Musings

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.


Reservation


How many times has it happened with you that you get to what seems to be a ‘vacant’ seat, only to sight a handkerchief, or an old newspaper, or a book or some object of similar value there. Standing in for the ‘owner’ !

In some time the ‘owner’ shows up, indicating that he had ‘reserved’ the seat. And lays claim to the seat with such ferocity that would put the Chinese’s claim of Arunachal, to pathetic shame !

I guess this is a uniquely Indian moment. I guess. I am not sure. Please correct me if i am wrong here. My guess is given shape by the fact that we have a chronicled mythological precedent. Of Lord Ram’s footwear standing in for the gent when he went into the jungle! So.

So, in a busy movie hall (or wherever else, esp if there are no allotted seat numbers) you can stroll around, ogle about, wander with a pop corn or a cone of ice cream. All this while the old dirty handkerchief stands in for you !!

In smaller cities and towns, this scene is so often repeated in inter city buses. Where the clamour to get a seat is only matched by the ability to reach a handkerchief, newspaper, belt, tiffin box to ‘reserve’ a seat !

If a ‘representative object’ (dirty handkerchief, shredded newspaper or whatever) of the dude in yellow trousers got to the seat before you, well, the seat belonged to the dude in yellow trousers ! So we have seen. And heard.

It was ‘refreshingly different’ to see this gent, and his mode of reservation. Aboard the river cruise on Goa’s Mandovi river.




He clearly had outgrown the handkerchief and belongings of low value. For friends of his, for whom he ‘reserved’ seats, he gave it his one whole leg and one whole hand !

And warded off every body else who came close to the seat with a dismissive disdain that perhaps would befit a Taliban war lord looking at his goats, whom he was going to have for dinner !

This is a new standard that must quickly be made known to the rest of the country. We need more people like this gent.

Wont you be happy with friends like these ? Especially considering that they would give an arm and a leg. Just to get you seated.



Whose name is it anyway ?

Sporting a tattoo that an actor wears. Or growing a goatee like a cricketer. And setting hair like a footballer. They are all easy to do.

Of course, its going to be difficult to sculpt a body like Silvester Stallone or John Abraham. Not forgetting ‘size invisible’ ( or was it ‘Zero’ ?) like those thin lasses. Those are tough asks.

Easiest done is to imitate a ‘star’s outfit. Still easier is to wear a t-shirt bearing the man’s name ! Walk into a store and pick up a T-shirt which says a famous mans name !

Its kind of ironic though. Pay YOUR money, which the credit card company will send to YOUR address in YOUR name. To wear ANOTHER man’s name. On YOU ?!? How interesting !

Of course, this is so common ! The eye brows wont arch one bit if a man with ‘Ronaldo’ written on his T-Shirt is spotted hitching a ride on the streets of Daman.



Or for that matter, if ‘Torres’ is spotted at the Madurai railway station !



The stars themselves, are known to wear those low caps and big sun glasses to hide their identity in public. Perhaps trying hard to melt into the crowd. Becoming more common than common.

And the common man, wears the celebrity name on his sleeve. Actually on his back ! Mankind indeed finds numerous ways to stay busy. But such are the ways of the world.

The eye brows only half arch. That too, in irony. Looking at this ‘Ronaldo’ netting the small fish on a Goan shore !


While the stores rake in the big money, counterfeits rule the pavements. Hollering hawkers, are known to sell such counterfeits to highest bidders.

Just the shirts. With the names, of course ! The stars dont come as part of these deals.

For they have been auctioned long before. To clubs, who were highest bidders too. But that’s a different story. Of a different auction !


.

The merry-go-round deal !

Children scream. Half concealing a laugh and a spirit that seems to come alive when the man with big biceps heaves all his might on to the ‘merry-go-round’.

For 25 paisa, there they are, sitting on red cars. With stationary wheels that spin in air and a steering wheel that needs no steering. The man with the big biceps moves them well ! For two minutes or for such time till the man with the big biceps gets tired, the kids spin around.

