Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm lonely today reader, and not even the dog will do. It's odd, because I'm quite surrounded by books and people, and I have this screen that I'm writing on that connects me to the entire world. Yet I'm strongly tempted to fall into a decline and am aweary, aweary. I don't would that I were dead yet; that would be taking it too far. But I think I would like to sleep for a long time. It's the winter, perhaps. I went for a walk this morning and the fog was so thick that we could barely see ten feet ahead. The street looked like I was seeing it through an Instagram filter. It was lovely, and chillingly remote For all that we scream that we want to be alone, the thought of being really, truly alone, without anyone to talk to or think of, is rather frightening, isn't it?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It is Diwali tonight. I went out to the terrace to watch the fireworks. There are rockets that rise up like squiggly-tailed comets and explode in showers of red, green and yellow sparks. The houses on our street are lit up. The one on our right in a mesh of multicoloured, blinking lights, the one on our right is lined with what are shaped like oil lamps, but glow through the night without a single flicker. Our house is dark save for one lamp above the gate. We are in mourning this year.
The dog came out with me and for a while, he was kept very busy. He would bark at one rocket before being distracted by another whistling past. A thousand-shot thunderbomb finally silenced him: he couldn't get a bark in edgewise.
It sounds like a thousand drummers are all playing while very drunk. There are beats, high pitched and low, with rapidly changing patterns. The steady beat every two seconds is from one of those crackers that goes up once and explodes over and over, sometimes in pink, sometimes in gold and sometimes in red and blue. Then there are whooshes from the flowerpots and hisses from uncoiling fiery snakes. The rockets whistle. A police siren wails.
The air is heavy with gunpowder. Every so often, the fireworks reveal patches of grey smoke in the ruddy sky. It is like the largest palette ever seen: the grey blends into the black and the red while the sprays of green and yellow and blue and pink quickly disappear into the grotesque mix. There is no moon tonight; it did well to keep away. Its brightness has been surpassed, a thousand times over.
Tomorrow, the children will go back to school on streets littered with ash. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

We are waiting for the monsoon. The earth around here has heated till the water on it boils and rises and hangs in the air in a dense, humid cloud. Breathing is difficult and smells never dissipate. We are surrounded by the unmistakeable smell of rot.
It is in the flesh of the mangoes, too soft, too yielding. They begin to rot from the moment they are picked. The flesh, once so firm and turgid, putrefies into an acidic slurry. There is the smell of sweat in the streets, the sweat of thousands, walking, their heads bowed under the assault of the sun. They plod past, dimly seeking shade, and relief. We spray scents to cover the smell of sweat, and they linger in the air, too heavy, too floral... unnatural. The flowers shrivel quickly, their petals curling and turning brown, as their stems, buried in water in a hopeless effort to keep them alive, turn grey and gangrenous. Food begins to spoil from the moment it is lifted off the stove. We smother it in spice to keep from remembering that we are eating dead things.
All this is captured in the windless air, collapsing around us with impenetrable lassitude. This is it: the smell of rot, of cloying sweetness and of decay, of the sense that we can't carry on much longer, in this manner. This is how it will smell when the world ends, when the rains don't come any more.
But not yet. The rains will come this year; the satellites say so. We wait for it and count off the days. We watch maps charting its progress and listen for the weatherman. We wander about with dull, heavy-eyed hope, while the sunshine clubs our eyelids.
It is the greatest theatre known to us. First will come the clouds, then the wind, then the expectation. This will happen over and over again, working our nerves into a frenzy that goes far past the unbearable. We will come to a standstill, all our senses trained upwards in mute hope. Then and only then will the skies split apart, and bring down the deluge.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reader, I discovered a poem by A. E. Housman today, and I can't stop reading it over and over. Discovering a piece of great writing is a lot like discovering gold, isn't it? You sift through pebbles and dust for weeks and months till finally, you find a nugget.
Read it with me?

When green buds hang in the elm like dust 
And sprinkle the lime like rain, 
Forth I wander, forth I must 
And drink of life again. 

Forth I must by hedgerow bowers 
To look at the leaves uncurled 
And stand in the fields where cuckoo flowers 
Are lying about the world.
- A. E. Housman

Saturday, April 20, 2013

It is summer now, and I feel cheated by spring.

Panda treats the floor of the house like a Victorian fainting couch, collapsing on it dramatically, at my feet. He is there now, panting dully. We've shifted subtly into our summer routine, which is pretty much the same as our winter routine, just later by half an hour and with less cussing on my part.

