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Sleepy Men

10:15 p.m.

Inner Ring Road aka Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Delhi.

The stretch of this road from Rajghat to the Maharana Pratap Interstate Bus Terminus.

The broad, impressive expanse of this road is interrupted by the narrow divider where Alistonia has just begun to welcome the autumn with its fragrant flowers.

Lie untroubled and asleep on this divider scores of men. Feet of this one touching the head of the one below. As seen from the window screen of a moving car, this chain appears never-ending. Ah Woe Betide! The bronze spoon I was born with in my mouth! The riches, the ‘society’ and the obligations I have to take care of. Thanks to these aspects of the worthless life I have come to lead, I can’t get to spend this night here like any of these souls have to. A poignant morose sounding blog post about this sight should be great!

Millions of vehicles from both sides of the road traverse the scripts of hundreds of those dreams. Fairies come close, kiss and get crushed under the screeching wheels of the speeding cars before their palms get to fondle any further. Damsels in the other dreams get picked up by the cyclists and the autos before they uncork that wine and offer to the parched lips. At home, a wife in a yellow saari with a story and a child with an embrace wait. The words of that tale are not audible in the first go and the arms are at such a distance- the noise and the bright lamp posts. The city never sleeps!

Some emaciated, some hungry, some newcomers, some old timers.  A few sit huddled together and smoke. Once in a while this philosopher breaks this chain as he stares at the stars and wonders if it would rain tonight. Nine out of a hundred awake and calculating the hours of the night that remain. As night falls, the vehicles would be less frequent. At around two, they would almost disappear and allow for some sleep that will be a mix of relief interspersed with annoying aphids, lice and arachnids of all kinds. Thinking of food, this one weeps. His top down neighbor might get a good job in the morning. He is thinking of tomorrow’s evening already.

Some lie adjacent in pairs and share the sheet. Must be from the same place ‘back there’. Talking about the quarrel with their common childhood friend over the two thousand rupees that he did not return, their eyelids have just gone too heavy. They just mutter to themselves- Bahinchod!

Of an alley where the grand old man lies cremated on the bank of the Yamuna. The big brave King’s name shining on the main building of the Bus Station. In the midst of this greatness rests a banality- one that I have not ever lived. I should be wisely wishing for anything here- what if a segment of that wish were to come true! ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is another axiom I have to sleep thinking about tonight!

In the dead of the night, one would tell me tomorrow, came to him the spirit of the Mahatma pillion riding on Maharana‘s horse and wept inconsolably at the comfort and at the bliss that this divider teems up with as and when the stars appear brighter and shinier! On the parallel, outer ring road aka K B Hedgewar Marg must be dozing off another set of nationalists and nation builders!

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Heart

The Earliest Memories

(Watched A Dangerous Method in the evening and was once again tempted to believe in the power of the methods of Psychoanalysis. The film in a way inspired this post.)

How I despise the pace at which this moment keeps passing by. It was rich with possibilities and forever in my memory will it remain. From the hinterlands of memory another that comes to mind at once is here in words.