In seemingly countless whorls. Seemingly in control. Giggling. Screaming. Some crying. Some closing their eyes in sheer fear and great fright. And there they go. Round. And round. And round.

When their turn is done, they alight.

Slightly heady. Perhaps longing for more. Sometimes looking at their parents for ‘one more round’ ! This merry-go-round is a prominent feature of local fairs and any decent gathering in the villages.

The name says it all. Merry-go-round ! Be merry while going around. Wind in the hair. Screams. Laughter. And all that. For as long as the man with the big biceps desires. Generally its equitable. Sometimes he gives some kids a few more turns. Thats part of the deal.

The merry-go-round deal. The man spins the kids around. As new kids climb on to old cars. Cars with wheels that dont run on the ground and a steering wheel that doesn’t steer.

The same deal, that gives kids a heady high, to think that they steer while knowing that they dont. The same deal that the man with big biceps plays along. The ‘Merry-Go-Round’ deal !

Think about it. Merry-go-round. Man with big biceps. Heady high. Spin. Scream. Scare. Loss. Seeming control. Joy. And so on.

Life.

Isnt it ?

Life…seems to me, to be one big merry-go-round !

Whatsay ?

Pump buzz !

The fingers punching the keyboard punctuates the still early morning air. In a distance the the ‘plonk’ of newspapers being thrown a.k.a delivered at the doorstep is just about the only sound.

In some time there are the others. Like the auto driver revving his engine. And the bus driver seeming to practice to race in Formula 1. All of them contribute to doing their two bit to the Mumbai air. The odd dog barks.

And some birds chirp. Half heartedly. Half in fear, perhaps. Of some wisecrack setting off a Diwali cracker. At 5.30 in the morning, he has to be a wisecrack. Maybe something worse.

The mind wanders to the smaller towns and quieter villages. Occasionally yearning. The sounds of small town mornings are getting to be mirror the big cities.

However, the one sound that’s missed,that used to be so much a part of the wonder years, is the buzz around the ‘hand pump’. The pump still survives, and is very much in use. In many parts of the country.

It goes by the name of ‘Adi-pump’ ( loosely translated to convey : ‘The pump that you have to hit’). People gathered around it, taking turns to pump that long straight handle, up and down. Out would flow water.

Well, water was the obvious reason. Yet, the buzz about the pump was unmistakable. For it was the point of convergence. Of men. Women. Children. Worries. Desires. Jealousies. Love.

And all that went within the whorls of the human brain. Everything was on display. Something like the military showing off its ware at a Republic Day parade. The hand pump being a completely unrehearsed natural event !

Exchanged glances, the extra puffed chest, the ‘help’ of pumping an extra pot-full for the girl. The wail of the complaining wife. The empty boast of the loud husband. Family economics. National economics. Politics. Movies.

The shrill cry of laughter. The sharp spank. Drunk men. Loud women. Washing. The quiet ones. The shy ones. The cleanliness freaks. Gossip. Teasing. Preaching. Repartees. Kindness. Despair. Bonding.

Several strands of society converging. All pumping. When their turn came.

It used to be magical. Almost as though, the buzz was in the water that came out. And so, the metal clang used to be the wake up call. An interesting wake up call. The house needed the water. But more importantly, the local news came through the hand pump !

Some years earlier, the hand pump having an artistic arched handle was more common. Like this.

That’s the journey. It seems. First things are straightened out. And then, they are replaced. These days, there is electricity. Motor pumps. And a battalion to keep the arm at the end of the hand, from going beyond making the odd noise at the keyboard.

To all those that talk about the buzz in the community gone. Or cry shrill about our panting news anchors on TV, and the ‘awesome’ editorial content of newspapers. And to those that hit the snooze button of the alarm clock…

Perhaps its time to try the hand pump !

