Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Purple Bands

It takes five minutes and two purple bands on flat white oval disc to change your life.

The home test kit sounds complicated but is surprisingly simple. It involves putting 2 drops of body fluid on that white disc and waiting for five minutes.

Those five minutes seem the longest and the shortest spin in your life. The do-it-yourself kit instruction pamphlet tells you that if you get only 1 purple band, in the region marked T, then it means your test is successful. And you're negative. If you get 2 purple bands however, one in the region marked T and the other in the area C, then your test result is positive.

Of course, if you get no bands, then you've messed the test up and need to do it again.

The kit also warns that you must check in exactly five minutes. Any delay and the bands may fade or drift or god knows do what. Implode perhaps.

Of course you don't take your eyes off the disc for those five minutes. So the 'check in exactly 5 minutes' instruction seems a bit redundant.

The funny thing is that the kit doesn't tell you that the purple band in the C area appears BEFORE the purple band in the T area. Which means, technically, you know your results even before you know if the test has been successful!

It's strange, that colour spreading gradually on the white paper inside the disc. You remember ink on blotting paper, weaving its way through the warp and weft of the material? Its exactly like that. A pale purple spread, over which the darker bands appear. Quite magical actually, and quite beautiful.

And you keep staring at it. At the two purple bands. At the first completely real, lifetime committment you're making, at the ripe old age of 32 going on 33. At the first sign of 'the rest of your life', especially if yours has been the moment-to-moment and whimsical and uplanned sort. 2 purple bands, like grips around your heart.

2 purple bands like wedding rings.

2 purple bands that feel like wizened fingers gripping your own.

2 purple bands that bring to life cliches you never thought would be real for you. Cliches like tears. And a smile. And a bursting heart. At the thought, so funny, so strange, so scary, so overwhelming, so insecure, so giggly, so frightening, so soft, so curly, so cuddly, so freaked out, so unknown, so worrisome, so careful, so boring, so mundane, so clinging, so freedom, so independent, so binding, so restrictive, so liberating, so fattening, so figure-loss, so stressful, so stress free, so calorie-count, so eat-what-you-like, so personal, so universal, so restrictive, so addictive, so old, so new, so confusing, so contradictory, so mismatched, so timely, so accidental, so sudden, so awaited, so unborn...

2 purple bands.

Drive carefully. Baby on Board.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Quote Hanger

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. - Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Who's In Your Mirror?

Its incredible. How does the whole world gang up against a person who's already down and out? How do people reconcile to kicking somebody who's already down?

What brand of aggression is this? What kind of petty minded insecurities prompt this sort of behaviour?

For those of you reading this post in Delhi, you might just have heard of a radio presenter called Pallavi. She used to be one of the most popular, well loved radio personalities, years ago. Then something bizzarre happened. She lost her voice. Unbelievable though it sounds, like a badly scripted TV soap, it actually happened. It was the rarest of rare symptoms of a very rare disease called Myasthenia Gravis. The same one that Amitabh Bachchan had years ago - remember the droopy eyelids and the raspy voice of Agneepath? It wasn't just performance and make up.

Pallavi obviously could no longer continue as a radio presenter. However, she did not end her relationship with the one medium that she's always loved, and which she's spent almost a decade and a half in. She became a show producer and went on to deliver one of the most successful breakfast programmes in the country.

Again, if you are a radio listener in Delhi, you may on and off have had the duo Ananta and Saurabh crack you up in the mornings, in their laugh riot of a show. Pallavi was the silent and highly competent producer behind them.

The treatment for Myasthenia Gravis itself takes a toll. It's severe and complex, like cancer treatment, involving surgery, radio therapy, chemotherapy. The process of flushing out those toxins from the system itself is a long drawn one. On top of that, the desire to go back on air has always burnt strong in Pallavi. And therefore she continued with a variety of muscle regeneration treatment, speech therapy, yoga and meditation. The opportunity to realise her dreams came up suddenly, when Ananta and Saurabh decided to move on from Radio Mirchi.

As a friend I was delighted to facilitate her return on air. But the focus was obviously the radio station and not her. I've always had tremendous faith in her radio presentation style - its muted, its subtle, its endearing and it grows on you gradually. Pallavi is not the sort of presenter who has you rolling in the aisles or who makes you jump up and applaud. But her influence is insiduous. Suddenly one morning you realise that switching on to her show has become a habit, a habit you'd rather not let go off. And that is the real power of radio.

The only place where Pallavi did not get a strong score as replacement breakfast jock, obviously, was in the voice parameter. But we gambled. We decided to take her story to the public and let them give her a chance. We had great faith in her ability to endear listeners to her, and with such a strong survivor story and inspirational message, well, we had an idea we might just make it.

So far it has worked. Our ratings are good, the story has captured people's imagination and even if there are flaws, glaring flaws in the programme, I hear her making progress every single day. Till then, we have something called marketing muscle to see us through! I believe we'll make it. I am genuinely convinced that - unlike what a lot of snide water-cooler commentators are saying - I have NOT made a mistake this time. I know that many colleagues, junior and senior, who've mentally abandoned this journey mid way, rather than sticking with it, are waiting gleefully for me to be proved wrong.

I have no desire to prove myself right. Unlike what has been grandly predicted about me by armchair psychoanalysts, I am not 'preparing the grounds to withdraw gracefully' everytime I address the team, because 'its difficult for me to accept immediately that I was wrong'.

