Day 130: Being mean – not! 

It’s not easy when you act out what you’ve been meaning to for a long time.

One of the most powerful, and irritating, experiences that I’ve had on campus was at the kiosk; I was waiting to pick up some tea. This was almost a year and a half back, in semester 1, when I was fresh from my professional and western sense of personal space. This college, and most of India, knows nothing about personal space. There was already a row of students directly behind the counter, picking up tea and snacks that they needed. I stood in the next row, behind them, waiting to move in and order when they were done. Yes, life would be wonderful if we had a queue system now, wouldn’t it?

As I waited there, money in one hand and my phone in the other, a young lady joined the melee at the kiosk, in the circle (the crowd equivalent of a queue) behind me. How did I know she had joined our little, uncomfortable party? She was breathing down my neck (literally), was close enough to check my hair for split ends and her arm was stretched above all of the 5 foot and 7 inches of me. The icing on the cake was her shrill-pitched voice yelling ‘Bhayya, ek chai, bhayya, ek chai’. I realized that subtlety and hints were generally lost on this lot when none of my shuffling and mch’ing did any difference to her yelling. I wanted to turn around and shush her. I wanted to ask her if she thought I enjoyed standing where I was, stuck between a sweaty boy in the front and the shrieking her in the back. I wanted to remind her that I was there to pick up tea too, and it would only be fair for me to be served first, before she got her turn. I wanted to remind her of the sad situation that the anna was in, where he had his 2 hands and 2 ears competing against at least 100 hungry hands clawing at him. I stood still and waited for the sweaty boy in the front to get his job done.

Not a second later she yells ‘Abey chai dena, kutte ki aulaad’. It was of course drowned down by the rumpus around and never made it to the guy behind the counter. But I heard it crystal clear. I was fuming red. I turned around to let her have all that I had subdued only a second back, but all I could muster was a cold-dreaded stare. She got the message and walked away.

I think of that episode a lot, especially when I am at the kiosk and I see the persistent commotion. I often think of that young girl that I stared back at, and I wonder if she had learnt a lesson. I beat myself up for not coming up with a wittier response than a simple stare down. I worry for a generation that would go out of the safe confines of the university, and into the world, thinking that it was their legal entitlement to be served without a minute’s delay, and that it was okay to use any words they deem needed to get that done.

With all the thinking that I had done on this matter, today I was better prepared to respond when a similar incident replayed. I was waiting my turn for chai (I should probably stop drinking this much chai), and a young girl butts in from behind me and yells ‘Anna, ek tea’. I smile at her, she smiles back, and I ask her if I look like I was standing there for fun. Her smile drops half-way down, confused. “What happened?”, she asks. I explain my protest and her smile is completely gone. We stand there awkwardly as I pick up my tea and egg puff. As I head out, I say “Now is your turn. Luck!”, and she smiles, sheepishly.

And I felt miserable at the end of it all. Maybe more so than the previous time. I beat myself up this time for not picking the stare-down route. It actually hurt me to vocalize my discomfort because it made me sound like a bad person, where as I was not. Stopping someone from walking all over me made me feel like the one at fault.  Why did I get disturbed for simply expressing something that I had played out in my mind many times before?

I finally understand something that I had heard over the weekend at Diversity Dialogues. Some of us are very comfortable being the victim; being the one oppressed. Some of us never speak up against what troubles us simply because we are comfortable playing the role of a traditionalist. We do not want the world to think ill of us because of our conflicting opinions. We play along in order to get that gold medal, a fake smile and a nod of acceptance. We conform!

Pics4mswiss: One of the chairs of Einstein, in the old city Berne. Sit with the man and talk about conforming. 

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Rich God, Poor Man

These three little boys are extremely curious about everything in life and wandered into my gated house searching for my six year old dog. The oldest is 10 and is the responsible big brother and the youngest notes, “Even I am 6 yrs old“, when I tell him how old the Scotch is.

As I sit them on the sofa and bring them an apple each, they stare at all the gadgets in the house with awe.

How much is the TV, akka? Must be very costly no? Oh! Small computer! Oh! It’s called an iPad? How much does it cost? Must be a lot of money no? Nice mobile (cell phone). Look! I managed to unlock the phone. How much does it cost, akka?

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I fend off their inquisitiveness with answers that I believe are appropriate for their age. As the oldest and the youngest pet Scotch and enjoy their apples, the middle one wanders off to more apples kept at the puja area.