Oh yes. The water. That’s a bonus.

A – 1 bliss


Take a look at this snap.

Those green chillies hanging like a string of wall decoration are sure to catch the eye. In some time, they will be dipped in flour, fried in oil and served with a flourish. Chilly Bhaji ! And as this is getting written, the ‘mouth watering’ phenomenon sees new levels of inundation.

Those are for another time though. Take a look at the name of the Tea – Stall : ‘A-1 tea stall.’ Now, that is something, isn’t it !

This must be a hybrid of two superlatives. ‘A Class’ and ‘Number One’ ! Both ‘A’ and ‘1’ by virtue of being the first off the starting blocks of their respective series, take pole position as they say in F-1 ( notice the ‘1’) races !

The modern day world has no time, money and patience for that is B grade ( or C or D or anything else for that matter). Similar is the case of positions 2,3…etc !

There is a vast array of products. That are sold as ‘A-1’ quality. ‘A-1’ leadership position. ‘A-1 taste’ and so on. A double reinforcement of sorts !

The effort to belong to / be SEEN on top of the heap is mind boggling. And after all that effort, how must it feel to continue to be, part of the heap !

As the mind masticates that thought in a way that would make a cow hang its jaw in bitter shame, inundation due to the mouth watering are a swallowed tale.

This shop, is set in the chill of Kodai. Serving chili bhaji, tea and coffee. The chill of the hills, offset by the heat of the bhaji and the aromatic milk laden, sugar soaked tea, (re)defines ‘bliss’ !

So ?

You see, this A-1 tea stall, indeed attracts crowd. How much of it was because of they calling themselves ‘A-1’ is a question that begs no answer. At its supreme best, all that the question can get, is a smirk from the missus.

Of course, when the servings redefine bliss, whats in a name. But, would it make a difference if they called themselves ‘B-2 Masala tea’ ?!?

Perhaps. Perhaps not! There is something that has no ‘perhaps’ to it here : The bhaji and masala tea.

Well, that taste…that’s bliss. Perhaps its important say it properly. …’bliss of A-1 quality’ !

One for the road

The sights are so many. The sounds are ear numbing. The mind tries to absorb all what comes by. The eyes are focused on the road. The heat is omni present.

The car’s air-conditioner is at work. As much as it can. Its some years old now. And it shows. The suns heat has been there forever. That shows too.

Its having an impact. All of this. To compound an already clouded mind. Clouded with work and its facets. Family and its facets. The home and the broken faucets.

The mind sows the seed for a head ache to take shape. The head is fertile ground. For such sowing. Tiredness germinates. Its becoming clear as to where all this would lead to. Beeps go off somewhere within. Auto triggered alarm bells within the confines of the mind.

Adding to the clamour.

That’s precisely when the sugar cane juice vendor is spotted. He pushes sugarcane into heavy machinery. Those wheels by the side, move with precision. Out flows concentrated juice. A slice of lemon. And some ginger. And some ice later, the drink is nursed.



As it sinks into a parched throat, the mind seems to be affected. The noises quieten. He sells more. A Small costs Rs.3/-. A large costs Rs.5/-. He can almost sense that the throat is parched enough for more. And proposes a ‘Jumbo’ for Rs.7/-.

In some time, what was grown in some field somewhere, rests in the glass at hand. The throat is a lot less parched. The mind seems to be a lot less noisy. Was there a connection ? There is wonder. As usual.

In satisfaction, the eyes roam. And spot the large tender coconuts sold. Just some distance away. The parched throat is no longer parched. The mind is still in its quenched trance. Yet, the tender coconuts beckon.



There are memories of having tender coconuts. In fields. Roadsides. Travel. With special people. With strangers. All alone. Lows. Highs. A million thoughts rush back. Its almost as though the tender coconuts beckon for re-living of those memories.

He is doubtful of any sale. For he has seen the Jumbos getting gulped with a ferocity of a ravenous glutton.