Obviously, there are enough people in the company who've written Pallavi's second innings off. They are convinced that it is a matter of time before she's pulled off air, we go into damage control overdrive, and one of the grand talents that are supposedly tucked inside the system is asked to come forth and rescue the day. Needless to say, every single presenter in the system today believes that he / she would've done a better job. I am not so sure. I think everyone would've come with a similar balance of strengths and weaknesses and the effort to establish them would've been as much.

It's evident that my central team members don't agree. And like I said, they're only waiting for the time when we will say 'so sorry, I give up, can you rescue us please with your phenomenal talent and incredible vision. Really sorry, we mucked up inspite of having run the most successful radio station network in the country, please please fix this for us'.

Hey, you know what? That may well be the case. We may have mucked up - though I don't believe that - and we may well need younger fresher perspectives to pull us out of our crisis. Pallavi I know is trying her damndest best, but yes, it may well not be enough. I'm not in the business of making Pallavi's radio career, I am in the business of keeping Mirchi the number one radio station in the country.

And that is what brings me back to where I started. Supppose for a second that Pallavi is genuinely failing. Suppose she's struggling and giving it all she has, and yet not being able to make it. Even if that was the scenario, how can a whole team of able-bodied, perfectly healthy individuals gang up against such a person? Start the day by dissecting her show, pulling out her recordings only to laugh at it, and end the day with another doomsday prophecy?

Forget about human values, even if you are political by nature, wouldn't it strike you that being forthcoming and helpful and concerned, or atleast appearing to be, would be your best bet today? At least be devious with some intelligence!

Now for a second let's leave corporate machinations aside.

How does an entire team just start ostracising a person for no fault of hers? How do they start treating her like a pariah, and refuse to bond with her at any level whatsoever? How is any of this Pallavi's fault? Even if things weren't working out for her, wouldn't it strike anybody that she may be lonely, frightened, afraid of becoming the laughing stock, thirsting for some affection, some understanding, some momentary suspension of judgement....

Hey, these are other performers. Don't they at least fear for themselves? Life is such an even playing field... this could happen to anyone. How can we become so desensitized as to actually start treating a living breathing human being like a dart board for all our insecurities, jealousies, envies, mediocrities?

How can you stop talking to a person who's only trying her best not to let the company down?

How can you make fun of somebody who's only trying to make her own job fun?

How can you sleep with yourself after making comments like "kehne ko to cancer tha, morning show milte hi sab theek ho gaya?" How? How do you even look yourself in the mirror?

I shudder to think of a day when I'm even capable of thinking like this. I dread the time when I too will settle into my comfort zones, and be happy to pull other achievers down, rather than having any ambition or vision for myself or for the world...

Seriously man. This show may or may not work. This jock may or may not stay. God damn it, this radio network may or may not survive; who cares? It's not the end of the world. The media is a fickle entitiy. Today's rulers are tomorrow's beggars. No statistic, no TRP, no GRP ever stays.

But what always does stay are our words and our actions through trying times. And there are always those who stand up to be counted, and those who just wait for others to fall.

And at the end of it all, there is the person in the mirror. We can justify, preen, bluff and fluff in front of the entire world, explain away every heartless comment, brush off every insensitive remark and action. But when the mirror reflects a monster, we're alone with that dreaded image.

Who do we wake up with, when we go to sleep alone? That is the only reality that bites.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I am sad.

Without misery.
Without even the excuse of a treachery.

I am sad.

Because sadness has come visiting.
And I must serve tea and biscuits.

Tears and misfits.
Awkwardly shaped thoughts.
Not quite fitting around the ankles.

So Chaplin-esque.
This whole deal.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Quote Hanger

Where the Mind is Without Fear - Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my 'country' awake.


I highlight the word 'country' in the last line, because it is so easily replaceable with 'mind', 'heart', 'soul', 'being'. Tagore is brilliant in his insights, that transcend time, space, context. This poem is an elixer of immortal strength for every human being in search of a universal truth; every person looking for an answer within the situations of their life.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Unfinished Business

There is unfinished business
That must be attended to.

There is a song to be written
A line to be remembered.
A scene from a movie
Sweet slowly replayed.

A love to be made.

Its all been left half done.

There is this urgent business
We must attend to.


Before the flowers dry.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So Full of You

I am so full of you today!

So full
With sepia tones
That colour bounces back from my skin

And to the onlooker
I am a rainbow.

Simply because I am so full with you today.

The grey black blue whiteness of us.
Left unrisked.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Don't Look Here

Search in your spirits.

In your temple bells
And your gated hells
And in the ghosts that you dare not know.

Search where there is no light
In the spaces where
You have been warned
Of maya, her maids
And of the shadows of past regressions

Where there is no seeking
No fetching and no bringing

Of things into the light

But simply a touching
Of truths already known

And a beauty sown
Upon the graveyard of reasoning.

I Wish You Had Come Tonight

I wish you had come tonight.

There was a sadness sitting to be shared. Like an unfinished bottle of wine.

A sort of endlessness that made no demand, and had no expiry date, and yet wished to be drunk. And done with.

I so wish you had made it, without the cactus in your hair, the bludgeons upon your face. Waiting with impregnable arguments, daring to be felled.

I so wish you had let them fall. And allowed a surprise to sneak upon us like a black cat silhouetted against a moonlit night upon a terrace ledge.


I don't believe you

I don't believe you.

I don't believe your reasons
And your analysis of the seasons.

And I don't believe that you know.

In inner courtyards
When the skies purple with ink

You show

But I don't believe you know.