[It’s customary for most Indian households, especially Hindus, to have a little temple in the house; a collection of idols and pictures to bless the house. These idols are traditionally worshiped by lighting lamps and incense sticks and with offerings of flowers, vermilion, rice flakes or money.]

He carefully stares at the many colorful idols on the various sections and his eyes eventually rest on an idol that has been recently worshiped on. He fixates on an idol that sits smack at the center of a small podium, and has mounds of Rs. 5 coins lying around it.

Why is there so much of money put there, akka?“, he quizzes me, while settling back on the sofa.
It’s for the God. My mom must have done a puja with the coins.“, I respond.
But, God already has so much money. So, why are we giving him more money?“, he retorts, catching me off guard.
Umm…I…don’t… How old did you say you are, again?“, I ask my quizzer.

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I am 8“, he responds, ” and Mani anna is 10. My mama came home drunk last night and threw quite a fit. It was very funny, you know!” and he continues to munch on his apple.

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The dusty destiny!

‘Tis has been quite a while since we conversed. True. Time flew by and we walked into our own little closets, strengthened the walls around it and ensured the barbed wires saved us from any foreseen onslaught. The little that we heard, when we shouted across the inches of concrete, was the hatred and the hostility within. Staged? Practised? I know nought. Our keen discernment ensured that even a sincere act of fondness was falsified with riddles and mysteries. As each taunt built on another, the walls grew thicker, stronger and more fortified than before. The walls we built for one another, mysterious indeed.

In this lone cell, I hear sounds that baffle me; unknown visions from the past, I realize. A unified laugh at a played out hysteria, a cohesive smirk at the newest stereotype and a mortified scorn at tradition emerge, coerce and drift my way. I play witness to evenings spent in silent harmony, the music of the souls drifting by. I see two lone figures battling an entirety, the mass multitude. They walk together in their lone paths, alone in their combined missions, and yet powerful in each other’s presence.

Something stirs within, a wish? a dream? Fear maybe. I withdraw deeper into my surroundings, my facade from the outside world. And in the urgency to protect my heart from the hurt outside, have I forced you out with it? Did you want to be forced out from sheer exhaustion? Did the togetherness threaten your uniqueness?

The alter ego had vaporized, the best friend had vanished and out emerged my nemesis. Strong in knowing the real me, weak in being me.

[…]

She stiffened her sleeves, smoothing the crease that was beginning to develop. Smart move Mr. Murphy; throwing the wrongs her way, when she intended to make it her best performance. It was going to be the destiny she had fought for own her own, built it from the grave. The world had definitely been more accepting than it had been before. The bruises from her past wars showed themselves black and blue, reminding the observer to tread with caution. Was that the reason for the distanced reactions this time? Was the world busy living a more saner life for itself, untouched by her anxiety?

She shook her thoughts back to the moment she was basking in; the world could live its life and she hers. The walk towards the bridge had been painful. She had to conquer the worst enemy before setting out on this path; her inner self. The ego, bloated from years of hurt and neglect, had thrown its army of reasons at her, one more convincing than the other, declaring the entire episode a mere school girl’s trick. Her brain, the self-proclaimed master, had reasoned with them all, while the heart sat quiet, listening to the war wage on. As days turned into weeks and no consensus was in sight, the heart stiffly sat up, proclaimed the verdict and went back into its sanctuary. The trip would be made.

As her mind raced through the happenings of the past, her feet slowly tread on, stopping at the foot of the bridge. She looked ahead and gasped at the beauty that lay ahead. Pearly gates laid out for the mundane, reachable yet mystic in their ways. She took her first step forward and felt herself sink in, the soft touch of the feathers beneath her tickled her little toe. She let out a muffled laugh. As she lingered on, the season sunk in; little drops of rain slid by the window, concealing the harsh lights beyond. The familiar smells of the ocean swept by, bringing with them sounds from the past. Moments leapt by, as she validated the reality quotient of it. She walked out from aeons of movement and glared at having reached midway. The view amazed her.

She had lost count of the time she had spent there after the initial day itself. A sense of helplessness had set in, rising the devil within. As the heart lay curled at the corner, the ego threw its tantrums. The turmoil within manifested itself louder by the passing. They had all birthed a mistake in unison and now hell lay about. Sad, searching eyes flooded with drops of lost morale, as two feet slowly dragged the entirety back to the earth. She had won the war, but the battle was lost forever.

