some wonderful folks.  When a sudden shower got the wipers on the windshield of a new car, work hard.  This picture resulted.

IMG_1870

 

For a long while I stared at this picture and realised that this picture held me tight. The new me. Whatever happened to the single drop, I ask myself? Nothing. Actually nothing. The beauty and poise of the single drop will always remain and stay close to me. The energy of a dash of drops moves me beyond the past.

As the coffee runs dry on the tumbler, I reach out to my camera. Wondering what new images my camera will capture.  Sometimes the pictures within you come alive in the words that sprout off the keyboard or the images that the camera captures.

And rain, oh rain. I have a song playing in the background. It goes like this.

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you

Rose 2

A fresh sprouting of a rose catches my eye as much as it catches a bit of rain. The rain dances on the petal. The soul feels refreshed and there seems to be a colourful renewal. The rain does that to you. New hopes sprout. In a while, I peer at the images on my desktop screen wondering if I did justice to the rain. Or to the rose for that matter. A moment later I think about the new hopes and renewal.  The rain has that effect. Always.

Myriad hues of monochrome moments

Its the ‘wee hours’. As they call it. I sit still staring emptily into my computer screen. A side glance brings alive the dark sky that lies beyond the open window. The chill breeze and the lone star in the dark sky that seems to twinkle its way to attention, without much fuss.

The desktop screen has a to-do list with a heap of items that when described as ‘turn-off’s, would struggle to convey the depth of the emotion associated with it. I struggle. My eye catches a piece of paper held aloft by a butterfly magnet. The daughter loves butterflies. And magnets. That two disjoint pieces can suddenly cling on to each other fascinates her. It still does fascinate me.

Run Over

The Sun makes his preparations to shine a new light into the dark night. I continue to look at this piece of paper. A weak smile emerges thinking of the daughter. I tear my eye from the butterfly and double click on the minimised calendar. The computer obeys with a precision that I wish, was bestowed on my will to take on the to-do list.

“February”. Screams the calendar. Its the most silent scream I have heard in a while. January has been consumed by a relentless march of every day. One full month seems to have sneaked out. Tirelessly consumed by trifles, while starting with a promises and possibilities bordering on the momentous. Sometimes I feel its still the first of Jan. Of 2014! My mom says the last fifty years of her life have rushed off in this manner. Sometimes when memory of another moment from another time and circumstance visit me, I wonder whatever happened to the intervening years. The comfort in continuity, washing way any guilt that a possible stagnation can fester.

The monotonous clang of every passing moment speeds off with what seems to be a desperate lunge of an athlete who hedged his life on winning the Olympic Gold! The star on the horizon seems to flicker as though wanting to tell me something. I stare at the flicker and see a raw beauty in it. A colour and sparkle that is so brilliant, against the backdrop of what seems to be a hesitant dawn.

I pick up a pen and write. As is wont, when the urge to say something to myself is immediate. Every passing monochrome moment has a colour to it. In fact every moment has colour. It isn’t the moment’s fault if a monochrome lens envelops the eye. I write, ‘ Myriad hues of monochrome moments ‘.

I think of something I stumbled into sometime back.  “This is Water” said its title. Do give it a read. Below is an excerpt of the full piece on video. Pretty good, I must say. Here is the full speech. Perhaps it would provide you with insights beyond what emerged for me. Maybe we should talk.

I look into the night sky, which seems to seamlessly give way to light. Without a fight. The bright brilliance of the star on the horizon seems to have taken a different hue, settling behind the haze. I notice the time again. The date sneaks out from behind the curtain.

I get to work on the to-do list.

February will fly. Besides it has only 28 days.

Reeking of history !

Aurangabad is like any other bustling Indian city. Crowded roads replete with rushing motorists and fearless pedestrians. Cops bulging in the middle and signals that work on their whims. Occasionally.

Hoardings that occupy all available air space. Large and small format stores existing side by side like India and Pakistan. Uneasy yet accepting. Of course, this is Maharashtra and Shivaji on a horseback is present too.

Yet, the streets of Aurangabad are paved with many thousands of years of history. The caves and the forts stand mute testimony to that. Situated bang in the middle of the country, it was as our guide told us, the gateway to the south. Or North ! Depending on where you came from.

But have you seen a stone base structure on a road divider like this ? Well, i haven’t ! Quite a structure isn’t it ? Wonder what purpose it serves. But its made of solid stone. (A walk in the morning was undertaken to ‘feel up’ this structure ! )

Carved out stone as part of a road divider is something that begets attention easily.