The spirit touches upon infinite things
And baubles that a christmas brings

Drift to snow.

And yet, infinitessimally

I don't believe you know.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why I'm not on Facebook!

Ok, ok. I can already see half my pals grinning. Why half. More like 2/3rds.

Like Sonia Gandhi, if re-election (for the post of 'with it') is inevitable, then we shall face it. But what to do. My 1-2-3 deal with Being Firmly Off the E-network is non negotiable.

1. I'm not interested.

2. It intimidates me.

3. Gosh. It has people. Eeeps.

I must therefore, (again, firmly) insist that I am not e-tarded. I do many activities on the world wide whatugot. From searching for information to googling any damn thing to booking movie tickets to ordering books to reading poetry to ho hum checking mail to downloading music to yesss..... blogging.... see? I am, net net, quite netted. And nettled therefore, by being looked upon as a retro-come-lately-there's-an-ol-kid-in-town.

Nobody asks these days IF you are on Orkut. They ask what was your worst scrap. And that does not point to bloodied nose and knees in an honest to goodness delhi road rage brawl. Nobody wants to know IF you're on facebook. They wonder who you threw a pie at last.

Uff. I din. I don. I won.

Why? Coz I am petrified of people I do not know. Most people don't believe that since I am so all over the people I do know. But truth remains. Show me a stranger and see me pale Ambika style. Or was it Amba? Or Ambalika? Whatever. I do the about-to-beget-pandu number faster than you can say Bhishm. Not Bhisham please.

And you see, this Orkut and this Facebook have people. Mummy! Not only that, they are allowed to get into your space whenever however. Dementors!! Worse still, the whole world can see the rest of the world trying to get into your world. Horror!!!!

Like a friend said about a friend who she was teasing about her latest male preoccupation - 'she told me not to reveal such sordid details on her wall since her dad was on face book too'.

Oh. My. Gosh.

That just about did it for me. Any remote plans I may have had to succumb went firmly out of the e bay. Sailing south.

Not that my dad is likely to be on facebook. Since he's dead. He's probably privy to all my male and other preoccupations in any case, wherever he is. Vantage point.

But since its highly unlikely that he will express his opinion - by throwing pies or scowling on my wall- at whatever it is that I am preoccupying, or occupying, or being occupied by - his Omni séance doesn't hassle me that much. If he were to pop up in my inbox through some mystic cross connection I'll be worrying about a lot more than privacy.

But that aside, this general bonhomie and cheerful camaraderie as we stealthily creeep into each other's most personal parts - pun intended - gives me the creeps. I realise that most people, when they are on Orkut or Facebook, are sitting alone. And its often pretty late at night. And they may well be a few drinks down. And in the relative safety of an empty room with zonal lighting and the alcohol coursing, many things are said, revealed, confessed....... into this mid day sun blaring fish market called social networking on the net.


Hasn't anybody noticed the words? InterNET. NETworking. world wide WEB. Its a tangle. Its a trap and I am not stepping into it. Heebie geebies.

Parting thought? I have never ever understood the point of networking for the sake of itself. There are some words and phrases I just don't get: People-watching. Hanging-around. Doing-the-scene. And yes, Social networking.

I have never been a member of any social club. I don't much care for group or community activities unless there is an agenda. The only kind of group I've ever belonged to is a theatre group. Because one person cannot stage a play. Well, atleast, not all kinds of plays.

But why does one need literature clubs to appreciate literature? Or music clubs to hear music? These are solitary pursuits, best savoured alone. A cricket club makes sense. But who's ever heard of a Patience Group?

A friend, who's a rock music encyclopaedia, joined one of those rock appreciation groups once. And came away severely bruised. A Jerry Garcia guitar solo played plaintively in the background that nobody paid any attention to, and the conversation swelled around trivia one-up-manship and the competition for memorablia hunters. X was a dude because when he'd been to the U.S. last he had managed to wrangle a personally autographed LP left by the legend in some dusty store but than Y was cooler because he knew what the legend ate for breakfast every wednesday morning.... and Garcia played on, unheard, unheeded.

Sigh. Groups.

Give me a joy and I'll give you a group that can destroy it.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hate them Cats

There was a cat.

Since I hate cats, I was pretty sure. Its funny how quickly, and with how much alertness, we tune into the presence of that which we hate. While those we love waste away, wating for our attention.

It's possible to ignore what you love so completely. Maybe I should just learn to love cats.

Trust my luck, it had to be an ugly, mangy, dog-eared Tom. They won't even throw me the cute ones. Spring them on me, like. And watch the hate dissolve. No chance.

As much chance of that as of a terrorist meeting a back thumping violence worshipper, who'd reinstate his basic faith in human wickedness, and therefore maybe return him to his family. No sir. A terrorist will only meet people who abhor violence.

I will only meet ugly cats.

Malevolent. Staring beady yellow eyes. Growls and arched backs. And sudden streakings which unnerve. No cute ball rolling at your feet, no dignified saunter across the lawn that may teach me to respect, if not like them.

No. The ones I encounter jump from the garden wall on to tables laden with food. Streak across window grills and brush horribly against legs as you sleep. They are big and dirty. And totally fierce looking.

So when I shifted my plastic chair next to the swimming pool and reached for my kebabs, I knew by the rustle from the bushes, that there was a cat.

And of all the evening drinkers and diners by the pool side, it would chose us. To prowl around.

One of us - certainly not me - chased it around the tiles of the pool. Unfortunately it didn't fall in. Beastly. Though, then again, a bedraggled wet yowling cat? Maybe not.