The world seemed more accepting at her return than anticipated, a welcome worthy of the prodigal was laid out. Aged fingers pointed to the direction of the rightful destiny; it lay in photographs floating in virtual space, clicked hastily by emotionless hands. Destiny flourished in names matched against the stars, lifetimes of congeniality predicted from meaningless scrawls on the eternal parchment. It lived in interests created with the purpose of hitting a match, wavelengths sourced to traverse as one. It rested on familiarity bred over time, distances being lost by it all. Destiny lay elsewhere from where she had sought it.

As the heart built its newest layer of fortification, there was a world out there that needed to be satiated. The brain promised itself to be just that. The head hung low, nodded in acceptance. Destiny lay elsewhere indeed.

Rampant progression

What an idea! If things went unhindered, it would be a night to remember indeed. The common interest would work to my benefit here. The object of attention I’d picked was unquestionable; it was a clear-cut favorite, would give us enough to discuss later on, a perfect conversation piece. Sailing through a quick drift of mutual distractions, I throw out the offer, fingers and toes crossed. The proposal is accepted, it is going to be movie-night after all. Unknown to the universe, I do a little jig, feet click up in the sky and hands snap the latest beat.

The stage is set, pillows tucked under and the lights dimmed. Some red devil to lighten the mood? Oh yeah! Who could deny such an offer after all? The game is on and I am having a worthy time already, what if it’s only the opening credits rolling by.

The tricks that the human mind manages to conjure are intriguing indeed. Wisps of an all too familiar smile, those minutes of silence worth a million words, a quick smirk at that movie quote in unison. Signs, strewn across the little green room, all point to a single want for acceptance and a single confirmation of the same. It definitely looks like the Gods have us for their weekend entertainment and are intended on making sure it is a night worth remembering.

I look back farthest into my memory lanes, to when I first set sight on him. There was no lightning or the proverbial thunderbolt. There had not even been a genial conversation that made the mark from day uno. The last I remember, it had started with him deriding me and I running for cover, tears welling up my little round eyes. Most other years, I’ve known him, were similar to that one encounter; intensities of anguish varying at the most.

Time is the best healer, they say, and it has clearly proved true in my case. We slowly grew into similar beings, with like-minded interests and wants from life. Those moments of travail against the common Gods, made us realize we were fighting on the same side of the war; reason enough to build some camaraderie. As our dreams took us miles apart, we’d kept the lines open, grown closer despite the different zip codes, bonded more than ever before. Technically speaking, tonight is the result of days and months of us growing accustomed to the unknown, the last assessment of a year spent in preparation.

A sudden detachment from the present catches my attention and I sneak a glance out to investigate further. Before my mind can prepare the most appropriate question to throw out, he has risen to his feet, jacketed to the least and let himself out of the door. Shocked and stunned, I realize what a hard blow this act has been to my string of thoughts. Happy times of socializing are quickly overwritten by that same feeling of anger I felt, every time I saw myself being thrown around in his mercy. A nausea of wrath seeps in, waiting to burst out at the next opportune moment. What dry humour to walk out on me and my plan, not a word said!

Before my mutiny could proceed any further, the door opens again, and in he walks back, a bright and brilliant smile adorning his face. He brushes away the question on my face with a brief “Sorry!” and goes back to reeling the movie ahead. I feel stuck between strong forces of hatred and indifference, agony and complete normalcy, unaware of the expected reaction to such an incident.

A lot is answered, and newer questions raised, when I catch him stealing quick glimpses away from the movie and showering all attention on her. He had been out for that brief moment, only to smuggle her in, and all my initial fury had forced me to be totally blind to her. He had wronged me and my plan for the duo by bringing a third, uninvited guest to the part. As he catches me staring between him and her, he throws that same charming smile, armed to topple my senses over. That same smile, which gave me a reason to be in the first place, is now a potent dagger, quickly heading my way, waiting to uproot my beliefs in more thoughts than one.

Something in him makes him think it befitting to explain his act. He says that she was sweet and the two of us would get along just fine. Did the expected retort to that statement require me to start bonding with her right away? I hated the mere thought of it, a certain smell that she reeked of, gave me the bumps already. I dodge a glance and look away, finding a new found interest in the movie that no longer holds any meaning to the evening at all. I see him pull her closer to where he is, she huddles in the comfort between his shoulders and his strong hands. I perceive him having ridden aeons away from me, in the quick span of a minute.

I hear a little giggle and I can no longer feign ignorance or act invisible. I stare at their faces, totally in love with each other, a feeling I’d ignored for years now. He pulls her closer, she caves in under his controlling grasp and my mind punishes my eyes by not letting them look away. She gasps as he lets their yearning lips lock, he closes his eyes to feel her consume him from within. She drowns him thoroughly, for when he opens his eyes, I see him in a different plane from mine, wandering a planet unknown to me.

