Monday, March 12, 2018

It's 5:30 am and I had to turn on the fan. I've been resisting turning it on for the past week, determined not to acknowledge that summer is here, sitting resentfully in the heat and willing myself into feeling cold, not hot. I couldn't sustain the fiction for very long. It is time.
Summers in Ahmedabad are a lot worse than the summers I've endured elsewhere, mainly because of the dust. The Mughal emperor Jehangir described Ahmedabad variously as Gardabad (the land of dust), Samumistan (the land of the pestilential wind), Bimaristan (the land of the ill), Zaqumzar (the thorn patch) and finally as Jahannumabad (the land of hell). He certainly visited here in the summer.

Just as I am about to leave it, I find myself developing an affection for this city. The people are brusque but kind, impatient but generous. I find that every pavement has a terracotta bowl which is filled with water regularly for street dogs. Yesterday, a man fell off his bike on the road before me. Before I could react, two autos and a car had stopped and their drivers were running to help him up. If I wish people "Good morning" though, they stare at me as if I am an alien. Every time I cross a road, I do so with my heart in my hand, praying that an impatient motorist doesn't run me over.

I've recently turned thirty, and I was lucky enough to get not one, but two birthday cakes, made especially for me, by people I love the most. One homemade birthday cake is incredible, two scare me. How did I get so lucky? Dare I get used to this? Is it possible to get them to make a chocolate one next year?

I find as I grow older though, that I have less anxiety, as does everyone, I suppose. The wonderful thing about age is that you have fewer fucks to give in general, because you realise that fucks are limited. I've been counting out my fucks every evening, like a paymaster would with a daily labourer. Losing out on a job I worked to get? Half a fuck, on loan, to be returned in the morning with interest. What to make for dinner? Two fucks, make it special. How much I weigh? Zero fucks and deposit one please, there's a loan here from your past that needs to be repaid. I was profilgate with fucks when I was younger. The mean thing someone said to me that once would've sent me into a spiral of self doubt? No way am I paying out fucks for that today. I'm not running a charity here. You're paid a living wage, aren't you? Specialise in insecurity if you want to earn more.

*Okay, maybe the job was more like three fucks, but they still need to be returned in the morning. Onward and upward!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What do you eat when you're lonely?

I've been waking up before the sun of late. I get two hours of darkness before the sun bestirs itself, which is just long enough to go from "Booyah! I'm going to get so much done" to "I'm sad and hungry and have spent the past hour reading articles on the internet and developing a crush on a YouTube singer". It becomes time to take myself off the internet and to eat something before getting to work, just at about the time the sun rises after having slept sensibly for twelve hours.

It is a different beast, this early morning hunger. It is the one time of day that I don't crave sweets. I also don't manifest the usual symptoms of hunger: the hanger, the snippiness, the hollowness in the stomach. Instead, I get sadder and droopier and send off sentimental text messages to people who are still sensibly asleep. After the third message, I know it is time to go rummaging in the kitchen.

Coffee, of course, is a given. In the summer, when even the early mornings are sweaty, I like to pour my hot coffee over ice and contemplate how mankind tries to make nature its bitch, but in winter, I like to pull on my bright green socks and fix myself a hot cup of black coffee that I sip while trying not to look at the dishes piled in the sink. Of late, I've also discovered the marvel that is nuts roasted in the microwave. I used to think that nuts needed to be roasted in a pan, watched vigilantly and tossed regularly, and still, you would be guaranteed to burn a few. Then I read an article on Serious Eats that suggested using the microwave. I was incredulous, but I tried it, and folks, I've never looked back. In the article, Kenji Lopez-Alt recommends toasting them at one-minute intervals and stirring in between, but I like to live dangerously. I microwave them on high, using the scientific technique of sniffing at the microwave door to tell when they're done. Once I smell toasted nuts with a slight edge of burning, I know I've got them just where I want them. Your standards may be more exacting. I leave them to cool while sipping my coffee and reading Lindy West. Then, I dust my toasted nuts half-heartedly with salt, none of which adheres to them. I could use oil to make them adhere, but I don't like the accompanying grease, so I simply pop a nut into my mouth, followed by a pinch of salt from the plate. It tastes perfectly seasoned.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I feel beautiful today, reader. It's a rare feeling for me to look into a mirror and to unreservedly like what I see, but today, I couldn't stop staring at myself. I admired the curl of my hair, the shape of my lips. I listened to music and danced along, reveling in the tense-release of my muscles, the grace of my fingertips. I painted my lips with sparkly gloss and watched the light reflect off them. Even now as I type this, I keep sneaking glances into the mirror, tilting myself to a forty five degree angle to find my reflection, and flipping my head from side to side to set my curls bouncing. I wish I could feel this way all of the time, that we could all feel this way about ourselves all of the time. Like we're made of glitter and steel.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I'm in a new place reader, again, for a very little while. I'm struggling to stay myself though, holding on to my routines even when they don't make sense, simply because they are familiar. When everything else changes, we crave the conventional with a fierce, illogical nostalgia, no? This is how religions calcify. If I had to start a religion it would decree that every day begin with the ceremonial brewing of coffee. We would gather together to watch in silence as the decoction dripped down the filter, drip, drip, drip. Any fidgeting would invite a fierce frown. When we finally had enough for one cupful, it would be decanted reverentially into a special mug, gold plated plated with indecipherable carvings on the outside, preferably in an imitation of the hieroglyphics of a forgotten language. It would be stirred with water, just off the boil. Then we would pass the cup around, each taking one long, sighing sip. I'd go first, because I invented the religion.
I don't know what we would believe in, beyond the necessity of coffee. Be kind to dogs, I think. That feminism simply means acknowledging equality and humanity of all the sexes, silly. Men's rights are not a thing. Saint Mindy Kaling would have a day. So would Saint Marie Curie. Ooh, Saint Raghuram Rajan. Our deity would be a dog with a mechanical tail that wagged in blessing. We would preach tolerance towards cats and the catty. Cruelty to animals will be our greatest sin. Wasting coffee the second greatest. Maybe turning down dessert the third.
What a happy bunch of sleep-deprived diabetics we will be, in our houses filled with puppies.    