Naturally it returned. Nobody at our table noticed it, except me. I suspect it noticed nobody at our table, except me.

It was mutual then.

This hateful fascination. This fascinating hatred. How often, it turns out to be mutual. You'd almost think it was such amazing luck. Invariably who you hate, will hate you back.


Considering the abysmmal accuracy rate Love has in the same regard.

Unrequited hate. Now, wouldn't that be something?

Have a Bath

If you could bathe in songs,
What texture would Peter Gabriel be?

Something thick.
And smooth.

Sometimes slippery.

How would Ghalib feel against the skin?
A bit grainy perhaps?

If you could bathe in a song
Would Asha come with her own bubbles?

And how much lather
Would Bhupinder be?

If you could bathe, bathe, soak, sink, shower, mist, scald, singe, tingle, chill, sputter, drink, drown in a song

Who would your bathing partner be?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

For My Father

When I hear a song
That you would’ve loved

Something tears up inside;
At your listening, silenced

And if the release date precedes your death
I wonder if you had heard
In a casual
Or a secret
Or a forgotten hearing

Which you misplaced from getting home
Like your other gift songs

But when I see a copyright and published date
That is after December 1995
It is a funny feeling indeed

A song unborn at the time of your going
And yet a song that simply demands,
In fact is, your listening

And I wonder how this song can be
Without the hearing that brought
Bengali songs to life for us

Be that as it may,
The moot point remains:

That more than in the celebrations
More than in the festivities and
The birthdays and
The weddings and the
Structured memories

It's in these songs
Unheard by you
That you come alive

In all my rooms

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Husband Writes to Me


You have, my dear, an eternity of unrest.....

were the phrases that tumbled for joan of arc
in her “knightsuit” and florence with the

You have, you have, you have, my dear.....an eternity of unrest,

the victories of margaret thatcher and
the books of germaine greer, the ultra cool
barbs of shobha de and the thatched cliches
of femina columns.

You have an eternity of unrest an eternity my dear an eternity...of unrest,

to support so many
tendencies and fierce
longings and motivations.
How does the yearning for
my man and
my home and
my man and
my child and
my man and
our home and
our child and
my life and his
life and my
life and our
child’s life
and my
merge with my cool-ness, hip-ness, today-ness, why
does it interfere?

You have my dear, an eternity of unrest,

as alanis screams and tracy groans and baez
cries and sheryl chills while sinead smiles.

You have, my dear, (need I repeat, or say more) an eternity, (should I continue?) of unrest!
My husband wrote this, and gifted it to me a few weeks ago. Perhaps that restless space where one feels an unrest and the other expresses it, is the closest one can ever get to restful spaces.
And as Hamlet said as he fell, "the rest is silence".

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Ram Jivan was not feeling good at all. In fact, if he knew the phrase, we would’ve said he was feeling ‘goddamned awful’. His head was throbbing, his heart palpitating and his thoughts atrophying. He didn’t want to think and he couldn’t stop thinking. Alone in his one room living quarters, he felt downright miserable. There was no one to discuss his confusions with; his wife was at the village and his uncle’s son was an idiot. Not that his wife being here would’ve been much good. The two of them didn’t quite talk the way his mistress and master did. Ouch. That reference didn’t help. He didn’t want to think about his employers. He couldn’t stop thinking about his employers.

It had been three years since Ram Jivan had been employed by the mistress to drive her tiny tall-boy. From then till now, Ram Jivan had been a part of all of mistress’ experiences and episodes, accidents and achievements. When she graduated from the tall boy to a bigger sedan, provided by the organization she worked in, for Ram Jivan it had been ‘their’ acquisition. Proudly polishing the bright red vehicle in the office parking lot, Ram Jivan had good naturedly taken the teasing heaped upon by the other drivers and office boys. He’d been a tad embarrassed by mistress’ choice of colour – bright red was so extravagant – but quickly even that became a matter of pride. Nobody could miss the arrival of the vehicle, and Ram Jivan in his simple way always felt that it was the impressive presence of the car that had given them the prized slot in the parking lot, right in front, where only the top three or four cars were allowed. It had never occurred to him that the grade and quality of the car did not do the trick; it was the grade and quality of the person who owned it.

From hospital duty when mistress’s mother fell dangerously ill, to wild late night parties where Ram Jivan insisted on staying on, in the heat or the cold, just to ensure that mistress got home safe and sound, this faithful servant had been there like a watch dog through it all. He had, over the years, acquired a silent, self proclaimed stake in the family’s highs and lows. It did not matter what they said or thought, for him, their happiness was of supreme importance. When mistress finally decided to tie the knot with that wonderful gentleman who’d visit ever so often, Ram Jivan was sure nobody was happier than him. The fact that mistress was getting on in her years, and was refusing to ‘settle down’ had been bothering him no small amount. He’d silently shared in her mother’s anxieties, aggressively defended her when she came up in local domestic help gossip, and tried in his timid way to nudge her thoughts in the direction of matrimony. Ram Jivan today was convinced, even if nobody else was, that his little machinations had served a great deal in helping mistress make up her mind.