A familiar smile crosses his lips, as he reads her face; something amusing has caught his attention. He thrusts her towards me and asks me to share his enthusiasm as I read off her cover: Smoking is injurious to health.

So is chocolate, ice cream and butter chicken. Why bother!, he retorts, to no one in particular, and takes another puff off his new found love.

My little brother has grown up to be a different man indeed.

The best snow angel, ever.

tring…tring…tring…tring…

Heyy! Wassup?

Yo! Wanted to say a final GoodBye. Just in case you know. *smile*

What’s wrong? Final already?

Well! I am breaking up with my ex today, all over again. Over dinner. So if something does happen to me and I don’t see the tomorrow to come, might as well let you know, you’ve been great.

Shut up! You are kidding, right? You din’t tell me he was homicidal.

I don’t know…Chalo, Gotta run. Bye.

She sat up, the prediction was spot on, again. It was going to be the first snow of the season. The incessant rain over the last month, hadn’t helped the mood either. But she had dreaded the snow for a good while now. No, she din’t hate the snow, it was quite the contrary in fact. It made her senses reel and feel fresh; alive. It was the perfect way to prettify the world, consummate and lasting. But all the snow around reminded her of the past; nostalgic and painful memories were rekindled. And thoughts are creatures that one has little control over. Yes! It was going to be a tough winter.

The chill sinfully kicked her out of her world of thoughts. She adjusted herself atop the little wall, tried better at staying warm and went back to her thoughts. The events of the evening had not turned out the exact way she had pictured it. But then, they weren’t what she would have called miserably bad either. They had sat in a little table, the mad rush of the restaurant beating around in all directions. As inappropriate as the location may be, she spilled her worst nightmares. They had grown apart over time anyway, things hadn’t been the same. The energy for those midnight phone calls and five hour long conversations had seeped out of their lives. The distance between them hadn’t been all that favorable either. Since their lives had picked different wave lengths to beat on, might as well let go of the little strings. She felt the words tumble out of her lips awkwardly; all the rehearsing lay wasted. She’d looked up, in anticipation. Of what? She wasn’t really sure.

Tucked in doors, she watched the first flakes of snow drift down, prop a leaf near by and wait for its companions. A few more followed and before she could tell, they were everywhere. The barren tree had new friends now, the prodigal leaves can wait till spring to return. Man made machines lay helpless, for once powerless, against nature’s ways. Ones smitten by the distinguished bug walked out, hand in hand, breathing winds of love from across the worlds. Children, with their unending chirpy ways and padded layers to the foot, welcomed the snow with tongues out in the snow and angels in the making. The sight of foot prints in the fresh snow is poetic in a strange sense; our fleeting five seconds of leaving a mark on this wide planet. Yielding to the wily temptation, she pulls over a jacket and jumps into those boots. She quietly walks to the front door and opens it; a strong gush catches her off guard and forces out a tear.

She nimbly wiped off the tear before the neighbors in the little shack caught up. She felt a wave of fatigue catch over, and swarm her from all directions. Numb to the last nerve. She’d expectantly looked up, armed and yet unprepared for the counter attack from the person across the table. There had been melancholy in his voice, anger in his tone, hatred in his breath. A melange of emotions were thrown at her and she seemed to have lost track of the best way to react in such an inopportune moment. She’d fought back, argued, pleaded and tried her best hand at logical reasonings. She’d let out a huge sigh and looked up at the skies; why hadn’t anybody invented a sober way to break up as yet. It was going to be a long night after all.

She looked up at the skies and watched tiny flakes fly toward her, gently flowing with the breeze and finally settling on the most wayward strand of her hair. It felt as new and fresh as her first snowfall ever. She had run out frantically, ignoring the pros in the yard. She’d convinced friends into building their first snowman ever. She remembered the taste of fresh snow on her tongue, the way it quickly melted and left behind a chill. She put her tongue out again; Yes, the same taste all over again.

A couple of hours and many more drinks later, he seemed to have resigned to what lay ahead. He slumped gingerly on his chair, as words slurred out of his mouth. He promised to talk hours long, about their love affair, to his wife that dint exist yet; swore that he’d name his first born girl after her. He claimed that he’d never stop loving her ever, would only retire to the life his parents dreamed for him. She sensed a fabricated effort in the entire conversation. Bade quick, subdued goodbyes; promised to keep in touch for ever and left speedily. Not once did she look back, not once did she regret what she’d just done.