Have you seen something like this ? Perhaps you have. I havent.

My own demented hypothesis is that…this is about making a point. About every corner and bend in the road reeking of history !?!

Whatsay…?

School


You had to wear something called ‘uniform’. You had to carry something called a ‘school bag’. You had to go buy books & notebooks every year. You had to wrap your notebooks with brown paper and a ‘label’ with space to write your name !

Of course the wrapper and the book were a Hollywood couple of sorts. Parting as soon as they came together !


You had to carry a lunch box. Sometimes, bringing back the lunch you were supposed to have had, if the food didn’t catch your fancy. For you had the raw mangoes for 50 paisa sold outside school.

You travelled in the school bus where your best friends reserved seats for you.

You had homework to do and exams to write. You could never understand Trigonometry or why that man shouted ‘Eureka’ although you kind of had a vague image of him running naked through the streets !

You revelled in English while your best friend was alive only in the Maths class. He thought Shakespeare was the devil in disguise and you thought ‘Differential Calculus’ was the devil without any !

Yet. He managed to beat you in English. And you beat him in math ! You thought it a big mystery and began to respect the devil a lot more.

You had holidays. Of a full two months. Where you had nothing else in your mind but cricket in the hot sun. You played and any ‘whining’ about the heat didn’t register !


You fought over who would bat first. Fights that would disappear between the stumps the minute it started. Fights. You moved on. You just knew how to.

You had favourite teachers. You had your favourite partners.Your friends were the world to you. You would do anything for them. Of course, your parents were God. Most of the time !

You didn’t understand money or loans as much as you understood good food and a great time.
Neither did you understand when some elders said, ‘enjoy your time now. You’ll treasure it for a lifetime’.


You ran with gusto. You played with frenzy. You read with passion. Your tears were rare and you rolled with laughter.

And then you grew up.

Looking back every now and then, wishing it was then, instead of now.

Old Talk !

This is a ‘mandapam’, as called in Tamil territory ! Found in the middle of what once used to be the Vaigai river. Its still called the Vaigai river. Its but a pale stream of a river. With only the river bed, odd plants, dhobis and sand thieves to show.

Most of the water is held up in dams upstream. A population lives of it. The river seems to grin and bear.

But right there, right in the middle of what was once a river, there is this structure. Pillars. Steps. Floor and roof.

“A flowing river, a gentle breeze and a cleaner air, all provide the ideal batter for simple wonderful conversations. Right there in the middle of the mandapam !” Those were a great grandmothers words. Many years ago.

Today, it seems empty. Not many go there. At least not for conversations ! Perhaps because, the river flows occasionally.

The mind wonders if this place doesn’t miss conversations ? Well, but who doesn’t ?

In times when conversations happen only through chat windows, scraps, comments and text messages, who has time for plain old conversation ?

Tweet me. Scrap me. Text me. DM me. Ping me. Mail me. Those resonate well with the modern day world. But ‘Speak to me’ ?!?! hmm !

Mandapams like this still stand holding evidence of conversations, the plain old way. Taking the mind to a different time. When one human being could connect to another. By sitting down and chatting up !

I am an old fashioned chap you see, and it could sure sound queer, but would you mind if i can talk to you without having to use my fingers ?

Passion Parathas

You are in Mahabalehswar. Its the middle of the afternoon. Right there in the main market. There is a hustle-bustle in the air that the chill clime seems to struggle to ward off.

You squint your eye, catch more the air and store some smell of strawberries before you head back to the plains. You have told colleagues who would care to listen that you have gone there to ‘renew’ yourself.

There is a chatter in the air. Sound of cameras clicking. Of Bargain and memento hunters and odd tractor.

Shopkeepers invite you to buy trinkets and trumpets with an ease and swank of sophisticated socialites slipping from subject to subject in another sundry party that would get a Page 3 feature!

Amidst all the chatter, noise and sights, a song reaches your ear. Its not melodious. Its not classical. You don’t know, for you are not trained. But you don’t think it can be classical music. You are sure it perhaps will not pass the muster of the entrance gate of a music studio. Or perhaps it could.

All the same, the song grips you.

You look around. Without too much difficulty you spot the singer. An man kneading dough and making parathas. At the restaurant nearby !

You spot a small crowd outside the restaurant. They seem to be standing there to watch him make parathas. You wonder what attracts the crowd !