Damn. It was exactly this sense of ownership and emotional possession that made Ram Jivan so bitter today. His sense of outrage was heightened by the fact that his feelings just didn’t seem to matter. Because, although he didn’t know it, for Ram Jivan, his mistress’ world had become a microcosm of the world at large. If everything was all right in that one, everything was all right everywhere. When mistress did something to shake that balance, Ram Jivan went into a tizzy. He simply could not deal with it. He got headaches, belly aches, heart aches. A few times, when he’d attempted to bare his heart to the mistress, he had not been exactly rebuffed; she was gentle but firm. He had not exactly been encouraged. He knew his place. He was the driver, taken very good care of, paid handsomely and treated wonderfully. But he was not an equal. ‘I disagree’, ‘I disapprove’ and ‘I dislike’ were not part of his vocabulary with his employer.

As his mobile rang shrill in the tiny room, Ram Jivan snapped out of his reverie with a start. Ouch. It was already 10a.m. and he had not even started the fifteen minute walk to mistress' house. He had to report at ten past ten, and this was mistress' reminder call. He wouldn't take it. He couldn't start his day with her razor sharp voice and her ghost like ability to percieve where he was, even through the phone. His gasped 'nearly there madam, just around the corner' would be greeted with her whiplash 'you haven't even left home yet, Ram Jivan,' and he'd wilt. He'd have to start jogging right away, and pretend that he'd not heard the phone. She wouldn't fall for it though. And it was so unfair, considering that the entire delay was caused in the first place by these blasted thoughts of her.

Ram Jivan was all of twenty three. Not more than a lad when he started work, his initial three months with mistress had been extremely embarrassing. He’d drive, but she’d park for him. He’d drive, but she’d reverse for him. Still raw and untrained at the wheel, he had been the butt of jokes from parking attendants, mechanics and drivers. But mistress patiently saw him through those green years – well, not patiently perhaps. His ears would singe with the burning criticism and mistress’ brand of caustic sarcasm. But something about her made him stick on. He noticed that she spoke like that to everyone, and he never got a sense of class difference. It appeared to him that the entire world seemed stupid to his mistress, and he just happened to be one such person in the line of her vision. She could reduce grown men to tears and not even realize that she had. He not only learnt to deftly dodge her temper, he began to hotly defend it when others complained. Even Ram Jivan could not say what gave him this sense of fierce and possessive loyalty – perhaps it was generations of feudal culture, socio genetically sowed into him, or maybe it was the security of the job, in spite of the ghastly hours and unpredictable schedule. Whatever it was, Ram Jivan was here to stay.

Here to stay, and mind his own business. Well, at least that was the way Medha viewed it. She found her driver adorable and exasperating at the same time. While his body language betrayed volumes, his lips would gurgle inarticulate monosyllables. It was impossible to make him say a word when he chose to be silent, and that would infuriate Medha. What's with this guy, she'd exclaim to herself. One tadpole of a driver whom she'd groomed and trained, literally brought up and civilized, and here he was, giving her attitude.

Medha shook off her exasperation, and her eyes off the rear view mirror, through which she could see Ram Jivan's glum countenance. Psshaaah. She had enough to brood about, without allowing menials, even well meaning ones, to get under her skin.

Medha's normally excel sheet like brain was going into a tailspin these days. Little did driver and mistress know how similar their mindsets were, that hers was in as much of a turmoil as his. She glanced up furtively again into the rear view. Was this a good time to change course? She smiled grimly at the unintended pun in her head. Change the course of what? Her car? Her life?

Forget it. Get on with work first. This was no time to get distracted. Medha got off at the office entrance and sent the car back for her husband, who was going in late today. She flipped open her mobile to re-read a message from last night, for the nth time. The palpitation started, as did the slight tremble in her limbs. She snapped her cellphone shut and attempted to do the same with her wandering mind.

Some time in the afternoon Medha's phone beeped again. The message was simple, and devastating. "One shouldn't have to beg for coffee". Medha felt as though she'd choke. This was far out. This was movie dialogue and B grade scripts. This couldn't be her life. A thirty something working executive, ambitious, married, 'settled' was the word. This was insane.

The next fifteen minutes passed in a blur. 3 people came to discuss work with her and she could pay no attention. Her husband called and she wouldn't answer. Nothing worked. The visual focus of things around her changed. Some things stood out in sharp relief, while others receded into a blur. Medha shouldered her bag and stepped out of the office. Her reply sms was terse and equally simple. "Coming".

'Ram Jivan, South Park shopping mall please.' Did she imagine it, or did Ram Jivan's fingers clench over the steering wheel? What nonsense. This was just pure guilt. But why should she be guilty? She wasn't doing anything wrong. And Ram Jivan was hardly somebody she owed explanations to, about why she was setting off to a mall in the middle of a working day.

By the time she was at the familiar table at the cafe, Medha's celebrated composure was nowhere in sight. She couldn't figure if the tremor, the giddiness, the breathlessness was pleasurable or painful. She knew she wouldn't be able to stand. Her knees, as she'd identified the feeling in those countless trashy novels of adolescence, were wobbly! Yikes. She hated this reaction. She hated the fact that there was no source. Every impact should have a source. How can you deal with a reaction if there is no action to correct; change an effect when you can't identify the cause? This was the closest to 'being' as she had ever come. A pure state of being, with no state of doing, or undoing.... She didn't have a problem. She didn't know what to solve.


Damn. Funny feelings. Coordinates: middle of tummy, top left. Shifting in whorls. The knees weren't exactly cooperating. The breathing had decided to join in the fun and games and take a merry go round ride up and down her wind pipe. She wanted to slap every separate part of her anatomy and force them to behave.

Medha couldn't look. She forced herself to. A cascade of emotions poured through her like paint, and she felt the fumes rise to her eyes. This was incredible. This was idiotic. 'Hi'.