She looked back and not once lamented about all the places she’d been to. Every by-lane, ally and highway had given her something new to learn from, something memorable to take back. She’d had her share of burns, hits and bruises, but she’d fought them back with a strong mind. She knew that she had the best bunch of rocks to support her, fasten her to the roots, whenever she’d slipped. She remembered people with worse states of mind than hers. She was very lucky indeed.

A smile began to surface, as the realization dawned. She’d cleared her vision, rid of any noise, comforted her wound, was ready to move on.

She thumped down on the snow and wielded her numb hands and legs in new found revelry. Her snow angel was going to be the best one of the season.


Wild Wild West – I

One thing that hit us with a quick gush, as soon as we stepped out of the airport, was the hot and dry air. A 100 Fahrenheit and we rechecked our stock of sunscreen, put on those glasses and strut on to our ride. I have to flashback a few hours to how we got here though, because the beginning ensured that we were to have a fun trip after all.

2 AM miseries

Some sane thought that Switch and I had, made us book tickets out of far-off PHL, instead of backyard EWR or across-the-street NYC airports. This “out-of-this-world” decision, that seemed pretty reasonable when we punched out our credit card details, ensured that we were up at 2 in the morning, out of town by 2 30, only to be roaming the streets of EWR for a decent parking lot. Well, we had to put the car in safe hands for four long days; that automatically ruled out any off-street ones, those that had a voice operated system talking to no one in particular and of course the ones closed. Frantic search was on. It’s funny to digest the number of weenies who actually roam the earth that early in the morning.

After trying out every possible option dear mr/ms garmin gave us and having let go of two of the five, to magically walk into the dream parking space, we had a little of five minutes to spare before our train out. Better sense prevailed and we drove into the very same lot that we had driven past a hundred times in that one night in search of a safer option. Yeah right! Who are we kidding!

Feeble pleasanteries exchanged, keys to the ride surrendered in the hands of a total stranger and two bags baring us down, DShah and I ran for it, while Switch tried to fumble the tickets out. We dint care if we looked like two goons, running away from mad dogs chasing us; we had a vacation to start on time. Acela arrived, the conductor obliged and we rode an hour into PHL, all in a weary sleep-embedded daze.

Note to self: cops in Philly are very cordial, nice to the point of being over intrusive I guess. It’s a fact, because Dear mr cop chose to accompany us from one station to the other, made sure we boarded the correct connecting ride and wove good bye to DShah with tear-filled eyes. Ok I might have fuzzed the facts on that one a bit; I was sleep deprived and it was too early in the morning for nocturnals like me, remember?

Philly billies

A minor fiasco at the “security check” left Switch bereft of his dear-old ninja gear. How many camping trips had he gone out on, pulling it out of his kit, nimbly; flaunting it out in the open, boldly; as other covetous eyes stared on! True, he had hoped to demand extra drinks on the flight with that one weapon and damn, his plot lay out in the open. We drank to his ill fortune, promised to buy him a stronger, sharper, meaner, sleeker, ahmm.. er weapon and boarded the flight at the back of the crowd.

Proud to be back benchers indeed, we tried having sane conversations with the ‘air hosts’, Damn! I still cant get used to that profession for a man, before somebody’s good judgement stepped in. We slept through the rest of our flight.

Wild West

Turbulence woke us up, in time to see the first glimpses of the mighty canyon. We straightened up, crained out the pot hole windows and Viva Las Vegas!!

PS: Learnings so far:

– It is impossible to try being on a diet and on vacation at the same time.

– When fast asleep, an hour is like a minute and 1500 miles take a mere five.

– Male air hostesses, using their spare time knitting a sweater, are not a welcome sight to wake up to.

– Deccan airways was not the only one that had carriers rattling during take-off.

– Security check personnel love Swiss army knives.

In Wild Wild West – II, The Mustang compromise, Hoover’s arch and the mad dirt ride to walk.

A new road, a new beginning…

A world full of blogs and blogging awaits. Correction: A world awaits. I’ve never really been first time lucky. So I migrate from elsewhere to here, in hope, in want, in utter desperation to pull my strings together and find meaning around me. How successful am I in doing that? how much of a mess do I leave behind? Stick around as the story unfolds.

Some ground rules to set before we embark on this journey.

For me, the self:

– blog like noone is reading.

– blog like the whole world is watching.

– blackmail (emotionally, ofcourse) at least two people-a-day to read your blog.

For you, the reader:

– ahmm. hang in tight.

– please be vocal, bouquets or brickbats, bring em on. Am all ears.!!