It is an ultra sunny day in July or August in early 80s. The class at the primary school in the village is on. Seated on a mat in line with some five to six other girls and boys I shout with them “Six twos are twelve, six threes are eighteen…” and keep pinging my head up and down in sync with the rest. Ameen is on my right. The color cubes and the paint brush he has in his bag vie for my attention. Ameen draws and sketches very well. The cut quarter of a lemon or that of an apple made to lie neatly beside the whole fruit. Or even a bunch of grapes. The lovely curly motions of his pencil that would bring those berries to life on paper. In the wavelets of the pond overflowing nearby, rays of the sun twinkle like candles. Four naughty ones are swimming across the pond and calling each other names. They did not come to school today. The head boy pronouncing of those judgments on the relations between digits is asked to stop and go to his seat. The bell rings and all of us shout “Chhuttiiiii”. We collect our things, pick up our bags and run out of the verandah of the school. My eyes search for Ameen. Will he get his color box tomorrow? Don’t walk with him beyond a point. He takes a separate route back home. Mine passes through the field where peas are grown every winter. White clouds run amok on the canvas of the blue sky. Panting, running and panting again, I reach home. My elder brother has come home for a few days. It’s his break time at the engineering college. He gives me his glasses, and I try them out. The world around me goes as dark as a night. I remove the glasses and look around. Get disappointed to see that nothing actually had changed. Put the glasses on and it gets dark once more. Believe me, I have searched for those glasses at so many opticians till date and yet none of them have ever shown me one that makes it appear so cloudy and rainy as those first glasses of my life did. My brother is tall, has so many friends. Everyone seems to love him. To talk to the men who till those pea fields, he sits on the cot with one of his legs spread out and the other hinged around the knee forming a triangle of a bridge. A pillow in his lap may be. He laughs, pats me somewhere on the cheek and asks everyone if I was doing well. He has these lovely shirts. Stripes of blue and red and white- I have never seen any of those in any of the shops I have gone to myself. It is raining today and he throws away his plate in anger. Steel bowls make noise and Pooris dance. His motorcycle bathes unabated in the rain. I am busy with a Hindi children’s magazine. Engrossed in finding out the missing resemblances in a set of two photographs in the puzzle section of the same. I have to find out fifteen differences in all and so far have only marked out three. A game of Ludo is about to begin. The four colored houses in the game are receiving their occupants. Four heads will soon lean over them and the ‘tik tik’ of the dice in the small box will decide futures.

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Tiny Teeth

A mole comes calling on a rat that waits impatiently saying to himself “a minute more and I hop on the next train and leave the city”. Gulping down his tears and nibbling at the shreds of a five-year old memory, he waits and minutes slither away like cream. The time  comes. Jumping out of her taxi, the mole embraces me from a distance of meters. The rodents feel at pace with the universe. Sun continues its westward trip and both see it dying of curiosity. Sun! you shall miss all that is to follow. Red its face gets and soon it sets. Just like the moon that wishes to stay around longer so that it could witness the much talked about frolic of the matinée.  Hehe! you will always miss it moonu!

Abusive they turn and try slapping each other. Only to end up as miniatures of well fed kittens that chase and bite each other after a sumptuous suckle. They race against the world. Having thrown most of their contempt at each other, lightened claws enter a market. Not enough money clipped in their little beaks that they could throw away in the lake of recluse that both forcibly and happily swim each day, each moment.  Hunger directs the two to joints where taste is on show. Stories of each other and of others they know of intertwine the chews and the chilly sighs. Food over, next item to be hunted. The plates are picked up, the rat still eyeing the sauce that he could not lick away. “People I tell you and their manners. Why are they so intrusive all the time?”. The rat is taken around like a kid coming to a country fair for the first time. Designs, henna, dresses, utensils and faces. All around them. Two nibblers forget all the world and choose to explore it afresh once again. So much discovery on cold nights in the past and adding up to nil. Rubbing shoulders against the other they walk. A walking ethnography that they do not wish to ever write. Forgetting at times their special distance, they hold hands. The rat sniffs sweat and tries getting closer. The mole pushes him away and delivers a smile that kills.

A stall they choose and take rest. Rat mishandles all the heat of the tea and spills it over the market. The alarmed mole offers her own. The rat refuses. And yet does want to snatch her cup and sip it all. “Why should she be sipping when I am not?”

Beings part. Take opposite routes. Call each other to confirm their trains. The rat comes home to a dirty bed sheet that he throws away. Spreads the green and the saffron and the room resounds with the cries of chicken that Afghani dishes are made of. The windows open to a view of lotus ponds and the wardrobe just begins to reek of roses. The rat infused with a delicate energy runs around hysterically on his computer keyboard. ‘Tik tok kit kot’ the keys go clapping. Scattered words stream away. Wish they reach you O Mole! The rat thinks of the very first fruit that would be slaughtered on the chopper that you bought today. Let me know that Mole!

Dear Molu, can you do something for me? Yes yes! once again.