Nikhil smiled. She decided it was him she really wanted to slap. That same smug smile, like he knew exactly what was going on, and blast it, that same darting vulnerable look around the eyes. How did they do it? How did they hold up these cliches like neon signs around their faces and prove everytime that the cliches were for real, and were fleeting?

Medha couldn't believe she was actually here. Why was she sharing a table and an hour with a man who had pretty much brought every stereotype of men to life? Why was she here to hear the same pleasant sounding rubbish every self help book warned against? Why did she fall for drivel like 'one shouldn't have to beg for coffee?' Why, when her own husband was not a chip of that old block, was not like anyone she'd ever met before, was not likely to make stereotypes come to life, was not about to behave like an overgrown jerk in search of mommy and mallika sherawat rolled into one.

Medha stayed on.

Several floors down in the basement parking lot, Ram Jivan was fuming.

He had spotted Nikhil's self driven 4 wheel drive swing into the complex. His baleful gaze had followed Nikhil's form as it pushed through the glass doors, went to the bank of elevators and got swallowed into a crowd entering the one going up to the 3rd floor. When Nikhil had hesitated for a fraction of a second next to a florist near the elevators, Ram Jivan had wanted to throw something big and heavy at him. But whether it was those waves of antipathy, or something else, Nikhil change his mind and went on up empty handed.

Ram Jivan decided that he did not like Nikhil. That he did not like any of this.

He had not realised he was actually gnashing his teeth, jaws clenched, when his cellphone rang. He sprang up in alarm. Was mistress already done? Should he get the car out? Would he have to grin at that dolt when he picked madam up, if he escorted her? Why couldn't he just stare out of the window deadpan like most other drivers did? But no, madam would give him tension on that too later. Might as well be polite and ....

Ram Jivan started; the phone was still ringing. When he looked at the screen his heart sank. Damn. It was sir. Obviously he must be looking for madam.... shit shit shit.

Ram Jivan answered with a pant as though he'd come running to his phone. "Haanji, namaste!"

"Ram Jivan, where's Medha? Why is her phone switched off? Its never switched off. Is she ok?"

A wave of relief and joy flooded over Ram Jivan. Here it was. His solution handed to him on a platter. "She's at the South Park mall sir. I'm here with her."

"At the mall??? At 3 in the afternoon on a working day? And has her battery gone, do you know? Do you have a spare charger for her?"

Ram Jivan's heart was melting for this good, kind, caring man; his righteous indignation progressively taking wing at the same time.... "I don't know sir, we should be back in the office soon. Maybe she has come to shop for something...."

"Ok tell her to call me the moment she gets into the car. If her phone isn't working, give me a missed call from yours, I'll call back..."

The conversation was ending. Ram Jivan could rapidly see the window of opportunity close. He broke into a sweat. How to say it, what to do... a random comment would be taken amiss. He could not just arbitrarily offer information that was not solicited; both sir and madam hated that... but in another few seconds sir would hang up....

Ram Jivan's normally dull wit suddenly sprang to life with the sparkle of moral light. He had it. Just in the nick of time, he had it.

"O that won't be necessary sir. After all, even if madam's phone is off, she can call you from Nikhil sir's phone I'm sure".

There was a pause.

"Nikhil? He's there too?"

Ram Jivan could hear the bugles of triumph, the drums of victory beating in the background. He was being crowned the king of goodness in heaven, and all was well with the world. His duty as the ever faithful had been done.

"Yes sir, I saw him enter the mall 5 minutes after madam. Oh, but then maybe he has come alone and maybe they won't even meet, and then maybe I will have to give you a missed call after all whenever...."

"Ya ok ok." click.

Ram Jivan stopped blabbering midway through his ramble. He smiled.

Oblivious to his machinations, far above, 2 people were huddled in an intense and charged conversation. They weren't touching, but somehow they had a sheen around them that seemed almost electric in its crackle. No waiter came near them, no wandering sales girl stopped to make her pitch. They had a big Do Not Disturb aura all over.

"I don't know what I want Medha. Except that I want you. I know this is crazy and I have nothing to offer. But I can't help it"

"I can't help it??? Who do you think you are, Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind?? Its 'beyond my control' and all that jazz? You remember I hope, that it's you who walked..."

"I know... I just want you. I need to hold you. I could go for you right here..."

Medha gulped and allowed the sudden flip flop plunge in her stomach to complete its routine. Quelling the urge to grab Nikhil by his hand and drag him straight back to his studio apartment, she breathed deep. They were silent while she allowed the lust fumes in her head to die down. Looking at Nikhil didn't help. It genuinely was Clarke Gable from Gone with the Wind. It was beyond their control. This unshakeable, unbreakable chemistry that wove its rope around them, and had for the 8 years they'd known each other. 2 to recognise it, 3 to fight it, 1 to give in to it, and 2 to recover from its tortured, terrible impact. Like being in a car crash and enjoying it. Like standing in the middle of a storm and relishing it. What made people enjoy destruction? What made people give in to the dark?

Medha shook her head. This scan of the last 8 years helped her focus. It had been a long journey from those horribly lonely, tear streaked, self worth devastated, body hungry, mind wandering years, towards finding good health again. She couldn't let herself get there again... or could she? She looked up. Nikhil was devouring her face with what she called his 'hungry eyes'. You always touch me with your eyes, she'd tell him. You don't look, you make physical contact.