I like routines. I like that once in place they don't require too much thought, freeing up my mind for daydreaming. I like the stability they bring and the sense of constancy, however artificial. I remember only too well just how fragile this structure is and how devastating its collapse can be. I like to think that I am strengthening it, little by little, day after day, as I read my newspaper and sip my coffee, while Panda peeks at me coyly from behind the marigolds. It is painstaking work with little apparent reward, except when I look back and see just how far I've come.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

There is a wild wind blowing outside. I've spent the past hour in a sensory daze, glutting myself on words and sentences. There was Leonard Cohen (Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in) and Tom Stoppard (We are tragedians, you see? We follow directions. There is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good, unluckily. That is what tragedy means) and Rousseau (We are reduced to asking others what we are. We never dare to ask ourselves). The wind interrupted me rudely, banging a door downstairs to get my attention.

It's almost midnight and there's a lightning storm on. Every so often the sky splits apart and the whole world turns silver. Panda remains unimpressed: he is fast asleep under the bed, his breath misting the tile. I crawled under there a little while ago to rub his belly. I was lonely, and the storm makes me pensive. He stared at me with his blue-brown eyes for a minute, then rolled onto his back and fell back to sleep. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

I've had a couple of not-so-great days reader, and have been reminded of my unhealthy tendency to brood. I tried everything to get out of my funk, from gallons of coffee, to strenuous exercise, to reading poetry, but nothing worked for long.

Today when I was driving back from work, I realised that I felt uncomfortably warm. That hasn't happened in months. I shrugged off my sweater while I waited for a signal to change. It was only symbolic: I had to put the sweater back on half an hour later, but I still take this to mean that spring is here. I also noticed marigolds blooming along the pavement, and they're either new, or I've been too lost these past few days to notice gaudy yellow flowers sprouting everywhere.

When I reached home I tried something I haven't done in a long time. I sang. Oh, I'm always humming and I frequently sing to my mirror with a deodorant canister as a mike, but today I dusted off my electronic tanpura, dug out my music notes, and pretended I was singing on a stage to a large and enraptured audience. Panda came to enquiringly sniff the tanpura and stayed to listen for a while.

I was pleased with my voice today. I began with the most basic exercises, singing them off the music textbook amma bought me when I was seven. It's a photocopied book, since prints of  Karnatic music textbooks weren't easily available in Delhi in 1995. In several places the print was either unclear or non-existent, so the blanks were filled in by me. My writing from back then is remarkably similar to how I write today. Large, impatient letters, in multicoloured ink. (What? I like colour. I think it brightens up the page.) I remember how eager I was back then to finish with this book and graduate to the good stuff: the varnams and the keerthanas that the more advanced students were singing. I have a deplorable sense of rhythm and because of it was made to repeat a lesson once: I didn't get the alankaras right and my teacher said she wouldn't start me on geethams until I did.

I did eventually nail them though, and I think I nailed them again today, as I blazed through them, high speed. Then I sang a geetham, a swarajathi, a varnam, a kriti and finally a thillana. I imagined the audience cheering my every vocal flourish. I threw everything I had into my performance, and then some. I waved my arms in vigorous expression, made dramatic faces, grunted praise when I executed a tricky gamakam, and eventually closed my eyes in ecstasy. When I finally opened them, Panda was gone, but I did feel much better. I nodded and smiled graciously for the thunderous applause, and then went to see about dinner.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Panda just came in from his walk and shook raindrops all over me.

I was thinking about gaslighting today. The word is derived from the Ingrid Bergman movie Gaslight, in which her husband attempts to convince her that she is insane by altering little things around their house. However, when she notices, he insists that she is imagining it. Doesn't it seem sometimes like the whole world is gaslighting you? When the papers are filled with stories of rape and corruption and executions, and you can't hurl a brick out of your window without hitting a cynic? When you're made to feel as if any sort of idealism is foolish? But perhaps I'm being too dramatic. We don't discuss those things here. This is a place for poetry and music, dogs and books, joy and pain. Of course I have opinions: painstakingly wrought nascent ones about everything from feminism (I'm a feminist) to the death penalty (I'm against it). Maybe it is time to find a place for them.

I'm spending the eve of my twenty fifth birthday cleaning out the dog's ears. Then we'll argue, because he'll want to eat his earwax and I'll protest that he's being disgusting. He'll concede ungraciously by rolling on his back and pushing me away with his paws. And then we'll sit by the window and watch the rain together. It's a rum old world.