Please tell your friend life something. She should learn something from rodents. They just nibble it all away and never complain. We will take her along the next time if she wants to! What do you think mole? Should we invite the sulky sun and the moon when we go out next? Send a scribble. I will wait.

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Hunting

I am thinking of things which we do not find to be of any use anymore. Broken flowerpots, cracked mirrors and the last year’s calendar. Some of them have become useless because they have either been somehow disfigured or have lost their glow and substance. The others have become useless because they don’t fit the fresh circumstances anymore. The fate of some hangs in the air. The glass cup I just sipped tea from is only useless till the time it lies on my table. Once washed, it would be of use again. Compare these poor stories to those things which perpetually maintain their relevance and insist that we keep going back to them again and again. Sadly, I can think of very few names now. I know that one day my computer will surely crash and the bed on which I sleep will break and fall into disuse. This is not to get into the philosophical question which deals with the reality and hence permanence or temporariness of things. Leave me with the option of considering the momentarily useful thing as useful and the useless as trash and go ahead.

What about people in our lives?

There are all kinds here as well, I am so sure. I no more serve any purpose and should look for better employment. The freshness with which my new owner will look at me might add a twist to the story of my life. You may choose to think that I am still all yours, I don’t mind. I am brilliant at multitasking. Something for the general reader of this post now: It’s not a love interest that I just talked to. The person spoken to in the above lines was nobody in particular. It was just anyone whom I have looked at very closely at any point and someone who considered this look of mine as the look of praise and adulation. I want to see new people and admire new smiles and faces. Alas! they have become increasingly rare! Living for me now is exploring the face for whose owner I would love to be a slave.

Wish me luck hunting!


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Polyphony

Morning:

At the bus stop close to my hostel they were. An old woman with two men. Visages dipped in pastes of anxiety and concern. It was so unusual a spot to think hard and ponder about immediate issues and contingencies. What worries could have coalesced the three in a huddle? The emptiness of the University road as it is known did not go along with the sight very well. As I passed by on a rickshaw, I sat comfortable and relieved. The spectacle made me wonder at the amount of fortune possessed by men and women who have and get to reach a place they can call home. Homelessness is not just about not having a house. Men and women trapped in circumstances too powerful and intimidating that the idea of reaching home metamorphoses into the content of a pleasant, romantic dream. I recalled having gone through similar bouts of sensitivity when touring police stations, courts and hospitals. The mere mention of lives spent behind walls makes me shiver. It is not all about a space one may call one’s own. Anxiety and concern chase everyone irrespective of their positioning in time and space. Home is the state of being in a state of favourable relatedness. Just a matter of experience. And people do run away from their homes. That we are all victims of circumstances is a tune many have sung to. I have to reassure myself. All of us have consciously chosen to dwell and partake the pride that accrues to us as a result of being participants: as celebrities and cynics, to this state of ideas and things I call randomness. Being alive is being psychedelically random.

Afternoon:

Troubled souls trying their best to be seen and heard as people who were happy and prosperous. Happy and prosperous souls who pretended hard to seem and sound troubled and lost. I have been a fool expecting from people that they would be what they were. “I am what I am” is no doubt a fantastic brand line. Nice to think about and prescribe. Pace of life would be severely hit had this prescription altered minds. To pretend is to come in contact with oneself and others. To pretend is to make friends and craft foes. Stop pretending, stop living.

Evening:

Warm, noisy atmosphere of the hostel canteen. No one needed to eavesdrop on any of the several conversations that went on. I was delighted at hearing it live for the first time. Someone on the phone spoke of “Chaubees Parganas” (Twenty Four Parganas). I have always been curious about the name of this district from the Indian state of West Bengal. Oh that he could talk more about what was going on in Chaubees Parganas! We know by reading about so many things. How many of those things do we actually hear about? Till the point I could get to hear someone taking his name I had no idea about the sound that the name “Goethe” had. This voice hitting me from the mob of sounds continuously spoke of the ways in which blogs on various subjects could be searched for on Google. Sat quiet with the person I had lemon tea with. It got dark as I finished sipping the same. Left heavy and terrified.