"I know, I know, I don't want to mess anything up in your life.... its not like I could ever give you half the happiness you have today... I don't want to disturb anything... but damn it, I can't handle this no entry sign. Sorry, pun unitended" Nikhil grinned wrily.

"Wow. So this is not even about 'leave everything and come with me Medha', is it? It doesn't even have the honor of an abduction, the respectability of flight with another man? This is not a french novel. This is just plain and simple seedy infidelity you are looking for. Without having to take responsibility for another person's life, society, or even feelings."

"Why the sarcasm? Why do you always cut me down like this? What have I done? Don't you want me too?"

"Of course I do. I never could stop. But this shit has to, somewhere. I'm getting late. Unlike you, fancy book critic, I have a job to do..."


By the time Medha stormed out of the mall, she was furious. And unfortunately, very turned on. Sex with Nikhil was like a drug. You wanted it so badly that the anticipation was almost crippling. But she was determined to kick the habit. Go cold turkey if need be. Home is where she needed to be right now. For grounding. For morality. For goodness.

For good.

"I'll wait for you at the apartment tonight." A voice warm-breath whispered into her loose hair, "With wine and pasta. And some music I picked up recently". Medha jumped out of her skin. But before she could retort, Nikhil had walked away towards his cherry coloured 4 wheel. Even the sight of that damn car could turn Medha into jelly. They had barely ever managed to get into the car and roll up the window before reaching, fevered, for each other... how mad, how dangerous, how insane those days were....

Medha called Ram Jivan and went back to work. Her resolution lasted with the sun. Her phone remained silent, except for one quick call to her husband and some garbled excuse about needing a midday break. She never really could lie to him point blank. Honesty was his corner stone, his identity. A half truth was what she managed at best.

When the sun set and the office boy came to draw the curtains in her cabin, she waved him away. Pushing back her chair, she stretched and purred, the afternoon's sensuality still lending a wine like langour to her limbs. She stood at the window and watched the city lights come on, and smiled. Just the thought of being with him made her so heavy-limbed and fluid... what would happen if she actually went...

His room came into her mind in sharp relief. Zonal, mood lighting, plush rugs, the smell of incense that Nikhil so loved, and books and manuscripts everywhere. Hard bound, paper back, recent works, classics, thumbed through, brand new... intoxicating, that smell....

And along with it came crashing other images. Medha alone in that room and no Nikhil in sight. Medha crying outside that door, drunk at 2a.m. and neighbours popping out, but no Nikhil. Medha calling the house when Nikhil switched off his phone, and hearing that phone echo unanswered in that empty hall.... Medha buying a new rug for the house only to hear a caustic 'trying to be my wife?'. Medha waiting and Medha hoping. Medha hopeless and still waiting. And finally, Medha not waiting anymore...

Shaking her head, confused, sad, hurt, Medha left office. Her past was tumbling into her present, and her heart was feeling fragile. Compared to the robust tremulousness of the afternoon, this stillness was fragile. She felt the tears prick at the back of her eyes. The whole thing was sad. The investment of emotions were sad, the letting go of dreams were sad, the waylaying of life on the pathway of ideas was sad. It was a futile world, this one of the heart, and whether you destroyed it or nurtured it, at the end of the day, something was left sad somewhere.

"Lets go home Ram Jivan" Medha uttered those words like a talisman. What would she go home and tell her husband? Should she go home at all? Or should she give in to the tempest that had never even yielded driftwood?

Ram Jivan observed his mistress through the rear view. She looked so sad. He felt awful. He wished he dared entertain her with some story, bring up some funny anecdote, like he did at times when she was grim and frowning after work. But this was different. He couldn't break that silence, it was too full...

Suddenly Medha felt the entire world tailspin and her heart get completely entangled with her thoughts.... nothing was working. Nothing was making sense. She needed a compass and north was missing.

"Ram Jivan...." she hesitated...


"Uh... not home.... Apsara Apartments first.... just for a little bit" she almost whimpered out that last sentence like a pleading child...

Ram Jivan shut his eyes in despair for one furtive second. Apsara Apartments. Cherry coloured 4 wheel drive in the basement. Ever since Ram Jivan had joined mistress' service she had gone there only a few times, but he knew who stayed there, alright.

He decided it was time to get brazen. "Apsara Apartments? So late madam? This is the same place we used to go to, a few years back, no? And last 2 weeks you've asked me to drive by the same place about 3 times? Same place you want to go?"

Medha sighed. This was no good. She would go home and send him off first, and maybe drive out later herself. After dinner. After a chat with her husband.... a chat? About what? How could she hold up her tattered flag of petty conversation in front of his brilliant white mast of honesty? Discuss work? Her break at the mall?

"Never mind, lets go home" she instructed her driver, and settled back into her seat, a wave of terrible exhaustion passing over her.

Ram Jivan relaxed. One day at a time, he thought.

When Medha walked in home, her husband was surfing the net. He looked up briefly and smiled. Coffee? He asked, as usual.

Guilt. She felt. Not so usual. Not for anything tangible. Not for any wrong done. Simply for an adultery considered. Were trecherous thoughts more harmful, or deeds? Did a thought through in detail indiscretion, that had never happened, matter more in the final book of Right and Wrong, or a senseless, thoughtless, real trespass? Which one notched higher on the moral crime graph? If she got terribly drunk one night and kissed a stranger at a party, would that be worse? Or were these betraying, adulterous thoughts worse?

"Thanks baby" she sighed, settling down into the couch. "I'm not hungry tonight, so go ahead have your high calorie food".