For only a fleeting second. ‘”The one with water'”, escapes the throat with almost quaint insult to the Jumbo glasses of Sugarcane juice. He gives a wide grin.

The mind seems to rise in protest. Somewhere, that protest is quelled with one statement : ‘This ones for the road’.

A sigh escapes. A smile uses the same escape route too. The mind is quiet. In some time, so is the air-conditioner in the car.

The 24 ways !

Flowers fascinate. The whorls. The colour. The splendour of the bloom. The fragrance for the bee. The soothing for the eye. The subject for poets. As symbols of love. Sorrow. Happiness. And so on.

For my part, i have always loved flowers. And plants as well. As earlier stated, the Madurai Malli has been a personal favourite.

Many a picture has been clicked from my camera. Many an incomplete poem resides : half in paper, half in my mind. A few posts have also found their way on to this blog !
Today, i was in an institution where i spotted this.


And of course, wondered, if i can ever continue to do all what i do. Read that carefully. There are twenty-four items that the reader is asked not to do. This left me staring in open mouthed awe.

If you really wanted to do something bad to a flower or a plant, you could. Couldn’t you ! But, in 24 different ways ! Phew !

I wonder if all of this was thought through and made at one go. Or one statement over a period of time, has expanded to become as all-encompassing as possible !

And that includes ‘borrow, break, pinch..’ etc. The essence however resides in the last line. Which states ‘touch’ ! But wait a minute. How can you borrow, break, pinch, endanger, mutilate etc…without touching ?

Maybe..maybe…

Did they get to see my snaps ? Or worse, did they read my poems ? Did someone complain ? Or are there many like me ?

And i thought, the only thing that you could do with a flower was to let it be ! Ssshhh..! Dont say that aloud. Twenty five ways’ has a nice ring to it.

Twenty four ways are scary enough !

Still standing


These are not buildings with architectural significance ! But then, like every other building they hold in them a history. A tale. Perhaps two.

These were used as car garages. Many many years ago. In these ‘sheds’, as they were called, many an Ambassador or a Premier Padmini would stand. In the company of a slew of bikes. All from the housing colony over there.

And so these sheds shielded those vehicles that were owned with great pride. Sometimes to get people around. Many other times, to just keep up with the Joneses !

There were a motley crew of incorrigible kids who thought of this ‘shed’ with greater affection. For it was part of their life for most of their day. And dreams too.


These are snaps that were clicked a few months back. For at the side of these ‘sheds’ do you see those ‘stumps’ drawn.

Cricket !!!

Yes. Those three vertical lines, topped with one horizontal connection ? They were drawn with charcoal. A bowler of any merit, in the local community of local kids, gunned for those stumps.

The boundary was the road. The sixers meant broken glass panes. Tennis ball. Wooden bat. Teams. Matches. Challenges. All there.

There was no third umpire. There was no umpire in the first place. As kids, things were sorted out, mostly in a jiffy. Arguments. Fights. Sometimes walk outs. All would happen. But the game had to go on.

Kids didn’t play for honour or advertisements. Every kid played there, for cricket was life. Cricket was fun. Cricket defined. And cricket helped connect to other kids.

Many years later, those garages still stand. No longer are cars parked inside. They still stand though, with perhaps a thousand memories. Of kids, who live adult lives elsewhere.

The garages still hold evidence of their creativity. Of their ability to sort out things between themselves. And move on to the next match.

And perhaps those garages wonder, how different these kids grow up to be. With degrees in the pocket, jobs and routines as life. Treating cricket as a spectator sport. And somewhere, living life by rote.

Does this remind you of a different time. When passion ruled. The possessions were few. The heart was light. Losses never mourned. Fights were resolved. Smiles prevailed.

hmm..

Give me some company, will you. I’ll get the bat and the ball. We’ll have a heck of a match. And more importantly, a heck of a time.

You see, the stumps..they are still standing.