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Anywhere but here

If I had to describe myself in one word reader, the word would be restless. It's an irritating word. It niggles at you. You struggle for calm, breathe in, breathe out. How many times more before you can stop? Stroke the dog's fur over and over till he gets up and walks away. Do a hundred jumping jacks. Stop at 62 and feel like a failure. The phone rang, what were you supposed to do? Read three things at the same time, as the scolding in your head grows louder and louder. Write. Temporary relief.
I've been struggling all week for calm. For a plan and a routine. I invent excuses not to follow either. I make lists and cast them aside. They grow longer, the words larger, redder, screaming at me, apoplectic. I escape into the company of other people. In caring about them I can safely forget about me. But they do not understand. How could they? They have their lists too, although perhaps their lists don't yell at them in angry red words.
The words are subsiding now, tapering. They do not like being complained about. A few are fading away- they aren't important. Not right now, anyway. The words on top are darkening, deepening to oxblood and then black. That is how a branding by fire looks, no? Seared into flesh and memory.
I must go.

Friday, September 4, 2015

It's one of those slow, hot days. The kind of day when rising from a chair is sticky and requires considering and the dog pants listlessly. The washing machine is as energetic as ever, its mechanical whine sounds admonitory: "If I can spin, so can you." So spin we do, about our everyday tasks, scattering, then coming together, over desultory conversations and cups of too-hot tea.
I want to buy an orange dress, the colour of a setting sun. A few years ago, I would have phrased that differently. I need an orange dress, I would have said. After all, I didn't own a dress in that colour. The void in my wardrobe constituted a need. I have learnt better since. I do not need new dresses. I need food and clothing, yes, and love. I have a glut of all three. So my want is as desultory as my conversation today, meaningless and soon forgotten.
Reader, I've been working and baking, thinking, thinking, trying not to think. I haven't wanted to talk so much because talking crystallises thought and sometimes disproves it. I was afraid of what I might learn when I spoke.
This post, and every other post on this blog is terribly self-indulgent. Have space, will publish, after all. And the internet gives us all space and swallows our words whole. I wonder if this self-indulgence is harmless, or if it is portentous. The more we indulge the self the more it swallows us whole. And the internet is a black hole masquerading in white and colour: if it can swallow words, it can swallow selves too. We could become bodies walking the earth, carrying our souls in our pockets, in our phones. Every night, they get plugged into the walls to recharge, while our bodies sleep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"And the soul of the rose went into my blood/As the music clash'd in the hall"

It is impossible to be lonely when you have the hills for company. Every time I look up, I grin and ask myself, "How did I get so lucky?" You see, reader, I've been living in this place with its wind and hills and butterflies. Its every aspect reminds me of a calendar we had one year, where every month was a different watercolour of a forest, each greener than the last. So June was greener than April and December so green, it was almost black. I won't be here in December.  
It will rain today; the wind is heavy with promise. It's been whipping me up into a frenzy all day, churning my clothes around me, snatching away my tea cup, spattering the grass with its contents, and then whistling away. I am as restless as it, unable to concentrate on anything too long. The rain will come and then, we will be calm.