Her husband grinned. And with a flourish pulled out a bowl of rich gooey cheese sauce pasta from behind him. "Already doing that".

Pasta? Sure, now there would be wine too. And maybe hubby darling too had bought new music. How charming. What a plethora of choice. Utterly delightful.

The entire macabre humour of the scene helped her make up her mind. The world was amoral. Life was amoral. Feelings too, were beyond ethics. What the heck. She'd go. She'd take advantage of this amazing man, who'd never ask. She'd totally trample his trust and then decide what to do with the debris later. She'd never tell him. She'd live this double life, as many husbands had done, over years, and not feel guilty about it. Loving him, desiring Nikhil, committing to both in her strange twisted sense of loyalty...

"I'm going out" she was about to say, but she was interrupted. "What were you doing at South Park mall today in the afternoon exactly? What was all that about a midday break? You have a recreation centre in office too."

"Uh... so? I felt like going there. I'm the boss. I can go anywhere. Who's gonna ask me at office? Look, I need to step out for a ...."

"Did you meet Nikhil?"

Medha's lungs collapsed. She was grateful that her husband normally didn't pay much attention to nuances of the face, because hers must've looked like a panchnaama.

"Nikhil?" she managed.

"Yeah, Ram Jivan said he saw Nikhil entering the mall after you. Was wondering if you ran into him while you were there?"

"Uh... no. I didn't. I window shopped, had a coffee, came back. Wish I'd known, would've invited him for a coffee too..."


"What do you mean, why?"

"I thought that man hurt you terribly. Made you lose your entire sense of self? Why would you invite him to join you for coffee on a nice afternoon sneak away from work?"

Medha looked up. Her husband was looking at her intently. His tone was casual but his body was arrested. His eyes sparking.

"Cmon Medha, you deserve a break when you want it, you know."

Was he talking about the afternoon? Or was he talking about something else? What an incredible man, Medha thought. She put down her bag, nodding slowly. "Yeah, I guess you're right. We are all entitled to enjoy our breaks to the fullest".

The next morning, when the doorbell rang, Medha felt too lazy to go downstairs. Her night had been fuzzy and warm, and loving. She decided to check from the balcony first.

"Car keys madam" Ram Jivan beamed up, a sword of sunlight splitting his face into two halves.

Half innocent, half wicked, thought Medha, staring down at him in exasperation, in affection, in wonder. She flung down the keys and went back to the bedroom.

"You know sweetie", she murmured, nuzzling into her husband's neck, "in a progressively individualistic world, where family, society and community have ceased to matter, its funny where the face of ethic can pop up. Odd, where we can suddenly get our moral bearing, our faith from."

"I know." Her husband said. "Now stop being profound while behaving like a dachshund".

Sunday, February 11, 2007

You've Got New Post

'Why is there no new post on your blog?' Best friend asked.

'Because I'm happy. I can't write when I'm happy.'

Best friend wore a curiously best friend expression, managing to blend relief with curiosity with perplexity with amusement.

'I honestly can't. Today I felt like writing after a long time because I just saw Parzania and I was disturbed. But the feeling passed because I'm largely happy.'

Best friend wanted to know more. So I supplied. About husband and life and togetherness and balance and things falling harmoniously into place.

Best friend smiled and said, 'for those reasons, I'm more than willing to accept absence on the blog'.

An ex boyfriend and almost ex friend had once told me: for the sake of poetry, you always need to be heartbroken. Your being happy would be a great disservice to the world.

Very flattering it was. Made me feel quite like the raven haired, wild eyed beauty I always fancied being. Ah. The me I've wished to be.

Happiness is largely a deadening emotion. It makes much of habit, a big deal of consistency, a huge fuss over stability, and can well lose imagination en route. The tremulous beauty of sadness is fertile ground. It breeds thoughts that seek wings of expression. Happiness has no such desire. It sings itself to sleep with a smile on the lips and is more than content with conversation, beer and a pay cheque. Good sex helps. Good conversation helps even more.

Sadness can make much of a muchness and therefore help you 'live life larger than life' as a film maker friend says to me about his own. Not about sadness that is, just about his own life. But it applies equally to the emotion so I borrow, conscientiously. Conscience can screw the rhythm of writing.

My husband can't watch Parzania at 2:55p.m. tomorrow because he has to visit his daughter. His daughter who isn't mine. His weekend sojourns to his ex wife's house makes us miss many saturday and sunday things. The fact that EPL is on, on Saturday nights, puts paid to evening plans as well. So I catch up with friends. And get my weekly alcohol fix in the process, since I try and avoid drinking too often when with hubby. He kicked booze almost 2 years ago after his liver threatened to pack up, so I try and avoid putting temptation his way.

But such weekends notwithstanding, I must shamefacedly confess, I am happy. My husband loves me and displays his caring in a zillion different ways. He cooks for me and kids with me. He makes plans with me and messes up plans with me. He musses up my schedule, my hair, my thinking, and grins delightfully at the end of each mussing up. I love it. I love him. And ignore the muse. I am happy in a dumb cow like way. I fight the weight that happiness insists on heaping on me. I gym. I hum. I humdrum.

I don't write enough. I don't care.

Happiness is a bloody bad thing. I wish it upon everyone who's had the curse of imagination preying upon their expression. When you let go of the word, the paint, the musical note, the dance step, the charcoal, the pencil, the stage, the spotlight, what you're left with is that which you were searching for through all these idioms and mediums. That fat, boring, complacent thing called Happiness.