You wonder if its the man. A well built man singing loud enough for the market to hear is not common sight. But you realise quickly,its not about him.

You wonder if it is his antics that attract people. Antics. Of tossing up the dough. Catching it. Tossing it into the Tandoor. Picking it right back tossing it back to find the plate, so much so that it could put an established marksman to shame !



Singing all through.

You aren’t sure. Perhaps, perhaps…you think, its the song. You smile. You realise. You nod your head.

Its not the song. Yet. It is the song.

There is a song that the lips sing, when the heart is ‘in’ what you do. You don’t realise that you are singing. When they say, ‘you really are on a song’.

It doesn’t matter, what you do. Arranging clothes in a retail store, keeping books in a bank, making movies or composing music ! Or for that matter, making parathas for people that you don’t know. Or know.

When you are on a song, it shows.

You smile. You know whats missing in life. Realisation that what you were looking for is right here. You feel light.

You squint your eyes, tilt your head and ask yourself… when was the last time you were on a song !?!

Bag-in-Bag !

Malls, these days reflect life in its entirety ! There are many aspects of life that come alive here. Perhaps representative of ‘progress’ !

This is one.

A bag to house your hand bag. As you enter the mall, this big see-through bag is given, if you are carrying a handbag ! This bag, to house that bag. The handbag !

Assuming ofcourse, that you don’t want to hand over your handbag at the security counter. Perhaps because it contains some secret potion or diamonds. Or perhaps you have invested all the money to be seen carrying this handbag around !

Ofcourse, mall security has had enough of fancy people walk in with fancier bags and respectfully walk out with the reams of toilet roll and tissue paper. Perhaps with the odd bits of titanium or Gold or Platinum or whatever…tucked in somewhere !

They aren’t going to be enthused with the prospect of one more handbag undoing their annual bonus !!

Enter this bag.

It is transparent. It a lock, the keys of which are with the cashier ! It holds your handbag , for the world to see! Although, you cant ‘access’ contents of the handbag, but you can take comfort in the fact that you still are carrying it with you !

When through with all the shopping, the cashiers ‘unlock’ the transparent bag and delivers your handbag back to you !

Of course, that’s how you have access to your credit cards and wads of cash !! We are progressing, as mankind. Aren’t we ?

We first walked about with just leaves on us. Considering how much clothes are on in some of the Fashion shows, we are not too far from where we started. In some cases we have bettered that too.

Some years ago, the plain and transparent polythene bag was just about OK. I guess we are getting back there ! Step by step !

Perhaps bag by bag !

Garbage

These chaps, they used to be regulars at the garbage dump near home. So much so that if they missed a day, it showed. On the garbage dump.

At first, nothing seemed abnormal to the mind. One day, perhaps when the eyes were really ‘seeing’, a question popped.

‘What do these chaps eat in a garbage dump’ ? A dump that was a collection of discards from middle class housing board colony ! Old magazines and discarded report cards. Perhaps old love letters and recent bills.

Or maybe it was the worn out dress with fresh designs, left by the milk that went sour. And such else.

And in a short while, the bigger question popped up. Since when did horses start feeding on garbage !

It took some intelligent souls to let my primitive brain know that these were not exactly ‘horses’ but some sort of ‘crosses between horses and donkeys’.

Ok. So ?

The answer trail didnt lead anywhere. Infact the trail stopped right there. ‘What’ they ate, ‘how’ they ate and ‘how come’ they ate garbage, didnt occur to (m)any !

In a typical worldly way, It was satisfactory to all that lived there, that some work on the garbage happened. So, this unanswered question still stays unanswered.

And i wondered, what other beings live off garbage.

Quick realisation dawned, about that being a very tricky question. If you include metaphorical references of ‘species living on garbage’…well, the entire world will have to get mentioned.
Isnt it ?

All the mega serial and news channel followers. Of all the political analysts who will comment on TV about your cat, if you call it Cabama ! Of all those that hurtle after those wierd material stuff. As wierd as as a Rs.11.00 lacs ( Approx $23,000) pen in the name of Mahatma Gandhi !

The list is endless. And ofcourse, includes the writers that dish trash, and trashers that dish out blogs.

So, leaving out such metaphorical references, what else have you seen live off garbage !?!

But then, who defines what is ‘garbage’ !?! For example, these half asses must think of me to be a complete ass, to label their principal source of sustenance & living, ‘garbage’ !

And, so must the others.

hmm.